31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) left Australia yesterday for discussions in the United States and Europe. He is expected to return to Australia on 22 June. During his absence the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– I present the following petition from 42 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable President and Senators here assembled we the undersigned humbly pray:
. That the Government ensures Item 6469 is not removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
That this item under which an estimated 49,145 contributors claimed in the 1976-77 financial year, covers a legal and medically approved procedure.
That the removalof this item from the schedule would destroy the conceptof universal health insurance, and would have the most serious repercussions for women and their health.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 14 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. A petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That withdrawal of Government benefits under schedule 6469 for first trimester abortion would discriminate against and disadvantage the least privileged in our society.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Under no circumstances withdraw Government benefit under schedule 6469 for first trimester abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Minister seen details of an interview given to the New York Times by Mr Brzezinski, who is the United States national security adviser, in which he stated that he had given an unprecedented briefing to Chinese officials on the status of the Soviet-American strategic arms talks? Can the Minister say whether the Australian Government has been kept similarly informed by the United States and whether it is satisfied with the amount of confidential information it is receiving from the United States in respect of the talks?
-My attention was drawn to the Press report this morning. I did ask for information from my colleague in the other place. It has not yet arrived. Should it arrive before the end of Question Time I will advise the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of a Press article appearing in the Courier Mail and headed: ‘Aurukun bars 3 State officials’. I preface my question by reading part of the article:
Aboriginal councillors at Aurukun yesterday refused to allow three Queensland Government officers into the former aboriginal reserve.
The article goes on to state:
Mr Peinkinna said Mr Butler and two other officers of the DAIA had arrived by air yesterday morning, announcing that they were ready to set up an office and to employ people at Aurukun.
He said Mr Butler had not asked the council if he could enter the community, but had sent a telegram yesterday saying only that he was arriving.
Mr Peinkinna said the Aurukun Council had replied by telegram yesterday telling Mr Butler that the community did not want ‘State Government interference ‘.
He said Mr Butler had arrived with a load of government stationery and office equipment.
Mr Peinkinna also alleged that Mr Butler, when stopped at the airstrip gate had threatened that the Aurukun Council would be dismissed and an administrator appointed.
I ask the Minister: Are we to assume now that every time the councillors on either the Mornington Island or Aurukun reserves disagree with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or the Minister for Local Government they will be under the constant threat of their councils being dismissed and administrators being appointed? If this is an example of the right to self-determination, I would like to see it justified.
– I have not read the article to which Senator Bonner referred; neither am I aware of the problem which he outlined. I shall refer his question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to see whether I can get a response for him by the end of Question Time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. I suppose it is a question designed to see how thick is the elephant’s hide. The question I put to the Minister is this: In evidence to the royal commission last Monday, in answer to questions the Minister said that he had phoned Mr Pearson in order to get him to phone the Distribution Commissioners about the naming of the seat Gold Coast. In reply to a question, the Minister said:
I assume they changed the name because of this.
I ask the Minister why, in answering questions in this place last Friday, he repeatedly stated: ‘I do not know why they changed the name’ and did not give the Senate the benefit of the assumptions he was prepared to make before the royal commission.
-It is a matter of whether one relies upon assumptions or knowledge. I prefer to rely upon knowledge.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is concerned with the matter of the Queensland Government dismissing the Aurukun Aboriginal Council. Is the Minister aware of the fact that any council in Queensland is subject to dismissal by the State Government? Is the Minister aware that only recently the Gold Coast City Council in Queensland was dismissed and that some years ago the Mackay City Council was dismissed?
– You were mayor.
– I was not mayor. The honourable senator should not talk to me, otherwise he will get it in the neck. Why is it considered to be appropriate that the people on the Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves should be treated differently from people on other councils in the rest of Queensland? Do these people not belong to the one country and to the one State? Why should preferential treatment be given to certain people and not to other people who comprise the major element of this country?
– I am asked a question with regard to the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Act in Queensland. My understanding of it leads me to accept the proposition that councils may be dismissed by the Minister concerned. I assume there are reasons why dismissal can be effected. In answer to the question whether it is a fact that a council may be dismissed and whether some councils have been dismissed, to the best of my knowledge this is so.
In answer to the latter part of the question with regard to preferential treatment, I think that in this place over recent weeks we have had a great deal of discussion about the need for the two communities of Aurukun and Mornington Island to have self-management and for them to be able to work in a way which we believed was possible and proper for the Aboriginal communities concerned. If this is regarded as preferential treatment, I regard it as distinctly important in terms of the agreement which was made with the Commonwealth Government on 1 1 April to the effect that whatever is required for the selfmanagement of these communities to be achieved should be undertaken by the government concerned. I hope that, as we see the way in which that agreement does develop under the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Act, we will see that the communities are able to be satisfied that self-management is possible. If it is not so, as I have said previously, we will be watching the situation to determine what further action by the Commonwealth Government might be necessary.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development been drawn to reports of the findings of a United States Congressional committee last week, which are set out in a document entitled Nuclear Power Costs? This document shows that after two years of deliberations by the committee concerned: Firstly, the problem of burying nuclear waste is far from being solved and there are no solutions in sight to this problem; and, secondly, renewable energy from the sun could easily be produced if it were given the same government and industry priority as nuclear energy has been given. Will the Minister take urgent steps to see that this report is made available to all members of the Australian Parliament?
– I have not seen the report to which the honourable senator referred, nor was I aware of its completion. I think that sometime ago an honourable senator asked me about such a report and at that stage it had not been completed. I do not know whether it is available now. I shall seek to find out whether this is so and, if the report is available, whether it can be made available within the Parliamentary Library. The essential second part of the question is the suggestion- I do not know whether this came from the report- that the obvious alternative source of energy in the growing shortage of fossil fuels will be the sun. Every honourable senator and everybody throughout Australia would devoutly hope that that would be so. The only question is that there is an enormous conflict of viewpoint in the scientific field whether deriving energy from the sun is practicable, when it is practicable and the degree to which it is practicable.
I am advised that the bulk of understanding is that at this moment scientific knowledge indicates that, whilst solar energy could be a supplement in the years ahead, it could not be a significant supplement. I do not stand here as an expert; I simply say that that is what the volume of knowledge available to us indicates. It is quite clear that we should direct our energies towards the development of solar energy, as we are doing. But at this stage nothing before the Government suggests that solar energy offers an immediate and significant alternative to the energy-hungry world at large.
– I ask the Minister for Education: How many schools in Australia which are funded directly or indirectly by the Commonwealth or are supported in some way by the Commonwealth are associated with the Ananda Marga sect?
-In the Australian States three schools, which are registered in the States as efficient schools and are receiving Commonwealth and State per capita grants, are in fact Ananda Marga schools. They are the Sunrise Community School in New South Wales, the Ananda Marga school in Western Australia, and the Ananda Marga school in Tasmania.
-I direct to the Minister for Education a question which follows on from the one he has just answered. I ask: In view of the Government’s decision to prohibit the entry into Australia of any migrants of the Ananda Marga sect for reasons which I understand involve acts of violence or alleged acts of violence on the part of that organisation, can the Minister indicate why the Government is prepared to continue to assist the financing of this organisation through its educational institutions?
– The Government is not supporting a religion or an institution. It is supporting the teaching of children in Australia according to prescribed curricula laid down by the States concerned. The onus is upon the States to ensure that the primary function of schools is to teach the basic secular curricula that all children require. I take it that that would not be in dispute. At this moment, as far as I know, the organisation concerned is not a banned organisation in the country of its origin. I do not want to trespass upon the foreign affairs side of things; I simply want to say that this is a highly sensitive subject. Because individual acts of violence have been attributed to and perhaps in some cases proven in respect of members of a particular sect, it does not necessarily follow that one should punish all the people who come within that sect. It certainly does not follow that one should jeopardise the future of children. Until such time as further evidence comes before the Government, purely in the educational field- certainly evidence that would indicate that what is happening is foreign to the standards of Australia and perhaps promotes violence- I think that we should look at the three schools as being schools that provide secular education for young children, although we may not hold the views of this sect or its religion.
– I ask a question which is in one of those grey areas which could be covered by the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or the AttorneyGeneral. It concerns Aboriginal land right claims and, in particular, the hearing of such claims. Having regard to the complex legal and social evidence which is produced before Aboriginal land rights inquiries, will the Minister consider the granting of financial assistance to, for example, chambers of commerce, tourist boards, fishing co-operatives, and private individualsthe man in the street- to enable them to put their case in the best possible manner? Does the Minister not agree that Aboriginal groups which enjoy the benefit of Federal funding, together with large financial resources and expertise, are in a better position than the ordinary citizen to state their case? Does the Minister agree that all persons presenting evidence before such inquiries should be given an equal opportunity? In the event of the Minister not having the authority to do so, will he undertake to raise the matter with the Government to obtain such authority?
– I have some information on this matter. I understand that it has been agreed between the Attorney-General, the Minister for the Northern Territory and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that there should be provision for financial assistance in suitable cases for non-Aboriginal persons or groups wishing to be represented before the Aboriginal Land Commissioner. It is expected that a proposal will be considered by the Government in the near future to incorporate this provision in appropriate legislation. The proposed tests of reasonableness and hardship to be applied to requests for financial assistance in such cases are expected to be similar to the tests in the Trade Practices Act, the Racial Discrimination Act and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act. The provision of financial assistance in this manner will enable eligible non-Aboriginal persons or groups to be represented adequately before the Aboriginal Land Commissioner.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Since he is not prepared to deal with the fleas, perhaps he is prepared to deal with the elephant itself. Does he still agree that, and I quote him, ‘the Senate has an obligation to uncover the truth despite the objection of the Government’ and that the Senate has done nothing more than attempt to fulfill that obligation’? I refer to Senator Button’s question today. Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate now erecting a barrier and, again I use his own words, ‘a wall of silence’ every time he is asked to answer certain questions? Will he not agree again with the statement that he made in 1975 against the previous Government when he said that ‘refusal of information is the first step towards tyranny’ and that a people denied information cannot judge the facts ‘? If he is not prepared to answer questions in this place and so give the facts, would it not be a highly desirable action on his part to withdraw from the Senate until the Royal Commission had decided whether or not his statements contain assumptions or facts?
-I intend making no comment on that until Mr Justice McGregor brings down his findings.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I preface it by saying that I hope that the Minister managed to find time several weeks ago to see an Australian Broadcasting Commission presentation, The Bull’s-Eye War, which showed the chilling and deadly accuracy of portable surfacetosurface and surface-to-air missiles and rockets that are flown along the line of sight to their target. I ask: Is the Minister able to say whether any research and development is being carried out in Australia into this type of missile, which I see as both a stimulus to our electronics industry and imperative to our defence, particularly if we are to defend ourselves against possible invasion by many airborne or seaborne craft? If the Minister is not able to give me an answer now perhaps he will indicate whether it will be possible to give an answer or whether the information I seek is regarded as restricted information.
-I have no knowledge of whether the Australian forces have weapons of the character referred to by the honourable senator. I did see that program. It was terrifying to see the accuracy of modern weapons. The honourable senator would know that, at the conclusion of the last war, even then there were coming into operation devices for using the noise of ships to home in torpedoes or the heat of aeroplanes to explode anti-aircraft shells about them. As 1 recall it, the photo-electric cell was beginning to be used against high flying aircraft and anti-aircraft defences. The program tended to show, for what it was worth to me anyhow, that warfare is a very scientific and technical exercise these days, with opposing sides having great capacity to home in on their targets. We are seeing the development of anti-anti-anti devices. Most of us had some experience during the last war with various methods of fouling up radar by dropping long streamers of tinsel through the air, but they were very primitive devices compared with those which are presently being used. As I recall the program it contained an excerpt about the last Israeli-Egyptian war, in which some of these devices were used with enormous accuracy. It may well be that most of this information is classified within our services but I will ask my colleague in another place whether he can supply some information to the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I wish to follow up a question I asked on 26 May regarding social security beneficiaries who are not in receipt of pensioner health benefit cards. Has the Minister had any assurance from the Australian Medical Association or any other organisation representing the medical profession that they will not demand cash on the nail from this group of welfare claimants who, as the Minister knows, are the poorest of all her Department’s clients? Further, has the Minister had any assurance from the AMA that it will accept a pay-doctor cheque for 75 per cent of the total fee as payment from this group? If the Minister does not receive such assurances, will she then make provision for the issue of pensioner health benefit entitlements to these beneficiaries?
– At present pensioners with a pensioner health benefit card are entitled to free pharmaceuticals and are exempt from payment of the Medibank levy. The holder of a pensioner health benefit card has no legal entitlement to any reduction in hospital or medical costs. However, the Minister for Health has requested doctors to accept the assignment of medical benefits in full settlement of accounts for pensioner health benefit card holders. In practice, many doctors accept the assignment of benefits in full settlement of accounts for pensioners with health benefit cards either under the bulk billing arrangements or by pay-doctor cheques.
The effect of retention of the bulk billing arrangements for pensioners who are holders of pensioner health benefit cards will depend on the extent to which doctors will after 1 July this year accept schedule benefits, that is 75 per cent of scheduled fees, in full settlement of accounts. The Minister for Health has indicated that he is to have discussions with the Australian Medical Association and others in the near future. The last part of the honourable senator’s question related to special provisions being made for the issue of some benefits to pensioners. This matter will be decided in the discussions that are to be held with the AMA. At this stage I am unable to make any comment except to say that these discussions will be held in the near future.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science. Last week I was privileged to sample some excellent red wine produced by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I was told that the grape variety from which the wine was produced was bred by CSIRO and that it is suitable for growing in warmer districts. Does the Minister see this grape variety as being of significance to Australian producers? Does he predict that it will be of particular importance to the Swan Valley District of Western Australia.
– I am unable to say whether the new grape variety will be of significance to growers in Western Australia. I certainly hope that it will be. I believe that the first test of commercial pickings of this variety will be made next season. I understand that the new grapes are mainly being grown in the Merbein area of Victoria.
– What is the name of the grape?
– I am coming to some of those factors. I thought that the honourable senator would like to know the full balance of the proposition. The honourable senator who asked the question would know that the Division of Horticultural Research within CSIRO has had a responsibility for the introduction and adaptation of fruit crops to Australia, for the breeding of wine, for the drying of grapes and for the management of fruit trees and grape vines. It has also been involved in the important area of processing. The Viticultural Research Section within that division has had responsibility to improve the productivity of grape vines and the quality of grapes and grape products in Australian vineyards. That has been a most important contribution to that area of our economy.
An announcement has been made that the first red wine made from the Australian bred wine grape could be produced commercially next year. The name of the wine will be Tarrango. I am interested to know that the honourable senator sampled the wine and found it attractive. CSIRO has spent a number of years on this research. In effect, Tarrango is both a new wine grape and new wine style for Australia. It has a fresh, fruity flavour. It is made in the style of white wine. It should find its place in the market even though some areas are depressed at present. Incidentally, the name Tarrango evolves from an area about 40 kilometres south-west of Merbein. The new grapes have been evaluated by the wine industry since about 1975. The field work has involved the sampling of about 30,000 different types of seedlings. In that context I think every opportunity exists for Western Australia to become aware of this new wine. It has an excellent flavour. I think it is one of the firsts for Australia. It will be most important to those involved in wine growing.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether imports of frozen packaged peas have increased in recent months. Are imports from New Zealand being kept within the free limits permitted by the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement? Is this limit a maximum of 2 per cent of Australian consumption? Do increased imports justify substantial reductions in either the volume or price of contracts being let to growers by processors such as the General Jones and the Smith companies?
– I have not factual information to be able to answer that question. The honourable senator asked me basically four questions; as to whether the volume of peas introduced into the country has increased -
– We know what the question was; what about the answer? The Minister took Vh minutes with his last answer; now he is going to repeat the question.
– I am delighted that the honourable senator wants good, clear and expansive answers associated with these intricate questions. I was making the point- obviously I was thinking of Senator Georges when I was making it- that I am unaware at the moment as to whether the volume of pea imports has increased. That was in relation to the first of the four questions asked of me at Question Time on this matter. The honourable senator went on to ask me whether the imports are within the limits as required by NAFTA. I am unable to say whether there has been an increase which is within limits. The honourable senator suggests that the limit is 2 per cent. I shall attempt to find out for the honourable senator as soon as possible whether the limit has been observed. The next point of the question involves a commercial judgment. I do not really understand the basis of the honourable senator’s question but apparently he believes that lower prices are being offered to some Australian growers at present. I shall look into this matter. I doubt whether it can be asserted whether, if there has been any increase in imports at present, that would challenge the prices local producers would receive for their peas during the next 12 months. I shall attempt to find out the answers for the honourable senator. If he is really interested in the matter he may care to put his question on notice so that I get its detail accurately.
-My question is a follow-up of a question I have asked previously. Can the Minister representing the Treasurer now say with which industry the kelp harvesters of King Island are associated for the purposes of sales tax relief on commodities they use in their work?
– I have information concerning the previous question of Senator Walters. I am advised by the Treasurer that various sales tax exemptions are available to persons engaged in the fishing industry or in agricultural industry but there are no specific exemptions for kelp harvesting. The fishing industry embraces activities in the catching, taking or production of fish, crustacea and molluscs. It does not extend to the collection or harvesting of other products of the sea. Agricultural industry is defined in the sales tax law to include activities in viticulture, horticulture, pasturage, apiculture, poultry farming, dairy farming and other operations connected with the cultivation of the soil, the gathering in of crops and the rearing of livestock.
It includes forestry activities involving the planting and tendering of stands of trees but does not include operations connected with naturally occurring stands of timber; nor does it cover operations such as those carried on by kelp harvesters, which I understand involve the collection of storm-cast kelp. The exemptions available to the fishing industry are fairly limited and cover such things as boats, boat equipment, fishing equipment and freezing equipment. There is no exemption for vehicles, whether fourwheel drive or otherwise. I understand that the equipment used by kelp harvesters consists mainly of four-wheel drive trucks, trailers and grabs. Their operation involves the collection and loading of storm-cast kelp on to vehicles and the transport of the kelp to the processing industry. The exemptions available to the fishing industry would not cover this sort of equipment. The inclusion of kelp harvesting in the fishing industry would not then provide the harvesters with exemptions.
Finally, the kelp harvesters are in much the same position as other persons engaged in transport operations. Vehicles used in the transport of goods and items of equipment used in loading or unloading vehicles are, in general, taxable. This situation applies broadly to all industries.
– My question, directed to the Minister for Science, follows a question asked by Senator Messner in this place on Friday, in connection with the wine industry. Has the Minister now made inquiries concerning the incidence of additives, including sugar, in wines made overseas and imported to Australia? Is it possible for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to analyse imported wines and to determine effectively whether sugar has been added?
– I do not have with me the information relating to the question asked on Friday nor has my Department forwarded it to me. It is certainly possible for an analyst in Australia to alert me or the Government as to the quantity of sugar that may be used as an additive in imported wines. This work is usually done not by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation but by the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories, which has an excellent laboratory in South Australia. Indeed, that laboratory, I understand, does most of the report work on analysis of wine for the Australian Wine Board and would be in an excellent position, were it a requirement, to analyse imported wine.
One of the problems associated with the wine industry and its export trade is that some overseas countries require a government-backed certificate to indicate the constituents of the product being exported. To the best of my knowledge, we in Australia do not require such a certificate relating to our imports. We analyse the volume of alcohol in some of the spirits that are imported but overall the constituency of any particular product is not analysed in detail. That is my understanding. The honourable senator has an interest in this matter. He is obviously keen to see that there is not unfair competition with the Australian wine industry. I will look at his question to see whether there is further information that I can give him.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. Is he aware of a report in today’s Adelaide Advertiser, attributed to the Iranese Meat Organisation, to the effect that Australia’s live sheep trade will be in jeopardy if there is a continuing disruption to the trade by the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union? In the light of this and the inability of Iran physically to handle violently fluctuating levels of consignments caused by industrial action, will the Minister enter into discussions with the AMIEU to ensure a proper understanding of the issues amongst union members and undertake other positive steps to ensure an even and orderly flow of trade to the newly developing markets of the Middle East?
-To some extent this matter falls within the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. As I recall, one of the terms of settlement of the last dispute was that a task force, consisting of representatives of the meat trade, the union and government, was to go to the Middle East. As I understood it, the task force was to investigate such problems as the one to which the honourable senator is now referring, that is, the capacity of those countries in the Middle East to take carcass meat and their capacity to handle live sheep. I imagine that when that task force was on the ground, as one might say, in the Middle East it would be made very well aware of the problems to which the honourable senator is alluding. I think it is fair to say that the Government has great hopes, the task force having been there and gained first hand knowledge and experience of the problems that exist in those countries, of the task force being able to come back to Australia and tell all concerned in the trade, that is, the primary producers, those engaged in the shipping of sheep and those employed in the meat industry, facts about the situation which, I believe, ultimately will lead to a far more sensible flow of our export trade to that area.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, is virtually supplementary to that asked by Senator Bonner a few moments ago. I ask: What action will the Government take if the Aurukun Council is dismissed and the Queensland Government takes over the settlement by armed force?
– I have no reason to believe that , the Aurukun Council will be dismissed; nor is there any suggestion that the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs is to take over the Council by force. In fact, it was by an Act of the Queensland Parliament that the two localities were made into local government areas. Senator Bonner earlier asked a question relating to this matter. I said that I would attempt to obtain information for him. As Senator Keeffe is concerned about the same matter, perhaps I could give the advice which I have received. Last week, on 22 and 26 May, the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs urged the Queensland Minister for Local Government, Mr Hinze, to appoint joint advisory and co-ordination committees as a first step in implementing the legislation with regard to Aurukun and Mornington Island. He regarded such committees as having the proper means of providing advice to the two communities. Assistance to the communities is not a matter for the Queensland Department. The Federal Minister nominated area officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs as his representatives on the two committees. I understand that the Queensland Government has provided him with the names of the representatives of two Queensland Ministers.
The Federal Minister spoke with Mr Hinze on Friday, 26 May, and arrangements have been made for Mr Hinze to meet Professor Busch of the Uniting Church of Australia today. The Minister informed the communities early on Friday that he is seeking information on the Queensland Government’s intentions in sending staff from the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs into the communities. I understand that he is advising the communities that he is seeking early establishment of advisory committees and that he is suggesting that the communities should treat the arrival of representatives of the Department of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs calmly. He believes that firm but calm action by the Aurukun Council will demonstrate to the Queensland Department that the communities intend to manage their own affairs, that there is no law and order problem and that the early establishment of statutory advisory committees is a vital matter. The Minister has given assurances to the communities of financial support from the Federal Government, if that is necessary to maintain services. In answer to the questions of both Senator Bonner and Senator Keeffe, I say that the Federal Government is watching this matter closely. It is seeking, through the establishment of joint committees, to have Aurukun and Mornington Island run in accordance with the hopes that have been expressed and, I think, the intention of the agreement between the Federal Government and the Queensland Government of 1 1 April.
- Mr President, may I ask a supplementary question on that subject?
– No. An honourable senator may not ask a question that is supplementary to another honourable senator’s question.
-I ask the Minister for Education whether he has seen a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 24 May in which Mr Van Davy, the President of the Australian Teachers Federation, is quoted as saying:
The current criticisms of the education system . . can be answered in one word: funding.
Could the Minister inform the Senate of the facts in relation to the funding of government and non-government schools?
Opposition senators interjecting-
– I am delighted that there is such keen interest in the matter. I have read in the newspaper statements by Mr Van Davy and some others, I think, suggesting that the predominant solution to educational problems is, in one word, funding. I have been asked what are the facts, but I will not weary honourable senators at Question Time because they are all obviously, as indicated by their response, well tutored in those facts. However, I remind the Senate that for some considerable reading they might look at the Schools Commission report for 1978, which states:
Resources in most government school systems are about to reach or have already reached the improvement target set.
Those improvement targets were set for primary schools for 1980 and for secondary schools for 1982. So the goals of the Schools Commission, modified from the Karmel goals, have been reached substantially or surpassed, and indeed will go on to higher levels. It is unfortunate that the Schools Commission had to report that this was not the case in the non-government sector and that the gap is widening adversely in most of those schools, 90 per cent of the primary schools in that area being in the category of extreme need; that is, category 6. But the fact is that in all the government schools great progress has been made.
I think the quick answer is that those who have been seeking simply by finance to solve the problems of upgrading education have failed to reach their goal. The general community today believes that quality is the goal that is now to be sought. Quality comes through performance, through the upgrading of standards, and I think that is the realisation of the people of Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the statement issued last week by the Minister for Primary Industry about alterations to the national entitlements scheme of the new dairy arrangements, that is, Stage 2. Is it a fact that the Minister made the announcement of a Government decision to alter the arrangements with the States without any consultation with the States? Is the Minister aware that the proposal upon which the Government has now decided will cost the States additional moneys- in the case of my own State, Tasmania, an additional $lm- to implement the scheme? Can he tell the Senate why the Government proceeded to take this step without consulting the State Ministers?
– I am unable to answer the Leader of the Opposition accurately. I am aware of the statement. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition is correct in asserting that the Minister for Primary Industry made a statement on financial obligations without consulting the appropriate State authorities nor am I aware that the result of the declarations in relation to Stage 2 will add $ 1 m to the Tasmanian Budget. I will be seeing the Minister for Primary Industry immediately after Question Time and I will ascertain the facts.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs. Is it a fact that the Australian National Gallery is conducting an exhibition, ‘The Genesis of a Gallery Part 2 ‘, which is to be opened tomorrow evening by the Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen? Is it a fact that some 700 invitations have been sent out to people to attend the opening tomorrow evening? Is it also a fact that the telephone number on the invitation for the RSVP gave the area code prefix of Sydney rather than Canberra? Is it further a fact that several hundred phone calls have been received by an innocent, certainly unconnected, Sydney family who have had to redirect them to the correct number? Will the Minister inquire whether the Gallery could not only extend an invitation to the people who have been so inconvenienced but also provide them with fares and accommodation expenses so that they too can enjoy what they have had such a large part of already?
– The matters stated in the first several parts of the honourable senator’s question are certainly fact. There is to be an opening of an exhibition called ‘Genesis of a Gallery Part 2’. Probably all honourable senators received, as I did, an invitation to the opening by the Governor-General on Tuesday, 30 May. I had noted that the area code for replies to the invitation was 02, as has been stated by Senator Rae. I can understand that some unsuspecting Sydney family received many calls expressing great interest in the invitation on which its telephone number was printed. I shall certainly refer the matter to the Minister for Home Affairs to see that an appropriate apology is given to the family concerned. I shall draw his attention to the gesture which has been suggested by Senator Rae, namely, that all members of the family be invited to this splendid opening which I am sure has been of such interest to that family over the past week or so.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As the Minister responsible to the Government and to the Parliament for the Commonwealth Electoral Act and also royal commissions appointed by the Government, can he advise the Senate who drew up the terms of reference for the McGregor judicial inquiry? Does the- Minister seriously interpret the terms of reference, as suggested last Friday, as requiring the royal commission to decide why the name of the seat of Gold Coast was changed?
– I am unaware who drew up the terms of reference. If this is a matter which is generally made public, I will ascertain the facts and advise the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to the serious allegations made by members of the aviation industry, including the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, that Australia’s traditionally high standards of air safety are being eroded because of reductions in Federal aviation spending. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that the Department of Transport has altered its previous policy of preventative maintenance for air navigation and safety aids to one of repairing those aids once they have become inoperative? Is it also a fact that, as a direct result of the lack of preventative maintenance, a significant number of important aids have broken down? Can the Minister say how many navigation and safety aids were not operative on the main Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane jet route this morning? Were 19 such aids not operative on that route on Monday, 10 April 1978? Has the instrument landing system at Canberra Airport, where senators have all landed in the last 24 hours, been defective for the last six months? Is the Minister concerned about this situation? Does he believe that the Government’s reduction in capital and current expenditure on aviation facilities has led to a dangerous erosion in air safety standards?
– I scored up some seven points in relation to which Senator Missen seeks a response. I shall seek to find my way through the information contained in my brief and then we will see whether there are residual matters. I am bound to say that any allegations regarding the safety of air transport should be taken seriously and should be examined seriously. I am advised that the Department of Transport is continuously reviewing maintenance policy relating to the operation of air navigation and safety aids in the light of operational safety requirements and equipment reliability. The Department will continue to carry out preventative maintenance of such aids as necessary. I am not aware of the breakdown of a significant number of important aids as a direct result of the lack of preventative maintenance.
In respect of the situation on the main MelbourneSydneyBrisbane jet route, five aids were not operative this morning but alternative facilities were available in three cases; another five facilities were subject to reduced performance. The honourable senator will know that there is a series of back-up aids. A similar question- No. 4 1 7 of 2 May- related to the availability of aids on Monday, 10 April. It was established that of 19 air navigation and safety aids unavailable, only four related to unexpected failure, and in each case alternative aids were in operation. In both situations, safety standards were not affected I think that that is the important aspectbecause of the back-ups.
Naturally, the Government would be concerned about any situation which involved air safety. But honourable senators can be assured that Government policies on capital and current expenditure will not be permitted to erode air safety standards. Australian airway and air route facilities are deployed to ensure that, if unexpected failure of an aid occurs, an alternative facility is available or adequate alternative flying safety procedures may be adopted immediately. I shall look at the Hansard record to see whether I have omitted any of those seven responses. I do have figures showing the expenditure by the Commonwealth on air navigation aids and fire fighting services over the past five years. I think they are instructive to the answer. I seek leave, therefore, to incorporate these figures in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport: Do the figures to which he referred indicate that capital expenditure on aviation faculties was reduced between 1976 and 1977 by 21 per cent and that total expenditure was reduced by 7.8 per cent.
– The table shows that, in 1976-77, airways capital expenditure was $4.68m. For the current year it is $5. 8m. In 1976-77, expenditure for airways maintenance was $ 13.83m and for this year it is $ 14.5m. In 1976-77, fire fighting capital expenditure was effectively a quarter of a million dollars and this year it is $2.2m. In general terms- the honourable senator may look at the table- it appears that the events he related were not caused by any decline in money. I think that they are in fact a common pattern throughout the world.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport a question which follows from the ones which have just been asked. As I think many members of this Parliament are aware, such accusations have been made for some time. I draw the Minister’s attention to Budget Paper No. 1, in which the provision for civil aviation services in Australia, including buildings, works and equipment, shows a decline in expenditure in this Budget of nearly $5m compared with the Budget of two years ago. I ask the Minister: Does this not indicate that there has been a significant tightening in payments for capital works and equipment to civil aviation services in Australia? How can the Minister reconcile those figures with the figures he has just cited?
-I do not have Budget Paper No. 1 with me; therefore, I could not be expected to look at it as a Treasury paper and to reconcile it with the figures which I have just cited. In due course, when I have the advantage of the Hansard record and of the Budget Paper I shall do so with the aid of the Minister for Transport and shall give Senator Wriedt a response.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that the Commissioner of Taxation has refused to exempt agricultural motor bikes from sales tax? The relevant item is 13 (1) in the First Schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act which reads as follows:
Machinery, implements and apparatus, n.e.i. (and parts therefor), for use in agricultural industry if, in the opinion of the Commissioner, they are goods of a kind used exclusively, or primarily and principally, in that industry.
The Commissioner has reviewed sales of Honda All Terrain cycles and has formed the opinion that such cycles are used primarily and principally for other purposes outside the agricultural industry. As these motor cycles are standard equipment on all irrigation farms in northern Victoria and are used exclusively for agricultural purposes, can the Minister say whether some amendment to the Schedule might be considered so that such motor cycles purchased by primary producers and used exclusively for farm work will not attract the 1 5 per cent sales tax?
– My advice is that the Honda All Terrain cycle has been considered by the Commissioner of Taxation for exemption under item 13 (1) in the First Schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act. On the evidence of sales figures which showed clearly that these machines are not used primarily and principally in agricultural industry, the Commissioner was obliged to deny exemption. That is the basis upon which the exemption was denied. I am advised that it would require an amendment to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act to provide sales tax exemption for these cycles. This is something that would need to be considered in the budgetary context. I will arrange for it to be brought forward for consideration, along with some 10,000 other applications, by the Treasurer in this open season for Treasurers.
-Does the Attorney-General recall writing, in conjunction with the Solicitor-General, on 23 April to the Prime Minister stating that it was his view and the Solicitor-General’s view that further investigation into matters concerning the Queensland electoral redistribution was required? Did the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General state in that letter that they had been recently informed also of the existence of further evidence which bore upon their previous report to the Prime Minister? Was part of that further evidence the fact that the Attorney-General had been informed that the Minister for Administrative Services had made a suggestion to the Australian Chief Electoral Officer, who in turn had passed on the suggestion to the chief Queensland distribution commissioner about a change of electorate names? If not, what was the further evidence which was in existence and which had a bearing upon the previous report? If so, was any consideration given to recommending an extension of the terms of reference of the inquiry?
– The letter that is referred to by Senator Douglas McClelland followed the further reference by the Prime Minister to the Solicitor-General and me arising out of the allegations made by Mr Donald Cameron in the House of Representatives on 7 April 1978. The matter was referred back to us. We had looked at the question earlier. That was before Mr Cameron produced the statutory declarations. It was referred back to us to consider this further evidence. The Prime Minister made that public. As a result it was well known that Mr Byers and I were looking at the whole question again. In the course of the period between 10 April and 23 April quite a bit of evidence was submitted to us by various people, some of which was in writing. It was in the course of that period also that we learnt of the matter of Senator Withers ‘s mentioning of this question to Mr Pearson, about which some evidence has been given.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Reports attributed to the Canadian Minister for Agriculture, Mr Eugene Whelan, and appearing in the April edition of the Canadian publication World of Beef clearly show the extent and method of brucellosis eradication in that country. It has been shown that on 31 January there were only 826 herds under quarantine in Canada, of which 685 herds were in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Can the Minister advise the Senate whether Australia’s program is moving on target or is ahead or behind target? What consequences to our export market does he see if Canada or some other large trading country should secure freedom from this disease before Australia does?
-This is a very important matter in respect of the beef industry’s export market. I understand that substantial advances have been made in brucellosis eradication in Canada, the United States of America and New Zealand and that advances have been made in eradicating this disease in Australia over the last few years. Results from the eradication program in Australia to date indicate that we will gain provisional brucellosis-free status by 1984. The Federal Government and the State governments are firmly committed to ensure that the target date of 1984 for provisional brucellosis-free status will be met. They consider it of extreme importance that Australia does not lag behind in eradication efforts in this market. The honourable senator will know that over the years it has been the policy of various governments vigorously to support eradication of brucellosis, and indeed that is what we are doing at present.
The second of the honourable senator’s questions which I noted is somewhat speculative. I think it is most likely that our export trade in beef and dairy products will be affected if Canada, the United States of America or New Zealand achieve total eradication of brucellosis before Australia does. It appears that our export trade in these products will be most affected if the United States of America eradicates the disease before we do; that is, if it is more successful than we are. This is illustrated by the current requirement by the United States armed forces for brucellosisfree certification of dairy products. It is an indication of the way in which this matter may be moving. I understand that brucellosis-free specifications have already affected the export of dairy products from Queensland. They are the only consequences, except that a disease of this type affects overseas markets and there may be quite severe consequences for the country, particularly for our producers in various areas notably those in the Northern Territory and Queensland.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled ‘Mainline Upgrading: Evaluation of a Range of Options for the Trans Australia Link ‘.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974 I present an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania made under the provisions of that Act.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and to the Minister for the Northern Territory on the Borroloola land claim together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs relating to the report.
Senator ROBERTSON (Northern Territory) by leave- I move:
It is very pleasing for us in the Opposition to see the first report of Mr Justice Toohey, but we find it a little disturbing that the report took quite so long to get to the Parliament. We recall that Mr Justice Toohey was appointed on 7 April 1977; the Northern Land Council submitted a claim on 27 July in respect of Borroloola; we take it from the report that the hearings continued until 15 December of that year; and now, at the end of May, we have received the report. That seems a rather long time. It would be interesting for us to know how long the report has been with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner)- whether he has spent quite an amount of time studying it or whether it was the work of Mr Justice Toohey that delayed the report’s coming into the Parliament. We trust that later reports will not be quite so long in coming.
I draw to the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Guilfoyle) the fact that yesterday a meeting was held at Borroloola of the clan leaders and the people of that area. A report of that meeting was made available to me this morning by the Northern Land Council. As I have mentioned before in this chamber, I see it as my role to bring the views of the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory to the attention of the Minister if I think they can be of some assistance. In most cases they can be of assistance. The first comment that I must pass on from the Aboriginal people at Borroloola is that they are not at all happy with the report. They feel that they have not been fairly treated by Mr Justice Toohey in this matter. They feel that Mr Justice Toohey has not respected Aboriginal law and has depended too much on European law. They feel also that the interests of the European people have been given undue weight in the hearings.
Without taking too much of the Senate’s time, I draw attention to one or two of the individual complaints that have been made by the people at Borroloola. Let us look first at the claim for South West Island which involved the Wuyaliya people. Numerous sacred sites are located on the island. It is a most important burial ground for the Wuyaliya people. The island contains many significant sites of a mythological nature. It is disturbing that the Commissioner, in his investigations, was unable to find the traditional Aboriginal owners. It is quite clear to the people there and to the people in the whole of the Northern Territory that the land belongs to the Wuyaliya people. They are the people who submitted a claim. But for some reason the Commissioner claimed to be able to identify, within the provisions of the Act, the traditional owners. I have been asked by the people of Borroloola to say that they are very indignant- that word is significantat the finding.
Let us look at the Centre Island claim which involves the Rhumbirriya people. This group made a claim for Centre Island. These people are the traditional owners of the land, and this was accepted by Mr Justice Toohey. There is no problem about the acceptance. The problem arises because, after having accepted the Rhumbirriya group as the traditional owners of Centre Island, Mr Justice Toohey did not recommend a land trust. This is one of the difficult things to understand. As I read the report, Mr Justice Toohey took into account the fact that Mount Isa Mines Ltd wants a berth on the island and wants access to that berth. On the basis of the interest of that mining company Mr Justice Toohey did not recommend a land trust. Is this what land rights legislation is all about? Is this in line with the land rights legislation put through Parliament in the last session? Surely it would have been better for Mr Justice Toohey to have suggested that a land trust be established and then to recommend that perhaps some compromise be reached- not that I am not madly happy about this. It would have been better to say to the Aboriginal people involved that the land was theirs and to tell them that they had a right to say whether certain things should happen. We could take the matter one stage further- provided the Government wants to make a stronger statement- and say that the people can have the land on the understanding that certain things are allowed. It is the view of the people at Borroloola that there is room for compromise. No allowance has been made for this view.
I refer now to the Rhumbirriya claim to part of North Island. Again a similar situation exists. The people were recognised as traditional owners but no land trust was recommended for the area. The rationale was that a prawning company wanted to fish the waters around North Island and wanted to establish a base on the island. Again the Aboriginal people have some justification for feeling that the rights of the European people- the European rights, if honourable senators wish to use that phrasewere given undue weight. It is a simple situation. Either the land is Rhumbirriya or it is not. If the traditional unalienated Crown land is recognised as theirs surely it should be made available to them. Mr Justice Toohey should not come out and make a recommendation that no land trust be set up or, in a less positive sense, not recommend that a land trust be set up.
The Robinson River claim involved the Mam.baliya and again the Wuyila people. There was no recognition of the people ‘s claims. Mr Justice Toohey claimed that there were no traditional owners. He did not mention in his findings the Garriwa people who also have some claim to the area. It seems that Mr Justice Toohey has some problems in his method of establishing ownership. Some honourable senators on the other side of the chamber will remember the discussions that were held into land rights by the Joint Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory. The one thing that came out very clearly was that the Aboriginal people knew who owned particular land. It was made quite clear to us. There was no hesitation. The Aboriginal people would make it quite clear when sitting in groups which clan and in fact which individual owned which particular part of land. I think that the Senate will appreciate that the Aboriginal has this feeling; that he is quite confident in his own mind that land is his.
It is very disturbing to the Aboriginal people when they find out that with land which is theirs, because of some legality, they cannot get the law to uphold that the land is theirs. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to convey to the Minister the fact that the Aboriginal people at Borroloola are not happy at present. Surely this is a case where no-one on the other side can claim that there has been an undue influence of a white adviser. It is a handy device to use sometimes if one wants to knock an argument to say that the white advisor is the one who has made up this claim and put it forward. I think that here, if in no other area, it will be accepted on both sides of this chamber that the Aboriginal people do know which land belongs to them and which land belongs to other people. Perhaps we may have to look at the requirements of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. We may need to look at the method of questioning that is being used by Mr Justice Toohey and by his staff. We may need to look at the modus operandi of the hearings to see whether they are appropriate to establish the correct ownership.
It seems to me that this particular report is a vital one because it is the first one. It is vital that in this first one we should set down satisfactory guidelines to follow later because this case will set the pattern for later hearings. The credibility of the whole operation of establishing ownership and setting up the land trusts must be established at this time. We must not leave any doubt in the minds of the Aboriginal people. I do not want people to suggest that I am simply nitpicking because Aboriginal people did not get all they asked for. That is not the thrust of my case at all. All I am saying is that we must make sure, through the machinery that we have available to us, that Aboriginal people get what they are entitled to and what is theirs.
I make no apology for my view that the Aboriginal interest should be paramount over the European interest in this situation. I see that as the purpose of the land rights legislation in relation to unalienated Crown land. If traditional ownership can be established on unalienated Crown land- we are talking about something quite distinct here- surely the land trust must follow. I cannot accept the proposition that if ownership can be established, for some strange reason the trust does not follow. I am not a lawyer but it seems to me that that would be the logical next step. The people of Borroloola and I are disturbed about the easement which has been allowed to exist across Borroloola common. The report says that this must be created for the movement of stock but it suggests rather coyly that things other than stock may be moving over the common in future. An easement one kilometre wide has been cut through the common. That obviously is for the power lines, the road and the rail lines to go through if the mining starts. Is it reasonable to the Aboriginal people to say that they can have that land excepting a bit in the middle because we are going to cut it to allow Mount Isa Mines Ltd to put through its power lines, roads and railway lines? As we have said in this place several times, surely land rights must imply the right of the Aboriginals to deny or to grant access, it must give the Aboriginals the right of discussions with the mining company to decide whether these sorts of easements will be allowed.
I intended to raise the matter of Bing Bong station but I think the matter has been covered well by Dr Everingham speaking in another place. I do not want to take more time of the Senate. I ask the Minister to have a look at the excellent arguments put forward by Dr Everingham in drawing attention to the importance of Bing Bong to the people in the area, the Anula and Mara people.
At this stage I must say I have no criticism of Mr Justice Toohey or Dr Reahy for the work that they are doing. I know that both of them are sincere and have a deep interest in the Aboriginal people and that they would want to see the right thing done. They are both keen to see that the Aboriginals get their rights. I simply suggest in looking at this report that has come to us today that since this is the first report it is the time to study the Act and to study the method of hearing claims and of taking Aboriginal evidence. The present system does not appear to be working as effectively as we hoped it might. I make the point again that the Aboriginal people are not happy. It is not a sour grapes situation. They have a sincere belief that the land to which they laid claim was their land. They have a sincere feeling that they have been done out of what is rightly theirs. To take a tenet from our own law, I suggest that in this case it is most important that justice not only be done but also be seen to be done. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 37 of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation Act 1973, 1 present the report of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation for the period July 1976 to December 1977.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Redevelopment of airways facilities at Adelaide Airport, South Australia.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Off-shore high security animal quarantine station at West Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands- review of fifth report 1973.
– I seek leave to table additional written replies received by Estimates Committee E since the Committee reported to the Senate on 1 1 May 1 978.
– I table the replies and seek leave to have them incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
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 for the text of the second reading speech to be incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Australian Rural Bank Act 1977. That Act, which received the royal assent on 10 November last year, provides the legislative framework for the establishment and operation of a rural bank. The Bill amends the legislation in two respects. The first is to change the name of the new institution from ‘Australian Rural Bank’ to ‘Primary Industry Bank of Australia’. This is the effect of clauses 3 through 7 and 9 and 10 of the Bill. The Government has decided to propose a change in the name in the light of the view of the New South Wales Government authorities that the name at present provided for could be confused with or mistaken for that of the Rural Bank of New South Wales which has become widely known throughout that State simply as the Rural Bank’. A somewhat similar position applies with respect to the Rural and Industries Bank of Western Australia.
The second change is effected by clause 8 of the Bill, which amends section 7 of the Act. That section at present provides that the Commonwealth may make grants or loans to the Bank on terms and conditions determined by the Treasurer. The amendment retains the power for the Treasurer to determine the terms and conditions of any financial assistance provided by the Commonwealth, but in addition requires the terms and conditions to be agreed with the Bank. The requirement for agreement by the Bank is consistent with comparable provisions in the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959, the Reserve Bank Act 1959 and the Banks (Housing Loans) Act 1974 and is also consistent with the cooperative nature of the whole venture. I should reassure honourable senators that there is no change in the objectives which the new Bank is intended to achieve.
Since the legislation came into effect last year work has been proceeding as rapidly as possible towards establishment of the Bank. I refer to such matters as the drafting of the memorandum and articles of association of the company, the location of premises, the purchase of facilities and equipment, the establishment of accounting systems, the selection of personnel and so on. I record the Government’s appreciation of the energetic way in which these and associated matters have been pursued by the representatives of the major trading banks. Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1977-78, which is at present before the Senate, provides for the appropriation of an amount of $625,000 to finance the Commonwealth equity contribution to the Bank authorised by section 6 of the Act. This is based on a total initial capital for the Bank of $5,625,000 to be contributed in nine equal amounts by each of the seven major trading banks, the State banks together and the Commonwealth.
It is proposed also that representatives of each of the seven major trading banks and one representative of the State banks be nominated as directors of the Bank’s board. In addition, under the terms of the Act itself, there is provision for the Treasurer to designate a chairman, a Commonwealth Government representative and two primary producer representatives. The Treasurer has announced the appointment of Mr Walter Ives, C.B.E. as the first chairman of the Bank’s board. He will be announcing the names of the other Government-designated directors as soon as practicable.
The Senate will appreciate that aspects of the Bank’s operations- its leading policies, interest rates and so on- will not be determined until after the board has been established and relevant consultations have been held with the Commonwealth. The precise range and types of lenders, in addition to the participating banks, to be granted access to the refinancing facilities of the Bank have also not yet been determined but I re-affirm that it is the Government’s intention that there be wide participation. In particular, it is envisaged that the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia will be able to refinance loans to primary producers through the new Bank.
Considerable work remains to be done, and there are various formalities under the Act and in connection with the registration of the company that can only be completed when the legislation that I am now proposing comes into effect. I am not in a position to be precise as to timing, but I expect the Bank to be established around midyear, with lending operations necessarily commencing a little after establishment. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Walsh) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 26 May.
Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978
– Prior to the adjournment of the Senate on Friday last, I moved an amendment. On reflection and closer examination, the amendment is in fact redundant because it is consequential to an earlier amendment unsuccessfully moved by the Opposition. Although I have formally moved the amendment, the Opposition will not be pressing this amendment to a division. The purposes of the amendment were, firstly, to require that before the GovernorGeneral made any orders pertaining to the mining or milling of uranium there would have to be a public inquiry and, secondly that the findings of that public inquiry would have to be reported to the Minister administering the Environment Protection Act of 1974 prior to any such order becoming operative. That was the purpose behind this amendment, which was consequential upon the much wider amendment unsuccessfully moved by the Opposition on Friday.
– If I heard his comments correctly, Senator Walsh indicated that he would accept that the amendment now is redundant in view of the fact that the previous amendment was defeated. In any case, the Government opposes the Opposition’s amendment.
– That is correct. It is just that I am already on record as having moved the amendment. I leave it to you, Mr Chairman, to decide what to do.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 1 1.
– I move:
Proposed sub-section (10) subsequently will be the subject of an amendment moved by the Government, but as this clause now stands this amendment is purely a procedural matter.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move:
The amendment is in terms of the supporting statements that I made last week to the Senate during the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I commend it to the Committee.
– The Opposition will oppose this clause and oppose it very strongly. We will press it to a division of the Committee. There was considerable discussion about this matter at the beginning of the Committee debate. Essentially, this clause grants to any State the power to veto within that State codes of practice that the Commonwealth may lay down for the mining or milling of uranium. The Government, having failed initially either to consult the States or to secure a uniform code of practice; having been rebuked by, among others, Sir Charles Court for attempting to legislate in a pre-emptive way; having failed to secure agreement; having abandoned its attempt to legislate in a pre-emptive way, is now proposing to abdicate completely from its responsibilities in this area. In effect, the Government is saying that there will be no codes relating to the mining or milling of uranium, no minimum standards of safety or environmental protection, unless the State governments impose them or unless the State governments agree.
There will still be provision for the Commonwealth to issue orders pertaining to these matters, but effectively, although this is not the way the clause is worded, all the State governments will be granted the power of veto. The Opposition believes this is an unacceptable abdication by the Government of responsibility for this most important matter.
– What Senator Walsh has presented is not the meaning or the intention of the Bill or the way in which it will work. All honourable senators know that the whole thrust of the Labor Senate Opposition’s argument in the earlier weeks of the debate on the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill was that the Government had been recreant in not consulting the States and that it was imperative that the States should be consulted fully and their views sought and understood, presumably so that a consensus could be reached. Why the imperative of seeking consultation with the States, unless it is important that the intentions of the States be given some recognition? If the Government has sinned it is because we have done exactly what the Opposition asked that we do.
I think there is a total misunderstanding. The fact is that this Bill arranges that the Government shall seek to work with the States to produce a code of practice that is acceptable. I have pointed out to the Senate that all the States at this moment have to some greater or lesser degree a code of practice regarding the handling of fissionable material, the handling of uranium and its products. The question therefore is to have devised an optimum code so that there can be a consensus, the aim being to get supplementary legislation where possible. It is no good using emotive words such as abdication. The Opposition itself has indicated that there is without any doubt some lack of assurance throughout Australia regarding the constitutional heads of power as to the Government’s capacity to enforce totally its laws. Rather than have a law challenged and even weakened in that regard, the aim is that we should work together as a team to get a result and to press to get the result to the optimum of the code.
I point out that some States may have a code even higher than the Commonwealth’s, others may not have reached that point, and there will be pressure for them to do so. I should also point out that the Commonwealth Government, quite apart from its consensus capacities, which were urged, has reserve powers to persuade. I have no doubt in the world that the Commonwealth Government would insist, if it were necessary so to insist, that throughout Australia the highest standards be observed. It is impertinence to believe that a Commonwealth government would have all knowledge, all wisdom, and would be the only government that was solicitous of the health and security of its people.
– Not at all. The Commonwealth Government has powers to do all sorts of things. It is not an impertinence.
-I am always delighted when Senator Button gives me a constitutional lecture. Lesser lawyers than he have doubts. Let him rely on the absolute security of his vast ignorance on constitutional law because I am sure that that is a comfortable thing, and I say that happily in this debate. I point out that lots of people and lots of lawyers have doubts about the whole range of the heads of power. Let me test this. Does the Opposition say that the Dunstan State Labor Government has not got the same desire to protect its people or to have the highest standards? Is that what the Opposition is saying? Does it say that about the Lowe State Government in Tasmania or the Wran State Government in New South Wales? What is it saying?
A week or two ago the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) said that the great sin of this Government in relation to the nuclear codes is that it has not consulted, it has not got a consensus, and that is what it should get. That is precisely what we are doing now. What this Government says is that it will have this discussion, it will get this consensus, and if there is need for further action, the Government has the capacity for further action. That is what the Opposition asked us to do. It has done a double somersault in midstream. No doubt it will now chide us for doing what it asked us to do.
– I think that the whole matter has been presented quite wrongly. The Opposition’s attitude was not as the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has outlined. In the beginning we were looking for a uniform code. According to the way the Minister has presented the case, it appears that the uniform code for the Commonwealth will be the lowest common denominator. Never mind which State has the highest code and which the lowest, the Commonwealth will have the lowest uniform code if it is going to choose the lowest common denominator and say that that is the code that is going to run nicely and evenly all the way through. That is the Opposition ‘s objection. There can be no such thing as a proper uniform code while the Government chooses the lowest common denominator to represent that code.
– The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) referred to my earlier comments about dealing with the States. Will the Minister tell the Committee what the Federal Government’s procedures were last year? If the Minister believes that Mr Dunstan and the other State Premiers all want to see the best possible safeguards for the health of the citizens of their States, and I accept that, why did not the Federal Government listen to the States last year? Why was it that the States were faced with a fait accompli about what the Government felt this legislation ought to be? A draft document was brought down and the State officials were given four days notice of the briefing on what the document was all about. It was not until the States objected to the procedures that had been followed by the Federal Government that this Government was even prepared to reconsider it.
I suggest to the Minister that it is an impertinence for him to come into this chamber and accuse the Opposition of changing the argument it had put during the whole of the debate. We have never at any time suggested that the States be given a blank cheque to institute whatever nuclear codes they want. We said at the start, and this has been reinforced by the Minister’s own arguments, that if the States and the Commonwealth had sat down together last year and the Commonwealth had been prepared to listen to the States, none of this would have happened. The real reason why the Government is caught in the bind that it is in now, and has been in over the past two or three weeks, is simply that it refused to have any genuine consultation with the States.
– I have just one or two quick comments to make because I think we are all keen to finish consideration of this Bill. First of all, in no way could anything that I have said given Senator Mcintosh reason to say that the Commonwealth Government would choose the lowest common denominator. The very opposite was said by me. I said that we would choose a code which was the optimum. If anyone can draw the conclusion that the optimum- that is, the best choice- is the lowest common denominator, then I will renounce my gaelic ancestry. Indeed, Senator Mcintosh tempts me strongly so to do. He often tempts me so to do by example. If confession is good for the soul, I think it is true that the Government realises that it would have been better had we had more consultation fully with the States prior to the introduction of the original Bill. Indeed, we recognised that by postponing consideration of the Bill and having the consultation. In fact, what we had misunderstood was that the consultation would be on the codes and not on the legislation. The honourable senator will recall- I incorporated the letter of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in Hansard- that in fact that was the purport of it in August. It is true that upon mature reflection it would have been better had the legislative instrument been the subject of full discussion, and I confess that that should have been so. We realise that.
– We accept that, but you come in here and say that it is an impertinence on our part.
– No, what I said was that the impertinence was that, having said before that there should have been the fullest consultation so as to get the ideas of what the States wanted and no doubt to give effect to that- one would not have consultation otherwise- the Opposition now says that we are wrong in seeking so to do. The Commonwealth Government has set, in terms of its nuclear codes, the highest standards in the world. We propose so to do, and we propose to see that throughout Australia the safeguards for the health, safety and welfare of Australians will be the highest in the world.
– I want to reply briefly to the first contribution, and not the one he has just finished, which Senator Carrick made in the consideration of this amendment. On the question what the clause means or what the words mean, I sought unequivocal clarification from Senator Carrick on this matter last Friday, and I might add that I was unsuccessful. The proposed new clause reads:
Regulations shall not be made in pursuance of sub-section (1)or(2)–
That is, codes of practice- for carrying out or giving effect to, or for securing the observance of, a code of practice in a State -
This is the crucial part- unless the Governor of the State has requested the Governor-General to make regulations for carrying out or giving effect to . . .
Suerly if words mean anything, that means that there will be no code of practice which is not requested by a State Governor, for which we can read ‘a State government’. If that does not mean- I invite Senator Carrick to correct me but I fail to see how it can possibly mean anything else- that it grants the States effectively the power of veto, I do not know what it means. It grants them the power of veto in advance, so to speak, in that no Commonwealth regulations will be made concerning codes of practice unless they have been requested by the States.
Senator Carrick made a couple of other comments which interested me in his first contribution in the consideration of this amendment. If I heard him correctly, he said that the Australian Government has other reserve powers to persuade the States as to the types of codes of practice or the codes of practice they should request. I assume- if I am wrong, again I hope Senator Carrick will correct me- that one of those reserve powers he had in mind was the power of the Commonwealth to grant or to withhold an export licence. If he envisages a situation in which that Commonwealth power will be exercised to persuade- I think ‘coerce’ would be a more appropriate verb to use in the circumstancesa State into requesting the codes of practice which the Commonwealth wants, then I suggest that it would be much better if the legislation dealing with the codes of practice covered that situation instead of using the reserve powers, or what Senator Carrick called the reserve powers, of the Commonwealth over export trade, to discipline the States.
But apart from that, on the question of whether the codes of practice ought to be more clearly written into the Act which purports to establish codes of practice, at least while the present Government or a government of similar persuasion is in office, one must have serious doubts as to whether that Government in fact would use those reserve powers over exports or whatever it was that Senator Carrick had in mind. We have seen in the last few weeks that the Commonwealth Government has not only a constitutional right, as it has in relation to the granting of export licences, but also a constitutional duty and obligation to make laws with respect to Aborigines. We have seen that whenever a couple of Ministers in the Queensland Government shake their fists at the Fraser
Government in Canberra, the Fraser Government goes to water. Given that very recent precedent, one would not have to be unduly suspicious to fear that if the Queensland Government does something similar with respect to codes of practice for the mining and milling of uranium, this Government will likewise go to water. We maintain our very strong opposition to the proposed amendment.
-During the second reading debate on this legislation I contented myself with a brief rejection of the Labor Opposition’s amendment which was to give superiority to the States over the Commonwealth in the administration of nuclear energy. I pointed out that the Commonwealth had not given any indication of where it thought its source of power was located. I pointed out also how in the report of Mr Justice Fox filled me with amazement because of the absolute bareness of reference to that matter. I have not yet been afforded with any supplement to that knowledge in relation to where the Commonwealth gets its power. Therefore we are confronted now not with the mixture that we had in the Bill dealing with regulation-making powers implementing the code but a straight out unvarnished proposition contained in this amendment which seeks to substitute a new sub-clause ( 10) of the following terms:
Regulations shall not be made in pursuance of sub-section (1) or (2) for carrying out or giving effect to … a code of practice . . . unless the Governor of the State has requested the Governor-General to make regulations . . in the State.
To my way of thinking, that is a complete abnegation of responsibility. If we are to have a uranium industry, I think the Commonwealth has a direct and almost exclusive- if not exclusive, predominant- responsibility to ensure that there are proper codes of practice and proper laws. I pass by the distinction between Acts and regulations at the moment, but there should be proper laws, irrespective of the consent of any State. For my part, I indicate briefly how amazed I am with the proposition contained in this amendment. Of course I will vote against it.
-In the second reading debate I likewise expressed concern about the dubious constitutional power and the fact that that matter had not been resolved. I do not go as far as Senator Wright in this, but it seems that we have moved from a situation in which we were going to repose certain powers into a situation, following objections by the States- I think many of their objections were sound- in which the States now have a veto.
There will be no regulations applying to a State unless the State government agrees. I wonder why the Government is not making some effort to reach agreement with the State with regard to the power so that there might be agreed power and the Commonwealth and the State can work these aspects out together rather than the present situation where the matter is being left to complete veto by the State, in which case there will be no power, no restriction and no codes at all unless the State agrees. I am concerned about this provision too, although I shall not vote against the amendment. I expect some explanation why the Government has moved from one situation to another and how it finds this an adequate way of providing suitable codes.
– It is quite obvious that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) is not going to answer either Senator Wright or Senator Missen, who have asked for some explanation, because, if I had not risen to speak, Mr Chairman, you would have put the question and it would have passed. I was interested to hear the Minister say, in the first instance, when we commenced this debate this afternoon, that there had been consultation. I remember him telling the chamber last week that the most recent consultation had been only among heads of departments and not among government Ministers. Of course, heads of departments cannot commit a State government to any decision; they can only report back to their Ministers. I remind the Minister of the telex message from the South Australian Acting Premier, Mr Corcoran, which I read into Hansard last week. In that telex message Mr Corcoran said that he was not happy that sufficient consultation had been held. In fact, even the Minister said a few moments ago that he was not happy. He said that there should have been more consultation before the Government introduced this legislation. What is the immediate hurry in going on with this? Why can the Government not go back and have this consultation? I remind the Senate of the second last paragraph of Mr Corcoran ‘s telex which he sent to South Australian senators. Referring to the two Bills we are now debating, he said:
In view of the importance of these issues to South Australia, I earnestly seek your assistance in ensuring that this legislation is not passed until the fullest of consultations have been held with the States.
The Acting Premier of South Australia at that time said, by way of a telex message to all South Australian senators, that the South Australian Government was not satisfied that there had been sufficient consultation. Just a few moments ago the Minister admitted that there was not sufficient consultation before the Government introduced this legislation. We are being asked to pass an amendment under which, as Senator Missen rightfully pointed out, there will be no real, proper code of practice unless, as the amendment states:
We are trying to ascertain the state of play if the Governor of a State does not make such a request in respect of codes of practice to the Governor-General. In such an event that State would have no code of practice. In the famous kit of documents on nuclear safeguards which the Government put out in its thousands- I referred to this last week and I shall have to refer to it again- it made great play of the sanctions which it could enact if a country which was buying uranium from Australia were to fail to comply with the safeguard obligations. The Government listed a number of sanctions which would apply. How do they stand in view of the fact that, as Senator Mcintosh pointed out, the code of practice which the Government wishes to adopt could be the lowest common denominator? The Government has said that it will be the optimum in codes of practice.
What guarantee have we that Mr Petersen will insist on any safeguards in his mad rush to obtain dollars for his State and to mine this material, about which we are not happy? What guarantee have we that Mr Court, in conjunction with Lang Hancock, will insist on safeguards? As I said last week, Lang Hancock has gone very close to saying that there is no danger at all in mining uranium. He stopped short of saying that he would be prepared to eat the stuff. I ask the Minister: When we are faced with situations such as those, where do we in this Parliament stand? I remind the Senate again that the Government’s amendment states that we will not have a code of practice in a State unless:
We want an answer to that question from the Minister. I hope that he can give some explanation of the controversy which now exists in this chamber, not only with Opposition honourable senators but also to honourable senators who support the Government.
– I shall be very brief. Two weeks ago the Opposition said that we should not force measures on the States. Now that we are consulting with the States, the Opposition is saying that this is wrong. Opposition senators are saying that we have not consulted enough. We have indicated that there will be continuous consultation. I remind honourable senators of what I said last week when I foreshadowed the amendments I proposed to move to this Bill. I quote from the final paragraph of what I said about the Government’s intentions:
These amendments should not be seen as a weakening of the Government’s resolve to achieve, in co-operation with the States, effective and uniform regulation and control of nuclear activities insofar as those activities affect the health, safety and environment of Australians. The Government will keep the matter under review to ensure that uniform regulation is achieved by this mechanism. As a national government we accept our responsibilities in the area of nuclear activity both at home and abroad and look forward to the assistance and co-operation of the States in discharging these responsibilities.
Here is a clear indication of the intention of the Government to ensure that we will gain optimum health and safety codes and not minimal ones.
-It is becoming patently obvious that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) takes our point that, until all the States have accepted a code, we will not have a code. One cannot help wondering: Why the haste. I have a copy of a teleprinter mesage from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to all State Premiers which perhaps provides some clue. In part, the teleprinter message reads:
The proposed amendments also provide a firm legal basis for the application of safeguards within Australia in accordance with our international obligations.
Presumably the phrase ‘our international obligations’ means that there has to be a code of safeguards which will apply all over Australia. It seems to me that all we are doing is putting up some sort of smokescreen. As the Minister said, we could put up a code of the highest possible standards. I agree with him. We could, indeed, put up for acceptance in this Parliament a code of the highest possible standards, but there would be no substance to that code- there would be no substance behind that facade- until each State accepted the code. What we want to know- what we have been asking- is: Why the rush? If the Government seriously means what it says when it claims that it wants the highest possible code of safeguards, I say that it has to wait until it has consulted with all the States, until the highest possible denominator has been achieved, and until all the States agree and then we can say internationally that we have a code of safeguards. I think that out international friends- the people who are looking to us to stand up to our obligations- might be interested in knowing that we are putting through a Bill which will not really provide any code of safeguards in Australia.
– I remind the Opposition what it proposed to do under its first amendment. It proposed to say: ‘There shall be no code of practice at all until every State and the Commonwealth are totally in agreement about the code of practice’. In other words, the Opposition wanted a situation in which there might never be a code of practice. The linchpin of the Opposition’s proposed amendments to this Bill was that we should not have a code of practice at all until every State and the Commonwealth agree. That is recorded in Hansard. That was its goal, but its goal was disaster- that we would never have a code at all. At least the Commonwealth is adopting a proposition that a code will be devised and made available by co-operation with the States. Senator Melzer shakes her head. For two weeks she and others urged that there should be co-operation to devise this code. What we are trying to do now is to have each State amend its legislation, where necessary, so that any possible defect in the constitutional power of this country can be removed. This is being done so that there cannot be chinks in the armour and so that we will have a continuing and rising code of practice rather than the alternative proposition put forward by the Australian Labor Party, which is that there should be no code at all if there is disagreement on the part of one State.
– The longer this debate continues, the more I am concerned about the Government’s true position. Two specific points were put to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) by Senator McLaren. Neither of them has been answered. I believe that they are unanswerable in the terms of the amendments that the Government has moved now. I think that Senator Carrick is acknowledging that by the fact that he is not attempting to answer those points. Consequently, we now find the proposition being put by the Minister that the acceptance of the amendment moved by the Opposition at the second reading stage would have meant that there was no nuclear code at all. I hope that the Minister is not putting forward that proposition as a serious one. I submit that he is putting it forward as a smokescreen because of the difficulties that have now arisen for him, not only from the points made by Senator McLaren but also from those made by Senator Wright and Senator Missen, who sit on the Minister’s side of the chamber. I do not know how the Minister can get out of this position, but I can assure him that we want an answer. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber want an answer but the longer this debate proceeds the more honourable senators opposite also will seek to know the correct position and will want to know what the Government is going to do. I am quite sure that Senator McLaren will be able to pursue the matters that he has raised. The Minister said earlier this afternoon in this debate that he believed the States wanted a proper code. If he believes that, why was the Government not prepared to consult with the States earlier? He has conceded- I accept this-that the Government was in error last year in that it did not consult properly with the States. Presumably he believes that if the States want proper code and proper health safeguards in the nuclear development program they can still have them. I come back to Senator McLaren’s point, which is the key point. Is not the Minister now saying that unless the States make a submission or the Governor of a State makes a submission or a request to the Governor-General, there need not be any code at all? Surely that is the critical point.
– In that State.
-That is right, in that State. That is a matter which the Government should answer. I give Senator Wright full marks for his speech in the second reading debate, although I did not agree with his attitude of virtually ruling out the States. He said this afternoon that the Commonwealth should have prominent but not exclusive power. I think that is what he said.
– No. I said if not exclusive power, then the predominant power.
– I am sorry, ‘predominant’ was the word used by the honourable senator. The attitude adopted last week by the honourable senator in the second reading debate was one that virtually would give the Commonwealth an overriding power. It has become a matter of degree, but the Government now has moved into a position in which it is not only giving the States exclusive power but also giving every individual State an exclusive power to go it alone. It is beyond me how the national Government can accept that as a responsible approach to the adoption of nuclear codes for the development of the nuclear industry. It is a matter we are entitled to know about before the legislation is passed.
– I will be very happy to answer the points made by Senator Wriedt. Firstly, I would like to clarify what I said about the first amendment that Senator Walsh moved on behalf of the Oppostion on 26 May 1978 which states:
At the end of the clause, add- except that clauses 1 1 and 13 shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation; which date shall be after the Commonwealth and the States have further consulted and reached agreement on a uniform code’.
Without the reaching of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States on a nuclear code, those clauses cannot be activated. That is the alternative solution of the Australian Labor Party. It is clear in a total and unqualified way that that is what the Opposition is seeking to do. I now address myself to the situation before the committee. Of course a State could say that it did not want this done. But, first of all, that would have to be done in the light of the fact that the electorate could judge it to be irresponsible. More importantly, the Commonwealth itself has, beyond its consultative abilities, reserve powers to act in a number of ways if necessary if it can be shown in this country that there is any need to act. Let us get this matter straight. Why did the Opposition want full consultation and in depth consultation with the States other than that it believed that what the States might say would contain such inherent wisdom as to draw attention to the things that one wanted to observe and to undertake? If that were not so, why consult? We have done that. The Commonwealth has stated without qualification that if, after keeping this matter under review, it is found that any weakness exists, it will take action to remove that weakness. We cannot be plainer that that. I commend the amendment to the Committee.
- Senator Carrick has thrown this question at the Opposition: Why do we want consultation? One of the reasons why we want consultation is that before this Bill is enacted we would like to know something about what it means. We would like to know what code of practice is likely to be implemented. We tried to obtain consultation between the Commonwealth and the States so that the Commonwealth Government could put before this Parliament firm propositions for a particular code of practice. Given that the Government has failed to do that, it is now asking the Committee to pass a Bill which, in effect, gives the Government an open cheque. We do not know what will be done. Whatever limited knowledge or intuitive grasp we have of these matters is subject to the whim and the caprice of any one of six State governments vetoing in advance any code of practice which the Commonwealth Government might want to implement by regulation anyway.
I return to another point which I have raised before. Senator Carrick did not respond to it at that time. He has mentioned again the reserve power which the Commonwealth Government can use to persuade- I think that was his euphemism but I think that ‘coerce’ would be a more appropriate word- the State governments to apply a code of practice which would meet with the approval of the Commonwealth Government. I ask specifically: What reserve powers does the Minister have in mind? Does he envisage withholding the granting of export licences to a State that does not request what is considered to be a satisfactory code of practice? If not, what does he have in mind?
– I respond to Senator Walsh’s remarks by simply drawing his attention to the various pieces of legislation that have gone out of their way to indicate some five or six heads of power upon which the Commonwealth has relied for its uranium legislation. That would be a resource store from which, no doubt, the lawyers would advise us which particular instrument of the time we should use.
– I feel that this matter must be clarified. Is the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) forecasting the introduction of subsequent legislation if the States or any State fails to request what is considered to be a satisfactory code of practice? Is he forecasting further legislation being introduced by the Commonwealth Government under the commerce power, the defence power, or one of the other heads of power to which he has referred?
– I had some concern about the original clause in the Bill because it seemed to me that it gave the Governor-General power to make regulations or to give effect to or to secure the observance of a code of practice in a State. I understand that originally the States had six months to make some comment on the matter or to implement it. I was a little worried about the genuineness of the intention to consult with the States but this amendment, as I see it, repairs that situation to a certain degree. As far as I am concerned, the clause will come more into line with what ought to happen. So far as the nuclear codes themselves are concerned, does the Commonwealth Government envisage safeguards that comply with international standards? In fact does it also have in mind going further than the international safeguards standards in many respects?
– I me respond very briefly, firstly, to Senator Jessop. My understanding is that the Commonwealth Government aims to set standards altogether higher than other international standards. I respond to Senator Walsh ‘s question by saying that the Government at the time would use whatever actions the occasion required and upon which the Government received advice. As I said, it has an armoury from which it can draw.
– The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) still has not answered the question that I posed to him, so I am forced to speak further. In a part of his remarks he accused Opposition members of reversing the decision that we took last week. First of all he referred to the amendment that we moved to the motion that the Bills be read a second time. Our amendment was:
Leave out all the words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Bills be deferred and not proceeded with until after full and proper consultation with the States ‘.
That amendment was not accepted by the Government. Then we moved the following amendment, about which the Minister spoke a while ago:
At end of clause, add-
Except that clauses 1 1 and 13 shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation; which date shall be after the Commonwealth and the States have further consulted and reached agreement on a uniform code ‘.
What is wrong with that? The Minister for Education has said that consultation will continue after the passage of the legislation. I said in my speech at the second reading stage that that is shutting the gate after the horse has escaped. Why can we not have the consultation now? What is the real hurry to get this legislation through? Is it, as is being stated around the country, because the Government wants to get these mines in operation before the next wet season? Never mind about the safety, never mind about the codes in each of the States; its aim is to get the mines operational.
As I said in my speech at the second reading stage, once that has happened the Government will not have the intestinal fortitude to say to the mining companies: ‘The safety codes are not what we require; you must suspend operations ‘. The Government will not do that. This is why the Opposition is arguing that the Government should go back and consult with the States before it implements this legislation. That is why we are now asking that these two clauses not be proclaimed until the Government has had consultation with the States and everybody is satisfied that we have the necessary safeguards. Our words are being twisted to say that we are opposed at all costs to uranium mining. That is not so. What we want is to see that we have the necessary safeguards, that there will be no problems after we start mining this material, that everybody can be assured of that. As I said before- I do not want to repeat myself over and over again- there are hundreds of thousands of mothers in this country who are afraid of what might happen to their children and to their children’s children if we do not have the necessary safeguards. We have to have them in this country. Never mind whether other countries have them; let us have them here. Let us set a standard. The amendment moved by the Minister states:
Of course, that means the government of the State- has requested the Governor-General to make regulations for carrying out or giving effect to, or for securing the observance of. that code of practice in the State.
If States such as Western Australia and Queensland, of which we in the Opposition are very suspicious, do not have a code of practice, where do we go from there? The government or the Governor will then not be asking the Governor-General to make regulations for carrying out their code. How could they if they do not have one? I am very suspicious about whether they will have one. From all the comments made by the people in the mining industryparticularly by the leading miner in Western Australia, Mr Hancock, who is most outspoken on uranium- one realises that they could not care less about safeguards. But I care, and most of the people for whom I speak also care. They come into my office and complain. They are very worried. All we ask now is that these two clauses not be proclaimed until the Government has had further consultation with the States and has come up with a uniform safety code.
The attitude that the Government is adopting is that it does not trust the States. I am not surprised that it makes that comment after the Mornington Island and Aurukun episode. Of course the Government will not reach agreement with Mr Petersen. But the Commonwealth Goverment can make those people toe the line if it has to. In this particular instance it can hammer out a safety code with which we can all be satisfied. It should not run away from people like Petersen. Why should it run away? The Government has run away once. Let us see it stand up on this occasion and say: ‘Here is a code of practice; we will sit around the table, talk about it, reach a consensus of opinion and see if we cannot get a safety code which will be agreed to by all people in the community’. That is not asking very much. If the Government is not prepared to do that- if it is not prepared to postpone these two clausesthere is only one conclusion that the Opposition and the man in the street can draw and that is that the Government is using undue haste to get this legislation into operation in order to get those mines in the Northern Territory operational. That is the only conclusion that any of us can draw.
– I think we need to put the record straight on a whole series of things. First of all, this legislation does not itself prescribe a code of practice. Its passage, whether in haste or after due process, simply provides a mechanism- an instrument- whereby we can begin consultation with the States to form a code of practice. All the consultation in the world about this legislation would be purely about the mechanism for going about consultation; that is all. In fact, the Opposition by holding up passage of this Bill, is holding up consultation on the codes. I make that perfectly clear.
It does not become the Opposition to talk about one State, through its Governor, saying no to the Governor-General as I must remind the Opposition that its first amendment moved at the Committee stage placed a total veto in the hands of any one State, to the effect that we should not have a nuclear code at all. What the Opposition wanted to do was to impose a total veto. There is no argument at all about it; we cannot in fact have any code at all until the States and the Commonwealth have reached agreement on a uniform code. That means that any State can say no, a veto is applied and there is no code. So today if the Opposition holds up this Bill, it is advocating a veto by one State to destroy the whole code over the six States. We are in a very simple situation today. All the Government is saying is: ‘Here is a mechanism, the passage of which will allow consultation between the Commonwealth and the States’. The longer this is delayed the less consultation as such there will be. As soon as the Bill is passed, the consultation can occur, the extra legislation by the States, if necessary, can occur and we can get on with the job. What the Opposition has said is the very reverse of the truth.
– I intervene only because I was not here on Friday and did not participate in the commencement of the debate. The Minister talks about the mechanism of opening the doors of discussion but the Opposition is concerned about standards. That term is used loosely. The Finniss River project was a case in point. We were told that our standards there were 10 per cent better than North American standards, and it failed miserably. I think that Senator Carrick misunderstands the Opposition’s posture. Some States will have virtually no immediate uranium extraction; other States will have. It may be difficult to get a unanimous decision, as in the case of a jury where one or two of the jurors hold out on a particular attitude. I believe that a lot of the upheaval will be removed if it is indicated clearly that a decision will be geared in accordance with the State which stands out for the most stringent code, even if it is in a monority. Senator Melzer pointed out the catastrophe that may occur if we take short cuts. Honourable senators should have no doubts about this. Lots of people in the mining community are drooling in anticipation of a big kill. They will take any action they can to erode government control or to create short cuts.
I liken this whole situation- I do not know that the Minister will agree with the analogy- to two parties in a dispute arguing about an industrial deadlock. If the employer wants to get production going he has to make a meaningful offer. I have a horrible feeling- Senator McLaren in his own inimitable style touched on this matterthat we have not heard the real truth about the land rights dispute in which Senator Bonner has been hinting that all is not well. I respect his views. I do not want any of these discussions behind closed doors. I believe there should be an open forum in which every spokesman puts forward his views. We should know what the mining companies mean. Let me go back in history to the time when the United States bought Alaska from Russia. Years later allegations were made about how the negotiations were conducted. Of course, those negotiations did not have the dangers of uranium. I believe that if we carry on a filibuster for the next fortnight it would jerk everyone in the mining industry, including Lang Hancock, to his senses.
At the moment I have a horrible feeling that if this legislation is passed, meetings to discuss the nuclear codes will be held at the Lodge. We talk about lack of democracy in board rooms. When gatherings take place at the residence of any Prime Minister late at night surely the people and their representatives are being denied the right to know what is really happening. That is the inner fear I have. I expressed such fears to a
Senate committee chaired by Senator Davidson which was dealing with atomic energy at Rum Jungle. I was proved right, and so was Senator Keeffe. We were again proved right, when the majority said we were wrong, about the Black Mountain tower. Senator Webster has not answered a question on this matter that I asked him four days ago. These events are preliminary bouts compared with what is happening now. That is why I have no qualms whatsoever about our having another day of discussion like this one. I know in my heart that if we did, the conscience of the Australian Mining Industry Council would be pricked because of what it wants to perpetrate on the Australian people and it would give a little more in regard to the rigid codes.
– I think that Senator Mulvihill has sunk Senator McLaren without a trace. He made it quite clear that States will have differences in regard to codes. Senator Carrick has already responded on this matter. I have my fears about this clause. I made it quite clear that it may be found that in one State no agreement can be reached. That would be most unfortunate. Therefore, some other powers obviously would have to be used, as the Minister has said. The Opposition suggests that we should wait for a uniform code and not just for consultation on a uniform code. What about the whole history of the Commonwealth when it has been waiting for uniform codes in this and that area? Often the codes do not come to fruition because one State will hold out. It is wrong, at the time that we are passing a whole lot of Bills which relate to the commencement of the uranium industry in this country, for the Opposition to hold up the legislation unless a uniform code is reached by all States on environmental protection.
It will take only one State to veto the whole business. This industry would then have to proceed without a uniform code. That would be entirely irresponsible. Of course we have defeated the proposition put forward by the Opposition. The Opposition is suggesting that one State be allowed to veto the whole operation. Surely the Opposition with all the memories in the world, knows that such a course is fatal.
– Let me re-emphasise what the Minister said to members of the Opposition. This Bill merely establishes the mechanism whereby consultation can be carried out between the Commonwealth and the States to establish the nuclear codes. The South Australian Government complained that this mechanism was not clearly identified in the Bill as such. I believe the amendment satisfies that complaint to a large extent. I did not intend speaking again on this matter, but Senator Mulvihill suggested that these codes would be arranged behind closed doors.
– I said they might be. I want an open forum.
– I suggest that the honourable senator, whom I regard quite highly particularly in environmental matters, should read clause 9 of the Bill which allows for these various codes to be disallowed. The clause provides quite clearly that a copy of an order can be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the making of the order.
– And could be disallowed as to parts.
– And can be severally disallowed as well. It will give the Parliament an opportunity to exert some overriding authority in this matter.
– We have just listened to Senator Jessop telling us what clause 9 does and how this Parliament can disallow codes. That is the very thing we have been talking about. The Government amendment actually admits that in some States a code may not even exist. Perhaps Senator Jessop can explain to the Parliament how he can disallow a code that does not exist in some States. His argument is not valid. Senator Missen, when replying to Senator Mulvihill, said that Senator Mulvihill had sunk my argument. I think he misinterpreted what Senator Mulvihill had said. I listened to Senator Mulvihill very carefully. He did not say that consultations ought to be held behind closed doors. My recollection is that Senator Mulvihill said that meetings should not be held over at the Lodges in the dark hours of the night to draw up the codes. He said that discussions on codes should be held in public. I do not think that there is any need for Senator Mulvihill to throw me a lifebuoy because Senator Missen said that Senator Mulvihill had sunk me.
Despite all the words uttered this afternoon, we still have no clarification of the argument. I think we will only waste time if we continue to press the Minister for a definite answer and some clarification. We will not get any. It appears that we will have consultations on saftey codes after we pass the legislation. Such a statement is not worth anything. From the history of this Government and the record of the Queensland Government we know jolly well that once the mines are in operation safety factors will be allowed to go out the window. The companies will take no notice of them. I know that our amendment will go under. It will be sunk by weight of numbers and we have to accept this fact. At least the Opposition has placed on record its objections and fears of what is embodied in all of this legislation. Perhaps the day will come when we will be able to say to people, as Senator Mulvihill has said: ‘I told you so’. That will not save us but at least the people will know that we put up a fight in here to try to safeguard the health of the community.
– The question is that the amendments as proposed be agreed to. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
– Are we dealing firstly with the question that the words proposed to be left out be left out?
– As far as I am concerned the amendments are agreed to.
-Is a division called for?
– We would like to call for a division on the two questions simultaneously. That has been arranged.
– The question is that the amendments as proposed be agreed to.
- Mr Chairman, I understand that you were putting the first proposition- there was a call for a division anyway- to leave out sub-clause 10 and to substitute following subclauses. These are two separate questions.
– Perhaps there is some confusion. The Minister had moved that words be left out and that words be inserted. I put the motions together and asked whether the amendments proposed by the Minister be agreed to. That is the question I put.
– I was not clear on that at the time, Mr Chairman.
That the amendments (Senator Carrick’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator the Hon. T. C. Drake-Brockman, D.F.C.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 1 1, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Proposed new Part IV a.
After clause 12, insert the following new Part:
PART I Va- ENFORCEMENT AND REMEDIES 12a. In this Part, “the Court” means the Federal Court of Australia. 12b. The Court may on the application of the Minister or any other person, make such orders as it thinks necessary for or in relation to the enforcement of, or to prevent or restrain the contravention of-
-The purpose of the insertion of new Part IVa relates in a sense to a judicial and constitutional point which is simply this: Assuming the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978 is passed and proclaimed, the Commonwealth Government will be given paramount rights over the mining of uranium. The question which concerns the Opposition is the method of enforcement of those rights. Proposed new Part IVA provides for the enforcement of those rights and remedies to be available in the Federal Court of Australia. If honourable senators consult the provisions of clause 1 1 of the Bill, even as amended, they will see that they provide effectively that the States can make regulations and pass legislation on these matters. It is the Opposition’s view that if the Commonwealth has assumed power in relation to those matters it should also assume responsibility in relation to enforcement of remedies. The consequence of this provision not being inserted would be that a citizen seeking to enforce a remedy would have to do so in the State courts with the ultimate possibility of there being different interpretations from one State to another and different remedies being provided in one State or another.
I suppose one could summarise the purpose of the proposed amendment by saying that the Bill as presently drafted does not acknowledge the existence of a Federal Court of Australia and its function as a Federal court in relation to Commonwealth legislation and the enforcement of rights under Commonwealth legislation. The result of the new Part IVA being adopted would be that there would be at least the certainty of uniformity of application of Federal law in the Federal Court and that citizens would have right of redress in that court rather than having to seek any rights or remedies which they might conceive that they have under this legislation rather than having to pursue those rights or remedies in a court of a State. The amendment does not go to the fundamentals of the legislation but it is important from the Opposition’s point of view and, in a sense, we would have thought that it would have commended itself to the Government in terms of securing some degree of uniformity of remedy of rights under this legislation.
– The Government intends to oppose the amendment, which of course proposes to insert a completely new Part to permit application to the Federal Court to enforce a code or Minister’s direction under clause 1 3 and the recovery of damages. The enforcement of the codes, as provided for under the Bill, includes the making of regulations to apply the code to a State or Territory- I invite honourable senators’ attention to clause 1 1- and the imposition of penalties by the regulations for offences against the regulations, the level of penalty prescribed in clause 14 being up to $50,000 a day. In the latter case, I draw honourable senators’ attention to clause 14(3). As to the question of challenging the validity of regulations, the States or anyone else, provided they could establish standing, could challenge the constitutional validity of regulations. Section 38 of the Judiciary Act requires States to make application to the High Court. The Judiciary Act in its next section, section 39, confers jurisdiction on all the ordinary State courts within the limits of their several jurisdictions in relation to actions brought by individuals if those individuals have standing. This is the normal practice, I am advised, in relation to any Commonwealth law. On established authority, it is doubtful whether a person could challenge the formation of the Governor-General ‘s opinion as the courts would not impute bad faith on the part of the GovernorGeneral. Anyone charged with an offence against the regulations or failure to comply with an order under clause 1 3, in the court in which he was charged, could challenge their validity, for example, on the basis that they did not come within the power. This assumes their constitutionality.
The ordinary avenues of redress would be available to any person who thought that officials had acted contrary to regulations or that the regulations were oppressive. It would also be necessary for the regulations to be laid before the Parliament before approval in the normal way. The provisions do not add, detract or differ from the normal enforcement provisions, that is, by way of Federal jurisdiction vested in the State courts. The Environment Protection (Northern Territory Supreme Court) Bill 1978 will confer standing on several Commonwealth authorities. On that advice, the Government opposes the amendment.
– I notice that in the amendment moved by Senator Button provision is made for a person who suffers loss to make a claim. Is the advice of the Minister for Educaton (Senator Carrick) such that the regulation power is sufficient to make any regulations providing not only for a penalty but also for any right of action? As I read the power set out in clause 14,I see it as covering that situation. Perhaps something could be said about that.
– I must rely on my legal advisers who tell me that the regulations do not provide for rights to seek damages. If Senator Missen would like to enlarge upon that aspect, I can note it and draw the attention of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) and the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) to any suggested defect.
– If the Minister would, very good.
Proposed new Part negatived.
1 ) Where the Governor-General is satisfied that-
I am not sure that this is the most elegantly drafted amendment with which I have had occasion to deal but I think the point of the amendment is clear enough. It arises from deficiencies in the present provisions of clause 13, which require, for example, that the Governor-General be satisfied that the health or safety of persons, or the environment, is likely to be harmed by what is called a ‘situation ‘ resulting from a nuclear activity that exists in a State or Territory. Paragraph (b) of clause 13(1) and subsequent paragraphs have the same imprecision and inelegance about them which I suppose prompted this amendment.
The amendment has been moved simply to make available a wider range of opinion than merely that of the Governor-General in order to assess the so-called ‘situation’ involving the health or safety of persons. That is to say, the amendment presumably provides for the situation where citizens, law officers or other people could point to a situation existing which would attract the provisions of the clause. The Opposition finds the present clause 13 unsatisfactory in that regard because of the terminology used and the very doubtful understanding of the expression ‘Where the Governor-General is satisfied ‘, et cetera, and as those words relate to the word ‘situation’. That is the only purpose of this amendment and it is why it has been moved.
– The Government will oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition on the grounds that it would permit a legal challenge to the Governor-General’s actions; that the judicial intervention and consequent delays are unacceptable in an emergency situation; that orders are subject to the same constraints as regulations made under other Acts, that is, they must stay within the four corners of the Act; and that it also may permit the extension of the order beyond that which is contemplated by the Bill, that is, three months unless extended. This period is considered adequate for the introduction of proper legislative controls.
Before the Governor-General can make an order, he must be satisfied, firstly, that the health or safety of persons, or the environment, is likely to be harmed by a situation that results from a nuclear activity; secondly, that there are no laws of the Commonwealth or of a State that do not make provision for protecting the health or safety of persons or the environment likely to be affected by that situation; and, thirdly, that the State requests the making of the order.
The clause was included as a transitional stop-gap measure to ensure that some control was exercisable where an unforeseen hazardous situation arose that was not regulated by a Commonwealth, State or Territory law. The Governor-General would not make an order unless he was satisfied that the basis for its making had arisen. I have received advice that bad faith cannot be imputed on the part of the GovernorGeneral and that it is doubtful on the basis of established authority whether the making of the order may be challenged. However, any action or direction given by the Minister in pursuance of the order could be challenged according to ordinary principles of administrative law in any court exercising Federal jurisdiction. It could be argued that a ministerial direction went beyond the authority conferred by a clause 13 order in that, for example, the action taken was not necessary to protect health or safety or a similar matter.
The argument could be heard, for example, in a magistrates court or a court of petty sessions where a person had been charged in that court for failure to comply with an order or direction of the Minister. The State courts ‘ jurisdiction depends upon the seriousness of the offence. On those grounds the Government opposes the amendment.
– I am indebted to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) for the terminology in his advice. The amendment can perhaps be best described in the terms in which the Minister spoke. The amendment is concerned about not so much the action of a Minister or a Governor-General as about the possible inaction of a Minister or a GovernorGeneral. That is the difficulty which the amendment seeks to rectify. If I might express a personal view which is not exemplary in its loyalty the amendment, perhaps in a rather inadequate way, attempts to deal with that difficulty. I am indebted to the Minister for Education for the terminology that he used. It has enabled me to describe more specifically the purpose of the amendment than perhaps I did in my original comments.
– This part of the Bill does not appear to take account of existing and relevant State legislation and procedures. Am I correct in assuming that if the Commonwealth intervenes in any way with respect to State legislation there are no procedures for reviewing this intervention and allowing the State legislation to come into operation?
– I take advantage of this opportunity to ask the Minister what consideration has been given to a matter I raised briefly in the second reading debate. I refer to the general width of the expressions in the clause, which I think are dangerously wide and may be protected only by the powers of the Parliament to disallow regulations. I am even dubious as to the extent to which the Parliament would be able to do that. Clause 13(1) states:
Where the Governor-General is satisfied that-
) the health or safety of persons, or the environment, is likely to be harmed . . . resulting from a nuclear activity. . .
Nuclear activity is very broadly defined. If he is satisfied of that and the laws do not cover it he may, by order, authorise a Minister to give such directions and take such action as, subject to subclause (2), the Minister considers necessary to control and eliminate hazards associated with the situation. If regulations are brought in under that extraordinarily general clause, I am not sure whether we will be able to deal with them. If the Minister has considered it necessary, I cannot see how the Parliament will be able to determine what facts he has taken into consideration. The Parliament may have the power to disallow regulations but under what conditions. For example, under what conditions would the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, which operates under certain specified grounds for recommending disallowance, be able to do so? Clause 13 (1) (b) states that the
Minister may take action if he considers it necessary. That seems to be the end of it. There is no appeal against that to any other body. I suppose that the only ultimate form of appeal is disallowance by this Parliament. If the GovernorGeneral considers it necessary he may authorise a Minister to make regulations and give directions, but there is no specification as to the directions the Minister may consider necessary. The clause states merely that he may give such directions as he considers necessary to control and eliminate the hazards associated with the situation. That is extremely wide language to use in a regulation-making power,
Considering the fourth ground under which the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances sometimes recommends disallowance, it is hard to see whether a regulation goes further than it should and whether it deals with matters of substance instead of the carrying out of the law. I am not quoting exactly the words of the standard set. The fact is that there is no way in which one can determine the standards under which the Minister should operate and make determinations. I repeat the concern I expressed on the second reading debate in relation to the width of these powers and whether further consideration could be given to tidying up this clause and limiting the extent to which the Minister may make regulations.
– I am grateful for the comments of honourable senators. I will draw the attention of the Minister concerned to the comments made and concern expressed by honourable senators. I think that Senator Jessop was not aware of the next amendment proposed by the Government. This amendment will deal effectively with the situation he has described. The Government opposes the amendment moved by the Opposition.
– I move:
In commending the amendment, I advise the Committee that the very full debate in the Committee this afternoon in relation to clause
– The Opposition is opposed to the amendment, but in view of what happened during the earlier division, it does not propose to call a division on this amendment. It is very similar to the Government’s fifth amendment in that it effectively declares that the Commonwealth Government will abdicate its responsibility unless it is requested by a State Government to assume responsibility. It is perhaps marginally less objectionable in that the respective purposes of clauses 11 and 13 are somewhat different. Clause 1 1 seeks to provide for the imposition of a code of practice by regulation, although as amended by the Government. It now includes the power of veto for any State.
Clause 13 seeks to deal in a very vague way with a situation arising from nuclear activity. It is a particularly ill-defined clause. It provides for what is tantamount to a declaration of martial law by the Federal authorities. The amendment which the Government now proposes in a sense waters down the Commonwealth’s power to declare martial law. The Opposition still does not like the amendment. We believe that it is vulnerable to the same criticisms that apply to the previous amendment, that is, that it constitutes an abdication of responsibility by the Federal Government in an area where it should have responsibility. The Opposition is not happy with the initial clause either.
– I share Senator Walsh’s view. I seek some clarification of the definition of the term ‘nuclear activity’, which could cover a range of things. Reference is made in this clause to an order under sub-clause ( 1 ). I presume that it would be a specific order. Let us call it X. Towards the end there is reference to the Governor of a State requesting the Governor-General to make an order under that sub-clause. Let us assume that that order is Y. If my interpretation is correct, a situation could arise in which the Commonwealth wanted X but a State already has requested Y and, because of the way in which the clause is worded, the Commonwealth could not proceed, even though one might be talking about two different orders. Is my interpretation correct? If a State was playing hard and was seeking a way out of being involved in some directions from the Federal authorities it could interpret the clause to mean just that.
– With respect to the definition of ‘nuclear activity’, I draw Senator Wriedt ‘s attention to the definitions contained in clause 4. There is a long recital of them. My understanding is that it is plain language that the Commonwealth, as the honourable senator has said, could have in mind a particular action and the State could have in mind another action and that, under this clause, there could be an impasse. But I think it comes back to the debate we had on the previous clause. First of all, there is an assumption that State governments have as much good faith and as much good intention as the Commonwealth Government to preserve the health, safety and security of their people. In fact, often being closer to them in many activities, the requirement is even more real to the State governments and one should not underestimate the desire of the States to take action. In any case, the power of public criticism is very real indeed. If the public saw that the Commonwealth had a formula that seemed to be a better and more effective formula, such would be the coercive effect upon the States.
There are many situations. We have available to us on call the advice of expert bodies such as the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council. I think that the facts could be adjudicated fairly quickly, and my own view is that the expert advice would surface very fast and so X and Y would equate. I am sorry to be wordy, but that is how I see it. If I can put it any better by asking my advisers I will add to that.
-I am not sure whether I understood Senator Wriedt ‘s point. It may have been different from the point I am making; it may have been the same. As I read the clause, it states that the Governor-General may make an order authorising the Minister to do certain things- I take it that X is the order that is made- and then the Minister takes action or gives directions. To take an example where there are those two separate things, the GovernorGeneral may authorise a Minister to impose penalties as he thinks fit on people who dig in certain places or do certain things. The Minister then would issue some sort of document- a direction or order- which specifies the penalties and sets out that anyone who disobeys will be fined $ 1,000 or perhaps gaoled.
As I read sub-clause (6), which brings in the Acts Interpretation Act and permits the disallowance by this Parliament of these orders as though they were regulations, that would not mean that as a Parliament we could disallow any of the directions of the Minister or any action of the Minister. That is not within our compass, as I see it. It is only the orders that are made empowering the Minister to do certain things that are subject to disallowance. I would like to know whether that is the interpretation that the Minister’s advisers put on this matter. If that is the case, I think it is somewhat dangerous, and I wish the reference to orders’ in sub-clause (6) could be altered to include a reference to ‘orders or directions’, so that the directions could also be subject to disallowance by this Parliament.
– It is my underStanding that the position is as Senator Missen has stated.
– Could I suggest to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) that in the last line the phrase ‘an order’ be altered to ‘that order’? Would that not then make clear what the relationship would be between a State and the Commonwealth? Senator Missen ‘s comments related to my point but were not exactly what was in my mind. Let us assume that the Federal Government said to the New South Wales State Government: ‘We want you to dig a hole in Martin Place and bury nuclear waste there’. In the meantime, the New South Wales Government has requested an order about something else but related to that matter. Is that not a position where there would be two orders, two quite distinct things, and therefore under the clause as it is worded now that could not be done? Perhaps the position could be made clear by substituting ‘that order’ for ‘an order’ in the last line. I will not pursue this point, but if that is not the clear meaning of the clause it might be worth while the Government’s thinking about it.
– We will think about it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
I ) The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed, or necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act, and in particular-
The reason for the Opposition’s amendment, which seeks the deletion of those paragraphs of sub-clause (1), would be apparent to anyone who reads the clause. Sub-clause ( 1 ) of clause 1 4 states in part:
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act … for carrying out or giving effect to this Act, and in particular-
prohibiting the doing of an act or thing absolutely;
We have no idea what an act or a thing is. It appears to the Opposition that this is a completely open-ended clause which gives the Governor-General- the Government- power to impose any restrictions whatsoever on the behaviour of individuals. Paragraph (b), which the Opposition also seeks to delete, is related to paragraph (a). Clause 14 further states:
The Governor-General may make regulations . . .
making provision for and in relation to ensuring the confidentiality of information obtained in or in connextion with carrying out or giving effect to, or securing the observance of, a code of practice approved by . . .
That appears to draw an even heavier veil of secrecy over the operation of the nuclear mining and milling industry. The Opposition believes that it is obnoxious on those grounds. It is seriously inconsistent that within the one clause the Government proclaims its intention to impose any restrictions whatsoever on individuals and simultaneously provides for the confidentiality of information obtained in connection with the observance of a nuclear code. For similar reasons we object very strongly to paragraphs (g) and (h) of sub-clause ( 1 ) of clause 1 4.
– The Government will oppose the amendment, which cuts down the extent of the regulation-making power of the Bill and could prevent the making of regulations necessary to ensure effective implementation of the policy objectives of the Bill. I remind the Committee that the regulations are subject to disallowance by either House of Parliament and, consequently, are subject to review by the Parliament. The codes cannot require that information be kept confidential because the codes have no legal force or effect. As a quaint point, I draw attention to the fact that if one compares clause 14 relating to regulations, part of which the Opposition seeks to delete, with clause 8 relating to the code of practice, which the Committee has already passed, clause 14 refers to prohibiting the doing of an act or thing absolutely and sub-clause (3) of clause 8 makes provision for and in relationship to the prohibition of the doing of an act or thing in whole or in part. I indicate that paragraph (b) in clause 14 is paragraph (f) in clause 8 and paragraph (g) in clause 14 is paragraph (e) of clause 8. So, in point of fact, the regulations that are being sought to be deleted are part of the code of practice clause. I say that not in any strong fashion; I simply point out that these amendments are necessary. If in fact the Houses of Parliament feel so disposed they can disallow them. Therefore they are subject to thorough review. While I am on my feet I simply wish to thank honourable senators on both sides of the chamber for their help in what has been a very long debate indeed.
– I wish to raise one matter in respect of clause 14(1) (c). Clause 14 reads:
1 ) The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed, or necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act, and in particular-
The advice coming to me from the State of New South Wales is that paragraph (c) of clause 14(1) provides that regulations may be made specifying the conditions and terms on which a licence may be granted. It is suggested that the effect of that provision would be that a lease granted under the New South Wales Mining Act 1 973 could not contain conditions different from those applying to a Commonwealth licence. It is felt that this may create some difficulties in administering the Mining Act in that State. It is suggested that regulations made under these provisions could also affect the State’s planning legislation. But it has been mentioned to me that until such time as a regulation is brought down it is difficult to express any firm view on this aspect without recourse to the terms of the regulation. I mention these matters to the Minister so that he might comment on them while he has his advisers here. I can assure the Minister, who comes from the State of New South Wales, as I do, that there is quite some concern in sections of the mining industry and in the planning and environmental areas about this particular clause.
– I thank Senator Douglas McClelland for his remarks. I am advised that our worry is without ground. Indeed, I am advised that if the honourable senator were to look at clause 1 1 under which in fact we have made these provisions dependent upon the State agreeing to them he would realise that he is worrying for nothing. So that the question of licensing can be kept in mind, I point out that I am advised that the codes- that is, clause 8 (3)- and the subsequent regulations- that is, clause 14 (c)- could contain licensing provisions. It is expected that codes and therefore the licence requirements in a code would be implemented through the laws of a State or Territory. The States and Territories will be involved in the development of codes of practice. The licensing provisions in the codes must be related to ‘the health and safety of the people and the environment from the possible harmful effects associated with nuclear activities in Australia ‘. A licensing provision in codes or regulations could not in itself authorise uranium mining. The licensing provisions are intended to refer to later elements in the fuel cycle, such as upgrading operations or reactor operations. The licensing provisions in the Bill are necessary to allow the option for implementing codes of” practice by licence. The licensing provisions are consistent with overseas practice. Overriding all that is the first part of my answer.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1978 reported without amendment; Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978 reported with amendments. Reports adopted.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the Bills be now read a third time.
– I take the opportunity afforded by the motion for the third reading of these Bills to raise a couple of matters which have not been raised but which need to be emphasised. In so doing I emphasise the reason for which the Senate has debated at such great length these very important Bills. It is to the credit of the Senate, to the credit of the Opposition, and to the credit of honourable senators on the Government side that the Bills have been examined with such particularity. On the motion for the third reading I wish to introduce a factor which may not have been considered, merely, that the Atomic Energy Energy Amendment Bill clearly contravenes Article 14 (II) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations, which states:
Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the law.
I know that that matter has been canvassed during the second reading debate and also during consideration of the Bill at the Committee stages. I believe that Senator Wright and Senator Missen, as well as honourable senators on this side of the chamber, have emphasised that this is a matter which concerns them and a matter which should be considered by the Government. The fact of this contravention of an international agreement may not have been emphasised. It is one of the aspects of the Atomic Energy Act which should be noted in relation to the erosion of basic civil liberties. Section 47 of the Atomic Energy Act, which is not being amended by the current amendments and which will stand in relation to the commercial operations at Ranger, is particularly damaging in the context of the erosion of civil liberties. I shall read section 47 (a) because it is important:
On a prosecution of a person under paragraph (a) of section 44, 45, 46 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 known character as proved, it appears that he acted with intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth.
This section has applied to, I repeat, the commercial operation at the Ranger site and contravenes the basic right of innocence before proven. It is in effect, a presumption of guilt. Quite clearly, it contravenes Article 14 (II) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights which states:
Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the law.
It must be remembered that Australia signed this Covenant under the McMahon Government in 1972 and, as far as can be ascertained, the present Government intends to ratify the Covenant in the near future. Further, the use of section 44 of the Atomic Energy Act which relates to communication of restricted information with intent to prejudice defence, contravenes Articles 18, 19 and 21 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, which deal with freedom of speech and assembly. I think it is important on the motion for the third reading of these Bills to place this matter on record. The contradictions between section 44 of the Atomic Energy Act being applied to a commercial development and the Covenant are striking. On the one hand, the Covenant proclaims these basic rights of speech and freedom, whilst, on the other hand, the Atomic Energy Act as it is applied to Ranger would impose a penalty of 20 years imprisonment for a person communicating certain aspects of the Ranger development to the public.
Section 50 of the Act provides for wide powers of detention, search and arrest without warrant, which are extreme measures in relation to the development of uranium. It shows that the oftenmade comment that uranium mining will erode civil liberties, as has been made by many honourable senators, is quite accurate. Further, section 60 which applies to the application of the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act 1 947 to any works carried out by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and therefore including Ranger, effectively prevents any speechwriting or strike action in opposition to works undertaken by the Commission. The terms of section 60 of the Atomic Energy Act make it clear that the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act provisions apply to any works of the Commission without the need for the gazettal which is otherwise required by section 3 of the Act.
Finally, these objections which I raise to sections of the Atomic Energy Act which will be used in relation to uranium mining at Ranger clearly illustrate the contradictory stand on civil liberties by the Government and the use of extreme powers, which were employed in the Cold War period of the 1 940s, with respect to a commercial development in the late 1970’s. It is an inappropriate course of action for the Government to adopt, particularly as it intends to ratify the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and to introduce legislation establishing a human rights commission.
– I shall be very brief indeed. I simply say that, as Senator
Georges would know, the provisions which he has outlined have been in the Atomic Energy Act for 25 years- since 1953- and various governments have known that. I do not say that in any defensive way because I think that, now that particular aspects of the Atomic Energy Act may be used, it is a good time to reflect and to amend if necessary. I shall certainly refer the thoughts which have been outlined to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) and to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom). My Government has made it clear and my instructions are quite clear that under no circumstances will the Government use coercive powers, which in that Act are largely contained for defence purposes, for breaches of what might be an ordinary commercial undertaking.
I am grateful for the points of view which have been put forward, as I am for the whole debate on this legislation. I certainly shall invite the Ministers in another place to study the contributions which have been made by honourable senators on both sides of the chamber. I believe that uranium in many of its aspects is a bipartisan issue. I think that this chamber has done well in its journey over recent days.
– May we have a separate decision on the third reading of each of the Bills?
– The Government would be perfectly happy for us to have a separate decision on each Bill.
Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1978
That this Bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978
That this be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 May, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Today I intend to discuss a topic which should be of concern to all members of the Federal Parliament. The matter that I shall debate is one of the basic tenets of Australian democracy, namely, the freedom of the individual to offer himself for public service in the Parliament. In the course of my comments today I shall outline how, whilst this freedom theoretically exists, certain Australians find that their ability to nominate for Federal office is severely limited. Since the thirtyfirst Parliament commenced, several honourable senators have addressed themselves to the problems faced by Queensland public servants who are candidates in a Federal election. It has been outlined in this place that these public servants, after having unsuccessfully contested a place in the Federal Parliament, have difficulty in returning to their positions in the State Public Service.
Honourable senators will remember a particular case which has received attention- that of Mr Bill Wood. Mr Wood was the Australian Labor Party’s candidate for the Federal seat of Leichhardt in the 1977 election. A former member of the Queensland State Parliament, Mr Wood was teaching prior to the 1977 Federal election. He was employed by the Queensland Department of Education. Because of certain provisions of section 44 of the Commonwealth Constitution, Mr Wood was obliged to resign his position in the State Public Service prior to nominating for the seat of Leichhardt last year. I shall mention section 44 in some detail at a later stage. Honourable senators are aware that Mr Wood did not win the seat of Leichhardt. He therefore sought to resume teaching in the Queensland Department of Education. However, his application for re-appointment was refused, apparently through the direct intervention of the Queensland Premier, Mr BjelkePetersen.
It is extremely unfortunate that the case of Mr Wood has been made a public issue and that he and his family have had to be the subject of claims and counter-claims in the Press and in this Parliament. Earlier this year I deliberately said nothing about the matter publicly. I had hoped that reason would prevail and that Mr Wood ‘s problems of re-admission to the State Public Service would be resolved quietly and without any expression of bitterness. Believing that I could assist- be a mediator in what had become a delicate political issue- I discussed the matter with certain officials of the Queensland Teachers Union. They were happy for me to take the action which I proposed and I thus sought an interview with the Premier of Queensland. I intended to outline to him that Mr Wood resigned only because he was compelled to do so because of the provisions of section 44 of the Constitution. If I had been able to see him, I would have pointed out that if Mr Wood had stood for a place in the State Parliament he would not have been compelled to resign. In that case, he would have retained his position as a teacher.
I had expected, perhaps naively, that the Premier would see me. But he would not. The message was relayed back to me that he did not want to see me. Undoubtedly, he was fearful that he would not have an adequate answer to my comments. Undaunted, I tried to arrange to see the Acting Minister for Education in Queensland, Mr Newberry. Unfortunately, our schedules did not permit a meeting while Mr Newberry was Acting Minister for Education. When I realised that Mr Newberry and I would not be able to discuss the matter, I considered that my next move should be to see the Queensland Minister for Education, Mr Bird, on his return to Queensland. As soon as Mr Bird returned, however, he made inflammatory statements about Mr Wood. I realised then that reason would not prevail and reluctantly but realistically discontinued my efforts.
I will not pursue Mr Wood’s case in any further detail. I do wish to place on record, however, that I hold the view that the actions of the Queensland Premier in this whole matter should be soundly condemned by all members of this Parliament. Political leaders in Australia should do everything possible to foster the cause of democracy. Deliberately to deprive a defeated candidate of his livelihood is a slur on Australian democratic processes. Mr Wood ‘s case is not an isolated one in Queensland. It is easy, but unnecessary for me at this stage, to outline details of other cases, including my own. Given these events in Queensland, it is timely that we in the Senate pay attention to the problems faced by public servants who wish to stand for election to the Federal Parliament. Many members of this Parliament have, at some time, stressed the need for men and women of vision and ability to stand for Parliament, especially if those men and women believe that they can make a significant contribution to serving their fellow Australians.
With Parliamentary democracy under some threat in this modern age, it is of great importance that as few restrictions as possible are placed on people who desire to contest Federal elections. Yet, because of the Commonwealth Constitution, one group of people in particular are severely restricted if they wish to stand for Parliament. These are employees of the Public Service, both State and Federal. The time is long overdue for a reappraisal of the restrictions facing public servants who wish to stand for Federal Parliament. Our system of government to a large extent is based on democratic competition between political parties and candidates. Provided justice prevails, election results are accepted by both the victor and the vanquished.
As has been outlined in this chamber, justice does not prevail in the State of Queensland. Indeed, Mr Bjelke-Petersen has coined a new slogan for Labor candidates in Queensland. His slogan is: ‘If you miss out, look out’. His attitude towards public servants who stand for the Labor Party is assisted by section 44 of the Constitution. It is worth while that we look at those actual provisions of the Constitution which affect public servants who wish to stand for Federal Parliament. It is also profitable to look at the obstacles which are faced by a public servant who contests a State election. Section 44 of the Constitution provides, amongst other things, that any person who ‘holds any office or place of profit under the Crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of the revenues of the Commonwealth shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a Senator or a member of the House of Representatives’. The effect of this section is that a member of the Commonwealth or State Public Service who seeks election to the Federal Parliament must resign prior to nomination. If the public servant does not resign and is successful in the election, he runs the risk of having his place in the House of Representatives or the Senate being declared vacant.
If a Commonwealth public servant resigns to seek election and is unsuccessful, sections 47c and 82b of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922 provide that he may be re-appointed. I stress the word ‘may’. These provisions- sections 47c and 82b- state only that a person who was a public servant or a temporary public servant, and who resigned to contest an election, may be re-appointed by the Public Service Board. It is not obligatory that he be re-appointed. That is, the public servant has no automatic right of reappointment.
Despite the lack of right of re-appointment, I am not aware of a case where a Commonwealth public servant has been refused permission to rejoin the Commonwealth Public Service after contesting an election. However, let us consider what could occur if Australia had a Mr BjelkePetersen as Prime Minister. It would not be long before the Commonwealth public servant who unsuccessfully contested an election was refused re-appointment to the Public Service. It must be remembered that the public servant is obliged to resign because of the provisions of section 44 of the Constitution. This is the key to the situation in which the public servant candidate finds himself. My study of this matter leads me to conclude that it may not be possible to frame legislation to guarantee re-appointment while section 44 of the Constitution remains unchanged.
It is pertinent to examine the position of State public servants who resign to seek election to Federal Parliament. The position varies from State to State but most States have legislation, in similar terms to the Commonwealth legislation, which provides for the re-appointment of unsuccessful candidates. In Queensland, the Crown Employees Act 1958 section 3 covers the case of a Queensland public servant who resigns to contest a Federal election. But here again, the Act states that the Governor-in-Council may reappoint the person concerned to the Public Service. Again, re-appointment to the Public Service is not automatic.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was discussing section 44 of the Constitution and how it relates to public servants who are standing for election to the Federal Parliament. I was outlining the position of State public servants who resign to seek election to the Federal Parliament. I mentioned that the position varies from State to State and that most States have legislation in terms similar to the Commonwealth legislation which provides for the reappointment of unsuccessful candidates. I outlined the situation in Queensland under the Crown Employees Act.
I refer now to the relevant legislation in other States. In Tasmania it is section 3 of the Crown Servants Reinstatement Act 1970; in South
Australia it is section 44 of the Public Service Act 1967; and in Victoria it is section 49 of the Constitution Act Amendment Act 1958. There is no specific legislation in New South Wales, but the New South Wales Public Service Board procedure handbook has a provision covering reappointment. The situation in Western Australia is more complicated. Regulation 89 of the Western Australian Public Service Act Regulations 1964 provides that an officer may be granted leave of absence to conduct a State or Federal election campaign. The leave dates from the commencement of business on the working day next following the date on which nominations for candidates close. The regulation further provides that if elected the officer shall resign from the day before he becomes entitled to a member’s salary. If not elected, he must resume duty on the day after his approved leave expires. Despite the fact that this regulation is expressed to cover elections to State or Federal Parliament, I am advised that it is considered unlikely that it could in fact be applicable to Federal elections because of section 44 of the Commonwealth Constitution. The regulation does not specify any reappointment rights if an officer resigns to contest an election. Therefore, it remains uncertain whether a Western Australian public servant who resigned to contest a Federal election would be reappointed automatically.
It is important to note that the situation is quite different for public servants who wish to contest a State election. Certainly a Commonwealth public servant who wishes to seek nomination for election to a State parliament is required to resign. The requirement is not due to any constitutional provisions but rather to a general order of the Commonwealth Public Service Board. Paragraph 3/D/4 of the Board’s general orders provides that:
An officer or employee who wishes to nominate for a House of Parliament, whether Federal or State Parliament, must resign from the service before nomination. Leave of absence will not be granted to any officer or employee to enable him to campaign for election.
On the other hand a State public servant seeking election to a State Parliament is generally not required to resign. Most States have legislation, usually the Constitution Act, which disqualifies a person holding an office or place of profit under the Crown from seeking election to State Parliament. However, legislation enabling public servants to qualify as candidates without resignation has been passed in all States except South Australia. State public servants are usually granted leave to contest elections. If they are successful they are deemed to have resigned. It should be noted however that the New South
Wales legislation covers only New South Wales public servants. Presumably Commonwealth public servants and public servants of other States would still be required to resign to contest a State election in New South Wales.
In South Australia the position is not entirely clear. The Public Service Board in South Australia advises public servants who wish to nominate to resign in order to avoid the possibility of breaching section 49 of the South Australian Constitution Act 1934. If the public servant does not resign the Board is at present not prepared to grant leave for the purpose of contesting an election though there is nothing to prevent it from doing so. The Board apparently is aware of being a party to a defective declaration of eligibility for election by a public servant. If the public servant resigns and fails to be elected he may be reappointed pursuant to section 44 of the South Australian Public Service Act 1 967.
Legislative provisions require public servants to resign before seeking election to the Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory. Section 4ka of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1970 as amended by the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1974 disqualifies a person employed in the Public Service of the Territory or of the Commonwealth from being a candidate for election to the Legislative Assembly. Therefore a public servant must resign in order to contest a Legislative Assembly election. On the other hand, no restrictions apply to public servants seeking election to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. From this review it may be seen that the public servant who contests a Federal election is treated more harshly than his counterpart who contests a State election. The most salient feature in regard to State elections is that in all States except South Australia no constitutional requirements necessitate State public servants to resign to contest a State election in their own State.
I referred earlier to the Crown Employees Act of 1958 in Queensland. Section 3 provides that the Governor-in-Council may reappoint someone to the State Public Service after he or she has resigned to contest a Federal election. During the debate on the introduction of the Crown Employees Bill into the Queensland Parliament in October 1958 there was discussion about whether the Bill would be constitutional if the right of reappointment was included in its provisions. I was particularly interested to read the comments of the then Country Party Premier of Queensland, Mr Nicklin- later Sir Francis Nicklin- during the debate in question. When questioned whether reappointment would be a right or a favour Mr Nicklin replied, as reported at page 653 of the Queensland Hansard of 15 October 1958:
The Government are a fair government, and any application from any public servant who has resigned will be given very fair consideration.
It is a pity that these sentiments were not held by one of Sir Francis’s successors, Mr BjelkePetersen. If that were the case, the matter of Mr Bill Wood, to whom I referred earlier, would not have arisen. I trust that I have made it clear to both sides of the chamber that in terms of justice we must do something about the position of public servants who nominate for Federal Parliament. There seems to me to be only one course of action to take- to ask the Australian people to alter the Constitution to remove the requirement which obliges public servants to resign to contest a Federal election. Anything short of this would not be acceptable. Removal of this constitutional requirement would allow public servants the same basic freedom to nominate for political office as is enjoyed by other Australian adults. If a constitutional change is made, it may still be necessary to alter some existing legislation or regulations which unnecessarily fetter the rights of public servants to stand for election. This is a matter which may be pursued after section 44 is altered.
I do not intend to outline the specific changes that should be made to section 44. These changes may be outlined when a Bill to alter the Constitution is brought before the Parliament. It is my opinion, however, that alterations to section 44 is long overdue. I am hopeful that senators and members who are interested in this question will provide me with their comments on my suggestion of a constitutional alteration. Similarly, I am hopeful that interested parties outside this Parliament will forward their comments to me. Armed with comments from others it may be possible for me to work towards the goal of providing public servants with the same rights to offer themselves for election as are enjoyed by their fellow Australians.
– I abstain from any comment on the subject to which our attention has been addressed except to say that public servants are the servants of the public and if they want to stand for parliamentary honours they do what other people do; that is, take the risk of election. Everybody in private employment and in private occupation takes the risk of resuming ordinary life if he is defeated and not accepted. But enough of that. This Senate concerns itself altogether too much in its own constitution and its emoluments. That is where the danger to democracy lies. I am about to retire and I want to address the attention of the Parliament to retiring allowances, especially parliamentary retiring allowances.
Some will say: ‘Ah, the old fellow is turning now and going to advocate an increase ‘. Well, let us see. I suggest to you, Mr President, that Parliamentary superannuation or retiring allowances have burgeoned in recent years to a degree that they require critical revision. In the 10 years 1967 to 1977 contributions of members of Parliament have increased from $147,000 to $526,000- approximately 350 percent. In the same 10 years the payments out of the Treasury for benefits to retired members of the Parliament have burgeoned from $310,000 to $2.862m-a total increase of 900 per cent. So contributions have been increased over the period by 350 per cent, but benefits have been increased over the period by 900 per cent. In another way of looking at the matter, in the same period whereas in 1967 the proportion of the Treasury’s payout represented by members’ contributions was 58 per cent, in 1977, 10 years later, it was 18 per cent. Those figures are a stunning illustration of the way in which the emoluments of members of Parliament who have retired have been increased out of all range of increases of other sections of the community.
We remember that it was the Whitlam Government that disestablished the parliamentary retirement allowances fund and with it of course abolished any scrutiny on a periodical basis by the actuary as to the solvency of it. The position is that those responsible are letting the thing go unscrutinised because the benefits to retiring members of Parliament are out of all proportion to increases that have taken place in respect of other sections of the community. One should be forgiven for expressing oneself with a little spirit as to the enormity of that situation- a situation which will bring as sure as night the day resentment from the people who are paying taxes. When we come to another Bill which we shall deal with in this session I shall remind the Senate as to the justification for the enormous taxes at present. When one looks at the Commonwealth’s field, at least up to date one sees that retiring allowances have taken the form of periodical allowances proportioned to outgoing salary. If too generous they have to be curbed or else the contributions have to be increased. In some way members have to show that they are determined as representatives of the taxpayers to retrieve a situation of some degree of justice and not reduce in 10 years the premiums that they pay to retiring benefits from 58 per cent in 1967 to 1 8 per cent today.
Of course in the State field the position is outrageous. I have been frustrated from getting information. The degree to which public servants and public members of Parliament and others are finding confidences with regard to their own affairs and therefore precluding Parliament and the people from being told the extent to which the Treasury moneys are being ladled out to retiring members is not laudable. We should not allow this confidence, so-called, of members ‘private affairs- for instance whether a certain judge who has been in receipt of a retiring allowance for 20 years as an ex-member of parliament, at the same time as he goes on to a retiring judicial allowance of about $30,000 a year also is in receipt of a parliamentary retiring allowance of $20,000. Rather than my having to suggest that as a hypothesis it should be laid on the table and every person in the country who receives public money should make that fact known to the public as an entitlement of the public to know.
One State parliamentarian from Victoria was elected to this place after retiring from the Victorian Parliament with $2 1 1 ,000- the ex- Leader of the Labor Opposition in Victoria. On the basis that there is confidence about it, we are not told what is his position vis-a-vis his entitlement to graduate to a Commonwealth retiring allowance. But he is not the only member of a State Parliament involved. I saw news of reference in Queensland to, I think, a National Country Party member. The debate was whether or not X was entitled to $210,000 or some such figure. I have heard it referrred to that other Party members in New South Wales are drawing from $100,000 to $200,000 in lump sum payments on retirement from Parliament. This is a veneer of corruption. Somebody retorted to me the other day: ‘He is getting it by legal means’. If those benefits are achieved without proper debate and proper analysis, the people will tell us what the ‘legal means’ should be.
What I am saying is that parliaments have to revise ideas as to their entitlement to draw money that they receive from imposing taxation for the benefit of members or their dependants, whether they be State or Federal members. Why are these matters not receiving publicity? It is because the executives of the newspaper companies are now reaping a veritable harvest under section 105a and the benefits of superannuation under the Income Tax Assessment Act. There is little disposition to raise the matter because not only in the parliamentary field but also in the commercial field complete scrutiny and revision are demanded.
I continue with regard to parliamentary pensions. Stacking pensions or double benefits are matters of obvious injustice. I have instanced the possibility of a judge doing this. I find it invidious that a judge appointed from parliament and sitting on a bench receiving an independent emolument that is guaranteed by parliament to be fixed and never be reduced, should, as a retired member of parliament, at the same time enjoy a parliamentary retiring allowance of 70 per cent of a parliamentarian’s salary. I would regard that as a hideous case of exploitation of one’s position as a representative of the people and I would regard it as a denigration and an unexampled surrender of the independence of a judge who should stand by the salary fixed by parliament for his brothers as a salary that parliament will never alter except upward, as in recent times inflation has necessitated.
Not only judges but also Commonwealth Goverment appointees to diplomatic posts and other places of emolument are in that situation. If a man is entitled to the emoluments of that office and earns them, he is not in a position, in my opinion, to qualify justifiably for a retiring allowance as a member of parliament. Attention was excited in a very keen way by a proposal concerning the former Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, already by special Act of this Parliament in receipt of an ex-Governor-General ‘s salary equivalent to the retiring salary of a Chief Justiceby the way, I had the honour to contribute two vital objections to it when we voted on itbecause he had taken a notable and distinguished, and probably an epoch-making decision in the constitutional development of this country to the great satisfaction of the Australian people who registered their approval of it. Because that decision excited some interest on the part of partisan politicians it was brought up as an objection to Sir John Kerr taking the post. I approved of the criticism that he should not draw a Governor-General’s pension at the same time as drawing a diplomatic salary, but not on the grounds of partisan petty politics.
I bring that matter to the attention of the Senate because the same argument applies to lesser diplomats and lesser government appointees. When I see people taking up posts after retiring from parliament with the expectation of a parliamentary retiring allowance on top of the emoluments of that post I say that provision in this whole area must be revised. This type of exploitation of principle is simply corroding the Public
Service. It begins only as a trickle but gradually grows into a little eroding river, with public servants retiring prematurely, taking a lump sum payment or a periodical payment and then being re-appointed to their same position or to another position in the Commonwealth service, thereby increasing their emoluments, undermining the independence of the Public Service and creating a terrific injustice to their fellow workers who should be expected to be able to take up those posts on the genuine retirement of those people and thus graduate by experience to serve the public.
That matter will come up in an item in the Appropriation Bill concerning the office of Parliamentary Counsel when last year a certain person retired on a lump sum payment and Public Service superannuation, and was immediately reemployed as a consultant at $125 a day, which has now increased to $147 a day. At that time availability for four days a week was said to be sufficient but now he is being employed for five days a week.
This is an instance which the Senate Estimates Committee A has detected, but such instances are seeping through the Public Service. The whole basis of just operation is all being undermined by generous Public Service superannuation coupled with the right for lump sum payment. On leaving the Public Service, having drawn their superannuation, retired public servants should not be re-employed in the Public Service. That area of employment should be closed finally to them although they may still gain employment outside the Public Service. I would like to know the emoluments drawn by the ex-parliamentary chief counsel since his retirement. He first worked as a Labor consultant on the National Compensation Bill and the other day was appointed by this Government as a member of the Law Reform Commission after reaching the retiring age when Commonwealth service is supposed to entitle its employees to retirement and when I would think the experience of other people would be much more advantageous. Sir Alan Westerman has been appointed as Chairman of the Co-ordinating Committee of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Council. I do not know how much he will receive.
The Defence Force Retirement Benefits scheme falls into the same category. People who were disabled, for instance in France, still ail on totally and permanently incapacitated pensions of about $70 a week. We know the earning possibilities that are available to doctors, accountants and lawyers. I recall to honourable senators what Estimates Committee A was told was the appropriate fee paid by this Government to counsel acting for it- $600 a day. I will come to that matter in its due course. But if a person in the cause of his or her country went to France, became totally disabled and cannot now advocate a cause with respect to that disability, all that is paid by way of TPI pension is $70 a week. What sort of reconciliation can be made in the various sections of the community as to the equality achieved with respect to retiring allowances? If a TPI pension is not a retiring allowance, tell me what it is. But a girl employed for 1 5 years in the administration of the defence forces retirement benefits scheme can go out at about 39 or 40 years of age on a fat pension. That applies all through the Armed Services. The schemes have been graduated upwards so that people who are retiring are being provided with an absolutely secure and stable pension at a time when they are ready to go into business, that is, at about 40 or 45 years of age. For good measure, I am in receipt of the age pension which is payable to me under the stupid legislation of this country regardless of my means. I might say that while I am a representative of the people all of it is paid into a special account and every penny disbursed to charity so that the Commissioner of Taxation cannot get it back.
– You do not like him.
– No, and I do not like the Government or the Parliament being so heedless of the future of the country as to impose an absolutely unacceptable degree of taxation on the people whereby a wage earner pays 32c of every $1, for any amount he earns over $3,750. Taxation in Rome was never more hideous, except in the method by which it was levied. That brings me to the situation concerning commercial superannuation.
– Tell us about family trusts. We would like to hear about that.
-I will do so on the the appropriate occasion. I have been heard before on the question of family trusts and I will be again. I want to comment now on the subject of commercial superannuation. I recall that in 1964 the government of the day found itself incapable- I pause to absorb the full meaning of the word- of devising a proper system to encourage people to go into superannuation schemes. All sorts of matters with regard to superannuation were left to the discretion of the Commissioner of Taxation. They included the security of the fund, the sufficiency of the fund and the amount that could be deducted as a payment to the fund. Whether these matters were reasonable was fixed not by Parliament but by the Commissioner. I asked the Commissioner to explain to me how he administered the operation of superannuation funds. He sent me a memorandum consisting of some six pages of rules all of which have been formulated by him and which are very like those which legislators who have a function to formulate law and who are paid for that service write into the statute book.
The Commissioner formulates rules at his discretion. To illustrate to honourable senators how the scheme works, in 1 976 the amount deducted from the annual salary of a person receiving $20,000 was calculated to give that person a retiring allowance of $125,000. In 1976 the rate payable on an annual salary of $50,000 was calculated to provide a retiring allowance of $223,000. But in 1 977, the Commissioner of Taxation having taken into account all that he thought appropriate with regard to the indexation of the consumer price index and the various political considerations in the country, adjusted the rate and for an annual salary of $20,000 he allows a capital figure of $141,000. On an annual salary of $50,000 he allows a capital figure of $251,000. These amounts are lump sum payments from a superannuation fund and are calculated on the basis of deductions received from annual salaries. This means, as we will see when we come to consider the Income Tax Bill, that justice with regard to the impact of taxation differs between classes in the community. In this regard the Commissioner of Taxation has been able, by his own discretion, to adjust the amount received by a person on $50,000 a year from $223,000 last year to $25 1,000 this year. I know people who spend their entire lifetimes earning an equity in a little farm that is worth not more than that increment of $30,000. Therefore, I will not go out of this place without expressing my intense regret that the Parliament shrugs off its responsibility properly to fix these deductions from income tax so as to make available, at the expense of taxation system, a lump sum accrual which is in some way comparable with the general opportunities of other classes of the community.
The report of the Asprey Committee was delivered to the Whitlam Government on 31 January 1975. At page 353 the report refers to companies. The report states that deductions must be allowed by the Commissioner, whatever the amount of payment by the public company to the employee or director. In these circumstances directors choose to regard themselves as employees for this purpose. So if it is shown that as a matter of commercial expediency, and in order to establish harmonious relations between the management and staff a company has decided to pay $x to such a person- $250,000 is said not to be uncommon- or that the payment is a means of ensuring greater efficiency or a means of inducting executives to press themselves to the limit by giving them the prospect of being treated generously on their retirement, and Senator Georges and Senator Mulvihill would call that $250,000 sweat money, that amount is deductible from the company’s income. Mr Justice Asprey stated that it is difficult to prove otherwise. The report states further: the quantum of the lump-sum payment is for the company itself to determine and it must be allowed as a deduction for the full amount. Instances of amounts up to $250,000 being paid by public companies to retiring executives and deducted under section 51 ( 1 ) have been brought to the notice of the Committee.
That is not the end of it. The retiring employee then receives his superannuation payment and any other contractual payments. The report states further:
In some of these cases the executives have also received very large amounts from the companies’ superannuation funds and also under service contracts. The amounts received by the executives are reported to have been assessable only as to 5 per cent in their hands.
The Senate is going to deal later with the subject of tax evasion, but I am dealing with the inequity of superannuation retiring allowances. Where they are received from parliaments, particularly State parliaments, where they are received from the Public Service, where they are able to be stacked- under these provisions, in commerce by those within a favourably powerful position within a company- absolutely outrageous capital payments are being made to people who are simply villifying the capital system. Ordinary income earners today who declare their whole income and are taxed, at the vicious rate of 32c in the dollar on incomes up to $16,000 and at the hideous rate of 46c in the dollar on income between $16,000 and $32,000, are completely crucified in the capital system while ever these exploitative privileges persist.
I come back with special reference to that about which I am concerned because it is two weeks before my retirement. The fund for Commonwealth parliamentary members paid 58 per cent of its cost to the country in 1 967. In 1 977 it is paying 18 per cent of that cost. The benefits to the whole body of beneficiaries in that ten years have burgeoned by 900 per cent. Contributions have been increased by only 350 per cent. I say that Parliament is bound to rectify the system and show to the country that members of Parliament recognise that we are here- I will not use Pitt ‘s words ‘ to serve the country and not to plunder it’, I will use words of my own- as representatives with an obligation to restrain our natural selfishness when it comes to participating in the general moneys that our taxpayers provide under the compulsion of law that we enact.
– I want to raise this evening a matter about which I have spoken on three occasions in the last month; that is, the Commonwealth’s role in the funding of kindergartens by the States. On 4 May I raised the matter with the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) by way of a quite innocent question. On behalf of the Oakbank kindergarten in the Adelaide Hills I asked the Minister a question regarding the reduction of staff due to the reduction of Federal funding for the employment of kindergarten teachers. I did not think that that would blow up into a very big issue, but it has. I had to ask the Minister a further question on 10 May, which was a broadcast day. Because the question was asked on broadcast day and many people heard it, I had quite a few calls to my office saying that the matter I had raised was correct. I then went to the South Australian Minister for Education, Dr Hopgood, to get some information. I was astounded at the details with which he provided me, and I intended to use them in the Senate tonight. I again raised the matter with the Minister for Social Security on 1 1 May, the day after the broadcast day, and in reply the Minister stated that she had received correspondence not only from South Australia but also from several other States, each claiming anomalies in the funding given to the States. She said in part: [ 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.
At the time I raised the matter on behalf of a small kindergarten in the Adelaide Hills I did not think that I was opening a Pandora’s box. I did not realise how serious the matter was, not only in my own State of South Australia but also in other States, on the Minister’s own admission.
It is necessary to consider the history of the funding of kindergartens in Australia, and I have had drawn up a precis with which I want to acquaint the Senate tonight so that people not only in this place but outside it who read the record will know that history. In December 1972, under the Whitlam Government, the Australian Government policy announced in a pre-election speech stated that pre-school education would be made available within six years to every child.
That was a primise we made and a promise we endeavoured to keep. In February of the next year, 1973, the Australian Pre-Schools Committee was established by. the Government to recommend ways in which the policy of universal pre-school education within six years should be implemented. In December of that year, just 12 months after the election policy speech, in a national broadcast the then Prime Minister said:
We want pre-school education for every Australian child . . .
Of course we did, and we still do. In February 1974 the Government asked the Social Welfare Commission and the Priorities Review Staff to look at the development of pre-school and day care opportunities from the welfare aspect. In April of that year the interim program announced approvals primarily relating to preschools involving $ 10m. On 29 April 1974 it was announced that the Government’s election policy with respect to pre-school and child care was estimated to cost $130m in a full year. The program represented an expansion of the earlier policy and included family day care, day centres, pre-schools, play groups, out-of-school care, emergency and occasional care, toddlers’ groups and baby-sitting pools. On 6 May the Prime Minister, speaking in New South Wales, promised that pre-school education would be free for all children, that promise was reported in the Adelaide Advertiser on 7 May 1974. On 14 May the Prime Minister, speaking in Victoria, repeated his promise of free pre-school education for all children, and that statement was reported in the Adelaide News on 15 May 1974. In July the mini-Budget deferred the pre-school program for 12 months and the Budget allocation was reduced to $34m. In September of the same year the Government announced the establishment of the Children’s Commission and again raised its Budget allocation to $75m. Also in September the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, said:
By 1980 all children in Australia will have access to services designed to take care of their educational, emotional, physical, social and recreational needs.
In December of the same year the Interim Committee of the Children’s Commission announced its first approvals. All projects were approved for 100 per cent of their capital and recurrent costs. In April 1 975 the Interim Committee announced its second group of approvals of 100 per cent of recurrent costs to 31 December 1975 only. As of 1 January 1976 the government grant was to be reduced to 75 per cent of staff salary costs. In December 1975, when the present Government came into office, although there had been an election in the meantime, the Liberal-National Country Party election policy stated:
We believe that pre-school education has important social and educational functions . . .
In February 1976 a Press statement by the Minister, Senator Guilfoyle, stated: . . I would like to point out that the former Government’s policy of providing 75 per cent cost of salaries of agreed staff in pre-schools, provided they confirm that they extend and integrate their activities to cover other areas of family need, will continue.
In March of that year in a letter to Dr Hopgood, the South Australian Minister for Education, Senator Guilfoyle stated in part: . . there has been no change in this Government ‘s policy in relation to pre-schools.
On 24 May 1976 the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced cuts of $5. 8m in child care programs. The budget for 1976-77 was to be reduced to $73.3m and priority was to be given to day care projects as opposed to preschool education. The Prime Minister also announced that the Government was reviewing the then basis of the Commonwealth’s recurrent assistance for pre-school education and would renegotiate the funding formula for pre-schools with all States.
In June of the same year an announcement was made of the formation of the Office of Child Care. In correspondence to the States, the Commonwealth indicated that it wished to give greater emphasis in the future to the provision of child care for the children of needy families and that it would be necessary to renegotiate the funding base in relation to pre-school funding. So that demonstrates that there was a complete about face from what the Minister said in February of that year.
On 3 August 1976, the shadow AttorneyGeneral, Mr Bowen- of course, Mr Bowen is still shadow Attorney-General- was reported in the Advertiser as saying that he had given an undertaking to all State Ministers that the Federal Government would bear 75 per cent of the recurrent costs of the program. The States would not have entered the scheme if that commitment had not been made. I want to spell that out because Mr Bowen said that he had promised the States that 75 per cent of recurrent costs of the program would be available. I am talking about the period when the Whitlam Government was still in office. As Dr Hopgood has said to me, the States would not have entered into the scheme if this commitment had not been made. As I will point out later, that commitment has now been broken. In November 1 976 a telex message was sent from the Prime Minister to the Premier of
South Australia advising South Australia of the block grant allocation. The telex reads:
In general terms my Government favours providing preschool recurrent funds in the form of lump sum, rather than on the basis of staff salaries as at present. It has consequently been decided to make available for the six monthly period ending 30 June, 1977, a fixed sum payable quarterly.
In January 1 977 the Prime Minister, in a letter to the Premier in response to requests for indexation of the block grant, said:
This is a matter of principle . . . which would need to be looked at in that context. However I have yet to be persuaded for the need for such a general arrangement as distinct from specially argued cases relating to unavoidable and justifiable increases in costs.
That letter was written in January 1977. Also in 1977 the Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, issued a further Press release in which she said that the amount of a block grant provided for each State for the 1977-78 financial year was the same amount as was provided by the Government in its 1976-77 Budget. Despite Senator Guilfoyle ‘s denial of cuts in pre-school funding, the argument that the level of the 1977-78 block grant was the same as that of 1976- 77 does not bear out the fact that the actual contribution in 1976-77 was higher than that stated as a budgetary allocation. For South Australia it represented a cut of $552,000. On 30 July a Press report in the Advertiser referred to the fact that the pre-school contribution for 1977- 78 would remain the same as the 1976-77 allocation. This meant an effective cut of approximately 13 per cent. As a result of that Press release from the Minister, Dr Hopgood had occasion to write to the Minister. I intend to read only some of the matters he drew to the Minister’s attention. He addressed his letter to Senator Margaret Guilfoyle, Minister for Social Security, Parliament House, Canberra. His letter is dated 1 9 August. He said in part:
It is the view of my government that South Australia should receive a contribution of at least $6.9m in 1977-78 towards pre-schooling in this State, to maintain relativity of Commonwealth support (as at June 1977 prices) between 1976-77 and 1977-78.
The South Australian Minister went on to point out to the Commonwealth Minister the following:
The immediate consequences of any lesser sum- particularly the proposed payment of $5.7 1 9m, are: a reduction in real money terms (at June 1 977 prices) in Commonwealth assistance as against the preceding fiscal year failure on the part of the Commonwealth to recognise the full year cost of pre-schools approved for funding as from 1 January, 1977- indeed, the allocation proposed by the Commonwealth provides for half of those costs only and at June 1 976 prices a refusal on the part of your government to acknowledge that the proposed allocation of $5.7 19m was based on a faulty premise, when in fact the Commonwealth contributed $6.27 1 m towards 1 976-77 pre-school costs in this State.
So it can be seen that South Australia received a higher allocation in 1 976-77 than it got in the following year. Yet the Government is claiming that the block grant in fact means an allocation of funds to the State which is just as much, when, as the State Minister has pointed out, it does not. In March 1978 Senator Guilfoyle sent a letter to the State Minister for Education. She had this to say, in part:
As a consequence of the rapidly escalating subsidies that were being paid under this funding arrangement -
For example, 75 per cent of approved staff salaries, bearing in mind that that was the formula used by the Whitlam Government while it was in office- the present Government decided that as of 1 January 1977, recurrent assistance would be paid in the form of block grants to the States.
That clearly indicates that the block grant was introduced to contain the Commonwealth’s expenditure in this area. I shall read to the Senate later some of the Minister’s answers. She actually claimed that the State Government was not allocating the money in a proper manner. She even went on to say that the Victorian Government was able with its allocation to provide free preschool facilities for all children. In her letter to the State Minister for Education, Senator Guilfoyle went on to say:
As to the question of indexation of block grants to the States, the Prime Minister has stated that the block grants represent the highest practicable contribution towards the recurrent costs of pre-schools the Commonwealth is able to make. The grants are a contribution only, and are not geared to any particular index, nor is it intended that they should be.
I have here with me a small table which clearly sets out that under the present scheme devised by this Government South Australia is definitely much worse off than it was under the other scheme, despite the fact that the Minister for Social Security and the Prime Minister say that it is better off and that it should be able to work wonders with that money. The table relates to pre-school education. It shows that the Commonwealth’s contribution for 1975-76 was 72 per cent for the State of South Australia and that the State contribution was 28 per cent. In 1976-77 the Commonwealth’s contribution was 58 per cent and the State’s contribution was 42 per cent. So it can be seen that in 1976-77, which was the first year of the Fraser Government’s administration, the Commonwealth’s contribution was reduced from 72 per cent to 58 per cent and the contribution from the State of South
Australia increased from 28 per cent to 42 per cent.
For 1977-78 the estimated Commonwealth contribution is 50 per cent and the estimated State contribution is 50 per cent. So it can be seen that although the Commonwealth has reduced its contribution to the State’s funding for preschool education by 22 per cent, the contribution of the State has had to be increased by a like amount. The block grant has in fact done nothing to assist the South Australian problem in keeping our pre-schools open and in providing a facility for children to fit them to go on to primary school education. Many parents, not only in South Australia- the Minister has admitted that she has received representations from parents in other States- are really concerned, so much so that they are approaching their State instrumentalities to have this element remedied in this Budget. I quote what the Minister said in answer to my first question on this matter.
It could be that pre-school education is not receiving the emphasis in that State that many people would desire.
I think that the figures in the last table from which I quoted clearly point out that the Minister was wrong in saying this to me. South Australia had increased its funding from 28 per cent to an estimated 50 per cent for this year and the Commonwealth has reduced its contribution by 50 per cent. Those are the figures which have been given to me by the South Australian Minister for Education.
– I was referring to the fact that the South Australian Government had finished with a surplus, I believe, and that other governments had put whatever was required into pre-school education to fulfil their own programs.
– I did not think that the Minister would follow in the footsteps of Senator Carrick, and talk about a surplus. The Minister knows full well that the surplus in South Australia was achieved because of the takeover of the South Australian railways by the Commonwealth Government. I am talking about funding for pre-schools. The Minister cannot honestly say that, because we had a surplus from that particular piece of business, we have not placed high priorities on our pre-schools. I believe that the table from which I have cited figures clearly points out that the South Australian Government is now funding 50 per cent of the cost of pre-schools in South Australia, whereas prior to block grants and prior to the Minister’s Press statement, which I quoted, that the Government was not going to alter the amount provided by the Government we did not have to find so much. I shall not delay the Senate by going back over that Press statement, but in it she made the following clear and definite statement: . . 75 per cent cost of salaries of agreed staff in preschools, provided they confirm that they extend and integrate their activities to cover other areas of family need, will continue.
The Minister said that in February 1976, but now we find that the funding is not continuing. It is being cut back. The South Australian Minister was so concerned about these matters that on 3 May he had to resort to putting out a Press statement. I shall read it because it brings to a climax the matter which I have raised in this Senate. I have detailed in chronological order how the pre-school funding commenced under a Labor Government in 1972 and how it has decreased somewhat rapidly until we have now reached the stage where we are having to rationalise preschools in South Australia and are having to cut down the hours those schools for the younger children of our community are open. On 3 May this year, Dr Hopgood put out the following Press statement:
Pre-school activities in South Australia could suffer serious dislocation and a curtailment of new initiatives if the Federal Government persists with its present funding policies.
The Minister of Education Dr Don Hopgood said the Federal Government’s attitude made a mockery of its preelection funding arrangements.
Dr Hopgood said the Federal Government had put one over the States on the subject of pre-school block grant funding.
As a result the States were having to meet an increasing share of the total expenditure in the area. The State ‘s contribution to pre-school funding has jumped from 28 per cent in 1975-76 to 50 per cent in 1977-78. The Commonwealth’s share has, of course, declined by a similar amount. This has had a most undesirable effect on the ability of the State to develop other childhood services.
Dr Hopgood said: ‘In my view this about turn by the Federal Government constitutes a most unfair abdication of responsibilities which were originally initiated by the Federal Government itself.
The situation is so serious that the Childhood Services Council has been forced to contract and rationalise existing services.
Staff arrangements at some kindergartens have already been affected.
That aspect was what prompted me to raise the matter in the Senate on 4 May. The case which was drawn to my attention initially was the Oakband Kindergarten in the Adelaide Hills. The Press statement continues:
This could progress eventually to a probable retrenchment of some staff as well as the reversion of many to parttime employment.
This would be an unfortunate situation in any terms,’ Dr Hopgood said.
Dr Hopgood said that South Australia was led into committing itself to substantia] new initiatives on the faith of a promise of a continuing support of 75 per cent for salaries.
As I have pointed out, that promise was given by Mr Lionel Bowen, when we were in government and was repeated by the present Minister in February 1976. The statement continues:
My clear understanding of the block grant funding proposal was that it would not be used as a vehicle for reducing the effective amount of funding.
But this is precisely what has happened.
In March this year, the Minister for Social Security Senator Maragaret Guilfoyle in a letter to the Childhood Services Council said that: “As a consequence of the rapidly escalating subsidies that were being paid under this funding arrangement’ (i.e. 75 per cent of approved staff salaries) ‘the present Government decided that as of 1 January 1 977, recurrent assistance would be paid in the form of block grants to the States.”
Not only is the Federal Government’s attitude a breach of good faith but it will be counter-productive to the development of desired new Commonwealth initiatives because the State will not be able to pick up the increasing deficit in pre-school funding and allow itself to be led into new areas of initiative.
South Australia will not commit itself to situations which may be left for ultimate State funding because of yet another change of Commonwealth policy, ‘ Dr Hopgood said.
Dr Hopgood said that the argument put forward by Federal Ministers about the State being better off under the Federalism funding arrangements was nothing more than fraudulent because it expressly excludes any component for cost supplementation because of inflation.
There has been no recognition of cost escalation by the Federal Government since 1 July 1976.
The Federal Government is sliding away through the back door from its obligations to pre-school education.
It has a record of diminishing promises which has stripped it of any credibility, ‘ Dr Hopgood said.
Dr Hopgood said that the Federal Government’s contribution in 1977-78 was $5.7 1 9m while $6.9m was required just to maintain the effort of the previous year.
The Federal Government proposes to allocate the same level of funding for 1978-79 as it did for 1977-78.
In monetary terms the impact of the diminishing promise on the State Budget has been very severe.
On the backsliding record of the present Federal Government pre-school services in South Australia are in for a tough time.
Dr Hopgood said it will be a battle to keep services above the waterline let alone make any headway towards new initiatives.
This is the story as far as South Australia is concerned. As the Minister has admitted, apparently the same story applies in other States. They too are feeling the pinch because of the Government’s decision to renege on its election promise and a promise again made in February 1 976 by the Minister that the arrangements for funding 75 per cent of the cost of salaries and other costs which go with it would continue. As Dr Hopgood said, the States have been severely let down. Getting back to Senator Guilfoyle ‘s claim that it could be that South Australia was not placing proper emphasis on pre-school education, I have some figures on this matter. I am informed that as at 2 May South Australia had 370 kindergartens in operation, which catered for 22,220 children’s needs, including 16,000 four-year-olds, and had a staff of 1 ,059. Those figures are going to be drastically reduced unless money is made available in the coming Budget. My purpose in raising this matter in the Senate tonight is to point this out to the Minister. I hope that when she reads the record of what I have said and has another look at the representations which have been made by Dr Hopgood in South Australia she will bring strong pressure to bear on her Cabinet when it is framing the Budget and will ensure that we get a fair share of money in that Budget, whether it means that the Government has to run up a huge deficit or not. If a government cannot balance its Budget it has to run into a deficit. The education of our pre-school children is a priority. It is said today that many young people are not equipped for employment after they leave school. It has often been said that education has the most lasting effect in the first seven years of a child ‘s life. We should not curtail pre-school services in South Australia. Children need pre-school education before they go to primary school. Unfortunately, because of the hard times my parents were not able to send me to pre-school before I attended primary school. I know of the great difference between my education and the education of my children, whom I could afford to send to pre-school. Times were a little better when I reared my family, although they were not anywhere near as good as they ought to have been. I know that pre-school education gave my children a better start along the road to life. I hope that the Minister will put a strong case to the Cabinet for an increase in the funds provided in this area. I am speaking mainly in respect of South Australia now, but the children of every State in the Commonwealth ought to be given this initial start to life so that when they go to primary school they will be able to cope with the great problems that exist there.
– I would like to speak about the situation in the copper mining industry generally and at Queenstown in particular. Before I do so, I ask: What action would this Government or any other government take to secure an industry that engaged 700 employees directly or 7,000 employees directly and indirectly and supported their families, and an industry that would utilise an asset of $2,000m and produce overseas funds estimated to amount to nearly $ 1 billion? Would that government do as much for such an enterprise as the Commonwealth Government would to retain one such as exists at Mount Lyell? I have expressed previously my fondness of Queenstown, the area and its people. It is only 10 days since I was last in Queenstown, being there with Mr Ray Groom, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development.
In the debate that ensued in both Houses of the Parliament on the Tasmania Grant (Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd) Act 1977, the relevant information was missed. I will be supporting the application of subsidy funds to the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd for several reasons. I would do the same for any other enterprise that could demonstrate a situation similar to that demonstrated by the Mount Lyell company, even if its case were less conclusive than the case at Mount Lyell right now. Firstly, it is important to remember that the amount of money we are talking about is a subsidy. It is estimated at approximately $2.8m for the period which the Act is to cover. The money is repayable. From my investigations and from the information available to me, I believe that there is every reasonable prospect of repayment taking place. I would not support the subsidy proposition if I were not satisfied on that point initially. Copper mines world-wide have always suffered from fluctuating prices. An inspection of copper prices over the last 70 or 80 years will indicate the number of times they have fluctuated and the extent of those fluctuations.
Copper mining companies throughout the world historically have accumulated reserves when prices were high and lived off those reserves when prices came down again. The Mount Lyell company, over many years, built up a very strong investment portfolio for exactly that purpose. In 1970 or thereabouts it was decided that there had to be radical changes to the mine. It was decided that these reserves should be partially liquidated to pay for the new developments. Of course, the company became caught up in the rapidly spiralling prices of the early and mid- 1 970s. The work not only cost considerably more- approximately double what was intended- but also completely robbed the company of the reserves that it had. It had expected to have a nice proportion of its reserves remaining. By April 1974, before the alterations and changes were put into production, the world copper price had risen to $2,240 per tonne. By the time the inquiry was completed in November of last year the world copper price was $1,030 per tonne. Since that time- in fact, over the last two months- the price of copper has risen to $1,200 per tonne- an increase of 26 per cent in two months.
The high prices in 1 974 had totally disastrous effects on the world market in many ways. They encouraged mine operations that otherwise would have been uneconomical. They recapitalised many mines that had very little future. They created incentives to increase supplies or to use alternative materials to copper. The main alternative material was aluminium. The high prices created an over-supply situation because many countries tried to get as much copper as possible onto the market as quickly as possible. That brought about the inevitable bust or bottoming out of the cycle. As is usually the case following a major peak, there was a major trough.
When the prices reached that trough, we had a vast stockpile situation and a vast mining situation. Now the stockpile has ceased to grow. The spiral situation appears to have reversed. The London Metals Exchange recently reported a drop of 100,000 tonnes in the copper stockpile. Japan has started buying copper again and is increasing its buying. According to the Australian Miner of 15 May 1978, Japan looks like having a shortfall of between 60,000 tonnes and 100,000 tonnes of copper this year at a time when it is increasing its annual consumption at a rate of 50,000 tonnes. Zaire recently was buying in copper to try to fill the orders it could not meet in regard to its contracts. The actual trading position in copper also has changed. During the over-supply period several countries were forced to market copper as their only avenue of obtaining international currency. They drove down the price of copper and, irrespective of cost, kept on mining. They had to obtain currency. But now the situation has changed. It is believed that 80 per cent of all the copper going onto the world market is being traded at a loss at the point of production. This situation simply cannot continue. I wish to refer to what is stated in the Mining Journal of 24 February 1978 under the heading ‘Economic Truths for Zambia ‘. It states: ‘The Finance Minister estimated the 1 977 budget deficit to be approximately £102 million . . . Some suppliers have been waiting for more than 12 months for payment - . . Without financial assistance from the IMF, it is widely believed that Zambia will face major problems in meeting its external debt obligations during the current year. . . . Copper is the cornerstone of Zambia’s economy and since independence it has provided more than 90 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings and about half of government revenue. The picuture has changed dramaticlly over the last two years. The government derived no direct revenue from mining in 1977 and the position is expected to be unchanged this year. Production costs at most of the mines are now exceeding the selling price of the metal, and the country’s two major mining companies have been obliged to borrow in order to keep operating.
Finally, the article states:
Zambia’s copper production in 1977 has been estimated at 650,000 tonnes, the lowest for ten years.
That is the position in respect of Zambia. While I am dealing with that subject, the Australian Miner states:
The threat of an exodus of white technicians within the next few months hangs over the mines of Zambia’s copperbelt
That statement was made three months ago. The likelihood of the exodus from Zambia’s copperbelt is considerably greater today that it was three months ago. The pricing situation generally has been under discussion. The International Monetary Fund has informed Zambia and Zaire over the last several months that they cannot continue to finance while their pricing structures are as they are. Several countries have discussed the setting up of a proper pricing program for copper. There is nothing surer than that this will take place and that it will stabilise prices. To put this matter into perspective we have to consider that only approximately 20 per cent of the copper that is traded comes from what we might call the Western world. Eighty per cent comes from countries such as Zaire, Zambia, Chile, Peru and Papua New Guinea. The African situation at present clearly indicates just how tenuous is the grip that we have on this most important mineral. Zambia and Zaire alone put over 1 million tonnes of copper onto the world markets each year. The economic conditions which existed until the outbreak of hostilities in Zaire were so bad that it was quite questionable- now I believe that it is quite impossible- for us to presume that the skilled technicians who are required in this area will go back into these countries. It has been possible twice to get the Belgians back but I do not think that they will go back a third time.
The Australian Miner stated that even though the mines are running at a low level of output they require 5,000 skilled expatriates to keep them going. At the moment they have only 4,000. That comment is three months old. I venture to suggest that the number now is probably 2,000. There is no way that the mines can keep in production without the skilled expatriates. This puts an entirely different complexion on the entire world copper market. The reverse substitution of copper with aluminium is now quite favourable and has been for some time. Copper has started to come back into use again. Until the last week or 10 days the prices of the two minerals have been almost identical and, as I say, the uses have come back into common parity again.
I think at this stage the reorganisation and improved performance of Mt Lyell should be mentioned. Tremendous credit, the greatest possible credit, has to be given to the miners, the engineers and the management for the situation that exists there today. The improvements at the mine could not possibly have been achieved without the tremendous co-operation that has existed all round. In 1977 there were 1,100 employees at Mt Lyell. In the process of the reorganisation the figure was cut to 700. Ore production was cut by 24 per cent. It has been possible with better grades and higher recovery in spite of those big reductions to estimate a total copper recovery of an amount almost identical to that of last year. Approximately 1 7,500 tonnes of copper will be mined this year. In real terms, this has been achieved after reducing the break-even cost of mining by more than 20 per cent. That is a remarkable effort.
Mt Lyell is anything but mined out. At present there are proven reserves in excess of 30 million tonnes. The mine has operated for 85 years and never before in its history has the mine been able to claim to have reserves of anything like that amount of ore. Unofficially, I would say that the proven reserves could be trebled from the areas in which the company is mining and where it is logical to assume that the ore grades will continue. The ore grade that the company has been able to mine has improved by 25 per cent, but the 30 million tonnes, on the present basis, represent 450,000 tonnes of copper. Besides what the mine has in actually proven copper, it has the best exploration areas on the whole of the west coast. It has large areas and the company is currently working with other companies in exploration essentially for lead, zinc, copper and tin. There is excellent potential for improved additional ore reserves on the mining lease that the company is currently working. But it has not gone further on this because it believes that 30 million tonnes is enough to have in reserve without going any further.
We cannot entirely overlook the defence question and the strategic importance of copper. Mt Lyell represents a most significant reserve. The whole of the mining operation at Mt Lyell has undergone a complete change over the last five or six years from one of Australia’s great open cut mines to a totally underground operation. Almost $50m has been spent in the reorganisation of the company. As I have said before, that is nearly double the amount the company expected to spend, but even so it was not enough to complete the job. It would still take probably $10m or $12m to complete the job, but because of the financial situation the continuation of that part of the re-organisation has had to be delayed. This has prevented the company from becoming as profitable as it would like to be. It will probably take at least another two years before it can work itself into a situation of increasing its profitability.
The company has been operating underground for five or six years now and it has done this by completely retraining the miners who were traditionally from the open cut operations. It has been able to do so without importing an entirely new set of miners and this has enabled it to keep this tremendously loyal and very highly skilled group of miners together. During the last year or two the company has been trying new mining techniques and it has done very well. It has been a co-operative effort all the way through, and the company and the miners have worked together very closely. The new production techniques that the company is trying to bring into operation now have been specifically tailored to the conditions at Mount Lyell. It is expected that these improvements on which the company is currently working will further reduce the cost of production by $ 1 00 to $ 1 30 per tonne. It will take approximately two years before the company receives the full benefit of the improvements but that is its aim at this stage. Under the old system Mount Lyell was one of the most expensive copper mines in the world but now, with what the company has already achieved, the costs of mining are lower than the average for the United States of America.
I have mentioned the tremendous loyalty, stability and the co-operation of the work force. The one thing that is not generally known is that the work force is so loyal, so stable and so cooperative that the last strike at the mine was in 1911. This is an industrial position which I believe is not widely known and which I would think would be the envy of every industrial operation in Australia. The labour turnover is terrifically low by any mining company standards. Sixty per cent of all the employees have lived in Queenstown for more than 20 years. Seventyone per cent of the work force has worked for the mine for over five years and 28 per cent has worked for the company for over 20 years. Some of the recent developments on which the company has been working involve the large blast hole system which is a new development in mining. It has been tried but it has not been put into operation fully. The next stage of development will involve this large blast hole system. From now on the ore is to be removed with trucks whereas in the past it was all taken up through the shaft. The company already owns plant and equipment to the value of $3. 5m which is ready to be installed but which is not yet working.
So much for the mine itself. Queenstown is totally dependent on the Mount Lyell mine, but it is not a company town. The latest valuation figures for the town- July 1976- show that the municipality had a rated value of $24.7m. The roll showed that the mine offices and works were valued at $5. 3m and that staff housing and single men’s quarters were valued at $3.4m, a total of $8. 7m. Private houses alone were valued at $1 1.2m, private commercial buildings at $3.1m and government buildings at $ 1.6m. This means that the mine represents less than a third of the municipality’s total value. The mine certainly is the major business. The value of the properties certainly relates to the fortunes of the miners. If anything happened to the mine now the residents of Queenstown and the miners would lose far more than the mine itself. As a flow-on we must consider the tradesmen sub-contractors, the storekeepers, the service industries and so on, people who all live in Queenstown and live from the mine.
There are such enterprises as the Emu Bay Railway Company which rails the ores to Burnie; the North West Acid Pty Ltd which produces acid from pyrites; and the Burnie Marine Board whose facility depends so heavily on Mount Lyell. The North West Acid company deserves special mention. It started only in 1970. It employs 110 people. It cost approximately $14m when it was constructed. It is estimated to be responsible for a foreign exchange saving of $40m. The Burnie Marine Board depends on Mount Lyell for 20 per cent of its total throughput which is approximately $325,000 a year. If anything happened to Mount Lyell at this stage these three enterprises would be in a very difficult situation. The 700 direct employees of the company represent less than 10 per cent of the people who depend on Mount Lyell for their living. This is not just direct employees but families as well.
The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations got the Industries Assistance Commission to inquire into the effects of the long-term assistance needs for the production of copper ores and concentrates. It covered many of the points very well and shows the difficulties of trying to replace a very steady and well entrenched community. I do not think that any of us would really wish to see changes made to the lifestyle of so many of these people. Some 80 per cent of all the tradesmen who are employed in the mine have lived in Queenstown for at least 20 years. These are Queenstown people. They are not professional miners who drift from mine to mine. Queenstown is a community, the community has to be maintained until profitability and prices make it completely secure again. It has been suggested that a care and maintenance operation could be implemented. This could not work. Once the mine closed it would be gone forever; so would the people who have made the mine what it is.
I believe all the information I have provided to be totally correct and relevant. I have no reason to believe that continued economies cannot be achieved. New developments will achieve improved mining methods. I believe that the price trend, which, as I have said, was £684 on the London Metal Exchange on 12 May and £770 on 25 May, will continue to show improvement. While these items stabilise Mount Lyell ‘s position so the political situation in Africa, I believe, will continue to be less dependable and less stable. I will have no hesitation in recommending to everybody support of the Mount Lyell mine. The Mount Lyell reserves represent a national asset of at least half a billion dollars at today’s prices. A truer assessment would be probably $ 1 billion.
If Mount Lyell were to close mining would be finished forever and this huge asset would be gone. It would never be possible to capitalise a reopening of the mine. It is possible to keep it going only because of the capitalisation already there. The people are there to run it. Copper prices certainly are rising again. The signs are there. The Mount Lyell company has proved that it can adapt to the situation. I believe that the capitalisation of this $ 1 billion that we are talking about can flow through to all sections of the Australian economy again. The proposition involves people, trade and business and the Tasmanian community at large.
Queenstown is a starter community. What the mine does flows down the line to many people on the way, not least of all the Government. The multiplier effect is very clearly demonstrable. This Government also attracts many advantages on the way and the advance at present envisaged is not a reflection of the place this enterprise occupies as far as returns to the Government are concerned. The mine has a future. I will be supporting the relevant Bill when it comes into this chamber. I think it is very important that these facts be widely known. There is no better example of what employer-employee relations can do or what a company which is really trying to achieve can achieve. I cannot give too much credit to Mr Paterson and the men of the Mount Lyell mine.
– I rise tonight to participate in this debate to draw attention to the decision by the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Ellicott, to block funding for the Film Australia production The Unknown Industrial Prisoner. I draw this matter to the attention of the Senate this evening because I am concerned, the Opposition is concerned, the industry is concerned and responsible sections of the media are concerned that the Minister has made a bad decision, a decision that cannot be justified, a decision that he has not even sought to justify. The decision to block The Unknown Industrial Prisoner project has grave consequences for the Australian film industry. It has even graver consequences for the entire question of public patronage of the arts in this country.
For the benefit of honourable senators who are not familiar with the project I will inform the Senate of some of the salient facts. Film Australia, which is the film making arm of the Australian Film Commission, had set up the production for a film of the award winning Australian novel by David Ireland, The Unknown Industrial Prisoner. The script was written by Alan Seymour, author of the controversial but highly successful play The One Day of the Year. The subject of the film was to be the condition of modern industrial man. The specific environment of the film was to be that of workers in an oil plant. The novel exposes and illustrates the alienation, the dehumanising effects, of the sort of work that workers in those industries do. I believe that the content is certainly worthy of attention by Australian audiences generally.
The budget which Film Australia sought for the film totalled $550,000. This was to be broken down as follows: $425,000 was to be provided over two financial years; some $325,000 was to be provided in 1977-78 and $100,000 in 1978-79. The remaining $125,000 was to be internal costing which covered Film Australia’s facilities- cameras, mixing theatre, editing equipment and the Film Australia cast. I turn now to the employment potential of the film. Over 30 speaking parts were to be cast in the film. Crew, including laboratory personnel and musicians, would have been well in excess of 40 people. Only six of these were to have been Film Australia personnel. This means that more than 64 people would have been involved from the freelance side of the industry. Of course, the cancellation of the project has had its greatest effect in the free enterprise or private part of the industry.
A total of nine assessors read the script and made recommendations to the Australian Film Commission. Not one assessor recommended that the film not go into production. I have here a sample of favourable comments, which I shall not take the time of the Senate to read, but I shall name the people who made them because I think it is significant that they are all highly experienced, competent people in the business of film making. They are: Cyril Branley, Fred Schepisi, Peter Rose, Alan Wardrope, John McQuaid, Tim Reid, Denys Brown, Phillip Adams and Jim McElroy. At the first Australian Film Commission meeting which considered the proposal unanimous approval was given to the project. This approval was passed on to the Minister.
The Minister then asked the Australian Film Commission to reconsider the commercial viability of the film. Fred Schepisi and Jim McElroy were asked to read and assess the film script from the point of view of commercial viability. They both thought the film should proceed. I think it bears mentioning at this stage that Fred Schepisi ‘s film The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith only this last weekend has received great acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival in France. His competence is a matter of objective fact. At the full meeting of the Australian Film Commission that followed this second assessment by Fred Schepisi and Jim McElroy only one person, Graham Burke, spoke against the project. The voting at the meeting was four to one in favour of the project going ahead. Thus, with a total of nine assessors and four commissionersthat is, 13 people in favour of a project and only one against it- the Minister still found it possible to reject the project. We in the Opposition were very concerned about the Minister’s rejection and on the second of this month Dr Moss Cass in the House of Representatives asked the Minister to explain his decision. The reply the Minister gave was quite confusing and rather confused and I believe not adequate so far as his ministerial responsibility is concerned. I shall not read the Minister’s answer but he said that if Film Australia is going to make a film it should be one for which there is a special reason that Film Australia should make it instead of the private sector doing so. He said that a film should be able to achieve popular acclaim at the box office. He also said:
The Minister then went on to quote selectively from the assessments which he had before him. He in fact quoted only one, and that was the one unfavourable assessment, in order to attempt to explain his decision to the Parliament. He went on to say that the proposed film did not have what he considered to be a reasonable chance of being commercially acceptable. He stressed this and concluded by quoting from the one assessment which said that the film would not be commercially viable. The Minister’s answer raises a number of serious questions. Firstly, what are the responsibilities of the Minister for the administration of the Australian Film Commission Act? After all, the Minister is not a film maker. He cannot be expected to have expertise in these matters. But he has ministerial responsibility and he has guidance and indeed there is a requirement on him to exercise that responsibility as set out in the Australian Film Commission Act. Section 5 of the Australian Film Commission Act clearly sets out the functions of the Commission. The Minister made no reference to these functions when he sought to answer a question in the House of Representatives. Section 5 sets out the functions as follows:
subject to the approval of the Minister, to make, promote, distribute and exhibit any films and, in particular-
It seems to me and to many people who have read this Act and who have tried to understand the Minister’s answer in terms of this Act that the Minister has not addressed himself at all to section 5 of the Act. It seems to me also after a fairly careful reading of the novel The Unknown Industrial Prisoner that at least in terms of content the Film Australia project did indeed meet the criteria as set out in terms of section 5 of the Australian Film Commission Act. I believe that the subject matter of the film is a matter of national interest to Australia and that a film about modern industrial man would illustrate or interpret aspects of Australia. After all, a large proportion of the Australian work force works in situations like those depicted in the novel and the proposed film would deal with the activities of the Australian people. So at least as far as content is concerned the project should have received serious attention from the responsible Minister.
The other thing that is clear from a reading of the Act is that it is the role of the Australian Film Commission to advise the Minister not only in respect of section 5 of the Act but generally in respect of the support of Australian films. What was the view of the Australian Film Commission? I have already given the statistics of the number of assessors and film commissioners who were in favour of the project. I should like to read a few extracts from the letter dated 20 April 1 978 from the Australian Film Commission to the Minister in which it dealt with the project in great detail. I shall not read the entire letter, a reading of which makes clear that the Film Commission, after careful and proper consideration of various aspects of the project, including the aspect of commercial viability, had concluded that the project should proceed. For example, in paragraph 3 of the letter to the Minister the Commission states:
It was generally agreed that Film Australia should not make films which no one will see, and in this regard box office is a measurement of the number of people who see a film. Where films or ideas exist which by a large area of opinion seem significant and well worth making, but which by their nature would be difficult to finance in the private sector, their commercial viability of course remains a factor, but not the only factor.
Paragraph 4 states:
The Commission had before it additional statements from Mr Fred Schepisi, the Producer/Director of ‘The Devil’s Playground’ and ‘The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith’, Mr James McElroy, one of the producers of ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ and ‘The Last Wave’, Mr Peter Ross and Mr Branley provided an additional comment; . . .
The Commission was also assured that the suggestions of the assessors for certain script alterations had also been willingly accepted by the writer, and that most of these had already been included.
The Commission felt that with the impressive nature of the idea and the quality of the script it remained satisfied that the usual requirements which it has in mind in looking at the National Program were met.
The letter then goes on to deal with, and indeed to present, the one unfavourable assessment which was the assessment of Mr Graham Burke. I think the Commission very fairly placed that in its entirety before the Minister, but it concluded by stating:
The Comission. with Mr Burke voting against the proposal, decided to confirm its decision to seek your approval for the project.
The question to be asked is: Why, in view of this letter from the Australian Film Commission, in view of the overwhelming support from all but one of the competent persons who were engaged to assess the film, did the Minister decide to refuse funding? The Minister, in the answer which I quoted this evening from Hansard, said that he was taking the advice of the Australian Film Commission; but clearly he was not taking that advice because if he were taking that advice he could not have come to the decision to which he in fact came. Then the question to be asked is: What advice was he taking? If he was going outside the body which has the statutory responsibility to give the Minister advice on these matters and seeking alternative advice, what was the source of this alternative advice? The Minister does not state what it is and I think he has a responsibility to state what it is.
Why does the Minister insist in raising the straw man of commercial viability? He presents that as if it were the only criterion involved in reaching his decision; yet clearly it would be properly only one of the many criteria which have been taken into account. Ultimately it is the only reason he gives. One must ask: Does the Minister understand the Act that he is administering? Had he familiarised himself with section 5 of the Act, which sets out the functions of the Commission, before he reached the decision? Why does he not give proper reasons for his decision, as indeed he is required to do under section 8 of the Australian Film Commission Act? Of course the consequences of this decision for the industry in the short term are very grave. I have given an indication of the number of people who would have had employment as a result of the making of the film. Honourable senators will, I hope, be aware of the extremely high levelperhaps 80 per cent to 90 per cent- of unemployment in the acting industry and associated industries.
Yet the Minister proceeded with the decision which in this instance will deny 64 people employment. Since the Minister announced his decision, all major guilds and unions have expressed objections to stopping the making of the film. Telegrams and letters have been sent by the Australian Theatrical Employees Association, Actors Equity, the Musicians Union, the Australian Writers Guild, the Australian Cinema.tographers Society, the Film Editors Guild, the Producers and Directors Guild and independent producers. The Minister has not issued a reply to these telegrams and letters, apart from the unsatisfactory answer given in the Parliament. A delegation representing the industry, including delegates from some of the bodies I have just named, visited the Minister last week and asked him to reconsider his decision. But their mission was apparently quite unsuccessful. The script writer of the film, the famous Australian playwright, Alan Seymour, in an article in the Melbourne Age on 1 May again raised the question why the Minister reached the decision that he did. He said:
In every project there is an element of risk, especially when audience taste is changing so rapidly. Is that the key? Is the Minister, not conversant with the new developments in this specialised field, basing his decision on out-of-date terms of reference?
The implication in his veto is that the film makers have erred in their judgment. Perhaps it is he who is the prisoner of no longer relevant ideas?
Why, by the way, must the film be a hit at the box-office? We, none of use, want to make films that nobody goes to see. However, Film Australia, as the central Government-funded film-making institution in the country, is expected, indeed encouraged, to experiment, to innovate, to take risks that more economically oriented companies might be reluctant to take. Every society needs such creative innovation if it is not to stagnate.
My own view is that the nostalgia cycle in Australian cinema has become so enervating that exactly what is needed is a hard-hitting, penetrating, above all, contemporary movie.
So his article continued. I have said that the Minister’s refusal raises the question of political censorship. I made that statement outside the Parliament and I would like to explain what I mean by it. One of the reasons that I have raised this question is that when the Minister chose to quote from the assessments of the script in his answer in the House of Representatives he quoted the one unfavourable assessment- and it was the one assessment that was cast in political termswhich was critical of the subject matter from a political view, which spoke of the film having appeal only to middle class socialists and so forth. I do not think it was coincidental that it was the only assessment that the Minister chose to quote.
Despite the ministerial discretion which is indeed in the Act, ministerial responsibilities are involved in this matter. I believe it is the responsibility of the Minister to listen to the Australian Film Commission, to judge the assessments that come before him fairly and to give a proper explanation in terms appropriate to the Act. It is not the role of government or of individual Ministers to become involved in a personal way in the business of making artistic value judgments. It is their business to make decisionsresponsible decisions- based on proper advice. It is not the business of Ministers to treat publicly supported agencies set up to stimulate creative activities as if they were political propaganda machines; nor is it their business to treat them as an opportunity to exercise a personal whim. Has the Minister, Mr Ellicott, done either or indeed both of these things in relation to The Unknown Industrial Prisoner”] In answer to that question, I would say that it is not clear. I do not say that the Minister has certainly done so, that he has engaged in an act of political censorship or has acted out of personal whim. It is not clear but I say that he has behaved in such a way- arrogantly and irresponsibly- as to cause these questions to be properly raised inside and outside of Parliament. The Minister is unwilling either to explain his decision or to review it. As I said, a delegation representing most sectors of the industry came to see him last week but he has refused to budge. In this case I would say that the Minister seems to have adopted a stubborn rather than a strong stance.
I am aware that the business of providing public support for creative activities, such as film making or the arts, is a sensitive business. In moving into the area of value judgments, any government is leaving itself open to criticism. Criticism, justified and unjustified, is always forthcoming and it certainly was so during the period of the Whitlam Administration in matters of the arts, as well as others. In a pluralistic democratic society such as ours there will never be overall consensus on matters of taste. A film that is exciting or enriching to some might appear trivial or irrelevant to others. Because it is such a sensitive area, it seems to me that the Minister responsible has a particular responsibility to follow scrupulously the terms of the Act under which he operates and to give careful, objective and balanced consideration to the advice that he receives. I contend that the Minister, Mr Ellicott, has done neither of these things. In his answer to Dr Cass in the other place, he made no reference to section 5 of the Act nor did he present a balanced picture of the assessments that he received from the Australian Film Commission.
I raise this matter tonight because I believe the Minister owes the Parliament and the public a proper explanation. The immediate consequences of his decision are very damaging to the Australian film industry. But the long-term consequences of a Minister involving himself in a personal, idiosyncratic way in the disbursement of public moneys for creative projects are even more serious. If such behaviour were to continue, public support for the arts very quickly would become government control of the arts. Government control of the arts is antithetical to democracy and I would point out to honourable senators that government control of the arts exists only in countries that have totalitarian political systems. The Opposition does not want this sort of control of the arts; I believe that the Australian public does not want this sort of control of the arts. I expect that the Government does not want this sort of totalitarian control of the arts. I hope the Minister, Mr Ellicott, does not want it and I hope he will review his decision about The Unknown Industrial Prisoner, and indeed his whole approach to the Australian Film Commission, in the light of responsible democratic values which are very well expressed in the Australian Film Commission Act.
Ultimately that is the only reason why I am raising the matter tonight. I believe that the Minister did not make his decision properly, that is, he did not make it after referring to the Act; I believe that he should have done so. I do not see that there should be any overwhelming obstacle to his going back to the Act- to section 5 of the Act- and looking again at those nine favorable assessments. I would hope that he would respond in a positive way to all the representations that have been made to him by the industry. I would hope that he has also been receiving representations in this matter from Government members. Certainly, the question has been raised in the Senate. I hope that the matter is not over; I hope that there is an opportunity for a responsible and proper reconsideration of the whole question. I think all Australians would agree at this stage that the Australian film industry has developed very encouragingly in the last few years. I think we are all very pleased with its success overseas and I hope that the Minister at this stage will not act in a way that would cause that development to be thwarted in any way.
Immigration from Peru -Telecom Services
– Order ! It being 10 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Honourable senators will be aware that over recent months, culminating in discussions during the Estimates committee hearings concerning the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, I have made the point that our intake of political refugees should have a more balanced ratio. It will be noted that at page 314 of the Hansard report of the hearing of the appropriate Estimates committee, I had dialogue with officials of the Department. The Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs stated:
The United Nations convention definition of refugees really requires that a person be outside his country of nationality or country of residence.
That is the point I wish to emphasise. In the past the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) has argued that as some Latin Americans from countries with extreme political oppression are not in a third country it would be very difficult to process them and define them as being within the ambit of political refugees. I feel that that definition could be stretched and made more flexible, but this is not the time to canvass that matter.
As late as today I received telephone calls from members of the Peruvian community in Sydney about the events of the last 10 days in the city of Lima. I know that people like Senator Knight have a deep knowledge of the ebb and flow of diplomatic niceties and things not so nice, but the fact is that 10 days ago the government in Peru suspended all accepted concepts of parliamentary government. I would not use the term democratic parliamentary government’ to describe the situation there. As there had been a sort of ideological thaw, quite a number of people, including political and trade union leaders, who had been exiled under previous governments made a pilgrimage back to Lima. When the government, to put it in political terms, lowered the boom 10 days ago the by-product was that a number of political leaders who were grooming themselves, perhaps girding their loins, for the future national election which had been promised by the junta suddenly found that they were being rounded up. My information of as late as S o’clock today is that a number of people were put on an aircraft and sent to Rio de Janeiro. My pronounciation of Spanish names is not the best, but I have before me a list of seven names- Justino Apaza, Valetin Pacha, Jose Arcelaro, Guillemo Fauraga, Ricardo Chavez, Alfonso Paella, and Humberto Daminia- of people who are either leaders of political parties or leaders of the trade union movement of Peru. I refer again to page 314 of the Hansard report and the United Nations definition of a political refugee and make a strong plea to the Government to cable our embassy at Rio de Janeiro instructing it to accept a few of these people as genuine political refugees. I said at the commencement of my remarks that I have some misgivings, as does the Australian trade union movement, about whether we are getting a proper cross section of political refugees. Conscious of our own employment position and realising that there always must be a cut off point, I have listed only seven names. My informant suggests that 30 people might have been involved.
I make this very strong appeal for them. I believe that Senator Carrick, with his knowledge of world events, would be aware that two years before the outbreak of World War II, Britain had a very good record, at a government and trade union level, for getting people out of Hitler Germany and the neo-Nazi territories of Germany. They were people who had a fine role to play. They were brought to Britain and many of them played notable roles in many fields in the postwar period. If that had not occurred they would probably have finished up in the gas chambers. I do not say that there are gas chambers in the Latin American countries which I am thinking about, but at least they have pretty inhospitable prisons, judging by all the reports which have come back- reports that are verified by the International Labour Organisation and our own Foreign Affairs people. Whatever differences we may have about definitions, I believe that in the morning we ought to telex our diplomatic establishment in Argentina and stretch out, as it were, the hand of friendship that could save a number of these people. Our immigration figures would prove that our intake of Latin American people consists of people who have been victims of governments on the far right and, in some cases, on the far left and who have fitted in very well and met their responsibilities. One of their difficulties in the settling in period is that their various ethnic clubs are not as vocal as others. They do not seem to have the muscle that the others have, but this will come. In the meantime they have recourse, in the case of New South Wales, to people like the Honourable B. French of the Rubber Workers Union and other people to put their point of view.
As late as last Saturday evening the Inca Peruvian Club saw me on this matter. I think that Senator Carrick would agree with me when I say that when people talk about Australia being the lucky country they are largely talking the truth, whatever the economic shortcomings of the day. There is rarely an occasion when the Australian Broadcasting Commission news does not report a coup d ‘etat or an attempted coup d ‘etat and we have people asking what they can do to save some of their relatives. It is in that vein that I make this plea. I could say a lot more tonight about one or two other cases relating to the Argentine in respect of which I have been amazed at my own restraint. I have had discussions with the Argentinian Ambassador and the Minister, Mr MacKellar. I have taken a delegation to the Minister but so far I have not taken a trick. This is one occasion on which I have been very temperate in my submission. Sometimes I wonder whether they are the right tactics to employ. I do not say that in regard to this case. I say that in relation to one or two other cases involving the Argentine. I will leave it at that. If the Minister were to take this point on board we might get action taken to save some of these people from extreme political persecution.
- Senator Carrick will remember that last week, as Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, he sent off what he termed to be a strong signal on my behalf. That signal was much more successful than one that I sent today. I wish to outline some of the circumstances surrounding an experience I had in sending a telegram today. I recall that in the Estimates committee hearings early this year I related a story about an incident that happened to me in north Queensland late last year. I walked into a north Queensland post office and asked to send a telegram to Brisbane. The postmaster quickly explained to me that one does not send telegrams any more because, in his words, they are too costly to send. He advised me to telephone instead. I assured him that I had a good reason for sending a telegram and in fact did so. This experience outlined to me the type of thought that is becoming prevalent about the sending of telegrams- that they are too costly. Not only are they too costly; they do not seem to work properly.
My experience today suggests to me that anyone who sends a telegram is simply wasting his money. I suspect that Telecom Australia welcomes the donation made to its funds, but this is probably not of much help to the person who sends the telegram. This morning I wanted to send a telegram to the Brisbane suburb Bulimba. It is not very far from the General Post Office and therefore should not have created any delivery problem. I had a special reason for sending a telegram; I did not want to make a telephone call. Perhaps naively, I did not send the telegram before 9 o’clock because I knew that the person to whom I was sending it would not be at the delivery address until about 10.30 a.m. I delayed until a little after 9 o’clock, thinking that if I did so the telegram would arrive shortly after the person arrived at that address. Of course, there was somebody at that address all the time so that if a telegram had arrived before 10.30 a.m. it certainly would have been delivered. The telegram eventually arrived this afternoon, and I will deal with the time that it did arrive. When I made inquiries tonight by telephone I found that the stamp on the telegram indicated that it had been lodged at 9. 1 9 a.m. That would be about the case because I remember that it was about that time that I sent it over the telephone. It arrived at Morningside, a suburb of Brisbane not far from Bulimba, at 9.49 a.m. So it took 30 minutes to go from Canberra to Morningside, which I think is quite reasonable.
The person to whom I sent the telegram arrived at the address at about 10.20 a.m. and as she arrived she inspected the letterbox, thinking that if there was any mail she would take it to the person who was in the house at the time. There was no mail; in fact, there was nothing in the letterbox. The person left the address at 2.15 p.m., having been there all the time. At 2.15 p.m. she again inspected the letterbox to check whether there was any mail and there was no telegram in the box at that time. She left the address at 2.15 p.m. and did not go back for the rest of the day. So the telegram I sent at 9.19 a.m. had not arrived at Bulimba by 2. 1 5 p.m. The person who was in the house earlier stayed there until 3.20 p.m. and went out from 3.20 p.m. until about 5.30 p.m. Some time after she arrived back she checked the letterbox and found the telegram there. Assuming that the telegram arrived shortly after the person left at 3.20 in the afternoon, and I suspect that it arrived in the time frame from 3.20 p.m. to 5.30 p.m., it took five and a half hours to go about three kilometres from Morningside to Bulimba. Any form of transport could travel three kilometres in much less than five and a half hours.
I suspect that if I had signed my full name on the telegram and had indicated that I am a senator for Queensland the telegram would have been delivered much more quickly. But for personal reasons all I did on this occasion was to sign my given name and therefore there would have been no indication as to who the sender was. That indicates to me that my telegram would not have been given a different priority from a telegram sent from anywhere else. I do not know whether that is the normal rate at which a telegram is delivered, but it is simply not good enough. Telegrams are expensive enough, without sending them and not getting any results. I remind the public that they risk wasting their money if they send telegrams. I suggest that if Telecom wishes to discontinue its telegram service it should say so, and say so clearly. It should not do so by simply dissuading people from sending telegrams because of the complete lack of service.
- Senator Mulvihill raised a matter concerning Peruvian immigration. I have noted the details and I will ensure that the Hansard report is brought to the attention of the Minister. Senator Colston recounted the sad story of the dilatory telegram, and I think that that journey, however dilatory, can be traced. I will bring the matter to the attention of my colleague the Minister and ask him to get Telecom to go over the journey, and find out what happened, and let the honourable senator know. I share his view that if we have a telegram system that purports to deliver messages speedily in the old-fashioned view, it ought to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.15 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
– The Minister for Productivity has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Should the honourable senator wish to inform himself on matters of detail I suggest he should approach the Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, as Minister responsible for the issue of the contract. I should point out, however, that matters such as operational schedules and contract rates included in the contract can only be revealed on a confidential basis.
The security arrangements in respect of establishments and facilities for which I am responsible, are kept under review by my Department.
Lubricating Oil: Re-refining (Question No. 174)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 2 March 1978:
Will the Minister make available to the Parliament copies of reports on the re-refining of lubricating oil in Australia, which have been prepared by officers of his Department, and also which have been received from outside sources, within the last two years.
– The Minister for Trade and Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
No reports on the re-refining of lubricating oil in Australia have been prepared by the Department of Trade and Resources and there is no record that reports on the matter have been received from outside sources by that Department. A similar situation pertained with the former Department of Overseas Trade.
New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement
-On 11 May 1978 Senator Archer asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources, the following question:
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 Minister for Trade and Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The NAFTA Schedule B arrangement on furniture was agreed between the Australian Council of Furniture Manufacturers and the New Zealand Furniture Manufacturers Federation and approved by the two Governments. It provides that certain wooden furniture components up to a value of $A2.5m (f.o.b.) may be imported into Australia duty free from New Zealand, compared with furniture and components valued at up to $NZI.3m (c.i.f.) which may enter New Zealand duty free from Australia.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 May 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780529_senate_31_s77/>.