31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 9 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
On 14 February 1973, the then Australian Government deprived the Officers and men of the Australian Citizen Naval Military and Air Forces of the distinctive and historic Decorations and Medals for long service and good conduct, namely the Reserve Decoration, the Efficiency Decoration, the Air Efficiency Award, the Efficiency Medal and Long Service and Good Conduct Medals, awarded for long and meritorious voluntary service in the citizen forces:
The proposed substitution of the National Medal for these Decorations and Medals varies the principle of selective recognition of efficient voluntary service in the citizen forces in that it recognises the period of service only and embraces also full time service as well in the defence forces as in the police, fire brigade and ambulance services:
This deprivation caused and is continuing to cause serious discontent amongst personnel of the Citizens Forces who willingly and cheerfully give of their spare time outside their normal full time civilian careers, to serve Her Majesty and Australia:
The Reserve Forces of Australia have been recognised by the present Government as a valuable- and costeffective component of the Defence Forces. Anomalously, whilst the Government is actually supporting recruiting for these Forces it has imposed and continued this deprivation which as foresaid has depressed the morale of the Citizen Forces:
Her Majesty has not cancelled the said Decorations and Medals.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Army Reserve (CMF) and the RAAF Citizens Air Force.
– I present the following petition from 1,191 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That Item 6469 of the standard Medical Benefits Table is the means by which payment is made for the slaughter of thousands of unborn babies every year.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should ensure that Item 6469 is removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
-Has the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs seen a copy of the 1977 report by Professor Mathews, the Director of the Centre for Research on Federal Financial Relations at the Australian National University, one of the Government’s senior advisers in the implementation of the new federalism policy and a person whom the Minister has often quoted as an authority in support of that new federalism policy? Is it a fact that in that report Professor Mathews says that the States’ financial position relative to that of the Commonwealth has tended to deteriorate in the last two years, partially reversing the improvement that had occurred in the two previous financial years? Does he say also that there is not only the threat of continued deterioration in the FederalState balance but also the threat of a vicious deflationary cycle to threaten the stability of the Australian economy and that cuts in capital spending on goods and services and in advances for capital spending are particularly unfortunate? Does the Minister regard Professor Mathews as having second thoughts about the new federalism policy?
– In answer to the last part of the question, Senator Wriedt could not possibly have read the article properly to have understood that Professor Russell Mathews made such a suggestion because the article suggests not that the federalism policy has gone wrong but that it has not been fully implemented. Had it been fully implemented it would have gone right. I take it that we are quoting from the same article- a newspaper article. I have tried to get a copy of the report to see whether the report and the article are identical but I understand that it is not available as yet. The article itself ought to be read in detail in order to understand what it says. For example, what Professor Mathews argues is that the States, by reducing their taxation themselves, have opted not to take independence, that they want the State rights but not the federalism, and that the fact that they have reduced their taxation has lowered the amount of money available to them. Professor Mathews states:
But the States have also contributed to it by choosing to abolish or reduce many State taxes and thereby to make themselves more dependent than ever on Commonwealth financial assistance. It is a paradox of Australian federalism that the States are vocally insisting on States’ rights in every respect except one, the right to financial independence.
Professor Mathews is not arguing that federalism itself is a wrong principle or that federalism as a principle would be a failure. He is arguing that the steps towards federalism have not been completed as yet. I commend to Senator Wriedt that he re-read the article because in fact it does not draw the conclusions that he has drawn.
– May I clarify the answer the Minister has just given? Do I understand him to be saying that Professor Mathews is arguing that the new federalism policy is not succeeding, firstly because the States have reduced their taxes, and secondly because they have not opted for the independence which, as the Minister put it, is available to them under the federalism policy? Have we not been led by the Government to believe that one of the objectives of the policy is for the States to reduce their taxation, which the Minister now seems to be saying is a reason why the policy is failing? Secondly, does he mean by his statement that the States are not opting for independence that the States have not gone ahead with a State income tax?
-Senator Wriedt has a habit of drawing all sorts of inferences that have not been made either by Professor Mathews or myself. What I said was that from the evidence we have, which is an article in the Canberra Times, it is wrong to assert that Professor Mathews is saying that federalism as a principle is wrong and that he has changed his mind. The reverse is true. Professor Russell Mathews is a fervent advocate of the principles of federalism. He has argued that what is necessary is that the States be given freedom by way of more access to taxing themselves, if they so desire, and for them therefore to use the independence that they would have from that to gain their sovereignty. He points out that they have reduced taxes themselves and have been unwilling to take independence, but they have continued to hide behind the alibi of asserting that it is the Commonwealth ‘s responsibility.
Professor Russell Mathews is not simply asserting that it is necessary for the States to come into personal income tax, although he says that they could come in on surcharge or rebate. He is aware, as everyone must be, that the States have a wide armoury of taxes upon which they can draw. What he is really arguing is that if State revenues are insufficient at any point of time, that insufficiency is primarily because of an act of decision of their own. I have made it perfectly clear that whereas the Labor Party trebled income tax, doubled customs duties, doubled sales tax, doubled excise, and forced the States to put up their taxes immensely, under federalism we have provided a situation where all the States have balanced their budgets for two years or more. All the States have elected- this is the important thing- to cut taxes rather than to increase programs.
– You ought to find some new arguments. The old ones are getting worn.
– The trouble is that Senator Wriedt has not been able to refute them. No one can gainsay that in the past three years the States for the first time since the Whitlam Government’s chaos have been able to balance their budgets, cut taxes, and have the luxury of choosing between programs and taxes. All that Professor Mathews is saying is summed up in his comment that it is a paradox of Australian federalism that the States are vocal in insisting on States rights in every respect except one- the right to financial independence. What he is saying is that it is within their power -
– Blame the States. It is all the States ‘fault.
-Senator Wriedt asks me what Professor Russell Mathews says and then he alleges that I am saying: ‘Blame the States’. I am using Professor Mathews’ words, not mine, What Senator Wriedt has tried to draw from the article is totally wrong.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, concerns an anomaly which exists within her Department. Is it a fact that a blind person is not subject to the means test and, in the case of additional income earned to supplement the added financial burdens of his disability, he pays tax only on such additional income and not on the sum of the pension plus income? Conversely, on attaining the required age of 60 or 65 years, as the case may be, does that same person then, by some peculiar anomaly, pay tax on the income plus the pension? Does the Minister agree that a blind person’s disability does not cease at that age and in most cases increases as his mobility decreases with the onset of years? Will the Minister take steps to remove this present irregularity?
– It is a fact that persons who are blind and who receive invalid pensions do not pay tax on those pensions, as all invalid pensions are not taxable. It is also a fact that when a person reaches the age of retirement, at age 60 or 65 years, the invalid pension is automatically changed to an age pension which, as will be recalled, is taxable income. That change making the age pension part of taxable income, was introduced by the former Government. I take note of the honourable senator’s comment that this perhaps creates an anomaly because of the needs of aged blind people, but it is the transfer to the age pension which makes the previously non-taxable income taxable at that time. It is a matter for the Treasurer to deal with the taxation of income and I will see that his attention is drawn to the matter that has been raised by Senator Bonner- that is, that blind people, having received an invalid pension which is not taxable, when reaching retirement age find that their pension becomes part of their taxable income.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Teasurer. What importance does he attach to the amount of overtime worked, as an economic indicator, and how does he interpret the latest figures on overtime worked as -
– To what figures are you referring?
– What do you say they say?
– I am sorry. The average overtime worked has fallen from 2.6 hours in January 1978 to 2. 1 hours in March 1978. That is sometimes interpreted by some economists as a significant decline, and I ask the Minister for his interpretation of it.
– The fact is that what is happening in Australia in employment and industry has been happening in other countries; that where there has been a severe onslaught on unemployment- in this case unemployment brought about by two things, a huge rise of some 47 per cent in wages in 1973-74 and the 25 per cent tariff cut- industry seeks -
– Are you seriously saying that as a statistic? You said 47 per cent in 1 974.
-I am grateful for the interjection. If Senator Button would like me to, at another time I will give him Justice Sir John Moore’s comment on what caused the wage rises, the size of the wage rises and the years in which they occurred. He has only to ask me and I will be happy so to do. I doubt that he would consider the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission as being biased in this regard. Inevitably, as a result of the talking up of wages in the Whitlam regime and the cutting of tariffs there was disaster in industry and 110,000 people dropped out of manufacturing industry. By way of trying to repair the damage, manufacturing industry has been seeking and fighting to get its costs down. The investment allowance, the export allowance and other incentives are all playing their part and self-cleansing will go on in industry until the wage situation is such that we can compete outside Australia and the cost situation inside Australia improves. So, under those circumstances the old measure of constant situations, where we can look at overtime as a measure of progress, do not apply. The fact is that employers, trying to get over the situation which the Whitlam Government created, are seeking means of mechanisation and technology to resolve their problems, rather than doing so with employment. That is the tragedy of the Whitlam regime.
– I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. Did I hear the Minister representing the Prime Minister aright that in 1974 wages increased by 47 percent? If so, I ask the Minister: Did he not say in the Senate two weeks ago that the rate of increase in wages in 1974 was 40 per cent and a week before that it was 30 per cent? I ask the Minister: Which percentage is he plucking out of the air for the purpose of answering a serious question about the economy?
– What I in fact referred to was 1973-74, as the Hansard record will show. So, when Senator Button looks at Hansard and does not invent a year and finds that I said 1973-74, if he wants to take up what I have said and wants a copy of the statements by the Chairman of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission I shall get it for him.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications been drawn to the reported comment by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications concerning a possible inquiry into the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether such an inquiry will take place?
-I think that on the PM program several nights ago my colleague, the
Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Mr Staley, indicated, I think in response to some suggestion which had been made during a debate in this place, that he -
– You participated in that debate. You heard it.
– That is right. I heard a debate here during which the most scurrilous attacks were made upon the commissioners and staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. What is more, I have re-read the Hansard record of it. I hope that every member of the staff of the ABC does so. I hope also that Senator Ryan, who said that the staff of the ABC urgently wanted this inquiry and quoted Marius Webb as an important person, heard Marius Webb on the AM program during which he said something to this effect: Let them have an inquiry if they like, but it will prove nothing or find nothing. Let us put into perspective what honourable senators opposite are talking about. I am advised that what Marius Webb said was that such an inquiry will serve little purpose. The advocate of such an inquiry is now interjecting. The fact is that the Minister expressed a personal opinion. But the Green report, which was tabled in the Senate on 9 November 1976 recommended:
That the policies and performance of the Australian Broadcasting Commission be subject to review by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal every seven years, and that the first of these reviews take place in 1 980.
That is the recommendation of the Green Commission.
- Mr Staley does not agree with that. He wants an earlier review.
– The fact is that that is a matter for the Government to look at at another time. At this time the Government has no contemplation of holding any inquiry into the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I remind the Senate that there have been many inquiries into the ABC.
– Only departmental ones.
– I remind honourable senators opposite of the McKinsey report and of all sorts of reports.
– Who had access to that?
– I remind honourable senators opposite of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, which is a competent one. Senator Ryan goes on and on. Her advocacy the other day was that the staff wants such an inquiry and that it would be a good thing.
– It does.
– The spokesman for the staff, the ABC staff commissioner whom Senator Ryan pleaded should be left on the Commission so that he could speak for the staff, said that such an inquiry would have very little purpose, or words to that effect. So Senator Ryan’s argument is destroyed.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations whether his attention has been drawn to an article in the Melbourne Sun of Wednesday of this week the headlines of which state: Dixon in blast on jobless.
In the article Mr Dixon, who is the Social Welfare Minister in the Victorian Hamer Government, is reported as follows:
The Federal Government had failed to tackle unemployment realistically-
The article continues:
He said there was an urgent need for a White Paper setting out employment objectives and options. ‘It’s been very difficult proceeding in the dark- let’s have light on the alternatives, ‘ he said.
I ask the Minister whether the Victorian Government has made any request to the Federal Government along the lines suggested by Mr Dixon? If not, will the Government consider acting on what I believe is a very worthwhile suggestion, the production of a White Paper on unemployment and the alternatives?
– I have not seen the article in the Melbourne Sun which, I think, was the newspaper to which Senator Brown referred; nor have I heard of any views which Mr Dixon holds on this subject. I do not know whether he was correctly reported in the newspaper. However, if any allegations of the kind to which Senator Brown referred have been made about the Federal Government’s failure to tackle unemployment, I think they must have been made in complete ignorance of all the efforts the Government has taken. There have been vast improvements in the National Employment and Training scheme, in apprenticeship training- I refer to the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprenticeship Fulltime Training introduced by the Governmentand in the Special Youth Employment Training Program. These are positive steps which the Government has taken to improve opportunities for employment by improving the qualifications of people. I have indicated on a number of occasions the details of what the Government has done in relation to these matters. I am unaware of whether any proposal has been made to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations for the production of a White Paper on unemployment. If Senator Brown is suggesting that some such White Paper should be prepared, then I shall certainly pass that suggestion to the Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is it a fact that the communities of Goulburn and Elcho Islands have petitioned the Federal Government for the removal of the Uniting Church in Australia from their management because of excessive fees being charged and inefficient administration? Has the Minister any information on the situation in these Islands?
– I am advised by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that there is no record in his Department- nor do the representatives of the Uniting Church in Australia have any knowledge of this matter- of direct representation to the Federal Government by the Goulburn and Elcho Island communities for the removal of the Uniting Church from those communities. The Uniting Church has no managerial responsibility at either Goulburn Island or Elcho Island. Those communities are clients of the Uniting Church which provides services to them. At any time the communities can terminate these services without any need for recourse to the Federal Government. I understand that the policy of the Uniting Church is to respond to requests by Aboriginal communities for assistance. The Aboriginal communities are free at any time to terminate any such arrangements. It is the policy of the Uniting Church to accede without argument. As I have said, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has no record of the matter which has been raised by Senator Sheil. The information I have given him is the only information we have at this stage.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. A statement published recently by the Bureau of Agricultural Ecomonics was to the effect that net farm income for the year ending June 1978 is expected to fall by 11 per cent in comparison with last year’s income. I ask the Minister whether that estimate is still current; in other words, whether net farm income is expected to be reduced by 1 1 per cent this year as compared with last year. What sort of a year was last year for agriculture?
– I have noted reports in the newspapers relating to the level of farm income. My recollection of the last report that I saw is that it indicated that farm income is expected to rise during the coming year. I know that that conflicts with the statement that has been made by Senator Wright. It may represent a lack of knowledge on my part as to the actual wording of the document to which he has referred. This matter is primarily in the hands of the Minister for Primary Industry. I will seek to verify for the honourable senator whether the basis of his question is sound. Certainly the farmers in many areas of rural production have been in a perilous position over the past few years.
The honourable senator will agree that this Government has taken many steps to alleviate some of the problems which have been besetting rural producers and which, in the main, have flowed from the problems mentioned earlier by Senator Carrick, namely, the escalation of the cost of farm labour and the cost of items for primary production which the producer has to buy. There have been problems in Australia which have not been accelerated by anything that has been done within this country. For instance, the finding of some elements of bluetongue disease in the Northern Territory and Queensland has affected overseas markets and the producers in those areas have been placed in a perilous position. I understand I will be introducing a Bill today which is designed to give some assistance to those producers. I am quite sure that Senator Wright is aware of the many forms of support which have been given to rural producers in the last few years.
As to the comparison of the level of net income of a producer and the figures that have been quoted, my recollection is that it has been suggested that rural incomes will fall below $5,000 per annum. That is a headline that I have seen within the last month. There are many factors which have to be taken into account from a Treasury point of view when assessing those figures. I will attempt to obtain the correct figures for the honourable senator and advise him of them.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health. The likelihood of disease coming into Australia with the vastly increasing cut-flower imports is causing Australian nurserymen great concern.
Can the Minister advise whether the Government recognises the extreme seriousness that lies in any potential animal or horticultural disease entering Australia in this way? Will proper quarantine inspection and fumigation procedures be implemented to reduce the risk? If so, when will they be implemented?
-Quarantine procedures for imported cut flowers have been developed in the knowledge that these items, as well as any agricultural produce, are a potential source of plant disease or pest introduction. The quarantine procedures that have been introduced include exclusion of restricted species, exclusion of material which can be grown, examination and treatment on the same basis as for other imported agricultural products, fumigation where live insects are found and treatment or destruction as appropriate when diseased flowers are found. At a recent meeting of the consultative committee formed at the request of my colleague the Minster for Health there was concurrence with these arrangements, although some refinements were proposed. These refinements are being considered for implementation. The committee included representatives of the Department of Health and the State departments of agriculture and also representatives of the cut flower industry, the nurserymen and cut flower importers.
– My question to the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, refers to the statement he brought down in the Senate last night foreshadowing legislation to abolish compulsory membership of student associations at the Australian National University and the Canberra College of Advanced Education. I ask the Minister: Can he explain what circumstances have caused him to make a decision that totally overrides the views and the wishes of the Council of the Australian National University which considered that the retention of compulsory membership of student organisations was desirable and that adequate procedures for exemption on the ground of conscience already existed? I refer to a letter in the Canberra Times this week on 3 1 May in which Colin Plowman, the Assistant Vice-Chancellor of the ANU, expressed that view, although I imagine that the Minister, being the Minister responsible, would be familiar with the view of the Council on this matter. Can the Minister explain why he has been persuaded by a handful of members of the student Liberal organisation to intrude in this unprecedented way on the autonomy of the Australian National University and apparently all other Australian Universities?
-Nothing could more graphically illustrate how out of touch Senator Ryan and the Australian Labor Party are with the overwhelming volume of students and their families in Australia than the question that has just been asked. In fact it demonstrates a simple thing- that the Labor Party is in favour of total compulsion. I am asked what has made the Government change its mind. Repeatedly over the past two years I have stood in this place and said what are the principles of the Government as to the bona fide amenities, sporting and recreation facilities, and that payments for those things should be compulsory. But as to those payments -
– What if I did not want compulsory physical education?
- Senator Georges is in favour of compelling people to belong to organisations the policies of which they hold to be obnoxious. That is one of the most undemocratic principles that anyone can have. Let him go on underlining the fact that he wants to force people, against their consciences, against their will, to use their finances for purposes they totally abhor. I have it perfectly clear now that the Labor Party wants that principle. We do not want that principle. What is wrong with saying to people in a student organisation in a university or college: ‘If you want to join a socio-political organisation you are free to do so but we shall not compel you to do so or compel you to support financially policies which you abhor’?
I remind Senator Ryan that I intervened in the Senate for a young man named Berzen some year ago- I know nothing of his politics at all - because I abhorred the principle- I take it that Sentor Ryan was happy about the fact- that a university should deny a student the right to get examination results and to re-enrol because that student in conscience would not pay fees for a socio-political purpose. I take it that is what Senator Ryan is saying she favours. She cannot have it both ways. We do not favour that and I went on record here as saying that this Government would never allow it. All over Australia in the last few years two things have happened to bring the matter to a head. On the one hand there has been a great community revulsion against compulsion against conscience, and on the other hand a series of challenges in the courts showing the need for action. In our view here it was necessary to set a pattern and to invite the
States to follow. Indeed, the day that there is criticism of a government for allowing people to act according to their consciences we will wear that criticism with great pride.
– I have a supplementary question. I must ask it because the Minister for Education did not address himself to my previous question, which was: What circumstances have led the Minister to override the express wishes of the University Council?
– I raise a point of order. In express terms that is not a supplementary question. The honourable senator said that the Minister did not address himself to the question. She is repeating it. The question is not supplementary.
- Senator Ryan is seeking further elucidation. I call on Senator Ryan to continue.
– I ask the Minister: What circumstances have led him to make a decision which overrides the express wishes and views of the University Council on this matter?
– I pointed out that in recent months the volume of expression of community attitude, which is quite clear, the number of court challenges which have exposed disabilities and the fact that students have been put in jeopardy have led the Government to formulate a policy, the principles of which I have expressed. I hope that every reasonable Australian would adhere to those principles. Certainly the overwhelming bulk of students on campus and their families support them. The fact that the Labor Party denies those principles is, to me, quite remarkable. I cannot believe it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Have the members of the Coordinating and Advisory Committees for Aurukun and Mornington Island which are envisaged to be established by the Queensland Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Act been appointed? If so, who are they? Have the committees yet met? If so, with what result?
– I understand that members of the Co-ordinating and Advisory Committees have been appointed. I have been advised that Mr McPherson will be representing the Queensland Minister for Local Government. Mr Butler will be representing the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement; and Mr Don O’Rourke will be representing the Commonwealth Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The same officers will constitute the two committees. The Minister for Local Government, Mr Hinze, convened a meeting yesterday between the Committee and the chairmen and deputy chairmen of the Aurukun and Mornington Island shire councils. Also in attendance was the legal representative for the communities. I understand that the meeting was helpful to all parties and was conducted in a spirit of cooperation which indicates an encouraging prospect for self-management for the shire councils. Meetings of the shire councils, to be attended by the Queensland Minister for Local Government and the Co-ordinating and Advisory Committee, will take place at Aurukun on 12 June and at Mornington Island on 13 June.
– I address a question to the Minister for Education and refer to the statement that he put down last night and to answers to certain questions this morning on fees paid by university students. Could I advise him that over a number of years I have received representations from -
– I raise a point of order. Senator Georges has often taken points of order about whether I am asking a question. Is he asking a question at the moment?
- Senator Georges should ask his question.
-Could I advise, by way of preface to my question, that humanists -
-No. Humanists have approached me constantly over the years to make representations to the Treasurer to be exempted from taxes which may flow to religious schools. Will the Minister ask the Treasurer, in view of the new precedents which the Minister is establishing, to introduce legislation which will exempt humanists from paying taxes which may flow in a direction which afflicts their conscience?
-I could not think of two more dissimilar principles on earth than the ones that Senator Georges is stating. The fact is that the Commonwealth Government and the State governments have a responsibility to educate all Australian children. Since Senator Georges sought to advise me, may I now give a little advice on this situation. What has been made compulsory by law is a range of minimum ages for children to attend school and minimum curricula. Taxes have been collected to ensure that those secular activities are carried out. When the Commonwealth and State governments, in this case proudly, accept that responsibility to provide that money for the secular delivery of compulsory education in those sectors of the community that by conscience and by freedom of choice elect to support non-government schools, we are not in any way infringing principles; we are in fact providing secular education inside non-government schools. How could there be two more dissimilar principles? I take it that Senator Georges is not opposing what we are doing in that regard.
Those people who advise him ought to look at the Declaration of Human Rights which calls upon the signatories, including Australia, to do exactly what we are doing, that is, to provide equal education in government and nongovernment schools. The trouble is that his Government failed to do so and the gap widened.
-Has the Minister for Science seen reports that a Western Australian company, Solahart Pty Ltd, has achieved a significant breakthrough in gaining a market for Australian designed solar energy appliances in the Middle East? Can the Minister advise the Senate of the steps being taken by the Government to foster the development of this industry and similar industries by which economic gains could be made from Australian technology?
-My attention was drawn to an article at the end of May in one of the daily newspapers, about a company named Solahart Pty Ltd, which is based in Perth. It was reported to have signed an agreement with a giant Bahrain company which will now act as its sale agent in the Middle East. The company is stated to have achieved the prestigious Australian Design Award. So it is of particular benefit to Australia. The answer to the first part of the honourable senator’s question is: Yes, I had noted the article.
In regard to the second part of the question, the Government has a number of schemes in operation to assist industry. Whilst that is not within the responsibility of the Department of Science, I am aware- as the honourable senator will be aware- that in the last few days my colleague the Minister for National Development has announced the establishment of the National Energy Research Development and Demonstration Council to advise on special measures needed to administer an expanded program of energy research and development. That will certainly be of interest to companies in a similar position. I understand that the Council will assist projects which have progressed beyond the research phase but have not as yet reached commercial viability.
Although not limited to energy projects, the Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board, which advises my colleague the Minister for Productivity on assistance to industry through research and development grants, is also relevant in the context of newlyemerging industrial developments in alternative sources of energy. The Minister for Trade and Resources announced in April this year that the Government will introduce legislation for a new and improved export incentives grants scheme in accordance with its policy announced prior to the election. In addition, a number of changes will be made to the present export market development grants scheme designed to increase its present effectiveness. I should note also that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has played a leading role in solar energy research in Australia and will continue to be a valuable source of advice to industry as well as to government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education. Does the Minister regard himself as a spokesman for the Australian Labor Party on education matters or does he regard Senator Button as the spokesman for the ALP on education matters? Did the Minister say this morning that the Labor Party is in favour of compulsory membership of student unions? Did Senator Button last night say just the oppositethat the Labor Party is not in favour of compulsory membership of student unions?
-While one glimmer of sanity remains in me I would never want to be regarded as a spokesman for the Australian Labor Party on education matters. Let the matter rest. If my inference that the Labor Party is in favour of compulsion has wrung from the withers of its members, through the defensive mechanism, that they are not, what a glorious victory we have had on both sides of the chamber in the last 24 hours.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to the increase in the postal charges of 2c, from 18c to 20c per letter, which was announced recently. As the people of the outback are more dependent on postal communications than city dwellers, and as postal services to the outback have deteriorated as postal charges have increased, what is the reason for the increase when one considers the annual surpluses of the postal and telecommunications authorities? Is the increased charge designed to cover the loss caused by such scurrilous postal strikes as the Redfern Mail Exchange strikes which resulted in extreme inconvenience in Australia? Does the Government give its imprimatur to postal increases or does such a decision rest with Australia Post? Finally, what is the postal authority going to do to give people of the outback value for money in regard to postal services?
– It was the Labor Government.
– I am nervous now about speaking of Labor policy but I distinctly heard Senator Georges say that it was the Labor Government that was responsible. I take it that I will be corrected by the Leader of the Opposition in a moment. Opposition senators are very helpful. Because Senator Georges said so and he would feel hurt otherwise, I must remind the Senate that when the Labor Government came to office in December 1972 the basic postage rate was 7c. In October 1974 the basic rate of postage was increased to 10c- an increase of 43 per cent. In September 1975, the basic rate of postage was again increased, this time by 8c to 1 8c.
– It was us.
-Senator Georges is quite right. It was the Labor Government. That was an increase of 80 per cent on the previous increase and an increase of 1 57 per cent on the prevailing basic postal charge when the Labor Party came to office. The basic rate of postage was increased, therefore, by some 157 per cent during the period of the Labor Government. That proves that Senator Georges’ answer was right. In three years this Government has increased the rate by 2c, not by 157 per cent. To advert to another of Senator Kilgariff’s questions, of course the Government understands the hardships that are imposed, particularly in remote areas.
– It does not care about them.
– They are wonderful creatures, on the Opposition side. They cause the mess and then they wallow in it.
– Why did you not reduce the charges when you came in in 1975 if they were too high?
– I am asked why we did not reduce the charges. We have done. We have reduced an inflation rate running at nearly 20 per cent to something like 7 per cent, if the Opposition wants an answer about reducing the charges. We have reduced interest rates by over one per cent, moving towards two per cent. We have in fact reduced the charges right throughout Australia. Senator Kilgariff asked me whether this was a decision of the Postal Commission or of the Government. I think the relevant legislation insists that when the Postal Commission decides to do something it must seek the final approval of the Government, and that has been done. The honourable senator referred to the fact that the Postal Commission is making a profit. That is a gross profit prior to debt servicing. When the debt servicing is taken into account, in fact it is in deficit, and the 2c increase will barely sustain the debt servicing over the period.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I refer to a Press report in today’s Australian that the cost of prescriptions will be increased by 50c to $2.50 from 1 July. Is the Minister aware that doctors often write prescriptions for drugs that can be bought from a chemist without a prescription for much less than the set fee? Will the Minister discuss this anomaly with the Minister for Health to ensure that doctors advise their patients when drugs or other patent medicines can be obtained from pharmacies without a prescription for less than the set fee?
– I understand that figures available show that many of the drugs issued under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme would cost less if purchased without a prescription. Equally, there are very costly drugs supplied under that scheme which would be beyond the reach of many people if it were not for the scheme, which has been part of the Australian health system for many years. I will draw the attention of the Minister for Health to the remarks of Senator Donald Cameron. I may draw from him some comment on whether he feels that he should instruct doctors to advise their patients that they can purchase something across the counter without a prescription. I think the Minister for Health would want to make some comment on a suggestion of that kind. I will see what response comes from him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and follows the question asked earlier by Senator Wright. When the Minister is obtaining figures on rural incomes will he attempt to quantify the effect of drought as well as the other factors mentioned?
– Yes, I will take the honourable senator’s comment into account. Senator Thomas, being a primary producer, obviously is directing attention to one of those things for which man is not responsible. I hope to answer Senator Wright’s question at the end of Question Time. I will see whether I can provide some information on the point raised by Senator Thomas.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry confirm or deny the truth of reports current in the dairying districts of Victoria that from 1 July of this year the Victorian Minister of Agriculture, Mr Smith, intends to issue dairying licences allowing people currently outside the dairy industry to enter it?
-Obviously the answer to that question is no, I cannot confirm or deny the reports. In answer to a question on dairying earlier this week I indicated that as at that time the Federal Minister for Primary Industry had had no communication from Victoria regarding its relationship with the dairy industry scheme, particularly stage 2. I have noted some Press comments but I am unable to say whether they are true. However, I will seek a comment from the Minister for Primary Industry.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development inform the Senate of the progress that has been made in the rehabilitation program for the Glebe Estate in Sydney?
– The Glebe Estate was a project commenced by the Whitlam Government to rehabilitate a large number of dwellings in Glebe- some 700. The Commonwealth Government is very much aware of the need for a continuation of the rehabilitation program. It will be some years before all the dwellings can be restored to a satisfactory condition, as many repairs which at first appeared to be minor involve major structural work. This has been revealed when the roofs have been exposed and people have looked inside. Taking into consideration the need for continued restraint on public sector expenditure in order to reduce inflation and to bring down interest rates, the Government will ensure that essential maintenance and rehabilitation work are carried on. There are some 700 dwellings in the estate. An estimated 600 of these require extensive rehabilitation. As the repairs go on so the extent of the work required is exposed further.
The estate has been effectively re-roofed. One hundred houses have been fully rehabilitated and some 500 houses require more work. The fact is that the average costs for rehabilitation are not small. They are within $14,000 to $17,000 a home and therefore, as we are dealing with some 600 or 700 homes, the money is massive. Rehabilitation work cannot be attempted with the tenants in residence. The tenants have to be temporarily accommodated within estate houses. Delays in contracts occur but progress is being made and the estate is being rehabilitated.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. The Minister has reported that sums totalling some millions of dollars are owed to Medibank by private health funds because of payments made by Medibank on behalf of private funds during the period of restructuring the health scheme so that individual contributors would not be disadvantaged. The Hospital Benefits Association in Victoria, which owes $ 1.04m, has said that it will not pay the money. What action is the Government taking to see that the amounts owing are paid?
– I have no information on the matter raised by Senator Melzer. I will refer it to the Minister for Health in order to obtain an answer for her.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. It relates to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme to which Senator Donald Cameron referred just little while ago. I refer to the announcement that patient contribution for prescriptions is to be lifted from $2 to $2.50 from 1 July. As this will add considerably to the cost of medication for those who need to take several drugs over a long term, will the Minister ask the Minister for Health to look urgently at the number of doses that the Government is prepared to allow with each prescription to those people who have to take their medicine over a long term, so that if the Government does agree to increase the number of doses that are allowed, that higher number will be available from 1 July to coincide with the increase in prescription fees?
Perhaps I should point out that such action would not benefit chemists. In fact it would reduce their income.
– I undertake to raise with the Minister for Health the matter that the honourable senator has brought to my attention. As far as patients with chronic illnesses are concerned, I think it is recognised that there is a constant and recurring expenditure. I believe that that is a matter which should be drawn to his attention and should be given consideration. The number of doses of an individual prescription, may be very hard to regulate because of differing requirements and responses to any medication that is prescribed, but I will see that the Minister for Health gives consideration to the matter that has been raised.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In view of the decision by the High Court in the challenge by AUS Student Travel Pty Ltd against the Australian Department of Transport, would he not now agree that the decision is a setback for all Australians seeking cheap air travel?
– As I understand it, what has been determined for travel agents- whether they are student travel agents or ordinary travel agents- is that the same rules apply to all travel agents. If Senator Sibraa should find that offensive he ought to indicate how he finds it offensive. I should have thought that what the Government is trying to do is to ensure that all travel agents are subject to the same rules -
– And all charge higher fares.
– For three years Senator Georges had the opportunity to reduce air fares. During that time air fares rose yearly. Now, of course, like a lead balloon, he plummets. It so happens that we are working on methods to get air fares down. All I understand is that the High Court decision will enable the Government to pursue what is an eminently responsible position, that is, to ensure that all travel agents work equally; that all activities and regulations which relate to affinity groups and similar groups should be equal; and, consistent with that and with the maintenance of the highest safety factors possible in air travel, that air fares might be reduced.
– I ask the Minister for Education: Following Senator Wriedt ‘s statement that the Australian Labor Party does not support compulsion in the payment of fees to certain organisations on university campuses, does the Minister welcome that adoption of a bipartisan approach to this matter? Secondly, can the Minister say whether it is a fact that the measures which he has now announced are to ensure individual freedom on university campuses, particularly the freedom of association, and to ensure that those sorts of freedoms are in fact preserved.
– I shall be very keen to study today’s Hansard because I thought that in plain words Senator Wriedt said exactly what Senator Knight has indicated. Senator Wriedt said that the Australian Labor Party does not favour compulsion in the payment of student fees. Incidentally, Senator Wriedt asked me whether I had heard Senator Button last night. As I look at the transcript I see that Senator Button referred to a narrower concept of conscientious objection, so indeed I did hear Senator Button last night. But we are delighted to hear a statement of bipartisan policy from the two parties. We will welcome that. Of course, the principle is one which aims at freedom of association on the campus. That is its total aim. I should have thought that no one could oppose that principle in any way.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, but the Leader of the Government in the Senate might think that the question would be more properly directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Has the Commonwealth Government recieved an environmental impact statement on the proposed Iwasaki tourist development at Yeppoon? If so, who prepared the statement and what has been the result of a study of the statement? If the Commonwealth Government has not received an environmental impact statement on the proposed development, does it expect to receive one in the near future?
-Evidently, Senator Colston did not hear the answers given yesterday by the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, who was asked a series of questions on this matter by Senator Georges. As I understood Senator Carrick, and from my own information- I think I am correct- the environmental impact statement on Yeppoon has not yet been received, but it is expected that it will be received about mid-June.
– But the Premier said that you have it.
-We may have the Queensland one.
– I see; you have two statements.
-One is being prepared by the Commonwealth Government as part of the operations of the Department of the Environment, Housing and Community Development. I have no doubt that the Queensland Government has done one also under its legislation. But the one we are talking about, which we expect to receive about mid- June, is the study done by Commonwealth officers under the Commonwealth legislation.
– Pursuant to section 40 of the Australian National Airlines Act 1945, I present the Trans-Australia Airlines final annual report for 1976-77. This report contains two amendments, on pages 27 and 42, to the report presented to the Senate on 25 October 1977. The amendments do not affect the financial result as disclosed in the accounts included in the annual report.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the annual report of the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications for the year ended December 1 977.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Science and Industry Endowment Act 1926, I present the audit of accounts of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund for the year ended 30 June 1977.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation for the year ended June 1977.
– I present the report and evidence from the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on the priority of Crown debts.
Ordered that the report be printed. Senator MISSEN- by leave- I move:
The Committee has completed an examination of the priority which is given to the Crown over other creditors when it is owed debts by a bankrupt or a company in liquidation. Extensive evidence has been given to the Committee by a variety of witnesses, professional bodies, individuals with extensive experience in bankruptcies and liquidations and the relevant Government departments. The overwhelming weight of evidence is against the maintenance of laws which give the Crown a great advantage over ordinary creditors. The Committee has carefully considered that evidence including the arguments raised in defence of the traditional privilege afforded the Crown. It has concluded that there should be change. Stated broadly, the justification for Crown priority is that it represents an attempted balance between the interests of the community as a whole, as represented by governments, and the interests of particular creditors.
The Committee has not challenged the traditional concept of some creditors being accorded preferential treatment by having debts owed to them repaid in preference to debts owed to other creditors. The Committee has, however, been firmly convinced that the justification of the Crown’s priority in terms of the protection of a debt due to the community does not provide sufficient support for the Crown priority. In fact, in the report the Committee indicates that it seriously doubts whether the community as a whole would support the retention of this priority in its name at the expense of creditors who suffer the consequences of a bankruptcy or winding-up much more directly. Not only did it appear to the Committee that there was no general basis on which the concept of Crown priority could be justified, the evidence revealed a host of reasons why the priority should no longer exist. Not the least of these was the hardship experienced by creditors who had not been repaid debts owing to them because the remaining assets were used to pay debts owing to the Crown. I refer honourable senators to pages 27 to 29 of the report where the Committee comments on this evidence. A number of instances were recounted to the Committee of employees of insolvent businesses being deprived of their long-service leave entitlements which spanned periods of up to 30 years, because the assets were used to pay debts owing to governments.
Another source of concern to the Committee, mentioned on pages 33 to 35 of the report, was the delay experienced by creditors in receiving any distribution of assets of an insolvent company because of the time taken to establish whether or not debts were owing to governments as to which Crown priority could be claimed. Delay and needless expense have also resulted from the need to resolve complex legal problems created by the existence of Crown priority. The complexity of the existing provisions and uncertainty on the part of liquidators and receivers of companies as to their duties under conflicting laws have led to considerable expense in obtaining directions from the courts as to the manner in which they should exercise their responsibilities. The complex problems which receivers and liquidators need to resolve in order to properly exercise their responsibilities include: The competing claims of the Commonwealth and State governments; the lack of any single Act at either State or Federal level which determines the order in which assets should be distributed; and the need to determine whether particular government instrumentalities are, or are not, to be regarded as part of the Crown.
The Committee also discusses in its report the problems which have resulted from the practice of the Commissioner of Taxation in allowing employers who have not promptly met their taxation liablilities a period of grace in which to overcome their temporary financial difficulties before recovery action is taken. Whilst the forbearance of the Taxation administration would undoubtedly enable some employers to overcome their temporary difficulties, the Committee indicated its belief that this practice would, on balance, be productive of more harm than benefit to all creditors other than the Crown. Given the secrecy requirements imposed on the Taxation administration, other creditors would not be in a position to know whether or not a large tax indebtedness was accumulating as a result of the special treatment being accorded to the company. In this vacuum of knowledge, other creditors would be more likely to extend credit to a company whose liquidity had been made to appear better than it really was by the forbearance of the Taxation administration. The major application of Crown priority and the area of most significance to the Commonwealth revenue is in relation to the taxation instalments which an employer is required to deduct from the wages or salary of employees and remit to the Commissioner of Taxation. The Committee devoted a separate chapter, Chapter V, to the confusion, criticism, expense and hardship which have arisen from the priority which has been accorded to these taxation instalment deductions. The Committee concluded that there were no valid reasons for regarding taxation instalment deductions which an employer had failed to remit as being any different from any other debt for which Crown priority could be claimed.
It became apparent to the Committee that one of the most unsatisfactory features of the existing law was the number of anomalous differences which exist between the position of the Crown in bankruptcies and its position in company liquidations. Many of these differences continue to exist even though a decision was originally taken as long ago as 1937 to partially remedy this situation. In 1969 the Commonwealth and the States agreed to waive some of their existing priorities. The States have honoured their undertakings; successive Commonwealth governments have failed to do so. At the end of its investigation the Committee concluded that there was but one solution which would effectively solve the problems which the Committee outlined and which have been allowed to exist for far too long. The Committee recommended that the Crown should no longer be accorded priority in respect of the payment of any debts due to it in the administration of insolvent estates. The cost to the Commonwealth of abolition of its priority would not be substantial. For estimates of the revenue involved I refer honourable senators to pages 44 to 45 and appendices 3 and 4 of the report. However, the benefit of abolition to employees and ordinary creditors would be significant and just. The Committee commends the report to the Senate and to the Government. It notes that under the guidelines recently announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) the Government has accepted an obligation to respond to the Committee ‘s suggestions within 6 months. It welcomes this development and awaits the response of the Government.
-The Opposition senators who are on the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs associate themselves with the remarks made by Senator Missen in bringing down this report. I would like to add one comment which I did not hear from Senator Missen but which may have been made in the most comprehensive statement that he read. The Committee found itself particularly helped in this inquiry by Government departments which put in very thoughtful but lengthy submissions. The Committee was able to arouse interest in a subject which might appear to be a dry and dull one and to obtain a response from a number of departments which, as I have said, has been very helpful. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Missen) agreed to:
That the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to tax indexation for 1 978-79 and to move a motion to take note of the statement.
– I make this statement on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr Howard). If I use the first person personal pronoun it refers to the Treasurer. I take this opportunity to announce to the Senate the size of the tax indexation adjustments to income tax rates and rebates for 1978-79. The relevant regulations are being gazetted today. Tax indexation was introduced by the present Government in the 1976-77 income year so that increases in income as a result of inflation would not push taxpayers into higher tax brackets. Indexation was applied again in 1 977- 78 and this will be its third successive year. It was, and remains, one of the most significant changes ever made to the Australian personal income tax system and has been of major benefit to taxpayers.
The latest indexation adjustment confers still further benefits. It will increase the rebate for a spouse, a housekeeper or a daughterhousekeeper from $555 to $597, an additional tax saving of $42. The rebate for a sole parent will be indexed from $388 in 1 977-78 to $4 1 7 for 1978- 79. Other rebates will also rise. The 1978-79 rebate for an invalid relative will be $270- it was previously $251- and for a parent or parent-in-law $539, by contrast with $501 previously. In addition, the zone rebate for people who live is isolated areas and have dependent children will be increased because allowances for the children that are taken into account in calculating the rebate are to be indexed from the previous levels of $25 1 and $ 189 to $270 and $203.
I turn now to the tax scale itself. Here, too, indexation will reduce tax in 1978-79 below what it would have been in the absence of indexation. Every taxpayer will benefit because the amount of taxable income to which the zero rate of tax applies will rise from $3,750 to $3,893. The range of taxable income to which the standard rate of 32 per cent applies will similarly be lengthened so that that rate will apply on income up to $16,608, instead of $16,000. The 46 per cent rate will run to $33,216 compared with $32,000 previously.
I illustrate how indexation of the tax scale will benefit people by reference to a person without dependants with a taxable income of $10,000. The tax payable by such a person in 1978-79 will be $1,954.24, a saving of $45.76 compared with the tax that would have been payable but for indexation, $2,000, and a saving of $193.06 compared with the tax that would have been payable under the rates of tax that applied on 1 July 1977, $2,147.30. The indexation factor for 1978-79 is derived by adjusting the movement in the average level of the consumer price index for the 12 months ended 31 March 1978 over the level for the 12 months ended 31 March 1977. Because of the Government’s success in curbing inflation the movement in the consumer price index over these periods was only 10.9 per cent. The basic 1978-79 tax indexation factor of 1.076- that is, an increase of 7.6 per cent- is derived from this movement by netting out the effects, included in the 10.9 per cent movement, of increases in indirect taxes, the health care changes and exchange rate adjustments made in the December quarter of 1 976.
It was announced when the standard rate system was introduced that ‘half-indexation’ would apply to rates of personal income tax for the 1978-79 income year. In accordance with this, the indexation of the tax scale for 1978-79 reflects an indexation factor of 1.038. At that time it was also announced that measures would be taken to ensure that no taxpayer would pay more tax in 1 978-79 under half-indexation of the standard rate system than would have been payable under full indexation of the previous scale. With the adoption of a 7.6 per cent basic adjustment only a limited number of taxpayers- those whose 1 978-79 taxable incomes fall in the range $6,600 to $6,978-would, if nothing were done to prevent it, be slightly worse off, by amounts ranging from lc to $7.06, as a result of halfindexation. Legislation will be introduced in the Budget sittings to provide for a rebate to be granted to remove the detriment that otherwise would be suffered by taxpayers in this income range. The rebate will be available in respect of any 1978-79 assessments made before the Budget. I present the following paper:
Tax Indexation for 1 978-79- Ministerial Statement, 2 June 1978. and move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
– The statement which has been made by the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) give the impression that the Government is concerned about the indexation commitments which it made in 1976. From a brief look at the speech one would assume that the Government is in fact meeting those obligations, but the Minister’s statement in fact marks the end of tax indexation as we have known it. In last year’s Budget the Government offered tax cuts to remove the benefits of applying half indexation in 1 978-79. The Senate will recall the series of questions directed to Senator Cotton who was then representing the Treasurer during the week after the Budget concerning this aspect of tax indexation. In that Budget Speech the then Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said:
Full automatic indexation to prevent effective rates of personal income tax from increasing purely because of inflation will be maintained in respect of the new system in future years.
In Statement No. 4 attached to the Budget Papers appeared this phrase:
The indexation factor to be applied to the rate scale in 1978-79 will be half that given by the annual indexation rules.
Day after day at that time we on this side of the chamber questioned Senator Cotton about the confusion that surrounded the application of tax indexation. Senator Cotton was unable to spell out what the Budget Papers meant. During that period the Treasurer and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) leaked documents to the Press in a vain attempt to explain what the Budget meant. When the dust had cleared the truth became obvious. Half tax indexation removed most of the benefits of the tax cuts and, as the statement put down by the Minister today shows, some taxpayers would be even worse off under the new scheme had full tax indexation been maintained.
The Minister’s statement claims that indexation was applied in 1977-78 and that this will be its third successive year. The real quesion is: What sort of indexation are we talking about? I remember asking the Minister representing the Treasurer on 24 August last year whether the Government was committed to full indexation, 80 per cent indexation, 50 per cent indexation or some other form of indexation. Due to the extraordinary confusion in the minds of Government Ministers at that time, the Minister was unable to answer the question. But this statement spells out the facts. Indexation is well below 50 per cent. Indeed, the statement makes it clear that we are talking about 36 per cent indexation or thereabouts.
Let me explain how that comes about. As the Minister’s statement indicates, the movement in the consumer price index for the 12 months ended 31 March this year was 10.9 per cent. However, the Government immediately discounted factors such as indirect taxes, health care charges and exchange rate adjustments. Thus, instead of having indexation of 10.9 per cent, it has been reduced to 7.6 per cent, a significant reduction. Because the Government has breached its promise on tax indexation, the taxpayer will now get only half that figure. Thus, the ultimate adjustment for 1978-79 reflects an indexation factor of 1.038. This means we are getting approximately 36 per cent indexation. Whatever can be said about the Government’s tax policy, it certainly does not include maintaining full tax indexation. The current indexation rules are nothing like the ones originally introduced, and the Government should cease even to call it ‘tax indexation’.
In addition to the points I have already made, there is reason to believe that the Government is manipulating the figures. It claims, for example, that the movement in the consumer price index of 10.9 per cent should be discounted back to 7.6 per cent because of indirect taxes, health care charges and exchange rate adjustments, to which I have just referred. The Government claims that these factors add up to 3.3 per cent. But when one analyses the changes that have taken place, it would appear, at the very most, that, those factors could account for no more than 1.6 per cent. In other words, the Government has discounted the movement in the consumer price index far more than is justified, even under its policy. This leads us on the Opposition side to believe that the Government is manipulating the figures simply to increase its revenue next year because of its budgetary difficulties.
That brings me to my last point. The statement clearly indicates that a number of taxpayers would have been worse off under the new tax scheme had the Government not been forced to make some adjustment. Let me recall how that came about. After the Budget was brought down, the Prime Minister claimed that all taxpayers would be better off under the new scheme. We on the Opposition side were quick to point out that many taxpayers would in fact be worse off. Ultimately the Prime Minister was forced to promise that changes would be made to ensure that no one was worse off under the new scheme. Until we see the legislation, we will not be certain that this is the case. But even if it is, it has meant that the Government’s new so-called streamline’ tax scales have already taken a battering. This statement is a testament to the failure of the Government to maintain its promises on tax indexation and it demonstrates that the Government has never been able to fully comprehend the consequences of its policies.
Debate (on motion by Senator Carrick) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate, at its rising today, adjourn until Tuesday, 6 June at 2. 1 5 p.m.
That, unless otherwise ordered, the times of meeting of the Senate on Wednesday, 7 June be as follows: 2.13 p.m. to 6 p.m.; 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the text of the speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act to provide some new exemptions and to change some existing exemption for imported goods. The Bill has four main features. Firstly, it will give effect to the joint announcement by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on 30 March 1978 that sunscreen preparations that provide effective protection from damaging ultra-violet rays would be exempted from sales tax. Drugs and medicines are already exempt and it is proposed that these sunscreen preparations should also be exempted because of their importance as a preventative health measure in the field of skin cancer, sunburn and general skin damage. To qualify for the new exemption, a preparation will need to meet two requirements. It will have to be put up and sold for use as a substance to be applied to the skin for the purpose of screening out solar ultra-violet rays. Also, there must be in force in respect of the preparation a certificate given by the DirectorGeneral of Health, or his appointee, certifying that the product is a preparation that provides an acceptable level of protection from solar ultraviolet rays. The efficiency of sunscreen preparations in filtering out damaging rays has already been the subject of regular testing arranged by the Australian Government Analyst. The results of these tests will provide useful data for the classification of products already tested.
The second of the Bill’s main features is the restoration of several sales tax exemptions relating to imported goods. Certain sales tax exemptions which are complementary to customs exemptions refer expressly to the relevant customs tariff provisions. Due to changes in the tariff some of the sales tax exemptions have become inoperative and it is proposed that they be restored. The exemptions relate mainly to printed matter such as imported travel literature designed to promote travel overseas and certain imported catalogues, price lists and comparable printed matter which is not designed to advertise the sales of goods or services by persons in Australia. The Bill will also bring certain sales tax exemptions relating to goods imported by persons arriving in Australia into line with corresponding customs exemptions. These sales tax and customs provisions are normally kept in harmony to facilitate the clearance of travellers through the customs. The sales tax amendments now proposed arise because of changes that have been made to the complementary customs provisions.
Both sales tax and customs duty exemptions apply where a passenger imports a vehicle or boat which has been owned and used overseas by the passenger for a period of 15 months before leaving for Australia. The customs law provides also that where a vehicle or boat has not been owned for 15 months, full duty is not payable unless the shortfall is more than 14 days. Where the shortfall is 14 days or less, duty is payable on a sliding scale which increases as the shortfall increases. A similar cushioning period is now to be provided for sales tax purposes. At present the sales tax exemption for goods imported by persons arriving in Australia is limited to goods imported by passengers. Under the complementary customs exemption members of the crew of ships or aircraft, who are of Australian domicile, are entitled on a once-a-year basis to duty free concessions similar to those available to passengers. A comparable sales tax exemption is now to be given.
In the interests of economic administration, the law provides that sales tax and duty are not to be collected on imported goods where only small amounts of revenue are involved. The sales tax provision is to be altered to keep in step with the changes that have been made to the levels applicable for customs purposes. Finally it is proposed by the Bill to give servicemen of Papua New Guinea, and certain civilians accompanying them, limited sales tax concessions for importation of personal effects, furniture, household goods and motor vehicles. The concessions, which are a little more liberal than those available to ordinary passengers arriving in Australia, are required in fulfilment of Australia’s obligations under the status of forces agreement between the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea.
The Bill also contains some amendments of a drafting nature. They are mainly concerned with bringing references to customs tariff provisions in sales tax exemptions into line with the current terms of the tariff. It is customary for sales tax changes to come into operation on the day following the introduction of the amending Bills into Parliament and the Bill proposes that the amendments have effect from 26 May 1978. A memorandum explaining the provisions of the Bill in details is being circulated for the information of honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the text of the speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The broad purpose of this Bill is to enable each State, if it so chooses, to legislate to increase its revenue from personal income tax or to give, at a cost to the State, a rebate on personal income tax to residents in the State. The Bill is basically the same as the Income Tax (Arrangements with the States) Bill 1977 which, as honourable senators will recall, was introduced into the Parliament late in the 1977 autumn sittings. The Government, however, did not seek passage of the Bill in those sittings, its intention being to allow time for reflection an informed debate and, in particular, for consideration of the Bill by the State Governments. The 1977 Bill subsequently lapsed with the dissolution of Parliament on 10 November 1977.
The Government has given the States considerable opportunity to comment on the 1 977 Bill and, after careful consideration, has agreed to certain changes being made to the Bill to meet the points raised by the Premiers.
This Bill also differs from the previous Bill in that a number of minor technical and machinery improvements have been made. The Government regards this Bill as an important development in Commonwealth-State relations. The Bill completes the legislative framework of the tax sharing arrangements which are a central element of the Government’s federalism policy, a policy aimed at restoring a proper distribution of powers and functions between the Federal, State and local spheres of government, with governments more responsive to the needs and preferences of the community. The Government believes that this approach offers the best protection against concentration of power in Canberra.
Stage 1 of the income tax sharing arrangements established in legislation passed in 1976 provided for the States to receive 33.6 per cent of personal income tax collections. In this connection, honourable senators will be aware of an amendment Bill currently before the Senate which provides for the States to receive a fixed amount of $4,336.1m in 1977-78 and for their tax share from 1978-79 onwards to be 39.87 per cent of the preceding year’s collections. These arrangements have replaced the old system of handouts with one in which the concept is the sharing of tax revenues. Under the present Government, the States have received what they have been seeking for many years- a share of income tax revenues.
Stage 1 of the tax sharing arrangements was an important step towards more responsible government in Australia- and the restoration of a proper balance in our Federal system. The present Bill will enable the implementation of Stage II of the tax sharing arrangements, and thus represents a further major step towards this objective. Under these proposed Stage II arrangements each State will be able to vary, by its own decision, its total share of income tax collections. The States will thus have more effective control of their own revenues as well as their expenditures. Because responsibilities for revenue raising and spending will be more clearly recognised by the electors, there will be a greater incentive towards better housekeeping. However, it would seem from recent comments by some Premiers that some States are unwilling to accept a greater share of responsibility for raising the money they spend. All the Commonwealth can do, and is seeking to do, is to provide the necessary framework to enable the States to help themselves. The next step is up to the States.
A broad framework for Stage II of the tax sharing arrangements- the subject of the present Bill- was evolved and agreed during the three Premiers’ Conferences in 1976 and recorded in the points of understanding set out in Budget Paper No. 7. The Stage II arrangements have also been the subject of joint Commonwealth/ State officers’ reports including a report which was considered at the Premiers’ Conference in April 1977. At that Conference there was broad agreement on the following objectives which have been followed in the draft Bill:
Firstly, there should be complete uniformity as between the States in all respects other than rates of any surcharges or rebates;
Secondly, the arrangements should be free of any significant constitutional or other legal doubt;
Thirdly, the scheme should be as simple and inexpensive to administer as practicable consistent with legal requirements and the other broad objectives being followed;
Fourthly, the arrangements should impose the least inconvenience practicable on taxpayers and employers; and
Fifthly, the arrangements should be such as to avoid creating avenues for tax avoidance or evasion.
It was also agreed at the April 1977 Premiers’ Conference that Commonwealth officers would consult with officers of Victoria and Western Australia regarding the Commonwealth’s Stage II legislation and I record the Commonwealth’s appreciation of the co-operation of the States.
Before turning to the detailed provisions of the Bill I wish to deal with the constant assertions of our political opponents that the Stage II arrangements amount to some form of ‘double taxation’. The first point to be made is, of course, that this legislation puts no compulsion on the States. It merely provides the framework to enable the States, as they may choose, to pick up taxing or rebating options. Only when a State chooses to impose a tax or allow a rebate, and legislates accordingly, will this legislation be brought into use. Some Premiers, as is well known, have urged the Commonwealth to reduce income tax. The enactment of this legislation will allow those Premiers to reduce income tax in their States. The second important point to be made is that, under this legislation, there will at all times remain one collection and administrative agency. Taxpayers resident in any State will still lodge one annual return of income with the Commissioner of Taxation and will receive a single notice of assessment on which Commonwealth and State components will be shown.
There will be a single pay-as-you-earn deduction from salaries and wages for Commonwealth and State purposes. In plain terms, there will be no additional forms to fill in. Thirdly, the States traditionally levy a wide range of taxes and charges. There is nothing new in identifying a tax as a particular State tax. The transfer of payroll tax to the States is an example.
I turn now to the detailed provisions of the Bill. It has four main parts. One part- Part V- gives authority for the Commissioner of Taxation to administer State tax and rebate laws that meet certain specifications set out in another part- Part II of the Bill- and provides for payment to the States of what is collected by the Commonwealth on their behalf. It also deals with a number of miscellaneous matters.
The other two main parts contain technical and machinery amendments to the Income Tax Assessment Act and other Acts.
Part II of the Bill calls for some comment. In drawing it up we have worked within the framework of principles agreed at successive Premiers Conferences and have taken into account wherever practicable suggestions for changes made by the States to the provisions of the previous Bill to which I have referred earlier. In essence Part II of the Bill is directed to ensuring that the objectives of uniform administration are practical and met.
For example, it would be expected that each State would increase or reduce tax only in respect of people who are residents of that State, according to a common definition of ‘resident’. In that way, no-one would be liable to tax in more than one State in any one year. Again, in the interests of simplicity, a State that wishes to impose a tax or allow a rebate will need to legislate in such a way that the State law can operate in harmony with the Commonwealth tax law. As a consequence, State tax would be collected through the PA YE and provisional tax systems that are now a settled part of the Commonwealth personal tax system. Tax owing to the Commonwealth and to a State will be collected by the Commonwealth as a single, undivided, sum, with the State being paid its share of what is collected. It is because Commonwealth and State tax will be collected in this ‘ merged ‘ way that it is necessary, as set out in clause 79, for an appropriation to be made to enable payment to the States of amounts collected by virtue of State law.
Finally, the magnitude of the activities of federal, State and local governments should be put in true perspective. In the current financial year, on the basis of budget estimates, State and local governments will have under their supervision no less than 53 per cent of total public sector outlays in Australia. The approximate percentage break-up is: Federal 47 per cent; State 46 per cent; and local 7 per cent. It is vital to the full understanding of intergovernment relations to appreciate the very significant role of State and local government in public finances. The idea that two spheres are small and insignificant in the overall economic and social scene is a misconception. The detailed provisions of the Bill are fully explained in a memorandum that is being circulated to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Webster) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the text of the speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follow-
The purpose of this Bill is to enable the Commonwealth Government to enter into financial arrangements with the States and the Northern Territory for making payments to cattle producers affected by the control measures instituted by animal health authorities to prevent the spread of bluetongue virus. This Bill also provides for the acquisition and installation of virology laboratory equipment in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to improve their cattle blood testing services. The virus was isolated from biting insects collected by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation near Darwin in 1975, and was identified as belonging to the bluetongue group of viruses by tests carried out in South Africa and the United States of America in 1977. Commonwealth and State animal health authorities immediately tested cattle throughout northern Australia. It quickly became apparent that exposure to the virus had been confined to the top end of the Northern Territory, the Cape York Peninsula and the west Kimberly region. Quarantine controls were imposed on these areas. The primary objective of controls upon animal movements from these areas has been to prevent the spread of the virus to the sheep districts, and also to protect the export of livestock from southern States. Bluetongue is a very serious disease of sheep; it is not normally a serious disease of cattle. I stress, however, that although the presence of a bluetongue virus in Australia has been confirmed, there has been absolutely no evidence of bluetongue disease.
Following international notification of the presence of the virus a number of importing countries placed bans or restrictions upon the import of meat and livestock from Australia. A number of these have been eased significantly following technical representations by the Bureau of Animal Health. Serious limitations remain, however, on trade from the affected areas in the north, particularly as regards livestock exports. As a result of the bluetongue alert, cattle producers in the bluetongue control areas have incurred additional costs for mustering their cattle for blood testing, which includes holding the herd together until test results are available. They have also incurred additional costs arising from the sprays and dips required before cattle can be moved and in particular a loss of marketing opportunities. A growing trade in live cattle exports to south east Asia, particularly Hong Kong, has been lost, whilst access to the Malaysian market is restricted. There is little or no offset available for slaughter at northern meatworks due to constraints on export quotas. The traditional flow of store cattle turnoff to other States has been disrupted by movement restrictions and a natural reluctance by traditional purchasers to take cattle from bluetongue control areas. These problems have arisen in circumstances where many cattle producers in northern Australia are already in financial difficulties as a result of the prolonged depression of beef prices since 1973.
The Government has received representations from the Queensland Government and from cattlemen’s organisations for financial assistance to enable producers in the control areas to survive these additional burdens. Following consideration of these requests the Government has offered to participate with the States and the Northern Territory in a program of financial assistance. Clause 4 of the Bill provides for three separate types of assistance which the Minister may arrange with the States and the Northern Territory. The proposals that the Government has made to the States and the Northern Territory include these three elements. Firstly, a payment at the rate of $3 a head up to a maximum of $3,000 per property to offset mustering costs incurred to assist bluetongue control and for movement of stock in the control areas of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory during the period from 1 January 1978 to 31 December 1978 inclusive. Secondly, the Government proposes payments to producers at the rate of $5 per head to meet the costs incurred in survey and surveillance blood testing and at $ 10 per head for movement testing, including for export. These payments are to be available to all producers, both within and without the control areas, from 1 October 1977 to 31 December 1978 inclusive. Clause 4(1) (b) therefore provides for a wider coverage of producers than 4 ( 1) (a) as producers outside the control areas may be required to participate in surveys conducted by animal health authorities to establish the incidence of exposure to bluetongue virus in Australia. Thirdly, the Government proposes the provision of funds of up to $100,000 in the Northern Territory, up to $75,000 in Queensland and up to $50,000 in Western Australia for the acquisition of virus testing laboratory equipment.
Clauses 5 to 8 of the Bill provide for costs of the program in a particular State to be shared equally between the State and the Commonwealth. Costs incurred in the Northern Territory up to 30 June 1978 are to be borne entirely by the Commonwealth. Under clauses 3 (2), 4 and 5 costs incurred in the Northern Territory after 1 July 1978 will be borne equally between the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory, that is under the same basis as for the States. The total cost of these proposals, including the States ‘ shares, is estimated to be $3.768 million. The Commonwealth share is estimated to be $2.426 million. It is proposed that the scheme be administered by the States and the Northern Territory.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has written to State Premiers advising them of the details of the Government’s proposed assistance program and seeking their early agreement. The majority leader in the Northern Territory has been similarly advised by the Minister for the Northern Territory. Of course, some of the less affected States may not wish to participate or may wish to participate at lower rates of assistance than those proposed. The Government will be prepared to agree to such different arrangements provided they are within the limits of the Government’s offer. The Government’s decision on these assistance measures and the provisions of the Bill relate to current circumstances of quarantine controls causing particular hardship to producers in certain defined areas. Those circumstances may change in the future from any number of causes.
On May 26 the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) announced that tests conducted on certain New South Wales properties suggested that cattle may have been exposed to another strain of bluetongue virus. This has yet to be confirmed fully and further investigations are under way. The results of these must be awaited before it can be said that the situation which has prevailed for the past several months has altered materially. The incident indicates, however, that we are not necessarily dealing with a static situation. It will be the Government’s intention to ensure that arrangements entered into with the States in accordance with the Bill will provide for a review of the assistance measures in the event of any significant change in the bluetongue situation. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 June, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate has before it a BUI which provides for certain amendments to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act. Essentially, the Bill is not opposed by the Opposition. A number of benefits will accrue under the legislation. I do not propose to deal with them in detail but there are three on which comments should be made. Firstly, the Bill reintroduces additional benefits to apply to Ministers of the Crown, present and future to be precise, who will be entitled under this legislation to partake of a higher retirement scheme but to which, of course, they will be required to make a higher contribution. That will be optional. It was a principle that operated until 1973. During the period of the Labor Government that additional benefit was discontinued and all Ministers and members and senators retired under similar schemes providing similar benefits. However, the Government has reintroduced this proposal. It is the Government’s prerogative to do so and the Opposition does not oppose it.
Secondly, the Bill provides that members and senators will not have to attain the age of 45 in order to qualify for the retirement scheme. As honourable senators know until now it has been necessary for a member of Parliament to reach the age of 45 in order to become entitled to the full benefit. Under the new proposal a member or senator can serve 12 years and then become eligible for the benefit. I notice that the legislation does not appear to indicate any minimum age. I assume from that that a person could enter the Parliament at 18 years of age and would qualify for the benefits at the age of 30. That would, of course, be a most unusual circumstance because unfortunately most of us are in a higher age group and it usually takes us much past the age of 30 before we become eligible under any of these schemes. However, this is an innovation and, in defence of it, it should be said that there is a tendency now for younger people to enter parliamentary life and because they are younger they have younger families and more direct family responsibilities than do older members. This is a measure of protection which, in view of the uncertainties of political life, is one which I believe the great majority of Australians would recognise in principle. It is essentially for the protection of a member and his family.
The third benefit is that commonly described as commutation, whereby a member or senator can commute his pension into a lump sum. He can opt to take this benefit in a lump sum rather than to receive it on an annual pension basis. It is not a new provision. It is new insofar as Federal Parliament is concerned but I believe that it has operated in State parliaments for some years. I understand also, from my knowledge of the subject that this does not impose any additional cost to the fund, much less to the taxpayer. That being so, I think that the option which is afforded to a member or senator is one which can be fairly defended. Under the proposal the amount that can be commuted will be limited to 50 per cent of the total sum payable. Under at least one of the State schemes the total amount can be commuted but this Bill will put certain restrictions on the amount a member or senator can opt for. I do not intend to speak at any length on the Bill, but I think it should be said that every time a benefit accrues to parliamentarians there is some criticism, mainly from people who do not understand fully the nature of the lives we lead and the profession we follow.
– There is never any comment when we refuse to accept a parliamentary increase, as we have done on three occasions.
– Yes, I agree with the comment made by Senator Young. I recall the many debates that have taken place in this chamber during the 10 years that I have been here when parliamentarians have been exhorted to set an example to the rest of the community. We set that example in the six years between 1 968 and 1 974. There were no increases in Federal parliamentarians’ salaries because we decided as a Parliament that we would not have increases. For the six years from 1968 to 1974 our salaries remained at the level that had been set in 1968. 1 well remember that by 1974 incomes in Australia had risen in that same period by 50 per cent. In other words, the rest of the wage fixing tribunals of Australia had not taken the slightest notice of the example that had been set.
I know it is not particularly popular to say these things but they ought to be said. I have always felt that, irrespective of one’s views about levels of income in the community, and I have very strong views about that which I have put here on many occasions, there are plenty of people in the community who are getting sufficient and do not need any more. That is a principle I hold very strongly and I know that there are others in this place who feel similarly about it. But I would oppose equally the argument that one section of the community can be singled out and told: ‘You cannot have any improvements; everybody else can but you cannot. ‘ We cannot single out the politician or the public servant or the policeman or the salesman or the fitter and turner and say: ‘You will be held down while everybody else gets increased benefits. ‘ If we want to get over this problem of those who have enough getting more, we will do it only on a national basis where that principle is applied to everybody in the community who is earning income in excess of a certain level. To my mind, that is the only fair way to do it. Until such time as that sort of policy is implemented, with the cooperation of State governments, trade unions, private industry and so on, it seems that we have to accept the procedures that apply now whereby individual sections of the community such as parliamentarians have to find some other way of resolving the problems. With those few comments I indicate that the Opposition will not oppose the legislation.
- Senator Wriedt has said, and I take it to be the fact, that between 1968 and 1974 there was no parliamentary increase. I am happy to be reminded that in the first four of those years I was a Minister. I well remember that on that occasion I was effective in preventing a bid for increase. I remind the Senate again that when my former party was in opposition it resolved to disallow increases given by the Remuneration Tribunal, a denial that was effective for only about seven months. There is no gainsaying the principle that parliamentary remuneration should be upon a fair and just basis. However, it should not discriminate unfairly and to the special advantage of peoople who hold a representative position in Parliament and take an advantageous position by reason of their authority in Parliament in relation to the people they represent.
So far as I am concerned, I shall be attempting, through the processes of consideration of this Bill, to have the Bill examined by any fair and objective method that the Senate chooses. I shall suggest a select committee. I shall also suggest a board of actuaries. I shall suggest that quotations be obtained from any group of life companies in the country as to the premium they would require to be paid to give benefits of this size. Then I would be prepared to stand up in this place and advocate the adoption of anything that was recommended by the actuaries or the competing life companies. That is what the public is entitled to and what it expects.
The step that I have taken- a grievous step from my personal point of view- costs me not a penny. It costs me nothing but personal distress. But it is a protest that I make in a determined effort to get the whole question of parliamentary superannuation subjected to public scrutiny and then purposeful expert scrutiny so that it can be put upon a basis of integrity. This Bill arises from no such circumstance. There was no integrity whatever about the way this Bill was treated until it hit the floor of this Senate. It is a tribute to this chamber that none of the devious secret procedures that were adopted in another place could have been encountered here. I want to say that the speed and the secrecy that have shrouded this Bill are a disgrace to those who produced it. Not a word was heard by me, as a long standing and senior member of the Liberal Party, from any colleague or any member of the Press or any member of the Opposition until a special party meeting was summoned at 6 o’clock on Wednesday night. As I walked there a colleague told me that there were to be additions to the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Fund. If I had a defective heart, I think I would have dropped there at the time. I cannot conceive anything more diabolically contrary to the very basis of the principles that I thought my Government was establishing in the public interest.
Is this the time for the Ministers operating government, who say that public policy requires restraint on the part of all wage and salary earners, to create a special retiring benefits fund for Ministers? When we appeal to the people we represent to exercise some restraint, the appeal can be effective only if the audience considers that it is a disinterested, objective and considered proposal. But when Ministers’ own special individual interest is concerned and they come forward to increase their retiring allowances by a proportion to their salaries- both membership salaries and ministerial salaries- that is a situation that would completely dismay most of the wage earning sections of this country, particularly the farmers whose circumstances in the last three years have been completely cruel from the point of view of the level of income on which they have been required to subsist. The inequality and inequity of that proposal, of special advantage to Ministers at this time out of taxes that are collected, seems to me to be completely contrary to any proper principle.
I will put an instance to honourable senators. A little estate that is worth $135,000 is taxed, by a combined operation of State and federal duty, $35,000 and the remainder is left at $100,000. The widow starts to get an income of, say, $8,000 or $9,000 from what is left. She is immediately taxed double on that income- by ordinary tax and provisional tax. I ask honourable senators to consider how she and thousands of other small farmers in this country look upon a government that was elected with such a magnificent majority which took the occasion yesterday to bring in a Bill to give its members additional benefits, and which took into account for the eligibility of those benefits all past service as Ministers, repaying anything that has been returned to them and paying their contribution of 1 1 1/2 per cent of salary. The second thing about this Bill is that for the first time in the Federal Parliamentary Retiring Allowance Scheme it is proposed that part of the retiring allowance- any part of it up to 50 per cent- can be commuted to a lump sum. So one may be about to retire on $18,000 a year- a handsome sum, I suggest, which should satisfy any senator or member of decent means and tastes as an exclusive living. On one occasion I was accused of being one of the richest men in Parliament. I disclosed my income. It was then about $2,000 in excess of my parliamentary allowance because in my profession, as in Parliament, I have used my opportunities to moderate the demands that I take from clients or electors. Here today it is seriously offered- and one is expected to take it without being insulted- that I can commute $9,000 of that into a pension and those of my colleagues who are less than 65 years of age can convert it ten times without any discount for true present worth and take $90,000 which most of my constituents accumulate as a lump sum in a lifetime of hard work. Those of us who are 65 years of age and over can commute half of it five times, reducing so much every year. But one can take a neat little cheque on 1 July in substitution for half one’s pension of $45,000 and continue to receive a pension of $9,000.
Just suppose that I was about to be appointed to a cushy job or a hard-working job within the patronage of the Commonwealth Government. Under present arrangements, I would enjoy in full the emoluments that would come to me from that office- be it the office of an ambassador, judge, public servant, officer of a statutory corporation or any other office- as well as a full parliamentary pension. My income, with the emoluments of office, might go from $18,000 to $48,000. The income tax on that would be pretty severe. But if a person can convert his $ 1 8,000 into $50,000 or $90,000 as a lump sum and now without gift duty, distribute it among his family, that is a handsome way in which he can privilege his family if he is a politician. That would be in unfair competition with the people outside who live by the faith of private enterprise and are proud to work for their earnings and savings. At this time, for the first time, to bring in the advantage of 50 per cent commutation is, I think, completely objectionable.
On Monday night I took advantage of the occasion of the first reading of a money Bill to bring up the subject of parliamentary retiring allowances for the purpose of asking that the scheme be submitted to critical revision. I referred to the way in which it had burgeoned in the last 10 years beyond all the dreams of those who put forward the original proposal. I had prepared by the Parliamentary Research Service as long ago as August 1 977 a whole analysis of this because I saw from the current Budget Papers what an undue burden was being placed on the taxpayer even then. I must be permitted to say that the subject has been raised elsewhere without the slightest suggestion that this Government would increase the advantages and that it had been awaiting discussion elsewhere for two months without being called on.
It shows that ten years ago, for the year ending 1967, the contributions paid by members were $147,000. In the year ending 1977 it was $528,000. That is to say that their contributions had increased in the order of 350 per cent. In the year 1 967 the country paid out $234,000 and the total pay-out was $310,000. We then pass 10 years to 1977 and find that then the pay-out came wholly from Consolidated Revenue, except that the contributions made by members are offset. In 1977 the pay-out of 10 years before of $310,000 had increased to $2,860,000, an increase during that period of over 900 per cent. During that time contributions made by members increased by between 300 and 350 per cent. Put another way, whereas in the year 10 years ago members of Parliament were contributing 58 per cent of the pay-out, in the year ending last year, 1977, their contributions represented 18 per cent of the pay-out. So in a decade the representatives of the people took advantage of reducing the proportion they paid towards the ultimate benefits from 58 per cent 10 years ago to 18 percent last year.
In my innocence, on Monday night in an endeavour to alert the Parliament’s concern about this rapacity in raiding the Treasury to the advantage of members of Parliament, I illustrated lump sum payments in the States. I told the Senate that one member had retired from the Victorian State Parliament with a lump sum payment of $21 1,000. On what terms of entitlement he comes in here and becomes entitled to receive a Federal parliamentary retiring allowance I do not know. Some people still assert that he has to pay back the whole $2 1 1,000. My information is that if he pays in a sum of about $30,000 he can immediately become entitled to a pension for life from the Federal parliamentary retiring allowances and can add the years of his State service to the years he serves here. Surely that requires concern, scrutiny and caution. But my argument that it was an undue exploitation of the position of representing the people and protecting the taxpayers ‘ money in the Treasury was met out of the blue- like a thunder bolt- by the proposal, which came to us for the first time the night before last, that that situation should be adopted. But no, we take credit for our moderation. We do not allow today commutation of the entire pension; we limit the entitlement of commutation to half the pension.
I have been in politics and have seen the inevitable growth of anything which is to the advantage of public servants or members of parliament. They move upon an axis. The public servants advise a Minister one day that he should put up his benefits. Next month those public servants are saying that, in comparison with parliamentary benefits, the Public Service superannuation scheme is inadequate. What do we do then? We adopt the State lump sum principle. This is simply an affront to anybody who is asked to go out into the market place to earn his living and, by the system which I wish to maintain, to accumulate his own independence and to provide a little capital. A parliamentarian can commute his pension, escape income tax, take another government job and thereby receive a tremendous advantage by having taken the lump sum. I forget where this quotation comes from:
As worldlings do, giving thy sum of more
To that which hath too much.
-That is too much. Why do you not join Actors Equity? You have won the Oscar award.
-Senator McAuliffe just guffaws. McAuliffe is the name. I wonder whether honourable senators remember this:
The big round tears cours’d one another down his innocent nose, In piteous chase. Poor deer’, quoth he, ‘Thou mak’st a testament As worldlings do, giving thy sum of more To that which hath too much.
I point the finger to Senator McAuliffe. I am here to put a principle. I have never made money, and by God I am not doing so today. But I want this proposal to go before three actuaries. I want it to go before a select committee before which everybody who has real information will come forward. We could bring before it the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty- the Henderson report- and there could be an examination of the whole matter of national superannuation. It was recommended that superannuation for the general citizen should be at the rate of $3,000 a year. Others said that that could not be done without disestablishing the investable funds which are already accumulated. But what did they say of the Public Service superannuation scheme? They said that it was altogether too generous in relation to other schemes in private industry. How much of private industry has the benefit of superannuation of any sort? It is about 20 or 2 1 per cent. The Henderson report forbore making a reference to the parliamentary retiring allowances fund. But when we take it into account and compare it with the Public Service, public servants say that we are ever so much more liberal to ourselves than we are to public servants. I took an active part in restraining the bid by the Public Service for increased superannuation benefits. I did this both in opposition and when we came into government and we had to bring the scheme into operation.
When the scheme came into operation it was provided that the contributions paid by members and the contributions provided by the Government year by year should go into a special fund. It was provided that that fund should be subject to the scrutiny of the Commonwealth Actuary every five years. Of course, the implication was that insofar as the fund became insufficient to sustain the benefits from its own resources the contributors, both the Commonwealth and members, would weigh into kitty and would keep it solvent. When insolvency started to show up in the early 1 970s we slipped loose and provided that it should no longer be a fund. We provided that these pensions should be paid year by year directly out of Consolidated Revenue and thereby we escaped the scrutiny every five years of the Commonwealth Actuary. Furthermore, when this Government came into office it said that it would ask the Remuneration Tribunal, which recommends the current salaries for members of Parliament, to report upon the retiring allowances. A statement appeared in a report of the Remuneration Tribunal- I rely on my memory- to that effect. I think that Tribunal operates in a hole-in-the-corner fashion. I think it does not operate in parallel or in tandem with other wage fixing tribunals in the country and that it is particularly out of kilter with the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Last year that Tribunal took upon itself in its report- by one little sentence- to remind everybody who perused it that the Government had not yet furnished the information necessary to consider the retiring allowances.
In that situation, with no actuary’s report, with an express notation of absence of Tribunal consideration, out of the blue of these exceptional circumstances the night before last we had this Bill made public. It was whisked into another place last night and passed without a word of debate in less than 15 minutes. There were two speakers, the Minister who introduced it and the representative of the Australian Labor Party, who said that he accepted it. I am grateful to be a member of a chamber in which no such nonsense, insult and improper conduct is proposed. Of course, last night we heard the second reading speech given by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). She accepted a motion that the debate be adjourned until today. But the Bill is called on as the first business today, and all that one can do with regard to perusing this Bill is- I have done my best -
– What about the clock?
-Am I over time?
– Thank you. My research and scrutiny are insufficient to enable me to expound on the Bill. In Committee I shall do my best to get to the full meaning of the situation. I am grateful to the chamber that it has given this time. I have no doubt that during the Committee debate I shall give further consideration to the Bill. I oppose this legislation and I hope I will get support.
– I congratulate Senator Wright on his act of high courage in discarding a political party which he no longer needs. Having come here for nearly 30 years under the banner of the Liberal Party of Australia he is now on the verge of retirement, so he no longer needs the endorsement of that party. He loses nothing by his noble gesture. Over the years he has masqueraded as the great rebel. He has had several serious differences with his Party. I suggest that some of them have been even more serious than this one. He has crossed the floor many times. He has disagreed with his Party on matters so diverse as life insurance; land tax; civil aviation; matters affecting the sugar, wool, meat and wheat industries; on parliamentary retiring allowances in both 1955 and 1959; on parliamentary allowances in 1959 and 1967; on the stevedoring industry; on tariffs and customs; on matrimonial causes; on broadcasting and television; on the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Act; on trade practices; on constitutional alteration and on many other matters.
The question naturally arises: Why did he not take the step which he is now taking on any of those matters? The reason is obvious. He wanted to enjoy the luxury of criticising and voting against his Party and, at the same time, having its support at election time. He saved up his act of high courage until a time when it would cost him nothing. He has cried poor here today, as is his habit. Of course, he has always been in a position to take risks.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order which is two-fold. I regard the speech which is being made by Senator James McClelland as irrelevant to the subject matter before the Senate. He has not mentioned the Bill which we are debating. All he has done is to impugn the motives and the stance of the honourable senator who spoke before him. I believe he should be ruled out of order and ordered to address his remarks to the Bill.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. Everything I have said is highly relevant for this reason: Senator Wright in his speech and in public statements since he took his stand has taken a note of moral indignation towards the rest of us. Frequently here today he has spoken of rapacity. He has branded the Bill as corrupt. I think it is perfectly in order for me to impugn his motives and to show that he is in no position to take that attitude towards honourable senators who support the Bill.
-Senator James McClelland, it is necessary to be relevant to the matters within the legislation before the Senate.
– In due course I shall consider the Bill in considerable detail. I suggest it is material to bear in mind Senator Wright’s financial position which enables him to take this high and mighty attitude against the rest of us. He was an active legal practitioner in Hobart up until his appointment to the Ministry in 1 968. That was a period of almost 20 years. He continued to do some legal work even after he became a Minister. The letterhead of the firm Crisp, Wright and Brown still lists him as a consultant. He was involved in a major criminal case in Burnie as late as 1976.
– Order ! Senator James McClelland, you must not continue with a speech of denigration and refer to matters which are not immediately relevant to the Bill. Will you please observe that ruling.
-Mr President, I shall attempt to keep within the bounds which you impose on me. But I must protest that I consider it highly relevant to a consideration of the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Amendment Bill, when impure motives have been imputed against those honourable senators who support it, that it should be shown that Senator Wright is in no position to impute such motives to us.
- Mr President, I wish to make my position clear. I wish the honourable senator to have the utmost liberty to denigrate me as much as his sense of integrity and responsibility wishes.
– I do not consider this denigration at all. I consider it highly relevant to the entire discussion. It is always easy for a politician to grandstand at the expense of his colleagues by adopting an attitude that they should not be getting any increase. The honourable senator can go and join the multitude outside which is always ready to see all politicians denigrated and portrayed as grubbing self-servers. I submit that everybody in the chamber is under that slur because of the attitude Senator Wright takes. Despite his position in this place and despite his financial security he does not hesitate to exercise his right to draw the old age pension. Since Senator Wright has chosen to turn this debate into a contest of nobility of soul with himself cast in the role of a self-sacrificing Sir Galahad and the rest of us as rapacious selfseekers I propose to say a few personal things about myself which otherwise I would never had thought appropriate to disclose.
Unlike Senator Wright, I have no nest egg on which to fall back when I leave the Parliament. Unlike Senator Wright, I did not maintain any interest in my legal practice when I entered Parliament. On entering Parliament in 1971, 1 severed my connection with a very lucrative legal practice of which I was the principal partner. It is true that my name has continued to appear on the letterhead of my old firm but that has been done at the express request of the remaining partners who took the view that some goodwill attached to my name.
I very much regret having to mention these personal matters but, when Senator Wright seeks to grandstand to that large section of the public which is always ready to believe that politicians are a bunch of greedy self servers, I have to remind him that, whilst he has made a handsome living in addition to his parliamentary salary over the years, entering parliament has cost me in the vicinity of a couple of hundred thousand dollars. Senator Wright obviously believes in a system of double-entry book keeping. One entry for the flesh and another for the spirit. Whilst always attentive to his own financial security he has always wanted to pose as a man who makes moderate demands on the public purse. Not to put too fine a point on it, he is an old humbug. What are the outrageous features of this legislation?
– I rise on a point of order. I think the type of speech that Senator James McClelland is making is ridiculous in the extreme and is unfair. To talk about Senator Wright being an old humbug rather lowers Senator James McClelland in his own estimation and in the estimation of others. I can have something to say about Senator James McClelland, if he wants that.
– The use of parliamentary language is absolutely necessary.
– What are the outrageous features of this legislation against which Senator Wright inveighs? One is that it makes provision for the commutation of half a politician’s retiring pension entitlement. I would like to know- perhaps he could even inform me- whether he spoke out against the action of a conservative Premier of Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, when he introduced legislation in Victoria many years ago enabling Victorian politicians to commute 100 per cent of their pension entitlement. If he did speak out against that proposal, he can tell the Senate so now. On the other matter of Victorian retiring allowances, Senator Wright has referred to the case of a present member of this Parliament who is said to have drawn a lump sum of $215,000 out of the Victorian fund. I am informed, and I believe, that if that man wishes to become entitled to a Federal pension he will have to refund in total that $2 1 5,000. 1 do not know whether Senator Wright has bothered to make any inquiries about that or whether he merely seeks the advantage of mentioning such a large sum in the hope that that will arouse public indignation against rapacious politicians.
– I told you of the inquiries I had made.
– Well, Senator Wright’s inquiries did not go far enough because the fact is that the whole $2 1 5,000 has to be repaid before that member can become entitled to a Federal pension. I think it would have been appropriate too in the circumstances if Senator Wright had told us about his own intention as to his entitlement to commute half of his pension. We all listened today for his statement of intention about that. Under the legislation he must elect within three months of being entitled to a pension whether to commute. I certainly will await his decision with great interest.
– You certainly will not.
-You will not? Well, we will wait to see how consonant you are in that resolve.
– Of course not. There is no virtue in that. It is for business considerations as well as a matter of principle. I am not the angel of integrity that you wish to present.
-Senator Wright will pardon me for mistaking him for having taken on the role of Sir Galahad today as he has done on any occasion in relation to matters affecting emoluments of parliamentarians. Without wishing to point the bone at Senator Wright, it is precisely people in his position who stand to gain most from commutation. A man or woman who dies within two or three years of commutation obviously fares better financially that a person who lives for 10 years or 15 years after commuting. I make bold to predict that the fund will gain from the introduction of the right to commute. When we consider that the annual pension rate is indexed it is obvious that the person who lives for ten years after retirement- and most do- would cost the fund more if he continued to draw an annual pension than if he chose to commute half his pension entitlement. Where is the so-called drain on public funds out of which Senator Wright attempts to make so much? The most cursory analysis of this legislation indicates that it will not cost the public purse any more and that it will probably cost the public purse less than does the present scheme.
We who support the legislation do not have to hang our heads or apologise for giving our support as Senator Wright would have us believe.
The legislation can be justified in the public interest as well as in the politicians’ interest. Another point I wish to make is that if the effect of expediting the rate of claim to the maximum endowment from 20 years to 18 years to have the right to commute is encouraging politicians to retire earlier to make way for younger, fresher and more contemporary people, that would surely justify the legislation. The Senate I suggest would certainly have been less Neanderthal if Senator Wright had got out a few years ago. But now in his retirement he will be able to strut around enjoying the plaudits of those who consistently demand that the country should have not only better politicians but also cheaper politicians. I do not believe that the country can have it both ways. Far from adopting a heroic position in this matter, I believe Senator Wright has adopted a cheap cheer chasing, hypocritical posture. And I will vote for- -
– Order! You must not refer to any honourable senator as a hypocrite. The honourable senator will withdraw those words. The use of the word ‘hypocritical’ conveys a reflection which is offensive to me and is offensive to the honourable gentleman.
-Are you asking me to withdraw, Mr President?
– Will you, please?
– In deference to you, Mr President, I will withdraw those words. I can assure the chamber that I will vote for the legislation with a clear conscience.
– in reply- The Government thanks the Opposition for its approach to this legislation. It has noted the comments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) in the other place and the Leader of the Opposition in this place (Senator Wriedt) with regard to the provisions of the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Amendment Bill 1978. The Government has also noted the remarks which Senator Wright has made today and the fact that he wishes to pursue the reference of this matter to a Senate select committee. Unlike Senator James McClelland, I deeply regret that Senator Wright has felt it necessary to take the steps of withdrawal from the Liberal Party of Australia of which he was a founding member and with which he has had a long and distinguished association. Senator Wright has been a very precious member of the Liberal Party and I think I share the views of all of my colleagues in the Parliamentary Party when I say that to see him leave the Party at this stage on this issue is a cause of a great deal of concern and certainly a great deal of regret to us.
However, it is appropriate to say that Senator Wright has held consistent views on matters of parliamentary remuneration, superannuation and the capacity of people who are paid from public expenditure to receive more than one pension. The fact that he has held those consistent views leads me to respect the views which he has now expressed. They are not views that are shared by the members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party or the National Country Party but they are his personal views and I believe that they are sincerely held. Some matters have been raised during the discussion which may require information during the Committee stages of the Bill. I foreshadow that the Government will move an amendment to correct a technical defect in the Bill. That will be done during the Committee stages. Perhaps at that time it will be appropriate for me to include some figures about the scheme which has been proposed which may make it more lucid to those who have an interest in it. There also are some figures which will show the approach that has been taken to the commutation and the diminishing benefit that is attached to commutation for those who are beyond the age of 65 years when they exercise that right to commute their benefits.
I regret that the Bill before the Senate has been called a corrupt Bill. The proposals that have been put forward have been the subject of discussion and considerable consultation. While Senator Wright may say on this occasion that he would be perfectly prepared to accept the advocacy of someone from a life assurance company or an independent actuary, I think he should also accept figures that are given by the Government when we discuss this Bill further. I am not sure whether Senator Wright wishes at some stage to move the proposed amendment which he has circulated. This may be an appropriate time for him to do that.
– First, Madam Minister, we will have the vote on the motion for the second reading. Thereafter he may move the proposed amendment.
– I conclude the remarks for the Government on the second reading debate by saying that it is believed that this superannuation scheme will give protection to the families of those who serve in the Commonwealth Parliament. It will give some retirement benefit rights to those who leave the Commonwealth Parliament. I believe that the benefits proposed in the Bill are not pace setting but rather reflect the high contribution rate made by members of Parliament to the parliamentary retirement scheme. They also reflect the nature of the profession- the impermanency of the career and the very real sacrifices that are made in many ways. It was said by Senator Wright that the provisions give a great privilege to families of those who serve in the Parliament. As a contrast to that, many sacrifices are made by familiessometimes ultimate sacrifice- because of the burden of the responsibilities that are accepted which results in long absences from home and pre-occupation with matters that are regarded as national responsiblities. I believe that if weight is given to the sacrifices that are made by families no one would argue that any privileges or benefits are out of balance. The Government accepts the Opposition’s support for the Bill. It is hoped that the Bill will have a speedy passage.
– The question is that the Bill be now read a second time. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no.
Honourable senators- Aye.
– I think the ayes have it.
– I wish my vote recorded.
- Senator Wright, your vote in opposition shall be recorded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Pursuant to Standing Order 1 96a, I move:
My purpose in so moving is to ensure that this Bill has some objective scrutiny. I pay due respect to the Senate in asking it to recruit the committee for the examination. I do so with the knowledge that on a reference of this sort the Senate committee ordinarily would hold most of its proceedings in public. The great advantage that could accrue would be an actuarial analysis of the present position in relation to the Public Service, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund and commercial insurance. Then we could see how any other form of superannuation available to the public would be relative to this proposal.
I suggest that it is impossible for us in the Committee of the Whole to get such an understanding of where we are going and the cost to the Treasury. I am not going to refer to the second reading debate at any length but it was mentioned by Senator James McClelland, in one of the few relevant statements that he made, that the proposed scheme would not increase the cost to the Treasury. I think the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) also made the same statement. I am not satisfied on that point. Considering the cost of the various contingencies, I am still persuaded that the cost to the Treasury will be increased greatly. But I did not base my objection to the Bill primarily on that matter. That is a matter which only experts on superannuation funds can examine. It is for that reason that I want the Bill taken into consideration by a committee so that we can then have a much more detailed and objective examination of it. If the claims that have been made in reply to my speech can be justified, well and good.
Permit me just to say this in concluding my remarks in the second reading debate: I have been a member of this Senate for, I think, 29 years. I am not going to suggest the loss that I sustained in my professional practice over that period but I would be woefully saddened to think that over 29 years I had lost less from it than could be earned by Senator James McClelland from his particular style of advocacy.
The next thing I want to say is in answer to the imputation that I take this step now when I am no longer dependent on my party for endorsement. I resigned on a previous occasion when the cost to me would have been infinitely greater than now. That resignation was rendered ineffective only by the fact that the Parliament did not go on with the proposal and it was withdrawn.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the amendment because I feel its contents are worthy of debate. Opportunity for such debate ought to be provided. I realise that because of my peculiar position here I have no right to talk at any great length about the contents of the Bill or about the virtues or otherwise of this amendment. Indeed, the fact that I am not entitled to any sort of superanuation no doubt will leave me wide open to criticism of one sort or another for supporting this amendment. Nevertheless I do so, taking that risk into account.
I should like to point out to honourable senators that this amendment does not aim entirely at rejecting the contents of the Bill; it merely- I think fairly- moves for further consideration of the Bill ‘s contents. If nothing else is achieved by the Senate’s support of this amendment it will remove any impression in the minds of the public that this Parliament has pushed the Bill through with undignified haste and, possibly, avariciousness. I do not wish to speak at length, I merely ask that the Senate give due consideration to this amendment today.
That the motion (Senator Wright’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That consideration of the Bill in the Committee of the Whole be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
Consideration resumed from 1 June.
Department of Administrative Services
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 4, 1 5 5 , 000.
Proposed expenditure, $483,000.
Department of Administrative Services- Capital Works and Services
Proposed expenditure, $754,000.
Proposed expenditure, $374,000.
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Proposed expenditure, $3,523,300.
Department of Trade and Resources
Proposed expenditure, $3,687,300.
Department of Trade and Resources- Capital Works and Services
Proposed expenditure, $39,177,000.
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $7,653,500.
Department of Defence
Proposed expenditure, $70,399,000.
Department of the Special Trade Representative
Proposed expenditure, $76,700.
– When debate on this matter was adjourned last night I was seeking some information on the permanent car driver of a previous Prime Minister, Mr McEwen. I said that Mr McEwen had unrestricted use of an official car with a regular driver in Victoria and that the cost was $18,200 a year. I repeat my questions: Does Mr McEwen ‘s permanent driver live on Mr McEwen ‘s property in Victoria? If not, where does the driver live? By that I mean is he employed as a Commonwealth car pool driver in Melbourne? Every time Mr McEwen requires a car- I remind honourable senators that this runs to a cost of $ 1 8,200 a year- does the driver have to drive the car from Melbourne to Mr McEwen ‘s property to pick up Mr McEwen and when he has completed his work, whatever it is, drive the car back to Melbourne? That is the information I was seeking last night.
– I have obtained some information on the matter raised by Senator McLaren last night concerning Sir John McEwen ‘s use of an official car which I think should answer the queries raised by the honourable senator. Sir John McEwen no longer resides permanently in the country. His permanent residence is in the Melbourne metropolitan area. During 1977-78 Sir John McEwen has not used his official car for regular travel in the country. Sir John McEwen uses his official car, on average, about two to three hours each weekday. He uses the car very little at the weekend. About one day in each week Sir John uses the car for a full day. When the official car is not being used by Sir
John McEwen, it is available and is used for normal car pool services.
– In view of the answer of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), can she now explain why it is costing $18,200 a year to provide the car if it has the very limited use of which the Minister has told the Senate?
– I am advised that the rate of charge for the use of the car by Sir John McEwan is about $ 1 7 an hour. As I have said, it is not used for continual transport between the city and the country. It is used for two to three hours each week day and about one day in each week it is used for the full day. At the rate of $ 17 an hour, this service costs $ 1 8,000 a year.
– In view of the fact that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has said that the car is used for only a few hours each day and that she has now given us the hourly rate charged, it would appear on a quick reckoning that it is used for about 1,000 hours a year. I accept her explanation that it is not used in the country. It appears now, from the answer given about its limited use in the city of, say, one day a week and given the hourly rate, that the car is used for 1,000 hours a year. I would like some further explanation in view of the Minister’s previous answer.
– I congratulate Senator McLaren on his arithmetic. At a rate of about $17 an hour and a annual cost of $18,000, the number of hours for which the car is used can be computed. If he would extend his arithmetic a little further, with the car being used on an average of two to three hours each week day and for about one full day in each week, he will probably be able to work out by some process on which day it is used for a full day, on which days it is used for two to three hours and he may come up with some other fascinating figures for us.
– I wish to raise two other matters in connection with Senate Estimates Committee A. They arise from answers that were given to questions asked during the course of the Estimates Committee hearings. The first matter relates to the Department for which the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) is responsible. I do not have the division number before me at the moment. Officers of the Department appeared before the Committee on 8 May 1978. Their evidence starts at page 393 of
Hansard for Senate Estimates Committee A of 8 May. I was astonished, after having listened to that evidence, to see a letter written by the Minister for Special Trade Representations on 16 May to Senator Sim, the Chairman of the Committee, completely refuting in many respects the evidence that had been given by the officers to the Committee.
I do not make any criticism of the Minister in this respect. I am given to understand that, upon his return from abroad and hearing of the evidence that had been presented, he expressed some concern to the Chairman of the Committee and said that he would arrange to have the evidence corrected. I shall refer to the Minister’s letter to Senator Sim on 16 May. In the second paragraph he stated:
Having read the Hansard of the hearing on my return from overseas I wish to make some comments and there are several errors of fact in the record which I should like to correct.
I suppose it is pretty serious when a Minister in charge of a department returns from abroad and reads the evidence that has been presented to a Senate committee and then has immediately to write a letter correcting that evidence. I suggest to the Minister and the Government that they take heed of what happened in this case to ensure that senior officers- very senior officers and officers who at least know something about what they are saying- should attend a Senate Estimates committee hearing in the first instance. The Minister went on to state:
The first -
That is, the first statement that he wished to correct- is the statement . . . that ‘an office had been provided in Brussels for the Minister for Special Trade Representations’.
That had been told to us at the Estimates Committee meeting. The Minister went on to state:
No such office has been provided nor are there plans for permanent office accommodation to be provided for me or officers of my Department overseas. In fact, in Brussels I and my officers worked out of the conference room. Since there is to be no office provided in Brussels for me the question of staffing it does not arise.
Clearly, the Estimates Committee had been told by officers of the Department that portion of the expenditure was attributable to the fact that an office was being established for the Minister in Brussels. The Minister, upon his return from Brussels, had to refute that evidence. If this sort of thing goes on in future, certainly the Opposition will be moving the postponement of the Estimates if we are not given better answers. The Minister continued.
Second, it was indicated . . . that all overseas travel has been in company with the Minister. There are other similar references elsewhere in the record. In fact, four officers of the Department visited Brussels, London, Paris, Bonn, The Haugue and Geneva in December 1977 for detailed discussions with officials of the Commission and Member States of the European Communities and for liaison and consultation with our permanent representation overseas including at the Multilateral Trade Negotiations. This was a detailed follow-up of the visit Mr Howard made during September and October 1977 as a preliminary to the bilateral negotiations.
It was indicated . . . that Mr Howard visited North America. That is not so, at least during the time he held the portfolio of Special Trade Negotiations. Further, I -
That is, the Minister, Mr Garland- visited Geneva for discussions on the Multilateral Trade Negotiations in my capacities as Minister for Special Trade Representations and as Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Resources.
Clearly there is a great want of credibility in the statements that have been made to the Senate Estimates Committee and which the Minister had to correct. The fourth matter that the Minister corrected was that it had been indicated that six officers were with the Minister for three or four weeks at the earlier European Economic Community discussions. The duration of that visit was six weeks. Then he went on to clarify a number of other points. I think in fairness to the Minister, the Chairman of the Estimates Committee and the members of the Committee of the Whole, I should now seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the terms of the Minister’s letter.
The letter read as follows-
My dear Senator,
I am writing to you in your capacity as Chairman of Senate Estimates Committee ‘A’ to supplement the oral evidence given to the Committee by officers of my Department and the Department of Trade and Resources on 8 May 1 978.
Having read the Hansard of the hearing on my return from overseas I wish to make some comments and there are several errors of fact in the record which I should like to correct.
The first is the statement (at the bottom of the first column on page 394 of Hansard) that ‘an office had been provided in Brussels for the Minister for Special Trade Representations ‘. No such office has been provided nor are there plans for permanent office accommodation to be provided for me or officers of my Department overseas. In fact, in Brussels I and my officers worked out of the conference room. Since there is to be no office provided in Brussels for me the question of staffing it does not arise.
Second, it was indicated (in the first column on page 395) that all overseas travel has been in company with the Minister. There are other similar references elsewhere in the record. In fact, four officers of the Department visited Brussels, London, Paris, Bonn, The Hague and Geneva in December 1977 for detailed discussions with officials of the
Commission and Member States of the European Communities and for liaison and consultation with our permanent representation overseas including at the Multilateral Trade Negotiations. This was a detailed follow-up of the visit Mr Howard made during September and October 1 977 as a preliminary to the bilateral negotiations.
It was indicated (in the same column of the record) that Mr Howard visited North America. That is not so, at least during the time he held the portfolio of Special Trade Negotiations. Further, I visited Geneva for discussions on the Multilateral Trade Negotiations in my capacities as Minister for Special Trade Representations and as Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Resources.
Fourth (in the same column), it was indicated that six officers were with the then Minister, ‘for three or four weeks at the earlier EEC discussions’. The duration of that visit was some six weeks.
Fifth, while this was clarified in the hearing I reiterate that the Administrative Arrangements Order does not specify any countries at all in relation to ‘representation and special trade negotiations’. As Senator Webster indicated to the Committee, the countries on which this particular Ministry should concentrate are at the direction of the Prime Minister. Obviously the best results will be obtained by concentration on a particular matter of concern rather than dispersal of this type of effort over several areas at once. Our most significant problems in trade are with the European Community, which is the world’s largest trading bloc, and it is for this reason that I and my Department are concentrating on those problems. In the future other problems requiring such a concerted effort might arise.
I trust that the foregoing paragraph answers the question raised by the Committee as to the necessity for a special department. As for the word ‘special’ itself this is part of the jargon of international trade- the United States has a Special Trade Representative’- and is well understood by the Europeans. As well as enabling concentration on a single objective the creation of a separate department allows officials to devote themselves entirely to the problems in hand without diversion into the administrative routine of conventional departments. Management services are provided by the Department of Trade and Resources.
On a more general matter, while the concerns of my portfolio are focussed on more equitable access for Australian agricultural products into the markets of the European Economic Community they are not confined to those products. We have recorded with the Commission of the EC our concern at the level of tariffs applying to processed minerals and as the Minister for Trade and Resources and I announced on 1 1 May, we have conducted negotiations with the Commission of the EC on the price and quantity of Australian steel imports to it in 1978. In that regard I note particularly, Senator McLaren’s question as to whether there have been any positive results from the negotiations of the Minister for Special Trade Representations.
The EC decision on steel was sudden and the Government expressed its objection to the timing and methods used to restrict steel exports to the Community.
The Government believes that the outcome, which followed hard bargaining, was generally satisfactory because the reduction in tonnage insisted on will not now greatly affect Australian manufacturers and was at least as good as the proportions of tonnages allowed to other countries.
The information on costs requested by the Committee will take some time to obtain but will be provided as soon as possible.
I should be grateful if you would convey the foregoing to other Members of the Committee.
Yours sincerely, R. V.GARLAND
– I do not wish to labour the point, but I think it is very poor indeed for the Minister to be placed in such an embarrassing and invidious situation as to read the transcript of evidence given about him and his Department’s affairs and then have to write a letter to correct some of that evidence. The other matter that I wish to raise arises out of answers that have been received to a number of questions that were asked. First of all, I want to pay a tribute to the officers of the Department of Administrative Services, who appeared before the Committee. The comments that I have made in relation to the officers under the responsibility of the Minister for Special Trade Representations in no way relate to the officers of the Department of Administrative Services, who I believe gave full, frank and detailed answers to everything that was asked of them. I think that applied to most of the officers. There has been some considerable delay in receiving answers from the Public Service Board and the Department of Defence to matters that were raised as long ago as early May. Indeed, the answers from the Department of Defence arrived here at only 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon when, if I recall correctly, Appropriation Bill (No. 3) was already being debated in the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting, I was dealing with answers that had been given to the Committee by various departments after the Committee had completed its hearings. I mentioned that whilst the Appropriation Bill was before the Senate well before 1 June, it was not until about 3 p.m. on 1 June- yesterday- that the answers were provided to the Committee by the Department of Defence. Bearing in mind that the last day of sitting of Senate Estimates Committee A was 8 May, it appears to me to be a rather lengthy time for the Department of Defence to take before giving its answers. Nonetheless, they are full and complete answers.
I refer particularly to the answer that the Department has given concerning rents that servicemen will be paying for accommodation under the group rent scheme in Canberra and the Northern Territory. The rents which servicemen pay will increase generally by 9.6 per cent from July this year. After rounding, it appears that the rates to be applied will be as follows: For Group 1a in Canberra the rent will increase from $52 to $57; for group lA in Darwin it will increase from $52 to $57 and for group 1 it will increase from $58 to $64. From a perusal of the table set out at page 10 of the answers supplied by the Department of Defence, it is evident that in Canberra and Darwin rents paid by servicemen have not increased since June 1 977, that is, the commencement of this financial year, but will increase by 9.6 per cent in July of this year, that is, the commencement of the next financial year. Whilst there is an increase in rents of 9.6 per cent, salary increases up to and including the February national wage case ranged from a mere 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent. It can be seen from this explanation provided to the Estimates Committee that the servicemen who are renting accommodation in Canberra and Darwin will have their rentals increased by 9.6 per cent as from 1 July but that in the period from last June until now there has been a corresponding increase in their wage component of only 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent.
One could refer to other matters in some detail. The estimates were dealt with thoroughly by Senate Estimates Committee A and it was of great assistance to the members of the Committee to have available to them a research officer from the Senate Standing Committee staff. I hope that the practice that has been very successfully developed and prosecuted will continue in the future.
- Senator Douglas McClelland very properly raised in the Committee of the Whole the matter of the inaccurate evidence that was given by officers of the Department of the Special Trade Representative to the Senate Estimates Committees. As I understand it he has incorporated the letter from the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland). It provides accurate information on the matters that were raised by the members of the Committee. He also mentioned several other matters and expressed his views about them. One of the matters he raised was the delay in the receipt of information required from the Department of Defence. He stated that this information was received as late as 3 o’clock yesterday and that he believed that information required by Estimates Committees should be received at an earlier date prior to the Bills actually being dealt with in the Senate.
I understand that the Department of Defence was the last department to be heard by the Senate Estimates Committee on 8 May and that the Committee reported on 9 May. Some questions covered wide policy issues and one required clearance by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). This clearance was obtained on 3 1 May. I think it would be accepted that the Department of Defence is a large and widely dispersed organisation and that replies to questions of the nature that were asked by the Senate Estimates Committee required clearance at numerous levels throughout the Department. The Department has provided one consolidated reply to the questions that were raised. If the Senate considers that it would be preferable to have progressive replies from the Department, it would be able to do this in future. The Department recognises the need of the Senate to have the information as early as possible. On this occasion the late hearing of the Department and the necessity to obtain clearance on many matters raised caused what Senator Douglas McClelland considers to be an undue delay. I think that would be acknowledged by the Department, bearing in mind that the Bills are before the Committee at present for discussion and consideration. I am sure that when matters are raised in the future the Department of Defence will expedite any replies and requests. It could be that progressive replies may overcome some of the difficulties that were experienced on this occasion.
– Last evening I made some comments about the cost of running the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting. In reply the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) said:
Senator Sibraa referred to expenditure on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting. He put his own point of view in that regard, but I wonder whether he is informed as to the need for regional conferences and the exchange of views between members of Commonwealth nations. He expressed his point of view on the way in which he would conduct a conference, but to hold a conference of the standard and with the services and other usual appointments is something else again. He spoke of what he thought was excessive expenditure on the retreat of the conference. Yet anyone who attends a conference usually regards that informal period where many views can be discussed closely as being an important part of the conference.
I want to put it on record that I support the concept of the CHOGRM conference. Certainly I think that it should have been differently structured and with some different countries taking part. I appreciate also that the retreat was probably useful but I reiterate that I find the costs unbelievable. We have been told that Berida Manor was hired for a week for security reasons but that only 28 people went there. Yet the final cost was $42,000. That works out at $1,500 per week for the people who went to this retreat. I say again what I said last night: I think that the figures must be wrong somewhere. I do not know how that amount of money could be spent. Last night I mentioned that the total cost of the conference was $772,000 but that that amount does not include the cost of the Army. I said that I did not know how we could obtain a total cost for the conference but I have received some more information.
– Does that include breakfast?
– I think it might have been full board, senator. The CHOGRM conference cost $772,000 without the servicemen. I said last night that the total cost of the con ference would probably be something over $ lm. In fact, I think I underestimated because I have received additional information. I asked:
How many servicemen were involved in assisting in the security arrangements after the Hilton bombing incident at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting?
The answer which has been provided is:
The number of servicemen involved was as follows:
Army personnel deployed in the field- 1 ,085;
Total Army personnel involved (including a. above)-I,849.
RAAF personnel providing helicopter support- 58.
This is an incredible situation. I believe that the cost would have been much less if the conference had been held in Canberra.
This brings me to the other point made by Senator Guilfoyle last night. It concerns the issue I raised about the possibility of ex gratia payments to the widows of those who were killed in the Hilton Hotel bombing incident. The Minister said that she would draw this to the attention of the Minister. I am please about that. I think that if one looks at the costs I have mentioned this afternoon and the people involved, it will be seen that ex gratia payments to the widows certainly would be in order. It has been pointed out that a trust fund has been set up for the education of the children. I certainly support that. I mentioned last night that the Municipal Employees Union had raised $100,000 for the widows of the men who were bombed. I think it is a matter of principle that, if ex gratia payments are to be made to shopkeepers who were inconvenienced as a result of the bombing, such payments certainly should be made to the widows of the men killed. Briefly, I also support the remarks made by Senator Douglas McClelland about the research staff provided for Senate Estimates Committee A. They were asked to do a tremendous amount of work and the service they provided was excellent on all occasions. It is something that ought to continue in the future.
– I raise a matter in relation to Division 130, Administrative, subdivision 6, Overseas Property Services. When we were dealing with the estimates I posed this question:
Is any part of the additional appropriation of $1,250,000 set aside for the purpose of providing office accommodation in England for the previous Governor-General?
Senator Withers said:
I knew that was coming. There is no provision in these estimates. The honourable senator should not ask me to tell him where to look for it because I will not.
Surely we can find it somewhere.
Senator Withers said:
Well, you look.
My reply was:
The only way we can do so is by questioning representatives of every department.
Senator Withers said:
That is right.
I will do that then.
Two days later on 4 May, when dealing with the estimates for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, I asked:
I tried to find the information I seek in the estimates of another department. Where will we find the cost of accommodation for the previous Governor-General and his wife?
Senator Withers replied:
Mr Hinton, the departmental officer, answered:
There is none.
I then asked:
What about office accommodation?
Mr Hinton said:
The cost of office accommodation would come under the votes of the Overseas Operations Bureau, Department of Administrative Services, which has already been dealt with.
That is what I was afraid of.
That seems to have been the trend running through the hearings of Estimates Committee A, not only for these appropriations but for other years, during the time that I have been on that Committee. We seek information from one department and we are told that we will have to seek it somewhere else. Then when we seek it somewhere else we are told that it has already been dealt with. While the officers are here, I ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to answer my question. I cannot now be referred to any other department because we are debating the estimates dealt with by Estimates Committee A in the Committee of the Whole. I therefore ask: What part of the $1,250,000 extra appropriation, which is additional to the amount of $13,024,900 appropriated for rent for Overseas Property Services, is set aside for the purpose of providing office accommodation in England for the previous Governor-General and what will be the annual rental of that accommodation?
– I have no information here. The matter raised last night and again today by Senator McLaren is being checked, but I have no information available.
– The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) says that she has no information today. I remind her that on 2 May I first raised this issue in the hearings of the Estimate Committee and I again raised it on 4 May. We are now, on 2 June, dealing with the Estimates in the Committee of the Whole. So it is exactly one month ago today that I first raised the matter and the Minister says now that she cannot tell me. Again, I think that is not fair to the Estimates Committee. The Department has had a month to ascertain what amount of money we are spending on office accommodation in London for the ex-Governor-General. Surely in that space of time the information could have been provided.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Clauses 1 to 6- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 7 (Additional contributions by office holders).
– I draw the attention of the Committee to this clause because, as I understand it, it provides for additional remumeration for office holders to be dependent upon their election. That is to say, there is an element of agreement on the part of the office holders, and we are well aware of the inquiry proceeding at the present time as to interests of people having positions in the Parliament. The Constitution provides that if a senator or member of the House of Representatives directly or indirectly takes or agrees to take any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth or for services rendered in the Parliament to any person or State his place shall thereupon become vacant. That provision is escaped once one ceases to be a member, but the criterion of contrary interest while one is a member is that of receiving any fee or honorarium for services rendered in the Parliament. The extent of honorarium has never been discussed, so far as I know, in textbook or judicial decision, but here we are providing for officers of the Parliament additional emoluments that depend upon their electing to do something within a period after they have ceased to be members of the Parliament. In other words, by their agreement for services rendered in the Parliament, if they agree to a certain course within a period after they have ceased to be in Parliament, they appear to me to come within the principle of the prohibition in the Constitution that applies to them while they are members of Parliament. I rise only to draw the attention of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to that situation, which I submit directly points up the fact that we are providing for recompense for service after retirement in a manner which, if provided during service, would be completely unconstitutional and prohibited.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Commonwealth supplement).
-I rise to ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to explain to me what the effect of this clause is. I regret putting the Committee to this inconvenience, but I find myself unable to follow from the language just what is intended.
– Clause 8 provides that for the purpose of calculating the amount of the Commonwealth supplement contributions paid during the last eight years of service shall take into account contributions paid in respect of additional salary received as an office holder. The clause also provides that where a person’s basic contributions have been reduced from 1 1 Vi per cent to 5% per cent he shall be deemed to have paid the higher amount for the purpose of calculating the Commonwealth supplement.
Clause agreed to.
1 ) Section 1 8 of the Principal Act is amended-
– I move:
That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment:
After paragraph (b) of sub-clause ( 1 ), insert the following paragraph: (ba) by inserting after sub-section (2) the following sub-section: “(2a) For the purposes of sub-section (1b) and paragraph (aa) of sub-section (2), every senator whose term of office was 6 years shall, if at the expiration of 3 years after the commencement of that term of office that term of office has not expired, be deemed (in addition to his having ceased to be a senator at the actual expiration of that term of office if he continued in office for the whole of that term) to have at the expiration of that period of 3 years ceased to be a senator by reason of the expiration of that term of office.”;’.
The Government believes it is necessary to clarify the position of senators in clause 9 and it is for this reason that I seek support for the amendment.
– I support the amendment. Members of the Committee will realise that in the second reading speech there is this statement about this area of change:
Existing senators and members will also be able to qualify for a retiring allowance on completion of 12 years service or service in four Parliaments should they voluntarily retire from the Parliament.
Actually, I think that the expression ‘four Parliaments’ is not inaccurate so far as the terms of the amendment are concerned because, as we know, Parliaments are described as Parliaments in the terms of House of Representatives period- the twenty-ninth Parliament, the thirtieth Parliament and so forth. The words of clause 9 refer rather to a person who ‘on … at least 4 occasions . . . ceased to be a member upon the dissolution or expiration of the House of which he was then a member or upon the expiration of his term of office’. This is the provision whereby a member may choose to voluntarily retire, and after 12 years may do so.
It might happen with a House of Representatives member that the expiration of four terms of office could occur in 10 years and therefore, after four periods of office, he would be able to retire; That would have no application or be no use whatsoever to senators because our term of office normally- I think we might see more normality sometime in the future- is six years. So it would be 24 years before a senator could qualify for the allowance. So that clause is of no use whatsoever to senators, except to the four fortunate senators from the Territories which have elections every three years. They would be in the same position as members of the House of Representatives. To some of us it seems to be quite unreasonable that they should be so picked out in that way. It is true that as this amendment operates now, for the purposes of this clause and the clause in relation to the eight-year period, it declares us to have a termination every three years. That means that people who come into Parliament together -into the House of Representatives and the Senatewould therefore not tend to have the same rights of voluntary retirement. In the present position the provision for an earlier period would not be of any value whatsoever to senators. I suggest that the amendment is logical and sensible. Of course, it will not put senators into two different categories.
It might be argued that we face only two elections in that period. On the other hand, one could argue that many members of the House of Representatives in perfectly safe seats face no real peril at any time in their political lives and, of course, we may face more peril than they do. Senators are involved very much, as are House of Representative members, in the actual stress of elections. I suggest that if this legislation is to be applicable to House of Representative members and to senators from the Territories, then the amendment, as it has been phrased, has the effect of making it equally applicable to the rest of the Senate.
-As I understand clause 9, it provides that where the period of service of a member is not less than 12 years, the benefits shall be a retiring allowance during his lifetime at the rate in accordance with the scale set out, and if after 12 years he is eligible, he gets 60 per cent of the current salary.
The next sub-section provides that where the period of service of a member is less than 12 years, but he has on each of at least four occasions ceased to be a member, upon the dissolution or expiration of the House of which he was a member- that was clearly contemplating, surely, both senators and members- then four occasions is equivalent to 12 years. It will be remembered that we had elections in 1972, 1974, 1975 and, I think, in 1977. So in five years of service one graduated for a pension during lifetime, if I understand the section correctly. I invite the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to say whether I am right or wrong.
Having laid that comment before the Committee I take up the amendment that has been circulated, first noting that only three minutes before this amendment was circulated the officers of the chamber circulated a typescript amendment which they asked to be withdrawn because it needed correction. It takes this form. From my point of view, examining the evidence, that stimulates me to become a little more curious. I suggest, quite purposefully and strongly, that the three editons of this clause- firstly, as unamended; secondly, the first draft; and thirdly the revised draft- stimulate me to the conclusion that it is a final design to cater for a particular case. The first thing to be noted is that it applies to every senator. For the purposes of certain sections, it says: . . every senator whose term of office was 6 years shall, if at the expiration of 3 years after the commencement of that term of office that term of office has not expired, be deemed (in addition to his having ceased to be a senator at the actual expiration of that term of office if he continued in office for the whole of that term) to have at the expiration of that period of 3 years ceased to be a senator by reason of the expiration of that term of office.
So the situation is that the only case to which the amendment is directed is that of a senator whose term of office was six years. At the expiration of 3 years after the commencement of that term of office he shall be deemed to have at the expiration of that period of 3 years ceased to be a senator by reason of the expiration. In the case of a senator who is elected for six years and at the expiration of 3 years after the commencement of his term of office he has ceased to be a senator for any reason- ‘for any reason’ are the words that have been left out- then he shall be deemed to have been retired or to have failed to secure a renewal of office and he shall qualify under this section. So it applies only to the term of a senator who was elected for six years and leaves the Senate for any reason after serving three years. I suggest that that is the true meaning of the amendment to the clause. I suggest that the amendment is designed strenuously for a particular case. I think that we have to understand its real meaning.
– What do you mean by that, Senator.
-I think that the amendment is so awkward in its draftsmanship that nobody would ever dream of writing a sentence in this form in its general simple application. The difficulty with which the draftsman strove was to conceal the case and to cover it with language. Therefore, I ask the Minister for Social Security to tell me what is the situation with respect to a person who has ceased to be a member on four occasions and then falls within the provisions of this amendment. What this amendment represents is a postscript- an afterthought. Someone has drawn attention to the fact that the original draft of the Bill does not apply to a particular case. I suggest that simply on my own intuitive following of an instinct whereby truth leads the cross-examiner on.
-Before the Minister for Social Security replies I must say that Senator Wright’s so-called intuition is quite mistaken. Overnight I and some other honourable senators noted that the Parliamentary Contributary Superannuation Amendment Bill made a completely different reference to senators from the reference it made to members of the House of Representatives. In the normal sense, it would not have an application to senators. Senator Wright has indicated that there is some subtle purpose behind this amendment. So far as I and other honourable senators are concerned, the purpose of this amendment was to draw attention to the fact that the Bill as it had been drafted did not relate to that. To suggest that the amendment is designed for individual cases is a totally unworthy suggestion. The amendment has been drawn up by the Parliamentary Counsel for the purpose of covering the different situation of senators. Although its language might be complex- I agree that it is complex- it seems to me that it does achieve that purpose. To suggest that there is any other purpose behind the amendment I think is utter nonsense.
– For quite some time I have been trying to obtain from the people concerned an explanation of just what the entitlement of a senator was under the old legislation. It seems to me that the senators contributing to a fund at the same rate as members of the House of Representatives, even under the old legislation, had to serve twice as long to receive the benefit. It seems to me that, as far as these superannuation arrangements are concerned, the provisions relating to a person’s term of office were not worded in a simple way by referring to ‘parliaments’. The legislation spoke of ‘facing the people’. In normal circumstances senators face the people half as often as do members of the House of Representatives. It seems to me that instead of wording the legislation in this rather complex and contorted fashion- it seems to be a rather contorted amendment- it should have been simple enough to word the legislation in terms of ‘parliaments’ instead of in terms of ‘facing the electors ‘. We in this place serve for the terms of a certain number of parliaments. We are here for three, four, or five parliaments. A parliament is measured in terms of House of Representatives elections.
– It could be for only a year or six months, of course.
-Of course it could be. But that is not likely. We went through a rather turbulent period at one time in which we had double dissolutions and sudden elections and no parliament seemed to run its full term. This meant that in some cases some members became pensionable after three or four years of office. Of course, that is an aberration. Surely we ought not to consider an aberration when we are considering what is likely to be the normal situation. What is likely to be the normal situation now under the new constitutional arrangements is that the elections of the Senate and the House of Representatives will be held simultaneously. They have now been brought into alignment. Surely we can now look at this proposition in terms of parliaments rather than in the terms used in this rather complex amendment. I know what the amendment is trying to get at. It is trying to correct an anomaly which has existed for many years whereby members of the Senate had to serve twice as long as members of the House of Representatives and each year had to contribute the same amount of money into the same fund before they could get the benefit of that fund.
- Senator Wright raised a question with regard to the proposed amendment. I think that he clarified the amendment as he read and re-read it and explained what was his understanding of it. The purpose of the amendment is to put senators into the same position as members of the House of Representatives. The clause mentions ‘occasions’ -
– That is the word I was looking for.
– It mentions occasions’. This amendment gives to senators an occasion’ at the end of three years, which theoretically equates with the three-year term of members of the House of Representatives. Senator Georges was correct when he stated that under the previous legislation a senator had to complete a term of six years before he completed an ‘occasion’. Senators make contributions at the same rate as members of the House of Representatives. The amendment proposes to clarify clause 9 to the extent that it gives to senators equivalent rights to the rights of members of the House of Representatives for the same responsibilities. That is the purpose of the amendment. I hope that the amendment will be supported by all honourable senators.
– As I understand it, this anomaly was taken care of when there was an eight-year period of involuntary retirement.
– I shall confine my examination of the Bill to what I think is the reasonable patience of the Senate. I am not going to continue on just for the purpose of talking. I simply ask the Minister for Social Security why the amendment is confined to a senator whose term of office was for six years? Why is the amendment not applicable to the case where, after a double dissolution, half of the senators come in for three years and the Territorial senators come in for the lifetime of the House of Representatives?
-Before the Minister for Social Security replies I suggest to Senator Wright that the people to whom he has referred will be included in the period where there is an ‘occasion’. If there is a three-year period or if, in the case where someone comes in to fill a vacancy, there is a lesser period that period will constitute one of those four occasions’. But the amendment provides that where someone has a six-year term, which is the normal term of a Senate election, and he gets through the first three years of that term those three years will constitute one of the occasions. That senator would then go on to serve the second one. I do not think that this amendment in any way disparages the terms of the other person; it merely provides that where a six-year period applies at least one can divide that into two periods for the purpose of the ‘occasions’. That is my view of this matter.
– The other category of person who has not been named is a senator who is elected to fill a vacancy which has occurred. That person might have a different term. The person about whom we are talking is the senator who is elected for a six-year term, who needed this amendment to clarify his rights and equate them with the rights of members of the House of Representatives.
– We could have a situation in which a senator was elected in 1974 for a six-year term, being number one on the ballot paper and was elected again at the 1975 election for another sixyear term and at the end of the second six-year term had completed only seven years. There does not seem to be any provision to cover that situation.
– In that case a senator has been elected for those six-year terms but he has not served those six-year terms. We are talking about the serving of the terms and not the election for those terms. If a person is elected for six years and he serves one year we do not regard that as being a six-year term. That is simply one year of service.
– I have a question in relation to this clause. Let us take an example which is within recent experience. There were elections in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1977- four elections in five years. Let us suppose that two of those elections were caused by double dissolutions. All honourable senators would have to stand for election on those occasions. Does this clause as amended, in applying to honourable senators, mean that a senator who has served for those five years is entitled to a pension for life if, after surviving two double dissolutions, he resigns after the fourth election? If an honourable senator serves for five yearsthat is after four elections for the House of Representatives and three for the Senate, namely, the original election and two double dissolutionsand then resigns, does he become entitled to a life-time pension because of those five years of service?
– I am asking the Minister.
-The question was raised whether this clause will cover the situation of up to seven years. The Committee was asked who would receive the pension in that situation. Senators will not achieve a pension under that result. Senator
Wright asked about those who survived a number of elections. He asked whether they would qualify. But that situation would apply to members of the House of Representatives too. They would survive four elections in that period. It is true that there would be a series of quick and early elections. People would not serve their full term. They would have to face an election at an earlier time. Over that period where there are quick elections there are members who will qualify at an earlier stage than they would have qualified under the eight-year rule. This would be so in the case of involuntary retirement. This form of wording is used in the original Act. But today we are amending that situation. The situation in relation to the eight-year rule has hardly ever been applied. How could it be applied generally to a senator?
In eight years if an honourable senator had a six-year term one would hardly expect that there would be two other terms. Under the rule one is required to have completed the term of office three times. That provision which has been in the Act for some years has never been of any use to an honourable senator. No doubt it has been of value to members of the House of Representatives and it could be of value to territorial senators, but it has not been of value to other honourable senators. This amendment picks up both those points. It picks up the provision in the case of what we hope will be a six-year term and thereby we will be treated on an equal plane with members of the House of Representatives and territorial senators.
– It is a form of synchronisation.
– Yes, that is all we intend with this amendment. It is to synchronise our situation so that there will not be some special benefit arising out of this legislation to members of the House of Representatives and territorial senators. There will be the same provision. Of course, the provision applies to 12 years or a lesser period of four parliaments or eight years and three periods of office. I think it should apply to both honourable senators and members of the House of Representatives in the way in which Senator Brown has mentioned.
– To simplify, and I hope, to clarify the situation I point out that we are talking about cases of involuntary retirement of eight years or three occasions. In the case of a voluntary retirement the period is 12 years or four occasions. I think that simplifies the procedural way in which the entitlements will be assessed. There is a distinction between involuntary and voluntary retirements.
– I understand that this clause applies only to voluntary retirements. The clause is being amended in relation to a senator who is elected for six years but who ceases to be a senator after three years. Does that apply only to an involuntary cessation? I suggest that on its language it applies to a resignation. I shall take that to be the position.
– Resignation is a voluntary retirement
-But I thought the whole clause applied only to involuntary retirement after four occasions in less than 12 years.
– No. If the honourable senator looks at paragraph (aa) in the second line of sub-section (2) he will see that that relates to the eight-year period of involuntary retirement.
-Whether retirement is voluntary or involuntary, am I correct in saying that if there are four elections- such as I have enunciated for 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1977-a senator or a member can become entitled to a lifetime pension by surviving those elections in that time? Am I right in that assumption?
– That is a fact. There are four occasions in those years which have been mentioned; that is, elections in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1977. That meets the requirements of four occasions.
-The last thing I say about the clause is to invite the Committee to read what appears at the bottom of page 6 of the Bill. This arrangement having been prescribed in the four previous clauses of the Bill, the Committee will notice that it states: (7)Where-
I do not rise to take up time but to comment to the Minister that that sort of exegesis, by using fractional points to arrive at the true calculation of a member’s entitlement, is an affront to the English language and absorbs Public Service and parliamentary time to a degree which is quite inappropriate.
Request for amendment agreed to.
Clause agreed to, subject to a request.
Clause 10. (Commutation of retiring allowance).
– I do not wish to trespass upon the patience even of the Chairman beyond proper limits, but this clause specifically deals with one of the main innovations of the Bill. It deals with the introduction into the Federal sphere of the right to commute a periodical pension into a lump sum. I want to be informed as to whether I understand it correctly. The clause, inserts into the principal Act a proposed new section 1 8b, part of which reads:
I want to be assured that I am correct in believing that those already retired on the existing pensions have no right of commutation- that the entitlement to commutation does not accrue to existing parliamentary pension holders. My next point concerns the words:
. after the commencement of this section other than a person who-
At the moment I cannot understand what that means- I have not had the time to apply myself to it- and:
Paragraph (b) must be conjoined with paragraph (a) because this provision does not refer to (a) ‘or’ (b) but to (a) ‘and’ (b). I seek to be informed as to what paragraph (a) covers and to be told the reason for excluding the person who becomes entitled by reason of having retired on account of ill-health. Proposed new sub-section (2) contains a long list of paragraphs to describe people who are retired on the ground of illhealth. I never dreamed that it would take so many words to explain what is intended by that expression in this provision. I mention that only because I will have to trespass on the time of the Committee to have the expression ‘ill-health’ as so described explained to me. What is the effect of paragraphs (a) and (b)? As I understand it a person who has retired an account of ill-health and who has an entitlement under proposed subsections (2) and (3) is excluded from the right of commutation. I ask to be corrected if I am wrong.
– I am advised that the effect of proposed paragraph (a) is that a widow is not able to commute her entitlement nor is a person who retires because of ill-health. Any member of Parliament who retires after the date of commencement of this Act may commute but members who have retired before its commencement will be unable to commute their entitlements. There may be some difficulty in understanding the commutation which is proposed to be introduced for the first time into Commonwealth legislation. Clause 10 inserts a new provision into the principal Act whereby a member who becomes entitled to a retiring allowance other than by reason of retirement on the grounds of ill-health may elect to convert up to 50 per cent of his retiring allowance to a lump sum payment. The lump sum is calculated by multiplying that part of the retiring allowance the member elects to commute by a factor of ten. Where a member has attained the age of 66 prior to the date of retirement the factor of ten is reduced by one-twenty fourth for each whole month by which his or her age at retirement exceeds the age of 65 except where the member retires at the expiration of the term of office during which he or she attained the age of 66. Where a person elects to commute part of his retiring allowance entitlement his percentage entitlement is reduced accordingly.
I have had prepared a table which shows the way in which the commutation provisions will be applied. It may be of general interest if I have that table incorporated in Hansard. It shows the way in which the factor is reduced for those persons who exceed the age of 65. Whilst it may have been implied by Senator Wright before the Committee stages that this was a very generous provision, the factor of ten which applies at the age of 65 or less reduces. A person aged 70 would have a factor of 7.5; a person aged 75 would have a factor of five and so the factor reduces until it diminishes to nothing. But the person who retires at the age of 65 or less has a factor of ten applied to him. That is the commutation provision. I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
– I ask that the table be printed in ordinary type and not in mini type that is completely illegible.
The document read as follows-
Irrespective of age at retirement Senators may elect to commute up to 50 per cent of his or her retiring allowance.
If an election is made, future payments of retiring allowance are reduced by that percentage and the Senator receives, in lieu of the pension foregone, a lump sum calculated by multiplying the annual amount of pension foregone by the following:
A Senator who has qualified at retirement for a retiring allowance of 60 per cent of the Parliamentary allowance (currently $ 14,62 1 a year) elects to commute the full 50 per cent of his entitlement. The retiring allowance would thereupon be reduced to 30 per cent of the Parliamentary allowance ($7,310 a year) and he/she would receive a lump sum of $73,100 if under age 66 at retirement ($38,380 if 74 years and 6 months at retirement).
-I understand from the clause that the person who retires by reason of ill-health is disentitled to commutation. Could I have explained to me the principle of that provision? Let honourable senators understand that I have the most robust health. Why is the person who goes our prematurely by reason of ill-health excluded from the right of commutation? I would have thought that any life assurance company that took him on when he had robust health would pay up much more heartily if he became a casualty during the term of the life policy that it would in the case of a fellow who was robust and healthy. Why has this person been excluded from the benefit of commutation?
– I understand that the commutation provisions are similar to those in the Victorian Act. It seems to be reasonable that a person who retired on the grounds of ill-health may, if he were permitted to commute his entitlement, have a benefit immediately whereas a person who had a long period of service after his retirement and who had elected to commute would perhaps have a lesser benefit. If for instance a person with a terminal illness were to retire with full commutation it could be argued that that would be -
– But he gets 50 per cent commutation only.
-He would in this case get 50 per cent commutation. But there could still be a greater charge on the fund than there would be if he were to have a long period during which benefits were paid to him. The effect of the provisions of commutation will probably be that less is received out of the fund. It is for this reason that the diminishing factor is applied to those persons who are in more advanced years at their retirement. The same reasonableness would be applied in the case of a person who retired on the grounds of ill-health in that he would not be able to commute his entitlement.
– There is something inhuman about this provision. If a senator were to die or suffer a terminal illness and died before he retired then his estate would get the full benefit of the fund would it not?
– The effect of commutation in no way affects the pension of a widow or widower- the spouse of the person who is covered by the provisions. By commuting 50 per cent of his or ner entitlement a member in no way diminishes the pension that would later be paid on his death to his surviving spouse.
– If the member dies while still a member of Parliament and his widow has accruing to her a pension she is not entitled at all to commutation. That can be based only upon a motive to save the Treasury in this instance vis a vis the widow. Take the case of an existing member who becomes the victim of- let us face it- a terminal illness. We had one member who was elected to Parliament in recent times six years ago who became a victim of a terminal illness which progressed so rapidly that he died before taking office. But let us not draw upon the tears that Senator James McClelland would wish us to use.
Let us take the case of an ordinary illness overtaking a member who had been serving and otherwise entitled to commute if he had ceased to be a senator but he has gone on too long. I am not thinking of myself in this light. I am of robust health. If that Senator becomes a victim of ill health, he is excluded from the right of commutation because- frankly, putting it completely plainly- the authors of the Bill expect him to die on the periodical pension at less cost than would have been involved if the pension could be commuted. How in the name of fortune have the authors of the Bill thought that provision up? I think on a proper actuarial basis there might be some practice that would explain a denial of this right of commutation. I am doing nothing more than making the most brief comments, so I leave that point.
I go on to proposed new section 18B (2) (a). This is the beginning of many paragraphs that seek to explain the situation. Proposed new section 18B (2) reads:
The reference in sub-section ( 1 ) to a person who becomes entitled to a retiring allowance by reason of his having retired on account of ill-health shall be construed as a reference to a person who-
The next four paragraphs are all disjointed. On line 38 in clause 10 one notices the word ‘or’. If the person comes within the provisions of any of these paragraphs he shall be construed to be a person who retired on account of ill-health. The first paragraph deals with a person who ceases to be a member by reason of the fact that he has resigned his place before the expiration of his term. Do I correctly understand that the right of commutation is confined by stating that a man who has voluntarily resigned before the expiration of his term, who is deemed to be a person who has resigned for ill-health, is therefore disentitled to commute?
– I draw Senator Wright’s attention to page 9 of the Bill where the conclusion of proposed new section 1 8B (2 ) reads: . . and who, by reason of his having satisfied the Trust that his resignation was bona fide on account of ill-health or that his failure to be such a candidate was due to ill-health, as the case may be, is not deemed by section 1 7 to have retired voluntarily.
-That confuses me more. I would have thought that the man who was intended to be excluded, as mentioned in proposed new sub-section (1), is the person who becomes so entitled by reason that he has retired on account of ill-health. I would have thought that he was the very person who, in the words that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has referred me to, was the person who by reason of having satisfied the Trust that his resignation was made bona fide on account of ill-health or that his failure to be such a candidate at an election was due to ill-health as the case may be and he is not deemed to have retired voluntarily. But that is not stated in proposed new sub-section (2) (a) which states that the person who has retired on account of illhealth is a person who ‘ceases to be a member by reason of his having resigned his place before the expiration of his term.’ That is a case of having resigned his place before the expiration of his term. He is to be a person who has resigned on account of ill-health. He is the very person who comes within the language to which the Minister has referred.
-The Trust would need to be satisfied that he has an entitlement to a retirement allowance but he has not an entitlement to commute that retirement allowance.
-Pass that by. I am only going to deal with paragraph (b) at this stage and not with paragraphs (c) and (d) because I know that it is an exercise without purpose except for public scrutiny. The reference to a person who has retired on account of ill health in paragraph (b) reads: . . ceases to be a senator upon the expiration of the term of office of a class of senators or the dissolution of the Senate and is not, at the time of an election to fill places in the Senate that become vacant at the time when his place becomes vacant, a candidate for election as a senator or, if -
Tell me what all that means, just simply, please. I find difficulty in understanding the language and abandon the endeavour’, as my Leader once said after putting an argument three times.
– Thank you, Senator. I have been seeking advice on proposed new section 18b (2) (b). I understand it applies to a person who does not seek election but who will be able to satisfy the Trust that he has not sought election on the ground of ill health. That is the simplest way in which I can describe my understanding of the meaning of that proposed new sub-section.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of the Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
-In relation to clause 13, 1 wish to be informed whether this is the first provision in relation to the Federal Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund that has provided that in the case of death of a beneficiary- that is to say, a retiring member or a widow- where there is no widow, widower or children, the contributions that he has paid, plus the Commonwealth supplement, are made payable- under this legislation- to his personal representatives; that is, to his estate. As I understand it in this fund where our contributions are so exiguous, as I pointed out this morning, we pay in only $528,000 for a pay-out of $2.8m. Yet in the case of an individual whose contributions may have exceeded that which is paid out to his widow or himself that excess is repayable at the expense of the Treasury to his estate. I doubt that a superannuation fund is in existence in which a provision of this type applies. I suggest that contributions to superannuation funds are put in on the basis that everyone contributes and those of us who are particularly fortunate are pleased to pay something extra for the benefit of those who die prematurely or who leave widows dependent on them. As I understand this clause, if a person who has paid into a fund for, say, 25 years dies in harness with no dependants the whole of his contributions is repayable to his estate.
– I have an inquiry of the Minister. I cannot see any reference to the information I am seeking in the Bill. Being a bachelor, this matter is of importance to me. If a senator or member of parliament retires and then he or she marries and then passes away, would the widow or widower receive any retiring allowance, or does the retiring allowance apply only to people who are married before they retire from parliament?
– I shall speak briefly about the matters that were raised. In regard to Senator Wright’s query, I advise that clause 13 remakes the provision that was previously included in section 19 of the principal Act for the payment of a lump sum to the person or representative of the deceased member or former member where no benefits were payable in respect of a widow, widower or child. The provision in section 19 of the principal Act is the same provision as is now being inserted by clause 13. 1 invite the attention of the Committee to the fact that it is not only a spouse or child of a deceased person who may have a necessitous claim on the estate of any person to whom entitlement may be held in this situation. It may be that aged mothers, aged fathers, invalid brothers and sisters and others have had full support from a person who has paid contributions to a fund of this kind. This provision does not apply only to persons who have a surviving spouse or child but also to other persons who may have entitlement. Therefore there is a provision to allow the entitlement to go into the estate of the deceased person. This is the same provision that was in the previous Act.
I can advise on the matter of remarriage after retirement which was raised by Senator Wood. A person who is over the age of 60 years at remarriage would need to have a marriage that lasted for a period of five years before entitlement was attracted to the widow on his death. In simple terms, if you are over 60 and if the marriage is undertaken after retirement from parliamentary service the marriage must last six years.
-Does that mean that if a person got married a month before retiring his widow would get a retiring allowance if something happened to him? Does that mean that the 5-year period would not apply?
– You missed out by two days, Senator Wood.
– We are not talking about a month; I think any number of days would do. There is yet time, Senator Wood.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported with a request.
Adoption of Report
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) proposed: That the report of the Committee be adopted.
-I rise to express my very great appreciation of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), especially with regard to the remarks that she made of me in characteristically courteous terms. I have refrained from previous such expression until the debate concluded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 3) 1977-78 In Committee
Department of Education
Proposed expenditure, $16,605,000.
Department of Education- Capital Works and Services
Proposed expenditure, $503,000.
Department of Transport
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 4,894,000.
Department of Transport- Capital Works and Services
Proposed expenditure, $36,000.
Department of the Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $7,808,000.
Department of National Development
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 ,647,000.
Department of National Development- Capital Works and Services
Proposed expenditure, $9,708,000.
Postal and Telecommunications Department
Proposed expenditure, $6,227,000.
Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 4,686,000.
Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development- Capital Works and Services
Proposed expenditure, $584,000.
– I was not a member of Estimates Committee B but I did attend its meetings, as all honourable senators can do. I have some concern about the estimates for the Postal and Telecommunications Department. I refer in particular to division 482. The Committee found it difficult to get answers on television aspects of the Australian Broadcasting Commission because the ABC did not have present anybody who was directly associated with that area. An explanation was received afterwards but I still express concern. Indeed, I express criticism. When departmental officers come before an Estimates committee they should anticipate that questions will be wide-ranging and penetrating. They should be in a position, in the main, to give answers to the Committee. That was not the case on this occasion. I felt extremely sorry for the representatives who appeared who, in their own way, did an extremely good job.
We received answers from the Australian Broadcasting Commission regarding certain questions that were asked, some by me, at that Estimates Committee. I understood that we would receive further information in writing in regard to producers and producer’s assistants. We have received some information but I am still not satisfied with the answers given. The information states that no producer or producer’s assistant is idle, but it was admitted to the Committee at the hearing that some of the producers and producer’s assistants were not fully occupied in their aspects of production because of cutbacks. Some of these people could be regarded as perhaps not being as fully occupied as one would expect many of the people within the ABC to be. I will quote from the replies that were given to Estimates Committee B and which were tabled in the Senate a couple of weeks ago. One reply states:
ABC producers and producers’ assistants are currently allocated to production work in all States. No producer or producer’s assistant is idle.
At page 195 of Hansard of Estimates Committee B on Thursday, 4 May, I asked:
Could you also give us the number of producers and producers assistants who at present, whilst they are sitting in the ABC in that category are not actually doing anything with any programs?
I was given the following answer
Yes, but I think that figure would be very small. Really, it is people who are working at perhaps less than their full capacity.
It appears to me that there is some sort of contradiction between that and the answer finally given to the Committee when it was stated specifically that no producer or producers’ assistant is idle. I now ask: What type of work are they now doing and under what control are these people? As a result of the cutbacks in production of the ABC, do these people report to work every day? If so, who is responsible for making sure that these people report to work and are working- not slaving, let me make this clear- when they report to work? I think it is extremely important to have this information because no doubt in other areas within the ABC some people- I would like this answered- are not able at present to work at full production while others, because of the cutback in staff, are working under heavy loads.
The broad question I ask the officers in the chamber today through the Minister is: How much of this load is divided between people who perhaps are not doing their specific jobs, such as producers or producers’ assistants, and those people who might be slaving under heavy loads in order to spread the work more evenly throughout the whole staff of the ABC? To me that is very important. The one thing that I do not want to see is some sections of a body such as the ABC being heavily loaded at present- we hear this is happening- whilst others, because of a change in operation, if I can put it in that way, are not doing their work to full capacity. The only reason I have asked these questions today is because the answers we have received tend to contradict each other.
I also raise a question with regard to a particular program that the ABC has shown. I have some figures which show that it paid for that program a lot more than was agreed to be the ceiling price to be paid by commercial television stations in Australia. The figure that has been quoted- it is public knowledge now because it has been presented to the Estimates Committeeis $5,764 for two showings Australia-wide. As I understand it, there have been more than two showings of this program. There is no need for me to say the name of the program. The officers present know to which program I am referring.
– Well, I do not.
– It is Soap. I am sorry, I overlooked the point that the honourable senator did not know. The point is that the ABC is said to have paid $5,764 for two showings of it in Australia. There have been more than two showings. Even so this figure is still well in excess of the ceiling price that representatives of commercial television stations said would be the maximum price they would pay for any program at the time. So there is another big question mark with regard to the purchase of television programs from overseas.
– That probably means one repeat.
– I do not know whether it was for one repeat. I could quote the maximum price which commercial television stations would have paid for such a program. It is far less than the price that the ABC has paid. The ABC was to have had two showings of the program but to my knowledge there have been more than two showings. I do not have a chance, like Senator Colston, to see many television programs. I have seen only part of one episode of this program. But the point is that the information I have is that there have been more than two showings. I would like to know whether that is correct. If it is correct that there have been more than two showings, why was the answer given in the Estimates Committee in the language that was used?
Having made those remarks, I turn to another area. I refer to the questions asked about rent allowances. Members of the Committee questioned the representatives very heavily in that area. I appreciate that some assistance must be given to people who have to move interstate, because for some time there is an inconvenience, a vacuum, while those people try to find a house. Again I refer to the words used in the replies given to Committee members at page 28 of the Hansard of Estimates Committee B. With regard to ‘rent allowance payable in respect of permanent transfers’, I ask, firstly, what is meant by permanent transfers’ as against temporary transfers? There is a big difference. I presume that people who move on a temporary transfer are paid a travelling allowance. For how long is that travelling allowance paid if the employees are being moved on a temporary basis? We have not been given an answer to this question. This is the sort of information that we want and that we have a right to be given. The exercise of an Estimates committee is to look into the appropriation of funds and the way in which those funds are administered. Unless we are given those answers, we will not be effective in our exercise, our operation and our responsibilities as members of this chamber who sit on various committees investigating the appropriations.
I would also like to have some information with regard to rent assistance. It has been stated that, to some extent, the ABC works along similar lines to the general Public Service system, although the two systems are not entirely the same. The ABC is different with regard to administration. I would like to know: What is the actual position regarding rent assistance? For how long is rent assistance provided? Is it provided for those people on temporary transfers for 12 months or even two years? Are those people given a travelling allowance for all that time? Do they pick up rent assistance for all that period? What is the actual position? Secondly, when people are given rent assistance, what is the maximum amount paid by the ABC? As I understand it, a certain proportion of rent is paid by the individual and the rest is paid by an authority, such as the ABC.
I can understand that for a short time assistance should be given on a temporary basis. But I cannot understand- as yet this question has not been answered- what is the position regarding an individual who leaves one capital city to go to another capital city, who rents his home and moves into a temporary home. If he is provided assistance in regard to paying the rent on his temporary home is consideration taken of the fact that he is receiving rent for his own home? I want to know, because this question has not been answered, whether the rent received from an individual who is employed by the ABC- it may be the same within the Public Service- for his private home is taken into consideration when he is assisted in paying rent on his temporary home in another city. I want the answer to this question. I hope we can receive an answer today. If it is the case that they can rent their homes at a profit and still receive assistance from the authorities by way of a rent subsidy in other places, I think it is time the Senate had a jolly good look at this aspect and made some recommendations about it. I do not see why people should have the opportunity of receiving such great benefits. There are one or two other aspects I would like to mention later. I see that my time is nearly up. I hope that the Minister can reply to some of these points after seeking advice from her departmental officers.
– I want to take up a matter concerning the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I think this might be the appropriate moment to do so. It concerns off-cuts of, say, a news sequence which is filmed of events which may be occurring, for example, in the streets of Brisbane. Apparently it has become the policy of the ABC newsroom and current affairs programs to destroy off-cuts immediately after that program goes to air. I want to comment on the disadvantage in which that can place some citizens who may have to answer before the courts for certain incidents in which they were involved. If the ABC edits a series in such a way that the time sequence is destroyed and events do not appear as they occurred, a citizen can be placed at a disadvantage before the courts because the evidence the camera shows is thereby distorted. That distortion could be corrected if the off-cuts were available. It seems to me that for some reason- I do not think it is an acceptable reason but it is just a suspicion on my part- the ABC does not want to get personally involved with court procedures. Accordingly it makes it difficult for it to be involved by destroying evidence contained in off-cuts which would correct the sequence of what goes to air.
I make it plain that the sequence is altered in the editing of the program. The events which are shown are not in sequence and what is shown can thereby be prejudicial to a citizen who is endeavouring to defend himself. I ask why there is such a policy. Why is it not possible for the ABC to protect those off-cuts for a period of some 10 to 14 days in order to allow that citizen an opportunity to request that they be held in case they are needed?
– While we are on the subject of the Australian Broadcasting Commission I wish to make one or two observations as a result of the Committee hearings. I support the remarks made earlier by Senator Young that during those hearings we were confronted with the problem of not having present a person sufficiently competent in the area of television to answer the many questions that were raised. The explanations that were given- it was not the officers’ fault- were totally inadequate. I assume that on the next occasion the Committee meets, there will not be a repetition. I hope that the ABC realises that when information is sought by one of the Estimates committees of this Senate, there ought to be officers present who are competent to answer the questions. That point has been well made.
I want quickly to raise one or two other matters. They include the continuing problem that the ABC seems to be experiencing with its radio programming. I refer particularly to Radio 2 and the new FM broadcasting programs. I have raised this matter before and it seems quite obvious that despite some very slight attempts that are being made to rationalise these programs and to ensure that there is no overlap, they do not appear to be having much success. I put it to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) that if need be, the ABC ought to be given a little jog along to make it realise that it just cannot allow programs to take place in which there is an overlap. We must consider that we are appropriating something of the order of $45m a year to ABC radio services. That is nearly $lm a week. If we assume that approximately half of that is going, say, to Radio 2 broadcasts and bearing in mind the quite minute proportion of the total listening audience that Radio 2 receives, we must ask ourselves whether it is justified. That is what it has virtually come to.
I do not advocate for a moment that we dispense with Radio 2 services by the ABC, but for the expenditure of public money involved one would assume that the persons responsible for the programming would be sufficiently interested to ensure that their programming is such that they can get a larger audience than they do get. I think the ABC could learn a lot from 2MBS, the Music Broadcasting Society of New South Wales which, obviously, understands much better the type of program that people who listen to ABC Radio 2 programs are in fact wanting. They are getting that type of program much more effectively from the Music Broadcasting Society than from the ABC. I think this is principally because the ABC seems to be so convinced that it knows what is best. Despite suggestions that have been made over the years for the ABC to conduct surveys of its own listening audience, it has not done so and obviously will not do so because it is so convinced it knows best.
If the proportion of the listening audience it receives is any indication of how much it knows, it obviously does not know much. I suggest that the ABC ought to study some of the monthly programs that are issued by 2MBS in Sydney, the station of the Music Broadcasting Society. I must say that the Committee has received a response from the ABC about a suggested new way of presenting information to the Committee and I trust that this time next year we will not have the same problems that we experienced on this occasion.
-I want to refer to the Estimates of the Postal and Telecommunications Department. I refer to the extension of television services to the more sparsely populated areas of Australia, particularly in South Australia. During the election campaign the former Minister for Post and Telecommunications announced that the Federal Government would extend television services to the far northern areas of South Australia. He indicated that translator stations would be installed at Hawker and Port Augusta and that repeater stations would be installed at Maree, Andamooka, Coober Pedy and Oodnadatta and that capital works programs would extend over about three years. It was envisaged that the capital works program would extend over about three years. That statement unfortunately was misinterpreted and quite a bit of publicity was associated with it during the election campaign. The publicity suggested that the Eyre Peninsula part of South Australia had been excluded and that people living in towns such as Streaky Bay, Wudinna and other parts of that area were not included in the program. I immediately got in touch with the Minister at his home in Queensland and was assured that the program was in addition to the programs the Department already had in mind, which included provision of television services for Streaky Bay and the other areas I have mentioned. I had his assurance that these areas on Eyre Peninsula would have good television within 12 months. I do not know whether he meant that literally or whether he meant that a start would be made on the provision of a good television service for these areas within 12 months. I would like some clarification of that point from the Minister, or perhaps the Minister concerned could provide me with the information later.
In answer to a question on notice from the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis), Mr Staley said on 3 May that low power national translators were envisaged to serve Streaky Bay, Smoky Bay-Haslam, Wudinna and Kimba. A medium power translator would be installed to serve the farming area in the central Eyre Peninsula, including the towns of Cleve and Lock, a translator would be installed at Port Augusta and an additional translator at Port Lincoln. In addition, upgrading of the existing national translators at Mount Olinthus and Brothwicks
Hill is envisaged to provide improved coverage along the west coast of Spencer Gulf. However, no statement was made as to when the installations would take place. I should like to register today my concern that some work should be commenced on site preparations for the various installations and, if possible, commencement should be made within the ensuing 12 months on a translator or some other installation to serve the Streaky Bay and surrounding areas. I would like the Minister to take note of that and transmit my concern to her colleague. Hopefully, she will be able to get a positive answer as soon as possible.
– During the Estimates Committee debate there was some quite spirited questioning on the topic of parent contributions to schools in the Australian Capital Territory. I asked a number of questions, as did Senator Wriedt and Senator Young. One question that I asked, and to which I received an answer after the Estimates Committee hearings had concluded, said in part:
Has any student in the Australian Capital Territory been excluded from a particular elective because of non-payment of particular fees?
My question arose because we were advised that for particular electives in secondary schools in the Australian Capital Territory varying rates of parent contributions were expected. The ones that were singled out specifically were woodwork, metalwork and work that girls do, such as needlework. The answer I received was fairly satisfactory. However, it concluded:
A number of options are available to students in elective programs and within elective subjects so that it should be possible for participation which does not require financial contributions from the parents of the students.
That paragraph seems to imply a policy that if a person cannot pay the fee or does not want to pay it an option should be taken that does not require the fee payment. This matter was discussed recently in the report of Schools Commission issued in April this year, and paragraph 3.25 of the report states in part:
For the 1979-81 triennium the Commission believes that target resource standards should be such that if achieved would allow real resources in schools equivalent to the following example configuration:
A number of options from (a) to (j) are listed. For instance, (a) states: teaching staff sufficient to ensure that: infants classes need not exceed 25 students primary or junior secondary classes need not exceed 30 students senior secondary classes need not exceed 25 students;
The examples continue through to (j), which is the one pertinent to the question I asked. It states: sufficient cash resources to obviate the necessity for semicompulsory fees in government schools for the purchase of needed equipment and consumable resources.
I presume that (j) is referring to the type of contribution that we were discussing in the Estimates Commitee hearings; that is, the contributions payable within schools in the Australian Capital Territory. I presume also from that comment in the report of the Schools Commission that it should not be too long, if target resource standards are achieved, before those contributions are no longer required. I should like to hear from the Minister whether from 1979 onwards- and if not 1979, from what date- we will be able to expect that the question of parent resources at schools within the Australian Capital Territory will no longer arise because sufficient cash resources will be available to the schools to obviate the necessity for the fees.
– Before putting these estimates to the vote, I wish to respond to those honourable senators who have raised matters. Senator Young referred to the Australian Broadcasting Commission programs and to the rent allowance for temporary and permanent transfers. I will see that those matters are drawn to the attention of the appropriate Minister. Senator Georges requested consideration of the retention of offcuts from newsroom and current affairs programs in the ABC, and I will ask that that be given attention. Senator Wriedt also raised the general question that is coming forward at every Senate Estimates Committee meeting, that is, the attendance at the Committee meetings of officers who are able to deal with the questions. This matter was also dealt with by Senator Young and others. It does indicate that where the officers are present the Senate Estimates Committee is able to deal with the matters under consideration. I believe it is appropriate for the Senate to draw that to the attention of all departments at the conclusion of the debate on the Senate Estimates Committees’ considerations this year to ensure that officers with direct knowledge and at the appropriate level of responsibility attend the hearings to provide the information and deal with the requests of honourable senators.
Senator Jessop has asked for specific information with regard to the program for the provision of services by the ABC to remote areas of South Australia. I will see that attention is drawn to the statements made earlier by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) that he expected some development to take place within 12 months. I will find out what has occurred and what other information the Minister may be able to provide with regard to the program that is already in mind. Senator Colston again raised the matter of parent contributions in Australian Capital Territory schools. I understand that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has made a statement on this matter and has provided information, but I will see that Senator Colston is advised of the matters in the way that he has raised them.
-I do not wish to take up a great deal of the time of the Senate. I say, with a great deal of respect and sympathy for the officers who came before the Estimates Committee, that they faced a rather difficult task as they were not competent to answer many of the questions that were asked with relation to specific areas. I know that that difficulty will be rectified next time, as also will be the problem which arises when Estimates Committees are presented basically with what can be called single line entries. This also creates problems. We get some explanations in the explanatory notes. This matter also has been noted by the officers who were present that day. We look forward next time to having a broader description of expenditures and also broader representation. I thank the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) for her comments.
I still have one query. It relates to the answers we were given concerning fares and travelling allowances. For television services, amounts of $297,608 for fares and $315,052 for travelling allowances were provided. When we look at Radio Australia, we see that the amount for fares is $49,129 while travelling allowances are down to a minimal amount of $18,236. 1 do not expect an answer on this question today. There is probably a very simple explanation. It is a matter on which I would like an answer, if possible. I ask the Minister whether she will attend to it also.
– I assume that the Department of National Development has a link with the River Murray Commission. Could the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) ascertain for me sometime in the future whether it has such a link? The report of the River Murray Commission gives no indication of liaison with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Wildlife Research Division in relation to the control of water levels, its effect on the wetlands and that sort of thing. If it is the responsibility of the Department of National Development, perhaps the Minister could amplify what is in that report in the light of my question. I will leave it at that.
– The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), in replying a few moments ago, referred to representations that had been made for a television translator service for the west coast of South Australia. She said that she would obtain certain information. When she seeks that information will she also remind the Minister responsible that Mr Wallis, the honourable member for Grey, has made repeated representations over a number of years for a translator service on the west coast. He has presented many petitions signed by the people who live in that area. As yet he has received no definite promise that this television installation will be put there for the residents of the west coast, who live in a very isolated area. I ask the Minister to take that into consideration also when seeking that information.
-I hate to delay the Committee, especially as next week will add to our problems, but I must ask a couple of questions. I understand that the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development comes under group B. The question I raise concerns environmental impact statements. Senator Colston and I have raised several questions on this matter. The information that we are receiving seems to indicate that there are two environmental impact inquiries. One is being carried out by Queensland. We have to look very carefully at what the Queensland one means. It seems that the Iwasaki company itself has been required to present an environmental impact statement. It is rather peculiar that the company that stands to benefit from an approval to proceed is the one that is given the responsibility of producing an impact statement. If that is the case, one would have to view that statement with caution. It ought to be available for public scrutiny. An environmental impact statement is for public scrutiny and for public comment.
But I am more interested in what the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) said this morning. He told the Senate that an impact statement is being prepared by our own Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. The Minister indicated that that environmental impact statement is not likely to be available until sometime in late June. I want to be assured that that impact statement is made available for public comment by the various interested parties before the Commonwealth Government makes any decision to allow the exchange approvals to proceed. Surely it is necessary for the people in Queensland who are concerned about the progress of this concept to be aware what the Premier is saying at the present time. He has said that the impact statement that has been accepted by the Queensland Government is not the final decision that has to be made and that there are further decisions that have to be made.
I know of the difficulty in which the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) finds herself because this matter is really not within her area of responsibility. One could ask politely why she is at the table. It would be far better for us if the Minister responsible for this area were present. But there may be some good reason for the absence of that Minister. The Minister at the table may require some time to obtain that information. I can appreciate her difficulty. I accept that, as I have made the comments and as I consider them to be important, they will be treated with importance.
Since we are dealing also with the Department of the Treasury I ask that the Treasury make public before a decision is made its assessments whether Iwasaki should be provided with exchange facilities to bring substantial sums of money into this country. The Opposition has raised questions about the alienation of Australian land. Senator Carrick, who represents the Treasurer in this place, has undertaken to give us information. The Parliament will rise in seven days time. We need to be reassured that the Treasury will answer the questions which are coming from the Opposition. We want to know what will be the results of large scale development by Mr Iwasaki. No one would question the infusion of that capital into a tourist development on the central Queensland coast if it did not have some rather disquieting aspects. One such aspect is that it was proposed- I believe that Iwasaki may have moved away from those proposals- to close off some of the beaches in Queensland. I do not think that it is the case now but it was proposed to be the case, and under pressure the Queensland Government and Iwasaki seemed to have moved away from that.
I am concerned that not only has Mr Iwasaki purchased sufficient land upon which to build his tourist complex but also has he bought substantial tracts of land surrounding that complex. Far more land has been purchased by Mr iwasaki than is necessary for the tourist complex itself. That means that Mr Iwasaki, over a long period, stands to gain substantially from the development of surrounding land. One may say that he is putting the money in and he is entitled to the benefit which he may gain from an increase in the value of land which he has purchased on rather favourable conditions and under the patronage of the Queensland Premier.
The question now arises whether this land is likely to be alienated because of the advantage that people in other countries would have where the dollar or the yen is much stronger than the Australian dollar. Is that land likely to be alienated? Is it likely to be hawked across the world, for the benefit of those who have the strength of capital, to the disadvantage of Australians? The alienation of Australian land, therefore, is a matter which needs to be considered when this complex is being considered. What is the Australian Government’s attitude towards the alienation of land? What consequences will flow from this complex which is to be developed with such huge amounts of foreign capital?
- Senator Georges raised the matter of environmental impact statements for the Iwasaki project in Queensland. As we all know, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers, answered questions on this matter. I have just checked with him and he has no further information on the matter. Senator Georges also raised the matter of an environmental impact statement from the Federal Government. A study is being undertaken in accordance with the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. The Act contains requirements in regard to public comment and other matters. I can assure Senator Georges that the provisions of that Act will be applied to work undertaken in connection with the Iwasaki project. I make no comment with respect to the other impact statement prepared by the Queensland Government. I do assure the honourable senator that the study which is being undertaken by the Commonwealth Government is being undertaken under all the provisions of the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act .
The other matter Senator Georges raised related to the alienation of land and his concern about the additional land which surrounds the area of the project. I shall have this matter referred to the Minister concerned to see what assurances he is able to give. As for the honourable senator’s first question, which related to my being in attendance during the debate on these Senate Estimates Committee requirements, as Minister representing the Acting Minister for
Finance (Mr Howard) I am looking after the Appropriation Bills and the Supply Bills, although from time to time other Ministers are able to be with me. I hope that with the assistance of the officers I have in attendance from the Department of Finance, I will be able to supply the information required. If that is not so, we shall seek the required information, as I have undertaken to do with respect to some of the requests.
– I have a question which relates to the Department of the Treasury. Under Division 670.3.07 and amount of $625,000 is sought for expenditure for the purposes of section 6 of the Austraiian Rural Bank Act 1977. May I have some explanation of purpose for which that amount is sought?
– I understand that it is sought to meet requirements under the relevant Act relating to the subscription of shares in the Australian Rural Bank.
– On that same item, I ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle): How many directors will be employed by the Australian Rural Bank and what will their salaries be?
– It will be necessary for me to obtain that information. I shall see that Senator McLaren is advised.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $ 14,257,000.
Proposed expenditure, $55,500.
Proposed expenditure, $434,000.
Proposed expenditure, $22,00 1 ,700.
Proposed expenditure, $ 1,945,000.
Proposed expenditure, $204,500.
Proposed expenditure, $7,680,000.
Proposed expenditure, $347,000.
Proposed expenditure, $5,750,000.
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 ,235,000.
Proposed expenditure, $1,285,000.
Proposed expenditure, $5,300.
– Hopefully we will be able to deal with this group in the time which remains. Estimates Committee C was concerned in a dispute, as was Estimates Committee A. The dispute with which we were concerned was between two departments- the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Department of Finance. The dispute was about two figures. The first related to the assisted migration program and the second to the movements for disembarkation. The Committee was concerned that such disputes will occur from time to time. But we were particularly concerned that appropriations are made for these purposes under the Advance to the Minister for Finance. If we turn to the Parliamentary Handbook on Commonwealth Finance Affairs we find under the section relating to the Advance to the Treasurer, which is now the Advance to the Minister for Finance, that various appropriations are permitted. All of these appropriations are for recoupment to the Advance to the Minister for Finance. They appear in Appropriation Act (No. 2) and Supply Act (No. 1 ) and Supply Act (No. 2).
The only area in which there is no recoupment to the Advance to the Minister for Finance is stipulated very clearly to be for unforeseen and urgent expenditures which arise between the time of the preparation of Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) and the close of the financial year. Our concern is that these matters of dispute which were indicated to us in the explanations for the additional estimates are, and remain, a charge to the Advance to the Minister for Finance. We feel that this is not the appropriate area for such additional estimates to be listed. We feel that perhaps additional appropriation Bills should be set aside for disputes which have not been resolved before the Appropriation Bills go to the Commonwealth Government Printer. The Committee felt that they could be shown in an appropriation Bill (No. 5) and an appropriation Bill (No. 6). The Committee felt that perhaps the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) might suggest that in future these estimates for disputed amounts about which agreement has not been reached before the printing of the Appropriation Bills might be dealt with in additional appropriation Bills and not come under the Advance to the Minister for Finance. We feel that there is no place for such estimates in the Advance to the Minister for Finance.
– I have noted the comments of Senator Walters. I shall draw them to the attention of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) for him to determine whether additional appropriation Bills might be developed after the printing of the ones with which we are dealing at the moment or whether it is appropriate for the Advance to the Minister for Finance to be used for this purpose. I think that members of the Estimates Committees concerned have now reached an understanding that there is a date at which the Bills are printed, which date is prior to final decisions being made by the Government on the extent to which programs are to have financial support. Yesterday that seemed to me to be a matter which was not understood by members of the Estimates Committees. From the explanations which were given yesterday, I think it is now understood that there is a printing date and that there are decisions which are taken by the Government after that date. But I note Senator Walters’ suggestion that further appropriation Bills would, in the opinion of her Estimates Committee, be a more desirable practice than to use the Advance to the Minister for Finance for this purpose. I shall see that that suggestion is noted by the Minister for Finance.
– The Chairman of Estimates Committee C, Senator Walters, will recall that for a short time I attended the hearings of the Committee when it was dealing with appropriations for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Unfortunately, the hearings of the Committee on that Department adjourned on a Friday and, because of a commitment I had in a court in Brisbane, I was not able to attend the next meeting of the Committee. I gave notice that I would ask a series of questions concerning Applied Ecology Pty Ltd. The Estimates Committee was gracious enough to suggest that the sequence of the investigation should be broken to allow me to ask those questions. I said that that would not be fair to the
Committee. The questions I will be asking in the Committee of the Whole concern Applied Ecology. I do not know whether an officer of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is present.
-That makes the situation awkward.
– Do it next week.
-Perhaps I could ask the questions next week. I consider the questions concerning Applied Ecology to be about a very serious matter. The Committee will realise that Applied Ecology has been under debate in this place several times over the last five or six years. Applied Ecology commenced its operations during the term of the previous Liberal Government. It ran into difficulties during the term of the Labor Government. In my view it still continues to be a problem from which the Government does not seem to be able to escape. It seems that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is persisting with the enterprises of Applied Ecology when they should have been diversified. I do not know how to describe the scheme involved. Every time I think of it I think the word that describes it well is outrageous. It should be called the turtle farms in Torres Strait scheme. I have asked a series of questions. I have asked whether the environmetal impact statement which was demanded of Applied Ecology has been prepared? If the Committee is in some difficulty about time perhaps I should seek leave to continue my remarks. I most certainly will not be able to ask all the questions I need to ask in the short time which is available. Perhaps the Committee should report progress? I leave it to the Minister for Social Security to suggest the procedure I should follow.
– I understand that Senator Georges asked some questions during the hearing of Estimates Committee C, that those questions have been answered and that the honourable senator gave an indication that further questions were to be raised during the Committee of the Whole. We are waiting for a message to come forward from the other place. If Senator Georges would like to continue with his questions we could have them listed and work could be prepared on them. Then he could seek leave at the end of the sitting today to continue his remarks. Perhaps he would like to start to enumerate his questions and to continue with them until the message is received.
– Will we not be transgressing the Standing Orders? I believe that at 4.30 p.m. the question will be put in relation to the adjournment and that that question cannot be debated. If there has been a change, I can proceed. But if there has not been a change, I had better sit down.
– I explain to Senator Georges that it may be necessary to negative the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. In a matter of minutes a message will come from the other place in relation to the Bill which we considered today. I hope that by allowing the honourable senator to talk for a moment or so, during which time he can enumerate his questions, the problem will be solved.
-I want to know whether the continuing expenditure on Applied Ecology Pty Ltd has been justified. Has the Department of Aboriginal Affairs made any sort of assessments in this regard? If it has not, why not? A further question I ask is: Who is Chairman of Applied Ecology? If it is a Mr L. Smart, why is he still Chairman? Has the Department considered the need for a change? Who are the personnel of Applied Ecology? I want to know exactly what turnover there has been in the staff of Applied Ecology- I am talking about administrative staff- over the last two years.
– Order! It being 4.30 p.m., under Sessional Orders I put the question:
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
-Before I proceed any further perhaps I should ask, lest I am under a misunderstanding, whether the questions which I asked in a general fashion before the Estimates Committee were answered in any way? I do not think they could have been, otherwise the answers would have been brought to my attention.
– I have been given to understand by Senator Walters that the questions raised during the hearings of Estimates Committee C were answered. I am not able to assure the honourable senator that all his questions were answered. Before starting on the Estimates committee work I asked whether there were any unanswered questions and I was assured that the Committees had received answers or had been advised that answers could not be obtained at that stage because of complications or work that needed to be done on them. I recall Senator Georges saying that he wished to raise the matter of Applied Ecology and I recall that he was concerned about the annual report and things of that kind. I am not able to state whether Senator Georges’ questions were answered. If the answers have not been drawn to the attention of the honourable senator, I am happy for the questions to be listed so that we can check and provide the information which the honourable senator requires. I leave the matter at that so that the honourable senator can continue.
– The Minister for Social Security has reminded me about the annual report. She will recall that we were surprised that the presentation of the annual report should be so late. It did not in any depth reflect the expenditure of well over $100m of the taxpayers’ money. The Minister will also recall that I expressed concernthe Committee agreed with me- that certain enterprises, such as Applied Ecology Pty Ltd, received no coverage in the annual report. The response was that Applied Ecology was a separate enterprise. Then, after questioning, we found that the shareholder of Applied Ecology was still the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
The question which is still very much in my mind is: Why should Applied Ecology escape the close scrutiny of the Estimates Committee when essentially it is still, in essence, part of the Department. We also expressed concern about ensuring that a number of other enterprises, such as Aboriginal Hostels Ltd, which are funded by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs give detailed reports to the Parliament so that those reports can come under close scrutiny. In relation to Applied Ecology, it is my intention later this year during the Estimates Committee’s hearings to ask for a complete accounting to be made of Applied Ecology and for the results which have been achieved be given to the Committee in August or September of this year. It is necessary for the Parliament to impress upon the Department of Aboriginal Affairs that it is not sufficient to fund useless organisations with large sums of money merely to distribute the amount which is allocated to the Department. It is not satisfactory to have an enterprise which, from my quick calculation, must have cost the taxpayers some $5m without any apparent result. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; progress reported.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with a message intimating that it had made the amendment requested by the Senate to this Bill.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a third time.
Hansard’ Report Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– It is recorded at page 2268 of yesterday’s Hansard that I said during my remarks on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1977-78:
In South Australia the Liberal Government does its best to sit down in consultation with the trade union movement.
The word ‘Liberal’ is not correct. What should be recorded is that in South Australia the Labor Government does its best to sit down in consultation with the trade union movement.
– I shall have that correction made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.37 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 2 March 1978:
Which Commonwealth Employment Offices in New South Wales are at present deprived of the Commonwealth motor vehicle transport necessary to adequately service the areas for which they are responsible.
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No CES office in New South Wales is currently unable to adequately service the area for which it is responsible because of the unavailability of motor vehicle transport.
Not all offices have full-time use of a Commonwealth vehicle but CES officers are able to use their private vehicles on official business and be reimbursed at a specified rate.
As funds become available more Commonwealth vehicles are being allocated to CES offices, with priority being given to country offices, particularly those with the larger geographic areas and restricted alternative transport.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Since that time the Minister for Special Trade Representations has been actively following up these proposals and has already made two visits to the EC for discussions with Member States of the EC. He has also negotiated an arrangement with the Commission of the European Community in respect of Australia’s steel exports to the Community for 1978.
In addition, the Minister has had discussions with representatives of the Governments of the USA and Canada on substantive bilateral and multilateral trade issues of concern to Australia.
The Minister will continue to pursue trade relations matters of significance for both Australia and the international trading community.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 4 April 1978:
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
Service that approximately IS former sandmining employees are registered as unemployed at that office, although it is noted that all these registrants have held other positions since working as sandminers. The Gympie office of the Commonwealth Employment Service advises that only 2 former sandmining employees are registered as unemployed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 4 April 1978:
Has there ever been an agency of the Commonwealth Employment Service at Winton, Queensland; if so, for what period did it operate.
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes there was an agency of the Commonwealth Employment Service at Winton, Queensland, from 29 September 1952 to 30 April 1973.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:
Has the Government considered the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, in its report on Australia and the Refugee Problem, that: (a) an Australian refugee policy council be established to assist the Government in the formulation of an Australian policy on all aspects of refugee resettlement; and ( b ) a standing interdepartmental committee on refugees be established.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Senate Committee was concerned to ensure that the policy and co-ordinating bodies consulted and participated with the voluntary and other community groups involved in the reception and resettlement of refugees. The present
Standing Committee on Refugees meets at least twice yearly with representatives of these bodies and in addition liaises as necessary with other State and Commonwealth Government departments as the occasion requires.
Other of the Senate Committee’s recommendations dealing with follow-up welfare work, English language training, welfare benefits, family reunion, etc., are being carried out under the supervision of the Standing Committee, and the Determination of Refugees Status Committee.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 13 April 1978:
– The Acting Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Government has also been sponsoring twelve South East Asian Colombo Plan students each year at the Australian National University to undertake a specially arranged Vh year Master’s degree course in demography which is oriented towards the needs of developing countries.
Family Planning Projects in Korea, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bolivia and Yemen are also being funded on a ‘matching grant’ basis by the Australian Government and Non-Government Organisations.
United Nations Fund for Population Activities 1 977-78, $578,000.
International Planned Parenthood Federation 1977-78, $180,000.
International Union for the Scientific Study of Population 1977-78, $25,000.
Australian Bilateral Assistance
IDA Population Project, Thailand (estimated project cost $US65m), $2.6m over 2 years.
IDA Population Project, Bangladesh (estimated project cost $US45.7m), $2m over 4 years commencing 1 974-75.
Population project, Pakistan 1977-78, $50,000 (final payment).
Matching Grants ‘ to Non-Government Organisations
Australian Catholic Relief, Chang Nim Dong Community Health Centre, Korea, $2,000.
Community Aid Abroad, DGI (Council of Churches Indonesia), Family Planning Program, $5,500.
For Those Who Have Less, Bhola Island Family Planning Program, Bangladesh, $ 10,000, Extension: $7,000.
Save the Children Fund, Model Mother/Child Health Training Centre, Afghanistan,$10,000.
Save the Children Fund, Family Planning Program, Nepal, $25,000.
Save the Children Fund, Family Planning Program, Yemen Arab Republic, $7,000.
Save the Children Fund, Mobile Clinic, Bolivia, $11,000. (Total $77,500).
Colombo Plan Students- ANU Master’s Degree course in Demography $2 80,000 per year at present rates.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 June 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780602_senate_31_s77/>.