31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 5 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Charter of the United Nations clearly precludes it from interference in the domestic affairs of a country or from obstructing the free transmission of news and information between individuals and between nations.
That the United Nations, in apparent illegality, has imposed many restrictions and sanctions upon Rhodesia which has been remarkably free from the bloodshed and turmoil of Northern and Central African lands, even to the extent now of actively encouraging armed conflict against the legally elected Government of Rhodesia.
Lord Graham as Minister of External Affairs and Defence has said: ‘International Communism is our enemy, all this talk of political advancement and majority rule is no more than a smokescreen in the early skirmishes of an assault upon the whole of Africa . . . It is even difficult to see this enemy because it is not merely attacking us, but on a broad front is attacking the whole world order, its standards, its law and order, its moralities, its churches, its patriotisms, its philosophies and even much of its learning . . .
That Communist Chinese infiltration in much of Africa over many years, and Cuban Communist troops reported to number 25,000 are dominating nearby Angola, and possess modern missiles etc.
It is urgent that Mozambique, now under Communist domination and which has a common border with Rhodesia, does not receive any further aid from the Commonwealth Government of Australia, which has benefited, mainly, the terrorist guerilla movements that are responsible for the deaths of many Rhodesian people.
It is urgent for the Australian people to determine for themselves, the actual facts of the Rhodesian struggles.
It is urgent that the Senate and the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled, will observe common justice and proper humanity by inviting only authorised representatives of the present government of Rhodesia to Australia, to do what they have been deprived to do previously, present their case fully and publicly so that this can be examined and tested, without interference, and so that the eventual impact on Australia ‘s own security and defence alliances can be gauged with better accuracy.
Your petitoners request urgent action to be taken immediately.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 22 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 22 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That on 13 September 1977, Steve Biko, President of the Black People’s Convention died, aged 30, while being held incommunicado for questioning in detention without trial in South Africa;
That this is the 20th death of a black political prisoner in similar circumstances in South Africa in the last 18 months; and the 44th death of a prisoner while in police custody in recent years;
That Steve Biko had been held in detention since 22 August; and had previously been held for 101 days without trial; and in addition, was under a Five year house arrest and restriction order;
That Steve Biko is the acknowledged leader of the black people’s resistance to apartheid, racial exploitation and injustice in South Africa, and that in this context his death in the hands of the white police must be regarded with grave suspicion;
Your petitioners accordingly request the Australian Government to register the strongest protest to the South African Government at the circumstances of Biko ‘s death.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I ask the Minister for Administrative Services: Does he agree that there is a fundamental difference between the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday in respect of the purchase of the computer and the letter written by the Prime Minister to Mr Moyes, the General Manager of IBM Australia Ltd, on 1 7 January? In that letter the Prime Minister said:
Stemming both from your letter and from issues raised in these discussions concerning the viability of the project, all main frame tenderers will receive a request from the Australian Government Stores and Tender Board for additional information.
I seek leave at this stage to table the letter.
– Can the Minister explain why the Prime Minister took that view with Mr Moyes yet failed in yesterday’s statement even to mention any question of the viability of the project? What were the four particular concerns expressed by Mr Moyes affecting the viability of the project?
-I do not have Mr Moyes’ letter before me. I take it that the honourable senator is referring to something said by Mr Moyes in his letter of 2 December 1977 to the Prime Minister. Evidently from what the honourable senator has said, four matters were raised. Is that right?
– Four particular concerns.
-I do not have that letter before me and cannot recall whether there were four matters raised. However, I accept the Leader of the Opposition’s assurance that there were although I cannot recall what those four matters were. I will have to get hold of that first letter to discover the answer to that part of his question. As to the rest of the question, I but represent the Prime Minister in this place. This was correspondence addressed to and from the Prime Minister and I therefore will have to seek that information from the Prime Minister.
– I ask a supplementary question. In view of the Minister’s answer following my tabling of the Prime Minister’s letter of 1 7 January, I ask the Minister whether after he has had a chance to obtain the letter of 2 December from Mr Moyes to the Prime Minister he will undertake to table that letter in the Parliament.
– I cannot give that undertaking because it is not a letter addressed to me. It is a letter addressed to the Prime Minister. I will pass the views of the Leader of the Opposition on to the Prime Minister and ask him whether he is prepared to have his letter tabled in this place.
– I preface my question which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health by referring to an article on page 2 of today’s Courier Mail in which the Premier of Queensland is alleged to have claimed that he has documents which he believes will verify the medical credentials of cancer therapist Milan Brych. The Premier is reported to have said:
I think that those highly critical of this man will get a little surprise.
Is the Minister aware of the contents of these purported documents and does she agree that if such documents exist they should be published immediately so as to resolve this controversial issue once and for all and to alleviate the mental anguish of cancer sufferers in our country while they await confirmation of this man’s medical credentials and alleged cure of cancer?
– I understand that the Minister for Health is aware of the article that appeared in the newspaper mentioned by Senator Bonner. The Minister is to make a statement on this matter in the House of Representatives later today. I believe that the statement of the Minister may answer many of the matters raised by Senator Bonner and I shall see that a copy is given to him.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence seen a report of evidence given to the national Royal Commission Into Drugs that surveillance of the northern Australian coastline was completely inadequate, that police had no aircraft in the Territory and just one launch which was not suited to open sea duties and rarely left Darwin harbour? In view of these circumstances, what justification is there for the Royal Australian Air Force keeping its squadron of Orion aircraft at Edinburgh in South Australia when they could be used on search and surveillance operations in northern Australia and when Australia ‘s northern defences are in such a scandalous state of neglect?
-I have not seen the report to which the honourable senator refers. However, I know it is occasionally thought in the community that merely because aircraft are stationed at Edinburgh in South Australia they are not available for use elsewhere in Australia. I think there is a vast difference between where aircraft are stationed, maintained and serviced and where they are deployed. The honourable senator is starting to ask me to get into a technical area which is beyond my competence. Therefore I will obtain an answer to his question from my colleague in another place.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware of allegations in today’s Hobart Mercury made by the Tasmanian division of the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has purposely delayed the appointment of Mr Des
Lavey, a union nominee, to the Tasmanian Council for Trade Union Training?
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations informs me that he is aware of the allegations to which Senator Walters refers. Apparently this situation follows an election in late 1 977 for a position in the Tasmanian division of the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations when a Mr Cooper, who had been the nominee of ACSPA, was defeated and Mr Lavey was elected. However, the Minister has deferred any further revocation of appointments or new appointments to all councils for trade union training pending the enactment of amending legislation in the area of trade union training.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Administrative Services, and I appreciate his difficulties in representing the Prime Minister in this place. The question that I seek to ask concerns IBM Australia Ltd. Nevertheless, the question must be asked. In his statement to the Parliament yesterday the Prime Minister indicated that on 22 December he informed Mr Moyes of IBM that he, the Prime Minister, believed that re-tendering was appropriate. He told the Parliament that that was the only time when he discussed the matter with Mr Moyes. I ask the Minister: Is it correct that the Prime Minister’s letter of 17 January to Mr Moyes failed to make any mention of re-tendering? Has IBM further complained to the Government that it was misled by the Prime Minister’s comment? Was the announcement by IBM on Christmas Eve- that is two days after the conversation with the Prime Minister- that it was making changes to its corporate structure in any way connected with the comment by the Prime Minister?
– I have no personal or ministerial knowledge of what the honourable senator asks. I shall have to seek the information for him.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Following the crash landing of an aircraft laden with drugs near Katherine and also the sighting of, and eventual loss of contact with, an unidentified aircraft over the northern coast a few days later, can the Minister advise whether any further unidentified aircraft have been reported in the northern area since then. Is it a fact that the aircraft which had been sighted before it disappeared refuelled at an isolated settlement and then departed? Are investigations being made to check on sales of fuel to aircraft in northern Australia to ascertain the identity of crews and aircraft and the purpose for which they are in the area? Is the registration and ownership of small ships on the northern coast being checked and their purpose for being in the area established?
– The questions asked by Senator Kilgariff relate to a number of departments other than the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs. Admittedly, the latter Department, the Minister for which I represent, is involved but the matters raised should also be referred to the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Transport. In the circumstances I shall refer the questions to all the Ministers concerned and obtain a composite answer for Senator Kilgariff.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government who is also the Minister representing the Prime Minister. It follows the questions asked by Senator Wriedt and Senator Georges. Yesterday the Prime Minister told the Parliament that the Permanent Heads Committee convened on 24 October 1977 had not considered all aspects of the case. He went on to say:
It has since emerged that due to a genuine misunderstanding, the report was of much narrower ambit than had been intended . . .
How did it emerge that the report had a narrower base than had been intended? What was the genuine misunderstanding mentioned by the Prime Minister? Did the permanent heads fail to follow the Prime Minister’s instruction that they be satisfied that all proper procedures were followed?
– Again, this question relates to something which the Prime Minister said in his letter to the permanent heads. I shall obtain that detailed information for the honourable senator.
-I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Health to an article in the Melbourne Age of 22 February about the sad and disturbing problem of cot deaths in Australia. It is claimed that they total about 500 a year. Is it correct, as alleged by Mrs Kaaren FitzGerald of the Sudden Infant Death Research Foundation, that there is virtually no research into the cot death problem? Is the Minister willing to support national research into this problem? Will the Government appropriate funds to this end?
– I am not aware of the matters raised by Senator Missen in his question. I shall direct them to the Minister for Health with a view to obtaining an answer about research into the incidence of cot deaths.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. It also relates to his capacity as the Minister for Administrative Services. I refer to the bomb explosion at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney. What police force has the major responsibility for investigating this matter? Are Commonwealth Police involved? Is the Minister able to say to what extent the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation is involved? What police force is responsible for issuing Press releases which by innuendo identify potential suspect groups as Arabs, Indians, swarthy men, or women opposed to abortion laws?
-As I recall the arrangements made for the conference at the Hilton Hotel, the Commonwealth Police Force was to be responsible for matters inside the building and the New South Wales Police Force was to be responsible for all matters outside the building. Therefore I assume- I shall check on this-that as the bomb exploded outside the building the New South Wales Police will have the primary task of ascertaining who caused that explosion. Naturally, one would hope that all police forces throughout Australia would be prepared to cooperate and lend their assistance if requested to do so by the New South Wales Police. Should information come into their hands which could assist the New South Wales Police one would hope that they would render that assistance to the State Police Force. I have no idea of the relationship between the New South Wales Police and ASIO. Also, I have no knowledge as to who has been issuing Press releases containing lists of people. To the best of my knowledge it has not been the Commonwealth Police. However, I will check that matter and, I hope, give the honourable senator an answer before the end of Question Time.
– I address a question to the Minister having jurisdiction over the Australian Tourist Commission. I draw his attention to the Industries Assistance Commission’s report, tabled yesterday, on the tourist accommodation industry, an industry that we all know is facing soaring costs. The IAC discussed the excessively high proportion of costs represented by wages. A large section of the submissions made to the Commission were to the effect that in the tourist accommodation industry it is inappropriate to work on the basis of a five-day week with overtime on weekends and between 5 p.m. and midnight, when the tourist industry is at the height of its activity. It was argued that work during these times should be paid for at ordinary rates. Will the Minister take up this matter with the Australian Tourist Commission with the view to making urgent representations to the arbitral tribunals that fix wages in this area, not for the purpose of restricting proper wages but to ensure that our industry will expand? We all know that at present it is suffering a dreadfully adverse balance vis-a-vis other countries because most Australians pursuing tourist recreation are going abroad instead of utilising the wonderful tourist resorts in Australia.
– As Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce I think I have responsibility in this area. The Senate will be aware of a statement made by the Minister in relation to the IAC report in which he said that the Government has decided to continue assistance to the tourist industy and to study other aspects of the report. The matter to which Senator Wright has referred is a feature of that report and I am sure it will be given further consideration. I will particularly invite the Minister for Industry and Commerce to consider the question asked by Senator Wright although I am sure he has already taken note of that aspect of the report and will be having further discussions with the Australian Tourist Commission about it.
– The Minister for Science will recall that about two years ago I asked him to clarify the position regarding the temporary installation of caravans and other structures at Cape Grim in north-western Tasmania. I recall that the Minister replied that it was a baseline air pollution measuring station. Can the Minister now tell the Senate what results have been obtained from the activities at that base line air pollution measuring station? More importantly, in view of the fact that it could be made an ongoing operation, can the Minister say whether the station will be put on a permanent basis and whether permanent structures will be provided there for further work in that field?
– The baseline air pollution station at Cape Grim in Tasmania is viewed by the Government as being a particularly important installation. I have visited the base on one or two occasions and noted when I was there recently that there have been some results from the monitoring that has taken place. The honourable senator will know that monitoring has been in progress at Cape Grim since 1976 only. The tests which are currently being carried out there are particularly important so far as environmental conditions are concerned. Indeed, they might have much wider implications than just the effect of the environment. For instance, the surface ozone levels are being tested, as are the carbon dioxide levels, concentrations of carbon tetrachloride and fluoro carbons- that is, Freon-ll, which is discussed regularly as being an important constituent to monitor.
The period of measurement has been very short and I understand that no firm conclusion can be drawn on any trends which might be occurring within these programs. The results which have been obtained at Cape Grim to date suggest that carbon dioxide and Freon-ll are increasing as constituents in the atmosphere coming to Cape Grim. That is fairly important. Further data is required before it can be established whether these increased concentrations are part of a cyclical variation over a longer period or whether they are in actual fact indicative of a very definite trend in the atmosphere. That is the reason for the establishment of this base line air pollution station, which is one of a group of stations placed around the world to monitor the atmosphere and to attempt to establish a base line.
The Government intends in the future to establish the station permanently. Its management is under the control of the Department of Science, with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation playing an important role. We have put additional facilities and equipment down there within the last year. It is my wish that in the near future we shall see some move towards the establishment of a permanent station there.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen reports indicating that in the last two years more than 1,000 Asian doctors and some 200-odd South African doctors have registered in South Australia, although they do not live in that State or elsewhere in Australia, and that they have done this basically as an insurance so that they can practise in South Australia should they decide to leave their own countries. What is the position of the Federal Government regarding such doctors, who are neither naturalised citizens nor residents of Australia, registering in South Australia? Has the Minister had discussions with the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs about these reports, particularly in relation to the non-resident aspect and also the current reported concern about the already surplus number of doctors practising in Australia?
– I understand that some concern is being expressed with regard to the growing surplus of doctors in Australia. I have been advised by the Minister for Health that this matter has received some consideration with regard to not only reviewing the current immigration procedures but also taking into account in medical schools the possible oversupply of doctors. The Minister for Health is keeping this matter under review. But it is a particularly difficult matter because there are areas in Australia which are unable to obtain the services of a doctor. I think it would be understood that in those areas there would be no feeling that there is an over-supply of doctors in this country.
If the Australian Medical Association is concerned about the implications of over-supply, perhaps it could concern itself also with the distribution of medical practitioners to ensure that hospital jobs are filled so that the claims of potential over-supply can be more readily accepted. However, as far as the registration of overseas medical practitioners is concerned, I am sure that the honourable senator is aware that this is a matter for which the medical registration boards of the respective States and Territories are entirely responsible and is not a matter in which the Federal Minister for Health has any jurisdiction.
The other matter which may be related to this is the distinction which should be drawn between eligibility for entry into Australia and the recognition of skills which are required of people overseas to enable them to practise in Australia. The eligibility of people to immigrate under the current immigration policy should not be confused with the eligibility to practise, which is the matter which I referred to as being the responsibility of State governments. However, I shall see whether the Minister for Health can provide any further information on this matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for
Health. Is the Minister aware of Press and television reports stating that Dr Jonas E. Salk, the doctor responsible for the development of the poliomyelitis vaccine, is now in the process of developing a vaccine that he thinks may cure multiple sclerosis? As multiple sclerosis is a chronic crippling disease of the nervous system, but one which unfortunately this Government does not regard as being sufficiently serious to be worthy of consideration for assistance from the Medibank scheme, will the Minister follow up this information and make known publicly any progress that may be made?
– I understand that the Minister for Health is aware of the developments that were mentioned by the honourable senator and is also aware that attention is being given throughout the world to the neurological effects of slow viruses. A close watch is being kept by the Department on developments in this field, particularly those which might result in the effective prevention or the treatment of these conditions, with a view to such agents being made available in this country as soon as their efficacy has been proven.
The other part of the honourable senator’s question implied that treatment for multiple sclerosis is not covered under the Medibank scheme. The position is that privately insured persons receiving treatment for multiple sclerosis are eligible for basic medical and hospital benefits and nursing home benefits in the same manner as other insured persons. Similarly, multiple sclerosis patients who are not privately insured are entitled under the standard Medibank scheme to basic medical benefits and free standard ward treatment in recognised hospitals and nursing home benefits payable by the Commonwealth Government. However, private health insurance organisations may provide benefits for physiotherapy and other paramedical services under supplementary benefits tables. The current policy of the Government is to permit private organisations considerable freedom in relation to the nature of benefits provided under supplementary benefits tables provided that the Minister for Health is satisfied that the tables are financially viable. Organisation rules, however, normally exclude persons with pre-existing conditions from receiving benefits. This is a matter for the organisations themselves to determine. I thank the honourable senator for drawing attention to this matter. The Minister for Health is aware of the research mentioned in the question.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. In view of the continuing and increasing profit of Telecom Australia, has the Government considered asking Telecom to reduce the cost of both telephone installations and rental and call rates, if not for all installations at least for private users? Does the Government intend to alter existing legislation so that Telecom’s capital works may be financed more from loans rather than as is presently required, as I am advised; that is, that 50 per cent of capital works be financed from profit?
– The honourable senator’s question rests overall upon the assumption that Telecom is making substantial profits. I think the Minister in another place has pointed out that the figures published represented gross profits and did not make provision for the capital works program. That is the nub of the second part of the honourable senator’s question. I am not aware that the Commonwealth has approached Telecom to ask it to reduce its service costs. I will find that out. The other matter raised was the question of whether there would be an alteration in the ability of Telecom to finance more of its capital works by loan raising rather than out of its own revenue. I will refer that to the Minister in another place but I imagine that it is a policy matter and therefore would be part of the Budget.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Transport say whether the study by the Joint Government Advisory Committee on Adelaide Airline-Airport Requirements been completed? If not, can the Minister say when the study is likely to be completed, when the report will be finalised, and to whom that report will be made available? Further, can the Minister give an assurance that the existing curfews will remain and that runway lengths will not be altered to accommodate international nights, notwithstanding anything to the contrary that may be recommended by the committee?
– It is open season for capital city airports at the moment, of course, and I understand the honourable senator’s interest in this matter.
– Give us a new one for Hobart while you are on the job.
– I understand that if longer runways are to be provided Senator
Wriedt wants them in Hobart. Perhaps we will have to sort out a demarcation dispute. My understanding is that the study phase has been completed but the report is not yet finalised. The report is expected to be available in or about April and will be presented to Commonwealth and State Ministers for Transport. I anticipate that it will be tabled in the Parliament. The honourable senator asked about curfews, and I should point out that the actual study would not take curfews into account. That is a matter of government policy, and it is my understanding that the curfew will remain. I think that answers to the other questions asked by the honourable senator would constitute a pre-judgment of the committee’s report and it would be inappropriate for me to respond, pending the Government’s consideration of that report. However, when the report does come down, there will be ample opportunity for discussion in which the honourable senator can participate.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Attention has been drawn to a margarine price war which is having a detrimental effect on the producer sections of both the oilseed industry and the dairy industry. Attention has also been drawn to the fact that there have been price reductions of as much as 35c on margarine retailing at approximately 90c, which is a 40 per cent reduction. If the product can face such a massive price cut, it appears that ample room exists for an inquiry into the pricing of the product to assess whether the producers of oilseeds are underpaid or whether the subsequent margins are grossly excessive. Will the Minister endeavour to have such an inquiry initiated?
– I have no personal knowledge of or information about the matter. I will refer it to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
– My question is directed to Senator Durack as the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and perhaps in his own capacity as AttorneyGeneral. I draw his attention to the fact that the footwear industry in Australia is in a very serious state as a result of import competition. Will the
Minister advise what redress is available to citizens in respect of the blatantly dishonest packaging of imported goods? With your indulgence, Mr President, I will refer to two instances. In one of the major stores in Australia goods are sold bearing the trade name ‘Melbourne’ with a stamp ‘made in’ superimposed at the top of the trade name, giving the impression that the goods are made in Melbourne, when in fact, when one reads very carefully, one finds that they are made in Taiwan. In the second instance, goods called Colonel Lightfoot ‘s Sporting and Recreational Footwear’ have the Union Jack prominently displayed on the packaging. However, when one opens the package and looks inside one finds that the goods are made in Taiwan. I therefore ask: Will the Minister advise what steps can be taken by Customs or, if the matter does not come within its purview, by the Government, to ensure that such goods do not set out deliberately to convey to Australian consumers that they are Australian made?
– The Parliament has passed a Trade Practices Act which contains considerable provisions relating to consumer protection, misleading advertising and so forth. A Trade Practices Commission has been established to which complaints of the sort mentioned by the honourable senator can be made. The Act contains provisions allowing individuals to take action and, in some cases, even to get legal aid for taking action, although I am not trying to encourage any more payments in that direction. Nevertheless, Senator Gietzelt raises some matters which I think warrant an investigation of legal redress. I have long since learnt not to give spot legal opinions even outside the Senate, much less in the Senate and in public. I will not be tempted into that action at this stage. I certainly suggest that the matter should be looked at. Probably the best course of action is to bring it to the attention of the Trade Practices Commission.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Will the ninth revision of the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organisation, effective this year, contain three categories of visual performance, namely, normal vision, low vision and blindness, instead of the present two categories? To what extent is the extra category- namely low vision, representing as it does a state which is neither normal nor one of blindness- used or to be used by the Minister’s officers in categorising applicants for benefits and in other administrative arrangements?
– I am advised that the International Classification of Diseases is a statistical classification and not a determinant of eligibility for pensions or benefits on account of defective vision. This international classification is, however, used for statistical purposes in my Department. An invalid pension is payable to persons in Australia who are permanently blind. The standard set for blindness is that vision on the Snellen test scales must be less than 6/60 in both eyes after correction by suitable glasses. Where there are concomitant eye defects the above standard may be relaxed. Where a person is not considered blind according to the standard but does suffer from defective or low vision and has other disabilities, he may be considered permanently incapacitated for work. This judgment would be made on the assessment of all his handicaps and thus qualify him for an invalid pension. Similar criteria are applied for determining on medical grounds a parent’s eligibility to receive a handicapped child’s allowance. These are the ways in which eligibility is tested in the Department of Social Security. As I say, we use the International Classification of Diseases for statistical purposes.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory whether it is a fact that funds were not made available to Dr Peter Hooper of the Animal Industry Branch in Darwin to enable him to visit Asia to allay fears about the disease bluetongue? If this is a fact will the Minister explain why this decision was taken in view of the dire situation in which Northern Territory beef producers find themselves at the present time? Does the Minister not agree that markets are the key to the solution of the present problems facing the Territory’s pastoral industry?
– I shall take the questions which the honourable senator has asked and answer them in reverse. I agree with the honourable senator that there is an important problem in the Northern Territory at the present time. To ask me whether an individual had not had funds made available to him presumes that I know whether he ever applied for funds, whether it was a proper application and whether the application was made to the Federal Government or to some other authority in the Northern Territory. I am not aware of whether Dr Hooper requested funds, or why funds were refused if they were requested. However, I shall take the honourable senator’s question on notice and accept that Dr Hooper has made a request and that he is qualified to represent Australia in that area. I shall certainly refer the question to my colleague and have an answer provided for the honourable senator. My understanding is that a number of researchers have gone from Australia to countries which had placed some restrictions upon the import of beef following the suggestion of bluetongue in the Northern Territory. I understand that inroads have been made into markets in countries which restricted us in some way. Hence, I am unable to say whether the person he mentioned going into areas where markets are wanted would affect that proposition. I will make further inquiries.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence is along the lines of the question asked by Senator Douglas McClelland on the so-called problem of guarding Australia’s coastline. Do the Royal Australian Air Force and Fleet Air Arm have any Orion or Tracker aircraft, and facilities available for them to be deployed at airfields along our northern coastline? Would it not be possible to organise, for the better utilisation of the Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm, aircraft on roundtheclock surveillance duties to our north, by the provision of additional crews? Would not such increased utilisation be more economical than the provision of new aircraft for a coast guard type service?
-The information I have in my brief is as follows: The allocation of Service aircraft for civilian surveillance duties is related to the realistically assessed needs of the relevant civil law enforcement authorities for such surveillance, while concurrently ensuring that the requirement to maintain military preparedness for Australia’s defence is not undermined. I am further advised that the Service aircraft made available to meet civilian surveillance needs have been chosen and acquired against defence requirements. Nevertheless, their use has been proved in the past to be a cost effective arrangement compared with the alternative of acquiring new and specialised aircraft for the civilian task.
– My question to the Minister representing the Treasurer refers to his answer to me on 28 February in which he asserted that cost increases and tariff reductions in the 1973 period had in his words ‘costed
Australia out of manufacturing and export industries’ and ‘brought in a flow of imports, with a disastrous effect on the balance of payments’. The Treasurer then claimed that by contrast we now have, to use his words again ‘a better conjunction of the balance of payments ‘. I ask how he reconciles these assertions with the record current deficit of $ 1,354m for the seven months ended January 1978, and the continuing downward trend in foreign reserves, in spite of huge overseas borrowings ?
-There is no need at all to reconcile the facts that I stated. The world knows, and it is undisputed, that in the period 1973-75, due to the overt action of the then Whitlam Government, the cost of wages in Australia rose some 47 per cent in a period of 1 8 months.
– Thirty-seven per cent you said last week, Senator. Be more accurate.
-I thank Senator Button very much indeed. I am glad that he is paying attention. He no doubt also confirms this trend. In fact, it is a matter of history that there was then a cut in tariffs across the board, the effect of which was- and I do not need to reconcile it; it is the conscience of the honourable Labor senator that must be reconciled- that 1 10,000 people went out of the manufacturing industry. If any reconciliation is to take place, it must be by the Labor Party with its conscience, because its action led to 1 10,000 being disemployed. It is axiomatic that the way back to restoring the export-import balance is for us to get inflation and interest rates down so that we can do two things- cost ourselves back into export trade and restore manufacturing in Australia, thus restoring more jobs for the Australian people, and not need to import. I am happy to say that the present Government has brought inflation down from above 18 per cent to, presumably, below 9 per cent, and that interest rates have fallen by more than one per cent and will continue to fall.
– I address a supplementary question to Senator Carrick. How does he reconcile his assertion that we now have a better conjunction of the balance of payments with the fact that the current account deficit for the seven months ended 31 January was a record $l,354m?
-I set out to show that present trends in costs are in fact directed towards a greater improvement in the balance. I am also happy to say that in the past quarter there has been some movement towards a rectification of the balance of trade position. We can only hope that as we pursue the cost and interest rate decline we will restore a more even balance. The fundamental situation is that it will be restored when costs again allow us to compete in world markets as we did until the Australian Labor Party precipitated tragedy some years ago.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of the claim by the South Australian Premier that the Federal Government might welch on its Medibank arrangements to pay the South Australian Government $8m in reimbursement of hospital costs this year? Has the Premier used this figure to overstate the State’s expected deficit this financial year? Can the Minister say whether the State Government is due for the $8m? If so, can she indicate when the sum may be paid?
-I am not able to comment on the specific matter of the $8m, but I can say that under the terms of the hospital cost sharing agreements the budgets of operating costs and payments and receipts are agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the individual States. These are approved by the respective Health Ministers. The Commonwealth meets 50 per cent of the net operating costs contained in the approved budgets. The approved budget for South Australia for 1977-78 has been set at a sum that the State claims will prove insufficient to cover actual costs. This budget will be reviewed before the end of this financial year by a joint Commonwealth-State committee of officials, and South Australia’s claims will then be considered. The Commonwealth will continue to meet its 50 per cent share of the approved hospital net operating costs in accordance with the terms of the agreement, provided that it is satisfied that the State has made every reasonable effort to restrict those costs by following a policy of overall cost containment in hospitals. This attitude has been communicated to South Australia. It conforms to the hospital cost sharing arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States. The review of the South Australian and Commonwealth shares may result in decisions being taken, but the agreement is that the approved costs are shared on a 50-50 basis.
– Will the Minister for Education make appropriate arrangements to display within Parliament House material of Man:
A Course of Study in the same way as the Social Education Materials Project information was displayed?
-Of course MACOS is an American production; it is not a production of either the Commonwealth Government or the State governments. To that extent, I do not know whether we possess the materials, but I will refer the question to my Department. It can only do good to display controversial material, and if it is possible to do so I shall do so as the lawyers say, without prejudice.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to the annual report of Qantas Airways Ltd tabled in the Senate yesterday, which reported a commendable profit by Qantas and which contained the following statement by the Chairman:
The United States has now designated Continental Airlines as a second US carrier on the South Pacific, despite the earlier disastrous losses of $25m by American Airlines and those of other carriers. I repeat what I said last year, financially their entry would be utterly destructive, and add that it would be sinfully wasteful of increasingly scarce and expensive energy resources.
I leave aside the apparent contradiction in the American Administration’s policy on energy and on this issue. In view of the fact that the function of Qantas is specifically to develop and operate international air services as the Australian flag carrier, can the Minister indicate whether negotiations are continuing on this matter, what attitude the Government has adopted and what action might be taken to ensure the continuing viability of Qantas on its South Pacific routes despite the apparent efforts of the American Administration to undermine its operations?
– This is an important question because it underlines one salient fact which is that there is already a significant overcapacity of air transport across the Pacific routes. In other words, without any addition of new airlines, there are far too many empty seats flying the Pacific now and therefore they constitute a high cost factor and a disability in reducing fares. For the benefit of the Senate I point out that only 45.1 per cent of seats across the Pacific were filled last year. So more than half the seats were unfilled at the cost of those people who filled the other seats. If Continental is given the right to fly four flights a week to Australia this will increase the number of seats available by 1 9 per cent. So we have very real competition there.
The Government’s prime concern is to see air fares reduced across the board and without discrimination. The only way to achieve this result consistent with high safety factors which we have today is to fill the empty seats. This is fundamental in the operation of airlines. The Government believes that the first thing to do is to lower the fares of existing carriers to try to reduce the number of empty seats. An additional factor to be considered is that if Continental or any other American airline is allowed on the route the American airlines will have the capacity to carry twice as many passengers as Qantas. Current statistics show that more than 50 per cent of traffic across the Pacific is Australian and we argue therefore that under the bilateral agreement the Australian carrier ought to have equal access to the market.
The discussions held in Australia two weeks ago ended with the American delegation noting Australia’s arguments and Australia’s position. Further talks are to be held by June and the Government is hopeful that a solution can be achieved at that meeting which satisfies its concern. All Australians will acknowledge that we have a first class international airline just as we have first class national airlines. It is our job to keep that airline operating in a profitable manner with a high standard of technical and other services and towards that end one of our main aims must be to fill the seats that fly across the seas.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Productivity, refers to the present tripartite organisation which deals with some of the needs of the rubber industry and particularly of the tyre manufacturing industry but which does not deal with manpower needs. I ask the Minister whether he can arrange for the Government members’ committee on immigration and employment and industrial relations to co-ordinate with this body to overcome the present impasse where employers who want tyre builders are rejecting a National Employment and Training scheme retraining concept and are suggesting an intake of overseas tyre builders. I speak for the Federated Rubber and Allied Workers Union of Australia on this matter. We want a speedy decision. The Minister will agree that in effect this is really a litmus test of a successful immigration policy. It is related to mopping up unemployment in the western suburbs of Sydney and redundant rubber workers.
-Senator Mulvihill has asked a question which requires a little technical knowledge and I am grateful that he gave me notice of the question because I can now provide an answer which I hope will satisfy him. The Department of Productivity recently commenced a productivity improvement program with the tyre manufacturing industry. This arose out of the recent Temporary Assistance Authority inquiry and report on this industry sector. The tripartite industry program group, which functions as a steering committee, has been established by the Department of Productivity to identify barriers which are affecting the productivity of the industry and to determine the order of priority on which these issues should be addressed with a view to their removal or modification. The industry program group has appropriate representations from manufacturers, the unions and the Department.
The issues, including training needs, are being considered and officials of the Department of Productivity have been discussing these matters with their counterparts in the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. Therefore the point about which the honourable senator is concerned is being taken into account already. The honourable senator referred to a government committee on employment and industrial relations and immigration. I take it that that is a government back bench committee?
– No. I refer to Mr MacKellar’s and Mr Street’s committee which adds job categories to a list we get as senators and members of the House of Representatives. The list relates to immigration matters.
– As I have said, there certainly have been discussions with the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. I will raise the question of bringing in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister received a report following inquiries that I understand have been made into the disastrous grain silo explosions in the United States of America in December last where many people lost their lives? Does the Government intend taking action to prevent similar disasters occurring in Australia? Is it a fact that prompt action may be difficult on this front because of fragmentation in the control of grain storage in Australia? Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a Press comment attributed to Sir Leslie Price, the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, in which he favoured the sealing of silos in future in order that nitrogen gas could be injected? This action would not only destroy pests but would also overcome dangers associated with explosions and fire. Will the Minister list this as an urgent agenda item for discussion and action at the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council?
– I acknowledge the honourable senator’s interest in this matter. I know that he has made several comments about it. It is my understanding that United States Government authorities have not made an official report on the explosions to which the honourable senator referred. I understand that a good deal of information has been collected and referred to areas of scientific research, such as my own, and to the Department of Primary Industry. I understand that the Minister for Primary Industry, in a statement made at the end of last year, said that Australia had a very good record in avoiding grain dust explosions. However, certainly there would be no reason for complacency and there is a continuing need, obviously, to observe adequate safety precautions within silos. I do not expect it is widely realised that the explosions in the United States, which were so widely publicised at the end of last year and in January this year, were by no means the first to occur in that country. My understanding is that over the past 20 years or so there has been an average of eight explosions classified as major explosions each year and the cost in terms of insurance payment has exceeded some $23m a year.
I understand that in Australia most grain is handled by a single authority in each State. For instance, the Grain Elevators Board of New South Wales handles grain in New South Wales. Each of those authorities is well informed on the hazards of grain dust and the need for maintenance of a high standard of hygiene and, at all times, the observance of safety precautions in handling and maintenance operations. Each of the authorities has a large degree of autonomy. They also have frequent consultations amongst themselves and, as necessary, they consult the Department of Primary Industry and the Australian Wheat Board. I understand that very senior representatives of the bulk handling authorities will meet shortly in the honourable senator’s city of Adelaide. Included in the subjects listed for discussion is grain dust hazard.
The honourable senator asked about fragmentation within the industry. My understanding of the situation is that fragmentation of control does not call for prompt corrective action. What is essential is the continuation of careful attention to safety precautions. The honourable senator also asked about the statement of Sir Leslie Price. I imagine that Sir Leslie Price would be well aware of the co-operation of the Australian Wheat Board with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the bulk handling authorities in a comprehensive examination of the design of grain storages in relation to the efficiency of pest control methods to which the honourable senator referred. The storage of grain in an inert atmosphere to destroy infestation and prevent re-infestation is among the techniques which have been under study recently.
The honourable senator asked further whether this matter may be referred to the Australian Agricultural Council. I feel that the explanation I have given to the honourable senator is sufficient. Opposition senators are indicating that not only have they heard sufficient of the answer but also they do not feel that it is necessary to refer this matter to the Australian Agricultural Council.
-Earlier in Question Time, Senator Button asked me a question about the bombing incident at the Hilton Hotel. I have since obtained information that the primary responsibility for investigating the bombing is with the New South Wales Police Force. The Commonwealth Police Force has liaison officers working with the New South Wales Police but it is not directly responsible for the investigation. As far as can be quickly ascertained since the honourable senator asked his question there were no Commonwealth Police Press releases relating to the incident or possible suspects.
– Yesterday Senator Ryan asked me a question regarding the possible distribution of the consolidation of the Broadcasting and Television Act. I said that I would obtain information for honourable senators. My understanding is that a consolidation was produced by the Postal and Telecommunications Department for internal purposes only but a copy was provided on loan to the commercial television and broadcasting bodies with the clear qualification that it was an internal document with no legal standing. The Attorney-General’s Department is currently producing a formal consolidation with the intention of making this available at the earliest possible stage. Should any honourable senator or member wish to have a copy of the interim internal document, I should be pleased to provide one with the qualification mentioned.
– I inform honourable senators that pursuant to the resolutions to both Houses appointing three joint committees I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate nominating senators to be members of the joint committees as follows:
Senator O ‘Byrne
In accordance with the resolution establishing the Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House the President, together with the Speaker and the Minister for the Capital Territory, are ex officio members of that Committee.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That the senators nominated be appointed members of the respective joint committees.
Consideration resumed from 7 March.
First Report of the Fifty-ninth Session.
– The Committee will know that it was still considering this matter when the adjournment was moved last night. To formalise matters, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is to overcome technical problems affecting statutory authorities established by Territory ordinances. In 1973 it became apparent that provisions for the payment of Budget appropriations may be beyond the power of a Territory ordinance. The Territory Authorities (Financial Provisions) Act 1973 was therefore enacted as complementary legislation to overcome this deficiency.
Since then it has become apparent that certain other provisions concerning loans and taxation may also be beyond the powers of an ordinance. Clause 6 of the Bill will re-enact the substantive provisions of the 1973 Act while the remaining clauses concern loans and taxation. These clauses are in terms similar to provisions in Acts constituting Commonwealth authorities. Thus clause 7 will provide on the usual lines for the Minister for Finance to determine the terms and conditions of Commonwealth loans to Territory authorities and will enable the Treasurer to give Commonwealth guarantees on other borrowings. Clause 8 of the Bill provides that certain non-commercial Territory authorities specified in part 1 of the Schedule to the Act are exempt from Commonwealth and State taxation, unless regulations under the Act make a particular authority subject to a specified tax. Clause 9 provides that certain commercial Territory authorities specified in Part II of the Schedule are subject to taxation under the laws of the Commonwealth, but not subject to taxation under any law of a State unless the regulations make a particular authority liable to a specified State tax.
The authorities set out in the Schedule are limited to those established since 1973, when legal doubts about the powers of an ordinance arose. Ordinances creating new Territory authorities since 1 973 have been prepared on the basis that certain financial provisions were probably beyond their power and would be provided for in complementary legislation. No problems have come under notice concerning the financial arrangements for Territory authorities established earlier.
Specific provision is made in clause 9 for the Canberra Commercial Development Authority to be liable to income tax and sales tax, in order to comply with the intention when the Authority was established in 1 974 that it should be liable to all taxes and charges normally applicable to private commercial enterprises. The Chairman of the Authority was advised in 1974 and subsequently that it was intended that the Authority should be so liable.
The Authority is to be made subject to income tax retrospectively from the date of its establishment so that it may benefit by offsetting any trading losses incurred in its early years against future taxable income, in the same way as a private developer. Because of administrative difficulties that would be involved in attempting to impose sales tax on past transactions, the Authority will be subject to sales tax from the date of commencement of this Act. In view of the advance toward self-government in the Territories there will be appropriate consultation before any authority is prescribed under this Act or before any amendment to the Schedule is proposed to the Parliament. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7 March on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Senate is debating the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Bill 1978. The purpose of the Bill can be quite simply expressedindeed, it was simply expressed in a document issued by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack)- as being to prohibit hostile incursions by Australians or persons who have been present in Australia, that is resident in Australia, into foreign countries and to prohibit recruitment in Australia of persons to serve in armed forces in foreign countries. The two categories of persons concerned by this legislation are: Firstly, Australian nationals or persons resident in AustraliaAustralian residents- over a denned period who embark upon incursions into foreign countries; and, secondly, those people commonly known as mercenaries who might be recruited in Australia for service in armed forces of foreign countries. The expression ‘mercenaries’ is perhaps a bit uncharitable. I think it was Senator Missen who pointed out during the previous debate on this matter that there might be volunteers who become paid soldiers but who are not, in the more sordid sense of the term, mercenaries; that is, they might be motivated by considerations other than cash when they are recruited into the armed forces of foreign countries.
The other important aspect of the Bill is that the incursions into foreign countries which are referred to are those incursions directed against the government of a foreign country. That government, by virtue of this legislation, is the government which is recognised by the Government of Australia as being the lawful government of the foreign country. I say ‘by virtue of this legislation’ because that was a point at issue on the previous occasion that legislation dealing with this matter was before the Senate. The background of this legislation was debated pretty fully in 1977. Honourable senators will remember that in the course of that debate the then Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, the present Attorney-General, told this chamber that there had been two quite clear incidents of training and recruitment in Australia of persons who were being trained and recruited for the purpose of making incursions into foreign countries and partaking in forms of activity hostile to the Government there.
The examples discussed on the last occasion were the examples of terrorist forces- I think it is appropriate to call them that- which were trained in Australia and went to Yugoslavia for the purpose of indulging in acts which, I suppose, were ultimately intended to bring about the downfall of the Yugoslav Government. Certainly they were acts which were hostile to the Yugoslav Government. In the course of our previous debates we also discussed the situation regarding war in the Middle East and the participation of Australians in that war. Other examples were given which were a little closer to home and which were probably less strictly relevant.
When this Bill was before the Senate in 1977 the Opposition opposed it in a formal sense. In saying ‘in a formal sense ‘ I refer the Senate to the words of Senator James McClelland, reported in Hansard of 3 1 March 1977. 1 think he fairly and effectively summarised the nature of our opposition to the legislation at the time. Senator McClelland said:
I should like to point out that the attitude of the Opposition is not one so much of opposition to a measure which is praiseworthy in intent as one of doubt as to whether this praiseworthy object has been achieved by the Bill. Perhaps in the course of this debate the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) will be able to dissipate these doubts. It must have been a difficult Bill to draft and we acknowledge those difficulties. We acknowledge from the outset that the intent of the Bill is praiseworthy.
Senator McClelland then went on to deal with the contents of the Bill.
Following that contribution to the debate a lengthy discussion took place on all sorts of hypothetical considerations. It mainly turned on the question of interpretation of a number of clauses of the Bill, particularly clauses 6 and 9, and related to matters of definition such as the need seen by a number of honourable senators for a definition of the word ‘government’ and a definition of the word ‘advertisement’ in relation to the publication of advertisements seeking to recruit persons for overseas sevices. It also related, as I have indicated, to a number of inconsistencies in the drafting of the Bill. An objection was also taken to the provisions of clause 10 of the Bill which stated that the consent of the Attorney-General or a person authorised by the Attorney-General was necessary for proceedings to be taken on indictment for an offence. Some exception was taken to that delegation.
Suffice to say that after several hours of debate- I speak only of the Minister’s charity and indulgence in this matter- he was unable, in the words of Senator McClelland, to dissipate the doubts of some members of the Senate, which grew worse as the debate proceeded. Consequently the matter was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. As a member of that Committee, I might say that it was with some alacrity and at some inconvenience that it considered the clauses of the Bill which had been referred to it. Before considering the clauses of the Bill, the Committee invited submissions from the Attorney-General and his representative in this chamber and from other honourable senators who took part in the debate on the Bill. Submissions were received from two senators. As a result of its deliberations, the Committee unanimously and fairly quickly, having regard to the fact that it had the benefit of the debate that had taken place in the Senate, concluded that a number of amendments to the clauses of the Bill were desirable.
In its report, which was presented to the Senate in April 1977, the Committee recommended a number of specific amendments to the legislation. The first important one was the suggestion that the word ‘Government’ in the Bill should be defined, and that has been done. The most important aspect of the Committee’s report was the procedure suggested for ironing out the inconsistencies in the legislation, which is dealt with in clause 1 1 of the report, and the desirability of having a definition of the word advertisement’ in the legislation. All those things have been included in the Bill as it now comes before the Senate, as has the suggestion in clause 20 of the Committee’s report that it was undesirable for the Attorney-General to have power to delegate his power to authorise prosecutions. That suggestion likewise has been taken up in the edition of the Bill now before the Senate.
The Bill before us still has some very minor difficulties which may well be clarified in the Committee stage of the debate. There are honourable senators on this side of the chamber who are concerned to seek elucidation from the Minister on one or two provisions in the Bill, but it is not the intention of the Opposition to move any amendments. We are now in the position of saying that we do not oppose the Bill. Twelve months ago we did oppose it. As we said then, we opposed it not because we found its intent worthy of censure or because we disagreed with its intent but rather because we felt that that intent was not carried out in the clauses of the Bill. Since that time a quite commendable procedure has taken place. The Opposition congratulates the Minister first of all on having allowed that procedure to take place and, secondly, on the Government’s acceptance of the suggestions in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. We believe that as a result of that process much better legislation is now before the Parliament and to that extent and in that spirit we say that it is worthy of support. For that reason, as I have indicated, the Opposition will not be opposing the Bill.
-I join with Senator Button in supporting the second reading of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Bill. I think it is a necessary Bill and one whose purposes were recognised on the previous occasion when it was before the Senate. However, it contained difficulties and defects which I think we have now overcome substantially. It is important to realise that the purposes which are to be served by this Bill, namely, the prohibition of persons preparing for or engaging in incursions into a foreign country, are necessary. People who leave this country or who are connected with this country and proceed into another country and cause death or destruction can cause a great deal of danger and embarrassment to this country, and we should not be seen to countenance that. The second purpose, namely, to prohibit the recruiting in Australia of persons to serve in the armed forces of a foreign country, is likewise one which I think it is desirable to prohibit. Of course, there is an exception to this and that has been referred to by Senator Button.
The genuine difficulties which arose in the previous debate and which were exposed by honourable senators from both sides of the chamber especially at the Committee of the Whole stage of consideration of the legislation have been largely overcome, I hope. The Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs of which I was Chairman considered this Bill. It was given a very short period in which to do so. I believe it traversed the matters which were raised. It had the value of submissions from two honourable senators and also an unfortunately late submission from Senator Wright. His submission arrived after we had completed the report but we had a chance to consider it verbally. We felt that we had covered the major matters which he raised in that submission and that the amendments which we suggested adequately picked up the points that he raised.
If one looks briefly at the Bill as it now stands, one appreciates that the Government has very carefully amended the Bill in suitable ways. I briefly mention the matters. The fact that there is now a definition of ‘government’ in the Bill takes away a great deal of the uncertainty which existed. ‘Government’ means a government recognised by the Government of Australia as the lawful government of that foreign country. That is a matter which can easily be proved in court proceedings. There is no longer the great obscurity which there would have been if that word had been left undefined.
Clause 6 of the Bill deals with incursions and prohibits people either entering or engaging in a foreign country in hostile activity against the government of that country. It is now made clear under clause 9 of the Bill that the Minister has the right to exclude such actions and that he may make a declaration that service in a country is not to be taken as an offence. These two clauses now hold together and, in fact, nobody will be charged with an offence under clause 6 after they have received a declaration under clause 9 that such an activity is valid.
– Where does the connection between those two clauses come in?
– The connection between the two is that clause 6(4) states:
Nothing in this section applies to an Act done by a person in the course of, and as part of, his service in any capacity in or with-
The armed forces of the government of a foreign country-
That is the important addition-
The first provision covers a situation where somebody may be serving, for example, in the Israeli Army in the Entebbe situation. The second of those two exceptions is one where our own Minister makes a declaration under subclause 9 (2). That declaration is made by an instrument signed by the Minister and published in the Gazette declaring that it is in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia to permit the recruitment in Australia, either generally or in particular circumstances, of persons to serve in or with a specified armed force. The sub-clause goes on to give further examples. I believe that series of amendments reaches a situation where there is no possible conflict between the two clauses of the Bill. Furthermore, the amendments to clause 9 pick up the matters which were raised and requested by the Senate Committee in its report. Sub-clause 9(4) makes it clear- I think the Government had already agreed to this in debate- that any declarations made under the Act would be under the terms of the Acts Interpretation Act which means that the declarations could be disallowed in the Senate or the House of Representatives. The same provisions would apply to them as if they were regulations. That is a significant improvement in the Bill.
The Senate Committee also made a recommendation which is covered by sub-clause 9(5). We suggested that there ought to be a definition of advertisement. The question was asked: What does it mean by an advertisement in which one would seek recruits for service in a foreign country? There was a problem that items might appear as news items and therefore not come within the definition of advertisement. The Government in this Bill has not defined ‘advertisement ‘. What it has done is to say:
In other words, where it is not a genuine news item but is something which is paid for and which is in reality an advertisement, that would be encompassed in the actions forbidden under the Act.
There is a further amendment to clause 10. Clause 1 1 has been removed. I understand that that does not come within the recommendations of the Senate Committee. As I read the clause it appears that there will have to be a trial and indictment. It is a very serious charge which comes within the Act. It is also clear from clause 10 that now the consent of the Attorney-General must be obtained. In view of the seriousness of the charge, I believe it is wise that that should be done. It should not be left to some other officer. Consequently, I suggest that the Government has amended this Bill in such a way that it now ought to receive the acceptance of the Parliament. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has spoken about the report which the Senate Committee submitted. Perhaps we have given some example of the value of the working of the Senate committee system. We have changed the situation from a state of great confusion to one where it appears- we do not know whether there will be further confusion- that some acceptable solutions have been found. I hope that this type of activity by Senate committees will not be so much the exception in the future and that we will, in fact, see a greater use of the committee system to unravel the difficulties which arise in debate and which are properly put forward by honourable senators. I realise that these recommendations will not satisfy all honourable senators but I believe that the Bill as it now stands is important. It is desirable that we should pass it. I think the Bill is now reasonably incapable of confusion and that it ought to have the acceptance of the Australian people.
– As one honourable senator who was critical of the previous Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Bill which came before the Senate last year I agree with honourable senators who have already spoken that the present Bill is a substantial improvement on the earlier Bill. Not only that, I go so far as to say that, acknowledging that there is a necessity for regulating the sort of conduct which is dealt with in the Bill, those who drafted the Bill have done as good a job as one could reasonably expect anybody to do in view of the very complex circumstances which surround the matters which are dealt with.
I certainly concur with Senator Missen that the manner in which this matter has been handled by the Senate as a whole- I think the present Attorney-General (Senator Durack) deserves some credit for that- in agreeing to refer this vexed matter to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs and the manner in which the Committee dealt with the matter, are in the rather better traditions of the Senate ‘s conduct of its business. There was a sensible approach by all parties- I do not mean political parties but by all honourable senators who showed some interest in this matter.
The Bill, as it stands, does not deal with all of the matters which presently concern people throughout the world with regard to foreign incursions by armed forces or individuals from one country to another, but it certainly does deal with some very important aspects of that problem. The most significant difference between this Bill and the previous Bill is the definition of government’ which is defined as one which is recognised by Australia as being the de jure government of the country. This does remove ambiguities and difficulties which faced all of us in contemplating the previous Bill although, as I intended to point out in a few moments, it nonetheless still retains some apparent paradoxes.
The Bill provides that it is a serious offence, one carrying a penalty of 14 years imprisonment, for any Australian citizen to enter another country in order to engage in armed, violent activity that is directed against the government of that country; or, indeed, if he is already within that country, to engage in violent activity against it. Various definitions are given as to what would, or could, constitute warlike activities against the government in question. Clause 7 provides similarly for a prohibition of the preparation, training or organisation of armed forces to engage in this sort of violent and warlike activity against the government of another country. There is also, in clause 9, a penalty for the recruitment of persons to engage in such activity. That clause goes further and prohibits recruitment for any armed forces- not only forces which would be engaged in opposing the government of the foreign country, but also those which would be operating for any purpose within that country. It is to be an offence to recruit within Australia such foreign armed forces, but it is not to be an offence for an Australian to serve within them.
There are certain situations which have arisen in the not so distant history, and could arise again in the future, which could I suppose present in the minds of some people, an anomalous situation. For instance, in the Spanish Civil War- and this is not something to which I would object- it would not have been an offence for an Australian to have served in the armed forces of the then Spanish Republican Government. It would have been an offence to have served in the armed forces of General Franco’s Falangist rebels. At the same time, it would have been an offence, in Germany or Italy, to have served in an insurgency against the governments of Hitler or Mussolini, which were supporting the Franco rebels in Spain.
It would be an offence for Australians to engage in or organise campaigns of liberationhowever one may care to term them, depending on one’s own predilections- on behalf of Ukrainians within the Soviet Union, Croatians within Yugoslavia or Africans within the Republic of South Africa. All armed interventions by Australians against any government which we recognise would be prohibited, but I believe this is one of those occasions when one has to look at the whole issue of international relations. This is, in many respects, a matter not only of domestic but also of foreign policy. However much one may deplore the government of one country and applaud the opposition, or insurgents, in another, these are not the kinds of matters that can be legislated. I think all honourable senators would concede that it would be desirable that the amount of violence taking place in the world, especially the intervention of nationals of one country in the internal affairs of the nationals of another, should be limited. This Bill endeavours to do that, at least, insofar as it can with regard to Australian citizens.
The question of the need to obtain the consent of the Attorney-General for a prosecution still arises under the proposed Bill, and I suppose that the same difficulties that arose previously could arise in this case. As Senator Button said earlier, the Opposition does not propose to move any amendment but for myself, I would like to hear the Attorney-General perhaps expand a little on the necessity to seek the consent of the AttorneyGeneral before a prosecution may be launched. It seems to me that the offences which are set out in the relevant clauses of this Bill are of such a nature that if a prima facie case could be made out that they have been committed, a prosecution should follow, as happens with the commission of most other offences against the Crimes Act.
I would only remark in concluding that admirable as I believe the general intention and details of this Bill to be, we are still in a situation in the world where not every country is adopting the principles that we are applying here. If ever a matter ought to be one for international convention, agreement for treaty, it is this question of the foreign incursion of nationals of one country into that of other nationals. During the past decade we have seen forces with whom we have been allied make incursions into the internal affairs of other countries in various parts of Asia. At present we are seeing incursions by Cuban and Soviet troops into the internal affairs of various African countries- incursions of such a nature as would, I think, arouse a great deal of uproar if they were to be committed by, for example, the United States of America.
We cannot deal with that in this Bill but I do think- and this is the problem not of the Attorney-General but of whoever happens at the time to be in government- that we ought to be pressing for international conventions on this matter and striving, however difficult it may be, for possibly a decision of the United Nations whereby it will be an offence against international law, not merely domestic law, for incursions of this kind to be mounted. I appreciate all the difficulties of enforcing a convention of this kind, or indeed of obtaining agreement on it, but this should be our next objective in the struggle against international violence. I commend the Government for taking what I believe is at least a step in that direction- a quite important step as far as the activities of Australian citizens are concerned.
– I also rise to support the second reading of this Bill. A good deal has been said already to indicate the broad support that the Government is receiving on this measure. I commend Senator Wheeldon for his comments, with which I am in almost total agreement. It is unfortunate that, I suppose, there is only one nose we can keep clean, as far as taking action in this legislature is concerned. I would agree with Senator Wheeldon that the problem of another country’s behaviour is something to which the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) might very well address himself.
I wish to participate in the debate simply to commend the Government and the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) upon the way in which this Bill has been handled. It is unfortunate that, in the seven or eight years during which there have been Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees of the Senate, only a handful of Bills have been referred to them. The outcome of the reference in this case is very good evidence that this is a practice which ought to be pursued by the Senate, and used far more widely. It is an unusual reference, because it has occurred in regard to a partisan measure, not a non-party matter such as the Family Law Bill. It is a measure which has been dealt with by the Senate with the Government having a clear majority. I hope therefore that it is an indication of a Government attitude which will be evident over the next couple of years, namely, a preparedness to refer legislation to committees when serious matters are raised in this chamber and then to give careful consideration to matters which are brought forward by the committee.
In this whole area what is required is not so much a change of attitude as a change of technique on the part of the Government. The lengthy debate which took place in the Senate on 31 March 1977, to which previous speakers have referred, is a good demonstration of the difficulty of dealing with quite complicated arguments. I am sure that Senator Wright, who along with other honourable senators was trying to put forward some matters, must have found the debate on 31 March 1977 extremely frustrating. I suspect that the Attorney also would have found it extremely frustrating. Those of us who subsequently took part in the committee deliberations on the Bill are all aware that it is relatively easy in the atmosphere around the table to deal with the technical questions which arise and to make sensible recommendations. This Bill, in the way it has been handled, has significance for the Senate which ought to be noted and perhaps a significance for the whole Parliament which ought to be noted. I thank the Attorney for his consideration and the Government for its consideration of the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. I trust that this is but the first of many such exercises.
– I appear to be the one remaining disconcerted soul in this place as a result of all that has gone on in respect of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Bill. At the outset I acknowledge with appreciation the consideration that the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs gave to the Bill, limited as it was and handicapped by the fact that its decision had to precede consideration of my submission. I was apparently two days late and went beyond the time limit set down, which interestingly enough should be noted. We dealt with this Bill in the Senate in March 1977, when it was referred to the Committee. Of course there was an aura of urgency, with which the Government always seems to surround its business. So the Committee apparently felt obliged to proceed with expedition, and I think it was less than four weeks from the time of reference that the report was written and submitted in April 1977. Here we are in March 1978 before the Parliament again is consulted. The second reading speech was delivered last night, and today we are proceeding through all stages with a segment of the Senate probably numbering about twelve in attendance. So my appreciation of the undoubted improvements to the Bill that have been wrought by the Committee’s consideration is of modified rapture.
I am still dumbfounded to think that the Government corporately- and apparently the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) himselfadopts an opinion that the content of this Bill should take the priority that it does over urgent, imperative and necessary consideration of hijacking and terrorism. The pace in international organisations’ fighting hijacking and terrorism has been deliberately deterred by people who are fomenting revolution of an armed nature throughout the world. Hijacking is occurring to the distress of not merely the victims but also international travellers who have to resort to the modern medium of aircraft and therefore have to expose themselves for a particular length of time to the risk of being flown to a hostile country that gives the hijackers harbourage. These countries are still permitted to retain their membership of the United Nations. They do not in the slightest degree renounce the outrageous iniquities against the integrity of travellers submitted to hijacking and terrorism of the worst sort. My mind would be ever so much more at ease if I could be directed by the Attorney-General to adequate laws in this country dealing with that situation.
The title of this Bill still does not find acceptance to my most calm consideration of it. ‘Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Bill ‘ is the tide. I imagine that ‘Incursions’ is associated with clause 6, which prohibits a person from entering a foreign country or in a foreign country engaging in hostile activity. I take it that ‘Recruitment’ is associated with clause 9, which prohibits a person from recruiting another or publishing advertisements for recruiting or doing any act for the purpose of facilitating or promoting recruitment. I find that part of the title that uses the word Recruitment’ appropriate. I will not formally vote against the second reading of the Bill because I find the substance of clause 9 acceptable.
It prohibits in this country the recruitment for foreign service by anybody other than our Government through the lawfully constituted armed forces. Of course any other recruitment should never be permitted. We do not even permit private persons or other organisations, much less anybody from abroad, to recruit their own forces. But the words ‘foreign incursions’ are a different matter. All that has been said in the course of the debate by the proponents of the Bill absolutely reinforces the situation that if I were to hive off tonight, enter Rhodesia and offer my services to the Smith Government for the purposes of the defence of the country of Rhodesia, I presume I would be committing an offence against this Bill.
– There is no government there.
-I will come to that. How I weep, almost without offence, for the treachery of the intellect behind such a proposition as Senator Wheeldon ‘s interjection advances. He says that there is no government in Rhodesia. What nonsense. There has been a stable and firm government now for 12 years. It is a government that has considerable achievement to its credit. It has defended the principles of its community to the extent that 80 per cent of its armed forces are volunteers of the black community. That shows how it is a national government and not merely a racial segment.
– But under this Bill you could volunteer for service in that admirable army. You would not be committing an offence because there is no government of Rhodesia within the meaning of the Bill. You could serve in the Rhodesian army if you wished.
– I am afraid that Senator Wheeldon ‘s versatility of reasoning is almost elusive. I was condemning the use of the word incursion’ in that part of the Bill which prohibits entry into another country for the purpose of engaging in hostile activity in that country. If an individual alone enters a country, in any sense in which the language is used, is it permissible to describe that as an incursion? Surely not. Such a term is used for a collective entry or invasion and so I protest somewhat against its use here.
However, these are preliminary matters. My chief objection to the Bill is that, while providing those prohibitions with extremely harsh penaltiespenalties almost comparable with those with which we visit treason and treachery to our own country- it absolutely prohibits a personwe are to understand that to mean an Australian citizen or a person who has lived in
Australia in the last 12 months- from entering a foreign country with intent to engage in a hostile activity against the government of that country. Most of the speeches which have preceded mine have dwelt upon the improvement in the Bill where it describes the government of the country. It has still got some ambiguity in my mind but I accept the present definition as some improvement. We argued for it on the previous occasion. An individual under this Bill is prohibited from entering a foreign country with intent to engage in hostile activity against the government of that country. The Entebbe raid is a perfect illustration of what can go on today. Since then we have had a repetition of it in Cyprus when the Egyptians sent their raiding party to release hijackers.
– And Mogadishu.
-Yes. The Cyprus Government protested. For an Australian in Cyprus to help the Egyptians or in Idi Amin’s territory to help the Israelis is still an offence because he is prohibited when in a foreign country from engaging in a hostile activity against the government of that country. I was interested in what Senator Missen had to say. I am not proceeding with rapid pace through this Bill because of the brevity of the debate. I am not one of those who think that if the Senate spends 20 minutes on a Bill that is altogether too much. Let us assume that I am in Idi Amin’s country, the Entebbe raid is on and the Israelites need some support, so I engage with them in holding up some of Idi Amin’s murderers so that the planeload of people can be released. Senator Missen was good enough to help me by referring to sub-clause (4) which states:
Nothing in this section applies to an act done by a person in the course of, and as pan of, his service in any capacity in or with-
the armed forces of the government of a foreign country . . .
I am debating this only because I submit that there is a real conundrum here, both in the expression of the matter and in the purpose to which it gives expression. I understand Senator Missen ‘s reference to mean that if I, as an Australian citizen, lure a member of the Israeli armed forces to Entebbe and help in that campaign I would not be subject to the penalties in clause 6. Is that what the Australian Government is legalising under this Bill? I cannot go as an individual but I can accept foreign enlistment and go as a member of the armed forces of a foreign country against a foreign government? Surely that provision needs a little consideration. That I thought had been proscribed by the
Foreign Enlistment Act in England since 1870, an Act which proved completely futile and under which, as I read the report of Lord Diplock, there was never a prosecution. Then I come to consider whether this justifying or exempting clause does exempt me. If I am on the airport at Entebbe and never serve as part of the raiding party from Israel I do not get exemption; and if I, as an Australian citizen see a hijack being quelled, why in the name of fortune am I prohibited by a law made in Canberra from taking part in rescuing from criminals people who are imprisoned?
– I do not think that the Attorney-General would prosecute under those circumstances.
– I hear the argument put up again that we should rely upon the discretion of the Attorney-General not to prosecute. That is anathema to anybody who believes that the rule of law prevails. The discretion of the AttorneyGeneral not to prosecute on grounds of that sort as distinct from the evaluation of evidence should pass out of the window.
– Lawyers in the department would have a few things to say about that.
– There is always a grey area in any proposition but I do not stay to discuss the embroidery around that absolutely faulty argument. The point is that the Government is making it criminal, with penalties of $10,000 or 14 years imprisonment, for me or anybody else, even a conscious soldier, to go to the aid of people who are acting in self-defence in an individual way to extricate their colleagues from the murderous plans of a foreign government.
I add just one last word in postscript. It has been said by all speakers that the revised definition of ‘government’ is an improvement and I subscribe to that view, but we are told that when we now use the term to mean the government recognised by the Government of Australia as the lawful government of that country, as I understood the Attorney-General’s speech to emphasise, it is the government that has de jure recognition. Am I to understand in that case that a government which has only de facto recognition is not a government and that it is perfectly lawful for Senator Missen, who supports the East Timorese, now to enter East Timor and fight with the Fretilin against the Indonesians? Am I to understand that that is the situation in which we are left in this dreadful frenzy over this Bill?
– in reply- I thank the Senate for supporting this Bill. I even thank
Senator Wright. I understood him to say he would not actually oppose the second reading of the Bill. I suppose I should thank Senator Wright also for redressing to some extent the imbalance in the debate and giving me something to say on behalf of the Government in responding to the second reading debate.
Certainly the Bill has been through a fairly full process of debate. It was debated here at some length on 31 March last year. I certainly recall that debate. It was then considered by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs after the Committee of the Whole debate which resulted in the decision to refer the Bill to that Committee. The legislation has been further debated by the Senate today. As Senator Wheeldon recognises, it is probably true that it is almost impossible on this matter to have legislation that covers every situation in a perfect way to the satisfaction of everybody. Senator Wheeldon instanced one or two cases which would seem perhaps anomalous. However, he recognised I think that it would not really be possible to legislate in respect of those cases in accordance with the generally accepted standard of conduct of international affairs.
Senator Wright also raised some further problems. Some anomalies may appear to exist in relation to those points on which he spoke. However, the fact is that the basic purpose of this Bill is to give support to the conduct of international affairs and to the conduct of Australia’s foreign relations in particular, on the bases of order and recognition of legal governments. Let me outline the basic problem which we faced and which gave rise to the introduction of this Bill. Australia may be conducting legal relations with a country. It may recognise the government of that country as the lawful government. That country may have an ambassador in Australia and we have our ambassador in that country. But situations exist in which people in Australia have joined forces, have trained in Australia and have entered the friendly and legally recognised country with which we have those relations with the object of overthrowing the government recognised by Australia.
This is an activity which regretfully seems to be growing not only in Australia but also throughout the world. There is a tendency these days towards breakdown in the ordered relationship between governments of countries which are recognised as part of the international order. The problem is widespread. By this Bill, Australia seeks to do what it can to control to some extent the breakdown of this order which may be occurring in Australia itself. The concern is certainly not fanciful. We have had experience of the difficulties that arise. I gave some examples before. One of the most notable, of course, was the incursion into Yugoslavia in 1972 by some people who had been in Australia and who prepared for that action in Australia. That is a matter of public knowledge. Some photographs of training in more recent times in Australia have been shown to me. I do not wish to identify the people or at which countries their activities were aimed. Probably that would not be fair or necessary in the context of this debate. Certainly evidence exists that the incident I mentioned is not an isolated case. People have been and are being trained in Australia for the purpose of incursions into countries with which Australia has friendly and lawful relations. This activity is a problem and, therefore, dealing with such activities is the first major object of this legislation.
asked: ‘Why is the Government giving such great priority to this aspect ahead of other facets of international terrorism?’ The fact is that there may be grounds for criticism on the basis that the Government has moved a bit slowly in introducing this legislation. I think that would be perhaps a more correctlybased criticism than to ask: ‘Why are we giving this matter priority?’ In fact, in my memory as Minister representing the Attorney-General, Liberal-National Country Party governments have introduced legislation to give effect to international conventions dealing with the hijacking of aircraft and the protection of internationally protected persons. The legislation dealing with such matters includes: The Crimes (Aircraft) Act, the Crimes (Hi-jacking of Aircraft) Act, the Crimes (Protection of Aircraft) Act and the Crimes (Internationally Protected Persons) Act. That legislation has been enacted by LiberalNational Country Party governments. The legislation demonstrates the general concern of this Government in relation to the modern development of international terrorism which continues to grow. Certainly, the need for further legislation in this area is being kept under constant consideration by the Government.
I turn to deal with some of the specific matters that have been mentioned, particularly the points raised by Senator Wright. The Government adopted the definition of ‘government’ as being the lawful government of the country- that is the government de jure recognised by the Australian Government. It did so for very good reasons. I believe that those reasons have been accepted by the Senate. The Government took this action to achieve clarity and certainty. It is consistent with the general basic policy of giving proper support to the maintenance of international order and to the orderly proper conduct of foreign relations with governments recognised dejure.
A few anomalies may result from the legislation. Senator Wright mentioned Rhodesia. Well, although the present Rhodesian Government has been in control of that country for 1 2 years, the fact is that that government is not recognised as the legal government of that country. The Bill does not apply to anyone who acts on behalf of or against that government. That would have been the case in relation to East Timor until the recent decisions of the Australian Government.
– That was a de facto recognition.
– It may not have. Perhaps I should not say any more. It certainly did not apply earlier. What I have said may not be correct in that case. Therefore, without instructions, I should not make any further reference to it. At least I can say with certainty that it did not apply to the earlier stages of the Timor conflict. Whether it applies now is another matter. Senator Wright referred to the possibility of an Australian being recruited into the Rhodesian armed forces and supporting the Rhodesian Government. If that government were recognised the provisions of the Bill would not apply. They do not apply to people who join the armed forces of a government which Australia legally recognises.
I have covered the main points that have been raised in the debate. In conclusion, I refer to the way in which the Senate has handled this legislation. This has been referred to quite a lot. I apologise to members of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs for the way in which I rushed their consideration of this Bill when it was referred to them last year. Certainly, I appreciate the speed with which they dealt with the matter. It was done so at my request because I knew there would be a heavy bank-up of legislation in the latter stages of the autumn session last year as indeed there was. Further consideration of this Bill was, in fact, a casualty of that bank-up of legislation and having lost its priority it could not be restored to the list of Bills for consideration before the end of that session.
Again, it was not accorded a high priority in the Budget session, particularly as a result of the earlier dissolution of the Parliament. So for one reason or another, the Bill has been delayed for nearly 12 months although the Standing Committee finished its deliberations in a much lesser time. The fact that the Standing Committee was prepared to co-operate with the Government as it did was a very good example of the way in which the Senate committee system works. It is certainly a great encouragement to the Government and to me. Honourable senators can rest assured that any Bills which need to be referred to a Senate committee will be given prompt consideration. This is always an important factor for the Government in deciding whether to agree to the reference of legislation to a committee. The report of the Standing Committee was useful. That is emphasised by the fact that the Government has accepted all its recommendations. I thank the Senate for its support of the measure. I hope the Bill will now have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5- by leave- taken together.
-I seek clarification of the point Senator Wright raised about the definition of ‘government’. Does the recognition of a government mean a de jure recognition as Senator Wright said? Does it mean that a person of, say, Croatian descent is breaking the law if he invades Yugoslavia whereas this legislation will not apply to someone who invades Latvia, Estonia, or Lithuania? But then, if a person steps out of the borders of Latvia, Estonia or Lithuania into Russia is he contravening the proposed law? I should like some clarification. It seems to me that this point raises interesting possibilities even if they are remote.
-I raise a cognate matter. I remind the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) that on 3 1 March last year in the Senate he said:
At present the Smith regime in Rhodesia is not recognised as the government of Rhodesia and therefore there is no actual government there against which hostile activity will b e prohibited by this legislation.
That raises the same problem as the one to which Senator Grimes referred in respect of Latvia Estonia and Lithuania. So far as I know, no form of government exists in those Baltic States. A defective government exists in Rhodesia. This Bill far from acting to quieten foreign violence, apparently enables violence against established governments- even though they are de factowhich should be entitled to continue in peace.
– What has been said in the Committee is true. But I put it to the Committee that we are trying to limit the number of occasions on which incursions- or whatever word one may care to use- take place. I do not think anybody could suggest that all matters will be covered. My own view is that what Senator Grimes has posited would be the case. We do not recognise that there is a de jure government at present in Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia. Consequently, it would be lawful for an Australian to take part on either side if there were an armed conflict there.
– Would it be lawful to take part in hostile activity against the Soviet Government on Lithuanian soil?
-My understanding of the present position is that it would be. One would be legally entitled as an Australian to take part in hostile activity against the Soviet Government on the soil of Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia or to take part in warlike activity on behalf of the Soviet Government in Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia. Likewise, one could take part in hostile activity against the Government of Indonesia within what was formerly Portuguese Timor but not within the previously held Netherlands territory in Timor.
This is possibly unsatisfactory but the number of countries to which Australia gives only de facto recognition is very small. Rhodesia is one of them. I return to the point raised earlier by Senator Wright with regard to Rhodesia. As no de jure government is recognised in Rhodesia, Senator Wright would be able to enlist in the armed forces of the Smith Government in Salisbury and serve in the ranks for the duration of whatever conflict might take place. Senator Missen would be able to enlist in the armed forces of their opponents. If they were to confront each other across the trenches at least they would have the consolation of knowing that neither of them was breaking any Australian law.
-It would be a great relief to know that though Senator Wright and I might be killed at least we would go down without breaking any Australian law.
– I thought you would be comforted.
– I am not often comforted by Senator Wheeldon but I am on this occasion. I support what he said and take it one step further. The proposed prohibition against incursions relates to persons entering a foreign country and engaging in a hostile activity against the government of that country. If we recognise that government as the lawful government of the country we have an obligation to maintain it. It is a recognition that the people of Australia give to the government of another country. Senator Wheeldon pointed out that some countries have governments whose control we do not recognise. This would, of course, be a fraction of the area of the world. We will not reach a situation of total agreement in that area. Surely, when we recognise the lawful government of a country, even if we do not like that Government, we should take action to stop our citizens from doing these things. Insofar as we have done that in this Bill and have not covered all the peculiar things that might happen in the world it is not an argument against the Bill. The Bill in itself is good but it cannot cover all situations, for instance where there may be an obscure and foggy situation as to the actual government of a country.
– After consideration of the questions raised by Senator Grimes I think that what he said would be the case. I hestitate a little because there are countries which we recognise de jure, for example Russia, but we do not recognise the Russian Government as the de jure government of those other countries mentioned. In fact, in Senator Grimes ‘ example, it must be taken to apply as not being a de jure government and any incursions into those countries, even though they would be in effect against the Russian Government and not some local de facto government, would not be prohibited by this Bill. This is simply another example of situations that have been mentioned in the debate, such as in Rhodesia and East Timor, where the Bill would not apply. I have already given the reason why it does not apply and so have other honourable senators. Firstly, there is a need to have certainty in these matters. If we leave the word government’ to apply to governments other than de jure governments we will always have the problem of assessing whether a government is recognised at all or whether it is factually in control. This was the fault of the earlier Bill. It did not define a government adequately and left great uncertainty about whether the Bill would apply to a particular situation. As a result of the definition we have adopted we are at least able to answer with considerable certainty and very rapidly the question of whether the Bill applies to a particular country. The other reason for the new definition- it is probably a more fundamental one and is the argument which I mentioned in my second reading speech as being the basis of the whole Bill-is that we are bolstering international order and the conduct of international relations on a legal basis. We are trying to prevent activities which will overthrow governments. Therefore a de jure government should be the definition adopted.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 6 (Incursions into Foreign Countries).
-I wish to raise some questions relating to sub-clause (4), which states:
Nothing in this section applies to an act done by a person in the course of, and as part of, his service in any capacity in or with-
The armed forces of the government of a foreign country.
I am not sure of the situation in Ethiopia at present except that there is warlike activity taking place there which seems to be conveniently escaping the concern of the United Nations. The constituted government is being actively undermined by forces which are receiving massive support from Soviet aircraft packed with munitions and other supplies.
– Where is this?
– The northern corner of Africa. I stand to be corrected in this matter about which I am not expert. However, I posit that as the situation.
– Call it Abyssinia.
-Somalia, Ethiopia, whatever you like. On the Red Sea the blood is flowing and the Soviet Government is supplying guerrillas with armed forces. The point I make is that if the Soviet armed forces are involved in that way it would be lawful for an Australian citizen to engage in hostile activities with them. But if the Soviet Government is camouflaging its support and sending servicemen in planes camouflaged as civilian aircraft and pretending that its men are Africans one can see on what nice distinctions these things turn. In that situation it would be an offence for an Australian citizen to take part; he would be entering a foreign country and taking part there in hostile activities. It would not be an offence if he were part of the Soviet armed forces directly attacking another constituted government. Surely these things are sufficient to ridicule the Bill. In my state of somewhat detached concern I mention that history has shown, especially in relation to the Foreign Enlistment Act, that there has never been a prosecution, and this Bill will never engage the law authorities in such prosecutions. I would like the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) to answer the conundrum. Is he persevering with the idea that this Bill will solve the problem? To me it creates the ridiculous situation in that it is lawful to engage with armed forces of a foreign country against the government of another country that we recognise de jure, but if that foreign country undertakes subversive activity and camouflages its forces as civilians and an Australian joins that foreign country’s forces and takes part in hostile activities against another government, it is an offence. That is a conundrum and it seems to be completely ridiculous.
– I do not really have a great desire to become one of the advocates for the Government. However, I do not think that the matters raised by Senator Wright really relate to what is the fundamental problem that this Bill, as I understand it, is trying to correct. I do not think there has been a major problem- if there has been it has not been drawn to my attention- of Australians volunteering for the armies of foreign powers and taking part in the invasions of other countries. Nor have I heard of a problem of nationals of other countries volunteering to join the army of another foreign country and serving in that country’s army. Complaints that have been made about the Cuban and the Soviet forces in Africa have not been that people have been enlisting in the army of Ethopia and have served in the Ethopian army against Somalia, but that they have been serving, in whatever capacity, as members of the Soviet or Cuban armed forces. This is not, as I understand it, what the Bill is dealing with. The Bill deals with a problem with which we have been afflicted during the last few years; the problem of terrorist activities on behalf of organisations which are not governments of any country, even though some of them claim to be. Such organisations include the Irish Republican Army, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, the BaderMeinhof gang and the Ustasha. Some of these organisations purport to be left wing and others right wing and they may be receiving some clandestine assistance from a foreign power but they are not the armed forces of a foreign power. Also, the people who have been carrying out hijacks, to which Senator Wright so eloquently referred, are not members of armed forces. They are members of various organisations dedicated, for various reasons, to activities of this kind in order to further ends which, if they are the objectives of some other power, are only indirectly the objectives of some other power. What we are dealing with now is the new phenomenon of the IRA, the PLO, the Bader-Meinhof and the Ustasha. Indeed, it would be true to say that we could have the situation of an Australian volunteering for the Cuban Army, the Ethiopian Army or a force like that. Such a situation would not be covered by this legislation- I think the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) would have to admit that that is so. But I do not think that that is what this Bill is trying to cover. What we are trying to cover in this Bill are terrorist organisations and not the constituted armed forces of governments to which Australia grants de jure recognition.
– I think that Senator Wright’s objections are based upon his support for the concept of the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870 of the British Parliament. That Act prevented enlistment in the forces of foreign countries by British subjects. Senator Wright recognises that the enforcement of that Act was a complete fiasco; it just was not enforced or enforceable. In fact, in 1976 a committee of Privy Councillors was established under the chairmanship of Lord Diplock and reported on this matter of the recruitment of mercenaries, as they have been called. That committee was severely critical of the Foreign Enlistment Act. The provisions of this Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Bill in relation to recruitment have followed the recommendations which that committee made to the British Government.
The principle that is now adopted- I do not know whether it has actually been implemented in England, but it was recommended by that committee and we are implementing it here- is that people should be free to join the armed Services of foreign countries if they wish to do so. We are not seeking to prevent them from doing so. We are seeking to prevent recruitment, as subsequent clauses of this Bill will do, but we are not seeking to stop people from having the right and the freedom to join the armed forces of other countries if they wish to do so. The Commonwealth Government is not concerned in this legislation with the activities of such people if, having joined the armed forces of other countries, they find themselves invading a neighbouring country or any other country. That is something for an individual to decide upon for himself. What this Bill is aimed at doing, as Senator Wheeldon has already said, is to control Australia’s giving support to small groups of terrorists who are making use of Australian soil for training, in particular, and who are entering other countries and engaging in hostile activities there. Putting it on a deeper plane, I think that the basis of the distinction is that conflicts between the armed forces of governments are regulated in the modern world by international organisations, by the United Nations, by international agreements and so on. There is a basic legal order. Maybe it breaks down often, but at least it exists and an attempt is made to enforce this basic legal order. If Ethiopia were to attack Somalia the United Nations Security Council hopefully would do something about it. We are seeking in this legislation to do something on a much more limited scale and to deal with a situation which we, as a national government, have some ability to control.
-I have one further question. Is it intended that the reference in clause 6 (4) (a) to ‘the armed forces of the government of a foreign country’ would cover the peace keeping force of the United Nations on a hostile frontier such as Syria, Israel or Suez when that was occupied?
– The United Nations forces consist of component national groups. They would be serving in the Australian Army.
– Not necessarily.
– I think they would.
-That would be so if the Australian Government were requested by the United Nations to send a group or unit of people. But if Cuba, Tunisia and the Soviet Union were the three countries asked to supply the United Nations peace keeping force, which would be the likely composition of such a force within the next five years, and an Australian joined that peace keeping force, would that United Nations peace keeping force be an armed force of a government of a foreign country?
– I am not sufficiently familiar with the facts of a situation such as that to answer Senator Wright fully on that point. But as I understand it, if an Australian were to join a peace keeping force in a capacity other than as a member of the Australian force, he would be joining the national force of the foreign country to become part of the peace keeping force. I should have thought that he would have to be a member of the armed force of a government which Australia recognised if he were to be a member of a peace keeping force. I do not think that there is such a concept as a peace keeping force of the United Nations which is recruited by the United Nations. But if there is, I should think that it would be certainly within the intention of this clause that he should be so protected. If I were exercising a discretionary power in this respect I would recognise this.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Recruiting persons to serve in or with an armed force in a foreign country).
– I wish to direct the attention of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) to sub-clause (2) which states that the prohibition against recruitment in Australia does not apply in the following circumstances:
If the Minister has, by instrument signed by him and published in the Gazette, declared that it is in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia to permit the recruitment in Australia, either generally or in particular circumstances, of persons to serve in or with a specified armed force . . .
I am concerned about the right of a Minister to designate a ‘specified armed force’ which should receive his approval in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia. I should have thought that we had jealously guarded against the Executive raising any armed forces without the authority of Parliament. We do not permit our defence forces to be raised except in accordance with the law. It seems to me to be completely anomalous that a specified armed force of no particular description or composition could have the blessing of the Minister, even if it were limited to interests of defence. But if this were extended to cover interests of international relations, it would seem to me that we would be going backwards in history at a fast rate to our destruction. Can the Minister provide any instance of a specified armed force which a Minister might choose to approve in this connection?
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (5.4)- I am dragged to my feet by the observation which Senator Wright has just made. In essence, what he is saying, without actually saying it, is that under the foreign powers placitum of section 5 1 of the Constitution, simply because the Executive Government of the day has accepted or subscribed to a convention, an agreement, a consensus or an opinion of the Security Council of the United Nations, for example, calling upon Australia to provide armed forces for certain objects which the United Nations might have in view, the Minister of the day could enable that force to be raised in Australia without acknowledgement by or the understanding of Parliament, except in the context of financial powers which might exist in the Parliament and temporarily reside in the Senate, because it would not be an ordinary annual service of the Government. I think this is a very valid point. What has been suggested by Senator Wright is, quite simply, that a new area of law is evolving which the academic lawyers call ‘international law’ and that international law will override the domestic law. I think the point raised by Senator Wright is at least worthy of an answer and an undertaking that this clause does not provide- simply upon a subscription to some temporary or advantageous majority or a group majority in the United Nations, either in the Security Council or the General-Assembly- that the Minister of the day can order the raising of an armed force.
– I think the criticisms that have been made are quite misconceived. As I see it, an example would be the service in Korea by Australians in United Nations forces. There would be probably other–
– They did serve in the Australian Army, not a foreign army.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! I have called Senator Missen.
– They did serve in an international force. One may call it the Australian Army but it was an international force as well. I imagine that other circumstances could arise where forces would be raised and where they would have the support of the Australian people and the Australian Government. This is not the imprimatur of the Minister or the Government. One of the things that the Bill does is to make it quite clear that under the Acts Interpretation Act such proclamations will be regulations in effect and subject to disallowance, not by just the Senate but by either House of the Parliament. They will have to be laid on the tables of the Houses and will be subject to disallowance. If that is not good enough insurance that any such decision will be subject to consideration by the Parliament, I do not know what is. It seems to me that it is clear that this is not going to be some unilateral decision by any Minister or any government, but something over which the Parliament will have full control and which the Parliament will be able to disallow if it so sees fit.
– I again wish to intrude. If I may say so, although I agree with what Senator Missen is trying to convey, I do not think that his example of the United Nations has solved the problem that was raised by Senator Wright. Senator Wright is referring to the proclamation by the Government giving permission to a foreign country to engage in recruiting troops from within Australia to serve in its armed forces. Although one could call it an international force, in fact the Australians who served in Korea in the United Nations forces served as members of the Australian Army. They were not recruited by any of the other member countries of the United Nations who were serving. They were not recruited to serve in the American Army or the Turkish Army. They were serving in the Australian Armed Forces. I can well imagine that this could happen on occasions. If, for example, a friendly country which Australia regarded as a democracy was in serious difficulties- had been invaded by another country- and we believed it was to our advantage strategically as well as morally to support it, I imagine that although we were not in a position to send our own forces there we would allow recruitment in Australia.
For example, I imagine that in 1939 the Australian Government may have decided that it was quite proper for the French Army or the Polish Army to recruit Australians to serve in their forces, just as the Americans served in the British and French forces in the First World War and in the Second World War until the United States of America entered the war. It does not seem to me that one would need to have too fanciful an imagination to picture situations like that. The United States Government took no action against those Americans who volunteered to serve in the British Forces in 1939, 1940 and 1941, and a similar situation could arise in our case where we could say we were giving moral support to some other country. We could say that we would not be sending forces ourselves but we believed it was an important conflict and we would be giving some economic assistance and would allow the Government of the threatened country to advertise for recruits in Australia.
– I think Senator Wheeldon has covered fully the points that I needed to make in reply. Clause 9(2) does not permit a Minister to raise a force in Australia or anything like that. I thought Senator Wright suggested some overtones of that.
– It permits the foreign country to recruit in Australia.
– It permits the foreign country simply to recruit in Australia. Contrary to the prohibition contained in clause 9(1), subclause (2) contains the general prohibition that the Minister has the right to permit that recruitment provided, as Senator Missen has pointed out, that that is subject to disallowance by the Parliament. So the parliament remains supreme and in control of any decision that the Government makes in this matter. That is only inserted here for safety reasons. If the situation arose that the Commonwealth Government felt, in peculiar circumstances, that it would be justified in allowing such recruitment to take place, it has the ability to do so without breaching the provisions of clause 9. It otherwise would have been in breach of clause 9. 1 think, as Senator Wheeldon has said, the classic example would be if Australia had not been at war in 1939 and 1940. Nobody would doubt that in those circumstances Britain could have recruited Australians to join the Royal Air Force or the Royal Navy. Of course, we know that many Australians did directly join those forces. I think that would be a classic example of the sort of situation that the Government has in mind here.
– I wish only to say that I am indebted to the debate.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 (Consent of Attorney-General required for Prosecutions).
- Mr Chairman, I am concerned with the placing of the three sub-clauses in clause 10. Sub-clause ( 1 ) refers to:
Sub-clause (2) (c) states: a person so charged may be remanded in custody or on bail, but no further step in proceedings referred to in sub-section (3) shall be taken in relation to the offence until such a consent has been given.
Sub-clause (3) states:
Nothing in sub-section (2) prevents the discharge of the accused if proceedings are not continued within a reasonable time.
Sub-clause (3) may be a fairly standard one, but I am curious as to what is a ‘ reasonable time ‘ and if in fact the ‘no further step in proceedings referred to in sub-section (3)’- that is, that subsection (2) can prevent the discharge of the accused if proceedings are not continued within a reasonable time- follows on. Perhaps the Minister might be good enough to clarify the question of whether, if sub-section (3) does not come into operation until after sub-section (2), a person could be remanded in custody at the pleasure of the Attorney-General.
– That is certainly not the case. Sub-clauses (2) and (3) of clause 10 are directed to the situation where it has not been possible to obtain the consent of the AttorneyGeneral. If some urgency exists involving the arrest of a person, for example, the provisions of the sub-clauses ensure that the matter cannot proceed until the Attorney-General gives his consent. If he does not give his consent, the person is to be discharged. The purpose of the subclauses is to protect the liberty of the subject if the Attorney-General does not give his consent.
– If a person is arrested and remanded in custody and for some reason the AttorneyGeneral is unable to give his consent in writing, what would be a reasonable time before that person could be discharged? What would the AttorneyGeneral determine as a reasonable time.?
– What is a reasonable time is a matter that would be determined by the court in each case. It would depend on the facts of each case. It may be that there was some difficulty in locating the Attorney-General. He might be in some remote part of Australia and it might be difficult to get his signature. I think it is very unlikely that a person would be kept in custody for very long. But if a time limit of, say, 24 hours were included, it might not be possible to meet it. It is for that reason that the phrase ‘a reasonable time’ is used. It is used in countless pieces of legislation and is fairly strictly controlled by the courts. The intention is obvious, and I think it is a matter that can safely be left to the courts to decide.
– My only objection to the Bill, insofar as I have any objection, arises from clause 10. 1 have the reservation that the area being dealt with by the Bill is a very sensitive one and, for that reason, this Bill ought to be removed as far as possible from political decisions by an AttorneyGeneral. One can imagine the disorder and dissatisfaction that would occur if, for example, one individual made an incursion into Yugoslavia in accordance with the provisions specified in the earlier clauses of the Bill, another person made an incursion into South Africa and, on facts that appeared to be near enough to be identical in each case, the man who made the incursion into South Africa was not prosecuted because of the withholding of a certificate by the AttorneyGeneral but the man who entered Yugoslavia was prosecuted, or vice versa. I suggest to the Attorney-General that even if the facts were not identical, even if they were fairly substantially different, if it appeared that certificates were being issued in the case of an incursion into one country within the meaning of the Act but were not being issued in the case of an incursion into another country, considerable disquiet about political interference with the administration of justice could result. When the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) replies to the debate on this clause, could he be somewhat specific as to the sorts of matters he would bear in mind when granting or withholding a certificate? I suggest to him that serious problems could occur through this discretion being left in the hands of the Executive, although at the same time it is not apparent to me what problems would arise if the Executive discretion were not available to the Attorney-General .
-A different point has now been raised, but I should like to return to the point raised by Senator Coleman, although I know that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) has already replied to it. Is it not a fact that sub-clause (3) of clause 10 ensures that the extra rights provided in subclause (2) for people to be charged, arrested and remanded do not prevent the discharge of an accused if he is kept for more than a reasonable time? A court always has a right to take action where there is a want of prosecution or failure to prosecute properly, but is this sub-clause not a further protection to the individual to ensure that whilst these other things may be done while the consent of the Attorney-General is being obtained, an accused person is not prevented from being discharged where there is an unreasonable and unconscionable delay in the prosecution? From that point of view, surely the sub-clauses afford a greater protection to the individual?
– In regard to Senator Wheeldon ‘s concern about the need for the Attorney-General ‘s certificate, the provision has been included to prevent private prosecutions by people who may have political motivations.
– It is primarily to regulate private prosecutions?
-I hope that it would be and that the Attorney-General would not be exercising this discretion for political reasons. If he did that, of course, he would be answerable to Parliament. In the situation mentioned by Senator Wheeldon, I should think that the AttorneyGeneral would have a fairly hot time answering questions why hr. had prosecuted in one case but not in a similar case relating to another country, perhaps on the basis of his political sympathy for one country rather than the other.
– This is primarily directed against private prosecutions?
-That is the object of it, yes.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7 March on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Subject to the agreement of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), I suggest that this Bill be debated cognately with the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill.
– Yes, that is agreed to.
– As an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill, I move:
The amendment is self-explanatory. In short, the Government has no industry policy. For a policy it substitutes a series of ad hoc prime ministerial reactions which ossify the economy’s structural imbalance and therefore aggravate the long-term problems. The customary rationale for the shortsighted reactions of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is the maintenance of employment and the support of the private sector. This is the reaction of the Chief Minister of a government which has presided over an absolute decline in the number of people in private employment and an increase in registered unemployed of more than 100,000 since it came to office.
As the last annual report of the Industries Assistance Commission lucidly demonstrated, the Government, or more accurately the Prime Minister, is oblivious to the inflationary effects of its knee jerk reactions and the adverse effects of its actions on employment in other sectors in its attempt to kill off the inflation which has been induced by its policies. For example, the LAC in its last annual report estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 jobs had been destroyed in the construction industry due to the restrictive fiscal and monetary policies followed by the Government. This situation, of course, has had repercussions on other industries. The Sydney Morning Herald editorial of 27 January last, in response to one of Mr Fraser’s comments on international trade, noted:
Last week Mr Fraser launched a strong attack on the EEC for its threat to impose restraints on imports of steel.
The editorial continued:
He is quite right, of course. But Australia is in no position to lecture others on the virtues of free trade. In the election just passed Mr Fraser attempted to win votes by branding his opponents as ‘free traders’.
The editorial further continued:
It is ironic that, on the day Mr Fraser was admonishing the Europeans, the Philippines Government expressed its concern that the policy announced during the election campaign would virtually extend for another three years the ‘temporary’ protection being given to several inefficient Australian industries. If a round of beggar-thy-neighbour protectionism does get under way, Australia will have played its own small part.
The totality- to borrow a word much beloved by the former Treasurer- of Fraserian economics is a circular exercise in futility. On the pretext of saving jobs Mr Fraser causes inflation. On the pretext of controlling inflation he destroys jobs. As the last annual report of the IAC noted, increased protection given to three already highly protected Australian industries had added between 2 per cent and 3.5 per cent to the consumer price index. In an attempt to kill off that inflation the Government’s policy has destroyed a greater number of jobs in other industries. Moreover the IAC report also revealed that employment has not been maintained in those industries in spite of the increased protection granted and in spite of the very significant contribution to inflation which that protection had induced. Moreover the level of employment had in fact fallen in those industries so the final result of the Government’s misguided policies was that increased protection was transformed not into increased employment or even in maintaining the existing level of employment but into higher profits. I suggest it is no coincidence that two of those industries recorded returns on ‘ funds employed of 22 per cent as against 13 per cent for manufacturing industry in total. The Prime Minister very clearly spelt out his own beliefs in these matters. For his beliefs we can read the Government’s policies in relation to this matter as set out in a major address which the Prime Minister delivered on 26 August last. He stated:
Our consideration of that report -
That is the IAC report on textiles, clothing and footwear- and earlier reports has led to the Government taking certain actions. Sufficient assistance will be given to ensure that there is no reduction in the level of activity, or employment, in the textiles, clothing and footwear industries for the next three years.
If that is not an invitation to profiteer then it constitutes such an invitation which those industries have clearly taken up. This is demonstrated by the 22 per cent of funds employed as against 13 per cent for manufacturing industry as a whole. We find similar sentiments written into clause 10 of the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill. It states that the Commission:
Of course, previous protection policies have failed to maintain the level of employment. But perhaps that is a good clause as it demonstrates the absurdity of the goal which the Prime Minister is seeking. This BUI proclaims that he seeks to maintain forever a given level of employment in a particular industry. If one looks back one can imagine what the consequences of such a policy would have been if applied to buggy makers and harness makers in the early part of this century. One should clearly see that the goal which the Prime Minister seeks is unattainable. If one cannot see that one can certainly see- it has already been quantified- that the Government ‘s policies have failed in the past to achieve their stated objective of maintaining the existing level of employment. Superficially, much of this Bill appears to be reasonable or even innocuous. Under a reasonable government or Prime Minister, perhaps it would be. But in the hands of the Prime Minister as arbitrary, as furtive and as meddlesome as Mr Fraser, it may be far from innocuous. The major changes proposed by the Bill are found in clause 8, which amends section 22 of the principal Act, and especially clause 8 (3) which states:
The Minister may, by notice in writing to the Commission, give directions as to the priorities to be observed by the Commission in having regard to the matters mentioned in subsection ( I ) or contained in any notice under sub-section (2) and the Commission shall comply with any such directions.
The second reading speech when dealing with the same matter stated:
One of the purposes of the Bill is to ensure that recommendations of the Commission are made in the light of Government policy. . . .
One might ask: What policy? A policy has yet to be articulated. More importantly, this obviously gives the Minister-in the present context that means the Prime Minister- greater control and direction over the Industries Assistance Commission. Something which Mr Fraser normally appears to overlook entirely is that all policy decisions- quite correctly- ultimately are the prerogative of the Government. The IAC has an advisory role only. It is probably reasonable- it may even be necessary- that a reasonable government should have the power to tell the Commission what its policies are, if it has any policies, and to ask the Commission to take account of those policies. For that reason the Opposition will not oppose the Bill. But we are apprehensive. Knowing what the policy of this Government is and knowing that it has won whatever assistance it seeks before an inquiry is even held, witnesses will be reluctant, to say the least, to produce for the Commission the sort of evidence which the Commission is rightly entitled to have in order to make a sensible determination. Under the de facto, one man government which we now regrettably have, we fear that the new powers may be misappropriated by the Prime Minister to intimidate or even emasculate the IAC and to effectively silence the institution best equipped to do the economic research which will question and sometimes discredit the economic policies of the Prime Minister who is not noted for his tolerance of informed criticism. While Mr Fraser remains Prime Minister, there is a considerable danger that when a matter is referred to the Commission, the practices of the McEwen era will be resurrected and the recommendations will be written into the reference. The pathetic condition of the potentially efficient motor industry is a legacy of that policy
Revelations in the last two weeks lead to speculation about even worse possibilities. We now know that the Prime Minister, contrary to the specialist recommendation of his permanent heads, and in defiance of the earlier decision of his own Cabinet, intervened arbitrarily at the instigation of IBM in the letting of a large government contract. If this man’s arbitrary power is increased, as it will be by this legislation, will the IAC be used as a tool to advance the business prestige and interests of Andrew Grimwade or some of Mr Fraser ‘s other cronies from the Melbourne Club? The real problem, 1 suppose, is not the Bill itself but a Prime Minister who will, when he chooses, take the Bill over, as he takes over everything else in his one-man Government. It increases the potential for misuse of arbitrary power by a Prime Minister and Government which are bereft of a policy, or even ideas for a policy, on industry and employment.
– Why don’t you give the Prime Minister a rest and talk about the Bill.
– The Bill extends the potential for providing temporary assistance, by amendments to the Temporary Assistance Authority. Those amendments allow for the so-called government policy to be fed into IAC inquiries at their commencement and, therefore, to bias the impartiality of the Commission’s assessment. That government policy is to be used to grant usually substantial levels of assistance, of a socalled temporary nature, lasting up to two years, regardless of the recommendations of the TAA on that matter. The extension of temporary assistance for periods of up to two years without a full inquiry being held must lead to such questions as: What is temporary assistance; when does temporary assistance become permanent assistance; what new circumstances justify the provision of assistance, without a full inquiry, for two years? Surely an inquiry could be held within 12 months.
Before closing, I note the complete silence, or at least public silence, today on this matter of the National Country Party. It is well known that farm organisations generally -
– I made the only interjection.
– Perhaps Senator Tehan is going to make a speech on this shortly. Perhaps he will tell us whether he is speaking for the farm organisations, which overwhelmingly support the Industries Assistance Commission, which overwhelmingly support the principle of a completely independent authority which is not subject to ministerial directive, or to having recommendations written into references. Perhaps he will tell us whether he is going to support those farm organisations which his party claims to represent and demand that the independence and intergity of the IAC be maintained. If Senator Tehan is going to do that, I gleefully anticipate listening to him do it, but until now the National Country Party has been silent and I suggest that for the rest of this debate will likewise remain silent on this issue. Will the National Country Party speak up for all those farm organisations which have demanded that the independence and integrity of the IAC be maintained? I suggest that it will not speak up now; I suggest that it will not speak up later; that it will not act in any way to curb the arbitrary powers of, or the arbitrary misuse of power by, the Prime Minister in the future as in the past.
The attitude of the Labor Party to this Bill has from the beginning been somewhat ambivalent, I suppose, in that we recognise that under a reasonable government there is justification, perhaps some might say even necessity, for the consideration of government policy by the IAC when it is writing its reports and making its recommendations. The problem is that, under the present Prime Minister, those provisions are liable to be misused. On balance we have decided not to oppose the Bill. We have moved the amendment in the hope, however forlorn, that it will prod the Government into some activity, prod it into producing, after nearly two and a half years in office, an industry policy, of which it is at present entirely bereft.
– I second the motion.
– I support strongly the Industries Assistance Amendment Bill 1978 and reject the amendments that have been moved by the Opposition. As probably most people realise, I support the lowering of tariffs, and see the Industries Assistance Commission as also the supporter of that policy. I looked very closely at this Bill before deciding to support it strongly. I see no problem at all in preserving both the independence of the Commission and its ability to report to the Government, The Bill requires the IAC, in making its recommendations, to take account of government policy, and requires the Temporary Assistance Authority to report on the degree of assistance required for a particular industry to maintain its level of employment. It also discusses other matters relating to the IAC and the TAA. I am a member of a large and growing number of federal politicians who support a steady and controlled reduction in the level of tariffs, which we see as a solution to many of our problems.
I would refer those who are interested to my speech in this chamber on the subject made exactly a week ago today. Unfortunately, many of the industries that I represent have only a small voice in this place. We see the IAC as representing that voice in this Parliament. I knew Mr Rattigan well when he was chairman of the IAC. I have not yet had the opportunity of meeting Mr McKinnon, but I look forward to that event. Both gentlemen have done a very good job in controlling this large and important organisation.
Unfortunately, in recent years the Industries Assistance Commission has been subjected to an enormous amount of criticism- criticism that, in my opinion, has been completely unjustified. It is rather interesting to find, upon studying that criticism, that it is never specific, that it is almost always voiced by those who have a particular point of view to press. Quite often it is voiced by those who represent high protection industries, on occasions when the IAC does not necessarily support their point of view. But, as I have said, the criticism is never specific; it is always couched in very general terms.
I have previously congratulated the Labor Party, and do so again, on having, on the recommendation of Sir John Crawford ‘s committee of inquiry, set up the Industries Assistance Commission. The Commission is performing its intended function and is achieving a great deal. I repeat, the Commission is merely a recommending body. It is not a policy-making body and it is up to the government of the day to accept, reject or partially accept or reject its recommendations. I am extremely suspicious when there is a possible threat to the independence of the Commission, but I have been unable here to sustain any such suspicion.
May I make some general comments on tariffs. I do not want to take up much of the Senate’s time. The Opposition is supporting this Bill and I do not think there is much point in carrying on this debate at great length. I do not think anybody in Australia seriously contends that we should have a closed society. By a closed society I mean one with no exports or imports. Probably the only civilisation that has ever successfully achieved what is regarded by some as a euphoric situation would be the inhabitants of this country prior to 1788. My friend Senator Bonnor probably would agree with me that they had a rather idyllic civilisation in those days, but nobody seriously contends that we shoud go back to those times and that sort of environment.
Unfortunately many people directly relate the subject of high protection with employment. It is my strong contention that often the only relationship is a negative one. We should accept that exports, and imports in particular, are necessary for our present society. If we agree with that, it follows that we must produce what we do best and import what we cannot do very well and what other countries can do well. It is my strong contention that international relations are almost entirely built on trade. If one country is important to another, it follows that it develops good relations with the other country. What is a greater reason for being important than to rely heavily on another country for trade?
I was in Malaysia recently. The Australian Government has done a great deal of good for the Malaysian people. We have a system of aid for many of Malaysia ‘s rural areas. We spend a large amount on aid to Malaysia. We educate a tremendous number of her students in Australian universities. The balance of trade between Australia and Malaysia, although it is still very heavily in Australia’s favour, is becoming more even. Unfortunately the Malaysian people with whom I spoke are completely preoccupied with what they see as our unfair trade barriers. All we do in fostering good relations with Malaysia is completely overshadowed by the preoccupation of its people with what they see as our unfair trade barriers. They say that they would rather be able to trade with Australia more successfully than receive aid. I support that contention.
We can link international relations with trade. I draw honourable senators’ attention to the situation now pertaining in Europe. We have the closest of ties with Europe and in particular with the United Kingdom, but because of the completely inward-looking policies of the European Economic Community at the moment our relations with that group of countries are becoming less and less important to us. Many people are preoccupied with the belief that there are positive relationships between tariffs and employment. It is my suggestion that this is a completely simplistic point of view and that they should look to the secondary effects of high tariffs on employment in the present and potential- I underline the word ‘potential’- exporting industries. High tariffs add to inflation and costs, and those costs are almost entirely met by the exporting industries. I refer to potential exporting industries because prior to the period of the Labor Government from 1972 to 1975 we had many useful exporting industries. They were demolished by the huge increases in costs created by that Government. I would like to see us get back to the situation where we can compete equally with other countries in many products. I do not mean just rural products. Many of our exporting industries that have survived are in quite a bit of trouble. We must look to them for a solution to many of our economic problems.
Australians are probably one of the most highly educated people in the world. It must follow that if we are to increase our living standards, which are extremely high at the moment, we must look to exporting technology and to encouraging industries that have a high degree of technology. Countries like West Germany and
Sweden have an international reputation for exporting high technology. Looking further ahead, I would direct honourable senators’ attention to the fact that Australia is probably one of the richest energy countries in the world. I see a great future for Australia in exporting not only coal and gas but also other metals and minerals that require energy to convert them from their raw state into a more highly sophisticated state. I instance the conversion of bauxite to aluminium. The requirement for conversion is almost entirely an energy requirement. There is no reason at all why we should not be producing far greater amounts of steel in Australia at a much lower cost than other countries, particularly as the cost of energy in other countries gets higher and higher as the energy supply reduces. I was in Japan recently. The Japanese see their relations with Australia as being terribly important potentially, not necessarily because of our trade with them at present- although it is important to Australia, it is less important to Japanbut because they see Australia as being the source of many of their energy requirements. Japan is almost entirely dependent on importing energy, and it will certainly look to Australia to provide most of that energy. In conclusion, I reject completely the amendment moved by the Labor Opposition, and I strongly support the Bill.
– The purpose of the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill that has been introduced by the Fraser Government is to amend the Industries Assistance Commission Act, 1973, which set up the Industries Assistance Commission, and also to set out the Commission’s guidelines for investigation and recommendations in its reports to the Government. Senator Walsh has moved as an amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time that at the end of the motion the following words be added: but the Senate deplores the actions of the Government:
The Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973, which gave birth to the IAC, was supported by all major political parties in the Parliament at the time the legislation was introduced by the
Whitlam Labor Government. I was pleased to hear Senator Thomas from Western Australia acknowledge the fact that at that time the concept of the Commission was supported by not only him but also the political party that he represents in this place. The Commission was based upon a concept of replacing the old Tariff Board, a statutory authority which had been in existence since 192 1 and which had been responsible for tendering advice to Australian governments on assistance for industry.
The IAC was set up on the basis of a report- I think Senator Thomas also mentioned this-that was commissioned by the Whitlam Labor Government from Sir John Crawford. That report was entitled ‘A Commission to Advise on Assistance to Industries’. In the course of preparing his report, Sir John Crawford had discussions on the form of the commission with representatives of the interested government departments, with members of the old Tariff Board, with many industry organisations and firms and, I understand, also with sections of the trade union movement. The nature of the Commission designed by Sir John Crawford was carefully considered and defined in his report and was considered subsequently by the Whitlam Government before the enabling legislation for the establishment of the Commission came into the Parliament.
It was decided at that time on the recommendation of Sir John Crawford, after he had had discussions with the multifarious departments and organisations I have named in general, that the Industries Assistance Commission should be regarded as a completely independent statutory authority, given very wide powers of an investigatory nature in order to enable it to make recommendations to the Government on the type of assistance that should be given to industries, providing a review of tariff policies that had remained unchanged for six years before the Whitlam Labor Government came to office and accumulating a rich source of data on the types of assistance that should be given to industry. It was in the capacity of an advisory body as well as a statutory body that the Industries Assistance Commission was born.
On page 2 of the 1973-74 annual report of the Industries Assistance Commission, its first annual report, reference is made to the remarks made by the then Prime Minister when he introduced the Industries Assistance Commission Bill into the House of Representatives. In explaining the reasons for the establishment of the Commission on 27 September 1 973, he said:
The first and most important reason for establishing the Commission is to allow public scrutiny of the process whereby governments decide how much assistance to give to different industries. This scrutiny is necessary because of the highly selective nature of the process. Measures which assist particular industries constitute forms of ecomomic discrimination which, at least in the short term, can be to the considerable advantage of the industries assisted and to the disadvantage of those who pay for the assistance, namely, other industries, consumers, or taxpayers. Such a process must be independent and impartial, and seen to be independent and impartial . . .
It was with the object primarily of getting public scrutiny of the types of assistance that are recommended by the IAC to go to various industries and the types of assistance that are eventually adopted by governments to go to industries and organisations which are the subject, of IAC recommendations that this legislation was enacted.
The Prime Minister of the day, Mr Whitlam, also said on that occasion:
A second reason why the Commission can contribute to a better use of the nation’s resources stems from its status as an independent statutory authority. The Commission will be able to develop and pursue a long term program of inquiries, free from day-to-day political pressures. This in turn has very important implications for the amount and quality of its information and for the depth of analysis which the Commission can undertake.
Very regrettably, this Bill is virtually destroying the independence of the Industries Assistance Commission, an independent statutory advisory body to the Government.
– That is a sweeping statement.
– It is a sweeping statement but I suggest that the evidence is there to support it. The Commission has made a great number of reports and the Government has accepted them in toto, rejected them in toto, or accepted them in part or rejected them in part.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting I was speaking to the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill which has been introduced by the Government to amend the Industries Assistance Commission Act. I had made the point that the legislation to establish the Industries Assistance Commission was introduced into Parliament by the Whitlam Government in September 1 973 for the purpose of allowing public scrutiny of the process whereby governments decide how much assistance to give to different industries. The Commission was to be an independent statutory body.
I had also made the point that whilst the Opposition did not oppose this amending legislation it believed that it set out to considerably weaken the independence of advice provided by the Commission to government. It was for that reason, among others, that Senator Walsh, on behalf of the Opposition, moved an amendment, the second half of which states: . . the Senate deplores the actions of the Government:
At the outset I do not want it to be thought for one moment that we on this side of the House do not have, or did not have, some criticisms to make of the IAC so far as the trade union movement is concerned. There are many critics of the IAC within the trade union movement. Frankly, I believe the views of those who represent the work force in the Australian community should have been heeded more by the IAC when taking evidence and when making a number of its recommendations and reports to the government. I say that advisedly as a former Special Minister of State in the last few months of the Whitlam Labor Government. I shall refer to one or two of those matters later.
I suggest it is wrong, nonetheless, to blame the reports and recommendations of the IAC for the economic ills of this country which have resulted from this Government’s economic policies. As I say, and as I emphasise- and as the Labor Party has emphasised in its amendment- the IAC is purely an advisory or recommendatory body.
The Bill seeks to amend the inquiry guidelines of the IAC to ensure that future IAC recommendations are made in the light of Government policy. This is obviously because of the Government’s expressed dissatisfaction with the way in which the IAC has been carrying out its duties in that the Government has said the Commission has not placed sufficient emphasis on current economic problems, such as the level of employment, in its recommendations concerning levels of protection for Australian industries. The Government, therefore, by this Bill, proposes to change the whole nature of the Commission’s role as adviser to the Government.
Clause 8 of this amending Bill seeks to change the inquiry guidelines of the Commission to ensure that in addition to the former guidelines which were laid down by the 1973 legislation the Commission must take into account the Government’s desire to achieve balanced growth in the economy and improved efficiency in the use of productive resources while ensuring that its recommendations to change industry structure are adhered to only after regard for the capacity of the economy to adopt and to absorb displaced workers. By this clause the responsible Minister is given very wide and general powers to specify any additional guidelines and to direct the Commission as to what priority is to be given to each of the guidelines. That is a complete direction by the Minister to the Commission as to the priority that shall be given by the Commission to each of the guidelines. It is for those reasons- and answering an earlier interjection by Senator Tehan- that I say this legislation is considerably weakening, if not destroying, the independence of the IAC. Clause 8 seeks to amend section 22 of the principal Act by deleting existing sub-section (2) and inserting the following proposed subsections:
If that is not weakening the independence or probably destroying the independence of the IAC, frankly I do not know what else it is doing. Clause 9 seeks to add to section 23 of the principal Act a proposed sub-section (7) which reads:
Where, under this section, the Minister has referred a matter to the Commission for inquiry and report, the Minister may, at any time before he has received a report from the Commission in pursuance of the reference, withdraw or amend the reference.
Virtually this is making the IAC the play toy or the tool of the Minister or of the Government. The powers that clause 8 seeks to allow any present or future government Minister are so broadly denned as to have the effect of emasculating the powers and independence of the Commission and to politicise the whole operation of the Commission.
In the past we have heard suggestions of Ministers wanting ‘yes’ men around them. I suggest that by this Bill the Minister or the Government is insisting on a ‘yes’ Commission. The Commission in fact will be asked to advise the Minister or to give the Minister the advice that the Minister wants to hear and the Government will then be able to use the advice or the recommendations it receives from the IAC as an excuse or as a shelter for the Government’s economic policies. I suggest that the Government has designed the legislation in order to ensure that the Commission becomes not an independent inquiry body but, as it were, a secondary policy arm of the Government- a supporting policy arm of the Government. This precludes the Commission making in an advisory capacity recommendations that would be subject to government consideration and parliamentary debate and decision. Rather, the recommendations will have to be already made according to or within the framework of existing government policy.
The first annual report of the Industries Assistance Commission made it clear that the Commission is purely and advisory body designed to provide information and to suggest action accordingly, but not a policy arm of government. In paragraph 7 of its first annual report the IAC points out that the Commission is required to report annually to the Government on its operations and on industry assistance in Australia and its effects on the economy. Section 45 of the Industries Assistance Commission Act reads in part as follows:
The Commission shall, not later than ninety days after 1 July in each year, furnish to the Minister a report … on the operations of the Commission . . . during that year … the Commission shall, so far as practicable, also report on-
the assistance provided to industries by the Australian Government and the effect of that assistance on the development of those industries;
the economic performance of those industries and the principal factors affecting that performance: and
the general effect on the Australian economy of the provision of that assistance.
Paragraph 8 of the first annual report of the Commission states:
It is important to note that the Commission is an advisory authority only: it does not have any executive or administrative function.
As a result of this amending legislation the Commission, in its recommendations, will be expected henceforth to be a supporting arm of government policy. The Government intends using the Commission as a scapegoat or a cover-up for the failure of its economic nonpolicies. It is patently clear that this Government has no medium to long term economic policies. It is now making sure that it will not even receive any information or advice on medium to long term problems which do not conform to its existing policies. It will be prepared to hear only the things it wishes to hear. It reminds me of the old story of the emperor who was prepared to walk naked among the throng and then expected the throng to admire the beautiful robes he wore.
This Government wishes the IAC to be concerned with problems such as unemployment when recommending levels of protection to the Government, but surely those considerations are principally the Government’s concern. Surely it is the Government’s role to see that the economy is in such a state that unemployment does not continue to grow in the way in which it is growing?
We have all seen the effects of the Government’s concern about rising unemployment. In two years of this Government the number of registered unemployed in Australia has increased by more than 100,000 and now stands at more than 7 per cent of the work force. The Whitlam Labor Government showed immense foresight in setting up a well-equipped independent statutory body to give advice to governments on assistance to all sorts of industries. Unlike the present Government we did not shy away from problems such as structural changes in industry and the sometimes accompanying problems related to unemployment. We did not pretend that they just did not exist. The 1974-75 annual report of the Industries Assistance Commission pointed out the number of measures introduced by the Labor Government to assist industries and the workers employed in those industries to enable them to adjust to certain structural changes in the economy.
One of the measures alluded to was the structural adjustment assistance program which included provision for special assistance for nonmetropolitan areas. To assist employment in firms the Labor Government provided subsidised and capital grants. Adjustment assistance was provided to displaced and redundant employees under such schemes as the Regional Employment Development scheme and the income maintenance scheme. In the Labor Government’s last full year of office, 1974-75, it provided $168m in assistance to manufacturing industry compared with the paltry sum of $94m provided by the Fraser Government in its first year of office, 1976-77. The Fraser Government’s solution to structural adjustment is simply to ignore the problem. It abolished the programs established by the Labor Government to ease the pains of structural change in industry. Now it does not even want to hear about the medium to long range problems of assistance to industry in Australia.
During my earlier remarks I referred to the difficulties which some of the trade unions encountered in giving evidence to the Industries Assistance Commission or in the reports that were presented by the Industries Assistance
Commission. I acknowledge that there were difficulties in that respect. My colleague Senator Brown, a responsible trade union official, will be able to enunciate some of those problems. In the last few months of the Whitlam Labor Government I was Special Minister of State and I had ministerial responsibility for the Industries Assistance Commission. I had great respect for the work of members of the IAC at that time but I thought that there were some weaknesses in the back-up support the IAC received. Perhaps it was a lack of knowledge on the part of the back-up support of the role that the trade unions play in Australian society. I thought that was a fault that needed rectifying. Certainly there was a need for a more participatory role to be taken by the trade union movement in the inquiries established by the IAC.
I well remember receiving a report from the Industries Assistance Commission on the state of the cosmetic industry in Australia. A senior official of the Australian Workers Union came to me after the report had been published and told me that was the first knowledge that the Australian Workers Unions which covered the people employed in the industry, had of the IAC inquiry. I also well recall Mr John Macvean, a highly respected and highly regarded senior officer of the Labor Council of New South Wales, coming to see me about an inquiry into the escalator and lift industry in New South Wales and the difficulties it caused the workers in that industry. I took up those matters with my Department. I made arrangements with my Department that every time a reference went to the Industries Assistance Committee the Department should ensure that all the trade unions likely to be involved were given adequate notice of the desire of the Industries Assistance Commission to conduct an inquiry.
Nonetheless, despite those early failingsthere were failings- the overwhelming good done to Australia by the independent establishment of the IAC was enormous. This legislation is weakening its framework, independence and structure. It is for those reasons that I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by my colleague Senator Walsh that:
. the Senate deplores the actions of the Government:
– I support the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill and oppose the amendment. This legislation was introduced in the last Parliament before both Houses rose for the elections. This Bill seeks to amend the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973 in a number of ways. But first of all I shall deal with the speeches made on this Bill by Opposition honourable senators- by Senator Walsh, who made the first speech for the Opposition, and Senator Douglas McClelland, who has just resumed his seat.
I thought when Senator Walsh’s colleagues elevated him to the front bench in the Opposition that we might hear something constructive fall from his lips. But as I analysed his speech- I hope I am fair in my analysis- I found that we heard the usual diatribe of abuse against the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), accusing him in this area, as he has been accused in other areas, of acting as a dictator to the Government. Senator Walsh seemed to think that this legislation contained some hidden vice which gave the Prime Minister absolute statutory powers to impose his will upon the nation. Whilst Senator Douglas McClelland did not include the Prime Minister in his remarks, he likewise seems to think that this legislation contains some hidden trap or some provisions which will take away the function of the Industries Assistance Commission and give it to the Government.
I remind the Senate- indeed, Senator Douglas McClelland admitted this-that under the Act the IAC is purely an advisory body to the Government and this situation is not amended in the Bill which is before us. The term ‘advisory body’ is the term which Senator Douglas McClelland used. He claimed that the whole role of the IAC was to be changed by this legislation and said he was concerned about the independence of the Commission. I think Senator Thomas, who spoke before me for the Government, mentioned section 2 1 of the Act. I endorse what he said about it. We think that this is a reasonable piece of legislation. Section 2 1 of the Act- I remind honourable senators that this section is not being amended- states:
The functions of the Commission are to hold inquiries and make reports to the Minister, in accordance with this Act, in respect of matters affecting assistance to industries and other matters that may be referred to the Commission in accordance with this Act.
The key phrase is ‘make reports to the Minister’. The Commission is simply a reporting body to the government of the day- an advisory body, if we wish to borrow Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s term. All that the Government is doing by way of this legislation is to provide the Commission with certain guidelines for its consideration of references brought before it.
I want to refer to the eternal argument which has been going on as long as I can remember and from before the time of all of us- protection versus free trade. That is a topic which rears its head whenever we have legislation such as this before the Parliament. I do not want to spend much time tonight expounding one cause or the other. I think that our Government is realistic about the situation in Australia today. In 1975 we on the Government side named inflation and unemployment as the two ills of the nation. It is conceded by everyone except certain honourable senators on the other side of the chamber- by every thinking Australian- that we have inflation under control although I think we readily concede that unemployment is still a great problem. All I want to say tonight in this debate in the context of the eternal argument concerning protection versus free trade is that in the very unusual times in which we live- these times are not peculiar to Australia but are common to all countries in the Western world with similar economies to ours where, admittedly, we have high unemployment- some caution is necessary in making the sorts of decisions which governments have to make following receipt of reports from bodies such as the Industries Assistance Commission.
The first thing which has to be considered is the effect which the implementation of the recommendations contained in a report from such a body would have on the rate of unemployment in this nation. If the IAC were to make certain recommendations in respect of a heavily protected industry with a high labour content, the implementation of which would increase the level of unemployment significantly, obviously a government would have to look at that and say: We will hasten slowly on this; we will look and see whether we can do something without putting people out of work’. I suggest that that is the basis upon which this aspect should be approached in this debate. It is true that certain long term solutions might be available and we should never lose sight of the long term. But in the climate in which we live, we all hope that short term considerations are markedly different from long term considerations. I think we have to live with, say, a 3 per cent or 4 per cent unemployment rate, but the existing rate is much higher.
Again I stress that the role of the IAC is an advisory role to the Government. As I said, the Bill which is before us does not seek to amend section 2 1 of the Act, which sets out the functions of the Commission, but it does amend section 22 of the Act. Senator Douglas McClelland referred to the amendments which this Bill seeks to make to section 22 of the Act. He sees in these amendments some hidden trap designed to give the Government arbitrary powers. Clause 8 (a) of the Bill seeks to omit paragraph (a) of sub-section ( 1 ) of section 22 of the Act, which states. . . improve the efficency with which the community’s productive resources are used;
It seeks to substitute the following which are guidelines or parameters within which the Commission can perform its functions and prepare its reports to advise the Government:
Surely the Government would be unrealistic if it did not amend the guidelines for the Commission along those lines. Those amendments stress the point which I have been making in relation to the present unemployment problem. The nature of the inquiries which the IAC makes into industries is denned in the Act and covers a wide ambit. It makes inquiries into the primary, secondary and tertiary industries- across the Board. I stress again that when an industry with a high labour content is being looked at by the Commission, surely it is very reasonable for a government to insert the provisions I have quoted into the relevant legislation. Senator Douglas McClelland has mentioned proposed new sub-sections (2) and (3) of section 22 which gives the Minister certain power. Proposed new sub-section (2) states:
If at any time the Minister considers that there are additional matters to which the Commission should have regard in the performance of its functions, he may. by notice in writing to the Commission, inform the Commission accordingly and the Commission shall have regard to those matters.
That is a perfectly reasonable provision. Proposed sub-section (3) states:
The Minister may, by notice in writing to the Commission, give directions as to the priorities to be observed by the Commission in having regard to the matters mentioned in subsection ( 1) or contained in any notice under sub-section (2) and the Commission shall comply with any such directions.
If, for example, the IAC was investigating the motor car industry, surely it would be reasonable for the Minister to say that there are X number of people employed in that industry and whatever recommendation the IAC makes should include some provision for the future of those people. I would have thought our friends on the other side of the House would be in agreement with and would support that philosophy. That is really all that those sub-sections say. All I am saying is that in the time in which we are living, when there is a high rate of unemployment which is of concern to us, the Government, which has to go the people and has ultimate responsibility in these matters, should be in a position to say to the Commission: ‘Have regard to those very important matters’. I have spoken at some length on those matters because I think they are important.
I also want to discuss the questions which the IAC considers in a reference. There are many factors- and several major factors- which influence the degree of protection necessary to a product. These factors can change very quickly and for the purpose of an IAC reference, if the industry being investigated has an export market, activity in overseas markets and the position of competitors in the industry is a very important consideration. This is a further argument for the inclusion of the sub-sections that I have mentioned. We all know that the escalation of wages which commenced in the years of the Labor Government has a very dramatic effect on the future of these industries and their ability to compete on a world market. The cost of raw materials, and the value of the Australian dollar in relation to similar currencies, are also matters for consideration. These factors all change from time to time and make the task of the Commission difficult when it is trying to rationalise all these competing interests and to report to the Government. So again, it is eminently reasonable that if the Government has certain informationfor instance on the position of overseas competitors in that industry- it ought to make that information available to the Commission or suggest that the Commission considers it in the course of its deliberations.
This legislation also deals with the Temporary Assistance Authority. Again, the legislation is eminently reasonable in this area. The existence of the Temporary Assistance Authority is necessary for all industries. In the field of primary industry there has been a dumping of products like cheese on the Australian market, which is very difficult to police. It is being sold and it has a dramatic and depressing effect on Australia’s production. A mechanism has to be devised which can speedily and effectively deal with that sort of problem. I hope that the amended legislation will do something towards achieving this end. The Government under the proposed amendment will be able to give greater assistance than that recommended by the IAC. It is a desirable amendment because quick and effective compensation or protection may be necessary to an industry which finds itself in the sort of position I have outlined. Provision is made for a review every 12 months on determinations made by either the IAC or the TAA. In the case of the TAA there is an extension from 30 days to 45 days in which to report although, as I have already said, I think the emphasis ought to be on a speedy, cheap and effective method- I am speaking now of the primary industry area where I have had some experience over the last year or two when this sort of problem has arisen- for the Government to rectify the position when unexpected imports are brought into Australia which affect the production of one of our industries.
Some disadvantages have been evident in the existing legislation which are not entirely cured by this amending Bill but which I will mention because they are fairly important. There is no time limit fixed by statute- by the Act or the Bill- - within which the IAC has to report to the Government. It is true that there is an increasing tendency in the reference to the IAC to write in a time within which the report has to be made. The Minister in the other place explained that there are some reasons in certain cases why it is undesirable to fix a time limit. But obviously, where there is a changing economic position, it is fairly important to the nation that these reports be made promptly so that action can be taken if necessary. There are, of course, occasional delays when the report reaches the Government.
Questions have been raised here on the long term situation. The accusation had been made that the Government may be acting on an ad hoc basis. I have already stressed that at present there is a great difference between the long term and the short term situation. I think we would all agree that in the short term situation the unemployment factor is probably the major one for consideration in an IAC reference, certainly in cases where there is a high labour content involved. As the Minister has said in the other place, in the long term the Government has arranged for a study of this aspect to be undertaken by Sir John Crawford who has been specifically requested to focus his attention on the adjustment problems which will eventually be faced in the most highly protected Australian industries.
The present position in world trade is a gloomy one. Most manufacturing countries have a high unemployment rate and the action of the European Economic Community in protecting all of its industries- primary, secondary and tertiaryagainst outside competition has meant the loss of commercial markets to Australia and is creating great problems for other countries, including Japan, which have had traditional markets in that area for a number of products over a wide range of industry. These countries are now being denied those markets. I think honourable senators agree that there is a need for a continual oversight in this area, having regard not only to the changing world pattern but also to the changing local pattern, and for the existence of an organisation, authority or commission like the IAC with the guidelines fixed as they were in the 1973 legislation. We should remember always that the function of the Commission is to report. It is a purely advisory body, but in this legislation the Government is introducing some very necessary amendments to assist the IAC to prepare more balanced and up to date reports, having regard to the guidelines fixed by the legislation and the matters that the Minister may refer to the Commission while its consideration of a particular matter is continuing. I commend the legislation to the Senate. I say that there is no merit in the amendment. I support the Bill.
-I support the Opposition’s amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time. I do not propose to traverse the same ground as that covered by my colleagues, but it would be appropriate to point out that the amendment states: . . the Senate deplores the actions of the Government:
I believe that that is a statement of fact, and it is one that I find capable of being supported completely. Paragraph (b) of the amendment states: in threatening the basic independence of the Industries Assistance Commission, by its emphasis upon narrow and variable guidelines, and by its consistent failure to appreciate the advisory role intended for the Industries Assistance Commission.
In regard to the second part of the amendment, I recall vividly that prior to the last Federal election the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made very critical public statements about Industries Assistance Commission reports that had been presented from time to time. I do not think that anybody, even honourable senators opposite, would disagree with that comment.
I do not quarrel with some clauses in the amending Bill. For instance, the amendment to section 22 of the principal Act deals with policy guidelines for the Commission and amends the original legislation, namely, the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973. From my point of view, at least the first part of the amendment to section 22 is an improvement to the Act. I quote the relevant clause:
Section 22 ofthe Principal Act is amended-
by omitting paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) and substituting the following paragraphs:
achieve sustained growth in the Australian economy through balanced development of Australian industries with a view to providing increased opportunities for employment and investment;
Certainly I could not quarrel with that. It continues: (aa) improve the efficiency with which the community’s productive resources are used, while ensuring that any measures to achieve changes in the structure of industry are taken only after having due regard -
I emphasise those words:
I would be less than honest if I did not say that I believe those are commendable amendments to the principal Act. However, I am concerned when further in the Bill I read proposed new subsection (3) of section 22, which states:
The Minister may, by notice in writing to the Commission, give directions as to the priorities -
Again, I emphasise those words:
Surely that must impinge upon the independence of the Commission. The language that is usedshall comply with such directions’- obviously must impinge upon the independence of the Commission. I wish to concentrate my attention on clause 10, which states:
After section 23 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: 23A. Where the Minister has referred to the Commission for inquiry and report any matter relating to the giving, continuance or withdrawal of assistance to an industry or to a particular group or groups of primary or secondary industries, the Commission, in its report on that matter-
shall report on the level of assistance required to ensure that the level of activity and employment in the industry or group or groups of industries to which the report relates is not less than that which existed at the time when the reference was made;
I have looked closely at this matter. I believe that either it will be impossible for the Commission so to report or, if the Commission can find ways and means to report in accordance with the direction, it will be disastrous for one industry of which I can speak from first-hand knowledge. Approximately 18 months ago the Australian furnishing trades industry was referred to the Industries Assistance Commission for inquiry and report. I have been involved with the industry for about 40 years, and I am presently the State President of the Victorian branch of the Federated Furnishing Trade Society of Australasia and Federal Vice President of the Society. This matter has been of concern to the union over a long period, and we have had reasonably good co-operation and consultation with the employer organisations. We made a submission to the Commission in about April last year and, as a consequence of the additional reference to the IAC by the then Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, Mr Howard, of the footwear, textile and clothing industries, we made an approach along similar lines and requested an extension of the reference made in respect of the furniture industry. We asked that particular attention be given to the social consequences of any alteration to the level of tariff assistance that the industry might be enjoying at the time. Mr Howard replied along the lines that he felt it would be appropriate for the industry itself to take the initiative and carry out an impact study so that detailed information could be placed before the Commission which would be of advantage to it in determining the form of its final report.
I will be relying heavily upon a document entitled ‘Furnishing Industry Workforce: Its Future in a Changing Economic Environment ‘, which is a submission made to the Australian Government and the Industries Assistance Commission in March this year by Mr K. F. Carr for the Federated Furnishing Trade Society of Australasia. The document is the result of” an extensive survey carried out across five States of the Commonwealth. Some 90 factories were surveyed and 1,368 members of our organisation were interviewed. Among other things, the data provided relates to age, sex, country of origin, language skills, educational levels, qualifications, experience in other industries, longevity in the furniture industry, and intra-industry mobility.
The consequence of this work has been illuminating to ourselves and to the employer organisations which have been associated with us in it. We learnt more about our industry as a result of the basic information which was derived from the survey. Interestingly enough, the information we were able to compile, when compared with figures of the furnishing industry work force taken from the 1971 census and reproduced in the Industries Assistance Commission Annual Report 1974-75 at page 60, indicates that our survey sample which was taken from a crosssection of the national work force was accurate despite the fact that it did not include any respondents from Western Australia.
I earlier indicated that I was concerned about clause 10 which proposes a new section 23a. I quote from the document. At page seven, paragraph 1.22 entitled ‘Characteristics of Tradesmen in the Furnishing Industry’, states:
More than 70 per cent of workers in the furnishing industry are employed as tradesmen, nearly 52 per cent of these having served a formal apprenticeship in one of four highly specialised trades- upholstery, wood machining, French polishing and cabinet making.
I shall dwell for a moment on that matter and quote from a paper entitled ‘Structural Change in Australia’. It was prepared by the Industries Assistance Commission in Canberra and is dated June 1977. The reference is found at page 48 under a section entitled ‘Adjustment to Change ‘. It highlights the problems we see. In fact, our survey accords with an observation made in this paper. It states:
Difficulties in the process of adjustment to change are found most frequently when change happens very rapidly, or when the economic activity subject to change has a very specialised process of production, or is a large employer in a particular region. Production may be specialised in terms of machinery and equipment, or in terms of the skills it requires from its labour force, none of which may be readily transferable to other activities. In such cases adjustment by employees to declining fortunes in that industry would necessitate retraining, probable short term loss of earnings, and possible removal to another region to find a new job.
The Commission rounds off that section by stating:
A first step in assessing the likelihood and significance of such adjustment problems involves an examination of the adaptability of labour and capital in the economy by referring to their observed capacity to adjust to change.
It so happens that the furnishing industry is experiencing precisely what the Industries Assistance Commission observes in this paper; that is that the production of furniture is highly specialised in both machinery and equipment and in the skills it requires from its work force. As a consequence it is found that employees of the furnishing industry are not readily transferable. There is a certain mobility intra-industry but, as can be shown from the other facts and information provided in this document, employees would have great difficulty in relation to interindustry mobility. I turn to page 24 of the submission which deals basically with the level of imports as they affect the industry to which I am referring. Paragraph 4.6 refers to a table 2 1 which shows that imports increased by 703 per cent between 1971-72 and 1976-77. and by 63 per cent between 1975-76 and 1976-77. The table shows the imports of furniture and parts, bedding, mattresses, mattress supports, cushions and similar stuffed furnishings. In 1971-72 the value of those imports amounted to $686,000. In 1972- 73 the value was $8,640,000; in 1973-74, $18,942,000; in 1974-75, $24,413,000; in 1975-76, $32,787,000 and in 1976-77, $53,623,000. The last figure is a preliminary figure. It is significant that since the rise of 1 1 8 per cent in imports between 1972-73 and 1973- 74 the value of imports has risen each year by a progressively increasing percentage. The submission states:
We are particularly concerned by the alarming rate of increase during the last financial year, given the enormous value of the goods involved. There is no evidence to suggest that this upward trend will abate, given present tariff levels.
That is the point I come back to in relation to the clause to which I referred earlier. I shall deal with the substantial increase in imports in recent years affecting the furnishing industry. Paragraph 4.9 of the submission refers to effective tariff rates as they affect this industry. It states:
In its Annual Report 1969-1970, the Tariff Board defined low cost’ production as that requiring effective protection of 25 percent.
That reference is taken from the Tariff Board ‘s annual report of 1969-70; chapter 2, page 6. The paragraph continues:
According to the IAC ‘s Annual Report 1 976- 1 977, the average effective rate of assistance to the furniture industry in 1973-74 was 23 per cent, placing it below the upper limit set by the TariffBoard.
That was set in 1969-70. Paragraph 4. 10 states:
Furthermore, the rate of assistance to the industry has fallen substantially over recent years from an average effective rate of 4 1 per cent in 1 973-74. This represents a fall of 44 per cent in assistance rates between 1968-69 and 1973-74. Table 22
I shall be asking for leave to have it incorporated in Hansard- compares this change in assistance rates to the furniture industry with those experienced by the other nine industries included in the IAC’s list of the 10 most profitable manufacturing industries for the period 1973-74 as shown in their Annual Report 1976-77.
Table 22 shows the other industries and the effective tariff rate of assistance with the changes made during those years. I ask for leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
– I thank honourable senators. Two things have been proven; firstly, the substantial increase in imports over recent years and, secondly, the effective tariff rate for the industry at the moment. A criticism was made. We have been concerned by some utterences- I think this is fair comment- or comments which were made by the Commissioners inquiring into our industry. They seemed to be concerned about what they described as the fragmented state of the industry in Australia and asked us how it compared with the industry in other parts of the world. We were fortunate enough recently to obtain information from a Furniture Industry Research Association paper, The Furniture Industry in Western Europe: A Statistical Digest, 1977. It shows that the structure of the furnishing industry is similar in all Western industralised countries, irrespective of government policy and population; that this is a result of the nature of the market, which calls for not only a wide variety of articles but also a wide variety of styles of articles. Rather than weary the Senate with the details, I seek leave to incorporate the tables shown on page 27 of the submission to the IAC. That clearly establishes that the Australian furniture industry is identical in nature to its counterpart in highly industralised, Western Europe.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- What is the nature of the document that the honourable senator wishes to incorporate? Are there any diagrams?
-No, just tables.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the Senate. I should like to make one or two additional references. On page 28 the same document, at paragraph 4. 1 6, reads:
The indexed growth rate of the furnishing industry (excluding sheet metal) increased from a base of 100 in 1 970-72 to 1 7 1 . 5 in 1 974-75. This compares favourably with the average growth rate for all manufacturing industries, which rose from 100 in 1971-72 to 157.1 in 1974-75.
The basis for that information is to be found in the IAC publication Furniture Statistical Handbook, February 1977, table 26, at page 54. The statement reads further:
More recent figures show that despite the poor growth rate throughout the manufacturing industry sector, the increased growth rate for furniture manufacturing, as of July 1 977 was still 27 points higher than the average, ranking second among durable goods and sixth among all manufacturing groups, including fuel and power.
That information is from the ANZ Bank’s Business Indicators, December 1977, at page 4, under the title, ‘ANZ Bank Index of Quantity of Factory Production, (1963-64=100).’ Let me refer briefly to the future prospects of the industry, as described in paragraph 4.1 7:
The steady increase in demand for furniture in Australia can be demonstrated by the fact that the value of furniture supplied to the Australian market rose from$295m to $497.5m between 1971-72 and 1974-75.
As the IAC has pointed out, we can assume that, despite declining levels of fertility, which will result in a slowing down in the rate of population growth in Australia, the overall demand for furniture will continue to expand relative to demand in other areas such as food, clothing, fuel and medical care. That reference is to be found in the IAC publication Structural Change and Economic Interdependence, July 1 977 at page 34.
I have related that information to honourable senators to point out that despite the astronomical increase in the levels of furniture imports, despite the very low effective rate of tariff, despite the comparative relationship between our industry and the highly-industralised countries in Western Europe, despite our obvious degree of efficiency based on the index to which I referred to earlier, if proposed new section 23A were to be followed to the letter and, in fact, the level of protection, the effective tariff, that we are currently enjoying is to be maintained such as ‘to ensure that the level of activity and employment in the industry or group or groups of industries to which the report relates is not less than that which exists at the time when the reference was made’, it would be disastrous. I can say that from firsthand knowledge.
Speaking as State President of the Victorian Branch of the union, I say that in the last 18 months we have lost just on 2,000 members. Last night I chaired a meeting of the Victorian Branch Committee of Management, to which reports were being made by organisers working in the field daily, week in and week out, visiting factories. I am not prepared to mention the names of the factories because that may be prejudicial to their business interests and to the future employment of our members, but it was distressing to hear the reports concerning our biggest manufacturer in Victoria and by and large- in terms of hard furniture- our biggest also in Australia. These factories have in the last six months reduced their staffs by 66 per cent.
I repeat, as I understand it, if the proposed new sub-section were to be followed that would prove disastrous. I cited earlier the continuing level of imports from page 24 of the submission. Their value rose by 703 per cent between 1972 and 1 977, a period of live years, but in the last 12 months alone the increase has been 63 per cent. Honourable senators will appreciate the volume of furniture that can be purchased in South East Asia for the sum of $53m. One cannot equate that with an equivalent number of pieces of furniture purchased in Australia, based on our cost structure. Therefore, apart from the criticisms that my colleagues have levelled at the Government on the basis of this amendment, I am asking that this section in particular also be examined closely.
Earlier I heard Senator Thomas speak about the need to replace our aid to Malaysia, to involve ourselves in greater trade with that country. I acknowledge that there must be a degree of reciprocity of trade between nations, but I happened to visit Malaysia as late as March and April of last year. I was in Singapore at about the same time and in March attended a conference of the Building and Woodworkers International. I was able there to see some of the working conditions in one of their big plants up near Kuantan on the south east coast, and observed little girls working there. I was told that they had to be more than 16 years of age to work in the plant, but they received something like $A10 for 40 hours work. It is just not possible for us to compete under those conditions.
I went through Metrowood, a furniture factory in Singapore- and I am reminded of the question of false advertising that was raised by Senator Gietzelt, which I shall not discuss at the moment- and learned that the plant was manufacturing piece parts for assembly in Australia by an organisation known as Campaign Furniture of Sydney. In the polishing shop, where tile work of staining and filling is pretty dirty, young girls were employed at approximately $A10 for 40 hours work. Our girls would, by comparison, receive at least $A10 for four hours work. I am reminded of the first submission that my colleague made, if I might just quote this in conclusion.
– What about sick leave?
– Time will not permit my going into that now. In rounding off our submission to the Commission in Sydney, in April last, we said:
We do not argue with the generalisation that competition is healthy and operates to eliminate inefficiences in production and marketing, but this is a generalisation and the context in which we all accept it is that competition takes place on approximately equal terms.
I am satisfied that we are as efficient in terms of production per unit of labour, but in no way in the world could it be said that we are as efficient in terms of the actual costs of labour. We also have to take into account some of the advantages the employers enjoy, particularly in places like Singapore and Malaysia. I am not critical of the governments of those two countries which, in endeavouring to attract industries to their countries to provide employment for their work forces are prepared to grant tax free holidays for a period of years of operation and concessions in respect of electrical energy tariffs and so on. I am not critical of that, but it certainly does not allow for comparative equality in competition- and that is what we are talking about. The matter I have concentrated on specifically points out that if it were to be followed to the letter in respect of the industry with which I am closely associated and which I know intimately then it would be disastrous for that industry, let alone what might happen to other industries.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Before I call Senator Archer I remind honourable senators that it is customary for honourable senators entering or leaving the chamber to pay their respects to the Chair. I am not seeking this courtesy for myself but for the person for whom I am deputising, the President of the Senate. I will not name people but I have seen honourable senators enter and leave the chamber without paying that respect. I leave it to their own discretion to comply with what is required under the rules and Standing Orders of this chamber. I call Senator Archer.
– I would like to say how much I appreciated Senator Brown’s comments. I found the information that he provided very interesting and so typical of so many industries throughout Australia. Most speakers have covered very carefully the various items proposed in the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill and the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill, and I believe it would be more appropriate if I spoke in slightly more general terms about a range of trade and industry questions involving tariffs and the Industries Assistance Commission.
It is fair to say that we are all free traders at heart. Many industries require and receive assistance but I do not think any of them relish the position they are in. Certainly those which do not receive assistance would not relish their position. Tariffs in any form are never popular but they are also little understood by the public at large. They are always subject to great publicity. They are always the basis of considerable disagreement and they are usually subject to gross journalistic distortion, depending which side of the argument anyone takes.
Before we can really start to come to grips with tariffs we have to consider their historical background. We do not have to look very far into Australia’s history to find that Australia was once basically a primary producing country whose export income came from wool, wheat and frozen meat. That was the order in my school days. Subsequently minerals started to play a fairly important part and started to distort the position somewhat and to cause the Australian population to move about. At about the same time the Australian people started to become concerned about what they regarded as the vast yellow hordes moving south and decided that what Australia needed was people. Those people needed jobs and we adopted the principle of buying industries to employ the people who were coming into Australia. We went out of our way to try to find labour intensive industries. They were preferred. We also became involved in the import substitute argument. We went to great lengths to isolate the items we were buying with a view to setting up an industry to produce them or to induce an overseas firm to come in and produce them. At that stage we all went along with what was happening and we were quite satisfied.
As is being found in countries that have developed since, we found that generally as standards increase problems really commence. In Australia, slowly but surely the position began to decline and we soon found ourselves heading into lower production areas. We found that greater mining returns were starting to influence the gross national income. We went through a period of huge wage claims and a general loss of competitiveness with the less developed countries. We brought more people into Australia. To them as to us, Australia is home. I do not think that it is in anybody’s mind that we should now ask them to go away. I do not think that it is in anybody’s mind that we should immediately put them all on the dole. But I think we have to look for some sort of solution, bearing in mind these two extreme alternatives.
We would all like free trade. I think we all understand and appreciate the regularly propounded position of countries that belong to the Association of South East Asian Nations. Generally speaking, we appreciate their position more than they appreciate ours. The trade statistics establish that Australia treats the ASEAN countries far better than do any of their other trading partners. Ten years ago we would not have thought that an Industries Assistance Commission would be necessary. As little as ten years ago we were still relatively competitive and our industries were still building up. It is only as a result of what has happened that some sort of organisation has become necessary. The times have changed and the circumstances are not the same. We find now that even the IAC has to be changed.
When we look over the businesses that are established in Australia we find, firstly, a group of local industries which purely and simply cater for a local trade. Secondly, we find a group of overseas industries which have decided to manufacture their products in Australia and which have Australian markets. Thirdly, we find a group of overseas companies which shelter in Australia behind the over-generous tariff protection that they are able to obtain. Finally, we find a group of local industries with high skills and technology which are able to meet the world markets and succeed both at home and overseas. The various industries obviously need different treatment according to the categories into which they fall. We can be proud of a great number of our companies. We only have to look at the list of export award winners to see that some particularly fine efforts have been recorded, in the main by a group of fairly small companies. Many of them are family companies. They have met the market. They have competed in the real outside world, and they have done it the hard way, and prospered. We have to give them full support.
At the other end of the scale, we have a small group of overseas firms which came in because they thought Australia was a soft and foolish place where they could achieve an advantage. They provided as little as they could, sheltered under any of the Australian weaknesses they could find and have succeeded in taking advantage of the tariff situation. This was spelt out fairly clearly in the IAC inquiry into the ball bearing industry which, whilst I am not singling out the ball bearing firms, is a typical example of the class of industry I have mentioned. It is reasonable now to give notice that these sorts of operations can no longer continue down the primrose path and will have to face reality and come to grips with bad technology, low initiative, even the question of non-competition with their companies from overseas, and poor planning. A business that is generally covered by tariff overprotection will just have to come to heel.
Apparently the biggest problem class at present is the labour intensive industries although some of these, as Senator Brown said, are as efficient as any in the world. At this stage we have to consider efficiency as being based more on the productivity standards of the people involved than on any other basis. I do not think that we can look just at the industries which are disadvantaged on costs alone when there are some industries that are neither efficient nor in receipt of a cost advantage. Certainly I would put clothing in the former group because the standards by which our clothing manufacturers operate are as efficient as any in the world. On a garment per person per hour basis we are at least as efficient as any of the good manufacturers anywhere in the world. I believe that we would have to put shipbuilding in the latter group and perhaps the car industry is fairly close behind it.
What we have to realise is that these operations create secondary problems. For instance, if we have a non-competitive shipbuilding industry it will not be long before we are heading towards a non-competitive fishing or transport industry. Many of these industries are unable to pass their costs down the line. This is particularly so in the case of primary industries. To overcome this inability to some extent, we have to take drastic remedial action. I consider that two things are necessary. Last Wednesday I spoke for some time about a ‘buy Australian’ program which, I believe, is still as important as ever. The second is an improved export incentive scheme. These can be achieved through the encouragement of support for Australian industries whether we are going to export their products or use them locally. I am awaiting a new promotion scheme that will encourage more of our manufacturers and producers generally to export more of their product and to go out and actively work on selling goods to countries with which we have not previously dealt or on selling more to countries with whom we have previously dealt. Everything that we buy overseas weakens our industries at home and we accelerate the weakness by the more we buy. I have never said that we should buy Australian regardless but I have said that we should buy Australian whenever we can. We have to consider ways to make buying Australian easier.
A few months ago I decided to embark on an investigation. I asked all the export firms in Tasmania how they were proceeding and what type of assistance they felt was applicable to their industries. I would now like to put on the public record that I had a most magnificent response from a wide cross section of industry in Tasmania and received some very sound suggestions. I found out the basis of the problems that they faced. Tasmania, representing approximately three per cent of the Australian economy, provides a very easily sampled and complete cross section of industry, lt gave me a particularly good insight into what is happening throughout Australia. The investigation revealed that nearly all industries were aware of a most beneficial scheme that operates in New Zealand. It was introduced in New Zealand for almost the same reasons that I have outlined here tonight. Many of the manufacturers to whom I spoke were well aware of the New Zealand scheme and could tell me how it had affected their businesses. Naturally they like the thought of a scheme that would go some way down the road towards providing the benefits that apply in New Zealand.
I had quoted to me many instances of how the scheme benefits industry. One case I was told about involved the New Zealand carpet industry. A big move is currently under way to establish a fairly large carpet industry in New Zealand. When the New Zealand firms have sold as much as they can at the best price they can, they start to achieve benefits proportionate to the amount of extra business that they get. I understand that it is possible to buy in Australia carpet which normally would cost $100 a yard for approximately $40 a yard because of the benefits that go to the New Zealand export firms. It sounds incredible but I understand that it is correct. I found also that there are many cases where we suffer because of the trade policies of other countries. This again is applicable to the primary industries though they are not alone. I feel that the Industries Assistance Commission and the Temporary Assistance Authority have in the past shown a great tardiness to grapple with some of the problems that have been drawn to their attention. I have always found that it was far easier to have an erring Australian firm brought to heel than it was to have an erring overseas firm brought to heel. I have endeavoured to bring many instances before the Department and the Minister at times and my success rate in having them looked into has not been terribly high. However, I trust that this is one of the areas over which there will be greater surveillance.
We certainly have to compete to survive and the costs that we operate under are pertinent to that survival. Therefore we have to consider that the alternative to assisting a declining industry is that the people from that industry are likely to be on the public payroll for some time. I am still a free trader at heart and am not prepared to abolish protection as a means of getting there overnight. We have to start making some definite plans about the direction in which we are heading. The present scheme is not sufficient to get industries to go out and aggressively promote exports. To substantially build export will undoubtedly cost money. But it is my opinion that those costs are offset in five different ways. Firstly, there is a lower unemployment benefit payment. Secondly, there is increased plant investment. Thirdly, there are higher profits and increased taxation. Fourthly, there is a flow on to primary and service investments. Fifthly, the experience gained from overseas marketing is of great value. Another advantage is that this type of operation can be readily quantified, which is a point many people would like to keep closer to. It is a system that hopefully both accentuates the positive and goes towards eliminating the negative. We have to look after the people who are involved, many of whom are migrants. We paid them to come here and we still want them here. It certainly is not their fault that circumstances have changed.
It is up to us right now to consider this position, and consider it honourably. But in the meantime there has to be a shift from the bad to the good, from the uneconomic to the economic and so on. The Industries Assistance Commission with the Temporary Assistance Authority has a big job to do- a job which covers nearly all of these grey areas. It is a matter of determining viability; of determining what constitutes reasonable competition; of establishing what is dumping and so on. Even more, it is a matter of assessing groups for protection or not for protection. All of these are very difficult areas; they are certainly matters of opinion. I make a plea that this matter be determined on a basis of productivity rather than profitability. If our work force, technology and mechanisation enables us to demonstrate efficiency on a productivity basis I believe that that industry deserves support. Consideration is also certainly justified for segments onprocessing our natural resources or primary production. But let us with no doubts and no remorse serve notice on those who have to, as the Navy says, shape up or ship out. Let industry be aware of the government policy. Let us encourage it to meet the market, expand or contract, mechanise, diversify or whatever with the full knowledge of the long-term future. With Ministry changes come policy changes and as we wait daily for announcements we can assure the Government that all industry, primary, secondary and service sections alike, is waiting ready to go, but waiting to be given the right direction. I support the Bills before the Senate but not the amendment.
– I rise to speak very briefly to this legislation. I have a long record in this Parliament of speaking on matters which concern tariffs. I can go back as long ago as 1965 when I was extremely critical of the policies being followed by the then government in relation to the motor car industry. I think the effect of what I said then was that these policies would in the long term prove disastrous. They have proved disastrous. Today we are in a worse position with regard to our motor car industry than we were in 1965, which was bad enough. Our tariff policies in the main have encouraged the fragmentation of industry in Australia. There has been a failure by successive governments to face up to the economic facts of life.
– Cut out a bit of the old sales tax.
– I do not think sales tax has much to do with it. There are factors far more important than sales tax. The policy of a 95 per cent Australian content in the highly protected motor car industry encouraged other sections of the motor car industry to get involved when in fact the throughput, as the then Tariff Board pointed out, could sustain only two major motor car manufacturers in Australia. Today we have a whole series of motor car manufacturers. Chrysler Australia Ltd is losing $2 7m a year and General Motors-Holden’s Ltd is also losing money. What can be done about this disastrous situation? Is the industry to be given more protection which in the long term will mean disaster or will the industry face up to the realities of economic life?
When I first heard of this legislation I must say I was suspicious about it because again there have been emotional and irrational attacks made by highly protected sections of Australian industry upon the recommendations- and I stress the words ‘the recommendations’- of the Industries Assistance Commission. I do not need to remind honourable senators of the nature of these attacks. They are related, as speakers from both sides of the House have pointed out, to recommendations to the Government. It is the Government’s decision as to whether it accepts, rejects or modifies them and the Government has to live with its decisions.
As far back as 1 967 Sir Leslie Melville, who was then the Chairman of the Tariff Board, warned that Australia had to restructure its industries. In Australia there was a misallocation of scarce financial resources which were being encouraged by high protection into industries which had no long-term future instead of being encouraged into industries in Australia which had a long-term future. Successive governments ignored the recommendations all these years and today we have to face the facts of international trade. Lee Kuan Yew recently pointed out that countries which do not face the changing patterns of international trade will be left behind. I believe that we in Australia are in grave danger of being left behind. We are protecting industries which have no long-term future. I do not want to name these industries but there are sections of the textile industry- not all- the footwear industry and others which will continue to demand more protection in order to exist.
The second factor I mention very briefly is that Australia’s international relations today are the aggregate of our relations with countries. It is not just diplomacy- it is trade, it is economic, it is financial, it is resources and it is aid. We will be judged in the world by the sorts of policies we adopt in all these areas. If we think we can isolate ourselves from the changing patterns of international trade I suggest we are living in a fool’s paradise and, even in the short term, we will be the losers.
It has been suggested that industries will become more protected against competition from overseas. Mention was made tonight of cheap labour. Of course cheap labour conditions exist. However, many countries in Asia have met this problem. For example, Japan at one time was a cheap labour country. We all know that Japan was criticised as being a cheap labour country. Today Japan is not a cheap labour country. It is becoming a high labour cost country with a high labour cost economy. That country is facing up to the fact that it has to reconstruct its industries. It is phasing out its textile industry. It is also phasing out its shipbuilding industry which was one ofthe most efficient in the world. Japan is cutting back shipbuilding by 50 per cent because of competition from countries like Korea and Taiwan. It is simply facing up to the changing situations of international trade.
My only reason for rising tonight is to say that the longer we delay the simple facts of economic life and the restructuring of Australian industry to meet the new international patterns of trade the more the economic development of this country will be delayed. We have always found excuses for delaying restructuring. Today the excuse is unemployment. Nobody is saying that restructuring should be completed overnight. Those of us who believe that restructuring is necessary all realise that it will not be done immediately. I believe that the countries belonging to the Association of South East Asian Nations, some of which are most critical of our trade policies, do not expect to see overnight the restructuring of Australian industry. They know it may be 10 years before it can be restructured but they want us at least to acknowledge that we have to do it and start to do it. At some time the sheer economic facts of life will force us to do it and the longer we delay it the more painful restructuring will be.
If I do nothing else in rising tonight to speak on this legislation I will commend the IAC. I do not always agree with its recommendations but I commend its independence. This legislation may result in the IAC having to take regard of further matters. Let it take regard of those matters. But its independence and its right to recommend to governments the simple facts of economic life as it sees them should never be threatened. It is the Government’s decision to accept, reject or modify those recommendations. It should not hide behind restrictions placed upon an independent authority. I well remember a series of letters tabled in this Parliament in the late 1960s between the then Chairman of the Tariff Board, Mr Rattigan, and the then Minister for Trade, John McEwen, who laid down certain conditions. Mr Rattigan demanded that those conditions be defined and spelt out. There was a long series of letters and finally Mr Rattigan won. The meaning of the conditions was spelt out. I hope that the IAC, if it has any doubt about the condtions laid down in this legislation, will insist that the Government spell out clearly what it means so that it is in no doubt as to the conditions under which it should operate.
We cannot avoid much longer facing the economic facts of life. I do not think restructuring will be traumatic if it is done sensibly over a period. Industries in Australia which today are uneconomic but not necessarily inefficient except in the sense of world trading will have to be phased out. We should concentrate on those industries which can compete on world markets and there are many. Other countries have found that industries of high technology, which we have, can compete. The other day I was talking to a distinguished Korean. The Korean economy is one of the success stories of the world in recent years. It has been assisted by investment from Japan, the United States of America and other countries. The textile industry was a success in Korea. Now, because of higher labour costs, competition is increasing and it is more difficult for the industry to sell its goods on world markets. The Koreans are facing that fact and are starting to move away slightly from that industry, as the Japanese have done, and turn to industries which can compete.
If we in Australia think we can insulate ourselves from these world patterns of trade we are living in a fool’s paradise. Let us face the economic facts of life. It is no good for Australia to make bitter attacks upon the restrictive trade policies of other countries such as members of the European Economic Community. I am the first to admit that many of their policies are restrictive but unless our own house is put in order other countries will be able to point to the restrictive trade policies of Australia. Our own barganing position in world trade will increase if no one can point the finger at us and say that we are amongst the most restrictive trading countries in the world, as I believe we are. Not only do we impose tariffs, we also employ quotas and restrictions overnight without consultation with our trading partners. These cause more ill feeling amongst our trade partners than the imposition of tariffs which they understand because they are longer term measures.
– Such as ASEAN countries.
– I am thinking particularly of the ASEAN countries.
– Some other countries do that to us.
– Yes, but why should we do it to them? If we do, our position is weakened. If we are to argue with other countries which mean a lot to us as a trading nation we have to have a clean nose. We do not have a clean nose. If we are to impose quotas and restrictions we should do so not overnight, but in consultation and with a clear understanding as to why we are doing so. If I were a lawyer I should say: “Here I rest my case.’ The world is demanding liberalisation of trade. One of the great dangers we face today because of trade recessions is that countries are placing more restrictions on trade. They talk about liberalisation but they do damned little about it. If there is a world trade recession as there was in the 1930s it will be because countries place more and more restrictions on trade. We must face developing nations justly and rightly seeking a greater share of the world’s resources. If countries such as Australia which is in every sense a developed and affluent nation do not practice what they preach the judgment on them will be deservedly harsh.
-I am pleased to follow the thought provoking contribution by Senator Sim. Tonight the Senate is considering cognately the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill 1978 and the Customs Tariff Bill 1978. The essence of the proposal in the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill is to ensure that the IAC in the performance of its functions will have regard to the Government’s desire to achieve sustained growth through balanced development of industries with a view to providing increased opportunities for employment and investment. An amendment has been moved by the Opposition which states:
. the Senate deplores the actions of the Government:
As an independent senator I have to choose between the proposition incorporated by the Government in the amending Bills and the proposition of the Opposition. To a great extent I sympathise with the Government in this respect for two reasons. One is that for many years I was Secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council and a member of the Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. When reports of the Industries Assistance Commission have been made public, many times I have been concerned that they have had the result of lessening public confidence and investment confidence in the industries about which the reports are made, with disastrous effects on employment. I recognise the very worthwhile job that has been performed by the Industries Assistance Commission in attempting to analyse the problems facing industries and to advise the Government thereon.
The reason I am sympathetic with the Government is that it is recognised that a number of groups have approached the Government and said: ‘Couldn’t the Industries Assistance Commission give more weight to the effect that its recommendations will have on employment in the particular industries about which references have been made?’ That cry went up about a number of industries in my State of Tasmania, including the copper mining industry and the textile industry. Naturally, the people of my State, and indeed the people of other States, are very concerned about employment. I am most concerned about employment and the long term future of permanent employment in industries within Australia. That is why I say that the contributions made by Senator Sim and, indeed, by a number of other honourable senators in this debate were very thought provoking. I believe that Australia should have a very good look at where it is going so far as manufacturing industry is concerned. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) stated in his second reading speech that:
The Bill provides that the IAC, in the performance of its functions, will have regard to the Government’s desire to achieve sustained growth through balanced development of industries with a view to providing increased opportunities for employment and investment.
It was also stated in the second reading speech that:
The Bill also expresses the Government’s objective that any measures to achieve changes in the structure of industry are taken only after due regard had been given to the capacity ofthe economy to sustain those changes and to absorb members of the workforce displaced by those changes.
That is a very worthy objective. But I submit to the Government that what the Industries Assistance Commission would require in order to perform that task would be some government policy in respect of that matter- some clear government policy as to where Australian manufacturing industry is headed. As yet we do not have that type of government policy.
Australia is blessed with rich resources, not only the energy resources which have been described in contributions made in this debate by other honourable senators, although those resources are important, but also educational resources, technological resources and financial resources. Why, for example, do we see the decline in defence and defence related industries within Australia? I believe that that decline is a disgrace. I believe that that is an area which would sustain a good deal more employment than is able to be sustained at the present moment. Why can we not act as the resources centre for the whole of the South-East Asian area- for the Association of South East Asian countries? Why can we not act as the energy resource base, the educational resource base and the defence resource base for those countries? Surely that would overcome some of the problems of our defences. If we were to provide defence hardware for the forces of the ASEAN countries, surely those countries would not bite the hand that fed them. Indeed, that would also be the case so far as energy resources are concerned. We see that the Government suggests in the second reading speech that:
The Bill also expresses the Government’s objective that any measures to achieve changes in the structure of industry are taken only after due regard has been given to the capacity ofthe economy to sustain those changes and to absorb members ofthe workforce displaced by those changes.
Where are those members of the work force to go to gain employment? The Government ought to place before this Parliament a White Paper on where it believes resources should be channelled so far as manufacturing industries are concerned.
– It has not told us.
– It has not told us. What I am suggesting is that the Government ought to place such a plan before this Parliament. Naturally, after a while the Industries Assistance Commission will be seeking such information from the Government if it is to carry out the directions which are contained in this Bill.
Senator Sim said that unemployment is an emotional issue. Obviously, when the Industries Assistance Commission presents a report on a particular industry, the recommendations of which, if accepted, would mean large scale layoffs, that certainly becomes a most emotional issue to the individual workers concerned. If one loses one’s job over night things become very emotional indeed. But to overcome this problem we should not attack the independence of the Industries Assistance Commission. With all of the declarations which I have made in my trade union position on decisions of the Industries Assistance Commission, I have appreciated the very deliberate and effective economic work and research that has been carried out by the Commission. I believe that we should recognise that the Industries Assistance Commission is an advisory body and that final decisions are to be made by the Government.
In conclusion, I come to the amendment proposed by the Opposition. I agree with part (a) of the amendment. The amendment states, in Part:
At end of motion, add- but the Senate deplores the actions of the Government:
in not having a medium or long term economic strategy, including a viable manufacturing policy upon which to base general and consistent guidelines necessary for, among other things, the proper functioning of the Industries Assistance Commission . . .
That applies to the Opposition as well. As yet I have not seen the Opposition come forward with a ‘medium or long term economic strategy, including a viable manufacturing policy upon which to base general and consistent guidelines necessary for . . . the proper functioning of the Industries Assistance Commission’. It is a worthy objective, but I should like to see both the Government and the Opposition face it realistically. I believe that if we in this Parliament give leadership to the people of Australia, the interest groups, including the unions and the employers, will go along with it provided they know where we are going. We cannot know where we are going unless we receive guidelines from the Government and proposed guidelines from the alternative government. In the second part of its amendment the Opposition has moved that the Senate deplores the action of the Government: in threatening the basic independence of the Industries Assistance Commission by its emphasis upon narrow and variable guidelines and by its consistent failure to appreciate the advisory role intended for the Industries Assistance Commission.
I would go along with the latter part of that amendment but I cannot go along with the first part. This Bill and the Government say that the IAC should have regard to the Government’s desire to achieve sustained growth through balanced development of industries with a view to providing increased opportunities for employment and investment. I do not believe that is a narrow and variable guideline. I think it is a guideline that has been desired by the work force of this country- indeed, desired by a great number of employers of this country and I believe, with respect to Senator Walsh, by a large number of primary producers in this countryprovided that the nation knows where it is going.
I appeal to the Government to bring down a White Paper on the future of manufacturing industry. We could then hear what the Government has to say about how the industry should be restructured, where resources should be allocated within manufacturing industries, and which industries should have priorities and which industries should not. We could then have an intelligent debate on the whole subject not only for the benefit of the work force but also for the future security and development of this country.
- Mr President, the debate on the Government’s proposals to change the emphasis of the Industries Assistance Commission Act has been a very interesting one. One would have expected, in the light of the contributions made by the last three speakers, that they would have been much more ready to support the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition. I do not think anyone disputes that we are in a very different son of world today from the one we were in at the beginning of this decade- even different from the world we were in during the 1950s and the 1960s- and that over the last half dozen years or so the changing pattern of world trade has distorted existing trade relationships in all countries. I suppose the principal factor that has emerged from this change has been the development of technology and the massive flow of capital from country to country in the endeavour to reach the economies of scale that those who possess capital believe should be realised in pursuit of the market by developing industries. If we recognise that as the situation- I suggest that the last three speakers have in some way taken cognisance of those changes- I think we have to examine the role of a country like Australia, which once did ride on the sheep’s back but which for a whole number of historical reasons has developed an important manufacturing base and a certain self-sufficiency. Those changes now have to be seen in the light of the changing world trade relationships.
We are confronted with an unprecedented movement of capital throughout the world. It seeks to be invested in those countries where labour costs are low and where industries can be developed at a fraction of the costs in developed countries. In pursuit of the economies of scale, countries like the United States of America, West Germany and Japan have carried out a major investment policy. That is reflected, it seems to me, more specifically in our region of the world than in any other part of the globe; that is, in the Asian region and the ASEAN region. It is understandable that this process should be taking place. What we have to recognise and I think those senators who have contributed to this debate have to recognise is that in the OECD countries the latest figures issued by the International Labour Organisation show 1 5 million people out of work. They are out of work because there is an over-production- or, as some like to describe it, an under-consumption- of manufactured goods. But in the underdeveloped countries there is a labour force of 300 million people which is idle. Senator Sim has suggested that we should be playing some part in this redistribution process which the movement of capital suggests is the course we should take, but if we did so I doubt whether there would be a viable industry left in this country.
If we are to worship at the shrine of efficiency and accept reduced unit costs of production as the only influence to be considered, we should produce just wool, wheat and perhaps coal and one or two other products which would place us in the position of having a competitive price and efficient production for world market needs. But as Senator Harradine has quite correctly said- I believe Senator Archer referred to this too- we have some responsibility to employ people in our country. I think we are confronted with a difficulty in that governments are not able to control the manner in which capital is floating about on the world scene. In fact, we are not even able to control it within our own domestic economy. In the area in which I have been showing more than usual interest in recent years- agriculturewhenever governments have moved to stabilise prices there has been a movement of financial resources to those stable industries. That is what Senator Sim and other honourable senators have referred to in their contributions to the debate. Whenever protection is applied or government assistance, in whatever form, is given, capital will flow to that area because it becomes a stable industry, no matter where it is. That applies on a world scale; it applies on our domestic scale.
I think the mistake on which we can reflect- I think Senator Sim was correct in saying that he has been talking about this problem since 1965- is that governments have not been prepared to grasp the nettle to stop that flow of capital or to take what steps are needed in the Australian community to achieve a balanced position that would enable capital to play a socially useful role and, perforce, an employment role which would keep Australians working and would provide employment opportunities for all those who want to work.
Mr President, I have been very critical of the tariff cuts which the Labor Government introduced. Those cuts were designed to bring about a redistribution within the manufacturing areas. That action did not work. I think it has to be said that the tariff cuts did not achieve Labor’s objectives. Certainly honourable senators from Tasmania will appreciate that that action had very grave consequences for the economy in that State, as it did in other parts of Australia. The Tariff Board consistently followed a policy to which the industries of Australia have drawn attention in numerous reports, expressed mainly in the Australian Industries Development Association information sheets that are given to us from time to time. The reports have shown that for the last 10 or 1 1 years there has been an inability in the Australian context for capital to play the son of role that it should play in order to maintain industrial, manufacturing and employment bases for Australia.
On the international scene, our shipbuilding industry has been written off because for a variety of reasons- technology, capital and low labour costs- overseas countries can produce ships much more cheaply than we can. The same can be said of our textile and footwear industries. In fact, all of our manufacturing goods are going to come under the same son of pressure. Philosophically, I suppose that all of us in one way or another would support the principles of free trade, but that would be conditional upon us living in an equal world. However, such is the stage of our development that we are not living in an equal world; we are living in a very unequal world. We are living now in a world where trade influences are cutting across even the policies of government that try to control development within domestic economies. Those countries that have massive capital to invest are not investing for a number of reasons and do not intend to invest during 1978 and 1979. As a result, the world is facing an economic and trade recession.
The Industries Assistance Commission was set up by the Whitlam Government in a most earnest endeavour to grapple with the problems facing capital and labour sources in Australia and with the structural problems that clearly exist in one way or another- devastating in some areas, only minimal in others- in every branch of industry in this country. Whilst our structural problems may vary, they still have their counterparts in countries such as Japan, West Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Economic Community countries. We are confronted with a more fundamental problem than governments seem able to comprehend. One of the positive features of the Whitlam period was the degree to which investigations were carried out into discernible problem areas, and honourable senators ought to read the many volumes that make up the Jackson report on manufacturing industry. The report drew attention to the type of problem we have and to the need for the Government and the community to accept change and to plan for it. I put it to Senator Harradine that that report is still very relevant for consideration by the Parliament and the Government.
Last year Senator Cotton presented another White Paper on manufacturing industry which again drew attention to the nature of the problem. I have to agree with the honourable senator that the reports have highlighted the structural problems and the difficulties facing many sectors of industry. But so far no policies have been developed to my satisfaction, or I am sure to the satisfaction of employers and employees, that would give some confidence to the business sector and the trade union movement that the changes that need to be made will take into consideration the interests of those two sections.
We have taken steps virtually to close down the shipbuilding industry and the skills of those engaged in that industry are being lost. For a variety of reasons, State governments and others have absorbed the labour force. But the organisation and the facilities that have taken generations to build up have been lost. I venture to say that, if we rely entirely upon market forces and the ability of capital to find its own level, other sections of Australian industry will face the same sort of spectre as that faced by the shipbuilding industry. A similar problem is occurring now in the building industry, where over the last two or three years apprentices have almost disappeared because of the nature of the industry and the problems associated with the downturn that has taken and is continuing to take place.
As members of Parliament, as members of parties, as part of the general community, we must be concerned about the changes that are taking place day by day, with no central planning, guidelines, policies or strategies to take up the slack. As our agricultural industries declined over the last 40 or 50 years and the work force dropped from 25 per cent to 6 per cent, the slack was taken up by manufacturing industry and by the public sector. But figures available this morning show that manufacturing has dropped from 29 per cent in relation to the gross domestic product about a decade ago to 2 1 per cent. One can show a similar drop in the percentage of people employed in manufacturing industry. As we know, there has been a deliberate policy to curtail public expenditure and consequently a drop in public sector employment. For the first time since the Great Depression, all sectors of the Australian economy are more or less in a state of decline in terms of job opportunities. It has been suggested that approximately 100,000 jobs have disappeared in the last three or four years, not to be replaced by training schemes and not likely to be replaced because those jobs have disappeared as a result of changing patterns of world trade.
One of the weaknesses of the IAC is that it was set up to take into account the social and economic policies of the government of the day. It has to be conceded that in its reports both to the previous Government and to this Government the
IAC has tended to have something of a fragmented approach. It has tended to look at industries in isolation. It has had neither the coordination and the coherence nor the concept of a strategy so essential- I agree with the last three speakers- if we are to know where we are going. I would not go the way Senator Sim would want to go but I share his concern that we are going downhill without a driver. I find myself fairly close to the concern expressed by Senators Archer, Brown and Harradine about the need for us to have long-term objectives. For example, if we have a 20-year plan to restructure Australian manufacturing industry or agriculture, we could conceivably say that if we are going to close down industry A then we will have a retraining scheme and a scheme to attract private investment in sector B. Those who are displaced because of market forces and because of change, whether it be domestic change or international change by imports- two sectors go to make the whole, capital investment and the labour forcecan be gainfully employed to realised those objectives. That is what the Labor Party is talking about in its amendment.
I concede to Senator Harradine that we in the Opposition have not yet developed our medium or long-term economic strategy. But we are working on it. After all, the Opposition is not charged with the responsibility of running the affairs of this country. We believe that the Parliament should play some part in this process. It should not be left to the political parties. In fact, the media, the trade union movement and the whole community have some responsibility because we are faced now with the question of whether we will continue to go as we have been, which is without a policy and just plugging up the holes. I suggest that is what Mr Fraser is doing. He is terribly inconsistent. I think that is what Senator Sim is saying. Mr Fraser is telling the European Economic Community that it should open its doors to imports and at the same time he is imposing restrictions and tariffs in relation to our own industries. I agree that that should be done in pursuance of a policy of full employment. But if in that process capital investment is allowed to go into those areas, then I think the Government has failed its duty because that is a misuse of resources.
I concede that we have a capital investment shortage in this country. We do not want to see repeated in manufacturing industry the sort of misuse of financial resources which we have seen in agriculture over the years. When the Government steps in and stabilises an industry we find capital flowing to that stable area because it has a stable return on invested funds. We have to make up our minds whether the Industries Assistance Commission will take one of two courses: Will it pursue the policies it has been pursuing, which I suggest are fragmented and lack cohesion and direction except in the generality, or will it be asked to comply with a strategy which is acceptable to the government of the day? That is why we are adding to the motion the words:
But the Senate deplores the actions of Government:
in not having a medium or long term economic strategy , , ,
We as an Opposition want to maintain our industrial base. After all, it has given us one of the best standards of living in the world. The Australian people will not tolerate it being whittled away. I hope that governments of all political persuasions will maintain that base.
Senator Harradine said that Australia might become the base for the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations. It is an interesting thought. One of the problems we have to concern ourselves about in relation to ASEAN countries is that most of their products are manufactured for export. They are not made for the domestic market. If the people of the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand or Malaysia want an expanding living standard then the way forward for them is to manufacture goods for their domestic market as the principal preoccupation of their industries. They should not see the export market as being more important than their domestic market. A country as small as Australia with 14 million people is a very small market when compared with world standards. I find it inconceivable that we should be subject to haranguing from Lee Kuan Yew and others that all the problems of the Third World will be resolved if we open our doors for goods. That is such an absurd proposition. We are such a small country in terms of the potential which exists and the degree of production which already exists. That is not taking into account those millions and millions of people in those countries who have to be properly employed.
We are in a very difficult situation and we are in a new situation. But we are in a situation in which we have to work out policies which will enable the Australian work force to be gainfully employed. I am not so sure that those objectives necessarily coincide with the objectives of those who say that we ought to produce more. I say to Senator Archer that I do not think it is a question of producing more or of reducing unit costs of production because our problem now is markets. On the agricultural side, we could produce a great deal more. Our difficulty is to get access to markets. That is the struggle which is now taking place in every country. All countries are producing more than can be distributed. They are all trying to score off some other country. There is no rationality in the situation. I think we have reached the stage of stagflation in the international area of world trade and capital investment is declining. I think the only exception is West Germany. We cannot envisage getting much assistance from international forces which will help us solve our problems which are certainly influenced by overseas events.
Our amendment seeks to criticise the Government for its failure to develop a long-term economic strategy which will concern itself with the social and economic aims of full employment, which will meet the needs of a developing economy and which will enable our manufacturing industry to be maintained. We believe that the Government, rather than endeavouring to narrow down the guidelines should be giving a wider franchise. It seems to the Australian Labor Party that the Government should be giving the Industrial Assistance Commission wider guidelines and greater assistance to carry out its valuable work of objective reporting about the nature of industry, provided it is in line with overall strategy which is the responsibility of governments. Thoughtful contributions have been made by all members of the Senate. It is in the light of those comments that we ought to do what we can within our own political structures to adopt a less rigid party political position if we are to solve these grave economic problems which face us. That is why we would hope that the Senate would give favourable consideration to the amendment that we have moved. That does not prevent the Bill from being adopted but does express the opinion that the responsibility to develop short, medium and long term economic policies rests upon the Government.
– in reply- This has been a long and interesting debate on a subject which always gives rise, especially in the Senate, to a good deal of discussion. We are considering important amendments to the Industries Assistance Commission Act, and consequential amendments to the Customs Tariff Act. I am pleased to find that honourable senators, including those on the Opposition side, are in fact supporting the amendments that are proposed. At the beginning of the debate I was in some doubt as to whether that was the case. Senator Walsh, in leading for the Opposition, seemed to be launching a strong attack on the Government’s policy in relation to tariffs, which I took to indicate that he and his colleagues would be opposing these measures. That proved not to be the case and it was notable that the later speakers for the Opposition, especially Senator Gietzelt and Senator Brown, displayed a much greater understanding of the basic problems faced by the Government in dealing with this most vexed question of the protection of industry and the maintenance of employment levels which that is directed to achieving.
The debate ranged widely over pretty well all the issues that do arise in debates on tariffs. Honourable senators clearly recognised the conflicts of interest, the dilemmas and basic economic problems which this subject always presents. However, as is usual in such debates, there was somewhat of a shortage of solutions to those problems. That underlines the basic difficulty that the Government has in tackling this vital subject. Most people in common with many honourable senators speaking today, would express themselves as ideally, or philosophically, being free traders. Everyone would hope that we lived in a world where that was possible but, of course, we do not. The Government, in the ultimate, must make decisions in the light of the economic circumstances which at a given time it faces, and which the nation that it is called upon to govern faces.
In the last Vh years, since this Government took office, it has been faced with particularly difficult problems in this area. It is somewhat ironic that Opposition senators should be, not so much opposing the amendments but expressing opinion, concerning the Government’s policies towards manufacturing industry and tariffs, which are highly critical of its approach and performance. It is ironic because, of course, the problems that the Government has faced during that period have largely resulted from the performance of Opposition senators when in government. I am especially pleased that Senator Gietzelt, the last speaker for the Opposition side, should have recognised the complete failure of one of the major initiatives taken by the Labor Government in this area. I refer to its iniquitous 25 per cent cut in the tariffs then existing. That was a decision which now Senator Gietzelt quite rightly recognises was a disaster, and which equally large numbers of people recognised at an earlier stage would be a disaster. No State suffered more from that situation than did Senator Harradine ‘s State of Tasmania. I can well understand that he should recognise so clearly the problems that these policies have created. We inherited the results not only of that policy, but also of disastrous rates of inflation, which were I suppose even more inimical to the health of manufacturing industry- as indeed it would be to any industry- and also the rapidlyincreasing wage rates. Thus the Government faced a combination of factors which had been built up during the three years before it came to office. It therefore had to correct a very serious situation of high inflation, unemployment and interest rates. That situation was certainly not especially conducive to policies to restructure industry. As I believe Senator Harradine mentioned, there was the very pertinent question that when one embarks upon a policy of restructuring industry, one must consider where one is going to divert the resources that are made idle as a result.
The first proposed amendment of the Opposition represents an attack on the Government’s economic strategy. It calls for a medium and long-term economic strategy, including a policy for manufacturing industries and so on. As I have said, the Government’s policies have been necessarily directed to reducing the high rate of inflation which it inherited, a policy in which it has been particularly successful although the problem remains and its solution has proved to be a longer and more difficult exercise than we would have hoped.
The Government also faced a state of high unemployment, again a situation in which it could not do otherwise than endeavour to protect the jobs that were left in manufacturing industry after so many had been lost because of the 25 per cent tariff cuts of the then Labor Government and other policies that it pursued. So there has been no lack of policies directed to correcting the situation. There have been policies firmly directed to the reduction of inflation- in which I have said the government has been very successfuland to the reduction of interest rates. Here also its actions are beginning to bear fruit. The policy directed to achieving moderation in wage demands has also been fruitful. I do not know what the Government’s policies are if they are not major economic strategies. What the Opposition is really saying, and what Senator Walsh, leading for it, is saying, is that does not like the policies which the Government has been pursuing. It is not saying that there are no policies, but it is opposed to the policies. What policy is the Opposition really suggesting should be pursued? Is it suggesting that the present Government should not be concerned about inflation, as the Labor Government was not? Is it suggesting that the Government should not be concerned about high interest rates or high unemployment. The fact is that the Government policies have been firmly and clearly directed at tackling these major ills in the economy which it inherited two and a half years ago.
The other prong of attack on the Government is that the legislation threatens the independence of the Industries Assistance Commission. Indeed Senator Douglas McClelland used quite extravagant language when he alleged that the legislation will destroy the independence of the Commission. If the Opposition really believes the legislation will do that, why in Heaven’s name is it not opposing the legislation? The Opposition has moved a remarkable amendment to the motion that the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill be read a second time. It does not oppose the Bill, but at the same time it says that the Bill threatens the independence of the Commission. I, and I am sure the Senate, will not believe for a minute that this is a serious proposition. It has been proposed to get some effect. It is just a vehicle by which to make noises which members of the Opposition think may appeal to some of the radio listeners today. If there were a serious belief on the part of the Opposition that this legislation threatened the independence of the Commission, it would be opposing the legislation; but of course it has made it clear that it is not.
Furthermore, I would have thought that if this legislation were in any way a threat to that Commission the Commission’s supporters on the Government side of the Senate- and it has enough of them- would have expressed some concern. Senators Archer, Sim and Thomas have all spoken in this debate. If they believed for one minute that there was a threat to the Commission they would have been critical. Senators on the Government side are not prevented by a caucus from expressing their views strongly on matters if they feel they should do so. In this debate they have not expressed an opposing view. That is further proof of the sheer hypocrisy of the second paragraph ofthe Opposition amendment.
An analysis of the Bill shows that there is no substance in the Opposition’s attack. The Bill adds to the statutory guidelines of the Industries Assistance Commission. It gives the Minister power to suggest further guidelines in particular situations if he feels they are desirable. I have not heard any attack on the guidelines that the Government has suggested. Indeed, Senator Brown read them out and commended them. One ofthe guidelines sums up in a very clear and important way the policy the Government is pursuing on tariffs and the structure of manufacturing industry. Proposed new paragraph (aa) of proposed new section 22 provides that the IAC will have regard to improving the efficiency with which the community’s productive resources are used, while ensuring that any measures to achieve changes in the structure of industry are taken only after having due regard to the capacity of the economy to sustain those changes and to absorb any members of the work force displaced by those changes. This is a delicate and difficult operation. It is one which has to be pursued in the light of the economic conditions of the day- economic conditions which, unfortunately, the Government inherited and which have prevailed during the two and a half years it has been in office. In those circumstances it is most important that any restructuring of industry which occurs as a result of tariff changes should have regard to this important matter of providing opportunities for the absorption of members of the workforce who are displaced by changes that may occur.
The Bill also makes it quite clear that although the Industries Assistance Commission is requested to report on the level of assistance required to maintain the desired level of activity and employment in the industry at the time of the reference, it is at liberty to recommend a lower level of assistance, but it is required to state its reasons for doing so.
The amendments proposed to the Industries Assistance Commission Act- they also provide for changes to the Temporary Assistance Authority, and that should not be forgotten- are important aspects of the Government’s economic policy on tariffs. They are in line with the problems that the Government faces in this area; they are in line with its general economic strategy. I am pleased that the Senate is not to oppose them. I hope the Bill will have a speedy passage. At the same time I trust that the Senate will reject the amendment. Either it is based upon a deliberate misunderstanding of the Government’s problems and what its policies are about or it is simply being put forward to gain cheap political capital on this day on which the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast. I trust therefore that the Senate will treat the amendment with the contempt it deserves.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Walsh’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I direct my remarks to clause 8 which amends section 22 of the principal Act. I do so in order to respond to some of the comments which the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) made earlier. Some of us may have suspicions- at least I do- about the purpose of this legislation in view of the consistent attacks being made upon the Industries Assistance Commission from various sources. I do not think that the amendment to the Act will achieve that aim. I wish to refer briefly to two matters. In the view of many authorities there is no question that the high protection afforded to sections of Australian industry is a major factor in our inflation rate. People have to pay far more than they should for many of the consumer goods. That is undeniable and has been pointed out by many economists over the years. The often used argument that high protection protects employment is under serious challenge- and by no less an authority than Sir John Crawford, one of Australia’s greatest economists.
- Sir John Crawford. If the honourable senator has not heard of him, I will repeat his name- Sir John Crawford. He has been trusted by governments of all political -
– He is certainly better than Malcolm Fraser.
– You keep out of it; I am not interested in what you have to say. Sir John Crawford has been trusted by governments from both political sides. He recently said:
Protecting further the highly-protected industries is not going to provide the answer to unemployment. Australia’s future well-being is a function not only of its own resources, but of its relations with the rest of the world. We cannot have major policies which are inward looking and expect the world to give us freer access to their markets.
This is the argument that some of us on this side of the chamber have been using for years. I am pleased that in the Address-in-Reply debate and again today many of my colleagues have raised this important question. It is true that in the past the Tariff Board paid due regard in all its reports to these factors. If we go back as far as I can remember- I have spoken in this Parliament on this subject from 1965 onwards- and examine reports of the Tariff Board and the Industries Assistance Commission we will find that those reports have paid due regard to these factors.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., under the sessional order I put the question:
That I do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I will be brief. These points should be made clearly because I think it is wrong to suggest that the Tariff Board and the Industries Assistance Commission have not taken into account these very factors which are included in this legislation. I have said that I have frequently drawn attention to these factors since 1965. There can be no question at all that highly protected industries are the first to give in to wage demands because they know or believe they can achieve higher protection to cover them. It is very easy to divide people into high protectionists and free traders. I am not a free trader and I never have been. It is wrong to suggest that those who oppose high protection are free traders. There are grey areas. Many of us who have studied
Tariff Board and IAC reports over many years believe that all of the factors we are talking about have been taken into account. Our plea is that the Government should realise that political considerations are not the only considerations and that chickens come home to roost. The failure by successive governments to conveniently ignore Tariff Board and IAC reports, not for economic considerations but for political considerations, is leading this country not only into economic problems at home but also into great problems with our trading partners.
I conclude by pointing out that in 10 years’ time the countries of South East Asia will have a population of perhaps 300 million people. A 2 per cent increase in demand by this region for products will mean an ever-growing market for Australia. The way we are going, as Lee Kuan Yew pointed out, if we continue the policies -
– Do not quote him.
– I will quote Lee Kuan Yew who is the most brilliant and pragmatic leader in Asia. Australia will become more -
– It is hopeless.
– Order !
– But the honourable senator does not -
– Oh, come on! I am not interested in ideology; this nonsense. I ask the honourable senator not to provoke me. Lee Kuan Yew has pointed out -
Opposition senators interjecting.
– Order! There is too much noise and too many interjections. Senator Sim has indicated that he is bringing his remarks to a conclusion. I ask him to do so.
– Can I raise a point of order?
– What is the point of order?
– I want to make a query -
What is the point of order?
– The proceedings of the Senate are still being broadcast after 11 p.m. this day. Has there been an arrangement between Senator Sim and the Presiding Officers -
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I ignore the honourable senator’s stupidity. I conclude by saying, and I think it is a warning to Australia, that if we continue with the policies we are presently adopting we will become more irrelevant in our region. Any thinking person should give due consideration to that factor.
– I enter the debate very briefly simply to observe that the tough talk and sanctimonious posturing of Senator Sim has nothing to do with the way he really acts. When Mr Fraser squeaks, he hops.
– I draw attention to clause 8 which seeks to amend sub-section ( 1 ) of section 22 of the principal Act by inserting new paragraphs (a) and (aa). They provide that the Industries Assistance Commission in the performance of its functions should have regard to the Government’s desire to:
Those are the new guidelines that are proposed in this legislation. I would not have risen in the Committee stage had it not been for the fact that during the division on the amendment moved by the Opposition Senator McLaren sought to denigrate my voting with the Government on this Bill. I thought I made it perfectly clear in my speech during the second reading debate that I agreed with all parts of the Oppostion’s proposition except- it was an important exceptionwhere it stated that the Senate deplored the Government threatening the basic independence of the Industries Assistance Commission by its emphasis upon narrow and variable guidelines. I cannot accept- I do not believe the trade union movement can accept- that consideration of employment problems is a variable or narrow guideline.
– I direct the Committee’s attention to clause 14 which seeks to’ insert in the principal Act proposed new section 27, which states:
The Minister, after consultation with the full-time member of the Authority, may appoint a person to be an associate member, or persons to be associate members of the Authority.
That proposed new section did not concern me until I read that part of the second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) which states:
The structure of the TAA will be changed so as to comprise one full-time member. The Bill provides for the Minister to appoint associate members for specific inquiries, thus allowing for the appointment of persons having expertise in a particular area as the need arises.
I am aware of provision in this legislation which insists that the full-time members of the Authority and any associate members of the Authority declare their direct or indirect pecuniary interests in a particular business. I request the Minister to give me some assurance that where a specific industry is being investigated the Authority will be able to find suitable associate Authority members who have no interest whatsoever in that industry.
- Senator Thomas has raised probably the first proper question in this Committee debate. I have pleasure in responding to him and assuring him and the Committee that it is certainly the intention of the Government that associate members chosen, although it is hoped that they would have expertise in the industry concerned, would certainly not have vested interests in it.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I rise to make what is, in fact, my maiden adjournment speech. I am bound to do so because of a speech made in the adjournment debate last night in this chamber by Senator Primmer.
– He has drawn blood.
– Yes, he has drawn blood. In this chamber last night Senator Primmer alleged widespread malpractices in the meat export industry. Those allegations were answered in part today in another place by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). He said:
Senator Primmer is challenged as to whether he has any further information to disclose. Having opened with these allegations in a way which would undoubtedly receive widespread publicity, Senator Primmer then proceeded to slander two Liberal members of the Legislative Assembly in Victoria. His allegations received widespread publicity in this morning’s Victorian newspapers both in Melbourne and in country areas. They were repeated on Australian Broadcasting Commission news programs on the radio and, this evening, on television.
I believe that under the privilege of the Parliament Senator Primmer has grossly maligned two of my colleagues. I know these two gentlemen. They are fine people. They have been bucketed throughout this country under the privilege of the Parliament. Last night during the adjournment debate there was discussion about the misuse of privilege. I claim that there was a very grave misuse of the privilege of this chamber last night. To justify my claim I turn to extracts from the Hamilton Spectator. On 5 January, which is more than two months ago, the Hamilton Spectator published the article to which Senator Primmer referred last night. That article concerned the transfer from Hamilton of a regional meat inspector by the name of Mackie. On any fair reading of the article there was little enough of a peg on which to hang a claim that Mr Burgin and Mr McCabe were involved with illegal meat slaughtering operations. In one paragraph of the article it was alleged that unauthorised slaughtering was taking place at Timboon and that Mr Burgin owned some cattle which had been slaughtered there. In another paragraph it was alleged that a relative of Mr McCabe owned some abattoirs over which there was a dispute about improvements. From that article, as small as it was, Senator Primmer said:
Newspaper reports of these illegal meat slaughtering operations allege that prominent Western Districts Liberals are involved. Two Liberal MLAs were named amongst those allegedly involved. They were Mr C. Burgin, the member for Polwarth, and Mr J. McCabe, the member for Lowan.
Here is the rub. On 26 January 1978, some 40 days before Senator Primmer spoke in this chamber, the Spectator published a full and complete retraction under the heading ‘We were wrong’. The Spectator firstly acknowledged that its report of 5 January suggested that unauthorised slaughtering had been taking place at the Timboon abattoirs. The article continued:
Records of interviews between the abattoir operator and two department meat inspectors who conducted the Timboon raid contain references to a carcass owned by a person identified simply as ‘ Burgin ‘.
Whoever they might be- led the Spectator to believe the Burgin in question was the member for Polwarth.
The Spectator has no evidence to support this assertion and accepts Mr Burgin ‘s denial of involvement.
We apologise for any inconvenience or embarrassment this may have caused him.
Our report further suggested that Mr Jim McCabe, the MLA for Lowan, was related to the owner of abattoirs at Dimboola, where there had been a dispute over improvements, and suggested that Mr Mackie ‘s transfer was punishment for treading on political toes, including Mr McCabe ‘s.
In fact, the Dimboola abattoirs are owned by Mr R. M. Bush, who is in no way related to Mr McCabe.
The Spectator acknowledges the misleading nature of its report as relating to Mr McCabe, and unreservedly withdraws any imputations regarding Mr McCabe ‘s good reputation, character and integrity.
I believe it behoved Senator Primmer when he was preparing the speech that he delivered here last night to verify the allegations to some extent, especially when he had 40 days in which to check up on them. A simple inquiry of this newspaper would have disclosed the truth. In making the speech that he did in the circumstances and with all the attendent publicity that he received I believe that Senator Primmer has grossly misused his position and the privileges of this chamber. But I go further. I ask whether at the time Senator Primmer made his speech he in fact knew of the retraction which had been published in the Hamilton Spectator. I challenge him to say whether or not he knew of that retraction and apology before he spoke last night and, if he did know, why did he not tell this chamber about it.
Senator PRIMMER (Victoria) < 1 1.17)- I crave the indulgence of the Senate to reply to the remarks made by Senator Lewis. I can assure him that I did know of the retraction made by the Hamilton Spectator 40 days ago, but at this point in time I stand by everything I said last night.
– I seek the indulgence of the Senate for just a few minutes to raise what seems to be an anomaly in the sales tax exemption legislation. This matter concerns sales tax exemption on motor vehicles for disabled persons. The exemption items which deal with these matters are 135 and 135A. I am going to read out those items. My authority for this is in a letter from the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in Adelaide. It reads:
Exemption item 135 applies to a motor vehicle for use in the personal transportation of a person who has served in the Defence Force and as a result of such service has lost a leg or both arms, or is in receipt of a special pension in respect of blindness, total and permanent incapacity, or tuberculosis.
Item 1 35a exempts a motor vehicle for use in the transport to and from gainful employment of a person who has a certificate from the Department of Social Security to the effect that he or she has lost the use of one or both legs to such an extent that the person is permanently unable to use public transport.
It can be seen from the conditions set out in that letter, firstly, that full employment is not a requirement in order to get the benefit of exemption. Secondly, the benefit of the exemption is limited to people who are unable to use public transport because they have lost the use of a leg or both legs. The third point to notice- although it is not mentioned in the part of the letter that I read out- is that the Commissioner of Taxation has no discretionary powers. It is for this reason that I must raise the matter in this place.
I want to raise the case of a woman who has had two strokes, one eight years ago and one four years ago. The doctor who attended this woman said she would not walk again. He also said she would not move the arm that was affected by the stroke. He suggested that she be put into a home for the rest of her life. She refused. The woman, much to her credit, persevered and overcame a lot of the disability caused by the stroke. If I may use perhaps what is an unparliamentary phrase, to give some idea of the sheer guts of the woman, she was prepared for three years to learn to crawl, and she spent that time getting back her facilities. She now drives her car. She cannot walk but she can keep house. She is very active and she is involved in community activities. The car that would be ideal for this person is a Mini Moke. The reason for this is that the wheelchair can be lifted in and out of the back of the car. Modifications are necessary and these cost well over $600, thus adding to the price of the vehicle.
The lady in question sought but was denied sales tax exemption. Her situation at the moment is this: She cannot use public transport because she has not got the use of her legs. Anyway, there is no transport where she lives. She is not gainfully employed according to the interpretation of the Australian Taxation Office. She does not drive to or from either full time or part time work, but she is gainfully employed in the sense that she elected to stay home, to keep house and to continue in her community activities role. The Deputy Commissioner of Taxation advocated that the exemptions were an incentive- ‘incentive’ was the word he used- to people to try to encourage them to keep working. Surely this is too narrow a definition, or perhaps interpretation.
Surely it is an infringement of personal liberty to say to a person: ‘You must go out to work if you want some assistance in this area’. The woman had the choice of either going into a nursing home where she would be kept at public expense for the rest of her life or struggling to resume her place in a home and in the community. She opted for the latter and I think she is to be commended for this action. I ask the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to look at the possibility of extending the exemption to cases such as this. Obviously, there would not be many such cases and they would not place a great burden on the economy. But surely gainful employment should not be the criterion to determine whether this person with this disability is given some assistance. The woman does not want to be called an invalid. She does not want an invalid pension. Her comment to me was: ‘I am not an invalid; I just have a disability’.
Without the sales tax exemption the purchase of the vehicle was virtually impossible. In fact, without help from her son she would not have been able to buy it. It was just that much more difficult because of the cost of the vehicle plus the cost of the modifications that had to be made. She said that as far as she was concerned the only alternative to having a vehicle was that she would have to stay home and rot. Her comment to me was that she would rather be dead. I ask the Treasurer whether he could look favourably at this case to see what can be done for a rather wonderful woman.
To broaden the issue just slightly, sales tax exemption is available to some groups. We have mentioned them- the totally and permanently incapacitated people, those persons who are in gainful employment and so on. It is difficult and perhaps inappropriate to compare the needs of one group against the needs of another, but I suggest that the needs of the group represented by this woman are no less than the needs of those people who at present are given sales tax exemption- those people totally and permanently incapacitated, in gainful employment and so on. I ask the Treasurer to look at the relevant legislation to see whether help can be given. If help cannot be given, perhaps he will consider amending the legislation to correct what appears to me to be discrimination.
– I was not going to speak in the adjournment debate but Senator Robertson’s contribution influenced me to do so. The matter which he has raised about difficulties with respect to exemption item 135 of the sales tax legislation has been a matter of concern to organisations for the handicapped for some considerable time. In late 1976 1 presented what I believed to be a well reasoned and substantial case to the then Treasurer and, indeed, to the Prime Minister (Mr
Malcolm Fraser). I have not received a satisfactory response to it. I refer also to the fact that I made certain suggestions to the effect that the voucher system should apply. Whilst I received some sympathy from the Treasurer on that matter, as yet I have not received a response from the Prime Minister, to whom I believe the Treasurer directed these submissions. I support what Senator Robertson said. I would be most interested in a response from the Treasurer.
– Speaking briefly, I have noted the remarks of Senator Robertson and the particular case which he put forward. I appreciate his practical sympathy for what sounds like a very deserving case. I have noted Senator Harradine ‘s supplementary remarks also. I will draw the attention of my colleague in another place, the Treasurer (Mr Howard), to those remarks. I will ask him to study them, to give them sympathetic attention and to see what can be done within the existing Act or perhaps by an amendment. I note Senator Harradine ‘s remarks regarding another outstanding matter.
- Senator Lewis has raised a matter this evening in response to remarks by Senator Primmer last night. The matter comes within the responsibility of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) whom I represent in this chamber. It probably has some relevance to words that were used by Senator Robertson when he said that personal liberties were associated with the remarks that he made. We have recognised that it is appropriate for members and senators to bring forward matters of concern which come within the various responsibilities of Federal Ministers. I can assure Senator Lewis and Senator Primmer in particular that the matters raised last evening by Senator Primmer are at the present time in the process of being reviewed by the proper authorities. I have had an interim response from the Minister whom I represent in this chamber. If Senator Primmer is interested, I will make some of that information available to him at an appropriate time in the Senate.
I am sure that all of us would wish that, when an honourable senator feels it necessary to make allegations against a member of this Parliament or of a State parliament, at the earliest time the facts be made available to the Senate so that the Senate itself can decide whether there is a real basis to the allegations or whether they are made without a firm foundation. I think it appropriate for me to suggest to Senator Primmer that perhaps between now and Thursday of next week he should seek an opportunity to confirm his allegations against the two members of State parliament whom he knows, as I do, are most respectable and well-known men. Allegations of the nature of those that we heard last evening do not elevate the standing of the Victorian Parliament or of this chamber unless they have foundation. Perhaps Senator Primmer will rise to his feet next week to make known the facts contained in his allegations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.29 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
Australian Passport Held by Suspected German Terrorist (Question No. 8)
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Oil Pollution on South African Coast (Question No. 14)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Approximately 20,000 tons of crude oil was spilled as a result of the collision. Initially it appeared that the oil slick would remain at sea but over the Christmas period, strong on-shore winds caused oil pollution along a section of coast in the Mossel Bay area.
Obtaining of Passport by False Pretences (Question No. 17)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
How did Michael Moylan, a person involved with narcotics operations, enter the United Kingdom in possession of an Australian passport in the name of a deceased infant whose name was Bray?
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The passport was obtained by misrepresentation and false pretences. An application for an Australian passport was lodged at the Australian Passports Office, Sydney, on 9 September 1975 in the name of John Thorpe Bray. The application was supported by the production of a birth certificate in that name.
The photograph submitted with the application, which is of Moylan, and the necessary certificate regarding identity were completed by Michael Moylan. In this manner he sought to ensure that any query raised regarding the application would be addressed to himself as the referee.
The passport has been recovered and is now held by the Department with a view to instituting legal action against Moylan.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1 978:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Command Paper 9123 when it was presented by the United Kingdom Prime Minister to Parliament in April 1 954.
Persons Charges with Narcotics Offences: Retention of Passports (Question No. 70)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, on notice, on 22 February 1978:
Was the attention of the Passport Section of the Minister’s Department drawn to the answer to Question No. 1 134 (Senate Hansard, 26 October 1977, page 1811), concerning the retention of passports by D. P. McMahon and J. Moule, convicted narcotics agents; if so, what was the outcome of this matter?
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes, the answer was brought to the notice of my Department. The passport obtained by Miss Moule was issued in Sydney in the name of Miss Moule ‘s sister and the Commonwealth Police in Sydney were asked to investigate the matter with a view to prosecuting Miss Moule for obtaining a passport by fraudulent means.
Miss Moule appeared in the Central Court of Petty Sessions in Sydney on 6 October 1977 and was charged with one count of fraud and one count of uttering in relation to her application for an Australian passport. She was found guilty and convicted under section 67 (b) of the Crimes Act and fined $200 on each count.
Mr McMahon ‘s passport appears to have been issued quite properly and is not subject to investigation. Both passports are now held by Commonwealth Police authorities in Sydney.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 March 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780308_senate_31_s76/>.