31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 699 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:-
That Item 6469 of the standard Medical Benefits Table is the means by which payment is made for the slaughter of thousands of unborn babies every year.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should ensure that Item 6469 is removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Lajovic.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many pensioners who are holders of the Pensioners Health Benefit Card, have suffered undue hardship as inmates of Private Nursing Homes, because the Federal Government subsidy was insufficient to meet the charges as laid down.
Many pensioners whose spouse was an inmate of the Private Nursing Homes suffered poverty in an endeavour to sustain their partner while in the nursing home.
Only in rare cases was the statutory minimum patient contribution as laid down adhered to.
That the telephone was a matter of life and death to many pensioners, but because of the cost of installation of the telephone many are unable to afford the installation.
That those pensioners who have only their pension and very little else to live on and are forced to pay high rents, are in many cases living in extreme poverty.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator James McClelland.
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 oneyearexpiringon30June 1978.
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 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 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 Walters. (3 petitions).
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That Item 6469 of the standard Medical Benefits Table is the means by which payment is made for the slaughter of thousands of unborn babies every year.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should ensure that Item 6469 is removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Missen (3 petitions), Senator Jessop, Senator Guilfoyle, Senator Button and Senator Lewis.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science. Did the Minister for Construction, Mr McLeay, last October make reference to the provision of laboratory facilities for the Antarctic Division of the Department of Science and say that they would be re-examined in the light of a Government White Paper relating to Antarctic policy which was then being prepared? What has happened to the White Paper?
– I am uncertain about Mr McLeay ‘s comment but there is a White Paper being prepared by my Department in association with other interested departments. Within some weeks that paper should be before the Government for consideration and when a decision on the matter is made by Cabinet I will be making an announcement relating to it.
– I ask a supplementary question. Are we to understand that that White Paper is still under consideration and has not yet been before Cabinet?
-The White Paper is in preparation. So far as the second part of the question is concerned, that matter concerns me and Cabinet.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Does he agree that at present there is a dire and urgent need for overseas technology to be made available to all Australian industry, both small and large, on a more equitable basis than presently exists? Therefore, will the Minister inform the chamber what steps are being taken to ensure that technological advances will be within the monetary reach particularly of small businesses so that their continued viability and the tenure of employment of all those thousands of Australians presently unemployed can be guaranteed?
– I think this question is of concern to the Minister for Productivity as well as the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I represent both Ministers here. The question seeks a good deal of information and detail. Therefore I will refer it to both Ministers with a view to obtaining a fuller answer for the Senate.
– My question is again addressed to the Minister for Science. Is it not a fact that the White Paper relating to the Antarctic went before Cabinet last Thursday and was rejected? Will he indicate to the Senate whether that is correct? Will he also indicate whether there is a distinct division within the Government on his Department’s attitude and that of his colleagues towards Antarctic policy?
- Senator Webster, do you desire to reply to that question?
-If the Leader of the Opposition wishes to speculate on any matter that comes before Cabinet I should imagine that he is entitled to do so. He asked a specific question of me. I thought he was not anxious to hear long answers from me. My answer to his previous question was that it is a matter between me, as Minister in charge of the Department of Science under which is the Antarctic Division, and the Cabinet. So far as I am concerned, it is a confidential matter between me and the Cabinet.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the light of the condemnation by the United Nations of the South African incursion into Angola recently against the South West African People’s Organisation’s external raider forces. What steps are Australia and the United Nations talcing on the build-up of foreign Cuban forces in the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the reported big build-up of Cuban forces in Zambia? Will Australia speak out and encourage a strong stand against the Cuban troops forcefully interfering in the domestic issues of other countries?
-As I recall the statement that was put down on Tuesday in this place on behalf of the Foreign Minister I thought it was made clear that the Government regrets the interference by any outside body in other people ‘s internal affairs. The Foreign Minister has said that he thinks it is more than unfortunate that the South African Government should have acted the way it did. Two wrongs do not necessarily make a right. I think it is always to be deplored in international affairs when people take to force of arms to achieve things which ought to be able to be settled by negotiation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to previous questions that I have asked him regarding the ground communications satellite system to be erected in the north-west of Western Australia in the year 1980, as we now understand it. Is that station called the H. E. Holt Communications Station? If so, which government, the United States Government or the Australian Government- or was it both governments- determined the name of this new station to be erected? Is the station to which I refer to be used for naval communications or wider communications in the defence area?
-Perhaps I misunderstood the first part of the honourable senator’s question. I thought that the United States naval communications facility at Learmonth in the North West Cape had been called the Harold E. Holt base since the unfortunate death of the former Prime Minister. I have no knowledge of and no information on the technical matters raised in the question. I will see whether I can obtain that information for the honourable senator before the end of Question Time.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education. I refer to the special provision of English language teachers to meet the language needs of migrant children in the Australian Capital Territory. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the position of Australian Capital Territory child migrant education programs, particularly as to whether adequate numbers of such teachers are available and whether the provision of facilities for teaching English as a second language in the Australian Capital Territory are adequate for migrant children?
– The policy of the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority is to provide ‘English As a Special Language’ teaching to all migrant children who require it. Migrant education teachers are provided on the basis of one teacher to a maximum of 30 migrant pupils. This applies at Watson High School and other schools in the Australian Capital Territory with special ESL classes. The Schools Authority also maintains as part of its education facilities at Telopea Park High School an intensive English language centre for secondary students referred from neighbourhood secondary schools. These students receive an average of three months’ intensive English language training before returning to their nearest secondary school providing specialist ESL teaching support. The intensive language centre is staffed on the basis of one teacher to a maximum of 10 pupils. At present three ESL teachers are working at the centre. Free transport is provided for children attending ESL classes outside the neighbourhood school area.
Two places are reserved in all Australian Capital Territory government pre-schools for children with special needs who would not normally be placed on pre-schools’ waiting lists. These places are mostly taken up by children who come from non-English speaking homes. In 1977 some 70 children from migrant families were given priority places. In the last financial year, 1976-77, the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority spent about $500,000 on migrant education, so the matter is being given significant priority.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the fact that the Australian Taxation Office has decided to enforce strictly the taxation of rent subsidies which are usually paid to employees in remote areas of Australia, what additional measures does the Government propose to take to provide incentives for people living in remote and high cost areas such as the Pilbara? Should the Government fail to introduce additional incentives for employees in those areas, will this not cause industrial unrest in those areas and actively work against the Government’s decentralisation policies?
– As I understand it, the honourable senator has asked about the present attitude and approach of the Australian Taxation Office towards rental allowances or rental advantages given to those people living and working in remote areas. I think that basically I answered this question earlier in the Senate. The approach of the Taxation Office at the moment is not new: It is carrying out policies that it has always pursued. The honourable senator widened the question by asking what additional incentives the Government proposes to encourage people to go to remote areas such as the Pilbara. My understanding is that there is no shortage of people providing constant labour in places such as Dampier, Parapurdoo, Mount Tom Price, Gove, Weipa- all the remote places to which I have been and in which I have seen conditions that I think are attractive in terms of basic incentives. In other words, the whole basic infrastructure of the mining towns of which I have knowledge and to which I have been is such that it provides a worthwhile and necessary attractive incentive to those people who work there.
The subsidisation by mining companies of the prices of foodstuffs and commodities- in the case of the Pilbara I think they are subsidised to the level of prices in Perth- is an incentive. There are numerous incentives. If the honourable senator has any further thoughts on this matter or if I have overlooked any government incentives I shall look at the question and ask my colleague the Treasurer to see whether he would like to supplement my answer. I shall let the honourable senator know his response.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs aware of the unfortunate predicament of the minority shareholders in Marrickville Holdings Ltd following the acquisition of 50. 1 per cent of the shares in that company by Southern Packers Pty Ltd in October last? During the six months after the acquisition of the shares Marrickville Holdings Ltd began a price war by discounting margarine by up to 30c a 500 gram pack. The Marrackville group has reported a $3m loss for the last half year, and the share price has fallen from $ 1 . 10 a share to 73c a share. Despite a conditional promise last October that a bid for the rest of the shares would be made by Southern
Packers Pty Ltd, no offer has yet been forthcoming to the minority shareholders. Can the Minister comment on the adequacy of the existing companies legislation and regulations to protect the rights of minority shareholders in this predicament? Is there any action which the Government can take to protect the interests of the minority shareholders in Marrickville Holdings Ltd in their present dilemma?
– This question raises some very technical matters in relation to company law. As the Senate would know, those laws are State laws and are State administered. As the Senate would also know, the Commonwealth is making considerable efforts in negotiations with the States to obtain uniform 1 aws in this area. During this coming weekend the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs will be meeting again with the State Ministers in relation to the proposal for uniform companies and securities industry laws. I know that he is hopeful, that a final agreement on these matters will be reached at that time. As to the specific question of what action, if any, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs can take, although I have some doubts about whether anything can be done by him at this stage under his existing powers, I shall refer the question to him and endeavour to obtain a further answer.
– My question is directed to Senator Durack in his dual capacity as Attorney-General and Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I again ask: What action has been taken in regard to a prosecution of James Richardson Pty Ltd which, as the Minister would be aware, was forced to disgorge $44,000 in underpaid wages, largely due to action taken by a troika of senators, comprising Senator Bishop, the Minister and me?
– Recently I did undertake to endeavour to obtain some further information on this matter. I apologise for the fact that I have not yet obtained that information. I shall endeavour to activate an answer on the matter.
-Can the Minister representing the Treasurer advise the chamber with which industry the kelp harvesters of King Island are associated for sales tax purposes? Are they associated with the fishing industry, which would seem reasonable as they, like the fishing industry, reap the harvest of the sea; or are they considered to be outside the whole area of primary industry? If so, can the Minister explain the legislation which covers these kelp harvesters?
– I confess abysmal ignorance on this issue. I shall seek information on the matter and let the honourable senator know the answer
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is it true that it is still possible for a housewife- possibly a pregnant housewife- to purchase the herbicide 2,4,5-T over the counter in a garden supply store of a supermarket? Does the Minister consider that the information provided with these products is sufficient to warn the average individual that in the opinion of the Environment Protection Authority in the United States of America extreme care must be exercised in the use of this material, otherwise binh defects or cancer may well result? Has the National Health and Medical Research Council ever proposed a regulation which would have served to protect women of child bearing age or pregnant women against exposure to 2,4,5-T? Is it true that the United States authorities legislated in 1970 to protect women of child bearing age against exposure to 2,4,5-T?
- Senator Melzer’s question is of great interest to many people in Australia. I think this is a very topical matter. I am unable to answer the specific questions that have been raised. I will refer them to the Minister for Health and see that some publicity is given to his answer.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs or as the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. I inform the Minister that I have been given to understand from a reliable source that countries such as Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana and Zaire are actively conducting substantial trade with Rhodesia and South Africa. Can the Minister say whether that is the fact? If so, can he ascertain the volume of such trade? Does this not seem to be incompatible with the current political stance being adopted by these front line African States and the fact that these countries were most vocal in their demands that other countries of the world should apply sanctions against Rhodesia and South Africa?
-I know that from time to time statements to the effect of the ones repeated by the honourable senator are made about trade with Rhodesia. I do not know whether the Government would have the capacity to obtain any information as to the size and type of trade which is occurring. I will ask my colleagues, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade and Resources, whether their departments have any knowledge of this matter so that I can provide it to the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs in which I refer to the recent decision of the Minister for Home Affairs to refuse funding for the Film Australia project ‘The Unknown Industrial Prisoner’. Because of the widespread concern in the industry and the community generally at the Minister’s decision, 1 wrote to the Minister last week urging him to reconsider his decision in the light of those provisions contained in the Australian Film Commission Act which require the Commission to make films that enrich and illustrate aspects of Australian life. What is the Minister’s response to this request?
– In my capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs I am unaware of the letter that Senator Ryan has written to the Minister on this matter. I am aware of a somewhat detailed explanation which the Minister gave in answer to a question on this subject in the House of Representatives a week or so ago. I will check to see whether the Minister has any further response he wishes to make to the personal representations made by Senator Ryan.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Can the Minister say how much revenue the Government collects from the levy of an airport tax on the use by Ansett Airlines of Australia Ltd and Trans-Australia Airlines of capital city airports in Australia? Can the Minister say whether the amount of tax paid by each airline is the same? If it is not, can be give the reason for the difference? Can the Minister say what percentage of the price of an airline ticket paid by the consumer is made up of an amount added by the companies concerned to regain the money paid in tax to the Government? If this is a substantial percentage of the price of the ticket, will the Minister consider recommending to the
Government that airport taxes be lowered to encourage domestic air travel within Australia and hence to assist the tourist industry within this country?
– The overall situation is that over the years governments of all political faiths have taken the view that the correct way of substantially funding the maintenance of airports was to apply an airport tax which would represent a percentage of the costs. I think that discussion on the matter had gone as far as mentioning a figure as high as 80 per cent. I am relying upon my own memory when I say that, but I will seek that information. Each of the questions that the honourable senator asks is capable of an up-to-date answer. I do not have with me at the moment a brief as to how much revenue the airport tax is expected to yield in this year. It would, of course, be part of the Budget Papers. I will be happy to get that information for the honourable senator. She asks whether the tax is uniform as between airlines. My understanding is that that is so but I will have a look at the matter to see whether there are any qualifications to that. It ought to be readily possible to measure what percentage of the total tax the airport tax represents.
I am bound to say to the honourable senator that I believe that it is the practice in all countriescertainly in Western countries- to apply an airport tax which is often much higher than the one presently applied in Australia. In the final part of her question, as I understood it, she asked whether we should lower the tax to promote tourism. This is entirely a philosophical question as to who should pay- the taxpayers as a whole or that much smaller part of the community which uses airports. We are, I think, looking towards the principle, which I think both sides of the chamber support, that the user pays. That may well be important. I think that a recent public opinion poll concerning the usage of airlines tends to show a pretty overwhelming use by a relatively small minority of people. It might be considered unjust to ask all to pay for the few. Lest I have missed out on any point I will ask my colleague the Minister in the other place to look at the question and respond.
– Following Senator Chaney ‘s question yesterday on certain new look activities of the South Australian Premier, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he is aware that in the absence of the Tasmanian Premier overseas the locum has declared a clamp down on Public Service employment that will cost 1,000 jobs and has stated that ‘There needs to be restraint’? In view of the Opposition’s statements in this Parliament and various statements made previously by the gentleman whom I have quoted, does the Government see this as another major breakthrough in the Australian Labor Party, as was noted yesterday by Senator Chaney?
-lt appears that these Labor State Premiers are more in tune with the needs of the Australian economy. One imagines that that is basically because they are in charge of the economy within their own budgets in their own States and therefore are facing political realities, whereas an Opposition in Canberra can indulge in airy-fairy attitudes and know that whatever it says, it will not have the responsibility of implementing its policies. I am interested to know that yet another Labor Premier is overseas. Does that make three of them at the moment?
I understand that Mr Wran is overseas telling everybody to invest in Australia because the Fraser Government is here for the next 6 years. I understand from a question asked yesterday that Mr Dunstan is overseas. Now I understand that Mr Lowe is overseas. I congratulate the Premiers on being overseas. They must also believe in this Government’s policy that it is a great thing to have foreign investment in Australia. I should imagine that they are all overseas doing their best to promote their States. The three of them- Mr Wran, Mr Dunstan and Mr Lowe- are overseas urging foreign investors to invest in their States in Australia. I am delighted that they are doing so. The next thing we will have is Senator McLaren going overseas urging people to invest in South Australia. I really think that would be a delight. I think the Government will be delighted if any Labor senator or member who is to travel overseas during the winter recess- I think some are going on parliamentary delegations and study tours- follows the examples of the three Labor Premiers and wherever he goes urges people overseas to invest in Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and/or the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and refers to the proposals put up by the Australian Government to Indonesia in respect of reuniting East Timorese families following the occupation of that country. I point out to the Minister that in the last few days there have been conflicting reports about some of the discussions in respect of that matter and as to whether the International
Red Cross might be allowed again to visit the country. I ask: Is the Minister able to supplement the earlier reports in respect of this matter? Have there been undertakings recently in relation to the matter, as reported by the Press?
– I was asked a question recently by Senator Gietzelt about the role of the International Red Cross in Indonesia. I said at that time that I would seek information from my colleague in the other place. As I understand the situation, the negotiations that have been conducted by our Foreign Affairs people in Jakarta towards the implementation of reunions of East Timorese families are proceeding smoothly. The honourable senator has asked a question regarding the International Red Cross, as did Senator Gietzelt. I will see whether I can expedite an answer to both those questions.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is the Minister aware of the February 1976 report of the Advisory Committee on Program Standards, the Edgar Committee, and its recommendation that a television licence be revoked in each of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide? Is the Minister also aware that that recommendation was made on the basis ‘that the removal of one television station in each of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide would mean that there would be increased revenues for each remaining station to spend on programming. This would also mean that there would be fewer hours of television for which programs have to be found, and inferior products could be dropped.’? I add that, having watched television in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, obviously there is a need to drop some inferior programs. The report continues:
Clearly, a quality commercial television service is dependent upon profits being made, and these profits being channelled back to improve programs.
In the light of that, can any credence be given to suggestions that there ought to be a third commercial television channel in Western Australia?
– Show me your material.
– I am glad that Senator Georges is free to make the interjection. I welcome him back and congratulate him. He adds to the whimsy of the chamber if to nothing else. Turning now to more serious things, I am aware that a committee called the Edgar Committee was set up under the old Australian Broadcasting
Control Board. In response to the second question, I am aware that that Committee recommended that one commercial licence in each of the cities to which the honourable senator referred be revoked. I am also aware of the arguments that were advanced. The honourable senator will know that some years ago. I think during the Whitlam regime, an attempt was made to prove that every commercial station other than the one that was making the assertion was going broke and therefore ought to be wiped out. That view was fervently held of their competitors by each commercial station. I am happy to say that, due to the introduction of colour and other matters, the commercial stations are alive and well at this moment. The fact is that the recommendation of the Edgar Committee was not accepted by the Board and hut never been accepted by this Government.
The honourable senator was right when he said that the restriction of numbers does restrict the opportunity for programming. Indeed, yesterday I made reference to the fact that, whilst we use the ether in terms of operation of the whole spectrum, we will always be severely limited in terms of the use of television and radio. One looks to the day in the long term when we will use coaxial cable or optical fibre or laser beam. What the honourable senator said in his second query in relation to a third commercial licence for Perth is true. A number of proposals along these lines have been made to the Government. I can only say that they are receiving consideration at the moment.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. It refers to a question I asked on 15 March about the negligible benefits to Tasmania from the petroleum products freight subsidy scheme. In answering that question Senator Durack alleged:
I ask: Is the Minister aware that at a meeting held in Hobart on 3 April between officials of the two governments, Federal and State, and oil industry representatives, the oil industry spokesman confirmed that no such agreement had existed for some years and, moreover, that any agreement which may have existed in the past had no bearing on present petrol prices?
– I recall the question and the answer which I gave. I am not aware of the meeting to which Senator Walsh referred or of the statement made by the oil industry spokesman. It is naturally a matter of some concern if that statement were made. I will certainly have the matter investigated by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and endeavour to obtain an early answer.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that yesterday between 7.30 a.m. and 7.34 a.m. Canberra radio station 2XX played a record which contained the refrain: ‘I went with some friends to rape a girl’? Does radio station 2XX still operate under an education licence with certain restrictions which state that it can broadcast only material of an educational character? What steps do the broadcasting authorities take to monitor what is broadcast over 2XX? Is it correct that 2XX is now in the process of transforming itself into a so-called community station and that it has hopes of obtaining the community station licence which will be issued for Canberra? Can the Minister explain to the Senate the educational character of a record which contains the refrain: I went with some friends to rape a girl ‘? I should add that my attention was drawn to this matter by a Canberra woman who was listening to 2XX at breakfast time yesterday with her young daughters. This woman was so incensed with the record that she has now lodged a formal complaint with the police and the broadcasting authorities.
-If the incident which Senator Harradine described occurred, I am very happy that I did not hear the broadcast of radio station 2XX between 7.30 a.m. and 7.34 a.m. yesterday. I can only say that on the face of it it is an excruciating example of bad taste and immaturity, apart from the fact that it represents a failure to understand that people can be assaulted by sound and by visual means as well as by physical means and that nobody has the right to use those kinds of techniques against the general background of the standards of manners and behaviour of society. In other words, it is at its very least, on the face of it, a supreme example of bad taste and immaturity. It should be looked at as such.
As to the second part of the honourable senator’s question, my recollection is that a licence with educational limitations was issued in the time of the previous Government. I do not in any way criticise the issue of such licences. I am not fully aware of the restrictions. I believe there are restrictions. Senator Harradine asked what steps were taken to monitor. It is my understanding that it is the duty of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, which is the successor to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, to monitor all transmissions of broadcasts, both visual and auditory. I shall check on that situation but that is my understanding. I believe that to be true and therefore there ought to have been monitoring. It is the duty of the Tribunal to establish codes of behaviour and to seek the maintenance of that behaviour. One fervently hopes that it will do so. I am not aware whether station 2XX is seeking to transform its character from an educational station to a community station. I shall seek that information. I point out, in general terms, that the Government believes it is the duty of all those who make visual or aural transmissions to the public, to observe the normal standards of behaviour of the public. I believe that the action of that station is outside those terms. Therefore this is a proper matter for me to refer to the Minister and, through him, to the Broadcasting Tribunal for oversight.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications is related to the question Senator Harradine has asked. A similar incident of a most disgusting character transmitted over the Australian Broadcasting Commission came to my notice in Hobart 18 months ago. Further particulars 1 abstain from stating because I would be disseminating indecent matter. Having regard to the sensitive approach which the Minister has taken in his response to the idea that a single matter of this sort should be of substance to warrant cancellation of a licence, I ask him whether he will take immediate steps to ensure that all communications over federally licensed television and radio stations are subject to State laws governing the communication to the public of matters of indecency. I ask that question because there is a notion that such stations are not bound by such laws. Will steps be taken to ensure that the Federal communications system is subject to laws made by the States with regard to communicating indecent material to the public?
- Senator Wright raises a question which has not been presented to me before. I have always taken the view that those who perform by way of communication throughout our broadcasting and television services are subject to the ordinary Federal and State laws. It has never occurred to me- although on reflection I understand the thrust of the honourable senator’s question-that there could be any escape. Nor do I believe that any one in the community expects that anybody who is communicating should be beyond the reach of the ordinary law which applies to other citizens of the land. I shall ask the Minister in another place to look at this matter and to respond. Wherever questions arise as to what might be regarded as excesses or abuses within the media, there is a general tendency to defend those abuses on the grounds of freedom of expression. This Government believes that there is at least a contending freedom and that is the freedom of the general population of this country to maintain what it regards as the normal standards of behaviour and not to have thrust upon it by way of assault, standards which it abhors. I commend that principle.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services, follows representations made to me. I ask: Is it a fact that, as part of an economy drive, the Minister has under consideration proposals that may affect the pool of relief staff that is currently available to members of both Houses of Parliament? I refer to the staff that are available to members on short notice when their staff are unavoidably absent. In view of the Minister’s favourable comments from time to time about adequate resources for members, will he give favourable consideration to maintaining the existing arrangements?
– The existing arrangement is very favourable to members who have offices in capital cities. It is most unfavourable to those who have offices outside capital cities. I have been looking at this problem because it suits particularly members who have their electorate offices in a group situation in Commonwealth Parliamentary Office buildings but those who have electorate offices in Cairns or, as Senator McLaren has said, at Murray Bridge, are grossly disadvantaged compared with their city colleagues who are in many ways taking more than their fair share of the gravy. I am looking at a scheme which will give equity between those senators and members who have electorate offices in the capital cities and those who have electorate offices outside the capital cities.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science. It is about my concern at the hazards of genetic engineering. In view of the hazards of genetic engineering will the Minister give consideration to the immediate withdrawal of all Government research funds and the banning of such research until some adequate controls and safeguards can be introduced?
-Genetic engineering has been discussed in the Senate on several occasions. Some months ago the parliamentary science group, which meets irregularly, had the benefit of discussing various aspects of this subject with Professor Ada from the Australian National University. The direct answer to the honourable senator is that I will certainly give consideration to his question. Whilst I do not express a scientific opinion, I do not believe that it is warranted that all genetic engineering in this country should finish. It is being conducted on several levels and I think it is of great importance to the future of food production in this country, lt is considered generally within the public area to be something of a health risk because of legal action on the matter which has been taken in the United States of America. 1 can assure the honourable senator that wherever the issues surrounding genetic engineering research have been examined in depth, both in public discussion and in official inquiry, this has not led to any country banning research. As experience and knowledge have developed through these studies some of the bases for early presumptions of hazard have been negated. For example, the bacterium commonly used in research is now known not to be able to adapt to and become established in human intestines. So, all trends from overseas towards reduction in the severity of the controls of the experiment are basically for the encouragement of research.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In relation to passenger service charges made by locally owned airports in Australia, can the Minister advise whether for some airports these charges require no government authorisation? If so, what is the category of airport which is not required to obtain authorisation to charge a passenger service fee?
– I take it that Senator Colston is referring to those airports which are locally owned and usually run by local authorities. It is certain that they are authorised to make airport charges. My understanding was that prior to doing so they had to seek the approval of the
Department of Transport. By inference, Senator Colston suggests that they do not.
– Some do not.
- Senator Colston suggests that some do not. I am merely indicating that that is not my understanding. I could be wrong. I will check and let the honourable senator know.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Today’s Australian reports that the Indonesian President, General Suharto, has agreed to International Red Cross teams visiting Timor, which statement must be received with considerable acclaim. In view of this move, has the Minister any further information regarding the present situation of Timor refugees in Australia being permitted to reunite with their families still in Timor? If the information is not to hand, will the Minister advise the Senate at a convenient time?
– The honourable senator may not have been present when a similar question was asked of me this morning by Senator Bishop. Senator Gietzelt asked one along similar lines yesterday or the day before. I said then that 1 would seek the information. I will see whether I can get a composite answer to the three questions.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I draw his attention to the Prime Minister’s rejection of the request by the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation for assistance for the Chrysler Australia Ltd plant in South Australia. Will the Minister explain the Government’s attitude to the viability of the motor vehicle industry in the light of the rejection of this call for assistance? Will he explain the reasons for the rejection of the union ‘s quite reasonable demands?
– Earlier this year the Minister for Industry and Commerce made a major statement on Government policy in this area and on its motor vehicle plans. That has been followed recently by the statement by Chrysler Australia Ltd that it will rationalise its operations which affirms the viability of the operations of the Chrysler company and the fact that it will continue to employ 4,000 people even with its rationalisation programs. I think that the matters have been fairly well canvassed here.
In answer to a question the other day I indicated that the Government had received representations from other motor vehicle manufacturers in relation to proposals for changes in the plan, that the Government was looking at them and that decisions on them would be made shortly. Senator Sibraa seems to be seeking now a further general statement by the Government on this whole matter. Although I think that is probably quite unnecessary in view of what has been said recently, nevertheless I will refer the question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. What action has the Government taken in relation to recommendations 17 to 23, and particularly recommendation 2 1 of the report on the Middle East of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence? Recommendation 2 1 states that Australia should increase mandatory stockholdings of crude oil and derived products so that a 90-day reserve is established by 198 1. Would this not be in line with the minimum target suggested to member countries by the International Energy Agency?
– Because I am aware that section 21 of the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence fundamentally has an impact upon national development, and therefore upon my responsibility, 1 have a standing brief on this matter. I will precis it because the answer could be very comprehensive indeed, as the honourable senator will know. The Government’s stated energy policy has six main objectives: Firstly, to move crude oil prices progressively over a number of years to world parity- steps towards this objective have already begun; secondly, to restrain the average growth in energy consumption, particularly in liquid fuels; thirdly, to achieve a higher degree of selfsufficiency in liquid fuels; fourthly, to develop our oil and gas reserves; fifthly, to encourage major energy projects for export; and, sixthly, to increase substantially energy research and development.
Substantial steps have been taken to implement these six objectives. Those steps include the package of uranium Bills now before the Senate and the agreement with the States to establish a program for the implementation of the National Energy Advisory Committee’s recommendations on energy conservation. A task force was established for this purpose and it has already reported. The North West Shelf project is progressing satisfactorily. The exploration for oil and gas is once again on the increase. Subeconomic oil reserves are being developed as a direct result of the Government’s crude oil pricing policy and a number of major initiatives have been taken on energy research and development.
As to recommedation 21 specifically, which concerns the stockpiling of crude oil and petroleum products, consideration of the establishment of a fuel stockpile is one of the options the Government has decided upon as a means of achieving its energy objectives. This matter is now receiving careful consideration by the Department of National Development. Because this is a profoundly complex and detailed question, if the honourable senator seeks further information, upon reflection on my answer, I will be happy to get it for him.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: In view of media speculation and statements in the House concerning the system of portability of pensions, is she in a position to tell the Senate the Government’s intentions in this regard? Is the system to remain the same, be reviewed, abolished or modified in any way?
– The portability of pensions has been under consideration by my Department. As I have said earlier in this place, its consideration relates to negotiating reciprocal agreements with many countries where there is mutual agreement that this system could work satisfactorily. Recently the Department has had the service of a person from the United Kingdom who has had considerable experience in negotiating reciprocal agreements between Great Britain and other countries. He is shortly to report to the Government on matters on which he thinks that we could proceed with regard to establishing reciprocal agreements. If reciprocal agreements were negotiated with other countries, it would be fair to assume that conditions of portability as they now exist would similarly be under review. This is the position at the moment. We will shortly be considering a report on steps that we could take to negotiate reciprocal agreements and at the same time we would be reviewing the existing system of portability of pensions.
– I ask a supplementary question just to clarify one point. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government has any intention to abolish the present system whereby pensions can be paid overseas?
– In answer to that general question, the Government has no proposal before it at present; certainly no proposal that would relate to incidents that may have occurred, or anything of that nature. It is in connection with the broader question of negotiating reciprocal agreements that portability would be considered at some time.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is he aware that some consulates representing countries which allow dual nationality for Australian citizens positively discourage such former residents of those countries from renouncing their former nationality? Will the Minister request his colleague to make representations to those representatives of such countries to ensure that the proper intention and wishes of Australian citizens who approach consulates for this purpose are given practical effect?
-As the honourable senator would know, the problem of dual nationality is a very vexed one. I think that at one stage there was a suggestion that a parliamentary committee of inquiry should be held on the matter. Maybe it was.
– And a report.
-Maybe a report was made also. It is a subject which is fraught with difficulty. It is a concept which those of us who live under our legal framework find great difficulty in accepting. It is a concept which is deeply embedded in some European countries and quite often has most unfortunate results for people who, believing they have become totally Australian citizens, go abroad and seek to return home. I do not know whether some consulates in Australia are doing what the honourable senator suggested. If the honourable senator would give me further information on a private basis I shall make certain that it gets to my colleague in the other place. I shall request him to take the action which the honourable senator has suggested.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Security. She will recall that in recent days I have posed a series of questions to her in relation to Commonwealth funding for pre-schools in South Australia. Yesterday 1 asked the Minister whether she had received a letter from Dr Hopgood, the Minister for Education in South Australia, setting out the problems which exist in South Australia because of the decrease in Commonwealth funding. In view of the fact that the Minister did not answer my question yesterday, I again ask: Has she received that correspondence from Dr Hopgood and does she intend to take some remedial action in view of the anomalies which Dr Hopgood has pointed out?
– I realised after answering Senator McLaren’s question yesterday that I had not dealt with that aspect of his question. Correspondence has been received not only from South Australia but also from several other States, each claiming anomalies between the funding which is given to the States. I have those letters under consideration within the Department. In no way do I accept the assertions which are made in all the letters which have been received. As I said yesterday, the Commonwealth Government has given block funding to the States. Any funding which will be given in the future will be a matter of budgetary consideration by the Federal Government.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. The journal of the Department of Trade and Resources dated 12 May 1978 indicates an expansion of goods under Schedule B of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement to allow for furniture and furniture components to be sold without duty between the countries. The announcement in the journal states that the value of Australian furniture and components which may enter New Zealand is $1,300,000, but does not state the amount of New Zealand furniture which may be exported to Australia. Can the Minister ascertain what this figure is?
-The honourable senator’s interest in the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement and trade between Australia and New Zealand is known to all honourable senators. I am not aware of the publication to which the honourable senator referred. I shall ask my colleague in the other place to see whether he can supply the information sought.
-Earlier today Senator Button asked a further question concerning North West Cape. I have been able to obtain a very short answer. If it is not satisfactory I suggest that the honourable senator should put a question on notice, and I might have a proper answer by the time the Parliament returns on Tuesday week. I am informed that the honourable senator may understand the matter more clearly if I explain that the station consists of a wide variety of communication systems. The satellite terminal is just one of the communication systems installed at the station.
-On 6 April and 8 May 1978 Senator Mcintosh asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, about negotiations on the seabed resources between East Timor and Australia. The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer: Australia and Indonesia have not yet entered into negotiations on a seabed boundary between the south of East Timor and Australia. The question of whether negotiations and the conclusion of any arrangement with Indonesia on this issue will amount to a de jure recognition of Indonesia’s incorporation of East Timor will depend on all the circumstances existing at the time. There is a presumption in international law that negotiations on a seabed boundary such as that which is contemplated would lead to de jure recognition of Indonesia’s incorporation of East Timor. However, this is only a presumption. In international law, recognition is essentially a matter of intention. It must not be assumed, therefore, that negotiations with Indonesia will automatically or necessarily result in a change in Australia’s position on East Timor which I announced in my statement on 20 January 1978. As I said at the outset, everything will depend on all the circumstances existing at the time.
The attitude of the Portuguese Government to Indonesia’s incorporation of East Timor is expressed in the statement made by the Portuguese representative on 2 November 1977 in the Fourth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. In his statement on the item dealing with the question of East Timor, that representative stated that his country supported the full implementation of all resolutions aimed at restoring normal political conditions in Timor and ensuring its territorial integrity. He added that his country did not recognise de jure the integration of Timor into Indonesia.
– Pursuant to section 60 of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, I present the annual report of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for the year ended 30 June 1977.
-by leave- I move:
Thai the Senate take note of the paper. 1 seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators, I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on rural income fluctuations.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 35A of the Prices Justification Act 1973, 1 present the report of the Prices Justification Tribunal for the six months ended 3 1 December 1977.
– I bring up the report from the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory on the sixty-fifth series of variations for the plan and layout of the city of Canberra and environs.
Ordered that the report be printed.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement in relation to the report.
- Mr President, the report that I have just tabled is the first report to the present Parliament by the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. It concerns proposals to vary the Canberra city plan. This is the sixty-fifth series of such variations made to the plan since its adoption in 1925. The Committee report provides information about the proposals contained in the instrument of variation of the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott). These inquiries on variations are becoming increasingly important to the Australian Capital
Territory community. As the city and its population grow, the planning and development proposals of the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of the Capital Territory tend to affect existing communities more directly than in the past when most development related to rural areas and did not affect the established communities.
The Committee sees it as essential, therefore, that it consult the community and obtain views on proposals but forward by the authorities. The Minister for the Capital Territory has cooperated in this regard and in the case of the sixty-fifth series of variations has extended the period within which objections might be lodged from 14 days to 21 days. The extended period meant that the Lands, Planning and Environment Committee of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly had time to complete its own examination of the proposals and to report to the Assembly. The Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory thus had the advantage of an Assembly view when considering the sixty-fifth series. The Committee has also modified its own procedures to ensure greater publicity for the proposals contained in the series. It now conducts public hearings when officers from the Department of the Capital Territory and the National Capital Development Commission and those people who have lodged objections appear to make submissions to the Committee in an open forum. Inspections of the sites where controversial developments are proposed were also undertaken by the Committee. The Committee will continue to seek to involve the community further in its examination of such proposals.
Mr President, the Committee is equally concerned that the authorities should consult individuals and communities affected by their proposals. In the current series, for instance, the Committee has recommended that two items be deferred until certain aspects have been taken up with the communities involved. The first of these involves the proposed group centre in the Belconnen suburb of Kaleen. The Committee considers that when retail centres are being planned, after local communities have become established, there should be consultation and liaison with the communities from the earliest stages of planning. The newly formed residents’ association in Kaleen raised a number of pertinent objections to the proposal for the group centre as presented in the series. We have recommended that implementation of the proposal be deferred pending further consultation with this group and others who are affected.
A proposal that would have enabled boom gate parking to be installed in the city centre near Marcus Clarke Street and Childers Street has also been recommended by the Committee for deferral. The National Capital Development Commission submitted that implementation would have meant that it could establish boom gate parking in the area when the need arises. The Committee considers that this proposal should be deferred until the need has in fact been more clearly established. We have also sought from the National Capital Development Commission a full report on future development proposals for the recreation area associated with Ginninderra Creek. This is one of the most important recreation areas on the north side of Canberra and the Committee is concerned about its preservation as an area for recreational use and that it should not be affected adversely by further residential development. It has therefore sought from the Commission a full report on developments proposed for the area. This arose in connection with proposals for new housing in Latham which have caused concern to local groups because of encroachment on the existing recreational area. The committee has agreed to the variations proposed but has expressed the view that no development in relation to these and related areas should proceed until a detailed plan of the whole area has been published.
The work done by the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory at times results in differences with groups of residents who object to proposals which the Committee considers, after examination and in the wider interests, should be implemented. We have endorsed two proposals in the current series in the face of strong objections from local residents. One relates to the proposed access road to the Kambah Pool and the other to a proposed development for 35 detached housing blocks in section 266, Kambah. Our reasons for upholding the proposed variations are explained in our report. But in each case we have sought to ensure that there is continuing consultation between residents and relevant authorities so that people affected by the proposed variations can be assured that their views will be heard on important issues as development proceeds. Other major items which are dealt with in the current series and our report include proposals for the establishment of a new residental area in Isaacs and substantial residential developments in Holt and Florey. Major roadworks include the reconstruction, realignment and upgrading of Fairbairn Avenue and the realignment of Majura Road and of the Paddys River road to the Tidbinbilla
Nature Reserve. I commend the report to the Senate.
– We proceed to business of the Senate, notices of motion Nos 1, 2 and 3 standing in the name of Senator Wood and relating to the disallowance of certain regulations and a sub-section of an ordinance, and General Business, notice of motion No. 1 1 also standing in the name of Senator Wood and relating to the disallowance of a by-law. Are these formal or not formal?
– They are not formal. I seek leave to make a statement and to move a motion in relation to the notices of motion standing in my name.
– All of the notices of motion standing in my name relate to matters which are under consideration by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. Business of the Senate notice of motion No. 1 relates to certain Defence Force financial regulations which the Committee considers confer an undue degree of discretion upon the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) in connection with payment of allowances. The Minister for Defence, in correspondence with the Committee, has agreed to further consider the regulations, and accordingly at the end of my statement I will be moving that this notice of motion be postponed.
Business of the Senate Notice of Motion No. 2 relates to certain Defence Force (Salaries) Regulations which the Committee regards as unfairly discriminating between individuals and setting a dangerous principle of remuneration. In its 60th report, presented to the Senate a month ago, the Committee recommended the disallowance of these regulations. At the end of my statement 1 intend to postpone this notice of motion, but I would ask Senator Withers, the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, to draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that the notice of motion must be disposed of within three sitting days after today. I understand that notice of a motion to disallow the regulations has also been given in another place.
Business of the Senate Notice of Motion No. 3 relates to an Australian Capital Territory ordinance which provided that where witnesses are called before a board of inquiry, witnesses called by the Commonwealth would have their fees and expenses paid by the Commonwealth, but witnesses called by any other person would have their fees and expenses paid by that person. The
Committee considered that this provision is unfairly discriminatory. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has agreed to amend the ordinance so that the board may make the Commonwealth liable for the fees and expenses of witnesses where it considers that the calling of those witnesses was reasonable. In view of this undertaking by the Minister, I intend to withdraw this notice of motion at the end of my statement.
General Business Notice of Motion No. 1 1 relates to an Australian National Railways by-law which regulates the conduct of persons for the purposes of the railways. The Committee regarded a number of provisions in this by-law as unduly interfering with individual rights and liberties. In particular, there were clauses making persons liable for absolute offences where the defence of reasonable excuse clearly should have been provided, exempting the Commission from legal liability in certain circumstances, and placing the onus of proof upon the accused in criminal prosecutions. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has given the Committee a firm undertaking that the by-law will be amended to meet the objections of the Committee. The Committee is of the opinion that the amendments which the Minister has promised to make will properly safeguard the rights and liberties of individuals. I therefore intend to withdraw this notice of motion.
Mr President, in accordance with the terms of my statement I withdraw Business of the Senate Notice of Motion No. 3 and General Business Notice of Motion No. 1 1, and I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That unless otherwise ordered, the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday, 23 May 1978, at 2.15 p.m.. unless sooner called together by the President or, in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That Government business take precedence of General Business after 2. 1 5 p.m. this day.
– Pursuant to order, I present the report from Estimates
Committee A on the particulars of proposed additional expenditure for the year 1977-78, together with the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– Additional information forwarded to Estimates Committee A arising out of the Committee’s deliberations will be incorporated in Hansard and will also be tabled in the Senate.
– Pursuant to order, I present the report from Estimates Committee B on the particulars of proposed additional expenditure for the year 1977-78, together with the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– Pursuant to order, I present the report from Estimates Committee C on the particulars of proposed additional expenditure for the year 1977-78, together with the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Senator MAUNSELL ( Queensland)Pursuant to order, I present the report from Estimates Committee D on the particulars of proposed additional expenditure for the year 1977-78, together with the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– Pursuant to order,
I present the report from Estimates Committee E on the particulars of proposed additional expenditure for the year 1977-78, together with the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Debate resumed from 10 May, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Wriedt had moved by way of an amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Bills be deferred and not proceeded with until after full and proper consultation with the States’.
– I take part in this debate very conscious of the fact that the Government assumes that the Bills- the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1978 and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978- will establish mechanisms for protecting the health and safety of the people of Australia. I indicate at the outset that I do not believe that any mechanism, any Act of Parliament, the most repressive regulation, the greatest fine, the longest gaol sentence or any line drawn on any map can protect the health and safety of the people of Australia when the mining, milling and use of uranium are concerned. As far as I am concerned, as far as the Opposition is concerned and as far as the Party to which I belong is concerned, the only real safeguard at the present state of knowledge in the world is to leave uranium in the ground. The people of this country are becoming more and more disturbed as more and more facts become available on the problems associated with uranium and the nuclear industry.
The assertion made yesterday by Senator Lewis that the people of this country voted at the last election for the mining, milling and use of uranium is nonsense. They did not vote for that at all. That was not part of the Government’s election campaign. If the Government believes that the people of this country voted for the mining of uranium, I challenge it to hold a referendum and to ask the people of Australia how they feel. We know that the Government will not do that because we know that it is as conscious as we are of the fact that half the population of Australia is against the mining of uranium because we do not know enough about the effects which will result from the use of uranium.
The picture is the same all over the world. More and more people are concerned that once we begin to mine uranium, once the nuclear industry starts, we will have no way of stopping the effects which may occur. We have heard too many people in the past say after the event: ‘We are sorry; we did not realise. We did not know at the time’. Because of the examples with which we have been provided in this instance we feel that responsible governments should say: ‘Right, we will wait until we do know. We will be conscious of the research that is going on. We will hold our hand ‘.
The very nature of uranium raises questions in the minds of people. Responsible people are urging governments to go slowly and to find out more about the matter. Very recently in Melbourne 200 scientists, scientists who are concerned with the physical effects of radiation, urged the Government to go cautiously in regard to uranium mining because of the potential risks of radiation, including genetic damage and the danger of cancer. One of the results of mining uranium is to release radon 222, a radioactive gas. One large, modern nuclear power plant in one year produces 1,000 megawatt years of power. It has been calculated on the basis of current theories on radiation induced illness that 400 deaths will occur among future generations from the mining of sufficient uranium to produce that 1,000 megawatt years of power. The price for the supply of that power is 400 deaths in future generations.
Radon gas is given ofT by uranium at a steady rate. It will be given off steadily from the tailings dumps for tens of thousands of” years. Where are the urgent plans from this Government to deal with tailings dumps? Where are the urgent Bills which will establish safeguards before mining begins? There are none. We are told that regulations will be brought in. But we are not told what the regulations will be. There have been reports from mining companies that they will use lead shieldings in trucks and safety clothing. Excavator cabins will be air conditioned to ensure that no dust is inhaled. Workers must stay in the cabins while in the pits. Overalls must be washed daily. Badges must be worn to check radiation doses received. Will the people who go about the mine sites where the tailings dumps are and where the radon gas will be have to wear respirators? Will this happen in that sort of country and in that sort of weather?
The tailings dumps are on the mine sites and they will be there for a long time. When will we know what sorts of regulations will be enforced? How will they be enforced to make sure that nobody suffers from the inhalation of radon gas? There does not seem to be the same urgency to make sure that those things are done before uranium mining commences as there is to bring in this repressive legislation which will prevent people giving this sort of information to other people once uranium mining has commenced. It has now been established in America that among uranium miners there are five times as many deaths from lung cancer as there are among nonminers because of the inhalation of radon gas. We are told that we should not worry about that in Australia because there will be no underground mining and because Australia is different. If we go to Jabiluka and look at the mine site we will see that it is at the bottom of a saucer-shaped depression. We are told that it will be one of the deepest open cut mines in the world. Radon gas is heavy and it sits at the bottom of pits. Here the deep open cut mine is at the bottom of a saucer. When we talk to the miners in that area they tell us that the vein of ore goes deep and that eventually it goes under the hill. The miners think that probably the most efficient way to get at the ore, once they get to the bottom of the open cut, will be to follow that vein underground. As the mining of uranium is so important it is obvious that nobody will stop the company going underground. So then Australia’s uranium miners will run a five times greater risk of dying of lung cancer than nonminers. What will the Government do about that? That is a possibility which is upon us now. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) stated:
One would assume thai the code–
That is, the code for uranium mining- would lessen the dangers and extent or cancer.
We want less assumption and more action on the part of the Government. What terrifies me in this situation is that no figures are available on the incidence of lung cancer among open-cut miners. Mr Hunt assures the country that there is no risk involved in mining uranium, that there is no risk involved for the miners. What is patently obvious is that he does not know. So evidently, as the Government does not know, it does not care what will happen to uranium miners in the future.
Current scientific work shows that the danger from low level radiation is much greater than once thought. Studies have shown that workers receiving doses as low a 1.6 rads a year had a greater incidence of cancer than other workers in industry. Here in Australia the atomic industry has always assumed that the threshold was 5 rads a year. Yet evidently there is nothing to push back that threshold to the level of 1.6 rads that is showing up at the moment. In fact we are reaching the point, as workers in that area will say, of establishing the fact that there is no threshold when it comes to danger from radiation and that all radiation is dangerous to people. But evidently the Government assumes that is has no responsibility in the area.
The General Accounting Office in America says that the federal agency there responsible for protecting the public against radiation does not know the scope of the problem, it does not have the resources to find out, and for the last six years it has failed to issue a single standard that currently is being enforced. Why, instead of bringing in the repressive legislation that we have before us, does this Government not do something along these lines? America has a greater industry than we have and it has not done anything about it. Yet this Government evidently does not see the danger and is not prepared now, before we get into the field, to bring in legislation that will protect both the workers and the people of Australia from the problem.
The health records of uranium miners in Australia either have been lost or have never been kept. Will they be kept this time? Where are the government measures assuring us that they will keep them this time? The only measure we have before us at the moment provides that, if there is any information, people will be prohibited from passing that information on to others. Once these Bills are passed people can be gaoled for urging workers to take steps to protect themselves from the hazards that exist in this industry. 1 do not believe that that is an example of a government showing concern for the problems in the uranium industry. We are told continuously that these Bills are needed to protect; we are told continuously that international safeguards will protect; we are told that nuclear safeguard pacts with potential customers will protect. I ask the Government whether it seriously thinks that a piece of paper along those lines would have protected Aldo Moro? That is all we are being offered- pieces of paper to protect against some wicked, dangerous or mad people.
The General Accounting Office in America has reported that thousands of pounds of plutonium and enriched uranium are missing. In the United Kingdom the authority achnowledges that enough plutonium to build 15 nuclear bombs is missing from its stockpiles. Despite what the Government spokesmen have said, we all know, and they know, that leading scientists admit that one does not need extraordinary facilities to produce a bomb. Even Sir Philip Baxter said recently that it is not necessary for countries to have a nuclear power industry for them to be able to produce atomic bombs. Honourable senators opposite all acknowledge Sir Philip Baxter as an authority. He said that all that was needed was five tons of uranium and a cascade of dozens of centrifuges. The Ford Foundation said that a crude atomic bomb could be produced in a clandestine laboratory with minimum knowhow. Crude it may be, but it would be efficient at killing large numbers of the population. How will the Government’s repressive legislation stop all that.
We keep saying that all this will happen overseas but the Government keeps saying that we need all the extraordinary procedures that are now operating in Parliament House to protect us. The Government keeps saying that terrorists may start to operate in Australia. It keeps saying that once terrorism becomes the fashion there is no way that Australia can escape from it. So we have the knowhow here in Australia, we have the material here in Australia and what will be the end result? How will this repressive legislation help the Government to stand up to blackmail by mad, wicked or stupid people? How could we say, as the Italian Government said: ‘Go ahead, do your worst’? If there were a blackmailer or a terrorist around with this sort of material, how could any government afford to say: ‘Go ahead, do your worst ‘?
It is continually being slung at the Opposition and the Australian Labor Party that at one stage we were in favour of uranium mining and that we did an about-face. All I can say is that the people of Australia appreciate that at least members of the ALP considered the matter continually and took notice of what was going on in the world. We took notice of the scientific work that was being done. We looked at all the facts, said ‘We were wrong’, and changed our policy. That is what any reasonable adult person does. He continually looks at the arguments, and when the arguments are sufficient to convince him that he was wrong, he acknowledges that and changes his policy. That is what we did. But this Government is too bound up with the mining companies ever to acknowledge that there are dangers and that responsible governments should look at the dangers and take steps to change them.
– Your Government set up Ranger.
– The honourable senator does not listen. I admit that we were involved in the mining but we know now that we were wrong. We know now that we cannot combat the difficulties in the uranium and nuclear industry to which the Government shuts its eyes. The Government’s attitude is: Get it out of the ground, make a profit and never mind about the results. We are concerned and we have taken a stand. We say: ‘Until the problems can be solved, we will not sell uranium.’ For the Government, there are not any problems. For us there are. For the sake of greedy mining companies the Government is prepared to use the most repressive provisions that have ever been known in Australia, lt is prepared to deny ordinary industrial rights to workers in unions and associations that are part of the industry. It is prepared to deny basic civil rights to people because of this extraordinary industry. The Government wants to regulate the movement of people entering the mine site. It wants to declare the mine site a restricted area. It wants to fine or imprison people who hinder uranium mining in any way. It even goes to the point where people who are suspected of interfering may be arrested without warrant. I repeat that they may be arrested without warrant. Who would have thought that in Australia in peacetime such a section could be enforced?
– You said that you wanted safeguards.
– I do not want uranium mining. The section of the Act states:
It is not necessary to show that he was guilty of a particular act tending to show an intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth and, notwithstanding that no such act is proved against him, he may be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case, his conduct, or his known character as proved, it appears that he acted with intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth;
How does the defence of the Commonwealth relate to an ordinary commercial mining operation? Are we only mining and milling uranium in Australia or are Mr Anthony’s plans to enrich uranium here further advanced than we have been led to believe? When will the Government announce those plans to set up an enrichment plant in Australia? Where will the enrichment plant be situated? How will the technical problems of it be solved? Where will we put the waste from it? The Government is not going to tell us, yet we have this extraordinary legislation just for the simple mining and milling of uranium.
We have trouble with the contracts. Canada had trouble with the contracts with the embargo on enrichment, and Canada had to let go her embargo on other countries enriching her uranium. How strongly will we stick to the proposed codes of safety if it means losing the contracts? It would be easier and more profitable to enrich uranium in Australia. But it is not being said at the moment that we should do that. If people protest, if they do not want the plant built near them or built at all, if they do not want to work on it, if they try to talk other people out of working on it, if they try to acquaint other people with the problems- if they use all the forms of democracy that we believe in to express a point of view to fellow citizens- under this legislation they can be jailed.
There are problems overseas concerning the disposal of waste. In Canada, Pickering’s giant nuclear power station could face a sudden shutdown within a year because of the growing shortage of space for storing dangerous radioactive waste fuel. Let me refer to the report of the United States General Accounting Office. It states that if all the nuclear activities were halted the United States would still have major radioactive waste disposal problems because of the accumulation of waste for decades. The report went on to say that 7 1 million gallons of high level waste were temporarily stored in steel banks at two facilities in South Carolina. I refer to a document entitled ‘Conclusions and Recommendations of Report “Nuclear Power Costs” Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Sub-Committee of Committee on Government Operations, United States Congress’. Amongst the recommendations are these:
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission should require as a condition or nuclear powerplant construction and operating licensing, that applicants estimate the cost of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel disposal and storage, which estimates should be promptly published by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Congress and the executive branch should consider requiring that further licenses for nuclear powerplant construction be conditioned upon the timely and satisfactory resolution of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel permanent disposal and storage problems.
The Department of Energy should establish and operate permanent waste disposal facilities at such sites as soon as possible. All costs associated with that disposal should be reimbursed to the Federal Government in full through the assessment of disposal fees for radio-active wastes received.
The Department of Energy should develop a schedule of fees and expenses adequate to cover the full cost of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel management, including disposal, perpetual care, and reasonable contingencies, and should issue guidelines necessary to accurately estimate decommissioning costs.
With those sorts of costs coming up, the United States has a real problem with the disposal of waste. Japan is cutting back on nuclear energy because of public pressure over the disposal of nuclear waste. The Philippines, which has a reactor in the heart of volcanic country, certainly has a problem with waste. We know that France, Austria and Germany- to mention three more countries- have problems concerning the disposal of waste. The concern of many people in those countries is that if the countries are to continue with nuclear power, what will they do with the waste?
If Iran goes ahead with its proposal for nuclear power, if it signs a contract what conditions will be in the contract about waste disposal? Let us not again hear the old chestnut about the glassification plant in the south of France. Responsible scientists all over the world accept that it has not yet been proved. Honourable senators may want more proof that the method does not work satisfactorily. Why are countries such as the United States, Canada and Japan, which have problems with the disposal of waste, not proposing to use the plant? In view of the problems that these countries have with the disposal of waste, would it not be useful to have a waste’ disposal facility to offer to countries to entice them into signing contracts for our uranium? The only conclusion one can reach, when the Government brings in this sort of repressive legislation, is that the Government does not intend to just have simple propositions for mining and milling uranium. We can only assume that the Government will go further, that it will enrich uranium in Australia and that it will offer waste disposal facilities in Australia. If that happens Australia will become the nuclear waste bin of Asia and perhaps the world.
– That is not true.
– I would like the honourable senator’s assurance that that is not true. If it is not true why introduce this extraordinary legislation for the simple commercial operation of mining and milling uranium? More dangers will exist if Australia has to offer waste disposal.
– The Government has said that it will not accept waste from overseas.
– The Government has said a lot of things in the past. If the Government wants to get Iran to sign a contract it may have to offer waste disposal. The Government certainly will have to water down the safeguards it wants before Iran will sign a contract. Because the Government has gone back on many things it has said in the past, I am not so sure that we will not be told next week that for the greater good of Australia and for our economic advancement it has been necessary to water down safeguards. In fact, we would not know if that occurred. We are not privy to the sort of contract that is being offered to Iran. We are not being told of the safeguards that are being insisted on with other countries. We sit in the Parliament and do not even know. Why do we not know? What is the problem in telling us the safeguards the Government is insisting upon? The only reason for not doing so is that we might not approve of the safeguards, and the 50 per cent of the Australian people who do not approve of uranium mining at the moment might also not approve of the safeguards.
– Fifty per cent! Can you substantiate that?
– If the honourable senator does not believe the figure is 50 per cent he should run a referendum and test my claim. The whole incredibly terrible nuclear industry leads to problems that can be dealt with only by highly repressive legislation. The Government knows that. That is why it is bringing in this legislation. How can we have civil liberties and guard people from horrible death and genetic damage? How can we have civil liberties and still have the authority to move people around without explanation? How can we have civil liberties and insist on certain procedures and take certain action against people if they do not abide by the procedures? How can we have civil liberties and keep people away from materials which mean certain death and world-wide pollution?
A proposal in the Flowers report from England sounded like some strange science fiction of the future. The report seriously envisaged a plutonium park guarded by a plutonium priesthood, people who had devoted their lives to saving humanity from its madness. We are not so far away from that here. It sounded extraordinary at the time. If it had been written 15 years ago in science fiction people would have laughed and said the world would never come to something like that. Fifteen years ago in peacetime in Australia for an ordinary commercial proposition the Government would never have brought in legislation like this.
Already existing in the world are special police forces that shoot and have to give no explanation. What can happen under this legislation is not far away from that situation. That is the situation which is being introduced to Australia. How can we have civil liberties and protect people from the sorts of stupid and wicked actions that might occur when there exists the sort of material with which nations can be blackmailed? Why are we mixed up in this situation? We are going to these extraordinary lengths in what we believed was a democratic country at a time when the nuclear industry is going downhill. It is already being said in America that never has an industry gone downhill as fast as the nuclear industry. Nuclear plant orders are falling. In the United States of America in 1976 there were 36 orders for nuclear plants. Last year there were four orders, and only one of those was on real contract. Japan is cutting back on nuclear power and increasing its use of coal-fired stations. The cost of a 1 ,000 megawatt nuclear power station is $1 billion. It has been estimated that it will cost $10Om or more to entomb the plant when it closes. Costs are really going high. Nobody knows what it will cost to guard the material for as long as it has to be guarded. No matter how much argument goes on, nobody has found a solution to that problem. The material still has to be guarded.
There is increasing disquiet all over the world. The more knowledge people have of the problems involved, the more disquiet there is. Evidently once this legislation is passed we will be forbidden to question what is going on at the mine site, to question what is happening to people, to spread information about the dangers or the accidents that might happen, to talk people into not working or ceasing to work in the industry. All of that is forbidden. But overseas public inquiries are held and the material is made public. So why are we in Australia different? Overseas the material is made so public that requirements such as those mentioned in the report from which I have quoted are specified. The report states:
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission should require applicants for construction and operating licences for nuclear powerplants, as a condition of such licences, to amortise the full cost of radioactive waste disposal, spent nuclear fuel management, perpetual care, contingencies, and decommissioning costs over the expected useful lifetime of each powerplant. This should be done in accordance with the schedule of fees and expenses for such purposes issued by the Department of Energy. Funds sufficient for such costs should be levied by the power facility on its customers, and such amounts should be held in trust for purposes of such costs.
Because of the disquiet amongst the publicoverseas this report is American- the report goes on to say:
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as a condition of issuing construction licences for nuclear plants, must be assured there is a need for new generating capacity of the type and amount proposed.
It further states:
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission should require, as a condition of issuing construction licences for nuclear plants, that applicants for such licences show the appropriate State regulatory authority there is no economically sound and environmentally acceptable alternative for meeting anticipated increases in electrical demand.
Overseas more and more people and more and more governments are concerned that the nuclear industry is necessary and must continue. Here we have legislation to prevent people knowing what is to go on in the industry. Why? The mining companies do not want problems highlighted. They do not want the problems that might arise on the mine sites highlighted. They do not want people to know that that very beautiful area of Australia may be despoiled or lost forever. They do not want people to know these things because the more people know the greater demand there will be for more action on problems and to halt the nuclear industry until they can be assured absolutely that there is no danger to the world in which we live, to future generations or to us.
In conclusion 1 can do no better than to quote from the second report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry where it looked at the use of the Atomic Energy Act 1953. It states:
We strongly recommend against the use of that Act . . .
It will be seen . . . that the section gives power to carry on operations only if they are ‘on behalf of the Commonwealth’. It must be doubtful, to say the least, whether the proposed operations could fairly be said to be carried on on behalf of the Commonwealth. Although the Commonwealth is a participant, the project is to be, as we understand, an ordinary commercial one.
So why do we have this legislation? The report went on to say:
In any event, the section is inappropriate for a venture such as is planned, and which has to be subject to strong environmental controls, determined upon and maintained independently of the co-venturers.
Evidently that is not to be so. The report continues:
It seems to us that s. 4 1 is a special power which was enacted at a time when the need to secure Australian uranium for use by Great Britain and the United States of America in nuclear weapons was uppermost in the minds of those concerned. If its use is to be continued in a situation where peaceful uses only are in mind and commercial profit is intended, the changed rationale should be recognised. The power, if it can bc applied in the circumstances, should not bc used simply because it exists and may appear convenient.
So what do we have? We have a lazy government that is not prepared to legislate properly in this matter. The report goes on:
A strong body of evidence demonstrates a widespread lack of confidence in the Atomic Energy Commission as the final arbiter of standards for the proposed mining operations, and as monitor of them. This is in part because it is proposed that the Commission be actively engaged as entrepreneur, and in part because one of its ordinary roles is the promotion of uranium mining and nuclear development generally.
Finally, the report continues:
We sec no reason why the scientific and technical expertise of the Commission should not be used in helping to fix standards and establishing monitoring procedures, and no reason why particular scientists and technicians should not be engaged in those activities . . . The central difficulty for present purposes is that they belong to an organisation whose function is not simply one of research; it is also an active commercial and political force in the promotion of nuclear development and the mining of uranium.
The whole rationale behind this extraordinary legislation must raise suspicions in the minds of the Australian people. The whole rationale adds weight to the Labor Party’s contention that we should open no more uranium mines and that the only proper way to safeguard the people of Australia from the difficulties, dangers and confusions that arise in this industry is to leave uranium in the ground.
– I did not intend to take part in this debate but at the last minute I decided to do so for a short period just to reply to some of the red herrings that have been mentioned by the Opposition. It is interesting to note that it was the Whitlam Government that made the decision to carry on with uranium mining in this country; it was the Whitlam Government that drew up the Ranger agreement and entered into partnership with the companies involved; and it was the Whitlam Government that set up the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry in order to discover the best guidelines for the mining and export of uranium. As a result of that all that this Government has done is to endorse what the Whitlam Government did. It has followed the guidelines set down in the Fox report for the mining and export of uranium. The Bills before us have been drafted for one express purpose, even though they may have an effect in the future, and that is to expedite the mining and export of uranium.
– That is why we are opposing them.
– The interesting thing is that the Labor Party was in favour of it once but the Left wing of that party decided that it would not have any part of it. I do not know from whom it received its instructions. Eventually the Labor Party found itself in a dilemma with half of its members wanting to export uranium and half of them not wanting to do so. Of course, red herrings are being spread in order to put a smokescreen around the difficulties within the Labor Party. If we get right down to tin tacks, the decision is really whether we should or should not mine uranium. Both the Whitlam Government and this Government decided that we should. Now the Labor Party has decided that we should not and this happened because the Left wing had the numbers. So we have this compromise from the Labor Party about which we all know. We know about the great negotiating job that Mr Hawke did on that occasion. He has always been regarded as a negotiator and apparently he was very successful in negotiating a compromise which actually meant nothing. That is why we hear all about these red herrings today. The fact is that if we do not export uranium, somebody else will supply the market.
– The interesting thing about it is that if we do not export uranium we will have no say in nuclear safeguards.
– We have no say now.
– What do honourable senators on the Opposition side think the Government is doing? That is why the Iran agreement is being held up. All of our long range agreements are being held up because we are demanding safeguards. The interesting thing is that if we do not supply the uranium our main competitors in the supply of uranium, such as South Africa and Chile, will supply it. So what the Australian Labor Party is actually doing, by its policy and philosophy, is helping the exporters of uranium in South Africa and Chile.
– That is spurious.
– That is exactly what it is doing. The idea that some people seem to have that Australia has the monopoly on uranium is absolute nonsense. We do have a large proportion of what we might call ‘cheap extractable uranium’, but a lot of other countries have uranium for which the cost of extraction is a lot higher. As I explained here some time ago, we have approximately 25 per cent of the world’s known reserves of uranium if the price remains between $30 and $40 a lb. If the price rises to $60 a lb that proportion will drop to about 8 per cent. If it increases to $ 100 a lb our resources will not mean a thing because the greatest resources of uranium in the world are in the sea. It is estimated that with present technology uranium can successfully be gained from the sea at a cost of $ 100 a lb. So if we want to have some say in what is going on overseas we must be able to export our uranium and to keep the price down. If we are to have all the say that our Opposition friends would like us to have we will have to do this.
A number of red herrings have been drawn around here. For instance, I think it was Senator O’Byrne who brought in the subject of Hiroshima and claimed that because of what happened in Hiroshima we should not have anything to do with uranium. I walked around the ruins of Hiroshima a few weeks after the bomb was dropped. It was something which I shall always remember.
– You are probably still radioactive.
– The honourable senator had better keep away from me. I shall always remember the horror of that place. The fact is that the Japanese are well aware of what happened then too, yet the Japanese are one of the leaders in the nuclear power generation field. The Japanese are very high users of energy and have very few energy resources of their own. Consequently, for their own survival they have to resort to other sources of energy. I know that they are taking a lot of our coal. They rely on coal from other countries. They have none of their own.
As we are all well aware, the Japanese have had problems with fossil fuels as a result of the producers’ agreements in the Arab countries which caused the oil war not so long ago. Consequently, the Japanese want a fuel of the future to supply their energy needs. Of course, there is another reason the Japanese have been so keen on nuclear energy, that is, because it is such a highly industrialised nation that the normal methods of generating power, such as coal burning and the like, have created a tremendous amount of pollution in that country. Nuclear power is one of the cleanest fuels, with approximately one-fifteenth of the emission of pollution for the same generation of power. That is one of the main reasons Japan has decided to support the nuclear industry.
The facts are that we must export uranium to an energy-starved world. As I said previously, if we do not do so other nations- I mentioned countries such as Chile and South Africa- which might not have the same interests as we have and might not demand the same safeguards as we would demand will supply uranium in our place. Not only that, the economic advantages to this nation of exporting uranium are tremendous. It seems to me to be a completely stupid concept that we should leave the uranium in the ground while everyone else is using and producing their uranium. It is quite obvious that Australia, as the thirteenth trading nation of the world, depending entirely on trade, should be trading in this product.
Another argument which has been raised here relates to plutonium. Of course, plutonium is the dangerous waste of a nuclear industry. The fact is that if we do not supply uranium to the world and keep the price down to a reasonable figure of $30 to $40 a lb-if the price goes up to $60 or $100 a lb, whatever it might be, because of a shortage of cheap extractable uranium- all the nations are going to turn from the ordinary power plants as we know them today to the breeder reactors and will be using plutonium. So I for one fully support the Government in these proposals. I suggest, as most of the gallup polls have suggested, that most Australians, whilst naturally being worried about safeguards and the like, are completely happy about our exporting uranium provided, as I said, there are sufficient safeguards. I believe that this Government has been acting responsibly, and I hope that these Bills will have an early passage through the Senate.
– Before proceeding with my main comments in this debate, I wish to make reference to a couple of remarks which were passed by Senator Maunsell. He made much play of the allegation that the Whitlam Government gave the goahead to uranium mining. From interjections which have come mostly from the Government side of the chamber throughout this general debate, this seems to be one of the very weak premises upon which the Government supporters are basing the Government’s story. The Australian Labor Party carried out necessary research. This issue has nothing to do with the Left wing, the Right wing or anything else, which Senator Maunsell tried to imply.
The report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry- the Fox report- and a whole host of other evidence indicates that the mining of uranium at this point in history can indeed be a very dangerous operation. What we have said- our policy remains this way- is that existing contracts should be honoured but that there should be no more mining until there is an assurance and scientific evidence to indicate that uranium waste in particular could be safely stored and that there would be no proliferation of weapons or misuse of nuclear by-products. Senator Maunsell then said that there was nothing wrong with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan because he walked around the site afterwards and found it quite safe.
– He did not say that.
– That was the implication of what he said. If he is not here to defend himself that is bad luck.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Order! That is a misinterpretation of what the speaker said.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I refer to a story which was published in the Melbourne Age on Saturday, 14 January 1978. 1 wish to quote the relevant section of that article which relates to Hiroshima and states:
Mayor Morotani has been to New York this year to put his city’s case against nuclear weaponry to the United Nations.
He did not have to go far to find evidence to support his case, lt is there in Nagasaki itself, in the Red Cross hospital for A-bomb sufferers.
Officially. 74.000 people were killed and 75,000 people injured in the Nagasaki blast. But the figures are at best an approximation. They take no account of those who lingered on for a few years, like Doctor Nagai, and then died; or those whose lives were impaired, in one way or another, by exposure to the A-bomb.
Thirty-two years after the bombing, the wards and outpatients’ clinic at the Red Cross hospital are still crowded with people, officially classified as A-bomb exposure cases, who are being treated for complaints which date back to August?, 1945.
In 1958, when the hospital was set up, the number of exposed cases still alive in Nagasaki city was 77.000. Eight years later it was down to 63,000. Today it is below 50,000.
Not all of them are medical cases. Dr Nagatoshi Fujita, vice-president of the hospital, produced figures for mc which showed that last year 927 exposure cases were admitted to the hospital while a further 2,500 were treated in outpatients.
Research undertaken by doctors at the hospital have shown a higher mortality rate due to malignant tumors among the A-bomb exposure cases than among the nonexposed population.
The difference is small, but statistically significant.’ Dr Fujita said.
The researchers are cautious about ascribing this difference directly to the A bomb. But, as they say, ‘it is difficult to ignore the influence of exposure completely’.
Research at the sadly underfunded hospital has also shown a high mortality rate among those who were children in 1945, compared with the non-exposed population and with all Japan.
What of the children of exposed parents, born since 1945? Is there any evidence of inherited defects?
The official Government view is a firm no. Medical opinion steers a neutral course. ‘Medically, there is no evidence of defects being passed on to the next generation, ‘ Dr Fujita said. ‘But you can’t say definitely, lt is an area we are still researching. ‘
Those are important statements. No doubt, figures would reveal a similar situation in relation to Hiroshima. Evidence has been produced in the past to show that many sicknesses are transferred to the children of parents who have been subjected to radioactivity. I want to go back to the start of this matter and refer, first of all, to the speech delivered by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) when he spoke in the House of Representatives on 10 April 1978. In many areas, his statement did not present the full facts associated with the mining of uranium and in other cases it contained considerable distortions. Mr Anthony is a politician and he needs to sell his case. But I think he could have been much more factual. I want to quote from a number of paragraphs and express views on them. At the opening of the Parliament on 2 1 February 1978, the Governor-General stated that the Government would be proceeding with the development and export of Australia’s uranium resources. That was the first official statement given to this Parliament on the matter. But when I was in the Northern Territory last year, it was obvious that the green light had been given to the uranium miners to go ahead. I know that some of the mining companies employ pretty pushy people. Obviously, they have done some of these things of their own volition. But they would be hardly moving in demountable buildings and other types of buildings to storage areas in August of last year if they had not received the green light from this Government before the election of 1977. All that the Governor-General did when he made that statement was to formalise what had already been the policy of the Government for a period of possibly a year. I wish to quote what Mr Anthony said:
The six Bills just introduced underline our determination to proceed with uranium development in a carefullyregulated and responsible fashion with full regard for proper environmental control and for ensuring the welfare of the Aboriginal people.
These comments are not strictly true because several of the Bills are deficient in many ways. Attempts to rectify the deficiencies made by the Opposition in the other place of course met with no success. I saw a copy of the telex that was sent from the far north of the Northern Territory as a result of the panic movements of a number of parliamentarians in the National Country Party who had gone to Darwin the night before. Some of the suggestions made in that telex were quite atrocious. I suppose I was not supposed to see the telex; nevertheless, those things happen. Mr Anthony goes on to state:
The announcement of that policy was made only after long and careful consideration by the Government of the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry conducted under Mr Justice Fox as presiding commissioner. I remind honourable members that the Government’s decisions were substantially consistent with the recommendations of the Inquiry.
The few variations from the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations were agreed to on the basis of achieving the same purposes and satisfying the same principles.
This statement also is not true. As I proceed in the debate I will quote at least two or three sections of the report of the Fox inquiry which have been repudiated by this Government. I think the philosophy of the Government’s attitude was summed up by my colleague, Mr Uren, when he spoke in another place earlier this month. He said:
Everyone knows that members of the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Country Party are hawks on the uranium issue. Everyone knows what the Government’s real intentions and real concerns are.
He then stated that the Government’s intentions were as follows:
They are to commit Australia ‘s uranium to the world nuclear fuel cycle; to mine and sell off the uranium as quickly as possible: and to control the growing Australian opposition to uranium mining. The Government will do this by pious expressions, of concern, by lies, by innuendos and by suppression and misrepresentation of information. If that fails it will stand ready with the full repressive force of the police state tactics enshrined in the Atomic Energy Act, which the Bill now before the House seeks to amend, to suppress openly opposition to the uranium go-ahead.
This Government does not give a damn about the dangers associated with nuclear power. It does not give a damn about the growing and frightening risk of nuclear war that is part and parcel of the spread of nuclear energy generation facilities -
The Government is under pressure from the nuclear reactor manufacturers. Mr Uren continues:
The Government does not give a damn that one of the customers it is courting at present- the Philippines- has come by its nuclear reactor by very dubious means and has located that reactor in the Philippines at very close proximity to four active volcanoes. The Government does not care that the Marcos regime, with which it is making bilateral arrangements, has already demonstrated total disregard not only for the protests of people of the Philippines who live near the reactor site but also for the democratic and constitutional rights of the entire population of that nation.
This Government does not care a damn about Aboriginal people. It rather likes the idea that the sovereignty of the Australian people is threatened by tying Australia into the world nuclear fuel cycle, which is controlled at its key points by ruthless commercial and political interests which do not hesitate to move into countries and to crush popular opposition to their commercial ambitions. This Government does not care a damn that the proposed future pattern of economic development in Australia, with emphasis on mining for export, of which uranium would be a significant part, will mean fewer jobs and lower standards of living for the working people of this country.
Mr Uren then went on to state that the Australian Labor Party does give a damn. That is perfectly true. That is why we are participating so diligently and so strenuously in this debate. The Labor Party is concerned about people. But the Government parties are concerned about profits. We do not want to see this country entering into the nuclear race, particularly on the export side, and probably causing long-term damage to people in other countries. It is true that at this stage there is no plan to build a nuclear power station in this country. But it will be only a matter of time before such a station is developed if the Government leaves the doors wide open as it is doing with this legislation. I wish to quote again from Mr Anthony’s statement. He said:
The Ranger Inquiry was of course initiated by the Labor Government in 1975. It was a comprehensive and lengthy public inquiry and its findings have been the subject of extensive public debate both in the Parliament and in the community at large.
That is not true either because there was an attempt made to stifle debate. In my State of Queensland, the Premier and his political police did a fairly good job to make sure that there were no demonstrations by those people who do not believe in the mining of uranium. Mr Anthony went on to say:
One of the specific undertakings given by the Government last August was that we would establish a Uranium Advisory Council as one of the elements in the administrative arrangements for control and regulation of uranium development. The Government has now agreed that the Uranium Advisory Council be established with the following terms of reference.
Before I read the terms of reference into the record, I want it to be clearly understood that apparently the Uranium Advisory Council will be an organisation without teeth. It will be an organisation that cannot make its own decisions. It will be subject to the powers of the Minister at all phases of its activities. In other words, it will be a prettying up job implemented for the purpose of popularising, if one could use that word, the Government’s policy on the mining of uranium. I will now read the terms of reference of the Council as given by Mr Anthony:
The function of the Uranium Advisory Council shall be to advise the Minister for Trade and Resources with regard to the export and use of Australian uranium, having in mind in particular the possible hazards, dangers and problems of and associated with the production of nuclear energy; and the development of the uranium mining industry in Australia, including exploration.
The Council shall, as soon as practicable after each 30 June, prepare and furnish to the Minister for tabling in the Parliament a report on the operations of the Council during the year ended on that date.
The Council shall furnish to the Minister, by such time as the Minister may direct, a report on any other matter referred to the Council by the Minister. The Council may also furnish to the Minister a report on any other matter within its terms of reference.
The advice and assistance of the Council shall be made available as required to the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, the Northern Land Council, the supervising scientist, the co-ordinating committee and other agencies, as well as to the mine operators.
Mr Anthony went on to say:
The Government considers that these terms of reference will provide a suitable basis for the operation of the Council. The terms of reference have been purposely framed so as to allow the Council to operate with flexibility and in accordance with the recommendations and suggestions of the Ranger Inquiry.
Again, that is not a true statement of the facts. Then he said:
The actual individuals to be members of the Uranium Advisory Council have not yet been settled, but the Government has agreed that the Council should include representation from the following groups: The Australian religious community , . .
Will the person selected from that community be one of those who believe that the export of uranium is essential for the economy of this country? Next there is the Aboriginal community. Will the Aboriginal community be allowed to have any say in the choice of the person it wants on the Council? The next group listed is a national voluntary environmental organisation. Will it be one of the environmental organisations with teeth, or will it be the local village horticultural society for the protection of dahlias or something similar? None of these questions have been answered anywhere; to date no appointments have been made so far as we can ascertain.
Then Mr Anthony said that the next group to be represented on the Council will be the Northern Territory community. Will that be the President of the Country Party in Darwin or the President of the Country Party in Alice Springs. He said that the Australian Council of Trade Unions will be represented on the Uranium Advisory Council. Will the selection be made by the Minister, or will the ACTU be allowed to make its own selection as to who should go on the Advisory Council? A person with experience in energy matters will be appointed to the Council. I suppose that if the Government finds someone who is in favour of the mining of uranium he will make the ideal representative so far as this Government is concerned. Then there will be a representative of the Australian uranium industry. That will release the cat among the chickens. There will be keen competition amongst the uranium miners as to which one of them will be the representative, and none of them will be any good. A nuclear scientist will be appointed to the Council. Who will be the nuclear scientist?
- Sir Philip Baxter.
– My colleague interjects and says Sir Philip Baxter. I suppose a gentleman named Titterton also might be able to get the job. Both of them have been mining uranium for so many years that it does not matter. A medical practitioner or health physicist is to be placed on the Council. A number of doctors in this country say that it is safe to mine uranium. It looks like being a loaded Council; it will become just another front for the Government. Then an environmentalist with experience in natural resources development will be appointed to the Council. That person also will be appointed by the Government. That environmentalist, whoever he or she may be, will certainly not be selected by the Australian Conservation Foundation or by any other reputable environmental organisation. Next there will be an economist with experience in natural resources development. There are many conservative economists in the country who say that if we do not mine uranium we will go bankrupt, so no doubt the representative will be one of those. Firstly, an expert in national and international affairs or law is to be appointed to the Council. 1 cannot see the Hon. Andrew Peacock resigning to take up that position, so one wonders who that may be. Mr Anthony continued:
In the near future I expect to be inviting various individuals to be members of the Council. The names of those appointed will be announced as soon as possible.
Mr President, if the Government was really fair dinkum, before these Bills were produced it would have named every organisation and every person who is to be a member of that Council. But the Government is waiting for these Bills first to become law before it decides who will be members of the Council. It will be too late then to make criticisms in the Parliament. The legislation depends to some degree on a strong Advisory Council but it will not be strong; it will be as weak as water; it will be politically biased; it will be hand picked by Mr Fraser and two or three of his cohorts.
– Your name might be on it.
– I have no worries at all about that, and I am not too sure that Senator Kilgariff would be selected either. Then Mr Anthony said:
The Government has agreed that the Uranium Advisory Council will bc supported initially by a group of three research staff who will be engaged by and will report directly to the Council. These staff, although employed under the Public Service Act, will work independently of my Department in order to preserve the independent status of the Council and its advice.
Let us pause for a moment at this point. Where is the independent status of the Council? That is just a lot of waffle in the Minister’s statement. There are no statutory grounds at all on which to guarantee the Council’s independence. He continued:
The Government also has agreed that the Council may contract outside consultants as necessary. The Department of Trade and Resources will service the administrative requirements of the Council including the provisions of administrative, as distinct from research, secretariat.
Three research people will provide all the expertise that is to be provided by staff who will be employed to assist the Council. They will be overloaded with work if the Council operates. Of course, if the Council does not operate I suppose they will do the same as some other people who become attached to government communities. So long as they have a manilla folder or a brief case under their arm, they are safe, they can walk anywhere they like and do nothing. Then Mr Anthony said:
As I have mentioned, the Government’s policy is based on an acceptance of the findings of the Ranger Inquiry.
This Government has never accepted the findings of the Ranger Inquiry. It has broken the recommendations in so many areas that it is no longer humourous. Mr Anthony continued:
In reaching our decisions on uranium development we had special regard to the issues of nuclear non-proliferation and world energy requirements.
I shortly will quote from some other documents which will show that not even this requirement has been observed. He went on to say:
As regards the former, it is very clear that only by developing our vast uranium resources can Australia play a real role in strengthening nuclear safeguards and preventing any illconsidered rush to plutonium based energy systems.
I do not think that the Deputy Prime Minister knew that plutonium was a component of the nuclear field until the President of the United States of America, Mr Jimmy Carter, mentioned it in a Press release, saying that he did not want a plutonium-based economy. That was the first time that it achieved any sort of notice so far as this Government was concerned. Mr Anthony continued:
Only as a major potential exporter of uranium is Australia in a position to command attention and exert influence in the direction of more stringent nuclear safeguard systems. The United States of America, Canada and other nuclear supplier countries have in recent times taken initiatives to strengthen nuclear safeguards.
That is not true even in relation to Canada. I will afterwards read from an authentic news item to prove that it is not true. He then said:
Australia, in its position as a major potential uranium exporter, strongly supports such nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards initiatives.
Yet, if the rumours in government circles are true as they frequently are, we are to supply yellowcake to President Marcos in the Philippines and there is no guarantee, with his nuclear stations set up near three volcanoes, that it will not blow up anyway or that it will not be used for manufacturing bombs. Then Mr Anthony said:
Australia’s standing in international nuclear forums also has been enhanced by our decision to proceed with development. The International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation is a major international initiative in regard to nuclear nonproliferation and the use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes. lt was launched by President Carter in October last year. The study is expected to proceed over about two years and involve over 40 developed and developing countries, including Western and communist countries.
I suppose that adding the communist countries on there makes Mr Anthony’s speech respectable.
More countries are involved in the mining and export of uranium than the two that were referred to by Senator Maunsell a few moments ago. One of the other reasons this Government has used over the past 18 months to justify the mining of uranium is that the uranium is needed to produce power in the underdeveloped Third
World countries. There are neither the facilities nor the requirements in those countries for the use of nuclear power, and if the uranium miners are able to export uranium it is very doubtful whether they will be worried anyway about the Third World. All that will concern them is the profits they can take out of the ground in this country. A lot of people are joining the Labor Party in its attitude that we should leave uranium in the ground until we know what we are doing with it. At page 4 of Mr Anthony’s statement he said:
In the wake of the world energy crisis many countries have no viable alternative energy source other than nuclear power. This is true both of developed and developing countries alike. Already nuclear energy is a fact of life in many countries and there are firm commitments and proposals to install nuclear capacity on an increasingly significant scale so as to provide urgently needed supplies of electrical energy.
I pause there for a moment. In Sweden there is great debate on this matter, and in fact the conservative government in that country took over from the equivalent of a Labor government, which had built nuclear powerhouses, on the basis that it would not proceed with the construction of stations powered by nuclear energy. There is a debate in West Germany at the moment as to whether or not the nuclear system ought to be used as a continuing system. A debate is also going on in Holland. France is debating whether this type of energy ought to be used for power production or whether they should keep it for manufacturing their bombs. To say that the use of nuclear energy is popular around the world is just not true. During the debate, both here and in the other place, government members have gone to great pains to point out the safety of nuclear power but I propose to read into the record a list of accidents that have happened in comparatively recent times. Mr Anthony continued:
There are now 194 nuclear power units operating in 21 countries with a capacity of over 95,000 megawatts of electricity. There arc 213 nuclear power units under construction in 27 countries. An additional 100 units arc on firm order in 1 7 countries. This means that nuclear power units with a total generating capacity of 388.000 megawatts arc either in operation, under construction or on firm order in 34 countries throughout the world. There arc 307 units at the planning stages with a proposed total generating capacity of over 300,000 megawatts. This is a total of 8 14 nuclear power units in operation, under construction, on firm order or planned. This figure is higher than that mentioned last August when the Government’s decisions were announced.
Those figures are frightening, and again there has been a misrepresentation of the true case. A number of countries, including Japan, are doubtful whether they will proceed with their plans. So if the figures supplied by the Deputy Prime Minister were divided by two we would probably get somewhere near the facts. Mr Anthony went on:
There is a significant potential demand for Australian uranium to fuel the existing and planned nuclear energy requirements of other countries. This is underlined in recent reports of the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The Nuclear Energy Agency estimates that world uranium reserves, including those of Australia, are 2.145 million short tons and that the cumulative demand to 1997 is 2.3 million short tons. In other words, world uranium demand exceeds supply even after counting Australia’s existing resources. Since the announcement of Australia ‘s decision to proceed with further uranium development a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, the Philippines, the United States, West Germany, France. Finland and Japan, have registered their desire to secure uranium from Australia for their nuclear power programs.
A member of the British Parliament stated when he was in Australia a few months ago that Britain wanted Australian uranium. More authoritative statements have been made in Britain that they do not want the uranium. At lease three of the countries to which I have referred have either scaled down their requirements or decided that they do not need uranium as urgently as they thought they did. In any case, suppose that the mining of uranium was going to contribute to the rectification of the power shortage throughout the world. It would do so only for a period of about 20 years, unless we keep on refining the by-products, which would make the whole process more than highly dangerous. We do not need the uranium in Australia because of our coal and oil resources. In particular, our oil resources appear to be much greater than was estimated by the Government but. of course, the Government has never really had the opportunity to estimate the reserves. That is left to the developing companies and if they want to distort the figures for their own market activities they will do so.
To tell people in this country and in other countries that we need to sell our uranium because of the employment it will generate is also untrue. The only fast employment generated is in the development of a mine, in the building of a township near it. and in some transport areas. Once the mine gets going it employs a comparatively limited number of people, and I know that people in the Northern Territory are fully aware of that. They are worried about the development of uranium mining, realising that the expertise will have to be imported into t he Territory and that the mining will provide very lew jobs to alleviate local unemployment, which stands at something like 15 per cent of the work force. MiAnthony went on to refer to existing contracts and said:
I will be very disappointed if development cannot get under way in the forthcoming dry season. I am sure no political party would want to add to Australia’s embarrassment by placing in further jeopardy the honouring of existing contracts.
The opening of vast uranium deposits for mining purposes is totally unnecessary. We can fill existing orders from Mary Kathleen and from stored capacity that this country already has. I wish to refer now to a Press statement authorised by Dr Joe Camilleri on behalf of the Movement Against Uranium Mining, released on 1 1 April 1 978. It is a very critical statement which says:
Excessive secrecy and a lack of public accountability will characterise government administration of uranium policy if the bills introduced to parliament yesterday become law.
Under the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill, the government would be empowered to declare codes of practice to protect the environment and health and safety of Australians from the effects of uranium mining and other nuclear activities.
However, clause 14(1) (d) of this bill ensures that the government can suppress any information relating to the environment, health and safety standards at uranium mines.
Let me pause there. Who is going to carry out the environmental impact studies? Who is going to be responsible for supervising them? It is obvious that the Commonwealth Government is backing away from these responsibilities. It is fashionable in my State for the Premier or somebody on his or his Government’s behalf to commission an environmental impact study. It then becomes a classified document and no one is allowed to look at it. No one has ever seen the warden’s report on the Mount Larcom area because it was unfavourable to the takeover of the farming area by mining interests. If there is not going to be some sort of supervision of what will happen in these instances, and if the Bill gives total protection to the Government- and I believe it doesthen the Government can suppress information in these areas. That is a very obnoxious thing and something that the Australian public will deeply regret in years to come. Politically, no doubt, there is a chance that the Government too will regret it. Dr Camilleri ‘s Press statement continues:
Members of public interest groups or the media who attempted to publicise unsafe conditions could be liable to prosecution. This clause could also be used to frustrate workers’ compensation claims.
The Bill leaves it to the Minister for Environment to decide whether the public will have a chance to comment on proposed health, safety and environmental codes.
On the basis of the present government’s record- they have not established one environmental inquiry- we can expect no such opportunity.
The government has even seen fit to drop weak provisions which appeared in an earlier draft Bill–
I have a copy of the earlier draft Bill for supporters of the Government who have not seen it; it is a very interesting one and I will lend it to them afterwards-
This proposed legislation compares very poorly with nuclear regulatory processes in the United States where public rulemakings hearings are mandatory and public access to information is guaranteed by Freedom of Information legislation.
Why does not the Government see fit to take at least these safeguards? If it is so determined to go ahead with the mining of uranium, the utmost safeguards must be implemented, as I said in a debate which took place in this chamber yesterday. The Press statement continues:
Even in this situation the nuclear industry there has managed to carry on its operations in a cloud of secrecy.
Amendments to the Atomic Energy Act ensure that the Government’s safeguards policy will be administered by the Atomic Energy Commission . . . whose fundamental charter is the promotion of the nuclear power and uranium mining industries.
Such a conflict of interest in the functions of the US AEC were recognised when that body was split in two.
It is clear that the Government intends to forge ahead with uranium development with scant regard for public opinion.
The Movement Against Uranium Mining believes that this hastily drafted legislation ignores the growing doubts, worldwide, at a government level about nuclear safety and economics, and the massive global citizen opposition to nuclear power.
The presentation of this legislation is a cynical exercise which has little to do with health, safety, the environment or nuclear safeguards.
I repeat that this legislation is designed primarily for one reason, namely, to facilitate the movement of uranium from the earth to those areas at which mining companies and, to a lesser degree, people associated with this Government can get their ample rewards.
Let me state some other facts. According to Australian Government statements, the mining of the Ranger deposit will be covered by the Atomic Energy Act. Let us see what that will involve. Its provisions are very harsh and sharply contradict one aspect of the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. The relevant section of that report reads:
We strongly recommend against the use of the Act - that is, the Atomic Energy Act- for the grant of an authority to Ranger to mine uranium if mining were approved.
Yet the Government intends to proceed with this legislation in spite of the fact that the Fox report recommended against it. By conducting uranium mining under this Act, the Government has the power to deny the ordinary industrial rights of workers and unions associated with the mining, handling and transportation of uranium. In particular, it prohibits free speech and demonstrations against uranium projects. The whole of Australia will become just like Queensland. Apparently the Government has modelled some of this legislation on Queensland laws. It gives the police the right to search and arrest without warrant. People can be convicted without the authorities proving that an offensive act has been committed. A person can be fined $1,000 to $10,000 or gaoled for six to twelve months for doing anything that hinders or obstructs the uranium mining projects. So if a number of employees on a mining venture decide that they do not like the working conditions, because the conditions are unsafe or for some other reason, they can be proceeded against under this legislation.
It can be used also against any person in the community who opposes the Ranger project in any way, including writing or speaking against it. If there is an industrial dispute at any stage- I mentioned this aspect a moment ago- in relation to the mining and transportation of uranium, for example, over wages, work conditions or safety, the Government can use the Act. It can fine workers $1,000 or gaol them for six months for obstruction or hindrance. The Act can be enforced to break a strike at the mine site, with the Army if that is required. The Government under the Act can declare the site a restricted area and forbid entry to certain persons or order them to leave the area. The penalty for breach of this provision is up to two years in gaol. When the original mine at Mary Kathleen was opened only selected people were allowed to stay on the mining site if they were visitors. People who had any sorts of political leanings at all were not allowed on the site. I know that I was banned from the site and was not allowed to stay on the site at any stage when I visited the area as an official of the Australian Labor Party. When we attempted to form a branch of the Labor Party there- we subsequently did- a stooge of the management was put in to find out who went to the meetings, and their names were taken. That is the sort of repressive action that went on in a companyowned town many years ago. That occurred over 20 years ago, Mr Deputy President. Now that sort of action is to be fortified by legislation of this Parliament which is supposed to represent a democratic country.
– Where are those provisions contained?
– We will get to them at the Committee stage.
– Specify them now.
– I do not intend to be deterred because I have only a short time available to me, and I want to finish my remarks. If honourable senators opposite have enough intelligence, they can ask the same questions at the Committee stage. The Act will also deny workers full information on the material they are handling, the dangers associated with these materials and even the results of their health checks. The use of the Atomic Energy Act to cover uranium mining now makes it an offence for any worker, union or Australian citizen not to comply fully with the mining and the export of uranium. It also makes normal industrial actions of workers illegal.
The Atomic Energy Act provisions already include those set out in the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act 1 947 which provides for a fine of up to $10,000 and 12 months gaol. Such projects include the testing of long range weapons, and penalties are provided for boycotting such tests, hindering or obstructing, publishing any declaration of a boycott, or speaking or writing about such proposals. The proposed amendments to the Act cover trade and commerce in prescribed substances, such as uranium amongst other things. So the Bill extends the Atomic Energy Act in that respect. It means that any aspect of the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia, including uranium mining, would in future be treated as though it were for the defence of the country. So much for the peaceful atom. These provisions constitute a totally unacceptable inroad into civil liberties. There has been a progressive erosion of civil liberties in this country. One would have thought that a Commonwealth government which had a responsible attitude would not add to what is already happening.
The Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill overrides several powers now exercised by the States. All the States appear to have objected to its provisions on these grounds. The Federal Governmnent has, as a result, decided to pass the legislation only in respect of the Australian Territories at this stage as a means of defusing State opposition. However, the Bill is faulty and should not be enacted, at least without major revision. Of course, the discussions on this legislation meant a two-day trip to Darwin for Senator Kilgariff, Mr Calder and a couple of Ministers. I suppose that was a nice break for them in the week’s activities.
– The weather was nice.
– It is much more pleasant there than it is here at any time. I now read into the record a telegram received by me and sent by the State Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party in Queensland. The telegram states:
I seek your support and co-operation in deferring the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill and the Atomic Energy Act Amendment Bill until full and proper consultations have taken place at the Premiers Conference due on June 22. Failure to adequately consult on this issue will only result in worsening relations between the Federal Government and the six States. Queensland branch of the Labor Party will have no part of legislative trickery to facilitate the export of uranium while the problems of waste disposal remain unresolved.
The telegram was signed by Tom Burns. There are two conflicts of interest here. One is the fact that the States are disturbed about what they believe to be an infringement of their rights, and the other is that the legislation itself is restrictive and repressive.
I shall refer to some other points and then I shall read another letter into the record. The uranium companies and the Australian and Queensland Governments are committed to the export of uranium at any cost. They are afraid of the expression of public opinion which the mobilisation of the anti-uranium people represents. In 1977 attacks on the anti-uranium movement were stepped up by the Premier of Queensland under the cover of parliamentary privilege. He launched slanderous, personal attacks on antiuranium activists. The Queensland Government even abolished the basic democratic right to march in the streets. We talked about that situation much earlier in the debate.
The Prime Minister has admitted that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is compiling dossiers on the opponents of uranium mining. The Australian Government also wants to use the Atomic Energy Act to control opposition to the export of uranium in direct opposition to the recommendations of the Fox inquiry. 1 have mentioned the weakness in using that sort of power. Today I received a letter from Mr Bob Phelps, the Organiser of the Campaign Against Nuclear Power. The letter states:
Dear Senator Keeffe,
We strongly urge you to oppose the passage of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill and the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill when they come before the Senate.
The Codes Bill, as published, would substantially infringe the rights of the states. The Government is asking you to enact it with application to the Territories alone. Extending its scope later, even in consultation with the states, is unlikely to result in uniform national codes. Moreover, its later application to other activities could bc unilaterally decided by the Federal Government. The bill is a faulty piece of legislation which should bc considered again by both houses of the parliament only after substantial modification.
We object to the amendments proposed in the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill for changes to sections 34 (b) and (c) and 38 (4) on similar grounds. Interstate trade and commerce, and trade between the States and Territories in certain materials would come under Federal control if these provisions are enacted. The range of materials involved could later be extended without there necessarily being adequate consultation.
In addition, under section 60 of the substantive legislation, the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act 1947 applies to the Commission’s activities as though they were approved defence projects. For boycotting or threatening to boycott such projects, or for publishing about or advocating the boycotting or threatening boycott of such projects, the penalties are up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine, h could have an impact on press freedom as well as the rights of trade unions, workers and other citizens.
If the bill is passed, these provisions would apply to international and interstate trade and commerce, as well as defence activities. It would mean that any part of the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia, including uranium mining and export for electricity generation, would bc conducted as though it were for national defence purposes. These provisions constitute a totally unacceptable inroad into civil liberties.
If the nuclear industry is as safe and benign as its supporters claim, these draconian proposals would not even be contemplated.
We again sincerely urge you to cast your vote against these pieces of legislation.
A telegram in similar terms was sent from the Queensland Conservation Council. It states:
The Queensland Conservation Council urges you to oppose the passage of uranium legislation packages. Lack of nuclear codes Bill to ensure public participation in framing codes will threaten all environmental legislation. The implications of the amendments to Atomic Energy Act and Approved Defence Projects Act for civil liberties are frightening and without precedent. Such important legislation cannot bc rushed through without proper debate.
We have heard a long story about how safe it is to mine uranium; that we can virtually do what we want with it. But there is a long history of accidents going back to 1971. A number of them are: 1971- Dresden 3, USA. Failure of pressure control system. Dangerous excess pressure builds up in the safety compartment. 1972- Gundremmingen. Federal Republic of Germany. Sediments of unknown origin within the reactor core prevent circulation of cooling water. 1972- Wuergassen. Federal Republic of Germany. Due to a faulty valve, the condensation compartment is destroyed. More than 1.000 cu. metres flow into the river Weser. Important reactor control instruments fail to function. Emergency cooling system is re-activated at the very last moment. 1972- -Obrigheim. Federal Republic of Germany. Due to a number of service faults, a container wilh radioactive effluents bursis. 1972- Surry 1. USA. Two deaths due to the failure of one valve: an investigation detects more than 500 faulty welding spots. 1973- Wuergassen. Federal Republic of Germany. Accidental discovery of cracks on two main cooling installations. Danger of a devastating catastrophe due to failure of cooling system. 1973- Lingen, Federal Republic of Germany. Serious damage to steam generators. One year’s repair time, yet 2 years later, two new steam generators have to be installed. 1973- Hanford, USA. Leaks in old waste storage tanks; several million litres of highly radioactive liquid has seeped into the soil. 1974- Wuergassen, Federal Republic of Germany. Damage to turbines due to uncontrollable vibration. Repairs last one year. Cost: approx. DM 280,000 per day ($A93,000 ). 1974- Niedercichbach, Federal Republic of Germany. A Siemens experimental design project abandoned due to insuperable technical problems. Cost to the taxpayer approx. DM 200 million ($A66m). 1974- 75- USA. Various instances of closing-down (some 15-20 nuclear power stations) due to cracks in the cooling system. 1975- Waterford, USA. A nuclear power station is evacuated. Twenty workers have to wade through 4,000 litres of spilt radioactive water. 1975- Oklahoma, USA. Plutonium poisoning of workers in an enrichment plant. Chief witness dies in mysterious circumstances. 1975-Browns Ferry, USA–
This is a classic example-
Candle accident’. A technician ignites cable insulators with a candle. Destruction of 2,000 cables, including all of the most important regulators and the emergency cooling system. Pure luck prevents, at the last minute, the melting of the 1 100 MW reactor. 1975- Gundremmingen, Federal Republic of Germany. Two deaths following the leak of 800 litres of radioactive steam during vent repairs.
I have another dozen or so cases to cite. They are similar to the examples I have mentioned. I seek the permission of the Senate to incorporate those details in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
HOW SAFE ARE NUCLEAR POWER STATIONS?
1957- Windscale, UK. Over-heating of the nuclear reactor caused the release of huge quantities of radioactive matter. Milk had to be destroyed for many months. 1958- Los Alamos, USA. One death from radioactive radiation in the uranium enrichment plant. 1958- Vinca, Yugoslavia. Test reactor over-heated: one death. 1958-Waltz Mill, USA. The cooling system failed. 1 96 1 -Idaho Falls. USA. The death of three people caused by radioactivity released from an overheated test reactor. 1964- Wood River Junction. USA. One death from radioactivity in the uranium enrichment plant. 1965- Moi, Belgium. Amputation of a leg exposed to radiation. Cause: error in the servicing of a control mechanism. 1966- Detroit. USA. Partial melting of the core of the Fermi reactor. Danger of a nuclear explosion. 1966- Michigan. USA. Discovery ora foreign body in the Fermi reactor’s cooling system. Re-activated only in 1 970. 1968- Elk River, USA. Leak in the primary circuit. Emission of high levels of radioactivity. The reactor has to bc closed down. 1968- La Crosse, USA. Failure of the control system. Reactor has to be closed down. 1969- St Laurent-Les-Faux. France. Partial melting of the reactor core. 1969- Lingen, Federal Republic of Germany. Leak in the primary circuit. The effluent, discharged into the river Ems has a radioactivity thirteen times over and above the permitted annual quantity. 1969- Nuclear power stations Bradwell, Hinkley Point, Dungeness. Sizewell. Oldsury, Trawsfynydd. UK. Cracks occur in the main cooling conduit. 1969- Lyeens, CSR. Partial melting-down of reactor core. Release of radioactivity. Reactor has to bc abandoned. 1969- Rocky Flats, USA. Fire breaks out in the enrichment plant. Plutonium is being released. Investigation finds that the plant releases plutonium when operating normally’. 1970 - Beznau. CSR. Ten workers exposed to radioactivity. 1970- Dresden 2, USA. Out of control for two hours. Radioactivity in the containment section.
– I shall refer now to a number of other points which give a background to many of the serious points which I have mentioned in the debate. The Deputy Prime Minister in his speech referred to the decision which had been made about Canada being a safe place for the mining of uranium. According to a statement in the Australian Financial Review of 31 January:
Canada has agreed to sell uranium to Europe and allow reprocessing.
That is the first unsafe attitude which Canada has displayed. The article continues:
Canada’s agreement will make it difficult for Australia to impose any tougher conditions on uranium sales, notably prior consent before reprocessing or enrichment. The agreement does not give Canada the tight control over the end use of uranium that Mr Fraser claims will apply to Australian uranium.
So if Canada, long an exporting nation of uranium, is unable to do this, how will Australia be able to set standards which arc tight? Also in the Australian Financial Review of 3 February this year an article states:
The Australian Joint Intelligence Agency has expressed reservations about selling uranium. This could put pressure on the Government to think more deeply about the problems of enrichment and reprocessing.
I hope that does put pressure on the Government but I have grave doubts. In the Hobart Mercury of 23 January a statement was made about a radioactive waste dump which had been found under a school in Bairnsdale. Victoria. The dump dated back 60 years, lt was found by a science teacher demonstrating a geiger counter to hi* class. That was seven years ago. The headmaster requested the removal of 30 tons of contaminated soil. The clean-up began a year ago and the last of the waste was recently dumped down an old mine shaft. It took six years before any action was officially taken to remove the radioactive waste.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was reading into Hansard extracts from certain Australian newspapers. I will continue with that process. It was stated in the Australian Financial Review of 10 February:
The Australian Atomic Energy Commission announced plans to commence a $10m program of nuclear fusion research. This would be on top of the existing $2 1.7m p.a. budget. The addition will require government approval.
The Financial Review editorial argued against the folly of entering this massively expensive area. The next item appeared in the Age of 25 January. It stated:
President Carter has cut $ 100m off the federal US nuclear research budget for fiscal year 1 978-79.
That bears out what I was saying earlier in this debate, that some countries are going cold on the idea of further development of nuclear power. In the Australian of 24 January it was stated:
Westinghouse has made a settlement with three of the 27 utilities suing it for repudiating contracts for the supply of uranium fuel. The settlement cost $18m. Westinghouse claimed it was commercially impractical to honour the contracts to supply fuel at $ 1 1 per pound now that the price had risen to $42 per pound. If other utilities settle at a similar rate to the past three, Westinghouse will lose a furthers 185m.
It should be recalled that it was Westinghouse that forecast the sacking of the Australian Labor Party Government in November 1975. It said that, immediately a new government was appointed in this country, it would get the goahead to obtain its yellowcake. Also Westinghouse is associated with the cartel to force up the price of uranium around the world. The Canberra Times carried two items on 14 and 15 February, stating:
Firstly, a report issued by the US Union of Concerned Scientists claims that nuclear power plants being supplied from the US are technically flawed and incapable of supplying reliable power. Even Japan, with its high technical capacity is having trouble with its 14 US designed plants. These have achieved only 38 per cent of capacity due to breakdowns.
Last year reports appeared in newspapers giving details of the sale by Westinghouse to the Philippines of a nuclear power plant. Shortly after, suggestions of bribery and corruption associated with the awarding of the contract were made. A golfing partner of President Marcos happened to be the Westinghouse representative in the Philippines and appeared to have won a substantial commission on the contract. That has been the subject of some recent Press comment. Another article in the Canberra Times reported that Mr Marcos was piqued at newspaper reports of questionable financial arrangements and was talking of cancelling the United States order. Coincidentally, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was offering a reactor to replace the United States model. This is the first case recorded of the USSR offering nuclear technology to a country outside Eastern Europe. Those points are of considerable importance.
I want to talk about some other factors. In Kern County, California, a referendum was held to decide whether or not a nuclear power plant should be located near Wasco in that State. The question was put to voters in a referendum on 7 March in Kern County which includes the town of Wasco, and the answer was a resounding ‘no’. The San Joaquin Valley Nuclear Project was rejected by a vote of 47,282 to 20,591, a margin of more than two to one. Although not legally binding, the vote was likely to result either in outright cancellation of the project or in its transfer to a site outside Kern County. Plans had originally called for construction of four 1,300- megawatt reactors at the Wasco site. It would have been one- of the world ‘s largest nuclear power installations.
A local survey taken in Kalgoorlie, in our own country, has shown that most people are against a uranium pilot plant being established. About 55 per cent of local people oppose the treatment plant, the Kalgoorlie Boulder Ratepayers’ Association has found, and a group of about 80 Western Australian doctors has come out against the pilot plant plan. In Kalgoorlie the Ratepayers’ Association is seeking opinions on whether the $13m plant should go ahead. A check on signatures collected so far shows 55 per cent against the establishment of the plant. Those in favour were influenced by the unemployment factor.
I wonder how much panic the Government is experiencing in its grim determination to go ahead with the legislation to enable uranium mining to commence as soon as possible and to be part of the social and employment pattern of this country. Is the Government influenced by unemployment to some degree and hoping that this legislation will sop up some of it. It will not do so in the long term but it may in the short term. Is the Government totally blind to everything else except the money that can come to this country. If one looks at our balance of payments one finds that, spread over a number of years, it will not make much difference. It will be only a drop in the bucket. On the other hand, we ought to be doing something about spending more money on research into alternative fuels. We do little about treating our coal to turn it into oil. We do little about experimentation in the fields of solar energy, wind power, tidal power and the growing of crops that will produce the type of power alcohol that has been produced for years at Sarina in north Queensland. On balance, these Bills in their present form ought to be rejected. If they are not rejected, this will be a sad day for Australia.
– I think it has been obvious during the time I have been a member of this chamber that I do not make a habit of rising to speak on any Bill just for the sake of doing so, particularly when the opinions that I have are shared and very ably expressed by other honourable senators from either side of the House. However, I intend to speak on this occasion because these Bills are concerned with principles about which the Party I represent and I feel particularly strongly. Therefore I feel it incumbent upon me to have these feelings officially recorded. I heartily endorse the expressions of opinion of Senator Colston and Senator Melzer in particular and I do not intend to cover those same topics in any detail.
First of all let me make it quite clear that I am totally opposed to the mining, processing and marketing of uranium. On that ground alone, therefore, I must reject completely the aims and the proposed methods of achieving those aims as expressed in the Bills before us today. I know that I express the feelings and the ideas of the majority of the members of the Party which I represent in the Senate when I say that I consider that nuclear energy is too potentially and actually dangerous, indeed hazardous, to be used to any great extent at the present time. Despite Senator Jessop ‘s comments about the relative levels of radioactivity of a glass, of wine and the Lucas Heights establishment, I must confess to feeling far more confident having my nightly glass of wine in the parliamentary dining room than I would be in any association with the mining, processing or marketing of uranium or uranium derivatives. Too many problems remain unsolved. Waste disposal, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the potential for terrorists activities are all possible, indeed probable, areas of danger inherent in the mining processing and marketing of uranium products. Our technology is not yet sufficiently advanced to deal with all the known effects on human health and the environment of nuclear energy.
Despite the pious expressions of the Bills that the Minister can take steps to ‘control and eliminate hazards associated with the nuclear energy situation’ I seriously question whether that is possible. I draw the attention of the Senate to some recent comments by Sir Mark Oliphant on the problems associated with radon gas. In the Sydney Morning Herald this week the column of Sir Mark’s headed ‘Question Marks over Uranium ‘ contained the following comments:
The question I wish to ask is, however rich the ore, can it be mined, and converted into the saleable yellowcake of commerce, under Australian conditions? . . .
Rich uranium ores contain a gram or more of the daughter substance of the slow radioactive decay of uranium, radium, together with all the subsequent radioactive substances it produces, including the gas radon.
Radon is one of the rare gases, without chemical properties, and the only way to remove it from the environment is to freeze it out with a coolant like liquid air. The radon itself undergoes spontaneous radioactive decay into a series of substances, themselves radioactive, ending up finally as ordinary lead.
Radon will be released into the air from the ore as it is mined, crushed, and dissolved in acid, while the other radioactive products of the radium series, being solid, will be present in any dust. All, in sufficient quantity, are potentially lethal. Dust masks should give reasonable protection against the solids, but cannot remove the radon.
As with asbestosis, the effects of these low doses of radiation, which can be well below the officially prescribed limit, can be delayed for decades.
If scientists of the eminence of Sir Mark Oliphant and others have these worries, worries which Sir Mark Oliphant concludes by pointing out are solvable but only under highly expensive economic procedures, I wonder that the Government is still seriously considering proceeding with the mining, the processing, and the marketing of uranium.
I refer now to the much vaunted Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty. I think it is worth observing that oaths and treaties have been broken since pre-history. They certainly will be again. Whilst necessity may well be the mother of invention, convenience is certainly the father of treaties. Treaties are as easy to break as they are to make; easier in fact. Anyone who ignores this is either a fool or a madman, or both. Treaties, whether on fishing rights or nuclear energy, are undertaken for political expediency only. Some countries are more likely to honour agreements than others; that is about the best that can be said. How anyone can believe that any pact made with that monster of the Philippines, President Marcos, or his wife or other associates, will be honoured is being nothing short of irresponsibly foolhardy. The same applies to any negotiations that the Government enters into with any unstable or dictatorial government- Iran, the Philippines or anywhere else. Recent negotiations that have been taking place in the Philippines concern an area which is known to be geophysically unstable, an area where volcanic eruptions are not unknown even at present. I refer honourable senators who care to validate those statements to Press reports in various newspapers in Australia in the last couple of months. The Manila area is most profitable for the Marcos regime, so there the plant will go. As far as the Philippines Government is concerned, the health and safety of its countrymen seem to be a secondary consideration to the profitability angle. I would hate to think that any Australian Government would endorse this sort of cavalier attitude in another country or adopt it here. Yet in sailing blindly ahead with the large scale mining, processing and marketing of uranium, even though there is no definite empirical evidence, wine notwithstanding, that the associated dangers can be minimised much less eliminated, the Government is coming perilously close to being justifiably accused of putting economics and economic considerations before the health and welfare of present and future generations of Australians.
Having said that I oppose in principle the use of nuclear energy, the mining, processing and marketing of uranium, I want to go on to point out one or two other areas in which the Bills are contentious. This package of Bills is concerned with the implementation and effecting of the Government’s policy for uranium mining development in Australia. It has been variously described in second reading speeches as honouring the Government’s ‘undertakings to the Australian people and the governments of the States and the Territories’ and as being a carefully controlled and responsible measure for developing Australia’s uranium resources. In essence, however, through the two Bills before us now, there is an unjustifiable attempt by the Federal Government to ride roughshod over the rights of States and individuals alike. Far from honouring the Government’s undertakings to the Australian people and the governments of the States and Territories, the Government is proceeding quite against its declared policy, a policy declared in the Governor-General’s Speech in the middle of February, of ‘protecting the civil liberties of all Australians’ and of intending ‘to work in partnership with all groups’- not just the Peko/EZ group- in order to ‘revitalise our Federal system by co-operating with State and local governments’.
Whilst on the one hand mouthing pious sentiments about the need for consultation between State and Federal governments before codes are proclaimed or enforced, the Government has so worded the clauses of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill and the amendments to the Atomic Energy Act that, in fact, the States have no rights at all. The Premiers of several
States have been quick to point this out. Clauses 8 and 11 of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill are cases in point. These are two of the most anti-States rights clauses ever put forward by a Federal government. These clauses aim at ‘regulating or controlling nuclear activities in Australia’. They aim at Federal Government control of the mining, processing and exporting of nuclear materials in all States and Territories of this country. They offer, as something of a sop to State Ministers, the right to be furnished with a code or a proposed order and the opportunity to be consulted about that code. This much vaunted consultation right is not worth the paper it is printed on. Nowhere do the States get the right of veto or appeal. The consultation can be as perfunctory as the Federal Minister chooses and can take any form the Minister chooses notwithstanding what was said in the second reading speech- a telephone call, a telegram or a brief letter will do. Once this mere formality has been observed, the Federal Minister is at liberty to go ahead and do exactly what he and the Executive Government wanted in the first place. The arrogance of the Federal Government here is incredible. But it does not stop here.
Any slight hope the States had that their wishes would be paramount to those of the Commonwealth is dashed totally by clause 1 1. This clause, which is concerned with regulations for carrying out or giving effect to codes of practice, totally prevents the States getting any satisfaction from any court should they be so foolish as to appeal against the behaviour of the Federal Government. Clause 1 1 gives complete powers of decision and regulation to the Executive and that is something not to be wished, and devoutly so. Criticism of these Bills is widespread and covers a wide range of factors. What the Government is trying to do by way of this legislation is reprehensible environmentally, as far as States’ and individual rights are concerned, and presents very real prospects of health hazards not only to those people working in the mining and processing operations but also to anyone likely to come in contact with accidental or deliberate radiation now or in the future.
On those grounds I am forced to oppose iiic Bills in their entirety and in fact to support the Opposition’s amendment that the Bills bc deferred and not proceeded with until alter full and proper consultation with the States. In doing so I would like to remind honourable senators that they are here as States’ representatives and. bearing in mind that the call for deferment and consultation comes from Premiers of manyStates and of both political persuasions, they would all do well to support the amendment and in fact to put their mouths where the Constitution is.
– I come into this debate after attending to it continuously since late yesterday afternoon and I am greatly indebted to the honourable senators to whom I have listened. I realise the responsibility that the Parliament assumes in dealing with an issue of such transcendent importance. As a lawyer I have often pondered the retardation of some of our institutions, such as law courts, parliaments and social institutions, as against the terrific and momentous advances in science as instanced in the nuclear field and the interplanetary field particularly. Of course it is withering to one’s thoughts when one contemplates the minuscule position that a member of parliament occupies when faced with a problem of the application of those enormous forces that science has discovered to the individual man and to his civilisation.
I am not in the slightest degree equipped by education or experience to pass a judgment upon the issues to which Senator Haines- adopting the views of others as well as speaking for herselfhas referred with so much concern but I have tried to follow them and I have formed my own judgment in the light of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry and the debates that have been held. With some reservations, on balance, I approve the commencement of the nuclear industry for industrial and peaceful purposes. I take in mind all the horror that has been conjured up by those honourable senators who have spoken, and the risks, and the words that have come from my side of the chamber, by people who are better informed, as to the minimal nature of those risks. Nevertheless, the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1978 and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978 that are before us disclose a real concern although that may only be in deference to a significant section of public opinion.
In the community there is a real and genuine concern on the part of a significant number of our people. I think that concern needs careful consideration. I think it is because of that that the debate particularly points up the appropriate roles of the Government on the one hand and the Parliament on the other. We must never reach the stage where we, the elected members of the chamber, are spokesmen for the Government as distinct from spokesmen for the people, to refer to a phrase used by Sir Winston Churchill when he opened the first Inter-Parliamentary Union conference. In this issue it is particularly important that the Parliament, as the representative of the people, accept its responsibility after the ordinary processes of parliamentary debate. The decisions that are taken by the Government, whether by way of approval of the code or by way of issue of regulations, are taken without public debate and without the advantage of any interval between the two chambers of Parliament.
Poor though I think is the performance of the Parliament today, from the point of view of giving balanced consideration to the measures that come before it and insisting upon its role to make a decision, nevertheless this debate disclosesalthough the average attendance on this debate since 6 p.m. yesterday, in a Senate consisting of 60 members, has not been more than 10 or 12 senators- that the public at large, in a significant measure, shares a concern as to the initiation of an industry which is fraught with terrific impact upon our community. In our system it is parliamentary debate alone which can either persuade that section of the community that it is in error or give it the opportunity to persuade the present majority to the contrary point of view. But that can never be done if this system is initiated on decree, or order or regulation because then no debate is allowed. So long as the present pressures are kept up from so many quarters within the Parliament, insisting upon privilege from disclosure, it is doubtful the reasons for those decisions of government by determination, decree or regulation will ever be made evident.
It is therefore on the consonance of this Bill with the requirements of our parliamentary system that I wish to indicate my concern. I will refer only to the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978 which I will call the ‘code’ Bill. The extreme definition of ‘nuclear activities’ is therein stated to include the mining of any prescribed substance; the production of any prescribed substance; the milling, refining, treatment and processing of any prescribed substance; and the construction, operation or decommissioning of a mine, plant and so on associated with nuclear activity. Also, prescribed substance’ includes these radioactive substances. One will then see how this Parliament proposes by this Bill to regulate nuclear activities so defined.
Part II of the Bill proposes that the Minister shall cause to be furnished to the State Ministers a code and that the State Ministers shall be given an opportunity to consult upon that code. Then in Part III it is provided that the GovernorGeneral may, from time to time, by order in writing approve the code and subsequent variations. The Governor-General is not to approve the code unless he has been informed by a Ministeran unusual expression which I do not quite understand, but I pass it by because it is a triviality in this context- that the code has been furnished and an opportunity to consult has been afforded to the appropriate Minister of a State.
The code of practice is as extensive as this: It may specify the standards to be observed, recommend practices and procedures to be followed; make provision for or in relation to the prohibition of the doing of any act or thing that is, in whole or in part, a nuclear activity; make provision for the licensing of nuclear activities; make provision for giving directions to particular persons for the purposes of the code; and make provision for and in relation to exemptions from the application of any provision of the code. So the code, to emanate from the GovernorGeneral after it has been before the State Ministers and some opportunity for consultation has been given, is to be brought out .and promulgated.
Clause 9 of the Bill which is, in its novelty, exciting of scrutiny provides, in relation to the order by which the Governor-General shall approve a code, that it shall go through exactly the same processes as we apply to regulations, namely, it shall be published in the Gazette and tabled in each House of Parliament within 1 5 sitting days. Then transcribed into sub-clauses (3), (4) and (5) of clause 9- with some amendments, the significance of which I have not yet discernedare major sections of the Acts Interpretation Act which this Senate was instrumental in having included in that Act in 1931 and which have been the bulwark upon which we have supervised subordinate legislation ever since. Those sections were included in that Act because the Government of that time had quickly learned, it thought- until corrected by the Senate it insisted- that it could subvert and by-pass this Senate if it resorted to legislation by regulations and not by Act of Parliament because the issue of regulations does not require consultation with either chamber. So clause 9 inserts into the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill these provisions which, to the unsceptical would induce the first blush. How accommodating! This is an indication of how the Government really regards the authority of the Senate, upon which the Government has insisted, to disallow regulations!
The point I make, whilst acknowledging that degree of deference shown by the author of this Bill, is that this Bill totally ignores the fact that in all major legislation this Senate and the other House of Parliament have an imperative duty to scrutinise the sufficiency of the legislation when it comes to protecting the people and properly constructing influences which have such dynamic effect in foreign policy. We have an inalienable responsibility, but there is no role for either House of Parliament in the formulation of this code. It is one thing to disallow an order approving a code or a variation, but if the Parliament has no share in the formulation of the code then the Parliament has only a negative, destructive role and not a constructive role to safeguard properly the soundness of the code. I therefore find it very unacceptable to think that that is the situation in which the promulgation of the code is to be made.
I am told, and I accept it for today’s purposes, that the code of itself will have no operative force in law and that each of the governments of the Commonwealth- the seven governments- will be expected to comply with the code in its enactment of laws. Let that be so. If the code is to mean anything it is to be the magnet or talisman from which all laws will emanate. We had a similar situation with the Seas and Submerged Lands Act, with respect to which some of us took the view that the Commonwealth certainly had jurisdiction over the sea area beyond three miles from the coastline. Nevertheless, the Government entered into an arrangement with al! States whereby particular areas were delegated to the jurisdiction of the States. Does the Senate remember the report of the Senate committee which inquired into that structure? It was under my chairmanship, firstly; then, under the chairmanship of the late Senator Greenwood; I think that it finished its hearings with Senator Young as its chairman. After three years of study that committee brought to our attention most forcibly how such a structure completely denied proper responsibility to the Australian Minister if there were a divergence from the policy of the Commonwealth on the part of a State Minister.
That is illustrated by what is going on in Bass Strait today, where the Victorian Government has accepted a tender for exploitation in Bass Strait. I see that it has been queried and purposely put forward that the successful tender probably was not the best tender. How is the Commonwealth Minister to be made responsible to us to produce the documents upon which the Victorian Government made its decision and how can we have disclosed whether the State instrumentality tender was in fact preferable to the tender by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd? That simply shows how important we are when we have a conglomerate situation such as that surrounded by the code. Whilst the code contains no operative force in itself, I am told that its actual bringing into operation will depend upon the Governor-General making regulations under clause 14. Under that clause, he can make regulations in respect of licensing, confidentiality of information, exemptions, directions and orders.
As I point out, those regulations never are debated in Parliament unless they are brought up by way of disallowance. I believe that the curious way in which clause 9 is constructed- so that an order can be disallowed- is to escape the definition of regulations that are referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. Therefore, they escape the scrutiny that that Committee is bound to give and has given unremittingly to regulations since 1931. The first criterion that that Committee would apply- almost uniformly the Senate has adopted its guide- is whether the subject matter of the regulations is a matter proper to be enacted by Parliament, whether it is a substantial law or whether it fulfils the proper office of regulations and simply concerns itself with administrative detail. I say that the regulations which can be applied under clause 14 are to fill in the vacuum of parliamentary structure that this Bill represents.
This Bill only represents an- eggshell which is to be filled in by the code and the regulations made by the executive government of the Commonwealth. They are not subject to parliamentary debate. That parliamentary debate is most precious in a community that values democratic institutions and of unique value in such an issue as this about which all sections of the community are concerned and when one significant section of the community is most earnestly convinced against the wisdom of the whole scheme. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to preserve democratic debate on that issue. In order to bring both the code and the Commonwealth regulations into operation, that parliamentary debate is denied to the Senate except by way of disallowance. The Senate is without the advantage of the scrutiny which ought to be given to the code by the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. That advantage is not available under the present structure. Therefore, I find myself amazed that a substantial piece of legislation is put forward based upon regulations and a code, neither of parliamentary production. I am amazed all the more when we are on the threshold of the initiation of an industry of such importance as this industry.
I turn to the next aspect of the matter, that is, the disintegration of responsibility on the present structure when it depends upon the unanimous point of view of seven governments. Here I find myself more perplexed than ever. In none of the documents that have been produced in relation to this matter is the slightest reference made to the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which met between 1956 and 1959. I was a member of that Committee. The only other remaining member of Parliament who was a member of that Committee was Mr Whitlam who is out of the country at the present time. The Committee was a balanced one with representation from both sides of the Parliament. In this respect we recommended that the Commonwealth Parliament should be empowered by constitutional amendment to make laws with respect to:
We pointed out what had happened in the United States of America and in other countries and came to the conclusion that this industry peculiarly needed a single control within Australia in the national interest. The industry was made up of such predominant and repercussive reactions that it was impossible to have it properly controlled by seven different governments. Would all the States say aye to the Commonwealth code and regulations? I ask honourable senators to remember that it is rare in such matters that the State parliaments have any responsibility because if the agreement between the seven executive governments is the keynote to unity that presupposes no dissent or discordance in any one State parliament. Therefore, that proposition only argues for the weakness and inappropriateness of building an industry without a national power to control it.
We must have been completely stupid in presenting that report. The twelve of us were quite unanimous in making that recommendation. I hope that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) is listening to my speech. He overlooked my dissent upon the issue involving the so-called simultaneous elections of the Senate and the House of Representatives. In respect of nuclear energy and the need for a national single power to control it, we were quite unanimous. I find it incomprehensible that we attempt to launch this industry without getting the States to refer the power to the Commonwealth or without taking a referendum to the country in order to have the people give the Commonwealth the power. I believe that the continuation of the States holding powers in this field is quite anachronistic, archaic and inappropriate. For example, if Western Australia were to establish a nuclear reactor within a short distance of Adelaide, the survival of that city would depend upon the proper control of the Western Australian reactor. Matters of this sort which are of national importance belong to this Parliament and matters that are of State importance belong to the States.
If Government senators in their speeches have not even referred to the constitutional power, I shall refer to the question of power as it was raised in the Fox report. On page 1 8 1 of the report, it is stated:
A number of countries . . . have by legislation given strong controls in respect of that activity to the central government.
Then reference is made to the Atomic Energy Act which, as you know, Madam Acting Deputy President, is based upon only two powers, defence and territories. The report goes on to state:
It may be doubted whether a power relative to mining in the states which is limited legislatively to reliance on ‘defence purposes’ is adequate. On the contrary, it is likely to be productive of uncertainty and disputation.
Then, there appears a baffling sentence which I do not understand, I do not know whether it is a misprint or whether it has never been read. The report states:
There would seem to be little doubt that the Commonwealth has constitutional power to assume full control for all proper purposes, and we suggest that consideration should be given to its doing so.
Then it refers to the Customs Act, pointing out that it has already exercised a power over the import and export of radioactive substances, a power that it would never occur to anybody was ever denied. It then goes on to say that the industry should be on a strictly controlled and regulated basis. It states:
We see uranium as a highly strategic material, the supply of which involves not only questions concerning the hazards and problems we have been discussing, and trade considerations, but also foreign policy and defence considerations. In our view it cannot be treated as an ordinary trade commodity . . .
How, from that picture, can it be said that the Commonwealth has power to assume control for all proper purposes, and why it should not have that power I do not know. But if it has that power, why in the name of fortune are the States to be brought in by way of consultation with regard to the codes in this Bill? It seems to me to indicate that the Commonwealth does not accept the interpretation of that statement in the report of Mr Justice Fox as to the unqualified power of the Commonwealth Parliament. I am dismayed to think that in this constitutional menage we have a structure that is so indefinite as to the degree to which it depends on the States that it suggests that the code will be referred to the States, but insofar as their laws do not provide properly for the code, the Commonwealth takes power under the Bill to add to the legislation and supplement it. Whether the Commonwealth comes in on a principal basis or on a supplementary basis, the power must be in question. But for our purposes today the Commonwealth comes in by regulation and exercises any power it has without consulting Parliament, conceding to Parliament the right to disallow but not conceding to Parliament any participation in the formulation of the scheme. Proposed section 13 in Part V- Miscellaneous- of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill provides:
1 ) Where the Governor-General is satisfied that-
Then sub-section (6) of proposed section 13 invokes the material sections of the Acts Interpretation Act and makes an order of the Governor-General for that purpose equivalent to regulations for the purposes of disallowance. But again, the Parliament has no participation in the formulation of the rules of law. It may be an irony that I stand here to advocate the right and responsibility of a House of Parliament because my enthusiasm fades, not only because I am disappearing from the Parliament but also after my long experience of seeing the numbers who attend parliamentary debates both here and in the other place become so minimal. But nevertheless great occasions will excite members of parliament to take an active interest in the matter. In a matter so important to the public, the general people, as this one I believe, daunted as 1 am by the primitive nature of our institutions as compared with the advanced nature of solution to scientific questions, that in a democracy we have to maintain the true office of parliament. In regard to regulations or codes which give effect to a most substantial piece of legislation denying parliament participation in the formulation of a scheme, I stand in the position of being unable to adopt any view other than that the Bill should be rejected. I want to add that I do not support the amendment moved by the Australian Labor
Party because it implies that the States have a predominant role to play in this connection. On a textual interpretation of the amendment I regret that the States have not been visibly involved in consultation up until this time but my theme is that the States, having regard to the national character of nuclear activity, ought instantly, except as to the question of actual mining, refer all other questions of power to the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Senator Carrick) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a draft report on study leave in universities and colleges of advanced education, prepared by the Tertiary Education Commission. I seek leave to make a brief statement relating to this report.
-In July 1977, following the establishment of the Tertiary Education Commission, I renewed a request which I had made to the former Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education to inquire into and report on the systems of study leave and staff development leave in universities and colleges. I asked the Commission to examine such matters as the place of study leave in relation to the functioning of universities and colleges, eligibility for and conditions of study leave and the desirability of modifications to existing study leave schemes.
The Tertiary Education Commission has prepared a report and has decided, with my endorsement, to release it in draft form in order to obtain comment from institutions, organisations and others affected by its recommendations. The Commission is seeking comments on the draft report by 14 July and, in the light of comments received, will be preparing a final report for consideration by the Government. The draft report concludes that study leave has made a significant contribution to the development of universities and colleges in Australia. However, in view of the developments in travel and communications and the growth of the university and college systems in the period since study leave schemes were introduced, major changes to existing schemes are proposed.
– I seek leave to move a motion.
That the Senate take note of the paper. 1 indicate my appreciation to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) for making available a copy of the report. In spite of that I have not been able to read it because it is a lengthy and comprehensive report on an issue which has been agitating- I think that is the correct word- in the minds of many academics for some months past. I think the agitation probably developed considerably when the Birch report on the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation was published, a matter in respect of which I understand Senator Webster will later be introducing a statement. That report made a number of comments about study leave and research leave in the CSIRO. I congratulate the Minister on the procedure that he intends to adopt regarding this report. Clearly, it is important that academic institutions should have time to read the contents of it and make observations about it before any further decisions are made. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- I present a statement relating to Australia and Papua New Guinea, negotiations on maritime boundaries, and on other matters relating to the Torres Strait. I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard. It was delivered in the other place by the Minister for Foreign Affairs ( Mr Peacock ).
The statement read as follows-
I wish to inform honourable members that, in my discussions in Port Moresby last week with the Papua New Guinea Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Olewale, we agreed upon the principal basic elements which are to be included in the treaty to be concluded on maritime boundaries between our two countries and on other matters relating to the Torres Strait. In this statement I propose to present a broad commentary on the course of the negotiations. I also intend to respond more fully to questions which have been raised concerning the status of certain islands in the Torres Strait. Because the Papua New Guinea Parliament is at present in recess, I have agreed with Mr Olewale that we shall each present to our respective parliaments in two weeks ‘ time a fuller outline of the principal basic elements to be included in the treaty. It is also my intention that, at that time, illustrative maps will be made available to honourable members which will indicate, more clearly than words can do, the results of these important negotiations.
Honourable members will know that Australia and Papua New Guinea have been engaged in these negotiations over a period of years, beginning before Papua New Guinea moved to independence in 1975. The negotiations have involved a requirement to delimit territorial seas, the seabed and fishing zones throughout the area between the two countries. This requirement arises because there are no existing international lines of delimitation on these matters. There could be no such lines until Papua New Guinea became independent. It is true that the so-called 1878-1879 line has commonly been regarded as constituting a maritime boundary. However, it is clear from the very terms of the letters patent referring to the line that it did not represent a sea or seabed boundary. The purpose of the line was only to indicate the islands that were annexed to Queensland. The negotiations have also involved the question of the status of certain islands in the Torres Strait and many intricate historical, cultural, social and economic factors of great significance to the peoples of the area.
The Australian and Papua New Guinea governments have approached the negotiations with great care and concern in order to arrive at a solution which is equitable in human terms and lasting and beneficial in its consequences. We have sought an agreement which will stand the test of time both legally and functionally. We have been determined to achieve a treaty settlement which would strengthen the fabric of the relationship between the two countries and their peoples, which we both regard as of high importance. We have looked for a treaty settlement which will have the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances on matters of day-to-day significance while at the same time retaining a durable certainty about the distribution and nature of the rights of the parties concerned. It has been common ground that a treaty of this kind should be comprehensive and enshrine agreement as a total package definitive of jurisdiction throughout the area of shared interest. Thus, while there has been preoccupation with the Torres Strait as an area of special significance to both countries, the question of delimitation of seabed and fishing rights throughout the whole area running some 1,200 miles from the Arafura Sea to the Coral Sea has also been of major importance.
In the course of our negotiations, it became necessary to confirm and identify precisely those islands which were annexed to Queensland. I undertook last week to provide further material for honourable members on this particular matter. In a statement on 3 1 March 1978 I said that research had shown that the small uninhabited islands of Kawa, Mata Kawa and Kussa, which lie very close to the Papua New Guinea mainland but which have often been shown on maps as part of Queensland, were not among the Torres Strait islands annexed to Queensland in the last century. I added that the Australian Government had accordingly informed the Government of Papua New Guinea that, in the eventual treaty, Australia would recognise them as part of Papua New Guinea. I dealt with a number of aspects of this matter in my answer to a question in this House on 3 May. As I stressed in that answer, it is necessary to go back to the original documents in order to establish their intention. A paper dealing with those documents, with relevant chart and map extracts attached, has now been placed in the Parliamentary Library for the information of honourable members. I invite the attention of honourable members to that paper and wish to add only three points.
Firstly, the paper shows among other things that, when the relevant letters patent were being prepared by the British authorities in 1 878, a line was drawn on an Admiralty chart to show the islands intended to be annexed. That is to say, a chart was specifically prepared by the British authorities to show the intent of the letters patent, and copies of that chart were duly circulated, to the Governor of Queensland and others, together with copies of the letters patent. The chart shows a line that excludes the Kawa Islands and Kussa Island from the islands to be annexed to Queensland. Secondly, as the paper points out, the original intent has not been completely forgotten or overlooked. Maps have appeared, under very distinguished auspices, snowing the Kawa Islands or Kussa Island as not being among those annexed to Queensland. In particular, the 1878 Admiralty chart was referred to when the territorial extent of Queensland was examined in the legal context of the seas and submerged lands litigation in 1975 in the High Court. The chart was specifically referred to by Queensland counsel as showing how the boundary was defined in the letters patent. Thirdly, the correction of the widespread misunderstanding about these islands has not meant the creation of a legal vacuum. The effect of the letters patent of 8 June 1888 constituting British
New Guinea was that islands off the south and south-eastern shores of British New Guinea ‘not forming part of the Colony of Queensland ‘ were included within British New Guinea. By virtue of the Papua Act 1905, British New Guinea was accepted by the Commonwealth as a territory under the authority of the Commonwealth by the name of the Territory of Papua. After the Second World War that Territory was administered in union with the Territory of New Guinea and, as the Third Schedule to the Papua New Guinea Act 1 949, as amended up to the time of Papua New Guinea’s independence, makes clear, islands within the Torres Strait that were not part of the State of Queensland continued to be within the bounds of Papua New Guinea immediately prior to Papua New Guinea’s independence.
It will be clear from what I have said about the status of the Kawa and Kussa Islands that no question arises about any transfer of Australian territory to Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea sovereignty over those islands will be recognised in the treaty. Australian sovereignty over all Australian islands in the Torres Strait and their 3-mile territorial seas will be recognised in the treaty. The Torres Strait Islanders will, of course, remain Australian citizens. There will be a delimitation of the territorial seas between Boigu, Dauan and Saibai and Papua New Guinea. In addition, there will be lines delimiting seabed and fisheries jurisdiction running through the whole area between the two countries. I also regard it as most important that, in addition to the clear jurisdictional lines which will be enshrined in the treaty, a protected zone will be established in the Torres Strait. This zone will protect the traditional practices and cultures of the peoples who inhabit the area. The treaty will provide that they will be able to move freely about the zone in pursuit of their traditional way of life and that this will remain undisturbed by the formal jurisdictional arrangements.
I believe that the approach taken by the two governments towards the treaty settlement- to resolve the many complex and sensitive issues by a process of steady and frank bilateral negotiationhas been the correct one. I regard the agreement now reached upon the principal basic elements to be included in the treaty to be an historic one. While considerably more work has yet to be done on the development of detailed treaty articles, I am now confident that it will represent a mutually acceptable and equitable settlement which meets the genuine concerns and interests of the two countries. As I explained at the beginning of this statement, I have been able to give at this stage little more than the broadest account of the outcome of my recent negotiations with Mr Olewale. As I have agreed with him, we shall however each be presenting to our Parliaments in two weeks’ time a fuller outline of the agreed basic elements to be included in the treaty.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
– by leave- Earlier this day the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made a statement in another place relating to the independent inquiry into the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
In 1976 a comprehensive review was initiated to see whether government programs for the development and co-ordination of Australia’s science and technology effort were as effective as they might be. One inquiry established at that time concerned the role of a permanent Australian Science and Technology Council, and as a result of that review, I introduced a Bill last month to establish ASTEC as a permanent and independent statutory authority. Honourable members will be aware that in 1976 an independent committee of inquiry was also established to review the objectives, structure and programs of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The members of the inquiry were: Professor Arthur Birch, Professor of Organic Chemistry at the Australian National University; Sir Cecil Looker, former President of the Australian Associated Stock Exchanges; and Mr Russell Madigan, O.B.E., Chairman of Hamersley Holdings Limited. The inquiry’s report was presented on 25 August last year and was tabled on 6 October 1977.
The inquiry’s report included 122 recommendations. In considering these, the Government has been mindful of the important contribution which CSIRO has made to science and technology in Australia over the past fifty years. The committee of inquiry observed that ‘the world reputation of CSIRO is a source of pride and morale to its scientists, and to Australia’- Page XI. If any reminder were needed of the great contribution which CSIRO has made, it is sufficient to refer to the decision last month of the International Civil Aviation Organisation All Weather Operations Division to adopt internationally the INTERSCAN microwave aircraft landing system developed by CSIRO in collaboration with the Department of Transport.
The structure of CSIRO was last reviewed and reorganised in 1949. At that time CSIRO was employing 2,500 persons in 12 divisions. It now employs 7,000 persons in 37 divisions. In the light of the findings of the inquiry and other advice available to the Government, it has been decided that CSIRO should again be substantially reorganised. CSIRO will remain a single multi-disciplinary research entity responsible to the Minister for Science but much of the day to day management of CSIRO activities at present undertaken by the executive, will be devolved to directors of new functional groupings of divisions to be called institutes. Under the new arrangements, the executive will concentrate on policy issues including the determination of research strategy and priorities. The executive will be assisted in this task through revitalised advisory and consultative arrangements which I will outline shortly.
The executive of CSIRO will comprise a slightly smaller governing body than at present. There will be a chairman, who will also be chief executive, and two other fulltime members together with between three and five part time members. The full time members may or may not be drawn from within CSIRO. The part time members will all be drawn from outside the Organisation. The Government has agreed with the committee of inquiry that there be up to six institutes created from within CSIRO, each headed by a very senior scientist as director. Each director will be appointed by the executive for terms of up to five years, with provision for reappointment. Although the main role of the institute directors will be managerial, they will be actively consulted by the executive in matters of policy.
The committee of inquiry favoured institute directors being appointed by the executive and holding office on the executive in an ex officio capacity, thereby providing a direct link between the work points of the Organisation and the executive. The Government, however, after fully considering all aspects of this matter including advice received from ASTEC on the issue, has decided that institute directors should not be members of the executive but should only have an advisory role. For the information of honourable members I table the advice dated 28 September 1977 which I received from ASTEC. The committee of inquiry recognised that much of the success of CSIRO in the past can be attributed to a policy of leaving scientific decisions in the hands of scientists. The Government agrees with the inquiry that this policy should remain unchanged, and accordingly, the basic research unit in CSIRO will continue to be the division headed by a chief of division.
The inquiry drew attention in its report to the importance of consultative machinery which could help the executive to incorporate policy advice and the advice of users of research results in its determination of strategy and program priorities for CSIRO. Accordingly, the advisory council will be strengthened to enable it to act effectively as the major source of advice to the executive. Its membership will be reorganised along the lines proposed by the inquiry and will include representatives from a wide range of interests. It will be completely independent of the executive of CSIRO, have its own secretariat, and members of the CSIRO executive will not be members of the council. It is envisaged that the advisory council will set up ad hoc work groups to investigate particular areas related to CSIRO activities. Advisory council advice and initiatives will be incorporated in the CSIRO annual report. The advisory council will be linked with reconstituted State committees, which will be the main source of advice to the advisory council. The State committees will provide grass roots contact with industry, centres of education, and the community generally. Each of them will maintain close contacts with CSIRO divisions in its own State. The chairmen of the State committees will be members of the advisory council. The Government will also be looking to CSIRO to encourage its scientists to take initiatives in broadening their own contacts both within and outside CSIRO, so that their contribution in the formulation of policies at the institute level can be strengthened.
I now turn to the research activities of CSIRO and its future role. The Government agrees with the inquiry that the main role of CSIRO should be defined more clearly in CSIRO ‘s constituting legislation, the Science and Industry Research Act 1949. Amending legislation which will be introduced in the Budget sittings will make it clear that the main role for CSIRO will be scientific and technological research in support of Australian industry, community interests, and other perceived national objectives and obligations. CSIRO research for Australian industry will continue to include work in support of the rural and mining sectors, the manufacturing sector, the construction sector and the services sector, such as transport. CSIRO research will support such community interests as the better protection of our environment, flora and fauna, and consumer interests.
The report of the inquiry made a number of other recommendations on the scope and emphasis of CSIRO ‘s research effort which the Government has accepted. The main concern of CSIRO research will continue to be the physical and biological sciences. The types of research to be undertaken will be longer term research for the community’s benefit which industry and other research organisations are unable to carry out, and fundamental and short-term problem oriented research if it is related to the role of the Organisation. Research into economics and other social sciences will not be undertaken, but steps are to be taken to utilise the requisite expertise from these fields in program conduct, evaluation and planning. Research in human medicine will not be a direct objective of CSIRO but research results in biological and physical sciences will be assessed for their possible significance and application in human medicine. Individual scientists will be encouraged to follow up their research as far as practical into the development stage.
CSIRO will have a major role in helping Australia meet its international obligations. For example, CSIRO will continue to undertake basic research, such as in astronomy, atmospheric physics and oceanography, to increase man’s knowledge of the region in which we live. CSIRO will also assist the Government in meeting Australia’s international obligations to developing countries. The Government is most conscious of the vital role that developing countries will increasingly play in world affairs and of our need constantly to review government policies to take this factor fully into account. To this end, the Government recently established a committee to review Australia’s relations with the Third World. Consistent with this policy approach, CSIRO will contribute to the scientific and technical needs of these countries as part of Australia’s foreign aid program through work carried out both in Australia and abroad. CSIRO will also have the opportunity to contribute through other arrangements such as the Consultative Group on Energy established at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting in Sydney. In all its areas of research, CSIRO will have to ensure that it does not duplicate the research activities of other research institutions, undertaken or otherwise supported by the Commonwealth or State governments.
CSIRO ‘s autonomy in the setting of research projects objectives will be maintained. Recognising that CSIRO’s activities must accord with the policies of the Government, the Birch report has recommended ministerial discretion should also be maintained to be used as a last resort. The Government has accepted this recommendation and should ministerial discretion be employed it will be reported in CSIRO’s annual report. The Government has accepted the inquiry’s recommendation that, through the application of the revised advisory and consultative machinery, current programs should be terminated where they are judged to be inappropriate. It has also been agreed that CSIRO should present, at appropriate intervals, the main thrusts of its broad policies and more detailed objectives for government, parliamentary and community scrutiny. The inquiry recommended that specific approval of the Minister should not be required for CSIRO to enter into arrangements for the implementation of research results. The Government has decided that the implementation of research results should continue to be a function of CSIRO subject to a general power of the Minister to provide the executive with guidelines.
There are numerous further matters dealt with in the report of the committee of inquiry. On many of these, the Government has reached a decision. On others, further examination is required and is currently being undertaken expeditiously. The Minister representing the Minister for Science will outline these matters in a separate statement shortly. It is the Government’s intention to implement as soon as possible the new organisation and executive structure of CSIRO to facilitate the detailed implementation of the Government’s decisions on the inquiry’s report. I conclude by placing on record the Government’s appreciation of the work done by the members of the inquiry, Professor Birch, Sir Cecil Looker and Mr Russell Madigan. Their contribution to the development of Australian science and technology policy in this inquiry has been an outstanding one, made possible by their wide experience, foresight and judgment. The committee of inquiry could not of course have carried out its work without advice from Commonwealth and State government departments, the many private companies and individuals who made submissions to the inquiry, and of course members of CSIRO at all levels, who, the committee noted in its report, assisted the inquiry with ‘courtesy, patience and frankness’.
– In the statement the Prime Minister referred to correspondence from the Chairman of the Australian Science and Technology Council, Professor G. M. Badger, and I table that correspondence. The Prime Minister also referred to a statement that I would make, and I seek leave to make that statement now.
-As the Prime Minister has announced in another place, the Government has considered the recommendations of the independent inquiry into the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation whose report was tabled in Parliament in the latter half of last year. It is to the credit of CSIRO ‘s scientists as well as to its administrators that the CSIRO of today has, under this very critical scrutiny, been found to be equal to the high expectations its founders and subsequent supporters placed in it. It is clear, Mr President, that CSIRO is a highly mobile scientific task force which gears itself to Australia’s day-to-day needs as well as to longer range national aspirations and responsibilities. I am, as Minister responsible for CSIRO, glad to be able to add my thanks to the members of the inquiry- Professor Arthur Birch, who is Professor of Organic Chemistry at the Australian National University; Sir Cecil Looker, a former president of the Australian Associated Stock Exchanges; and to the Chairman of Hamersley Holdings, Mr Russell Madigan, for the very expert way in which they undertook their investigations.
Because the Prime Minister has announced, in broad terms, the new framework within which CSIRO will go forward into the years ahead as the nation’s biggest public-funded scientific and industrial research organisation, I do not intend to go over the same ground again. However, to put my remarks into context I should like to make just one or two points. The first is that I believe that the findings of the independent inquiry into CSIRO have vindicated this Government’s practice of minimising bureaucratic influence on scientific research and providing the proper environment for innovation. The inquiry recommended and the Government agrees that CSIRO is to continue to operate as a single statutory authority, funded in the main by a specific government vote and its staff be employed under the Science and Industry Research Act rather than the Public Service Act. The second point is that industry and community as well as government interests are to be given more clearly defined ways of advising the CSIRO executive on the research directions of the Organisation. This will be achieved through the revitalised advisory mechanisms to which the Prime Minister has already referred. But at the same time the Government has reaffirmed that it is CSIRO itself which shall determine its research program objectives. It should, however, take note of criteria suggested by the inquiry.
Mr President, the inquiry’s report conveyed 122 recommendations to the Government for consideration. Many of these are reaffirmations of existing practices and serve, I believe, to strengthen the sense of purpose Australia as a nation derives from the wonderful work CSIRO and its predecessor CSIR have done for the past 50 years.
Relations with Government/Industry
There are however some changes in emphasis, particularly in the reorganisation of the policy formulation mechanisms of CSIRO and to the Organisation’s relationships with government instrumentalities and industry and community interest groups as well as universities and colleges of advanced education. These changes will require further investigation before they are implemented. However, Mr President, I want to reinforce the point that no changes to existing practices, particularly where they are relevant to the wide range of industries, both primary and secondary, that CSIRO serves, will be undertaken without sensitive and full consultation with those concerned. For instance, the Government has agreed that one role of CSIRO should be continued involvement in the affairs of industrial research associations. However, the question of whether CSIRO should be directly concerned with funding existing research associations other than through contracts is a broader issue and one which I shall explore with my ministerial colleagues responsible for Productivity, Primary Industry, and Industry and Commerce. On the other hand, the Government believes CSIRO should closely consider how much more of its own engineering and related requirements can be contracted to industry, and I shall be seeking the views of the executive of CSIRO on this matter.
As well, CSIRO will be exploring the wider role the Government envisages for it in expanding its activities in interpreting and disseminating information from world science and technology for the benefit of technological innovation in
Australia- and for Australian industry to make increased use of this information. Part of this involves the further consideration of integrating and rationalising CSIRO’s own library and information services in relation to a national network. CSIRO will continue to publish journals concerned with original science and dealing with information related to scientific and technical matters, and as well it will continue to contribute to international scientific collaboration, but as at present it will not be the sole agent for Australia for this collaboration. CSIRO will not be obliged to provide policy advice to Government on broad scientific and technological matters but it will provide, as required, factual information to the Government and its science and technology advisory bodies.
The Government concurs with the inquiry’s recommendation that mechanisms be established in CSIRO to ensure that specialist advice and assistance in monitoring industrial trends and developments are available to research staff and at the same time that industry should have access to CSIRO staff and information services in consulting capacities. As part of the improved service to industry, Mr President, the Government has directed that CSIRO compile an up to date directory of current programs in CSIRO and the people associated with them. This directory is to be presented in terms which are informative to those particularly interested but who may not be technical experts in a particular area. The new institutes to be formed in CSIRO shortly- these will be groupings of divisions with a commonality of research endeavour- will be required, as will the divisions themselves, to publish regular reports on their activities. And to further improve the communication between CSIRO and industry and the community at large, the annual reports of CSIRO as a corporate body will in future outline general policies as well as the practical information they traditionally contain.
Part of the information collection and dissemination process involves ready access to overseas research, and the Government agrees with the inquiry’s report that CSIRO should not be inhibited from establishing overseas posts. Honourable senators would be aware that at present CSIRO provides the staff for Australia’s permanent scientific representation in Washington, London, Tokyo and Moscow.
The independent inquiry recommended, and the Government concurred, that CSIRO should continue to co-operate with other research institutions with a view to ensuring that it does not unnecessarily duplicate their research activities, particularly those undertaken or otherwise supported by the Commonwealth or State governments. I am confident that this task will be considerably facilitated by the strengthened consultative and planning processes the Prime Minister has already announced.
Some areas where further study needs to be undertaken in relation to rationalising functions have been identified by the inquiry and the Government has directed, for instance, that CSIRO’s work on atmospheric research should be further rationalised with research programs of the Bureau of Meteorology, and as well, that the role of the Australian Numerical Meteorology Research Centre- ANMRC- which currently provides a link between CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, should be re-examined next year. Another area the Government agrees requires further examination is the role of CSIRO relative to the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, the State museums, and the Australian Biological Resources Survey. The matter of marine science in Australia is being investigated by the Australian Science and Technology Council and the Government has decided that the results of this inquiry should be available before the extent of CSIRO’s involvement in this very important area of scientific research is finalised.
The question of the proportion of research effort CSIRO expends on the primary and rural sectors of industry compared with the mining and manufacturing sectors was thoroughly explored by the inquiry. As a result the Government has directed CSIRO to examine the relevance to its role as a national organisation of the composition of its present rural research effort, particularly in relation to the capabilities of other organisations such as State Departments of Agriculture. Let me assure honourable senators this does not mean the rural industries will be neglected in CSIRO’s future research programs. CSIRO will continue to compete for rural industry research funds but in the light of the inquiry’s findings funding from such sources will not be the major component of any broad area research program.
Liaison with Industry and Government
So far as the relevance of CSIRO’s work to the nation’s manufacturing industry is concerned I shall be consulting with the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman), the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), the Acting
Minister for Finance (Mr Howard), and the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) on developing methods of undertaking tactical problemoriented work for this very important sector which employs nearly 20 per cent- 19.82 per cent at December 1977 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics- of Australia’s work force. The Government has directed that consideration be given to extending levies similar to those used to finance the rural industry research funds to other appropriate industries. This money would be used to support additional research required in those industries.
Another step forward is that the Government has asked CSIRO to consider establishing special liaison mechanisms with industry to promote the implementation of research results. This applies particularly to the manufacturing industries. In consultation with the relevant Ministers I shall be developing proposals for the implementation of the Government’s decision to establish more clearly defined high level liaison mechanisms between CSIRO and Commonwealth Government departments and with industry. This move is to ensure that CSIRO research programs and capabilities are widely comprehended and at the same time are in harmony with government policies and priorities. 1 shall also be following up with my ministerial colleagues ways of rationalising with the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics the strategic mission-oriented work CSIRO does in the mining area which is of immense importance to the national economy. The Government has decided that CSIRO should be encouraged to contract out appropriate work to organisations such as the Australian Mineral Development Laboratories and the Australian Coal Industry Research Laboratories as part of this new impetus to bring CSIRO and industrial implementation expertise closer together.
Turning to higher education and research, the Government has agreed that a joint committee of CSIRO and the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee will be established to investigate means of collaboration, and I shall be having talks with the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) on the implementation of this decision. I shall be asking CSIRO itself to report to me on ways of encouraging the development of what are called ‘centres of excellence’. These discussions will include the Australian Science and Technology Council and the Tertiary Education Commission.
The Government agrees that CSIRO should in future confine its funding to tertiary institutions to work undertaken in relation to its own research requirements. However, it believes CSIRO should continue to be able to award postdoctoral fellowships and research studentships in universities- if they agree- if the work proposed is for CSIRO’s benefit. As well, the Government has directed CSIRO to give close consideration to siting any new laboratories adjacent to tertiary institutions and it agrees with the inquiry that secondment of staff between CSIRO and universities should be more actively promoted. The Government believes CSIRO should consider contracting universities and colleges of advanced education to carry out work related to its research programs when these institutions are clearly better constituted for the work involved.
The new institutes to be formed in CSIRO provide, the Government feels, an opportunity for initiatives to be taken aimed al forging closer links between CSIRO and tertiary institutions, especially in research, but also in teaching. I shall be actively pursuing this matter. As well, the Government concurs with the inquiry recommendation that regional or national centres involving equipment ultimately financed by the Commonwealth Government should be organised for joint use by bodies such as CSIRO, universities and colleges of advanced education, with the possibility of joint financing being closely examined.
There are several more aspects of the inquiry report on which I should like briefly to touch. They involve planning, costing, patents, computing services, the National Measurement Laboratory and, equally as important, matters affecting the staff of CSIRO itself.
The Government concurs with the inquiry’s recommendation that a planning and evaluation advisory unit should be established. This unit will provide advice and assessment related to economic, industrial and social factors, to assist the executive of CSIRO in its development of strategies and in determining the various priorities when it comes to the allocation of resources.
Turning to costing, in future CSIRO will charge on a commercial basis for consulting research services, with the proviso that it can lower these charges to the extent that the work contributes to broader research programs of general benefit. As well, CSIRO’s existing program budgeting system is to be further developed, and
I shall be conferring with my ministerial colleagues on the inquiry’s recommendation that CSIRO receive funds direct through the Budget for its building program.
However, lest this be taken to mean that CSIRO is to become primarily a money-making concern, the Government has reaffirmed that CSIRO does not have as a principal aim the generation of revenue, either to support on-going research or as a direct return for results achieved in research. To do otherwise would defeat the purposes of having a broadly-based public-funded national research organisation. As a general rule, the Government ‘s attitude is that when CSIRO is demonstrably the only body in Australia that can undertake a particular industrial research program, it should sympathetically consider doing it, even if it is not related to its general programs. However, if CSIRO does take on the job it should charge the client full commercial costs, unless some of these can be offset by clear benefits to others in the community.
The patenting of CSIRO inventions and discoveries should, the Government believes, be carried out when possible, not only to ensure a proper level of return to CSIRO but also to confer proper control of exploitation. As a principle, CSIRO, in granting licences, will make some favourable distinction to companies operating and producing in Australia- the overriding consideration being the long-term benefit to the Australian community. Equally, the Government recognises that CSIRO should have the power to select for the development of an invention the partner which will, in its judgment, clearly and justifiably confer the greatest benefit on Australia, even if this appears to confer a particular benefit on that partner. This same discretionary power of CSIRO to offer preferential treatment to firms should, the Government believes, extend particularly to firms willing to undertake initial development of CSIRO work. The Government is also of the opinion that CSIRO should maximise revenue from the exploitation of its research results outside Australia, consistent with securing the most favourable position for enterprises operating in Australia.
Turning to CSIRO’s computing services, this area was studied by the inquiry, and in broad terms the Government has decided that these services should be operated on the basis of recouping all costs. CSIRO’s computing service network, will continue to be available to Government departments and instrumentalities, universities and other approved users, and CSIRONET research efforts should be directly related to user needs, including those of CSIRO. The Government agrees with the inquiry recommendation that the provision of individual computers in CSIRO divisions should be rationalised closely and should not duplicate any service provided by CSIRONET. At the appropriate time, consideration will also be given to rationalising scientific computing in relation to all Commonwealth Government supported activities including universities and colleges of advanced education, an inquiry recommendation the Government particularly commends.
The Government sees an expanded role for CSIRO’s National Measurement Laboratory. For instance, branch offices to provide advice and to act as a centre point for despatching equipment to the Laboratory for calibration are to be set up as soon as possible. While the Laboratory should continue to be the custodian of the national standards of measurement, the Government sees real merit in the suggestion that it should extend its standards work to other areas such as safety, pollution and performance standards. In this connection, I should say that while CSIRO will continue its close involvement with the National Association of Testing Authorities and the Standards Association of Australia, those organisations will continue to be financially supported by the Government, but not through CSIRO. The Government feels consideration should be given to using the new buildings and equipment at Bradfield Park in Sydney as a national facility for engineering research. This is yet another matter which 1 shall be actively exploring with the executive of CSIRO.
As the Prime Minister has said, there are some 7,000 people employed in CSIRO, and the truism that ‘it is people who matter’ is never more valid than when innovative scientific and technological research is the goal. The inquiry identified a number of areas where changes should be implemented. It looked at the promotional criteria adopted in CSIRO and reaffirmed the validity of the personal classification system at present in use. The Government agreed with the committee of inquiry that the criteria for assessment of staff so far as promotion is concerned should be clearly defined and made available to staff in printed form. I shall be looking at the question of voluntary retirement of research staff at age 55 in the context of the Government’s consideration of redeployment and retirement policies.
The Government has decided that a joint committee of CSIRO and staff associations should be established. This matter is well under way. I am confident honourable senators will see merit in the decision that the executive of CSIRO as part of its human resources development program, is to expand management development and training opportunities for staff and develop uniform staff counselling procedures throughout the Organisation. Finally, I should say there are obviously some matters arising from the independent inquiry into CSIRO which will require further careful consideration to bring about their implementation and I shall be actively pursuing these.
There will be amendments to the Science and Industry Research Act under which CSIRO operates and when these are introduced to the Parliament I am sure honourable senators will take the opportunity to raise matters of particular interest to them. However, the statement by the Prime Minister in another place and mine here today covers all the decisions of significance made by the Government in relation to the recommendations of the inquiry.
In conclusion, let me say that the inquiry into CSIRO is as thorough and penetrating as any I have encountered. It reflected well on CSIRO’s past performances and I believe CSIRO can now get on with the job, confident that its up-dated structure will strengthen its relevance to the nation’s needs in the years ahead. I move:
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the text in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill to amend the income tax law will introduce measures to counter tax avoidance and give effect to a number of Government policy initiatives that have already been announced. These policy initiatives include the new concession to allow shareholders a rebate of tax for share capital subscribed to companies engaged in off-shore petroleum exploration and development activities. The 1977-78 Budget decision to liberalise the income tax deductions for gifts of works of art and comparable property to public libraries, galleries and museums will also be given effect by the Bill.
The measures against tax avoidance are wide ranging and are an important step in our program to strike down tax avoidance arrangements. As a Government, we simply cannot accept a situation where the actions of a few can jeopardise the well-being of us all. Not only do these practices make the Government’s basic task of economic management more difficult, but they can seriously jeopardise our program of tax reform designed to reduce the overall burden of taxation. Furthermore, it is particularly unfair when, in many cases, the persons involved in these schemes are the ones best able financially to accept their tax liabilities.
It would be idle to imagine that tax avoidance in all its forms will ever cease. There is a flourishing tax avoidance industry in all corners of the world and plenty of talent available to devise schemes of avoidance. It has long been recognised that it is reasonable for taxpayers to so organise their affairs as to minimise liability for taxation. However, the Government believes that some techniques of tax avoidance are so blatant, contrived and artificial as to go beyond the bounds of reasonableness. There may be no absolute community standards by which particular forms of tax avoidance may be judged. I would not pretend to be able to offer a complete definition. I do, however, assert that some of the schemes which have been practised, and are the subject of this Bill, are clearly at odds with the general welfare of the community.
It does no credit to those concerned to be involved in a scheme where of $10,000 claimed as a deductible gift, just $120 is enjoyed by the charity concerned, with the promoter of the scheme benefiting to the extent of almost $1,400. Nor, I think, would it be regarded generally as reasonable tax planning for a group of people to contrive, through trading in and dividend stripping of shares, to transform what is undoubtedly a profit of $5,000 into a deductible loss for tax purposes of $970,000.
Taxpayers and their advisers do have a responsibility as to the lengths they go in exercising legal means of minimising tax payments. Against this general background, I turn now to the antiavoidance amendments that are a feature of this Bill. The matters covered under this head are schemes involving the creation of tax losses through the issue and subsequent sale of bonus shares, abuse of the gift provisions, creation of artificial share trading losses, dividend stripping, artificial acquisition of ‘primary producer’ status for averaging purposes and steps to avoid tax on undistributed income and tax on dividends.
The amendment relating to bonus shares has been made necessary by the legal interpretation applied in the well-known Curran case. The essential elements of the Curran schemes are that taxpayers who seek to be treated as share traders can artificially create a tax deductible loss which can then be offset against their normal taxable income. For example, a person may pay $190,000 for shares with a face value of $10,000 and, after accumulated profits attaching to those shares have been capitalised by the issue of bonus shares to a face value of $190,000, the total parcel of shares is sold for $ 195,000. Under a Curran scheme the person claims to have incurred a loss of $185,000, whilst in commercial terms, a profit of $5,000 has in fact been made. These schemes can be used to create whatever loss is required by a taxpayer to completely eliminate tax liability.
The Bill does not disturb the rules that an individual shareholder who is issued with nonredeemable bonus shares paid up out of capital profits is not taxed in respect of the receipt of those bonus shares, or that a resident company is not taxed in respect of any bonus share issued to it. The amendment proposed in the Bill will mean that in calculating the taxable profit or loss on disposal of shares by a share trader, the only cost attributed to a bonus share, where the shareholder is not taxable in respect of its receipt, will be the part of the full cost of the original share that is fairly attributable to the bonus shares.
Mr President, I draw particular attention to one aspect of the amendment in relation to bonus shares, namely, that the amendment will apply to bonus shares allotted after the Budget date of 16 August 1977. The Government has decided to adopt this application date because of the extreme gravity of the situation involving bonus share schemes. Precise quantification cannot be made, but all the indications available to the Government are that hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue would be lost if the amendment were confined to bonus shares allotted after the introduction of the Bill into Parliament. Not only would many high income earners be freed from tax in 1977-78, a number would not pay tax for years into the future because of large carryforward losses they have sought to create by schemes of this kind.
In deciding that this amendment should apply after 16 August 1977 the Government recognises that retrospectivity is involved. On this occasion we make no apology for acting retrospectively to protect the public revenue. Generally, the Government has supported the view that the rights of taxpayers under existing legislation should not be altered retrospectively. However, the Government believes that whilst it is generally the case that the public interest can best be served by not applying tax legislation retrospectively, on this occasion the public interest requires a departure from this general practice. The Government’s decision reflects its view that the abuse represented by the Curran type schemes is so blatant and of such a magnitude that it constitutes a serious detriment to the general body of taxpayers.
The Government also had in mind that it was doubtful whether any person entering into a Curran scheme in recent months could genuinely have believed that there was no risk that his or her enjoyment of the benefits of the scheme would remain totally immune from retrospective legislation. This is especially so in light of the clear warning against tax avoidance given in last year’s Budget Speech. In fact, some promoters of these schemes have offered ‘money-back guarantees’ in the event of the schemes being retrospectively struck down. It is important to emphasise that the amendment will not be retrospective to earlier financial years. The effect is that losses generated by allotments of shares under Curran schemes from and after 17 August 1977 will be denied deductibility against income earned during this and subsequent financial years.
The abuses of the gift provisions against which this part of the Bill is directed all have the common feature that the donor seeking a deduction for a gift to one of the funds or institutions referred to in the gift provisions of the law does not, when the reality of the situation is laid bare, really make a gift of anything like the amount or value for which a deduction is claimed. Correspondingly, the charity does not enjoy anything like the full amount or value of the ostensible gift. Under one gift scheme the donor seeks a deduction for a $10,000 gift that is made to an institution, $1,500 of the amount coming out of his of her own funds and the balance of $8,500 being lent by the promoters of the scheme. The institution, pursuant to an overall arrangement, pays the promoters a procuration fee of 98.8 per cent of the gift, leaving it with $120 out of the $10,000. The procuration fee puts the promoters in funds not only for their $8,500 loan to the donor, but provides them with a substantial fee. In practical terms, the donor does not have to repay the $8,500 loan.
In further schemes of the same kind the gift to the charity is a note or debenture which, despite the claim for a deduction of its face value, is rendered almost worthless by subsequent, prearranged, changes in its terms and conditions. The charity receives cash from the sale of the note or debenture at its reduced value, and the diminution in value accrues to the donor or his associates. Plainly, the Commissioner of Taxation is resisting claims through these shoddy schemes for deduction, made under the law as it stands. However, as the courts may find that the nominal rather than the real gift is deductible, the Government proposes to put the matter beyond doubt in relation to gifts made after 7 April 1978, the date of introduction of the Bill into Parliament.
I stress that the amendments will deny any deduction for a future gift only when made in tax avoidance circumstances of the broad kind I have just referred to. Genuine gifts made in ordinary circumstances to the funds and institutions concerned will not be affected. A closely related exploitation of the gift provisions is also being dealt with in the Bill. This concerns practices whereby a donor gives a work of art, or money to buy a work of art, on the condition or understanding that the donor or a relative or other associate may have possession of the work. Generally, there will be no deduction for gifts of this kind made after 7 April 1978. However, if the gift is one that qualifies under the liberalised provisions to which I will refer later, a reduced deduction will be allowable. In such cases the deduction will reflect the full value of the work as discounted for the benefit that flows from retaining possession and enjoyment of it. The Bill further provides that, where there is an arrangement that the donee will use a gift to acquire property from the donor or an associate, there will be no deduction.
Share Trading Losses
The Bill has the broad objective of preventing deduction of ‘manufactured’ or artificial losses from trading in shares by enabling the taxable profit or loss to be calculated on the basis of the commercial realities of the transactions concerned. Honourable senators will recall that amendments were made last year to counter avoidance schemes in which elections were lodged under section 36a of the Income Tax Assessment Act so as to create artificial share trading losses. The measures now before the Parliament supplement the earlier amendments.
Schemes of this kind are very involved. They require a number of intricate and contrived steps. Under one scheme, a partnership of taxpayers buys shares to which there are attached very substantial undistributed profits in liquid form, usually cash in the bank. The partnership is a share trading one, which means that its taxable profits or losses from share trading are allocated to the partners and are reflected in their individual assessments. Although the shares that the partnership buys would be very valuable to it if they were purchased in a straight-forward manner, the partnership in fact pays only a nominal amount, as it is part of the pre-arranged plan that the company concerned will issue special-class shares to an associate of the promoter from which the partnership bought the shares and will pay its previously undistributed profits as a dividend to that associate.
For example, a partnership buys shares for $25,000 that are worth Sim and the dividend that is paid on the special-class shares is $970,000. The partnership then sells the stripped shares for $30,000 making a commercial profit of $5,000. It claims, however, a loss of $970,000 on the basis that a provision of the law deems the partnership to have acquired the shares for their then basic value of $lm. Another variant of the scheme relies on the general deduction provisions of the law. A share trading partnership buys shares for $lm which it later sells for only $30,000, because the worth of the shares has been stripped away by payment of a dividend of $970,000 to another company. The dividend cannot effectively be taxed in the hands of the recipient company because that company is a straw company and has no realisable assets after the scheme is carried out. The partners claim for tax purposes to deduct the $970,000 loss but, and here is the point, they do not in reality have to bear the loss or any part of it. This is because the partnership has been lent money to acquire the shares under an arrangement whereby the loan is in fact not repaid. In the jargon of the trade, the loan is collapsible. Mr President, schemes of this kind have not been tested before the courts. I expect that this will happen in due course because the Commissioner of Taxation will be vigorously resisting them. However, the Government proposes to put the matter beyond doubt for relevant acquisitions of shares taking place after 7 April 1978.
In this avoidance scheme a company buys shares in a company with accumulated profits; strips these profits by way of dividend and subsequently sells the stripped shares, thus recouping itself for the initial share purchase. In 1 972 the law was amended to prevent a company from both deducting the apparent loss on sale of the shares and being allowed an intercorporate dividend rebate on the full amount of the dividend paid. Those amendments limited the rebate to the net amount of the dividend after offsetting the cost of the shares and any other deductions associated with the dividend.
Dividend strippers have found a way around the 1972 amendments. While one company receives the stripping dividend, it is an associated company or trust that incurs the apparent loss. In these circumstances there is no basis in the present law for offsetting the cost of the shares against the rebatable dividends. To overturn this variation of the scheme it is necessary to provide that, where a company receives a dividend in the course of a stripping scheme, and it is a part of the scheme that an associate takes the apparent loss on the sale of the shares, the company that receives the dividend is not to be allowed any rebate in respect of the dividend. This amendment will apply to dividends declared after 7 April 1978.
A private company is liable to tax on its undistributed profits if it does not pay sufficient dividends to its shareholders. In respect of business profits, a private company is allowed to retain 60 per cent of its profits after company tax, and is required to pay the balance as dividends to its shareholders if it is not to pay the undistributed profits tax. Under one scheme of avoidance, the payment of dividends to shareholders is illusory. The company does pay or credit dividends to a shareholder but is not put out of funds by doing so. One reimbursement technique is for the shareholders concerned to put broadly equivalent funds into the company, for example, by subscribing for redeemable preference shares that, after payment of a once-and-for-all dividend, carry virtually no rights. The shareholder receiving the dividend is not taxed on it because the special class shares are sold at a loss which is offset against the dividend.
Under another technique, dividends are credited to a shareholder but the amount is not actually paid to the shareholder but is used to pay up an almost worthless share or debenture. The shareholder in this scheme is an institution whose income is exempt from tax and a small fee is paid for its services. Dividends declared after 7 April 1978 under schemes of this kind will not be taken into account for purposes of tax on undistributed income.
Abuse of Averaging Provisions
A decision of the High Court given at the end of last year has made it necessary to amend the law so that the averaging system applicable to primary producers is not available to people who have no real stake in a primary production business and have become a beneficiary in a primary production trust simply to gain the benefits of tax averaging. The averaging system is applicable to taxpayers who directly or as a beneficiary of a trust carry on a primary production business.
The court case arose out of an avoidance scheme by which thousands of beneficiaries were each given a $1 share of income from a primary production trust. The court held, in a test case, that one of these beneficiaries thereby qualified for tax averaging for his entire income. Plainly, that is not a situation in which averaging should apply. Our proposed amendment is confined in scope to the special provision applicable to beneficiaries in primary production trusts. If the beneficiary’s share of income of a year is $ 1 ,040 or more, the law will apply as it does now. If, however, the beneficiary’s share falls short of this figure, averaging will not apply unless the Commissioner of Taxation is satisfied that the beneficiary’s interest was not acquired primarily for the purpose of attracting the averaging provisions.
Beneficiaries in primary production trusts of the traditional kind will not be affected by the amendment. Where it is applicable in relation to avoidance schemes of the kind I have outlined, the amendment will apply in the determination of averaging entitlements in 1978-79 and, for people who enter into such schemes after 7 April 1 978, in the current financial year. Mr President, that completes my outline at this stage of the principal anti-avoidance measures contained in this Bill. Those measures are not the sum total of the response that we intend to make to prevent tax avoidance practices. Other amendments are in course of drafting and will be introduced at the earliest practicable time.
I mention in this regard that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has announced the Government’s intention to legislation against schemes that, in shorthand, can be referred to as involving ‘current year losses’, that concern pre-payment of interest, rent and other outgoings or that concern dividend stripping practices beyond the scope of the present law and of the amendments proposed by this Bill. Let me now turn to the other measures contained in this Bill.
Expenditure Pursuant to Franchise
The Bill contains provisions to withdraw the deduction for capital expenditure on a revenueearning facility erected pursuant to a government or public authority franchise. The provision in question was enacted some years ago to cater for circumstances not commonly encountered. At the time, leaseholders were entitled to deductions for capital expenditure on leasehold improvements. It was therefore appropriate that where a taxpayer was granted a right by a government authority to construct and maintain an undertaking of public utility, and to earn revenue from it, the taxpayer could deduct over the life of the franchise the capital costs incurred in the project.
However, the law was amended in 1964 to withdraw the deduction available to lessees for the cost of leasehold improvements. It is now anomalous that taxpayers who can arrange to be franchise holders can deduct costs not deductible to taxpayers who build on leasehold or freehold land. The deduction for franchise holders is being withdrawn in relation to capital expenditure on franchises granted after 7 April 1978.
On 24 August last year the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) announced a number of decisions made by the Government after considering ways of assisting the development of gas fields on the North West Shelf. The decisions included the provision of three very important taxation concessions. Two of these, the general extension by two years of the 20 per cent phase of the investment allowance and the inclusion in allowable capital expenditure of the cost of the natural gas liquefaction plant, have already been carried into legislation.
The third concession is the shareholder rebate scheme. By this Bill, shareholders who, after 24 August 1977, subscribe share capital to a company holding a registered interest in an offshore licence or permit, will be eligible for a tax rebate. The rebate is only available when the company lodges a declaration with the Commissioner of Taxation that the moneys are ear-marked for expenditure on exploration or development of an off-shore petroleum field. A corollary of this will be that the company will forgo its own right to deductions for the expenditure under the petroleum mining provisions of the income tax law. The scheme therefore permits the transfer of tax allowances for eligible expenditure from a petroleum mining company to its shareholders.
The Bill puts into effect the policy decision outlined in the earlier statement by the Deputy Prime Minister. The new scheme draws very much on the earlier concession under section 77D of the Income Tax Assessment Act under which shareholders were allowed deductions for capital subscribed to mining companies. However, experience with that concession led to the Government’s decision to provide strengthened safeguards against exploitation of the new concession when no real contribution to exploration or development is made.
Liberalisation of Gift Provisions
It was announced in the last Budget Speech that there would be a liberalisation of the gift provisions of the income tax law as they apply to gifts of works of art and comparable property to public libraries, art galleries and museums. The Bill implements that undertaking effective from 1 January 1978, and for a trial period of three years. At present, the deduction for gifts of property to specified funds and institutions is limited to property purchased by the donor within the preceding twelve months, and to the lesser of its current value and its cost to the donor.
The Government considers that there should be some changes in these rules to encourage people owning significant works of art or other items of cultural property to donate them for public display. Details of the Government’s policy are contained in a statement by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) on 30 December 1977. The essence of the trial scheme, however, is that a taxpayer will be eligible for a deduction for property that has been held for any length of time and, in general, the deduction will bc an amount equal to the market value of the property. Claims for deductions will need to be supported by valuations from approved valuers and a committee established with the co-operation of the New South Wales and Victorian governments will approve valuers for this purpose.
The Bill also introduces a deduction for gifts to the Australiana Fund. This fund is set up to facilitate the making of gifts of cash and works of art, including furnishings, for the fitting out of Government House, Admiralty House, the Lodge and Kirribilli House. Gifts to this fund will be allowed on the same extended basis as proposed for gifts to public libraries, art galleries and museums. 1 mention here that the Bill brings up to date the gift provisions as they apply to gifts to the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory national trusts. The Northern Territory body has been re-constituted and the Australian Capital Territory body has been made a separate entity, instead of being a branch of the New South Wales trust. The amendment means that gifts to the national trust of each State and internal Territory will be tax deductible.
Isolated Children’s Allowance
Another change to be made by the Bill will benefit taxpayers who have dependent children for whom payments are made under the Isolated Children’s Education Assistance scheme. In 1973 these payments were made exempt from tax in the hands of the recipients. However, they continued to constitute separate net income of the children for purposes of calculating entitlement to the zone allowance and other rebates. That can have the effect of reducing rebates available to the parents of the children and the Bill provides that the allowances are not to be taken into account as from 1 July 1977.
Vocational Training Scheme
Payments under the former Regular Ser vicemen’s Vocational Training scheme are also dealt with by the Bill. These payments are akin to payments under the National Employment and Training scheme which were made subject to income tax in 1975. Payments under the vocational training scheme are correspondingly being made taxable with effect from the scheme’s commencement on 1 February 1978.
The Bill also contains some other more technical amendments of a significant kind, notably those dealing with transfer of mining capital expenditure deductions from companies to their shareholders, aspects of the anti-dividend stripping provisions and the averaging system for primary producers as it applies in the context of the new standard rate personal tax system. All the provisions of the Bill are explained in the usual explanatory memorandum that is being circulated to honourable senators. An addendum to the memorandum explains a more-or-less technical amendment, to a provision of the shareholder rebate measures, that has been made to the Bill after its introduction. I commend the Bill to the senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages of the passage through the Senate of the Estate Duty Assessment Amendment Bill 1978, the Estate Duty Amendment Bill 1978, the Gift Duty Assessment Amendment Bill 1978 and the Gift Duty Amendment Bill 1978 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Carrick) together read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the texts in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Estate Duty Assessment Amendment Bill
This Bill to amend the Estate Duty Assessment Act is the first of four associated Bills necessary to implement the Government’s undertaking to abolish estate duty and gift duty. Honourable senators will know that, in a Press release on 1 8 January 1978, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) outlined key points of legislation to give effect to the undertaking, first given by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his policy speech on 21 November 1977. Since then, the Government has decided that the exemptions initially available should extend also to property passing between grandparents and grandchildren. This extension both obviates some anomalous situations and gives directly an exemption that otherwise could have been obtained by the making of successive gifts and bequests.
The Government’s decisions mean that no estate duty will be payable by the estate of a person dying on or after 2 1 November 1 977 in respect of property passing to the surviving spouse, a child, a grandchild, a parent or a grandparent of the deceased person, and no gift duty will be payable on property given by a person on or after that date to relatives within those classes. Estate duty is to be abolished in relation to all property in the estates of persons who die on or after 1 July 1979 and, similarly, gift duty will not apply in respect of any gifts of property made on or after that date.
This Bill, in conjunction with the Estate Duty Amendment Bill that I will be introducing shortly, will give effect to these proposals so far as they relate to estate duty. In setting a firm and relatively early date for the abolition of estate duty, the Bills achieve what has been an important objective of the Government parties for many years. I am sure that a large section of the community will be delighted to see the end of this impost, which for a long time has been causing serious problems in relation to family arrangements, particularly on the death of a member of a family conducting a small business. Because of the intention to exempt from duty any property passing to the widow or widower of a deceased person, the existing provision that allows a deduction of up to $50,000 for property so passing is superfluous and will be repealed.
Requirements for the lodgment of estate duty returns are to be changed to reflect the ultimate abolition of estate duty and the interim family exemption proposals. As well as the measures directly related to the implementation of the Government’s undertaking, the Bill proposes some other amendments. Exemptions are to be provided for property passing to the National Trust of Australia (Northern Territory) from the estates of persons dying on or after 1 6 November 1976 and to the National Trust of Australia (Australian Capital Territory) from the estates of persons dying on or after 20 December 1976. The amendment will place those two bodies, from the dates on which they were constituted in their present forms, on an equal footing for estate duty purposes with the Australian Council of National Trusts and State national trust organisations.
An additional power to amend estate duty assesments is to be provided so that, in circumstances where this might not otherwise be permissible, deductions allowed in respect of State probate or succession duties may be adjusted -up or down- to reflect any subsequent variations in liabilities for those duties. The additional power will facilitate the abandonment of cumbersome administrative procedures that had to be instituted following a High Court decision which indicates that the Commissioner does not always have power to amend assessments for that purpose. The administrative procedures increase the work of the Taxation Office and are a source of inconvenience to the administrators of estates. The additional power of amendment will not, of itself, authorise the amendment of an assessment made before this Bill receives the royal assent so as to increase a liability for duty and it will not, of itself, authorise the amendent of an assessment after the expiration of three years from the date on which the duty became due and payable under the assessment. Explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in an explanatory memorandum being made available to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Estate Duty Amendment Bill
This Bill is associated with the Estate Duty Assessment Amendment Bill 1978 that I have just introduced, lt proposes an amendment of the Estate Duty Act 1914 to provide that estate duty will not be payable in respect of estates of people who die on or after 1 July 1979. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Gift Duty Assessment Amendment Bill
In the course of my speech when introducing the Estate Duty Assessment Amendment Bill. I outlined proposals concerning legislation to implement the Government’s policy commitment to abolish estate duty and gift duty. This Bill will amend the Gift Duty Assessment Act 1941. In conjunction with the Gift Duty Amendment Bill 1978 that I will introduce shortly, it will give effect to the proposals so far as they relate to gilt duty. One effect of the proposed amendments will be that gift duty will not be payable in respect of gifts made on or after 21 November 1977 to the extent that they are for the benelit of the spouse, a child, a grandchild, a parent or a grandparent of the donor. The other important effect will be that gift duty will not be payable in respect of any gift made on or after 1 July 1979.
By reason of an existing provision in the Gill Duty Assessment Act and a provision in the Gilt Duty Amendment Bill 1978. the gifts to be so exempted from duty will not be aggregated willi other gifts made by the same donor to arrive at the rate of duty payable on dutiable gifts. It will not be necessary for returns to be lodged in respect of the gifts that are to be exempted. Explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in an explanatory memorandum being made available to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Gift Duty Amendment Bill
This Bill is associated with the Gift Duty Assessment Amendment Bill 1978 that I have just introduced. It proposes an amendment of the Gift Duty Act 1941 to provide that gift duty will not be payable in respect of any gift made by a person or a company on or after 1 July 1 979. The Bill will provide also that such exempt gifts will not be taken into account in arriving at the rate of duty payable on dutiable gifts made before 1 July 1979. 1 commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1978, the Television Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1978 and the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1978 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that these Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Carrick) together read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1978
Honourable senators will recall that the Government amended the Broadcasting and
Television Act 1942 late last year to provide that broadcasting licences are initially granted for up to 5 years and are renewed for three-year periods or such lesser period, but not less than 12 months, as the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal believes justifiable. These amendments represented a further stage in the implementation of the revised administrative structure of broadcasting proposed in the 1976 report of the Inquiry into the Australian Broadcasting System and approved by the Government.
However, section 6 of the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Act 1 964 provides for the payment of fees:
In view of the new variability of the period for grant and renewal of licences, section 6 of the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Act 1964 requires the payment of fees by licensees more than once in a twelve months period if the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal grants or renews a licence for a period which includes a fraction of a year. This was not intended and this amendment Bill seeks to confirm the principle that broadcasting station licence fees are payable only once each year. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Television Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1978
The measures entailed in this amendment Bill are the same as in the Broadcasting Station* Licence Fees Amendment Bill except that they apply to television stations licence fees rather than to fees for broadcasting station licences. Honourable senators should take my remarks in respect of that previous Bill to apply to thi» amendment also. Obviously, this Bill also seek.-, to confirm the principle that television station licence fees are payable only once each year. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1978
Honourable senators will recall the substantial amendments that were made to the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942 late last year, including the transfer of the power to license broadcasting and television stations from the Minister to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. The amendment represented the principal changes to the administrative structure of broadcasting recommended in the report of the Inquiry into the Australian Broadcasting System, the ‘Green Report’, and decided upon by the Government.
This Bill seeks simply to remedy a minor error in the transitional provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Act 1 977 and to add a provision to those transitional provisions that should have been included at the time. Specifically, this Bill seeks to amend sub-section 33(11) of the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Act 1977 to allow the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal the choice, under the transitional provisions, of renewing broadcasting and television licences for three years or such lesser period, not less than 12 months, as the Tribunal thinks justifiable following a public inquiry, or of renewing broadcasting and television licences in any other case for periods of less than one year. The purpose of this transitional provision is to allow the Tribunal flexibility in renewing licences in the administrative changeover period. Under the principal Act, the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942, the Tribunal has the power to renew such licences for three years or such lesser period, being not less than 12 months, as the Tribunal thinks justifiable
In addition, this Bill makes allowance for review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of decisions by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, under the transitional provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Act 1977, to renew broadcasting and television licences for less than the full three-year period or to refuse to renew a broadcasting or television licence. There is a similar avenue of appeal against such decisions under the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942. 1 commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Ryan) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to.
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill 1978 and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1978 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that these Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Carrick) together read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill 1978
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972, the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1976 and the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1977, to adjust grants to the States for government and nongovernment schools in respect of cost increases. The Bill involves an additional appropriation of $5. 6m in respect of 1977 and $ 15.8m in respect of 1978, increasing the Commonwealth’s allocations for the 1977 and 1978 grants programs for schools in the States to $602. 8m and $626. 7m respectively. The amendments will finalise the adjustment of 1977 grants in respect of cost increases to December 1977. The grants for 1978 will be further adjusted during the Budget sittings in accordance with the Government’s announced policy.
The number of non-government schools which met the criteria specified in the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1976 for short-term emergency assistance grants was insufficient to warrant the full distribution of the 1977 allocation which has been reduced accordingly. The components of the non-government general recurrent grants program are not increased in this Bill as appropriate adjustments were effected in previous legislation. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill adjusts the approved programs of grants to the States for tertiary education for the years 1977 and 1978 by amending the States Grants (Universities Assistance) Act 1976, the States Grants (Advanced Education Assistance) Act 1976, the States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Act 1976 and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance)
Act 1977. The additional amounts provided by the Bill maintain the real level of grants approved by the Government in the light of variations in costs since adjustments were made in the Budget sittings 1977 by providing the necessary supplementation for movements in costs between June 1977 and December 1977.
Amounts provided by the adjustments to legislation for 1977 for each of the tertiary education sectors are $5m for universities, $4.2 m for colleges of advanced education and $0.4m for technical and further education. These adjustments, which represent the final supplementation to the 1977 programs, bring the total amounts provided to the States for tertiary education in respect of 1977 to $56 1.8m for universities, $439. 5m for colleges of advanced education and $85. 4m for technical and further education. Additional amounts provided for 1978 by adjustments to the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Act 1977 are $28m for universities, $18m for colleges of advanced education and $3. 6m for technical and further education. These amounts bring the total grants for 1978 to $620. 2m for universities, $460.8m for colleges of advanced education and $101. 2m for technical and further education. The grants for 1978 will be further adjusted during the Budget sittings in accordance with the Government’s announced policy. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the Bill be read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
I present Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1977-78 in which appropriations totalling $82. 22m additional to those made by Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1977-78 are sought for capital works and services, payments to or for the States, and other services. As I shall explain when presenting Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1977-78, the proposed appropriations are needed to meet essential and unavoidable expenditures for which provision was not made in Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1977-78.
I now mention some of the major items in respect of which additional appropriations arc sought in the Bill. An amount of $2.04m is being provided for additional expenditure on capital works and services for the Cooper Basin gas field. Three million dollars is also required to meet increased applications for loans from the Australian Capital Territory Commissioner for Housing. Additional requirements for payments to or for the States include:
Twenty million dollars to meet Commonwealth commitments to the States in respect of recent natural disasters, principally drought relief.
Two million dollars to cover increased costs of the Tasman Bridge reconstruction and associated assistance for which the Commonwealth is liable under the agreed arrangements.
Twenty-eight million, one hundred and eighty thousand dollars is also included for payment into the uranium stockpile trust account. This additional amount is fully offset by an increase in revenue.
I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
(Nos 1 to 5) 1978
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Wool Industry Amendment Bill 1978 and the Wool Tax Amendment Bills ( Nos1 to 5 ) 1978 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Order that these Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That the Bills be read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages of the passage through the Senate of the States (Personal Income Tax. Sharing) Amendment Bill 1978 and the Commonwealth Grants Commission Amendment Bill 1978 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that these Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Carrick) together read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1978
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976 to provide for the following: Firstly, the States tax sharing entitlements for 1977-78 to be $4,336. lm; secondly, the States tax sharing entitlements for future years to be 39.87 per cent of the preceding year’s net personal income tax collections by the Commonwealth; and, thirdly, periodic reviews of the per capita relativities between the States in their tax sharing entitlements. The effect of this Bill, together with the Bill to amend the Commonwealth Grants Commission
Act 1973 which we propose should be considered cognately, will be to put into effect arrangements agreed with the Premiers at the July 1 977 and October 1 977 Premiers Conferences.
This Bill represents a further development in the Government’s federalism policy. Major objectives of that policy are to give the States and local government greater independence and flexibility to determine their expenditure priorities together with a concomitant increase in their financial capacity and flexibility. With those objectives in mind, the Government, through the income tax sharing arrangements, has emphasised the provision of ‘united ‘ funds to the States and local government which are free to spend them as they see fit in the light of their own preferences and priorities. The benefits of this approach can be gauged by the increase in united funds flowing to the States and local government over the last two years. As is proper in a federal system, the States have been able to introduce budgets giving effect to their own priorities including the implementation of a number of tax concessions.
Under stage 1 of the income tax sharing arrangements, as they presently stand, the States receive a specified share of Commonwealth net personal income tax collections. That arrangement is a central element in the Government’s federalism policy which is aimed at restoring a proper distribution of powers and responsibilities between the three spheres of governmentCommonwealth, State and local. The States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976 presently provides for 33.6 per cent of the current year’s net personal income tax collections to be shared between the States on a weighted per capita basis. In 1976-77, the first year of operation of tax sharing, some difficulties arose from fluctuations in the estimates of the tax sharing entitlements. I add that these difficulties stemmed from the decision- as proposed by the States themselves- to have the States income tax sharing entitlements calculated as a percentage of the current year’s net personal income tax collections. Honourable senators will be aware, however, that the amount of these tax collections cannot be precisely known until after the end of the financial year.
At the 1 July 1977 Premiers Conference, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) offered to set the States entitlements in 1977-78 at $4,336. lm, subject to adjustment on account of over-payments in 1 976-77, if they would agree to an earlier Commonwealth proposal that the preceding year’s collections be used as the base for calculating future entitlements. This base would reduce the uncertainty and the administrative difficulties which had been experienced with the use of the current year’s collections as the base.
Honourable senators will be aware, of course, that local government tax sharing entitlements have from the start been based on collections in the preceding year for this very reason. The Premiers Conference in July 1977 directed that Commonwealth and State officers should examine and report on arrangements for changing the total tax sharing entitlements from 33.6 per cent of the current year’s collections to an appropriate percentage of the preceding year’s collections. It was subsequently decided that the Commonwealth should provide, in its 1977-78 Budget, for an amount of $4,336. lm for the States’ tax sharing entitlements in 1977-78. The officers’ report was received on 18 October 1977 and was on the table at the Premiers Conference on 21 October 1977.
On the basis of the officers’ report, the Premiers Conference of 21 October 1977 agreed to adopt the figure of 39.87 per cent of the preceding year’s net personal income tax collections for purposes of calculating the States’ entitlements from 1978-79 onwards. The amount of $4,336. lm in fact represents 39.87 per cent of 1976-77 net personal income tax collectionsthat is excluding revenue from the health insurance ‘Medibank’ levy. The entitlement of $4,336. lm in 1977-78 and 39.87 per cent of the preceding year’s collections in future years will be allocated between the States as prescribed by the 1976 Act. Legislation to change the per capita relativities may be introduced in due course as a result of a review conducted under arrangements provided for in this Bill, but that is something for the future.
That brings me to the third important element of the Bill. The Bill provides, for the first time, for the distribution between the States of their total income tax sharing entitlement to be the subject of independent inquiry and report. At Premiers Conferences in February, April and June 1976, which laid the foundations for implementing the federalism policy, it was decided that there would be a periodic review of relativities between the States; that advice in relation to the review would be sought from an independent body; and that the first review would be made before the end of 1980-81. Important questions as to how the review body should be constituted and the guidelines under which it should operate remained for consideration at the time the existing legislation was enacted.
There followed discussion between the Commonwealth and the States on these matters and following consideration at the April 1977 Premiers Conference, the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1977, nominating the Grants Commission as the review body and prescribing the guidelines which it was to follow, was introduced into the Parliament on 26 May 1977 and was passed by the other place. However, in the light of views expressed thereafter by several Premiers, the Bill was not proceeded with in the last autumn session. It was in fact let lie on the table to allow Premiers and members of this parliament time to examine it in detail and reflect on its provisions.
At the 1 July 1977 Premiers Conference, the Premiers accepted the Prime Minister’s proposal that the body to review the relativities should be a special division of the Grants Commission consisting of the Chairman of the Grants Commission, two members of the Commission, plus three associate members, one of whom would be nominated by New South Wales and Victoria and two by the four other States.
As I mentioned earlier in this speech, a separate Bill, to be considered cognately with this Bill, is being introduced to amend the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1973 to provide for a special division of the Commonwealth Grants Commission supplemented by three associate members. The present Bill provides that that special division shall be the body to inquire into and report on the per capita relativities between States under stage 1 of the income tax sharing arrangements. The report of the review body will be discussed at a Premiers Conference before action is taken in relation to it.
I want to emphasise that the guidelines for the review, as set out in the Bill, were agreed in detail at the 2 1 October 1 977 Premiers Conference following lengthy consideration and on the bases of three joint reports by Commonwealth and State officers. The basic principle to be applied in the review is what is known as the equalisation principle which has been developed and applied over the years by the Grants Commission in its inquiries and reports in relation to special grants to the States. This broad principle may be expressed in the following terms: Each State will be enabled to provide, without imposing taxes and charges at levels appreciably different from those of other States, government services at standards not appreciably different from the standards of other States.
I turn now to the major specific provisions of the Bill. Clause 3 proposes the addition of two sub-sections to section 7 of the Act. Proposed sub-section 7 (2) provides for each State’s share of the total tax sharing entitlement in 1977-78 of $4,336. lm. Proposed sub-section 7 (3) provides from 1978-79 onwards for each State’s share of 39.87 per cent of the base figure- that is, net personal income tax collections- in the preceding year.
Clause 4 of the Bill provides for the Statistician to make his determination of State populations by 10 June instead of by 7 August as at present, thus allowing the finalisation of States’ entitlements within the financial year concerned. Clause 5 of the Bill proposes the addition of several sub-sections to section 13 of the Act. Proposed sub-section 13 (3) requires the Minister to arrange for a review before 30 June 1 98 1 and provides for the Minister to arrange reviews periodically thereafter after consultation between the Commonwealth and the States.
The October 1977 Premiers Conference agreed that the intention was for reviews to be held no more often than every 3 to 5 years; but that there should be flexibility to enable a review to be held whenever there were special circumstances which warranted this- for example if a review were sought by say three States. There was extensive discussion of the timing of the first review at the April 1977 Premiers Conference and it was generally agreed that the review should commence as soon as possible. It was also recognised that the first review could take some time to complete. Accordingly, the Government would propose to issue an early reference under the new legislation once enacted.
Proposed sub-section 13(3) in conjunction with proposed sub-section 13 (4) defines the purpose of the review to be to determine whether any change is desirable in the figures set out in section 4 of the Act that is, the per capita relativities. Sub-section 13(3) provides for a division of the Commonwealth Grants Commission constituted in accordance with a proposed new section 19A of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1 973, to be the review body and sets out the guidelines for the review as agreed by the October 1977 Premiers Conference. The Conference agreed that these guidelines were not intended to place any limitation on the review body in considering the matters that led to the existing relativities.
The proposals embodied in this Bill represent the completion of the stage 1 machinery of the tax sharing arrangements. It is, therefore, an important step in the implementation of the Government’s federalism policy. Finally, I want to emphasise these proposals are all agreed with the Premiers on the basis of long and intensive discussion. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Commonwealth Grants Commission Amendment Bill 1978
The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1973 by reconstituting the Commission, in a form agreed with the States, for the purpose of enabling it to enquire into and report upon the per capita relativities between the States in their tax sharing entitlements. The Bill also makes provision for the Commission to inquire and report on special assistance to the Northern Territory. These provisions are associated with the proposal to confer responsible self-government on the Territory from 1 July 1978. Finally, the Bill makes provision for some minor changes of a machinery nature.
The States have been consulted as fully as practicable in the drafting of the provisions of this Bill which relate to review of the per capita relativities between the States in their tax sharing entitlements. For the purpose of review of the per capita relativities between the States in their tax sharing entitlements, this Bill provides for the establishment of a new division of the Commission comprising the Chairman, two other members of the Commission and three associate members who will be appointed on the nomination of the States: One by the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria and two by the Premiers of the other four States. The effect of the relevant provisions of this Bill- principally clause 11- together with the Bill to amend the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976. will be to put into effect arrangements agreed with the premiers at the July 1977 and October 1977 Premiers Conferences. We propose therefore that the two Bills be considered cognately.
The second reading speech to the Bill u> amend the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976, highlighted the fact that the two Bills together complete stage 1 of the tax sharing arrangements, which are central to the Government’s federalism policy. Provisions governing inquiries and reports concerning the relativities between States of their tax sharing entitlements under the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976 are included in a proposed new section (section 19a) of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1973. That section also specifies arrangements for appointing associate members. Other proposed amendments deal with the working arrangements for associate members.
Any report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on the matter of the relativities between the States in the tax-sharing entitlements will be discussed at a Premiers Conference before action is taken in relation to it. The Minister for Administrative Services, because of the continuing provisions in the Act, will be required to cause any such report to be laid before each House of the Parliament before any law relating to this matter is introduced into the Parliament. The guidelines to be followed by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in conducting reviews of relativities between the States are contained in the Bill to amend the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976. That Bill also includes provisions under which the responsibility for conducting these reviews and making reports thereon may be referred to the Commission.
I turn now to the provisions of the Bill as far as they relate to the Northern Territory. The Government and the Northern Territory Executive have agreed that financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and a self-governing Northern Territory will be modelled on the arrangements that presently apply between the Commonwealth and the States. In the application of that model, of course, due regard will be had to the special circumstances and disabilities of the Territory. It is planned that selfgovernment should be implemented on 1 July 1978. Full implementation of the Commonwealth-State financial model in respect of the Northern Territory should be achieved by 1 July 1979 or, at the latest, by I July 1980.
On the basis that a self-governing Northern Territory is to be placed in a similar financial position to a smaller State, it has been agreed inter alia that a self-governing Northern Territory should be eligible to apply for special grants, on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, on a similar basis to that of a claimant State. This is provided for in clauses 5 and 9 of the Bill which follow closely the analogous provisions in relation to the States.
In accordance with clause 2, these provisions will come into operation on 1 July 1978, the expected date of commencement of selfgovernment for the Northern Territory. However, it might be noted that these clauses depend for their effect on the passage of legislation, soon to be introduced, to provide for self-government for the Northern Territory. Special grants for the
Northern Territory, of course, would only be appropriate in the context of an operational Commonwealth-State model or framework. Accordingly, special grants will not be paid in respect of the transitional period before the Commonwealth-State model has been implemented in respect of the Territory.
Having regard to the time that will be required for the Commonwealth Grants Commission to undertake its initial inquiry into the revenues and expenditures of a self-governing Northern Territory, however, the Bill provides for the Territory, if it so wishes, to apply for a special grant any time after 1 July 1978. An early application would allow the Commission to commence an inquiry during the transitional period, and thus be in a position after the transitional period to recommend with minimum delay a special grant in respect of a financial year in which the Commonwealth-State model is effective. I commend this Bill to the honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
– It is not my intention today to make a farewell speech to Senator Wright. I appreciate, from listening to him this afternoon, the wisdom and experience that he has brought to the Senate. I am sure that when the honourable senator retires at the end of his term in two or three weeks, the Parliament and Australia will miss his wisdom and experience. I doubt that it will be replaced. The point that the honourable senator made about governing by regulation certainly interested me. I have been one of those unfortunates living in the Northern Territory who have experienced this type of government over the years. Very soon we will be moving away from that type of government. I hope that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly will do the right thing and govern mainly by ordinance and not by regulation. Executive government has always had a tendency to govern by regulation. That is where the bureaucracy, to some degeree. can get out of hand. I appreciated the remarks that Senator Wright made. He also made a good point regarding the power base in the legislation that we are discussing. He believes it is fragmented. Once again, I respect his experience and his thoughts on the matter.
I support the legislation. It is unfortunate that 1 was absent from the Senate yesterday and could not speak on other legislation. 1 was thankful to Senator Keeffe for showing so much interest in my movements. I thought that it was kind of him to inquire of my whereabouts. I am sorry that he did not inquire of my health. People in the Northern Territory see the development of uranium quite differently from the way in which people in other parts of Australia see it. Many people in Australia think that we are on the threshold of making a decision to mine and develop uranium. There has been tremendous debate on the matter, there have been the reports by Mr Justice Fox and there has been constant discussion on how and when we will commence developing uranium. Those of us who have lived in the Northern Territory for a while realise that Australia has been developing and mining uranium for a long time. In the 1950s the development and mining of uranium commenced at Rum Jungle. The way in which the open cut was developed is nothing to be proud of. Perhaps there was a lack of experience in those days. The way in which mining was developed in those days with undue care being taken in the handling of basic metals- I am not talking about uranium- resulted in the deterioration of the country and pollution of the river. The river practically died but now, after so many years, it is gradually coming back to life. An occasional fish can be caught there.
– Already $300,000 has been spent on cleaning it up.
– Yes, $300,000 has been spent cleaning it up. From experience over the years we have learned what not to do. Certain things should be done when developing a mine, whether it be for copper, zinc, lead or any other mineral including uranium.
Uranium was mined in places other than Rum Jungle which is near Batchelor about 65 to 75 miles south of Darwin. A rich little deposit of uranium was developed over the years at Moline out from Pine Creek. That uranium has been expended. It has been sold overseas. Of course the Mary Kathleen mine in the western part of Queensland is still struggling along, going from one financial crisis to another. However, the fact is that the mine has remained alive. It is from these various sources of uranium that have been mined over the years that Australia is now fulfilling its contracts. We must appreciate the fact that Australia has been selling uranium for quite a while.
I will not make a big thing about my next point. I refer to 28 October 1975- the Australian Labor Party was in power at the time- when it was decided that uranium should be developed with the participation of the Australian Government. A memorandum of understanding was signed. The Australian Government actually became a partner in the Ranger uranium mine. This is not news; it is old hat. The Government put in 72’/i per cent of the money for the development of Ranger and will get 50 per cent of the proceeds. This is what the game is all about at the moment. We are waiting for the Government to go to the directors’ tables at Ranger, Jabiru, and to have discussions with the Northern Land Council and other interested people in order to reach agreement so that the mine at Ranger, Jabiru, can start mining uranium as quickly as possible to fulfil the contracts that the Australian Government made a few years ago. I saw a photostat of the agreement. If I remember correctly, it was signed not only by the directors of the Peko/EZ group but also by Mr Whitlam, Mr Connor and Dr Cairns. It confuses me considerably how the Labor Government could have made these arrangements when these days members of the Labor Party make so much noise about not mining uranium. Perhaps I have a simple mind. 1 am confused at what the game is all about.
I respect the viewpoint of Senator Haines. Senator Haines, who is not present in the chamber at the moment, is one of those very genuine people who have fears about the development of uranium, and we must respect that. Some other people who do not want to see the development of uranium have views which I do not respect. They have feelings akin to those of left wing countries at which we look at times with some suspicion. These countries, which the people to whom I have referred follow so enthusiastically, are seeking and mining uranium. However, the same people do not want uranium mined in Australia. That is another matter that confuses me. Perhaps I have a simple mind. Once again I cannot understand it. 1 was referring it) Senator Haines. I certainly do not intend lecturing her. It is a difficult situation.
I refer again to the Northern Territory where a vast amount of radon gas is escaping from the earth. This has happened at Jabiru and it is one of the problems that will have to be overcome by environmental control. South of Darwin there are springs of warm water such as Berry Springs. Douglas Hot Springs and Howard Springs. The water in the springs is warm. In some areas of those springs the water is extremely hot. 1 understand that that is caused by radon gas by radioactivity. It is result of natural leaks and people have been experiencing the effects for years. Another such area is Springvale Station which has one of the oldest homesteads existing in the Northern Territory. It is on the banks of the Katherine River. I think the construction of the homestead was commenced by Goss who was an explorer of outback Australia and a very wellknown character in earlier days. I think it was in about 1880 or 1890 that he developed this station property. People have lived near this spring for very many years and it was only in the last four or five years- it may be less- that an extremely high radioactivity count was found in the area. The Geiger counter went mad. The operator of the counter had to shift from one guage to the other so that the radioactivity could be counted.
All I am saying is that we should not get too excited about this situation. People have been exposed to radioactivity for years. Children and adults have been living near radioactive springs for many years, perhaps up to 100 years. I have very many friends living at Batchelor, one mile from Rum Jungle, who have worked and lived in this uranium area. They actually mined uranium- I am going back 20 years- when the potential danger was not realised. They mined uranium under very casual conditions and were exposed to radioactivity, yet to me they seem to be very healthy people. Even so I recognise that there is a danger.
Senator Haines also mentioned that she was concerned about the potential danger of nuclear weapons being used by terrorists. That may happen but we must admit that since the wheel was designed and brought into use, and since we began using coal, fossil fuels and so on, terrorists also have been able to use such energy. Millions of people have been killed as a result of the use of fossil fuels. I do not suppose we could count the number of people who have died as a result of the development of the use of coal. Think of the industrial revolution. People have died as a result of dust on the lungs, mining shafts collapsing and so on. The point is that we should not develop in our minds this tremendous fear that uranium is the metal that will bring about this horror of terrorist activity. It has always been present with the development of industry and the development of mining. lt is with some regret that I missed the earlier contributions to this debate. I will be saying very little today because I wish to discuss other matters, particularly those relating to the Northern Territory, when we get to much more controversial Bills relating to the NT which, naturally, is my particular interest. However I have made one or two notes on the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1978. This Bill seeks to broaden the principal Act so that the Atomic Energy Commission can participate in the Ranger project and so that uranium mining can proceed under that Act. That is reasonable. For this purpose the power to grant mining licences pursuant to regulations under the Act is to be expanded. Therefore we will have to consider the regulations. Northern Territory laws are to be preserved to the extent that they are capable of operating concurrently with the Act and regulations thereunder. The powers of the Commission are to be extended to include minerals found in association with uranium. While all the news is about uranium I would point out that there are some very hefty gold deposits associated with the uranium deposits. Gold could be mined and developed in its own right in particular areas.
The Government has not accepted the recommendation of the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry that the Atomic Energy Act should not be used as a vehicle for uranium mining in the Northern Territory. The second reading speech of the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) referred only to mining of the Ranger deposit but the Act could be used to cover the mining of prescribed substances elsewhere. The Bill appears to leave intact the Northern Territory mining ordinance and the rights acquired under it. I believe that the Northern Territory has to participate in the development of uranium and under this legislation it will participate. To my mind this development is not controversial.
The Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978 purports to provide uniformity in all States and Territories. Under that Bill the Commonwealth Minister must cause codes of practice regulating or controlling all nuclear activity in Australia, including mining, processing, transport, acquisition and disposal, to be sent to all State Ministers and to the Northern Territory Minister for their comments. The GovernorGeneral may approve the codes but they are subject to disallowance by the Commonwealth Parliament. When the Governor-General, after a date fixed by him, is of the opinion that State or Territory laws do not make adequate provisions for regulating or controlling nuclear activities, regulations under the Bill may be made to give effect to the Commonwealth code in that State or
Territory. Senator Wright sees some problems in that regard and I think the Government could well take note of his criticism. The Bill also gives the Commonwealth Minister, by order of the Governor-General, wide powers of action to control and eliminate hazards resulting from nuclear activity where existing laws are inadequate.
As far as the Northern Territory is concerned, it appears that this Bill would not prevent the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory from passing any necessary laws relating to nuclear activity. It may, however, be necessary to revise current legislative proposals presently being drafted in the light of the proposed code sent by the Commonwealth Minister to the Northern Territory Minister because 1 July 1978 is the date when the Northern Territory gets responsible self-government and takes over all State-like responsibilities except health and education.
I wish to comment briefly on one other point. Perhaps it is rather a simple proposition and perhaps it may not apply. When one looks at the development and sale of uranium these days one must remember that Australia ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons on 23 January 1973. The treaty is a most important international instrument. Australia has also drawn up safeguards that I understand will be applied. The safeguards are what might be called a code of ethics and the Australian Government will only sell uranium to countries that measure up to it. It seems to me that if we, as a selling country, accept these responsibilities, the United Nations should participate also and that countries that wish to be clients of Australia should be investigated by the United Nations. This would mean that countries that want our uranium but which are refused access to it because of our code would not be placed in a difficult situation. They would not lose face. I believe that a lot of the countries which are going to buy from Australia are the Third World countriesthe developing countries- which are going to look to Australia for assistance in various ways. Difficulties are going to arise in the sale of our uranium. Not only are we going to be the seller of uranium; in respect of the use of uranium we are also going to be a judge of the morals of the countries to which we sell the uranium.
It seems to me that if the suggestion put by the Opposition were accepted it would place Australia in a situation in which we would be looked upon as being a country with a small population putting itself above other countries and endeavouring to tell these countries what they shall and shall not do. lt appears to me that we should be able to achieve a much smoother operation than that envisaged. Whilst we recognise that we should sell only to countries which measure up to the high ideals we set for our clients, perhaps the vetting of prospective clients should be done by a United Nations agency. That would leave Australia and the client free to arrange a sale on a straight out seller-client basis.
As I have said, I support the legislation. Today I have issued a new statement. Senator Keeffe seems to be most interested in what I have been doing in the past two days. Yes, I was a passenger in a certain aircraft. The statement which I released today relates to actions which are being taken now with respect to the uranium Bills which are before the Senate. The statement relates to negotiations which have been taking place between representatives of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, the Northern Land Council and the Federal Government. Mr President, I seek leave to have this statement incorporated in Hansard. Unfortunately, it has not been circulated; no one has seen it.
- Senator Kilgariff, would you please show it to the Minister for Education. You may then carry on with your speech.
– The Senate will shortly rise until Tuesday week. In the interim further legislation will be added to the package of legislation now before us. It will relate specifically to the mining and development of uranium in the Northern Territory. It will be important legislation. Indeed, it will be controversial legislation. I expect that, following discussions I have had with the Government, in the period ahead we will see amendments moved by the Government which will change some of the aspects of the legislation, but not to any great degree. What the new legislation will do will be to enable the Northern Territory to participate in the mining, development and other aspects of uranium in the Northern Territory rather than exclude it completely from these operations. Mr President, I seek leave to have my statement incorporated in Hansard. I apologise for not circulating it sooner.
The document read as follows-
STATEMENT FROM SENATOR BERNIE KILGARIFF, SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY
Following my announcement, supported by the Country Party Senate group and other Liberal senators to vote against some aspects of the proposed uranium legislation because of lack of Northern Territory participation, I visited Darwin with Rt Hon. J. D. Anthony, Deputy Prime Minister, and Hon. Ian Viner, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Mr Sam Calder.
Mr Ian Barker, the SolicitorGeneral of the Northern Territory was also in the group.
The discussions in Darwin proved to be a three-sided affair with Government, the Northern Land Council and the Northern Territory Parliamentary Group, which included the majority Leader Mr Paul Everingham, participating.
The groups met jointly and separately for several hours which culminated in acceptance of many of the amendments that had been prepared by myself and Mr Barker, to bring about a state of affairs in the legislation along the lines the Government had previously agreed to for territory participation.
In one particular area, a power of delegation that we sought was not agreed upon, but nevertheless we have brought about representation on a compulsory consultation basis.
The matter now rests where three government acts will be amended and the amendments agreed to will be introduced by the Government during the present Senate debate and later will be referred to the House of Representatives for confirmation.
The talks were put in some jeopardy by the fact that the Labor shadow Minister for the Northern Territory, Dr Doug Everingham, intruded into the discussions by sending a telegram to the Chairman of the Northern Land Council in the midst of the discussions indicating that Labor would support the Land Council and not support the proposed amendments to give the Northern Territory participation in the uranium sphere.
By this action the Labor Party indicated that they were prepared to go against their stated conscience.
The Labor Party, by intruding into the discussions in a petty political bid to sabotage the proceedings, endeavoured to sell out the future of the Northern Territory by intimidating the Aboriginal people.
It is to the credit of the Northern Land Council Chairman, Mr James Galarrwuy Yunipingu, and his group, that they were not intimidated by this and concurrence was reached.
However, the Territory has gained considerable advantage from the discussions.
The legislation will now provide that the Northern Territory is to be consulted by the Commonwealth and the Director of the Federal National Parks and Wildlife Service with regard to the management and administration of the National Park and it is contemplated that the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission will be actively involved in this regard.
The Northern Territory is to be entitled to nominate a person to be a member of the Supervising Scientists’ Coordinating Committee which will assist in monitoring the effect of mining upon the countryside.
Canberra. 11 May, 1978
Senator B. Kilgariff
– I support the amendment moved by my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt). Before dealing with that amendment I wish to comment briefly upon the speech made by Senator Kilgariff, who singled out Senator Haines from the rest of us who oppose the legislation as a person who has an honest objection to uranium mining. I am sure Senator Haines has an honest objection to uranium mining, but I am not sure that Senator Kilgariff is in a position to speak about the rest of us. Senator Kilgariff’s suggestion that the Australian Labor Party is somehow involved in an international conspiracy in relation to uranium mining exhibits a 1948ish mentality. As used to be suggested in the 1 940s, he seems to believe that the conspiracy probably originated in the Soviet Union. In the week’s adjournment of the Senate I hope Senator Kilgariff will contemplate the fact that the Soviet Union has exactly the same policy on the mining, export and use of uranium as the Fraser Government has. I hope that will not put him in the position of turning handstands in Darwin during the week in which the Senate will not be sitting. I hope that when he comes back to the Senate he will explain his views on this conspiracy because I presumably am part of it and I certainly will have a week of grave worry and anticipation waiting to hear what Senator Kilgariff has to say on this matter. I would hate to be involved in anything as horrible as he has suggested.
I join with Senator Kilgariff in congratulating Senator Haines and Senator Wright on their contributions to this debate. I particularly congratulate Senator Wright. If I might repeat in the Senate what 1 said to him in the passages of the Parliament the other day. I said in perhaps a rather roguish way: ‘We will miss you’. I shall miss him for a lot of reasons, such as for the big grin he has on his face now. We will miss him also as a senator, for the very nature of the contribution he makes to debates, particularly his contributions about detailed clauses of Bills. I tend to agree with Senator Wright’s view that the States should cede powers to the Commonwealth in relation to this matter. I ask him to be charitable in any future speeches he makes in the Senate during the next few weeks and concede that, although there might be only 10 senators in the chamber when he speaks, there are others outside listening to him. I should like to make the point that I particularly single out Senator Haines and Senator Wright for their thoughtful and important contributions to the debate.
I support the amendment moved by the Opposition because, in our view, whether one accepts the view put by Senator Wright that the States should cede powers to the Commonwealth or whether one takes the view which I apprehend that Ministers of this Government take in pursuit of their new federalism policy, as an alternative to Senator Wright’s view, there should have been further consultation with the States about very important matters in this legislation. 1 refer to clauses 12 and 14 of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill, to which Senator Wright referred. One would have thought that there would have been much greater consultation with the States on these matters because clearly clause 14 in its present form is unworkable in terms of the rights of a citizen of a State. I suggest that there should have been more consultation because we in this Senate are all in the habit of referring to people on the other side of the chamber as honourable senators. The term honourable senators’ seems to me to suggest that in being honourable, as we describe ourselves, we might have a degree of consistency in the sorts of attitudes we adopt towards the rights of the States and the rights of other governments in relation to the legislation we are considering.
– We know very well that the Labor Government signed the uranium contract.
-I thought we had been through that debate. The honourable senator knows that the position of the Whitlam Government on uranium was subject to the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. It is quite clear that the position of the Fraser Government on uranium is not subject to the Fox inquiry because the conclusions of the Fox inquiry have been ignored in the two Bills which are now before the Senate. Be that as it may, the point I was concerned to make was that one would have thought that there would have been some degree of consistency in a Commonwealth government’s attitude towards the States in relation to uranium mining- in relation to the development of the mining industry as a whole.
It is very interesting to consider what some honourable senators from the Government side of the chamber said about this sort of legislation not so long ago. For example, we can consider what Senator Missen said on 9 April 1975 in discussing the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill. He was then an Opposition senator. He is now a Government senator and presumably supports this legislation. One would have thought that he would be consistent with his 1975 attitude. He had this to say then:
I am not concerned with what might be the intention of this Government or any future government, but once that power is given we no longer have any real control over the way in which governments operate.
The honourable senator was referring to the power of regulation and he went on to state:
I know that we have power to deal with regulations; they cun come back here and, in the mass of other things, we may get around to repealing them. On the other hand a lot of damage could bc done under those regulations.
The honourable senator was making those comments about different legislation. But exactly the same comments could be made about the legislation now before the Senate. I wish to refer to the remarks of another honourable senator who I believe to be an honourable man. I refer to Senator Carrick who, of course, is the Minister for Education in the present Government. In dealing with the Atomic Energy (Prescribed Substances) Regulations on 19 September 1974 he had this to say:
I support the motion for the disallowance of the regulations under the Atomic Energy Act 1953-1973. 1 do so for the reasons put forward by Senator Durack. I believe that without these regulations the Commonwealth Government has already ample powers to ensure the national interest in the exploration, conservation and orderly development of uranium. In addition, the States and the Territories have supplementary powers, and they can work in co-operation.
There does not seem to have been terribly much co-operation in the mind or in the views of Sir Charles Court, as expressed in the telegram he sent to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). There does not seem to have been much cooperation seen by Mr Ruben Hamer in Victoria. There does not seem to have been much cooperation seen by any of the State Premiers in relation to this legislation. I hope that Senator Carrick, in the course of deciding and determining the weighty questions which we as senators determine in this House of review and in weighing the issues in the balance and deciding what is right and proper thing to do, will have regard to his opinion of 1975 when the wicked Labor Government which he so frequently refers to was in office. I hope that he will have regard to that as he remembers everything wicked that the Labor Government did to everything good that he was doing in those days and remind the Senate of it in the way that he votes in the Senate in 1978. In dealing with the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill, Senator Carrick was totally consistent in the attitude he adopted towards consultation with the States. On 23 July 1974, in dealing with another Bill concerning minerals. Senator Carrick had this to say:
This is not a Bill to develop these things for the welfare of Australia. This is a Bill to take from our State governments all their existing powers over the resources in their States, all their vital need to obtain their finances from royalties, all their responsibilities for developing these things in an orchestration of State development and to give all those powers to a central government in Canberra. So I suggest that the true nature of the Bill needs to be looked at.
Again, in weighing the facts in respect of this Bill, I hope that Senator Carrick will again take that weighty statement which he made in 1974 into account. I am sure that he will and, when we come to vote on this proposal moved by my colleague Senator Wriedt, I have no doubt that the honourable senator will have those factors in his mind.
I refer also to what was said by Senator Durack, the Attorney-General and senior law officer of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Attorney-General is another honourable senator. On 19 September 1974, when dealing with the Atomic Energy (Prescribed Substances) Regulations, Senator Durack had this to say when summarising the views of the Opposition of 1974:
In conclusion, I would like to summarise our argument. We believe that the regulations firstly are quite unnecessary. The Minister has the power to maintain Australia’s national interest through his control powers in respect to export and other matters. These extra powers are apparently sought by the Minister Tor somewhat dubious purposes and they will have the effect of overriding all existing rights that have been acquired under the State laws and under the Northern Territory mining laws. We believe that for those reasons these regulations should be disallowed by the Senate.
Senator Webster is another honourable Minister in the present Government. He is another honourable senator who one would believe would be totally consistent in his attitude to these weighty issues of principle with which this Government is so concerned. Senator Webster had this to say when dealing with the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1974:
We are elected directly by the States to represent the States in this place.
Some people might say that that is a Neanderthal view, but it is Senator Webster’s view.
– Order ! It being 4.30 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The Senate stands adjourned until Tuesday, 23 May 1978, at fifteen minutes past 2 p.m., unless sooner called together in accordance with the resolution agreed to this day.
Senate adjourned at 4.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 May 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780511_senate_31_s77/>.