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 Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) leaves Australia today to represent the Government at the Western Samoan independence celebrations. He is to return on5 June. During his absence the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) will act as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister. The Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) will represent the AttorneyGeneral in the House of Representatives.
-On behalf of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack I present the following petition from 1 8 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Paliamcnt assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That Item 6469 of the standard Medical Benefits Table is the means by which payment is made for the slaughter of thousands of unborn babies every year.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should ensure that Item 6469 is removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-On behalf of Senator
Martin I present the following petition from 7 1 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 Tor 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.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
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 a bortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator O’Byrne (3 petitions).
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Minister for Administrative Services no longer has the confidence of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Senate proceeding with the motion forthwith and that Standing Order 1 27 do not apply.
Yesterday at Question Time in the SenateI asked a question of the Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, which related to the situation of the Royal Commission into allegations made against the Minister for Finance, Mr Eric Robinson, and his participation in that Royal Commission. In answer to the question, Senator Withers replied:
It is a matter of whether one relies upon assumptions or knowledge. I prefer to rely upon knowledge.
Clearly, the Minister decided yesterday that he would not answer any more questions in relation to this matter, just as in another place Mr Lynch, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, has decided that he will not answer any more questions in relation to another matter. The purpose of the motion which I have moved is partly to deal with the question of knowledge as distinct from assumptions. I begin by referring the Senate to a statement made by the Minister in the Senate on 4 November 1977 when he was dealing with a question from Senator Georges. Referring to the naming of the electorate of Gold Coast or McPherson- it subsequently became known as McPherson- the Minister had this to say:
I have never telephoned Mr Coleman about the naming of electorates. I have been asked why the names were changed. I do not know.
The Minister goes on to make a suggestion to honourable senators about what they should do in trying to decide the merits of this matter. The question was asked again in a different form in this place on 29 May. In answer to the question, the Minister said:
I may have misled Parliament in relation to the matter.
He again said; 1 do not know why the name of the electorate was changed.
Having told the Senate on Friday of last week that he may have misled the Parliament, Senator Withers, according to Press reports, spent the weekend burning leaves; not worried about the question at all. It is, of course, an important matter that a Minister should come into this place and say, ‘I may have misled the Parliament’. It is a matter which has concerned many Ministers over a long period. But apparently it does not concern Senator Withers who, as I say, spent the weekend burning leaves because it is a matter, as he put it, of no concern to him. It is of concern to the Opposition and it ought to be of concern to the Senate.
Let us look at the facts for a moment. On 4 November 1977 the Minister gave his answer in the Senate to the question to which I have referred. He said: 1 have never telephoned Mr Coleman about the naming of electorates.
The facts are that he telephoned Mr Pearson and asked him to speak to Mr Coleman about the naming of electorates. One might say that the Minister’s answer is technically correct. It is not an untruth in any sense. It is just an answer designed to conceal the truth from the Parliament on 4 November 1977. Let us look at what the Minister said about that particular subject matter. At the Royal Commission he was asked this question:
When they published their report-
- Mr President, I take a point of order. It is clear from the extent to which Senator Button has now gone that certainly the first basis of the motion of no confidence is related to a set of facts which are before the Royal Commission which is now considering evidence. It has before it, under its terms of reference, considerations in regard to the actions of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) and it has evidence before it related by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers). The situation is clear. Under the requirement which the commissioner has, he is to investigate the very nature of how certain decisions were made in regard to a redistribution. Of course, the Minister for Administrative Services has given evidence and he has been called on to answer questions in this Chamber relating to the circumstances and relating to what representations he may have made to any officers in Queensland dealing with the redistribution. Senator Button has made it clear now that he is questioning that action.
Obviously that is the basis of his representation. I have waited this long to make quite sure that that was the basis of his argument and that it was not just a preliminary matter. I remind you, Mr President, that this sub judice matter has been dealt with considerably by presiding officers of the Parliament and of” the Senate. It is set out at length in the fifth edition of Mr Odgers book Australian Senate Practice. I refer to page 250 and subsequent pages of that edition. It relates not only to court or criminal proceedings, or anything of that sort, but also to anything that might be done which might be restrictive of debate. The then President of the Senate, Sir Magnus Cormack, in a ruling stated:
The prime question I must ask myself is, I think: Is parliamentary debate likely to give rise to any real and substantial danger of prejudice to proceedings before the court?
– Is the honourable senator raising a point of order? I would like to know to which Standing Order he is speaking.
– As I said the other day there is no Standing Order in relation to sub judice matters. Senator Missen may continue.
– I was reading from Sir Magnus Cormack ‘s ruling. It continues:
If so, then Parliament must not pursue that path.
He was there dealing with the courts but those remarks also apply to a wider sphere than the courts alone. I think this situation is most usefully set out on page 252 of Mr Odgers’ book where it states:
In September 1 969 the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Sir William Aston) presented a paper on the sub judice rule to the First Conference of Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers, held at Ottawa. Answering the question as to by what principles the Speaker should be guided in his interpretation of the sub judice rule, he made the following points:
1 ) It is a fundamental right of the House to legislate on any matter within Constitutional power.
It is the fundamental right and duty of the House to consider and discuss any matter, if it is thought to be in the public interest.
If it is not inconsistent with fundamental rights and duties, the House should avoid setting itself up as an alternative forum or body of inquiry or permit its proceedings to interfere in the course of justice.
I stress that particular principle and the principle in paragraph (4). He continues:
One matter of importance before the Royal Commission is the evidence which has been given by Senator Withers, the effect of that evidence, what might have been the effect of any action by Senator Withers in relation to the matters which are in issue and whether Senator Withers influenced decisions by Distribution Commissioners. These elements are vital to the issue. Until they are determined, I submit that it is quite wrong for this chamber to enter into a debate on those statments
Senator Withers has been called on to answer questions. He has answered them within the field that he should, but not further than that. A point of order was taken by me a day ago on this very matter. We must recognise that it is awkward for Senator Withers to talk about these matters absolutely- in fact at present he is not in a position to do so- as he will be able to do following a decision by the Royal Commission which will determine the facts. For Senator Button to bring a motion before the Senate, endeavouring to have it rule upon certain statements, and to draw conclusions which are the conclusions to be drawn one way or another by the Royal Commission, is thoroughly wrong. As that has been shown to be the basis upon which Senator Button is making his case today, I ask that he be ruled out of order.
– I can recall very early in 1 976 under similar circumstances with respect to the case of a member of the House of Representatives being before a court that the first person to rise and to take the point of order that Senator Missen has taken today was Senator Missen himself. I expected him to do so again on this occasion. The Parliament, especially the Senate, has been through this exercise on many occasions in the time I have been here. I think it can be fairly said that on every occasion when a point of order has been taken in an attempt to stifle debate on matters of public interest- Senator Missen recognises this matter as such- every
President has properly allowed those proceedings to continue. I say with respect to you, Mr President, that nothing that Senator Button has said to this point would warrant you upholding the point of order taken by Senator Missen.
I know that there are many quotations that we could read at this time about the sub judice rule. Constantly, and I believe quite rightly, we refer to Australian Senate Practice by the Clerk of the Senate, Mr Odgers, who, I think, is as well versed in these matters as anybody in this Chamber. On page 250 of the latest edition of his work, he refers to what he describes as the ‘oft-quoted decision’ of Sir Frederick Jordan, the then Chief Justice of New South Wales who, in 1937, in Ex parte Bread Manufacturers Ltd; Re Truth and Sportsman Ltd and another, said:
It is well settled that a person cannot be prevented by process of contempt from continuing to discuss publicly a matter which may fairly be regarded as one of public interest, by reason merely of the fact that the matter in question has become the subject of litigation -
That is only one of many similar quotations which, as everyone of us knows, could be used in this chamber. If we are forced to spend our time in a lengthy debate on this issue it will be done only for the purpose of not allowing debate to proceed. I assume that Senator Withers, who was quite prepared to defend himself in this chamber not only last week but also yesterday, as an honourable man will, in the course of this debate, present to this Parliament what he believes to be the facts. There is no indication on his part that he wishes to escape this debate. I see no purpose in Senator Missen or any other honourable senator on the Government side trying to short circuit the comments which Senator Button has to make. Mr President, I agree that if any one of us in this debate should say anything which comes within the sub judice rule you would quite properly rule him or her out of order. I submit to you that nothing that has been said by Senator Button to this stage, or anything that he has indicated he might say, could possibly be ruled out of order.
– May I be permitted to make a brief remark which I am prompted to make because Senator Wriedt has completely overlooked this one aspect? Senator Button, after moving his motion, said that it related to the situation before the Royal Commission relating to allegations against Mr Eric Robinson and the Minister’sthat is Senator Withers’- participation in that Royal Commission. That inadvertantly defined the subject matter of the motion. Senator Button went on to refer to evidence and Senator Missen waited until Senator Button had revealed the basis of the evidence. He referred, firstly, to the transcript of the Royal Commission and secondly, to statements made in this House by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers).
The Government has appointed a judge to inquire into the question of whether there was any impropriety on the part of Mr Eric Robinson or anybody on his behalf in relation to the electoral decisions relating to this matter. If the judge appointed by the Government to inquire into that matter is busily engaged in hearing evidence given on oath by various witnesses, including the Minister, and that evidence is subject to examination and cross-examination by counsel employed for all sides and assisting the Commission, surely the least remnant of respect that the Senate can show to that judge is to allow him to pursue the inquiry to completion untrammelled by political debate here and to allow him to come to his conclusions on the only proper evidence that he can accept, that is, sworn evidence that is examined and cross-examined before him.
To allow debate here on that subject as to the inconsistency alleged between any statement in the Royal Commission’s transcript and any statement in our record is to invite the Senate to make an assessment of the credibility of witnesses whom we have not heard and the credibility of Senator Withers. The idea that we should plaster the judge’s judicial duty of examining the evidence in that judicial way with a hurly-burly political debate of this character comes right within the sub judice privilege that this chamber accords to judicial tribunals, inquiries, summary evidence proceedings on indictable offences or anything of that sort.
We respect the principle that we will not proceed with debate that may prejudice the parties in those proceedings. When the judicial inquiry has terminated and the report has been madewith a Royal Commission there is required to be a report to the Government and, of course, to the Parliament- that is the appropriate time to consider the judge’s judgment on all the evidence. For this Parliament to enter upon a consideration of the evidence in this way to the prejudice of the Royal Commission, the judge, would be the height of disrespect. That is precisely the basis of the sub judice rule.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. I remind you, sir, that on Friday last when a question was asked of Senator Withers on this subject by my colleague Senator Button, Senator Missen, who has taken the point of order today, took a point of order concerning the question asked by Senator Button which is the subject of the want of confidence motion now being considered. As a result of that question and despite Senator Missen ‘s point of order, subsequent questions on this subject were asked on that day by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, by Senator James McClelland and by me. All of those questions were allowed. They were all answered, and answered in detail, by the Minister. Again yesterday questions on the subject were asked, certainly by Senator Button, I think by Senator Georges and again by me, and again answers were provided by the Minister.
Mr President, I would suggest with respect that we would be in a laughable situation if we were allowed to ask questions and Ministers were allowed to answer those questions on matters that appear to be related to a royal commission hearing, yet we were not allowed to debate anything arising from what the Minister said in reply to those questions because a Royal Commission is being conducted. I suggest, in accordance with past practice as set out in the book Australian Senate Practice by Mr Odgers, and in view of the answers that were given to questions asked on Friday and Monday, that the debate now proposed by Senator Button is in order.
– I understand the motivation behind Senator Missen ‘s point of order because, as Senator Douglas McClelland pointed out, it was taken on a previous occasion. There has been a lot of reference in this Parliament to the terms of reference of the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission is not asked to pronounce upon Senator Withers; it is not asked to decide specifically why the name Gold Coast was changed to McPherson; it is asked to decide whether there was any impropriety in connection with those matters.
– More than that.
– Let us read them. Just let me go on. There is no allegation in support of this motion that Senator Withers was guilty of any impropriety in matters to be discussed by the royal commission. None at all. The allegations of impropriety have been made in evidence given against other people but they have not been made against Senator Withers and they will not be made by me. Of course all this matter has been the subject of public canvassing in the Press. Last week when it was raised in the Senate, Senator Withers said that he did not want to hide behind the sub judice rule. Today presumably he does.
The fact is that I could deal with this matter without quoting from the transcript, to which Senator Missen took objection. I would have thought it would have been fairer to Senator Withers to quote from the transcript what he actually said rather than to quote from Press reports of what he is alleged to have said. I would have thought that the Senate would have approved of that as an appropriate method of dealing with the matter but the charge in the motion is not one relating to impropriety in matters which concern the Royal Commission. The charge in the motion quite simply is that Senator Withers has misled this Parliament. If, on the pretext of what seems to be an extraordinary application of the sub judice rule, the Government wants to hide behind that rule in order to get rid of this motion, I think it would be disastrous for the Senate because, I repeat, the charge is one of misleading the Parliament which, in a sense, is a very real and significant charge. It concerns this Parliament, above all, as a matter of public interest and it is not a matter of concern to the Royal Commission in any respect whatsoever.
– I wish to speak only very briefly on this matter and I do not want to pass any judgment on what Senator Withers has or has not done, but I think it would be an undesirable precedent in the extreme for the point of order which has been raised by Senator Missen today to be upheld. The motion which has been moved by Senator Button is short and to the point; it is that the Senate has no confidence in Senator Withers. I think it is regrettable that this situation has been arrived at but it has been reached and the motion has been moved. I do not think it is to the benefit of the Senate, of open debate within the Parliament or of Senator Withers if we are not able to proceed with this motion today and at least get some clarification on the matters which are agitating the minds of senators.
We have had a fairly open approach to the socalled sub judice rule and I think it would defy the knowledge of most people to say precisely what that rule is. It relates to proceedings which are taking placed before judicial bodies. Apparently there is some feeling that these matters should not be debated in a Parliament while some judicial process in taking place. The matter which has been raised by Senator Button is not one which is strictly germane to the matters which are being dealt with at the present time by the Royal Commission. Certainly there is a certain amount of overlapping but if the Senate were to adopt the position -
– That is all it is. There is only a certain amount of overlapping. The substance of the resolution moved by Senator Button is that Senator Withers has misled the Senate. That is the allegation which has been made. It is not a matter which is being dealt with by the Royal Commission. It is not dealing with any matters relating to the misleading or otherwise of the Senate. I think it should be borne in mind, when we are considering this sub judice rule, that the impression must not be given that it is applied in a partisan manner.
As all honourable senators are aware, proceedings are taking place in courts at the present time brought by a Mr Sankey against former Ministers of the Federal Labor Government relating to the so-called loans affair, the alleged conspiracy which was entered into by four former Ministers in the former Labor Government. I do not think that has inhibited in any way members of the Government parties in the Senate or in the other place from referring repeatedly to what the Labor Government did while it was in office, to the so-called loans affair, to the alleged scandals that took place. The Australian Labor Party has been prepared to debate this matter. We have not appealed to the President for protection under the sub judice rule. We have not said that because Mr Sankey is taking action against several former Ministers, therefore we cannot debate matters which are being dealt with, at least in part, in the courts.
Mr President, I submit to you that the same principle applies here. There are matters which are being dealt with by a Royal Commisson. There are allegations which have been made concerning the answers which were given by Senator Withers in the Senate. The matter which has been raised by Senator Button, the matter which has given rise to the resolution which he has moved, relates to the allegation that the Senate has been misled. Insofar as any other matters connected with this matter are being dealt with in a court or by a Royal Commission, that is purely adventitious. It is not the substance of the resolution that is being moved. I do not believe that we are furthering the cause of this Parliament or that we are doing anything to protect Senator Withers. I think that Senator Withers would be in a better position if he were able to debate the matter here rather than for it to appear that the so-called sub judice rule, which every now and then, but not invariably, rears its head in order to prevent debate, should be applied here so that in the closing days of this sessional period, members of the Senate were unable to discuss this matter.
– I want to make a few comments on the points made by Senator Button and Senator Wheeldon. Senator Button’s transgression stems from the fact that he referred to evidence contained in the transcript. It was not until he did that that Senator Missen took his point of order. Mr President, if you are to allow some of the evidence contained in the transcript to be used, surely in fairness and justice all the evidence should be used. Senator Withers was, and presumably still is, a sworn witness before the Royal Commission and he may well be called upon to give further evidence. If this debate is to proceed, I submit that short of ruling on the matter every time Senator Button or any other speaker in the debate seeks to use evidence contained in the transcript, the safe and reasonable course for the Senate is to disallow any reference to evidence contained in the transcript.
- Mr President, in giving your ruling on what appears on the surface to be a difficult matter, I ask you to take into account another matter. That matter is the widespread loss of public confidence in the institution of Parliament. Is it to go out to the world today that after an exchange of questions over the last week between the Opposition and Senator Withers and his defenders, Senator Withers as Leader of the Government in the Senate then graciously permits this debate to be brought on? Then- and is anybody to believe that he has not discussed this matter beforehand with Senator Missen- as soon as the debate gets under way one of his own supporters gets up and uses the device of the much abused sub judice rule in order to suppress the debate.
Mr President, I ask you when reaching your decision to weigh how it will appear to the public that a man, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, can announce blandly that he may have misled the Senate and then, when an attempt is made by the Opposition to bring on a debate about that situation, by a device such as that used by Senator Missen the debate is suppressed. There is a heavy responsibility on you, Mr President, as the custodian of the standards and the status of this Senate to see that no such impression is given to the public. Is the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald to be cited for contempt for having written in this morning’s editorial in that newspaper something that is very critical of Senator Withers, citing the contrast between his evidence before the Royal Commission and what he has said in this place? We can make a laughing stock of the Senate if the debate is suppressed. Mr President, I ask you to take that into account in making your ruling.
– I shall be much briefer in my remarks than other speakers have been to date, Mr President. As a lawyer Senator Button is well aware of the sub judice rule and he has fluffed it. He has already made reference to the Royal Commission in his statement and Senator Wheeldon has made reference to the overlapping of evidence to the Commission. I draw your attention to a ruling given on 18 September 1974 by Speaker Cope in which he ruled that discussion of any matter within the terms of reference of a royal commission would be an infringement of the sub judice rule. If the Opposition has fluffed it, that is its mistake.
– The general principle of the sub judice doctrine is to avoid interference with or prejudice to the proceedings of any judicial inquiry, including a royal commission. As I said before, there is no Standing Order on the matter, and whether the matter is allowed to be discussed is, in practice, in the discretion of the Chair. Of course, my decision is subject to the will of the Senate. The question of the sub judice rule arose last Friday when in Question Time 1 reminded the Senate that there is a convention that the practice of the Senate is to avoid any possible prejudicing of judicial proceedings. That in itself is always a very difficult matter for the Chair to decide, but in addition there are other considerations. In the present case, foremost in my mind is the consideration that the motion under discussion primarily concerns the Senate’s internal affairs. One of the privileges of the Senate in its corporate capacity is the right to regulate its own internal affairs. The motion before the Chair states:
That the Minister for Administrative Services no longer has the confidence of the Senate.
I believe that matter is one relating to the Senate’s internal affairs and I do not think that the Senate should be unduly restrained in its consideration of the matter. The debate may proceed insofar as it relates to the motion before the Chair. There shall be no canvassing of evidence given at the judicial inquiry.
– Nothing I say will prejudice in any way the result of the judicial inquiry.
– You are not to canvass the evidence.
– I understand your concern, Senator Baume. Senator Withers told the Senate on 4 November and again last week that he had never telephoned Mr Coleman about the naming of electorates. In the newspapers it has been said on a number of occasions, and it is undenied, that Senator Withers telephoned Mr
Pearson and asked him to telephone Mr Coleman on 13 September 1977 about the question of the naming of the electorates. Of course, it is not an untruth that Senator Withers told on 4 November 1 977. But it is an answer which conceals the truth from this Parliament and from this Senate. It is, one might say, not the answer one might expect from- to use the description that Senator Withers uses to describe himself- a good old fashioned Bunbury lawyer. It is the answer of a slick lawyer, if I might say so- of a slick politician- in dealing with the subject matter about which he was specifically asked. It is the answer of a politician who is concerned with power rather than responsibility, and that is the name of the game as it is played in the Senate.
The second part of the answer of 4 November 1977 was to say this: ‘I do not know why the names of the electorates were changed.’ Again it is an answer which, in terms in which Senator Withers dealt with this question in the Senate last week, may be one which is in the strictest sense correct but it is totally different from the Minister’s own statements elsewhere regarding this very same subject matter. In other circumstances Senator Withers has been asked very specific questions about this- ‘Who was responsible for the change of names taking place?’ Senator Withers says: ‘I wrote to the Attorney-General about this matter.’ Senator Withers said he was responsible for the change of name taking place. Mr President, I seek your indulgence insofar as I might quote Senator Withers directly on what he said on this subject rather than on reports of what he said on this subject.
– No. You are referring to the inquiry itself? As I said before, you must not canvass evidence given at the judicial inquiry.
-Mr President, if that is your ruling on the subject matter, I am unable to quote Senator Withers precisely on the subject matter, which of course goes to the very point of order which was taken by Senator Missen, but we were told earlier that Senator Withers is concerned with knowledge rather than assumptions about this matter, that he is concerned with the truth rather than with half truths about this matter. It is important, I would have thought, from Senator Withers’ own point of view that he should be quoted directly rather than quoted in terms of newspaper reports about what he has had to say. I ask for your ruling.
- Mr President, will you permit me to observe that if you allow reference to any evidence by Senator Withers you must allow reference to all the evidence of other witnesses bearing on the point, and that shows that this matter involves the judgment as to what that evidence in its entirety should be judicially assessed to be? Therefore, I submit that no reference whatever to any of the evidence of Senator Withers or any other witness before the Royal Commission should be canvassed before this Senate.
- Mr President–
-May I continue?
– One moment. Senator Georges wishes to say something.
– Can I bring this point to your notice, Mr President? If we proceed in this way, if we are not to allow debate to take place on the matter before us- that Senator Withers misled the Senate- and if we are to be limited, we are forcing Senator Withers into a position where he should seek suspension from his duties as a Minister and in fact he might even have to withdraw from the Senate. I do not think that that is a position into which we should force Senator Withers, but that is the inevitable conclusion, the inevitable end, of the points of order which are being taken and the rulings into which you are being forced.
– Order! I have stated that this debate may proceed insofar as it relates to the motion before the Chair now. I have said that there shall be no canvassing of evidence given at the judicial inquiry. If there are to be matters read from that inquiry, that is surely canvassing matters before the court.
– May I take a point of order?
– No more discussion, thank you.
– It is a different point of order. Senator Button has raised the question that he would feel inclined, if he did not have the evidence before the court, to read from newspaper reports of what one said. I am just saying that I raise the point of order that that would be equally objectionable. It would be probably more objectionable.
Opposition senators- Oh!
– Order! I call on Senator Button to continue his contribution to this debate and ask him not to quote matters of fact which have been stated in a court.
– It is a fact recorded in Hansard what Senator Withers said on 4 November 1977. It is a fact recorded in Hansard what Senator Withers said last week in answer to questions about his subject matter. I speculate as to whether it is a fact that elsewhere Senator Withers has given totally contradictory explanations; that elsewhere Senator Withers, when he has been asked who was responsible for the change of names, has said -
– I raise a point of order. This is quite obviously a Pecksniffian attempt to evade a ruling by using the word ‘elsewhere’ and expecting to deceive grown men. Senator Button has been prohibited from canvassing the evidence. To use such terms as ‘elsewhere’, newspaper reports’ or ‘the transcript’ is completely to deny the application of that ruling. I submit that these equivocations are not permissible.
- Senator Button, I reiterate my ruling. You must abide by it.
– I drew attention to the facts which were recorded in Hansard. I ask the Minister: Will he deny in this debate that elsewhere he made statements of a totally different nature?
– In saying ‘elsewhere’ are you referring to a judiciary inquiry? That is the point.
-I ask the Minister: Will he deny in the course of this debate that he has admitted responsibility for the change of the name of the electorate of Gold Coast to McPherson? If he will deny that then, of course, the Opposition will be satisfied because, if I might say so, that is an answer which one might expect from the old-fashioned Bunbury lawyer, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Privy Councillor, the Minister for Administrative Services. That is a question which the Senate is entitled to have answered by the Minister. We would not proceed- we would have confidence in the Minister- if he were, at a later stage of this debate, able to deny that elsewhere he made those statements.
The difficulty is that in this chamber and outside this chamber the Minister in question perhaps might wear two hats. We hear a lot of discussion about the wearing of two hats in politics, but there is also the matter of two faces- one face answering questions in this chamber and another face talking outside about the issues which are involved. On the weekend the Minister was talking outside this chamber about the importance he attaches to this issue. The importance is such that he spent the weekend not considering this issue but burning leaves. That is a statement which he made outside this chamber. That is a statement which relates not to two hats but to two faces insofar as questions in this chamber and questions which arise outside this chamber are concerned. The importance of that is simply this: Senator Withers did not bother about this issue over the weekend but when it is raised in this Parliament today he gets Senator Missen and others to try to protect him by the application of the sub judice rule. That is when he begins to worry.
– Order! Senator Button, that is an imputation against the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Insinuations such as that are not of credit either to the utterer or to those to whom he is referring. You may continue, Senator Button.
– I was making the point -it probably occurs with respect to all politicians, but the difficulty with this matter is that a Minister is concerned- that the Minister perhaps has had different comments to make about this subject matter outside this chamber from the comments he makes inside this chamber. That is a matter about which we as senators must be concerned and about which the public must be concerned. I have referred earlier to the terms of reference of the Royal Commission. But there is no suggestion in anything that the Opposition says about any of the things that Senator Withers said before the Royal Commission which in our view might be a misinterpretation of facts or a misleading of the Royal Commission. The question relates specifically to what has happened in this chamber. I ask the Minister, when he speaks in this debate, to indicate to the Senate whether he denies that he made inconsistent statements in this chamber and elsewhere relating to this matter.
What the Minister told the Senate on 4 November 1977 was repeated in this chamber last week. The Minister said exactly the same thing in this chamber last week- ‘I may have misled the Parliament’- but in answer to the specific question he said: ‘I still affirm what I said on 4 November last year. I do not know why the name of the electorate was changed’. It is an extraordinary position. I ask the Minister: Will he deny, in the context of this debate, that in the course of last week while he was saying in this Parliament, ‘I do not know why the name of the electorate was changed’, he was saying elsewhere, ‘I do know why the name of the electorate was changed?’
- Mr President, I rise to take a point of order. It is quite clear that that was a reference to the evidence given to the Royal Commission. What the honourable senator is doing is deliberately flouting your ruling, skirting around it and speculating. He is now saying what is evidence given before the Royal Commission. I submit that that is contemptuous of your ruling, Mr President.
- Senator Button, you will speak directly and make reference to these matters in such a way that clearly indicates to the Senate to what you are referring.
-I allege that unless the Minister denies what I have just put to him there is a clear inconsistency, clear misleading of the Parliament and clear contempt of the Parliament not only in the answer which the Minister gave on 4 November 1977 but also in the answer given during Question Time on Friday of last week. In discussing these matters in the Press and in reply to the questions which were asked by Opposition senators, the Minister sought to dismiss this issue as the acts of fleas trying to bite an elephant. Obviously, I do not wish in my position to identify the dramatis personae in all of this matter, but I remember from school days being told that the essential attributes of an elephant are bulk, a thick hide and a small brain. Which attributes does the Minister claim in relation to this matter in referring to it in that flippant way? That is what he has done. The other great attribute of the elephant, as I recall it, is a long memory for facts. That is what the Senate must be concerned with. It must be concerned with the facts of this matter. I will quote what Senator Withers said in 1975 to demonstrate the importance which he attaches to these matters. He said:
The Senate has an obligation to uncover the truth despite the objections of the Government.
So the matter is of the utmost concern to the Opposition not to have this matter dismissed in the way the Minister would like to dismiss it. It is not sufficient for the Minister to refer to the Opposition members as fleas. After all, we receive plenty of lectures in this place from people like Senator Baume about what are the functions of an Opposition, about how we are not performing our functions and about how he, Senator Baume, would welcome it if we did so. We receive plenty of lectures of that kind. But when we raise issues which are uncomfortable for this Government, we are dismissed as fleas attacking an elephant and things of that kind. I am reminded of the old adage which school children use about that subject matter and the adaptation which states that big lies have smaller lies upon their back to bite them, and smaller lies have lesser lies and so on ad infinitum. It is the question of truth which the Opposition is concerned about, the sort of question that Senator Withers himself was so concerned with in 1975. Of course it may be said that
Senator Withers in no way misled the Parliament; that it was not- if I can use the parlance of school children again- a lie, at the best it was a white lie and why is that important? Why ought that be important to Government senators? It ought to be important to Government senators because of the long record of the Prime Minister of this country (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about probity in government, about the importance of giving the truth in Parliament. That is why it ought to be important to Government senators. It also ought to be important to Government senators because the Prime Minister of this country in another context when it suited him had precisely this to say:
Ten per cent or even 50 per cent of the truth is as good a way of misleading this Parliament and the Australian people as a downright lie. The half truth, the partial answer and the slipping over of the full facts are as misleading of this Parliament just as much as and maybe much more deliberately than the statement by the former Deputy Prime Minister.
That was a good enough standard for the people who sat over there in 1975. That should have been good enough for Senator Missen when he took his point of order here today. Exactly the same thing is involved. Half truths, 10 per cent of the truth, 50 per cent of the truth and misleading statements are all misleading the Parliament and the Australian people. That is why this matter ought to be important to the Government as well as to the Opposition.
One can quote again and again from the policy speech of Malcolm Fraser on this very question. He asked why his Government would be a better government, and he replied because it understood all these things, it understood about probity and it would not even tell a 10 per cent untruth in the Parliament which could be described as misleading the Parliament in any way. So there is duplicity about this matter not only in the statements which have been made but also in the attitudes which are adopted towards it. There are double standards, one for the Liberal Party and one for the Labor Party. Senator Withers is reported in the Press as saying that at The Lodge he told the meeting of Government Ministers what he had done in relation to this matter and the response was, in his words: ‘So what?’
– A good answer.
- Senator Missen will go on the record as saying that is a good answer. ‘So what’ said the Government Ministers when Senator Withers told them what he had done. Why is this matter important? It is not a question of issues, which are before the Royal Commission; it is a question of trust. It is a question of whether the Senate can rely on a Minister when he gives answers to questions. Only two weeks ago in this chamber Senator Withers, on the first day on which he was questioned about North West Cape, said that he knew nothing about the matter. Later in Question Time he gave a prepared answer to Parliament about it. The following day he came into this chamber and said that he had made a mistake; it was an incorrect answer and he corrected it. I respect him for doing that. He made a mistake and he came in the following day and corrected it. Then when he was next asked a question on the matter his answer was: ‘Do not get excited about this sort of thing. You are trying to beat it up’. That was the answer given by the Leader of the Government, Senator the Right Honourable Reginald Greive Withers, the Privy Councillor. He said: ‘Do not get excited, you are trying to beat it up’. That is the responsible answer given by an allegedly responsible Minister. It is another example of the sort of issue about which we are concernedwhether this Senate is getting honest and straight answers from Ministers. That is the essential point of this debate. Erskine May, a parliamentary authority to which conservatives are always pretty ready to refer when it suits them, on this particular point has this to say:
The House may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt.
In 1963 the House resolved that in making a personal statement which contained words which he later admitted not to be true, a former Minister had been guilty of a grave contempt.
Lord Denning, when inquiring into the same matter in the United Kingdom in 1 963 had this to say in his report on the Profumo affair:
It was plain, of course, that he could not remain a member of the Administration.
That was plain. The comment continued:
He must resign.
He went on to say later in the same comment:
It might be thought- indeed it has been thought- by some that these rumours are a symptom of a decline in the integrity of public life in this country. I do not believe this to be true. There has been no lowering of standards. But there is this difference today. Public men are more vulnerable than they were: and it behoves them even more than ever, to give no cause for scandal.
In our Australian Parliament this issue has been discussed on numerous occasions. I cannot discuss it as frankly as I would like to because of your ruling, Mr President, which I respect. I cannot discuss it as frankly as Government senators would not like me to discuss it. But be that as it may. Questions of standards which have been raised again and again in the Parliament are involved. Let me quote from what I think is a very proper explanation of those standards and of the principles involved. These are the words:
I took this course in order to uphold a precise and fundamental principle of parliamentary government. The principle is that the Parliament must be able to accept assurances given to it by a Minister, and if those assurances prove to be misleading the Minister concerned must be held responsible.
Unless he is, of course- if I may interpolate- protected by the sub judice rule. The quote continues:
I have made it clear throughout the life of this Government that there is one standard which, if departed from, must carry the heaviest penalty. It is a principle on which the integrity of Parliament itself depends. There was, I believe, a departure from that principle.
That was stated by Gough Whitlam, the then Prime Minister of this country, explaining why he dismissed Rex Connor in 1975, at a time when there was all the hue and cry and statements about the truth having to be upheld. Such statements were made in this place by people like Senator Withers. That was the statement of a Prime Minister who was concerned about the principle and about the standards to which I have just referred. It was not the statement of a Prime Minister who talked all the time about probity and who suspended Ministers in order to avoid dismissing them. It was the statement of a Prime Minister who had some sort of standards about these things and who did not seek to hide behind protective rules of this Parliament in order to prevent those standards being applied to his Ministers. That is the sort of standard which the Senate should be considering today in the context of this motion. It is the sort of standard which we should insist on applying here in relation to Senator Withers just as it applied to other men who paid the penalty in a most brutal way because of allegations of misleading Parliament.
– Brutal is right.
-Of course, Senator Wright was a great participant in that situation. That is the point of the motion. The course of debate has been interrupted by various points of order and so on. That is the substance of the allegation which we make. That is the substance of the charge. Honourable senators on the Government side of course can wait until the Royal Commission reports and they will get no further wisdom on this subject.
I firmly believe that Senator Withers told the truth in everything he said to the Royal Commission. The question I want him to answer is whether he told the truth to the Parliament. Senator Wright, who is trying to interject, can get up and talk about this matter later on. Senator
Withers has been given the opportunity to deny that he misled the Parliament and to deny that he said these things contrary to what he said in this place last week and on 4 November 1977. If that is done, the Opposition of course will be satisfied and the sorts of standards which Gough Whitlam talked about in 1975, which were the subject of derision from present Government senators, will be applied in this place to the glory of this Parliament, as Senator James McClelland has rightly pointed out. The result will be more public confidence in the deliberations of the Parliament than there has been in the last two or three years.
– It took some time, I feel, for Senator Button to get to the burden of his complaint.
– I did not get to it. I was not allowed.
-I understood the honourable senator to say that the burden of his complaint was that by answering a question in this place, I think on Friday of last week, I had misled the Senate. That is the burden of the honourable senator’s complaint. It is the whole of his complaint. The issue has narrowed down to that.
– You admitted it yourself.
-I thought Senator James McClelland was going to speak later but, as usual, he is trying to speak early. I was just trying to get to what the issues were because if I am to be put on trial- I do not object to that- at least I ought to know what are the charges and issues before the Senate.
– You do not want to know that.
-Oh, yes, we do. I think we are entitled to know that with some precision. As 1 understand the burden or context of Senator Button’s speech, what he is alleging is that on 4 November last I misled the Senate.
– That is it.
-That is the charge? Thank you, Senator Georges. All that has been said as to what might substantiate that charge relates to matters which are proceeding elsewhere. This is my problem. I was having problems with this last Friday, as honourable senators would know–
– You have problems all right.
– Yes, fleas. The problem, as Senator Wright pointed out earlier, is that one cannot just pick out two or three words from an inquiry transcript or Hansard and, therefore, make a story of them. I am not here to confirm or to deny what I have said elsewhere. Nor do I intend to discuss it. But the complaint is that on 4 November 1977 I deliberately misled the Senate.
– And later, last week.
-Well! I thought there would have been a couple of elements that Senate Button would have brought to bear to prove his charge. The first one is that I deliberately did it, that I knowingly did it, that I came in with malice and intended to do it. I thought that would be one of the first elements he would attempt to prove. In his statement I saw no evidence of that produced. He then has to say–
– It is in the transcript.
-Oh no, he has to prove intent because as I understand Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice the charge involves the making of a deliberately misleading statement. Is an innocent misleading statement a contempt? I gather not. Therefore, to be deliberately misleading, there has to be an intent. The other point is that, the intent having been proved, the person later admits that what he said was not true. Mr President, I have never said that what I said on 4 November was not true. I have said consistently that what I said on that date was true then and is true today. I still do not know. If honourable senators do not believe me that is their business. But on 4 November I did not know. Today, whatever the date is, I still do not know. I still do not know.
– Do you think your mob swallows that?
-I thought one was obliged in this place to speak with accuracy, to speak with precision. When one does one is accused: ‘Do you think your mob swallows that?’ I assume I have a great obligation on me- I accept it- to tell the truth. I do not know- and that is the truth. I may suspect; I may assume; I may guess; and honourable senators may all do the same. But I do not know, and I have never known, and I still do not know. The honourable senator may say that we are indulging in semantics.
– Of course you are.
-Oh, no. I have been charged with deliberately misleading the Senate by telling an untruth on 4 November last when I said: ‘I do not know’. However, the fact is, as I say now, that I still do not know. If honourable senators opposite are not prepared to accept that, I shall just have to live with it. But, Mr President, I say that, and I say it again. Beyond that, I cannot go because, as I understand it, that is the burden of the charge made against me. I cannot go beyond that. I am still, as I understand it, liable to be called back before another place and examined further. I have no evidence whether I shall be but I am still a summonable witness. I have not been discharged. I do not intend to canvass what I said at the inquiry or what I may say at some other place in the future. After all that debate, in which Senator Button was involved, there was but one simple issue: Did I or did I not make a deliberately misleading statement to the Senate on 4 November 1977?
– And last week.
– You admitted it last week.
-No, I did not; I said I may have. Mr President, if I were like so many other honourable senators and poured over my pinks’, correcting them here and there, I may have changed some of the words; but I do not do that. I believe Hansard should be produced as the words are said. If one looks especially at the answer to the last question, which I think was asked by Senator Georges and which appears at page 1 93 1 of Hansard, one will see that it states:
Well, Senator Georges can have his suspicions. That is fair enough. But I said ‘I do not know’ because I have never had any communication from the commissioners as to why they did change those names.
At the bottom of that page I said:
I do not deny that at all. If Senator Georges believes that I misled him by saying, as I believed honestly at the time, ‘ I do not know’- because 1 did not know then and I do not know now- I apologise. It is unfortunate that perhaps the honourable senator believes I misled him.
I finished up by saying:
I have no desire to come in here and tell untruths; I have no desire to come in here and not tell the truth on any matter.
– And get caught.
-Oh, come, come! We know that poor old Senator James McClelland has been itching for this day for two and a half years. Of course Senator Button did not like my illustration of the flea and the elephant. Originally I was going to use the illustration of the jackal and the lion. I think the former would have been the right description but I changed it to the elephant because I could not think of something to go with a jackal. I think a jackal would have been more descriptive than a flea.
But I shall return to what I said a while ago. The burden of the complaint against me is that on 4 November of last year I came into this chamber and made a deliberately misleading statement. Mr President, I deny that. What I said then was the truth; it is still the truth. I will not know why those boundaries were changed until the Royal Commission reports.
– The motion of no confidence that has been moved by the Opposition has not been moved lightly. I think all would agree that we do not move motions of no confidence against any member of this chamber unless we believe that there are reasonable grounds for doing so. Senator Button quoted a statement in July 1975 by the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, when he was Leader of the Opposition. That statement is worth requoting. He said:
Ten per cent or even 50 per cent of the truth is as good a way of misleading this Parliament and the Australian people as a downright lie. The half truth, the partial answer and the slipping over of the full facts are a misleading of this Parliament just as much as and maybe much more deliberately than the statement by the former Deputy Prime Minister.
On 4 November of last year the Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, did exactly what his leader was complaining about. Fifty per cent of the truth is not the whole truth. We accept the words that Senator Withers has just used whereby he claimed, of course, that he did not know. I suppose one can use words for whatever purpose one wants. The concern of the Opposition is that the record shows that there has not been a full disclosure of the truth. On 4 November the Minister for Administrative Services made two statements which I believe will haunt him. The first was the example of 50 per cent of the truth. The second could be referred to in somewhat stronger terms. During the debate on 4 November, reported at page 2127 of Hansard, the Minister said:
I have never telephoned Mr Coleman about the naming of electorates.
Technically, strictly speaking, there is no evidence that Senator Withers did in fact telephone Mr Coleman. Mr Coleman, of course, is the Australian Electoral Officer for Queensland. As such, he is the chairman of the three electoral commissioners carrying out the redistribution in Queensland. Although Senator Withers did not speak to Mr Coleman, he spoke to Mr Pearson who is the Chief Australian Electoral Officer. He asked Mr Pearson to contact the redistribution commissioners with a view to changing the proposed name of the electorates in Queensland. As a result of that discussion Mr Pearson telephoned Mr Coleman passing on the Minister’s comments about the naming of the seats. Subsequently, Mr Pearson informed the Minister that he had passed on the Minister’s suggestion.
There is a clear chain of events. The Minister spoke to Mr Pearson and invited him to speak to Mr Coleman. Mr Pearson subsequently informed the Minister that he had done so. Again, on 4 November last year, the Minister said in this chamber that he had not telephoned Mr Coleman about the naming of the electorates. Yet when the Minister made that statement he knew that he had telephoned Mr Pearson on the issue. He knew that Mr Pearson had passed on his request to Mr Coleman but he was prepared to allow the Senate to believe that he had had no contact whatsoever with Mr Coleman. That was the clear impression that was given. Whether that was intentional is not for me to debate but that is as it appears in the Hansard record. He went on to say:
I have been asked why the names were changed. I do not know.
In all fairness this must be difficult for anyone to believe. On 2 1 April this year the Minister wrote to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and informed him that he was responsible for the change in name. He went further than merely telling the Attorney-General that he knew how the name change occurred. He conceded that not only did he know but also that he was responsible for the change. If the Minister knew in April of this year that he was responsible for the change in the names of the electorates, he would have been equally aware of that fact on 4 November last year. That date was much closer to the actual events and he would have had an even better recollection of his actions on that date. He told the Parliament -
– I raise a point of order. I do so only because Senator Wriedt has alleged a lack of honesty by the Minister. I suggest that he has asserted to the Senate something which is dishonest, untrue. I challenge him to read the letter of 2 1 April from the Minister for Administrative Services to the Attorney-General. It will show that Senator Wriedt ‘s statement that Senator Withers acknowledged that he was responsible for the change of name is untrue. His statements concerning the background of this matter are palpably untrue. I draw his attention to the fact so that he may step deeper into it or else-
-Mr President, on the point of order, I indicate to you and to Senator Wright that my speech contains information which I am prepared to use in this chamber. If you see fit to inform me that I am using improper information, it is your privilege to do so. In turn I invite Senator Wright, if he is so concerned about the contents of the letter, to disprove me by producing the letter and reading it in this place. Having said that, may I proceed? The Minister has tried to play down the extent to which he misled Parliament. In response to Senator Button last Friday he said that he may have misled the Senate. On reflection, he now believes that that was of little consequence and can be described as a flea on an elephant, or words to that effect. The Minister also decided to desist in his evasion of the issue. In response to Senator Georges last Friday the Minister expressed the view that he is now not certain why the commissioners changed the name. He has said that that will depend on the findings of the Royal Commission. Senator Withers described it in this way:
It may well be that Mr Justice McGregor will find they changed the name solely because of my intervention. I do not know. He may find that they changed the name for some other reason.
Mr Justice McGregor is not even inquiring into this issue. One of the matters which Mr Justice McGregor is considering is whether there was a change of name of a proposed division from Gold Coast’ to ‘McPherson’ by reason of actions taken by the Hon. Eric Robinson. It is not even within the commissioner’s terms of reference to consider whether the change of name arose because of actions by Senator Withers. In any event, Senator Withers was still prepared to say in a letter on 2 1 April that he believed it was through his action that the name was changed. The fact is that the Minister believed he was responsible, and that was the position as we understand it. It is important to remember that we on the Opposition side do not have to prove that Senator Withers has misled the Parliament. That is not our role. He has already admitted, in response to a question from Senator Button, that he may have misled the Parliament. What we are considering is how important was that misleading of the Parliament that the Minister himself believes he did.
Another point to remember is that this issue was not raised originally by the Opposition. Mr Don Cameron, the former member for Griffith and, until he was sacked by the Prime Minister, the Government’s Deputy Whip in the House of Representatives, challenged the integrity of one of the Government’s Ministers in relation to certain manipulations of the electoral boundaries in Queensland. His concern about the way in which the redistribution in Queensland had been organised was echoed by a number of other Government members in Queensland, all of whom are on public record as raising their doubts about the redistribution. There is not the slightest doubt that the charges that have been made are serious. Their seriousness is demonstrated by the fact that there have been a considerable number of meetings of senior Cabinet Ministers, the appointment of a judge under the Royal Commissions Act to inquire into the issues, and an extension of the terms of reference when later evidence became available. All of those matters are now matters of common knowledge. Another point we should bear in mind is that the Minister is the Minister responsible for the administration of the Electoral Act. He is thus responsible for the appointment of electoral commissioners, for the day-to-day dealings involving the conduct of elections, and specifically for redistributions of electorates. In those circumstances, his actions must be like Caesar’s wife- above reproach. It has been said again and again that the independence of the electoral commissioners is fundamental to the working of democracy because of the trust that people place in them. It is easy to see how that trust can be eroded if a government manipulates the electoral system for its own advantage, as apparently happened in Queensland. For that reason the Minister has a high responsibility in his administration of electoral matters.
We should also remember that the change of name of the electorate has a major significance. The Liberal Party and the National Country Party have an arrangement that a sitting Minister is not to be challenged. However, if the boundaries of a seat are changed and it is renamed, it could easily be argued that the convention no longer applied, and that could open up the possibility of a three-cornered contest. In those circumstances, a Liberal Minister in McPherson might have been at risk. It is well known that Senator Withers has a deep and abiding hatred for the National Country Party. He would do nothing to aid the National Country Party, particularly at the expense of the Liberal Party. His role in Western Australia in respect of his tactics towards the National Country Party in that State are well known. Thus the significance of the change in name could not escape the Senate.
All these issues add up to the fact that we are not dealing with a minor matter but one of considerable substance. Not only is it one of considerable substance, it is also one on which Senator Withers has been persistently questioned in recent days. He has given answers which are inconsistent with the facts and he has attempted to conceal the full facts from the Parliament. What has been his attitude in the past? On 2 1 July 1 975 Senator Withers issued a Press statement which stated:
The Senate has an obligation to uncover the truth despite the objection of the Government. The Senate has done nothing more than attempt to fulfil that obligation.
Refusal of information is the first step towards tyranny. A people denied information cannot judge the facts.
That Press statement was issued five days after statements he had made in the Parliament when dealing with overseas loan negotiations. He went on to make other statements which are now history but some of which are still worth repeating. On 8 October 1975 he said:
I believe that we either opt for legalism or we opt for morality. We cannot have both.
If we apply those words to the present position we could see just how damaging have been the attempts by the Minister to deny the facts to this Parliament. The whole matter puts under a cloud the Government’s activities surrounding the most recent redistribution. It gives rise to a suspicion that there has been tampering with the electoral procedures. It makes one recall some other words attributed to the Minister which have never been put in print but which I think are well known around Parliament House: ‘Do not worry about the numbers, just give me the electoral commissioners’. We in the Opposition have given Senator Withers the opportunity to explain the position fully to the Parliament, and that he has not done.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. That was an offensive remark which was made and there was no basis for it. I ask that it be withdrawn. It is offensive to me as one supporting the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
-Mr President, if you prefer me to withdraw the words I shall do so.
– Thank you. Carry on.
– The position in the Senate for the past week or more has been that we have not been given the full story. I repeat that Senator Withers is under a cloud. The Prime Minister parades himself as a paragon of virtue in the political arena. According to him, all his Ministers must be above any suspicion. If he really believes that then he has a duty to act until such time as the findings of the Commission are known.
-I enter into this debate quite amazed at what we have heard today. I am not at all amazed that the Opposition has no confidence in the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) because, of course, the Opposition would not have any confidence in our Government or in any Minister of it. So there is nothing surprising about that. But I am amazed at the temerity of the allegations that were made today. Also I am greatly impressed, as usual, with the frankness of the Minister for Administrative Services in the remarks that he has made to this chamber. We have come to expect and know that the last thing he wants to do is to hide behind any technicalities in regard to procedures in this chamber.
Earlier today it was said by Senator Button that someone had put words into my mouth so that I would take a point of order in respect of matters raised here today. I would have thought that honourable senators would have known from my record in this Parliament that nobody would put words into my mouth. I see Ministers smiling. I would have thought that the questions 1 asked indicated that that was not my procedure in the Parliament. I have the greatest pleasure in supporting the Minister today in regard to this motion of no confidence because I believe he deserves our confidence, and he will get it.
Let me turn to what is perhaps one of the most extraordinary things that has happened in this debate before I turn to the conglomeration of nonsense which Senator Button put before us. I refer particularly to the speech made by Senator Wriedt, the Leader of the Opposition, which contained much irrelevant nonsense. He talked about someone’s hatred for the National Country Party of Australia and of people being under a cloud, none of which really impressed Government members. But the important thing was the deliberate allegation made against the Minister for Administrative Services, that he wrote to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), as he did, on 2 1 April and that he said he knew why the decision to change the name had been made. I propose to read the letter- it is not a secret document- which Senator Withers wrote to the Attorney-General on 21 April. So that there will be no doubt about this, later I shall seek leave to have this letter incorporated in Hansard. In the letter Senator Withers stated:
My Dear Attorney-General,
I first became aware of the proposals of the Distribution Commissioners for Queensland on or about 10 August 1977, when the maps were published. I also became aware, on or about 12 August 1977, that in South Australia the Commissioners in that State had deleted the name Angas and retained the name of Wakefield. This was in accordance with the 1969 recommendation of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Naming of Electoral Divisions.
Being aware of this report, and the change of name in Queensland, I raised with the Chief Australian Electoral Officer that the naming of the Gold Coast Division in Queensland was contrary to the recommendation of this Committee.
I pointed out that in South Australia the Commissioners had acted on the basis of the 1 969 report. I advised him that it was likely the Parliament would insist that the recommendations of the 1969 report be adhered to. I asked him did he think it would be proper for him to draw the report of the House of Representatives Committee to the attention of the Commissioners. I also suggested that if the Commissioners were looking for a new name for any Division in Queensland Fadden would, in my view, be appropriate.
He said he could see no obstacle to drawing the Commissioners’ attention to the 1969 report as it was not a matter that related to the boundaries nor a matter which impinged upon the Commissioners’ statutory responsibilities.
I did not at any time discuss the naming of any Division with any of the Queensland Distribution Commissioners.
I table a copy of that letter. As I read it, probably there is no need for me to incorporate it in Hansard. I am amazed today during a debate in which it is alleged that the Minister for Administrative Services has misled this chamber that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) could so mislead the chamber as to allege that the Minister concerned wrote to the AttorneyGeneral saying that he knew why the name had been changed. Senator Wright took a point of order against that -
– Seek leave to have the letter incorporated.
– I certainly shall do so. I seek leave to have the letter incorporated in Hansard, Mr President.
The document read as follows- 21 April 1978
My dear Attorney-General,
I first became aware of the proposals of the Distribution Commissioners for Queensland on or about 10 August 1977, when the maps were published. I also became aware, on or about 12 August 1977, that in South Australia the Commissioners in that State had deleted the name Angas and retained the name of Wakefield. This was in accordance with the 1 969 recommendation of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Naming of Electoral Divisions.
Being aware of this report, and the change of name in Queensland, I raised with the Chief Australian Electoral Officer that the naming of the Gold Coast Division in Queensland was contrary to the recommendation of this Committee.
I pointed out that in South Australia the Commissioners had acted on the basis of the 1969 report. I advised him that it was likely the Parliament would insist that the recommendations of the 1969 report be adhered to. I asked him did he think it would be proper for him to draw the report of the House of Representatives Committee to the attention of the Commissioners. 1 also suggested that if the Commissioners were looking for a new name for any Division in Queensland Fadden would, in my view, be appropriate.
He said he could see no obstacle to drawing the Commissioners’ attention to the 1969 report as it was not a matter that related to the boundaries nor a matter which impinged upon the Commissioners’ statutory responsibilities.
I did not at any time discuss the naming of any Division with any of the Queensland Distribution Commissioners.
Yours sincerely, R. G. WITHERS
Senator the Hon. P. D. Durack, AttorneyGeneral, Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600.
-The fact that this letter will appear twice in Hansard is even better because it will indicate the depths to which the Leader of the Opposition will go in his attempt to smear the Minister for Administrative Services. Speaking to a motion of no confidence is no time to outrageously mislead the Parliament, as the Leader of the Opposition has done today.
In that context, I turn to today’s mover of the motion of no confidence, Senator Button, who was obviously determined to misuse the rules of this chamber because what he wanted to do was to do his own analysis on his own basis of evidence which has been given before a judicial inquiry which is now sitting and to make some comparisons. When he quite properly was not permitted by you, Mr President, to do that, he fell into some state of disrepair and made his rather lame and halting speech. Nonetheless, in the course of that speech he did make some speculations and allegations and even claimed that Senator Withers might have made some misleading or difficult statements, even when he was burning leaves during the weekend. I do not think we are very interested in what people do of a weekend, whether they burn leaves- I do not know whether they were leaves of Hansard containing speeches by Senator Button or ordinary leaves- or whatever else. As has been said, we in this Parliament are concerned with truth. But surely we are not concerned to sit in this house of the Parliament in some sort of mock trial of issues which are being properly determined by a proper court.
Opposition senators interjecting-
-I am afraid that the further I look across this chamber the more it looks like a mock trial. I can see a few mock turtles also.
-Order, Senator Missen!
– Yes, Mr President. I just want to remind honourable senators opposite -
– What about Rex Connor?
– Let us not talk about past Labor Ministers.
Opposition senators- Oh, no!
-Oh, no! Let us not talk about those Ministers who fell like the leaves which fell on Senator Withers’ lawn. They were so ready to go. Honourable senators opposite had so much experience of no confidence in Ministers in their day that I bow to them as experts. They know what no confidence means because they had so much experience of no confidence in various Ministers during their administration. Remember the Cs.
– They had C-sickness.
-Yes, they had C-sickness. The names of all the Ministers concerned started with C. That may have been the only basis upon which they were removed. Nonetheless, honourable senators opposite did it.
– I thought you did not like our raising this today.
– It is proper to raise what is within the Standing Orders. It is proper to have debates upon questions of confidence. If honourable senators opposite had some little tittle of an allegation against the Minister for Administrative Services which was relevant we would have been only too glad to hear it. Let us say that honourable senators opposite do not like the fact that the Minister does not read as many newspapers as some other members of the Parliament might read. I have heard honourable senators opposite complain about that- that he does not read the West Australian Border Watch perhaps. If they had a relevant allegation against the Minister we might even have considered voting with them, but we will not do so on the basis of anything they have produced in this chamber. Honourable senators must remember that a Royal Commission has been set up and is sitting. It is to consider certain matters of impropriety which are in question- anything which might have been said or any action which might have been taken by or on behalf of one of the Ministers.
Of course it is important that Senator Withers should give evidence before an inquiry which has such wide compass in its terms of reference. Of course it is important that the commissioner of that inquiry, quite uninfluenced by any spurious allegations which might be made in this chamber, may hear evidence, carry out an examination and make decisions. It would have been quite wrong for Senator Withers to try to embellish the evidence which he has given in another place and had tried to give an explanation to other allegations which have been made. I and every honourable senator on this side of the chamber realise that what has been done is unfair to Senator Withers because he cannot answer questions and expand upon a great number of issues which have been raised today. He is restricted- not just Senator Button- in what he can say in this chamber–
– More so.
– More so than Senator Button because his honour is impuned by the allegations which have been made by Senator Button. We realise that even by taking points of order we appeared to restrict the Minister in the manner in which he was able to make full and frank statements on the whole gamut of allegations. The Minister has given evidence under oath elsewhere and is prepared to go back and give further evidence elsewhere if it is required. This chamber will stand in judgment of him if in fact subsequently it is found that he has misled the chamber. If there is to be any lack of confidence it needs to be shown that the Minister deliberately misled the Parliament. This has not been shown in the slightest in anything which has been said today. I think it is worth pointing out that, when the statement which is the subject of this allegation was made on 4 November elsewhere, it was not made in answer to a question raised in the Parliament.
– It was.
-It was not. If the honourable senator will look again at the record he will see that what Senator Withers was doing on 4 November was making a speech in regard to electoral legislation which was then before the chamber.
– He was answering a question from Senator Georges on the same day. Read the transcript, Senator.
-On 4 November?
– Yes. Read it. Senator Withers admitted that last week.
– Today, remarks made by the Minister on 4 November have been referred to. For example, remarks such as:
I have never telephoned Mr Coleman about the naming of electorates. I have been asked why the names were changed. I do not know.
Those statements are recorded on page 2127 of Hansard of 4 November 1977. Senator Withers was speaking in reply during the debate on the electoral legislation. The honourable senator will find, therefore, that the statements do not relate to a question but that they were made at the end of a long debate when all kinds of allegations had been thrown around the chamber. I find that speech of Senator Withers admirable. It is a very good speech because, among other things, he referred to that useful report of the House of Representatives in 1 969 which would repay study by all honourable senators in this chamber. He made those statements during a speech and not in answer to a question. My, if it were the matter of answers to questions that was the basis of a complaint, I think one could really make a good speech in this chamber about the subject of questions. lt could be about the total futility and uselessness of the types of questions asked in this chamber during the last tedious year by the Leaders of the Opposition and members of the Opposition. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber could teach them a great deal about asking questions in the Senate. The questions they have asked have been so futile.
– You could teach us a lot about asking Dorothy Dixers. That is all.
– I can at least claim without any fear of deliberately misleading the Senate in any way that I have never asked a Dorothy Dix question in this chamber. No Minister in this place will ever be able to give honourable senators any indication that I have. I would not ask such questions. I know that that was the method used by Opposition senators to keep their Government in business for years. Of course, we do not do that. I think that honourable senators opposite may do better if they were to ask some Dorothy Dixers. I might write a few for honourable senators opposite and suggest a few lines of inquiry that they can follow. The futility of the Opposition is displayed in the poor questions asked in this chamber by honourable senators opposite and in the attempt to discredit the Leader of the Government in the Senate by moving a motion of want of confidence in him. I thought that in the debate on this motion today we would hear something about the way in which Senator Withers conducts the business in the Senate. I thought that we would hear about the frank way in which he deals with questions and about the attempts which I know and which honourable senators opposite know he makes to obtain answers to questions in a very satisfactory way. There are only five Ministers in this chamber. They have to answer all the questions asked of the Government.
– That is not the subject today.
– The matter we are debating today is a want of confidence motion concerning the Minister for Administrative Services. I am expressing reasons why we have great confidence in the Minister. The subject is not one to be debated purely on the lines adopted by the Opposition. I have answered the charges made in my own way. I have challenged the integrity of the Leader of the Opposition in respect of the allegations he has made in the Senate. I will not rely upon the allegations made by Opposition senators today, but I will rely upon the fact that honourable senators opposite have shown themselves to be incompetent and have shown themselves as desiring to move beyond the fields which are proper for debate in this chamber at this time. Honourable senators opposite have endeavoured and are endeavouring to flout the rulings of the President. They would endeavour to raise other matters which, of course, are of no consequence to this circumstance at this time. I believe that one should not say anything further about this sad motion. One should realise that Senator Button and Senator Wriedt have shown the futility and the emptiness of the position of the Opposition in the chamber. I congratulate Senator Withers for the way in which he has stood up to the pressures and the stupidities that have come forward in this debate and during the last few weeks. I support him strongly and, of course, I urge honourable senators to vote for the defeat of this motion.
– During the few remarks made by Senator Missen which related in any manner, shape or form to the debate now before the Senate he referred to something about a mock trial. The charge levelled by the Opposition against the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) is that he has misled the Parliament and that he made a statement in the Senate on 4 November 1977 which was not completely in accordance with all the facts that were then known to him and in which, in response to the matters which were raised then, he should clearly have told the Parliament the position. Obviously Senator Withers himself clearly has doubts about the matter. On three separate occasions last Friday the Minister said that he may have misled the Parliament. Indeed, at one stage he apologised for possibly having misled the Parliament.
If, whilst there was any doubt about the matter and whilst it was hanging over the head of the Senate, the Minister had followed the time honoured tradition of standing down from office pending the findings of the Royal Commission that has been referred to by Government senators this motion would not have been moved by the Opposition. As there is doubt about whether the Minister has misled the Parliament, and obviously there is because on three separate occasions last Friday he said that he may have misled the Parliament, the Minister should stand down from his ministerial office until there is a positive statement that he did not mislead the Parliament. Indeed, if the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had asked the Minister to stand down, as the Prime Minister asked the Minister for Finance, Mr Eric Robinson, to stand down, as the Prime Minister asked Mr Garland to stand down and as the Prime Minister asked Mr Lynch to resign, this motion would not have been moved by the Opposition.
After all, Mr Eric Robinson has been charged by his own colleagues with having interfered with or brought influence to bear upon the deliberations of the Queensland distribution commissioners. Those allegations were not made by members of the Australian Labor Party. They were made by members of the Liberal Party of Australia. Pending a determination of those matters, Mr Eric Robinson has been suspended from his ministerial activities. Now the cloud is over Senator Withers’ head as to whether he misled the Parliament. That is a very serious matter for any Minister, more particularly for a senior Minister, such as the Minister who is in charge of the Senate and Senate procedure and who is the representative of the Prime Minister in this place. Pending the outcome of the determination elsewhere, if the Minister wants that to be the determination, I suggest that he should suspend himself from his ministerial responsibilities.
The indictment made against the Minister is that he misled the Parliament on 4 November 1977 when, as reported at page 2127 of the Senate Hansard of that date, he said:
I have never telephoned Mr Coleman about the naming of electorates. I have been asked why the names were changed. I do not know.
I suggest that in giving that answer to the Parliament he withheld from the Parliament information that he knew related to the matter that was then the subject of debate before the Parliament. The fact that the statement was given in reply to a debate, as Senator Missen has stated, is more to the point. The statement was made by the Minister in reply to a general debate on the motion that the proposals of the distribution commissions for Queensland be adopted. Certain questions had been asked during the course of that debate. A number of the questions were asked by my colleague, Senator Georges, who alluded to other matters that had arisen in the House of Representatives. The Minister gave a considered reply. It was one that was made at the end of the debate when his advisers were sitting alongside him. It was not a flippant, off-the-cuff answer given in reply to a question without notice. It was one that was given after the debate had been taking place for some considerable time and when the Minister had all the facts at his disposal. He also had his advisers from the Commonwealth Electoral Office sitting alongside him. It was at that time that he said he did not know why the name of the electorate had been changed. He did not say- we now know this is the case because he said so in this Parliament only last Friday- that he had had a conversation with Mr Pearson between the time of the presentation of the interim report of the distribution commissioners and the time of the presentation of the final report of the distribution commissioners and that he had suggested to Mr Pearson that the names proposed in the initial report- McPherson and Gold Coast- should be altered to McPherson and Fadden. It is a fact that in the initial report the distribution commissioners recommended that the electorates be named McPherson and Gold Coast.
After that initial report conversations took place between the Minister and Mr Pearson and between Mr Pearson and Mr Coleman. After those conversations the commissioners amended their interim report to make the names McPherson and Fadden. That was completely in line with the suggestion put by Senator Withers as related by him to this Parliament last Friday. Let the Minister deny that on or about 19 January he told the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), Messrs Sinclair, Nixon and Street and the Attorney-General, Senator Durack, that the change of names in the Queensland redistribution had followed his taking the matter up with Mr Pearson, the Chief Australian Electoral Officer, and that after he had told them they all then said: ‘So what?’ If that did not occur, let the Minister say so or let the other Ministers say so.
If we have reached the stage in this Parliament where Ministers can come in here and say what they like, and where the Government flippantly can ignore parliamentary standards, then we can give this place away. As my colleage Senator James McClelland said earlier during the course of speaking to a point of order, it is no wonder that the ordinary members of the public are losing their respect for and indeed, that many have contempt for, the way this Parliament is conducted, especially the way it has been conducted since this Government came into office. Mr President, for Senator Withers to say to this Parliament on 4 November, ‘I do not know why the names were changed ‘, clearly was to mislead the Parliament. In another place on 3 November last the honourable member for Lilley, Mr Kevin Cairns, speaking about the Queensland redistribution, had this to say:
Something occurred between the first publication of maps and the second publication of maps which was not even suggested in any objection or submission or proposition put to the commissioners. They got a message from on high, perhaps by way of a telephone call. But they made a significant change in names such as has not occurred before in redistributions that have been conducted under the present system.
That was a statement made in another place on 3 November last year by the honourable member for Lilley, Mr Kevin Cairns. If that had not occurred I would have thought that it would have been the responsibility of the Minister in charge of the electoral Bill, Senator Withers, when it came into this chamber to deny that accusation. Alternatively, knowing that he had had a conversation with Mr Pearson and that Mr Pearson had had a conversation with Mr Coleman, he could have said: ‘Look, they did not get a message from on high; they got a suggestion from me through Mr Pearson conveyed to Mr Coleman’. But what did Senator Withers say? Not only did Mr Cairns make that statement in the House of Representatives, but also my colleague Senator Georges repeated it in the Senate on 4 November. I shall repeat it:
Something occurred between the first publication of maps and the second publication of maps which was not even suggested in any objection or submission or proposition put to the commissioners. They got a message from on high, perhaps by way of a telephone call. But they made a significant change in names such as has not occurred before in redistributions that have been conducted under the present system.
Then Senator Withers, having sat there and listened to the flow of the debate, later said:
I regret that the honourable member for Lilley in the other place said the things he did.
Do honourable senators not think that it was Senator Withers’ responsibility to tell the Parliament after the allegation had been made by one of his own colleagues in another place and repeated in the Senate by Senator Georges that he himself had had indirect discussions or had made an indirect submission in relation to the electoral redistribution in Queensland? But he said:
I regret that the honourable member for Lilley in the other place said the things he did. 1 turn now to the naming of electorates. It ought to be understood that submissions which have come in about the naming of electorates are not printed for the simple reason that they are not official submissions because the naming of subdivisions is a matter for this Parliament and no one else. I have never telephoned Mr Coleman about the naming of electorates.
True it was, he had not telephoned Mr Coleman but he had had at least one telephone conversation with Mr Pearson.
– But you did not ask that question.
-He continued: ‘I have been asked why the names were changed ‘. My colleague Senator Haines has said that we did not ask the question. But Mr Kevin Cairns, the honourable member for Lilley, one of the Minister’s own colleagues, made the direct accusation that they had ‘got a message from on high’. He said:
They got a message from on high, perhaps by way of a telephone call. But they made a significant change in names such as has not occurred before in redistributions that have been conducted under the present system ‘.
The Minister, knowing that that allegation had been made in the House of Representatives and repeated in the Senate, knowing that he had had a discussion with the Chief Electoral Officer and that the Chief Electoral Officer had put certain things to the distribution commissioners, did not respond to that allegation by saying that he had had that conversation. I suggest that that is a clear misleading of the Australian Parliament. The Minister told me earlier this session that if the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) wished to press his allegations against his ministerial colleague, Mr Eric Robinson, he should take them to the Commonwealth Police. He said that on 10 April and still at that time none of us had been told of the Minister’s conversation with Mr Pearson. According to the Minister, some of his Cabinet colleagues knew of the conservation, but there has been silence all round.
We know that on 21 April- Senator Missen has already tendered the letter for the Hansard record- Senator Withers wrote to the AttorneyGeneral to inform him of his conversation with Mr Pearson, even though according to Senator Withers he told the Attorney-General- along with other Cabinet Ministers, I suggest- about the matter on or about 19 January. We now know that there was at least one conversation between the Minister and Mr Pearson. There was at least one conversation between Mr Pearson and Mr Coleman. We know that before those conversations took place the recommendations of the distribution commissioners in Queensland were for the two Queensland seats that are in dispute to be named McPherson and Gold Coast. We know that after those conversations, after the Minister had suggested the names of McPherson and Fadden, the distribution commissioners reported to Parliament the change of names to McPherson and Fadden. Therefore I suggest that for the Minister to tell this House on 4 November last year, ‘I have been asked why names were changed. I do not know’, clearly was to mislead the Parliament. He should have said, and could well have said: ‘It may be because of a conversation I had with Mr Pearson when I suggested to Mr Pearson that perhaps the names should be McPherson and Fadden’.
– That could be construed as being misleading.
– It would have been much closer to the truth. Perhaps if that conversation had been explained to this Parliament the events that are taking place in Brisbane at this moment would have been changed or the terms of reference would have been different. I suggest that the Minister in deference to the time-honoured tradition of this Parliament should tender his ministerial resignation and until that time his Government and his Prime Minister will stand condemned. The motion for want of confidence in the Minister for Administrative Services should be supported by the Senate.
– Only one thing has emerged today. The only people to have deliberately, falsely and wilfully misled the Senate are members of the Labor Opposition in the Senate and specifically the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) today. Let us get the matter in true perspective. When it is all boiled down it is alleged that the one complaint was that Senator Withers had misled- presumably wilfully misled- the Senate. Today, Senator Wriedt had to be forced to withdraw a sentence which he sought to attribute to Senator Withers’ mouth. It was a most improper thing. The Senate Hansard will show that Senator Wriedt attributed these words to Senator Withers. Don’t worry about the electoral laws; just give me charge of the electoral commissioners ‘. That was a totally invented thing. It was a deliberate misleading of the Senate. Its aim was wilfully and falsely to suggest that Senator Withers had done something. What a corrupt charge it was against electoral commissioners. This is the atmosphere today in which -
– I take a point of order. Perhaps it is a matter to raise after Senator Carrick ‘s speech, but I did not say that Senator Withers was not concerned about the laws; I said numbers’. If Senator Carrick wishes to be untruthful about what I said that is his business. I ask him to withdraw any suggestion of corruption on my part. Senator Carrick implied that I had spoken or acted corruptly. I ask him to withdraw that.
– If anything I have said is not in parallel with what the Senate Hansard records I withdraw it completely. I make that clear. Senator Wriedt sought today to put words into Senator Withers’ mouth. He was forced to withdraw the words. He has no basis for putting those words in Senator Withers’ mouth. He insinuated that, in regard to numbers, some kind of a device could produce a result. The charge was false, deliberate, wilful and misleading.
This censure motion has fallen flat and plummeted as fast as a lead balloon. Only one thing has come out of the censure motion, and it has come out of the words of the Labor Opposition. The Government and Senator Withers have been vindicated. I ask honourable senators opposite to show me what evidence has been produced. Let me take a second matter; that of deliberate, false and misleading evidence. What was the intention of Senator Wriedt with regard to Senator Withers’ letter to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack)? Senator Wriedt quite wrongly and improperly misrepresented the substance of that letter. If the Opposition is looking to censure the Government for false and wilful misrepresentation, I say: Physician heal thyself. Today I saw two of the worst examples I have ever seen in this regard. Nothing has been said to really bring about the extension of this debate. I ask the Senate and the people of Australia one question: Why was it that the Labor Opposition brought this censure motion on today when the facts are not known by the Royal Commission? Half-truths and untruths were peddled. If members of the Opposition in the purity of their souls wanted the truth why did they not wait until after the Royal Commission had completed its inquiry and when the facts and the law would have been stated? They would then have been able to rely upon the very evidence of the Royal Commission. They did not do so because it would not suit them to rely upon the final facts and the final law.
– Just like you did with Connor and Cairns. Just the same tactics.
-What about Connor and Cairns? There is a vast difference between Connor and Cairns and this matter. A Royal Commission has been held to seek the facts and the law. The Whitlam Government ran away from inquiries to seek the facts and the law. Senator Wriedt should not mention the Cairns and the Connors to us.
The fact of the matter is that when evidence came before this Government which suggested some impropriety a Royal Commission was immediately set up. The Opposition is unwilling to wait for the verdict of the umpire. Why? Because it knows that the verdict of the umpire will not suit it.
– How do you know? Why aren’t you prepared to wait?
– It is good to know that Senator James McClelland has come out of hibernation. I regret that he comes out of hibernation only for negative and corrosive things. His intellect would be better applied to more constructive matters. I pay that tribute to wasted intellect as such. Of course the Government will wait for the report of the Royal Commission. Why was the Opposition not prepared to wait? To put this matter in perspective, all the Senate has to do is wait for the Royal Commission’s findings on facts and law. At an appropriate time it then can debate those findings. Senator Withers and the Government would be without any recourse to any estoppel in law or protocol in that regard. Of course, the Opposition does not play fair. It wants to see a man hamstrung. The lawyers in the Opposition must know that a witness in a judicial process is hamstrung. It suited the Opposition to move the censure motion now. The Opposition did not worry about whether the sub judice rule, parliamentary procedure or ordinary natural justice was involved.
The simple thing would have been for the Opposition to await the facts. It has not done so at all. It has sought to use false and misleading information to suggest that something has happened. Members of the Opposition are the guilty people. On the evidence today, that is the only guilt that has been established. I could not believe that Senator Wriedt would attempt to do what he did today; firstly in regard to the words he attempted to put into Senator Withers ‘ mouth and, secondly, in regard to the distortion of the letter. Incidentally he must have known that the letter did not do what he said it did. He was in my judgment- I may be wrong- trying to show that he had not related to the transcript of the evidence. The transcript, presumably, was his only source. If it was, he used it wrongly.
The Government has always set very high standards for its Ministers and members. Wherever a problem has arisen we have sought frankly and in public to elicit the facts. That is what is happening now. We invite the Senate and the people of Australia to await the findings of the Royal Commission. By all means we can have a debate then. When the findings are made known we can have the truth. I take it poorly to think that the Opposition has come in here with all the hypocrisy and humbug on earth and pretended that it is pinning a claim of falsely misleading the Senate on Senator Withers when the evidence the Opposition uses is itself deliberately misleading and twisted in order to produce an answer that the Opposition knows is wrong. On that basis of course the Senate will- and all Opposition members should- soundly reject the censure motion.
- Senator Withers has never been a notably fair political fighter. We have heard some mealymouthed tributes to him from some of his reluctant supporters today. But I remind him, and those who have gathered around him in a display of phoney loyalty, of another comment which he made on 4 November and which squarely indicates his political morality. In talking about the electoral legislation he said:
I thank the Opposition for its ‘semi-support’ of the Bills. I do not know why honourable senators opposite should fear me if 1 were able to write the rules. I assure them that if I did write them they would be fair and just- fair to us and just awful to them.
– Head on. Then he said ‘leaving all jokes aside’.
-Senator Wright says that it is a joke. I remind him of the old adage that many a true word is spoken in jest. I suggest that another little adage he might ponder is in vino Veritas. In any event, I say that the essence of Senator Withers is contained in the pseudo joking statement. As we are in the field of adages, I remind Senator Withers of another one which he would do well to bear in mind at this special, critical moment in his career. If he will read the newspapers closely he will find that Opposition senators are not the only ones concerned about his conduct. The adage I ask him to bear in mind is that he who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword. Of course I am not suggestingespecially in the light of the mealy-mouthed contributions we have had today from the Government side of the Senate- that his inglorious career is about to perish on the floor of the
Senate, although I have observed over the last week and during the course of this debate looks of dismay on the faces of some of his colleagues at the exposure of his shoddy behaviour.
– Ha, ha.
-The honourable senator would not understand. I doubt whether she can follow the argument. I have detected looks of dismay on the faces of the Minister’s colleagues. I am sure that his reluctant followers have been dragooned into voting to save his thick hide. But that may not be the end of the matter. As I said, even the Sydney Morning Herald- not a notably pro-Labor newspaperhas commented sourly in its editorial today on Senator Withers’ eccentric view of what constitutes frankness to the Senate. I suggest that Senator Withers should be careful not to turn his back on a well-known political assassin who may even now be unsheathing his knife.
– When did you speak on this?
– If the honourable senator will read the newspapers she will find out. Senator Withers has obviously found it tiresome today to have to establish what to him is patently obvious and that is, that he is always open and frank with the Senate. It is not obvious to the Sydney Morning Herald and it is not obvious to us. As for the implied suggestion or argument that just the naming of an electorate is a storm in a teacup anyway and much ado about nothing, I think has been well and truly disposed of by Senator Wriedt who showed that it is not a trivial matter at all. The question naturally arises: If it were a matter of no importance, why has Senator Withers been at such inordinate pains to conceal the full truth from the Senate? Today we had from Senator Withers and from Senator Missen what I suggest is a most hypocritical attempt at a defence of Senator Withers’ conduct in this place. I do not know whether honourable senators on the Government side of the Senate believe that we on this side do not know when they have party meetings. They know when we have party meetings. We know, as we heard it over the Parliament House loudspeakers, that a special party meeting of the Government parties was held at 2 o’clock today on the verge of this debate taking place. Are we asked to believe that at that meeting not a word was spoken- as Senator Withers and Senator Missen would have us believe- about the fact that a point of order would be taken on this very much abused sub judice rule?
Nobody should know better than Senator Wright that the sub judice rule has been gravely misconstrued here today. The point of the sub judice rule- I am not canvassing your ruling at all, Mr President- as we understand it and as all lawyers should know, especially Senator Wright who, for all his shortcomings, is at least a good lawyer is that there are two points to be balanced. They are the public interest and any danger of prejudicing proceedings before a tribunal to which, it is claimed, the sub judice rule should apply. How can there possibly be any prejudice to the proceedings before that tribunal when the conduct of Senator Withers was not even a term of reference and when the evidence he gave there, as distinct from the evidence he gives to this Senate, was made on oath? How can it possibly be suggested that the tribunal will have any difficulty in what it believes about Senator Withers? Is it going to believe what he said on oath where the sanctions are so serious for telling untruths?
– Order! The honourable senator is questioning whether the evidence given by gentlemen on oath can be believed.
– No, Mr President, you have misunderstood what I said. I am saying that the evidence which Senator Withers gave before the tribunal cannot possibly come into question, that it was evidence given on oath. I am not suggesting for one moment he would tell a lie on oath. But there is a little more leeway in this place. It is possible to play with the truth a little. It is possible to tell portion of the truth. It is possible to avoid telling outright lies while, at the same time, misleading the Senate. That is the burden of our charge against Senator Withers. Senator Withers suggested to Senator Button that we had failed to give precise details of our charge against him. In fact, it must have been perfectly obvious to anyone listening to this debate that the Opposition had one hand tied behind its back and was unable to produce the irrefutable evidence which would have shown that Senator Withers did mislead the Parliament. This morning the Sydney Morning Herald stated:
Senator Withers’ distinction;
That is on the point of not telling Mr Coleman but telling someone to tell Mr Coleman– may not be good enough Tor most people. At the best he seems to have been less than forthright; at the worst, he misled Parliament. It is a serious matter -
Of course it is a novelty for us on the Opposition side of the chamber to see Senator Withers taking anything seriously. His stock in trade in this place is to treat the chamber with contempt; especially to treat us with contempt. It is interesting to hear Senator Missen, and also often Senator Baume, giving the Opposition little lectures on how to conduct itself as an Opposition. But has it ever occurred to Senator Missen to wonder how an Opposition can continue to have any fervour for or any faith in the worthwhileness of asking questions of a Leader of the Government in the Senate when it knows it will be fobbed off with non-answers. Senator Withers has mastered the technique of treating with contempt everybody who asks him a question. He even claims that he does not or cannot read the newspapers.
This time, unfortunately for Senator Withers, in answer to the barrage of questions with which he had to deal last week, he lost his cool. In his long, rambling answer to Senator Douglas McClelland, he batted out time on the last sitting day of last week. Obviously he now regrets that because he departed from his general principle of ‘tell them nothing’ and admitted that he may have misled the Senate. He has obviously been in headlong retreat ever since. He has resorted now to his old tactic of ‘tell them nothing’. If he thinks that anybody here was fooled today by the tactics used on his side of the Parliament to keep the most damning evidence out of debate, let me say that we on this side of the Parliament were not fooled. Senator Missen has chosen to praise Senator Withers for his almost boy-like frankness in this place, but we should ask Senator Withers this question which must have occurred to almost everybody: Why did he volunteer to give evidence to the Royal Commission? Did he decide only after Mr Pearson told him that he was about to blow the gaff? In other words, do we ever hear the truth from Senator Withers except when he knows that he cannot conceal it? I suggest that there was a strong presumption of that having occurred, in the fact that he appeared before the Royal Commission at all.
One other factor that 1 would like to suggest before concluding is that it is of significance that only one Minister has seen fit to stand up and defend Senator Withers today. I wondered why Senator Durack did not give us the benefit of his thoughts. After all, one would have thought that this would be a matter peculiarly within his competence. Why were we not given the benefit of the lucidity and precision of the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) or the clarity and forthrightness- I say this without my tongue in my cheek- of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle)? Instead all we have had is the familiar garrulity of Senator Carrick, who, as we know, could not be restrained from talking under water on any subject. Of course Senator
Carrick did not specifically defend Senator Withers at all probably, I suggest, because his heart was not in the task.
He resorted to a ploy which has been originated by his very original Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), original also in his attitude towards the truth. The Prime Minister has mastered this technique of censuring the censurers, that is, moving a censure motion against somebody who has already moved a censure motion against the Government. Senator Carrick has learned from his master. We know of course that it does not do the careers of members of the Government much good unless they learn from their master. Senator Carrick today adopted the ploy of censuring the censurers. He did not say anything about the case against the Leader of the Government. All he did today was to manufacture some overblown rhetoric about the alleged behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt). He did it with that mixture of sanctimoniousness and long-windedness which has become his hallmark. I suggest that we can disregard what Senator Carrick had to say because he made no contribution at all to the debate.
Finally, 1 refer to an interjection which Senator Withers was stung into making when he heard my name mentioned. I do not know why he should feel anything except his normal charity towards me. He made some reference to the lion and the jackal, with me presumably cast in the role of the jackal and himself cast in the role of the lion, which I would have thought was a little bit conceited. Passing over that aspect, I remind him that the lion has always been known as the king of the jungle. That is what he is: A very temporary king of the jungle into which he has turned Australian politics. But he should bear in mind that this jungle is a dangerous place and other ravening beasts, even more dangerous than an overfed lion, are around and one may be waiting now to devour him when he least expects it.
-As Senator James McClelland resumes his seat, it is fitting to consider how the dignity of the Senate and the respect which the public might have for it will be enhanced by the name calling, personal abuse and characterisation to which the honourable senator treats the members of this chamber. It is that petty type of debate that men avoid. It is in keeping with the leading gambit of the debate when Senator Button found that he had trespassed upon forbidden ground and said: ‘I am handicapped ‘. Later Senator James McClelland said: ‘We have been talking with our hands behind our backs’. Of course he meant: ‘We have been talking with our tongues in our cheeks’. When some evidence that was fit to be examined by a judicial tribunal whether there was any impropriety in the course of the Commissioners’ decision to give a name to an electorate in Queensland, this Government appointed a judge whose independence and integrity has not been impuned by anyone; nor could it be. That judge this very moment is proceeding actively to listen to evidence from various witnesses. I do not know how many witnesses are giving that evidence, nor do I know what they are saying because I regard the matter as being completely subservient in my consideration of public affairs at present. That is why the matter is fit to be entrusted exclusively to the judge.
If this Senate and its members had any respect for the institution, having deputed the judge to make his judgment upon all the evidenceincluding the volunteered evidence of the Leader of the Government, Senator Withers who, in that report, will be open to praise, blame or censure measured in judicial terms- it would have been much more suitable to the judgment of this chamber and to the chamber securing the respect of the public if we had waited for that report to be delivered. On the basis of a political but, I would hope, impartial discussion of the report, with the transcript available for reference, it could then go to judgment. But what has happened? There has been a pitiable admission by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt), in the course of his speech, driven to the very dregs of feebleness that: ‘We do not have to prove that Senator Withers has misled the Senate. Senator Withers is under a cloud. ‘ That is the Wriedt statement upon which the gentlemen and ladies of this chamber, responsible in judgment, have been asked by him to vote that they have no confidence in a Minister whose experience as Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Government for five or seven years has induced in everyone a solid respect for management of the chamber with due deference to all the requirements of minorities and individuals and a tolerance of discussion amongst members of his Party, who hold the privilege of independently expressing their views, unlike a cartload of Caucus members. Caucus members discuss matters in secret and come in here rivetted down like cattle going to the market. But Senator Withers and his following, in various numbers, will express their point of view and there is no attempt to caucus this side of the chamber as the Leader respects the integrity of individuals because of his own inate integrity.
The Leader of the Opposition has seen Senator Button, who, as a lawyer, should have known of the impropriety of trying to support a political case here on the evidence now being considered by a judge of a Royal Commission, pricked like a balloon. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is just trying to follow the waves of the Press which takes up such little feathers in the wind because these stories promote sales, irrespective of responsibility of judgment. The House of Lords in the thalidomide case in 1973 made a unanimous judgment through six or seven Law Lords that a newspaper article in the Sydney Morning Herald, beyond the bounds of temperate and objective discussion, transgressed the real role of a commentator. If the present Royal Commission were a court of law it would come into collision with the rules of contempt. Senator Button has tried to trespass upon the transcript of evidence given before the judge and use that evidence, which is partially taken and of which he has read not one per cent. What integrity of intellect is there on the part of the lawyer who comes into this place and bases a case of” impropriety on the part of a member of parliament on a fragmentary, second hand knowledge of evidence of which he personally has not heard one syllable or read one per cent so that he has had no opportunity to assess that evidence. We have seen that despicable performance on the part of a lawyer leading for the Opposition. When forbidden to trespass upon forbidden ground he shrivelled up into an even more diminutive stature than we are in the habit of seeing. So much for the actions of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I refer now to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition.
Senator Wriedt said that it is not for the Opposition to show that Senator Withers misled the Parliament and that Senator Withers is under a cloud. Is it any wonder the Opposition is in such disarray that even now it has to invoke the Whitlam precedent. I refer to the sacking of Cairns, Connor, Cameron and Crean. Honourable senators will recall the formidable proposition concerning the subverting of the Constitution. What a precedent to invoke! When the James Mcclellands, the Douglas Mcclellands and the Wheeldons were clinging to office we pressed them and said: ‘If you will have a royal commission on this matter, if you will have a judicial inquiry on this matter, we will not withhold Supply’. How many times was that proposition repeated in the Senate? How many times did we say: ‘We will withhold Supply until the Government submits this whole affair to a judicial inquiry’? This is the precedent that this illogical, unprincipled attack today brings forward. Is it any wonder that there is confusion and backstabbing in the ranks of the Labor Opposition? Is it any wonder that we see the front bench empty? If we were to see it filled by its present occupants, we would be horrified! We would be daunted by their ability!
– I rise on a point of order. My point of order is a trivial one but I must break the continuity of Senator Wright’s comments. The honourable senator is complaining about the members of the front bench of the Opposition being out of their places. He also is out of his place. He is wandering all over the Senate chamber. In fact, he is rolling in the aisles. He has no thought to his place. He ought to have thought to his place without casting criticisms upon other people.
– There is no point of order involved
– I do not want to detain the Senate with trivialities. Indeed, it is a matter of triviality for me to refer to the front bench of the Opposition. But it dismays me to hear Opposition speakers asking for the Whitlam precedent to be invoked. They were asked to submit a major subversion of the Constitution to a judicial inquiry but they preferred to try to push Supply through and retain government.
– I rise to a point of order. Surely there are some limits to the irrelevance which is permitted in debates in this chamber.
– I ask Senator Wright to continue.
-What did they do when they were forced by the epoch-making decision of a great constitutional exponent, John Kerr, to submit themselves to the people? They came back defeated and in disgrace. This Government won office with the greatest majority since Federation. It did so a second time when it went to the electors again. It is this standard of honour that they invoke as the precedent today, although they were not prepared to submit one of their Ministers to a judicial inquiry. I forbear to say, lest I refer to other judicial proceedings, that they are making a gallant attempt not to go before a court of law. That is the precedent that we have been asked to consider. Mr Justice McGregor will give his judgment in due course. It will be then for the Parliament to debate whether Senator Withers has in any respect misled the Parliament.
– What happened to the subject of the debate?
– I ask Senator Georges to try to rationalise his thinking and to try for one minute to keep two thoughts in sequence and listen to me. With regard to the gravamen of the charge, we are told that Senator Withers said:
I have never telephoned Mr Coleman about the naming of electorates. I have been asked why the names were changed.
– I just cannot stop laughing at you.
-I notice that. That is a weakness that some creatures in cages have, too. Hansard has been quoted thus far. But nobody thought it relevant to read Senator Withers’ next statement:
I suggest to honourable senators and particularly to the honourable member for Lilley in another place that he ought to read the report of a Committee of the House of Representatives which was presented in 1 968 or 1 969. That report was alluded to in the report of the South Australian Distribution Commissioners.
I read that to mean in 1977.
That report recommended- it was no more than a recommendationthat when two electorates are shuffled together or put together, the electorate name to be retained ought to be that out of which the greatest number of electors came. In the case of the present electorate of Mcpherson, all the electors presently in the electorate came from the old electorate of McPherson but in the new electorate of Fadden only some of the electors came from the old electorate of McPherson and some of them came from other electorates. So under the rules put down by the House of Representatives Committee, the distribution commissioners were correct.
– Wait until Mr Davies comes into the case.
– Just a minute, before you interrupt. Senator Wriedt then said that Senator Withers had agreed in his letter to the AttorneyGeneral on 2 1 April that he was responsible for the change of name. When I challenged him he shuffled backwards, disowned it, and then said: We are content to rest our case on the basis that we do not have to prove that Senator Withers misled the Parliament, he is under a cloud ‘. My colleague Senator Missen has referred to this letter in full, but let me remind the Senate of what Senator Withers said on the subject of whether he knew why the commissioners made their decision to change the name and that he was responsible for it. He said nothing of the sort. I will read the letter. Senator Withers called the attention of the Attorney-General to the fact that on 1 2 August in South Australia the commissioners in that State had deleted the name Angas and had retained the name Wakefield. Is there any hullabaloo about that? Senator Withers went on to say that that was in accordance with the 1 969 recommendation of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Naming of Electoral Divisions. The letter continued:
Being aware of this report, and the change of name in Queensland, I raised with the Chief Australian Electoral Officer -
What an offence for the Minister to speak to the head of his Department- that the naming of the Gold Coast Division in Queensland was contrary to the recommendation of this Committee.
I pointed out that in South Australia the Commissioners had acted on the basis of the 1969 report. I advised him that it was likely the Parliament would insist that the recommendation of the 1969 report be adhered to. I asked him did he think it would be proper for him to draw the report of the House of Representatives Committee to the attention of the Commissioners. I also suggested that if the Commissioners were looking for a new name for any Division in Queensland Fadden would, in my view, bc appropriate.
He said he could see no obstacle to drawing the Commissioners ‘ attention to the 1969 report as it was not a matter that related to the boundaries nor a matter which impinged upon the Commissioners ‘ statutory responsibilities.
That letter is the basis of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, this exponent of honest behaviour, fair dealing, and not supressing the facts. He read into that letter a statement that Senator Withers had admitted that he was responsible for the change of name when there is not a word or a suggestion of that in the letter. On the contrary, there is a most deferential dealing with documents in the department and a most courteous and deferential communication with the Chief Electoral Officer, asking him whether it would be proper for him to communicate with whoever the people are in Queensland and draw their attention to a parliamentary report. 1 come to Senator James McClelland. In answer to that logical case, Senator James McClelland said: ‘Ah, the Sydney Morning Herald has spoken ‘. Having to write a leader at 1 1.30 last night, something had to be written, as Billy Hughes used to say with regard to leaders in newspapers. An editorial is a comment, we do not know by whom, but by one of the editorial staff. So long as it is temperate and objective, makes plain to the public that it is a comment on the basis of imperfectly known evidence and only a part-heard case and without any knowledge of the whole of the facts in the case, let us read it for what it is worth. But for Senator James McClelland to say that it is not only his side of the House but some newspaper editors who comment adversely on this matter is almost as shabby as Senator Wriedt ‘s proposition that the Opposition does not have to show that Senator
Withers deliberately misled the Senate, that Senator Withers is under a cloud.
Every cloud has a silver lining, Mr President, and on this side we are not so darkened in our outlook, dismayed in our countenance or confused in our thinking as the assemblage that is now on the Opposition front bench. The back benches are also fairly full, no doubt due to the fact that a speech worth listening to will be listened to. It is shameful that the Opposition can trespass upon the judicial function, make a premature judgment on fragmentary evidence, not one real shred of which is known, and that the Leader of the Opposition can come in here on a weak basis and say: ‘We do not have to show that Senator Withers has misled the Senate but he is under a cloud’. I suggest that the division should disperse the cloud and show that through the silver lining the sun shines. I move:
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put-
That the motion (Senator Button’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is the Minister aware that, on Wednesday, ten Japanese nuclear power companies entered into a contract with British Nuclear Fuel Limited worth nearly $1.5 billion to reprocess 16,000 tonnes of nuclear spent fuel?
Is he aware that, under existing United StatesJapanese nuclear power agreements, Washington ‘s approval is necessary for transport overseas of spent fuel from American uranium? Is the Minister aware that the Japanese power companies conceded that they had not received the Carter Administration’s sanction for the reprocessing? Will the Minister give a guarantee that the Australian Government will demand that the Japanese Government not permit any such action in respect of any Australian uranium shipments which may go to Japan?
– I am not aware of the actual incident to which Senator Wriedt alludes. I will certainly seek information on it. I am aware of the restrictions imposed by the United States Government. I am not aware that they have been breached in any way. I shall look at that. My clear understanding is that the Commonwealth Government aims to ensure that all safeguardsincluding, I understand, reprocessings- will be written into the contracts. I am not talking from first hand knowledge so I shall get a more specific answer to the final part of Senator Wriedt ‘s question because that information ought to come from the responsible Minister.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Yesterday, I received the following telegram from a commercial fisherman based in Darwin. I ask the question contained in that telegram to the Minister. It states:
What are your Government’s plans to compensate fishermen who have outlayed finance to fish in Northern Territory waters in accordance with Northern Territory ordinances in view of your Minister Viner’s implementation of Justice Toohey “s recommendation of Aboriginal land extending to low water mark and that fishermen have no right to allow nets to dry between low and high water mark.
– I assume that the telegram arose from the decision of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs regarding the report of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner on the Borroloola land claim. The Commissioner indicated in his report to the Minister that there is not a great deal of commercial fishing around the Sir Edward Pellow Group. It is not known at this stage whether any actual detriment will be suffered by commercial fishermen because of the extension of Aboriginal land to the low water mark. The way is now open for commercial fishermen to negotiate with the traditional owners through the Northern Land Council regarding the terms and conditions which the Aboriginals may seek to place upon access to their land by commercial fishermen.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General, as Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations or to the Minister representing the Attorney-General.
– I shall answer if I can.
– My question relates to the Commonwealth Youth Employment Subsidy Scheme. Some five weeks ago I asked the Attorney-General whether the Government had evidence of abuse of that scheme by employers and whether the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations was investigating abuse of that scheme by employers. At that stage the Attorney-General- I hesitate to use this terminologydeclined to answer the question. He said that he would obtain the information. I again ask: Has the Government information about the abuse of that scheme by employers? Is the Government conducting an investigation into the abuse of that scheme by employers?
-Firstly, I inform the Senate that the Attorney-General is unavoidably absent at this moment. Should he return to the Senate before dinner he will come into the chamber for Question Time. I recall Senator Button asking that question. I think the AttorneyGeneral said that he did not have the information with him at the time but that he would seek it. Evidently he has not yet been supplied with the information by his colleague in another place. As soon as the Attorney-General returns I shall remind him of Senator Button’s question and of his further request this day. I shall ask him whether he can expedite an answer.
– My question which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health refers to the provision and use of rubella vaccine by health authorities in Australia. Given that rubella accounts for 90 per cent of deaf-blind children and 35 per cent of congenitally deaf children, does the Minister believe that the existing voluntary scheme of rubella vaccination is a satisfactory one, or is she of the opinion that an insufficient number of people offer themselves for immunisation? Does the Minister agree that the only way fully to avoid the disturbing consequences of rubella is by implementing a compulsory program of rubella vaccination for relevant sections of the community? Is the Minister willing to recommend the adoption of such a program for girls approaching child-bearing age? Will the Minister for Health have the Department of Health consider the feasibility of the proposal?
– The Minister for Health has been concerned about some of the statements which were made recently with regard to deaf and blind children and about attributing those conditions to rubella. He states that he is not aware of the origin of the information given which suggests the figure mentioned by the honourable senator. He states that only 1 5 per cent of children born between 1 960 and 1976 and fitted with hearing aids by the National Acoustic Laboratory had their deafness ascribed to rubella, even though rubella-caused deafness is profound and certainly would be included in the National Acoustic Laboratory figures. The Minister states he is concerned with the avoidance of the consequences of rubella, but is of the opinion that the voluntary scheme for rubella immunisation is in general proving satisfactory. I understand that recent inquiries have indicated that in each year possibly 80 per cent of school girls in Australia who are eligible receive immunisation against rubella. It has been estimated also that some 80 per cent of pregnant women have satisfactory blood antibody levels against rubella and that half of the remainder receive immunisation after delivery.
The Minister states that he does not believe that the alternative of introducing compulsory vaccination, which is a suggestion which has been raised previously, could achieve a much greater response. Moreover, it would cause considerable reaction and sometimes public resentment. However, I shall draw to the attention of the Minister for Health the question raised by the honourable senator and his suggestion that further steps should be taken to see that as many young girls and women of child bearing age as possible do have immunisation against rubella because of the disastrous consequences for newly-born children.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security in her capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Health and /or Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. My question relates to the Vietnamese refugees who are arriving in Darwin and to the comments made by a Dr Rosemary Hunter, who is the Director of the South Australian Tuberculosis Clinic. These comments resulted from an examination which showed that about half of all adult Vietnamese arriving in Darwin had shown traces of tuberculosis and, in addition, 25 per cent of the children had a positive skin reaction to tests which were carried out.
The Minister might know that Dr Rosemary Hunter said that whilst all the States are cooperating in relation to this matter there were many difficulties, in particular the difficulty of carrying out continuing treatment for those people and the chances of infection of the community generally. I ask the Minister: In view of the Government’s intention last year to abolish many of the benefits- certainly benefits which were provided under the Repatriation Actbecause of the recognition that the disease had been almost eliminated, is she concerned about the evidence and the reports of Dr Hunter? If so, what is being done to ensure that the highest standards are maintained in respect of these new arrivals?
– I am aware of some statements which have been made recently which would give rise to concern. I know that they are of concern to the Minister for Health and to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I understand that the incidence of tuberculosis in South East Asian countries is a great deal higher than it is in Australia and that the refugees who have been admitted could be expected to show a greater incidence of tuberculosis. The refugees arriving in Darwin are all fully clinically examined and X-rays are taken of them on arrival. It is quite true that some of the Vietnamese children show high positive reactions to skin tests and this could result later in a breakdown of the disease. Details of all refugees arriving in Darwin and then sent, south are forwarded to the State directors of health. If the refugees are shown to have high positive reactions they are placed on chemo-prophylax for one year. This is a normal treatment which is applied here also to Australian people.
The Department is well aware of the higher incidence of tuberculosis among the refugees. For this reason treatment is instituted for those people seen in Bangkok and for any of the boat people who arrive in Darwin. Currently arrangements are being made to undertake the same procedures in Malaysia. As was suggested by Senator Bishop, we had been able to claim in Australia that the disease had almost been eliminated. The Department of Health and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs are very concerned to see that any risk of reintroducing a disease of this kind is minimised.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. On 7 March this year I received an answer from the Minister regarding overcrowding at Perth Airport which indicated to me that the Government did not regard this matter as urgent. Would the Minister be prepared to suggest to the Minister whom he represents in the Senate that this matter should be treated with more urgency than that which seems to prevail now? I am informed that the planned 1985 capacity peak was reached in 1969 and that the passenger traffic has grown considerably since that time. By no stretch of the imagination could the terminal be regarded as adequate now, let alone by the end of the period it would take to plan and to build the extensions.
– I well recall the original question asked by Senator Thomas several months ago regarding the conditions at Perth Airport. I can well understand the honourable senator’s interest in the matter because of the obvious boom in commerce, industry and traffic on the Indian Ocean side of this continent. Therefore, what happens there is of great significance. I referred the honourable senator’s comments to the Minister in another place on that occasion. Certainly, I will be happy to refer the present question to the Minister and ask him to give it immediate consideration. I take this opportunity to say that I believe the Minister is very well aware of the conditions at Perth Airport and that his Department currently is examining the need for future development. Certainly, I will emphasise the remarks made by Senator Thomas to the Minister.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security which refers to the recent arrest on the day of the funeral of Sir Robert Menzies of Mr Ronald Orbinski. Has the Minister ascertained whether Mr Orbinski was a pensioner or beneficiary of the Department of Social Security or was entitled to a social security benefit? Has she ascertained whether help had been offered either by welfare workers in her Department or the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs? Has she further inquired whether help was given to Mr Orbinski through the homeless persons’ assistance program of her Department.
– I do not have any facts about the individual concerned. I will seek them from the Department of Social Security and advise Senator Ryan of the position as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. On 1 1 May, I asked a question concerning details of reciprocal arrangements under the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement on furniture and furniture components to be sold without duty between Australia and New Zealand. As the Press release I referred to had mentioned the value of the agreed sales into New Zealand, but not those into Australia, I sought this detail to allay my suspicions. 1 am now told that the figures are $1.3m for Australian sales and $2.5 m for New Zealand sales. Therefore, I ask this question: When the announcement was made, why was only the good news and not the bad news given? Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate extract from the Minister for Trade and Resources an undertaking not to release half-statements because, regardless of whether this is done deliberately and intentionally, such statements containing incomplete information are quite misleading.
-I well recall a number of questions I have been asked in this place by my colleague, Senator Archer, about the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. I cannot exactly recall the question to which he is referring now. But I regret that the honourable senator feels that he was not always given the information. I imagine that this was as a result of a question placed on the Notice Paper or perhaps through seeking information from the Parliamentary Library. I will certainly ask my colleague in another place the queries which Senator Archer poses. I will also take up with my colleague in the other place the honourable senator’s point whether only good news and not bad news has been released.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory which I preface with the comment that, in his statement to the Parliament on 1 1 May 1978, the Minister for the Northern Territory said, in relation to that Territory:
Associated with the assumption of executive authority must be the responsibility to raise a reasonable level of local revenue using the revenue efforts of the States as a bench mark.
What are the sources of revenue available to the Northern Territory? What taxes does the
Government expect the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to raise? Will it be necessary for the Northern Territory to institute a Northern Territory income tax?
– If the honourable senator places that question on notice, I will obtain the details for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to a fatal motor collision at a railway level crossing near Lameroo in South Australia to which the honourable member for Barker, Mr Porter, and I were amongst the first to arrive last Monday. As the South Australian Government has sold its railways to the Federal Government this matter is now of concern to the Parliament. Is it a fact that unlit railway rolling stock is difficult to discern in the dark of night on level crossings where no warning systems are in operation until it is too late to avoid a collision? Would the fixing of reflective tape which is sensitive to headlights to the sides of goods wagons assist in alerting drivers to potential dangers? Would the Minister take up this matter with his colleague, the Minister for Transport, with a view to his endeavouring to have this or some other appropriate remedy adopted by the Australian National Railways?
– I say at the outset that I regret that such an unfortunate accident should have occurred. I would have to accept Senator Missen ‘s statement that unlit rolling stock would be difficult to discern under certain conditions at night and therefore could present an accident hazard. I would say also that some kind of luminous device, whether it be reflecting tape or reflective glass fittings, would be at least a significant safeguard in that regard. I will be very happy to mention the matter to my colleague, the Minister for Transport, in another place.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. I say, by way of preface, that I wish I did not have to ask this question because it is unbelievable that what I have to say should even be contemplated. In view of statements in the weekend Press, does the Government intend to re-impose the means test on the incomes of pensioners aged 70 years and over? If so, will this be done to help pay for the big handouts to the mining companies, the multinational and foreign investors and other large financial supporters of the Fraser Government?
– There were some statements in the weekend Press similar to those which appeared at this time last year relating to pensions and benefits paid by my Department, the Department of Social Security. The Government was subjected, as the people of Australia were subjected, to speculation for about three months at this time last year ranging across every pension and benefit and program of the Department. I remind the honourable senator and those people who print such stories based on speculation that on Budget night last year I was forced to issue a statement that the rumours were wrong. Perhaps if we are to be subjected to that sort of story which results in needless anxiety being caused to people who are dependent upon pensions and benefits, the people who print these stories could wait until Budget night before they start to speculate about what Government programs and policy decisions will be. In respect of the suggestion that pensioners’ benefits or any of the programs of my Department are related to expenditure on mining or any other area, I assure the honourable senator that the priority given by the Government to the payments made under the social security system is very high, as witnessed by the steady growth and improvement in all the programs in the Department since we have been in Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and resources. Can the Minister confirm a report in yesterday’s Age to the effect that the Italian Government’s energy conglomerate, Ento Nazionale Idrocarburi, wants Australia to help plug a multi-billion dollar gap in its uranium supplies? Its total needs, according to the Italian energy program, are much more than 70,000 tonnes to the year 1990. Its present secured supplies are only 10,000 tonnes. Can the Minister also confirm a further report that a mission from ENI came to Australia for talks with the Government and uranium companies? If so, can the Minister say whether these talks were successful? Is he in a position to give some details of the present position in regard to these negotiations?
-I am informed by my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Resources in another place, that it is common knowledge that Italy has a significant nuclear power program. Like so many countries which lack indigenous sources of energy, Italy has little alternative other than to look to nuclear energy for the supply of electricity to its people. Clearly, Italy has a need for uranium for the generation of electricity. An Italian Government delegation visited Australia during March and April and had discussions with the Government and private companies in regard to uranium supply and co-operation. Discussions were held on the safeguards conditions and arrangements which Australia would require to govern uranium exports to Italy. As we understand the position, Italy has secured most of its supplies of uranium up to about 1983, but thereafter it has a requirement for further supplies and it looks to Australia to satisfy some of those needs. Consistent with Australian Government policy and subject to the completion of satisfactory safeguard arrangements, the Government looks forward to establishing a secure, stable and long-term relationship with Italy for supplies of uranium to satisfy that country’s energy requirements.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. By way of preface I say that on 5 April I asked whether the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations was still using the 1971 census figures when expressing the percentage of unemployed people in the work force and, if so, why the 1976 census figures were not used, and that later in Question Time that day the Attorney-General replied stating that the Commonwealth Employment Service was not using census figures but rather Australian Bureau of Statistics work force figures. If that is the case, can the Minister explain why a constituent should receive a letter dated 22 May from the regional manager of a CES office stating: ‘The percentage unemployed expressed per work force are based on the 1 97 1 census figures ‘? What is the truth?
-I will have to seek information for the honourable senator as to whether the regional manager is correct or whether my colleague in this chamber was giving a correct answer on behalf of Mr Street. I will pass that question on to the Attorney-General as soon as he returns.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I do so having informed the Minister at an earlier hour that 1 would be asking this question. Has the Minister seen reports that the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, hopes to raise overseas a loan of up to $200m to finance the infrastructure of the proposed petrochemical plant at Redcliffs in South Australia? Has the Minister also seen reports that the Premier of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court, has announced that there will be a big expansion of the alumina production in Western Australia which will require large amounts of caustic soda that could not be met at present by Australian production but could be supplied by a petrochemical plant such as that at Redcliffs? As South Australia is the most depressed State in Australia and would get a great boost from the establishment of such a project and as Australia also would obtain big advantages, particularly with regard to its overseas balance of payments, will the Treasurer and the Government give full support to Mr Dunstan ‘s proposal to raise overseas a loan of $200m, subject to the terms and conditions of such a loan?
- Mr Wallis asked that question in the other place last week. He was the first cab off the rank.
-I am grateful for the help from honourable senators opposite. I have seen both reports. My advice is that the proposed petrochemical project at Redcliffs is expected to be one of the first proposals to be considered by the Loan Council under the guidelines relating to special additions to semi-governmental borrowing programs. The Prime Minister’s Press announcements of 10 and 26 March and 16 May indicated that substantial progress had been made by the Loan Council in determining these guidelines which, when agreed to, will allow a more flexible approach to be adopted to infrastructure financing for projects of significance to the development of Australia. In Parliament last week the Prime Minister indicated that he understood that a formal submission to the Loan Council regarding the Redcliffs proposal is being prepared by the South Australian Government.
I have seen the reports to which the honourable senator has referred of proposed overseas borrowings of up to $200m for the Redcliffs project and I note that any proposed overseas borrowing for the proposal would also require consideration and decision by the Loan Council. I understand that the Western Australian proposal regarding alumina plants will also require infrastructure financing by State authorities. I expect the Loan Council to be giving consideration to those proposals in due course. I acknowledge the link in terms of the use of caustic soda in reducing the ore to alumina. The honourable senator may be assured that, in considering its attitude to the Redcliffs proposal when it comes before the Loan Council, the Commonwealth will give careful attention to all facets of the proposal.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Does he have any information for the Peruvian community of Sydney as to the extent of the Peruvian Government ‘s recent suppression of trade union and political activity. As a spinoff to the matter I raised with Senator Carrick last night, I ask: Assuming that the people affected are deported to the Argentine, would our embassy in Rio de Janeiro consider their credentials as potential and genuine political refugees?
-I recall that Senator Mulvihill asked me a question on this subject last week and that I said at that stage that I would seek to get the information for him. Upon looking through my question brief I see that no information has come back to me from the Department of Foreign Affairs. I will do my best to have that information for the honourable senator by Question Time tomorrow.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations say how many builders labourers voted in the recent election for the position of Secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation? What percentage does that figure represent of the total union membership? Does the Minister consider it to be a true reflection of the wishes of the majority of that membership?
– It was a court controlled ballot.
– In response to Senator George’s interjection, I understand- I could be wrong- that the ballot was conducted by the Australian Electoral Office. I think I am right about that. I understand that there are certain rules in the legislation for the conduct of those ballots. I think the principal rule is that everybody is entitled to receive a ballot paper. But there is no compulsion upon any person receiving a ballot paper actually to vote and return it. I think that is the rule. There is but a compulsion to receive a ballot paper and have a capacity to vote. As to the last part of Senator Walters’ question, I assume that within the law as it presently stands the result of the election does represent the opinion of the union members as ascertained in the ballot conducted under those terms and conditions. I do not have the figures as to how many members voted and what percentage of membership they represented. I will ask my colleague the Attorney-General to obtain that information for the honourable senator.
– Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate say whether any running tally is kept of the number of citizens petitioning the Senate and /or the other place on any particular topic? Does he agree that the effort expended by many citizens of Australia in organising petitions is largely wasted since there seems to be neither a convention nor a standing order requiring the Senate or the Government to consider the matter raised in any petition or batch of petitions on a similar topic? Can he say what attention, if any, the Government pays to opinions expressed in petitions lodged in the Senate or in the other place?
-That is a very difficult question to answer. Mr President, I think that you should answer the first part of the question. I think the statistics relating to what is presented in this chamber are kept by the Clerk and his assistants and are not kept by the executive arm of the Government. I am quite certain that you will supply the honourable senator with that information if it is available.
– I will do that.
-The balance of the honourable senator’s question is fairly difficult to answer. As I recall, petitions are one of the most ancient forms of parliamentary procedure. Originally, the Parliament generally petitioned the Crown to have its grievances righted. I understand that really that is still all that a Bill is today- a petition asking the Crown for a signature so that it will became a law. Bills and petitions are occasionally used interchangeably. What effect does a petition have? I suppose when it is a petition in favour of what one is doing it warms one’s heart. When it is a petition which criticises what one is doing one tends to think that anybody will sign a petition anyhow. It is well known, of course, that it is possible for two totally opposed petitions on tables 50 yards apart to be signed by basically the same people. Some people have a habit of signing anything. But I think the lodging of a petition does have an effect. There have been occasions in this chamber when enormous numbers of petitions have been presented from one side or the other. I particularly recall that during the time when Senator Wheeldon was in charge of the Australian Government Insurance Office legislation in the days when he was a Minister there were petitions coming in for and against the legislation literally by the thousands.
– I took notice of some of them.
-The honourable senator took notice of those that warmed his heart. In times of political confrontation petitions give some sort of indication of the feeling out in the electorate. I suppose we all know that a lot of people have never heard of the subjects of petitions until some enthusiast dreams one up and then attempts to get signatures. I believe petitions do have an effect. I must confess that my colleague, Senator Webster, has remained absolutely unmoved and unconcerned about all those petitions asking for the restoration of imperial measurements.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether she happened to see a letter in this morning’s Age which stated:
One way of reducing medical costs would be to amend the legislation requiring referral to a specialist from a general practitioner.
If my teeth need attention I go straight to the one who can fix them. Why can *t I do the same for my eyes or my ears?
As at first sight that seems a sensible suggestion and would save patients and the Government money, will the Minister ask the Minister for Health to consider allowing people to go direct to specialists when the care of their ears and eyes is involved?
– I will certainly draw the attention of the Minister for Health to the question and the comments made in it. I think many patients would assert that they are unaware of the specialists who could best treat them for some of the medical illnesses which they may have. In many cases patients are referred to a particular specialist, probably a highly qualified specialist, on the diagnosis of a general practitioner. However, as it was asserted that there could be some merit in looking at this matter, I will see that the Minister for Health is advised of the question.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I understand that he has been approached by Mr Alfred Bussel of Busselton, who is visiting Canberra on behalf of various constituents who are shared by Senator Withers and me, in regard to the problems relating to the destruction of the jetty at Busselton by the recent cyclone. It was put to me by Mr Bussel that the jetty was necessary in Busselton as it was the only place in the district where one was able to escape from both the flies and the stingers; if you were on land you were attacked by the flies and if you were in the water you were attacked by the stingers, whereas if you were on the jetty you managed to avoid both.
– You are a promoter of tourism.
-Yes, that is so. As I understand it from Mr Bussel- I believe he has put this matter to the Minister- approaches were made by him to the Premier of Western Australia who has informed him that repairs will be made to this jetty, which for a long time has been a landmark or seamark and essential to the tourism of Busselton, only if the Commonwealth Government gives some financial assistance to Western Australia. Can the Minister inform the Senate what action he has taken on this matter and what the Government proposes to do?
-I have seen Mr Bussel at least twice and possibly three times as I have been crossing or recrossing King’s Hall. He seems to lie in wait. He fixes me with a beady eye like that of the Ancient Mariner. He is attempting to wring $850,000 out of me. I admire his persistence and his enthusiasm for his cause. After all, the Busselton jetty was quite a famous jetty. It was the longest jetty in the world, as I understand it, built from jarrah. I think it was a mile and a quarter long.
– The only jetty in the world built from jarrah.
-No, the Bunbury jetty was only .a mile long but the Busselton one was a mile and a quarter long. Many a time have I walked to its end and back again. It has been a great tourist attraction in Busselton, mainly for people to fish from but also for people to stroll on in the evenings. The problem is that the jetty, which had not been used, as I recall, by normal shipping for a number of years, had deteriorated because the State Government, which owns the jetty, made a conscious decision not to keep up the maintenance on it as shipping was no longer calling there. The jetty over a number of years had fallen into some disrepair due to lack of maintenance. When Cyclone Alby came along the Busselton jetty seemed to disappear. The most likely problem that Mr Bussel faces is whether or not the State Government regards the jetty as part of its program under which it asks the Commonwealth Government for assistance in restoring public assets. As honourable senators would know, there is a Commonwealth-State agreement on the funding of disasters. The agreement varies from State to State. The States generally pay the first proportion and thereafter the Commonwealth Government bears either half or all the remainder. This relates to roads, bridges and various public undertakings.
– What about the National Heritage Commission.
– I do not know about the National Heritage Commission. Maybe the jetty is part of Mr Bussel’s national heritage. Perhaps he ought also to be referred to the National Heritage Commission. I suppose the Commission would not want anything to do with the jetty because if it were replaced it would be done with new timber and not old timber. I have a great deal of admiration for Mr Bussel’s enthusiasm and the tireless work which he has put in around this Parliament for the last seven or eight days.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry will be aware of the tragic situation being experienced by northern Australian cattle producers caused by the imposition of the bluetongue quarantine. Has the Government any plans to relieve this situation, which is outside the control of the affected producers?
-The Minister for Primary Industry, whom I represent, has made an announcement in relation to assistance for cattle producers. I understand that the proposals will be part of legislation which will be passed in this session of Parliament. The amount of money which will be available will be in addition to the $72. 97m which has already been made available to beef producers throughout Australia in support of the beef industry. The honourable senator’s question relates purely to bluetongue. There are current discussions relating to the possible effect of some new virus being located. The information that is available on that matter should, at present, lead us to recognise that to date no sign of the disease has been found in Australia. I include the period when the first possible contact was made in October of last year.
My understanding is that the Minister has announced that the maximum available for each producer for his property will be $3,000 and that mustering costs for attempting to verify the presence of bluetongue will be at the rate of $3 a head of cattle. I think that is an accurate figure. As well as that, $5 a head will be allowed for the cost of blood testing. This should be of particular assistance to producers. Substantial amounts will be made available for the acquisition of virology laboratory equipment which has been necessary in northern Australia, Western Australia and Queensland. I understand that the Northern Territory will receive $100,000, Queensland will receive $75,000 and Senator Thomas’s State of Western Australia will receive $50,000. It is hoped that the very difficult situation that cattle producers in northern Australia have suffered due to the bans or restrictions related to their export of cattle will be relieved in some way by this aid.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to a report that Mr Iwasaki has said that he hoped the Government would fully develop the Rockhampton Airport so that it could take large numbers of tourists in future. Has the Government received any proposals from Mr Iwasaki for future development of the airport at Rockhampton? Whilst not desiring to enter into any intrastate conflict I ask the Minister whether it is likely that redevelopment of the Brisbane Airport will be delayed so that the Rockhampton Airport, to fulfil Mr Iwasaki ‘s hopes, may be developed instead.
– I have always been aware that the State of Queensland was like all Gaul; divided into three parts. Therefore I understand the sensitivity of the honourable senator.
– I represent it all.
– I hope that the honourable senator is not also divided into three parts like all Gaul. I am aware of the application by Mr Iwasaki with regard to Yeppoon. 1 am not aware of any approach to the Federal Government by him with regard to the Rockhampton Airport. I shall seek information on that matter. I am not aware that there are any proposals by the Federal Government for the extension or redevelopment of the Rockhampton Airport. The honourable senator asked me whether such a matter would delay the redevelopment of Brisbane Airport. My understanding is clear that the Government has undertaken to redevelop Brisbane Airport and my instruction is that it intends to do so.
– I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Finance to a statement appearing in the Adelaide News today that the Minister for Finance in the forthcoming Budget will recommend certain cuts in capital works programs and that these could affect the Commonwealth funding of the Adelaide water filtration program. Does the Government recognise the importance of this project to South Australia, which is not only the driest State but also has the poorest quality water in Australia? Recognising this fact, will the Government reconsider any proposal that would threaten the financing of this important project?
– I am not able to comment on any article that may have appeared in the Adelaide News with regard to the forthcoming Budget, nor am I able to make comment on individual items that may or may not be recommended by any individual Minister. I take the point of Senator Jessop ‘s question with regard to drawing the attention of the Government to the importance to South Australia of the Adelaide water filtration program. I will draw that to the attention of the Minister for Finance and the appropriate Minister so that Senator Jessop ‘s comment may be given consideration in terms of the forthcoming Budget discussions.
-I ask Senator Withers, the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, whether he is now in a position to answer a question that I asked yesterday concerning discussions between the United States of America and Chinese governments concerning the strategic arms limitation talks.
-Yesterday Senator Wriedt asked: First, whether I had seen a New York Times report of a briefing of Chinese officials on SALT by United States National Security Advisor, Mr Brzezinski; secondly, whether the Australian Government has been kept similarly informed by the United States; and thirdly, whether the Australian Government is satisfied with the amount of confidential information it receives from the United States on SALT. I am advised by my colleague in the other place as follows: First, the Government is aware of Press reports on the briefing given to Chinese officials by Mr Brzezinski on developments in the SALT negotiations. Secondly, the Government maintains a close and regular contact with the United States Government on the whole range of arms control questions and current arms control negotiations. This includes adequate and timely briefings on strategic arms limitation talks between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Thirdly, the Government is entirely satisfied with the confidential briefings it receives from the United States on SALT.
For the information of honourable senators I can also advise that the 1 972 interim agreement on strategic force levels known as SALT I expired on 3 October 1977. Both sides have indicated that they will abide by the provisions of the 1972 agreement until the SALT II negotiations are concluded. These negotiations are based on the guidelines agreed at the 1974 Vladivostok summit for ceilings on the number of strategic launch vehicles and of those that can be equipped with multiple warhead missiles, MIRVs. In the latest round of talks currently being held in the United States the two countries are trying to resolve the few remaining issues in the SALT II agreement. Australia regards the SALT negotiating process as one of the three fundamental areas of nuclear arms control, the others being non-proliferation and a comprehensive nuclear test ban agreement. SALT is central to the achievement of stability in the nuclear balance and the relaxation of tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. We have welcomed the progress made in the past in SALT and have expressed strong concern about the need for future agreements.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– I bring up the third report of the Senate Standing Orders Committee for 1978, relating to participation of independent senators and of members of minority groups on committees.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That consideration of the report in the Committee of the Whole be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I present the Third Report of the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, together with minutes of the proceedings. The Committee’s first report, presented in May last year indicated that the Committee had agreed to a program which would enable a fully functioning stage 1 Parliament House to be constructed and occupied by 26 January 1988, the 200th anniversary of European settlement in Australia. The purpose of this third report is to inform Parliament of the conclusions reached by the Committee as to the procedure which should be adopted in selecting a designer for the new and permanent Parliament House. The Committee examined a number of alternative methods of obtaining an architectural design and concluded that the competitive selection process, which is described in detail in the report, would be the most suitable for the Parliament House project.
If the 1988 completion date is to be achieved it is necessary that the design and building program proceed without delay. The Committee considers that announcement of the designer selection process and invitation for architects to register should be issued no later than November 1978. It recommends that the Senate and the House of Representatives each consider a motion in the following terms:
That the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House should authorise the conduct of a two-stage competitive selection process, commencing no later than November 1978, for the design of the new and permanent Parliament House, and proceed to take all necessary steps in accordance with the design selection process set out in the Committee’s third report.
The Committee has taken this action because public announcement of the architectural selection process will be a commitment to the design and construction of the new and permanent Parliament House. The Committee believes that it should not proceed with the selection process without a commitment that funds will be provided for the design and building program.
The time for a decision has arrived. Parliament can no longer operate with full functional efficiency in its present accommodation. The provisional Parliament House presently provides 16,800 square metres and the Parliament occupies an additional 2,200 square metres in other buildings. This accommodation is clearly inadequate. Construction of stage 1 of the permanent Parliament House comprising about 54,000 square metres will provide the proper solution to the accommodation problems of the Parliament if the current numbers of honourable senators and members remain unchanged. Planning for the future stage 2 will require an assessment of the eventual size of the Parliament and consideration of other changes which may develop in the parliamentary system. It will be a requirement of the design for stage 1 that future extensions can be added without destroying the overall concept and integrity of the building.
It is stressed that the sketch on the Committee’s report is not the proposed design but merely an example of the effect a building may have on Capital Hill. The design for the new and permanent Parliament House will be selected by a jury at the end of the process described in the report. I commend the report to the Senate.
I also indicate to honourable senators that at the request of the Committee the National Capital Development Commission has arranged an exhibition for today in Senate committee rooms one and two to bring to the attention of all honourable senators and members a number of matters related to the design and construction of the new and permanent Parliament House. I urge all honourable senators to take this opportunity of inspecting the work done by the Committee and the progress which has been made in planning for the new building.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the review of post-arrival programs and services for migrants. I also present copies of this report translated into the following languages: Arabic, Dutch, German, Greek, Italian, SerboCroatian, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) relating to the report.
The statement read as follows-
It is with particular pleasure that I lay 10 copies of this report on the table of this House.
This is the first occasion on which a report commissioned by the Commonwealth Government has been tabled in this Parliament in languages other than English. It is singularly appropriate that a report directed specifically at programs and services for migrants should be the first to be available in ethnic languages. I hope that this will set a pattern which will be followed in future where reports are of such direct interest to migrants.
Honourable members may recall that this Review was announced by the Government on 3 1 August 1977. We established it in the light of our concern to ensure that the changing needs of migrants are being met as effectively as possible.
We asked the Review to have regard to our Federalism policy and our objective of supporting the enterprise and dedication of community groups who provide programs and services to migrants.
As I said then, the Government is conscious of the special language, housing, employment and other difficulties faced by migrants during the transition from one society to another. We saw the need to provide an opportunity for migrants themselves to participate in identifying their problems and difficulties. We believed they should help to design programs and services relevant to their needs.
The Review Group was headed by Mr Frank Galbally and its members were Miss Francesca Merenda, Mr Nick Polites and Mr Carlo Stransky
Migrants and their children now make up about one-third of the total population of Australiathey have come from many different ethnic origins.
Few Australians in their lifetime have to face the same psychological and social stresses- the homesickness, loneliness, anxieties and frustrations. Few Australians face the difficulties many migrants, particularly in the early years after their arrival, are confronted with.
When the migrant first arrives he is under great pressure. He has to buy the goods necessary for living. He has to solve housing and employment difficulties and arrange education for his children. He has to make adjustments to a myriad of strange laws, regulations and an unfamiliar political system. He often has to struggle with a language he does not understand.
Generally Australians have given a great deal of understanding and generous help to migrants. Ethnic groups themselves have generated their own organisations and societies. These assist the more needy amongst their communities and encourage them to become self-sufficient and selfreliant.
The Review has taken full account of all the problems migrants face. It has noted that notwithstanding these problems, migrants have struggled to maintain their cultural heritage and preserve their sense of cultural identity.
Notwithstanding these efforts we recognise the special needs which migrants, particularly the non-English speaking and the more recently arrived, have in settling here, lt was for this reason we established the Review.
The Government agrees with the general conclusions of the Review. It agrees Australia is at a critical stage in developing a cohesive, united, multicultural nation. It agrees there is a need to change the direction of its services to migrants and that further steps to encourage multiculturalism are needed.
In forming these conclusions, the Review has pointed to significant changes in recent years in the pattern of migration and the structure of our population. It noted changes in attitudes to migration and to our responsibilities for international refugees. It pointed to the large and growing numbers of ethnic groups in our community, and to the changing roles of governments. Against that general background, it conducted its own examination of programs and services it received many submissions and held many discussions in the community over the past few months.
The Review adopted the following guiding principles which the Government fully endorses:
Having regard to those principles, the Review sought to identify the most critical areas of need. It sought to determine whether present services and programs meet those needs adequately. It concluded that the migrants who arrive with little or no understanding of English have the greatest difficulties and often remain at a disadvantage because of that. Difficulties were judged to be greatest immediately after arrival, particularly for migrants who come from countries without a long established tradition of migration to Australia.
The Review found that those who do not learn adequate English continue to be at a disadvantage and often suffer considerably in employment, through isolation from social contact and in many other ways. It found that these same people are often not effectively reached, and sometimes not reached at all, by present services and programs.
The evidence suggests that nearly half a million of our population face these problems and that many suffer severe hardship because of them. This group includes large numbers of those who are isolated at home (especially women), elderly migrants (whose numbers are expected to increase dramatically in the course of the next decade), those from smaller ethnic groups (whose own support services are limited), migrant women at work and the children of migrants.
The Review draws attention to the fact that the bulk of Commonwealth Government expenditure is through general programs designed for the whole Australian community. It points out that, since about 20 per cent of our community are currently ‘ migrants ‘, a similar proportion of the Commonwealth’s general expenditure on education, health, social security and welfare and other areas should be for the benefit of migrants. It endorsed the view that services to migrants should as far as possible be through general programs, and consistent with its terms of reference, the Review has not sought to assess the effectiveness of these general programs as such. Rather, it has concentrated on establishing whether migrants are placed at any disadvantage through ignorance of available services or through ignorance of available services or through difficulties with access, communication and so on.
Honourable members will be aware of the current Commonwealth programs and services directed specifically to migrants, covering migrant education, migrant welfare, interpreting and translation and other programs and services. The funds allocated to these totalled some $53m in 1 977-78. The Review concluded that most of these programs and services are valuable and effective, but that there are also important gaps and deficiencies.
The Review found that the main areas of need (such as for fluency in English and for better communication and information) are common to virtually all areas such as health, welfare, education, employment and the law. Accordingly the majority of the initiatives proposed are directed at these general areas of need rather than at specific services or programs. Careful consideration was given to finding an appropriate balance between services and programs directed at the newly arrived (which can be costly at the time but can save significantly in the longer term) and those services directed at the backlog of needs in the established migrant community.
An integrated package of measures has accordingly been developed and the Review recommends that the Government implement this package over a period of three years. The package is shown in summary table form, together with suggested additional financial allocations, at paragraph 1 .43 of the report. Altogether, the additional financial allocations proposed (in constant April 1978 prices) total $7. 9m in the first year, $15.0m in the second, and $26. 8m in the third.
After examination, I am pleased to inform honourable members that the Government accepts these proposals and the financial commitments which they entail. We believe the Review has developed a well-balanced and practical plan of action, and that it is now the job of the Government to see that this plan of action is properly implemented.
The Review itself believes there should be continuing evaluation of the effectiveness of these initiatives throughout the implementation period, and that some modifications may prove to be desirable. Whilst we accept the proposals, timetabling and the general thrust of the Report, there will be an opportunity for adjustment through regular close monitoring of external circumstances such as the responses of migrant groups. Subject to possible modifications arising from such monitoring the Government accepts the proposals which I now summarise.
The proposals are in the fields of initial settlement; English language teaching; communication; information; voluntary, self-help and Good Neighbour Council services; special need and special groups; multiculturalism; ethnic media; and co-ordination and consultation. 1 emphasise, however, the close inter-relationships of the proposals in these different fields.
The Review found that many of the problems encountered by migrants arise from inadequate arrangements for their initial settlement. It recommended a comprehensive initial settlement program which will require extra funding of $ 12m over three years. This will cover classes in English and formal orientation courses including advice and assistance in housing, education, employment and other areas of need. This program should enable savings to be made by preventing later settlement difficulty. The program will be available to all migrants either in residential hostels or by attendance at new community centres. A living allowance will be paid during a specified initial settlement period. Management of the program will be through new bodies known as migrant settlement councils, representing Commonwealth and State governments, the ethnic communities and voluntary organisations.
Because migrants’ knowledge of the English language was found to be a critical factor in enabling successful settlement in Australia, special attention has been given to the teaching of English both to children and to adults. For children, there is compelling evidence that there are many who need special instruction in English but who do not receive it. The Review also found room for significant improvements in teaching methods and materials and in the distribution of funds for teaching English to children. In accordance with their recommendations, the Government will be providing extra funding of $ 10m over the next three years, to be distributed so as to reflect the needs of children in different areas who do not speak adequate English. We will also be seeking the co-operation of the States in setting up arrangements for better planning and assessment of English teaching to migrants.
For adults, English language teaching will be an important part of our initial settlement program. But there will also be a continuing need for special programs for certain groups and for the ‘backlog’ of migrants in the community whose English is not adequate. Accordingly there will be extensions to the availability and coverage of full-time courses of instruction. The current continuation classes will be replaced by certificate courses at different levels of difficulty. Advanced courses will be extended and there will be a wider use of ‘on-the-job’ English instruction and the home tutor scheme. There will also be provision for better education for teachers of adult migrants, additional funds for training such teachers and for the provision of teaching materials. The adult migrant education program will be established as a three-year program and an extensive survey of the needs for English of the various migrant groups will be conducted to improve planning and monitoring.
In spite of this increasing emphasis on the teaching of English to migrants, there will always be a substantial number in the community who do not understand English, and who therefore face difficulties in communication. We will therefore introduce financial incentives for bilingual staff occupying public contact positions. We will establish intensive English courses for migrants with overseas professional and sub-professional qualifications to help their work here. We will help relevant professionals to obtain or upgrade their knowledge of other cultures and languages. We will also be extending and bringing together existing Commonwealth Government translating and interpreting services, and offering to share with the States the costs of providing additional services in areas of State responsibility.
The Review found that migrants are often placed at a disadvantage by their ignorance of their rights, entitlements and obligations in Australian society. It found that resources for information programs are not necessarily inadequate, but that they are wastefully used through inadequate consultation and co-ordination. Accordingly the Government will move to strengthen the Information Branch of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to provide a focus for co-ordination of advice. There will be an extensive survey of migrants ‘ needs in information and its dissemination. In accordance with the recommendations of the Review, steps will be taken to improve the ways in which migrants get information in areas of special need, including information relevant to employment, health, consumer protection, bail procedures, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and legal aid.
The Review gave careful consideration to the best means of providing support for self-help activities by ethnic groups, and the place of voluntary agencies and the Good Neighbour Councils in delivering services to migrants. It concluded that the ethnic communities themselves and the voluntary agencies can meet the welfare needs of migrants more effectively than government agencies. In accordance with its recommendation, the Government will be establishing a special program of multicultural resource centres. This will be phased in over three-years and will involve the local communities in the management and operation of the centres. There will also be an increase in the numbers of ethnic welfare workers through an extension of the grant-in-aid scheme. Funding under the scheme will also change from one-year to three-year grants. As these recommendations take effect, the demands for direct services from the Commonwealth migrant services units are expected to decrease. Accordingly the Government will reduce its own direct service delivery role and strengthen instead its capacity to provide a consultancy, community development and co-ordination service. We will introduce a special program to provide ‘once only’ grants of up to $5,000 to assist voluntary groups to introduce new approaches to welfare service delivery or to restructure existing welfare services.
As required by their terms of reference, the Review examined the effectiveness of the Good
Neighbour Councils, their relations with other non-government bodies working in this area and the arrangements for government funding. The Review noted that when the Good Neighbour Councils were first funded no other nongovernment or major ethnic organisations were active in migrant settlement and the councils performed with energy and enthusiasm a difficult, almost impossible task. However, the Review concluded that because the needs of migrants have changed since the councils were established, and because it is not possible to revise the councils’ functions so that they do not duplicate or inhibit the role of the ethnic communities, there is no justification for continued Commonwealth Government funding of the councils. The Government acknowledges the very valuable role played by Good Neighbour Councils in times past. It is conscious of the goodwill and effort of those, including volunteers, associated with the movement both in the past and today. Nevertheless it accepts the assessment of the Review and its recommendation that funds previously allocated to Good Neighbour Councils be redirected over two years to other community programs. In keeping with the Review’s recommendation it will give special assistance in the councils’ administrative problems associated with this, and it will assist in the redeployment of staff and the placement of volunteers.
I now refer to some special areas of need identified by the Review, and to some groups judged in need of special assistance.
The Government will be taking action in the area of the law to protect migrants’ rights in criminal investigations and in voting, and to improve information on such aspects as the legal system generally and family law. On income security, we will be giving high priority to resolving anomalies affecting migrants, in the light of the problems outlined by the Review. On employment the Government will extend the responsibilities of the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications. This will allow it to advise on sub-professional qualifications and to make suggestions for improving recognition of overseas qualifications and occupational retraining. Also, in accordance with the recommendation of the Review, trade unions will be eligible for special project grants to improve migrants’ knowledge of and participation in union affairs. In the health area, the Review noted significant cultural and communication problems and, in addition to the Government’s recently announced program for funding interpreters, increased funds will be provided for the use of ethnic health workers.
The Government is conscious that many of the initiatives it is taking have been designed with regard to the special needs of migrant women. It will ensure particular account is taken of those needs in the implementation period. In addition, for these women and for their young children, the Government will encourage establishment of more child-care facilities at places of work. It will also assist with development of more appropriate community child-care and pre-school services for migrants. The Government notes the particular advantages of the family day care scheme for migrant communities to which the Review draws attention. There will be special provisions for workers to be employed by ethnic communities to work in child-care centres and pre-schools to foster a multicultural approach and to help bridge the gap between school and home.
Action will be taken to follow up the Review’s observation about handicapped migrants experiencing problems of access to rehabilitation services, and that there should be greater use of ethnic workers in rehabilitation centres.
For older migrants, we will follow up the suggestion that greater support be given to those willing to care for their elderly relatives at home, and that institutions accommodating old people should specialise more in providing an environment acceptable to ethnic groups. There will be an increase in funds for the employment of ethnic workers for the aged to work in this area.
The Government accepts that it is now essential to give significant further encouragement to develop a multicultural attitude in Australian society. It will foster the retention of the cultural heritage of different ethnic groups and promote intercultural understanding. We agree that schools are the key element in achieving such a goal and we will allocate $5m over the next three years to develop multicultural and community language education programs. As the Review recommended, we will establish a small group of experts in cultural and racial differences to advise on how these funds can most effectively be used to develop multicultural and community language courses in the schools.
For students training in professions, we will encourage introduction of components of courses on cultural backgrounds of the major ethnic groups.
Because of the lack of information on multicultural developments in Australia and overseas we will establish an Institute of Multicultural Affairs, which among other activities would engage in and commission research and advise government bodies on multicultural issues.
In accordance with the recommendation of the Review, The Australia Council will be asked to reassess its financial assistance to the arts of ethnic communities, to ensure that such arts are given more equitable support.
As well as extending the ethnic radio service of the Special Broadcasting Service to all States, we will upgrade the Sydney and Melbourne services, and will provide funds to the National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council to carry out research on migrants’ views and expectations of ethnic radio. For ethnic television we agree that the Government should proceed as quickly as possible to establish a pilot station drawing on existing technical resources. This will assist in the assessment of public reaction and in working out the details of programming and administration of the permanent service which we will develop over the next three years.
We will seek improvements to existing mechanisms of communication and co-ordination between governments, voluntary agencies and ethnic groups and give special attention to encouraging consultation with, and between, local agencies. At the Commonwealth level there will be greater co-ordination of the work of advisory bodies and a strengthening of policy planning and monitoring capability for all Commonwealth programs and services insofar as they are used by migrants.
From that outline of the various steps we will be taking, I am sure honourable members will appreciate the comprehensive nature of this package. It is of crucial importance, in the implementation period and thereafter, that ethnic communities themselves must be closely involved and that there is full co-operation with other levels of government.
The Review has pointed to increasing emphasis in State Government programs on meeting the needs of migrants, and to the growing awareness of cultural differences which has led to the development of State ethnic affairs units. There has likewise been increasing interest and participation by local governments. Similarly, the welfare and cultural activities of the nongovernment sector have grown considerably in recent years. This has occurred through agencies representing particular ethnic groups as well as through some redirection of effort within the more traditional broad-based agencies.
I have already advised Premiers of the findings of the Review and of our decisions, and have sought their co-operation.
A group of senior officials from relevant departments will supervise the implementation of the recommendations. They will be required to report at least every three months to me and to other Ministers concerned on progress. In addition, an independent evaluation of the implementation will be carried out through my Department.
The Government undertakes to report at least annually on the progress in implementing this package of measures.
In conclusion, it will be evident to honourable members that the Government is accepting a commitment to additional expenditure in the areas I have outlined in a period when strict expenditure control is being applied. I emphasise that strict expenditure control will continue to be applied and the Government is presently conducting a most vigorous reassessment of all areas of expenditure. We have accepted a commitment to additional expenditure in this case because, after thorough consideration, we are convinced that the Review has responsibly identified areas of particular need where many members of our community are at a disadvantage. It is only in such circumstances that the Government is prepared to make exceptions.
Mr Speaker, I take this opportunity to thank the members of the Review Group for their excellent work. I mention in particular the Chairman, Mr Frank Galbally, for his personal commitment in preparing a report which is both sensitive to the needs and feelings of migrants and practical in its recommendations. I commend the report to honourable members.
Senator ROBERTSON (Northern Territory) by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a copy of the findings and recommendations of the report of the Ad Hoc Working Committee on Australia-Japan relations. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) relating to the report.
The statement read as follows-
I wish to inform the House of decisions the Government has taken regarding measures to enhance the relationship between Australia and Japan, and to improve the management of that relationship which is in many ways unique. These decisions follow the presentation of a report to the Government by the Ad Hoc Working Committee on Australia-Japan Relations. This Committee was established in April of last year to inquire into and submit recommendations on measures which might be taken to enhance the relationship between both countries. The Committee has given emphasis to an examination of the adequacy of present machinery both within and outside of Government for managing Australia’s relations with Japan. The report represents the most far reaching examination by the Australian Government of our relations with an important neighbour. It reflects the importance Australia attaches to our overall relations with Japan and in particular the increasingly important economic interdependence between the two countries.
In its work the Committee, under the chairmanship of Mr S. B. Myer, had the services of eminent Australians from a wide variety of interests- including Government, business, the trade union movement and academics. I would like to record my thanks to the chairman and members of the Committee both for their time and effort, and for a most rigorous examination of our relationship with Japan. I share the Committee’s appreciation of the numerous Australians in many walks of life who took the time and the trouble to make available their experience and views. I now table an edited version of the findings and recommendations of the Committee. The Committee has identified four interrelated characteristics underlying the Australia/Japan relationship which generate unusual opportunities and challenges, namely: the very high degree to which the complementary aspects of our two economies have contributed not only to Japan’s economic miracle but also stimulated Australia’s own growth in the late I960’s and early ‘70 ‘s; the need to overcome racial and cultural barriers; the pressure for change stemming from regional and global political and economic developments; and the application to the relationship of modern technological and financing concepts.
Commerce has been the underlying factor in Japan’s importance to Australia. Japan is Australia’s leading trade partner purchasing one-third of Australia’s exports. She is also increasingly important as a source of imports. But Australia snares other interests with Japan. Australia and Japan both have important relationships with the United States. As the two most important economically advanced countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia and Japan are the two most important allies of the United States in this part of the world. Both countries have a high stake in the security and prosperity of other economically advanced democratic powers in the world; in the continuation of the process of detente between the super-powers; in maintaining an open and nondiscriminatory regime in international trade; in encouraging a continuing United States presence in the Asia/Pacific region to the extent necessary to maintain a sound balance of power there; in opposing any attempt by the Soviet Union- or any other major power- to establish hegemony in the Asia/Pacific region; and in encouraging China to continue to play a constructive role in regional affairs.
Australia and Japan also share an interest in promoting economic development in South East Asia. Each country is concerned to maintain freedom to trade and invest in South East Asia and to protect its essential lines of communication in that area. It is in South East Asia that Australia and Japan face perhaps their greatest challenge. Australia recognises that Japan ‘s economic interaction with other parts of Asia will become an increasingly important factor in those countries’ efforts toward economic advancement. The Committee feels and the Government shares the view, that Australia should support a more active and constructive Japanese role in South East Asia- and should encourage the Japanese Government to accord South East Asia a high priority.
The Committee has recognised that Japan is a major world power whose capacity to influence global and regional affairs is already substantial, and can be expected steadily to increase. The Committee concludes that Australia has a not inconsiderable capacity to influence Japan’s approach to international issues of close relevance to Australia’s interests. The Committee recommends and the Government agrees, that Australia should support the evolution of a visibly independent Japanese foreign policy which is broadly compatible with that of the United States. We should recognise Japan’s vital interest in maintaining access to foreign supplies of raw materials and fuel and to foreign markets and should encourage other countries to do likewise. The Committee feels that despite the strength, warmth and depth of feeling that already characterise the relationship, it is essential for the relationship to grow, that there should be increased understanding and contract not only at a Government level but at all levels of society.
The Committee has recommended the adoption of measures to correct what it sees as the lack of familiarity and warmth in the peopletopeople contact between Australians and Japanese- and to establish a close rapport and sense of mutual understanding between the two societies. To this end the Committee has proposed increased communication, consultation and personnel exchanges in the areas of business, trade unions, agriculture, science and technology, culture and general tourism- and has recommended that more attention should be paid in Australia to the training, in both language and culture, of personnel in both business and Government involved in dealing with Japan. Interdependence between Australia and Japan has worked well to date because, with relatively minor exception, both Japan and Australia have benefited in a variety of ways. Perhaps, however, the essential characteristic of almost every contemporary human activity is that of accelerating change. The importance of the relationship will continue- but the present pattern of economic interdependence will change as the structure of Japan’s economy and Japanese economic and foreign policies change.
It is imperative that Australia monitor and identify these changes and recognise their possible effects on the relationship- and ensure as far as possible that the changes in each country keep in step. The Government has accepted the Committee’s recommendation that new machinery is needed, in order that the existing relationship can be consolidated and improved so that it can cope with likely future challenges and pressures. The Government has therefore decided to establish a new and integrated set of governmental machinery comprising: a Cabinet Committee on Japan; a standing governmental committee at permanent head level to be known as the Standing Japan Committee; a joint Government/private sector committee to be known as the Consultative Committee on Relations with Japan; and a Secretariat that would service both the Standing Japan Committee and the Government/private sector committee.
The Cabinet Committee will be a committee of senior ministers whose portfolios include responsibility for various aspects of our relations with Japan. It will meet under the chairmanship of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Japan Committee will include the permanent heads of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Industry and Commerce, National Development, Trade and Resources, Primary Industry, Treasury and Prime Minister and Cabinet. It will be chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Foreign
Affairs and will report to the Cabinet Committee on Japan. The Consultative Committee on Relations with Japan will also report to the Cabinet Committee on Japan. Its members will include the Japan Committee members and representatives from academic, business, cultural, trade union and other interested community groups.
The aim of the Consultative Committee is to achieve a high degree of collaboration and consensus in the Australian community about the relationship. It is a recognition by the Government of the vital role that can be played by members of the Australian community in the formulation of a genuinely national approach to our relations with Japan. The Secretariat which will be established to service both the Japan Committee and the Consultative Committee on Relations with Japan will be located in the Department of Foreign Affairs- where it will work closely with, but be functionally distinct from, the relevant geographical area. Its task will be to carry out research and policy work at the direction of the two Committees and it will maintain links with the Departments that have responsibility for the conduct of our relations with Japan, as well as with interested non-Government bodies. The Committee has also emphasised the positive contribution which Australia ‘s federal structure can make in enhancing the relationship with Japan.
Acceptance of a shared responsibility for its health among the Commonwealth and State Governments as well as private enterprise is essential- while suitable co-ordination of broad national aims with specific State expertise could improve Australia’s general negotiating position and remove apparent conflicts. In order that this may be achieved I have decided that a Premiers’ Conference should be help at the earliest opportunity to clarify areas of responsibility and explore better means of co-ordinating State and Commonwealth interests. These initiatives demonstrate the Government’s very real concern that Australia’s relations with our largest trading partner should be maintained and strengthened. The relationship with Japan will be extremely important to Australia into the foreseeable future and it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure the realistic and effective management of that relationship. I have written to the Japanese Prime Minister informing him of my Government’s initiatives and assuring him of the great importance that Australia attaches to its relationship with Japan.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the interim annual report of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1977. Because of the delay in the presentation of the 1974-75 and 1975-76 reports, the Auditor-General’s certificate in respect of the 1976-77 accounts was not available in sufficient time to permit the tabling of a complete report during the current session. The complete report will be tabled in the Budget session of Parliament.
– I bring up the report of the Senate Standing Committee of Privileges on appropriate means of ensuring the security of Parliament House.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-I move:
In presenting this brief report to the Senate, I remind honourable senators that the reference was given to the Committee by the Senate on 4 April, following debate upon statements made by the President relating to security at Parliament House. The Committee makes its report in the knowledge that there is a necessity for those in authority to provide the maximum practicable security for Parliament House and its occupants. It is difficult to decide the appropriate level of protection and the Committee has operated on the understanding that such decisions are the ultimate responsibility of the Presiding Officers, assisted by such advice as they choose to obtain. They have the responsibility to develop a protective system that is practicable, acceptable and effective.
The Committee did not believe that it was in a position to spell out in detail what system should be developed. However, there are matters to which the Committee believes the Senate’s attention should be drawn. These are referred to in the report. I recommend the report to the Senate for consideration.
– The report of the Privileges Committee is, of course, very important to the Senate and to those many senators who spoke to the matter when it was referred by the Senate to the Privileges Committee. I think it is necessary for us to peruse the report before we can enter into debate on it. Many of us still are not satisfied with the arrangements that have been made for the security of Parliament House. Therefore, in order that there may be a fuller debate at a later stage, I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate to this Bill.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it has agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill reflects the Government’s firm view that the housing of Australians is an issue of national concern. It conforms with our basic policy of objectives to ensure that every household in Australia is able to obtain adequate housing within its capacity to pay; to encourage home ownership across the widest possible range of income groups; concentrating Federal assistance in areas of greatest need; to maintain and improve housing styles and seek the most effective use of the available housing stock; to encourage research and innovation and, in co-operation with the States, to develop imaginative housing programs for the underprivileged and disadvantaged; and to ensure that there are economic conditions within which a stable and adequate building industry can assist us to achieve our social goals.
The Bill authorises the Commonwealth to enter into a 3 year Agreement with the States to give low and moderate income earners increased opportunities for home ownership and to continue to advance the States low interest funds for rental assistance. It also provides for new pensioner housing arrangements which improve on the existing dwellings for pensioners scheme.
Clearly the Commonwealth Government alone cannot guarantee the achievement of national housing goals. Accordingly, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) and his predecessor have met with State Ministers on several occasions over the last 2 years to devise jointly the Agreement that is now before the Senate. The strong support which the principles of the Agreement have received throughout the community results from early and continuing discussion and cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States. There has been widespread support for the extension of home ownership, for tailoring assistance to need, and for the flexibility which will allow the States to design programs to meet their own particular needs. These principles are detailed at the outset of the Agreement.
Clauses 8 to 13 provide for the Commonwealth to make advances at highly concessional rates of interest. Advances for the home purchase program will attract interest at 4.5 per cent per annum and for rental housing at 5 per cent per annum. In relation to the long-term bond rate this represents an effective subsidy of 4.7 per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively. All advances are repayable over 53 years as in the past. In the 1973-74 Agreement, the interest rate was 4.5 per cent per annum for home purchase and 4 per cent per annum for rental compared with the long-term bond rate of 6 per cent when that Agreement came into effect. Compared to 1973, we have effectively more than doubled the interest concession for home ownership funds and nearly doubled the concession for rental funds.
As with the 1973-74 Agreement, the amount of advances to be made each year to each State will be determined by the Commonwealth following consideration of State requirements. The restriction on States that only 30 per cent of the funds provided can be used for home ownership is removed. By 1980 at least 40 per cent must go to home ownership and there is no maximum. Clauses 22 to 28 deal with home purchase assistance. Their implementation will result over time in substantial surpluses to be used for further home loans. To ensure that the maximum number of people can be assisted in the most sensitive way, these clauses allow the States great flexibility in determining the uses to which funds can be put and the agencies which will administer them. In marked contrast to the Commonwealth imposed means test in the 1973 Agreement, each State now will be able to determine the conditions of eligibility for home purchase assistance. Loans are to be made only to people unable to obtain or to afford mortgage finance in the open market. The individual circumstances such as family income, assets and standard of the home will be taken into account.
We are concerned to see that home owners have low repayments when their costs are highest- usually in the early years of the loan. Arrangements with lending agencies are designed to ensure this and to provide in general for repayments to increase as ability to meet them improves. Agencies are encouraged to adopt flexible mortgage conditions such as income related starts with later repayments based on escalating interest rates, deferred interest repayment loans, loans where repayments are geared to income for the whole term of the loan, and loans for which repayments start at a high level, then taper off. These innovations should be of great interest to private lenders. I believe they will lead to increased availability of flexible mortgage conditions for home purchasers generally in our community.
Clause 20 facilitates and encourages tenants of State housing authorities to purchase their houses. The new Agreement contains no limit on the number of dwellings which may be sold. The restriction on sale of dwellings provided under the 1973-74 Agreement to 30 per cent has been abolished. All sales are to be at market value or replacement cost and on the basis of a cash transaction to the housing authority. Purchasers of public housing will have access to loans from the home purchase program where they are unable to raise finance in the private market. These provisions will result in equal treatment between those purchasing privately and public housing tenants buying publicly-owned dwellings. Sales at market value or replacement cost will enable other houses to be provided to replace those which are sold.
Clauses 14 to 19 deal with rental assistance. As with the home ownership provisions, they allow the States great flexibility in determining the uses to which funds can be put and the agencies which administer them. Commonwealthimposed specific needs tests for rental housing are to be discontinued and States will be free to determine their own eligibility criteria provided assistance is directed to those in need. There is evidence to suggest that some people on high incomes pay subsidised rent. Such people would have needed assistance when they first entered public housing but are now able to pay their way. States have agreed to move towards relating ceiling rents to market rents. This agreement applies to all dwellings built under this or earlier arrangements. Rent rebate systems will continue to apply, so that those unable to meet the ceiling rent for their dwellings will pay a rent geared to their income and other family circumstances. Rent will be related to income unless and until the ceiling rent is reached. Any increase in rents will be gradual and the State and Federal governments will work together to ensure that hardship does not result. This rental policy and the determination to avoid hardship flow from our concern that not all of the seriously disadvantaged are accommodated in public sector housing. There are many in need of assistance because of age, sickness, or some physical or mental disability. The Government provides these people with social, health and other services and it also looks to meet their housing needs.
Clauses 11 to 14 of the Bill introduce new arrangements for pensioner housing. These arrangements continue grants to the States, remove restrictions on how the funds may be used and make assistance available to more people. The groups of people who will be helped are listed in clause 1 1. They include persons in receipt of an age or invalid pension; a supporting parent’s benefit; a special benefit; a sheltered employment allowance; a training allowance in special circumstances; and some classes of Service pensions. Unlike the previous legislation, the Bill allows States to assist married as well as single pensioners.
The Agreement and the pensioner scheme introduced today will be welcomed as major additions to national housing policy and illustrate what can be achieved by governments working together to meet national objectives. The provision in clause 15 of the Bill for a comprehensive annual report on these programs will provide an opportunity for regular review of their effectiveness. The clear statement of agreed objectives to apply to the provision of housing assistance makes the 1978 Housing Agreement an important social document. I have no doubt that it will be seen as the best Agreement yet negotiated. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29 May, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I rise on the motion for the first reading of this Appropriation Bill to speak briefly about the
Iwasaki tourist project on the central coast of Queensland. 1 do this because during the adjournment debate on 4 May, Senator Keeffe saw fit to mouth the untruths, shall I say, that had been given to him by the society which is seeking supposedly to protect the beach from the Iwasaki development. I am quite sure that the society did that because, although it has been carrying on with its shenanigans over the last few months, it has not been cutting any ice on the central coast. The society has not been able to win any support and the only thing it could do was to try to seek support elsewhere. In doing so it obviously contacted Senator Keeffe, who does not know anything about this area. The society got his support, and thus we had his speech in the adjournment debate on the night of 4 May.
The importance of conservation is being recognised and generally accepted by the community, and that is how it should be. Through the ages, as we became more industrialised and extended our agricultural and mining industries, little thought was given to proper conservation, to the effect of our actions on the environment, to trying to return the land to its original state after such development had taken place. However, I think that the community generally now accepts the need for conservation, as do all developers and miners. Unfortunately, the conservation movement, which has in it a lot of genuine people, has attracted to its banner just about every sort of do-gooder-cum-knocker that one could think of. The discontented malcontents, the dissatisfied grumblers and the disappointed grouches all use the movement for their own ends. That does not do the cause of conservation any good and generally gets people ‘s backs up. Nevertheless, that is the situation as we see it. Those people are using the banner of conservation literally to bash anything new in any area. That is what has happened on the central coast of Queensland in regard to the Iwasaki tourist development.
We are part of our environment. We must use it, not abuse it. The environment is not stable, no matter what we might think. It is changing continually. Some of the great beauty spots of the world have been created by the weathering of continual storms or the running rivers and so on. Our environment is not stable. We should be able to change it without necessarily destroying or abusing it. If we took the ideas of some of” the conservationists’ to their ultimate, we would probably end up back in the caves. But when we got there we would find that we could not light a camp fire because it would pollute the atmosphere. We have to live within a changing environment. We have to accept that our environment can be fragile and that we have to act responsibly towards it. In that respect, we must re-think our policies towards national parks. They should not necessarily become a wilderness. I believe that Australia is probably the only country in the world which has decided that national parks should be shut up and put away. In other countries quite often national parks are freehold areas, obviously with certain restrictions on them, which are used for agriculture and are properly husbanded. They are not necessarily allowed to become a wilderness. Kenneth Dobell said:
Our aim is that the National Park shall afford to those who live in it a chance to make a living in a competitive world, and to those who visit it the solace of natural beauty.
In the Iwasaki project I think that probably for the first time in Australia we have a tightly controlled projected resort development which is paying due recognition to the flora and fauna in the area so that they will be available to those who use and visit the resort and to those who visit the area. The natural flora and fauna will be available for them to enjoy.
In his speech Senator Keeffe said much about the land in the area being choice land. Some of it is suitable for grazing; a lot of it is swamp, affectionately known as Boglands. There are mangrove swamps and rain forests. It is hardly choice land. It is recognised that Iwasaki paid a little in excess of $3,000 an acre, I think, for his land. Senator Keeffe said that some land in the area was available for $100,000 an acre. Shortly after that he mentioned $ 150,000 an acre.
– Where is this area?
– It is on the central coast of Queensland. Senator Keeffe ‘s lack of knowledge about land valuations in the area was apparent, and he became more and more confused as the night went on. I think that at present the top price for a developed block, one of the choice sites, would be about $ 1 1,000. If there were four of those blocks to the acre the developed price would be about $44,000 an acre. Only last Saturday a number of blocks put up for ballot were passed in because they did not reach the reserve price of $5,000.
Senator Keeffe mentioned in his previous speech and also tonight by interjection that this is one of the major fish breeding areas of the region. He referred to the Boglands area and said that it is a breeding area for the fishing and prawning industries and a marine nursery, producing 70 per cent of the catch of the Yeppoonbased fishing industry. I am quite a novice when it comes to fishing but I did not know that the fish caught in salt water estuaries were bred in fresh water swamps. I want to bring a little sanity into the debate. Let me refer to a Habitat survey that was commissioned by the group which sought to stop the Iwasaki development. The survey stated:
The tidal wetlands of Corio Bay support extensive mangrove vegetation on the fringing creeks. The relative area of wetland for Corio Bay and other wetland systems in the region is seen in the following table.
The following are the areas in square kilometres: South Gladstone 27; North Gladstone 49; Curtis Island 1 10; Lower Fitzroy 440; Keppel Sands 25; Yeppoon 2; Corio Bay 34; Shoalwater Bay 172; Townshend Island 16; making a total of 875 square kilometres. Of the Corio Bay area of 34 square kilometres, 32 are actually in a natural fish habitat. That area is not part of the Iwasaki lease. Only 2 square kilometres are part of the lease and they are in Resort Development A which will be a section for accommodation. Mr Iwasaki says that as far as possible that area will be left untouched. So we are looking at 0.23 per cent of the total mangrove area which may be affected. Yet there is a hue and cry raised that the fish breeding areas of the central coast will be destroyed. The following article appeared in the Capricornian of 4 May 1978, with reference to Mr Tom Nielsen, one of the master fishermen:
I disagree with the statement that 70 per cent of the prawns caught by the local fleet come from the Corio Bay area’, Mr Nielsen said. ‘In fact the best prawning grounds lately have been further north in the Shoalwater Bay area ‘.
I refer again to the Habitat survey, which revealed that a total of 28 sites was investigated by the company that did the survey- 1 9 in Fishing Creek, four in Corio Bay, three in Water Park Creek, and one each in Sandfly and Deep Creeks. In the survey there is not one mention of finding a prawn in that area. Of course, that is not to say that prawns are not there; it is not to say that they are not there at a certain time of the year; but let us look at the matter reasonably. It is obviously not one of the major breeding areas in the region for prawns. Corio Bay is a very shallow bay. Trawlers cannot use it. It is used by local fishermen who have access to some of the creeks at high tide.
A lot has been said that does not necessarily ring true. The Boglands area that has been referred to by Senator Keeffe, who thinks that it is the breeding area for prawns and fish, is part of the resort area but is in Resort Development Area B. Under the Queensland International Tourist Centre Agreement Bill, Schedule F, Appendix 2 sets out the purposes for which the Boglands area and the land around it can be used. It cannot be used for accommodation. It will be developed as an Australian wildlife and botanical park, with agriculture, forestry, landscaping, rural buildings and recreational facilities being provided. There will be no major residential development at all in that area. The point I am trying to make is that it will be a controlled development. It will take cognisance of the natural environment and seek to use it and keep it in its natural form and yet make it available so that the public can enjoy the beauty of the flora and fauna of that area.
Senator Keeffe said that employees will be mostly Japanese, and that Austalian workers will do the menial jobs. I do not know how he defines menial jobs but if the honourable senator was referring to the jobs done by thousands of Australians today who work in the tourist and accommodation industry, I say that it is a gross discourtesy to single them out as doing menial jobs compared to the jobs of anybody else in the work force. Mr Iwasaki wants to use as many Australians as he possibly can in his development. Obviously he will have some of his top executive staff” overseeing them. The concessions will be let out to Australians by tender. Obviously all the construction will be done by Australian companies. He hopes to use Australians in the work force from around that area. There will be very little live-in residential accommodation for staff until the international hotel is built, and it may then be provided if that is found to be necessary. As I said before, Senator Keeffe referred to the Capricorn Coast Protection Council. Certain groups up there are making a noise out of all proportion to the numbers that they can muster. As in any society, when somebody tries to be innovative there is always somebody who wants to knock his ideas. Lord Rothschild touched on this when he said:
There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain of success, than to introduce a new order of things- because the innovator has for enemies all those who did well under the old conditions- and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well in the new.
This has always been a problem, as we have found in this chamber when we have been debating something new. Mr Acting Deputy President, need I mention nuclear energy, of which you will be well aware? The two main proponents of the opposition to the Iwasaki project are Mr Harris, the President of the Capricorn Coast Protection Council, and Mr Vanderheiden. Mr Harris does not officially represent the Capricornia Master Fishermen’s Association. Mr Vanderheiden is the secretary of the Capricornia Master Fishermen’s Association. He works with Mr Harris as a deckhand on a trawler. He does not officially represent the point of view of the Capricornia Master Fishermen’s Association. I refer again to the article in the Capricornian of 4 May 1978 under the heading ‘Fishermen “dismayed” ‘, which stated:
A leading trawlerman in the Capricorn Coast fleet said yesterday that many fishermen were ‘dismayed’ by controversial statements made against Mr Iwasaki supposedly on behalf of the industry.
Mr Tom Nielsen said as far as he could remember, there had been only one meeting of the Capricornia Master Fishermen ‘s Association in the last six months.
The statements issued by Mr Vanderheiden the association’s secretary, were not in agreement with my opinions’, Mr Neilsen said.
In a front page story in the Capricornian. Mr Vanderheiden attacked the Chamber of Commerce for interfering ‘ in the fishing industry.
He also criticised the Iwasaki development.
I disagree with the statement that 70 per cent of the prawns caught by the local fleet come from the Corio Bay area ‘, Mr Nielsen said.
In fact the best prawning grounds lately have been further north in the Shoalwater Bay area.’
Mr Nielsen said it was difficult to know who was leading the industry.
First Mr Harris crusaded for a statutory organisation to protect the fishing industry statewide. Then, with help from Mr Vanderheiden. he persuaded local fishermen to withdraw from the Commercial Fishermen’s Organisation- the statutory body formed at their request. They re-formed the Capricornia Master Fishermen’s Association which seems to have lost the interest of the local fishermen ‘, Mr Nielsen said.
These are the two gentlemen who are basically against the project. On the one hand they represent the Capricorn Coast Protection Council, they supposedly represent the Capricornia Master Fishermen’s Association and they also say that they represent the fruit growers in the area. That has been proved not to be true also. We have a very small number of people making a lot of noise. As I said before, central coast Queenslanders will not wear them at all so they have come to Canberra seeking support from those people who do not know the area at all.
When one looks at the impositions placed on Mr Iwasaki by the Queensland Government in the Queensland International Tourist Centre Agreement Bill one wonders why on earth the man wants to go ahead with the project, so tight are the conditions the State Government has imposed on him. He has to forfeit the beachfront plus 77 hectares of land for a recreation area and a parking area. He has to bring that land up to a standard for use by all the public. The company must provide public facilities and must be responsible for the complete upkeep, conservation and restoration, even in the case of a national disaster such as a cyclone. If we go back to Senator Keeffe ‘s figures, he quoted $100,000 to $150,000 an acre for land in that area. On the basis of what Senator Keeffe said the land was worth this would work out that Mr Iwasaki is making a donation of the order of $35m in real estate to the people of Queensland or of Australia. That is a tremendous thing for Mr Iwasaki to do for us, on the basis of Senator Keeffe ‘s figures.
The company must also provide a two-lane access road from the existing Yeppoon-Byfield road to the resort and beachfront. If the company does not meet all the strict requirements the Government will not permit progress to the next stage of development and at the end of the fourth stage, which will be undertaken in 20 years the Government will not renew the lease. As I said before, I do not know why on earth under such tight conditions Mr Iwasaki would even want to go on with the project. But he is prepared to spend the money and to take part in controlled development of this area, something which we have never had before in Australia. I say that we should welcome him. I refer now to a letter which Senator Keeffe had incorporated in Hansard. He is obviously not responsible for the letter- he incorporated it in good faith. The letter is addressed to The Prime Minister, Parliament House, Canberra, and reads.
Dear Mr Fraser,
At a meeting attended by approximately 200 citizens in the Yeppoon Town Hall on the 4th April 1978 to discuss the Iwasaki tourist project in this area, the following motions were tabled and passed by an overwhelming majority.
Please note, Mr Deputy President, that the letter stated that:
At a meeting attended by approximately 200 citizens … the following motions were tabled and passed by an overwhelming majority.
I refer to an article which appeared in the Morning Bulletin on 4 April 1978. The Morning Bulletin is the daily paper in Rockhampton. The article is entitled ‘Referendum on resort sought’ and states:
A public meeting at Yeppoon last night called for a referendum to be held in Central Queensland to ascertain people ‘s true feelings with regard to the Iwasaki resort proposals, Mr Hugh Cochrane said last night.
Passed by a vote of 94 to 10 against . . .
In this article Mr Cochrane is reported to have said the vote was 94 to 10 but in the letter he sent to Mr Fraser he said that the motions were passed by an overwhelming majority at a meeting of 200 citizens.
– They might not all have voted.
– Of course they did not all vote. About 96 people did not vote. In other words, it is hardly an overwhelming majority when 94 people–
– How do you know they were there? Did you attend the meeting?
– I do not know they were there, but I am quoting–
– You do not even know whether they were there so why the hell do you want to start falsifying the figures?
– If the honourable senator will bear with me, I am quoting from the letter sent to the Prime Minister by these people. 1 shall quote from it again for the honourable senator’s benefit. The letter reads:
At a meeting attended by approximately 200 citizens in the Yeppoon Town Hall on the 4th April, 1978 . . .
I have quoted from the letter about the meeting, which was sent to the Prime Minister. I have read also from the Press release these people gave the Morning Bulletin. In the letter they talk about an overwhelming majority when it was 94 people out of about 200 people. The letter goes on and outlines the four motions which were passed and concludes as follows:
I trust that these motions convey to you the true feelings of the citizens of this area and that the wishes of the majority of the average Australian is democratically maintained.
– They did not all vote.
– Of course they did not vote. They were not in favour of the meeting; they were mainly there as observers. The Press release published in the Morning Bulletin continues:
The meeting wants this referendum held before the State Parliament votes on the issue. ‘
The meeting was called by Mr John Geissmann of Yeppoon, who told the meeting he was not associated with any other groups in Yeppoon but was ‘simply concerned at the Iwasaki venture’.
The Press release even states:
The meeting was attended by about 200 people at its peak, but dwindled as the night wore on.
Mr Hugh Cochrane of Yeppoon who phoned ‘The Morning Bulletin ‘ last night on behalf of Mr Geissmann, said the meeting also carried three motions.
That this meeting urge the Queensland Government to repeal the Aliens Act number 19 of 1955. Voting was 100 to 20.
That hardly constitutes an overwhelming majority. The article continues:
A motion of no confidence in the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke- Petersen was passed.
The above motions to be sent to the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser and the Federal Opposition Leader, Mr Hayden.
So we can see from their own figures jp their Press Release that it was hardly an overwhelming majority which was in favour of the motions which were passed on that night. We see that even in the very area in which this project is to be carried on there is certainly not any great public opinion against the project. It is quite interesting that Mr Vanderheiden stood as a candidate in the last local government election. He stood representing the Capricornia Coast Protection Council, the Capricornia Master Fishermen’s Association and the Australian Labor Party. His main policy was to oppose the Iwasaki project. He stood for Division 2, which takes in part of Yeppoon and Farnborough, which is the area of the project. He literally got done like a dinner. He ran a very bad last out of ten. Yet these people have come down here and sought the help of people who do not know anything about the project and are saying that the vast majority of the people in the area are overwhelmingly against it.
The last attempt at a public meeting to whip up support in the area against this project was held in Yeppoon on 28 April. The meeting was widely publicised in all the media. The Australian flag was defaced on Anzac Day. That made headlines at least throughout Queensland, until the man was told to remove the flag. There were large illegal hoardings for a full week, yet all that turned up at that meeting in this so-called bastion of opposition to the Iwasaki project was approximately 73 people. Of that 73 people there were observers from organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce, which wants to see the project go ahead; the Capricornia Tourist Association, which wants to see the project go ahead; the Livingstone Shire Council, including the Chairman, Roy Wall, which wants to see the project go ahead; and the Rockhampton Regional Promotion Bureau, which wants to see the project go ahead. They were among the total of 73 people who attended this massive meeting which had been so widely advertised to be against the Iwasaki project.
Approximately the same motions as were moved at the previous meeting were moved at this meeting and the maximum support was 57 votes. This meeting was widely publicised throughout an area in which approximately 60,000 people live. The maximum number of people who attended the meeting was about 73 people. As I have said, a lot of them were observers and the maximum support they got for their motions was 57 votes. How ridiculous can people get? With that result they are going to go around the countryside and purport to speak for people in the area. In one of the letters which Senator Keeffe incorporated- this appears at page 1411 of the Senate Hansard of 4 May- the following appears:
Why is the Queensland Government obtaining this land to sell freehold to the Iwasaki Co. and denying Australians the same opportunity in a society that is supposed to be a private enterprise one?
Why shouldn’t Australians be able to purchase this land in their own country?
The question is not ‘why shouldn’t they’; it is why didn’t they’. The opportunity has been there all the time. I have an advertisement -
– Why did you not quote that in full instead of making a lie out of it?
– I am just quoting a section of it. An advertisement for the sale of land recently appeared in the Australian. If Senator Keeffe would like to earn himself a good, handy commission, he could act as agent in the sale of this land to Mr Harris and to Mr Vanderheiden who are so interested in land on the central coast of Queensland being available to Australians.
– Just because you made a few thousand bucks out of it, do not think I will do the same thing.
– I wish I had.
– Well, you are under suspicion.
– I would like to introduce Senator Keeffe to my bank manager some time. I would be under suspicion, but not for that reason. As I was saying, an advertisement appeared in the Australian on 12 May 1978 which read as follows:
Location: Midway between Rockhampton Capricornia Coast and the Whitsunday Islands off Mackay: 144.8 kms by road to Rockhampton.
The property: Totals 1026.7 hectares (2,537 acres) Freehold. Absolute Ocean Frontage. The 5 km beach with its 15.30 m of clean sand at high tide must be seen to be appreciated. Adjacent are Headlands and secluded coves.
The hinterland is virtually a natural garden with almost every variety of flora and fauna, and views of ocean and mountains.
Improvements: Consist of Roads, airstrip, two (2) Caravans, electric generating plant, wells, pumps, tractors, etcetera.
Remarks: Would make an ideal Tourist Resort or private hideaway. Seclusion a feature, combined with only two (2) hours drive to Rockhampton (20 minutes by air).
The scenery- natural bush, wildlife, island-studded ocean, fishing and a magnificent beach are all superb- and can only be fully appreciated by inspection.
I might add that just off-shore is the Swain reefs area which is known for its magnificent fishing.
As I said, if Senator Keeffe wants to make a commission, he can go up there and sell this land to all those Australians who are being prevented from buying freehold land. What utter rot has been dished out from this senator from Queensland- the knocker from north Queensland. This is a very big complex which will bring a large number of tourists to Australia and which also will provide a good tourist resort for Australians. It is probably the major, single controlled development on the Australian coast. It is more desirable than all the uncontrolled development that we have had at many of our Australian coastal resorts. We will have an influx of money from the company and from tourists. As well there will be the development of the area and employment for people in the central coast area of Queensland. There will be improved roads and airport facilities, increased employment, increased business potential for service industries and obviously for locally established business. Of course, the area probably will have the first big international standard resort hotel for Queensland.
I have no hang-up- I know that some people have- about the sale of freehold land to aliens provided the Government puts conditions on the sale. As I said before, the Queensland Government on this sale has put conditions which are so strict that it is a wonder Mr Iwasaki wants to go ahead with the resort. It will be built on freehold land which has been sold to Mr Iwasaki. But under the franchise agreement the development will be monitored very strictly by the State Government. Very few companies, least of all Australian companies, would be prepared to go ahead with the development under these sorts of restrictions. It is unfortunate but true that the Australian investor is very tardy about putting his money into long term projects, as we found out when we tried to develop our mining areas. We have had to bring in money from overseas to develop any projects that take a long time to give a return to the investor.
Let me give the Senate some idea of how the project will proceed. At stage 1, there will be no accommodation for tourists in the first season. In the second year, accommodation will be provided for 280 tourists. In the third year there will be accommodation for 640 tourists. In year four, accommodation will be available for 940 tourists and in year five- the conclusion of the first stage of the project- there will be accommodation for 1,290 visitors and tourists to that area. Of course, if stage 1 proves viable and attractive to international and Australian tourists, the international hotel development will proceed further to provide accommodation for a total of 3,000 people. On top of that, Mr Iwasaki is quite prepared to spend money in updating facilities at Rockhampton airport, possibly to international standards, or even to buying further land to provide an airport of an international standard. As a member of Parliament living in that area I welcome this development. I think that it will be tremendous for the central coast area of Queensland, for Queensland and for Australia. It will provide a tourist resort for all Australians. In addition, it will provide a resort for international tourists to come to Australia, to spend their money here and to look at other parts of Australia in order to obtain a better concept of Australiana. I welcome the construction of” the resort in the natural environment of the central coast area of Queensland.
– I rise to speak in this first reading debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) to raise a matter that is causing concern in the Northern Territory. It relates to the field of radio communications in the general area of the proliferation of high powered transceivers or transmitting equipment and the sale of equipment to other than licensed operators. Perhaps I should give a little background to the matter before I make my speech in order to make the problem easier to understand. The Senate will be aware that a number of years ago commercially manufactured radio transceivers became readily available. They were bought mainly by licensed operators whom we have come to know as hams. These are the people who contact their colleagues all over the country. But some of the transceivers were bought by missions, by pastoral properties and by a few of the settlements.
We also know that fairly recently citizen band radio hit the United States of America. I think that we can only use that phrase because it did hit the USA and it became a very popular hobby. The trend continued and CB radio came to Australia. Again, I might use the phrase that CB radio hit Australia because it became very popular here and many sets were sold. We know that in July last year CB radio was legalised after some pressure from the groups that were operating it. When CB radio was legalised in Australia, citizen band radio operators were given two metre bands, an 1 1 metre band with 18 channels and also an ultra high frequency 470 megahertz band. There were 40 channels available on this 470 megahertz band.
I remind the Senate- it becomes important later in my speech- that the 1 1 metre band was previously the band which the amateur radio group used- that group of people we call hams. Many problems are associated with this 1 1 metre band, not the least of which being that there is a great deal of overcrowding and there are no free channels available on it. The problem of overcrowding could be overcome legally by the introduction of ultra high frequency citizen band radio sets. Mr Acting Deputy President, I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) by leave- I inform the Senate that on the recommendation of the Government, His Excellency, the GovernorGeneral has further extended the terms of reference of the Royal Commission inquiring into the electoral redistribution of Queensland in 1977 to allow Mr Justice McGregor to make findings on whether any breach of a law of the Commonwealth or any impropriety occurred on the part of any person in the course of the redistribution in 1977 of that part of Queensland encompassed within the division of McPherson as it was before the 1977 redistribution took effect. The Government took this action after advice from me and with the concurrence of Mr Justice McGregor. The view that I took was that, although the Royal Commissioner under his terms of reference as they were before this variation might hear evidence about the conduct of a number of persons, he was restricted by those terms of reference to making findings only about the conduct of Mr Eric Robinson and the Distribution Commissioners. It was to ensure that Mr Justice McGregor was able to make findings in the light of the evidence, about the conduct of any person that the Government has taken the action that it has to have the terms of reference of the Royal Commission widened. Mr President, for the information of honourable senators I table the further terms of reference.
I present the following paper:
Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Electoral Redistribution of Queensland in 1977- Further Terms of Reference, 30 May 1978.
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
-The statement which has just been made by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) is interesting in that it recognises the inadequacy of the existing terms of reference of the Royal Commission, a matter which was the subject of Opposition concern both in recent weeks and in the Parliament today. One interesting consequence of the widened terms of reference is that, having regard to the ruling made by the President in this chamber today, following the raising of points of order, the area which is presumed to be sub judice and the area which we are prevented from debating in detail in the Senate is in fact widened. That is a matter which of course is a cause for further Opposition concern.
The Attorney-General in the statement refers to the fact that the Royal Commission was restricted by the existing terms of reference to making findings only about the conduct of Mr Eric Robinson and the Distribution Commissioners. As one who listened to the debate in the Senate today, I find that statement from the AttorneyGeneral almost unbelievable. It was quite implicit in the points of order which were taken and in the ruling which was subsequently arrived at that the terms of reference of the Royal Commission were much widened and embraced for example the question of the propriety and conduct of a Minister in the Senate. That in our view was not so; it is still not so. To that extent we welcome the widening of the terms of reference. They do enable the Commissioner now to consider whether there was impropriety on behalf of persons other than the Distribution Commissioners and other than Mr Eric Robinson. We think that is an appropriate matter for the Royal Commission to pronounce upon. As I say, we are left with the difficulty that it also means, having regard to the ruling made in this chamber, a widening of the effect of the sub judice rule.
The consequences of the widened terms of reference are of course that the Royal Commission now has a more onerous and a wider task in arriving at a finding, given the wider terms of reference under which it can conduct that inquiry. The other consequence is that honourable senators will be prevented from considering that matter until the terms of reference of the Royal Commission are deliberated upon and the Commission discharges its function by presenting a report. There are two matters, therefore, which concern the Opposition in this regard. We think it an appropriate response in the sense that there has been a recognition, albeit belatedly, of the need for wider terms of reference. We greet the response with mixed feelings in view of the implications, as I pointed out in my remarks in the last few minutes. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Honourable senators will recall that I was addressing myself to a problem, in the area of radio communication, which was concerning us in the Northern Territory. That is the proliferation of high powered transceivers and the sale of equipment to other than licensed personnel. I had reached the point of saying that in July of last year when citizen band radio was legalised two bands were allocated to the people who use citizen band radio. They are the 1 1 metre band which has 18 channels and a ultra high frequency band, the 470 megahertz with 40 channels. I had made the point that the 1 1 metre band was previously one of those allocated to the people who use amateur radio.
There are many problems associated with this action, not the least of which is overcrowding. There are no free channels on the 1 1 metre band. There is a way to overcome this problem legally- and I stress the word ‘legally’- and that is to purchase ultra high frequency citizen radio band sets. Unfortunately, there are two ways of overcoming this problem illegally. I emphasise the difference between the two actions. One way is to buy a transceiver powerful unit. I will use as an example a 40 channel American CB unit which is available in local shops. The problem with this 40 channel unit is that at least 22 of its channels do not appear on the 1 8 channel Australian CB system. The 40 channel American CB unit cannot be licensed in Australia and yet it is offered for sale here. The second illegal way of overcoming the problem of overcrowding is to buy amateur equipment although the purchaser is unable to obtain a licence to use such equipment. I make the point here that one needs a licence to operate amateur equipment. I do not have to stress that point.
The sorts of units that are being bought by CB fans to overcome the problems of overcrowding have variable tuning and a wide range of frequencies and disturbingly- why I say ‘disturbingly’ will become clear- a very high output of 70 watts, 80 watts, and, up to 200 watts whereas the citizen bank radio is limited to an output of 4 watts. I stress again that the sort of equipment that is being used is that which is normally used by the amateur, the ham, to call around the world. I would like to give a couple of other examples because I think these are very important.
Before I draw attention to these other examples I stress the point that these units can be purchased from CB retailers. The two examples of advertising which I will give have appeared recently in magazines with ‘CB’ used as part of the name of the firms, stressing the fact that they are in the market to supply the users of citizen band radio. The first one 1 mention is a Telco Storm 50 unit. This unit has a 50 watt to 70 watt output from an input of 4 watts AM or 12 watts SSB. The comments that are made in the advertising splurge that goes with the photograph is that this unit is ideal for long distance contacts. It gives some details about the size of the unit and so on and then says that it is recommended for amateurs. But unfortunately in the advertisement the ‘recommended for amateur use only’ notation is in very small print. The advertisement then goes on in slightly larger print to say that it is ideal for use on the 27 megahertz band. I stress again that this is not an amateur frequency.
The price of this particular unit is $ 1 35. Unlike Senator Keeffe, I am not looking for commissions but I make the point that at $135 this unit is well within the range of CB users. It is not an expensive unit. The second example to which I want to draw attention from the information I have in front of me is a DIGI SCAN, a model RDS1. The advertisement gives the details of this unit- I will not bore the Senate with themand then continues: ‘. . . adapts to 40 channel transceiver’. I made the point before that such transceivers are illegal. Yet here in the magazine this unit is being advertised. Linear amplifiers are advertised also. These units boost signals. Beams are advertised. The purpose of these is to increase efficiency even though again they are not legal.
The advertisement of the 10 metre transceiver prompted one leading amateur in Darwin to write in a letter to me:
The advertising or the 10 metre (28 MHZ Amateur f.) Transceiver as having ‘lots of channels!’ inferring that this would be better than the crowded 27MHZ is absolutely astounding. Why not advertise skeleton keys for burglars or that X brand of explosive has been tested on Y brand of safe and found to be effective. I feel it amounts to the same thing.
That is a comment made by one of the competent operators, one of the licensed operators, in the Northern Territory. We are concerned because anyone can buy this equipment. One needs a licence to operate it but anyone can buy it. The chances of being caught if one operates illegally are very slim. There is a shortage of inspectors in the relevant department. I seem to recall drawing attention to this factor 12 months ago. There is a shortage of equipment to track down the people using these transmitters.
My concern is not so much with the amateur operators as with the fact that because of the high-powered nature of this sort of equipment- I have been trying to stress that point in what I have said up to this stage- these units are able to block emergency channels. Honourable senators who have been to the Territory will know that the channels are used for emergencies. If there is a medical emergency or any other emergency on a mission, pastoral property or Aboriginal community some 200 or 300 miles from Darwin these units are used to call in to base. This applies, as honourable senators will know, to the Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs areas. But the units that are out on the missions and in some of the communities are small units and can be blocked by the larger units. The people who are enjoying themselves with their CB activities on very high-powered equipment could cost the life of a person on a remote settlement who is trying to make contact with a doctor. That is a reason why I thought I should bring this matter to the attention of the House at this time. 1 stress again that the problem, as I see it, is that high-powered equipment is available to unlicensed or illegal operators. We know that amateurs have to have licences. Before a person is entitled to operate as an amateur- ‘amateur’ is the word that is used- he has to present himself and pass one of three examinations in varying degrees of difficulty. But a person has to study and present himself and pass an examination before he is allowed to operate this amateur equipment. By becoming members of a group which operates this equipment, people adopt the regulations which organise the activities. They know that it is for their own good to observe the regulations that have been set. There is a high standard of conduct among the amateur operators all over the world. I think honourable senators will recall that the first call that came out after Cyclone Tracy was from one of these amateurs, one of these hams, who was able to use his equipment to make contact with people in other parts of Australia.
There is a number of ways to overcome the problem which I have drawn to the attention of the Senate. The first is to have a requirement that a licence must be produced before the amateur level equipment can be bought. This system operates in the United Kingdom. I am told by people who work in this field that very stringent requirements prevail in the United Kingdom and that one cannot buy a simple crystal set, such as we might have played with as boys, without some sort of licence. I am suggesting that this is one way in which we might control the sale of this high-powered equipment. The amateurs claim, with some justification I feel, that the same principle applies to this situation as applies to driving a car, having a rifle or pistol, flying an aircraft or any of those sorts of things. If the unit is likely to cause damage, the person must be competent to operate it and must prove his competence by passing an examination and becoming licensed. The amateur who made the comment which I quoted previously had this to say:
It is obvious that the majority of businessmen selling transmitting equipment are concerned more with the quick quid and not of the consequences. This I can understand. What is deplorable is that the situation exists where they can do it. Surely a simple solution is to limit the sale to licensed people capable of producing that licence and also to have the seller supply the name and address of the purchaser to the Radio Branch. This method is by no means perfect but is far better than nothing.
The suggestion is made that a person who wants to buy such equipment must demonstrate his competence before being able to do so. I think that the suggestion is reinforced by the Government’s inability to police illegal transmissions. I have already drawn attention to this matter by referring to the shortage of radio inspectors. I have no doubt that many of us would object to this licensing situation on philosophical grounds. I have some objection myself. All I can say at this juncture is that if someone can come up with a better idea let him do so. I would be quite happy to see an alternative form of control introduced but I cannot think of one at present. If I knew of one I would propose it. I make the point that air space belongs to all of us. It is a scarce commodity. It needs some control in the Northern Territory. I have mentioned the particular problem in the Northern Territory- the need for channels to be open to receive emergency calls, urgent calls and so on. I make the point again that the calls which come is as emergencies are not strong calls and that they must not be blotted out by the very high-powered equipment which is being used just to circulate messages throughout a centre.
I am not opposed to citizen band radio as such. No doubt it is a very interesting hobby to those people who take it up. Many find it enjoyable. I can see definite uses for it by people living on pastoral properties, isolated communities and so on. But some limit must be placed on the strength of the units which are allowed to be used for citizen band radio. We know that citizen band operators must be registered, but so many applications are before the radio branch at present that it just cannot control the situation. I understand that the radio branch is about 20,000 applications behind in its processing.
Let me make some suggestions. I hope that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) and his Department will have a look at them. I suggest, firstly, that a careful watch be kept by the Postal and Telecommunications Department on equipment offered for sale by the stores. It should ensure that nothing is offered for sale which is illegal in Australia. Surely that is not too much to ask. Equipment should not be offered for sale within Australia which cannot be licensed for use. We must devise some method to keep this equipment out of the hands of unqualified people. I ask the Minister and his Department to look at the suggestion. I also suggest that a register be developed. The register could have similar information, I suppose, to a gun register. It could have the name and address of the purchaser, the call sign of the amateur VK 123 or whatever the sign is- the signature of the dealer, the signature of the purchaser and the details of equipment sold. This information would be available to all qualified persons, which means, basically, radio inspectors. I do not suggest that these ideas cover all the problems. I have tried to highlight again the fact that the radio frequency spectrum is not infinite. It is a scarce resource and we must learn to control it. What I have suggested may not be the best way to overcome the problem I have outlined, but it would help to control the pollution of the radio frequency spectrum.
The problem is not limited to Australia. We know that people with high-powered equipment can operate all over the world. We do not want to bring down the proud name which the Australian amateur who operates all over the world has at present. We do not want to have the harum-scarum operator who does not observe the regulations. I have already mentioned the high reputation of the people who operate the amateur sets. I mentioned what happened at the time of Cyclone Tracy. I ask the Minister to look closely at what I have said and to come up with some solutions. I ask him to consider what I have put forward. It may be the answer. No doubt the experts in this Department can come up with better ideas. 1 make the point very strongly that the matter is urgent. More and more sets are being sold every day, so the problem is getting progressively worse. Obviously, with more sets becoming available, the longer we leave the problem the worse it will become and the more difficult it will be to solve. I strongly recommend to the Minister that he should look at this problem in the radio communications area and come up with some solutions.
-1 address myself to the problem of inter-racial relations. The problem has been highlighted in recent weeks in this Parliament and in this country. In this context I refer to the passage of the six Bills in the nuclear package- each of which in its own way represented part of the dilemma of inter racial relations, particularly the Aboriginal lands legislation- the urgency debate in the Senate about Aurukun and Mornington Island, the debate which involved the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act, the problems we have had with the influx of boat people from Thailand, the refugees from Vietnam and the Papua New Guineans coming into the Torres Strait Islands, the controversy just yesterday over the Booroloola land claim report, our attitude to South Africa and Rhodesia compared with our attitude to other countries and the outbreak of several wars in black Africa, which is now alight with wars. All these examples highlight the dilemma of inter-racial relations that is bedevilling us at the moment.
At the beginning of human history all the peoples occupied separate parts of the earth. The black man was in one part, the white man in another, the red man in another and the yellow man in another. It is only in recent centuries, largely due to the technology of the white man, that we have begun to mix up the races. We have tried integration, assimilation, segregation and other forms of race relations as solutions. There are some lessons to be learnt from these various experiments. At present it appears to me that of all the different coloured races on the earth today only one race is being used for world wide political warfare, and that is the black race. The black man is being used ruthlessly and mercilessly.
It also appears that two of the horsemen of the modern apocalypse are the ideological conflict between the East and the West and the racial conflict between black and white. Indeed, these twin horsemen of the modern apocalypse have now been harnessed together so that the ideological philosophy of the East is being used to cause racial conflict in the West and thus hide the imperialistic expansion of the East. I exempt here the most recent conflict between North and
South which is an economic one resulting in the new international economic order which will bedevil us shortly. Our problems in this interracial dilemma in Australia are only minor when compared with those of the rest of the world. Nevertheless, we must wrestle with them as best we can and avoid the pitfalls that have befallen other nations and also avoid the mistakes that have been made by our own forefathers, black and white. In the current contretempo that is worrying us at the moment the operative word has been self-determination. We should be clear in our heads what we mean by self-determination. It is a lofty concept. Few would argue with the proposition that each nation should be given the opportunity to run its own affairs according to the wishes of its people.
I do not regard self-determination as a right; it is an opportunity that has to be earned. To seize that opportunity each nation has to be able to afford to grasp it. In other words, there is a price to pay for self-determination. For example in recent years the Uniting Church in Australia in north Queensland has been prosecuting a policy of self-determination for the Aborigines living in the communities of Aurukun and Mornington Island. The method used was contrary to the Queensland Government policy and this caused conflict. But the Aborigines there have never had a cash mentality, let alone a cash economy. So if they were going to be able to pursue a policy of self-determination they had no means of paying for it. Obviously they could not do it by cash and so they would have to do it by some other means. If they want self-determination it is up to us to show them how to achieve it by other means than cash. If we make Aborigines on reserves parasites on the rest of the country- pumping in money and grog- it effectively destroys the Aboriginal culture and lifestyle and also denigrates the taxpayers.
In other parts of the world there are successful examples of white persons having worked with black people towards self-determination, selfgovernment, self-management and self-respect for them both. We should take advantage of the experience of those peoples. That would help us with our problems. I think that if we made more use of ethnologists in Australia rather than health, education and welfare workers with these people we would be a lot better off and so would our Aborigines. In this chamber charges have been made that the Queensland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders legislation is discriminatory and repressive and a blight on race relations in this country. That represents part of the dilemma. If this is so honourable senators must remember that that legislation was designed and approved by the Queensland Aborigines and Islanders. It was not formed as a policy by the white man with a view to discriminating against these people. In fact, if anything, that legislation discriminates against the white man but it does so in a fashion that was acceptable to the white man.
The important thing I wish to say is that the legislation is what the Aborigines and Islanders wanted and it had built into it all their requirements including continual change up to and including the termination of the legislation. It was subject to continual scrutiny by the Aborigines and Islanders Advisory Council whose advice was given and taken every six months since the inception of the legislation. The legislation was recently subjected to a total review by the people themselves. It can be altered, amended or abolished if the consensus of the Council so wishes it. Nobody was required to live under that legislation. Such disciplines as were in it were placed there by the Aboriginal and Islander Councils themselves for the sake of their communities.
I return to the subject of self-determination and the price we all have to pay for it. The possession of land is basic to the whole concept of self-determination. There is only one truly dispossessed people in the world today and they are the gypsies. Until recently the Jews were disposesssed people. They lived as a diaspora scattered throughout the whole world for hundreds and hundreds of years until they bought Israel. They were occasionally purged from some countries. For example, they were purged from Great Britain under Edward I. Now they have turned the desert of Israel into an oasis, but they are still fighting tooth and nail to hold it. Before all that the Jews had been slaves of the Egyptians for hundreds of years. So dire was their plight that it took an act of God to release them. But once in their land of milk and honey their behaviour deteriorated to such depths of depravity that when Moses descended from the mountain with the Ten Commandments he was furious and smashed the Ten Commandments tablets. So self-determination for the Jews has exacted a huge and continuing price for them to pay.
Nearly all other nations have had to pay enormous prices before they could determine their own futures. Countries have been over-run by invaders, often many times, before the people could establish their own security and selfdetermination. Even after events such as these nations have been involved often in bloodcurdling civil wars- for example, Great Britain and the United States of America. Most of the wars throughout history seem to have been between people of the one ethnic group- Arabs and Israelis, Hutu and Watutsi, Greek and Turk. These are the long protracted wars. People like Hannibal, Ghengis Khan, the Caesars, Napoleon and Hitler are like comets that scour the surface of the earth every now and then. But the real wars appear to be between people of the one ethnic group. They occur only when one section gets economic dominance over the other section.
The point I am making is that the price of selfdetermination is monumental. Nobody can sit down and scream out ‘I want selfdetermination’; neither can anybody say to other people Here, you have to have self-determination’. But there are examples of that around the world. For example, the policy of the United States of America is ‘Thou shalt integrate’; the policy of the Government of South Africa is ‘Thou shalt segregate’. But it is the people themselves who have to reach that decision. They must reach comity. They must decide what they want, where they want it and what price they are prepared to pay for it because usually anything one gets for nothing has very little value unless it is personal.
In the dilemma of inter-racial relations back in the tribal days problems were settled very simply by the stronger people exterminating the weaker people. This solution left very little problem for future generations but eventually it became impractical as often it was impossible to kill all the other people and reprisal raids became a constant irritation. A modification of that solution was used when the English-speaking peoples moved out from Europe to the distant world. It was used against the Indians in the United States and Canada, the Maoris in New Zealand, and the Aborigines in Australia. In that context, in the United States scalping was not an Indian pastime; it was white man’s pastime. It was used as a tally for the number of Indians killed much the same as we use rat tails to count the number of rats killed in cities today. The Indians adopted the idea only as a reprisal against the white man.
The Indians were either slaughtered or driven steadily into more and more inhospitable lands where they were almost wiped out by starvation and disease. Traces of these depredations remain to this day. Canadian and United States Indians cannot look forward to a long and prosperous life. In this context I cite an article that appeared in the Northern Territory Newsletter of April 1978, entitled ‘Coal: The Last Chance for the
Crow’, that is, the Crow Indians in Montana who are having difficulties negotiating with coal companies, their State Government and their Federal Government. At the bottom the issue is whether that tribe, in effect a self-governing entity, will be able to negotiate a financial agreement equivalent to those being demanded- and won- by Third World governments.
The article shows that these Crows do not regard themselves as American citizens but as another people with another government within the United States of America. According to the article, the tribe has been run as a true democracy. Every decision taken by the Crow leaders must be approved by a majority vote in tribal council. But at the moment the tribe is divided into two rival factions, one being led by a chap named Forrest Horn and the other by Patrick Stands Over Bull, the former chairman who was impeached for alleged corruption last summer. Both groups, however, are under pressure to get an ‘up front’ payment from the people who want to develop coal mines on their lands. The universal feeling is apparently that ‘the fast nickel beats the slow dime’ because, if they want a huge ‘up front’ payment, they will get a lot of money at the beginning but not such a good deal in the end. Outside the office of one of the officials a sticker which proclaims ‘Custer Had It Coming’ is pasted on the wall. The article continues:
Behind this tradition lies another, perhaps even more destructive. The tribe’s insistence on an up-front cash bonus, some say, can be traced to the annual handout, held on every Indian reservation, when the Government presented blankets, trinkets and food to the tribes as a sort of reward for their being ‘good’ Indians.
The dependent psychology thus created has, if anything, been reinforced in recent years. Almost 70 per cent of the jobs held by Crows living on the reservation are with the Government, mostly clerical positions.
Mr Old Coyote who is an economist on the reservation said:
We have been asked why we can’t get together and just wait for our profits . . . other nations, who are poorer than we are, have waited. But the difference is that they have never known anything else, and we have. We have tasted the manna from heaven, and it ‘s harder for us.
This is only a short article. Could I ask leave of the Senate for it to be incorporated in Hansard at the end of my speech. There are other salutory lessons in it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Robertson)- Has it been shown to the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) and the Opposition?
– I have not shown it to anyone but it was distributed to the offices of all senators today.
– I would wish to know the length of the article.
– It contains two and a half pages; it is not a long article.
– I wonder whether I could look at it.
– Yes, certainly. So much for the American Indians but similar short shrift was given to the Australian Aborigines who survived only because they could live in deserts that were of no interest at that time to the white man. The Maoris resisted the whites but they were beaten and driven off their best lands and survived only in those parts which the white man did not want at that time. An additional feature of the Canadian expansion in the far north was the ruthless exploitation of the land that restricted the Eskimo’s economy and brought starvation and death to large sections of that population.
I mention these examples to show what people even with the highest religious and moral principles will do to others when their own survival is threatened. It would be futile to attach blame for these acts now just as it would be futile to expect living whites to accept responsibility for this sorry history although the people of the Third World today appear to be doing this and expecting reparations for the acts that have occurred throughout history. Obviously these historical events are not the responsibility of those whites who today occupy Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia. But the fact remains that the territories that they occupy now belonged to the ancestors of those people who now live on reserves, in deserts and urban ghettoes.
Of course these indigenous people themselves in turn may have wiped out previous nations in order to gain their territories. Certainly they engaged in plenty of tribal warfare. This then was one way of dealing with the racial problem- to slaughter most of them and drive the rest into a restricted living area. The survival of these peoples- Aborigines, Indians, Eskimoes and Maoris- has largely been due to the recognition of land on which they have been allowed to live and somehow salvage something from the wreckage of their lives. I am unaware that any of the English-speaking governments of those countries ever instituted a policy of integration and assimilation of the native populations. Indeed it was quite the contrary. They initiated policies of segregation with as little racial integration as possible.
In the United States another racial problem is posed by the negroes who were first taken there as slaves following another well known pattern of inter-racial relations. The negro slaves of the Americas were taken there not as the result of one battle but as the result of literally thousands of battles. Their capture was not merely due to the fact that the Europeans had firearms, although that fact alone indicates a difference in aptitudes and abilities between the two races, but many were captured by other negroes and sold to European and Arab slavers. There were more powerful and aggressive negro tribes who preyed on their own kind’s lack of courage and lack of numbers because of their inability to be successful in their own environment and their inability to organise resistance or escape. In view of this, as long as any degree of natural selection exists, the American negroes can never compete in the white man’s industrialised and technological society. They are permanently condemned to an inferior social position in the white man’s world.
The United States Government has mobilised mammoth organisations, released mass propaganda and enacted legislation in favour of the negroes. Unlike the Indians the number of negroes is increasing and their wellbeing is in every way better than that of the Indians. It is the Indians who have at least equal claims on moral grounds and immeasurably higher claims on historical and legal grounds. This to me is real racial discrimination. But there is no outcry from the United Nations about this. To me the reason is self-evident. Only the black man fits the world pattern of international political warfare directed against the West by the East, ls it any wonder that the countries most clamant against racial discrimination are those who practise it most, that is Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Another form of racial relationship was conquest and enslavement. For example, the Romans conquered and enslaved the Germans and the Celts and the Germans enslaved the Celts and the Slavs. In these circumstances a caste system develops in contrast to the vertical division that occurs when a weaker people are confined on reserves. A classic example of the caste system is seen in India. When the Caucasian white Hindus conquered the subcontinent they reduced the indigenous Australoid blacks to slavery and thraldom. This system became fortified by legal, social and religious sanctions and it survives to this day despite missionary zeal and Mr Nehru’s legislation. The same caste system came about in the Americas with slavery. Although there was some inevitable miscegnation, the hybrids passed back into the enslaved black population.
The caste system cannot last indefinitely when two races have nearly the same aptitudes and abilities. For example, although the German peoples conquered most of Europe and the lower half of Britain, the difference between the peoples has largely disappeared. However desirable it may be on ethical and religious grounds, the caste system cannot be obliterated when there are vast differences in abilities and aptitudes between peoples because the caste system results from something more than a mere accident of history. As long as the black man with his racial origins and culture is forced to compete with the white man with his racial origins and culture, the black man will be forced to the lowest level of the white man ‘s technical, industrial, dynamic, acquisitive and creative society. That is to say, integration is a misdirected policy and is injurious to the black man.
In the United States racial hatred is welling up in negroes who are the victims of this misguided policy of integration. These negroes have been robbed of their land, their lore, their language, their family, their tribe, their culture and their customs. We have only to look at the experiences of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. These people identified with their African origins, not with their American origins. It is wrong to think that nurture is more important than nature; to think that education and improved social conditions will beat nature. Each person from every race represents his own small individual slice of history, unique and unrepeatable and only nature can afford to play the huge genetic lotteries of genetic selection. Nature follows inexorable laws. No solution to racial problems will be found by a falsification of the laws of nature or the evidence of history. All races are different. All people are different. Each person is different from every other.
Those people who wish to translate blacks from their history, culture and society to white history, culture and society on the grounds of equality are condemning the blacks to an unequal struggle with the whites. Such a translation can end only in tragedy for the blacks, as seen in the United States. The products of integration are irreversible and they result in the exploitation of the blacks. The exponents of egalitarianism condemn the blacks to perpetual purgatory in a white society. All men are made to live among groups of their own kind, competing against their own kind, and using the physical and mental apparatus common to their group. Most of the stable states today, black and white, have carved out a living space for themselves in each of which the people have developed as a distinct entity. This is a natural and desirable form of evolution. Governments which promote this principle do mankind a service. No government is perfect and no society is perfect. If hardship and injustice are inflicted on one part of a community in satisfying the needs of another, efforts should be made to ameliorate this without vitiating the principle itself.
The advantages of separate development are overwhelming. The people are ruled by their own leaders instead of by outsiders. Racial strife is avoided under separate development but under integration it is inevitable because even the ablest of the blacks is in unequal competition with the ablest of the whites and envy and hatred become the order of the day. Administratively, everything is much easier with separate development. The vernacular is used in communications and education. One set of local laws is known to everybody. The principles of customs and doing things are common to the whole nation. There is no minority to be aggrieved. There is no majority to believe that the minority is holding up its progress as is now the case in regard to schooling in Britain and the United States where the blacks now are resented.
Furthermore, a fairer system of education is possible under separate development. Great efforts have been made in trying to disprove that there are no marked differences in aptitude between blacks and whites. It should be no surprise to anyone that when whites and blacks are tested on white ideas and aptitudes the whites win but when they are tested on black ideas and aptitudes the blacks win. Thus, it is not friendly, charitable or Christian to force black and white school integration in a white society. It consigns the blacks to scrambling along continually behind the whites. It is immoral to force blacks into the same educational sausage machine that the whites have to suffer. To throw blacks from an entirely different culture into direct competition with whites on white terms, where the whites have all the advantages, is the height of cruelty. In my opinion separateness is infinitely better and the further it is developed the better. Each section can develop its own leadership and feel proud that men like themselves are at the apex of their people. It is the integrated society that exploits the black man. He is used for household and industrial labour and to do menial jobs that whites will not do- as in Great Britain.
Many blacks live in sub-standard, even condemned properties unfit for whites. Many publicists and church men support coloured immigration in an attempt to justify their unfounded theories and basic insecurities for which the coloured are mere guinea pigs. Certain employers also are in favour of it because it allows them cheap labour. In this context I shall quote the words of the Australian Aboriginal boxer, George Bracken, in an article entitled ‘The Aborigine’ which appears at pages 19 and 20 of the Australian International News Review dated 28 May 1965. These are George Bracken’s words:
In my opinion what is needed now to train the Aborigines to live in a white world, as they must, is to give them a selfcontained community of their own.
This should take the form of an Aboriginal township. Complete with all the shopping facilities, housing and schools found in any community.
With this difference: Every official, every teacher, every businessman in this community would be an Aborigine. It would be an experimental township teaching citizenship to Aborigines.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, 1 do not know what the document is from which the honourable senator is reading but I seek your permission and his co-operation to have the document tabled.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Robertson)- Leave can be sought for that only at the end of Senator Sheil ‘s speech.
– George Bracken continued:
With this difference: Every official, every teacher, every business-man in this community would be an aborigine. It would be an experimental township teaching citizenship to aborigines- with aborigines, already trained in the white world as instructors.
White Australia has come a long way since Governor Philip met his first aborigines, ls not Black Australia also entitled to some advancement?
In fact, it has been held back as a deliberate policy. The outback needs its cheap labour force and the aborigines have been compelled to provide it. Only recently has this been reversed in any way.
But the aim of this suggested advance must not be to blend white Australia with black.
My own view is that total assimilation would be a pity because it would remove from the Australian scene one of the differences that make Australia an individual country.
My people don ‘t think white thoughts.
Our culture is not yours either. It has a truly Australian individuality about it and a vigour which can, and does, stimulate yours.
The painting of Albert Namatjira, for one example, showed European painters that there were other ways of looking at the Australian scene than theirs.
Aboriginal music and dancing, again, is uniquely ours.
Under the present system, and with the efforts of a lot of well-meaning people- and a few, quite a few, not so wellmeaning we aborigines are being pressured into some kind of off-white uniformity, and never mind what we want.
Deep down the aborigine does not want to be pushed into some shape that he rebels against as an individual, nobody does! He wants to be able to make his own way of life.
The pressures brought to bear on him can make him ready material for the trouble-makers and the groups who like to jump on the social bandwaggon of ‘working for the aborigines’ welfare.’
Much of the latest agitation about the aborigine is stirred up by communists and other left-wingers who like to make trouble by becoming the self-appointed champions of the under-privileged black man. The aboriginal soul is not communist but highly individual. At the bottom he wants to retain and foster this individuality.
He « underprivileged and teaching him to live on handouts until somehow he is assimiliated, or forgotten, is not the answer.
It breeds resentment. That resentment is strongest against those who try to use the aborigine for their own purposes, taking advantage of his position.
One such group is the comumunists, who hypocritically take over our cause on the pretence that they intend to help us. Their only genuine intention is to use us for their own ends, as the reds and other left-wingers have operated in the United States.
As well as the countries I have mentioned so far in this discussion on inter-racial relations- Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand- mention must be made of the Portuguese and their efforts in the East Indies, Mozambique and Angola. For one reason or another, the Portuguese stood steadfastly against segregation and for integration, as steadfastly as do the United States, Britain and other countries now. Nevertheless, they have been denounced as colonialists, despite the fact that the Portuguese were strong critics of separate development. Critics of the Portuguese point to the fact that in their colonies the whites were at the top of the social ladder and the blacks at the bottom, a situation that they say was gerrymandered. But under the Portuguese system advancement depended on merit. Under the Portuguese system the blacks were unable to oust the whites in a battle on the white ‘s terms.
On my thesis, that is exactly what would be expected. That is, integration permanently condemns blacks to an inferior social position in a white society, and even if integration is enforced a caste system of segregation will develop. Except for a few exceptional blacks, they cannot compete in a white technological and industrial society when their society is so different. For integration to succeed a new society flying in the face of nature would have to be created, a society born equally of black and white minds, a society abondoning white ways and technological progress, a society reverting to agrarian pursuits. My thesis is that all men of all races are equal but different- and thank God they are so. It is wrong to say that black society has not developed because the blacks have not had the opportunity or that their physical and social environment has been against them. It is wrong to think that giving special privileges to correct those disabilities will produce a black Cicero or Archimedes or Pythagoras or Shakespeare or Darwin or Einstein and all the others who have been necessary to produce white society. Blacks are different and they are developing along different lines- not worse, not better, but different. By the way, blacks are not socialists; they are royalists, always having a chief or a king or an elite leadership. Blacks have never been subject to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The discredited theory that black and white are equal is being prosecuted only for political reasons to the detriment of the black man. We are equal but different, and the difference is just as important as the equality. Integration cannot work, as shown by the experiences of Britain, the United States, Spain in the Americas, and Portugal. Inter-breeding between the races is equally futile as a policy. As an example, consider the experience of the Portuguese and Spanish people. All of those experiments have wound up in a caste system with the whites on top, the darker people underneath, and the blacks on the bottom. This coffee-coloured solution to the racial problem is promulgated by moralists, church people, socialists and other ignorant humbugs. The solution would reduce mankind to chaos and misery, as shown by the experiences of Spain, Portugal and India. Indeed, when Portugal left Timor, Mozambique and Angola she left behind chaos, revolution, bloodshed, poverty and misery. The blacks are being made the victims of a political philosophy disguised as a desire to promote their welfare, and such victimisation will distort their natural development. It will rob them of their selfrespect. It will rob them of their own achievements, their own way of life -
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. I believe that the honourable senator is reading his speech, and that is contrary to the relevant Standing Order.
– Order! I have just come into the chamber and I will listen to Senator Sheil.
– It will do the blacks untold harm. The object of good government is the happiness and wellbeing of all men. The integrationists and those who insist on one man one vote set man against man. They cause unhappiness and strife and anarchy. Blacks prefer strong government to democratic government, and one man one vote forces them to transfer their allegiance from their own leaders to political adventurers not bound by tribal law and custom who quickly develop one-party states. All crazy political theories, such as forced integration, break on the rock of human nature. But before they do they bring tragedy to the people on whom they are inflicted.
– 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.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 4 March 1 978:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1) I am informed by the National Capital Development Commission as follows:
Also a wide range of indoor sporting/recreation facilities are provided at the ANU, the Civic YMCA, secondary schools and colleges.
Also a wide range of outdoor sporting and recreation facilities are provided at the ANU, secondary schools and colleges.
1 out of 8. (k)37outof 198.
In addition, approximately six hectares per one thousand people are provided for metropolitan parklands, hill reserves, plantations and golf courses.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 4 March 1978:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) I am informed by the National Capital Development Commission as follows:
1 1 percent.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 4 March 1 978:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) I am informed by the National Capital Development Commission as follows:
The neighbourhood parkland and pedestrian ways have been completed in most Belconnen suburbs. Landscaping is underway in Charnwood, Macgregor, Fraser, Kaleen and Giralang.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 4 March 1 978:
) I am informed by the National Capital Development Commission as follows:
See answer to Question No. 198 on urban parkland areas provided in the Territory. Urban parklands are fully landscaped except for some small areas where development has only recently been completed. (2)31 percent.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 4 March 1978:
1 ) I am informed by the National Capital Development Commission as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Special Trade Representations, upon notice, on 9 March, 1978:
– The Minister for Special Trade Representations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Exports to Japan, European Economic Community and ASEAN countries (Question No. 231)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Special Trade Representations, on notice, on 9 March 1 978:
– The Minister for Special Trade Representations and the Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Over the period 1971-72 to 1976-77 Australia’s imports from ASEAN countries have increased from $A97m to $A431m representing a growth rate of 35 per cent per annum. This compares very favourably with the rate of growth of Australia’s imports as a whole over the same period of 2 1 percent per annum.
In recent years the value of our imports of industrial products per head of population has been nearly three times that of the EEC and over six times that of Japan. Moreover around half of our industrial imports enter Australia completely free of duty and less than 10 per cent of Australia’s total imports were subject to any form of quantitative restriction or emergency restraint.
Even in cases where import restraints do currently apply it also needs to be remembered that arrangements have been made to allow imports a reasonable share of the market. In the case of passenger motor vehicles for example imports hold some 20 per cent of the Australian domestic market. In contrast to this, import measures imposed by some of our trading partners effectively exclude a wide range of Australian agricultural products from their markets.
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 15 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Part (1 ) Payments in these areas are made by the Parliamentary Departments as well as the Department of Administrative Services. Available information is shown in the tables below.
Part (2) Details requested by the honourable senator would necessitate a heavy commitment of resources, estimated at 400 man-hours in the Department of Administrative Services alone. I do not propose to commit those resources to answering this part of the question.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
Will the Prime Minister advise Ministers of the need of authorities within their responsibility to have accounts available for audit to permit audited statements to appear with Annual Reports, in view of the statement in the AuditorGeneral’s Supplementary Report 1976-77 that 49 statutory authorities or Government-owned companies had not submitted financial statements for 1976-77 by 24 November 1977.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As I mentioned in reply to a question without notice on 10 April 1978 (Hansard, 10 April 1978, page 1261), I wrote recently to Ministers specifically drawing to their attention the delay in the presentation of reports by their departments, or authorities, for which they and their departments are responsible. I asked Ministers to give particular attention to seeing that reports in future are presented to Parliament in proper time so that they can be available for consideration.
There are many factors which can contribute to a delay in presentation of reports to Parliament. In some cases there may be a failure by departments or authorities to prepare financial statements in a form approved by the Minister for Finance and to provide them to the Auditor-General in good time. However, when I wrote recently to Ministers, I suggested that, in cases where, for some reason, a final report cannot be presented in good time, the possibility of issuing an interim report should be explored. The honourable senator would be aware that this practice has in fact been followed in several recent cases.
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 6 April 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Energy Research (Question No. 425)
asked the Minister for Science, on notice, on 4 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I ) Of some 1,200 grants approved for 1978
The prime role of the ARGC has been to foster basic rather than directed research and it may not be the best vehicle for energy development. I am also conscious of the need to encourage research and development in nongovernment institutions which may lead to new innovations which can be further developed and exploited by industry. My Department is at present undertaking a detailed study of existing support measures to identify possible new initiatives in this area.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 9 May 1 978:
– The Minister for Home Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Issue of Australian Passports
-On 6 April 1978 Senator Jessop asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following question without notice:
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is able to say whether the issue of an Australian passport can be denied to an Australian citizen living in a foreign country.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes. The Passports Act gives discretion to the Minister for Foreign Affairs to grant or withhold the issue of Australian passports.
The preamble appearing on the inside front cover of every Australian passport in the name of the Governor-General . . requests all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford to him or her every assistance and protection of which he or she may stand in need ‘.
This formal request in an Australian passport to other Governments to furnish protection and assistance to the bearer underlines the responsibility of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and officers delegated by him in the issue of Australian passports to ensure that the Passports Act is administered in accordance with Australia’s international interests.
In exercising his discretion, the Minister for Foreign Affairs takes into account the advice of Australian Government authorities which may include matters concerned with peace, order and good government in respect of both international relations and domestic affairs.
The withholding of a passport does not deny a citizen the basic right to travel. The Passports Regulations which are issued under the Passports Act make provision for the grant of a document of identity in lieu of a passport.
Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act
-On 13 April 1978 (Hansard, page 1233) Senator Chaney asked Senator Carrick, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning certain provisions of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act. Further to Senator Carrick ‘s interim reply to the honourable senator’s question the Acting Minister for Finance has provided this following additional information:
I confirm that the short answer to the first and second pans of the question is ‘Yes’, and to the third part ‘Yes, where a lump sum cash payment was received from a State’. The answer to the fourth part of the honourable senator’s question is ‘ No ‘.
By way of elaboration, section 20a of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948 provides, in effect, that in the calculation of retirement benefits payable under the Act the period of service of a member shall be deemed to include any period during which the member had been a member of a State Parliament if-
the member was entitled to a pension (including one not immediately payable) arising our of former membership of a State Parliament; or
a lump sum payment was received by the member by reason of the cessation of membership of a State Parliament and, within 6 months of becoming a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, the member contracted with the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust to pay the lump sum to the Commonwealth within 3 years.
Section 2 1 of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act provides that, where a person, entitled to a retiring allowance or annuity under the Act, receives salary or an allowance in the nature of salary or pension as a member or former member of a State Parliament or as a Minister of State of a State, the rate of the Commonwealth retiring allowance or annuity shall be reduced by the rate of the State salary, allowance or pension, as the case may be. The State Parliamentary retirement benefit schemes contain similar provisions to those in section 2 1 of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act.
Paper Pulp Industry
-On 9 May 1978 Senator Archer asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources, the following question without notice:
In view of the continuing industrial problems in New Zealand’s paper pulp industry, which appears to be no closer to resolution, and that country’s request that Australian interests not extend Australian production, can the Minister advise whether the Government has considered the declining Australian stocks, and whether its attitude is towards fostering the new Australian industry or increasing foreign dependence, which is currently being shown to be somewhat unreliable?
The Minister for Trade and Resources had provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In 1969 the Australian Government confirmed that, subject to certain conditions, it was its intention that Australia ‘s import requirements of newsprint and pulp would first be met by supplies of New Zealand origin. The undertaking on newsprint which Australia gave in this context related only to the then existing New Zealand capacity and a third newsprint machine which entered into production in November 1975. At the same time it was made clear that the Australian Government, while it recognised the desirability of further investment in newsprint production being located where it would make the best use of the combined resources of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Area, had no constitutional authority to influence the location or nature of such further investment.
The Minister for Trade and Resources has confirmed the Australian Government’s position on this matter on several occasions in discussion with New Zealand Ministers, most recently in the NAFTA Ministerial meeting on 18 April 1978.
The Joint Communique issued following the meeting of 1 8 April includes reference to newsprint, as set out below:
Ministers discussed and noted the concern of the New Zealand Government at reports of possible development of major additional capacity in the Australian newsprint industry. They agreed that officials should watch developments in this area closely and report regularly to Ministers on implications for the NAFTA relationship’.
Information from New Zealand indicates that the strike which had affected output from the Kawerau plant of the Tasman Pulp & Paper Co. Ltd was resolved on 1 5 May. It is understood that production recommenced on 19 May and was expected to be back to normal by 25 May.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 May 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780530_senate_31_s77/>.