31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable 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 sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Army Reserve (CMF) and the RAAF Citizens Air Force. by Senator Lewis and Senator Lajovic.
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 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on 30 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 30 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 $ 1 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 speeded 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 per cent, 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 Peter Baume. Petition received.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Did the statement made yesterday by the Minister for Defence concerning the purchase of two Boeing aircraft for the VIP fleet, in which he said it was ‘a decision of the Government’, mean that it was a decision by Cabinet or by the Prime Minister personally?
-It was a decision of the Cabinet.
– I ask a supplementary question. According to a document tabled yesterday, a minute sent from the Secretary of the Department of Administrative Services and the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to the Prime Minister stated:
You asked for an assessment in relation to aircraft security travelling overseas.
Are we to understand that the Minister is saying that the matter did go before Cabinet and in fact was not a personal decision by the Prime Minister?
-I thought I indicated that. It was a decision of the Cabinet. I know that. I have to be there.
-I remind the Minister for Science of a question I asked on 6 April which referred to what I saw as a breakdown in the cyclone warning system during the progress of cyclone Alby. This cyclone caused much damage and loss of life in the south-west of Western Australia. During his answer the Minister indicated that he would obtain further information. Is the Minister now in a position to supply further information to the Senate?
– I acknowledge Senator Thomas’s question to me early in April. I think he can take credit for the fact that following his question the Bureau of Meteorology carried out a thorough examination, both within the head office in Melbourne and the Perth regional office, into the reasons for the relatively short period of warning of strong and gale force winds provided to the Perth metropolitan area and the southwestern land area of Western Australia on 4 April. That was the thrust of the question which Senator Thomas asked me following that storm. This study has shown that some additions to the Bureau of Metoerology’s tropical cyclone warning directive are required to ensure that large cities and communities within Australia receive as much advance warning as possible of continuing strong to gale force winds and heavy to flood rains even when a storm has lost its tropical cyclone characteristics, as was the case with tropical cyclone Alby.
In future whenever, despite the necessity for discontinuation of a cylcone warning, cases arise of a disturbance not having the recognised eye, wind and cloud structure of a tropical cyclone but still posing a threat to communities because of associated strong to gale force winds and heavy to flood rains, a severe weather watch- I emphasise the words ‘a severe weather watch’will be maintained in tropical cyclone warning centres until no threat exists. To maintain community awareness and alertness in such circumstances, the following postscript will be added to the cyclone warning issued:
No further cyclone warning but a severe weather watch is being maintained and gale, storm, strong wind, flood or bushfire warning, as appropriate, will be issued if necessary.
The advice will be issued to all radio stations, State emergency service organisations, governmental organisations and other authorised addresses to ensure that communities remain in a state of preparedness for any anticipated severe weather and are able to take any possible preventive measures to safeguard life and to minimise potential danger to property. Action also is in hand to mount an educational program in collaboration with the Natural Disasters Organisation and the State emergency services to inform the public and all authorities of arrangements made to institute and advise on severe weather watches should natural disaster circumstances similar to those associated with tropical cyclone Alby occur in future anywhere in Australia or its territories.
– I direct a further question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. As he has indicated that the decision to proceed with the purchase of new aircraft for the VIP squadron was a decision of Cabinet, is the Minister prepared to place before the Parliament details of the economics of the various options available to the Government in sufficient detail to justify the decision to purchase these additional aircraft?
– That is not my responsibility. I will have to refer that to the Prime Minister, within whose jurisdiction this matter comes. As the honourable senator would know from his experience as a Minister, certain detailed information would be put before Ministers and Cabinet. I am not at liberty to disclose that information. I will refer that part of the honourable senator’s question to the Prime Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I remind the Minister that information provided after the examination of the Estimates last October by Trans-Australia Airlines indicated that no commission was paid by TAA to AUS Student Travel Service Pty Ltd. Are any payments now made by TAA to AUS Student Travel? If so, what are they?
– I do have information on this matter. I am advised that there is a commercial arrangement between TAA and AUS Student Travel whereby the airline reimburses AUS Student Travel for expenses incurred by it in performing the work normally done by the airline. The work undertaken by AUS Student Travel involves the printing and writing of all its own tickets for domestic travel. This arrangement, which has operated since July 1975, was discontinued by mutual consent on 1 January 1977 and was replaced by an arrangement whereby expenses incurred by AUS Student Travel were recouped from the financial benefits arising from AUS Student Travel paying accounts three months after the receipt of a statement.
Following the introduction of the scheme of arrangement from 9 September the parties agreed to revert to the original arrangement, that is, the reimbursement of 3 per cent, but with the added proviso that payment should be made within 30 days. I am informed that a payment of $7,274 has been made for trading under the present arrangements. TAA has recently received an account for January from AUS Student Travel for $3,22 1 which has now been paid. TAA anticipates receiving accounts from Student Travel for February and March for $2,182 and $1,885 respectively. I am not aware of any other airline having a similar arrangement with AUS Student Travel or any other organisation. However, as such arrangements undoubtedly would be considered commercially confidential, I cannot be certain that other such arrangments do not exist. I point out to honourable senators that the information given to the Senate Estimates Committee on this matter last year related to the arrangements which applied during the period prior to the scheme of arrangement.
– I ask a supplementary question. The Minister has just told me that this arrangement has operated from 9 September. I point out to the Minister that the papers tabled from Trans-Australia Airlines in this place on 27 October did not contain that information. Will the Minister undertake to find out for me whether TAA knew of this arrangement before it reported to the Senate in October? If so, why was the information not included in the papers tabled?
-I will certainly find that out.
-I ask the Minister for Education: To which organisations or types of organisation has the Minister written to invite comment on the Schools Commission report for the 1979-81 triennium? I note that today is the final day for the receipt of submissions. When will the guidelines for the triennium be issued to the Commission? Will those guidelines be made public at the same time?
-Whilst I do not have the list with me, I will be very happy to give it to Senator Button. The report was made available officially with a covering letter to a wide range of organisations. Obviously these included the States themselves, the State government and non-government school systems, the various parent organisations and bodies such as that and, I think, university and college organisations. More bodies than that would be involved and I shall be very happy to give Senator Button the list. If he has any suggestions for the future we would be happy to see them. I regret that the timetable has not allowed what would be a really adequate perusal. Whilst we have to have a deadline to prepare Cabinet submissions and so on, I hope that any organisation that wants to add additional information will do so for the future.
Senator Button will know that the nature of the Schools Commission report is such that it foreshadows continuing debate. It indicates that on the range of finance arrangements it will produce information to induce debate as will the Federal Government. The Federal Government will want a continuing dialogue so that anything that may be lacking in time now can be taken up in the future. The question of the actual preparation and announcement of the guidelines is one that exercises my mind. It is necessary that it be done in the pre-Budget context. I hope that within the next four or five weeks- but honourable senators should not hold me to that- the Cabinet will consider the matter. I hoped that the report would be tabled in the Parliament as it normally is, but it looks as though that will not be able to be done. It had escaped me that we will be running out of time to do that. In any case the document will be made public. In any case I will make sure that all honourable senators and members get that document as they would if it had been tabled. I can only say it will have to be brought out within the next four to six weeks.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Following the concern expressed by the Government at the number of Vietnamese refugees coming by boat to Darwin and the Government’s attempt to stop these unheralded arrivals by sending additional immigration officers to Indo-China, I ask: Is there any truth in the claim that following the previous Government’s ratification of the 1967 extensions to the United Nations Convention on Refugees, Australia is now obliged to accept all refugees regardless of number without any restriction on their entry due to a criminal record, political activity or health? Is it also true that no Asian country has ratified that Convention, which leaves Australia in a unique position in this part of the world?
– Australia acceded to the United Nations Convention on Refugees on 22 January 1954. It ratified the Convention and protocol in December 1973. It is not true to say that we are obliged to take for permanent settlement any refugees. It is when refugees are lawfully in the country that the obligation under the Convention and protocol applies. Within the immediate area Australia and New Zealand are the only countries that have ratified the Convention and the protocol. Indonesia is amongst those countries which have not ratified this Convention and protocol. I hope that this information is sufficient for the honourable senator. If further information is required I will ensure that it is sent to her.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I have no doubt that the Minister can justify retrenching cleaning staff in Canberra by the savings that the Government makes. Therefore I hope that he can justify the expenditure of many many millions of dollars on the purchase of aircraft for the VIP Fleet. Can he justify that expenditure? Why are the planes to be purchased? Is not it a fact that there will be only a marginal performance gain over the existing aircraft? Surely the Minister, who in this place represents the Minister for Defence, should be able to give us some justification for this decision and expenditure.
– Admittedly the statement on the purchase of those aircraft has not yet been put down in this place because we went on to Estimates committees yesterday. Subject to time restraints this morning I will be putting down the statement of the Minister for Defence. I would have thought that anybody who had read the statement which the Minister for Defence made to the Parliament yesterday would have seen the justification. No doubt the honourable senator would know that there has been a requirement for the Royal Australian Air Force to have a No. 34 squadron. It has been a popular whipping boy for all Oppositions and the media ever since it was established, but I know of nobody who has ever suggested its abolition. I think that is the first thing we ought to put into our minds. I think it is fair to say that if for no other reason, one can justify the No. 34 Squadron because it would be impossible to conduct modernday elections in Australia without the use of this sort of aircraft.
– What is wrong with the BACs?
– If I may just talk about that, one of the complaints emanating from journalists who accompany political leaders during election campaigns is that the BAC aircraft are quite inadequate even to carry a proper Press gallery group during election campaigns. The honourable senator may say that that is not of much importance.
– You leave me unconvinced.
-I thought the honourable senator believed in freedom of information. During election campaigns one of the more important facets of electioneering is that the leaders of political parties should be able to move with great rapidity round a very large nation, carrying with them a Press corps.
– What, a hundred?
-Maybe there ought to be a hundred. Perhaps then the quality of reporting might go up. I am convinced that the Government’s decision is correct. It was the right decision to make and I am prepared to defend it here, out on the hustings or anywhere else. I assume that one of these days, when there is a strike involving civil airlines, honourable members opposite will not wish to go home in one of the new Boeings but will prefer to stay here for weeks while the dispute is being settled.
– I ask the Minister for Education whether he has seen a report in yesterday’s Melbourne’s Sun entitled: ‘Parents: Let us choose the school’. Also, is it a fact that the President of the Victorian Federation of State School Parents Clubs is reported to have said that students should be able to attend a government school of their choice, and urged reconsideration of zoning policies for government schools in that State? Will the Minister inform the Senate of the situation in the Australian Capital Territory with respect to choice for parents of schools for the education of their children?
– I have in front of me the Press cutting to which the honourable senator refers. The cutting from the Melbourne Sun is entitled: ‘Parents: Let us choose the school’. It is a fact that the article states that the President of the Victorian Federation of State School Parents Clubs seeks for parents a right to choose schools.
As to the position in the Australian Capital Territory, subject to certain constraints- largely involving problems of transport and also consultation between the principals concernedparents have a right to choice between government schools. That right is unrestrained, I think, in regard to colleges. It is modified somewhat in regard to the lower age groups but, in general, the right exists and is used and I simply say that in my view the ability to extend this choice to the State systems would be one of the significant reforms that might be made in the future. One of the major needs in education is to extend the rights of parents within the system. The major need is for the parents to be among the arbiters and auditors of the education system. I believe that in the current Schools Commission reportcertainly it has been discussed with me- there is an indication of the sorts of pilot systems that are to be extended in the States. I say that I commend to the States and to parents’ organisations any such extension, which I believe would be one of the very valuable reforms that could take place in Australian education.
– My question which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate follows the question asked by Senator Georges. I understood from the Minister’s reply to that question that the principal reason for the purchase of new and larger aircraft for the VIP fleet was to carry journalists round Australia.
– Oh, come on.
-Well, that apparently was one of the reasons. Does the Minister realise that the statement made yesterday by the Minister for Defence contains no reference to the aircraft being provided for any such purpose; that, in fact, apart from the security angle- which I do not think anybody particularly disagrees with- he said that the remaining option for the Government was to acquire aircraft capable of long-range, over-water flights. If that is the reason, I ask the Minister whether he is aware that, according to Jane’s Aircraft, which is the standard reference in this area, the BAC1 1 1 475 type aircraft now used by No. 34 Squadron have a range of just a shade under 2,000 nautical miles whereas the Boeing 727 aircraft is shown to have a range of 2,300 nautical miles. Does the Minister say that the Government is justifying this decision on the marginal difference of range between these two types of aircraft? Is it not a fact that there is some reason for the purchase of the planes other than that being stated officially by the Government?
– I suppose that we may as well spend the rest of Question Time airing our ignorance on aeroplanes.
– Your ignorance.
-The ignorance of all of us. I do not know what Jane’s Aircraft says about these BAC-1 1 ls but, as I understand it, the aircraft which are presently in No. 34 squadron have a range of 1,800 nautical miles. I do not know whether Senator Wriedt was talking about imperial miles or nautical miles when he referred to that publication. From memory, they have a range of 1,800 nautical miles whereas the Boeing 727-100 series aircraft have a range of 2,500 nautical miles. I think I am correct in saying that.
– That is not correct.
-Well, I do not know who ‘Jane’ is. The last ‘Jane’ I remember was a person in a comic strip in the Daily Mirror. Once the comic strip was discontinued after the War, I gave up reading newspapers. All I am saying to the honourable senator is that it is very easy to say what range an authoritative book such as Jane’s Aircraft says they ought to have; I am saying what in fact they do have. They do have more than a marginal long range capacity. As one who flies around Australia a little, I know for a fact that a Boeing 727-100 series can fly direct from Melbourne to Perth. I also know that the BAC-1 lis cannot do so. They always call into Adelaide to refuel. That is a simple statistical fact. So there is a bit more than a marginal difference.
– What is wrong with Adelaide?
-Well, the question was based on the claim that there is no difference in range. I am telling him that it has been my personal experience that a Boeing 727-100 series aircraft can fly direct from Melbourne to Perth and that a BAC- 1 1 1 cannot. So there is a bit more than a marginal difference. Senator Georges asked me a range of questions previously in regard to this matter. I am taking on board the way the Opposition feels about these planes. I take it that members of the Opposition will never ever request to ride in one or have anything to do with one.
Opposition senators- Oh!
– Yes, that is a different kettle of fish. Opposition members are prepared to be critical of the purchase but they will use the planes if they need them. If they feel so strongly about it, I trust that the Leader of the Opposition in this place and the other place will get up and say that under no circumstances will members of the Opposition ever travel in the Boeings proposed to be purchased.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate relating to the purchase of planes.
– That is original.
-Well, I am being honest about it. Is it not a fact that members of this Government, when they were in Opposition, were most trenchant in their criticism of the great use made by Mr Whitlam of chartered planes when he travelled overseas? In view of the projected purchase by this Government, will it not appear to the public that we on the Government side can be charged with very considerable inconsistency in our arguments? Is this not the sort of action which undermines belief by the public in the truthfulness of statements by parliamentarians? In view of the fact that the red herring of security is being used to support the purchase, is it not a fact that the present Prime Minister was a very great user of VIP planes within Australia when he was a Minister?
– Let us see the light clearly.
– It is all right; I see the light. There are clouds over the honourable senator. Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister uses VIP aircraft almost exclusively and does not travel on commercial airlines? Is it not a fact that in some cases Ministers can use VIP aircraft? I ask the next question in view of the so-called red herring of security. What makes the lives of the Prime Minister and the Ministers of this Commonwealth any more precious than the lives of the parliamentarians of this country, who have to travel with the general run of people? Would it not be of advantage to this Parliament if our leading parliamentarians, such as the Prime Minister and Ministers, were to travel with and sit alongside the general public so that they could talk to the general public and learn really what is wanted and what is going on?
-I am delighted that the honourable senator put that last question. I thought that he was one of the great complainers when the Whitlam Government made parliamentarians travel economy class, which is the way the real people of this country travel. The honourable senator used to complain bitterly about no meals being served during nights, about the lack of leg room and about sitting three abreast. Economy class is where the real paying public sits in aeroplanes. I thought that the only people who travelled first class were those who had their fares paid by somebody else. I am yet to believe that if one wishes to meet the average elector one will meet him in first class rather than in economy class. However, I am delighted to hear the honourable senator’s suggestion. As he will be retiring from this Parliament shortly with a gold pass for life on which he can travel, I presume that he will be prepared to keep in touch with the people by always travelling economy class. No doubt he will go back to Mackay tonight travelling economy class so that he can travel with the people.
As to the so-called red herring of security, nobody’s life is more valuable than that of anybody else, but I had thought it was well understood in relation to security matters that there are some people in the community who tend more than others to be prime targets. Generally it is not the prime target who is injured in a terrorist incident; it is the innocent people around him. When the bomb went off at the Hilton Hotel, which no doubt was an attempt to terrorise the visiting heads of state, it was not any of the Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers or politicians who were hurt but two innocent garbage collectors and a policeman. These people are typical of the victims of terrorist incidents. The problem with the security of Prime Ministers and airports is that they can become targets. It is unlikely that they will be injured but it is likely that innocent passengers wil be injured. That is why it is not a red herring to talk about security for Prime Ministers, Leaders of the Opposition and such other people in the community.
I do not know who uses aircraft the most, but if the honourable senator is worried about overseas visits, which seemed to be the burden of his original question, I can give him a few figures in relation to that. Ministers of the present Government have completed a total of 96 visits overseas involving 1,147 days away and the cost of those visits to 30 April of this year has been calculated at $1.2m. Over the same period Ministers of the Labor Government completed 130 visits and spent 1,776 days overseas at a total expenditure of $2.6m. So the honourable senator can see from those figures that there has been a cutback in the number of visits overseas, the number of days spent overseas and the sum expended on those visits. Let us compare the figures for the overseas visits of the last two Prime Ministers. Since taking office the present Prime Minister has had 10 visits overseas involving 96 days away at a cost to 30 April of $0.48m. During Mr
Whitlam ‘s term as Prime Minister he went overseas 14 times for a total of 165 days at a cost of $1.5m.
– That is for three years as against two years.
-I am just giving details of the number of visits overseas and the days spent away. The facts speak for themselves. This Government has been more restrained both in the number of overseas visits allowed and the days for which Ministers are allowed to go. I think that answers most of the honourable senator’s question.
– I ask a supplementary question. In order to disparage my question, the Leader of the Government said that I was one of those who strongly objected to travelling economy class. Is it not a fact that over the years it was always the practice to travel first class. Is the Minister aware that when I travel anywhere and pay my own expenses I travel first class and pay first class.
– At a very low rate.
– In view of Senator Missen ‘s statement, it would be of interest to him and the Leader of the Government to know that when I first came to this Parliament, because of some arrangement with the Commonwealth Government I paid my own fare to and from the city of Mackay and Parliament, and I did not charge the Government. Is this not an indication that it is not a case of my shifting from one class to the other but a case of being consistent in my views of travel over the years? If the Minister is concerned that I am afraid to move with ordinary people I inform him that I get around my city on a push bike. I have not seen the Prime Minister do that.
-The trouble with a push bike is that you go past your electors too quickly. As Senator Wheeldon would know, I go one better. I walk to and from my home. I occasionally see Senator Wheeldon walking up the same hill towards the State Parliament House. Because I walk I have a far greater opportunity to stop and talk with my electors. To ride past them on a bicycle is not good enough. You may as well be in a motor car. As to what class the honourable senator travels, I think that is irrelevant. It is certainly true that from the days when members of Parliament were given free travel on railways they travelled first class. With the introduction of aeroplanes the first class rail ticket was converted to a first class air ticket. What I was saying was correct. During the period when members of this Parliament were, by the direction of the then
Government, travelling economy class there were some bitter complaints about it. If we are to seek some self-gratification from the way we put up with that, it is fair to say that during that period I probably travelled as often and as far as any other person in the Parliament. I doubt whether anybody ever heard me complain about it. But there were some loud and bitter complaints both inside and outside the Parliament by all sorts of people at the fact that they had to travel economy class. As I recall, one of the complaints was that they did not get a meal.
– They were not missing much.
-That is right. I thought that that was one of the great advantages. The stale sandwiches in the tourist class tended to be better than the plastic chicken in first class. It is always very easy to be critical of others. I do not know what class Senator Wood travels. I do not know how he first travelled to the Parliament. I just wish him happy flying.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is it a fact that in his election policy speech in 1977 Mr Fraser made a commitment that the Government would redevelop Brisbane Airport? If so, when can Brisbane residents expect to see some action in the redevelopment of the airport? I also ask whether there is any truth in the report in the Brisbane Telegraph of 2 May 1978 that Federal Government top financial advisers are trying to stop or seriously delay promised redevelopment of Brisbane Airport’.
– If my recollection is correct, both Senator Colston and I heard officers of the Department of Transport yesterday reply in detail to the matter raised in the first part of his first question. My recollection is that he was advised, as I was, that at this moment active planning and site preparation are going on for the redevelopment of Brisbane Airport. I commend him to yesterday’s Hansard in that regard. As to the second part of his question, I have not seen the report in the newspaper of 2 May 1978. If the honourable senator gives me a copy of the report I shall seek a comment from my colleague the Minister for Transport. I can only say that the Government proposes to proceed with the redevelopment of Brisbane Airport and that the site planning- the preliminary work in arriving at the details before the first bulldozer moves- is going on. I commend to the honourable senator yesterday ‘s Hansard.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing both the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations or the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Was it found that the Trade Practices Act had certain limitations in relation to the recent dispute over the exporting of live sheep from Australia? If that is so, will the Government introduce amendments, to this Act or any other Act, which may be required to resolve a similar situation if the need should again arise?
-Section 45D of the Trade Practices Act did play a useful part in the resolution of the live sheep export dispute. Injunctions were issued under that Act against certain people who were leading the picketing and the bans that were placed on the export of live sheep. I noticed that one of the terms of the agreement for the settlement of that dispute was that during the period of the examination that is currently being carried on by Dr Miller of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics no action would be taken in respect of the proceedings under section 45D. I think it is clear that the parties to that dispute recognised that section 45D was of considerable importance, otherwise it would not have been regarded as necessary to include that provision in the terms of settlement.
A question concerning section 45D is under constitutional challenge. I think that I have referred to that already in the Senate. The High Court has reserved its decision in relation to another dispute where section 45D proceedings have taken place. Admittedly, in the live sheep export dispute only interim injunctions had been issued under section 45D and no final decisions had been made in regard to its application. However, at this stage it appears to have been effective in settling that dispute, and it is the Government’s view that it will continue to have an important bearing in situations where it is applicable. I emphasise that of course it has only limited application and it was intended to apply only to certain types of actions which arise in industrial situations and which are known as secondary boycotts. That is not and was never intended to be the way in which any type of dispute in this area could be resolved. If in future use it is found to have limitations or deficiencies, of course the Government will keep these factors under very close observation and, if necessary, will consider amendments to the Act.
I conclude by saying that one of the major problems in the live sheep dispute was that there was no existing legislation designed to bring the parties together. Neither section 45d of the Trade Practices Act nor any provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act applied to the actual situation that confronted the parties to that dispute. That is why the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations- I in this place and also the Minister have acknowledged this- and the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions were obliged to take a good deal of action to bring the parties together and to keep negotiations going so that ultimately, in this way, agreement was reached. This is another aspect of the legislation to which the Government will give consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I draw his attention to a question I asked him on 1 1 April. I do not expect his recall to be so great that he will immediately call it to mind, so I will repeat it. I asked:
Is the Government yet in a position to announce the composition of the Australian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Disarmament which will be held in May and June this year? Will the Government give consideration to Opposition senators and members, and even concerned members of the Government, participating in the Australian delegation to the Special Session on Disarmament?
I ask the question a second time because there are now only 19 days to the beginning of that very important Special Session. At the time of my asking the question I felt there would have been an opportunity for members of Parliament to meet with the delegation and to know what opinions would be expressed by the Australian Government at that meeting. We are still in the dark and I believe the matter is important enough for the Minister to obtain a reply for me today.
– Normally I give an answer the next day if I do not have one immediately available. I do not have a brief prepared on this matter. I shall seek one immediately. If I cannot put down a reply during Question Time I shall let the honourable senator know later in the day.
-Can the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development advise the progress to date of the housing cost inquiry and an estimate of when the report is likely to be presented?
– I do not have the details at hand but I shall seek the information and let the honourable senator know.
-Has the Minister for Social Security received a report from Mr Justice Kirby of the Law Reform Commission on privacy and de facto marital relationships as they apply to social services legislation and procedures since she referred the matter to Mr Justice Kirby.
– As far as I am aware a report has not been received from Mr Justice Kirby. I shall seek the information and see that Senator Mcintosh is advised.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. I refer to the announcement made in the House of Representatives on 13 April 1978 by the Minister for Trade and Resources concerning the Government’s new export development initiatives. Is the Minister aware that, whilst the new export incentives scheme has beem welcomed enthusiastically by the business community, there is some concern that payments under the scheme will not become available early in the new financial year, as intended, but instead only in 1979? Given that the Government has indicated that the new scheme will be applicable for the business year ending on 30 June 1 978, will the Minister provide an assurance that the legislation for the scheme will be presented to Parliament during the current session which ends on 2 June? Is the Minister willing, therefore, to reinforce the business community’s belief that this popular initiative will be available for the 1977-78 financial year without undue delay?
-I can inform the honourable senator that the export incentives scheme announced in the Minister’s statement of 13 April will operate from 1 July 1977 and will be based upon the increase in exports in 1 977-78 over average exports for the years 1974-75, 1975-76, and 1976-77. Payments under this scheme, therefore, will become payable in 1 978-79 on the export of eligible goods and services. I further advise the honourable senator that the amendments to the export market developments grants scheme announced at the same time will take effect from 1 July 1978 and will be reflected in grants payable to firms in 1979-80. Because these amendments affect entitlement to grants and, in some classes of expenditure, reduce the rate of those grants from 85 per cent of eligible expenditure to 70 per cent, it is only equitable that firms which have committed themselves on the basis of the existing scheme to government-sponsored promotions held before 31 December 1978, should receive grants at 85 per cent. Subject to legislation giving effect to the proposed amendments, however, firms may base their promotional expenditure for 1978-79 in accordance with the new rules.
I further advise the honourable senator that every effort is being made to have the amending legislation ready for introduction into the Parliament this session. It will not be for want of trying if it is not introduced before 2 June. However, in the light of the heavy work load before the Parliamentary Counsel it is not yet certain whether the legislation will be ready in time for this session. We know that the Parliamentary Counsel is doing his best. I can assure the honourable senator that even if the legislation is not introduced, this will have no effect upon the value of the new incentives once the legislation is in force. Finally, I can assure the honourable senator that subject to the legislation coming into force, the new export incentives grants scheme will be available in respect to exports in 1977-78, and that the amendments to the exports market developments grants scheme will apply to eligible expenditure during 1978-79.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I share the sentiment of Senator Young that in industrial wrong doing all should be equal in the eyes of the law. With that preface, I now ask: What has been the outcome of the case involving James Richardson Pty Ltd which refused to acknowledge for two years an overtime definition and then had to pay $44,000 in back pay to its employees?
– I am pleased to find that the James Richardson Pty Ltd saga is being revived again. It was a long running show here but it was taken off or finished its run. I thought that was that but apparently it is being revived. I am unable to answer the question. An Estimates Committee is to sit at 12 o’clock today and I think that an officer of the Industrial Relations Bureau will be present. Perhaps we will be able to get the answer to that question then. If not, I certainly will obtain an up-to-date report on the situation and let the honourable senator know as soon as possible.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. It relates to the 2 1st annual report of the operation of the Fishing Industry Act for the year ended 30 June 1977. 1 refer to the section dealing with the supervision of the Irene M purse seine operations which, for the benefit of the Minister and honourable senators, reads:
An experienced purse seine operator was made available for approximately one month to supervise the handling of Commonwealth equipment (notably a purse seine net, replacement value approximately $45,000) whilst on loan to a company to demonstrate purse seining for jack mackerel to overseas visitors-
This is the important part- interested in investing in an Australian project. Although the operations were successful no foreign participation resulted.
From which overseas countries did these visitors come? Have these countries since made any proposals for other joint fishing ventures with Australia?
-The Irene M was one of six purse seine vessels which were licensed to take southern blue fin tuna from areas of waters off New South Wales and South Australia following the limitation of fishing efforts in these areas in 1975. Following the collapse of Fish Protein Concentrate Pty Ltd, which owned the Irene M, the receiver sought advice on continuing the operations with a view to restoring profitability in the company’s operation. To this end representatives of a South African company expert in purse seine operations visited Australia and viewed fishing operations using this vessel. An Australian skipper was hired for the purpose of demonstration. It was for this purpose that $1,000 was made available. The honourable senator will know basically of the type of operation involved. My understanding is that South Africa is the country from which the visitors came. The answer to the final part of the question is no.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, refers to the domestic sugar price. On 10 April- almost a month agothe Minister wrote to Dr Everingham, the honourable member for Capricornia, in response to a request from Dr Everingham, saying that new information had come to light which the Government was now studying and that it would announce a decision shortly. That was nearly a month ago. Has a decision yet been made? If not, when can we expect a decision to be made? Does the Government, as the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs indicated at the Press briefing following Wednesday’s Government parties meeting, intend to index domestic sugar prices in accordance with the consumer price index? If so, what will be the base year for indexation purposes?
-So far as I am aware no decision has yet been reached in relation to the price of sugar. I have noted the various comments in the newspapers. I am not aware of a positive statement having been made as a result of any party meeting within the last week or so. The only information I am able to give to the honourable senator is that as far as I am aware the situation is unresolved at this moment.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. I refer to the recent spillage of distillate into Larrys Creek in the vicinity of the Tidbinbilla tracking station. I understand that it has flowed into the Mumimbidgee system and will end up in the Burrinjuck Dam. Can the Minister say how this spillage occurred? Who was responsible for it? What action has the Government taken to clear the river of the oil slick? What was the cost of cleaning-up operations? Is the Government able to recover that cost from those responsible for the spillage? Can the Minister say whether this spillage has threatened fish and other wildlife in the vicinity of the river? Will the action taken by the Government prevent further danger to wildlife? Finally, what has been done to warn the public of the dangers involved in drinking the water or using it for washing or for recreational purposes?
- Senator Jessop has correctly directed the question to me because, firstly, I am the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory and the spillage occurred within that Minister’s area of responsibility; and secondly, the spillage basically occurred from the Tidbinbilla tracking station which is under the management of the Department of Science. A mishap occurred at the Tidbinbilla tracking station early on the morning of 28 April and, I am advised, caused 18,000 litres of diesel oil to flow into the station ‘s stormwater drain and then into Larrys Creek, which is a very small stream flowing very slowly. Apparently Larrys Creek flows into Paddys River, which in turn flows into the Mumimbidgee River which, I understand, is about 1 8 kilometres away. The distillate escaped from storage tanks on the night of 27 April and the matter was reported to me the following morning. Immediately officers of the Department of the Capital Territory took steps to dam the drain leading from the tracking station to Larrys Creek. They placed two dams at the lower end of Larrys Creek to minimise the flow of material into Paddys River. Where possible distillate was pumped into tankers and removed. Extensive quantities of baled and loose hay were placed in the lower reaches of Larrys Creek to absorb the distillate. On the next day, the Saturday, after further examination a burn-off was conducted in Larrys Creek and in the drain leading from the tracking station. That burn-off, I understand, was very effective in removing much of the distillate. The creek later was flushed with about 90,000 gallons of water held in storage at the tracking station and this enabled a further successful burn on 3 May. Since then absorptive booms and pillows have been placed in the lower reaches of the creek to collect any distillate still present.
I know that Senator Jessop in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committe on Science and the Environment would be particularly interested in this matter, and rightly so. The best possible estimate indicates that about onequarter of the distillate may have reached Paddys River before the creek was dammed. The Department of the Capital Territory is still assessing the likely effect. The river is flowing swiftly so the distillate is well mixed with water and cannot be extracted as was done in the creek. The main method of assessing where distillate may be apparently is not by vision but by smell. The distillate has gone as far down as the confluence of Paddys River and the Cotter River and there are already indications that it is likely that fish, platypus, water rats and other animals will die as a result of this spillage.
– I raise a point of order. Mr President, you and the Senate would agree that this matter to which Senator Webster has been referring should be the subject of correspondence between a Minister and a member of this chamber. The time of the Senate during Question Time should not be taken up with this sort of detailed information. I suggest this is completely out of order. The Minister is entitled to exercise his discretion but if Question Time is going to be taken up with the giving of lengthy answers we might as well dispense with Question Time.
– On the point of order: As I understand it, honourable senators ask questions in good faith seeking information either for themselves or for their electors. I fail to see why the Opposition should believe that it has the right at Question Time to savage the Government but that Government senators have not the right to seek proper information for either themselves or their constituents.
– I ask the Minister for Science to continue his reply, but I point out that we have had thus far today only 20 questions. It is desirable to have as many questions as possible answered specifically as to the matters raised. Therefore, I again ask honourable senators to couch their questions in as brief and succinct a form as possible. Ministers can then also be brief in giving the information sought, thus enabling more information to be given to the Senate generally as a result of the greater number of questions that can be asked.
- Senator Jessop ‘s question was directed to the possible effects of this spill. Whilst the position is being kept under scrutiny, there is little more that can be done at present. The effect on the Mumimbidgee is not yet known, but no damage is obvious at this time. Details of the cost of undertaking corrective measures have been kept. The tracking station management, which must, of course, refer the matter to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, orally accepts responsibility for the spillage and will be asked to reimburse the Commonwealth for the work that has been, and will be, undertaken. In regard to the point of order that Senator Wriedt raised -
– Order! The point of order has been determined. I ask the Minister to complete his reply.
– I acknowledge that the point of order has been determined. I was anxious to say, as you correctly stated on the point of order, Mr President, that some matters -
– Order ! The Minister must not canvass my ruling. I ask him to complete his reply to the question.
– I wish only to acknowledge how important this is to people within the Australian Capital Territory, a matter which Senator Wriedt does not acknowledge.
-On Wednesday Senator Chaney asked me a supplementary question regarding representations made to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications by the Wireless Institute of Australia concerning illegal radio transmissions. I undertook to obtain the information for the honourable senator and am now advised that representations were made by the
Institute to the Postal and Telecommunications Department in August last, and in November, to the former Minister for Post and Telecommunications, and that both were subsequently answered.
-Senator Wriedt yesterday asked a question relating to the marine biochemistry unit. I leave it to the honourable senator to decide whether he wishes to have an answer, or would prefer not to.
– That is offensive.
– I will proceed with the answer because, obviously, it is offensive to Senator Wriedt for me not to do so. I am advised that the marine biochemistry unit of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation was established in April 1971 to undertake the research on the biochemistry of phytoplankton. In October 1976, the Executive of the CSIRO undertook a review of the unit in the light of existing research priorities and resources. After discussions with Dr K. Radway Allen, Chief of the Division of Fisheries and Oceanography, and Professor M. G. Pitman, Professor of Botany, University of Sydney, the Executive decided to disband the unit. It was decided that Dr Humphrey would be seconded to the University of Sydney as a Research Associate in the School of Biological Sciences, to carry out a research program on algal metabolism, a project that he had commenced at Cronulla some 15 years previously and had continued while at the unit. Dr Jeffrey and an experimental officer, Ms J. C. Eyles, were to be transferred to the Division of Fisheries and Oceanography at Cronulla, where Dr Jeffrey would continue the research she had carried out in the unit.
In respect of Dr Jeffrey and Ms Eyles, this transfer was effective from December 1976. However, the physical transfer did not take place until later in 1977 when the transfer of the algal collection was completed. Dr Humphrey decided to transfer from the position of Chief, Division of Fisheries and Oceanography, in 1971 to accept appointment as the Officer-in-Charge of the marine biochemistry unit. In June 1972, Dr K. Radway Allen was appointed Chief until his retirement in 1977. The current Chief, Mr D. J. Rochford, was appointed in August 1977. Senator Wriedt asked whether any similar units had been established. My information is that a number of these units have changed names and have been established in other areas as the CSIRO seeks to stabilise its present position.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that in accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951, Mr J. J. Brown, a member of the House of Representatives, has been appointed a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in the place of Mr Armitage, discharged.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Albury-Wodonga Development Act 1 973, I present the annual report of the AlburyWodonga Development Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1975. This annual report has been delayed for more than two years because of the requirement under section 32 to obtain the approval of the Treasurer to the form of the financial statements. After long negotiations with officers of the New South Wales and Victorian Governments this approval was given on 28 September 1977. The Auditor-General’s certificate was issued on 20 October 1977.
-by leave- Mr President, I believe it is quite unacceptable to receive a 1974-75 report on 5 May 1978. 1 accept the statement by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) that it was a requirement under section 32 of the AlburyWodonga Development Act to obtain the approval of the Treasurer to the form of the financial statements. But I think that the Federal Government, in allowing this matter to run this long, has certainly been derelict in its responsibilities. The same must be said of the New South Wales Government and the Victorian Government.
This is a project that has handled vast sums of money. It has been a new type of operation in intergovernmental involvement. It has caused great public interest, comment and debate. If this report were the 1975-76 report, it would still be too late in being presented. Personally, I think we should now be looking at least for the 1976-77 report. I request the Minister in charge of this document to institute some inquiries to see when we can expect to obtain at least another two annual reports.
-by leave- I believe that both the report and what Senator Archer has said need further debate. I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– On behalf of Senator Guilfoyle, pursuant to section 42 of the Health Insurance Commission Act 1973, I present the annual report of the Health Insurance Commission for the year ended 39 June 1 977 together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Health relating to that report.
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the papers. I seek leave to continue my remarks. Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
That the resolution of the Senate dated 2 May 1978 relating to consideration of particulars of proposed additional expenditure for 1977-78 by Estimates Committees be varied so that, unless otherwise ordered, Estimates Committees report to the Senate on or before Thursday, 1 1 May 1978.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveproposed:
That on Wednesday, 10 May and Thursday, 1 1 May 1 978, and in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, leave be granted for the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works to meet during the sittings of the Senate.
– The Opposition will not oppose this motion. I understand from discussions I had with the Chairman of the Public Works Committee last night that there are very good reasons to expedite the work of this Committee on a particular matter and for that reason the Opposition will not oppose the motion.
– On an earlier occasion when we first had an appeal that a committee- I think it was the Foreign Affairs Committee- be permitted to sit during the sitting of the Senate because someone who was giving evidence had to leave Australia I believe that was the reason- the Senate made an exception and granted permission. Now we see this practice becoming commonplace, Parliament is taking second place to some discussion behind closed doors. When such permission was granted previously we had been told that there were particular reasons for the committee being permitted to sit. On this occasion the
Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has asked for permission for the Public Works Committee to sit on two days while the Senate is also sitting, but has given no reason why is should be so privileged. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wreidt) has said that he understands there are special reasons. Why the secrecy? What are the special reasons? Why can we not be told what are the special reasons so that we can determine whether this proposition is justified? Back bench senators are simply expected to do as they are told. No explanation has been given to the Parliament. Is the Committee to discuss the purchase of VIP aeroplanes? There is some secrecy about the matter. We want to be regarded as a part of the Parliament and not just people who do as they are told by someone who does not give them an explanation.
– Before the motion is put to the Senate I think that Senator Carrick should give some consideration to the request by Senator Cavanagh that an explanation be given of the special reason for this sitting and the concession that is being made in regard to the Standing Orders, which provide that no committee shall sit while the Senate is in session. If the case is strong enough the Senate will then put its imprimatur on this special meeting. The question of committees sitting while the Senate is in session is under consideration by the Standing Orders Committee. It is a big issue. The Senate has developed the committee system faster than the Standing Orders have been able to accommodate the proliferation of committee work. The point made by Senator Cavanagh is important. If there is a proliferation of committee meetings during the sittings of the Senate it will cut across the whole principle of Parliament. Parliament means speaking publicly in this forum. The attendance in the Senate itself may be seriously reduced by the holding of committee meetings during the sittings of the Senate. Many times, because committees are sitting, we will not have a quorum to conduct the business of the Senate. An important principle is involved. The Senate should be given some explanation of the urgency of this special concession being requested by the Public Works Committee.
– in reply- I accept that the Senate should be informed on this matter. I was under the impression that both sides of the chamber were aware of this matter. That not being so, I shall read to the Senate a letter from the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, Mr Bungey who is a member of the other place. It states:
Dear Senator Withers,
Section 12 (5) of the Public Works Committee Act 1969 states that the Public Works Committee shall not meet or transact business on a sitting day of either House of Parliament during the time of the sitting, except by leave of that House.
On 16 March 1978, the following work was referred to the Committee for examination and report to Parliament:
Defence Force Academy, A.C.T.
The Committee carried out an inspection of the existing Defence Colleges on 27 April 1978 and conducted public hearings at Parliament House on Friday, 28 April 1978, Monday, 1 -May and on the morning of Tuesday, 2 May 1978.
There has been a considerable response to the Committee’s inquiry and as a result it was not possible to conclude the hearing prior to the resumption of Parliament yesterday.
The Committee expects that a further two days of hearings are required to complete the inquiry.
In order that the Committee report as expeditiously as is practicable, as required by the Public Works Committee Act, I now seek leave of the Senate for the Committee to be permitted to sit on Wednesday, 10 May and Thursday, 1 1 May 1978 whilst the Senate is sitting.
So that arrangements may be put in hand concerning the proposed hearing, I would appreciate your advice by the end of this week.
I apologise to the honourable senators. Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In order to enable Senate Estimates committees to meet, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative. Senator adjourned at 11.54 a.m.
The following answers to questions were circul
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 10 April, 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
1 ) The estimated cost of building an airstrip at the Australian Antarctic station at Davis is dependent on the site chosen and the standard of airstrip. At one site the estimated costs are:
At the second site the cost of providing an airstrip to meet Boeing 707 standards is estimated between $16. 5m to $20.5m.
The above costs are provided in a detailed report by the Department of Transport in December 1977.
National Communications Satellite System
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, without notice, on 28 February 1978:
With reference to the Government’s inquiry into the possible introduction of a national communications satellite system in Australia, in view of the serious dangers to the Australian public of such a system should it come under monopoly control, will the Minister tell the Senate what steps have been taken to ensure that all interested members of the public will have an opportunity to put their views to the inquiry? Will the Minister say whether the Government intends to table the findings of the inquiry so that all Australians may consider for themselves the arguments for and against such a system before any decision is taken regarding the introduction of a national broadcasting satellite.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The task force appointed to conduct the inquiry wrote to some 75 organisations throughout Australia inviting submissions and also published in the national, metropolitan, provincial and rural press in all States an invitation to the public to submit their views to the task force.
Many did so and a total of 131 submissions have so far been received. Copies of all submissions received in response to invitations and advertisements in the press have been lodged in the National Library in Canberra and in the public libraries of all State capitals where they are available for public scrutiny. This has been widely announced.
The hearings are open to the public and have been well attended by representatives of the media.
The Government does table reports on matters of public interest and it is expected that the task force report will be tabled.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, without notice, on 6 April 1 978:
I ask whether Telecom Australia has recently announced reduced charges for telex messages outside metropolitan areas. Did the Managing Director of Telecom claim that the effect of the reductions would be to save customers up to 50 per cent on their present telex bills? Is this an acknowledgement that the transmission time of telex messages, not the distance over which they are sent, is the major cost factor? If so, will the Minister ask Telecom to apply the same principle to trunk telephone calls? if not, will the Minister advise whether the purpose of the reduction is to attract country subscribers to the telex service in preference to the telephone service?
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Managing Director of Telecom Australia, Mr Curtis, announced on 4 April 1978 reduced telex charges for automatic daytime calls made over distances in excess of 1 65 km, affecting over 90 per cent of telex call charges, and for off-peak (6 p.m.-8 a.m.) automatic telex calls made over all distances. These reductions represent savings to the customer of up to 50 per cent in the cost of calls. The rentals for telex machines remain unchanged.
The revised scale of charges is still on the same basis as for the trunk telephone service i.e. on a distance as well as a time basis.
The purpose of the reduction is not to attract country subscribers to telex in preference to the telephone service. The telex service is essentially one for business use. There are currently some 21,000 subscribers mainly in the capital and larger provincial cities.
The reduction in charges became practicable because of the savings which will arise largely out of the adoption of a new generation electronic teleprinter. Telecom also expects there will be some increase in business because of the lower call charges.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 May 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780505_senate_31_s77/>.