31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave- I inform the Senate that the Minister for Special Trade Representations and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Garland) left Australia yesterday for discussions in Europe and the United States. He is expected to return in midMay. During his absence the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) will act as Minister for Special Trade Representations. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) will act as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and will be represented in the other chamber by the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) in that respect.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
THAT it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants ( Dwellings for Pensioners ) Act 1 974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30th June 1 978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30th June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 1975 under the Chairmanship of the Rev. K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low-rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for$l with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
THAT the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
FURTHERMORE, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6%, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Guilfoyle.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive and historicReserve Forces Decorations and Medals to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Citizens Military Force (Army Reserve) and Citizens Air Force. by Senator Carrick, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, Senator Cavanagh, Senator DrakeBrockman and Senator Missen.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Is yesterday’s report that during the Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit to Japan he will not be raising bilateral trade issues correct? If so, what is the specific objective of his visit?
-I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that rather than rely on newspaper speculation as to what may or may not be raised, he should wait until the Prime Minister makes his own proper announcement.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Did not the Prime Minister say yesterday in the House of Representatives that bilateral matters will not be one of the topics which concern the Government in his forthcoming visit to Japan? Is that to be or not to be the case?
-If the Prime Minister said that, I assume it is correct. But what is to be the case is a matter for the Prime Minister to announce and not for other people to speculate upon.
-Has the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs seen the report that the Tasmanian Treasurer, Mr Batt, claimed that because of Commonwealth cuts Tasmania was down the drain $30m this year and that it has received an increase of only 18.4 per cent in Commonwealth finance in the last two years, that is December 1975 to December 1977, although the consumer price index had increased by 25.9 per cent in that same period? Therefore, Mr Batt claims that payments by the Commonwealth have lagged by 7.5 per cent. Will the Minister say whether Mr Batt’s statement is accurate or whether Mr Batt is once again deceiving the people of Tasmania?
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I draw to your attention the fact that the question contained an imputation of deception on the part of a State Minister. I ask that the honourable senator who made that comment be asked to withdraw it.
- Senator Walters, under Standing Order 418, you must not make any such imputation. Do you withdraw the remark?
– I shall rephrase the -
Opposition senators- Withdraw.
– I shall withdraw the statement and rephrase the last part of the question. Can the Minister say whether Mr Batt’s statement is accurate or whether Mr Batt’s figures are entirely wrong.
– The world knows that in the two years of the Fraser Government the trading arrangements of the Tasmanian Government have been infinitely more solvent than they were during the three years of the Whitlam Government. The fact is that in the first year of the Fraser Government the Tasmanian Government was able to end up with a surplus of something like $4m in revenue and $ 16m in the Loan Account. Therefore at that point it was awash with funds. It is very hard indeed for Tasmania to make these claims against that background. I think it is important to understand that in the years 1975-76 to 1977-78 Tasmania’s share of untied general revenue assistance from the Federal Government rose from $ 156.8m under the Whitlam Government to $2 14.6m under the Fraser Government. This is an increase of 36.8 per cent which is well above the inflation rate. It is odd that Mr Batt should be talking about the figures because the background that he paints was caused, in terms of inflation, by the Whitlam Government, which was formed by the political party of which he is a member. This Government inherited a soaring inflation rate. It is now declining and so are interest rates. Therefore the trading profitability of the States is immensely better. Mr Batt would not have sought to note that in recent times the amount of untied grants to local government in Tasmania has risen considerably and trading figures show that Tasmania has done very well indeed in recent years.
-I ask Senator Carrick, the Minister for Education, this question in view of the half answer that he has just given to Senator Walters: Will he now supply the Senate with the figures for the total payments for Tasmania that were referred to by Mr Batt? Was not Mr Batt referring to all aspects of Commonwealth payments? Are not his figures correct, as borne out by the Federal Treasurer’s statement on page 7 of last year’s Budget Papers? I also ask the Minister: Did I not a fortnight ago ask him to consider the submission by the Tasmanian Government to the Bede Callaghan inquiry- specifically page 48 of that submission- in which it debunks the argument that Senator Carrick consistently reiterates in this chamber? I invited him to bring back a statement disproving my suggestion. I ask him to do so now.
-I draw Senator Wriedt ‘s attention to Paper No. 61 of February 1978 entitled ‘Round-up of Economic Statistics’ which was published by the Treasury. On page 24 it details receipts and outlays of State and local government authorities. It shows that total outlays are estimated to increase by 13.5 per cent in 1977-78. The honourable senator will be aware, of course, that inflation is considerably below that figure and therefore the Treasury Paper shows that there is in fact a real gain in funds flowing to Tasmania.
- Mr President, I ask for the second question to be answered if the Minister is game.
– The second part of the question is not within my recollection. If I have not answered it I shall consider it and see what information can be given to Senator Wriedt.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs follows two questions that were asked yesterday by members of the Opposition in regard to Aboriginal unemployment. It appears that increasing numbers of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory are swelling the figures of Aboriginal unemployment, much of which can be attributed to lack of work projects on Aboriginal settlements. Having in mind the request by many Aboriginal councils for finance for work projects within their communities, is it the intention of the Government to develop the Government National Aboriginal Employment Policy by providing finance for community works rather than increase the number of recipients for unemployment benefits- ‘sit-down money’ as the Aboriginal people call it- which brings nothing but the degradation and destruction of the people involved?
– As I said yesterday in referring briefly to the matter of Aboriginal employment programs, a limited number of such schemes has been developed. I will seek guidance from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on the plans he has for future development of such schemes, but I do think it is fair to say that the experience that has been gained by conducting these programs has shown them to be of benefit to Aborigines and to provide, in remote communities a means of employment which otherwise would not exist. I will seek further information from the Minister and advise the honourable senator accordingly.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations whether the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations is still using the 1971 census figures when expressing the percentage of unemployed in the work force.
If so, why are not the 1976 census figures being used?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and endeavour to obtain an early answer for the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether the costs of surgical footwear for use by people confined to wheelchairs, or with particular malfunctions of the feet, are rebatable for income tax purposes as medical or surgical appliances. Further, are such costs insurable under health insurance programs?
– It is the Government’s policy, as part of its approach to rehabilitation, to assist persons in the provision of a greater range of aids to daily living, including such items as surgical footwear. Although section 9a of the National Health Act empowers the Minister for Health to arrange for the supply of such other medical and surgical aids, equipment or appliances as are prescribed to persons who require them’, regrettably, in the current climate of restraint on public spending which is essential to the Government’s goal of reducing the rate of inflation, it has not been possible to expand this aspect of health policy.
Medical benefits provided by Standard Medibank and by the private health insurance organisations under their basic tables cover medical treatment rendered by legally qualified medical practitioners, certain prescribed medical services rendered by approved dentists in the operating theatres of approved hospitals, and optometrical consultations by participating optometrists. These arrangements do not, however, extend to assistance towards meeting the cost of medical and surgical aids and appliances such as surgical footwear purchased privately by patients. At this stage, there is no proposal to extend the schedule of medical benefits to provide benefits for these items. Further information on this subject has been provided by the Minister and I will see that Senator Messner is advised of it.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, who will be aware that wine grape growers in the Riverland of South Australia are at present facing a very serious financial problem due to an industry surplus. Will he ask his colleague to provide me at the earliest possible date with the following information: The names and addresses of each company and/or individual who has imported brandy and whisky into Australia in each of the last five years; the quantity of brandy and whisky imported by each company or individual in the last five years; and the country of origin of such imported brandy and whisky in each individual case?
-I am simply asked whether I will request my colleague to provide the information. The answer is yes. Whether he will be able to obtain it all is another matter.
– I direct a question to Senator Durack in his capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I refer to a recent statement by the Minister for Industry and Commerce announcing the establishment of a Small Business Advisory Council. In that statement the Minister said that all States of the Commonwealth are represented on the Council. Can the Minister say whether the same applies to the Territories? If not, will he consider taking action to ensure that the Territories and small business interests in the Territories are directly represented on the Small Business Advisory Council?
-I understand that it is really not the Minister’s intention to appoint State representatives to this Council. State and Federal Ministers agree that the existing arrangements for consultation between the States and Commonwealth in this area are quite adequate. However, the Minister has included on the Council a broad cross-section of business interests as well as representatives of unions and consumers. The Minister will look at the particular matter of Australian Capital Territory representation. I will certainly address the honourable senator’s question to him and ask him to give further consideration to it.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security whether the interpreter charged in the conspiracy case in Sydney yesterday was employed by her Department? I also ask: How many interpreters in the Greek language has the Department in Sydney, and is there any difficulty in obtaining a sufficient number of interpreters in this language to assist the migrants concerned?
-I am not able to say whether the interpreter was employed by my Department. I do not believe he was employed by my Department in any capacity- even on a part time basis. I am also unable to indicate the number of Greek interpreters who are employed by the Department. However, I will check the information and see that Senator Grimes is advised.
– I direct my question to Senator Carrick partly in his capacity as the Minister representing the Treasurer and partly in his capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I refer to the proposed Redcliff petrochemical industry in South Australia which would provide many job opportunities and certainly would be of great economic benefit to South Australia. Is it a fact that Dow Chemical (Australia) Ltd has undertaken to go ahead with the development of a $800m plant on the condition that the State and Federal governments provide some $2 50m for infrastructure associated with the proposal? As this project has been contemplated in South Australia for more than 10 years and nothing so far has been done, much to the disappointment of the people in the northern part of the State, when will the Government be in a position to make a statement on the matter? Is it a fact that the $250m would be in the form of a loan from the Loan Council which would be repayable and retrievable by the State Government in many ways, for example, through water rates, electricity charges and so on? Will the Minister undertake to emphasise to the Federal Government the importance of such an industry to South Australia with the object of effecting an early decision?
– I am very well aware of the great potential importance of the Redcliff petrochemical scheme to South Australia. I am not aware where the approach of Dow Chemical (Australia) Ltd to the transaction now lies. I am aware that discussions are taking place between the Commonwealth and the States regarding infrastructure finance and in particular how the Loan Council may be able to make special arrangements to allow the States, in cases such as this, to borrow infrastructure finance. Because of the importance of the matter I shall ask my two colleagues in another place to give me information. I shall let the honourable senator know the result of my inquiries.
-Will the Minister representing the Minister for National Development confirm whether two documents which were partially reproduced and extensively quoted in yesterday’s edition of the Australian and are purportedly drafts of proposed amendments to the Atomic Energy Act 1953 are authentic? Further, is it true that the draft contains no technical definition of safety standards or procedures and gives the Minister extensive reserve powers over individual and collective civil rights?
-It has never been the practice of governments to seek to confirm or deny rumors that are trailed in the breeze. In due course the authentic documents will be exposed to the Senate and the people of Australia and we all will be able to judge for ourselves.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I am very concerned at the degree to which unions are restricting the export trade of Australia. Yesterday I asked a question about this matter with regard to cattle. Today my question is provoked by the headline in the Australian of 3 April ‘Bans on tankers costing oil firms millions’. In the article which followed reference is made to two ships that are at present standing off Adelaide because of an indefinite ban and to a 27-day ban which has been imposed on the British oil tanker, the Texaco Southampton, in addition to other bans. The Shell Co. of Australia Ltd claims that this action has cost it Sim in demurrage, and Mobil Oil Australia Ltd claims that the action has cost it $800,000. 1 ask the Minister whether he has had an opportunity to verify those claims and whether he can make a statement to the Senate about the effectiveness of the unions’ present campaign to interrupt the oil trade in support of its claim that the trade should employ Australian crews on tankers.
-Senator Wright’s question raises a number of very important issues and requires that a good deal of detail to be given in order to answer it, particularly in relation to costs which are alleged to have been incurred by companies as a result of bans that have been placed on tankers by the Seamens Union of Australia in support of its policy of obtaining Australian crews on oil tankers engaged in overseas trade. I am advised that the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations does not have the particulars in the detail that Senator Wright seeks them and that they will have to be sought from the oil companies. The Department will do this but it will take some time to obtain the information.
In reply to the question generally, Senator Wright and the Senate will be interested to know that this dispute concerning the Seamens Union, particularly one aspect of it, namely, the dispute with the Utah Development Co., is the subject of litigation under section 45D of the Trade Practices Act. Both the Utah Development Co. and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs have taken proceedings against the Seamens Union and some of the officers of that union in relation to that dispute which is based upon the attempted implementation of the union’s policy in relation to the bulk carriage of coal. The matter to which Senator Wright refers is part and parcel of this action. That litigation is proceeding in the Federal Court and has been the subject of an appeal to the High Court. The question of the constitutional power of this Parliament to pass section 45D of the Trade Practices Act is an issue before the High Court and it has not yet been resolved. The High Court has not given its decision on the question, and until it does the proceedings cannot be taken any further. Probably any further action that is contemplated by other companies affected by this policy of the Seamens Union is awaiting resolution of that question by the High Court.
-I ask the Minister for Administrative Services whether the Government is acquiring a computer for the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury in South Australia. If so, will such acquisition be subject to public tender, and what special arrangements have been entered into to date with IBM Australia Ltd without public tender?
-This matter properly resides with the Minister for Defence whom I also represent in this chamber. But from memory, a computer has been leased from IBM Australia Ltd for approximately three or five years. It is in use at Woomera. As I recall the situation, the lease expires some time this year. The Government must make a decision shortly as to whether to extend the lease of the computer already in use, to buy the computer presently in use, or to lease or buy another computer altogether. I understand that the Department of Defence is still considering which is the best option to recommend to the Government.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. With respect, I think the matter is more complicated than is suggested by the answer the Minister gave. I wonder whether a further answer could be given after consultation with the Minister for Defence.
– Yes, I shall seek further information and inform the honourable senator.
President, my interest in asking this question has been elicited by the question asked by Senator Wright of the Attorney-General in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in another place. My question is therefore directed as you, the President, see fit, either to the Leader of the Government in the Senate or to the Minister for Education in his capacity as Minister representing the Treasurer. In order that the Australian public shall be able to discern the cost factors that are manifest in the whole of the Australian economy because of the arbitrary nature of the Australian trade union movement in holding up ships, and banning the exports of Australian commodities and the whole area of transport interdiction that is being imposed on the Australian economy, will the Government give consideration to the introduction of a special compensatory tax which will be devoted to the financial underwriting of people who are economically dispossessed and victimised as a result of these unlawful and arbitrary actions?
– Thank you, Senator Cavanagh. I shall call on Senator Carrick to reply to the question, leaving him to express his answer without committing any breach.
- Mr President, I understand that I was asked a question about a principle, not a particular incident. I was asked to consider a matter in terms of a wide pattern of industrial anarchy rather than in terms of a particular incident. I was also asked not to prejudge that incident. The question is one that needs careful study. It could, of course, be a matter of policy. I shall bring it to the attention of my colleagues in another place and seek a reply.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. It is based on a Press release of last week wherein the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs stated that, after consultation with the United Nations Refugee Commissioner, he had created an interdepartmental committee to consider the political refugee status of people entering Australia obviously on tourist visas and of those who present themselves at Australian ports for the same privileges. Coupled with an earlier assurance about the unique situation besetting Latin American nationals, I ask the Minister: In addition to the statement, what has been done to meet the situation that is confronting the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs now in respect of Latin Americans in gaols who are offered exile to another country but are not recognised at the moment by the Minister as genuine political refugee applicants.
– The people referred to in the Minister’s statement cited by Senator Mulvihill fall into the category of those who, not being outside their country of origin or normal domicile, would not qualify for consideration under the Government’s refugee policy. However, there is scope for compassionate consideration by the Minister of all applications for migration to Australia. He takes into account necessitous circumstances or any other factors that he believes should be taken into account. Support by relatives or charitable organisations would also be relevant to any applications. Such cases would need to be examined and decided on the individual circumstances surrounding them, including whether full interviews have been held, whether medical reports are available and whether the applicants are free to travel. When making the original statement the Minister for Immigration had in mind that he would arrange for any cases referred to him by the Latin American community to be examined as quickly as circumstances would permit and that he would give them compassionate consideration.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. With reference to the Latin Americans, the Montard and similar cases of which the Minister will be well aware could be the basis of a specific delegation to the Minister in Sydney in the recess if this case has not been solved. Can the Minister be asked to receive delegations in Sydney of Latin Americans on this and other issues?
– The honourable senator will understand that I cannot make a commitment for a particular date of appointment but I feel sure from what I have said on behalf of the Minister with regard to individual and compassionate consideration that he would be available to meet a deputation. Perhaps that could be arranged directly between the senator and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: Has the Government considered the application for both exploratory and exploitive fishing for squid and trawl fish put forward by the Tasmanian Government in association with Tasmanian Fisheries Co. Pty Ltd? If so, can the Minister advise what the decision was and the main details thereof?
– I understand that the proposal submitted by the Tasmanian Fisheries Co. Pty Ltd is still under consideration by the Minister. I know that some aspects of the proposal are not acceptable. These have been referred to the proponents through the Tasmanian Government. I understand that in the light of the discussions between Commonwealth and State officials a revised proposal is likely to be submitted by the Tasmanian Fisheries Co. Pty Ltd. The decision as to whether a revised proposal will be submitted rests with the company itself. I cannot add further to the answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. As the Government has committed itself to protecting the health and safety of the people and environment of Australia from possible harmful effects associated with nuclear activities in Australia and as the description ‘nuclear activity’ figures in government statements on these matters, can the Minister advise the Senate of the way in which the term ‘nuclear activity’ is defined by the Government?
– I can say emphatically that, as a pacemaker on the world scene, this Government has committed itself to protect the people of this and other countries against nuclear hazards. Honourable senators must know that the safeguards that have been prescribed by this country both for the use of nuclear materials in Australia and for the sale of uranium products overseas are the most stringent prescribed by any country. The honourable senator will know that all this was spelt out in detail in the papers on uranium which were handed out. As to the nature of the safeguards, I simply direct her to the uranium package put out some months ago when the Commonwealth Government made available to the Senate and the people of Australia its uranium policies under all the various headings. As to the particular meaning of the words to which the honourable senator referred, if they have any specific meaning which has escaped me and which needs to be expertly defined, I shall find out and let her know.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I direct the Minister’s attention to the report of the Australian Science and Technology Council entitled ‘Energy Research and Development in Australia ‘, which was tabled in the Senate yesterday. Two of the recommendations state:
An organisational structure is necessary and should be established without delay to expand activity in energy research, development and demonstration.
An Australian Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Authority (AERDDA) should be appointed as quickly as possible, with terms of reference as outlined.
I also refer the Minister to the main recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources in its report on solar energy. The Committee recommended that: . . the Commonwealth Government establish a statutory body to be called the Australian Energy Commission to have an overall responsibility for developing and co-ordinating long term Australian energy policy.
Will the Minister indicate whether the Government has any plans to act on these recommendations?
– The specific matters raised by Senator Thomas have been receiving the current and immediate attention of the Government. Because I am in doubt as to whether specific statements have been made or are about to be made, I shall take note of the question and get the specific answer. I assure the honourable senator that the Government undertakes specific action. The nature of that action will be made known, I think, in the near future.
-I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to a Press release by Mr Donald Cameron, M.P., on 30 March 1978 in which he referred to a meeting which took place with the Prime Minister and five other people in mid-January. This meeting was in relation to Mr Cameron ‘s allegations about the electoral redistribution in Queensland. My question relates to the following paragraph in the release:
As well as that, a certain person at that meeting stated emphatically that in relation to the redistribution, he had had no contact with the Commissioners, either direct or indirect or in any way whatsoever at any time. We were told it was a repeat of an assurance that had already been given to Mr Fraser. What can you do in the face of that?
Was the Minister present when this certain person made his emphatic statement? If so, was this certain person the Minister for Finance, Mr Eric Robinson?
-I have no intention of disclosing when I speak with the Prime Minister and who is present whenever I do so.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is the Minister aware of recent Press reports which indicate that the postal system is being used for the purpose of distributing illicit drugs and that between October 1 974 and November 1977, 89 undeliverable domestic postal articles, in other words broken packages, were found to contain narcotics? Does the Australian Postal Commission have any power to confiscate such articles and, further, to screen all postal articles to see whether they contain narcotics? If not, does the Government intend to take any action to stop this illicit trafficking of drugs through the Australian postal services?
– The Government and the Australian Postal Commission are aware that this practice exists. They are committed to ensuring that it will be eliminated. Under present legislation Australia Post opens overseas mail articles for customs inspection. Should such an article contain material which is prohibited, including illicit drugs, it is confiscated by customs officers and appropriate investigations are instituted. Unfortunately, under existing legislation, Australia Post cannot intercept domestic mail which may contain or be suspected of containing illicit drugs. Evidence to that effect was given by the Secretary to the Postal Commission of Australia to the Royal Commission on Drugs. No doubt that Commission will be looking very closely at the honourable senator’s question.
No doubt this issue will be considered carefully by the Commission and the appropriate recommendations will be made to the Government. The Government will look at those recommendations in the light of the need for the mail system to maintain its reputation as one which protects the individual’s privacy. It is in that regard, of course, that we have the constant dilemma. It should be clear, however, that the issue of the public good is involved. The Government must accept its responsibility in that regard. When the Royal Commission reports to the Government, the Government will pay particular heed to its recommendations, and the Minister in another place will take immediate action upon them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security or to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It refers to changes which have been made in the manner of payment of British pensions to United Kingdom pensioners now living in Australia. The Minister will be aware that South Australia, particularly the Elizabeth area, has a very high percentage of British people, many of whom are pensioners. As a result of the changes in the method of paying pensions, the recipients are now having to pay bank charges which did not apply a month ago. With one exception, all banks are imposing those charges. Will the Minister look into what action could be taken to relieve the situation of those who have suffered a reduction in pension?
– By way of background I indicate that British pensioners who reside in Australia are believed to be suffering difficulties, as the honourable senator mentioned, because of the direct payment of the United Kingdom pensions from the United Kingdom Department of Health and Social Security in sterling orders. At the request of the British authorities the Department of Social Security, which previously acted for them in the payment of a variety of British pensions in Australia, no longer acts in that capacity. Those changed arrangements were the result of initiatives taken by the United Kingdom authorities and were not sought by my Department.
I understand that the British Department recently made the decision that it should pay directly by cheque the pensions and benefits to people living in other countries As was said, a bank fee is charged on the cheques. I understand that about 77 per cent of United Kingdom pensioners residing in Australia also receive an Australian pension. The British Department of Health and Social Security will advise the Australian Department of Social Security of all new grants of United Kingdom pensions to persons living in Australia. We also advise the Department in Britain of the deaths of dual pensioners.
Whilst we will be ceasing to act for the British Department as its paying agent, close liaison will continue between the two departments, particularly in relation to the dual pensioners. My Department has no plans to try to overcome the cost which is involved in the direct payment from the United Kingdom. I take the point that Senator Bishop made in his question. It is a matter that could be investigated by my Department, but at present we are acting on the request of the British authorities that we should no longer act as their agent. The method of direct payment is causing a fee to be charged to British pensioners living in this country.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows the questions asked by Senators Wright and Sir Magnus Cormack. Will the Government consider extending the suggested tax to corporate bodies, such as trade unions, so that the cost of their activities to the community can be firmly established
-The suggestion made by Senator Maunsell is most interesting. I take it that it flows from the questions put previously, particularly by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, which suggested that when unions indulge in bans and boycotts which cause financial loss, particularly to exporters in this country, the people suffering loss should be compensated. I take it the honourable senator is now saying that a tax should be levied on trade unions to pay the compensation. That would be a matter of policy. I do not know within whose jurisdiction this subject totally falls but I shall refer it to the responsible Minister.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact that there is a six months delay in the onflow of cost of living increases to pensioners in the Northern Territory? If this is a fact, will the
Minister not agree that this results in extreme hardship in the Northern Territory where the cost of living is the highest in Australia? Will the Minister undertake to see whether increases in pension payments can be expedited when they are granted?
– Because of the way in which the question was directed it seems that there may be some misunderstanding as to how we implement amendments arising from increases in the consumer price index at six monthly intervals. Each May and November there is an increase in pensions which takes into account rises in the consumer price index. There is some five months delay in the actual payment of these increases but we are in a routine which has developed because of the times at which pensions were increased. There is an automatic increase at six monthly intervals and this flows on immediately for the first pay period in May and November. That covers increases in the two previous quarters of the consumer price index. This occurs because of an amendment which we made to the Act in the first year in which we were in government. The increase in pension is automatic.
I know there are those who think that there ought to be an automatic adjustment when the consumer price index figure is released. We have amended the Act to pay the increases in May and November of each year. Over the period this has reflected a situation where pensions and benefits are staying somewhere close to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. They hover between 24 per cent and 25 per cent. I think, that, in the present economic circumstances, this is the most we are able to do. When we give a $ 1 a week rise to every pensioner in Australia, that amounts to $100m a year. So any significant increase in pensions as a result of movements in the consumer price index, involves considerable sums of money.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that the Royal Australasian College of Physicians has accepted responsibility for quality assurance of health care and also that the College and its fellows have accepted a responsibility to educate physicians, physician trainees, other medical practitioners and others in the health field in the cost benefits of investigations and treatments in internal medicine? What other professional bodies in the medical field have accepted similar responsibility for involvement in cost containment? Is the Minister able to give us the names of these other bodies? How and when have they made a commitment in this area?
– The professional associations and colleges for each of the major medical specialties have a continuing responsibility for denning and developing a concept of good practice in their specialty. It is proper that the Royal Australasian College of Physicians gives due regard to relative cost benefits in defining and developing its concept of good practice for internal medicine. I was asked what other bodies take similar responsibilities. I am advised that in the medical field the Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association established a cost containment committee in January of this year under the chairmanship of Dr Lionel Wilson. That committee was to report on its investigations to the March 1978 meeting of the Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association.
In the area of hospital administration the Australian Hospitals Association convened a seminar on cost containment in July of last year at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, following which a cost containment working party was established. At the National Congress in Canberra in October of last year it was resolved that all State branches of the Hospitals Association should set up a cost containment committee and report progress at the 1978 National Congress. The involvement of the Australian Institute of Hospital Administrators in cost containment is illustrated by the fact that that organisation, in conjunction with the School of Health Administration, conducted a one-week summer school to consider issues of cost containment in hospitals. These matters all refer to the ability of professional associations to assist the Government and the community in cost containment of medical costs. The conferences and studies which I have mentioned in answer to the question asked by Senator Baume indicate ways in which the professional associations are undertaking this task.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Social Security. It arises out of the question asked by Senator Kilgariff. If an Aboriginal council on a settlement in the Northern Territory enters into an agreement with the Government under the Government Aboriginal employment policy does this prevent an Aboriginal on that reserve, who satisfies the terms of eligibility for the unemployment benefit and who has not been offered a job under the scheme, from receiving that unemployment benefit?
– If a community had an Aboriginal employment policy and there were members who wished to avail themselves of employment opportunities outside that policy and they satisfied the requirements of the Social Services Act they could be eligible for the unemployment benefit. This would require them to be available for work and to be willing and able to accept work if it were offered to them. I believe that in some places there are people who have qualified for the unemployment benefit under these conditions. But what has occurred in the limited number of communities which I mentioned yesterday is that the Aborigines have sought, as an alternative to the payment of individual unemployment benefits, an employment scheme which would give that community the equivalent of what the adult members of the community, the working population, would receive in the way of unemployment benefits. The community councils concerned would then arrange the employment and pay the Aborigines according to the work done by them. But, in the general terms of the Social Services Act, any person who is eligible for the unemployment benefit can be paid that benefit.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Education about the Committee of Inquiry into Nurse Education and Training- the Sax Committee. How many members of the nursing profession are on the Committee? Who are they and whom do they represent? What are their current occupations? Is it a fact, as some people are claiming, that no members of the Committee have had actual practical experience in working as nurses in hospitals? Can the Minister provide the Senate with the facts of this matter?
-Senator Martin has asked three main questions. If I have them correctly, she asked how many members of the nursing profession are on the Committee. The answer is three. She asked who they are. Their names are Sister Paulina Pilkington, Miss Mary Patten and Miss Judy Porter. Senator Martin asked who they represent. Sister Paulina Pilkington was appointed to the Sax Committee as the nominee of the Commonwealth Department of Health. Miss Patten is a nominee of the Tertiary Education Commission. Miss Porter is a nominee of the Hospital and Allied Services Advisory Council. As regards their current occupations, Sister Paulina Pilkington is Director of
Nursing, Commonwealth Department of Health. She is also a member of the Health Services Committee which advises the Superior General and the Council on matters relating to the conduct of her congregation’s health institutions. Miss Patten is Federal Secretary of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation. Miss Porter is the principal nursing officer of the Hospitals Department, South Australia. As to whether it is a fact that the members of the Committee have had no practical nursing experience, they have in fact had very wide experience. To save giving a more lengthy answer I seek incorporation of background data of the three nurses in Hansard.
The document reads as follows-
Sister Paulina Pilkington R.S.C., B.A. (Hons.), Dip.N. Ed., Ph.D.,F.C.N.,F.C.N.A.
After completing general nurse training at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney in January 1954, Sister Paulina held Charge Sister positions at St Vincent’s Hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne until the end of 1 956.
Having completed the Diploma in Nursing Education at the College of Nursing Australia in 1957, Sister Paulina was appointed as Principal Nurse Teacher, Preliminary Training School, St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne from January 1958. In 1959 Sister became Director of Nursing .Education at that institution being responsible for the basic program and advising on the design of curricula for post basic inservice nursing courses.
In 1963 Sister was appointed Director of Nursing Education, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney which position she held until her appointment to the Commonwealth Department of Health. Because of university commitments (Sister was undertaking a doctoral program at Macquarie University), Sister had to give up her teaching commitment from 1972 whilst still retaining responsibility for the conduct of the basic program at the hospital, as well as advising on the design of curricula for post basic in-service nursing education. Sister continued, as the nominee of the N.S.W. Minister for Health, to be a member of both the N.S.W. Nurses Registration Board (1967-1975) and the N.S.W. Nurses Education Board (1973-1975).
While not actively involved in teaching from 1972, the nature of Sister’s doctoral work involved collecting data continuously from January to December 1973 in the various wards/units of St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney. The nature of these data was verbal communications of student nurses with patients. To obtain these data Sister would visit the wards any time between 7. 1 5 am and 9.45 pm seven days a week. It is obvious that this was an opportunity for direct observation of students delivering patient care. Sister submitted her thesis in December 1975 and was working continuously therefore until that time on information related to one aspect of the quality of patient care. Sister Paulina was awarded a Ph.D. in July 1976 on the basis of work completed at both the university and the hospital.
Since taking up the position of Director of Nursing, Commonwealth Department of Health, Sister’s religious congregation has requested that she be available as a consultant for the order’s training schools at the St Vincent’s Hospitals in Toowoomba, Lismore, Sydney and Melbourne. She is currently a member of the Health Services Committee which advises the Superior General and Council on matters relating to the conduct of the Congregation’s health institutions, in particular matters relating to nursing practice and education.
Sister has been asked by the World Health Organisation to act as the nurse consultant for six weeks during January/February 1979 to coordinate and conduct an intercountry workshop ‘Cognitive and Performance Evaluation’ scheduled to be held in India from 5-16 February 1979. As the twenty participants are to be chosen from nurse educators currently working in training programs for health personnel in the countries of the South East Asian region of the World Health Organisation and as Sister has acted on several occasions as a nurse consultant for WHO, it can be assumed that the present invitation is based on expertise Sister Paulina is believed to have in nurse education and training.
-I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, although he may feel that another Minister could more appropriately answer the question.
– Hear, hear!
-Senator Wheeldon is correct. ‘Hear, hear’ is probably more appropriate than ‘read, read’ for the Leader of the Government whose apparent lack of reading ability is well known in the Senate. Is the Leader of the Government aware that for the first time a research project of the world respected Club of Rome is being initiated in Australia, all previous projects having been carried out in Europe or the United States of America. This project, being conducted at Macquarie University, is a psychological study probing into man’s interest in his future. In the light of the importance to and prestige for Australia in having a project of such global interest taking place here, can the Leader of the Government indicate what, if any, support from the Government in terms of finance and facilities, or any other assistance and encouragement, will be offered to the project and its organisers?
-Being that well-known illiterate from the West, I am sorry that I have not been able to read recently and thus find out anything about the Club of Rome, or about man ‘s future. I can assure the honourable senator that I am very interested in that subject, and especially in my own future. I have always understood that whilst it is interesting for a woman to have a past, it is more interesting for a man to have a future. Therefore, understanding the honourable senator’s interest in the future of man, I will seek the information for her.
-I ask the Attorney-General whether he can confirm his recent statement, as reported in yesterday’s Australian that he would ask the States to pass legislation handing over to the Family Court their custody responsibilities. Has he any information as to the attitude of the States in relation to this suggestion? In the event that all the States do not agree to the suggestion, will he proceed in the case of those States which do agree?
– Reports of the speech that I made in Sydney on Monday morning at the opening of the new Family Court premises indicate that I proposed to ask the States to hand over to the Family Court the power in relation to custody matters which has been denied to it as a result of decisions of the High Court, a situation which leads to considerable problems that have been previously canvassed and are well known. However, I should like to point out that in fact the initiative in this matter came from some of the States. What I said was that the solution proposed, that of a reference of power from the States to the Commonwealth, was a satisfactory one and probably the best available; that, in fact, the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General for some time had been discussing the matter; and that both my predecessor and I had indicated that the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to act on a reference, if it were given.
I just want to put in perspective what I said. My remarks were reported as indicating that I intended to request the States to take that action. In fact, it is a matter for the States themselves to decide, not one in which there can be anything in the nature of a confrontation between the Federal and State governments, as was represented in another interpretation of my remarks by one newspaper.
The fact is that the discussions have proceeded in a very satisfactory way; that the matter will be discussed again at a special meeting of the AttorneysGeneral on Friday and Saturday of this week; and that I am hopeful there will be a reference of power by at least a majority of the States. If only a majority refer the power, certain jurisdictional and technical problems will of course arise. However, for my own part, I do not see that as an insuperable problem. I believe that probably substantial benefits would be obtained even if there were a reference of power from some, rather than all, of the States. Let us meet that problem when it arises. At this stage we are still discussing the matter on the basis of a reference of power generally and I am hopeful that the discussions later this week will achieve that end.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. Was the Deputy Prime Minister’s recent visit to Japan intended to represent a significant element in the Government’s major program to boost exports which the Governor-General announced in his Speech opening the Parliament on 2 1 February last? Since the Deputy Prime Minister’s return from Japan, has the Government been given any expectation by the Minister of the value by which agricultural exports to Japan in the coming year will be boosted over the level of such exports in the last year? Further, has the Government been given any expectation by the Deputy Prime Minister since his return of the value by which iron ore and coking coal exports to Japan in the coming year will be boosted over the level of such exports in the last year?
-I do not think it would be correct to say that my colleague the Deputy Prime Minister went to Japan for the sole purpose suggested in the first part of the honourable senator’s question. Of course, as the honourable senator would know, the Deputy Prime Minister has a continuing and very keen interest in promoting the expansion of Australia’s overseas trade. This is something he always has in mind; it is something he quite unrelentingly pursues. Of course, this was one of the matters about which he went to Japan to speak. But the honourable senator would know that one does not achieve miracles by short, sharp visits to overseas countries. It is rather a matter of opening up discussions and creating the right sort of climate as a result of which in due course we hope to have expanded agricultural trade with Japan. I have no knowledge on the questions he asked concerning our mineral trade. I will seek information for him.
-I ask the Minister for Education whether he is aware of the reported expenditure of $30,000 of Commonwealth funds on a sailing boat or yacht in Western Australia under the Schools Commission’s innovations program? Is he aware that Mr Peter Samuel reported in the Bulletin of 28 March that Canberra politicians are disturbed by this purchase. As I am a politician who is disturbed by that report as it appears in the Bulletin, can the Minister confirm whether the expenditure of $30,000 on a yacht in fact occurred? Can he, and does he, justify the expenditure of taxpayers’ funds on this educational innovation?
– I am interested to pause just to hear whether members of the Opposition are opposed to this?
-I am glad of that because virtually everybody in Australia who knows this project, other than the writer of the Bulletin article, has in fact strongly commended it. It is one of the most practical training methods, particularly in a State such as Western Australia which has a huge coastline and which can offer good seagoing prospects.
It is a fact that a grant of $45,000 was approved in July 1977 under the Schools Commission’s innovations project to fund the purchase and upgrading of a schooner as part of” the Western Australian Department of Education ‘s maritime education project. The Western Australian Department of Education initiated this project and continues to support it strongly. Under the conditions of the grant, that Department assumes ownership of the vessel and responsibility for on-going running expenses and maintenance. It meets all costs of the salaries of the two full time staff involved in the sailing of the boat and the curriculum and materials costs associated with the vessel.
I am informed that the 1955 schooner known as Vivienne of Straun was purchased in August 1977 for the sum of $35,000. Upgrading and the installation of safety features was completed by October 1977 at a cost of $ 10,000. Since October two staff members from the Western Australian Physical Education Branch have been engaged on the project and some 950 students have participated in the practical sailing as part of the scheme. The practical work of the schooner is part of a total program of study which is undertaken in school prior to and following the experience at sea. I am informed there is very heavy demand by schools for participation in this activity.
The central aim of the project is to provide offshore sailing training, including training in seamanship- I suppose I should also say seawomanship and navigation for students of both sexes in high schools, technical colleges and special schools. Special attention is given to the needs of students from fishing centres who are likely to be seeking employment in the fishing and allied industries. Considerable emphasis is given to relating normal classroom activities to outdoor practical work, for example, in the biological sciences. Emphasis is also placed on providing recreational opportunities for handicapped students. The project has had tremendously good Press coverage. The Department of Education is producing a film on the project and all three local television stations have produced or are about to produce segments on it. This is one of those practical and imaginative projects that ought to be commended.
– Earlier today Senator Grimes asked me a question concerning the interpreter mentioned in relation to the investigations by the Commonwealth Police. My Department confirms that the interpreter was not an employee of the Department and a check with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs reveals that he was not an employee of the Telephone Interpreter Service.
– Perhaps I can now come to grips with the second part of the question which Senator Wriedt asked me earlier today. If my recollection is correct, the question concerned the Callaghan report and my failure to date to answer an earlier question about, it. In fact I was about to give Senator Wriedt an answer based on information which has been made available to me. I have seen page 48 of the Callaghan report in respect of which Senator Wriedt referred only to paragraph 1 . Had he read the remaining paragraphs on page 48 he would have found that they supported my contention that the flexibility of the Tasmanian Government had been demonstrated. He would have noted that the State was able to fund from its loan funds the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit of $ 13.54m from 1974-75 which had been incurred during the period of the Whitlam Government. It is not bad flexibility for the State Government to pick up in a year under the present Government the huge deficit which had been incurred earlier and in 1975-76 to have a Consolidated Revenue Fund surplus of $4. 14m. Further, the report states that the Government of Tasmania, having in its own right decided not to over-commit its revenue and loan funds in the 1976-77 Budget, was able to say that the cash available in the trust fund was being held as a reserve to meet any contingency that may arise. Clearly, therefore, the Callaghan report supports my contention.
-Yesterday Senator Harradine asked me a question concerning a report in the London Daily Telegraph of an allegation that the Soviet Union had set up a secret training camp in Angola for 25,000 African guerrillas. I have been advised by my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs that the Government is aware of the Press report carried by the London Daily Telegraph that the Soviet Union is establishing a training camp in Angola to train guerrillas for operations in Rhodesia, Namibia, and Zaire. The report has not yet been confirmed but it is being investigated. Until the facts are known it would be inappropriate to comment in specific terms. However, the Government supports peaceful negotiated solutions to the problems of Southern Africa and has on numerous occasions condemned violence and terrorism. The conclusion of peaceful settlements which reflect a consensus of all parties concerned is now more important than ever. The longer such settlements are delayed the greater the risk of external military interference and the more difficult the settlements will be to achieve. The Government continues to support constructive proposals designed to reach peaceful, genuine and lasting solutions to the problems of Southern Africa.
– Earlier in Question Time Senator Primmer asked me whether the Commonwealth Employment Service was using 1 97 1 census figures in reaching the percentage of unemployed stated in its monthly bulletins on the level of unemployment. As I promised, I had that question referred to the Department and can now advise the Senate that the Commonwealth Employment Service uses not the census figure but the Australian Bureau of Statistics work force figure. The latest ABS labour force figure that is used is that of November 1 977.
– I have received a letter from Senator Wriedt proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The Government’s recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor.
I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of senators required by the Sessional Orders having risen in their places-
– There is an urgent need to focus the attention of the Australian public on the enormity of the outrage committed by the
Fraser Government on the people of East Timor. The Government has been hoping that in time the Australian public, and indeed the international community, would be prepared to forget the coalition’s immorality, its hypocrisy and its cynicism in recognising de facto, in a written statement on 20 January this year, the Indonesian military annexation of East Timor. The Government’s first step on the road to de facto recognition was taken late in November 1 975 when it failed to protest to Jakarta against the impending Indonesian invasion of East Timor. Whether it was advised through diplomatic channels or warned by our intelligence community, it is plain, from its withdrawal of Australian nationals from East Timor on 2 December 1975- five days before the Indonesian invasion- that the Government was aware of what was to occur on the following Sunday, 7 December.
Why did not the Government at the very least warn Jakarta that Australia could not and would not accept an Indonesian military takeover of East Timor? Was not the Government already willing to accept that takeover as fact? The Government has accorded de facto recognition and shortly will accord de jure recognition of that subjugation of the people of East Timor by armed forces. The signature and ratification of a sea-bed treaty between Australia and Indonesia over the Timor Sea will in fact confer de jure recognition.
Indonesian armed forces invaded East Timor from the sea and the air on 13 December 1975. Those forces met strong opposition from the East Timorese and that opposition to the takeover is still continuing. In an attempt to suppress that opposition, the Indonesian forces have killed large numbers of East Timorese. The most reliable estimates place the number killed at approximately 70,000, which constitutes over 10 per cent of the total population of East Timor. In part, as a result of the Indonesian actions, nearly all East Timorese are opposed to Indonesia and to the Indonesian military occupation.
Notwithstanding the circumstances of the takeover and the existing conditions on East Timor, on 20 January this year the Fraser Government announced that it had decided to accept East Timor as part of Indonesia. That act of recognition was wrong and misconceived. It will lead to continuing difficulties for Australia in its relations with Indonesia, in its relations with the small nations in our region and in its relations with the world generally. It demonstrates that the Fraser Government has reverted to the blind and uninformed views on foreign policy which were the hallmark of previous Liberal governments.
Recognition of the Indonesian takeover of East Timor is wrong as it is in violation of our international obligations. As a founding member of the United Nations, Australia has a particular obligation to adhere to the principles set out in the charter of that body. That charter obliges member nations to take account of the political aspirations of the people of various nations, particularly those seeking self-government, and to have respect for the culture of the people of various nations, including their political, economic and social development. The acceptance of the actions of the Indonesian Government in East Timor is a breach of our obligations under that charter.
In the past the Australian Government has been proud of the attitude it has taken in relation to human rights. As recently as May 1968, the International Conference on Human Rights at Tehran adopted a proclamation which included the following article:
Massive denials of human rights, arising out of aggression or any armed conflict with their tragic consequences, and resulting in untold human misery, engender reactions which could engulf the world in ever growing hostilities. It is the obligation of the international community to co-operate in eradicating such scourges.
One of the Australian delegates to that conference was the current Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock. If that were not enough, the recognition of the Indonesian takeover of East Timor flies in the face of the resolutions adopted by the United Nations after the Indonesian invasion. Resolution 3485 adopted by the General Assembly on 12 December 1975 called on the Government of Indonesia to desist from further violation of the territorial integrity of Portuguese Timor and to withdraw without delay its armed forces from the territories. The resolution called on all states to respect the unity and territorial integrity of Portuguese Timor. Resolution 384 adopted unanimously by the Security Council only 10 days later called on Indonesia to withdraw and to respect the Territorial integrity of East Timor. Resolution 389 adopted by the Security Council in April of the following year was in similar terms.
The Fraser Government’s attitude to the Timor situation became more obvious when the matter again came before the General Assembly in November 1976. On this occasion Australia abstained on a resolution deploring Indonesia ‘s refusal to comply with previous resolutions. However, that resolution re-affirmed the right of the people of East Timor to self-determination and independence. It certainly provides no justification for recognising the Indonesian takeover. Whatever doubt the Australian Government may have had about its international obligations would have been removed by the resolution of the General Assembly in November last year rejecting the claim that East Timor had been integrated into Indonesia inasmuch as the people of that territory had not been able to exercise freely their right to selfdetermination and independence. Australia’s recognition of the Indonesian takeover of East Timor took place two months after the passage of that resolution. There is a fundamental reason why the recognition was wrongful. Prior to any act of recognition, it is essential that the recognising government is satisfied that the government being recognised has effective control over the Territory. This is particularly important in the case of a change of government as a result of conflict. Premature recognition is tantamount to taking sides in a continuing war.
In announcing its acceptance of East Timor as part of Indonesia, the Government has asserted that Indonesian control over the territory of East Timor is effective and covers all major administrative centres. There are serious doubts as to whether this is the case. Although information coming from East Timor is limited, that which is available suggests that the Indonesian Government controls the major coastal towns but much of the inland is still under the control of the East Timorese. The most recent reports indicate that response to the Indonesian takeover is continuing and that virtually all of the East Timorese population is opposed to the Indonesian takeover. On that basis it is highly unlikely that the Indonesian Government could be said to have effective control of the territory. For that reason the act of recognition should be condemned as it takes sides in a conflict. As I have pointed out, Australia’s legal and moral obligations oblige it to take a different course. Military occupation of a country does not entitle that occupying force to any recognition that it constitutes the government of that country. The German occupation of much of Europe was never recognised in the way that the Indonesian occupation of East Timor has been recognised.
It is now clear that the Fraser Government intends to suppress debate on Timor. The apparent reason for taking this course is to satisfy the demands of the current Indonesian Government. Continued compliance with Indonesian pressure is not good diplomacy. Of course, Mr Fraser and Mr Peacock have been consistent in their performance. They were silent during the invasion.
They were silent in the face of the continuing Indonesian atrocities. They were silent on Indonesia’s breach of international law. They were silent on the rights of the Timorese. Consistent with its policy of acceding to the demands of the Indonesian Administration, the Government has stifled debate in this country, cut off communications with East Timor and accepted the Indonesian Government as the appropriate representative of the East Timorese people.
The recognition by the Government was misconceived for a number of reasons. The Australian Government’s suggestions that the recognition would improve the future progress of family reunion and the rehabilitation of Timor were spurious. Clearly, from the Foreign Minister’s statement the Government has received no assurances on these questions from the Indonesian Government. It will be flying in the face of reality to expect the Indonesian Government to permit Timorese living in Australia who wish to return to Timor to do so in the current circumstances. It is the false reasoning of this Government which leads it into these areas. Seemingly, the Government believes that by following the Indonesian lead, its relations with Indonesia will be improved with consequent advantages for Australia. It surely must be obvious that Australia’s needs are best served by making the wishes of the Australian people clear to the Indonesian Government. Capitulation to pressure on this issue will invite the Indonesian Government to believe that it can expect similar capitulation on other issues in the future. Certainly, small nations in our region could have no expectations of support from us should they be subjected to treatment similar to that suffered by the East Timorese. Let us not under-estimate that very possibility in the years ahead.
Aggression, killing and the committing of atrocities are so much against the charter of the United Nations that it is the duty of governments throughout the world to oppose those acts. Any connivance with actions of that type seriously weakens the international community. Realism requires that changes in government as a result of such acts are usually eventually recognised but the international community should be slow to confer recognition in those circumstances. If acts of aggression and killing are still being carried out, recognition of a change of government carries with it some acceptance of those acts. In those circumstances recognition should be withheld.
In this case Australia’s international obligations were such as to oblige her not to recognise the Indonesian takeover of Timor. Not only were killing and atrocities being carried out on a large scale at the time of recognition, there were also clear statements by the international community repudiating Indonesia’s claim to the territory. There was no justification for Australia to depart from the terms of those resolutions. The Indonesian Government has continued its program of aggression. It has made no attempt to rehabilitate East Timor. It has failed to provide proper aid to the victims of the conflict. It has at no stage allowed any expression of selfdetermination on the part of the Timorese people. In those circumstances there is no justification for the premature recognition by the Australian Government of the Indonesian takeover. If there had been no resolutions by the United Nations the Australian Government would still have been wrong in recognising the takeover. Certainly it should not have recognised that takeover unless it were completely satisfied that the Indonesian Government had effective control of the territory. From what I said earlier, it certainly could not be satisfied of that fact.
No recognition should have been granted until some effective form of international aid had been established. The Indonesian Government has consistently opposed such a step as this would permit outsiders into East Timor and they would be aware of the atrocities that have been committed by the Indonesian forces. It is as simple as that. The Government’s statement gives no indication of whether international aid will be provided for the Timorese and whether there have been any discussions on that issue. There is no indication that Australia consulted anyone prior to its act of recognition. Did the Australian Government consult the Portuguese Government, for example, or did that Government have to read about the act of recognition in the local newspapers?
The Opposition believes that it is time to reexamine our relationship with Indonesia. The Labor Party, of course, remains committed to the integrity of Indonesia. It was a Labor Foreign Minister, the late Dr H. Evatt, who as President of the United Nations General Assembly so advanced the cause of Indonesian independence in the 1940s. But for too long the dominant assumption in the making of Australian policy towards Indonesia has been that in critical international situations we must accept that the Indonesian Government’s interests and concerns rather than our own should be the basis for our policy. We in the Opposition believe that the Australian-Indonesian relationship must rest on a mutual acceptance of each other’s interests and concerns, as well as the interests and concerns of our smaller neighbours in the region. As we respect Indonesia’s independence now and as we did in the 1940s- when in government the Labor Party fought not only for Indonesia’s independence but also for its integrity- we as a nation are obliged now to do as much for East Timor.
-I am rather amazed at the Opposition raising this matter of public importance. One would have thought that such a matter of urgency would have been raised immediately the debate on the Address-in-Reply concluded, but it was not. Apparently the Opposition had something more urgent than this matter to raise. One wonders whether in the minds of honourable senators opposite it is in fact a matter of urgency or whether it is part of their domestic political in-fighting. Nothing indicates more clearly the bankruptcy of thinking of the Opposition than the bringing forward of this matter of public importance today. It is not an urgent matter. The events involved have long since passed. Despite Senator Wriedt ‘s attempt to resurrect them and despite his historical dishonesty- I regret having to say this- the fact remains that the present Government has been the only honest government in dealing with the question of East Timor. I do not resile in any way from my position, which I have stated clearly in the past. I may have disagreed with the present Government, as I disagreed with the Labor Government; but I believe that the Government has faced up to the realities of the situation, as any government, including a Labor Government, would have.
One wonders about Senator Wriedt ‘s historical dishonesty. I remind him that in his remarks he did not refer back further than 13 December 1975. This issue arose at the latest in August 1975, when the Government of which he was a senior Minister was in office. We know of the allegations made- I put it no higher than that- by the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. He claimed to be the greatest Foreign Minister Australia had ever had, which is a matter of argument. He is alleged to have assured President Suharto at Townsville in September 1975 that Australia clearly understood Indonesia’s concern and claims over East Timor. That has never been denied.
– Yes, it has.
– It has never been denied.
– Or confirmed.
– Confirmed, maybe, but why does the Opposition not refer to what happened before December 1975. It has never been denied by Mr Whitlam. I cannot go beyond that. If he did make that statement, I am not criticising him for it. Indeed, I think he was probably right. That is my own personal view. I am criticising the Opposition. Whatever political in-fighting went on m the Caucus, East Timor was not a public issue in August, September, October or November 1975. It became an issue only when the Labor Party was returned to the Opposition benches. Let us hear the facts about the actions of this Government.
– I appreciate the interjection by my friend, Senator Wheeldon. No doubt he will speak in this debate with his tongue in his cheek. What are the facts? What does the Government say?
– Where else would he put his tongue?
-Senator Gietzelt is a gentleman who always criticises, attacks and abuses right wing generals of Indonesia. He is the senator who is very quiet about the generals of China and equally quiet about the atrocities in Vietnam. Significantly, he has never asked a question in this place about the atrocities in Cambodia. There are the world accepted atrocities in Cambodia where millions of people -
– Who says?
– You have never raised that matter. You have never asked questions about it. You have never moved a motion of urgency about it.
– I have.
– You have.
– I am the only one who has.
– Yes, you have been the only one from the Opposition side of the chamber. I accept that Senator Wheeldon has done that and I give him full marks for it, but Senator Gietzelt has never done that. You have never raised the matter of Angola.
– Order! Senator Sim, will you please address your remarks through the Chair.
- Senator Gietzelt has never raised the question of Angola. This is hypocrisy. He condemns right wing generals and ignores the atrocities by Cuban mercenaries. Senator Gietzelt never condemns actions in Angola, Ethiopia, and elsewhere in Africa. I merely say these things in passing. Let us be clear about right wing generals in Indonesia and the alleged atrocities in East Timor which were mentioned by Senator Wriedt. Allegations are made with equal strength about atrocities committed by the Fretilin forces against their opponents at the time of the civil war. There has never been a word of condemnation about that. But what has been the action of the Government? The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has placed on record our feeling in regard to allegations of atrocities by Indonesian forces. He has said: ‘ We condemn atrocities by whichever side commits them ‘. That is not the one-sided condemnation given by Senator Gietzelt. So let us be clear about the situation and about Senator Gietzelt ‘s attitude and who he condemns. He always condemns right wing governments, never atrocities by left wing governments. Human rights is the other issue.
– You do not know what you are talking about.
– No, Senator Gietzelt would not know what I am talking about. I do not know whether he has a conscience, but if he has it should be a guilty one.
– It is all covered by Marxist dialectics.
– Marxist dialectics covers all sins, as Senator Sir Magnus Cormack suggests. Let us get some facts straight. What did the Government say?
– We are waiting to hear.
- Senator Gietzelt should know. On 14 February the Foreign Minister in explaining why the Government decided to accept East Timor as part of Indonesia referred to the facts as set out in his foreign affairs statement of 20 January and said:
Indonesian administrative control or East Timor is effective and covers all major administrative centres of the territory. In order to pursue the objectives of family reunion and the rehabilitation of Timor, Australia will need to continue to deal directly with the Indonesian Government as the authority in effective control.
Who else could we deal with to achieve these humanitarian objectives, except the government in effective control? That is realism. The Minister went on:
The Government has not condoned the means by which East Timor has become a part of Indonesia. The Government remains firmly attached to the principles of nonaggression and self-determination.
I shall come back to self-determination in a moment. The statement continues:
It regrets that events in Timor took the course they did in August-December 1975 -
That is when Senator Gietzelt ‘s party was in government- and that these principles could not be put into effect. Despite the positive efforts of Australia and others the United Nations has failed to carry international opinion sufficiently to have a decisive influence on the situation in East Timor. The Government’s efforts and its strong criticisms of Indonesia ‘s actions are a matter of public record.
Who will deny that the Australian Government alone in the Asian and Pacific regions has criticised and continues to criticise and oppose Indonesia’s action. We have heard about the United Nations. Let us look at the countries in this region. The Association of South East Asian Nations with whom we have close relations did not oppose the Indonesian action. Japan and the United States did not oppose it, nor did the countries of Europe. Australia was one of the few countries which opposed that action.
– What about the United Nations?
-The United Nations! Who controls the United Nations? We will look at the United Nations in a moment. Many of the communist countries in the United Nations have a record, in relation to self-determination and human rights which, to say the least, is murky. The fact is that very few of the major European, Asian and Pacific powers in the United Nations, as the Foreign Minister has said, opposed the Indonesian action. That is a fact of life.
– That is not true.
– I suggest that Senator Wheeldon should get the voting lists and see who is right. It is the same Third World countries. It is the countries whose record in regard to selfdetermination and human rights is poor. If we have a look at who opposed Indonesia we find the double standards which Senator Gietzelt supports. He supports the principles which those nations support. I was amazed to hear Senator Wriedt speaking about self-determination. His Government gave de jure recognition to the Soviet Union over the Baltic states. Those states did not have the right of self-determination. I think my friend Senator Wheeldon was somewhat critical of that action in a debate in the Senate. I give him full marks for that. His Government recognised the sovereignty of the Soviet Union over the Baltic states. Those states were independent for centuries. They were taken over by force. What is this nonsense from the Opposition about self-determination and human rights? Those people were suppressed. Their leaders who opposed the Soviet Union are being gaoled, tortured and kept under the most inhuman circumstances. The Australian Labor Party, this great defender of human rights and self-determination, bowed to the Soviet Union and recognised its sovereignty over the Baltic states.
– Effective control is what you said about Indonesia.
– Now we have it. This is a double standard. This is where Senator Gietzelt falls into the trap. He used the words ‘effective control’. Of course it was effective control. The one difference in regard to the Baltic states was that for centuries they were independent. Timor was never an independent state. The Portuguese left in a hurry. One could argue that probably Portugal did not honour its obligations. It left Timor without a government, in a state of turmoil and civil war. It might be said that East Timor had no administrative and political structure. One might question whether it could ever have become an independent state. Economically, it was not viable.
We look at Australia’s national interest and we make a judgment on that matter. I make the judgment that our national interest is best served in the long term by Indonesian control, rather than control by somebody else whose attitude to us may well have been unfriendly. Idealism and morality are wonderful things in foreign policies. But in the long term, much as we might support idealism and morality, the realities of the situation are the final arbiter. The Government has taken a stand which alone in this region opposed the Indonesian take-over but it has finally accepted the fact, as the Foreign Minister has said, that despite morality and principles the realities of the situation are such that we can no longer ignore them. There are the humanitarian grounds. I must say that the Indonesian Government has agreed, following the presidential election, that an immigration team should go to East Timor to obtain the reunification of families. I think that is an humanitarian issue. If we took the Opposition line this great humanitarian issue would still be in abeyance.
– They agreed to that two years ago.
– You keep quiet. We know Senator Gietzelt ‘s attitude. He always follows the Marxist line and we know that. I appreciate his honesty in doing so. But he should not try to kid us that he does not do so. On the question of reality the Government is left with no choice. I suggest that had there been another government in Australia the same choice would eventually have been made in Australia ‘s national interest.
– I understand that as Senator Sim is the first speaker in this debate he is speaking for the
Government on the question of Timor. I must confess that I found it a little difficult to follow what precisely was the point that he was trying to make to us this afternoon. On the one hand he said that one should not approach these questions of international policy on the basis of idealism, as he put it, and that morality should not be a factor in determining them.
– You did not do so in the case of the Baltic States.
– Never mind about the Baltic States. Senator Sim said that one should not approach these questions on the basis of morality. But having told us that we do not need to be moral about these questions, he then informed us that, unlike Senator Gietzelt who is a Marxist, he is a humanitarian and that for humanitarian reasons he has adopted the policy which the Government has now adopted. I wish that we had a logical analyst among us here today who could try to disentangle from what Senator Sim has been saying what it is that he means. Is the Government’s policy based on moral grounds or is it not based on moral grounds? I think it would have been much more profitable if Senator Sim, speaking on behalf of the Government, had debated the issue before us, the matter of public importance raised by Senator Wriedt regarding the Government’s recognition of Indonesian sovereignty in East Timor, rather than devote his time to discussing what he alleges is Senator Gietzelt ‘s political ideology.
In the circumstances in which this quite unnecessary declaration was made by the Australian Government it was just as important for it to declare that it recognises de facto incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia as it would be for it to recognise de jure incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia. What did it mean when the Government said that it recognised de facto incorporation? It meant that no longer would there be any opposition of any serious, worthwhile or bothersome nature to the Indonesians by the Australian Government against the violent, aggressive, bloodthirsty actions which they took against the people of East Timor. That is the significance of it. The action of recognition was completely unnecessary. We must be one of the few countries in the world which has made such a declaration. The UK Government, for example, and the United States of America Government have not found it necessary to make any statement to the effect that they give de facto recognition to the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia. Indeed, when Senator Sim misled us by saying that the countries of South East Asia agree with us on this matter-I think he mentioned countries in the Third World- surely he was forgetting, if indeed he ever knew, the fact that at the last meeting of the non-aligned countries in Colombo for the first time -
-Senator Sim introduced these countries into the debate. It is no use him laughing at them and mocking them. He was the one who introduced them into the matter by saying that they did not oppose the Indonesian take-over of East Timor. For the first time in the history of the congress of non-aligned countries, at the most recent meeting, held in Colombo, a member nation of the non-aligned countries, namely Indonesia, was condemned by its fellow non-aligned countries.
– Who were they?
-Countries such as India, for example, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. The honourable senator knows which are the nonaligned countries. It was Senator Sim who introduced them into this debate. It is no use Senator Sim asking who they are and suggesting that they do not count when he was the very one who alleged in his argument that they supported what was done and that everybody around the place was prepared to recognise the Indonesian aggression in East Timor.
– May I correct you?
– You may correct me later but not now. Senator Sim also said- I am glad he drew our attention to this matter- that nothing had been said about what the Ethiopians were doing in Somalia. It is precisely because the Australian Labor Party is concerned about the sort of thing which is at present happening in Africa, because of what appears to be aggression being undertaken by Ethiopia against Somalia, that we have raised this matter here today. It is our clear view that unless we are going to be consistent and to say that there shall be no forceable incorporation of any people into another country against the will of the people who are incorporated, we will be in an absolutely impossible position when this happens in the future. If we are going to say that it does not matter about Timor, how can we say at some time in the future that it does matter in Somalia? How can we say to the people of the Cook Islands and the New Hebrides-they were mentioned by somebody earlier- the Solomon Islands and the people of New Caledonia- some of whom have obtained their independence and some of whom are working towards obtaining independence- that if any aggressive neighbour such as Indonesia attacks them ruthlessly, bloodthirstily as in the case of East Timor, then idealism and morality, as Senator Sim said, do not count. Is that the position that Australia is going to take? Members of the Liberal Party are so free in their accusations about double standards against the United Nations. If as Senator Sim said, morality does not count, what have they to complain about with regard to the United Nations or anybody else adopting double standards?
– I did not say that.
-If Senator Sim says he did not make any reference to morality I advise him to inspect the pink copies of his speech today, not the corrected edition which presumably will appear later in Hansard. He said it perfectly clearly. He said that idealism and morality might be wonderful things but they do not count in these circumstances.
-Of course they count in these circumstances. Idealism and morality do count in these circumstances and they count to the Baltic States.
– Why did you not raise this in 1975?
– I am completely consistent on both matters and Senator Sim is completely inconsistent. He is very moral and selfrighteous about the Baltic States but when it comes to the question of Timor idealism and morality do not count, he tells us. I am completely consistent and would be prepared to put my record up on any of these issues alongside that of anybody else. But Senator Sim is here today as the spokesman of the Government and he said that morality and idealism count when Latvia is involved but they do not count when East Timor is involved. That is the position he has put to us today.
On many occasions, quite rightly, strong views have been expressed in this Parliament and throughout Australia on aggression undertaken by powerful countries against their small neighbours, such as the Soviet aggression against Czechoslovakia and Hungary, where only a few hundred people were killed. I object to it. I objected to it when it was done and continued to object to it ever since. But the fact of the matter is that even if the minimal estimate of Senator Wriedt is correct and 70,000 people have been killed in East Timor by the Indonesian militarists, if that figure is divided by ten and only 7,000 were killed in East Timor that is more than have been killed in all of the Eastern European countries in any confrontation with the Soviet Union since the end of the Second World War. But we never stop hearing about that, and rightly so. I am not complaining about that. We should hear about it. It is immoral and wrong. We hear constantly from members of the Parties opposite about action undertaken by the Soviet Union against Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and so on, but if one-tenth of the minimal estimate of the number of people killed in East Timor were accepted as the correct figure it would ten times outnumber the number killed in any Eastern European country.
If we cannot exercise influence on Indonesia there is no country in the world on which we can exercise influence. It is a country which receives aid from us, including military aid. If we are not able to say to the Government of Indonesia that we take a strong position on acts of aggression which it has undertaken there is nowhere in the world where we will be able to speak with any credibility. Once the Tories of this country always used to do whatever the British Government wanted them to do. Then the policy changed and they would do whatever the United States of America Government wanted them to do. The position that they have reached now is that they will do what anybody wants them to do provided that those people have a bit of muscle. It is a question of going with the strength wherever the strength is, drifting with every tide, being wafted by every gentle zephyr that blows.
That is the position of this Government. If one were to look at this document that was produced by the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting one would find example after example of it there. For instance, on the Pacific, the Commonwealth Heads of Government- and apparently Mr Fraser went along with this - stated that they: . . recognised the importance of the newlyindependent island states and welcomed the movement towards independence of several countries in that area.
How does that relate to the independence of the people of East Timor? When they come to the question of the Indian Ocean the Commonwealth Heads of Government communique stated that they:
Senator Sim laughs and jeers at the United Nations, but apparently his own Prime Minister was not laughing and jeering when he put his signature to the declaration of this conference, of which he was chairman, calling for the implementation of the United Nations resolutions. When one comes to the question of Southern Africa one finds a most remarkable statement by this Government. After all, Mr Fraser was the chairman of the conference. In regard’ to Rhodesia, or Zimbabwe, as Mr Fraser with his new-found enthusiasm for the anticolonial movements would now call it, it is stated that any solution from which the Patriotic Front was excluded would be unacceptable to the international community. I wonder what Senator Wright thinks about that.
-Senator Wright does not think very much about it at all, it now emerges. In fact, he is not at all impressed but that is a statement by his Government. Why did his Government make that statement? Not because it had embraced the militant Left. It was because it had not embraced anything other than the policy of going with the strength, of going to water whenever there was a bit of pressure. Senator Sim had the audacity to ask Senator Gietzelt what complaints he had made about the Chinese generals. I would like in return to ask Senator Sim what complaints Mr Fraser and Mr Peacock made about the Chinese generals when they were in China? I cannot recollect any of them making any complaints about Chinese generals. In fact, they talked about the very special relationships- warm, close, friendly relationshipsthat they had with the People’s Republic of China.
That is the trouble with this Government. It wants to have warm, close, friendly relationships with all nations wherever they are and whatever they do, provided they have a bit of muscle. But if it is a place such as East Timor, where there are a small number of people, some one-tenth of whom have been massacred then, as Senator Sim so succinctly put it, idealism and morality do not count. Again I turn to this communique, which I am sure Senator Wright has read. He is interested in these matters and I am glad to see him in the chamber. The communique of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference of which Mr Fraser was chairman, and a document to which he was a signatory, deals with the question of the Middle East. It states that the Conference:
That is all. That is the statement made by the Government of Australia. There was no reference to the right to exist of Israel. Certainly I would not be prepared to sign a document which said that, but apparently Senator Wright would support it, as would his Government. I have not heard any criticisms from him or from Senator Sim of Mr Fraser for putting his signature to that outrageous statement. Why did the Government do it? Was it because it was a supporter of the Palestine Liberation Organisation? No. I would respect it more if it were, if it were made because the Government supported that organisation. It was made because the Government did not want to rock the boat. They did not want to get into an argument. They do not want to argue with the Americans. They do not want to argue with the Russians. They do not want to argue with the Indonesians. They do not want to argue with the non-aligned bloc. That is the position to which Australian foreign policy has been reduced.
At least in the old days of Sir Robert Menzies or Mr Holt one knew were one was. It was ‘All the way with LBJ’, and provided one could find out what LBJ’s policy was one knew what Australia’s policy was. Now we do not. It depends which Foreign Minister from which powerful country our Foreign Minister or Prime Minister last met. That is our foreign policy. That is what is bringing Australia into disrepute. This country has a chance. We are not a colonial power. We had a small colony in Papua-New Guinea from which we withdrew I think with dignity and without any opprobium on behalf of the indigenous people; but we have thrown all that away on the altar of sycophancy and hypocrisy, and by relying on doctrines such as that put forward this afternoon by Senator Sim- that morality does not count. Our view is that morality does count, and that is why we have raised this matter of public importance this afternoon.
– The people who are listening to the broadcast of this debate must be absolutely sickened by it. Not only sickened, they will also be thinking of the Timorese who are in Australia today. Senator Wheeldon has made a speech of emotional hate. He has twisted the words of Senator Sim. Not only that, he has meandered around the trouble spots of the world and only occasionally has come back to the question of Timor. It was a debate of hate and it surprised me also that Senator Wriedt, the Leader of the
Opposition in the Senate, in introducing the debate used the words ‘immorality and hypocrisy’. When one considers the debate that the supporters ofthe Labor Party have brought on, one thinks back to what actually did happen. Let us remove from the debate all this hysteria, emotion and hatred and go back a little into history. Let us go back to just a few years ago. We have often mentioned this in this chamber, because Timor keeps cropping up, while the knife that was put into the side of the Timorese is continually twisted by the people on the other side of the chamber.
For many centuries Portugal was in charge of Timor. I happened to be there briefly and, as I have told the Senate previously, I wandered around the scrub, off the track, just a few months before the initial trouble commenced. One could see it coming. The Whitlam Government was in power when I walked around Timor with some young Timorese, visiting villages and so on. The Timorese could see the trouble coming, despite the fact that the Portuguese would not let them have political gatherings of any kind. They had no say in their administration. They could not gather or plan, or have any say in their own affairs.
Despite this, the people of Timor could see something happening. They knew that trouble was coming. They would come to me and say: You are an Australian. You are our friends. We have no worries because Australia is going to look after us. ‘ Time and time again they said this, but what happened when the Labor Party was in government and Portugal withdrew suddenly putting the whole of East Timor into a state of limbo where there were no leaders, and from which the people had to sort themselves out? We had a disastrous civil war, as a result of which there were very many casualties. In this particular period, the Whitlam Government looked the other way. Yet here they have the audacity to say that others- the Fraser Government, the people of Australia- are to blame. It was the Whitlam Government that looked away, with its lack of guts or ability to realise that Australia owed a debt to the Timorese. The Timorese were let down.
On 13 October 1976 I asked this question in the Senate.
It has been reported in the Canberra Times and the Australian today that in a cable from the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta on 8 September this year it was mentioned that Mr Whitlam when Prime Minister was made fully aware by the Indonesian Government of its intentions to move into Timor to suppress, if necessary by force, and that Mr Whitlam indicated that he expressed the hope that any military action necessary could be taken as quickly as possible, which meant that if the killing of Timorese people were necessary, it should be done as quickly as possible.
Those are the plain facts of the situation when the Opposition was in power. Yet Opposition senators today have the audacity and hypocrisy to claim immorality and so on. Their Government let the Timorese people down with the result that not only did the Timorese people kill themselves in civil war but also their country was invaded by Indonesia on that fateful day of 7 December. We know what happened then. I do not need to go through the details of that shameful period of history. I regret what happened, as does every Australian.. The whole situation in Timor changed on 7 December. Previously we had an Australian Government without guts and without the courage of its convictions to say: Here is a little neighbour alongside us which needs assistance. What can we do to help it?’ Providing assistance did not mean supplying military aid. I believe that if Australia had made strong representations this whole mess and the massive killing of people would have been averted. Opposition senators say that there is immorality on the Government side of the Senate. I would say that they have blood on their hands because their leader did not have the guts to carry through his rightful responsibilities. Therefore let us have no more accusations from the Opposition.
Let us look a little further at the situation. What could Australia do to endeavour to relieve the situation- to try to stop the killing of the poor innocent Timorese people. Peacock and Fraser who have been accused of remaining silent on the issue, went to the United Nations Security Council, a body of which Australia is not a member, to get the countries of the world to say as Australia did, that what Indonesia was doing was quite wrong. But Australia led a lone fight. No one wanted to come forward and be part of the deal at that time. As far as I can ascertain there was no assistance from any other country. Many countries looked the other way, as did Mr Whitlam, considered it was a fight in which they did not wish to be concerned. As a result the situation went from bad to worse.
Australia made representations to Indonesia and endeavoured for humanitarian reasons to reunite the 2600 Timorese in this country with their families. They were given the option of going back to Timor, but I doubt whether any have. They would rather bring their relations and families to Australia to be reunited. Discussions took place, but we know, of course, that Indonesia did not concede very much. But in such a situation one has to be realistic. The Australian Government was realistic in its endeavours to get these people reunited. I have not heard a word from Opposition senators about reuniting families. Have honourable senators opposite ever been to Darwin and seen the evacuee camps? Have they ever seen the misery experienced by mothers with half a dozen children, children separated from parents or women whose husbands are still in East Timor? They are all here in Australia waiting to be reunited. How in the hell can they be reunited unless some effective action is taken? The only realistic action that can be taken is to realise that Indonesia has effective control of Timor.
The Fraser Government does not condone what has happened in Timor, but it realises that the only way in which these people can be reunited is at least to recognise the fact that Indonesia has effective control of Timor. This is what has been done. The Fraser Government has acknowledged that fact. Now, following the presidential elections that took place a little while ago, Indonesia says that it is ready to renegotiate an arrangement concerning the reuniting of these families. I am somewhat of a doubting Thomas, but I hope that something will come of this.
We also have the dreadful situation in which the International Red Cross has not been recognised in Timor. The only way in which aid can be given to the Timorese people is through the Indonesian Red Cross. We know full well that Australia has made contributions to the people of Timor. If I remember rightly $83,000 was contributed in October 1976 followed by $250,000 in December of that year. I think that is only a very small amount of money compared with the debt we owe to the Timorese. I do not know whether that money helped the Timorese people. But at least the Australian Government made another effort to try to relieve some of the misery and give medical help to these people.
The Opposition has the shameless audacity today to propose that such a matter of public importance be discussed when it knows full well that this problem is the result of its actions.
– Or lack of them.
– Or lack of them. If we espouse the rights of the individual, human rights and all these sorts of things I would suggest we should be done with a debate of this type in this chamber. It is a type of debate that can bring no good to the people who are living a life of misery. I suggest that we try other means. I would have no idea how the Timorese people can be relieved now that Indonesia has effective control of Timor. However, we have to find other means to assist these people.
Before I conclude my remarks I would like to refer to a further question and answer which might give some guide to what Australia can do for Timor in the future. In February of this year I asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) the following question:
Does the Australian Government intend to continue its endeavours to assist the people or East Timor and their economy by offering financial and technological assistance to the Timorese in areas such as agriculture, fisheries and tourism?
The answer given by Senator Withers on behalf of the Foreign Minister stated:
In my statement of 20 January 1 978 I noted, inter alia, that the rehabilitation of Timor was an important ingredient in the practical contribution to the peace of the area. The statement also said that the humanitarian issues arising from the conflict in East Timor had been and remained a major concern of the Government.
Accordingly, the Government would consider requests from the Indonesian authorities for economic assistance to East Timor.
What I am saying is that what has needed to be done has been done. We cannot go back three years to when the trouble commenced. We must now look to the future because we still owe the Timorese people a debt. Surely parliaments as a whole can endeavour to assist them. The best way for us to make amends to the people of Timor is to put capital into fields such as fisheries, agriculture and tourism which will give the people a better way of life and perhaps help them in some very small way to rehabilitate following the civil war and the invasion they have experienced.
– One can agree with the humanitarian approach of Senator Kilgariff to the very shameful events that took place in Timor in 1 975 and one can share his concern for the plight of the people who are suffering as a result of the invasion by and the aggression of the Indonesian Government. However, it is not just a question of being concerned or ashamed about the events that took place in 1 975; it is also a question of our accepting some of the responsibility for them. These events must go down as something for which the people of Indonesia must accept full responsibility, and the people of Australia through their successive governments also must accept some share of the responsibility. The people of Timor have been denied the fundamental principles to which we as a member of the United Nations have pledged our adherence, that is, the right of self-determination. It is suggested that it is wrong for the Opposition to attempt to use the forum of the Parliament to discuss the unilateral decision that was made by Mr Peacock, at the behest of Mr Fraser, on 20 January 1978 to accord de facto recognition to an event which Senator Kilgariff and others on the Government side have condemned as an unnecessary intrusion into the domestic affairs of a small country in the Asian region.
I am somewhat disturbed to find that those who are speaking from the Government side on this occasion can be generally classified as being people who have not raised their voices about aggression in times past although I concede that one or two honourable senators from the Government side have expressed concern, as we have on this side of the chamber. This is not entirely a question of what took place in 1975; it is also a question of being consistent in our approach to those events and to the denial of the right of the people of Timor to determine their own affairs. I find it strange that a person with the standing in this place of Senator Sim, who regards himself as an articulate spokesman on foreign affairs, should so distort the facts of what happened in 1974 and 1975 when the fascist dictatorship in Portugal collapsed and the opportunity presented itself to the indigenous people of East Timor to make an act of selfdetermination.
Senator Sim referred to the United Nations in a disparaging way and ignored the basic facts that he claimed he was going to express in the debate and the documents of the United Nations which bear out the historical development during 1974 and 1975. He did not look at the resolution which was adopted by the United Nations on 12 December 1975 when this Government was in power and which called for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from East Timor. The Australian Government then joined with the overwhelming majority of the nations of the world in a vote of 72 to 10, with 43 abstentions. Then there was a further resolution of the United Nations in about the same period when the Security Council, having noted the statements of the representatives of Portugal and Indonesia and having heard the representatives of the people of East Timor, called upon the Government of Indonesia to withdraw without delay all its forces from the territory. This resolution was adopted unanimously by the United Nations organisation, which included the major powers, and in my view indicted for all time the action taken by Indonesia.
We on this side of the chamber have been assailed every time this question has been debated by comments about the inadequacies of the approach of the Whitlam Government to Indonesia, but what did Mr Peacock say when he was the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs? In a media release of 3 September 1975, the Honourable Andrew Peacock M.P., the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, said:
Labor’s refusal to become involved in the problems of Timor may force Indonesia into reluctant unilateral intervention.
There was no condemnation in that statement. I am quoting from only part of the statement but there is nothing in it which shows that he condemned any suggestion of Indonesian intervention. Mr Peacock went on to say:
Caught between a sensible desire to appreciate Indonesia’s concern and the pressure of its own Left Wing . . .
He was referring to those of us of left, right and centre complexion in the Australian Labor Party who were raising these matters with the Government and the then Prime Minister- whose only response to a complex situation of civil war is to shout ‘self-determination ‘, it is paralysed by indecision.
That was said by Mr Peacock. But what did he do when he became the Minister for Foreign Affairs? He is quoted in the Daily Telegraph on 27 November 1975 assaying:
But you must understand Indonesia has been pretty patient for a lengthy period of time while countries like Australia have washed their hands of the matter.
The fact is that Mr Peacock had the opportunity to do something from 1 1 November when he knew that Indonesian forces were going to be involved in an invasion in Timor. He then had the responsibility; he had assumed it from former Senator Willesee. But what did an article on the front page of the Canberra Times on 3 1 May 1 976 have to say? It stated that at the behest ofthe Australian Ambassador in Indonesia- this has not been denied- ‘a ministerial statement was altered last year to conceal the fact that Australia knew Indonesian troops were active in East Timor more than a month before the all-out Indonesian invasion of the territory on December 7 ‘. So Mr Peacock, Mr Fraser and this Government knew 24 days before. It is true, as I will concede, that the Whitlam Government similarly knew prior to that, but this Government also knew 24 days beforehand and had the opportunity to take the initiatives that it now condemns the Labor Government for failing to take. It did precisely nothing.
Let us remember what the political climate was in this country at that time. In this chamber the very conservative hawks who speak on matters of so-called morality were setting about dismembering a properly-constituted Labor
Government. Whatever might have been the motivation or lack of motivation on the part of the Labor Government at that time, we were in fact fighting for our very lives in this particular place. Of course Mr Peacock and the Government spokesmen ignore the fact that the Indonesian representatives themselves have said publicly that Portuguese Timor was never part of the Dutch East Indies and that they made no claim upon it. When we talk about morality and about integrity we have to have regard to the inability of this Government to defend its inaction in November-December 1 975 and in the period subsequent to that.
What of Mr Peacock? Mr Peacock is a man who has double standards. He expressed those double standards last year when he spoke at the United Nations on the occasion of Australia’s election to the Human Rights Commission. He said:
Australia takes its human rights obligations seriously. Our election to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in May of this year gives us an additional reason for doing so.
He then went on with a great deal of rhetoric about the need to recognise the rights of all human beings. We have not done so in respect of our attitude to East Timor. Whatever criticism might be levelled at the failure of those of us in our Party to move the Government in 1975 is equally applicable to the failure of the hawks and the doves in the Fraser-Anthony Government to take any meaningful steps at that time.
Mr Fraser and Mr Peacock went to Jakarta on two occasions. I wish to refer honourable senators to an editorial in the Age of 1 9 April 1 976 which reads:
Australia’s tougher stance towards Indonesia over the Portuguese Timor issue appears to be paying dividends. Admittedly, there is no occasion for dancing in the streets, but the Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Peacock, has returned from Jakarta apparently with several concessions. Among these are Indonesia’s assurance of continued withdrawal of its ‘volunteer’ troops . . .
That may be Peacock’s understanding, but it is poppycock. We know- and Mr Harry said so when this matter was being discussed at the United Nations in 1977- that the Australian Government was convinced of the Indonesian ‘s good intentions to withdraw their troops from Portuguese Timor. The editorial continues: . . and its agreement -
That is, the Indonesian Government’s agreement- to allow the Red Cross back into the territory.
That was in 1976- within a couple of weeks of being almost two years ago. Is there any Government supporter who can stand up and say that
Indonesia has permitted the International Red Cross to go into Portuguese Timor? We know the frustrations that were placed in the way of the United Nations representative, Winspeare Guicciardi. We know that his attempts to get to Portuguese Timor and to evaluate for the United Nations what was happening in that former colony were obstructed.
Let us examine the alacrity with which the United Nations has dealt with the Middle East problems and the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon. Within a matter of days following that unfortunate incident, the United Nations was able to move because the Arab states and the major powers were able to bring sufficient pressure to bear upon the Israeli Government to permit the withdrawal of troops and their substitution by United Nations forces.
Where was the initiative taken by the Australian Government in the United Nations with regard to East Timor? Where were the steps taken to see that that sort of approach, which was within the province of the Australian Government, which was part of its responsibility to act in this way and to use its good offices, was indeed implemented at that very meeting of the United Nations organisation that was dealing with the problem? A decisive decision could have been made at that time if we were concerned with the principles of self-determination, if we were concerned with the human rights of the people of Timor. But we remained silent. We failed the people of Timor. It is in the light of that situation that we believe the Senate is correctly discussing the unilateral action taken by this Government.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– It is rarely that we see the sort of sanctimonious posturing and hear the nonsense from Senator Wriedt that we saw and heard this afternoon. Whilst we may be familiar enough with that sort of thing from Senator Gietzelt and Senator Wheeldon, who, as usual, got carried away with the flow of his rhetoric and thus distracted himself at times from accuracy, this is not usually the case with Senator Wriedt. I think it is necessary to begin by going over some of the background to this issue which has been obscured effectively in the statements made by Opposition senators this afternoon. It is essential that we look back, as they have done, to the events of 1975.
Senator Wriedt made a great deal of the fact that an Indonesian invasion occurred, as I understood what he said, on 13 December 1975. But he did not make the point that the Liberal and National Country Party Government at that time, on 12 December- that is the day beforesupported the United Nations’ resolution, referred to by Senator Gietzelt, calling on the Indonesians to desist from military action and intervention in East Timor. In other words, we had taken action before that occurred. Senator Wriedt found it convenient to ignore the fact that not only did we act after the event, in fact we acted before it. Of course there was a great deal of preparation before the actual vote was taken in the United Nations. Much of the initiative on that resolution was taken by the Australian Government. Australia, through those measures, through those actions, was expressing its very clear and forceful concern to the Indonesian Government about the events which we believed were about to occur and some events which we knew, as the Labor Government knew, had occurred already.
I think it is generally accepted that in September and October 1975 Indonesian activists were moving into East Timor, as were Indonesian regular troops. I refer to a statement in the Senate on 30 October 1975 by the then Labor Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, who said:
The Government -
That is, the Labor Government at that time- has viewed with concern widespread reports that Indonesia is involved in military intervention in Portuguese Timor.
As Senator Willesee pointed out at that time, those reports were widespread. Where were the critics then? Where were the people raising this issue in this chamber and in the other place? Who was taking a stand for East Timor then?
– We were.
– Were you? Later on in that statement, Senator Willesee, in referring to events in East Timor, said:
It reflects -
That is, the situation- above all, the immaturity of Timor’s own aspiring political leaders, who in less than eighteen months have succeeded in wrecking Portugal’s decolonisation program, sharply polarising political opinions through the territory, and finally plunging the territory into violent civil war.
There was a member of the Labor Government who had no hesitation in pinning the blame for events on the Timorese leaders. In his view it was apparently the immaturity and incapacity of Timorese leaders that led to the violence and bloodshed occurring in East Timor. It is clear in his statement that the then Government knew what was happening in East Timor, knew that Indonesian forces were already in Port Timor. One must ask: Where were these critics, these self-righteous critics, from the Labor benches then? I refer to a statement made on 21 May 1976 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, to the United Nations Association of Australia. In that statement he referred to the events of October 1975 and said:
The pro-Indonesian parties, stiffened by Indonesian supportand indeed let it be said increasingly by assistance from the Indonesian regular forces- were able to re-establish a sense of control in these areas.
He was referring to the border areas. It is well known- I think Senator Gietzelt in his statement conceded that it was known to the Labor Government- that Indonesian regular forces were in East Timor while the Labor Government was in power.
One cannot disagree that the question of East Timor and policies towards Indonesia and East Timor are matters of public importance, but the wording is, I believe, fraudulent. It does not refer to the fact that the recognition that has been given is de facto and not de jure. Indeed, Senator Wheeldon from his remarks seems to have a remarkable lack of understanding of the distinction between de facto recognition and de jure recognition. As I understood him, insofar as that is possible, he was arguing that there is no difference. Of course, there is a quite fundamental difference. The point probably does not need to be laboured that when it was in power the Labor Government’s approach to morality in politics and its concern for oppressed peoples was well demonstrated in the decision to accord de jure recognition to Soviet control over the Baltic States. But we tend to hear very little about that. The distinction between de jure control and de facto control in the case of East Timor is a matter of fundamental significance- one which, as I have already suggested, the matter of public importance does not refer to. It appears that Senator Wheeldon does not understand that fact. Surely it is an indisputable fact that Indonesia has essential control of the administrative centres, the urban centres and the administration of East Timor. I do not think anyone could fairly argue to the contrary.
I want to refer briefly to the events of 1 974 and 1975. It has already been mentioned that in 1 974 the Labor Government clearly concurred in possible future Indonesian action to take over East Timor. But was the matter raised in this Parliament? When Ramos-Horta first came to this country the Labor Government would not speak to him. The matter was first raised in this Parliament not by those critics on the Labor benches from whom we hear so much now, but by the man who is now Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, in the House of Representatives in February 1975. He raised it as a matter of public importance because of concern that the people of East Timor might not be able to exercise selfdetermination and because of concern about what the Indonesian Government might contemplate in East Timor. The matter was first raised by the Liberal Party shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs at that time on the basis of concern about the people of East Timor.
It is worth pointing out, as I have pointed out in this chamber before, that that matter of public importance was responded to on behalf of the Labor Government by its most junior Minister. The import of his remarks was that it was a pity that the Opposition had raised the matter because it might create difficulties in relations with Indonesia. That was the concern of the Labor Government. Where were the critics then? When did the same members of the Labor Party raise a matter of public importance in those days? When did they raise the issue then? When did they show their concern? Where were they in those days? Where was this high falutin morality that they now flaunt?
I believe that the present Government has done everything possible in the circumstances. Senator Gietzelt referred to a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on 12 December 1975. Australia took a prominent part in having that resolution passed in view of events in East Timor because of concern about what was happening there and what was intended to happen there. That resolution on 12 December 1975 deplored action that had been taken by Indonesia and called for the withdrawal of forces. On 23 December 1975 in the United Nations Security Council, Australia took the initiative in action pass a resolution in similar terms which appointed a special representative of the Secretary-General to look at the situation in East Timor. Senator Gietzelt, having taken the discussion that far, then fails to attempt any analysis of why more effective action was not subsequently taken by the United Nations. But it is an important question. Senator Gietzelt refers to the fact that prompt action has been taken in other areas such as the Middle East and the Lebanon. Why was it not taken in East Timor? Because there was not the will in the United Nations. Despite every effort on the part of Australia and the initiatives that it took there simply was not the will amongst the other member nations to take action in this case.
The Government’s aims have been to achieve a withdrawal of forces and self-determination for the East Timorese. But the most fundamental thing to achieve is the alleviation of the suffering of the East Timorese people. We have tried to ensure that the International Committee of the Red Cross will be permitted to go back into East Timor. We have tried and to some extent have succeeded in having aid sent to the East Timorese and we have sought above all the reunification of East Timorese families. As Senator Kilgariff has said, there are more than 2,000 East Timorese people in Australia. It has been suggested that almost the same number of people want to come to Australia to be reunited with their families. Senator Missen and Senator Button have raised that matter recently in the Senate. I believe that it is a matter to which we must give the highest priority. As pointed out by Senator Missen and Senator Button, these people are distressed. Families have been broken up; they wish to be re-united.
It is my view- I believe there is plenty of evidence for it- that the present Government has done everything possible through international action and bilateral negotiation. We have sought support from other countries but have received little from the areas where we might have expected it. The outcome, if we pursue the matter further, seems to me to be either intervention in some form by Australia- surely that is abhorrent to every Australian- or a break in relations with Indonesia or both. It can be well imagined what a break in relations with Indonesia might mean to Australia and to the East Timorese people who are in this country now and who want to be reunified with their families.
We then must ask: What has the de facto recognition achieved? Only today there have been Press reports stating that the Indonesian Government, because the Australian Government has accorded de facto recognition to its control of East Timor, is prepared to re-open negotiations on the reunification of East Timorese families.
– What it promised to do two years ago.
-But it had not done it. This is the very point, which the honourable senator is prepared to ignore. It had not done it; it was holding off doing it. We were hoping that by continuing pressure we might be able to have the Indonesian Government concede something in relation to the reunification of families. We now find that because of the action we have taken it has agreed to open negotiations on the reunification of families. I believe that that is a quite fundamental achievement. Certainly, for more than 2,000 people in this country it is important. If honourable senators opposite regard that as a worthless achievement I think they ought to tell those people in Melbourne, to whom Senator Button and Senator Missen spoke, that they do not accept their need and their distress, that they consider other things more important than that.
I believe that it is a significant achievement. Because we have shown to the Indonesians that we accept a fact- it is nothing more than the acceptance of an indisputable fact- the Indonesian Government is now prepared to reopen the way to the reunification of families and the ending of their distress. Hopefully it will lead to other things. It might provide us with avenues to get aid to the people of East Timor, alleviate their suffering and allow the International Committee of the Red Cross back into the area. Perhaps all of us could do something more to heal the wounds of a tragic war. No doubt we would all have liked to have done more to prevent it. We did not prevent it. We tried everything that was sensibly and reasonably possible as a government. We have now taken another step which, I believe, has already resulted in a significant development. We can now hope to take this further and achieve more for the people of East Timor. Surely that is what it is all about. Surely we are trying to do something to help the people of East Timor.
-The Senate is debating the Government’s recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor. Before I comment about this issue I shall deal with some of the comments made by the principal spokesman for the Government, Senator Sim. He began his remarks by apparently finding it very amusing that the Opposition had moved an urgency motion in respect of this matter when, in fact, recognition of the Indonesian Government took place on 20 February. He said that the Opposition was a bit slow. We have not moved an urgency motion. We have raised for debate a matter of public importance. It is a matter of public importance now. It has been seen to be a matter of public importance by the Opposition in this chamber in a number of debates over two years. It will be seen to be a matter of public importance again in the future if the sort of consequences which we see as following the Government’s action continue to exist in relation to East Timor.
The other major burden of Senator Sim’s argument on behalf of the Government was to point the finger at the Australian Labor Party Government of 1973 to 1975 and say: ‘You did not do the right thing in relation to East Timor in those years. You are therefore debarred from criticising us for what we do. ‘ With the greatest of respect to Senator Sim I should have hoped that by now this chamber could have elevated the debate on this tragic issue a little above the practice of point scoring and saying: ‘Although we have done wrong it does not matter because you also did wrong in 1973 and 1975. Therefore, there is no validity in anything that you now say about the problems which arise from the Government’s recognition of the Indonesian takeover of East Timor. ‘ That is debasing the whole level of debate in the Senate. It is an example of what I hope are politics of the past. It reduces the level of debate on foreign affairs and other issues to the lowest common denominator.
The same sort of position was followed by Senator Knight who seemed to take great comfort from the fact that the Whitlam Government apparently declined to see Horta in 1 975 when he was in Australia. By a process of selection he ignored the fact that when Horta sought to come to Australia in 1977 he was even refused a visa by the Fraser Government to enter the country. That is an example of selective politics of the most extreme kind. It debases the whole level of political debate about a situation such as that in East Timor. Senator Knight went on to comfort himself by the suggestion that the Government had done all it could by, as he put it, international negotiation to ease the refugee situation and to see that the suffering of people in East Timor was alleviated as much as possible. We put it that the Government has done all it can short of expressing in any way a firm attitude to Indonesia on these questions. That is the difference and the purpose of this debate. I remind Senator Knight that it was only last year that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) was told by Adam Malik: ‘If you in Australia do not stop these criticisms of Indonesia in relation to East Timor we will put on a demonstration outside your Embassy in Jakarta. ‘ That was the method of negotiation of Adam Malik, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, with the Foreign Minister of Australia in 1977. If that is the sort of negotiation which Senator Knight is talking about, it is not the sort of negotiation I shall applaud as an Australian or as a member of this Parliament.
I shall recapitulate briefly some of the important issues in relation to East Timor. We have a close geographical relationship with East Timor. In a very strange way we have a close fraternal relationship with the people of East Timor. That is recognised by many ex-servicemen in this country. The people of East Timor came to the aid of many Australians during the war when they were in trouble. I think they are a little resentful of the fact, and many of the exservicemen concerned are aware of this, that when they had their troubles in 1975, 1976 and 1977 Australian governments- I use the word in the plural- did not do as much as the people of East Timor justifiably anticipated that they might have done. In December 1975, following the invasion by Indonesia, it was popularly believed in this country that the issue would be all over in a matter of weeks, that it would be another goer and that all we had to do was sit on our hands and wait for the whole question to disappear. We thought the Indonesian forces would overrun East Timor in a matter of weeks. That was not so. We are still talking about the issue in 1978. In spite of what Senator Knight said, there is still substantial evidence that large areas of East Timor are not under Indonesian control.
It was not, as was predicted in 1975, a matter which would soon be all over. That piece of wishful thinking still comes back to haunt us. This issue is still the subject of important debate in the Senate. In March 1976 the United Nations representative, Mr Guicciardi, visited East Timor. In his report- his visit was not particularly assisted by the Government of the time- he again advocated self-determination for East Timor after drawing attention to the fact that his visit was constantly hampered by the Indonesian authorities not letting him have access to the regions occupied by the East Timorese forces as distinct from the Indonesian forces. Another matter of which we must take account, whatever Senator Sim’s view of the United Nations might happen to be, is that it has repeatedly condemned unanimously Indonesian aggression in East Timor and unanimously advocated selfdetermination for East Timor. Another fact of which we must take account is the real evidence of very high levels of casualties amongst a population of 600,000 people. We can debate the percentages but it is generally conceded now that the number is approximately 60,000. That figure has been accepted by the United States Congressional Committee. The population has no doctors, no medical supplies, no hospital facilities and no access to the facilities of the International Red Cross. During a war involving a civilian population in tragic circumstances, a war which involved women and children, there were no medical supplies and there was no capacity for hospitalisation or any form of international supervision. There are no observers of the Timor scene. There have been no observers since the Indonesian forces first went there in December 1975.
That is the real tragedy of Timor. We can all debate what is happening in various other parts of the world and matters which are offensive to us in terms of their violation of human rights, standards of proper medical care and things of that kind on the basis of some reasonable assumption about the facts because of the presence of outside observers, the Press or teams from the United Nations from which there is an independent source of information. Right on the borders of Australia is a closed shop. There is a tragedy on the doorstep of this country to which this Government continues to turn a blind eye.
I shall refer to the sorts of matters which have been raised in the Senate for the purpose of trying to elicit information about these matters. One could go back as far as 3 March 1976 when I asked in the Senate what was happening in relation to the Australian Government’s support for United Nations observers and medical suppliers in East Timor. I was told on that date in a written answer that the Government was very much in favour of a resumption of humanitarian aid, both government and private. Its view at that time was that such aid should be made available to all parties involved in the conflict, irrespective of political affiliations, in all areas of East Timor. That was the Government’s view on 3 March 1976. We find that now, in April 1978, the situation is no further advanced. All that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has been told by the Indonesian Minister is that he had better be careful or there will be a demonstration in Jakarta. That is the level which publicly we are aware the negotiations have reached.
Subsequently there was a move in the Senate to establish a committee of the Senate to examine the East Timor question. That proposal was rejected by the Government. On 9 March this year I asked a question of Senator Withers as the Minister who represents the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this chamber. The question was asked following Australia’s de facto recognition on 20 February 1978 of Indonesian control of East Timor. I asked Senator Withers what the Government’s assessment was of the amount of territory in East Timor which was under the direct control of Indonesian forces. I asked further:
What is the area which is under the direct control of Timorese forces?
I was told by Senator Withers in his answer that there was disputation about that matter, although the Government’s view was that Indonesia was basically in control of the whole of the territory. The Leader of the Government in the Senate then said:
I shall seek the information . . . Calling on memory- I am pretty certain I am correct- the assessment is that, in fact, Indonesia is in control of that country.
It is now 5 April and I am still awaiting the information I was promised on 9 March about the degree of control by Indonesian forces in East Timor. It is an important matter because it bears on the subject matter of this debate. On 14 March both Senator Missen and I again raised questions about the position of Timorese refugees in Australia. There were 2,000-odd Timorese refugees in Australia and some 1,500 other people in East Timor and in Portugal who wanted to come to Australia for the purpose of reuniting with their families.
In March 1977 the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) promised that a team would visit East Timor directly within six months to look at the whole question and he said further that negotiations were in process with the Indonesian authorities. As of April 1978. nothing has happened. It has been reiterated that the Government will arrange a visit to East Timor in connection with this question of the reunion of Timorese families, but nothing has happened. The Timorese refugees to whom Senator Knight referred are rightly apprehensive that the sort of undertaking given in March 1977 will be of the same value as the undertaking which is now being given again. More importantly, when this issue of Timorese refugees was raised in the Senate on 14 March 1978 the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) said that she would obtain information for the Senate about the allegations which were made by Senator Missen and myself. As at 5 April 1978 no information has been provided. What we have is a long record of vacillation and prevarication by the Government, and, of course, one suspects the continuing refusal to negotiate with Indonesia in anything but a subservient and spineless way. That is the problem. That is the reason why this matter is raised again as a matter of public importance.
In announcing the Government’s de facto recognition of the Indonesian position in East Timor on 20 February this year the Minister for Foreign Affairs did two things. Apart from making a number of pious statements which we are all capable of making and which we have all made in the course of debates on this issue, the
Minister gave no real justification for the de facto recognition. Of course, in the question I put to Senator Withers about the area of territory in East Timor controlled by the Indonesian Government I sought that justification. I have not had an appropriate answer; the justification is just not there. By way of explanation of why the Government gave de facto recognition, the Minister tried to justify the Government’s action on the basis of future family reunion and the rehabilitation of Timor being important ingredients in a practical contribution to the peace of the area. Of course, they are not important ingredients in a practical contribution to the peace of the area, but they are very important ingredients in human terms. Nothing suggests in any way that the Government is taking action to support those rather waffly statements which were made by the Minister on 20 February this year as a justification for the stance taken. Of course, the true justification for the stance taken is the Government’s concern at any price, as Senator Wheeldon pointed out in his contribution to this debate, to appease Indonesia without making any examination of the real issues involved, of the moral issues involved, and indeed of the very practical issues of whether that sort of policy in relation to Indonesia is likely to be in the national interests of this country in the long term.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (5.1 1)- My contribution will wind up the debate. I have listened both in the chamber and at other locations where the opportunity is available to me to all of the matters that have been raised in the debate, and I think I have a pretty fair idea of what the general tenor of the debate has been. Fiery as it has been sometimes, and specific as it was in the case of my colleague, Senator Kilgariff, who is not in the chamber at the present time, and rational as it was in the case of Senator Knight, the debate has revealed a conflict, as it were, between emotion and reason. Unfortunately, in dealing with the affairs of men we are always involved with the problem of whether reason should prevail, whether emotion should prevail, whether emotion should govern reason or whether reason should govern and control emotion.
I think the very first thing we must understand is that when we are dealing with an Indonesian government, or indeed when we are dealing with echelons of Indonesian government, we are dealing with people who have a cast of mind which is different from ours and who see matters in a manner which is totally different from the way in which we see them. Senator Gietzelt would be the last to refuse to acknowledge the fact that, with his background and his study of Marxist theory and philosophy, he would use a Marxist form of analysing a problem. It is equally true to say that on other occasions I might examine a problem on the basis of my traditional view of capitalism as against Marxism.
The reason I am making those points, minor as they may seem, is that in fact we are dealing with people in Indonesia who from our point of view are quite irrational. Let me illustrate that by relating an incident that happened to me personally only recently. I was issued with a visa to enter an outlie of Indonesia. It was issued by the Indonesian Ambassador at the Embassy here in Canberra, I assume, with the approval of the Foreign Affairs Department in Jakarta. When I landed at the airport in the outlies of Indonesia, the major- he appeared to be a major; he was wearing a military uniform and he seemed to have the badges of rank of an Indonesian major- looked at my visa and decided that it was not good enough. Having paid $300 to get into that particular airport for the purpose of seeing some friends of mine, I was locked in a room for 25 minutes and then put back on the aircraft and sent back to the place from which I took off. At least in Australia an Indonesian who finds he has something wrong with his visa when he arrives here would be given an opportunity to appeal for habeas corpus or something of that nature in order to try to establish some sort of right. But when one is dealing with the Indonesians, one is dealing with people who have a cast of mind which is totally different from that which we normally expect when we are dealing with other people.
– In other words, they are corrupt.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACKCorruption takes many forms. I go on to make the observation that at the moment the Government of Australia is dealing with a situation and a stream of events of which it has been the inheritor. I am not saying that in any spirit of maliciousness, and I should be grateful if honourable senators would understand that. Some honourable senators will recall that when I was sitting where Senator Primmer is sitting, or just behind that position, a couple of years ago on two occasions I asked whether the heads of agreement of a conversation between the Prime Minister of Australia and the President of Indonesia would be made available for perusal by the Parliament. Two conversations took place, one in Jakarta and one in Townsville.
The present Government, for reasons which it considers appropriate -it has given the reasonshas refused to table these documents. But whatever the reasons, I have a strong suspicion- I do not think any honourable senator can come to any other conclusion- that the Indonesian Government was given some sort of tacit if not overt encouragement to invade Portuguese East Timor. That is the situation with which the Government is attempting to deal at the present moment. It is attempting to sweep up the debris left as a result of actions taken before it came to power. I believe the Government is attempting to do this in one of three ways.
Firstly, it is attempting to do that by asking for the co-operation of the United Nations. Any one with any sense knows that the United Nations will not be moved if it does not want to be moved. More pious resolutions are passed in the United Nations than are passed here from time to time. In fact, the United Nations, both in the General Assembly and sometimes in the Security Council, goes through the process of making declarations, hoping to goodness that nobody will press for those declarations to be fulfilled. In the reality of the Indonesian situation the United Nations has made no true attempt to impose its will in the context of East Timor. Senator Gietzelt quite rightly pointed out that the United Nations moved with great speed as a result of the events which took place in southern Lebanon. Of course it did. But so many people and nations were interested. Even the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Security Council were interested. They know, as was pointed out in a report of a committee on which I have the honour to serve with Senator Wheeldon, that the central Middle East is the focal point of world conflict. Therefore, they were quite willing to move in the context of the Middle East situation because there was the danger of creating world conflagration.
Of course, this is not true of Indonesia. It is a long way from the major powers, so they are not interested. The United Nations is really and truthfully not interested in the East Timor situation. It hopes that it will go away and be forgotten. Unless someone keeps nagging at the United Nations it will keep pushing that situation to the bottom of the agenda as governments, whatever their nature, have a habit of doing here when they get matters on their plate which they do not like. Let us be practical about the situation. The United Nations is not a source from which we can hope to obtain some rational thought in Indonesia, in both humanitarian and legal terms.
The second operation is whether Australia, without the aid of the United Nations- time and time again it has attempted to get the United Nations to do something- can force its will on Indonesia. I say in most categorical terms that this is a very difficult task. Indonesia has been a source of deep problems to Australia since 1945. For example, we had the problems of the forceful seizure of what is now known as West Irian. Indonesia put up some specious claim that it had inherited the rights from the Dutch to Papua New Guinea. The United Nations insisted on a plebiscite to show whether the people of West Irian wanted to be incorporated into the Indonesian empire. If honourable senators care to look at what took place in relation to that plebiscite they will see that it was the most monstrous charade which has ever been carried out in the history of the United Nations. Then the ambitions of Indonesia spread to North Borneo or Kalimantan as Indonesia called it. In 1963 I was in the Rajang River area where an Australian battalion was fighting to keep the Indonesians out of the place. The Indonesians are a very difficult people. So the answer to the question of how to enforce one ‘s will on the Indonesians is to attack them, that is, to involve oneself in a war situation. One has to create the situation which is known in international terms as casus belli. I am sure that no honourable senator wishes to find Australia involved in a war situation with Indonesia over East Timor, or is there? That is not a rhetorical question. I shall answer it myself. No honourable senator nor any honourable member in the other place will ever contemplate that Australia should exert military force in order to try to enforce its will on Indonesia.
So we are left with the third alternative, unhappy as it may seem and ineffective as it may appear. We must try to develop the best relations we can with the Government in Jakarta in order to persuade it to try to solve this problem and to create circumstances, in a distressful situation to which Senator Kilgariff has referred, so that the people in East Timor can be given relief and comfort through advanced Western medicine and provided with help such as food and rehabilitation. If the Indonesian Government will not allow the Australian Government to do this, or the United Nations to do it, as it refuses to do, then these unfortunate people will live in a state of misery until such time as someone persuades, by some means, the Indonesian Government to allow nations interested in humanitarian methods and considerations to help in the rehabilitation of East Timor.
It is unfair, to say the least, for honourable senators opposite to say that there is no interest in this matter. I happen to have been the Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence for the last two years. Any honourable senator opposite who sits on that Committee, including for example Senator Wheeldon and Senator Bishop, will known that time after time, with the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs which will willingly concede this, we have had men before the Committee who have actually been in Timor, who know the background of Indonesia’s attitude and who know what has been happening in East and West Timor. These men have answered questions. Hour after hour has been spent by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs looking at the Timorese problem. It is a problem. Everybody, whether he be on this side or the other side of politics, recognises that. The problem concerning the Government is how to solve the problem. The problem must concern the Senate. The answer, conclusively, is that we cannot help the East Timorese people to whom we owe a debt. I remember when two independent companies were sent into Timor early in the Pacific war. Senator Carrick will probably remember that because I think he was a member of that force.
– The Sparrow Force.
-I have forgotten whether it was the Sparrow Force or the other one. We had two independent companies in Timor. I freely admit that we owe a debt to the Timorese people. That debt has to be repaid. The only way it can be repaid is to persuade the Indonesian Government to allow us to help in the rehabilitation of East Timor. However painful it may be in terms of our pride and however hateful the process may be to honourable senators, the facts are that until we can establish at least an area of understanding or a willingness by the Indonesian Government to accept Australia ‘s advice and create some accord between ourselves and the Indonesian Government, then we will not be able to help the East Timorese people.
– Will de facto recognition do that?
-I think de facto recognition will help us to get a toehold in East Timor for humanitarian reasons and not for any other reasons. It is quite wrong to say that we are the only country which gives de facto recognition to the Indonesian takeover of East Timor. That is not true. There are all sorts of funny levels of international morality of one sort or another. Although perhaps the United States of America has not given de facto recognition to the Indonesian takeover of East Timor, it considers that, in essence, the Indonesian Government is de facto in control of the area. It is not in total control but certainly it is in control. Great Britain deals with Indonesia, however unpleasant it finds the behaviour of the Indonesian Government, as I do. I am sure every other honourable senator finds its behaviour unpleasant.
The fact is that we are not going to be in a position to resolve the humanitarian sense of guilt, if you like, or act in accordance with the humanitarian morality which has manifested itself in this Parliament towards the East Timorese unless we can persuade the Indonesian Government of our good faith. I abhor the sort of statements made by Adam Malik such as, for example, that he would call out mobs to demonstrate in front of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. That is one of the curiosities of these volatile nations, the newly emerged group of 77 nations which masquerade at their conference in Colombo under the title of the non-aligned countries. These are volatile nations. One of the examples of the volatile nature of these nations is that a mob can be hired whenever one wants. I suggest therefore that we should keep our cool. We should allow our people to manage as best they can and thus enable the Australian Government to influence beneficially the interests of the people of East Timor.
– The period of two hours allowed by the sessional orders for the discussion of this matter having expired, the Senate will now proceed to other business.
– For the information of honourable senators and pursuant to section 122 of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971, 1 present the annual report of the Commissioner for Employees Compensation for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report prepared by the Department of Transport entitled ‘The Transport (Planning and Research) Act 1974 Report of Progress to 30 June 1977’. The report was produced at the request of State authorities and provides an example of the co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth which is being achieved under the Act.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the summary record of the sixth meeting of the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers, Cairns, 29 July 1977 and the summary record of proceedings of the ninth meeting of the Australian Environment Council, Canberra, 1 1 August 1 977.
– Pursuant to section 29(2) of the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973 I present the report of the Temporary Assistance Authority on screws for wood.
– by leave- This statement on the development of public broadcasting is made on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Mr Staley. Where the personal pronoun T is used it refers to my colleague, not me. One of the most recent amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act 1 942-77 made by the Government- namely section Iiic, enacted in December last year- entrusted the Minister with the responsibility to plan the development of radio and television services in Australia. In accepting this trust, one of the ongoing priorities will be to ensure that this responsibility is undertaken in a manner that will facilitate socially responsive, yet systematic planning and policy implementation. I am well aware of widespread concern about what has been described as the ‘haphazard ad hockery’ of broadcasting planning and regulation in this country since its inception. While it is not intended to take issue with the justification, or otherwise, of such a viewpoint, I am bound to take account of it, voiced as it has been by such a wide range of organisations and interests, both inside and outside the radio and television industries.
This statement will be the first of a series in the Government’s systematic approach to the development of policy guidelines for the entire broadcasting system. These statements will be designed to keep Parliament, and through it, the public, informed of government intentions and proposed action relating to particular areas of the system. On this occasion, the statement will deal with our intentions as they relate to the planning of public broadcasting. However, before moving on to that particular matter, it is timely to outline the general assumptions and philosophic principles upon which the Government’s overall approach to broadcasting planning and development will be based. Broadcasting, in the broader context of mass communications structures, is one of the most influential and pervasive social phenomena of our time. It is a phenomenon, moreover, which presents governments of all democratically based nations with a continuing, and not easily soluble, paradox. Each country has approached this paradox by adopting a system of broadcasting to meet its own individual geographic, social, economic and cultural problems.
In formulating and articulating a clear philosophy on which to base guidelines for policy planning and implementation for Australian conditions, it is necessary to stress that broadcasting- and indeed Government attitudes to it- is inextricably linked with matters of national policy. This derives from a number of factors: Firstly, its importance to public information, freedom and expression is crucial. It projects, influences and reflects socio-cultural values and opinions to an extent unrivalled by any other media form. Secondly, this all-pervasive medium of communication is a valuable national resourcein strategic, technological and economic, as well as social, terms. Thirdly, it can be argued that the electromagnetic spectrum- the physical medium by which radio, television and other communications services are delivered- is by no means an inexhaustible, if not a scarce, resource. Therefore, there must be some ultimate arbiter, some final regulatory authority responsible for decisions on matters affecting allocation and utilisation of the component elements of the spectrum, particularly where broadcasting frequencies are concerned. Fourthly, national, indeed international, regulation of the physical bounds, the broadcasting airwaves and of all electromagnetic communications channels- for example, their frequencies, power and points of origin and delivery. Without such regulation, the whole system would be plagued by interference until it degenerated into utter chaos.
In short, broadcasting is so powerful a social and communications instrument, so valuable a national resource, so crucial to the public interest, that no government can afford to ignore it. The problem for government of course, is the extent to which the system can, or should, be regulated. Where does sensible planning and policy implementation finish, and totalitarian control start? A basic premise accepted by most governments in free societies is that the electromagnetic frequencies- or airwaves- used by broadcasting and in most forms of communications are public property. That premise leads logically to an assumption that government must accept the role and attendant responsibilities of custodian of those airwaves for, and in, the public interest.
This Government interprets ‘public interest ‘ in terms of a system which must, while remaining economically and administratively viable, be sufficiently flexible and diverse to respond to the very wide range of changing needs implicit within the complexities of Australian society. Therein lies our basic approach as regards broadcasting planning and policy implementation, expressed in the following philosophic terms: That government involvement in Australian broadcasting must be directed to ensure freedom of expression and enterprise in all forms of communication available to Australian society, particularly radio and television, and that this freedom is best served by diversity of structures and outlets. However, we also believe that facilitation of freedom of expression and enterprise in broadcasting must be consistent with the onus upon government to make the necessary planning and administrative provisions, to obviate the risk of freedom of expression and enterprise for one sector, or group, being indulged at the expense of others, or of the system as a whole. We believe that this can be achieved best by encouragement of diversity in the airwaves through logical and systematic planning.
In passing, it should be noted that this approach is in line with a fairly widespread consensus of opinion expressed in submissions to two major government-initiated broadcasting inquiries undertaken in this country over the past two years. I refer, of course, to the 1976 departmental inquiry into the structure of the Australian Broadcasting System and Associated Matters, more commonly known as the Green Inquiry, and last year’s Australian Broadcasting Tribunal Inquiry into broadcasting standards and the concept of self-regulation.
Mr President, the Government is mindful of the inherent relationship between freedom of expression and a free society. Our view is that this relationship can best be nurtured by the encouragement, wherever possible, of public consultation in the actual planning processes. A parallel view is that the free, complex and dynamic society in which we live requires considerable flexibility in the planning process, to ensure effective reponse to changing needs. These views give rise to two essential planning criteria for ministerial planning responsibility under the Broadcasting and Television Act- public consultations and procedural flexibility- both of which have special relevance to the public broadcasting sector. The very nature of that sector makes close involvement between public broadcasters and the communities they hope to serve axiomatic. The axiom will be just as applicable to communities comprised of, say, residents of an Aboriginal community or broadcasters of Christian programs. It is accepted that public broadcasters should have a better appreciation ofthe interests, hence the needs, of their own broadcasting communities than anyone else, including government.
This acceptance is signified by the Government’s intention to give every opportunity for those community interests and needs to be articulated during planning processes. But, because public broadcasting is a relatively recent phenomenon in Australia, this acceptance must be tempered with realism. This sector of the system is bound to experience considerable growing pains. No doubt there will be a number of potential licensees who will underestimate the needs of, and support they might expect from, thenchosen service communities. And the converse is also inevitable. There are bound to be others who will overestimate the capacity of particular communities to sustain, and to devote resources and skills to, their own special interest broadcasting stations. And these will surely fail.
However, any such failures should not be used as a yardstick by which to judge the overall potential, or success, of the entire public broadcasting sector. The now thriving commercial sector, which has made such great contributions to broadcasting services in Australia over the past half century, also experienced its early failures. But this has not prevented commercial broadcasting from becoming a vital, essential and invaluable part of Australian communications heritage. Nor should any early failures by some public broadcasters prevent this new sector developing to complement the national and commercial services, and to enrich the system as a whole. It is expected that early definition of long-term strategic objectives for public broadcasting will minimise teething troubles in the early growth years. But it is stressed that such objectives for the public sector cannot be formulated in isolation: they must take into account the structure of the overall broadcasting system, and the objectives of the two establishednational and commercial- sectors.
Until recently, Australia has been served by what might have been termed the dual broadcasting system- serviced by national and commercial sectors. With the advent of the handful of public broadcasters licensed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, a third sector entered the system. The embryonic state of this sector was documented officially in the Green Report. That report acknowledged the existence of, and made recommendations on, legislative provisions for, administration in all three sectors and for licensing of public as well as commercial stations’. Both recommendations have since been adopted by the Government and passed into legislation. Consequently, the term ‘public broadcasting’ has now acquired legislative definition in Australia. Part IVa (Section IIIa ( 1 )) of the Act describes the public broadcasting service and the public television service as applicable to ‘a licence granted for a special purpose as specified in the licence’. Section 81 (4) also provides that public broadcasting licences may be granted only to non-profit corporations.
To return to the problem of defining long-term strategic objectives for the public sector, the Government has approached this problem by relating the proposed objectives of this sector to those of the system as a whole, and hence, logically, to those of the established national and commercial sectors. The overall objectives for the system as a whole are implicit in the philosophy of this Government, as outlined earlier in this statement. We believe that the Australian broadcasting system should aim for diversity and quality as an overall objective; also to cater for, and to reflect, the widest possible spectrum of information, opinions, values and interests in Australian society. These objectives have been rationalised and defined in both the 1976 Green Report and the 1977 Australian Broadcasting Tribunal Inquiry report. More specifically, the Government takes the view that the various sectors which comprise the system should aim to develop programming objectives and functions expressly designed to avoid unnecessary and wasteful duplication of broadcasting facilities, resources and content.
In considering the programming objective, the ultimate raison d ,– of the individual sectors, the starting point must be a general assumption that the total viewing or listening audience is comprised of a series of majority and minority groups. These have been traditionally identified in terms of block mass and minority groupings. However, it must be recognised that what may constitute a minority audience in terms of a percentage of the total listening or viewing population, can still constitute a mass audience in numerical terms. It must also be recognised that different audience groupings, whether mass or minority, are both divisible and interchangeable. All people at some time or another will form pan of a mass audience. Of those most at some time or another will in following specialised interests be potential members of minority audiences.
The nature of the broadcasting system in Australia until quite recently, together with the physical limitations of the availability of broadcasting frequencies, has tended to serve mass audiences well, but to overlook those members of the various mass groupings with additional and quite specific interests outside those catered for in mass appeal programming. The commercial sector has been, by virtue of its economic structure and marketing requirements, traditionally oriented to cater for largely undifferentiated audience blocks via mass appeal programming. The national service, by virtue of its Australiawide network structure and public funding origins, has also- though to a lesser extent- tended to program for mass audiences, albeit across a wide geographical service area, while at the same time tending to concentrate on more specialised educational and cultural interests. The newer public sector is seen as complementary to both pre-existing sectors. It is likely to program for minority rather than mass audiences in response to special interests and needs. This is not to imply that public broadcasting should be confined to elitist interests. Speciality and elitism are not necessarily synonyms. After all, a special interest may range for example from football to Flemish weaving, from film to Florentine art, from hard rock to harpsichord recitals, from Bach cantatas to brass bands.
What public broadcasting should aim to do, as a sector, is to develop appeal for all of the people, some of the time. From these premises, the Government proposes that the strategic aim of public broadcasting is to serve specialised audiences, or, as the Act puts it, to provide special purpose broadcasting’.
Action on planning proposals for the public broadcasting sector is now urgently required because of imminent expiry of licences issued under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905 and the volume of inquiries and follow-up requests received by my Department from potential public broadcasters. In recognition of the urgency of the situation, a series of discussions have been held with the Public Broadcasting Association of Australia, PBAA. to consider draft ‘Guidelines for the Planning of Public Broadcasting in Phase I’. Consequently, the guidelines have been modified and I have now authorised a final version, a copy of which I will seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard ‘m due course.
The guidelines form the basis for preparation of planning proposals for licence applications in both areas now served by broadcasters licensed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act and those in which potential licensees have expressed an interest in servicing. The phase I to which they refer may be regarded as an introductory period in the establishment of frequency modulation public broadcasting stations. The Government intends that phase I should be as short as possible to avoid unnecessary restrictions upon the development of public broadcasting. At the same time, it has a responsibility to control the way in which the enormous potential of FM broadcasting is to be realised. The latter involves all sectors of broadcasting and requires proper caution in its exercise.
At this point, a priority task is to initiate public hearings in those areas served by the broadcasters licensed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act. Planning proposals have been prepared and will be circulated by my Department to the appropriate organisations for comment prior to relevant hearings to be conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. As indicated previously, the planning guidelines propose that public radio stations should be categorised according to the ‘special purpose’ for which they apply for licensing under the Broadcasting and Television Act. Three licence categories are envisaged to identify what might be described as individual ‘station profiles’. The categories are intended to be indicative rather than prescriptive and will be chosen by the applicants themselves. They are not intended for use in the regulatory process.
Category E licences will be issued to educational bodies intending to program for continuing and adult education. Such programming may include material designed to enrich the cultural perspectives of the audiences served. In the capital cities, category E licences will normally be issued only to consortiums of educational institutions in phase I. They may also be issued to a single institution with the proviso that other educational institutions be allowed reasonable participation.
Most new licences will be issued in FM, since it is mainly in the VHF or very high frequency band that frequencies are available. However, the criterion for the granting of AM- that is, amplitude modulation- or FM licences will be the mode seen to be more technically appropriate for the programming involved. Thus category E licences, which will provide for medium coverage, might be issued in either mode.
Category S licences will be issued to groups intending to program for a particular interest, or group of interests. This will be the most flexible category, as it allows potential applicants scope to define in their promise of performance whatever interest groupings they wish to serve. These might cover music, sport or religion for which licences will be issued in either AM or FM mode and which will provide for medium coverage.
Category C licences will be issued to community groups intending to program for the interests of a community, or communities, in a specific geographical location. Potential licensees would be drawn from bodies such as shire councils, schools, student organisations and resident groups. The point made earlier about active involvement by public broadcasters with their communities of licence is especially applicable to applications for category C licences. Participation will be the name of the game. As with categories E and S, category C licences will be issued in both modes. However, in capital cities they will extend only to ‘low coverage’, that is, coverage over a radius of approximately 15 kilometres.
I stress that these three public broadcasting licence categories are not intended to restrict licensees to immutable programming compartments. Programming from one category to another will have some inevitable similarities. Notwithstanding, in planning development of broadcasting services for each particular geographical area, a prime consideration will be the need to offer listeners the widest possible diversity of programming options.
There are lessons to be learned here from the experience of countries such as the United States of America. There, because of a permissive planning policy in the past, the regulatory authority faces enormous difficulties in finding enough frequencies for deserving new applicants. At this stage, it is the Government’s intention to moderate demands from bodies such as educational institutions, which can be expected to be strong contenders for licences. The rationale for this intention is the need to maintain reserves, both present and future, for other types of public broadcasting. No doubt many licences will be educational broadcasters, and these will be welcomed as such. But I expect the public broadcasting sector to be developed in a way that will facilitate eventual provision of greater variety and public benefit than educational broadcasting alone could offer.
An important consideration in planning for the development of public broadcasting, indeed broadcasting as a whole, must be the protection of existing broadcasters against interference from new transmitters and receivers. For this reason, at this stage, I propose to call for a maximum of three medium coverage FM public broadcasting licences for each capital city. There are not such tight limitations upon the issue of category C licences: These will be issued subject to demand and availability of frequencies. At a later stage where more FM frequencies will be available, licensing will continue within the bounds of an orderly, systematic development of the system.
The general procedure will be that I will call for applications for one or more public broadcasting licences for specific service areas. Public hearings will then be scheduled and conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, on the basis of which a licence or licences will be issued, in accordance with the planning specifications I have determined. Any public broadcasting organisation, or group which forms itself into a non-profit corporation will be free to apply for a licence, with a view to demonstrating that it is the best applicant for the available licence, within the above parameters.
As an applicant, it will be required to submit a promise of performance setting out its programming intentions and other policies related to broadcasting, which will be used by the Tribunal in choosing a licensee and in subsequent renewal hearings. Significant departures from this promise of performance may be subject to investigation by the Tribunal and licensees will be directly responsible for their stations ‘ programs.
The Government has accepted the Green report’s attitude that public broadcasting is an activity which should spring from local, community initiatives. Accordingly, it is proposed to specify that State governments, political parties and statutory bodies other than educational ones should not be issued with public broadcasting licences. Again, licensees will not be permitted to own or control more than one public broadcasting licence, although they will be permitted to apply for translator licences, and the effective transfer of public broadcasting licences will necessitate a new Tribunal hearing at which all prospective applicants will be considered. Advertising of the ‘spot announcement’ type will not be permitted on public broadcasting stations. However, sponsorship in a form approved by the Minister and administered by the Tribunal will be allowed.
Finally, it should be said that the main reason for setting up new broadcasting stations is to provide better programs. The Government sees public broadcasting as a force for diversity. Its role is to provide Australians with a range of choices which the national and commercial sectors are not able to provide. Public broadcasters will best perform this role not by duplicating the programming of national and commercial stations, but by defining very clearly for themselves, the Tribunal, and above all their audiences, the special purpose’ which motivates them. In doing so, they will add to Australian broadcasting an exciting and challenging new element which should make it one of the best systems in the world. I seek to have incorporated in Hansard the guidelines for the planning of public broadcasting.
The document read as follows-
GUIDELINES FOR THE PLANNING OF PUBLIC BROADCASTING IN PHASE I (See Note A)
Public radio station licences will be categorised by the special purpose’ for which they are granted, viz.
Category E Licences: will be issued to educational bodies intending to provide programs of continuing and adult education, but including material designed to enrich the cultural life of the audience.
Category S Licences: will be issued to groups intending to provide programs serving a particular interest or group of interests e.g. music/sport/religion.
Category C Licences: will be issued to community groups intending to provide programs serving a particular community e.g. Bathurst, Manly- Warringah.
The licensing policy adopted will differentiate between these categories (See Note B). Forexample-
Category E Licences (educational bodies):
in capital cities licences will normally only be issued to consortiums of educational institutions or to a single applicant where that applicant agrees to allow reasonable participation by other educational institutions;
licences will be medium coverage. They may be issued in either AM or FM (See Note C).
b ) Category S Licences ( special interests ):
consortiums will be permitted, but not mandatory;
licences will be medium coverage. They may be issued in either AM or FM. (See Note C)
Category C Licences (community groups):
consortiums will be permitted but not mandatory and licences may be issued to bodies such as shire councils, schools, and non-profit companies in isolated areas;
Promise of Performance may include educational and access programs;
licences will be low coverage in capital cities but may be medium coverage elsewhere. They may be in either AM or FM (See Note C).
In Phase I (See Note A) a maximum of three (3) medium coverage FM Licences will be issued in Categories E and S for each capital city. However, further licences will be issued in Phase II. Licences in Category C will be issued freely wherever frequencies are available.
The Minister will call for applications for one or more public broadcasting licences for a service area, after which the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal will hold a public inquiry and then issue a licence/licences to the successful applicants. Applications for Category E, S and C licences to serve a particular area or part of an area will be invited simultaneously wherever possible.
Any public broadcasting organisation will be free to apply for a licence and demonstrate to the Tribunal its greater suitability than that of other applicants, according to specifications determined by the Minister and conditions imposed by the Tribunal.
Applicants will submit a Promise of Performance setting out their programming intentions and other policies related to broadcasting which will be used in choosing a licensee and in renewal hearings. Significant departures from the Promise of Performance may be subject to investigation by the Tribunal.
Licensees will be directly responsible under the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1 942, for their station’s programs.
Government financial support will be limited to indirect funding.
State Governments, statutory bodies other than educational bodies, and political parties will not be issued public broadcasting licences.
Sponsorship in a form approved by the Minister, and administered by the Tribunal will be permitted, but not advertising of the ‘spot announcement ‘ type.
- Licensees will not be permitted to own/control more than one public broadcasting licence, but may apply for translator licences.
Transfers of public broadcasting licences will not be permitted If an effective transfer is desired, a new Tribunal earing will be held, with all prospective applicants considered equally.
‘Phase I’ may be regarded as the period from the present to that point at which engineering studies on multiple FM transmissions allow a definite assessment of frequency availability to be made. The intention is that this Phase should be as short as is consistent with proper caution in planning and Phase II will be announced as soon as possible.
Licence categories (a) are concerned with establishing the special purpose of stations for the planning and licensing processes- what might be called the station profile’. They are indicative rather than prescriptive, setting out broad planning guidelines, and are not intended for use in the regulatory process. That function will be served by the stations ‘ own Promises of Performance, (b) are not intended to be mutually exclusive. For example:
Category E Licence stations (educational bodies) may well use material ‘aimed at a particular interest’.
An example might be programs designed to increase understanding of ethnic cultures and languages.
Category S Licence stations (special interests) may well use material which would ‘enrich the cultural life of the audience’. An example might be a fine music station using programs on the history of music.
Category C Licence stations (community groups) may well feature ‘programs of continuing and adult education’ relevant to their community. An example might be a community station in Bourke or Walgett featuring enrichment programs for Aboriginals.
Coverage areas will be determined according to the special purpose of the station concerned. Following the Government’s acceptance of the McLean Report, planning of the FM service has been based upon three types: wide coverage, medium coverage and low coverage.
The radii indicated below are illustrative only. Actual radii will depend on many factors, such as aerial height, terrain, etc.
wide coverage stations: 80 km (urban) or 122 km (country).
medium coverage stations: 32 km (urban) or 56 km (country).
low coverage stations: 15 km (urban) or 28 km (country).
The precise mix of wide, medium and low coverage stations to be adopted in a particular area will depend upon demonstrated demand and detailed planning considerations.
– by leave- I move:
– The Opposition welcomes the statement on public broadcasting which has been made by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). It has been some years since the first initiatives in public broadcasting were taken during the period of the last Labor Government. At the outset of my remarks I pay tribute to the Minister for the Media at that time, Dr Moss Cass, whose imaginative exercise in licensing some experimental broadcasters under the Wireless Telegraphy Act has led to the development we have just had outlined by the Minister. The Opposition is in agreement with the three major observations which the Minister made at the beginning of his statement. It agrees with the Minister’s recognition of the fact that the air waves are a limited and very valuable public resource. It agrees that there is a need for government involvement as the ultimate arbiter in relation to the use and development of that resource. It also agrees with the need for the development of a philosophy on broadcasting in Australia.
This is the first such statement that we have had from the Government, but the Minister has suggested that it is the first in a series of Government statements on philosophy in broadcasting. We can only say that although such statements on philosophy are overdue, we welcome them.
The Opposition has no quarrel with the basic philosophical statement made by the Minister. Some aspects of it are most acceptable, and in this regard I would particularly like to comment on the development of guidelines for public broadcasters. In general the Opposition would not quarrel with the guidelines set out by the Minister. We note that the formulation and evolution of the guidelines for public broadcasters has been an exercise in which there has been an admirable degree of public participation. We note also the work of the community organisation known as the Public Broadcasting Association of Australia which has worked very closely with the Government in the modification and development of guidelines to the point where these guidelines have been presented to Parliament.
Having made those welcoming comments I must go on to say that some problems with regard to public broadcasting are still unsolved. There are still some serious matters about which the Opposition and the community generally require a great deal more information from the Government. The Minister referred in his statement to the recent amendment to the Broadcasting and Television Act which passed through this place in December last year and he pointed out that that amendment entrusted the Minister with responsibility for the planning and development of broadcasting generally. At that time the Opposition expressed, and I express again on its behalf, its serious reservations about the vesting in the Minister of these extensive powers in respect of the planning and development of broadcasting. I make clear that we welcome any development of a co-ordinated and planned broadcasting policy. We agree that the development of broadcasting in Australia has been ad hoc and consequently unsuitable and in some areas damage has been done which will not be remedied by either the proposals before us or any legislation which has been foreshadowed. Nevertheless, we agree that there must be co-ordinated planning of broadcasting but we have reservations about entrusting those powers directly to the Minister as the amendment to the Broadcasting and Television Act in December did.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner, I was making some comments on the statement brought down by the Minister for Education, on behalf of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley), relating to the Government’s intentions for the development of public broadcasting in Australia. I said on behalf of the Opposition that the Opposition was pleased in general with the content of the statement that the Minister brought down this evening.
I refer now to some of the factors which the Minister has enumerated as being relevant factors in a philosophy of public broadcasting. The Opposition finds no argument with the first factor which the Minister enumerated. He spoke of the importance to the public of information, freedom of expression and so on. In fact the Minister even said that freedom of expression is crucial. The Opposition concurs with that sentiment. Indeed it is one for which we have had to fight from time to time in this place. I should say by way of comment that the Opposition, and I think the general community also, has cause from time to time to question the credibility of the Government when it speaks of the importance of freedom of expression in broadcasting. There were some unfortunate episodes in the recent past when it appeared that the Government was not adhering to the principle of freedom of expression in broadcasting. Indeed, there were some episodes, to which I have referred previously, which appeared to amount to political interference, particularly with regard to our national broadcasting service. So when the Minister and the Government express as their first priority with regard to a public broadcasting service the sentiment of freedom of expression, we hope that they are genuine in that sentiment. Of course, if they are, we thoroughly support them.
The second factor that the Minister enumerated is that the all-pervasive medium of communication is a valuable national resource. Again the Opposition concurs with this sentiment. It is one which we have often expressed ourselves. In commenting on that particular claim by the Government, I would say that although it is a valuable national resource it has not always been treated by the Government as primarily a national resource. We in the Opposition and members of the community have often had cause to criticise standards, lack of regulation with respect to content in advertising, and things of that kind which have eroded the value of the broadcasting media as a national resource. Again we express the wish that this will not happen in respect of the public broadcasting service.
The third principle that the Minister enunciated is again one of which we thoroughly approve; that is, that there must be a final regulatory authority responsible for decisions on matters affecting allocation and utilisation of broadcasting. We concur with that but we must say that the Government often has demonstrated a serious reluctance to act as a regulating authority in these matters. We hope that this will not be the case with this new service which is envisaged in the statement made by the Minister.
The fourth major factor to which the Minister pointed is the need for planning. I think I said before the suspension of the sitting for dinner that we endorse the need for co-ordinated planning in broadcasting. The Minister said in his statement that the airwaves are public property. Of course that is the view taken by the Opposition and the Australian Labor Party. The airwaves are public property and always should be utilised as a public property. But unfortunately, too often in the past they have been used primarily as a source of private profit rather than public property.
– Or private views.
- Mr President, I think an honourable senator is trying to interject. I cannot continue my remarks against that interference.
– Order! I call Senator Ryan.
– Thank you, Mr President. In our view, the Minister, in his statement, touches all too lightly on the way in which public broadcasting will be complementary to the national broadcasting and the commercial broadcasting sectors. We have many queries about this. I will not raise them all this evening because we hope that there will be further opportunities to discuss this matter in detail. We have many queries about how the allocation of the new licences will complement existing proprietors. We query how, for example, the special broadcasting service, which was introduced so rapidly and I believe rather thoughtlessly in the final session of the last Parliament, will fit into the new arrangements outlined here. However, I shall take an opportunity later in this session to raise our queries in this regard.
I am interested to learn that something like 1 8 FM frequencies are to be released for the purpose of public broadcasting. This is welcome news as for a long time we have been wondering about the Government’s intentions with regard to the new FM frequency modulation stations. The question I ask at this stage is why lowpowered or, at the most, medium-powered FM frequencies are the only ones envisaged for use by public broadcasters. Whilst I can accept that in most cases the needs of public broadcasters would be met adequately by low or mediumpowered frequencies, there would be cases in large capital cities and so forth where such a frequency would not be adequate to meet the needs of the particular community which would provide the audience for that community station.
The other question in this regard is what is to be the Government’s attitude to public broadcasters established under the Wireless Telegraphy Act who now apparently will have to change from an amplitude modulation frequency to an FM frequency. I cite the case in my own territory, the Australian Capital Territory, where we have a very successful experiment in public broadcasting. I refer to radio station 2 XX which is now established on an AM frequency. It has a well established clientele. If that station is forced to change or if its only option is to change to the FM frequency, what assistance will it get to publicise the fact that it will no longer be available to its listeners on the frequency on which it was previously available? I think this is a problem and I note that the Minister is taking notice of my remarks.
– It is not expensive to set up an FM frequency, Senator.
– The question of expense which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has just raised was not dealt with in the Minister’s statement. I think the statement says that there will be no direct funding of public broadcasting. Again the Opposition and public broadcasters and potential public broadcasters would like to know a lot more about what financial arrangements the Government does envisage with regard to public broadcasting.
I also express the hope at this stage that the Minister or the Tribunal which now has been given the power to conduct hearings and allocate licences to public broadcasters will take into account the work that has been achieved by the pioneers in this area. Throughout Australia now there are several public broadcasting stations where people have been working, have learned from their experience and have established relationships with the community. Whilst I agree with the principle that licences should be available or accessible to any group which thinks that it can make a case to the Tribunal for the use of a licence, I hope that somewhere along the line the pioneering work of those groups, like the group that runs 2XX in the Australian Capital Territory, will be taken into account and will be recognised when they make applications for future licences.
With regard to the role of the Tribunal as outlined in the Minister’s statement, again we are interested to have the function of the Tribunal clarified to the extent that it has been clarified. It now appears, from what the Minister has said, that the Tribunal will be the licensing body for public broadcasters. It will be the body that will conduct the hearings. It appears that all groups with an interest in the subject will be able to come before the Tribunal, put their case for a licence, and be successful or unsuccessful as the case may be. My only comment on that point is to repeat that we think it is unfortunate that when the Government set up the Broadcasting Tribunal it chose a composition of membership which was so narrow. We do not entirely disapprove of the composition of the Tribunal but we had hoped, given the very important function it has now to perform with regard to the allocation of licences, that it would have been a more broadly representative body and, indeed, a body with broader experience.
I think the major question left unanswered- I will not explore it now; I will just pose it to the Minister- is the relationship of ethnic broadcasting to the public broadcasting sector. The Government has said a great deal about its good intentions with regard to ethnic broadcasting. It has established a legislative mechanism whereby a special broadcasting service catering mainly for the needs of ethnic groups is to be established. Of course, the service has not yet been established. We are anxious to know in what way the special broadcasting service will relate to the public broadcasting service, if at all. If there is to be no relationship between the two, what will be the position of ethnic groups which wish to apply for a public broadcasting licence? It is the view of the Australian Labor Party that the matter of ethnic broadcasting would have been best handled within the general framework of public broadcasting. It seems that that is not to be the case.
I will not continue my remarks at length. I repeat that the Opposition welcomes the statement finally made by the Minister with respect to the Government’s intentions about public broadcasting. We will be monitoring very carefully the developments outlined by the Minister. We look forward to receiving more information and in particular we look forward to receiving information on the questions I have raised.
-I take the opportunity of making a brief comment on the statement which has been made. I assure the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) that I welcome the statement. It seems to derive from inquiries by a Senate committee some years ago of which we both were members. It appears also that the recommendations contained in the statement are very much in Une with recommendations of that committee. I hope that the Tribunal exercises some sense of priority when conducting its hearings. We have waited a long time for this statement. Many groups of people have waited a considerable time. The Minister will recall that almost 12 months ago I mentioned to him a requirement of a group in Brisbane that had established itself and had done all those things necessary to receive the assistance to set up a fine music public broadcasting facility. The group was faced with a series of frustrations. The reason is now evident: The Government intended to bring some order into the issuing of licences by way of hearings and by categorising certain areas. Perhaps these people were given what I can only term as a runaround because of the need for the Government to establish a firm policy.
I suggest to the Minister that the Tribunal should give priority to hearings in places which do not have facilities, particularly FM facilities. For this reason I am tonight putting a case for the Music Broadcasting Society of Queensland. The Society is the longest standing applicant for a public broadcasting licence. In fact, it has been working for two years towards that end. It made three lengthy submissions to the Broadcasting Control Board when it was in operation but was not even favoured with a reply. It has done all those things necessary for the immediate establishment of a FM broadcasting station. I will not go into the details and I do not wish to enlarge upon the criticisms which have been brought to my notice because by so doing I might in some way prejudice the application to the Tribunal for the licence. I merely indicate that in Brisbane an organisation has over a period of two years made all the necessary submissions and taken the steps necessary to operate practically immediately. It has the necessary membership and has raised the necessary funds. I ask the Minister for Education to approach his colleague in the other place to see that some priority is given to the holding of hearings in those cities where FM broadcasting facilities do not exist, in particular, Brisbane. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I seek leave to make a statement on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– Honourable senators will realise that when I use the word T it refers to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the honourable Andrew Peacock.
I wish to make clear the Government’s position with respect to the creation of establishments, institutions or organisations which can, because of the diplomatic terminology used, result in substantial difficulties in Australia’s relations with other countries and impede the operations of Australia’s foreign policy, the effective conduct of which is vital to the well-being of the nation. This is particularly so when such an establishment is referred to as an ‘Embassy’. Australia is a party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. That convention, in article 22- which has the force of law in Australia- imposes on Australia a special duty to prevent any impairment of the dignity of a diplomatic mission accredited to this country. It is not a matter which can be dealt with in any sense of compromise. It is a matter of our international obligations and the domestic law which gives effect to these obligations. I need hardly add that this would not apply to such establishments as the so-called ‘Aboriginal Embassy’ as it did not affect the standing of any other nation with which Australia has diplomatic relations.
It has not been necessary in the past to treat this matter as one for legislative action. However, this has now become necessary because of the establishment in Canberra late last year of a so-called ‘Croatian Embassy’. It is because the establishment of the so-called ‘Embassy’ has had important ramifications for Australia- ramifications with respect to the Vienna Convention, Australia ‘s responsibilities under it, the effective operation of Australia’s foreign policy, and our long-standing relations with a universally recognised nation, namely Yugoslavia- that the Government now feels it necessary to consider legislation to put an end to this anomaly and to guard against any recurrence. I therefore wish to set out the Government’s position with regard to this matter. The so-called ‘Croatian Embassy’ has been set up in Canberra by certain persons who may or may not be fully aware of the serious implications of their actions, which impede the correct and orderly conduct of Australia ‘s international relations, for which I am directly responsible. It is therefore necessary that I now make clear to this House beyond any possibility of doubt the Government’s views and intentions on this matter. These are in short that an establishment such as the so-called ‘Croatian Embassy’ is damaging to the national interest and that such an establishment cannot therefore be tolerated.
Yugoslavia acceded to independence in the context of the post- World War I settlement, to which Australia was a party. Australia has long standing and friendly relations with that country. By mutual agreement many people from Yugoslavia have settled in Australia. This has strengthened our ties. We respect Yugoslavia’s sovereignty. The Government cannot therefore view with indifference an attempt to establish and maintain on Australian territory any organisation which not only is openly dedicated to the destruction of a State in friendly relations with Australia but which also arrogates to itself an unacceptable title and status which could in turn disrupt the orderly conduct of Australia’s relations with another universally recognised member of the international community. This could clearly have a substantial adverse effect on our international standing, the conduct of Australia’s foreign policy and our national interest, thus affecting all Australians.
It can scarcely be maintained that the setting up of a so-called ‘Croatian Embassy’ is not an impairment of the dignity of the diplomatic mission which in law and in fact represents Yugoslavia in this country. It is of no less concern that the unauthorised establishment of this socalled Embassy interferes with the exercise of the executive power of the Commonwealth to conduct Australia’s international relations. The Government is thus deeply concerned lest other minority groups may be inspired by the continued existence of the self-styled ‘Croatian Embassy’ to believe that they too, may similarly interfere in and jeopardise Australia’s relations with sovereign states. Furthermore, it has been a long-standing policy of Australian governments to oppose the importation into Australia of alien political and racial feuds. The Government is also concerned about the aggravation of tension between certain ethnic groups.
At this stage let me make it quite clear that it is not in any way the Government’s wish to discriminate against the Croatian community or to stop or hinder members of that community forming their own groups and clubs where these are not aimed at a state and government with which Australia has normal diplomatic relations. The overwhelming majority of the Croatian community in Australia has shown, by its contribution to the development of Australian society and culture, a strong loyalty and commitment to its new homeland. It is an affront to this loyalty and commitment that a so-called ‘Croatian Embassy’ should purport to represent them. The proper international representative of the interests of Australians of Croatian, as of other origins, is the Australian Government and no one else.
The only course of action for the authors of this enterprise is for them to abandon it forthwith and revert to the means by which dissent may be peacefully asserted within the law as it prevails in our society. In order to leave no doubt of the seriousness with which this matter is being regarded, and consistent with the provisions of Article 22 of the Vienna Convention, I wish to inform the House that the Government will introduce legislation specifically prohibiting institutions or bodies falsely representing themselves as diplomatic, consular or other official missions of another country or part of another country. Such action is essentially not only to remove the anomaly which has already been created, but lest the practice of establishing socalled embassies be extended, thus jeopardising Australia’s foreign relations and national interest. The Government does not believe that the Australian community would support the establishment of organisations so obviously to the detriment of this nation. I present the following paper:
Croatian Embassy’- Ministerial Statement, 5 April 1978- and move:
That the Senate take note of the Statement.
– I wish to indicate on behalf of the Opposition our complete support for the statement which has just been read by Senator Withers. As the dispute amongst Yugoslavs in Australia has been aired on so many occasions in the Parliament most of us are conversant with the bitterness that exists not only between the apparent rival groups who have their origins in that country but which, unfortunately, has spilled over into the Australian community. I am particularly pleased that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) made the point that we do not want the sorts of internal rivalries and bitterness which exists in other countries brought into this country. I assure the Minister that the principles that are spelt out in the statement have the full support of the Opposition.
I hope that those persons who were responsible for the creation of the so-called Croatian Embassy will have the good sense to recognise the importance of this statement. I feel certain that the Government is sincere in its intention. I assure you, Mr President, that the Government has the full support of the Opposition. I trust that these people will abandon what is, in fact, a sore in our community. Finally, I indicate that we accept the proposition that the great majority of Yugoslavs who live in this country see themselves as Australians. I am sure that they do not wish to see continued, even within their own community, the sorts of troubles and bitterness of which, unfortunately, they have been victims in years gone by.
– I am constrained to enter this debate to say how pleased I am that the Government has seen fit to bring down a statement on this matter.
– It is based on former Senator Murphy’s action.
– That is right. To me, it has been a reflection on the maturity of the Australian nation that it has tolerated the introduction of a European religious feud into our body politic. We have had great crises over this very issue. Our security, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the protective screen in this country have been challenged by the subtlety of the pseudo or quasi religious feud that was introduced by the Croats who are supporting an indefensible attitude that they can perpetuate in this country something that was discredited in Europe.
When we bring migrants of various nationalities and ethnic groups into this country we give them the great freedoms of the country to enjoy all the basic things we have created. To me the Croat people are prostituting this great privilege. With freedoms given to them they established this clandestine organisation which they felt could reconstitute from Australia an ideology, religion or attitude that was long past. The reestablishment of a king of Croatia or the old system has gone with the wind. Yet these people are prepared to disturb the traditional way of life in Australia with bombing, terrorism and shocking activities. I blame the Croats for the terrorism and fear which have been introduced into the Australian way of life. I am so pleased that although members of the Liberal Party used the deception that the Labor Party was persecuting these people, the Government is doing tonight exactly the same thing which former Senator Murphy tried to do.
– That is not true.
-I do not want to hear from Senator Lajovic. He is biased. He has a vested interest in this matter.
– I take a point of order. I believe that the honourable senator from Tasmania is exceeding the bounds of tolerance as far as we are concerned.
– You are very touchy.
– No, I am not touchy. Reference to Liberal Party senators in the context in which the honourable senator was speaking is unacceptable to me. I suggest that he withdraw the imputation.
– I raise a point of order. Senator 0 ‘Byrne made two points. I do not know which one is objectionable. Is it that the Government is now doing what former Senator Murphy set out to do? Surely that is not objectionable.
– Of course it is.
– Even if it is false, it is not objectionable. It is an honourable senator’s opinion that that is what the Government is now doing. Former Senator Murphy’s action may have brought that situation about. My second point is concerned with Senator O ‘Byrne’s remark that he did not want to hear from one honourable senator because that honourable senator is biased. Senator 0 ‘Byrne did not indicate to what extent that honourable senator is biased or in whose favour he is biased. Surely what Senator O ‘Byrne said was not an unparliamentary or an exceptional remark to make to an honourable senator across the chamber. I do not think there is any substance in the point of order, and I ask that it be disallowed.
– I will not sustain the point of order, but I point out that reflections on individuals must be avoided at all times.
– The Minister has included in his statement the following observation:
It is because the establishment ofthe so-called ‘Embassy’ has had important ramifications for Australia- ramifications with respect to the Vienna Convention, Australia’s responsibilities under it, the effective operation of Australia’s foreign policy, and our long-standing relations with a universally recognised nation, namely Yugoslavia- that the Government now feels it necessary to consider legislation to put an end to this anomaly and to guard against any recurrence.
That is a most important statement. The Minister has eventually recognised and admitted that the politics that were at the base of the previous attitude of honourable senators opposite were very reprehensible and encouraged people such as those referred to to disturb the way of life of Australia. I cannot stress that point strongly enough. The Minister went on to say:
These are in short that an establishment such as the socalled ‘Croatian Embassy’ is damaging to the national interest and that such an establishment cannot therefore be tolerated.
They are words that I have been waiting to hear our Government proclaim. We have to get away from this business of wearing these placards on us and all these things that we have been talking about. The fear that exists in this country today is unnatural to Australia. We have imported it from the Mafia, from the Yanks, from the violence on television, from the commandoes, and from the Jewish persecution that is occurring in Europe.
-And the National Country Party.
– And the National Country Party; and the dishonesty of political manipulators. We in this country have reached a stage which is foreign to the way in which the average Australian expected our country to develop.
– How do you know it is the Yugoslavs? You are guessing.
– I blame the people who have been so cunning and so clever. I lived in that son of environment for a number of years. I should think that Mikhailovich was a traitor to civilisation. Mikhailovich has his defenders in this place. He was acknowledged as a fascist traitor in Europe during the time that I was in Europe. I intend to continue the fight that I started. A continuation of that struggle is my effort to eradicate fascism from Australia. These people, these Croats, were fascists and they were trying to perpetuate fascism in Australia. Because the Labor Government took action against them in an effort to do what the Government is doing tonight, it was condemned for pure political purposes. But now members of the Liberal Party find that they have woven a tangled web because of the deception they used to get rid of a government. Now they are trying to straighten out the pattern because they know they have the responsibility of government. They have to try to get Australia back on an even keel. Because of all those things that they did when they were in opposition, when they broke conventions, when they tested the whole attitude and the way of life of Australia in order to get back into government, now that they find themselves in Government they realise that they have to steer the ship onto its proper course. As far as I am concerned this is the first move by the Government to bring honesty into government. That is why I appreciate so much the statement that has been made tonight, and I support it to the hilt.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-As Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment, I seek leave to make a statement on behalf of the Committee concerning its recent visit to the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory.
– Five members of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment visited the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory between 20 and 22 March 1978. The Region includes stages 1 and 2 of the proposed Kakadu National Park, as well as the projected sites for the Ranger, Jabiluka, Koongarra and Nabarlek uranium mines. The visit was undertaken in pursuance of the Committee ‘s reference relating to the continuing scrutiny of problems of pollution, including ways and means of preserving the environment from pollution. Motivation for the visit at this time sprang from a reply on 22 February 1978 by Senator Carrick, in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman), to a question by Senator Mulvihill about the Kakadu National Park. In his reply Senator Carrick spoke of the Government welcoming visits to the region. The immediate purpose of the visit was to familiarise the Committee with features of the Region, including its topography, ecology, natural drainage, Aboriginal sacred sites, points of scenic interest, and places in the neighbourhood of the projected mines and town sites which could be effected by their operation. The visit was arranged in the wet season- I stress that point- so that the Committee could more accurately observe drainage in the Region and put into perspective the siting of projected mining operations with respect to natural water flow.
The Committee made an aerial survey of the whole Region and can thus affirm that it is one of outstanding scenic granduer The rock formations of the escarpment, with its numerous fine waterfalls, are particularly splendid. The escarpment and its outliers are crisscrossed by deep fissures and gorges with associated caves and rock shelters. Many of these contain fine examples of wall paintings worthy of preservation. This wealth of primitive art is a legacy of the original inhabitants, the Kakadu tribe, which is now dispersed. It is fitting that their memory should be preserved in the name of the national park.
The Committee took advantage if its visit to hold informal discussions with local representatives of Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd. Pancontinental Mining Ltd and Noranda Australia Limited. Talks were held with representatives of the Department of the Northern Territory, the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and the Northern Land Council. Committee members also met officers of the Commonwealth National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The major topic of discussion was the scope and content of the management plan for the proposed Kakadu National Park and the way in which that would make provision to meet various potential environmental hazards. The Committee stresses that firm dedicated and unambiguous management of the park is essential for successful protection of the Region’s environment. The Committee is concerned to ensure that this is achieved from the outset and will, accordingly, be taking a close look at arrangements being made for management of the park and at the way in which these arrangements are reflected in the eventual management plan.
The Committee intends to revisit the region to assess the effectiveness of the plan after it has been in operation for a time. The Committee is also of the view that Commonwealth legislation required to establish stage 1 of the Kakadu National Park should be introduced as soon as possible. I recognise the co-operation which was given to the Committee by the Department of the Northern Territory. I acknowledge the assistance the Department provided to the Secretary of the Committee, Mr Peter Dawe, in arranging the itinerary for the Committee ‘s visit.
-by leave- Members of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment who went on the field expedition endorse the sentiments expressed by the Chairman. We are not unaware of a similar situation in the United States with the Florida Everglades where the United States army was involved in a reclamation plan which drastically affected the ecological balance in that region. As the Chairman has said, we went to this area in the wet season to see the full ramification of the Alligator River system. The reason we want to go back again is because there has to be vigilance. The Everglades episode proved that with a multiplicity of federal and state authorities, quite apart from mining companies, there has to be acute vigilance.
Senator Carrick will recall that during an Estimates committee hearing about two years ago it was stated that, broadly, the final arbiters in a dispute between mining companies and conservationalists were the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for the Northern Territory. That was because, with all due respect to the local needs of the Northern Territory, it was regarded as an area which needed national supervision. Of course, with the accession to statehood the Northern Territory is rightly flexing its muscles. Among other problems, we have a dual national park and wildlife system. As Senator Bonner will tell honourable senators, it is reasonable to say that the Aboriginals, in their justifiable land rights campaign, are probably seeking to play one national park service against another. That is reasonable enough.
I certainly do not accept mining companies as enthusiastically as others do but I admit that the younger scientists attached to those companies seem to be aware of the excesses of the past. The Finniss River episode must never be forgotten. When the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry second report came out we were told that it would cost $300,000 to rehabilitate that river. We are now told, before we get the river back to where it should be, that the cost might be $ 1 2m. I quote that figure to show the necessity for ultra vigilance and to adhere to the second Fox report. With due respect to the exuberance of all the mining companies, particularly Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd, I think they are inclined to chafe at the bit in relation to retention ponds and the ultra modern method of controlling the impure run-out of water. The appointment of the chief scientist is in a twilight zone. I am not knocking him. He is a man who will have a tremendous responsibility. We have heard of his track record. It sounds very good. But we have an inner fear about the chain of command. Some of the mining people say that with certain new techniques they will be able to flush the impurities into the Alligator River in under three years. Fox was resolutely opposed to that.
I believe that by going back to the area we will know just how the program is going. I think we will get a better estimate of the friction between the rival park services and know whether it has increased. It is equally important that we get very clear, as the Chairman has implied, whether the chief scientist is off-side with the mining company and where the matter goes from there. Without intruding party politics, we have had a dispute with IBM Australia Ltd. I know there were different approaches with different organisations. Mining companies are also in the big league. I think Senator Carrick will agree that once we get the legislation there is the power of appeal. We know about that because everyone should have read the final submission given by the Australian Conservation Foundation before the Fox Committee. It conceded that if it were inevitable that there would be some uranium extraction it would be looking at Ranger first and at no other mining company.
I believe that by going back at regular intervals we will be able to keep a close watch on the situation. My last memory of that safari is being in a helicopter, looking out to the right and seeing a magnificent wedge-tail eagle on the wing, about half a mile away. I do not believe any honourable senator would like to think that because of some scientific miscalculation by a mining company that river system could be impregnated with high level impurities. We would get a repetition of the Finniss River situation. But perhaps we can avoid that. I say respectfully that a Committee of this calibre going back at least three times a year and taking public testimony will make people who might want to cut corners think twice. I think that is the value of the report and it shows the full fire power of the Committee.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the Australian Maritime College.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to establish the Australian Maritime College at Launceston as a corporate body. The Bill stipulates in detail the functions and powers of the College and provides for a Council to govern the College and to administer its affairs. As a college of advanced education it will be subject to general oversight by the Tertiary Education Commission. The College will be concerned with the education and training of maritime and fishing industries personnel and is the only college in Australia established solely for this purpose. Since the College is being established to serve Australia-wide needs, the Government intends that it will develop standards of education and training which will be acceptable at international level. The Bill provides the necessary framework within which the College can achieve this aim under the guidance of its governing Council which will be appointed and announced as soon as possible after the passage of this legislation.
The Bill provides for a Council with a minimum membership of 14 and a maximum of 23, including provision for the Council itself to appoint up to seven members. This structure will enable the Council to operate with about the same number of members as the present Interim Council and will enable membership to be built up as the need for additional expertise and representation is recognised. Substantial progress has already been made towards the development of the College. The Maritime College Act 1 976 authorised the appointment of an Interim Council to enable the preliminary planning for the College to commence.
The functions of the Interim Council as prescribed by the 1 976 Act have been efficiently and conscientiously discharged and the legislation now presented will enable the development of the College to continue under permanent arrangements. I wish to place on record the Government’s appreciation of the invaluable contribution which the Interim Council has made.
Conditions for the transfer of land for the site of the College at Newnham from the State of Tasmania to the Commonwealth have been argeed upon. This will enable the detailed planning for stage 1 construction of the College to commence. Land and property have also been acquired at Beauty Point, some 45 kilometres north of Launceston near the mouth of the Tamar, for the development of a practical seamanship and fisheries training centre. The detailed planning for this centre, which will cost some $1.5m, is well advanced and construction work is expected to be completed by about the end of 1979.
Captain D. M. Waters has been appointed as Principal of the College under interim arrangements and will be appointed under the provisions of the Act as soon as it comes into effect. Senior academic positions at the College have been advertised widely both within Australia and overseas to attract applicants of a very high calibre. This will facilitate the early appointment to the College of senior academic staff who can then participate in the development of the College.
A series of short tanker safety courses were held in 1977 and further courses of this type are being held in 1978. Planning for the commencement of full-time courses at the College is proceeding on the basis that courses ranging from two year associate diploma and certificate of technology courses to three year degree and diploma courses will begin in 1980. When courses are fully operational, annual full-time enrolments are expected to reach 500 students, mainly comprising trainee deck, engineer and radio officers as well as persons engaged in the fishing industry. Another major area of the College ‘s activities which will involve substantially greater numbers of students will be the provision of short specialised courses for serving officers.
The Bill confirms Launceston as the location of the College and there will be unique opportunities for co-operation between the College and its neighbouring educational institution, the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education. In fact a sound basis of co-operation has already been established and I look forward to a situation where many educational facilities will be used by both institutions to prevent the unnecessary duplication of resources. There will also be liaison, as appropriate, with the Launceston Technical College. It must be remembered too, that the College will represent a new industry for Launceston and for Tasmania. Apart from employment opportunities the College’s building program Will create, there will be significant benefits to the retail, service and related industries as staff and students take up residence in Tasmania. It is expected that this will provide significant stimulation to the local economy in terms of employment opportunities and business confidence.
I am confident that the College will play a vital role in the development of Australia’s maritime industries. It will provide opportunities for more Australians to be employed in the Australian merchant service and help correct the imbalance noted in the Summers’ Report where it was stated that more than 50 per cent of deck officers and about 30 per cent of engineer officers received their basic training overseas. It will provide a centre in Australia for the co-ordination of professional maritime education and training which at present are fragmented and deficient in many respects. It will also play an important role in the development of Australia’s fishing industry which will need more highly skilled men to handle the sophisticated equipment required for distant water fishing as the proposed 200 mile off-shore limit becomes operative and as we take advantage of the vast resources of the Antarctic.
I regard this Bill as a most important step not only in the development of the Australian Maritime College but also in the further development of the Australian maritime and fishing industries. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Walsh) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a first time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Superannuation Act 1922, The Superannuation Act 1976 and the Superannuation Amendment Act 1976 to rectify some shortcomings that have emerged in the new superannuation scheme for Commonwealth Government employees since it commenced on 1 July 1976. When the superannuation legislation was introduced in 1976 it was explained that the legislation was extensive and complex and had been produced under considerable pressure because of time constraints. In these circumstances the Government gave an undertaking that if any shortcomings emerged in the operation of the new scheme any essential remedial action would be taken. This Bill honours that undertaking.
At the outset, I make clear that the changes embodied in the Bill do not vary the basic benefit structure of the scheme. Apart from one change, relating to the taxation position of the Superannuation Fund Investment Trust and the Superannuation Fund, to which I shall refer later, the amendments fall into three broad categories. The first group of amendments is to ensure that the intended benefits can be properly paid. The second group authorises the making of regulations prescribing the matters to be taken into account in determining particular benefits as well as extension of the authority to make regulations retrospectively to a date not earlier than 1 July 1976, when the new scheme commenced. The third group consists of drafting changes clarifying the intention and purpose of particular provisions in the legislation, and formal drafting simplifications. I do not propose to detail all the provisions in the Bill but I shall mention the more important ones.
The Bill deals first with amendments to the Superannuation Act 1922. The principal amendments concern the reversionary benefits payable under that Act. The Bill corrects an anomaly in regard to the benefit entitlements of children of those contributors who died in service before 1 July 1976. For example, children of deceased contributors aged 21 to 25 years undergoing full time education will now be entitled to benefits in the same circumstances as the children of pensioners who died prior to 1 July 1976. The 1976 amendments made spouses’ benefits available to a wider range of persons including, under certain conditions, a de facto spouse and the spouse of a marriage after retirement. The Bill ensures that the total benefits paid in respect of a spouse or spouses and children of a contributor or pensioner who died before 1 July 1976 shall not exceed the pension that would have been payable to the member.
The amendments to the Superannuation Act 1976 are more numerous. They include provisions to ensure that the legislation provides for payment of the intended levels of benefit. An example is an amendment that provides for the apportionment of a spouse’s benefit according to relative needs where a deceased contributor is survived by more than one eligible spouse. Other provisions have the purpose of clarifying some of the provisions of the 1976 Act. For example, one such provision will enable regulations to be made prescribing that certain costs of, and incidental to, the management of the Superannuation Fund by the Investment Trust may be charged to the Superannuation Fund. Another clarifies the procedure relating to the issue of benefit classification certificates in respect of employees who, on entry, are found to have a physical or mental condition that would affect their entitlement to particular levels of benefits.
It has been found that under the 1976 Act a person already in receipt of an early retirement or age pension who is re-employed and thereby qualifies for a second pension can obtain a higher aggregate rate of pension than if there had been no break in service. The Act is to be suitably amended to correct this situation.
The Act presently does not allow a member or the spouse of a deceased member to alter an election for a particular form of benefit once it has been made. The Commissioner for Superannuation has received requests from time to time to reverse an election made to take a lump sum in lieu of the contributor-financed pension. The Government has agreed that in some circumstances it should be possible to cancel such elections, for example where it is apparent that at the time of the election all relevant information was not available. The Bill provides that in deciding whether or not an election may be cancelled the
Commissioner shall have regard to any matters that are prescribed in regulations and to such other matters as he considers relevant.
Clause 27 of the Bill provides that the Investment Trust and the Superannuation Fund are not subject to taxation under a law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory to which the Commonwealth is not subject, except where prescribed by regulations. The Government will be examining whether the Superannuation Fund should continue to enjoy complete exemption from taxation, given that private sector superannuation schemes do not have this advantage and having regard to the practice of the individual States in respect of their own schemes.
The Bill also includes provisions of an administrative nature. Examples of these are the introduction of procedures for the recovery of overpaid or falsely obtained benefits, and provisions to take account of changes made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975. The Acting Australian Government Actuary has advised that overall the changes to the scheme proposed by the Bill will not have any significant cost implications. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Walsh) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4 April, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Bill before the Senate, officially called the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Amendment Bill is, of course, what has been rather misleadingly described as the Government’s petrol price equalisation scheme. At the outset I want to make two facts perfectly clear. This scheme will not equalise petrol prices, and it does not honour the election promises of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) given in November last. In his policy speech on 21 November the Prime Minister said:
Immediately after the election the Government will take action to equalise the price of petroleum products between city and country, without adding to city prices.
Later in the same speech he added:
The scheme will bring country prices down initially to less than lc per litre (4c per gallon) above city prices.
What this Bill actually does is stated fairly succinctly in the second reading speech of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator
Withers), in which he said that the proposed Australia-wide scheme is directed solely to subsidising freight costs in excess of 4c a gallon, adding: ‘It will therefore have no effect on the prices of petroleum products in metropolitan and other areas where freight differentials do not exceed the 4c subsidy margin ‘.
The Minister could have, and should have, added that it will not equalise the discrepancy between city and country prices at present caused by non-freight factors. Because this Bill, which has been misleadingly called the Petrol Price Equalisation Bill, does not equalise prices and does not honour the Prime Minister’s election promises, I move that at the end of the motion these words be added: but the Senate is of the opinion that the Bill:
is silent on the defects in the system outlined in the 4th Report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum.
The facts concerning the estimated amount of subsidy payable have been collated by the Government and put into a document which the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) was kind enough to supply to the Opposition several weeks ago. I want to dwell at some length on the facts which that document reveals. There are some 10,000 pricing localities, as the petroleum industry calls them, outside the Australian capital cities. These pricing localities vary from a single pastoral property where there would be only six or eight people, and perhaps only one actual buyer of petroleum products, to quite large country towns which may have 20,000 or 30,000 people. So a simplistic assessment of the impact of this scheme, based on just the number of centres to which a subsidy will be payable, or to which it will not be payable, can to that extent be misleading. In the Statistician’s jargon, the totals for these pricing localities are unweighted and, in general, the larger towns where there are vast numbers of consumers will receive lower levels of subsidy than will the isolated pastoral properties where there may in fact be only one buyer.
Generalising, those country towns of provincial cities which are close to the ocean, which are ports, which are reasonably close to ports, or which have a rail service and are within reasonable distance of a port, will receive little or no subsidy. No ports will receive a subsidy, so the coastal cities in Queensland such as Rockhampton, Mackay and Cairns will receive no subsidy. To about 2,000 of the 10,000 pricing zones no subsidy will be paid on any petroleum product. In the other approximately 8,000 zones some subsidy will be paid on some petroleum products.
The major petroleum products are, of course, petrol and distillate and because these are bulk commodities transported in bulk containers, their freight costs are lower. The picture which emerges when we examine the exhaustive list of these pricing localities is that in many instances subsidies may be payable on a minor petroleum product such as power kerosene, aviation fuel or aviation turbine fuel, but none is payable on the major petroleum products such as distillate and petrol. Therefore, from a review of the 10,000 pricing localities it emerges that in 42 per cent of them, bearing in mind that this includes the overwhelming majority of the large country towns, coastal and provincial cities, no subsidy will be paid on motor spirit. In 25 per cent of the localities a subsidy varying between 0. 1 and 0.9 cents a litre will be paid. A subsidy of lc a litre or more will be payable at 33 per cent of those localities. Far more than proportionally the localities in which a subsidy of above lc a litre will be payable are either single pastoral properties or very very small outback towns.
On a State basis we find that in particular the States of Victoria and Tasmania will receive negligible benefits from this scheme. I hope that Senator Walters, who is not in the chamber, is listening to what I have to say about Tasmania for her further edification because judging by the question she asked a few weeks ago she certainly needs some edification and enlightenment on this subject. Of the approximately 600 pricing zones in Tasmania no subsidy will be paid at about 400 and a token subsidy of 0.1c per litre will be paid at a further 137 pricing zones. A subsidy of lc a litre or more will be payable at only 1 5 of the 600 pricing localities in the entire State.
There are about 1,100 pricing localities in Victoria. I cannot be precise about that figure because the Government document does not list all the pricing localities. However, no subsidy will be paid at about 550 of those 1,100 pricing localities. A token subsidy of only 0. lc a litre will be paid at 308 pricing localities, either a subsidy of 0.1c a litre or nothing will be paid at 850 or thereabouts of the 1 , 100 pricing localities. A subsidy of lc a litre or more is payable at only 42 of the 1 , 1 00 pricing localities in the State.
I will not go through the statistics for the other States. However, I briefly want to mention the situation in South Australia because I understand that there is some confusion there about this matter. There are about 900 pricing localities in South Australia and no subsidy will be paid at about 450 of those pricing localities. A subsidy of between 0. lc and 0.9c a litre will be paid at 320 pricing localities. The subsidy will be lc a litre or more at 163 pricing localities.
To give some more obvious relevance to the rather dry or perhaps abstract statistics which I have been quoting I would like to refer to the subsidy paid at some specific towns. In Victoria, for example, no subsidy will be paid at the following significant centres or provincial cities: Ballarat, Bendigo, Colac, Horsham, Tallarook, Terang, Warrnambool and Yarra. That is by no means an exhaustive list; it is just a sample of towns in Victoria to which no subsidy will be applicable. A token subsidy of 0.1c a litre will be paid at Ardmona, Cobram, Dimboola, Echuca, Jeparit, Kyabram, Nhill, Shepparton and Wodonga. That is not an exhaustive list either; it is just a sample. The subsidy at Matlock, which is a great distance from Melbourne, will be lc a litre and at Omeo it will be 1 .3c a litre.
In New South Wales no subsidy will be paid at the following large provincial cities or otherwise significant centres: Bathurst, Bowral, Cessnock, Eden, Goulburn, Lismore, Lithgow, Singleton, Taree and Tharwa. A very low level of subsidy will be paid at the following towns: Adaminaby will receive 0.3c a litre; Albury 0. lc; Bredbo 0.2c; Broken Hill 0.4c; Gunnedah 0.1c; Hay, in the far south west, 0.4c; Cootamundra 0.5c; Moruya 0.3c; Orange 0.1c; Tamworth 0.2c and Yass 0.2c. Again that is not an exhaustive list; it is just a sample of some of the more significant country towns in New South Wales at which a very low level of subsidy will be paid.
– What about Broken Hill and Menindee?
-I thought I mentioned Broken Hill. Broken Hill, which is generally regarded as being one of the more remote towns in New South Wales, will receive a subsidy of 0.4c a litre. The subsidy will be higher in some areas. It will be 1.3c a litre in Bourke, 1.2c in Cobar, 1 .5c in Menindee and so on.
In Queensland- and Senator Maunsell should be particularly interested in this- no subsidy will be payable at Ambrose, Ayr, Bundaberg, Cairns, Childers, Eton, Gatton, Halifax, Ingham, Innisfail, Mackay, Maryborough, Nambour, Rockhampton, Sarina, Townsville, Weipa and
Yeppoon. Again that is not an exhaustive list; it is just a sample of some of the towns in Queensland that do not receive a subsidy but honourable senators will notice that the list includes nearly all the provincial towns of Queensland with the exception perhaps of Mt Isa. A token subsidy will be paid at other places, Goondiwindi will receive a subsidy of 0.5c a litre; Herberton 0.1c; Toowoomba 0.3c; Tully 0.2c and so on. Certainly the subsidy will be somewhat higher in some parts of Queensland, particularly the west of the State. I understand that Senator Maunsell is particularly interested in Longreach so I will not disappoint him. The subsidy at Longreach is 2.7c a litre. I acknowledge that that is a fairly significant adjustment to the price of petrol. In fact, it equals the price hike caused by the Government’s crude oil policy in the last Budget. Therefore, all that the subsidy will do for the petrol consumers of Longreach, who will be among the major beneficiaries of this legislation in Australia, is cancel the petrol price hike caused last year by the Government’s crude oil pricing policy. The subsidy will not, of course, offset the future price hikes forecast by the Government.
The Government’s crude oil pricing policy increased the price of petrol last year by 1 lc a gallon. The Government’s announced policy will increase the price of petrol by about 10c a gallon in each of the next four years. Therefore, people in places which receive the insignificant price reductions, and even people in places like Longreach, which will receive a fairly significant reduction in the price of petrol, should view this legislation against the perspective of the proposed price increases. The price reduction for a few fairly remote country towns like Longreach of 2.7c a litre should be seen against a price hike in last year’s Budget of 1 lc a gallon and further price hikes of 10c a gallon in each of the next four years as a result of this Government’s crude oil pricing policy.
I note that the document states that a subsidy of 11.5c a litre will be paid at Gove in the Northern Territory. Although this is not the highest subsidy it is very close to the highest. I assume- and there is certainly no statement to the contrary- that the major beneficiary of that very high level of subsidy, which is in excess of 50c a gallon, will be the Nabalco mining consortium which mines bauxite in that area. In South Australia no subsidy will be paid at, among other places, Ardrossan, Cleve, Chowilla, Cummins, Gluyas, Kapunda, Murray Bridge, Loxton, Port Lincoln, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Penola, Naracoorte, Mount Gambier and Whyalla. In virtually all the significant and large country towns in South Australia no subsidy will be payable. A token subsidy of 0. 1 c per litre will be paid at Cradock, while the subsidy will be 0.3c at Iron Knob, 0.4c at Streaky Bay, 0.8c at Ceduna, 0.8c at Leigh Creek and lc at Tarcoola. At a few places the subsidy will be in excess of lc per litre. South Australia is one of the States which is more significantly affected because 163 pricing localities within the State will receive a subsidy of lc per litre or more. Most of those localities are either single pastoral properties or very small towns where there are hardly any consumers.
In my State of Western Australia, no subsidy is payable at any of these significant towns: Esperance, Albany, Busselton, Bunbury, Mount Barker, Harvey, Mandurah-Pinjarra- no subsidy will be payable on any product there- Geraldton, Carnarvon, Port Hedland, Derby, Broome and even at Wyndham in the far north. A subsidy of 1 . 1 c per litre will be paid in the inland city of Kalgoorlie. This is significant in the context of this Bill but it goes only about 20 per cent of the way towards equalising prices which are normal in the capital cities and prices which are normal in the inland city of Kalgoorlie. In Tasmania, where I mentioned earlier the scheme is virtually irrelevant no subsidy will be payable at, among other places, Burnie, Launceston, Brighton, Smithton way out in the north-west, Glenorchy, Ross which is close to the centre, and Richmond. Even in the eastern coastal town of St Helens the subsidy will be only 0.3c per litre. At Zeehan in the western coastal area it will be only 0.5c per litre, and at Queenstown also it will be only 0.5c per litre. So nothing could be clearer than that this scheme barely scratches the surface in the implementation of the Prime Minister’s election promise to equalise petrol prices between city and country.
For more than two years various members of the Government have been talking about this issue. They have been under pressure from some people in country areas who thought naively that they would secure something quite significant from the scheme in the end. In the National Farmer of September 1977, the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, in reply to a question was reported to have said:
We are very keen to try and get some equity. We are concerned about discounts in the cities while in the outback it can be five or six times the price.
Then he said:
Those were the words of the Minister for Primary Industry in September last year. Within two months a scheme which the Minister for Primary Industry had said would not be practical or possible was promised by the Prime Minister. What had changed within the two months’ period to suddenly cause the Government to have such a drastic change of view?
– An election. You reckoned nothing happened.
– Somebody said there was an election and that is precisely what happened. In that two months’ period an election was announced, and on 19 November the then Treasurer and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party was forced to resign in disgrace. In the weekend of panic that followed his enforced resignation the Prime Minister and some of his closest associates concocted a wild grab-bag of ill-costed promises, and this was one component of it. The Prime Minister said at that time that the scheme would cost $3 1 m in a full year. The Government now admits that it will cost $36m, nearly 20 per cent inflation in about three months. I personally do not believe that this scheme can be funded for $36m, and I invite the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) when he replies to state the assumptions which underpinned the Prime Minister’s cost estimate of $3 1 m which, I guess, nobody else takes seriously or believes, and the assumptions which underpin the current, somewhat more honest estimate of $36m. In 1972-73 a very similar scheme cost almost $26m. If consumption has been increasing at about 6 per cent to 7 per cent a year since then, and I understand it has, for this scheme to have been funded by $36m transport costs would have had to remain almost static in the six-year period from 1972-73 to 1978-79. That may have happened and if it has it leads to some interesting possibilities and speculation. If transport costs have remained constant during the whole period one might question whether the discipline of the market was then relevant to transport costs. Once a scheme like this or the scheme which predated it is introduced and transport costs pass the threshold, it is a matter of complete irrelevance to the fuel companies what the final fuel cost is because the Government will pick up the entire Bill. So if transport costs have been held virtually static during the entire six year period it suggests that the discipline of the market was something which is worth retaining. I will be interested to hear the Minister’s comments on that.
I observe in passing that there is nothing to stop, say, the Premier of Queensland- I understand he would not be exactly adulatory towards the Prime Minister or the Federal Government this week; in fact he rarely is- imposing quite ludicrous freight charges on the transport of petroleum products to Mount Isa or other areas in western Queensland in the knowledge that the Federal Government will pick up the entire bill. If Mr Bjelke-Petersen cannot work that out for himself I dare say that some of his advisers will soon appraise him of the possibilities. The other point I wish to make in the little time which remains is that the petroleum pricing policy of this Government, or at least of its two senior members, has not yet become fully apparent.
For many months both the Prime Minister and his Deputy have been attempting to coerce the oil companies into what they call equalising petrol prices and entering into what in the current new speak of this Government is called a voluntary agreement to stop discounting in the cities. I want to make it clear that any such attempt absolutely repudiates the second point in the Prime Minister’s election promise that the Government would equalise prices without adding to city prices. If this campaign of coercion being mounted by the Prime Minister and his Deputy, aimed at forcing oil companies to stop discounting and to charge the same price at every pricing outlet, is successful, it will inevitably mean a substantial increase in city prices. So what the Prime Minister and his Deputy are covertly trying to force the oil companies to do absolutely repudiates the second leg of the undertaking the Prime Minister gave in his election policy speech.
It does have some other implications which ought to be interesting to those people who profess to have some philosophical commitment to what is called ‘free enterprise’, or the ‘market economy’, or ‘capitalism’ or whatever. As the Australian Financial Review observed on 10 March, the attempt by Messrs Fraser and Anthony to coerce, to covertly force the oil companies into doing this, is the absolute antithesis of what the Government is supposed to stand for. The article goes on:
Suppose for a moment, that the oil companies acceded to this pressure and got together and set a uniform price throughout Australia. Such an arrangement would require the suspension of the Trade Practices Act for one industry.
It would create a system of obligations between the industry and the Government which could never be untangled. It would make the motor industry plans look like kindergarten stuff.
Entry into the industry would be virtually barred because the Government would be obliged to protect the investment of those companies which had accommodated it in coming up with a price fixing system.
So the article goes on. If the Government is really committed to the equalisation of fuel prices through Australia the best way and the only honest way to achieve this, in terms of resource allocation and administrative efficiency, is to pick up the entire freight bill. This covert attempt to force the oil companies into secretly, furtively equalising prices at the expense of city consumers so that the cost remains hidden is totally compatible with the Prime Minister’s general belief that if it does not go through the Government accounts it does not cost anything. The Prime Minister, even if he does not believe that there is such a thing as a free lunch, obviously believes everything else is free, as long as it does not go through the government accounts.
The only honest way in which to do what the Government says it intends to do is to fund the whole cost of the freight charges by subsidy from the revenue. For that reason we have moved this amendment to this Bill. We also moved it because the legislation is insignificant in two States and almost totally irrelevant in the State of Tasmania. I would be more than interested to hear the six Tasmanian senators who sit opposite in this chamber and to see what action they take on this Bill. It will be interesting to see whether they, like most of their colleagues in the House of Representatives, will be content with windy rhetoric on the subject or whether they will do something a little bit courageous and actually cross the floor and vote for this amendment.
– I welcome the introduction of the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Amendment Bill. I must say that while listening to the previous speaker, Senator Walsh, I got a very dismal feeling of life. In fact his speech reminded me of the old poem Around the Boree Log which some honourable senators may have read. In that poem there was a farmer called Hanrahan and no matter what happened, no matter whether it was raining or sunny, Hanrahan said: ‘We’ll all be ruined before the day is out’.
– The year.
– I beg your pardon, Senator. The poem goes: ‘We’ll all be ruined’, said Hanrahan, ‘before the year is out’. Thank goodness I have not the pessimism or the dismal thoughts of the previous speaker. This legislation, which is designed for the people of outback Australia, is something for which they have been looking for a long time. I congratulate the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) said when introducing this legislation:
Honourable senators will recall that the Prime Minister in the course of the last election campaign stated that prompt steps would be taken after the last election to implement a scheme which would subsidise freight differentials involved in transporting eligible petroleum products from refining ports and seaboard terminals to country sale points. These freight costs constitute a substantial element of the relatively high prices paid by rural consumers particularly in the more remote areas for various petroleum products.
So in the first leg of the scheme we are going to see that people, no matter where they live in Australiaparticularly people in outback Australiawill pay no more than 4c a gallon towards the freight cost of petroleum products. To my mind this is the beginning of a continuing scheme. Sometime in the future we will see a reduction in this 4c a gallon which will make the situation even better for people in the outback. I am particularly concerned about the people in the outback.
I think Senator Walsh gave scant attention to the principles behind this Bill. The principles relate not to the people on the seaboard but to those in the outback where the quality of life or the quality of living has been much more difficult in the last few years. This legislation follows the recognition by this Government of the difficulties and the high costs being experienced in those areas.
These people have not always been in the situation of having to pay considerably more for their fuel than is paid in the cities. I think back prior to 1973 when a Liberal-National Country Party government had a similar scheme. I can assure honourable senators that the scheme in those days was extremely beneficial to the people. But in 1972-73, when the Whitlam Government came to power, there was a review of the scheme. Dr Coombs was appointed by the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, to report to him on where his Government could make savings. This report is available. One of the recommendations in the report was that the fuel subsidy scheme that benefited people in the outback so much should be removed. It was removed by ministerial action and overnight the people of the outback began to pay more and more as prices started to escalate. Freight costs were compounded. Then, instead of people paying some threepence or fourpence a gallon more than the city dweller, freight costs increased and that differential went up and up.
Senator Walsh read out the names of many different towns. But they are on the seaboard. He gave scant attention to towns in the outback. I can assure him and any other person that these days in the outback one will often pay $1.20 or more a gallon in a lot of places.
That brings me to what I refer to as the quality of life. Despite the modern methods and the various gadgets that people have in the cities and despite the fact that their transport systems are heavily subsidised- I think they cost the taxpayer $240m or $250m a year- there has been no benefit to the people in the outback. Moving through the outback, as I do continually, I see the continuing hardship. As I have already said the quality of life of the family in the outback has deteriorated. It has deteriorated for various reasons. I can assure the Senate that one of those reasons has been the increase in fuel prices.
Consider the position of a family living on an Aboriginal settlement or a pastoral station out in the bush. At Ayers Rock petrol costs well over $ 1 a gallon. At settlements on the northern coast of Australia transportation costs from Darwin make fuel extremely expensive. This is why fuel in Gove and other places is so costly. What has this additional cost of fuel done to the outback? I believe it has stopped development to quite a degree. We are talking about petroleum products generally; not just motor spirit but also aviation gasoline and various other fuels. Because of the cost of these products the cost of living and the cost of operating in the outback have become extremely high. I believe that this situation is having a marked effect on the population of the outback.
Madam Deputy President, we are becoming more and more aware of the defence and surveillance needs of the north. Surely one positive way of overcoming some of the difficulties in the surveillance and defence of our scantily populated northern coastline and the outback is to encourage people back into the outback. This measure will not produce a miracle but it is an answer that will go quite a long way to encourage people back into the outback. This will help the development of population. I say that this measure will help surveillance of the north immeasurably. 1 believe that this Bill to amend the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act 1 965 which permits the Minister to formulate a scheme in relation to a State and also to revoke a scheme and where a scheme has been so revoked, to formulate a new scheme in place of the scheme so revoked, provides a safeguard. Proposed section 4 (2) states:
Except as authorised by a resolution of each House of the Parliament, the Minister shall not revoke or otherwise terminate the operation of, a scheme formulated under paragraph (I ) (a) or (dj, whether or not the scheme has been amended.
That is a very wise provision. It has been inserted specifically to protect such a scheme in the future.
We have seen before a scheme revoked through ministerial action. Under this Bill, no Minister and no government can revoke a scheme to the detriment of the people of the outback. The only way it can be revoked is by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. I believe that this is an essential safeguard. I am not prepared to see a repetition of what has happened before, which brought so much hardship to the people of the outback.
Complementary legislation will have to be passed by the Parliaments of the various States and of the Northern Territory to bring the scheme into being. It is most interesting to note that on 2 March 1977 the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly passed the necessary legislation. I believe this action is indicative of the feelings of the people of the outback- of their keenness and desire to participate in this scheme. Already, the legislation has been passed in the Northern Territory. Now, with the passing of this Bill in the Senate and the House of Representatives the legislation will come into being. If one looks at the registration of the people who will be appointed by the Minister to administer the powers authorised in the Bill, one sees that any person who is refused registration by the Minister as an administrator will have the right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
I welcome this legislation. It is one of the few pieces of legislation that I have seen in this House which will have so much benefit for the people of the outback. Far too often when governments and people think of Australia they think of the heavily populated areas along the coast which Senator Walsh just a few minutes ago described. But this measure does not apply to them; it applies to the people of the outback. I congratulate the Government for moving so speedily upon its electoral promise to introduce this scheme. Madam Deputy President the honourable senator opposite may not receive the Bill with good grace but I can assure you that the people to whom this scheme will apply will receive it most gratefully.
– I wish to speak generally on the Bill before the Senate, the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Amendment Bill 1978. As we have been told, the Bill is designed to alter existing legislation in order to subsidise the cost of transporting some petroleum products to country areas in Australia. It is said that the aim of the Bill is to reduce the price of motor spirit, power kerosene, distillate, aviation gasoline and some turbine fuels to some country areas in Australia. Senator Kilgariff said much about the scheme. If he believes that Senator Walsh, who preceded him, is the supreme pessimist like Hanrahan in ‘Around the Boree Log’, then I suggest that he must be the supreme optimist. He has told us that this Bill will firstly reduce the price of petrol in country areas to within 4c a gallon of prices in other areas. He should know- I am sure he does know- that this Bill will go nowhere near to reducing the price of petrol to that extent. He also said that the Bill will lead to the repopulation of the northern parts of this country and that it will have the effect of assisting our national security by increasing the population and therefore increasing our ability to survey our northern shores and, presumably, help our military security. If he believes all that he will be disappointed and his constituents will be disappointed when they see the effects of this legislation.
Senator Walsh has moved an amendment, not opposing the passage of the Bill but expressing an opinion as to its inadequacy and shortcomings when considered in the light of the coalition parties’ election promise and also in the light of reports received on the petroleum industry in this country, such as the report of the Royal Commission into Petroleum conducted by Mr Justice Collins. The Bill should reduce the price of some petroleum products for some consumers in some of the outlying areas of Australia. It is worth while pointing out that a large proportion of the expenditure will go to large areas of population such as Canberra and Broken Hill. In most areas of Australia outside the large conurbations and certainly in the majority of the region of Tasmania where I come from where petrol prices are high compared with the rest of the large populated areas of Australia, this legislation will not have any effect as Senator Walsh clearly demonstrated from the figures supplied by the Government. It certainly will not go within a bull’s roar of achieving the stated aim of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his policy speech at the end of last year of reducing country prices initially to within one cent per litre and later to within 0.5c per litre of city prices.
We are told that the reduction of the differential to 0.5c per litre of city prices will be achieved in the life of this Parliament. This legislation certainly goes nowhere near it. In fact, it may make the achievement of any such aim very difficult. Apart from that, as has been pointed out in the Senate, in the Press and in the other place, there is no such thing as a city price for petrol. We have nothing with which to compare the figure of one cent and 0.5c per litre. It has been obvious for a long time that there is a very real problem with regard to petroleum pricing and marketing in Australia. The fourth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum gives ample testimony to this fact. The chaotic, unfair and incoherent state of the marketing and pricing mechanisms is documented in the report and in many other sources. This Bill does nothing to change that situation. As I have said before- I shall talk about it later- it may, in fact, aggravate the present difficult situation.
It surprises me and it is always unusual to see a Bill such as this introduced by a Government whose members and supporters continually harp on the importance of free markets and allowing market forces to hold sway so that we will all get justice. Yet it interferes directly and indirectly with market forces with legislation such as this Bill. Furthermore, the chief protagonists of this Bill, the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, have attempted in a not-too-subtle manner to pressure the oil companies into voluntarily selling their products at a uniform price throughout Australia. I suggest that this is a complete contradiction to the advocacy of a free market and allowing free market forces to prevail.
When people who have a firm belief, as honourable senators opposite have, introduce legislation to go against that belief that legislation frequently does not go far enough or does not work. That is what has happened in this case. Since Federation attempts have been made to overcome the disadvantages of living in areas away from the Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane axis. Conservative governments, under pressure from the Country Party, have introduced what we call product subsidies, such as the superphosphate bounty, the dairy bounty and this petroleum transport subsidy which is indirectly the same thing as the others. All subsidy arrangements have several features in common. Firstly, they benefit mostly those who are the biggest consumers- in the case of the dairy bounty the biggest producers- of the products for which they are paid. In every case those people need the subsidy least so they are inequitable in their distribution. Secondly, they have little or no effect on the overall cost disadvantages of those who live in outlying areas. One can demonstrate that quite clearly. They are also potentially subject to abuse and administrative difficulties. It is not only Opposition senators who realise the difficulties that may arise from this legislation.
In the years when we had subsidies based on products consumed or produced, such as the superphosphate bounty, the dairy bounty and now the petrol subsidy, they were continuously paraded, as the petrol subsidy was paraded tonight by Senator Kilgariff, as measures which would discourage the drift from outlying areas to the cities, would encourage decentralisation, would assist rural producers and do other marvellous things for people in the outlying areas. In the time in which those subsidies have been in existence we have become the most urbanised country in the world. Our number of primary producers is less than half what it was. Decentralisation where it has occurred- it has had a patchy history of success- has done so because of measures introduced usually by State governments to encourage industries into the country. In the case of the products involved in this Bill, the Government’s policy of increasing crude oil prices in the next five years will result in an increase from that source alone of some 50c per gallon; the cost will increase by 1 lc this year and by 10c a year for the next four years. Added to the market chaos that price increase will completely overbalance the effects on the economics of living outside the urban areas that this measure will have.
– How would you have brought the nation to world oil price parity?
– The honourable senator should not be impatient. He will have his chance later. I believe that we should try to reduce the economic disadvantages of living outside the great conurbations in which Senator Baume lives. We should try to define what the disadvantages are. That is a fairly reasonable way to start. If necessary, we should try to quantify the disadvantages if possible. If they could be largely defined and quantified in financial terms we could use an equitable and appropriate measure to correct them which would benefit everybody equally in those areas, such as a zone allowance or a taxation rebate for those living in certain areas. I realise that there are constitutional difficulties. We have them now. I realise that there are difficulties of definition but they should not stop us from trying. At least this would have an equitable effect on individuals. Subsidies would not go mostly to those who need them least.
– What is the difference between a taxation rebate and a subsidy?
– I am pointing out that a taxation rebate would go to individuals on an equal basis whereas a subsidy such as this will go mostly to those people who use most and will have least effect on those who use the least. I accept Senator Wright’s point. I believe that we may well have to assist in the subsidisation of some commodities for specific reasons of national importance such as to assist in production- that was the purpose of the superphosphate bounty when it was first introduced but it has certainly changed- or the production of some necessary resource or primary product. If that sort of measure was introduced, the necessity for these kinds of subsidies would be lessened.
I make no bones about the fact that we must look to measures other than the ones we have used in the past. As I have said before, although I believe Senator Wright was not here, they have not worked. There is no evidence that they have worked. For instance, we pay uniform social security benefits throughout this country, but I am very much aware of the fact that the unemployment benefit or the pension paid to someone in Darwin, for instance, is worth very much less to that person than is the same benefit or pension paid to someone in Sydney or Melbourne or somewhere else where the cost of living is considerably less than it is in Darwin. The answer to those people and the answer to other people in the country surely does not lie in subsidies such as this. While we concentrate on subsidy such as this, I suggest that we tend to neglect the alternative means and we do not think about alternative means of overcoming these very real difficulties.
I have made it obvious that I have little faith in measures such as this. However, I wish to look also at some of the other factors which are involved in petrol pricing and retailing and which make life difficult for the consumers of this country. The fourth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum- the report by Justice Collins- made no bones about its conclusions in regard to what it thought of the present situation. Justice Collins says in paragraph 31.1 on page 32 1 of the report:
In large pan due to the way petroleum product prices have been controlled in Australia, current pricing practices are confusing, anomalous and sometimes non-economic. In particular, the pricing structure has acquired, for reasons now historic rather than actual, mechanisms whereby one product, geographic area, or class of consumers subsidises others.
We in Tasmania know all about that. The report continues:
The reasons why these cross subsidies exist, the policies which called them forth, the effects which they were intended to achieve are forgotten, unknown and sometimes unknowable.
Then Justice Collins finally sums up the situation by saying:
The structure of pricing is just a mess.
That is a clear and beautiful description. Supporters of companies and the activities of those companies continually use statements such as: This is the result of market forces’ and ‘This is the result of the free market operating’ in order to justify the state of this industry. But Mr Justice Collins goes into great detail further on in his report about the manner in which the market has been manipulated, torn about, jumped upon and everything else. In writing his report he usually uses the words of the industry representatives to make his point. He talks of the price of motor spirits being too high to subsidise the less profitable parts of the industry. He talks about the way in which company-owned retail outlets are discriminated against, how they are excessive in number, how the rest of the country was then subsidising the Melbourne metropolitan area and how unbranded petrol is discounted to the disadvantage of the branded retailers. We in this country now have the extraordinary situation in which petrol is in fact retailed in every mainland capital city- that is, excluding Hobart- at a price less than that of the Prices Justification Tribunal’s accepted wholesale price. Yet we have the oil companies asking for further increases in prices. That situation is confusing not only to Justice Collins but also to everyone else in the community.
The commissioner calls for administrative and pricing policies to bring justice to the industry. But above all he calls for policies which enable the authorities to gain information on which to base decisions. The purpose of that is to overcome the secrecy maintained in the industry. Given that that situation exists, legislation is now being introduced to affect an industry about which we know little, which is notorious for its secrecy, and whose marketing and retailing system, in the words of Mr Justice Collins, is ‘just a mess’.
I believe that the legislation in fact may not improve the situation at all. That is a fact which has been mentioned not only by Opposition members but also in fact by Government supporters in another place. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), for instance, pointed out that under the previous system, which is not much different from this system, companies used less efficient but subsidised inland transport routes in favour of sea routes which were not subsidised. That sort of situation will be relevant when this legislation comes into effect. It makes no difference, and there is no reason why that will not happen in the future. The honourable member for Mallee pointed out also that the previous scheme gave no incentive to companies to increase the efficiency of transportation of petroleum products in this country: and neither does this scheme. Other members of the other place pointed out that no account is taken in the setting up of schemes such as this of the fact that capital and recurrent costs of retailing in some outlying areas and in some rural areas may in fact be much less than those in the city areas.
This subsidy will be paid to oil companies. No guarantee is provided in this legislation that the retailer will always pass the price reduction on to the consumer. In fact, it will be very difficult for the consumer to have any opportunity of checking whether such benefits are passed on, because we are dealing with an industry in which price increases are pretty frequent, in which they are very small per delivered unit, and in relation to which publicity will not be widely circulated about the benefits paid under a scheme such as this.
From what I can find, no indication is given of how transport costs are to be calculated. Apparently they will be calculated on costs which are supplied by the oil companies to the Government and to the Prices Justification Tribunal. They will be supplied by those same oil companies which, according to Mr Justice Collins in his Royal Commission report, are notorious for their practice of cross subsidy.
What remains to be considered is the effect of such legislation as this on the use of petroleum products which are subsidised at the expense of some products, petroleum and otherwise, which in fact will not be subsidised. That is occurring at a time when we know we will be facing a shortage of petroleum products and when we know we will be in difficulty in the future. We know that the Government intends- certainly the Party I represent intends when able- to introduce energy conservation policies. We know also that calls have already been made, even before the legislation is passed, by members of the Government and others for subsidies similar to this to be made on fuel oil and other products so that no disadvantage will result. That sort of action never ends.
This legislation concerns me, firstly, obviously because, as I said before, I have little faith, for historical reasons and for practical reasons, in its effect on the welfare of those people in rural areas. It will certainly not affect the vast majority of areas in Tasmania which are equally disadvantaged. They are disadvantaged largely by the rather strange and chaotic petrol pricing arrangements in this country. As I have said, the legislation cannot go close to achieving the Government’s promise to equalise city and country prices for the simple reason that there is no city price. There has not been a city price for a long time. We have in existence a chaotic marketing system involving discounting, counterdiscounting and cross-subsidisation in the cities and in some of the large country towns. That situation is nowhere near solution, and we have no indication that it is anywhere near solution.
The legislation concerns me because it is open to abuse. It may encourage the inefficient subsidised means of transport and discourage efficient unsubsidised means of transport. In fact it may encourage practices which create disadvantages in other areas. The oil industry has no rational basis of operation or pricing in this country. Its practices are irrational and secretive, as Justice Collins said. I suggest that this subsidy granted on top of that situation will not help and in fact may aggravate the problems that we have. I would much prefer that we all look at a more sensible means of equalising city and country costs and make an attempt to quantify the difference in those costs. If we carry this proposal to its extreme it will mean the equalisation of the price of all essential items such as food, clothing and building materials for housing throughout Australia. I am sure that no one here is seriously suggesting that that is possible or sensible.
For the benefit of the few who will receive assistance and because the Government made a promise to do something about this matteralthough people will receive nowhere near the assistance suggested by Senator Kilgariff- we do not oppose the second reading of the Bill. I believe that all honourable senators from both sides of the Senate should look seriously at alternative methods for solving problems like this. We should point out to the Government the inadequacies in the legislation, in its operation and for the consumers. We should also point out to the Government that whatever we may think about the legislation, it represents a failure by the Government to uphold one of the main policy promises made before the last election. Senator Walsh has listed the sorts of tiny subsidies which are available. I have talked about the inequitable distribution of subsidies like this. I repeat that they have not worked in the past. They have not achieved the effect at which they aimed in the past. I have not heard any argument to suggest that this subsidy will achieve that effect in the future. Therefore I support the amendment moved by Senator Walsh.
-I support the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Bill which, despite what has been said by Senator Walsh and Senator Grimes of the Opposition, restores a measure of justice to people who live outside the capital cities of Australia. It is important to realise that this Bill fulfils an election promise.
– Oh, no.
– Obviously there is some misunderstanding of that precise promise. Certainly Senator Walsh was under a misapprehension. Obviously he has some friends on the other side who are under a similar misapprehension.
– Read the Prime Minister’s policy speech.
Seantor TEHAN-I shall read the policy speech given by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It was quoted by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) in the other place when he was closing the debate. Dealing with the proposal the Prime Minister stated:
This will be done -
That is the equalisation of price between city and country- by subsidising freight costs outside the metropolitan area on motor spirit, aviation fuel, automotive distillate and power kerosene. In effect, it will reintroduce the country freight differential scheme abandoned by the Labor Government.
That is what the Prime Minister said.
– Where did he say that?
– The Prime Minister said that in the policy speech. I hope the honourable senator does not want me to read it again. He will find those words if he looks at the Hansard report of the other place. I return to the remarks of Senator Walsh. He went through a long list of places throughout Australia- I think he covered almost every State, including Tasmania- which would not get the benefit. He then went on to say that the Prime Minister had estimated that this initiative by the Government would cost $3 6m. I am not certain of the period but his figure, not mine, was $36m. Obviously if there is to be a benefit of $36m to people in the isolated areas of Australia at least some of the electors who live outside the capital cities will get a benefit.
– No one is arguing that.
– Why say there is no benefit in the legislation?
– Who said that?
– He did not say that.
- Senator McLaren was not here to hear Senator Walsh. I listened to him carefully. The abolition of the freight differential scheme by the Labor Government was a heavy penalty to people and industry in the country throughout the length and breadth of Australia. That doubtless led to the disastrous defeat which the Labor Party has suffered in country areas since that subsidy was removed. I think that is a valid comment. The electors exercised their judgment. There is no doubt that when the Labor Government, by administrative act, removed that existing subsidy, if we can call it that- I do not think it matters much what we call it- it took from the people who live away from the seaboard and for whom fuel is a necessity some compensation for the very high difference in price. We have to remember that there is a great disparity in price between city regions and country areas.
It has been estimated that in some remote areas the difference is as high as 35c to 40c a gallon. I think a member in the other place said there were areas where there was a price differentiation of 50c in the gallon. There are numerous areas in Australia where the price in the country is far and away above that in the city. It must also be remembered that 19.5 per cent- a significant percentage- of all refined petroleum produced is used in the rural sector. The transport sector uses 21.3 per cent. When we consider the transport sector we must remember that a great amount of fuel is used in carrying goods from the seaboard to the inland areas of Australia, particularly areas which are not served by rail. We must remember that in the housing industry, the building industry, the construction industry or any secondary industry the cost of transporting raw material such as timber or goods, or whatever they may be, to inland centres is a decisive factor in the cost of production in that centre. It is idle to say and not looking at the reality of the situation to suggest that this legislation will not materially benefit people in country areas.
– It will not equalise the price of petrol; you will agree with that.
– I will come to that if Senator Georges will be patient. The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the Government’s policy decision to reduce the price paid for certain petroleum products by consumers in country areas throughout Australia. I have already listed the products so I shall not repeat them. They are four in number. The method of effecting the price reduction or the modus operandi of the scheme will be to subsidise country freight differentials so that country consumers of the products covered by the Bill will pay a price which will include no more than 4c per gallon or 0.9c per litre of the transport costs.
Tasmania has been mentioned in this debate. One would not be doing justice to people who represent that State in the Parliament if one did not concede that there are freight problems, apart altogether from the matter covered by this Bill, which are apparent in relation to Tasmania. All freight which is carried to and from that State does a great deal to detract from the economy of that State. I think we concede that. Senator Grimes missed a point when he said that no one in Tasmania will benefit from the Bill. The situation is that there is no greater differential than 4c a gallon between Hobart or Launceston and other places in Tasmania. Having regard to the size of the State that is a fairly reasonable conclusion. That is not to say that I do not agree that there are problems associated with petrol as there are with any commodity which arrives in Tasmania by ship. But I suggest that is a subject matter for some other legislation or for some other inquiry. It is important to remember what this Bill is designed to do; it is designed to reimburse people who live in remote areas and whose freight cost to get petrol from the capital cities or seaboard- from wherever it comes from the lists of ports which Senator Walsh was good enough to mention- is more than 4c a gallon. The difference will be paid by way of subsidy. That is what the legislation is designed to do. I suggest that that in fact is what it will do.
– No one is arguing that point.
– Perhaps Senator Georges will be patient enough to listen. For example, if the cost of transport to a particular country area is 10c gallon the subsidy will amount to 6c a gallon. The scheme will mean that a purchaser in that area will pay only 4c a gallon more than the city price.
– What city price?
- Senator Georges will cease interjecting.
– If Senator Georges is patient I shall explain. The legislation does something about how the base price is fixed. As has already been said by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in the other place and probably the Minister who represents him here, the freight differentials to be subsidised will be based on costs submitted by individual oil companies to the Prices Justification Tribunal and accepted by that Tribunal. Obviously the Government will ensure that a formula is worked out by the companies in conjunction with the
Prices Justification Tribunal. I think it is wrong and unjust of the Opposition to condemn this legislation out of hand before it has had an opportunity to work. After all, the Labor Party abolished the scheme during its regime in the 1972-1975 era. We have been without it since then. We are bringing it back. I ask the Opposition to give the legislative machinery an opportunity to work.
There is an important provision in the scheme which will prevent a similar occurrence to what happened under the Labor regime. Then the Minister of the day was able to dismantle the whole scheme by an administrative act or by the ministerial direction. This provision in the Bill is interesting. I think my colleague, Senator Kilgariff, already has referred to it. In clause 3 of the Bill proposed new section 4(2) states:
Except as authorised by a resolution of each House of the Parliament, the Minister shall not revoke, or otherwise terminate the operation of a scheme formulated under paragraph (1) (a) or (d), whether or not the scheme has been amended.
That is an important safeguard in the legislation. The consent of both Houses of Parliament will be required before we have a repetition of the unjust situation of 1 973. 1 have indicated already that this Bill will restore to producers in the country areas of Australia a measure of justice which was denied them during the three years of Labor Government. This is particularly timely in view of the depressed condition of many primary industries and the fact that large parts of the nation are in the grip of rural recession. It is all very well for armchair strategists like Senator Grimes to say in this place that this measure is not the way to cure the ills in the rural areas of Australia. I suggest that the people who know best are the people concerned. They are welcoming this legislation, without exception, as a first step in a scheme which ultimately will produce complete equalisation in petrol prices between city and country.
– It will not.
– I am not suggesting that this legislation will do it. It is a first step, as I said. The honourable senator should listen.
– What is the next step?
– Let us get the first step through the Parliament and we will move along step by step. There is great dependence on petroleum fuels by rural communities because in many areas of the nation, particularly remote areas, rail services are not a practical means of transport. These areas rely exclusively on petroleum fuels for their very existence. This is not a perfect piece of legislation. I suppose it is trite to say that very rarely can we get a perfect piece of legislation. But it is a first step and it does restore the pre- 1973 situation. To that extent I think that members of the Opposition, if they are fair, will admit that our record must be better than theirs because we have restored what they took away. I think there is a need for a complete further inquiry into the economics of the fuel situation.
– You have had one and your Government will not implement its findings.
– Just a moment, Senator Walsh. We should inquire particularly into the distribution system and the proliferation of retail outlets in the 1950s and 1960s. The number of outlets throughout Australia has doubled. That did nothing to reduce the cost of delivery. It is all very well for ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd and other operators to pick the eyes out of the retail fuel market in the cities and to set up service stations where there is a big throughput of petrol, where there is no trouble at all in selling it. But I suggest that when we are dealing with a commodity like fuel, which is essential to the lifeblood of the nation and is so important to our export trade, to allow this sort of thing to happen is not the answer. There has to be rationalisation which takes into account the disadvantage of people who live in remote areas. Our Government is determined to see that people who live so far away from the seaboard are not disadvantaged when compared with their city brethren who live at the seaboard in respect of this vital question of fuel which is so important to the economy of the rural sector of the community.
Considering the high cost of crude oil and the increasing world shortage of crude, there is an increasingly urgent need to look at rationalisation in various areas. I do not agree with Senator Grimes in relation to price cutting. I think price cutting wars are games that occur only in the very prime areas where there is a quick turnover and a large daily gross sale of the product. That is not in the best interests of the trade in the long term. It is interesting to note that in the United States of America and Canada, two of our major competitors for the export of agricultural products, the on-farm price of automotive distillate and gasoline is below the Australian on-farm price, although the price for crude oil in these two countries is above the price of crude oil in Australia.
When we realise that upwards of 60 per cent of Australian agricultural produce is exported it will be appreciated that the present situation imposes a substantial penalty on export earnings.
However, the present Bill is welcome to the rural sector as it illustrates the recognition by this Government of the problems created by distance, the depressed economic condition of the rural sector and the need to allow our export industries to compete in what at the moment is a very competitive world market. We recognise and underline the other problems in the petroleum industry which have been touched on here tonight by the Opposition. Opposition members even went to the extent of ignoring the merits of the Bill. We accept that at the moment the petroleum industry is in an imperfect situation. As I said, some sort of inquiry is needed. I say that because of the increasing prices of crude oil which were mentioned by Senator Grimes, and the price of petrol to the consumer will rise as he said, I think, by 1 lc and then progressively 10c a year. The world shortage of this commodity surely does indicate that we have to be looking not only at alternate fuels but also making sure that the country is using this particular fuel to best advantage.
I welcome the legislation as a redemption of the Government’s election promise and a worthwhile initiative to return a measure of justice to the rural community of which it was deprived by the Labor Government during its term of office from 1972 to 1974. It is a first step to implement the election policy of the Prime Minister and I look forward to the day, with some optimism, when there will be complete justice for people in isolated areas of Australia, so that they will pay no more for their petrol than do their counterparts in the capital cities of the nation.
-The Senate is debating the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Amendment Bill, to which the Opposition has moved the following amendment: but the Senate is of the opinion that the Bill:
1 ) fails to-
is silent on the defects in the system outlined in the 4th Report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum.
Senator Walsh, who led for the Opposition in this debate, has made most of the pertinent points and has exploded a lot of the so-called facts that have been put forward today in the other place by Government supporters and again tonight in this place. We have heard Senator Tehan make the remark that this Bill restores a measure of justice; also, that it fulfils an election promise. Let us look at the election promise that was made by the Prime Minister. It was in two pans of the policy speech document of 21 November 1977. At page 8 the following appears:
Petrol prices in all country areas will be reduced to within a cent per litre of the normal city retail price- without any increase in city prices as a result.
Over the next three years, we will reduce the price margin to less than half a cent per litre.
We also had Mr Fife, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, who was in charge of the Bill in the other place, and Senator Tehan quoted him, in winding up the second reading debate claiming on numerous occasions- in fact, that is about all he said at that point- that the Government had honoured an election promise. Senator Tehan said he was of the opinion that Senators Walsh and Grimes were under a misapprehension, and then went on to talk about what the Minister said in another place in closing the debate. What did the Minister say? He kept repeating what Senator Tehan has said here tonight, that the Government has honoured its election promise.
– He quoted what the Prime Minister had said.
– I want also to quote what the Prime Minister said, and I will quote as well the exact words which Mr Keating, who led for the Opposition in the other place, used in quoting from page 21 of the Prime Minister’s policy speech under the heading ‘Petrol Price’. He said:
Immediately after the election the Government will take action to equalise the price of petroleum products between city and country, without adding to city prices.
Senator Tehan has studied the legislation. He has seen the document put out by Mr Fife detailing the areas that would receive a subsidy and those that would not. I ask him: Can he truthfully say that that election pledge has been carried out? I will read it again:
Immediately after the election the Government will take action to equalise the price of petroleum products between city and country, without adding to city prices.
He went on to say:
The scheme will bring country prices down initially to less than one cent per litre (4 cents per gallon) above city prices . . .
– He used the word eventually’.
– Eventually, but of course the honourable senator is claiming, as did Mr Fife, that this legislation -
– It is the first instalment.
– The honourable senator did not say that earlier. He said that this carried out the election promise that had been made by Mr Fraser. Now he has said by way of interjection that it is to be by instalments. He has thus admitted that this legislation is in fact not carrying out the Prime Minister’s election promise, although he claimed only a few moments ago- as had Mr Fife in the other place- that it did. We have to consider also what happened in the last Budget. I will quote from page 25 of the Budget Speech delivered by the then Treasurer, Mr Lynch- and we all know what happened to him during the course of the election. He stated:
The pricing and duty decisions combined are estimated to result in an ultimate increase in retail petrol prices of about Vh cents per litre, or about 1 1 cents per gallon, in 1977-78.
So there we have this Government upping the price of petrol by 1 lc a gallon since this Budget document was brought down in the Parliament on 30 June of this year. Then the Government comes in here as though it is a fairy godfather and says that it is going to reduce it in some areas, and equalise it in others. It is a wonderful gift to country people! First the Government puts the price up by 1 lc and then claims that it is going to reduce it by about 4c a gallon, in instalments.
What the Budget document also points out is that because of the crude oil pricing policy in this Budget, increasing fuel prices to everyone- I mentioned the 11c a gallon- this policy, announced simultaneously, will increase prices by about 10c a gallon, or very nearly that much, in each of the next two years that the Government will be in office, barring accidents- barring perhaps someone paying a visit to the Lodge and events taking place such as took place in 1975 and 1977. In the Governments own words, as expressed in the Budget, the people who buy petroleum in this country can expect a further increase of nearly 20c a gallon in the price of petrol between now and the end of the Government’s term of office. It will, of course, be somewhere about 30c because the Government has nearly three years to go.
We heard Senator Tehan say here tonight that in some areas of the country the price was up to 50c a gallon over the city price. Of course, he could not answer Senator Georges who, by way of interjection, asked what in effect were city prices. There are no set city prices because, if one drives around the suburbs of any city one finds a vast difference in the prices of petrol. We find that in Adelaide one can buy super petrol for very little more than 15c a litre in some places. And one can get standard petrol for very much less than that- perhaps a cent a litre less. So what the Prime Minister has said, what Mr Fife repeated in the other place and what Senator Tehan has repeated here tonight has been quite misleading. The Government has not honoured its election promise.
If we look at the scales which were provided by the Minister some weeks ago- and I shall refer only to South Australia- we find that in that State no subsidy will be paid in the following country areas. I am not going to list all of them but will list some of the most important ones. I refer to places such as Ardrossan, which is a long way from Adelaide, Berri, which is a river town, Burra, Cleve, Chowilla, Clare, Cummins, Gluyas, Jervois- which is near where I liveKapunda, Kingston South-East, Lock, Loxton, Hallett, Moonta, Millicent, Mt Gambier, Naracoorte, Penola, Peterborough. Pinaroo, Port Augusta, Port Lincoln, Quorn, Renmark, Struan, Tailem Bend, Victor Harbor, Waikerie, Wallaroo, Whyalla and Yamba. Look at the list of those places where no subsidy will be paid. I will name one where a subsidy will be paid. Let us have a look at where the subsidy will be paid. A magnificent subsidy of between 0.1c to 0.5c will be paid in places like Craddock, which cannot be termed a suburb of Adelaide because it is a long, long way from that city. Craddock will be paid 0.1c, Hawker 0.2c, Iron Knob 0.3c, Kimba 0.2c, Robe 0.3c, Streaky Bay, which is a long way from Adelaide and nearly half-way to Western Australia, 0.4c, Wannamanna 0.2c, Wolseley 0.2c and Yunta 0.3c.
I will quote another category for the benefit of Senator Tehan. The Government proposes to pay a subsidy of between 0.6c to lc in the following places: Ceduna 0.8c, Glenorchy 0.8c, Leigh Creek 0.8c, Thevenard 0.8c and Tarcoola which is away out in the middle of the Nullabor Plains, lc. A subsidy above leis to be paid to the following places: Andamooka 1.5c, Oodnadatta 1.5c and Penong, which is pretty close to the Western Australian border, 1.1c.
So much for the statements made in the Senate this evening and in the other place that the Government has honoured its election promise that it would bring in legislation which in effect will not increase country prices by more than 4c a gallon above city prices. Of course, as I have pointed out, the legislation does not do that. The people of this country will quickly find out what the Government is doing, just as it found out about another magnificent promise that the Government made during the election campaign in respect of a newspaper advertisement which depicted a hand holding a bunch of $5 notes.
When one counted up the value of the notes one found that $70 was offered to each wage earner by this Government in the form of tax reimbursement. We have not seen action in this respect yet. Perhaps it will come in the supplementary estimates or in the next Budget. But it has not come yet.
The people were fooled again in respect of petrol prices. It is all very well to say that one will give a magnificent gift to country people by introducing this legislation, but the country people have not forgotten that the Government increased the price of petrol by 1 lc a gallon only last August. So what will the present legislation do to help them? The Government has thrown out a sprat to catch a mackerel. Unfortunately for a great many people in the community the bait was taken. Many people who took the bait are having second thoughts. Of course, they have to live with their mistakes. I sympathise with those people who did not support this Government and who did not fall for the promises it made. However, I have no sympathy at all for the people who were fooled by the promises and now find that they are not being honoured. I believe those people will have second thoughts and that they will not be fooled again when people such as Senator Tehan claim in this Parliament that the Government has honoured its election promises on petrol subsidies. If one looks at the legislation one can see that the Government has done nothing of the sort.
I said during my opening remarks that Senator Walsh, who led for the Opposition in this debate, exploded all of the myths put forward by the Government. Senator Walsh was backed up by Senator Grimes. In view of what has been said by the honourable senators I do not think there is any need for me to go over the arguments. I have answered what Senator Tehan had to say. I have looked at Mr Fife’s second reading speech and I can see nothing in it which leads me to believe that the Goverment, as Senator Tehan claimed, has honoured its election promise by introducing this legislation. Of course, we now have to wait for nearly three years for the electors to be given the opportunity to pass judgment not only on this legislation but also on other legislation which will no doubt come before this Parliament as a result of the Government ‘s election promises and which again will be claimed by Government supporters as evidence that the Government is honouring its election promises.
Unfortunately Senator Tehan will not be here to be taken to task when the next Budget is delivered. Therefore I will not be able to stand in this place and say to him that the taxpayers have not been given the $70 tax reimbursement which his Party’s political advertisements claimed would be the case. Therefore Senator Tehan will escape that onslaught. But there will be other members of his Party who will come in for some very severe criticism unless, of course, Mr Howard, the new Treasurer, unlike Mr Fife, is prepared to honour the election promises. Mr Fife has not done so, despite what Senator Tehan has said.
I support the amendment. I only hope that the people outside this place who have listened to the speeches made by Senator Walsh, Senator Grimes and me are now fully aware of the way in which they have been hoodwinked and misled by election promises. This is proved by the introduction of this piece of legislation.
– I rise to support the Bill. However, I cannot support the amendment moved on behalf ofthe Opposition. It seems to me that members of the Opposition and people generally who live in cities on the eastern seaboard have no comprehension whatsoever of the problems faced by people in the remote areas of many of the States, and particularly in my State of Queensland which has vast areas of land and in which people who live in remote towns in many cases find themselves disadvantaged not only in respect of transport but also in respect of their farming activities which necessitate the use of tractors. These people are paying a great deal more for fuel than are people living on the eastern seaboard and in many of the cities of Australia. Therefore I cannot understand why we do not support this Bill and give it a very speedy passage through both Houses of Parliament.
Many people who live in country areas have suffered because of the cost of fuel. I have worked on cattle and sheep stations and I know the problems faced by the people who live in remote areas. They have to put up with droughts, floods and all sorts of things. Surely it is high time- perhaps the time is long overdue- that a government saw fit to do something to assist people who live in these remote areas. It is not good enough just to say that we are helping the grazier, the man on the land. We are helping other people who live out in country areas. We are helping people who work on railways and people who work for local government authorities around various country towns. They are suffering under this inequitable situation that has existed for so long.
I have said before in this chamber that if one lives in the city of Brisbane one can fill one’s car with petrol on Monday morning, drive perhaps five or 10 miles a day to and from work and perhaps take a trip down to the Gold Coast at the weekend to have a nice time and still have enough petrol to last till the following Monday. But it is a different proposition altogether if one lives in places such as Quilpie, Cunnamulla, Charleville, Blackall, Tambo or Augathella. Living in those towns is bad enough, but if one lived on a sheep or cattle station in any of those areas one could be 70, 80 or 100 miles from a town. One may wish to take the children to town to see a movie because some of these areas do not have television but must make do with radio. One may wish to buy a few perishable groceries to take home. However, such a journey may involve travelling 100 miles into town and 100 miles out. In some cases people in these areas pay twice as much for petrol as people who live in Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns or Rockhampton may pay. I think this is grossly unfair. The Government is trying to do something to bring about a situation in which these people will pay much less than they are paying now. They will be paying something more equitable in terms of what their counterparts who live on the eastern seaboard pay for some commodity. I do not see anything wrong with that. I am at a loss to understand why the Opposition is trying to prevent this legislation from being passed speedily so that these matters can be rectified.
I recall that only last year my wife and I travelled from Brisbane and passed through various towns. We travelled from Brisbane, through Toowoomba, Oakey, Dalby, Chinchilla and Miles to Charleville, then through Tambo and Blackall to Mount Isa. We visited these towns and talked to the people. We came to a little place between Winton and Cloncurry called Kynuna and saw there the things that people have to put up with in these western towns. In this little town we called in at a small hotel called the Blue Heeler. It was a very nice little hotel. Across the road there was a small cafe and my wife, being a teetotaller, went across to have a cup of tea while I had a nice cold beer. We talked to the people.
– Was it a Queensland blue heeler?
– Yes, a Queensland blue heeler. Talking to the people there we heard of the things they had to put up with and of their problems, even with communication.
– Were you talking to people while your wife was across the road having a cup of tea?
– My wife was talking to the ladies while I was talking to the gentlemen. We do the right thing; we get amongst the people. My wife meets the women folk in the town and I meet the men. We discuss their problems and try to help. The gentleman who owned a little shop in the town also had the responsibility for transporting goods from the other big towns into this little town. Sometimes on Fridays when loading his truck at the railhead at Julia Creek someone would ring from Kynuna because he had forgotten to put all the items he wanted on his order. He might have wanted a packet of Bex powders or a loaf of bread. However, to get it added to his order he would have to use the telephone and make a trunk call which would cost him more than the loaf of bread or the packet of Bex powders was worth. This is the kind of problem which these people in remote areas have to suffer. It would cost them 25c or 30c to ring up and catch the mailman while he was in Julia Creek to add to their order a packet of Bex powders or some aspirin. If they did not catch the mailman they would have to go 150 miles by car at the weekend to get the extra things they wanted. Honourable senators who drive motor cars will know that it takes a lot of petrol to drive 150 miles one way and 150 miles back and the people in these remote areas have to pay twice as much for their petrol as Senator Georges has to pay for his petrol in Brisbane. Something has to be done about that to help the people who live in remote areas. Senator Georges would know of these problems if he moved out into his electorate, the State of Queensland, and did not stay in Brisbane all the time. Senator Martin and I travel around the State. We know of these problems because we go out to these places, talk to the people and see what they have to put up with.
-Unfortunately Senator Georges does not take that attitude.
– Do you go to Mount Isa?
– Yes. Once I even drove to Mount Isa and when I got there I could not get a beer. This is what people have to put up with in the bush. All the Government is trying to do is equalise the situation for these people who have to live with these hardships. They are the salt of the earth; they are great people. If any of us drove through their station properties and did not pull up and have a cup of tea with them they would be very offended. A lot of honourable senators opposite and people who live in cities forget that this country was built on and has been successful only because of people in country areas, the people in rural industries. The export income of this country is still greatly dependent on rural industries. The income which we get for our wool, beef, wheat, milk and other products which we send overseas is earned by the people in the bush.
– And who consumes it?
-It does not come from some of the blokes I know who have a few hens in their backyards in South Australia. It comes from the real fair dinkum Aussie out in the bush who earns his living by working 16 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week. I have had to do hard work on cattle stations. Some honourable senators opposite should get out on the bullock muster and see how long they last working seven days a week, rain, hail or sunshine. By introducing this legislation we are saying to those people in remote areas that we are going to do something for them at long last by giving them a chance to use their vehicles without having to pay more for petrol than do their counterparts, such as Senator Georges, living in Brisbane. Senator Georges enjoys the luxuries of living in the city while these people are slaving to do the best they can to keep this country’s rural industries going. We say that they are entitled to pay only a little more for their petrol than do the people on the eastern seaboard. I support the Bill and reject the amendment moved by the Opposition.
– I did not expect to be speaking tonight. I thought that Senator Bonner, having started in the way he did, would have continued until 1 1 p.m.
– Haven’t you prepared your speech?
-As a matter of fact I took my notes back to my office. I thought Senator Bonner would finish the debate tonight. However, I have 5 minutes in which to speak and I suppose I can devote the time to saying how impressed I was with what Senator Bonner had to say. I was absolutely astonished that he could so misunderstand the Bill before us as to believe that it will enable the people of Kynuna to obtain their petrol at a price which is almost equal to that which I pay in Brisbane. He knows very well that that is not the case. He could have pointed out instead that the Opposition is now supporting a Bill to reintroduce a subsidy that was removed on some very questionable advice which the Labor Government had received. Let there be no mistake about that: It was the most highly contested legislation that ever faced our Caucus.
Many of the points which have been raised here tonight were raised on that occasion but on that occasion I was on the losing side.
This legislation will assist and there should be no mistake about that. We do not question it; we support it. It will assist in reducing the price of petrol in remote places. However, the point which the Opposition makes is that the Bill does not equalise the price of petrol. The Government is seeking to delude the electorate into believing that it is carrying out the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) during the election campaign. I am not saying that the Prime Minister was being deliberately dishonest, merely that he did not really understand what he was talking about. He was faced with a problem which we meet wherever we travel in remote areas. People in the country are paying for their petrol as much as 40c a gallon more than are people in the city. The Prime Minister made a promise, which the Australian Labor Party also made, to equalise the price of petrol. The responsibility for doing it now lies with the Government because it was re-elected. However, the Prime Minister has backed away from the promise which he made but the effect of which he did not properly understand.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
- Mr President, I regret having to speak on the adjournment but I must do so in view of an answer that was given to a question by me on 16 March concerning the Working Women ‘s Centre in Melbourne. The question was directed to the Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, in her capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Ellicott. My question on the Working Women’s Centre was asked more out of sorrow than out of anger, even though I did confuse some of the metaphors at the time. But the nature of the response, both as to tone and to content was unwarranted.
I must speak on the adjournment debate tonight to point out why I feel this to be the case. I did in fact look at Hansard the next day and wondered why the Minister answered in the way in which she did. I saw that the previous question contained some rockets about the Aurukun situation. One would have to have a hean of either stone or wood not to respond at some later date.
Before attempting to explain why Mr Ellicott ‘s fulsome praise of the Working Women ‘s Centre, which prompted my question to Senator Guilfoyle, was thoroughly inappropriate, there is one matter which I should make clear at the outset. I want to make it clear to the Senate that I believe Senator Guilfoyle to be a very hardworking Minister. I understand her situation and the situation of other Ministers who represent Ministers in another place. But I do ask that she and other Ministers be very careful about automatically presuming that they will receive the full story from their advisers. That is precisely why I incorporated in Hansard the parable written by Sara Dowse, the former adviser on women’s affairs to this Government. When I referred to this parable during my question on 16 March, in reply, Senator Guilfoyle commented:
The parables are a little obscure to me.
The Sara Dowse parable is not obscure to me nor should it be obscure to anyone who knows anything about politics. Quite simply, the Sara Dowse parable indicates that while she was working as an adviser to this Government her first loyalty was always to a non-Public Service organisation, the Women ‘s Electoral Lobby, and that she saw the Women’s Electoral Lobby and its attitudes as providing an integrated backdrop for the Women’s Affairs Branch of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
It would be a mistake for this Government to believe that the Women’s Electoral Lobby expresses the wishes and aspirations of a majority of Australian women. It does not. It may be very vocal but increasingly other women’s groups are coming to the fore to oppose the extreme viewpoints put forward by the Women’s Electoral Lobby, Women’s Liberation and the radical feminists. I think that these other organisations which believe that mothers should be able to exercise a free and realistic choice as to whether they enter the work force or remain at home to raise children are more representative.
The Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Ellicott, has stated- and Senator Guilfoyle has given qualified endorsement to his remarks- that the Working Women’s Centre in Melbourne is ‘the only organisation within the union movement providing support for women’. The facts are otherwise. The Working Women’s Centre in Melbourne is unrepresentative. It involves itself in matters not directly relevant to women workers, is hostile to the official trade union movement and is a politically motivated organisation favouring the extreme Left and radical feminists. It is significant that neither the Australian Council of Trade Unions nor the Victorian Trades Hall Council have endorsed the centre. It is simply untrue to state, as Mr Ellicott has done, that it ‘is the only organisation within the union movement providing support for women’.
– They would not get much support from the union movement, would they?
– Not only is that totally untrue so far as the whole of Australia is concerned- and I am very familiar with the situation in my State- but it is also totally untrue so far as Victoria is concerned. The Victorian office of my union, that is, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, which has a substantial female membership component, has a special women’s unit employing five women. That makes it larger than Mr Ellicott ‘s Working Women’s Centre. Furthermore, the Victoria SDAE unit has been established without any call to the Federal Government for financial assistance.
I stated that the Working Women’s Centre was not endorsed by the Australian Council of Trades Union, and that is true. Indeed, the last ACTU Congress, in session on 13 September 1977, defeated an attempt to obtain ACTU endorsement of the Centre and the request for continued Federal Government funding of the Centre. As I say, this attempt was defeated. I might add that I noticed that Ted Bull from the Waterside Workers Federation was associated with this move to obtain ACTU recognition and to request continued Federal Government funding of the Centre. He in fact seconded the proposition. Perhaps that partly explains why the move was unsuccessful. I am sure that the delegates at the ACTU Congress were far more familiar with the trade union movement and real politics than the members of the Government. I am sure that even those delegates at the Congress who knew only the basic details of Australian politics would have thought twice about a resolution enthusiastically promoted by the vicepresident of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist). They would also say to themselves it was strange that the proposition was being seconded by Ted Bull in his other capacity as secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation. I do not know how many women members are in the Waterside Workers Federation.
I stated that the Working Women’s Centre was not endorsed by the Victorian Trades Hall Council. This point is significant because the Victorian Trades Hall Council is the Victorian Branch of the ACTU. It is the official union centre of the trade union movement in Victoria. I understand that the Trades Hall Council on several occasions has refused to have anything to do with that centre despite strong attempts by John Halfpenny’s Amalgamated Metal Workers Union on the Centre’s behalf. For the benefit of those Government members who do not follow the trade union movement, let me say that John Halfpenny is the vice-president of the Communist Party of Australia. No doubt the Trades Hall Council is thoroughly aware of the activities of the Centre. I have been told by a union official in Melbourne that a possible reason for the official trade union hostility is that on several occasions women associated with the centre have attempted to by-pass the elected officials of unions and enter factories and work places in order to spread their propaganda. They have not even had the courtesy to advise the union officials whose members work in those factories of what they were attempting to do.
I have stated that the Centre is not representative. If it were representative it would not be constantly approaching the Federal Government for financial assistance. Only a handful of unions have provided finance to it. Senator Guilfoyle said in the Senate that she thought that this was surprising but I trust that by the end of my speech the reasons will become clearer to her. After two years of operations the Centre, in a news sheet dated 1 1 October 1976, admitted that only two unions had approached it in order to obtain research and advocacy assistance for claims. One of the unions which continued to support it was the Food Preservers Union. The person who approached the organisation, being that union’s women’s organiser, was Gail Cotton. A number of honourable senators may some day give information about Gail Cotton and her work with Bill Hartley in support of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and its terrorist activities. I recall that it was this Government which refused an entrance visa to Australia for her Palestinian fiance- or so he was claimed to be at the time. I have stated that the Centre involves itself in matters not directly relevant to working women.
– Such as?
– I will come to that. This can be shown from the literature which the Centre distributes and the causes in which it is involved. Mr Ellicott stated that he had personally visited the Centre on 8 March. It is a joke around the Centre that a whitewash job was done for his benefit. In fact, a woman union official in Melbourne has provided me with material that she collected from the Centre both before and after Mr Ellicott ‘s visit. This material includes leaflets advertising Dr Bertram Wainer’s abortion clinic in Melbourne. Certainly, abortion is of interest- controversial interest- to all men and women, whether they are working or not, but is the promotion of abortion the purpose for which Federal Government funds are used? Since when has abortion been related to the pay and working conditions of unionists? The material collected from the Centre also includes propaganda from the Victorian Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament. I think the most appropriate thing to be said about that body is that it would be a real red letter day if the Congress ever found anything warlike for which to condemn the Soviet Union or its activities.
Another item collected from the Centre was a broadsheet entitled ‘women and employment’. One might think that we are getting closer at last to something which deals directly with working women but the purpose of the broadsheet becomes clear when one reads right through it. The final paragraph states that capitalism is in ‘real crisis’ and ‘only a planned socialist economy can meet the needs of the whole working class . . .’
– I like that part. It is very good.
– There are many people who would go along with Senator Wheeldon ‘s comment. But it is truly incredible to me that this Liberal-National Country Party Government, by its fulsome endorsement of the Centre, is saying in effect that this kind of stuff is good news. Some people of course have their own attitudes as to the definition of a ‘planned socialist economy’ but others have a different attitude. The WWC and those who support it, like the Bulls and the Halfpennys, have a clear definition of those words.
Another item collected from the Centre was the 18 October 1977 issue of National U. This was picked up before and after Mr Ellicott ‘s visit. The National U is published by the Australian Union of Students. This was a special issue devoted to women’s issues, but with a particularly unrepresentative moral and political approach. The issue deals approvingly with abortion, lesbian mothers, anti-uranium movements and homosexuality. Again, I wonder whether it is the real intention of the Government, by funding the Centre, to promote the distribution of such material. It is not particularly surprising that this kind of material should be freely available from the Centre because the Centre is really a political organisation. The two principal women at the Centre- Sylvie Shaw and Mary Owen- have both been prominently involved with the Women’s Electoral Lobby. They have used the Centre to publicise WEI activities, including a forum addressed by that well known WEL activist, Mr John Halfpenny.
When Senator Guilfoyle announced last year the Government’s grant of $8,000 to the Centre and another grant to an organisation in Sydney, she stated in her Press release that she was particularly pleased that the Government had been able to assist these two organisations ‘which had been established by working women to help themselves’. I believe that the words ‘to help themselves’ were thoroughly appropriate, but perhaps not in the same meaning as that used by the Minister. Certainly, the women of the WWC in Melbourne are ‘helping themselves’. They are helping themselves to the right to speak on behalf of all working women. For that matter, by their involvement in non-working issues, they are claiming to speak on behalf of all women, not just those in the work force. I therefore found it quite incredible that a Minister of this Government was prepared to go to bat for the Centre and give it a status in the trade union movement which it neither warrants nor deserves and a status that has not been given to it by the trade union movement itself. Mr Ellicott ‘s remarks were an insult to all of those unions which, in their own way and under their own rules, free of pressure from extreme radical feminists, are attempting to do something for their women members.
- Senator Melzer asks: Where?’ I have gone through the question of equal pay before. I was the one who moved the crucial motion at the ACTU Congress for equal pay for work of equal value. I remind the Senate that it was the radical feminists who, in fact, moved an amendment to that motion that it be equal pay for equal work. The fact that the motion for equal pay for work of equal value was passed was the reason that equal pay for work of equal value was achieved. If it had been equal pay for equal work, a woman would almost have to be a hermaphrodite to obtain equal pay. In other words, a woman would have been forced to perform the same work under the same conditions, lifting the same weights and so on. In the liquor industry, for example, a barmaid would never have got the same pay as a barman. She could not have lifted the same weights.
Some of the people who try to talk about this do not know what they are talking about. I took the first equal pay case in my State. I am very proud of the fact that I achieved as a result of that case equal pay for work of equal value. There are vast amounts of work to be done in the field of women’s affairs for working women. This cannot be achieved by confusing the real issues confronting working women with the type of radical feminist rubbish portrayed through the Working Women’s Centre. It is an insult not only to women but to the whole of the community and it is recognised as such.
– By whom?
– The official trade union movement has refused to recognise and endorse the Working Women’s Centre. Mr Ellicott ‘s remarks and Senator Guilfoyle ‘s qualified defence of them show that this Government is a babe in the woods when it comes to industrial matters. I have said that before. I regret that it is necessary again to expose the Government’s shortcomings in this public way but it seems not to have got the message. To her credit the Minister, prior to Mr Ellicott ‘s remarks, had agreed to an interview with a very large union having a sizable female membership so that its point of view could be heard. Unfortunately, that interview had to be postponed through no fault of the Minister.
No doubt the Minister in her explanation of the Government’s support for the Centre will claim that the grant administered by her is a specific purpose grant to investigate child care matters and that it has nothing to do with the Centre’s activities. That kind of explanation will not wash with me. One has to look only at the Centre’s literature and its writings on the subject of government funding to realise that it sees any form of assistance as being to the organisation as a whole. The motion moved at the ACTU Congress which was designed to endorse the Centre and which was initiated by the Centre’s supporters and defeated was phrased in terms of continued funding’ of the Centre by the Federal Government. It matters little to the Centre whether the grant is supposed to be for investigating child care or any other subject. It is seen by the Centre as subsidising the Centre as a whole.
I have struck this Government’s blind spot on other occasions during my investigation of socalled specific purpose grants. One case was the grant to the Overseas Student Service which has now been withdrawn after the Government realised rather belatedly that the money was being used for purposes completely unrelated to its original intention. Yet time after time in Estimates Committee hearings innocent public servants defend a grant oblivious to the real situation. There was also the case of the Capital Territory Health Commission’s grant to the socalled Women’s Information Service in Canberra. Time after time public servants have defended the grant claiming that it has nothing to do with the abortion counselling service which is located at the same address, has the same telephone number and is staffed by the same people. Their files state that they are separate organisations but they are separate in name only. I shall be producing additional information on this grant to the forthcoming Estimates Committee meetings.
I hope that Senator Guilfoyle and her colleagues- I emphasise again that my remarks are not directed to her in any personal way- will now realise why Mr Ellicott ‘s remarks have prompted such astonishment. People are sceptical of the Centres ‘s involvement in non-working matters. They do not wish to see women’s working issues become obscured and abused with non-working subjects such as abortion. They resent the Centre’s attempt to by-pass the official trade union movement. They are sceptical of the so-called Women’s Centre idea of the planned socialist economy. They are rightly suspicious of so-called peace organisations which act as propaganda arms of the Soviet Union. Fundamentally, they do not believe that the Women ‘s Electoral Lobby is a fully representative organisation. If the Working Women’s Centre in Melbourne got rid of its partisan political propaganda attitude, confined itself to genuine working issues and was not so closely identified organisationally with WEL and other groups one might anticipate that the official trade union movement would reconsider its approach to it. For the time being I am not at all surprised, unlike Senator Guilfoyle, that the trade union movement has declined to become involved with it in any meaningful way.
- Senator Harradine has raised many matters which originated from his question to me on 16 March as the Minister representing Mr Ellicott. The matters which have been raised by Senator Harradine will be drawn to Mr Ellicott ‘s attention. Where his comments have related to other Ministers such as the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) or to me I shall see that note is taken of the information that has been given by him and I shall draw to the attention of Ministers concerned the information which he has provided tonight.
– In rising tonight to set the record straight, I am mindful of Standing Order 413. During the course of the debate on Parliament House security last evening the Leader of the Government (Senator Withers) in closing the debate made some remarks about me. I shall quote them in order to put the record straight. He said:
Senator McLaren informed the Senate tonight that these arrangements were started some five years ago. I am grateful to the honourable senator for having given that information to the Senate.
He was referring to my remarks about the Committee that was set up to investigate security in Parliament House. He went on to talk about some of the statements that had been made by Opposition senators and the reason why the security came about. I shall not go into that tonight. He went on to say:
I ask those honourable senators who advanced that ridiculous theory to read Senator McLaren’s speech. Those honourable senators who put that quite ridiculous view have it out of Senator McLaren’s mouth that the Presiding Officers and the Joint House Committee have been looking at this matter for some five years.
In my remarks I lodged objections to the fact that it had taken so long. As a matter of fact, I interjected on Senator Withers and said:
My complaint is that it took so long.
I wish to read to the Senate the remarks that I made on that point. At page 793 of Hansard I had this to say:
We are now within five weeks of it being five years since a committee was established to consider measures of adequate security for this Parliament House. It took that committee three years to deliberate and to compile a report. Another 1 7 months went by before the report was given to members of the Joint House Committee to read so that at later meetings the Presiding Officers could have the benefit of the views of the Joint House Committee . . .
I point out- you would be well aware of this, Mr President- that although that report was printed in 1976 it was not given to the Joint House Committee to study until 1 5 September last year. So at no time was the Joint House Committee involved in the security arrangements. It was not aware even that the report was being compiled. It was not aware that it had been printed in 1976. The members of the Joint House Committee did not become aware of that report until it was given to us on 15 September last year. As I pointed out in my remarks last night, we were given that report to study so that we could, in consultation with Mr Speaker and yourself, Mr President, make some recommendations so that you could do what you did when you made your statement. As I have said, the meeting which has been referred to did not take place because the decision had been taken. I want to put on the record and to make clear the fact that at no time did I say that the Joint House Committee was party to the recommendations that were made to the Senate. Senator Withers said in his remarks that the Joint House Committee in fact was party to the inquiry and to the compilation of the report. I hope that I have put the record straight. At no time were any members of the Joint House Committee, apart from the President and Mr Speaker, involved in the recommendations that you made, Mr President.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
In what order and on what date did each of the State Ministers responsible for wildlife conservation clear the Draft Summary Record of the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers held on 29 July 1 977.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The State Ministers cleared the draft summary record on the following dates:
Hon. D. W. Simmons (S.A.) 28.9.77
Hon. N. L. Batt (Tas.);6. 10.77
Officer representing Hon. E. C. MacKinnon (W.A.) 7.10.77
Hon. K. B. Tomkins (Qld) 14.10.77
Hon. W. F. Crabtree (N.S.W.) 28.10.77
Hon. W. A. Borthwick (Vic.) 24.11.77
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
Cape York Peninsula: National Parks (Question No. 52)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, on notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
Rat Kangaroo: Habitat (Question No. 53)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing Community Development, on notice, on 22 February 1978:
What joint action is contemplated by the Australian and Western Australian Governments to expand the confined habitat on Bernier, Dorre and Barrow Islands of the Boodie (Rat-Kangaroo), listed as an Australian endangered species, to other islands around the Australian continent.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There is no joint action being contemplated by the Western Australian and Commonwealth Governments to expand the range of the Boodie (Rat-Kangaroo) to other islands around the Australian continent.
The management of fauna in Western Australia is the responsibility of the Western Australian Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. The Commonwealth Government would welcome any plans by the Western Australian authorities to introduce populations of this species onto other islands free of feral species which adversely affect the environment of the Boodie. The concept of translocation of species to various islands has great merit in assisting the survival of such species and allowing stocks to build up.
Leadbeater Possum (Question No. 54)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, on notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Rabbit-eared Bandicoot (Question No. 55)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
What joint actions are contemplated by the Australian, Western Australian, New South Wales and Queensland Governments to expand habitats for the Bilby ( Rabbit-eared Bandicoot) which appears on the list of Australian endangered species.
The Rabbit-eared Bandicoot once had a wide distribution in the southern half of Australia. Due to a variety of factors including competition with introduced species and predation by foxes and cats its known distribution has now shrunk.
There are no immediate plans by the Commonwealth and State Governments to expand the known habitat of this species. Such moves may in fact be counter productive until research on feral predatory species is further advanced. It is hoped that with residual populations present in such vast reserves as the Tanamai Desert Wildlife Sanctuary the future of the species in part of its range will be secure. The continuation and expansion of biological surveys by State and Commonwealth agencies is critical in locating new areas where endangered species are present.
Bridled Nail-tailed Wallaby (Question No. 56)
Ayers Rock/Mount Olga National Park (Question No. 64)
What action has followed the July 1 976 Convention on the conservation of migratory species.
The first draft of a Convention on the Conservation of Migratory species, prepared by the Federal Republic of Germany in association with IUCN in late 1 975, was extensively revised at a meeting of experts held in Bonn in July 1976, called to examine the draft and the various comments provided by countries.
The new draft has been examined by various agencies of the Commonwealth Government and a final draft will be prepared for adoption at a meeting planned for July /August this year in Bonn.
In accord with commitments made at the Premiers’ Conference in October 1977 the new draft of the Convention has been referred to the States for comment.
Has any progress been made towards the solution of difficulties associated with Nationwide Wetlands, following the comments on pages 16-17 of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service report 1 976-77.
The development of a national wetlands survey has proved to be a complex matter involving both Commonwealth and State interests.
The Council of Nature Conservation Ministers at its meeting in November 1976 noted the view of Standing Committee that the Ecological and Wetlands Survey proposals by CSIRO did not meet the immediate needs of nature conservation agencies but should be considered as the framework for a broader Australian land inventory, and resolved to accept the need to:
Conduct RAKES (Rapid Appraisal of Key and Endangered Sites) type studies, modified as required for particular needs and to overcome obvious inadequacies where this type of information has not yet been obtained.
Conduct selected detailed fauna surveys along the lines adopted by the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Continue detailed studies of relationships between the characteristics of wetlands and their biota.
It was understood that in carrying out these surveys the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service would co-operate with individual States and Territories and CSIRO.
The CSIRO Division of Land Use Research is continuing a pilot study on wetland mapping and classification and some States are carrying out detailed wetland studies.
The Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service supports in principle these developments.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 2 March 1 978:
-The Minister for Home Affairs has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 2 March 1 978:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 8 March 1 978:
What progress has been made in ensuring to the residents of Home Island in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands a form of representative local government, as announced by the Minister for Administrative Services on 1 6 June 1977.
– The Minister for Home Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
An election for an advisory council comprising members of the Cocos Malay community took place on 18 March 1978.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 9 March 1 978:
Does the Commonwealth Government co-operate in the determination of policy concerning the Hume-Snowy Mountains Prevention Scheme, with particular reference to the sometimes unsuccessful concept of burn-offs in the Kosciusko National Park.
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes, there is a nominee of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority on the Management Council of the HumeSnowy Bushfire Prevention Scheme which approves the budget and works program for the fire protection of the area. The timing of burning off for hazard reduction is left to the Forestry Commission of New South Wales.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 15 March 1978:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Mr B. Gyngell: Advertisements
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, without notice, on 22 February 1 978:
Did Mr Gyngell obtain the agreement of the other members of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal before using the Tribunal ‘s name in the advertisements.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No, Mr Gyngell did not obtain the agreement of the other members of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal before using that body’s name in the advertisements.
I must say, however, that this point is not the issue. Whether or not Mr Gyngell had obtained the other members’ agreement is irrelevant to the firmly-held view of the Government that public officers should not be seen to be endorsing private enterprises in this way.
The advertisement featuring Mr Gyngell has now been withdrawn from all media.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 April 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780405_senate_31_s76/>.