31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m, and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) leaves Australia today to attend the sixty-fourth session of the International Labour Organisation Conference in Geneva and to have discussions elsewhere in Europe and the United States. He is expected to return on 28 June. During his absence, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) will act as Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. He will also represent the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) in the House of Representatives. I also inform the Senate that Senator Withers is in Brisbane again today at the McGregor Royal Commission. I will look after his interests here today.
-On behalf of Senator Chaney I present the following petition from 10 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 1975, 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 recognizes the period of service only and embraces also full time 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 Citizen Forces who willingly and cheerfully give 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 Citizen Air Force.
Petition received an read.
– I present the following petition from 124 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Federal Government recognise Land Rights in the States, such as Queensland in a similar manner to the recognition of Land Rights in the Northern Territory, that is enact an Aboriginal Land Rights Act for Queensland;
That the Federal Government support the abolition of the Aborigines Act (Queensland) 1 97 1 , and the Torres Strait Islanders Act (Queensland) 1971 and take such action as they deem necessary to ensure that the provisions of the Queensland Discriminating Laws Act, 1975 and the Racial Discrimination Act, 1975 be enforced in so far as they relate to Aborigines and Islanders;
That the Federal Government assume responsibility for Aboriginal Affairs under the powers given it by the Referendum 1967. The State Department of Aboriginal and Island Administration (Queensland) should be abolished and Aboriginal and Island reserves should have the choice to be self-governed with local government status.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 22 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the metric system and request the Government to restore the imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned members and ex members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Army Reserve (CMF) and the RAAF Citizens Air Force. by Senator Thomas, Senator Sim and Senator Drake-Brockman.
– Does the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs recall a question which I asked on 27 April 1976 in which I sought a guarantee that total payments to the States- I stress the word ‘total’- in the first three years of the present Government would increase in constant value dollars by the same amount as applied during the 3 years of Labor Government, that amount being 58 per cent? I ask whether he recalls saying in reply to my question: . . my answer is an unqualified yes. The arrangements under federalism will be more generous for the States.
Does he still stand by that statement?
-Senator Walsh and Senator Wriedt have referred to this matter once or twice in recent days. I shall get a detailed analysis of what has happened both under the Australian Labor Party Government and under this Government. I shall let the honourable senator have the analysis in due course.
-I ask the Minister for Education a supplementary question. Will he undertake to deliver that answer before the Senate rises for the winter recess?
– It is probably not possible to do that. If I can, I will. It is now Wednesday. One hopes that, even though we made slower progress yesterday than we might have, the Senate will rise before midnight on Friday.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to a report that the Corporation of Insurance Brokers of Australia has compiled a list of about 50 small insurance companies which it considers are at risk, and also to the reported statement of the Corporation’s South Australian Chairman, a Mr Bruce Brooks, that some of those companies are in trouble now and that many have got to go either this year or next year. I ask the Minister: In view of the fact that small policy holders are always the people worst hit by any collapse, will the Treasurer direct the Insurance Commissioner to obtain a copy of the list of companies considered to be at risk by the Corporation of Insurance Brokers and satisfy himself that they at present fulfil all the provisions of the Insurance Act? If they do satisfy those provisions, will the Treasurer confer with the Corporation about the possible need to amend the Act or to require some form of indemnity reinsurance by some of those companies?
- Senator Lewis raises what on the face of it is an important question. I shall bring it to the attention of the Treasurer immediately and ask him to give it prompt consideration.
– I ask the Attorney-General: Was he present at any gathering of Ministers between January and 2 1 April when the Minister for Administrative Services told the Ministers that he had contacted Mr Pearson, the Australian Chief Electoral Officer, and mentioned to Mr Pearson a proposed change of names for electorates in Queensland?
-Senator Douglas McClelland asked me a question in relation to this subject last week and I said that Mr Donald Cameron ‘s allegations were referred to Mr Byers and to me. We received a certain amount of evidence and information between 10 April and 23 April, which was the last meeting that occurred. The Royal Commission was set up on 24 April. At no meeting at which I was present between those dates was that particular question discussed.
– I asked about meetings before April.
– I am referring to the period from the 10th to the 23rd. The subject of Senator Withers’ statements was not discussed. Senator Douglas McClelland now asks a question that takes the matter up to 23 April. During the period between 10 and 23 April there were discussions in relation to this whole question that gave rise to the Royal Commission. I am not prepared to give any information or to make any statement at all as to what discussions took place between Ministers because I regard that as part and parcel of confidentiality of Cabinet meetings and meetings between Ministers.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, refers to the second report of the Bailey task force which deals with various welfare and community services and which was tabled recently. I mention that the report stated that these services in the Territories- I refer particularly to the Australian Capital Territory- are complex and confusing and lack machinery for coordination. The Bailey task force recommended a thorough inquiry at an early date in the following terms:
The object of the review would be to recommend ways of providing consultative mechanisms, and of simplifying, coordinating and rationalising the development of policy and the activities of administration and service delivery in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
Can the Minister say what action is proposed by the Federal Government on this recommendation?
– I have some information although it may not be full enough to meet Senator Knight’s question. The information arises out of the tabling of the report by the Acting Prime Minister on 1 June. I understand that the Government will be suggesting to the Legislative Assembly in each Territory that it consider the recommendation which calls for a review of health, welfare and community development programs in the context of moves towards selfgovernment and that the Government has offered assistance to the assemblies for any follow up of that recommendation. If Senator Knight should require further information I shall be happy to get it for him.
-Is the Attorney-General now aware that the Prime Minister was told by
Senator Withers on 1 7 January of his action in telephoning Mr Pearson in relation to the change of the name of the seat from Gold Coast to McPherson? Is it a fact that the AttorneyGeneral first became aware of Senator Withers’ action in telephoning Mr Pearson on this name change only after the Attorney-General’s report was tabled in Parliament? Was this information passed on to the Attorney-General by the Prime Minister, who evidently had the information on 1 7 January, at any stage earlier than the tabling of the Attorney-General ‘s report in Parliament?
– I am aware that certain evidence in relation to the question that Senator Button has asked has been given at the Royal Commission. I do not believe that I or the Senate should be drawing any conclusion in relation to evidence that has been given before the Royal Commission. I hope that I have made it quite clear that I became aware of the question of Senator Withers’ conversation with Mr Pearson between the period 10 April and 23 April. The manner in which I became aware of that has also been the subject of some evidence which has been given before the Royal Commission. I do not think I should say anything here which may impinge in any way on what has been said in evidence to the Royal Commission before any decision is given.
– May I raise a point of order arising out of Senator Durack ‘s answer?
– The honourable senator may raise a point of order.
- Mr President, my point of order is directed to you and it arises not only out of what Senator Durack has just said but also out of previous rulings which you have given. May senators quote in this chamber, directly and verbatim, from the transcript of evidence of the Robinson Royal Commission?
– In reply to the honourable senator I must say no. 1 have ruled that any matter, any evidence which is given before the Royal Commission must not be canvassed in this chamber. That 1 abide by.
– Without canvassing your ruling, I seek a further point of clarification. Does your ruling put this chamber in the position of being unable to quote material which is freely quoted in the Press? Do you regard this as a satisfactory position for the Senate to be in in terms of its relevance to public affairs compared with that of the Press?
– I have stated previously that sub judice matters such as this are matters of very fine determination. Nothing must be done that could possibly prejudice a fair hearing at a Royal Commission, a judicial inquiry or any other such place.
– If that is the case, I raise a further point of order, Mr President. Yesterday I raised a matter of privilege; now I raise a point of order. If we are not able to quote from the transcript of evidence or any Press reports of the evidence of the Royal Commission, do you not deem it necessary that the Leader of the Government in the Senate should be in his place in the chamber and not before the Royal Commission so that he can answer the questions that we seek to ask?
– There is no point of order. In matters of privilege it is not for me as the Presiding Officer to rule. Within the forms of the Senate, honourable senators can bring forward by way of a motion any matter which they regard as coming within the area of privilege.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Education. It will be recalled during the recent debate on supplementary grants to education Labor speakers claimed that when their Party was in government it did not reduce capital spending on schools. Will the Minister supply the facts of this matter to the Senate?
– Because of the recent debate and the recent statements by the Australian Labor Party I looked up the various statements, and there are many. Perhaps the most pertinent one is a statement by the Chairman of the Schools Commission on 24 August 1975 in which he referred to the ‘severe limitations on capital expenditure ‘ arising out of the 1 975 Budget. He went on to say:
As far as capital works are concerned, the government decision to restrict finance will result in severe difficulties since more than 40 per cent of government school works programs in the States are financed from Australian Government funds. Many essential projects will have to be postponed. Non-government schools will also be affected: few capital projects additional to those already under construction will be funded.
A number of similar statements are on record. There is clear evidence both in the Press and by statement that what I said was abundantly correct.
-Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory outline to the Senate the present situation regarding the Willeroo and Dry Creek leases in the Northern Territory? The Minister will recall that the leases were to be purchased by the Executive of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Will the Minister advise specifically: Firstly, whether the Executive has the authority to raise a loan at this time; secondly, whether feasibility studies have been carried out in respect of Willeroo; and thirdly, whether the project is in some difficulty with outstanding debts- one of the order of $65, 000?
– I recall that this matter has been considered over a number of years by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly Executive. On my last visit to the Northern Territory last year there was discussion about the taking over of several properties. I am unable accurately to give the present situation relating to the properties. I think it would be appropriate if I attempt to get the Minister for the Northern Territory to give me a statement which 1 shall deliver after Question Time tomorrow.
– I ask the Minister for Science: Apart from seismic activity in the Adelaide and Kalgoorlie regions, is there any other region of Australia affected by seismic activity? If so, where has it been recorded? Is there a dormant fault in the Sydney region?
-The Senate may recall that a statement relating to the Joint Geological Geophysical Station- JGGS- at Alice Springs was put down earlier this year. Some of the information that will come from that station now that it is a domestic facility will be quite interesting. The honourable senator will know that the Bureau of Mineral Resources is the main authority for the Commonwealth in relation to seismic activity.
I understand that earthquakes have been recorded in most parts of Australia, but that activity is confined roughly to three regions: Firstly, a diffuse region in the south-east, with a clustering in two or three ill-defined areas; secondly, a central zone extending from south of Adelaide northwards through the Simpson Desert; and, thirdly, a western region comprising a fairly welldefined south-west zone about 100 kilometres east of Perth and a more widespread area in the north-west. The earthquake activity is recorded by networks of seismographic stations operated by the Bureau of Mineral Resources, the Australian National University and the universities of Adelaide, Queensland and Tasmania. As I have mentioned, the Bureau of Mineral Resources provides a national data collation and analysis centre using the data collected from all these agencies, including the latest one I have mentioned to the Senate. These data have been analysed by BMR officers and by members of the National Committee on Earthquake Engineering to produce a map showing earthquake risk in Australia.
The honourable senator mentioned Sydney. 1 am advised that Sydney lies in the diffusely active south-eastern region where the earthquakes have not been as large as those in the central and south-western zones. The available data and the numbers of seismographs near Sydney preclude the identification of specific areas which may be sites of future earthquakes- for example, the dormant faults which the honourable senator mentioned. If there is further information that the honourable senator requires, I shall try to get it from the Minister for National Development.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General will remember that earlier in the sessional period I asked him whether he had any information regarding reports which I had received that overseas telephone calls and cables were being intercepted by some arm of the Government for the purpose of obtaining information or evidence regarding currency speculation. Is the AttorneyGeneral able, as I understand he is, to give an answer to this question?
– Following the question Senator Wheeldon asked me on 6 April, I had inquiries made within my Department, and I asked my Department to make further inquiries. I certainly had no knowledge of the matter raised by Senator Wheeldon, nor had my Department. From inquiries which I asked my Department to make, it has not been able to establish that any activities of the nature described by Senator Wheeldon have in fact occurred.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, by saying that the Minister may remember that on a previous occasion I asked whether the Government would request the State governments to require by law that the percentage of alcohol in alcoholic drinks be put on the label. I ask the Minister whether she has any up-to-date knowledge of the present situation in this matter as many people who choose to drink alcoholic drinks would like to know the strength of the drink they are consuming. I realise full well that if the percentage of alcohol were to be put on the label, some might choose a very strong drink instead of a very weak one but I still think there would be an advantage.
– I am unable to give any information to Senator Townley on the matter he has raised. I shall refer it to the Minister for Health to see whether there has been any discussion with State governments and if so whether there has been any outcome of those discussions. I shall see that Senator Townley is advised if any decisions have been made with regard to the labelling of drinks with their alcoholic contents.
– The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs will recall a question I asked on 2 June concerning comments by Professor Russell Mathews on the Government’s new federalism policy. I ask whether the Minister recalls saying:
Professor 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.
Does the Minister agree with that statement of Professor Mathews? Is he saying that for the federalism policy to be successful it is necessary that it be fully implemented? What does full implementation mean?
– The question and answer referred to followed an article in, I think, the Canberra Times of about the date mentioned. The article purported to be a comment upon an annual report, I think, from the research centre which is supervised by Professor Russell Mathews. I have since that time obtained a draft of the full report and I am in process of perusing it. So what I am about to say must still relate only to what I have seen in the Press. From my recollection, Professor Russell Mathews indicated that the States had wanted the benefits of federalism without the responsibilities. I believe he saw the responsibilities falling on the States as including financial responsibility for their actions. He pointed out that under federalism they were able to make a range of tax cuts. Of course, the Government sees that as a major benefit. Nevertheless, he no doubt had in his mind that the States would want to cut taxes while seeking to expand policies and to demand money from the Federal Government. As I understand it, what he was saying was that if there is to be proper federalism the State governments should be responsible not only for the initiation of policies but also for the financing of those policies. As I have frequently said in the Senate, over the years all State governments have had a huge armoury of taxes and charges of which they have availed themselves. Of course, during the term of the disastrous Whitlam Government they were availed of so successfully that those taxes and charges were forced up to the extent of being doubled or trebled.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question because Senator Carrick has deliberately not answered the question I put to him. I asked: What does the Government mean by full implementation of new federalism? He knows specifically the point to which I am referring. Does that include legislation to implement stage II of the income tax arrangements with the States? That is the question to which I seek an answer.
– It was quite inadvertent that I did not understand that. As I understand it the question is: What does the Government mean by full implementation? Yes, it certainly does mean the implementation of stage II, amongst many other things.
– As a necessary part of it?
– No. Let me make it perfectly clear. Stage II gives any State an additional right either to grant tax abatement or to impose a tax surcharge. Today the States have a massive opportunity to impose taxes or to reduce taxes if they so desire. What stage II does is to allow the States to do what they have always asked for, and that is to be able to vary the volume of personal income tax that comes to them. The important thing is that they can vary that volume downwards. Just as the Queensland Government became a pacesetter in terms of estate dutymuch to the annoyance of the Australian Labor Party- by abolishing it, so the States can by pacesetting in lowering taxes attract a great deal of extra activity to their cause.
-My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. Have events as miraculous as those which befell Saul on the road to Damascus occurred recently in New South Wales? Have the scales in fact fallen from the eyes of the Labor Premier of that State? Can the Minister outline the circumstances of Mr Wran’s conversion to a new and more rational view of the Australian economy?
– If my recollection of the Bible is correct, Saul was both blind and sinful until he saw the light. I fully understand the reference by Senator Baume because it appears now that Mr Wran is seeing the light. He has, for example, suddenly decided that free enterprise is a good thing. He has suddenly discovered that four out of five people in Australia are employed by free enterprise. He has suddenly discovered, despite the Federal Opposition, that foreign investment is a good thing and not a harmful thing. He has in fact paid a massive tribute to the Fraser Government over its success in lowering the rate of inflation and in lowering interest rates. He has quite appropriately condemned the Whitlam Government in the wonderful words ‘a helter-skelter Government’. This is what happens when the scales fall from Saul ‘s eyes and he sees the light.
In the course of this glorious conversion Mr Wran has noted that he has been able, under this wicked federalism condemned by honourable senators opposite, to lower taxes over the last couple of years. Despite all the attempts of Senator Wriedt and members of the Australian Labor Party to say that the States are starved of funds, Mr Wran has suddenly discovered that he can find $50m more for freeways. Freeways are a conversion on the road to Damascus, I am bound to say, because Mr Wran was opposed to them. It has often been said that the knowledge that one will be hanged tomorrow concentrates the mind significantly. The knowledge that there is an election ahead in New South Wales has, in fact, concentrated the truth for once upon the State Labor Government and there has been, I hope permanently, a seeing of the light.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, follows the answer he has just given in which he claimed that New South Wales and other States were doing better under his Government’s policy. This afternoon Senator Walsh asked him a question which he well recalls. He also well recalls an answer which he gave two years ago in which he claimed that State finances would be better off under this Government than they were under the three year term of the Labor Government. Is the Minister serious when he says that he cannot now give an answer to Senator Walsh’s question? Is he not always purporting in this chamber to reiterate that the States are better off under this Government and that, in fact, they have received more generous funds? In order to clarify the situation, will the Minister also make sure that when he gives an answer in this chamber and when he finds that the States are receiving less moneys than they received under the Labor Government he tells us the amount that is required under the forthcoming Budget to bring the amount up to the same real terms as were given under the three years of the Labor Government?
– I did not say that I could not give an answer to that question at all. I will answer the question that has just been asked of me. I told Senator Walsh that I would get a detailed answer to his question and give it to him. That is slightly different. The answer to the question is demonstrable. First of all, Mr Wran has given the facts himself. The Whitlam Labor Government, during its three year term of office, almost trebled personal income tax, doubled sales tax, doubled customs duty, doubled excise duty, forced all the States to put up their taxes and charges, forced all the States to go into deficit and forced local government to put up its rates by something like 30 per cent. Of course, that is the record upon which the helter-skelter ex-government- as the Australian Labor Party Government was described by Mr Wranstands. By contrast, in our time the Fraser Government has brought to all the States a capacity at least to balance their Budgets often into surplus and to cut taxes massively while expanding policies. They have had the luxury- which they never enjoyed under the Whitlam Governmentof deciding whether to increase expenditure or to give money back to the public. Under what Mr Wran has called the Whitlam helterskelter government, New South Wales was not able to expand. It had to contract and to increase taxes. Demonstrably, the States are better off today than they were under Mr Whitlam, and that demonstration has been given by Mr Wran.
– My question to the Minister for Social Security concerns the future role of the Good Neighbour movement. I ask whether the Government intends to accept the recommendations of the Galbally inquiry, which were so welcomed by the President of the Good Neighbour Council of New South Wales. If so, who will assume responsibility for the home tutor scheme, through which in the past the
Good Neighbour movement has provided thousands of tutors to instruct migrants in Englishmainly women who have been isolated in the home by a language barrier.
– The question of the future of the Good Neighbour Council has been raised by the recommendations of the Galbally report. The Minister for Immigration has already announced that the Government has accepted those recommendations, in particular that which proposes that Government support for Good Neighbour Councils be phased out over a 2-year period. This will be replaced by new arrangements which expand the opportunity for community involvement in the development and management of migrant assistance programs.
With regard to the home tutor scheme, I understand that in the major States, New South Wales and Victoria, the reponsibility is already with the adult migrant education authorities and the Good Neighbour Council. In other States the scheme operates jointly and involves both the adult education authority and the Good Neighbour Council. It is expected that there will be, as at present, continuing co-operation amongst interested parties, but that the present pattern for the home tutor scheme in New South Wales and Victoria will progressively become the pattern in other States. As I mentioned earlier, the Good Neighbour Council activities will be phased out over a 2-year period. Care will be taken that services which have been provided by that organisation will be absorbed in other arrangements that are being made.
-I preface my question to the Minister for Education by reminding him of a letter he wrote to me on 26 April relating to the Adelaide Aboriginal Community College. In that letter the Minister indicated his support for the initiatives taken in Aboriginal education by that College and noted the funding problems faced by it. He undertook to seek advice from the Tertiary Education Commission and his colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs with regard to those problems. Can the Minister give some indication of the progress of the consultations he has had with the TEC and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs with regard to the provision of long-term funding for the College?
– I am aware of Senator Haines ‘ interest in this matter. Indeed, only yesterday I inquired once again as to the progress that had been made in the matter. I have not the facts before me at the moment but will seek to give the honourable senator an answer within the next 24 hours.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health by referring to that Minister’s announcement of 24 May that the Government had decided to abolish bulk billing for all medical patients with the exception of pensioners. Can the Minister assure the Senate that non-pensioner, but largely income bereft patients will not suffer as a result of the abandonment of bulk billing? Can the Minister inform the Senate what effect this decision will have on community health centres and public medical institutions, the majority of which have previously relied on bulk billing? Can the Minister assure the Senate that medical care for low-income non-pensioners will be kept at a high standard and provided at a relatively low cost?
– The honourable senator has asked several questions and, by way of a general answer, I can assure him that the problems he has raised are known to the Minister for Health and are being investigated with a view to ensuring that minimum inconvenience is caused to the patients involved, that is the patients in the low or bereft income group, as he termed it. In the investigation which is being undertaken particular attention is being paid to the possible streamlining of the long-standing arrangements for ‘pay doctor’ cheques which are drawn in the name of a doctor but sent to the patient in cases where the patient has not paid the account at the time of claiming. I understand that the Minister has received representations to the effect that some community health centres, which have relied on the services of private medical practitioners who have been bulk billing for medical benefits, may be inconvenienced by the proposal that bulk billing be generally discontinued. Honourable senators may be assured that this matter is receiving the close attention of the Minister for Health and that the needs of persons receiving medical services from community health centres are being taken into account in the review of administrative arrangements that 1 have outlined.
The investigation is intended to ensure that the abandonment of bulk billing will have no adverse effect on the high standard of medical care provided to low income earners. The abolition of bulk billing has the advantage that the patient will at least have an opportunity of seeing the cost of the service rendered to him by his doctor. It will be realised that under the previous bulk billing arrangements that was not always the case. The new arrangements are intended to help overcome this deficiency. The Minister for Health has decided that to avoid hardship to low income families, Aboriginal and ethnic families, Aboriginal medical services and community health centres, bulk billing will remain until satisfactory alternative administrative arrangements are made to replace bulk billing for all but pensioner patients and their dependants. I am sure that my answer is a satisfactory response to the matters raised by the honourable senator.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. Recently he considered it important to enlarge the terms of reference of the Royal Commission inquiring into the electoral redistribution. If he knew between 10 April and 23 April of Senator Withers’ involvement, why did he not broaden the Commission’s terms of reference then? Are we to understand that the Attorney-General has allowed himself to become enmeshed in the errors of others?
– The question asked by Senator Georges relates substantially to matters for consideration within the Government. I have said already that I am not prepared to discuss such matters. If the question did not relate to those matters, it referred to evidence given before the Royal Commission, and I am not prepared to answer any question relating to that.
– I ask a supplementary question. The Attorney-General did not answer specifically the question: Is he allowing himself to become enmeshed in the errors of other members of the Government?
– I have nothing to add to the answer I have already given.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Yesterday I asked him a question seeking clarification of the term ‘Aboriginal’. The reply was that an Aboriginal is a person of Aboriginal descent who identifies himself as an Aboriginal and is accepted as such by the community with which he is associated. How does the Department of Aboriginal Affairs determine a person’s association in a community? Under what terms does it determine a person’s classification as an Aboriginal? Is it not within the knowledge of the Minister that many persons of part Indian or negro descent and people who are three-quarters or seven-eighths white are parading as Aborigines? Does this not indicate that many people are sponging on the special situation which should have particular application to the full-blood Aboriginal? Is the Minister aware that a high-ranking official in the Liberal Party of north Queensland informed me of the case of a man whose skin was whiter than his who talked about building -
– I take a point of order. The honourable senator is using Question Time to make a statement. If he wants to make statements such as that he ought to join the National Front as soon as possible. He would then have a forum for such ridiculous remarks.
- Senator Wood will ask his question directly and precisely.
– To put it briefly, this chap, whose skin was whiter than that of the businessman and Liberal Party officer, stated after discussion about the building of a motel that he could get money on loan from the Commonwealth Government because he was an Aboriginal. He later advised that the Government was prepared to give him up to $ 1 m for a motel. Does this not indicate that the present classification of an Aboriginal is pure nonsense? Basically, it appears that anybody who claims to be an Aboriginal is an Aboriginal. Admittedly, the incident of which I spoke occurred during the Whitlam Government’s regime, but the situation is still the same.
– When this matter was raised by Senator Wood yesterday I said that the definition of an Aboriginal is a person of Aboriginal descent who identifies as an Aboriginal and is accepted as such by the community with which he is associated. That is the definition of an Aboriginal which is accepted in Australia. This is understood by those departments which need to deal with Aborigines so that they have access to the programs and benefits that are arranged for Aboriginal people. My Department has some ways of identifying Aborigines in regard to some of the claims which are made. This is an understanding within the Department. It is accepted as a practical way of dealing with the problem. I think Senator Georges and others would agree that we have had many discussions in Estimates committees with regard to the availability of funds for Aboriginal enterprises, some of which have been successful at times and others of which have had difficulties at times.
To suggest that millions of dollars or sums of Sim arc being handed over for enterprises to people who claim that they are Aborigines overlooks the guidelines of all the programs that exist to assist Aborigines. Housing associations and other groups of people use special programs that have been devised for assistance to Aborigines. I believe that the definition of an Aboriginal which I have given and which is the understanding in this country ensures that these programs are directed towards the people who are able to benefit from them.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. It follows the question asked by Senator Georges concerning the current Royal Commission which is inquiring into the activities of certain Ministers. Was the AttorneyGeneral involved in the drafting of the terms of reference announced by the Prime Minister on 24 April this year? Was the Attorney-General satisfied with the terms of reference which were eventually provided?
– Obviously, the drafting of the terms of reference was a matter with which I was concerned. Officers of my Department were also concerned. I think that is quite obvious. Again, I am not prepared to answer any questions which are designed to elicit conversations and discussions that have taken place between Ministers of the Government.
– I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister agree that the drafting of the terms of reference was partly his responsibility as a Minister of this Government and that, therefore, he is obliged to answer the question which I asked? Was he satisfied with those terms of reference?
– I am not obliged to answer questions of that sort. Under our system of Cabinet responsibility Ministers take responsibility for the decisions that have been made. I take full responsibility for the decision to set up the Royal Commission and the terms under which it was set up. I might add that it was under those terms of reference that Senator Withers gave his evidence, as did Mr Pearson, which is now the subject of a good deal of interest in this chamber.
– He gave his evidence before you widened the terms of reference.
– He gave evidence under the original terms of reference.
-I ask the Minister for Science whether he is aware of the allegation that appeared in the Adelaide Press that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation did not consult the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in the planning stages of the Australian National Animal Health Laboratory. Can the Minister say whether this allegation is true? Is the Minister able to assure the Senate that in all future planning programs the Government will consult major government laboratories?
-The honourable senator has asked a question relating to one of this Government’s most important thrusts in the alleviation of the problems of exotic disease in livestock in Australia. The honourable senator will know that the Government -
– It was initiated by the Whitlam Government. What are you talking about?
– We hear comment from that crazy fowl farmer on the other side and it makes one wonder. The fact is that the Whitlam Government was not able to get this project off the ground. It is a fact that the Fraser-Anthony Government has got the project off the ground and it is going ahead at the present time. Opposition senators are highly excited because when they were in office they were unable to secure the funds to commence this most important primary industry project. We can tell from the interjections how annoyed Senator McLaren is because his Party was not able to start the project when it was in office, and I know how he felt. He felt terribly annoyed and he is still annoyed. The question has been raised by Senator Jessop, who is aware of the great importance of this project. The Laboratory will help all areas of industry, including the poultry industry, the cattle industry and many other areas of industry. The Australian National Animal Health Laboratory is an important development. An allegation has appeared in one of” the Adelaide newspapers. I would have expected Opposition supporters to pick up this point, but apparently they have not. It has taken an alert senator like Senator Jessop to notice it. The CSIRO has a responsibility in the management of the Laboratory. It has been involved in the submissions to the Government on the development of this Laboratory, which ultimately will cost approximately $80m. Of course, many departments, including the Department of Primary Industry, have been involved. Senator Jessop questions whether the
Department of Health, because it has some responsibility for the operations of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, was consulted on this project. I am advised that the development of the Animal Health Laboratory has been discussed over a period of eight years. It was suggested many years ago that it would be necessary for Australia to have such a laboratory. My understanding is that over the years the CSIRO has had discussions around Australia and that Dr Alan Pierce, who is an executive member of the CSIRO, had a number of conversations with Dr Lane when Dr Lane was Director of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. It is difficult to imagine the allegation that is made in the newspaper being correct. It is of concern that the allegation was made without any attempt to elicit the facts from the CSIRO.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister or to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. The Minister for Education may recall that continual questions have been asked about the situation at Whyalla following the announcements of the termination of shipbuilding activities. I refer particularly to the statement by the Minister in this place that the Prime Minister had before him a report from the South Australian working party. The report in fact proposed an industrial complex which might manufacture rolling stock for the whole of the Australian railways. As it is some days since I asked a similar question and as the matter is urgent I wonder whether either Minister can tell the Senate what consideration has been given to that proposition? When is it likely that a Minister will meet the Whyalla local authorities? What has happened to the report by the South Australian Government which, if I remember correctly, has been commended by the Prime Minister?
- Senator Bishop on a number of occasions has drawn my attention to the problems at Whyalla, as have some of my Senate colleagues who sit behind me. I have responded in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I am well aware of the great concern in South Australia. I am not up to date with what has happened in regard to the report. I shall seek the information and give some indication to the Senate by tomorrow if I can.
-The Minister for Social Security will be aware of the great devastation caused by the extensive flooding in the Gippsland area in Victoria in recent days. Can the Minister give some indication of the assistance which will be available by way of social service and other benefits from the Commonwealth Government to those who have suffered hardship and loss by reason of the flooding?
– That area in Victoria has been declared a national disaster area. The Commonwealth Government is involved with the State Government in the usual provisions. Quite apart from that the Department of Social Security will provide immediate assistance to people who are suffering hardship as a result of the loss of income caused by the recent floods. Payments of special benefit can be made available immediately to victims of the floods in the Gippsland area. The floods have caused substantial disruption to employment and people have lost their means of livelihood. Hardship will be minimised if the people concerned avail themselves of the special benefit which can be obtained immediately. There will be no waiting period for the special benefit to be paid to them. In other words, the people who are in the flood areas and who are out of work as a result of the floods can obtain immediate payment.
Assistance will be available through our departmental offices at Sale and Morwell in Victoria. Officers of the Department of Social Security will be available at shire offices at Traralgon, Orbost and Bairnsdale to provide local contact and assistance. Special departmental welfare staff members have also been sent into the area. I understand that people in the Seaspray district, which is one of the worst affected areas, and as of yesterday was still inaccessible by road, can make contact with the Department through the State Emergency Service. The Department is watching the situation to offer whatever assistance it can. I stress that that special benefit, where loss of income has occurred, is available immediately.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs by referring to the pleas I made about the possible fate of exiled Peruvian trade union leaders who were deposited in the Argentine. I ask: Have we had any response from our embassy in the Argentine about any pleas by these people? As a postscript to that question I also ask, in relation to the Mostard case which was the subject of a delegation from the Sydney Latin American community to the Minister three or four weeks ago, whether the girl has been permitted to enter Australia as a political refugee.
– I know that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is aware of the matters that have been raised. I have no information I can give today. I shall see that the matter is again referred to the Minister. I shall seek an early answer for Senator Mulvihill.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education. What is the position with regard to the supply of and demand for teachers? Does the Government anticipate a significant surplus of teachers in the years ahead? If so, are training colleges and colleges of advanced education accepting any responsibility by tuning their intakes to the projected future needs?
– Some time ago I informed the Senate of the contents of the document produced by the working party of the Australian Education Council which analysed the possible supply of and demand for teachers in Australia up to and beyond the mid-1980s. I pointed out that depending upon the bases upon which one started one ended up with different results but all results showed a prospective surplus -some with a surplus in the mid- 1 980s, if no corrective steps were taken- of the order of some 60,000 teachers. That was the projected figure but it depended among other things upon: Intake into colleages and universities; the retention rate- that is the percentage of resignations each year, which have slowed down and resulted in the last two years in a retention of some 15,000 more teachers than would have been normal; and the re-entry percentage of teachers. As to the intake into universities and colleges, the peak year for intake was 1975 when the total new intake of trainees into universities and colleges in Australia was 23,913. By a quiet process, without any heavy handedness at all, this figure has been adjusting year by year. In this current year it has dropped to 19,050. The projected figure for next year is 18,750. So, there is a self-adjustment going on on the intake. That is interesting because despite the decline of something like 5,000 or 6,000 students in teacher training, the total intake of universities and colleges has increased. So these people have obviously sought alternative arrangements, and I think that is healthy. Self-adjustment is going on. Of course the important thing to keep in mind is that manpower is a notoriously bad thing upon which to base one’s calculations. In any case, people who would be involved in teacher training might want alternative choices in other kinds of occupations, such as computer programming.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. It has become even more interesting in view of the Minister’s comments a few moments ago in reply to a question from Senator Missen. Is the Minister aware that the staff of the Aboriginal Medical Service at Perth has received a memo from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs demanding that the staff accept a drop in salary sufficient to cover the deficit caused by the abolition of bulk billing? Is the Minister aware that at 2 p.m. today Perth time- in about 35 minutes- officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs will meet staff of the Health Service in order to enforce the wage cuts? Is it a fact that abolition of bulk billing is being used by the Government as an excuse to abolish all Aboriginal medical services in Australia?
– I am not aware of the first matter that was raised regarding the notices that have been given to staff in Perth. I shall seek information from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on that. As far as the second part of the question is concerned, that abolition of bulk billing is being used as an excuse to abolish all Aboriginal medical services, I have stated on behalf of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on previous occasions that special arrangements will be made for Aboriginal health services. As I stated in answer to Senator Missen today, special administrative arrangements are to be made for the services to ensure that the quality of health care that is given to special groups with special disadvantages will not diminish. So the answer to the second part of the question is that it is not a fact that bulk billing abolition has been used to abolish the service. In fact special arrangements are being made to continue it. I shall seek the other information that has been requested by the honourable senator.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. I shall be brief. I ask the Minister whether reducing salaries below award rates is one of the methods being investigated to keep the service going.
– As I have said, I have no knowledge of the matter raised with regard to the reduction of salaries or the dismissal of staff. I will see that that matter is raised with the Minister. I have no information on it and I would be reluctant to admit that the abolition of bulk billing would be used as a reason for abolishing Aboriginal medical services. But as I have said, I will have the matter investigated and a report given to Senator Keeffe as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. As I understand it, it is not the intention of the Government to proceed with the fisheries legislation this session. I ask the Minister whether the Government is prepared to agree to joint venture proposals between Australian fishing interests and overseas interests pending the passing of the legislation. In view of the importance of this matter, if the Minister does not have a reply to give today, will he obtain one as soon as possible?
– Questions relating to the matter of feasibility fishing have been answered on several occasions in the Senate, but I realise that the answers that have been given did not directly concern the matters that the honourable senator has raised. I have with me guidelines in relation to joint ventures, but I think it would be appropriate, at the honourable senator’s request, if I asked the Minister for Primary Industry to look at the honourable senator’s question. I will attempt to bring back an answer within the next two days.
-Mr President, I have answers to two questions asked of me previously. You may recall that earlier this week Senator Sir Reginald Wright asked me a question relating to farm income. My response to him was a little in conflict with the proposal that he had put to me. My answer now is that the estimated decline in net farm income in 1977-78 referred to by Senator Sir Reginald Wright was prepared and published by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in December 1977. At that time the BAE estimated that net income per farm in 1977-78 would fall by 1 1 per cent to $9,340. Since then there has been some improvement in the rural situation. Seasonal conditions have been more favourable, the prices of some commodities have improved and the rate of increase in farm costs has been slowing. Consequently, the Bureau recently revised its net farm income estimates. Net income per farm in 1977-78 is now estimated to be $ 1 1 , 1 98, or only some 4 per cent lower than that of the previous season. I was anxious to convey that information to Senator Wright.
-Mr President, the second answer I have relates to a question about pea imports asked on 29 May by Senator Walsh. I now give him the following answer: Imports of frozen peas from New Zealand increased rapidly in the first two months of this year but appear to have dropped to moderate levels during March and April. The ‘free limits permitted by the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement’ referred to by the honourable senator are in fact a guideline quantity agreed between Australia and New Zealand which, since 1974, has stood at 1,400 tonnes of frozen peas per calendar year. This quantity of imports from New Zealand has been agreed by the Australian industry to be reasonable and represents approximately 3.5 per cent of current frozen pea consumption in Australia. Frozen peas are traded duty-free under Schedule A of NAFTA.
Imports from New Zealand during the first four months of this year totalled approximately 1,120 tonnes which, on a pro rata basis, is unreasonably high. There were some instances earlier this year of New Zealand peas being placed on the Australian market at low price levels. Expressions of concern from industry and other sources led to the matter being raised during NAFTA ministerial discussions in Canberra on 18 April. The Australian and New Zealand Ministers agreed that it would be appropriate to convene a further meeting of the Joint AustraliaNew Zealand Pea and Bean Industry Panel to consider all aspects of the matter. This Panel, which was set up under NAFTA, comprises representatives of growers and processors and government officials from both countries. The Panel studies supply, demand and price situations in both countries and reports any disruptive trading practices which it identifies so that corrective steps can be taken in the co-operative spirit of NAFTA.
As a prelude to the proposed further meeting of the Joint Australia-New Zealand Pea and Bean Industry Panel a meeting was held in Canberra on 26 April of the Australian Pea and Bean Industry Panel. The outcome of this meeting was a recommendation that, rather than seek an early Joint Panel meeting, there should be further government to government consultations for the purpose of gaining an assurance that the undertakings given by New Zealand at the September 1977 meeting of the Joint Panel in Wellington, New Zealand, would be honoured. These undertakings related to guidelines for quantities and reasonable prices for exports to Australia of New Zealand frozen peas and beans. The Government has accepted the Panel’s recommendations, and exchanges are currently taking place on the matter between the officials of the two governments.
With regard to the alleged actions of processors of frozen peas, I point out that processors are represented on both the Australian and the Joint Australia-New Zealand panels. Australian processor representatives fully endorse the guideline mechanisms and the need for reasonable prices in trade between the two countries. At the meeting of the Australian Panel on 26 April 1978, evidence presented indicated that, to a large degree, the increase in New Zealand exports of frozen peas to Australia at disruptive prices could be attributed to the operations of new processors in New Zealand endeavouring to secure market outlets in Australia through large chain store retailers. New processors in New Zealand are operating in a situation of current seasonal surpluses, high stocks on both sides of the Tasman, and a declining demand in both countries for frozen peas, despite prolonged price cutting.
– On two occasions previously Senator Keeffe has asked me a question with regard to the funding of the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities. I now have information which I feel I would like him to have at this stage. In response to the request of the Uniting Church in Australia in relation to expenses that it has been obliged to incur to maintain employment and to establish services by Aurukun and Mornington Island councils at the level existing as at 1 April, the Commonwealth made an interim grant of $80,000 and in addition will provide a second repayable grant of $160,000 to the Uniting Church. This will be done without prejudice to the Commonwealth view that responsibility rests with the Queensland Government to maintain services at the level at which the State was committed to funding the two communities previously. It is expected that from the beginning of July the two communities will assume shire council status and will receive funds in the same manner as other Queensland shire councils. The two communities will, of course, be entitled to seek assistance through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator Wriedt proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The continuing harmful effects on the economy of stated government intentions to further reduce government spending in the forthcoming Budget.
I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– The Opposition launches this matter of public importance because this may well be one of the last opportunities prior to the Budget being brought down in August that we will have to discuss the effect on the economy of the policies of this Government. We believe that we have an obligation to the Australian community to take whatever steps are available to us to alert the Government and the Australian people about the implications of the implementation of the present policies of the Fraser Government.
Between February 1976 and February of this year unemployment, as measured by the Commonwealth Employment Service, rose by 122,000. As measured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, total unemployment rose by 1 72,000 in the same period. The number of new dwellings approved in the 12 months to April of this year fell by 15 per cent when compared with the 12 months to April of last year. In seasonally adjusted terms the number of new dwellings announced during the March quarter 1978 fell by 23 per cent when compared with the March quarter in 1977. The Australia and New Zealand Bank index of economic activity showed a decline in every month since the beginning of 1 977. On 18 April this year the Treasurer (Mr Howard) described the situation in these terms:
We are also well on the way to economic recovery.
Similar statements about economic recovery have been made since May 1976- that is two years ago. Unfortunately for the Government and for the country there has not been any substance to that assertion during the past two years.
What are the reasons for the continuing decline of the economy? Some of them are not hard to find. In November 1 975 the now Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) promised that the Liberal and National Country parties had a comprehensive strategy to restore prosperity. His policy speech spelt out elements of that strategy. The major one was to bring about growth in the production of the private sector. The Liberal and National Country parties said they would attack the deficit by getting the economy working up to capacity. They promised growth above the long term average growth because they had the right policies, or so they said. More investment was to lead to jobs, creating more revenue for the Government, thus reducing the deficit. They said that to enable economic growth in the private sector there would be a need to reduce government spending. None of those things have happened. The reason why they did not happen was that the policies were totally misconceived.
In the past the Treasurer has complained about the use of simplistic labels in the economic debate. Only yesterday he accused the Opposition of being simplistic in its approach. However, it would not be unreasonable to assert that the simplistic labels come mainly from the Government side. For example, in a speech on 1 2 May the Treasurer said:
If I could be excused for adopting an over-simplistic presentation by referring to the so-called four arms policy, I would like to briefly expand on the essentials of our approach.
By those words the Treasurer announced that he was reverting to the simplistic labels adopted by his predecessor. One of the so-called four arms of his ‘over-simplistic presentation’ was the Government’s fiscal policy, which the Treasurer described in these terms:
Fiscal policy has been directed at halting and reversing the expansion of the public sector not only to reduce both its direct and indirect inflationary effects, but also to provide the scope for an absolutely essential transfer of reserves to the private sector.
I assume the Treasurer meant the transfer of resources- he used the word ‘reserves’- to the private sector. Anyway, whatever he meant, he provided no justification for the assertion that it was absolutely essential to transfer resources to the private sector, nor for the fact that it was necessary to provide scope for this to happen. I would have thought, as I think most Australians would have thought, that with an economy running at about 70 per cent capacity there was enormous scope to transfer resources to the private sector without touching the public sector. Clearly the Treasurer can give no reason for his assertion. Presumably, it is part of the Liberal Party’s ideology. It is part of the policy announced in November 1975, from which I quote again as follows:
These actions will give the private sector room to start expanding production and to provide jobs. Over the next three years, we will introduce a number of major reforms to direct resources away from government and back into the hands of individuals and business.
It is well known that, as soon as the Government came to office, it began cutting back on government spending. It has been able to achieve no real growth in the Commonwealth component, and it has pursued a policy of trying to produce the same result at the State level. What has been the effect of all this? Resources have not been transferred from the public sector to the private sector. They have been transferred to the unemployed sector. Not only has the private sector not picked up but also it has gone into a further decline because of lack of government stimulus and consumer demand, produced in turn by growing unemployment.
I referred earlier to the increase in unemployment that took place between February 1976 and February 1978. This unemployment was mainly the result of an absence of jobs for people who had joined the work force since February 1 976. Another factor was that the number of jobs had actually declined during that period. The Monthy Review of Business Statistics, produced by the Bureau of Statistics, reveals that between February 1976 and February 1978 the number of persons employed declined by approximately 8,000. What is significant is that the number employed by the private sector declined by approximately 51,000 during that period, whilst the number employed by the government sector actually rose by approximately 43,000. In other words, under this Government employment in the private sector has continued to decline rapidly while employment in the public sector has not been able to make up for that decline. The growth in employment created by the public sector has occurred exclusively at the State level. Commonwealth employment during that period has also declined.
By now it is clear that the assumptions on which the Government has been operating for two years are wrongly based. Unless we have substantial growth in the economy, unemployment will continue to rise. Growth can come from consumption, investment, Government spending and exports. Of those elements, consumption has been relatively flat throughout the life of this Government. The Government asserted originally that consumers would continue to save in times of high inflation, but that as inflation fell, consumption would increase. No such correlation has occurred. In the last 12 months inflation has been reduced, although at great cost to the country, but this has not led to any real rise in consumption. The fact is that the premise was wrong. There is lack of demand for a number of reasons, the most significant of which is rising unemployment, which has been created by the policies of the Government. Private investment also has been flat, but it is starting to rise at present. However, that investment has been encouraged by the investment allowance which has resulted in jobs being replaced by machines.
The investment allowance will, of course, be halved by 30 June. Investors will obviously take advantage of the 40 per cent allowance before the end of this month. No doubt that explains the improvement that has occurred there. But so far the allowance has done nothing to counteract the negative forces in the economy. There is trouble on the exports side because of the Government’s attitude to protection and its difficulty with the balance of payments. Thus we are left with one factor and that is government spending. If there were competition from resources in the economy, cutting back on government spending would at least be understandable. At a time when there is an enormous surplus of resources, at a time when the capacity of the economy is running at about 30 per cent under its maximum, at a time when unemployment is approaching the half million mark, it seems extraordinary that the Government continues to pursue these policies. It is incredible that the Government is planning more of the same in the coming Budget.
On 29 May a speech was delivered to the Australian Finance Conference on behalf of the suspended Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). At this point it is worth while asking the basis on which the suspended Minister for Finance delivered the speech. It is important to ask this question as the speech contained statements of intention which, if they reflect Government thinking, have considerable implications. Not only Mr Robinson but also the Government is still talking about cutting back on government expenditure to transfer resources to the private sector. However, at least he does not put that proposition on the basis that it is good economic sense. He gave a quite different reason when he said:
Our concern to contain government spending stems, in part, from our belief that individuals and businesses should have more say- and governments less say- in how the money they earn is spent.
Unfortunately for the unemployed who are in that position they do not have any money. No doubt they would relish the opportunity to have more say in how their non-existent funds are spent. The suspended Minister for Finance promises us more than merely the continuation of past mistakes; he wants to make further cuts in government spending. The primary targets for him are the State governments. He said:
Their spending too needs to be contained if the relative size of the public sector is to be reduced.
I am sure that the State Premiers will find those words very encouraging. Where will these cuts come from? As we know, funds to the States have been pruned to the bone in the past two Budgets, so where does the Government expect to make the cuts? It is in no doubt from where the money will come. It wants to make substantial reductions in the funds going to the States through specific purpose grants. The real question is: Which of those grants will be cut? The bulk of funds going to the States in specific purpose grants are earmarked for education, health, housing and roads. These are the areas that the suspended Minister for Finance and the Government wish to attack. They want to reduce funds to pay for the running costs of hospitals; they want to reduce funds going to schools and tertiary education institutions; they want to cut back on the welfare housing program; and they want to cut back on expenditure on roads. In the areas of roads, housing and education, substantial sums are spent on capital works. Any further cutbacks in those areas will increase unemployment in the building and construction industry and in those areas of the private sector which depend on government contracts. This can only have a further dampening effect on the economy.
The suspended Minister for Finance demonstrates how little he knows about these issues by saying that he is also going to cut large areas of Commonwealth spending and nominates expenditure on health and education as the ones which will have to suffer reductions. The Government and the suspended Minister fail to appreciate that they have already cut those areas by cutting back on specific purpose grants to the States. This folly has now been endorsed by the Prime Minister. Only yesterday the Prime Minister informed businessmen in New York that he was going to make sure that expenditure remained rigidly controlled. What are the consequences of this folly? We have already seen that State governments have borne the brunt of the Commonwealth Government’s policy by maintaining real growth in employment during a time in which their revenues from the Commonwealth have been cut in real terms. This has caused States to run up deficits and use reserves acquired as a result of the Labor Government’s more generous treatment of them three or four years ago.
We know there are limits to these processes. Without a real increase in funds to the States, there will be a substantial cut-back on growth in the forthcoming financial year. If the States get what the Commonwealth has promised, it is unlikely they will be able to maintain any real growth in employment during 1978. If the Government achieves this result, the one sector in the economy now providing jobs will be prevented from carrying out that function. The net result must be that unemployment will continue to rise even more sharply with further damaging effects on the economy.
Why does the Government persist with this policy? By now it must be obvious even to some of its members that the policy is misguided. Yet in response to this debate, I have no doubt the Government will repeat the same tired old cliches which we have been hearing for the past two years. It insists that it is right, yet all the evidence points to the fact that it is wrong. Let us examine one of its assertions. For two years Government spokesmen have claimed again and again that unemployment would not commence to fall until inflation fell. Throughout this financial year we have seen inflation falling but unemployment rising more rapidly than it has in the past. How long will it take the Government to appreciate this fact?
Every time we in the Opposition raise this matter, and we have certainly done it on many occasions, the Government insists that our views are wrong. However, if it takes that view of Opposition statements, why does it not take notice of its economic betters? Recently there has been a flood of calls for stimulation. Both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have stressed to their member countries their increasing concern at the level of unemployment and the need for economies- that is, governmentsto take measures to reduce unemployment as well as tackle inflation. We now have bodies such as the Australian Industries Development Association and the Metal Trades Industries Association of Australia calling on the Government to adopt more stimulatory policies and, indeed, to contemplate Budget deficits which would have been unthinkable one or two years ago.
Part of the trouble the Government is now facing is that it no longer has any real economic flexibility. Its actions over the past two years have involved such substantial cuts on the revenue side that it now has virtually no capacity to offer any stimulatory action. Because of past mistakes, the Government is now facing a substantial Budget deficit even with further cut-backs in the Government sector and without any sign of recovery. Today we face a higher deficit position than we have faced in recent years. Despite all the Government’s claims about its efforts to reduce that deficit by cutting spending, starving the States of funds, and reducing expenditure in a whole range of fields, it still finds itself in a worse Budget deficit position than any government in this country for many years.
We all accept the fact that no government does everything right and that no government pleases everyone; but when it can be demonstrated that a government has taken a wrong course, and the Prime Minister has indicated that the Government is to continue on that course, it is the responsibility of the Opposition to make that point obvious to the Australian people. We are endeavouring to do that in this debate. We ask the Government to reconsider the direction in which it is heading. We hope that by the time we come back to this Parliament in August it will have recognised that the policies it has been following over the past two and a half years are not only leading to greater unemployment in the Australian community but also to a greater lack of business confidence and a greater lack of confidence generally among the Australian people.
- Senator Wriedt invites the Government and the Australian people to reflect upon the consequences of the Government’s policies over the past two and a half years. I will be delighted so to do and to remind the Opposition and the Australian people what has happened. I do so against the background that the New South Wales Labor Premier, Mr Wran, has within only the last 24 hours commended in the strongest possible terms the Fraser Liberal-National Country Party Government on its tackling of inflation and its lowering of interest rates. I invite Senator Wriedt and the Australian Labor Party to look at the results of the past two and a half years. Let us take a few spot checks. The consumer price index increased by 1.3 per cent in the March quarter. That was the lowest March quarter increase since 1972. Is that good or bad? Ask the housewife; ask her husband. Over the year to the March quarter the CPI increased by 8.2 per cent, the lowest increase in the CPI in any year since the June quarter 1 973. Is that good or bad? What does the Labor Party think of that? The Labor Party has fled because it is frightened even of its own propaganda. By the end of this calendar year, 1978, it is highly likely that the inflation rate in Australia will be below the American inflation rate and below the average of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
For the first time since Labor’s disastrous period in office Australia will be able to re-enter the export market at a competitive rate. The Labor Party drove Australia out of the export market. It drove Australians out of jobs. By the end of this year this Government will have brought the inflation rate to a point where Australians will be able to be re-employed. They will be able to compete on world markets. Australia is one of the 12 great trading nations of the world. For jobs we depend upon our ability to sell abroad. If we are costed out of world markets we are costed out of jobs. That is what has happened. We are proud to say, and I repeat it, that the consumer price index rose by 8.2 per cent. That is the lowest increase since the year ending the June quarter of 1 973.
Let us take some more tests because we are invited to do so. In the three months to April of this year the price index of house building materials rose by 1.7 per cent. The price index of materials used in building other than house building rose by 1.5 per cent. The latest national account estimates show that real domestic fiscal demand, both private and government, increased at a solid annual rate of 3.6 per cent in the second half of 1977, Apparently these things are not regarded as pluses by the Labor Party. We regard them as pluses in terms of the welfare of the Australian people. Exports strengthened markedly. Imports fell sharply signalling a diversion of demand to domestic sources.
– That last figure is not quite accurate, is it?
-I am glad that Senator Button has come out of his perennial hibernation. I know now what Senator Webster meant at Question Time when he used the term ‘a dormant fault’. There would not be a more classic example of a dormant fault whether from New South Wales or otherwise. I repeat that exports strengthened markedly. Imports fell sharply signalling a diversion of demand to domestic sources. Real exports of goods and services rose by 4.4 per cent. Real imports of goods and services declined by one per cent. Here is the sign that we are now trading and creating jobs for our people. We are not simply living upon exporting our industries.
Let us look now at new capital expenditure by private enterprise. Seasonally adjusted at current prices, new capital expenditure by private enterprise rose by 7.7 per cent in the March quarter to be 20.5 per cent higher than the level of a year earlier. Consumer confidence has risen. This has been shown in the fact that consumers are now using their savings. Retail sales were 1.6 per cent higher in the March quarter than they were in the December quarter. Were it not for the fact that there were latent stocks lying around Australia there would have been reflected in this increase in sales an increased demand for employment and a further taking up of employment. Now there is a recession of the stocks cycle. That is a healthy indication that demand will rise. The Government has managed to bring down inflation by more than half. It has reduced interest rates. Every Premier in Australia, Labor or Liberal, has asked that interest rates be a prime target for reduction. They know that a reduction in interest rates means jobs and a reduction in costs. We are reaching the stage when our inflation rate will be below the American rate and below the average rate of the OECD. We will be able to trade again.
When I was listening to Senator Wriedt I could not help thinking of the opening lines in Charles Dickens’ immortal story A Tale of Two Cities: lt was the best of limes, it was the worst of times. . . it was a season of light, it was a season of darkness.
In considering the statement ‘it was the worst of times’ I am mindful of the fact that in July 1975 the International Monetary Fund in a survey of Australia said:
The origins of the Australian recession are to be found in domestic developments.
In other words, in July 1975 the International Monetary Fund said that the Government described as a helter skelter government by Mr Wran- the Whitlam Government- had caused the recession. It was a self-inflicted wound. In the three years of that Government’s term Australian wages rose by 70 per cent.
– How much?
-In the three years that was the figure. Before the Whitlam Government’s term we had had 20 years of virtually full employment in Australia. There was virtually no inflation. There was 75 per cent home ownership or thereabouts. There was then an emergence of the greatest wage resurgence that had occurred in Australia ‘s history. Not only was there a wage resurgence to which the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission drew attention recently as the cause of our troubles but the Labor Party also cut tariffs across the board by 25 per cent. The Labor Party, in cutting tariffs across the board, destroyed 1 10,000 jobs in the manufacturing industry. It drove the Australian manufacturing industry off-shore. It destroyed jobs deliberately and wilfully. Honourable senators should not forget that this is not something that the Fraser Government is saying. I repeat what the International Monetary Fund said:
The origins of the Australian recession are to be found in domestic developments.
Let us put the matter in perspective to see what the Labor Party really means. The Labor Party is saying today that it is wrong to continue with the policy of economic restraint and that there should be some kind of increase or uplift in spending. If there is one bipartisan statement with which honourable senators on both sides of the chamber must agree it would be this:
We are no longer operating in that simple Keynesian world in which some reduction in unemployment could, apparently, always be purchased at the cost of some more inflation. Today, it is inflation itself which is the central policy problem. More inflation simply leads to more unemployment.
I take it that the Labor Party agrees with that statement. The silence is deafening. Of course, that statement was made by Mr Hayden who is now the Leader of the Labor Party in another place. He was formerly the Treasurer.
– Who said that?
- Mr Hayden, the former Treasurer of the Labor Government said these things. He said that we could not spend ourselves out of unemployment. He said that if we went on spending in that way we would create more inflation and more unemployment. What has happened? Who is speaking? Have we got the classic situation now that Senator Wriedt and his team of speakers today are saying that what Mr Hayden said is totally wrong? I remind honourable senators of what has been said. In the Budget Speech of 1 975 Mr Hayden said:
This Budget is presented at a time of high inflation and, by Australian standards, high unemployment.
He went on to say:
Meanwhile, unless appropriate economic measures are adopted now, the hopeful signs in the economy could prove illusory, and inflation could take off again from its already high level, to a thoroughly destructive effect.
The private sector would find it increasingly difficult to function, with increasing business failures, and unemployment could rise to dramatically high levels.
He went on to say:
That situation can be avoided and it was with this objective in mind that this Budget was designed. Some sacrifice and patient restraint is called for from all of us in our demands for more resources, whether it is additional public services that are wanted or higher personal incomes.
If Mr Hayden were right in his economic thesis how wrong Senator Wriedt must be today because, as Mr Hayden was saying, the way to overcome inflation and to get more employment is to have restraint in all segments, particularly in the public sector. Mr Hayden went on to say:
Because of the structure of our mixed economy, where three out of four jobs are in the private sector, there are firm limits on how far the public sector should be stimulated in this recovery phase. In framing the Budget, therefore, we have exercised the utmost restraint on government spending.
In other words, Mr Hayden in fact was acknowledging that what this Government is doing now is correct. He said that if a government wants to restrict inflation it must of course restrain government spending, otherwise it will cause more unemployment. Mr Hayden, in describing a budgetary situation in which the deficit would have doubled to about $5,000m if expenditure had continued to increase- he rejected that concept- said:
In the context of an economy beginning to pick up, a deficit of the order initially projected would have been a prescription for accelerating inflation. Its acceptance would have been tantamount to abandoning concern with inflation, discarding our wages policies, condemning the corporate sector to an attack on its profitability and threatening the future jobs of thousands of Australians- all at a time when the first signs of improvement in most of these respects are beginning to appear.
Mr Hayden was endorsing the policies that we are pursuing today- the policies that Senator Wriedt and subsequent Opposition speakers today reject. This shows the disorder within the Labor Party. Let us look at what has happened. Clearly the Labor Party does not agree with Mr Hayden. I take it that it does not agree with this statement by Mr Hayden:
We are no longer operating in that simple Keynesian world in which some reduction in unemployment could, apparently, always be purchased at the cost of some more inflation. Today, it is inflation itself which is the central policy problem. More inflation simply leads to more unemployment.
In other words, what has been said quite clearly is that a government cannot spend its way out of unemployment. If a government increases its expenditure it will increase inflation and unemployment. That is what Mr Hayden- Senator Wriedt ‘s leader- was saying. Obviously there is a great division between them.
A recent survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development commended Australia for the policies it was pursuing and urged that Australia should continue to pursue those policies for the full recovery of the nation. Senator Wriedt and Labor Party supporters are the only people- according to themselveswho are in step in the regiment. They do not agree with what their federal leader said when he was Treasurer. They do not agree with the OECD. With whom do they agree? They speak with a multitude of voices. Leading spokesmen throughout Australia have made the clear statement that Australia should keep on course and should not deviate. The ANZ Banking Group Ltd business indicators for April 1 978 stated:
Present government policies, based on restoring Australia ‘s attractiveness to overseas investors and involving continued emphasis on reducing the domestic inflation, should enhance recovery prospects during 1978- 79 . . . Overall, there appears little justification for fundamental change in the current thrust of economic policy in Australia. As world trade prospects brighten, private capital inflow will reassert its traditional, dynamic role in the Australian economy, removing the need for official borrowings.
The ANZ Bank itself has every reason to be interested in the restoration of prosperity in this country. It has a vested interest in the prosperity and the employability of people in this country. According to the Opposition, the ANZ bank is wrong and Senator Wriedt is right; the Bank of New South Wales review in April 1978 is wrong and Senator Wriedt is right; the Bank was impertinent enough to say:
The Government cannot afford to yield to shortsighted pleas to abandon its campaign against inflation while the rate of increase in prices is still high by international standards. Policy would be best directed to restraining the inflation of costs and improving the productivity of industry so that Australian production will have a sound base for competition with imported supplies as the demand for local consumption revives.
Presumably the Bank of New South Wales, the OECD and the ANZ Bank are wrong. Add to the list of illustrious people who are wrong, if Senator Wriedt in his glorious isolation is right, Professor Henderson who I think has as much practical sympathy for poverty and the underprivileged as anyone and who is an economist of some standing. He has pointed out that the first step towards the overcoming of poverty and the problems of the underprivileged is to reduce inflation. Presumably, according to the Opposition, Professor Henderson is wrong. The Labor Party says that all these organisations, including the Reserve Bank of Australia with all its leading economists and public figures, and of course Mr Hawke are wrong. May I draw attention to the fact that the federal leader of the Labor Party is a member of the Reserve Bank board and is a signatory to the policies of that bank which are aimed at getting inflation and interest rates down so that employment can be restored. Presumably Senator Wriedt again is saying that Mr Hawke and the Reserve Bank are wrong; or does Mr Hawke speak with two voices, and only Senator Wriedt is right? Who is right?
The Government is in a situation in which about two months before it brings down another budget it is saying that there will be a need to continue economic restraint and that what we have said is supported by the OECD, by all authoritative economists, by all authoritative institutions such as the Reserve Bank and indeed by people such as Mr Hawke who put their signatories to these policies. Yet the Labor Party says to the Government: ‘You are wrong; we are right’. No other country within the whole of the OECD framework has made a more rapid recovery in terms of overcoming inflation than has Australia, and that is a pretty nice tribute to the policies that have been pursued. What a strange thing it is that Senator Wriedt today can ignore the fact that the Labor Premier of the most populous State of Australia has publicly paid tribute to the economic policies of the Fraser Government and has publicly talked about the courage of the Commonwealth Government in pursuing what he regards as the right policies in terms of bringing down inflation and increasing investment. Presumably Senator Wriedt disagrees with Mr Wran.
Senator Wriedt also had something to say about deficits. 1 would have thought that no Labor Party member, much less an ex-Minister, would talk about deficits. I read from Mr Hayden ‘s Budget Speech. His Budget would have run the deficit up to $5,000m had we not intervened. Senator Wriedt said that the deficit for this year will be somewhat larger than was predicted in the Budget. Yes, it will, and for the reasons that I will now state. I invite Senator Wriedt to indicate those items of expenditure which he does not approve or which he would not have proposed. For example, I refer to the $ 100m or more that has been provided as relief to the impoverished beef industry and to the rural producers. I take it that Senator Wriedt would not have provided that relief.
– Did you not know about that when you framed the Budget? Did you not know about the beef depression when you framed the Budget?
– We hear the interjection: Did you not know about it when you framed the Budget?’. Presumably members of the Labor Party do not want to say that they are opposed to this relief. 1 refer to other relief given to industry in the form of increased aid to isolated children and all the help that has been given following droughts and floods. Eventually these measures will be acknowledged.
Basically there are three or four other main items. The revenue has been overestimated. In fact, the anti-inflation policies have been more successful than the Budget predicted. We have brought inflation down faster than the Budget predicted and therefore the revenue from taxation is less. Presumably that is bad. Honourable senators will notice that members of the Labor Party remain silent when I put these facts hard upon them. Let me put another fact. Revenue from customs duties is less -
– Tell us about the extra unemployment benefit payments instead of your cheating and chiselling.
– Honourable senators are now witnessing the diversionary tactics of the Opposition. No greater tribute can be paid to the veracity of an argument than Opposition attempts to divert one from the argument.
Import duty will yield less revenue this year than it- did last year or the year before. We are making more in Australia now and therefore importing less. We are in fact using Australianmade goods rather than importing goods. Of course, our revenue take is lower, lt that good or bad? In other words, is it bad that hundreds of millions of dollars of aid has been given to the impoverished and drought stricken rural producers and isolated children, and that there has been a lower take in taxation and a lower take in import duties? We hear not a whimper from the Opposition senators when I put that question to them squarely.
Compared with what Labor’s last Budget deficit would have been, the deficit as it will end up on 30 June will be as modest as a violet. It is easy for Senator Wriedt to talk irresponsibly and in absolute defiance of his own leader’s theses. Was there a murmur from Senator Wriedt about how this deficit has been financed compared with previous deficits? Senator Wriedt knows, but he has been silent about it, that we have been so successful with our non-bank public borrowing that we have been able substantially to finance the deficit and therefore substantially negative any kind of inflationary impact of the deficit- so much so that we are able to do things for farmers and succeed in combating inflation. What will be a larger deficit will nevertheless have a lesser impact on inflation than a smaller deficit would. But there is silence on the Labor Party’s part.
Senator Wriedt mouths again statements that are not factual. He talks about the States being starved and running into deficits. I must repeat what I said earlier today in Question Time. The Whitlam Labor Government almost trebled the take of personal income tax from the people of Australia, doubled the take of sales tax, doubled the take of customs duties and excise duties, forced the States into putting up their taxes and charges and forced the States into massive deficits. That is the Whitlam centralism to which honourable senators opposite are pledged, and to which they are pledged to return.
What has happened in the two and a half years of Fraser Government federalism? Every State has at least balanced its Budget: Most of them, on occasions, have been able to run into healthy surpluses. Some have had disguised surpluses. All of them have been able to make tens of millions of dollars of cuts in a wide range of taxes. Cuts of $80m, $90m and $100m have been made in taxes.
– The State governments will have to continue to reduce expenses. You know that it is getting worse and worse, and that is why you will not answer my question.
-Senator Wriedt interjects. If a State has the luxury of cutting taxes it has the equal opportunity of expanding its policies. It may elect to cut taxes rather than expand policies. Indeed, in the whole three-year term of the Whitlam Labor Government the States had no such luxury.
As with A Tale of Two Cities, ‘a tale of two governments’ might well commence with the words:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .
We are asked to choose between policies which, according to the International Monetary Fund, brought Australia into economic bankruptcy, tipped hundreds of thousands of Australians out of manufacturing and out of industry and into unemployment and pushed inflation and interest rates to record levels and the pattern that I have pronounced of a government which has more than halved inflation is lowering interest rates. The effects of lower interest rates on home owners is very real. More money is put into their pocket every month.
I repeat what I said earlier. At the end of this year we will almost certainly have an inflation rate lower than the United States of America and lower than the average of member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. For the first time since the Whitlam Government- the helter-skelter government, as it was named by Labor’s own State Premier, Mr Wran- we will be able to trade favourably. All responsible economists agree that if we are to re-create jobs in Australiathat is our task- the first thing we have to do is to get our internal costs in manufacturing and commerce down so that we will be competitive throughout the world. We have to overcome the effects of the massive 25 per cent tariff cut made by the Whitlam Government. I cannot imagine why on the third last day of a sessional period the Opposition would bring on what is for it such a disastrous matter of public importance, unless it wanted to waste the time of the chamber.
-At the outset of his remarks the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, seemed to gain some comfort from the fact that the New South Wales Labor Premier made a speech in Sydney yesterday which, according to Senator Carrick, seemed to compliment the Fraser Government in what he described as the highest possible terms on the way in which it has tackled inflation. Despite all that the Minister said and despite all that he attempted to make out of that which Mr Wran is reported as having said, if the New South Wales Premier sat in this chamber today, bearing in mind all that he said at the Sydney Rotary Club meeting yesterday, he would be agreeing with the terms of this matter of public importance. The matter of public importance has been put forward by the Labor Opposition in order to discuss the continuing harmful effects on the economy of stated Government intentions to reduce government spending further in the forthcoming budget.
In support of the proposition being put by the Labor Opposition, I refer the Minister and members of the Government parties to what Mr Wran said yesterday. According to the report in the Sydney Morning Herald of this morning, Mr Wran said that the economy was slowly recovering and that it was time to loosen some of the restrictions which had been imposed- they have been imposed by the Federal Government- so that more money would start to flow through the system. The newspaper article reads:
Mr Wran told Sydney Rotary Club: ‘There are lots of things I will disagree with the Prime Minister about, and do. But one thing he has achieved- and that is in bringing inflation down ‘.
This had been a massive task and some tough decisions had been required.
But if the restrictions which had been introduced in the economy to achieve this were imposed for too long, it would be a savage price to pay in terms of unemployment in a country with Australia ‘s rich natural resources.
My own view is that what should be happening now is a judicious uplift to the economy by means of allowing more money to flow within the economy . . .
Such action was needed to help generate more investment and more jobs.
What we are saying is directly in line with what the New South Wales Premier stated and that is that if the Government continues its present economic policy of tightening up and screwing down the economy so that fewer jobs and less work is available to the Australian work force, then in the years to come the Australian nation will be in severe economic difficulties indeed. Not only has Mr Wran made utterances of that nature but also as recently as yesterday, on the AM program, I heard Sir Charles Court, before going overseas seeking investment pleading for a stimulus on the part of the Federal Government because of the present economic situation. Similar remarks were made by Mr Hamer, the Premier of Victoria and by Mr Joh BjelkePetersen, the National Country Party Premier of Queensland. All these Premiers have different political philosophies and ideologies but they know that they have a responsibility to their States and to the people of their States. They have pleaded with the Australian Government to adopt a different economic course.
The Australian public is completely at a loss to understand the statements and utterances of Ministers, particularly of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), on the state of the Australian economy. Not long ago, about January or February, he said that unemployment would wane, that employment opportunities would start to come good, that the economy would come around the corner and that it would be time for people to spend. He said: ‘Get out and spend. If you want a motor car, go and buy a motor car. If you want a washing machine, go and buy a washing machine ‘. That was the edict given by the Australian Prime Minister to the Australian people not long after the Federal elections. He said: ‘Spend and spend big. Spend your money and spend your way out of recession’. The Prime Minister said that as the Government policy to tackle inflation was successful and as inflation was brought down so too would unemployment come down.
If the Minister for Education, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the suspended Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) come out and say that as a result of their policies inflation has been tackled successfully one may ask, on behalf of wage and salary earners of this country: ‘What is happening to the jobs? Where are the jobs that were going to be created as a result of the Government ‘s policies?’ The Australian people are at a loss to know what is going on because in direct contradiction to what the Government has enunciated, as inflation has fallen unemployment has substantially risen. Why are the Australian people in a quandary? If they take the Prime Minister’s advice and spend they are accused of adding to inflation. On the other hand, if they tighten up and inflation comes down the Government claims all the credit and then unemployment rises and fewer jobs are available to the Australian work force. Obviously the Government does not know what it is doing and the Australian public is in a quandary because it knows the Australian Government does not know what it is doing.
Yesterday from far distant New York the Australian Prime Minister announced to the United States of America and to the American people that so far as he, as the political leader of Australia, was concerned Australia and Australians were in for tougher times in fighting the battle of inflation. He said that his Government would maintain strict limits on public expenditure. As my colleague Senator Wriedt has already said, last Friday the suspended Minister for Finance, in a speech that was read on his behalf by his ministerial colleague, Mr Groom, warned of the severity of further cuts in Government expenditure in the forthcoming Budget. It is for all these reasons and because of the conflicting statements that are being made, because of the contradictory policies that are being pursued from Minister to Minister and Prime Minister to Ministers, that the Opposition has raised for debate today as a matter of public importance the following:
The continuing harmful effects on the economy of stated Government intentions to further reduce Government spending in the forthcoming Budget.
Not only is the public in a quandary but also business is uncertain and fearful about the future. That has been shown as a result of a recent economic survey conducted by the applied economic section of the Melbourne University. Unions are suspicious about the Government’s intentions. While the Government proceeds along its present economic course the nation remains fearful and will remain divided.
After the last federal election a very prominent Australian businessman said to me that the Australian community had gone too far in giving a man, such as the present Prime Minister, a massive majority in the House of Representatives and a clear mandate in the Senate, that with three years ahead of him and with his idiosyncrasies Australians did not know what they had done to themselves. I dare say, having regard to the events that have unfolded in the Federal Parliament in the sitting since February of this year, Australians now really do not know what they have done to themselves. How right was that businessman. Indeed, we do not have to go to the next Budget. Look at what has already been done in this session of Parliament.
We have Medibank mark III by which further inroads and impositions have been burdened on the Australian community, by which the gap between the amount of fee charged by the doctor and the refund payable by the private health insurance company is deliberately widened as a result of encouragement by the Australian Government. Honourable senators may ask why. It is because it is concerned at the amount of money being spent by the Australian community on its health. A Bill is before the House of Representatives to increase the charge of pharmaceutical prescriptions under the National Health Act from $2 to $2.50. Already it has been announced that from 1 July the postal charge for a standard letter is to be increased from 18c, as it was under the Labor Government, to 20c under the Fraser Government. Those announcements were made well before the Budget had been considered, at a time when all sections of the community were asking for some relief.
All members of the Australian Parliament agree that at present the economy is recessed. Taking that ingredient as the prime, a further tightening will be exactly the wrong treatment because it will mean that the economy will be further recessed. What hope will the States have of providing employment opportunities? What hope will local government have of being able to alleviate some of the terrible hardships that no longer can be swept under the carpet out of general public gaze? What hope has the small businessman of overcoming his problems when wage and salary earners have their belts tightened? In the few minutes left to me 1 shall say something about the plight of small business. Senator Sir Robert Cotton, when he was Minister for Industry and Commerce, in the Parliament on 13 October made a ministerial statement about the plight of small business. At that time he said:
This Government ranks small business very high indeed on its list of concerns.
He went on to say:
We will introduce legislation to extend the chaner of the Commonwealth Development Bank to enable it to lend to all kinds of businesses.
We have decided also that the Commonwealth Development Bank will be enabled to provide equity finance to small businesses. In addition, the Government has decided that the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation in respect of small business will be extended, possibly by way of forming joint ventures with State and private sector institutions for the provision of finance to small businesses. We shall be considering ways in which these objectives might most efficiently be met as quickly as practicable, recognising at all times the importance of the role played by the trading banks in the financing of small business enterprises and the need to develop our policies in consultation with the banks.
That was on 13 October 1977. Last week I received an answer from the Minister. I had asked him:
What action has the Government taken to extend the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation to establish joint ventures with State private sector institutions for the provision of finance to small businesses.
On 29 May the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Mr Lynch- not Sir Robert Cotton who is now no longer in the Ministry- replied:
In October last year it was announced that the Government had decided that the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation in respect of small business would be extended, possibly by way of forming joint ventures with State and private sector institutions for the provision of finance to small businesses. At present this and other matters are under close examination and consultations are being undertaken with relevant financial institutions. It is expected that a further announcement will be made at an appropriate time.
The Minister made his ministerial statement in this Parliament in October 1977 in which he expressed the Government’s concern at the way in which the small business sector of the community was going. Last week the Minister announced to the Parliament and to the Australian people that consultations were being undertaken and that a further announcement would be made at an appropriate time.- 1 also asked the Minister:
I bet the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) cannot tell me what the Minister’s answer was. The Minister’s answer was:
That is what this Government thinks about the problems of the private sector of the community, especially the small business sector. That is what the Government thinks about the problems’ of the States. That is what it thinks about the problems of local government. All it is concerned with is reducing the Budget deficit so that it can claim that it is thereby reducing inflation. But conveniently for the Government, it ignores the great problems that are confronting the Australian community, directly as a result of the
Government’s economic policy. I commend the terms of the matter of public importance.
– I join the discussion in the Senate this afternoon from the Government benches concerning an allegation by the Opposition framed in the terms of a matter of public importance, which reads:
The continuing harmful effects on the economy of stated Government intentions to further reduce government spending in the forthcoming Budget.
If this discussion could contribute anything to the Australian economy and to the Australian community this afternoon, it would be only that people would analyse the circumstances that they find around them. If they do that, they will find that the matter under discussion is one which has in it no substance whatsoever. If they can divorce themselves from the passing piece of rhetoric and emotionalism, they will find that not only does this matter of public importance have no substance to it, but that in fact the Government which they have elected twice in the last 2lA years with resounding majorities is in fact taking this country along a sound and tough course. It is a tough and unpleasant experience. Very often that is the circumstance that is the prelude to taking people out of a disastrous situation into the normal Australian circumstance of stability and productivity.
It seems to me that the discussion we have had this afternoon from the Opposition benches has been totally in line with their normal attitude since they have been an Opposition in this Parliament. It is in line with their normal attitude because their proposition and the way they have put it seems to be directed to one course only, and that course is the confusion and distortion of the circumstances of the economy in which we live. There will be a recovery, but if there is one way of ensuring that it will be slow and tedious, it is by the adoption of that sort of attitude of confusion, of distortion, and of a determination to be totally destructive rather than to enter into a circumstance where they, like us, are members of a total Australian community. Unless we operate as an entity, we will not survive and develop the extraordinary potential that we do have.
The problems that confront us have been clearly enunciated and I will not restate them this afternoon. But clearly, they are the legacy of three years of socialism and quite clearly, that circumstance has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Australian people twice in 216 years. It is a sad legacy because it is the legacy of a government which, when it came to power, seemed to be hell-bent on implementing a socialist philosophy, a socialist ideology. Had it not been hellbent on doing this at an enormous pace and regardless of the socio-economic consequences, then indeed we may not have sunk to the depths we did as a people, and we may not now be confronted with the sorts of problems that confront us today as we climb out of that ditch.
What this country needs probably above all things is the reintroduction of a measure of confidence. That is the sort of thing against which discussions which are confusing will measure strongly. We are confronted continually by the Opposition in this Parliament with a prediction of doom. That is an excellent way in which to try to bring about a measure of doom. I suggest that members of the Opposition would be well advised from their own point of view, to say nothing of the point of view of the Australian economy and social circumstance, to get away from predicting doom, to get away from this attitude of disaster, this emotionalism, and concentrate on a constructive circumstance which can and must bring this country up from the depths to which it was driven. I believe it is imperative that we recognise the need to bring to the forefront once again that which we describe as an Australian pride and that which is just as inherent in the economic and social survival of this country as any other single factor.
There is a psychological role in all economic affairs. The psychological problem that confronts us today is that Australians have to lift themselves out of this circumstance of assuming that they are on Disaster Street. They are not. An understanding of the nature of the problem would indicate that the Government, with the help of the people- all the people- is slowly and surely bringing the country towards the fantastic potential that it has. Australians used to be- and I believe that at heart they still are- proud of the potential of this country. It is a potential which is exciting for all Australians as individuals and, indeed, for the country as a whole, because it will allow the country to contribute in the international field virtually as it should contribute.
The terms of the matter of public importance which confronts us and about which we are speaking this afternoon are, 1 believe- 1 hope 1 can show this in a few moments- totally in line with the destructive attitude, the distortion and the confusion which typify the Opposition which has raised the matter. The matter of public importance refers to the rate at which we are reducing public sector expenditure. It is merely the rate of reduction which is being attacked and not the total amount of public expenditure. That is the first area of confusion. We are attacking the public sector in some measure because we are convinced that it is necessary to transfer resources and effort into the private sector from which those things have been chased. It is necessary to do that because the private sector employs more than 70 per cent of the Australian work force. It is the private sector which produces virtually the entire export income of this country.
I wish to look just for a moment at some of the initiatives which this Government has introduced in order to sustain the argument that in fact we are headed on the correct course and not on the course which the Opposition suggests. It was mentioned briefly that the chief objective of the Government when it came to power was to reduce the rate of inflation. The relationship between inflation and unemployment has been indicated many times. The fact is that the rate of inflation has been reduced; it has been more than halved in 2Vi years. That is a remarkable performance, and it is one of the elements which should be starting to give to the Australian people a measure of confidence and a measure of recognition that they can return to the sort of successful prosecution to which they have been used.
What else have we done in the course of 2lA years? I do not intend to canvass all of the matters because time would not permit. However, I shall refer to a number of achievements. I refer, firstly, to the introduction of the three tier system of personal income taxation. Unquestionably that is the greatest measure of taxation reform that this country has seen. That reform has contributed tremendously to productivity and it will contribute in greater measure to a return to initiative in the future. We brought about- the Whitlam Government failed to do this- the full indexation of personal income tax. That in itself got rid of one of the worst rake-offs of the socialist era. We reintroduced the investment allowance. That has had a significant effect on activity in the manufacturing, the maintenance, the advertising and the sales fields. The investment allowance applies not only to primary industry but also across the board to secondary industry.
The reintroduction of the superphosphate subsidy, the introduction of family allowances, the encouragement given to oil and mineral research and development are all matters which are contributing to the revival of the economy and the community. The abolition of estate and gift duties is providing a circumstance in which more investment capital will become available, thus providing job opportunities across a wide field. Indeed, it is worthy of note that amongst those things we have not done is to increase indirect taxation. That is an area in which the socialists seem to be particularly effective.
There is no doubt that unemployment remains with us and that it is a major obstacle to overcome. Equally, there is no doubt that it can be overcome only by the establishment in the economy of a real measure of confidence and of an expansionary circumstance in which it pays to employ more and more people when there is profit in the enterprise. That is the whole object and direction of government activity. Probably more than anything else- indeed, Mr Whitlam and Mr Hayden have agreed with this on a number of occasions- the extraordinary wage spiral was the basic factor which produced the unemployment which surrounds us in Australia today. The corollary of that wage spiral has been the introduction at a very much greater rate of sophisticated machinery- computerisation- in commerce and industry. That was going to happen in any case, but the sad thing is that it happened at an extraordinarily increased rate.
I turn for a moment to some of the comments attributable to Mr Wran. It pleased me, and I think it pleased a great number of people, to see that the objectives and the performance of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) have been hailed by Mr Wran in New South Wales. He too would be glad about the advent of this circumstances because some of his efforts in recent times have not been so successful. He recently returned from America delighting at the market for coal he saw in that country. Yet, on his return, he found that he could not even handle the coal which would be available for export from his own State over the next 12 months, largely because the facilities which he and his Government could have built were not commenced; in fact, the plans were abandoned. His contribution to increasing confidence in the primary or rural industries in New South Wales in the future has been to increase the freight levy by some 1 5 per cent in 2 Vi years.
There are signs that the economy is getting out of the trough. Therefore the terms of the matter of public importance are totally untrue. The fact that the situation in the stock exchanges is better, that the balance of payments, capital inflow and inflation situations are improving, that there is strength in the wool marketing situation as well as in the wheat situation, and that there is improvement in 101 other areas indicates that confidence is returning to the community and that the suggestions made in the terms of this matter of public importance that we are discussing this afternoon are totally untrue.
- Senator Scott, when castigating the Australian Labor Party and particularly the present Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, for drawing attention to the harsh facts about the Australian economy, appeared to believe that because the Labor Party draws attention to these facts it should be held responsible for them. He reminds me of those ancient despots who made a custom of decapitating the bearer of sad tidings. I guess that it is in about that era that many people of Senator Scott’s ilk have their ideological roots. Before directing my attention away from Senator Scott, I really must comment on a couple of other matters he mentioned. He claimed the Government had introduced full tax indexation. To claim, in the very week that it has been announced that taxes will be indexed by 3.8 per cent in a year when the indexation factor increased by 10.9 per cent, that the Government fully indexed taxes really is a bit much even for a member of the National Country Party with its characteristic respect for truth. The Government has welched on its promise to index taxes, as it has welched on almost all of its other promises. Let us look beyond that superficial although crucial observation. Perhaps Senator Scott would care to explain why the Government adjusted the indexation factor for a devaluation effect of 1.6 per cent, which was greater than the devaluation factor which the Government submitted to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Perhaps he would like to explain that contradiction.
Senator Scott mentioned, drifting off into mysticism again, that, in some way which was not explained, abolishing inheritance taxes would make investment capital available and would generate an economic recovery. That fallacy reminds me of a textbook on economic history I once read. The book was written by one of those apologists for the crimes of the dominant classes past and present who was attempting to defend or rationalise the corn laws in England. This academic prostitute said: ‘Well, the corn laws were a bit tough on the English working class who had to pay three times as much for their staple foodthey were only getting subsistence wages anyway- as they would have had to pay if it was not for the corn laws. Really it would be grossly irresponsible for any government to abolish the corn laws when half the nation’s capital was tied up in land. The author of that passage displayed technical incompetence. The capital, the land, remained there whether or not England had had corn laws at that time. The corn laws did not affect the stock of capital or the national wealth.
What they did affect was the distribution of income within England. They affected it very drastically to the disadvantage of the working class and to the advantage of the land-owning class. Similarly that argument can be applied to Senator Scott’s fantasy about the effect of abolishing inheritance taxes on investment and the nation’s capital stock. Capital is a physical thing. What the abolition of inheritance taxes does is affect the distribution, or rather the maldistribution, of wealth. It does not affect the stock of capital. I guess we could not expect anything more perspicacious than that from an apologist for this Government.
One of the less endearing and more dangerous attributes of the Fraser Government is its propensity to seek escape, if not from reality, at least from judgment on its economic record. When confronted with politically embarrassing facts about the Australian economy, especially facts on unemployment, government spokesmen usually respond in one or more ways. Firstly they blame the long-departed Labor Government. That is Senator Carrick ‘s favourite trick; he did it again this afternoon. Secondly, they pretend that the facts, like the man on the stair, are not there. Senator Scott’s variant of that trick is to blame the Labor Party for the facts because the Labor Party draws attention to them. Thirdly, they indulge in statistical trickery to minimise the significance of the facts. Treasurer Howard used all three of these devices in a speech which he gave to the Australian Financial Rreview Economic Conference which I think was held at the end of April this year. He said:
In the two years November 1973 to November 1975, unemployment as shown by the ABS quarterly survey increased from 105,000 to 275,000, an increase of 160 per cent. By contrast the increase between November 1975 and November 1977 was some 40,000 or 14 per cent. It is thus clear that over 80 per cent of the total rise in unemployment in the last four years took place before November 1975.
In other words, the Labor Party is to blame. In support of that conclusion the Treasurer dishonestly misrepresented the facts in two ways. Firstly, he used November Australian Bureau of Statistics survey figures, knowing of course that because of his Government’s denial of eligibility of school leavers for the unemployment benefit as from November 1976, November figures before and after 1976 were no longer comparable. More importantly he used percentage increases instead of absolute increases- instead of the actual numbers. The distorting effect of this trick of using percentage increases can be shown, I hope, in the following simple example. Let us suppose that unemployment in one year stands at 20,000 and in the next year it increases to 100,000. The increase in numbers is 80,000: in percentage terms it is 400 per cent. Then let us assume that the next year the figure increases to 200,000-that is an increase of 100,000 expressed in numbers- a greater increase. However, in percentage terms it is only 100 per cent as against 400 per cent. That is the particular piece of statistical trickery which the Treasurer resorted to on that occasion.
If one were to make an honest comparison on this basis one would firstly choose the February figures for 1974, 1976 and 1978. If one did that one would find that from February 1974 to February 1976, which is the period relevant to the Labor Government, there was an increase of 195,000- which was a lot- in the number of people unemployed. For the next two years the increase was 173,000. Some Liberal Party propagandists might take comfort from those figures and say: ‘There you are, we are doing very much better than the Labor Party’. Incidentally, they claimed they had solved the problem, not just done better. However, that is only a superficial conclusion because with some possible exceptions among members of the National Country Party and perhaps the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), it ought to be obvious to anyone who thinks about this matter for more than a few moments, that it is very much more difficult to disemploy the second hundred thousand people than it is to disemploy the first hundred thousand people.
So much for the Treasurer. His colleague, the troubled ex-Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson)- or the ‘on leave’ Minister for Finance- said on 24 February that the unemployment figures were largely a myth. This is the sort of comment we would expect from someone who then attempts to fiddle the Hansard record as well as electoral boundaries. The Treasurer on 10 April, I think, said that the Opposition had no monopoly on its concern for the genuinely unemployed. The phrase ‘genuinely unemployed’ is an interesting concept. The Treasurer did not define what he meant, but presumably he was repeating the old myth to which this Government resorts when really cornered, that in fact the unemployed are not victims of the economic crisis but are in fact dole bludgers who are not even looking for work.
The Government’s strategy for economic recovery has been based from the very beginningthis is one thing to which the Government consistently stuck- upon expansion of the private sector. Let us look at what happened to the private sector during the period that this Government has been in power. The latest available
ABS publication, Monthly Review of Business Statistics, May 1978. shows us that the number of people in private employment, seasonally adjusted, from June 1975 to February 1978 fell by 74,000. There has been an absolute decline of numbers employed of 74,000. So much for recovery based on the growth of the private sector. The total number of people in employment has declined by much less than that- by 1 8,000. The reason for that discrepancy is that government employment has increased by 56,000. The Labor Party did not make up these facts. They are the facts and the objective view of the world as it really is. All we do is to draw attention to them. From this evidence it can be seen that this Government, which was committed to a recovery based on expansion of the private sector, has seen employment in the government sector increase by 56,000 and employment in the private sector, to which its policy is supposed to be oriented, fall by 74,000. One could scarcely ask for more decisive evidence of the failure of the Government’s economic policies. But if he wants some more evidence, let us look at one or other key economic indices. Building approvals for the last month for which figures were available, which was February of this year, stood at 9,700. During the years 1974, 1975 and 1976 the average approval rate was 10,100, 12,200 and 11,500, respectively. That reveals a decline of about 10 per cent from historical levels.
Another key economic indicator is the registration of new motor vehicles. The latest figure available in this publication, that for the month of March 1978, gives the figure for cars and station wagons, seasonally adjusted, as 32,300, which is down by nearly 5,000 from the figure of the previous month. It is the lowest figure since the previous April, and is down also by some 10 per cent from even the recent, depressed level.
The greatest delusions of all have come from the Prime Minister. On 12 December 1976, he asserted:
We are on the way to beating inflation, creating jobs on a sound long-term basis and establishing the conditions where individuals are again in a position to make important decisions as they see fit.
Prior to that, on 26 May 1976, he had said:
The Government’s strategy is working. The present measures will help to sustain and support the economic recovery which is now occurring.
– What was the date of that statement?
– May 1976, just over two years ago. It is highly significant that he virtually repeated those words this week. Since he made that assessment, employment in the private sector has fallen by 74,000. The key economic indices are all down.
I must say a word or two about the contribution to this debate of Senator Carrick. With the possible exception of the Prime Minister himself, nobody epitomises better the capacity of this Government to seek escape from reality and judgment than does Senator Carrick. In trying to explain away the ballooning deficit that is looming up for this financial year and the next, he said that this was caused by increases in expenditure which could not have been foreseen when the Budget was drawn up. He cited specifically the beef industry assistance scheme and said that the cost of this was $ 100m. In fact, the estimated cost is $125m. That was really a very damaging admission, because he had said that it could not reasonably have been foreseen at the time the Budget was drawn up. We have had a beef recession for almost four years. Is Senator Carrick telling us that the Government became aware of the beef industry’s problem three years after the phenomenon became manifest, only after the Budget was drawn up? Not likely! What Senator Carrick is actually admitting, by that statement, is that last year the Government drew up a phoney set of accounts because it planned to hold an election; that it deliberately excluded moneys which it knew it would spend later on. It did this because it did not want to publish the fact that it had a deficit that was in excess of $300m.
I have just had placed before me a headline which notes that the Chief Justice of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Mr Justice Moore, has said that there is no sign of recovery.
– Who said that?
- Mr Justice Moore of the Arbitration Commission. One thing that Senator Carrick did not tell us was that expenditure on unemployment benefits is running $ 160m above the Government’s estimate. The Government knew that that would happen also but deliberately excluded it from the Budget accounts. To produce a synthetic reduction in the published deficit, the Government presented a falsified set of accounts with the Budget.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– To sit on this side of the chamber and listen to the cliches and tired arguments that have been pouring forth from Opposition senators during the last two hours has been absolutely galling. One would have expected that at least by now they would have found a new basis for their argument. Instead, we have had the same old tired stories that we have been hearing since the Fraser Government came to power in December of 1 975. The Opposition has learned nothing and forgotten little. It remembers full well who created the problems back in 1974 and 1975. It has apparently forgotten that this Government has a policy which is working; that inflation is indeed being conquered; that the defeat of inflation is a prerequisite to establishing a foundation for the solid growth in the economy which is to come.
Let us examine some of the points that have been made by the Opposition during this debate. The Opposition denies totally that there is a linkage between government expenditure and inflation. Its whole argument is based on the premise that inflation derives from some outside cause and is not generated within the Australian economy. As we know, the very solution that the Opposition proposed when it was in government in 1974 was to spend more money. So we saw government expenditure balloon by 46 per cent in the 1 974-75 financial year and by some 23 per cent in the following year. What happened? Unemployment went through the roof. Inflation went through the roof at the same time. These are facts. Opposition policies have been tried and have been seen to fail. The linkage between government expenditure and inflation was demonstrated clearly during the period when Labor was in office.
Over history one thing has been certain: an increase in the rate of inflation of any nation has been preceded immediately by a huge increase in the money supply. The factor that contributed most to the increase in the money supply during the four or five years of the Whitlam Administration was the expansion of government expenditure, which was of the order I have just mentioned. Those are the factors that are at the core of the present problem. It is all very well for the three stooges on the other side to say that by now this Government ought to have overcome that problem. The difficulties were created by virtue of the huge wage increases of that time, which were accentuated by the huge government expenditures and the costs caused by shortages in the economy as a result of the Government’s diverting resources that would otherwise have found their way into the hands of the private sector. Those costs have been passed on, through wage indexation, to augment the costs we face today.
Senator Walsh proudly reminded us, by reading a headline from a newspaper, of the fact that there had been a 1.3 per cent increase in wages- a flow on from the consumer price index. What he was saying was that the costs that have been created in the past quarter will have to be passed on, by virtue of wage increases that must be absorbed by employers, in this quarter. That is an illustration of what has been happening in the economy as a result of Labor’s term of office. One quarter’s cost rises have been passed on through the wage indexation system to the next, and successively down the line. We find that cost rises are still flowing through from those which originated three or four years ago. Those are the facts. Those are the things that we are still fighting against in order to get the economy back on a sound footing.
Indeed, the Fraser Government, as a result of successful representations to the Arbitration Commission, and elsewhere, has brought down the rate of inflation from 1 7 per cent or 1 8 per cent to approximately 8 per cent for the March quarter of 1978. We expect that the coming year will produce an even lower figure. I hope that that will be so. It is the key to the economic recovery in Australia, as we now perceive it. We will go on to look at the situation on a worldwide basis. The very problem that Australia faces is that because of competition from goods made overseas, it has been forced to reduce its work force. Simply expressed, consumers in this country choose to buy imported goods. Those factors are still fundamental to our problem. As I think Senator Wriedt pointed out earlier, because of the cost problem in the economy, manufacturers are moving into the use of machinery in order to displace workers. That is one of the unfortunate effects of the cost problem which was induced by the other problems which the Whitlam Labor Government brought about in the period prior to 1975.
The only way in which we can solve the problem of machines displacing workers in factories is to make it cheaper for goods to be produced in Australia rather than overseas. It is therefore of the greatest importance that the Government’s policies be aimed at increasing productivity to ensure that unit costs are reduced and consequently that we are able to re-employ workers in other sectors of the economy. This is the thrust of the Fraser Government’s policies. The Government is properly spending money on training. It introduced the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprenticeship Full-time Training scheme, the Special Youth Employment Training Program and other schemes aimed at training people for new positions. It is in this area that the right thrust has been generated by the Fraser Government.
A very important aspect emerges if one studies the figures. Very significant taxation cuts have occurred since 1976. Through personal income tax indexation, by the taxation reforms which were implemented on 1 February this year, and which will have a major impact this financial year, a total of S3, 684m has been trimmed off the potential personal income tax bill over the last three financial years. Those reforms have had a huge impact on the position of consumers in the economy and obviously, in the year to come, they will have a very significant effect now that there has been a substantial fall in the level of inflation in the recent financial year. We will see consumers emerging from their shells and starting to buy again. Let us look at some of the production figures for the last financial year.
One of the most significant features of the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd index for the January quarter 1977 to the March quarter 1978 period is that factory production of all groups, based on an index factor of 1 65 at the end of the January 1976 quarter, is currently of the order of 160. However, during the months of October and November 1977 it fell- ‘plummeted’ would be a better word- to an index factor of 152 or 153. We all remember what happened in that period. There was the great Latrobe Valley power strike as a result of which production in this country fell through the floor and consumer demand was obviously affected by the lack of confidence created by that huge dispute which had considerable effects throughout the economy. It was factors such as that dispute which interrupted our economic recovery and which need to be borne in mind by the Opposition before it comes in here criticising the positive policies which have been producing the direct results we have seen in the last few months in relation to inflation. Our policies have been praised by no less a person than Mr Wran, the Premier of New South Wales. An article in today’s Australian states:
The NSW Premier, Mr Wran, yesterday praised the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, for getting inflation down, dismissed Gough Whitlam’s leadership as ‘helter-skelter years’ . . .
Those sorts of statements do not come from our political opponents unless they have properly analysed the reasons for making them. Clearly Mr Wran, having recently been overseas, can understand the international problems we face, which have been caused by the huge cost rises in this country over the last three or four years. The situation, which is well recognised by him, is that we need to get costs down before we can start reemploying people and that is the foundation on which the economy needs to be built. Our rate of cost increases needs to be lower than it is in other nations. We have seen that as a result of our policies our increase in the consumer price index is falling below that of nations such as the United States of America and Japan and below the average figure for OECD countries. This means that if this trend continues as the months go by it will be easier for Australia to sell on world markets. Consequently we will be able to re-employ people in industries in which they have not been employable because of the disastrous effects of the policies pursued by the Labor Government.
T refer not only to the level of inflation that was generated by the Labor Government but also to the tariff cuts it introduced in 1973. Tariffs were reduced across the board in such a ham-fisted way as to destroy workers’ jobs. They were reduced without consideration having been given of the effects of the arbitrary theoretical decision which was taken. This decision consequently displaced up to 120,000 people in the manufacturing sector during 1974 and 1975. Those jobs were destroyed and have not come back into existence because manufacturing industries have been destroyed. We have only to look at the effect of those sorts of policies on some of the important industries in my State of South Australia. In the white goods industry we find that products are being manufactured from mainly imported components. The problems in the motor vehicle industry stem directly from the theoretical arbitrary decision that had no basis, received no analysis and showed no concern for the unemployed. I am sure that Opposition senators, by their silence, acknowledge that point. It is that same attitude which lies behind the silly comments and the silly motion which have been put forward today by the Opposition. I remind the Senate that the Opposition in its motion has suggested that the reduction of Government spending will have continuing harmful effects on the economy.
There is only one way in which the economy will regain full health and that is by reducing our cost levels below international cost levels. In that way we will be able to sell on the overseas markets again. We will not be displacing Australian workers by importing goods. Instead we will find opportunities in the world markets because we can manufacture goods cheaper in Australia. We need to capitalise on the huge investments that have taken place in education over the last 10 or 1 5 years to ensure that we develop a higher level of technology allied to a lower cost structure in order to ensure the progress of manufacturing and of our whole industrial base.
– Pursuant to section 10a of the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residence Act 1953 I present the annual report of the RAAF Veterans’ Residences Trust Fund for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
– For the information of honourable senators and on behalf of Senator Guilfoyle I present a report by the Superannuation Fund Investment Trust on the management of the Superannuation Fund during the year ended 30 June 1977.
Pursuant to section 1 62 of the Superannuation Act 1976 I present the report by the Commissioner for Superannuation on the general administration and operation of the Superannuation Act 1976, other than part III which deals with the management of the Superannuation Fund, and the Superannuation Act 1922 during the year ended 30 June 1977.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report of the Australian Meat Board for the period 1 July to 30 November 1977.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present an interim report of the Australian Wheat Board for the year ended 30 November 1977.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian Delegation to the Sixty First Session of the International Labour Conference held in Geneva in June 1976. Appended to the report are the texts of the following instruments adopted by the Sixty First Session of the Conference: Convention No. 1 44- Tripartite Consultations (International Labour Standards) 1976; Recommendation No. 152- Tripartite Consultations (Activities of the International Labour Organisation) 1976.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 48 of the Australian Housing Corporation Act 1975 and section 50b of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918i present the annual report of the Australian Housing Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1975. The delay in presenting the final report is due to problems which arose in connection with the form of the financial statements which are required to be presented with the report. Prior to 24 June 1 975, the date on which the Australian Housing Corporation came into existence, the accounts were kept on a different system to that required by the Act. Considerable difficulty was experienced in preparing commercial statements in an approved form covering the whole of 1974-75. Notification of the approval of the form of financial statements by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) was received on 8 March 1978. The report of the AuditorGeneral is dated 3 1 May 1 978.
Motion (by Senator Rae)- by leave- agreed to:
That the report be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations.
– I present the sixty first report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances relating to legislation considered by the Committee during this period of sittings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- I move:
In doing so I point out that after almost 29 years of service on this Committee and after 22 years as Chairman of the Committee, I am presenting my last report on behalf of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. At the time I joined the Committee, not being a legal man it did not seem to have any great importance. It was not the type of committee I would have chosen on which to sit. I said to the late Senator Sir John Spicer: ‘What is this committee you are putting me on?’ He replied: ‘I am surprised. I thought we were paying you a compliment by putting you on that committee.’ I then began to think that it was a committee of some importance. As consequence I took a much keener interest as a member of it.
Over the years the Committee has worked very hard. It got right to the bone of the matters it has dealt with. There were many objections from the Government as it was then, of which I was a supporter. In those days when the Committee moved for a disallowance of a regulation we struck strong opposition from our Ministers. It is to the credit of the Senate that the decision of the Committee always prevailed. At the time we owed a lot to the then Opposition for standing with us. As a consequence Ministers were beaten on the vote. I told the Leader of the Government at the time that because he was always getting beaten he should decide to give way. He did so. Now there is not nearly so much commotion or publicity when the Committee wants to move for the disallowance of a regulation.
More importantly, the work of the Committee has been recognised by Ministers as being of such a standard that nearly always when it takes a stand on a regulation the Minister concerned seems to recognise the merit of its viewpoint. The regulation is either altered or withdrawn. We do not have the tussles and fights we had in previous days. As I look back over the years I think the Senate has become duly proud of the Committee because of the standard of its work. It is felt in many quarters that the excellent performance of the Committee has developed the committee system in the Senate with the result that today we have an extensive committee system which is doing a very good job. That indicates the justification for the existence of the Committee. It has built a much better committee system than that which prevailed in previous days.
A great deal of credit belongs to the members of the Committee generally and not to me as
Chairman. The Committee has had some outstanding members. During the 22 years I have been Chairman of the Committee I have noticed that when a new government has been formed a number of Ministers from this chamber were senators who served on this Committee. Their choice as Ministers is an indication of their quality. Some very good senators have served on the Committee. I believe that each and every one of the members of the Committee has given very conscientious service. The Committee meets regularly, nearly every Thursday at 9 a.m. The attendance is generally very good. One outstanding member of the Committee was Senator Sir Reginald Wright. I pay great tribute to him. The Committee and the Senate owe a great deal to him for his work on the Committee. His investigating mind and great legal knowledge made him a valuable member.
One of the biggest fights we had was in relation to the import licensing legislation. I recall the Pressmen coming to my office and asking whether it was correct that the Minister had given way. At midnight there was no word from Sir John McEwen, as he was known later, of anybody giving way. It was not until about 2 a.m. that I knew what was happening. We used to sit ridiculous hours in those days. I think I was one who was responsible for helping to knock off that ridiculous system. At about 2 o’clock in the morning I got word to say that the Minister, Sir John McEwen, had given way to the Committee. The Committee would not allow the regulations to stand unless an appeals board was established. There was no right of appeal, and the Committee was very strong on that. The Committee said that it would let the regulations stand provided the Government set up an appeals board comprising two businessmen and only one public servant. The matter really came to the notice of the Committee because of the investigating mind of Senator Sir Reginald Wright. Unfortunately he was very busily engaged on the Kemp-Orr case which was a sensational case at the time, and of course it was my job as Chairman to do the fighting while he was overseas. But it was his idea and that is how the matter was brought forward.
Simply to illustrate that it pays for committees and honourable senators to stand up for something in which they believe, I remember 12 months after that the late Sir Denham Henty, who was the Minister for Customs and Trade, announced in this chamber that the Government was bringing in legislation to establish an appeals board relating to customs based on the very successful appeals board that was established under the import licensing legislation. Of course he took the credit. He referred to the appeals board ‘which we, the Government, established’. But in fact Reg Wright, in moving for the disallowance of the regulations, and the Committee, in fighting for this provision, were responsible for the establishment of that appeals board. People who wanted to import things had no right of appeal. Our action was considered by the business world to be exceptionally favourable, and it was a decision for which the people were very grateful. That illustration shows how people with expert knowledge, enthusiasm and devotion to service can get together on these committees and do things that even Ministers may not recognise the need for at the time. I wanted to pay that tribute to Senator Sir Reginald Wright because he has been a member of that Committee for about 30 years- roughly the same period I have been on it- with the exception of the time when he was a Minister. I am one who is delighted to see that he has been honoured for the great service that he has rendered to this nation and to his State of Tasmania.
Other members of this Committee have also stood out. The late Senator Greenwood with his legal knowledge was a very valuable member of the Committee. I am sure that his loss to this chamber and to the nation was a very severe one. There has been a high standard amongst the parliamentarians on this Committee. From the Opposition side the late Senator Cohen, a man with very fine legal attainments, served on the Committee. Former Senator Everett from Tasmania was another legal man from the Labor side who served on the Committee. Probably in earlier days he had an association with Senator Sir Reginald Wright in the legal world.
The Committee has also been served very well by some laymen. Some of the laymen who have served on the Committee have struck me as being people who have had the mental capacity to be able to come to very sensible decisions on matters. If I may, I will mention Senator Cavanagh who has been a member of the Committee for quite a while. He left the Committee while he was a Minister. Senator Cavanagh has always impressed me with the analytical way in which he looks at regulations. He has impressed me to such an extent that I have always believed that if he had taken up legal studies he would have made a very good lawyer. 1 think he proved a very valuable member of the Committee. Sitting opposite me at the moment is Senator Brown who was a member of this Committee for quite some time. He also was a layman member of the Committee and he always gave me the impression that he would come down with the right decision. It is something that some people have. Both those laymen were excellent members on that Committee. I was very sorry to see Senator Brown leave the Committee.
Senator Devitt who was the Deputy Chairman of the Committee and who, for the years while the Labor Government was in office, was the Chairman of the Committee was devoted to the work of the Committee. While I was Chairman of the Committee I found him a very loyal Deputy Chairman and also when he took on the chairmanship of the Committee I was happy to serve under him as the Deputy Chairman. I considered him to be a very fine Chairman indeed. Amongst the laymen members on the Committee from the National Country Party was former Senator Ellis Lawrie. He was a rural man and one may think that probably committees involved with legal aspects would not be attractive to that sort of a person. But I found that he also was a person who had a very good analytical mind. The way in which he would think things out and come to a conclusion was surprising. I thought he was a very valuable member of the Committee.
Some of the other more recent legal members on the Committee whom I recall include Senator Wheeldon and Senator James McClelland. Unfortunately we did not have them on the Committee for many years, but during the period they were with the Committee they served it well. They were people who had investigating minds because of their legal training. From the National Country Party the Committee also had as members Senator Drake-Brockman, who served for quite a while, and Senator Webster, who is now the Minister for Science. Both those men have served as Ministers and as Leader of the National Country Party in this chamber. They both gave excellent service to the Committee.
When I look back at those members of the Committee- and Senator Cavanagh is still with the Committee- I can see that we have had real quality on the Committee. The work of the Committee has been carried out in a non-political way. I think Senator Cavanagh gave me great credit for the fact that I would never allow political angles to be brought into the deliberations of this Committee. Of course as soon as a political angle is brought into the deliberations of this Committee, it will be finished. This Committee has won an international reputation. I remember some years ago being told that India formed a committee similar to our committee because of what that country knew about the work of our Committee. New South Wales also has a similar committee, but I cannot remember when it was formed. I know that Victoria and Queensland both formed their committees as a result of the work of this Committee. As has been mentioned, the famous British House of Commons committee wrote to me as Chairman of my Committee and asked me to set out a complete charter of the work that it should do, which was a marvellous tribute because the House of Commons is the mother of all parliaments. That is where it all started, and for the House of Commons to write to us was a wonderful tribute. The Committee members and I got together. We laid down a charter and I understand that many of our suggestions were accepted. The Committee has achieved an excellent standard of work because it has operated on a parliamentary basis, not on a party political basis. It has attained much success.
I believe that today the Committee is in very good hands. Amongst the present members is the Opposition Whip, Senator Georges, who is just filling in. If I might be permitted to say so, Senator Georges has in my opinion come to some very good decisions. Amongst those who have served on this Committee is our own Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers. He served on the Committee for several years. The quality of the people who have served on the Committee could not have been too bad. In fact, it must have been very high because Senator Withers is now the Leader of the Government in the Senate and also the Minister for Administrative Services.
I do not want to go into detail in respect of the present members of the Committee but I am very pleased to see that Senator Missen, a legal person, is on the Committee because he also is a man with an investigating mind. I believe that as a result of his actions and work on the Committee, he will remain a very valuable member of the Committee. I hope in view of the changes that are taking place in the membership of this chamber, that some of the senators who have legal knowledge and also those who are laymen will combine their talents to make this a very good and continuing Committee. It would be a shame to see the present high standard of this Committee fall in any way. I make a plea to the Senate to ensure that it appoints to this Committee people who will do the job with the highest parliamentary standards.
I remember when I first became the Chairman I spoke to the late Senate Sir Neil O’sullivan and suggested that we might have so and so on the
Committee. I remember going to former Senator McKenna on the Labor side who was a legal man and a very fine parliamentarian and talking to him in the same vein. I believe that as a result of those representations, we did get a high standard of membership of the Committee. I have talked about the work of the Committee and also the work that has been done by very prominent members of the Committee in helping it to carry out its great responsibilities.
We were very fortunate with the various personnel who served as secretaries. The first Secretary I can remember is the famous Senate expert, Mr Jim Odgers, who is now Clerk of the Senate. I think everybody acknowledges that if ever a person were devoted to the Senate it is Mr Jim Odgers. Mr Odgers’ book Australian Senate Practice is proof that he is an absolute expert on the work of this chamber. He was Secretary to the Committee when I first became a member of it. Mr Roy Bullock, who was with us for some years, was the next Secretary. He proved to be a very fine secretary. He had a nice demeanour, was very helpful and was always keen on the Committee’s work. The next Secretary was Mr Cumming Thom, who is probably the longest serving secretary of the Committee. He was with us for quite a number of years. Mr Cumming Thom, like the two previous secretaries, took a great interest in our work. In the period in which he was with us we were in very good hands.
After Mr Cumming Thom was transferred to another position, Mr Bert Nicholls took over as Secretary and served us for a long period. Mr Nicholls also proved a very keen member of the secretariat. He did not serve in times which were as turbulent as previous years. During those years he was keenly devoted to the Committee. His work was always considered to be excellent. At present the Secretary is Mr Harry Evans, a young Senate officer. He has a very keen mind and helps the Committee to a great extent by explaining to those of us who are laymen what certain things mean. I appreciate very much the service by Mr Evans to the Committee and to myself as Chairman, just as I appreciate the help that all the other secretaries gave to me during my period as Chairman. I feel that the Committee is very fortunate and well placed to proceed with its excellent work while it is in the hands of Mr Harry Evans.
I believe that the Senate can be very proud of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. I hope it will permeate through the minds of everyone here that the work of the Committee should not be allowed to drop in any shape or form. It is a vigilant committee which looks at regulations and ordinances to see that the rights and liberties of people are not unduly trespassed upon and ensures that what should be legislation does not come under the cover of regulations and ordinances. A couple of other aspects are considered, but regulations and ordinances are the two important aspects. For the benefit of the people of this country and for the status of the Senate, I feel that the Senate should make sure that the standard of the Regulations Committee does not fall. If anything, it should increase. It should remain a committee of which the Senate and the nation can be justly proud.
I take the opportunity of thanking the Senate for giving me the opportunity to serve on this Committee. It has been a great experience. As a layman, probably not equipped on the legal side, I feel that I am all the richer in my mind for having served on the Committee. In doing so, I hope that I have given the Senate and the nation the best that I can give. I thank the Senate.
– I cannot let the occasion of the presentation by Senator Wood of his last report as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances pass without some comment both on behalf of the Government and on a personal basis. Senator Wood was Chairman of the Committee for a record period. He had a remarkable period of service as a member of the Committee and as Chairman. I think in both cases he broke all records. The Committee is one of the major committees of the Senate. A committee which deals with subordinate legislation is a major committee for any Parliament. It has also been a pioneering committee for the Senate and for the Senate committee system.
I fully endorse all that Senator Wood said about the Committee. I had the privilege of serving on that Committee and also serving on it under the chairmanship of Senator Wood. He is inclined- he did so again today- to play down his own role because, as he frequently emphasises, he is not legally qualified. I assure you, Mr President, and the Senate, that that has in no way reduced his effectiveness as Chairman of the Committee. I think that the Committee should comprise senators who do not have legal qualifications. It is useful and valuable to have some legally qualified senators on it. The Committee is concerned with the preservation of the very basic rights of the individual. As guardians of those rights, Senators generally regard these matters very dearly. Senator Wood has not only been fully alert to those basic principles at all times but also has been a very effective administrator of the Committee’s affairs. The Committee has expeditiously got through a very regular burden of work. The Committee, by its regular meetings on every Thursday morning while the Senate has been in session, supplemented by perhaps a few special meetings, has managed to keep up with its work at all times. It is important that the Committee do that, and under Senator Wood’s chairmanship it has succeeded. On behalf of the Government and certainly personally I express deep appreciation for the very fine achievement of Senator Wood as Chairman of this Committee.
-As a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances I wish to add a few words. The 6 1 st report is a very historic occasion. It is the last report of the Chairman, Senator Wood, and of Senator Sir Reginald Wright. Members of the Committee have appreciated very much the work of both these honourable senators. We appreciate that this report, apart from what has been said, includes nine different regulations of importance which, as the report shows, have been repealed or amended as a result of representations of the Committee. This does not mean that there has been a debate in the Senate or a great argument with the Government. Evidence has been given, representations have been made and agreements have been reached. The work which the Chairman has done in this period in discussing matters and ensuring that the result is suitable to the Government and to the people of this country and protects their rights is important.
The report records the last part of the work which Senator Wood and other honourable senators have done. What has been said already indicates the appreciation which is felt for the Chairman and Senator Sir Reginald Wright. The Committee has in fact added, as honourable senators will note, an addendum to the report. We have not discussed the addendum with the Chairman or Senator Sir Reginald Wright. The other members of the Committee- that is a big majority- have taken it upon themselves to assist upon an addendum being added. I will read the addendum because it should be in the record of Hansard and be heard by those who are listening tonight. It reads:
The Committee has directed that this addendum be added to the Report to record the deep appreciation of the Committee, an appreciation which the Committee believes will be strongly endorsed by the Senate, of the long years of service to the Committee by its Chairman, Senator Ian Wood, and by Senator the Honourable R. C. Wright.
Senator Wood has served on the Committee for over twenty-eight years and has been its Chairman for more than twenty-two years. His assidious and enthusiastic work is well known to the nation and has been of substantial importance in ensuring the success of the Committee as a constant watchdog over the regulation-making power of the Executive.
Senator the Honourable R. C. Wright has given to the Committee for many years his inestimable service as a lawyer and as a defender of the liberties of the people.
The Committee believes that it has played an important part in establishing the Senate Committee system as we know it today and ensuring the predominance of Parliament and those two Senators have played unique roles in developing this tradition of the Australian Parliament.
That is our expression in brief of the work which we feel requires the appreciation of the Senate and this Parliament to these two gentlemen members of the Senate. I feel that much of whatever has been achieved- it is very substantial- in the development of the committee system in this Parliament, and in this House in particular, is owed to these two honourable senators because of the work they have done. We, as members of the Committee, join in congratulating them both on their work and wishing them well. We hope that the Senate approves the work which they have done.
– I wish to add a few words as a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. If one enters these discussions late one is fortunate in not having to say too much because everything has already been well said by others. Nevertheless, I say of Senator Wood that although we have levelled many criticisms at him from time to time not one of those criticisms has been directed towards his work on the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. The record stands for itself. The pride which he has had in the work that he has done is a pride that he deserves very much indeed.
Senator Sir Reginald Wright, a man who has had such a turbulent career in the Senate, I find to be of two characters. One we see in this chamber is aggressive, as we have been reminded recently. But in committee work he is another person altogether. I have served with him on several committees. I served for a short time with him on the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. He applies his great mind in a microscopic way to the benefit of this Parliament and the legislation which is enacted here. I wish both senators well in their retirement. They have done well for the Senate.
Senator Sir REGINALD WRIGHT (Tasmania) (5.58)- I acknowledge the very generous references made by Senator Ian Wood, Senator Missen and Senator Georges- I think with the approval of the Senate- to my work. My work has been given, as usual, with unlimited energy and effort to the best of my capacity. The functions of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances have been sufficiently described. The Committee has maintained steadfastly in a non-party way the principles enshrined in our charter. Be it remembered that the Senate had the foreknowledge to create this Committee in, I think, 1936 as a result of a great crisis in 1931. That was eight years after Lord Hewart’s book The New Despotism was first published, if my memory is right, and two years before Hitler, by an abuse of subordinate legislation, invaded the Reichstag with this power.
I have risen to pay my tribute to the cooperation of Senator Wood and his magnificent work as Chairman of the Committee. Let it be understood, Mr President, that in all the matters on which Senator Wood and I found ourselves of one view never has there been the slightest preconcert or consultation except by debate in Parliament and debate in Committee. I am grateful to the Senate for according these few minutes for me to acknowledge what I consider to be a very generous tribute and to thank honourable senators for it.
– I endorse the sentiments and appreciation expressed about Senator Wood. He has given salutory service and made an inspiring contribution to this Senate, the Parliament and to our nation. He served 28 years on one highly important committee, 22 years as Chairman. That indeed is something to which all members of Parliament seeking to serve can aspire in the tradition that has been set by this very honourable senator, Senator Wood. I join warmly in the tributes paid to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) by leave- Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation in relation to an answer which I gave at Question Time today. Senator Douglas McClelland asked whether I was present at any gathering of Ministers between January and 21 April when the Minister for Administrative Services told the Ministers that he had contacted Mr Pearson, the Australian Chief Electoral Officer, and mentioned to Mr Pearson a proposed change of names for electorates in Queensland. In my answer to this question I endeavoured to draw a distinction between the periods, January to 10 April and 10 April to 23 April. I have seen the answer which I gave as recorded in the Hansard pinks’ and I have also listened to a recording of the answer.
There appears to be some contradiction in the answer I gave and certainly there is a lack of clarity about it. What I intended to say was that before the period 10 April to 23 April I was not present at any meetings when the Minister for Administrative Services told Ministers that he had contacted Mr Pearson about a change of name. But during the period from 10 April to 23 April, as I said in the answer to the question, there were discussions between Ministers in which the whole question of Mr Donald Cameron’s allegations, including this matter, were discussed. But as there seems to be some doubt, certainly from the answer I gave, as to whether I was making that distinction between those two different periods, I wanted to clear the matter up.
-Mr President, I present a report from the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment on annual reports referred to the Committee as at 1 July 1978.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-I move:
The Senate, on 1 March 1978, resolved to refer to the legislative and general purpose standing committees for their consideration the annual reports tabled in the Senate of government departments and statutory authorities. Pursuant to that resolution the Committee has examined and now reports on annual reports from the following bodies:
Several of the annual reports examined by the Committee in both this and the Committee’s preceding report on annual reports of March this year raise issues which the Committee would have liked to follow up by the calling of evidence. Because of a heavy workload in relation to its other activities the Committee was not able to do so. The Committee’s comments, therefore, are based largely on the content of the reports viewed in the light of the Committee’s overall responsibilities to the Senate.
Examination of matters reported on, or in some cases omitted from, annual reports of departments and statutory authorities offers a potentially vast field of inquiry for legislative and general purpose standing committees. This Committee considers it desirable that some areas of this field should be explored and intends from time to time to call evidence on some of the reports referred to it. For example, a report on which the Committee would have liked to obtain further information is that of the Council of the Australian Institute of Marine Science. The issues which the Committee could have wished to probe more deeply are discussed in this report, and centre on the role and activities of the Institute.
Arising from this the Committee considers that many annual reports need to outline, particularly in the case of statutory authorities, not only what has been done, but also what should be done and what is planned to be done. Parliament can not adequately assess the performance of an authority unless it can at the same time measure that performance against the authority’s expectations and objectives.
The Committee also considers that authorities could comment on whether, in the light of changing circumstances and their experience, they consider the Acts establishing them may require amendment. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission report represents a case in point which questions the limitations on its activities as set down in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act and advocates certain changes.
The Committee notes that some reports, in a few cases over a period of years, refer to matters remaining unanswered from previous years or speak of delays or lack of action in relation to matters raised previously. The Committee considers such matters should not remain unanswered and accordingly recommends that the government of the day should make a point of responding to specific problems raised in annual reports. It further recommends that such responses should be reported in the subsequent annual report. Unless this is done Parliament and public remain unaware, from annual report to annual report, of any response or its nature.
In its previous report on annual reports the Committee commented on the lateness of tabling of some annual reports. The position regarding the reports considered in the report I have just presented is generally better- only one being more than 12 months out of date when presented to Parliament. The Committee reiterates its view that Parliament must have access to current information on the operations of Commonwealth departments and statutory authorities for effective scrutiny and review.
In concluding these remarks, I particularly refer honourable senators to the Committee’s comments on the Australian Institute of Marine Science. The Committee expresses some concern that the Institute, either because of staff restrictions or some other reason, appears to be limiting its research and information activities rather narrowly. The Committee indicates it would like the Institute to declare its medium and long-term plans in relation to marine science generally, and to provide more comprehensive data on the current state of marine science research in Australia.
I acknowledge the untiring efforts of our Committee staff without which it would be impossible to present comprehensive reports such as this. I also place on record my personal appreciation and that of the Committee of the efforts of Mr Peter Dawe, Mr John Vander Wyk and of course our hardworking stenographer, Mrs Sykes. I commend the report to honourable senators and seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- This is a statement which has been put down in another place. With the concurrence of the Senate, I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
Only a handful of issues has, in the last few months, attracted more persistent speculation than the prospect of a revised immigration policy. Few issues have attracted so wide a spectrum of sentiment, from the extreme of the virtual open door to the absolute of the door nailed firmly shut.
The question of immigration is rarely argued in detached terms. This is because each of us has a personal stake in the future of Australia which we see through our own frames of reference. The issue of Indo-Chinese refugees has brought all Australians face to face with the reality that no longer are we insulated and isolated from immigration questions of immense significance. The Government has been conscious of diverse attitudes and has, in its deliberations, tried to find that consensus from which democratic Government draws its strength.
Immigration ought to be above partisan political polemics and largely it has been. I credit Opposition spokesmen with a concern for people equally as profound as that of the Government. The issue between us has never been the fact of immigration but the quantum and nature of intake. We have shown a common belief in a policy of non-discrimination. We have been at one on the principle of accepting refugees though some would put emphasis on one source, some on another.
I now state policies and programs determined by the Government as a framework for Australia’s population development. Since 1971, we have seen a portentous change in the demographic factors which determine the growth and composition of Australia’s population. The number of births has been falling steeply. Australia’s fertility level is now below long-term replacement. Australia’s immigrant intakes have fallen to post-war record lows. Since 1 974, immigration policies have been very tightly defined. Migrant entry has largely been limited to nominated immediate family members, refugees, persons travelling under Australia’s bilateral arrangements with New Zealand, and a very narrowly-defined group of workers with occupational skills in continuing demand in Australia.
Many people have seen it as anomalous that Australia, as a nation built on continuing migration, has so drastically changed its course. There are many people in Australia with relatives overseas with whom they would wish to be reunited in Australia. While there has been a shortage of hard data on which to reach firm conclusions regarding the economic effects of population growth and immigration, many have seen a link between post-war economic development and large-scale immigration. It was against this background that, in 1976, the Australian Population and Immigration Council prepared a Green Paper on Immigration Policies and Australia’s Population. The tabling of the Green Paper in Parliament in March 1977, signalled great public discussion on the issues it raised.
There has been extensive consultation with State Governments. Each State considered the Green Paper and presented its own views in a submission to the Commonwealth. The issues were discussed at Conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs over the past year. There is a remarkable degree of unanimity among the States on the importance of a continued positive approach to population building through immigration, and on related policy measures. Submissions have been received from individuals and organisations around Australia. A community consultation program has provided individuals and groups with the opportunity of presenting and discussing their views in seminars and with a task force of departmental officers. There have been talks with union leaders, representatives of industry and commerce, and government authorities in all States and Territories. To all, I record my thanks and those of the Government for their contribution.
There has never been, in Australia, so comprehensive a review of immigration. Not everybody has offered an opinion but everyone has been invited to do so. In the main, those with stronglyheld views have taken the opportunity to advance those views. The importance of looking beyond our immediate problems was frequently stressed. Though the Government must give priority to resolving the prevailing economic difficulties facing Australia, it believes that population and immigration policies lay the foundations for tomorrow.
It is important that, as a nation, we clearly state the basis on which our immigration policies will operate. Accordingly, the Government has adopted a set of nine principles upon which we will act. In so doing, we hope to secure wide understanding both by Australians and by the peoples and Governments of other countries of the goals, obligations and constraints of our policies. The principles are:
These nine principles have a common basis: The interests of Australia and its people, together with compassion and international responsibility.
I turn now to changes in policy. Many submissions on immigration policies and criteria have stressed the need for two major changes. First has been the need for some relaxation in the current very tight criteria for the entry to Australia of family members. The difficulty here is that a very high proportion of family migration consists of unskilled workers and their families. The opportunities in Australia for unskilled workers make it difficult to justify a major policy relaxation causing a substantial rise in unskilled immigration. Nevertheless, the Government believes that it is practicable to introduce changes to make it easier for family members to qualify for migration to Australia.
The other major criticism of existing policy hits at what was seen to be the narrow occupational controls on the entry of all migrants other than those in the immediate family group, refugees and those entering under Australia’s arrangement with New Zealand. Many people, including Members of this Parliament who make representations to me on behalf of individuals, find it difficult to accept that Australia should refuse entry to applicants with qualities, including energy and initiative, to make a success of life in Australia. In the past, many such people have helped to shape Australia, economically, socially and culturally.
The Government, acknowledging shortcomings in existing policy, will change entry criteria. Provision will be made for concessional entry of certain categories of relatives who are not within the immediate dependent relative category but who, as a result of their particular circumstances, merit major concessions, for example, the last remaining family member overseas and relatives able and willing to assist on a continuing basis where death or permanent disability of relatives in Australia is causing hardship.
I have already said that there would be serious problems for Australia if the existing very relaxed criteria for the entry of immediate family members were extended to all or a major proportion of more distant relatives. Studies of past trends indicate that such a policy, if applied over a prolonged period, would be likely to result in intakes totalling hundreds of thousands of persons per year. This is unsupportable. At the same time, we respect the wish of many people to join brothers and sisters and other relatives already in Australia. The need has been to devise a policy which can make it easier for family members to qualify for admission to Australia, without bringing about a migrant intake heavily biased towards the unskilled, and so large as to overstrain Australia’s absorptive capacity. It is the Government’s intention to do this through changes to the procedure by which applications for migration are assessed. These changes, the details of which are still being finalised through testing in Australia and overseas, will involve the application of numerical weightings, or points, to the assessment procedure. Applicants nominated by relatives in Australia will be given ‘points’ for the nomination.
These changes will help to facilitate broader family reunion. But as long as all members of this House are agreed that some occupational and numerical control is required of the migrant intake, and especially when programs are on the small side, it will not be possible to admit all people just on the basis of relationship to a resident of Australia. Past policy has allowed the entry of parents of working age notwithstanding the disposition of the family. In future, family disposition will be taken into account.
People seeking the entry of relatives are generally required to provide maintenance and accommodation and in other ways to assist with their resettlement. This necessarily requires that the sponsor or nominator be well established in Australia. The recent policy review has shown a serious incidence of problems among newlyarrived migrants whose sponsors or nominators were unable to provide the assistance and guidance expected of them. Past policy required that sponsors and nominators have at least one year’s residence in Australia before being eligible to introduce relatives other than spouses and children. In future, the residential qualifications will vary according to the nature of the sponsorship or nomination and may be waived where compassionate factors are present.
During most of the post-war period financesmale and female- have been eligible for entry provided the claimed relationship was assessed as genuine. Fiances have been required to leave Australia if the marriage did not take place within a prescribed period.
Since the tightening of controls on migrant entry in 1974, we have seen a rapid growth in numbers gaining entry on the basis of a claimed engagement to marry a resident of Australia. In 1974-75, the number totalled about 1,000. This year, it is expected to be over 4,000. There is growing evidence that people unable to meet normal entry requirements are misrepresenting themselves as fiances in order to gain approval for migration. A high proportion do not marry on arrival. There have been instances of women in Australia being exploited by men overseas using the relationship simply as a basis for migrating. The Government does not intend to intrude into the personal relationships of people claiming to be engaged or impede the reunion in Australia of bona fide engaged couples. Nevertheless, the procedures will be revised to help detect and exclude those who are engaged in such deceit and exploitation. The revised procedures will apply from today.
The majority of applicants for migrant entry to Australia do not seek consideration on the grounds of family reunion, refugee status or other special factors; they are people who are motivated to seek resettlement for economic and social reasons. Such motivation may stem from a desire to leave countries where political, economic and social institutions are insecure, or where social and economic rigidity operates against individual ambitions and potential. The motivation may be a simple appreciation of the high standard of living enjoyed in Australia. Australia is seen as a prosperous country offering good prospects to people with initiative and as a desirable place to raise their children.
A further factor influencing migration is the ease of international movement. Many skilled and professional workers seek the challenge of migration to expand their expertise or to utilise qualifications and experience which are underemployed in their own countries. Australia has much to gain by providing for the entry of those independent applicants possessing skills, qualifications or experience and the personal qualities of initiative and adaptability to facilitate successful settlement. Through the entry of such people the migrant intake includes a desirable proportion of professional and skilled workers. This will balance the family reunion and refugee intakes in which a high proportion of the workers may be unskilled and nonEnglishspeaking. It will also offset the outflow of professional and skilled people seeking career experience overseas.
The number of independent applicants for migration to Australia is large- hundreds of thousands a year. Many lack the skills, education and other characteristics to succeed in Australia. The new approach to migrant selection will be based on numerical weightings of factors considered to be indicators of capacity to settle successfully in Australia. Applicants will be screened first against a group of economic and employment factors. If they meet minimum requirements, they will be interviewed and considered against a series of personal and settlement factors. This system will ensure that the migrant intake remains consistent with Australia’s absorptive capacity and that those who are accepted have the abilities to settle successfully.
The criteria relating to the entry of independent applicants will also apply to relatives of residents of Australia who do not qualify for inclusion within the immediate family reunion or special family reunion provisions. However, as indicated earlier, credit will be given for the presence of a relative who is prepared, and has the means, to assist and accommodate them.
Most independent applicants are approved for entry to Australia without specific employment being arranged in advance. There are instances, however, where prior employment has been arranged by means of an employment nomination lodged in Australia by an employer. In some cases, the employer has been in touch with the applicant, while in others the employer is prepared to accept applicants provided they meet certain skill and experience specifications. Applicants included in employment nominations will be required to meet the same criteria that apply to independent applicants although credit will be given for the nomination.
Arrangements will be made to ensure that such nominations are genuine and meet a demand that cannot be met satisfactorily in Australia or in a particular locality. Where an employer has made genuine but unsuccessful efforts to recruit locally, he will be permitted to lodge an employer nomination with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
In the past, immigration has contributed greatly to Australia’s stock of business initiative and entrepreneurial know-how. Many of Australia’s settlers have applied their experience, technical competence and capital to add new products and services- and even new industries- to the Australian economy. While the numbers of such people are small, their contribution has been great. Immigration policies will continue to provide for the entry of entrepreneurs, provided they have the necessary technical and business experience and capital required for the enterprise they are proposing to establish, provided their venture is potentially viable and providing the likely economic and employment effects are favourable.
Australia has traditionally provided sanctuary to people in distress. Over 300,000 such people have been resettled in the past three decades. As I announced last year in my statement to the Parliament on Refugee Policy and Mechanisms, Australia will continue to take a positive approach to accepting refugees for resettlement.
Australia has long enjoyed a special relationship with New Zealand. This includes provision for the free movement between the two countries of their citizens and of certain other residents of each country. In discussion this year with the New Zealand Minister for Immigration, we affirmed our determination to preserve these special links while controlling the abuses. Officials from both countries are working jointly towards measures to achieve this goal.
Similarly, Australia and Britain have had a close relationship which has continued to flourish despite focussing on our respective- very widely separated- regions of the world. Many Australians with parents or grandparents born in Britain enjoy the right of entry to that country under the special ‘patrial’ provisions of British immigration laws. Australia has reciprocated by providing concessional migrant entry for British citizens with an Australian born parent or grandparent; this provision will remain.
Australia is seen by many people overseas as an attractive country in which to retire. Many bring with them retirement pensions or income earning assets which allow them to be fully selfsupporting. Such people add to the Australian domestic market and do not contribute to unemployment. However, as aged- or ageing- people, they can be expected to place above average demands on various public facilities, particuluarly medical services. Moreover, as residents, they add to the general infrastructure costs met by society. While Australia would not wish to exclude such people as a matter of course, it cannot neglect the potential demand they place on the Australian taxpayers unless they, too, make a contribution to taxation and other revenues commensurate with the demands they make. Australia’s policy will thus be to accept such people only where they can be expected to be fully self-sufficient throughout their years in this country.
At the conclusion of this statement, I shall be tabling details of the new categories and criteria. In general, the commencement date for the new policy will be 1 January 1 979.
Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications
The Government is conscious of the importance of facilitating the recognition in Australia of qualifications gained overseas. The Committee on Overseas Professional QualificationsCOPQ has made much progress in extending the recognition of overseas qualifications at the professional level. The Galbally review identified the need for similar work on overseas higher technical and sub-professional qualifications. In consequence, the Government has decided to extend forthwith the terms of reference of COPQ to cover technical and sub-professional qualifications. I shall be tabling these revised terms of reference.
Throughout the post-war period, immigration has been planned on an annual basis, having regard to the absorptive capacity of Australia and the availablity of suitable applicants overseas. Each program was subject to review in the light of changing circumstances. In the immediate post-war years program were set to achieve a one per cent rate of growth through net migration, which, together with an expected one per cent rate of natural increase, was intended to yield a 2 per cent rate of population growth for Australia. Annual net migration gains rose as high as 2.04 per cent of population in 1949-50 when a net gain of 162,000 was achieved. In the 1970s, the net gain has been very small, with a 30-year record low ofO. 15 per cent in 1975-76.
State Governments and major employers have stressed the importance of predictability in the level and composition of the immigrant intake as an important feature of manpower planning and as a basis for planning future Government works and services and private sector investment spending. Ideally, as in the case of natural increase, it is desirable to maintain a steady rate of immigration. If the rate must be changed for any reason, then it should change slowly.
To achieve this desirable stability, and to provide a reliable basis for planning in the private and public sectors, the Government has decided to implement triennial rolling immigration programs, beginning with the period 1978-79 to 1980-81. The use of a rolling program approach allows for flexibility on a year-to-year basis in achieving overall targets for the three-year period. Programs will be constantly monitored and, within the concept of triennial programs, there will remain the flexibility necessary to vary the composition of the migrant intake to meet particular demands.
The varying levels of emigration have also to be considered in determining programs. In 1977-78, a gross intake of around 77,000 is expected to yield a net migration gain of about 70,000. The Government has decided that the net annual gains in the first triennial program should also be 70,000. It is estimated that a gross intake of 90,000 will produce a net gain of 70,000 in 1978-79. Of the total intake of 90,000, the gross worker intake will be 35,000. Taking account of likely worker outflows, the net worker gain will be of the order of 27,000.
Critical to the success of future immigration programs will be the co-ordination of manpower, population and development policies at the local, State and Commonwealth levels. In particular, the immigration program will be planned with special regard to Government policies on retraining and assistance to industry. The effects of technology transfer, the needs of growth centres and specific regional needs will be reflected in each program. In view of the important place of accurate labour market information in the new approach to selection of migrants, it has been decided that assessment of labour market information should be developed progressively on a three-monthly basis for major regions and occupational categories.
People granted temporary entry into Australia for any purpose are expected to fulfil the obligation they sign to leave Australia by the end of their authorised stay. There has been provision for categories of temporary entrants to apply for. and be granted, permanent resident status under certain conditions. Widespread abuses have developed.
The categories of visitors who may in future apply for change of their status to permanent residence while in Australia will be tightened as from today to reduce the incidence of circumvention. Nonetheless, our revised policies will be no more stringent than those generally applied by other countries. Details are included in a paper I shall table.
States have differing population and labour needs and immigration programs must have the flexibility to meet, those needs. Nevertheless, all States suport continued immigration at medium to high levels, provided the nature of immigration is consistent with State and regional needs. Accordingly, State Governments will be consulted on the level and content of each triennial program and the annual revision of the program. In addition, State governments will be able to initiate their own nomination schemes for the recruitment of immigrants to meet State needs.
The Australian Population and Immigration Council which has played a major role in the review of immigration policies and programs and population issues, will continue to be the prime consultative body on these matters.
To date Australia has not had experience of the implications of a non-discriminatory policy with large intakes of migrants. While future policy will be based on the application of selection criteria on a non-discriminatory basis, regular monitoring of the impact of migration on the Australian community will be undertaken to ensure that the composition of migrant intakes sustains cohesion and harmony in Australian society.
At present there is no shortage of applicants overseas. However, many do not have skills or qualities which would enable them to find employment and integrate readily under present circumstances in Australia. With promotional action, including advertising, the provision of assistance incentives, it is expected that sufficient applications will be received from persons with occupational experience and personal qualities enabling successful settlement in Australia to meet programs of the level the Government is setting.
The Government is determined to ensure that, as far as practicable, population growth optimally serves Australia’s various interests. Prevailing trends in fertility, mortality, immigration and emigration will be carefully monitored. The implications of the various trends will be studied against their capacity to support the achievement of various national goals. There will be continuing study of international migration and other demographic trends in other countries. The effectiveness of the new policies and any future developments in policy will be subject to continuing evaluation.
The first steps have already been taken to implement this approach, through the Australian Population and Immigration Council. In November 1977, the Council brought out the first issue of Population Report, which is to be a series of papers outlining current population trends and drawing the attention of planners to their likely future implications. Demographic change proceeds slowly. Policies now being implemented and those which will be adopted in the future will have a permanent impact on the most important characteristic of the nation- its people.
I have seen some comment that the immigration emphasis will be solely on numbers. Nothing is further from reality. Broadly the policy emphasises: compassionate family reunion consistent with the absorptive capacity of our society; selected intake of breadwinners and their families who can offer skills shown to be in short supply and other qualities; refugee intake on a scale consistent with our position among nations.
One could attach vast numbers to those three areas. The interest from overseas is enormous. Honourable members opposite know the pressures they, as much as my colleagues live under, to secure admission of many persons not readily meeting entry requirements. But we are not chasing numbers. We are in the business of strengthening Australia by diversification, by meeting anticipated needs, by meeting family obligations.
Each year applications from hundreds of thousands of prospective migrants are not approved. Over 40,000 requests for review covering over 150,000 people are received annually. This large volume makes it impracticable for existing administrative appeal and review bodies to undertake this major task. It has been decided in principle that review panels will be established within the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. The advice of the Administrative Review Council will be sought and review panels then established.
In simple terms, this program underlines the Government’s faith in immigration as an element in economic growth. It recognises the need for caution in current conditions but is sensitive to family reunion, humanitarian, and international responsibilities. The Government has adopted a long-term approach to population growth in which immigration is the only controllable factor.
Policies for the future are never arrived at easily. Inevitably, there is not enough up-to-date information available for policy-making to be on a comprehensively-informed basis. Nor is there ever an optimal time for forward planning; in boom conditions, expectations frequently outstrip realism; in depressed circumstances, there is a tendency for future needs and opportunities to be obscured by immediate problems. There is sometimes a temptation for authorities to put off decisions because of a shortage of data or because the time seems inopportune. Such negativism fails to recognise that a decision to make no change, or even to make no decision, is a decision nevertheless- and one which might have more serious consequences than those which would flow from a more positive approach.
Recent years have been difficult for Australia; low levels of economic activity, high unemployment, high levels of inflation, all signify a marked transition from the conditions prevailing in the previous two decades. And yet, even with these difficulties which require urgent attention and whichaffect every citizen, Australia remains a desirable country, still young, and rich in potential. While there are costs to population growth, these have to be weighed against the costs of stagnation and decline.
The policies announced in this paper confirm the Government’s commitment to future population growth with immigration playing a major role in determining the rate and composition of that growth. Between now and the end of the century population and immigration policies will need to adapt progessively to changing circumstances. It has been decided that fundamental reviews of policy should be undertaken every five years with the first such review in 1 983.
Australia and its people are extremely fortunate. We have a vast land area with a low overall population density, a large share of the world ‘s mineral resources; stable and efficient administrative systems, a high level of personal prosperity and material security, an extensive system of social services and a spirit of egalitarianism which promotes an exceptional level of social and economic mobility. We must continue to have confidence in ourselves and the future- to meet the challenge of our destiny- to build together a nation rich in diversity, yet united in purpose.
Senator MULVIHILL (New South
Wales)- by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted: debate adjourned.
- Senator Sir Reginald Wright, is this motion formal or not formal?
– It is formal, Mr President. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Reginald Wright) read a first time.
-I seek leave to move a motion that this Bill be now read a second time.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed:
That the second reading be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Senator Sir REGINALD WRIGHT (Tasmania) (8.10)- I move:
I wish to speak to the amendment.
– Order ! The amendment would not be in order at this stage because the second reading has to be adjourned to the next day of sitting or to a later hour this day.
-My amendment seeks to change the words ‘the next day of sitting’ to the words ‘a later hour this day’. According to advice, I am in order.
– You will have to suspend Standing Orders.
-No, I suggest not. I suggest that I am entitled to speak to the amendment or, if it is out of order for me to do that, I am entitled to oppose the motion. I oppose the motion: ‘That the second reading be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting’. Mr President, you know full well that the effect of that motion moved by the Government is to relegate my Bill to the bottom of the list of General Business, and that means that, because I am leaving the Parliament on 30 June, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) in leading for the Government is depriving me of the opportunity ever to advocate in this chamber a Bill to regulate the provisions of a Bill which was passed over my vote last week.
– Order! Under the Standing Orders it is imperative that this matter be not pursued as you are pursuing it now.
-But the motion–
– It is out of order.
-Mr President, I have been -
– The honourable senator is out of order. He must not persist.
-Is not the motion before the Chair: ‘That the second reading be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting’?
– Yes, that is so.
-Am I not entitled to speak to that motion?
– You can speak to that motion but you cannot move an amendment.
-I said whether the amendment is in order or whether it is the motion -
– The amendment is not in order.
-Thank you, Mr President, I oppose the motion. I ask to be heard. Am I in order in following that course?
– Yes, you are.
– It is Tweedledum to Tweedledee, as far as I am concerned, with the greatest respect. I want to make it clear that I do not want to waste the time of the Senate on immaterialities. I am opposing the Government move in relation to my Bill which has been passed to you, Mr President, and which is on the table of the Senate. The Bill seeks to make a very simple amendment to the parliamentary retiring allowances scheme. The Government has moved that the second reading debate on that Bill should not be heard tonight. It will take 10 minutes, it will better inform -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. It seems to me that under Standing Order 1 92 Senator Wright cannot relevantly address himself to this motion in the terms which he is. Therefore he should be ruled out of order. Standing Order 1 92 provides:
After the First Reading, a future day shall be appointed for the Second Reading of the Bill; and the Bill shall, in the meantime, be printed.
In the absence of the suspension of Standing Orders, it seems to me that the only thing that Senator Wright can advocate in an orderly manner in this chamber is that the matter be set down for a day of sitting after the next day of sitting. To argue anything else is in breach of Standing Order 192.I suggest that he be ruled out of order and made either to cease addressing the chamber or to address himself to the proposition I have put forward.
– Order! The point of order raised by Senator Chaney is perfectly correct. I uphold the point of order.
-I am just considering what procedure is available in this democratic institution to enable me to get this Bill considered by the Senate.
– I have ruled on a point of order. I will read Standing Order 1 92. It states:
After the First Reading, a future day shall be appointed for the Second Reading of the Bill; and the Bill shall, in the meantime, be printed.
It is very clear.
-Yes, Mr President, but you have accepted a motion from the Leader of the Government that the second reading be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– A future day.
-No, the next day of sitting. You accepted the motion from the Leader of the Government.
– I am prepared to withdraw that motion.
-I am not allowing you to withdraw. You are on the hook. The President has accepted your motion and the Senate has the motion before it. It is only a week ago that I was acclaimed on the other side of the chamber for defending the confidence of the Leader. Now when I make a move to have a matter of principle debated I insist, with the greatest respect, that a motion having been accepted by the chamber that the second reading be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. I take the point of order because we have a great deal of business before the Senate and little time in which to deal with it. The comments which are presently being made are not relevant to anything. May I remind the honourable senator -
-The Liberal Party wants to do business, but in what way?
– Order! I want to hear Senator Chaney.
– I am seeking to use this opportunity to remind my colleague who has been in this place for a long time that if he wishes to do so he should move for the suspension of Standing Orders. I would have thought that that was a fairly obvious course open to him. He should stop wasting our time on irrelevancies.
– I wish to be heard on the point of order, according it the respect that is indicated by that course. I urge again that whatever the Standing Orders may say the practice has been with government Bills for the first reading to be moved and then the second reading to be moved immediately and the debate adjourned. Pursuant to that atmosphere, the Leader of the Government moved that the second reading debate should not take place tonight; he moved that it be an order of the day for the next day of sitting. When I moved an amendment to that motion, Mr President, you ruled it, after some hesitation, out of order. I accepted that ruling and began to debate the motion that you had accepted. I submit that without the leave of the chamber you are not entitled to withdraw that motion from debate. We are entitled to debate it. The motion has been moved and accepted without objection. Therefore, as a member of the Senate, I am entitled to debate it.
- Senator Chaney took a point of order on it.
- Senator Chaney now takes a belated point of order to prevent me from making a speech. But leave out all these things, because I know the Liberal Party. I know that the whole chamber is thirsting with energy to get on with what is called the business of the Senate. If I were to be heard for a matter of 10 minutes, it would save an interruption of what may be 90 minutes before this is finished. When it is all over, if I am frustrated in respect of all I wish to say on the second reading I will immediately call a Press conference and give the whole of it to the Press, highlighting the fact that the Government may bring itself within the indictment of Burns who wrote that those who have the fear of the truth should be heard are those whom the truth should indict.
- Mr President–
– I am speaking to a point of order but taking the opportunity, Mr President, to try to bring -
– Come on Reg, you are being a humbug.
– Order !
– My manner can reproduce order. I am going about this matter quietly and submissively. What I want to do is to economise on the time. My essential point now that I am to be heard without interruption- you, Mr President, having accepted a motion from the Leader of the Government in the Senate that the second reading be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting and I having attempted to move an amendment that you have ruled out of order- is I to speak to the motion that you did accept and -
- Mr President, can I speak to the point of order
– Order !
– In the quiet that I have established I conclude by saying that I, having put that point of view, urge you, Mr President, not to be persuaded by anybody to move from the rigid rules of debate that a motion before the chamber which is accepted is open to debate by anyone, even me, the humblest member of the Senate.
-Mr President, can I assure the honourable senator that I am trying to be helpful and not obstructive. I would have thought that the honourable senator, after having been here for 28½ years, might have had some passing acquaintance with the Standing
Orders. The motion that the Bill be read a first time was carried and the Clerk read the Bill a first time. Could I explain to the honourable senator that if I had not moved that second reading be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting the Bill would never again have appeared on a Notice Paper. That is a fact of Senate practice.
– Do not speak with such ex cathedra authority- you have not got it.
– I am one of those who do not claim infallibility. However, if the honourable senator would like to make that claim as pontiff maximus of the Senate, God bless him. Mr President, I thought I was being helpful. The honourable senator says it is the usual practice in this place that we proceed from the first reading to the second reading one after the other. That is certainly the case in most instances. But the honourable senator ought to recall that when a Bill is introduced the Minister moves that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill passing through all its stages without delay. That is said 20 or 30 times a day in this place. All I am saying to the honourable senator is that what he ought to do- this is what he ought to have done- is to do what I am now inviting him to do, and that is to move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent his Bill passing through all its stages without delay.I even know the words off by heart. I thought that the honourable senator would have learned them by now. If that motion were carried he could immediately proceed to the second reading stage.
Mr President, as I have said, I am trying to be helpful. I thought we ought to stay with the procedures of the Senate. After all, Rafferty’s rules ought not be introduced into this place on 7 or 8 June 1978. As I understand it, my colleague Senator Chaney invited the honourable senator on a number of occasions to move that the Standing Orders be suspended. However, the honourable senator preferred to suspect some sinister motive on our part when we were trying to be helpful.
- Senator, you may move that the Standing Orders be suspended.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Senator Sir REGINALD WRIGHT (Tasmania) (8.25)- Mr President, of course I accept the invitation, and I move:
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
That the motion (Senator Sir Reginald Wright’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator Sir REGINALD WRIGHT (Tasmania) (8.32)- I wish to address myself to this motion and to indicate for the Senate quite briefly the reasons why this procedure should not be adopted. The whole Senate- members of the Opposition, Independent senators and those on the Government side- agreed to a program designed to conclude the business of the Senate by Friday night of this week. With great restraint I forbore interrupting that peaceful concert. Last week, when the Government moved for the immediate introduction of a Bill to amend the parliamentary pensions allowances, I did not take up time in pursuing procedural matters to oppose that introduction. I have on the table a Bill whose contents are simply these- I will indicate them just briefly: That there be an investigation of the receipts and expenditure in relation to parliamentary superannuation on 30 June 1 978–
Senator Sir Reginald Wright- No.
– I think the ‘ ayes ‘ have it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 2 May on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-At the least the Opposition should be allowed to intrude into this strange debate which has taken place here tonight. It seemed that Caesar was attacking Caesar ad nauseum. Now that the babble has ceased we can get to the business of the Senate.
-Mr President, I raise a point of order. Senator Georges should get on with whatever he has to get on with and not talk about past debates.
-In answer to the interjection by Senator Rae I point out that what has taken place here in the last SO minutes has been quite irrelevant to the business of the Senate. Senator Rae has a hide to raise a point of order when we consider how for the last 50 minutes we have been endeavouring to deprive Senator Sir Reginald Wright of the right to speak. Senator Rae cannot accuse the Opposition of being part of that; he can accuse only the Government. I was stirred to that response by Senator Rae’s interjection.
The Bill before the Senate at the moment is the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill 1978. The main purpose of the Bill is to provide financial assistance to the States through section 96 non-repayable grants for capital works to improve the quality, capacity, efficiency and frequency of public transport services in eligible urban areas. The Bill will provide $300m, being two-thirds of the cost of approved projects for the five year period 1978-79 to 1982-83. In general terms the Bill provides for a continuation of the Commonwealth funding initiated by the Whitlam Labor Government under the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Act 1974. The allocation of funds to public transport by the Australian Labor Party was the first major investment of public funds in urban public transport since the electrification of Sydney’s urban rail services in 1 920. The neglect of urban public transport since that time led to a deterioration in services and standards. That resulted in a decline in passenger journeys from 1,122 million in 1961 to 948 million in 1971, whilst for the same period Australia’s urban population increased from 5.7 million to 7.5 million.
The Whitlam Labor Government first provided Federal finance to meet the urgent problems the States were facing in replacing rolling stock. It provided funds for hydrofoils and ferries in Sydney, the erection of bus shelters in Adelaide, Sydney and Perth, rail line upgrading and signalling improvements, tram and bus purchases in Melbourne and the electrification of railway lines in Queensland and New South Wales. I submit to the Senate that that was a worthwhile and substantial initiative. I remind the Senate that it was Labor’s 1974 legislation that established most of the important measures carried forward in this Bill. Perhaps it would be wise for the Opposition to recall the record of the Labor Government in this area, especially since the Labor Party is denigrated from day to day by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), who takes every opportunity he can find to denigrate the period in which Labor was in office. That was a most progressive period. It was far too short to achieve what the Labor Government sought to achieve. It was far too short because of the obstruction by members of the present Government while in opposition, using their massive numbers to deny the people’s elected government the right to govern.
Labor’s 1974 legislation established most of the important measures carried forward in this Bill. It provided financial assistance to the States for the programs put forward by the States on a two-thirds to one-third basis. It established five year funding arrangements as set out in the annexures to the Urban Public Transport Agreement of 1974 and processes for consultations with the States. The Opposition does not oppose this Bill. It only carries on one of the many great innovations of the Whitlam Labor Government. In fact, one can only be surprised that this Labor initiative in the field of urban and regional affairs has not gone the way of many others which have been scrapped by a heartless, miserly and conservative government. Of course, one could be critical of the legislation. One major criticism must be the total inadequacy of the amount of funds provided by this Bill. The amount of funds provided is inadequate both in terms of what has been provided in the past and what needs to be provided now. I think it is wise and justified for us to look at Labor’s record in the provision of funds for urban public transport. In Labor’s original proposals at the end of 1972 it was envisaged that a total of $500m would be made available over a five year period, 1973-74 to 1977-78, subject to the increased allocations to cover cost escalations in that time. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in another place said that there was certainly no public statement on record at the time to that effect. I refer the Minister to an article on page 13 of the Sydney Daily Telegraph of Thursday, 16 November 1972. It said:
A Labor Government would implement a $760m public transport plan, the Leader of the Opposition ( Mr Whitlam), said yesterday.
The BTE Report, handed to the McMahon Government in June 1972, recommended that $760m be spent in a fiveyear period . . .
A Labor Government was prepared to implement the whole of the Recommendation.
Simple arithmetic would indicate to me that twothirds of $760m is $500m. It is a matter of public record that Labor was committed to spending $500m over five years on urban public transport. The Labor Government went ahead with that program. On 1 March 1973 the Federal Minister for Transport wrote to his State counterparts as follows:
We have, of course, the basis of your program in details that were put forward by your transport authorities and evaluated by the Bureau of Transport Economics. I would hope that the overall size of the program would not be much higher than that assessed by the Bureau.
This was the confirmation of the Whitlam election promise, particularly as to the scope of the assistance. The Labor Government backed up these words with action. The Federal commitment for the initial stage of programs in each of the five years 1973-74 to 1977-78 was set out in a schedule to the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Act 1974 which also ratified the Urban Public Transport Agreement concluded between the Federal Labor Government and the
States. Its passage was delayed- I place emphasis on this- by the actions of the Senate which disrupted the orderly processes of government and culminated in a double dissolution in 1 974.
We need to go back to that period to appreciate the obstruction of many programs that the Labor Government initiated. During that period the Senate went on strike. One could say that many of the economic problems that subsequently followed were the result of that three or four months period while the Senate sat adamantly opposed to the passage of Supply. The dislocation caused at that time penetrated into many areas of economic activity and led to lack of confidence and distrust. Under the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Act $7 1.91m was appropriated for distribution amongst the States to fund their programs submitted in 1973. Under the Appropriation (Urban Public Transport) Act an amount of $66. 1 1 m was appropriated in respect of the States programs submitted in 1974. Thus, in round figures, $138m was appropriated by the Federal Labor Government for the States 1973 and 1974 programs. If any honourable senator doubts those figures I refer him to page 2512 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 17 October 1974. I admit, however, that it is a matter of public record that the States spent only the abysmal sum of $79m to the end of 1975.
– Be a bit more extempore.
– This is a reflection not on the Federal Labor Government but on noncooperative coalition State governments which were more intent on biting off their noses to spite their faces than to take advantage of the opportunities offered to them by the Whitlam Labor Government. I remind Senator Peter Baume that it is not often that I get an opportunity to speak in support and to remind the Senate of the record of the Whitlam Labor Government. I am afraid he will need to be tolerant with me tonight because I am going to take just a bit more time in this exercise. The Whitlam Government was prepared for an outlay of Commonwealth funds for transport improvements amounting to $500m over five years on 1 973 values. But the programs submitted by the States came to nothing like that amount. In New South Wales, for example, the Liberal-Country Party Government did not proceed quickly enough when the funds were approved and the opportunity for federal funding, particularly of longer term construction projects on the scale originally envisaged, was lost. Under the original approvals about $37m of federal grant money was available for expenditure to 30
June 1976. Up to that time only about $20m had been drawn by the State, or just over half of the amount available to it. I think that underlines the attitude of conservatively led State governments when the Federal Labor Government was in office. They resisted to their own disadvantage the initiatives of a Labor Government. They declined to take up amounts of money that were available to them in order to discredit a Labor Government. It was part of a massive attack upon the Labor Government which led to its defeat at the hands of the conservatives in this country. Since the change to a Labor Government in New South Wales in May 1976 the expenditure performance has been vastly improved. In the year to 30 June 1977 out of a total of $24.25m which was available, an amount of $23.64m was spent. The balance was reserved for the Granville-Penrith quadruplication which was one of a number of major construction projects discontinued by the previous New South Wales conservative Government.
In the 1972 election campaign Mr Nixon pledged to spend $330m on urban public transport. In 1976-77 an amount of $64.6m was budgeted for urban public transport but only $58m was spent. In 1977-78 an estimated $51m will be granted. This was short of the amount the Federal Labor Government appropriated for expenditure in 1973-74 and 1974-75. In the next five financial years the amount to be made available will be only $60m a year and the legislation departs from existing arrangements in that there is no automatic provision for the Commonwealth to support cost escalation as an additional contribution to each project.
I could go on for some time but I know the strictures that face the Senate, and of course we have to allow some time for Senator Sir Reginald Wright over the next two or three days. It seems to me that honourable senators opposite are not capable of handling their future colleague, their own rebel, and I certainly am prepared -
– He is not a future colleague; he has left them.
– You said ‘their future colleague’.
– I correct myself.
– Their past colleague.
-Their past colleague.
– He is over there with you.
-Their present rebeland Senator Withers can have him back at any time he wants.
– There is nothing worse than when Liberals fall out.
-No, there is not. We saw the spectacle here tonight of exchange between Liberal and Liberal that revealed the basic level of their own philosophy.
– It reminds you of a Caucus meeting.
-No. I recall the old definition of a Caucus and a conservative party meeting. One has the thorns on the outside and the other has the thorns on the inside. I will let Senator Withers work that one out. I will not speak at any great length. I merely express the opinion that in the area of urban transport there is an urgent need for assistance to the States. Money is urgently needed for public transport in order to reduce the confusion which exists in the major cities which are dependent on private transport, which are subjected to costly expenditure on freeways and which are faced with increasing traffic congestion and pollution as a result of the over-use of private transport. One cannot underestimate the importance of the legislation which is to be passed through the Senate tonight. All that we on this side of the chamber complain about is that not enough money is being made available. A further criticism of course is that the States with, it appears, the exception of New South Wales, are using the money effectively and efficiently in order to get the best result.
I am reminded of my own experience in Queensland of the slowness of development in Australia. About 55 years ago a house in which my family lived in South Brisbane was resumed by the railways because it wanted to connect the southern suburbs with the northern suburbs by rail. As I have said, the railways resumed that property 55 years ago to the disadvantage of my family and all our neighbours. The other day we were pleased to witness the lifting into place of the last link to connect the south side with the north side of Brisbane. It has taken 55 years to complete the link between the south side of the river and the north side of the river. The tragedy is that in Australia public programs take so long to be developed and completed. Legislation of the sort that is before the Senate is legislation which provides money but the money which is provided should be spent expeditiously. For that reason I reiterate, despite the criticisms that 1 have made, that the Opposition does not oppose the Bill. In fact, it supports it. and I rest on those comments.
– I think it is rather significant that three of the four honourable senators who will speak in this debate tonight come from Queensland. It might be significant that Queensland, being one of the major contributors to the Australian economy, is thankful for the small mercies that it receives from Canberra. The purpose of the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill is to provide $300m over the next five years to the States, and of that amount Queensland will receive a total of $35m or $7m for each of the next five years. An amount of $ 1 00m will be put aside for exigencies and anything that may crop up, and this money will be provided at a rate of $20m a year. It is significant that in this legislation urban transport grant money has been extended to include areas with a population of more than 40,000, and this is very welcome particularly in Queensland.
It means that money can be spent not only in the metropolitan areas but also in cities such as Toowoomba, Townsville, Rockhampton, Cairns and of course the Gold Coast. Many of the people who reside on the Gold Coast now work in Brisbane. I hope that one day the people who live there as well as the people who live along the Gold Coast highway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast will be serviced with a far more efficient transport corridor than just the highway. A valid case could be made out for high speed rail transport from the Gold Coast into Brisbane especially when the rail link over the river, to which Senator Georges alluded, is completed. Such a rail system would mean that people could go right from Southport into the heart .of the business area of Brisbane.
This Bill is also in keeping with our federalism policy. The Federal Government is providing the money with a minimum of interference, but of course the Government will want to know where the money is going and how it is spent. I think that should be so. The money will be divided up after consultation and agreement with the States. I think that an on-going committee should be formed to look at more than just the division of funds. It should look at the total problem of urban transport in Australia. At present Australia and I suppose many other countries are running around like chooks with their heads cut off when it comes to urban transport. We could almost call this funding aspro funding. As soon as a headache arises somewhere in urban transport we bring out the aspro funding to fix it up, without any proper planning and without looking at the total problems confronting the future of urban transport in Australia. This committee should be able to take on board new technologies and new methods of shifting large numbers of people at peak hour periods. It should be able to review the total transport situation relating to the use of rail, water- where there is water- buses and roads.
Unfortunately urban transport at present is in a state of crisis, with air pollution, traffic jams and huge transport deficits. I think the people should realise that possibly never again, even if it ever did, will urban transport pay for itself. We have to look at the cost expended on urban transport and at the total benefits to the community. The more people we can entice to travel on public transport, the less private vehicles there will be on the roads; and with fewer people on the roads there will be fewer traffic jams, less energy will be expended, fewer tempers will become frayed and there will be less pollution in the inner city areas. A lot can be said for urban transport, but a balance has to be worked out as to how much of the cost commuters should pay and how much the community is prepared to bear.
One of the major problems- it always will bewith urban transport is the love affair that the ordinary man has with his car. Take away a man’s wife, if you wish, even his dog; but, heaven forbid, do not take his car. That seems to be the attitude of most of the males today. To discourage the use of cars, public transport must provide an attractive alternative. It must compete in comfort, time, door-to-door access and so on. When new suburbs are built the close relationship between land use, town planning and transportation should be considered. Unfortunately that close relationship never seems to be considered. Complete new satellite suburbs are built without any thought of a rail link. Once the suburbs are built authorities start talking about where the buses will run. They then find out that the thickness of the bitumen is not sufficient to take the heavy buses, and so it goes on. That close relationship must and should be considered at all times. The general concept of reducing energy usage should be to make the necessary provisions for shoppers and commuters to travel less. Planning should be undertaken so that visits to shops, schools, social services and local recreation can be undertaken quite feasibly on foot, by bicycle or, shortly, we hope, by small electric car. New suburbs should have a rail link built to them and small feeder buses running to the railway instead of in opposition to it. Satellite towns can also be serviced by fast rail services, as I mentioned with regard to the Gold Coast.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has measured the changes in the method of travel to work in surveys in 1970 and 1974. The shift to the car for the journey to work has been massive. It ranges from 59 per cent of all journeys in 1970 to 66 per cent in 1974. The higher proportion of workers who travel by car are also using disproportionately more cars for these journeys. There is a trend to substantially less sharing and pooling. About 80 per cent of cars contain only one worker. Our laws on insurance and liabilities concerning car pooling need revising. Mr Tony Richardson of the Monash University has been researching problem areas in traffic engineering since 1974. He states that car occupancy rates for the journey to and from work are falling. The present Australian rate during peak hours is about 1.27 persons. Mr Richardson has estimated that if the occupancy rate in Melbourne returned to the 1964 average of 1.49 it would reduce journey to work energy consumption by about 15 percent, reduce journey to work travel time by 35 per cent, reduce journey to work air pollution by 50 per cent, reduce journey to work running costs by 30 per cent and defer the need for new road facilities for about three years. He contends that a 1 5 per cent reduction in the number of cars on the road during peak hours could be obtained by the introduction of car pooling schemes. I repeat that the present occupancy rate of cars in Melbourne during peak hours is about 1.27 persons. In other words, only one car in every four has two persons in it in peak hours in Melbourne.
The present transport facilities- railways, fixed route buses, ferries and so on- are all being used but are under-utilised. Of course there is still a need for those services. The problems quite often are that the services are unreliable because of breakdowns and strikes. They are not doortodoor. Commuters frankly would prefer the more expensive bumper-to-bumper car travel than the shoulder-to-shoulder mass transport. A problem also arises because of the lack of integrated timetables and fares. I know that in Brisbane a major problem is that buses and trains run in opposition to each other. A good case can be made for trains servicing radii from the central city area and buses being used to feed those trains with integrated fare charging.
Recognising as Senator Georges has done, that all speakers are on time limit so that the Senate can adjourn on Friday, I conclude on one further aspect. Martin Wohl, Professor of Transportation System Planning, at the Carnegie Mellon University has said that ‘few regard the taxi cab as a significant element in urban transport but it has that role and it has a potential for services far greater than those now rendered ‘. I suppose that we seldom think of the humble taxi as a major urban transport method. The car is here to stay, as we have said. We must rationalise its use in the context of providing overall public transport services. Taxis should be used more. They may eventually even replace the second car in the inner city area.
It is quite significant that the taxi industry is the only public transport service to pay its way, even taking account of capital investment, operating costs and the rigid and deleterious controls on fares, licensing and operations. Taxis have inherent cost advantages. The expense per vehicle hour is low when compared with mass transport. When operated for single fares the advantage is quite often lost. One area at which we have to look is group fares to nearby destinations from nearby origins. This capitalises on the low operating costs of taxis. We should look at new technology for the taxi industry. We could have a mass computer map in a central control area. Each taxi would be registered. When somebody rings for a taxi the nearest taxi is sent to him. If somebody is going from a suburb to the city and somebody from along the way rings and wants a taxi the taxi could also pick up that person. We could make far better use of the humble taxi cab. It is the only mass public transport system that pays its way. It has the flexibility to give people what they want; in other words, doortodoor availability. It would be major breakthrough if we could have automatic vehicle monitoring by computer. Thus we would be able to service a lot of our inner city areas without the major burden of the urban transport system as we know it. Of course that does not mean that we can immediately- if ever- do away with buses and trains. Nothing can shift the vast masses of people that we have coming into our transport system at peak hour like good, swift trains. With those few thoughts I commend the Bill to the chamber and acknowledge my support.
– The Senate is debating the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill 1978. As my colleague Senator Georges pointed out, we in the Opposition do not oppose this Bill. Therefore I wish to use the debate on the Bill to highlight some of the problems in relation to public transport in Brisbane. Except in isolated cases public transport in Brisbane is either by way of Brisbane City Council buses or by suburban rail. Despite the popular belief to the contrary buses carry far more passengers in Brisbane than do trains. I shall cite patronage figures for 1976-77 for both the Brisbane City Council buses and the suburban rail service. In that financial year Brisbane City Council buses handled 47.9 million passenger journeys. Suburban rail services, including Ipswich, handled 29.3 million passenger journeys.
– Were they increasing or decreasing?
– They were increasing figures, especially for buses. I give the breakdown for buses and trains to indicate that far more passengers travelled by buses than by trains. There is a unique situation with regard to buses in Brisbane. The buses are being funded principally by ratepayers. In other words, property taxes are being used to fund the deficiencies which show up in the financial statement of the Brisbane City Council bus service. Brisbane is unique among capital cities in Australia in that it funds some of its public transport services from property taxes. So the ratepayers in Brisbane are being forced to make up the deficit in bus revenue. I illustrate how this deficit for the Council has increased over the past four years. To do so, I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard a summary of the financial results of the Brisbane City Council transport undertakings over the last four years.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the Senate. This table shows the financial results of the Brisbane City Council transport undertaking from 1973-74 to 1976-77. We see that in 1973-74 it had a deficit of $3. 9m. This was $3. 9m which had to be made up from ratepayers’ funds. The next year the deficit increased from $3. 9m to $5.5m. In 1975-76 it increased to $6.9m. In 1976-77- the last year for which complete figures are available- the deficit increased to $9.4m. So in 1976-77 a total of $9.4m for the Brisbane City Council transport undertaking had to be made up through property rates. This is a great drain on the ratepayers of Brisbane and obviously it increases the rate burden. Some suggestion has been made recently that certain funds which were allocated to the Queensland Government by the Grants Commission were allocated because of the deficit from the Brisbane City Council bus service. There have also been further suggestions that these funds were not passed on from the State Government to the Brisbane City Council. But this is probably not a proper time to debate that matter. A more proper time will be when the Grants Commission Bill is being debated later this year. I point out, however, that the Brisbane City Council transport undertaking has not received its fair share of funds made available under the Act which this Bill will supersede. To illustrate this situation I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard a table entitled: ‘Metropolitan Transit Authority, Expenditures to 30 June 1 977 ‘.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the Senate. This table shows the funding under the terms of the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Act 1974. On the left side of the table are listed nine approved projects which received funding under the 1974 Act. The first one listed is the cross river rail link which was mentioned by my colleague Senator Georges. The ninth project mentioned is the south side platform. The first three projectsthe cross river rail link; electrification of the Ferny Grove-Darra section of the line and the additional trackage from Roma Street to Northgate were approved in 1973-74. Projects 4 to 8 in this table- that is the fixed system design in regard to engineering of the rail service; electrification of the Ipswich-Darra line; electrification of the Northgate-Shorncliffe line; minor interchanges and acquisition of 30 buses- were approved in 1974-75. In 1976-77 the ninth project- the south side platform- was approved. When one examines this table one can see that except for item No. 8- that is the 30 buses- almost all of the rest of the expenditure is on rail services in Brisbane. Some expenditure under item No. 7- minor interchanges- is to do with co-ordinated bus-rail transport services. Out of a total of $34m spent to date on these nine projects, only $1.9m has been provided towards the bus system, so 30 buses cost $ 1 .9m. The remainder of that $34m went to upgrading the rail system in Brisbane. I have no objection to the rail system in Brisbane being upgraded, but I do have objection to such a pitiful amount of money going to a service which carries far more passengers than the rail services.
The report of the Metropolitan Transit Authority for 1976 referred to the capital works programs submitted for approval for 1977-78 which was the final year of the agreement under which we have been working to date. The items included 75 additional buses, the Toowong workshop, passenger waiting sheds, bus priority measures and two-way radios for buses. Some of those items had been submitted in an earlier year but were not approved. These items were submitted in 1977-78 according to the report of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. If we look further, beyond the report of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, we see that not all those items were approved even though they were submitted. The Commonwealth’s contribution of $940,000 was approved towards the purchase of buses but this would not cover 75 buses. The other items were not approved.
I mention this to round off the total theme that I have been developing that not as much money has been spent on the bus service as there should have been, especially when we relate this to the amount of money that has been spent on the rail service. I mention what has been approved for this year so that those people who are listening to this debate will not get the idea that perhaps I have been concealing something that happened this year which would have ruined the argument and the figures that I have already presented.
In developing the argument that sufficient has not been spent on the bus service in Brisbane, in no way am I suggesting that the Metropolitan Transit Authority is not doing its job properly. If one has a look at the membership of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and examines their background, one can be assured that they are trying their best to put forward a program for Queensland which is acceptable and which will upgrade the transport system, especially the public transport system that we have in Brisbane. The Chairman is Mr P. I. Welding. Mr Welding has had extensive transport experience in the United Kingdom. The Deputy Chairman is Mr L. A. Hielscher who is the Under-Secretary of the Queensland Treasury.
The other members are Mr L. W. Adam, who is the Sales Manager of Reckitt and Coleman Pty Ltd in Queensland. Mr Adam has what one would refer to as senior business knowledge and great marketing experience. Mr Amies is another member who is a chartered accountant and a company director. Some honourable senators know Mr Amies’ previous military background. He also has a background, I believe, as a private bus operator. Mrs Horner, a business woman, represents the general public. Mr Penhaligon, the shire engineer of the Albert Shire Council, represents local government areas from the outskirts of Brisbane. Mr Thorley, the Brisbane Town Clerk and City Administrator, represents, of course, the Brisbane City Council. There is a wide area of responsibility amongst the members of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. I imagine that their wide backgrounds and ability make sure that projects put forward both for rail and for buses in Brisbane are examined thoroughly and are projects that will upgrade the system.
I should like to conclude on that point by reiterating what I mentioned earlier this evening: There are two main transport systems in Brisbanebut and rail. The buses carry many more passengers than the railway but the bus system is receiving far less towards its operation in the way of capital grant than the rail system. As I said, I do not believe that there should be any reduction in the amount of money being put into rail systems in Brisbane but there should be a corresponding increase to the amount of capital that is being provided for the bus system. Until this is done the people of Brisbane will continue to pay for the deficit in the bus system through property rates- something that is not done in any other capital city in Australia. Until further capital is put into the bus system through the new Act that will come into operation after this Bill has passed through the Parliament, we will have a poor bus service in Brisbane. All I ask is that when this Bill becomes the Act, under the new agreement the Brisbane bus service gets a much better deal than is provided under the current Act.
– We are discussing the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill which is in fact an election policy commitment by the LiberalNational Country Party Government and will provide $300m to the States over the next five years, commencing on 1 July, by way of nonrepayable grants to upgrade urban public transport. I note that of that $300m, South Australia’s share is $20m. I am a little disappointed that we were not able to find that something like $30m was granted to South Australia because South Australia has about 10 per cent of the population of this country. I am a little critical in that regard and hope that perhaps in future South Australia ‘s case will be given more favourable consideration. Nevertheless, $20m is a considerable sum and it indicates that the Commonwealth Government is paying attention to the need to provide funds to the States to upgrade public transport.
We heard speeches earlier this evening- I refer particularly to Senator Collard ‘s remarkswhich stress the importance of encouraging people not to use private motor vehicles. I think this is a most important aspect of the whole proposal that is before us tonight. By upgrading public transport, by providing more regular public transport services and by providing more modern public transport vehicles which are more comfortable- perhaps air conditioned- I believe we have some chance of encouraging people to leave their motor cars at home. That has been one aspect of transport that has concerned me for a long time. I have suggested in the past that perhaps governments ought to look at the possibility of prohibiting parking in central business districts, prohibiting parking meters and that sort of thing. In that way, coupled with more efficient public transport services, perhaps we might encourage people to leave their vehicles at home. This, in my view, also would contribute quite significantly to oil conservation. There is no doubt about it: Private motor vehicles are using a tremendous amount of fuel. In a world that is desperately short of fuel this could make a significant contribution to oil conservation.
In Adelaide, of course, proposals have been put forward to upgrade public transport. The
Federal Government in the past has provided money to enable the State Government of South Australia to upgrade the Christie Downs line and that is a quite efficient public transport system. I often feel that it is a pity that the old electric trams have disappeared from Adelaide. In those days although they seemed to be rather comical, in many ways they were a most efficient method of transporting masses of people quickly and efficiently. I remember the old ‘rocker’ tram that was featured in an article in the Adelaide Advertiser recently. I remember riding on those vehicles many years ago as I travelled to and from my consulting room in Adelaide. It was rather a hazardous experience because they rocked rather violently and one felt that one could be tossed off the vehicle without much provocation. Nevertheless, those vehicles did provide a very efficient service. This is something that always impresses me when I visit Melbourne and see the electric trams there.
In South Australia the South Australian Government has been considering providing a rapid transit corridor to serve the north eastern suburbs. Recently the South Australian Government presented a report on five different routes that had some appeal to people in certain areas. But generally I do not think that Government has the ideal solution to the problem by providing a rapid transit corridor to serve that part of Adelaide. I note that the South Australian shadow Minister of Transport, the Liberal Opposition member, Mr Ted Chapman, made comments on the proposal in a Press statement not long ago. In what was a major policy announcement, he said that whilst the actual route of the transit corridor was the sole responsibility of the State Government, an early decision on the route was necessary to avoid further disastrous and unnecessary division which had developed among residents of the various corridor option areas. He said that during the so-called 6-week public participation period considerable bitterness had been generated because the Government had been playing off one group of residents against another. He went on to say that it was apparent that the Government had already decided to adopt the Torrens Valley route, which was option 5 of the NEAPTR proposal. Mr Chapman also said that even the Premier had publicly indicated his support for that route. However, he said that the State Government’s financial mismanagement could force it to shelve the multimillion dollar project. The Opposition in South Australia believes that the Government is in such financial trouble that it may use any excuse to postpone the transit link. Mr Chapman also went on to say that if the Government ultimately announced the adoption of the Torrens Valley route, the Opposition would insist that a full and proper environmental impact study should be undertaken forthwith. He said that the Opposition would seek to have the recommendations of the River Torrens Committee implemented as essential ingredients of the Valley Corridor Development Project.
Mr Chapman does not support, and neither does the Opposition in South Australia, an above-ground tram track in King William Street. Nor do they believe that sufficient discussions have taken place between the State Government and the Adelaide City Council. They were also concerned with the impact on the City of Adelaide and adjacent parklands. So they are very wise in recommending that a full and proper environmental impact study should take place with respect to that proposal. This finance we are providing to the State Government will enable that Government to plan projects of the type I have just described. Although I would like to have seen South Australia attract a little more finance than the sum of $20m- I mentioned that I thought $30m would be a more appropriate figure- I am glad to see that the Commonwealth Government has fulfilled an election policy commitment and is providing this money to the States for this very important purpose.
– I rise only briefly in this debate to highlight a particular aspect of this program which, as has been said in an earlier part of the debate, was commenced under the previous Government. My purpose is not to be critical of this present legislation, but rather to make an observation about this whole urban transport support scheme which was commenced by the previous Government and which has been continued by the present Government. As the legislation points out, the sums which are being allocated under the legislation are quite significant. I shall just cover the years which include the period from the commencement of the scheme in 1 973 to 1 976, which is the last year for which I can find figures. In that period a total of around $200m has been expended by the Commonwealth in support of urban public transport systems for the States.
In no way do I argue with the contention that the Commonwealth must consult with the States in order to find out what they consider to be their particular problems. But I can well recall that when this scheme commenced in 1973, the States were requested to provide information and programs as to the manner in which the money should be expended. Again in this legislation the same process is being adopted. The acid test, of course, of the expenditure of that $203m is whether today more people use public transport than previously. The fact is that today fewer people are using public transport than they were before that $203m was expended. The whole purpose of the legislation from the very beginning was to upgrade the public transport system in a manner which, as previous speakers in this debate have said, will induce the ordinary commuter to move away from his private motor vehicle, with all the consequent problems that involves. We are all familiar with those problems. There is no need for me to recite them. But obviously after a five-year period the previous Government had not succeeded and the present Government has not succeeded. So the total program is not achieving the results that were intended and which, I am sure, are equally intended by the present Government.
I have not seen in detail the schedules that have been put forward by the States this year, but I recall that during the period of the previous Government the programs which the States requested involved a great range of matters such as junction boxes, signal boxes, the upgrading of tracks and certainly the upgrading of rolling stock. But the fact is that a very great sum of money has literally been soaked up, absorbed within those transport systems, without there being at this stage any suggestion of the desired result.
As an endorsement of that statement, I shall cite some figures. The Minister for Science (Senator Webster) may have some more recent figures for me. The Department of Transport annual report for 1975-76, which is the last report I could obtain- presumably it is the last one that has been published- unfortunately does not show total figures of the patronage of urban public transport. I suggest to the Minister that he, in turn, might suggest to his colleague the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) that these figures ought to be collated in an annual report. But I have been able to get from the Parliamentary Library information that even between the years 1973-74, when this scheme was commenced, and 1975-76 there was a reduction in the patronage of the railway system from 374 million passenger journeys to 3 1 7 million passenger journeys. That was two years after the scheme commenced and after an expenditure of about $70m or $80m. Also, we find that with the patronage of trams throughout all the urban areas of Australia, again there was a decline from 1 1 1 million passenger journeys to 107 million passenger journeys. With buses again there was a decline from 418 million passenger journeys to 404 million passenger journeys.
I raised this matter because I think it must be acknowledged- unless there are later figures to disprove the point I am making, and if there are I would be glad to hear them because I would much prefer to hear that there are figures available which prove that the reverse trend is taking place- that the program over the period of both the governments is not getting the results which we both sought. I say that on behalf of both governments because I think we see this problem as a parliament. I put it to the Minister that there should be discussion with the States as to why benefits are not being obtained from the very large sums of expenditure involved. As the legislation sets out, a total of $300m could be expended over a 5-year period under this legislation. I am sure that all of us would hope that we would see at the end of that 5-year period some positive results. The results will be expressed only in terms of the greater use of the public transport system.
So I put it to the Minister- this is not a matter of telling the States what they ought to do- that it at least ought to be put to the States that in order to induce people to use public transport systems there ought be a greater concentration on specific areas, for example, specific routes. Perhaps I could give an example in relation to Melbourne, the capital city of the Minister’s State. There should be a concentrated effort on, say, the Dandenong line, which I think is one of very heavy density, in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. There should be a specific attempt to upgrade that line. A similar example in relation to Sydney would be, say, the Parramatta line or a line running somewhere out that way. By doing so it could be demonstrated to the public that an urban public transport system can be provided which is sufficient inducement to people not to use the private motor car.
The point which perhaps I should reiterate is that these very large sums of money are being soaked up by projects which are largely not visible to the public. In other words, the person who travelled by train or bus or tram to and from work five years ago has seen some improvement, but he has seen only some improvement. The suggestion that I put, of course, would mean that improvements in some areas would be deferred. That would be unfortunate, but I believe that some change is necessary so that we can see results for the expenditure of these very large sums of money. The only way in which that could be carried out effectively, aif course, would be for the
Federal transport authorities to discuss alternatives with the State transport authorities to see whether such a proposal could be implemented. I simply put it to the Minister that if the Government of which he is a member or any other government intends to go on expending these very large sums of money without seeing results- I think I am right in saying that we are not seeing results- obviously the whole program of urban transport will be, as far as the Commonwealth is concerned, very largely a waste of effort.
– Financial assistance to the States is a definite responsibility of the central Government. It is interesting to note that both sides of the Senate support the proposal in this Bill for States grants. It must be emphasised that the Bill provides for grants to the States, and those grants are for the purpose of improving their urban public transport systems. I appreciate the contributions which have been made by those honourable senators who have taken part in the debate. I thank them very much for their contributions on this particularly important Bill.
I shall note quickly the points made by those honourable senators who have spoken. Senator Georges led for the Opposition. He suggested that the funds were inadequate. I imagine that in relation to any financial matter we could agree with his proposition. However, one must realise that in this instance the new program of financial assistance represents an increase of over 50 per cent on the funds that were provided in the current program for the period from 1973 to 1978. 1 think that we as a government- indeed, as a parliament- can be proud of the fact that the $300m which will be allocated under this measure compares favourably with the $190m which was proposed under the current program. Senator Georges also criticised the fact that under the current program it appeared as though the States were spending poorly. The point that should be made is that until the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) negotiated more flexible arrangements, the direct efforts of the States to have high priority areas improved by the States themselves were hindered a great deal. Undoubtedly this extra money will now enable the improvement of those priorities which have been selected by the States to be hastened.
I was very attracted to the comments made by Senator Collard. I thought that his remarks were very much to the point. Indeed, I will see to it that Mr Nixon gets a copy of the points that he has made. Senator Collard was quite correct in saying that the Government extended the scheme to include urban areas with a population of over 40,000 people. That means that the cities of Ballarat and Bendigo in my State of Victoria and the cities of Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Cairns and the Gold Coast in Queensland can be included in fund allocations. Of course, in Tasmania the city of Launceston can now be included in those allocations. Senator Collard referred to a number of urban transport problems. Indeed, it is good that he puts them forward. I think it can be accepted that they are well known to the States. Indeed, those problems are well known to the Federal Government. It is hoped that some of those problems can be overcome by the allocation of funds provided under this Bill.
Senator Colston raised the peculiar position of the Brisbane City Council. The Government has recognised that position. The Bill allows for the expenditure of funds by those local governing bodies which will be eligible under this legislation. He also claimed that the Brisbane City Council had not received its fair share of funds. I think he must recognise that the volume of funds made available under the original 1973-74 to 1974-75 programs was decided mainly by the previous Federal Government. Only new projects which are approved by the present Government in the current year 1977-78 will be allocated funds. Apparently 94 per cent of the funds allocated to Queensland went to the Brisbane City Council for the purchase of buses. I am advised that the figure involved was some $940,000 out of a total allocation of $lm. So I hope Senator Colston will recognise the change that the thrust of this legisation may have for the areas of his concern in Queensland.
Senator Jessop referred to his own State of South Australia and the guaranteed allocation of $20m over five years. His concern was that that figure did not appear to be 10 per cent of the total $300m which is allocated under the Bill. Senator Jessop might note that in the first instance the allocation is in actual fact $200m, and that $20m is 10 per cent of that figure. South Australia will further share in the additional $100m which is to be divided amongst all the States at the rate of approximately $20m a year.
Senator Wriedt raised some quite important points. I do not doubt that honourable senators would agree with his general view about the visual effect of the large amounts of money that have been spent. I am advised that fewer people are using public trasport now than was the case in 1973. The program will take a long time to implement. I think the former Government as well as the present Government recognised that fact. To substantiate that point I point to the cross river rail link and the Brisbane electrification program. That program is not yet completed. The first effective time-table change in the Sydney trains program was introduced only in the last month. I think we all recognise that improvements in that program will be more visible in the foreseeable years than they have been in the past. There have been some very substantial successes. The new Melbourne trams are achieving up to a 30 per cent increase in patronage. There has been a 50 per cent increase in passengers over the projections made in 1975 in respect of the Christie Downs line. Therefore Senator Wriedt, who raised some queries about urban ransport, will be able to see some visual evidence of the measures that were financed by his Government and by the present Government. No doubt we will see some more evidence of the results of this expenditure in the next few years. Senator Wriedt suggested that the States should make an effort to attract people to use public transport. I believe that certainly this could be something that the States could look at. The Minister for Transport has indicated that he will table a report reviewing the impact of the 1973-78 program. We see this program as a major measure. I am delighted that both sides of the Senate concur with the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I draw the attention of the Committee to clause 5 of the Bill and in particular to subclauses (3), (4) and (5) which indicate that the Minister may at any time request a State to supply to him such additional information with respect to a proposal. I relate this to the second reading speech of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) which gives a fairly clear indication that the States are perfectly free to move forward on their various proposals as far as urban transport is concerned. Can the Minister for Science indicate whether, in addition to the requests that the Federal Minister may make to a State for additional information, he can in due course obtain some report from the relevant State Minister in respect of the effect of a particular grant or project.
It is a little unfortunate that a measure like this should be debated so late in this session of the Parliament. As a result we are not in a position to have a lengthy discussion on it. In addition to a transport situation we also need to look at the social and economic situation of the greatest importance. Although the use made of public transport has declined at present, the day must surely soon come when there will be a reversal of the current situation if our total lifestyle in society is to advance in any way. Urban transport has had, and will have a great effect on our social and industrial life. Therefore, looking at clause 5, I wonder whether it is envisaged that the Federal Government whilst giving the States the perfect freedom outlined in the second reading speech will be able to obtain a report from the respective State Ministers about the effect of a particular grant. This is not to look at the way in which the money is spent but rather to look at the overall social structure of our society and in particular at the part that urban transport plays.
– The answer to Senator Davidson’s query can be found in paragraph (c) of clause 1 1 which relates to conditions. The paragraph states:
I think that basically covers the point raised by the honourable senator.
– I thought that Senator Davidson also referred to something else which was a matter I also intended to raise. It concerns me that this is not the first time that this has happened. The impression one gains from reading the second reading speech of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) is that the States were given a free hand to determine what the projects would be. The Minister in his second reading speech said:
I must stress however that funds under this program- all of the funds to be appropriated by the Bill- can only be made available to support projects proposed by the States. It will not be an option for the Commonwealth to determine projects of its own accord.
One could read that part of the speech in good faith and assume that the Minister was in fact telling us what was contained in the Bill. I ask the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) to look at clause 5 (5) of the Bill which states:
5 ) The Minister may approve, in whole or in part-
Sub-clause (6) of clause 5 states:
Sub-clause (7) states:
A State may propose to the Minister a variation of-
Sub-clause (8) states:
It seems to me that anyone reading the extract of what the Minister said in his second reading speech and what is contained in the sub-clauses of the Bill would be entitled to believe that the States do not have the liberty to do exactly what they like. I repeat that the Minister in his second reading speech said:
It will not be an option for the Commonwealth to determine projects of its own accord.
If we read that sentence in a strictly literal sense, that may be true. But the Bill gives the power of veto to the Federal Minister. I would have thought that the intent that is expressed in the second reading speech is not followed through in the Bill itself. I ask the Minister whether he will clarify what appears to me to be a contradiction.
– I noted what Senator Wriedt had to say. I do not find anything inconsistent in the two propositions he put forward. The second reading speech sets out quite clearly that the projects can only be put forward by the States. In actual fact the Commonwealth does not have the power to propose and go ahead with any particular project. The States will be the promoters of the various projects. It follows, of course, that where the Federal Government has the endorsing ability in respect of a particular project the clauses of” the Bill to which Senator Wriedt referred give the Federal Minister the opportunity to discuss with the States projects that they may put forward and in actual fact decide what funds will be allocated.
Perhaps I may have missed the point that Senator Wriedt put forward. But I do not see an inconsistency between what is contained in the second reading speech and what appears in the Bill. The following statement is made in the second reading speech:
The requirement for approval of projects has been the subject of some comment.
It is, as honourable members will be aware, a feature common to many such assistance programs. One obvious example is the Roads Assistance Scheme. As with the roads legislation, this process of approving the use of Commonwealth funds in respect of particular projects is the best way of ensuring that this Parliament knows what use is being made of funds it has appropriated. There is no mystery in this- there is no unwarranted interference in State processes.
I hope that will clarify for Senator Wriedt the point that he correctly made in reference to the second reading speech, and from his reading of the Bill itself.
– I do not wish to prolong unduly the debate on this matter. It is true that the paragraph referred to appears on page 4 of the second reading speech, but I believe that it stands separately from the paragraph I referred to on page 3. Notwithstanding what the Minister has just read, I would refer in particular to subclause (8) of clause 5, under which the Minister has power to refuse a variation that a State may require. Certainly, the State must make the proposal- it is clear that the Commonwealth does not propose projects- but the Minister is given power to refuse the making of a variation. I am not arguing with the right of the Minister to do so, but would object to the fact that within the second reading speech a different impression is given. As is so often the case, one tends to regard the second reading speech as representing an accurate statement of what the legislation proposes; but, when one examines the finer details of the Bill one finds a different emphasis. The Government, or its draftsmen, its advisers, ought to be very careful that an impression is not given in a second reading speech that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Bill itself.
– I hope that Senator Wriedt is not left with the impression that the second reading speech in any way misrepresents the situation. Under the Bill it is necessary that the Federal Government approve any scheme. That is stated clearly in the second reading speech. Again, page 3 thereof is relevant. I do not think it attempts to mislead in any way. The Minister said:
I must stress however, that funds under this program- all of the funds to be appropriated by the Bill- can only be made available to support projects proposed by the States. It will not be an option for the Commonwealth to determine projects of its own accord.
Clearly, the States must themselves generate projects but, as I stated earlier, it is only fair that if the Commonwealth is to determine whether a project is to go forward or not, so too with a part of a project- once proposed by a State- it will be for the Commonwealth to endorse it or otherwise; but it is not for the Commonwealth to propose work of its own accord. That is the point that is made in the second reading speech.
– Clause 7, which relates to the transfer of pans of the proposed expenditure provides in sub-clause ( 1 ):
Where the amount expended by a State, an authority of a State or local governing body of a State, in connection with approved projects, during a year to which this Act applies is such that the amount payable to the State under this Act in respect of that expenditure is less than the maximum grant for the State in respect of that year, the Minister may, after consultation with the appropriate Minister of the State, direct-
That is, direct that certain things be done. Essentially, what he may direct is that certain sums of money which the State has not used from that appropriation can be transferred for use in another State. As I understand it, that is the intent of the legislation. I ask the Minister: Is that a new provision? I am not sufficiently conversant with the Act to know whether it is or not. If it is, I take it that where there may be disagreement with a State, the Federal Minister may direct that certain moneys be appropriated to another State; that that is a decision that the Federal Minister would make. Also, must the initiative come from the State or does it come from the Federal Minister?
– It is a new provision. It does not affect in any way the original allocation of the $200m, but part of the $100m over and above that amount, but which is also to be allocated to the States, can be directed to expenditure in another State.
– I take it that, as to one third of the proposed $300m grant, it is entirely at the discretion of the Federal Minister as to whether any surplus or unexpended moneys in a State can be transferred to another State for expenditure there. Presumably, that is the position?
– I think the honourable senator will appreciate that a Bill such as this is one to which each State must agree; also, that funds are attracted to the program from the States. The second reading speech indicates that although under the Bill an allocation of $300m is involved, with the contribution of the States the total sum involved is $450m. I think we may assume that the States will be alert concerning their requirements. They will each have an allocation and will, I believe, ensure that they gain the maximum amount of the money that is available.
– I understand the Minister’s reference to the sum of $450m that is involved but would ask: Does authority rest with the Federal Minister for Transport to decide whether moneys unexpended within a particular State may be transferred to another State? I would simply ask for a yes or no answer.
– The answer is yes.
– I seek further clarification of clause 7, to which Senator Wriedt has addressed himself, but would also go back to the earlier clause concerning which he asks a question, that is, subclause (8) of clause 5, which provides:
A variation referred to in sub-section (7) does not take effect for the purposes of this Act unless it is approved by the Minister.
If the Federal Minister decides not to approve a variation and, as a result, the State underspends the appropriation, what is to be the situation? Will that produce a situation in which money is transferred from one State to another.
– I am advised that if the Federal Minister does not approve the variation, the original approval would stand and the funds would be available to the State. I take it that is the proposition the honourable senator has in mind: Where the State does not spend the money?
– Yes, because of the Federal Minister’s intervention under clause 5.
– I think we are dealing with a situation where the State would have decided that it had underspent.
– It does not say that. That is the point.
-That is the only way in which it could come about. If the State has underspent there will be surplus moneys to be utilised. It is at the discretion of the Federal Minister that the redirection occurs. I think the point raised by Senator McLaren is answered by that observation: If there is no redirection of funds, the money would be available to the State. If there is underspending- and that was the point made by the honourable senator- the Federal Minister would have the opportunity to redirect the unspent allocation.
– That is the very point I want clarified. I asked earlier what would be the situation if, after the intervention of the Federal Minister under sub-clauses (7) and (8) of clause 5, he does not give approval for the expenditure of money thus bringing about the position where a State has underspent. Will that State then find that the unspent money can be redirected to another State ?
– I do not think that the situation which the honourable senator indicates is spelt out in the Bill. The position is that if there is unspent money the Federal Minister can redirect it. Both Senator Wriedt and Senator McLaren have raised this point and I think it appropriate that I should give them an assurance that 1 will refer it to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), whom I represent in this chamber, and get a written response from him which may clear up the matter for the honourable senators.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Webster) read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment:
Ordinances and Regulations (Notification) Bill 1978.
Statutory Rules Publication Amendment Bill 1978.
Seat of Government (Administration) Amendment Bill 1978.
Administrative Changes (Consequential Provisions) Bill 1978.
Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Amendment Bill 1978.
Acts Interpretation Amendment Bill 1 978.
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 Withers) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill is directed to meeting the problems which the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) outlined in his statement to the House on 5 April 1978 concerning the establishment of spurious embassies in Australia and the making of false claims to diplomatic or consular status.
Australia has obligations under international law and as a responsible member of the international community to ensure that the functions of duly accredited diplomatic or consular missions are not interfered with and that the dignity of those missions is not impaired. The 1961 Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations and the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations give effect to certain specific aspects of those obligations.
It has not been necessary in the past to treat this matter as one for legislative action. However, this has now become necessary because of the establishment in Canberra late last year of a so-called Croatian Embassy. It is not because of any desire to take repressive action against an ethnic group that the Government is introducing this Bill. Rather, it is because the establishment of the so-called embassy in the present case and possible similar conduct in the future would have important implications for the effective operation of Australia ‘s foreign policy and in regard to our political, trade and other relations with wellestablished sovereign States.
I wish to make it absolutely clear to honourable senators that the proposed legislation will be of general applicability. It is occasioned by the establishment of a ‘Croatian Embassy’ but does not single out, or discriminate in any way against, the Croatian people or their spokesmen in Australia, the overwhelming majority of whom have demonstrated a strong commitment to their new homeland. I must also emphasise that in drafting this legislation the Government has been very sensitive to the need to avoid undue interference with the exercise of the rights of individuals. It is for this reason that the Bill is not directed at legitimate political activity, criticism or dissent, in relation to the Australian or other governments. It is directed at false and misleading claims that an establishment or persons have diplomatic or consular status or represent persons, governments, countries or parts of countries in a diplomatic or consular capacity.
In the case of the so-called Croatian Embassy, the claims to representation of a diplomatic or consular character that have been made are offensive to the Yugoslav Government and to the Yugoslav people and to many persons in Australia, citizens as well as non-citizens. One of the consequences of these claims is that the socalled Croatian Embassy serves to confuse and does a disservice to many members of the Croatian community in this country who consider that the officially established Yugoslav missions in Australia are the only ones entitled to or capable of representing their interests in diplomatic and consular matters affecting Australia and Yugoslavia.
Some Western countries have legislation to deal with spurious embassies. Australia does not and, as a result, cannot adequately deal with the serious international complications which can arise when ‘embassies’ of this nature are established. The proposed legislation is designed to fill an obvious gap in existing law dealing with diplomatic and consular missions in Australia.
I propose now to summarise the main features of the proposed legislation. The words ‘office of a mission’ are important for the purpose of the legislation and are defined in clause 3 as meaning an office of a mission or of a member of a mission, whether designated as an embassy, a chancery or a consulate, or in any other manner. Clause 4 is the key provision in the Bill. It enables the Federal Court of Australia, on the application of the Attorney-General, to grant an injunction or interim injunction restraining a person from action or the making or publishing of representations referred to in the clause. The action referred to is the displaying of any sign, flag or insignia on premises or the making of any representation which states or is reasonably capable of implying that there is located at the premises a mission or that the person making that represents, in a diplomatic or consular capacity, a country or a part of a country, the people of that country, or a government of that country, when a diplomatic or consular mission has already been established in Australia, with the consent of the Commonwealth, to represent that country.
Clause 5 enables the Federal Court of Australia, on the application of the AttorneyGeneral, to issue a warrant for the removal of signs, flags or insignia displayed in the circumstances I mentioned earlier. This process is available only where in a proceeding under clause 4 for an injunction, including an interim injunction, the court has found that the sign, flag or insignia in question is displayed on premises in contravention of clause 4. Clause 6 enables the Minister for Foreign Affairs to give a certificate concerning the diplomatic or consular status of specified premises. In any proceedings under clause 4 or clause 5, a certificate given under this clause is evidence of the fact certified. Clause 7 confers jurisdiction on the Federal Court of Australia to hear and determine applications under clauses 4 and 5.
With the passage of this Bill, Australia will be able to fulfil, as a responsible member of the international community, its international obligations in diplomatic or consular matters by restraining persons from making false claims to diplomatic or consular status in relation to a country or a people which is already lawfully represented in a diplomatic or consular capacity in Australia. The Government considers these to be very important obligations and takes a very serious view of any action designed to prevent Australia discharging these obligations. 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 second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for mining companies in the Alligator Rivers Region to retain their current rights as far as ownership of and access to existing improvements constructed by them when the land on which the facilities have been erected becomes Aboriginal land. I stress that the Bill merely confirms the present position of the companies but settles any doubts about their legal rights.
It was the intention of the original Act to protect the existing rights of people who had a prior interest in Aboriginal land, as recommended by
Mr Justice Woodward in his Royal Commission report on Aboriginal land rights. Following legal advice it is not certain that the Act does this in respect of mining companies in the Alligator Rivers Region, because of uncertainty as to the nature of their interests in that area. In accordance with the recommendations of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, the Government has delayed issue of any formal authorities to mine until other recommendations concerning the grant of Aboriginal land and environmental protection mechanisms have been implemented.
The Government accepts the need to avoid any argument over this issue, and is particularly mindful of the commitment of the then Labor Government, to guarantee ownership rights of Ranger. This commitment was set out in the Memorandum of Understanding between the Commonwealth and the companies which was signed in October 1975. It is therefore proposed that the Aboriginal Land Rights Act should be amended to ensure that the companies are given rights of access and ownership of facilities erected to date by them. The Bill also contains a provision to the effect that these amendments shall not be taken to authorise the carrying out of mining operations or exploration for minerals. I stress that these provisions will not authorise the companies to proceed with further work without specific Government approval.
I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
(LIABILITY) AMENDMENT BILL 1978
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Bill 1978, the Ashmore and Carder Islands Acceptance Amendment Bill 1978, the Remuneration Tribunals Amendment Bill 1978, the Lands Acquisition Amendment Bill 1978, the Pay-Roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978, the Ombudsman Amendment Bill 1978, the Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Amendment Bill 1978, the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Amendment Bill 1978, the Commonwealth Motor Vehicles ( Liability) Amendment Bill 1 978, the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1978, the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Amendment Bill 1978 and the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1978 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Webster) together read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Northern Territory (Self-Government) Bill 1978
May I say that I consider it an honour to present this history making measure to this Senate. As its title makes clear, the purpose of the Bill is to confer self-government on the Northern Territory. I am sure that honourable senators will support the philosophy behind the legislation.
The people of the Northern Territory, in common with other citizens of our federal Commonwealth have the right- indeed the duty- to control their own affairs through a democratically elected legislature. This is what we are now seeking to achieve.
At Federation, the citizens of the Northern Territory, as residents of the State of South Australia, enjoyed the same political rights as other Commonwealth citizens. Because of the requirements of the Constitution, those political rights were removed in 1910 when the Territory was transferred from South Australia and accorded the status of a Commonwealth Territory. In a very real sense, the constitutional history of the Northern Territory since that date reflects the endeavours of the people of the Territory to regain the rights which they lost in 1 9 10.
That objective will not, of course, be finally achieved until the Territory is accorded statehood. However, there can be little doubt that, while not conferring statehood, the Bill now before the House will, when enacted, represent the most significant advance to date in the constitutional development of the Northern Territory.
In reflecting upon the fact that it has taken some 68 years for the Northern Territory to achieve self-government, I was interested to note that it was not until about 1964 that the population of the Territory exceeded 50,000. In the 1 4 years since then, the population has doubled to its present figure of about 105,000. 1 hardly need remind honourable senators that this growth has taken place despite the devastation of Darwin on Christmas Eve 1974 by Cyclone Tracy and the wholesale depletion of the city’s population which followed that disaster.
I believe that the impressive growth of the Territory in the past one and a half decades bears full testimony to the interest and concern of successive Federal governments to promote the development of the Territory. During that period there has been a burgeoning of the Territory’s mineral production- especially manganese and bauxite- and an increased realisation of the very great potential of the mineral wealth which, as yet, remains untapped. As honourable senators are well aware, the Alligator Rivers Region constitutes a source of uranium of major significance by world standards. The lead-zinc deposit at McArthur River also has major potential. I am optimistic that these are but two examples of great mineral wealth on which the economic future of the Northern Territory will undoubtedly be based.
Before directing my attention to the Bill, I would draw the attention of honourable senators to the essentially bipartisan approach which has been adopted in this Parliament to the contitutional advancement of the Northern Territory. It was in 1 947 that the first Legislative Council for the Northern Territory- albeit with a majority of official members- was established by the Chifley Labor Government. Through the 1950’s and 1960’s a succession of reforms to that Council was introduced by Liberal-Country Party Governments, culminating, in 1968, with a majority of elected over appointed members. In 1974 the then Labor Government created the first fully elected Legislative Assembly. However, progress towards self-government was then halted when, at the Territory elections, the Labor Party was completely annihilated. On assuming office and in pursuance of the policy of this Government announced during the election policy speeches of 1975, my colleague, the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Aderman) introduced into the Parliament in 1976, a Bill which set the stage for the conferral of executive responsibility on the Territory through the creation of executive members of the Legislative Assembly. The Bill now before the Senate represents in a very real sense, a continuation of the endeavours of honourable members and senators on both sides of the Parliament to meet the legitimate constitutional aspirations of the Northern Territory community. Indeed, although it has proved necessary for presentational reasons to repeal the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, this Bill seeks the reenactment, in largely the same form, of a large number of the existing provisions of that Act.
I turn now to the Bill. As is appropriate in a measure of this type, the Bill commences with a preambular statement of the intention of the Parliament and the constitutional authority for giving effect to that intention. Part II establishes the Northern Territory as a distinct political entity for the first time. Part III provides for the legislative power and has the effect of retaining the present broad based legislative authority held by the Legislative Assembly.
The assent procedures provided that the final decision on laws dealing with matters in respect of which the Northern Territory has executive authority will rest with the Administrator. In respect of such laws the Government would expect the Administrator to act on advice from his Northern Territory Ministers. In the case of other laws the Administrator will have the option of reserving the measure for the GovernorGeneral’s pleasure. A reserve power for the
Governor-General to disallow any laws within 6 months of their receiving the Administrator’s assent is retained.
Consistent with the principles of responsible self-government, the authority of the Legislative Assembly will be enhanced in several important respects. The Assembly will be able to determine its own size and, subject to guarantees providing for eligibility for candidature and voting and the size of electorates, it will control its own electoral procedures. The maximum term of the Legislative Assembly will be extended from 3 years to 4 years from the date the Assembly first meets after a general election.
Part IV of the Bill deals with the conferral of executive authority on the Territory. The duty of admininstering the government of the Territory remains with the Administrator who, in respect of matters for which the Territory has executive authority, will be advised by the Executive Council established under this part. Provision is made for ministerial appointments in the new government of the Northern Territory and for such appointments to be made by the Administrator.
The matters in respect of which the new Ministers of the Territory will have executive authority are to be prescribed by regulation. In this regard, I would draw the attention of honourable senators to a statement by the Minister for the Northern Territory which I tabled in this House on 14 September 1977, which, among other things, outlined the matters for which the Territory will have executive authority. Those matters represent a very broadly based package of Statetype functions.
The provisions in Part V will enable the Territory to establish its own Treasury and exercise control over its own finances. The Territory or an authority of the Territory will be able to borrow from the Commonwealth or on their own account as part of the Commonwealth’s semigovernmental loan program. The Commonwealth Auditor-General will be empowered to conduct audits on behalf of the Territory.
I interpose here that broad agreement has been reached with the Northern Territory Executive on the financial principles to apply on selfgovernment. The detailed quantification of those principles is not being undertaken with a view to letters of understanding being exchanged between the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Majority Leader.
The Commonwealth will continue to provide adequate financial support to the Northern Territory. Self-government will not be used as an excuse for reducing the overall level of financial support for the Territory and this has been made quite clear to the Majority Leader. However, the Government has always made it clear that associated with the assumption of executive authority must be the responsibility to raise a reasonable level of local revenue using the revenue efforts of the States as a benchmark. This proposition has been accepted and is being acted upon by the Northern Territory Executive. It will not, however, result in the citizens of the Northern Territory shouldering a higher tax burden than their counterparts elsewhere in Australia.
The miscellaneous provisions in Part VI cover a series of constitutional-type guarantees in relations to the freedom of trade and the acquisition of property on just terms. Other provisions cover the application of the Secret Commissions Act and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to the Territory. The Remuneration Tribunal is to be authorised to act for the Northern Territory in matters relating to the salaries and allowances of Legislative Assembly members and ministerial office holders.
Part VII covers the transitional provisions and its effect is to provide for the continuance of existing laws, the current Legislative Assembly and the Administrator. Where matters presently provided for under the Northern Territory (Administration) Act will become the subject of enactment, the current provisions continue to apply pending such enactment.
The Commonwealth’s interests in land in the Territory are to be transferred to the Northern Territory by the operation of this Part but provision is made to effect the transfer back to the Commonwealth within 12 months of that land being required by the Commonwealth for its purposes. Property associated with functions for which the Northern Territory receives executive authority is also to be transferred from the Commonwealth. Procedures are provided to enable the Territory to be substituted for the Commonwealth, by way of regulation, in contracts relating to transferred matters.
The establishment of a Northern Territory government will necessitate amendments to a number of pieces of Commonwealth legislation. Besides this Bill, the self-government ‘package’ comprises some 14 separate amending Bills. Of these, 12 could possibly be considered in cognate debate. These Bills are the Ashmore and Carrier Islands Acceptance Amendment Bill 1978, the
Payroll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978, the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Amendment Bill 1978, the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1978, the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Amendment Bill 1978, the Commonwealth Motor Vehicles (Liability) Amendment Bill 1978, the Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978, the Ombudsman Amendment Bill 1978, the Lands Acquisition Amendment Bill 1978, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Amendment Bill 1978, the Remuneration Tribunals Amendment Bill 1978, and the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978. Two others, the Audit Amendment Bill and the Commonwealth Grants Commission Amendment Bill, for a variety of reasons, must be discussed in the Parliament separately.
It would be inappropriate for me to let this occasion pass without paying tribute to the people who, over the years, have made a significant contribution to the constitutional history of the Northern Territory. They are people who, while holding divergent political views, have been united and tireless in working and pressing the case for constitutional reform. It is people like Sam Calder, who has worked so tirelessly for so long to achieve this goal; Jock Nelson, former Labor Territory member and Administrator; former members of the Legislative Council such as Dr Goff Letts who was so prominent in the initial transfers; the late Mr Justice Ward, ‘Tiger’ Brennan, Ron Withnal Senator Bernie Kilgariff and many others who deserve the credit for what is taking place here today.
There has been throughout the closest of consultation with the Assembly of the Northern Territory. The establishment of the Consultative Committee comprised of the Territory Executive and the Minister for the Northern Territory, continued consultation at officer level, meetings of Ministers of this Government with the Majority Leader and his Deputy, involvement in interdepartmental committee deliberations, have all made this an exercise in co-operation. It began with Dr Letts and Mr Tambling and has continued both firm and active since Mr Everingham and Mr Perron have assumed leadership of the Territory.
In conclusion, I wish to express my confidence in the political and economic future of the Northern Territory. I have no doubt that the processes of responsible Government which will be set in train by this Bill will operate to the benefit of the Territory and, through it, the Commonwealth. I place on record my good wishes to the Ministers designate of the Government which will be brought into being on 1 July and express the hope that the responsibility which they are about to assume proves to be an enlightening and rewarding experience. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Ashmore and Cartier Islands Acceptance Amendment Bill 1978
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Ashmore and Cartier Islands Acceptance Act 1933 so that, from 1 July 1978, the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands will be treated as a separate Commonwealth Territory. At present, section 6 of the Act provides for the Territory to be annexed to, and form part of, the Northern Territory, and for the laws in force in the Northern Territory to apply to it. This situation would not be appropriate after self-government is conferred upon the Northern Territory.
The Bill provides for laws for the government of the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands to be made by the Governor-General. The resultant principal Act will be similar to the Acts governing other Commonwealth Territories except that for the purpose of the application of Commonwealth Acts, and consistent with their current status, the islands are to be regarded as an internal mainland Territory. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Remuneration Tribunals Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill is consequential upon the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Bill 1978. Its purpose is to amend the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1 973 in order to remove from the Tribunal ‘s jurisdiction the determination of remuneration for members of the Legislative Assembly, members of the Executive Council and Ministers of the Territory. The amendment is in accord with the wishes of the Northern Territory Executive.
The Northern Territory (Self-Government) Bill 1978 provides that the Northern Territory Government may, if it so wishes, confer on the Tribunal by enactment the function of reporting on remuneration in respect of these offices. The ultimate responsibility, however, for the determination of remuneration for these offices will rest with the Northern Territory Government. I commend this Bill to honourable senators.
Lands Acquisition Amendment Bill 1978
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Lands Aquisition Act 1955 so that it will continue to have application for Commonwealth purposes in the Northern Territory after self-government. A special provision is incorporated to free statutory authorities of the Northern Territory from the requirement to have acquisitions of real property for their purposes effected under the Act. If it is decided later that any satutory authority of the Northern Territory should have its acquisitions effected under the Act, this may be declared by regulations. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Pay-Roil Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978
The Government’s announced program for the development of self-government in the Northern Territory includes the transfer to the proposed Northern Territory Government of the function of levying pay-roll tax on wages related to that Territory from 1 July 1978. For some years, pay-roll tax on such wages, together with wages related to the Australian Capital Territory, has been collected by the Commonwealth under the terms of the Pay-Roll (Territories) Assessment Act 1971. The purpose of this Bill is to amend that Act to render it inoperative in relation to wages related to the Northern Territory that become payable on or after 1 July 1978, thus leaving the way open for the proposed Northern Territory Government to levy its own pay-roll tax on such wages.
As a consequence of the contemplated amendments, employers will be liable for tax under the Pay-Roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Act on wages payable on or after 1 July 1978 only where the wages are paid or payable in respect of services rendered wholly in the Australian Capital Territory, no matter where they are paid, or where the wages are paid or payable in that Territory in respect of services which are not rendered wholly within the Northern Territory or one of the States. Accordingly, employers will not be liable for Commonwealth pay-roll tax on wages payable on or after 1 July 1978 where they are paid or payable in respect of services rendered wholly in the Northern Territory or where they are paid or payable in that Territory in respect of services rendered elsewhere unless the services are rendered wholly in the Australian Capital Territory. Explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in an explanatory memorandum being made available to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Ombudsman Amendment Bill 1978
The Ombudsman Act 1976 empowered the Commonwealth Ombudsman to investigate grievances by members of the public about administrative actions of officials and staff of Commonwealth departments, statutory authorities and other government agencies. Because of the responsibilities of the Commonwealth in relation to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory it was necessary for the Ombudsman Act to ensure that residents of those Territories also had access to the Ombudsman in repect of matters that in the States would be directed to State Ombudsmen. The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s jurisdiction therefore currently extends to the actions of the Northern Territory Public Service.
As part of the Northern Territory ‘devolution package’ the Government approved the exclusion of the Northern Territory Public Service from the Ombudsman Act. This Bill excludes the Northern Territory Public Service from the Ombudsman Act with regard to transferred functions and facilitates the commencement of the Northern Territory Ombudsman. An Ombudsman (Northern Territory) Ordinance was passed by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly on 30 November 1977 and it is intended that the commencement of the Ordinance be co-ordinated with the amendment of the Ombudsman Act. In line with the transfer of powers from the Commonwealth to the Northern Territory a smooth transition of responsibilities from the Commonwealth to the Northern Territory Ombudsman is most desirable and to this end the Bill contains appropriate transitional provisions to ensure, for example, the completion of investigations begun by the Commonwealth Ombudsman prior to the date of transition. The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s jurisdiction in respect of administrative actions undertaken by Commonwealth officials in the Northern Territory will be maintained as it currently is in relation to the States. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978
This Bill is consequential upon the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Bill 1978. It will amend the Northern Territory Supreme Court Act 1961 in three major respects. Firstly, it will specifically confer jurisdiction on the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in suits between the Commonwealth and the new political entity of the Northern Territory created by the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act. The Government considers that the question of legal actions between the two Governments should be the subject of specific provisions in Commonwealth legislation. The Territory legislature will be able to enact its own legislation concerning suits against the Territory Government by any other person.
Secondly, the Bill will enable Territory legislation to make provision for the prosecution on indictment before the Supreme Court of indictable offences against Territory law. The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s authority to prosecute offences on indictment in the Supreme Court will be restricted to offences against Commonwealth law. Transfers of administrative responsibility for Territory criminal law to the Territory authorities has already taken place. It is clearly appropriate that the prosecution of Territory indictable offences in the Supreme Court should be the subject of Territory law.
Thirdly, the conferral of jurisdiction on the Supreme Court in respect of the Territory of Ashmore and Carrier Islands is to be removed from the principal Act. A legal system applying to those islands is to be the subject of separate legislation, which will confer jurisdiction on Northern Territory courts. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Administrative Appeals Tribunal Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill is consequential upon the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Bill 1978, and amends the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975. The principal Act provides for the review of administrative decisions by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Government considers that the Tribunal should not have jurisdiction to review decisions made under statutory powers conferred by Northern Territory laws in respect of matters within the authority of the Territory Government. The Bill will remove the present ability to confer such jurisdiction on the Tribunal.
However, the Bill provides that regulations may be made conferring rights of appeal to the Tribunal in respect of decisions made under Territory laws that will continue to be administered by the Commonwealth Government. Certain existing provisions of Territory law which confer jurisdiction of this kind are to be continued in force. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill is consequential upon the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Bill 1978. It amends the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977, and is to come into operation on the date upon which the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act itself comes into operation. That will not occur before 1 July 1 978. The Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act provides for review by the Federal Court of Australia of certain administrative decisions. The Government considers that the Federal Court should not be given jurisdiction to review decisions made under statutory powers conferred by Northern Territory laws in respect of matters within the authority of the Northern Territory Government. However, the Bill provides that regulations may be made conferring rights of review by the Federal Court of decisions made under Northern Territory laws that will continue to be administered by the Commonwealth Government.
The Government considers also that when he is acting in his capacity as Administrator of the Northern Territory, decisions made by the Administrator should not be subject to review by the Federal Court. Decisions of the GovernorGeneral and of the State Governors are likewise not subject to review. Since the Administrator’s powers, as Administrator, flow from the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act, the Bill will exclude from review by the Federal Court all decisions made under the Act. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Commonwealth Motor Vehicles (Liability) Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill is consequential upon the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Bill 1978 and amends the Commonwealth Motor Vehicles (Liability) Act 1959. That Act makes provision regarding claims for damages against the Commonwealth, or a Commonwealth statutory authority, caused by its vehicles. It is not appropriate for the Act to apply to statutory authorities which are created by Northern Territory laws and which are under the administrative control of the Territory government. Under this Bill, such statutory authorities will cease to be authorities to which the Act applies.
There will, however, be a small number of Territory statutory authorities which will remain under Commonwealth control and the principal Act should continue to apply to them. For this reason, the Bill provides for the making of regulations declaring a Territory statutory authority to be a Commonwealth authority for the purposes of the Act. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1978
As indicated by my colleague, the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) this Bill is consequential upon the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Bill 1978. The main purpose of the Bill is to ensure the continued application of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971, after 1 July 1978, to members of the Public Service of the Northern Territory and certain other persons who are currently entitled to receive benefits under the Act. The Bill also provides that any payments of compensation under the principal Act made as a result of this legislation shall be payable by the Northern Territory and not by the Commonwealth Government. The amending legislation is intended to come into operation on 1 July 1978. 1 commend the Bill to the Senate.
Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill is consequential upon the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Bill 1978 and it will ensure the continued application of the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Act 1963-1976, after 1 July 1978, to members of the Public Service of the Northern Territory to whom that Act currently applies. I should mention that any payments made under the principal Act to these employees after 1 July 1978 will be made by the Northern Territory and, therefore, this amending legislation will not result in any cost to the Commonwealth Government.
The opportunity has been taken, in clause 3 of the Bill, to make a minor formal amendment consequential upon the Acts Citation Act 1976. The amending legislation is intended to come into operation on 1 July 1978. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1978
This Bill is consequential upon the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Bill 1978. The purpose of this Bill is to ensure that the Aboriginal Land Rights Act will continue to apply when the Northern Territory achieves self-government on 1 July 1978. Under the arrangements which will come into force on 1 July, the Territory, like the States, will control unalienated Crown land within its borders. The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act has therefore been amended to ensure that Aboriginal claims to unalienated Crown land made in pursuance of section 50 of the Act can still be made and determined. A similar amendment will ensure that mining royalties payable under the provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act for mining on Aboriginal land continue to flow to the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account.
Under the principal Act where the Commonwealth is using or occupying land that becomes Aboriginal land, that occupation is protected by the provisions of section 14 of the Act. The amending Bill provides similar protection to the Northern Territory Government and in the same way binds the Northern Territory to pay rent for areas where the occupation or use of land is not for a ‘community purpose ‘ within the meaning of the Act.
This is a simple but important Bill which will assure the Aboriginal people that the commitments entered into by the Government through the Aboriginal Land Rights Act will continue after self-government for the Northern Territory. The Government is conscious of the importance which Aboriginals in the Northern Territory attach to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and the opportunity which it affords to Aboriginals to lay claim to their traditional lands.
As the Northern Territory Self-Government Bill will significantly alter the relationship between the Commonwealth and the Territory, it is essential that there is no doubt of the Commonwealth ‘s intentions on this matter. The present amendments make it clear that the Aboriginal land rights legislation will continue to operate after self-government is achieved. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Dairy Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill 1978, the Dairy Industry Stabilization Levy Amendment Bill 1978, and the Dairy Produce Amendment Bill 1978 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Webster) together read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
Dairy Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill 1978
The purpose of this Bill and the related Bills is to provide for the implementation of the stage 2 marketing arrangements for the dairy industry from 1 July 1978 through the introduction of a system of selective underwriting. As honourable senators will be aware the Australian dairy industry has been experiencing severe economic pressures for many years. A major factor has been the depressed conditions in the international market for dairy products. This situation is largely attributable to the effects of the common agricultural policy of the European Economic Community through its price support policy which has led to the over production of dairy products and their subsequent disposal on overseas markets at heavily subsidised prices to the detriment of the Australian dairy industry.
In its report of September 1 976 on the dairy industry, the Industries Assistance Commission recommended the implementation of a staged mandatory marketing scheme for the manufacturing sector of the industry with a view to achieving a stable and viable basis of operation for the dairy industry. The stage 1 arrangements, which were introduced on 1 July 1977, provide for the imposition of a levy on prescribed products. The purpose of the levies is to protect the domestic price structure for prescribed products and through their disbursement to provide each manufacturer with an equalised return from their domestic and export sales of such products.
The IAC recommended that stage 2 of the dairy industry marketing arrangements should provide for a National Aggregate EntitlementNAE scheme. The objective of the scheme was to ensure that market signals are more effectively passed back to producers and processors in order to encourage production to be in line with remunerative markets.
After prolonged discussions in the Australian Agricultural Council and the Standing Committee on Agriculture, which included consideration of a series of working party reports, it was not found possible to introduce a national aggregate entitlement scheme because of the difficulties which had arisen in obtaining agreement between States on the calculation of the size of the initial NAE and its allocation amongst the States. The Government considers that the objectives of an NAE scheme can be achieved through an alternative arrangement based on the selective underwriting of dairy products which involve disciplines being imposed at the factory level on a product basis rather than at the farm level.
The objective of the selective underwriting arrangements is to bring production into line with remunerative markets consistent with the stage 2 objectives. The important feature of the new arrangements is that the Government’s underwriting will be directed at reducing the production of less profitable products- for example, butter- while allowing scope for an increase in the production of more profitable products such as fresh milk products, cheese and wholemilk powder. The principle of selective underwriting has been accepted by the Australian Dairy Farmers ‘s Federation and the Australian Dairy Industry Conference.
I will now briefly outline to the Senate the details of the selective underwriting arrangements which are to apply for the 1978-79 season. The operation of the new arrangements will be reviewed by the Government towards the end of the 1978-79 season. The main dairy product currently in over-production is butter and a limit will be imposed on the quantity of production to be underwritten consistent with the objectives of the stage 2 arrangements. The underwriting limitation will also be extended to the production of the by-products derived from the production of butter, namely, skim milk powder and casein. The quantity of butter to be underwritten for 1978-79 will be limited to 96,000 tonnes and the pro rata equivalent for skim milk powder and casein, but with manufacturers being free to decide whether they produce skim milk powder and /or casein.
Production in excess of the underwriting ceiling for butter and the pro rata equivalent for skim milk powder and casein will receive only the average export pool return. The underwriting ceiling of 96,000 tonnes for butter represents about 84 per cent of the estimated average production for the two year period 1976-77 and 1977-78 and about 87 per cent of the estimated production for 1977-78. The underwriting ceiling for butter will be allocated to factories in proportion to each factory’s production in the base period, that is, the two year period 1976-77 and 1977-78. As I shall explain later in my speech, provision will be made, however, to allow for the adjustment of factory quotas where the operation of special circumstances can be demonstrated.
The underwriting arrangements for leviable cheese- cheddar and gouda- will cover all domestic and export sales ex 1978-79 production as the production capacity of the industry coupled with the estimated milk flow position should keep production in line with market requirements. In the case of wholemilk powder, production is normally limited to firm orders because of its limited keeping qualities. The Government decided, therefore, that administrative arrangements should be devised to ensure that this practice is continued. A significant departure from the present practice could lead to a substantial build-up of stocks which may have to be sold at stockfood prices because of quality deterioration. It is not considered that any special administrative arrangements will be required for cheese for the 1978-79 season for the reason I have already mentioned, namely that cheese production for 1978-79 should be in line with the increased demand expected from the domestic and export markets.
I now turn to the main provisions of this Bill and the accompanying legislation, which provide the mechanism for the operation of the selective underwriting arrangements. The Dairy Industry Stabilisation Amendment Bill provides that where underwriting ceilings are fixed for a prescribed dairy product the quantity so fixed will be allocated to factories by the Minister for Primary Industry in accordance with principles formulated and announced by him after consultation with the Australian Dairy Corporation. Provision has been made in the Bill for the tabling of the principles in the Parliament in the same manner as followed in respect to regulations. Basically the product underwriting quotas that are established for each factory will be determined in proportion to their production in the base period adopted. As I have already mentioned, the base period chosen in the case of butter for the 1978-79 season is the two year period 1976-77 and 1977-78.
The principles formulated by the Minister will include a provision to permit transfers of product quotas between branch factories of a company. The principles formulated will also include provisions for adjustment to a factory’s normal pro rata allocation where a factory can demonstrate that its allocation requires adjustment due to the operation of special circumstances in the base period. Such special circumstances would include fire, the involuntary suspension of production due to microbiological causes or similar difficulties, animal disease or severe drought. Because of the limitations imposed under section 51 (iii) of the Constitution any adjustments to a factory’s pro rata allocation must be made on a uniform basis and the Bill includes a special uniformity clause to cover this aspect. There is provision for factories to make application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of quotas fixed by the Minister for Primary Industry.
There will be no re-allocation of production shortfalls in the initial product quotas set for factories either within States or between States. If it became evident, however, that due to shortfalls by particular factories the production of a product- for example- butter in a year would not be sufficient to meet the requirements of remunerative markets, an appropriate additional amount would be allocated. The additional amount would be allocated across the board on a uniform basis, in accordance with the constitutional requirements that bounties be uniform across Australia, to those factories which wished to receive an increased quota.
To give effect to the stage 2 objectives the Bill provides for interim and final stabilisation payments to be restricted to factory product quotas where an underwriting ceiling is fixed on the production of prescribed dairy products. This is to ensure that if a factory produces in excess of its product quota, it will receive only the average export pool return for the excess production. The formula in the principal Act for the calculation of the rates of stabilisation payments has been amended to cater for the new provisions. Provision is also made in this Bill and in the accompanying Dairy Produce Amendment Bill 1978 for moneys standing to the credit of a product account in the Dairy Products Stabilisation Trust Fund to be transferred to the corresponding product account in the export pool. This provision is purely a safeguard measure against the possibility of a shortfall occurring in a product export pool for a specific prescribed product.
The Bill also includes several amendments which are consequential on amendments to the accompanying Dairy Industry Stabilisation Levy Amendment Bill 1978 and the Dairy Produce Amendment Bill 1978 which I shall be referring to in my second reading speeches on those Bills. The Commonwealth Government has already announced its preparedness to share with the States on a $2 Commonwealth to a $ 1 State basis the total cost of underwriting all prescribed products under the stage 2 arrangements- that is, butter, skim milk powder, casein, cheese and wholemilk powder- at the equivalent of 80c per lb butterfat, $1.76 per kg, at the farm gate for the 1978-79 season.
If a State does not take up this offer the Commonwealth will meet the full cost of underwriting the production of all prescribed products in that State under stage 2 arrangements at the equivalent of 75c per lb butterfat, $1.65 per kg, at the farm gate for the 1978-79 season. The review of the selective underwriting arrangements which I mentioned would be made towards the end of the 1978-79 season will include a review of any independent action taken by the States on the underwriting of dairy farmer returns in order to ensure that there is no incompatibility with the interests of the dairy industry as a whole. The measures given effect to in this Bill and the accompanying legislation represent a further positive step by the Commonwealth Government to get the industry back on a stable and profitable basis. It should be recognised by all sectors of the industry, however, that their is a limitation on what governments can do.
It is the prime responsibility of the industry itself to produce those kinds of dairy products that are in accord with market requirements and to market those products in a way that will stimulate consumption and maximise industry returns. The marketing arrangements which have operated for many years for manufactured dairy products have tended to operate against product innovation and the development of effective marketing techniques. The selective underwriting arrangements will place greater responsibility on the production decisions to be taken by manufacturers and thus should help to stimulate greater initiative in the production and marketing fields. For its part the Commonwealth Government will continue to stand ready to assist the dairy industry to the greatest extent possible. I commend the Bill.
Dairy Industry Stabilization Levy Amendment Bill 1978
The purpose of this Bill is to make some minor amendments to the Dairy Industry Stabilisation Levy Act 1977 which are considered desirable to facilitate the operations of that Act. Under the Dairy Industry Stabilisation Levy Act 1977 liability for the payment of the levy falls on the proprietor of the factory at which the prescribed product was produced. There is a growing practice in the industry for factories to supply milk to another factory under contract for processing into a prescribed dairy product. Under the present Act, however, the proprietor of the contracting factory is liable to pay the levy even though at no time does he own the finished product.
Provision has therefore been made in the Bill to remove this anomaly by providing that levy is payable by the proprietor of the factory who owns the finished product whether it is manufactured at his factory or made under contract at another factory on his behalf. The opportunity has also been taken to clarify the definition of milk fat and skim milk powder with a view to removing an anomaly which exists under the present legislation. I commend the Bill.
Dairy Produce Amendment Bill 1978
This Bill, which is complementary to the Dairy Industry Stabilisation Amendment Bill 1978, makes provision for a number of consequential amendments that have been made necessary by that Bill. As I explained in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Stabilisation Amendment Bill 1978, a principal feature of the selective underwriting arrangements for the dairy industry is that where a ceiling has been fixed on the quantity of a prescribed product to be underwritten in a production period, manufacturers will receive only the average export pool return for any production in excess of their product quotas. Accordingly, an appropriate provision has been made in the Bill to supplement the measures contained in the Dairy Industry Stabilisation Amendment Bill 1978.
There is also provision in the Bill for approved costs and expenses to be paid out of the proceeds of the dairy product export pools in respect to the storage, distribution, sale or promotion of dairy produce in overseas markets. At the present time these payments are made from the levy proceeds in the Dairy Products Stabilisation Trust Fund and the new provision will ensure that the dairy product export pools truly reflect the average final export pool return for the respective products. A number of other machinery provisions have been included to facilitate the operation of the accounting procedures in respect to the product accounts held in the Dairy Products Stabilisation Trust Fund, established under the Dairy Industry Stabilisation Act 1977, and the corresponding accounts in the export pools established under the Dairy Produce Act 1924. 1 commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Walsh) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 25 May, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– These two Bills and the Customs Tariff Validation Bill may be debated concurrently, with the agreement of the Opposition.
– The Opposition does not oppose the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978, the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill 1978 and the Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1978. We wish them a speedy passage.
– I thank the Opposition for its support of these Bills. I do not want to delay their passage any longer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 1 June, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without request or debate.
Debate resumed from 1 1 May, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose these Bills. We are of the view that they should prove useful in correcting deficiencies in the existing legislation. I remind the Senate that when similar legislation was sought by the Labor Government it was rejected by the Senate. The legislation now before the Senate is almost identical with the legislation which the Labor Government introduced and which was rejected. It just shows -
– It shows complete hypocrisy.
- Senator O’Byrne says that it shows complete hypocrisy. That is a view with which I could not possibly disagree. It also shows the ineffable process of conservatism in this country. It takes the present Government five years to think about something before any action emanates from the decision-making process. We take the view that the Government should consider applying the money which it gets from licence fees from radio and television station fees more specifically in the area of broadcasting itself than it does. To give an illustration of that, there is ample room for both government and private broadcasters to put far more money into Australian programs than they presently do. There is room for the Government, perhaps by means of subsidy or in connection with these licence fees, to create a stimulus and an incentive for commercial broadcasters to invest more in Australian programs.
For a year the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts has been inquiring into the question of children’s television programming in Australia. Whatever conclusions the Committee might draw, there is no doubt that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of children’s television programming. When one compares the quality of Australian children’s television with the quality of children’s television overseas the deficiency in the provision of good quality children ‘s television programs in this country is seen. If the Government comes to think about amendments to this legislation in the next five years as it has in the last five years -
– You seem to be resigned to being in Opposition for the next five years.
-For Senator Withers’ benefit, I mean for the first two years of the next five years. Even when the present Government is in Opposition it can do what we have been doing. It can provide some sort of intellectual stimulation to the Government. Not that I believe that Senator Withers would contribute to that, but it is quite conceivable that there are one or twocertainly not three- honourable senators on the Government side who, when in Opposition might be able to provide some sort of intellectual stimulation to a Labor government in matters of this kind.
- Senator Missen would be one.
-I could not agree with Senator Mulvihill more. A couple of senators opposite who are members of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, I must say, do not attend meetings very often. If they did attend they would be seized of the problem which I am talking about and they might make some sort of contribution towards this area of quality in Australian television programming. We are constantly told in this place by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) that what the people of Australia are saying to him about education is that they do not want so much quantity, as he puts it, but they want quality.
– They would not get that from the Opposition.
– I agree they would not get it from over there. I have always marvelled at the Minister’s capacity to divine what the people of Australia are telling him about that issue and I have always been totally nonplussed about what he means by that statement. It is one of those statements which if you sit down to try to analyse it is totally meaningless. I think it is pretty fair to say that there is much more evidence that people in Australia are looking for better quality in television programs. Those honourable senators on the Government side who do not read the newspapers or the reports that are tabled in the Senate, or documents of that kind, might sometimes as a form of relaxation watch television. They would recognise from watching television that the standard of Australian programming is really pretty abysmal. They also would realise, if they considered the matter, that television stations in this country are making record profits at this time. Having regard to the fact that they enjoy a sort of monopoly situation, that they enjoy a unique position in this country compared with their counterparts in other countries, they have some responsibility to the Australian community in terms of the quality and the range and breadth of their productions.
So I take this opportunity to say that although the Opposition is not opposing these Bills the Government would be well advised to think a little further about how it uses the money which is obtained from radio and television licence fees. If the Government wants a suggestion from the Opposition about how it might use the money, one suggestion would be that the Government could, by means of this son of legislation, offer some son of stimulus by way of an incentive such as a rebate or even a subsidy to commercial television stations and perhaps even to radio stations that do make a sincere and genuine contribution towards the production of better quality Australian programs, particularly better quality children ‘s television programs. Having made that point, I commend the legislation to the Senate.
– in reply- I thank Senator Button and the Senate for their support on these Bills. I agree with the remarks of the honourable senator about the quality of programs. I think that right across any spectrum of Australian activity in life one should always endeavour to improve quality. As to the honourable senator’s remarks about the application of fees which are received under these Bills, I will pass the suggestion to my colleague, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley). I do not think that the speech of the honourable senators will tempt me to watch television other than to watch football, perhaps as a replay. Again I thank my colleagues in the Senate for their support of this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 2 May, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The title of this Bill is: ‘A Bill to amend the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976’. We will not finish this debate by 11 o’clock because apart from wishing to have a second reading debate the Opposition desires to move four amendments in the Committee stage. The Opposition is unlikely to oppose the motion for the adjournment until the Bill is disposed of because of its importance. I first of all refer to the policy speech delivered by the Liberal and National Country Parties in November 1975. I shall quote from the policy as enunciated on that occasion. I refer to the first section after the preamble on page 1 of the Liberal-National Country Party policy which states:
Notwithstanding some diversity of viewpoints, Aborigines with one voice are asserting the right to- self-management; land rights; additional funds; self-sufficiency.
And there is a promise that ‘a Liberal National Country Party Government will respond with new initiatives to each of these basic claims’.
The manifesto goes on to state:
In recognising land rights we will ensure:
that the traditional Aboriginal owners gain inalienable title to their lands;
that they also determine how their lands are to be used and preserved;
that they have the same right as any other owner to determine who enters their land and whether the person is an Aborigine or non-Aborigine;
I quote these points because they are relevant to the Bill. It continues:
It goes on to refer to health and various other matters, all of which of course are fairly comprehensive promises and very few of which have been fulfilled. At the time of the AurukunMornington Island dispute a joint statement was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Queensland Premier. The first three sections on the first page of that statement are in these terms:
In this Bill there is provision for a number of these things to be carried out. The statement continues:
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in his second reading speech stated:
The amendments seek to resolve issues of concern to State and Territory governments, to remedy certain deficiencies found in the existing Act, and to provide for certain procedural matters.
The Opposition is not happy about a number of the new provisions. I also must say that we had some misgivings about the original Bill, which of course was never proclaimed. But it is significant that there has been no consultation with any Aboriginal people although there has been consultation with each of the State authorities. The statement continues:
The Act has been the subject of exhaustive discussion between the Commonwealth Government, the State and Territory governments through the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council.
There is not one Aboriginal on that Council. But the organisation speaks on behalf of the black community. The statement continues:
The main issue which concerns State and Territory Ministers was that Aboriginal councils established under the Act might intrude into State responsibilities for local government, existing or proposed.
Because of the lateness of the hour I will not go into the details. The matters are recorded in Hansard. I hope that those who are interested will read the Minister’s second reading speech. The Minister stated:
The amendment proposed in section 46 ( 1 ) will prevent dual incorporation and provision will be made in the regulations to be made under this Act for the State or Territory authority concerned to be duly notified when such an association is incorporated under the Act.
The Aboriginal Councils and Associations Amendment Bill amends the original Act of 1976 which, incidentally, has never been proclaimed. The purpose of that Act was to provide for the constitution of Aboriginal councils and the incorporation of an association of Aboriginals in a form acceptable to Aboriginals and to allow the Aboriginal communities and groups to incorporate themselves for various purposes in a manner more acceptable to them.
When the Bill was before this chamber in 1976, the Opposition moved two amendments, both of which were rejected. We expressed a considerable worry at the time about those two amendments. We said- I recall quite clearly I and some of my colleagues saying this-that it was designed to help the Queensland Government. We find that the amendments that have been introduced by this Government a year and a half later do precisely that. The amendments comply with the rather harsh requirements of the Queensland and Western Australian governments. They are for virtually no other purpose. In the second reading speech, the Minister said that the purpose of the amending Bill was to resolve issues of concern to State and Territory governments. That statement relates to the sections that I quoted from the Minister’s second reading speech. We can have a strong suspicion, however, that the issues involved are not of concern to any Territory government but are of concern purely to the governments of Queensland and
Western Australia, States which appear to be suffering from a persecution complex and the belief that the Federal Government is forever trying to undermine their State rights.
It was said quite clearly by the Deputy Premier of Queensland last Sunday night on television- it was said at the Liberal Party State conference earlier in the day- that there was a clear division between the policies of the Queensland Government and the Federal Government in relation to land rights and to the way in which Aborigines should be treated. Mr Knox said that the Queensland Government policy was one of assimilation. Incidentally, it is the same policy as is practised by the Western Australian Government under Sir Charles Court. One must be concerned that the amendment is another instance of the Government’s compromising of principles when faced with the selfish and narrow minded intransigence of what is paradoxically known as the Sunshine State. I submit that little enlightenment has penetrated behind what to us in Queensland has now become knows as the Peanut Curtain. The Minister on 3 June 1976 stated:
Concern has been expressed by some that there may be conflict with local government-type services are already being provided by an existing local government authority. Clause 30 ( 1 ) specifically excludes Aboriginal councils from making by-laws inconsistent with existing laws in force in the area of the council. It will be necessary for any council bylaws to be laid on the table of each chamber for 14 days. The Government considered it proper that these by-laws should be subject to the scrutiny of Parliament. I draw attention to the provisions of clauses 16(3)and 17 (4) of the Bill.
Members of the Senate will appreciate that in some remote areas of Australia local government authorities do not exist. In fact, in the Northern Territory local government operates in only three or four areas. Local government is being considered for one or two other areas. One of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Northern Territory was that local government organisations ought to be set up in additional areas. That, so far, has not been carried out. Members of the chamber will appreciate as well that there will be an area of conflict between Aboriginals who are disadvantaged as a result of some of these amendments and who may be disadvantaged as well as a result of the Bill generally.
The issue as to whether Aboriginal councils might intrude into State responsibilities for local government, existing or proposed, would appear then to have been settled in the mind of the Minister. Aboriginal councils could not make bylaws inconsistent with existing laws in force in the area of the council. It is essential that these things be spelt out because problems will occur as a result of these amendments. When the bylaws made by a council were approved by the Minister provision was made for them to be laid before both Houses of Parliament and they were to be subject to disallowance as if they were regulations. Presumably, by this procedure, States’ rights hawks here and in the other place could ensure that not States rights were imperilled by a rapacious and greedy Federal Government. Now it seems that these provisions were not satisfactory to some States and particularly were not satisfactory to Queensland and Western Australia.
The amendments to sections 1 6 and 1 7 of the Act that are proposed in this Bill seek to go even further. The exhaustive discussion that I referred to in the Minister’s second reading speech between the Commonwealth Government and the State and Territory governments through the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council does not appear to have resolved the issue at all. This is likely to be a running sore in the administration of the Act. Neither does the discussion appear to have allayed anxiety that the establishment of separate local government bodies might be in the Government’s mind and that it might lead to what has variously been described as separate development, the creation of semi-autonomous Aboriginal entities and even apartheid as has been mentioned by some State Premiers- particularly Sir Charles Court and the Premier of Queensland.
Despite the Minister continually emphasising that the self-management objectives of the Government do not involve separate laws for Aboriginals whereby they are able to cut themselves off from the Federal or State institutions of government which are part of our nation’s fabric, Mr Bjelke-Petersen continues to rant and rave about apartheid, separate development and what have you. It appears that this Government has given in. Why has it given in? We were told, from the policy speech I read and which was enunciated in 1975 and spelt out in slightly less words again in 1977, that the policy of the Government is supposed to be selfdetermination and self-management for Aborigines. It has not happened. The best example I can give of course is the way in which the Government caved in to Queensland over the dispute in relation to the two settlements there quite recently. Under the Act for the establishment of Aboriginal councils with municipal-type functions as contemplated, the Minister is already required to take into account any proposed extension of local government into the area. But the Bill goes further than that. Under clause 4 of the Bill, section 16 of the Act, it is proposed to amend by the insertion of a paragraph excluding, as an area in relation to which an application can be made to the Registrar for it to be declared an Aboriginal council area, any area to which local government extends or is proposed to extend. If a decision is taken by the Queensland Government to extend the Act that is to come into operation on 1 July the provisions can be applied to any reserve in Queensland. Undoubtedly, with the Oombulgurri dispute confronting the Western Australian Government, the same thing can happen in Western Australia. For that reason the Opposition is very cautious and fearful of the amendments now being moved.
Under clause 5, section 17 is proposed to be amended to provide that the Minister shall onsult the State or Territory authority before he directs the Registrar to constitute an area an Aboriginal council area, if the area is one to which local government extends or is proposed to extend. After detailing these proposed amendments in the second reading speech the Minister said that it was to be hoped that these provisions would satisfy the States as to the Commonwealth’s good faith and intention. Perhaps the hope is a forlorn one. We have seen that in recent examples in Queensland.
To complete my speech at the second reading stage I will make two or three further observations that I think are relevant. There are amendments which state that a Minister may refuse a request for alterations to the functions of Aboriginal councils and that he may refuse requests for the alteration of objects of councils. Although the Registrar has to give reasons the Bill does not provide for the Minister to give reasons. His reasons might be the same as those which the Registrar has presented to him and he might feel that he ought to have the prerogative not to give his reason because he can always allege that he has taken the advice of the Registrar. But that does not meet the disquiet of Aboriginals around Australia and their belief that this Government has gone soft on its principles. The Opposition, with brief explanatory comments, will move specific amendments at the Committee stage to rectify these shortcomings.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., under the sessional order, I put the question that the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– in reply- The Government has noted the comments of the Opposition with regard to this Bill as expressed by Senator Keeffe. It has also noted that he intends to move some amendments at the Committee stage. I suggest that we move to the Committee stage so that we may deal with the points that he wishes to raise at that time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I move:
Omit clause 4.
As I indicated in the second reading debate, the Opposition believes that this clause unnecessarily deprives an Aboriginal group of the right to form an Aboriginal council or to apply for one to be formed even though a local authority is in the area or is proposed for the area. Of course in view of recent circumstances this becomes terribly relevant to Queensland. The Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976 does not state that just because there is a proposal for extension of local government to the area the registrar cannot approve the area as an Aboriginal council area. Section 16 (3) of the Act simply states that he shall take that proposal into account. The Act does not specify that the registrar should take into account a local government area already in existence when the application is made. That is an unnecessary provision. Surely any person with common sense would do so anyway. The amendment contained in clause 4 goes much further than saying that the registrar will take any proposed extension of local government into account; it says that he shall not accept the application.
We think that that is an unnecessary curtailment of the rights of the Aboriginal people to form an Aboriginal council even though a local government exists in the area. The Opposition realises that it is possible in such cases that functions will overlap. We have no quarrel with that; that can happen. The functions specified in relation to an Aboriginal council- housing, health and municipal and related services- are virtually those of local government. But that does not mean that the registrar could not register a council which provides a selection of those functions. For example, not every local authority provides an electricity supply, and there may be a proposal to establish one. Not every local council provides relief work for unemployed persons, and there may be a proposal to set up that sort of activity. We have seen this happen with special grants and so on in the past with various local authorities in the States and Territories of Australia. We believe that the situation should be as flexible as possible. Our amendment is designed to provide for the maximum and not the minimum of flexibility in relation to applications.
– I indicate that the amendment moved by the Opposition is not acceptable to the Government. Clause 4 is an integral part of the Bill. It is important to have clause 4 which provides for the constitution of an Aboriginal council area on the satisfaction of the registrar. We are not able to accept the Opposition’s amendment.
Senator Sir REGINALD WRIGHT (Tasmania) (11.7)- May I have explained to me what is the effect of clause 4 in the Bill? Proposed new section 16(1) (a) (aa) reads: the area to which the application relates is not, and does not include, an area to which local government extends, or to which it is proposed to extend local government, by or under a law of a State or Territory;
I ask to have explained to me what is the effect of that clause to which Senator Keeffe is objecting. What would be the effect of its omission?
– Clause 4 seeks to amend section 16 of the principal Act. It provides simply what it says. It seeks to insert after paragraph (a) the following paragraph (aa): the area to which the application relates is not, and does not include, an area to which local government extends, or to which it is proposed to extend local government, by or under a law of a State or Territory;
That is the amendment which the Government seeks to make to the principal Act. It is part of the Bill under which we are dealing with Aboriginal councils and associations.
– I do not want to prolong the debate but the situation is not precisely what the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) says it is. The Opposition contends that the clause takes away the flexibility. We believe that there is no reason for such an amendment to the principal Act. When we debated the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill 1976, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976 and the recent legislation in relation to Queensland whereby the Federal Government was going to be the big, bold boy and march in and look after the affairs of Aborigines, we suggested a number of amendments. All of them were designed to meet the wishes of the Aborigines. We particularly asked that the legislation drafted to suit the Queensland situation be backdated- I think from memory- to 31 March. Five minutes after the Senate got up for the sessional break the Queensland Government declared the areas concerned to be local government areas. We could have come back and said: ‘We told you so’. This Government has not suffered; the Queensland Government has not suffered; but the Aborigines have suffered as a result of the fear of this Government about providing the sort of legislation that is needed.
This clause is a breakdown of the requirements of Aborigines. The Government has not drafted the amendment properly because it has not talked to the blacks about it at all. A bunch of white people got together and decided what was good for the blacks. That is why we are objecting to this clause, and that is the reason for this amendment. Senator Sir Reginald Wright raised quite a valid question, but the Minister did not know the answer. She could not explain it to him. This clause should not be in the Bill.
– The clause is selfexplanatory. It seeks to amend section 16 of the principal Act. The purpose of the clause is to cause the registrar to refer for the consideration of the Minister under section 17 of the principal Act any application to establish an Aboriginal council in an area in which local government already exists or is proposed under the law of a State or Territory. It would not be possible to have two controlling bodies for the same area. That is the purpose of clause 4 which amends section 16 of the principal Act. I have no other explanation that I can give. I believe that what has been said is perfectly clear. Senator Keeffe has shown that he has a complete misunderstanding of the Bill.
– The Opposition wishes to move an amendment to clause 5. Again, it is a simple amendment. With great respect, I say to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) that she should not suggest that I do not understand the meaning of this Bill. The Minister is not prepared to understand the meaning of it, even though she knows it will do great damage to a number of Aborigines in this country. For similar reasons to those we expressed earlier, the Opposition moves:
Omit clause S.
We have serious misgivings about this amendment. Whilst one might be an idealist and hope that mutual consultation and co-operation could take place between the Federal and State governments, we have seen a stark example of that co-operation in recent weeks. I am referring to the Aurukun and Mornington Island dispute and to how a State Premier used to his advantage information telegraphed by a certain organisation to the State Government. We all know that the Uniting Church in Australia had to use code in order to get messages in and out of Aurukun and Mornington Island. It is very much a Sherlock Holmes or Pinkerton ‘s detective agency type of situation. The only difference between that situation and the situation in World War II is that pigeons were used to send messages during World War II. This situation has gone on for years and years. A person may have a relative dying in a remote area but cannot get messages in and out of those places. I submit that the Government has not been getting the story straight because it makes all its decisions in Brisbane or Canberra and does not make them at Aurukun or Mornington Island.
The Federal Government took steps to ensure self-management for the Aborigines at Aurukun and Mornington Island, but Mr Bjelke-Petersen simply de-gazetted the reserves and the Federal legislation was rendered useless. I told this chamber a few days ago what happened in relation to the Palm Island Reserve. Most of the people living there thought that they had a large group of islands. They do not, because one night when the moon went down the State Government took away their rights to the land. The only area that has been increased in terms of land acreage is at Aurukun. That was increased twice after the consortium decided that it wanted to mine for the bauxite on the land. It was done for the consortium’s advantage, not for the advantage of the Aborigines.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) apparently does not want to indicate to Queensland that he is setting up an Aboriginal council in view of the fact that the State of Queensland may then proceed to declare a local government area. I think that the option should be left open to him. Admittedly, such a course of action might not be regarded as being in the best interests of mutual Federal and State cooperation, but I believe it is justifiable in the circumstances. There will not be Federal-State cooperation so far as Queensland is concerned. It is very doubtful whether the Commonwealth Government will achieve co-operation from the Western Australian Government either. In an address delivered at Freemantle in Western Australia on 8 March 1977 the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs talked about how to go about changing people’s ideas, dispelling prejudices and creating the climate necessary for reforms in the field of Aboriginal affairs to be accepted and effective. He said:
The question is so often not what should be done but how it should be done- quiet diplomacy? Confrontation?
There has never been confrontation and there has never been quiet diplomacy. If we look at the Oombulgurri scene and the Queensland scene, we see that there has been a dictatorship operating against the Federal Government. I feel almost ashamed to see the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs down on his hands and knees licking the boots of Sir Charles Court and Mr Bjelke-Petersen. That is what his actions amount to. He is frightened to stand up to them. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) does precisely the same thing. We see that happening again in this legislation. There is so much doubt about it that the Opposition could have moved several other amendments. However, we have decided to move amendments only in relation to four serious areas. Over the last few years, especially over the last few weeks, Mr BjelkePetersen has demonstrated that the method of quiet diplomacy will not be successful. He takes advantage of it when it suits his own ends. I am not interested in feeding him information about what the Federal Government intends to do so that he can then effectively counter its actions. That is what this Bill will require. I commend the Opposition’s amendment, which seeks the omission of clause 5 of the Bill.
- Senator Keeffe, does your amendment seek the omission of the whole clause?.
– The Government does not accept the Opposition’s amendment. The purpose of clause 5 is to ensure that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs shall consult with the State or Territory authorities responsible for local government before directing the registrar to constitute an Aboriginal council in an area in which local government already exists or is proposed under the law of the State or Territory. Senator Keeffe has been talking of the need for consultation. It is quite fundamental to this Bill that clause 5 be retained in it to ensure that the Minister will consult with the State or Territory authorities before he does constitute an Aboriginal council. The Government is unable to accept the amendment moved by the Opposition.
Senator Sir REGINALD WRIGHT (Tasmania) (11.18)- I am concerned about the extent to which the amendment to the legislation, as contained in clause 5, constituted any reality. That is to say, before a direction is given to constitute an Aboriginal council, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is under a statutory direction to consult. I should have thought that that would not achieve anything. I query whether we are dissipating our whole energies in definitiveness. Surely we must recognise one proposition or the other. Do we recognise that a State has the right to extend or propose the establishment of a local government area or do we retain the notion, by virtue of the Commonwealth’s Aboriginal powers under the Constitution, as amended in 1967, that the Commonwealth has a superior jurisdiction and that this amendment in the Bill is simply a direction to consult? I feel that support of the clause will achieve little.
I say that in the full understanding of Senator Keeffe ‘s amendment which, as I understand it, seeks to leave out the clause. The honourable senator states that it constitutes an obstacle to the creation of an Aboriginal council where the State government wishes to establish a local government area. I understand that point of view. I disagree with it. On the other hand, I say to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) that we have the proposition that before establishing an Aboriginal council where there is a local government area or where it is proposed to extend a local government area- I repeat, where it is proposed to extend a local government area- the Federal Minister shall consult with the State government. With all respect, it seems to me that that achieves absolutely nothing except a courtesy that should automatically be said without any statutory provision.
I do not wish to cause difficulty, nor do I intervene in this debate which is not my field to cause undue delay, but as the Government operating the program of this chamber is prepared to permit debate on this subject after 1 1 p.m. and to exclude debate on much more purposeful matters, I rise to contribute to the debate. 1 wish to explain what I think is, on the one side, a real purpose of the part of Senator Keeffe to resist the establishment of local government to the exclusion of an
Aboriginal council and on the other side what I believe we are achieving by affirming the amendment that the Federal Minister will consult with the State Minister before there is any direction to establish the Aboriginal council. To me, that is a fairly purposeless provision for a statute to make. I say that with the greatest regret because I have the highest respect for the Minister for Social Security, who is in charge of the Bill, and for the purpose that she has in maintaining the Bill. But as I listen to the debate, 1 am bound to put forward the proposition that the affirmation of clause 5 in reality is achieving nothing. I would wish to know in what respect I am misguided.
– I recognise the interest that Senator Sir Reginald Wright has in the proposed new clause. I simply say to him that the power within the clause requiring consultation is an important one. To have the assurance that the Minister will consult with the authorities responsible for local government before directing the Registrar is a requirement that is upon the Minister. I believe that throughout the whole of the debates we have had with regard to legislation which affects Aborigines in any way whatsoever the consultation which can be undertaken is an important part of the development of that legislation. To say, as Senator Sir Reginald Wright has said, that the legislation is purposeless, I think, overlooks what can be achieved by consultation which is undertaken in good faith and with the purpose of achieving for the Aborigines the best type of Bill that we can with regard to their councils and associations.
It is in that spirit of good faith and as part of a commitment that has been made that we believe that the commitment to ensure that the Minister will consult is an important one. If Senator Sir Reginald Wright, with all his experience, makes a value judgment that the legislation has no real purpose, I still say that it is an important part of the Bill and a requirement on the Minister to have consultations before he directs the Registrar. As far as the Government is concerned, it is an important amendment which we wish to make to the Bill. I commend it to the Senate and state that I am unable to accept the Opposition ‘s amendment which seeks to remove this clause from the legislation.
-! have an amendment to clause 9. The relevant part states:
Section 33 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-sections:
Where the Minister is not satisfied that the request should be complied with, he shall refuse the request and shall notify the Aboriginal Council in writing, accordingly. ‘.
I move the following amendment:
After ‘ accordingly ‘ insert ‘ , giving his reasons. ‘
At the end of my remarks I shall quote the clause as it should read if the amendment were accepted. The Opposition believes that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) should be concerned with increasing communication and consultation with, and increasing the education of the Aboriginal community as to the reasons why he makes a decision against an application by Aboriginal councils to alter the functions of an Aboriginal council. The Opposition believes that nothing would be lost by increasing communications with, explanation to and consideration for Aboriginal communities. I submit that the amendment could very readily be accepted without any further consideration. It should only need stating to be commended to the Government. The reasons referred to are the Minister’s reasons for not acceding to a request by an Aboriginal council for alteration of its functions. I think it is in the spirit of the amending Bill and of the principal Act that this should be done.
This is a very simple amendment. It is what the Aborigines want. It is an amendment they require to this clause of the Bill. I do not know why there should be any resistance at all to this amendment. But it is notable that in the Parliament not one amendment which has been moved by the Opposition in the past Vh years has been accepted by the Government. This is in spite of the policies which I have read and which have been enunciated by the Liberal Party and the National Country Party in relation to Aborigines. I think that this is a very great tragedy and a very great shame. It just shows that this Government has no intention of doing anything for Aborigines except in that area in which it is forced to do something because it has its back to the wall as it fears a vote might go over its head. If our amendment is accepted the sub-clause will read:
Where the Minister is not satisfied that the request should be complied with, he shall refuse the request and shall notify the Aboriginal Council in writing, accordingly, giving his reasons.
– The amendment is not accepted by the Government. We believe that it does not add materially to the clause contained in the Bill. Proposed new sub-section (8) states:
Where the Minister is not satified that the request should be complied with, he shall refuse the request and shall notify the Aboriginal Council in writing, accordingly.
We believe that that is a sufficient requirement upon the Minister. It would, of course, be the subject of correspondence. Information would be sought if that were required. But the general application of the words ‘giving his reasons’ might not be applicable to the clause. For this reason we do not believe that the Opposition’s amendment should be accepted.
– I have an amendment to clause 16. The relevant part of the clause states:
Section 52 of the Principal Act is amended-
by inserting after sub-section (2) the following subsections: (2c) Where the Minister is not satisfied that the request should be complied with, he shall refuse to approve the alteration and shall notify the Association, in writing accordingly. ‘
The reasons for this amendment are the same as given in relation to the Opposition’s amendment to clause 9. We simply ask that when the Minister does not agree to the alteration of the objectives of an Aboriginal association he should not only notify that association in writing but also give his reasons. All we ask is that three words be inserted. We believe that it is self-evident that the amendment, if accepted, will do nothing but help Aboriginal associations and the Minister to co-operate in a cordial fashion. I know what the Minister will say. She will say no. Mr Fraser has become known in Aboriginal communities and in other sections of the community as Dr No. Mr Viner, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who is responsible for this legislation, not only has become known as Dr No but also is looked upon as the mirror Minister. He is always looking into things, investigating things or having another look at a matter but never making a decision. It is with great regret that I observe that Senator Guilfoyle, the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in this chamber, is now becoming a Dr No or, if I may be sexist, Dr Noess because she is refusing everything that the Aborigines want. Their requests are rejected out of hand because she, as a white lady, Mr Viner, as a white man, and Mr Fraser, as a white man, know what the blacks want.
– So are you a white man.
-That is right, but I am speaking on behalf of the blacks. These are the amendments that they have suggested. The Government does not consult the blacks at all. It refused to talk to the Aurukun people. It refused to talk to the Mornington Island people. But it met with its counterpart in Brisbane and decided what was best for those communities. The bunch of snowy headed white men who make up the Government knew what was best. That is the way in which the Government took its decision. I am telling Senator Baume that now. I am ashamed of Senator Baume because he ought to be a man of more compassion but he is not. He is just as anti-black as the rest of the supporters of the Government. If the amendment which I have moved is carried, new sub-section (2) will read as follows: (2c) Where the Minister is not satisfied that the request should be complied with, he shall refuse to approve the alteration and shall notify the Association, in writing accordingly, giving his reasons;
– As Senator Keeffe has already predicted, the Opposition’s amendment is not acceptable to the Government. Clause 16 provides for an Aboriginal Association to make a request to the Minister where the Registrar under section 52 (2) of the principal Act refuses to approve an alteration of the objects of the Association. We believe that the words ‘giving his reasons’ add nothing to the requirements of the clause, nor to the whole purport of the Bill. If there are matters which are the subject of discussion and contention and if there is a refusal to approve an alteration, of course it is reasonable to assume that discussion would have taken place and understanding would have been reached on the points of difference. Any person aggrieved by a decision made under the Act has a right of appeal. That provides one means of redress. If such a person has not otherwise been given reasons at any stage prior to the decision being taken, he can seek those reasons. But I think that if reasonable people are dealing with one another in the matter of a refusal to approve an alteration and discussions need to take place, the normal discussions would occur and correspondence would be exchanged. The outcome would be clearly understood by both parties.
I believe that some of the remarks made by Senator Keeffe about the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or even me in my capacity as representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs were quite unnecessary. In all of the objectives which the Government has been seeking to achieve since it assumed office it has been leaning towards legislation which has given to Aborigines many opportunities to achieve selfmanagement and to have a greater degree of development than has been the case in the past. I believe that many Aboriginal communities have the greatest respect for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and that they have a deep recognition of what has already been achieved. If by the process of consultation with State governments, with local authorities, with Aboriginal community groups and with individuals we are able to provide in the future other means of assistance to Aborigines we will have achieved a great deal. I think the Government has already shown that that is its intention. The Government will display its recognition of that fact, despite what might be said by Senator Keeffe. The Government does not accept the amendment.
Senator Sir REGINALD WRIGHT (Tasmania) (11.34)- I intervene into the debate briefly to ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to explain who originally makes the rules for the objects of the Association. Are they prescribed by statute or is the Association the author of its objects? Does it, when constituting itself as an association, adopt certain objects and therefore incorporate itself for those objects? I want to deal with the situation in which objects can be altered only with the consent of the Registrar- that is to say, an official. He can give his ipse dixit yes or no without reasons. That impinges upon a principle that deserves consideration. We are on the threshhold of the establishment of a system of administrative law whereby administrators such as the registrar are reviewable and the right of review is only a real right if it is available after the person reviewed has stated his reasons. It is most difficult for an appeal tribunal in administration to say whether the original decision is right or wrong unless the officer making the original decision has given reasons.
I just raise this matter because I would have thought it impinges upon a fundamental principle. I think we are growing to an adoption of the view that in relation to all administrative decisions the person affected is entitled to have the reasons for the decision stated. I think we are growing to the acceptance of that as a widespread idea because otherwise decisions can be arbitrary and, unless the reasons are revealed and therefore capable of arguing that they are valid or invalid on appeal, they are unreviewable. 1 realise that the hour is late but if the
Government is to keep the Parliament here dealing with legislation, however unimportant it is compared with other proposals -
– For instance?
-For instance, a proper control of parliamentary pensions as to which the Opposition concerted with the Government to suppress the whole debate earlier this evening. But do not let us excite–
– I rise on a point of order. Will you, Mr Temporary Chairman, please bring the honourable senator back to the Bill.
– We sat silent while you were being humiliated by your own crowd -
– Order! Senator Sir Reginald Wright was interrupted. I know that he is about to resume his remarks on the Bill.
-I do not wish the validity of what I have said to be dissipated by these irrelevant interjections. Therefore I do not wish to take up time by restating them. I only pause so that the Committee will give consideration to what I said. I would very much like a comment from the Minister on the general principle.
– I believe that the principal Act places with the registrar the constitution of Aboriginal council areas on the satisfaction of the registrar. I am unable to be absolutely certain as to whether the Minister needs to approve the objects in the first instance or whether he has to make decisions only where there is not consent of the registrar. I will have that matter referred to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and checked and I will see that Senator Sir Reginald Wright is advised accurately on this matter.
I notice that section 16 of the principal Act relates to the constitution of Aboriginal council areas on satisfaction of the registrar. From a quick reading of the legislation I am unable to see whether there is ministerial approval in the first instance. The Opposition has moved an amendment to proposed sub-section (2C) in clause 1 6 of the Bill which states: (2c) Where the Minister is not satisfied that the request should be complied with, he shall refuse to approve the alteration and shall notify the Association, in writing accordingly.
We do not believe that the addition of the words giving his reasons’ are essential for the purposes of clause 1 6. We therefore reject the amendment.
– I have never heard such a devastating admission by any Minister in the 13 years in which I have been in this chamber. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) does not know what the legislation means. With very great respect, I suggest that this final vote and the third reading stage should be postponed until tomorrow to give the Minister time to find out what the Bill is all about. I have been worried about this aspect all evening because the Minister could not explain why the Government objected to the four simple amendments moved by the Opposition. Senator Sir Reginald Wright supported me in this matter, even though he introduced a couple of extraneous problems. A Minister should give reasons. It is a simple process of democracy that a Minister ought to be able to explain why he or she objects to a particular amendment. The proposition is as simple as that. But the Minister now says that she does not know the background of the legislation. The final votes ought to be postponed until tomorrow. If the Minister comes back tomorrow after Question Time and gives an explanation, at least the vote in this chamber will be on a more informed basis because the Minister will have been briefed by the Minister in another place- provided he has returned from Samoa- who knows what the real story is.
The other minute point I make is that I was probably a bit harsh earlier when I referred to some of the nicknames that have been given to Ministers in this Parliament. However, I think the Minister’s comments more than justify the remarks I made earlier. The only word that the Government knows is ‘no’. The Government gives reasons to very few people, except the uranium miners, why it introduces certain legislation. When it comes to the Aboriginal people, the Government does not propose to give any reasons at all because the Aborigines are not supposed to know. That is why the Minister cannot answer.
– I take exception to what Senator Keeffe has just said. There was an arrangement that there would be an opportunity to deal promptly with the four amendments with which Senator Keeffe wished to deal this evening.
-We co-operated. You did not.
– I will co-operate until the legislation is passed. That has been my objective in dealing with Senator Keeffe ‘s amendments and stating the Government’s views with regard to them. In response to Senator Sir Reginald Wright, I said that I would like to have checked, before I gave him an assurance, that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) had to approve of the objects in the first instance. I stated that I was reading from section 16 of the principal Act which states:
Where, by reason of the circumstances of an application under section 1 1 , the Registrar is of the view that he should not constitute the area to which the application relates as an Aboriginal Council area under sub-section ( 1 ), he shall refer the application to the Minister for his direction.
That applies in the instance of the Registrar refusing to register an area,
I said that I was not sure, from looking at section 1 6, whether there is anywhere else in the Bill a requirement that the Minister shall give his sanction in the first instance. That is a perfectly proper admission to make and one that I make quite freely because I am not able to obtain advice on the principal Act at this stage. I was able to advise the Senate with regard to the amendments. I shall attempt to give whatever information I am able with regard to the principal Act to which the amendments relate. I think that the comments made by Senator Keeffe are unfair and. in view of the way in which this legislation is being dealt with at this hour this evening, it seemed to me perfectly reasonable to say that I would give the appropriate assurance to Senator Sir Reginald Wright tomorrow. I am quite competent to deal with Senator Keeffe ‘s amendments and to tell him that the Government does not accept them. That has been done already. The other comments that he made, I feel, were gratuitous and unnecessary.
Senator Sir REGINALD WRIGHT (Tasmania) (11.44)- I wish to make it quite clear that I dissociate myself from the remarks of Senator Keeffe reflecting upon the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle).
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.46 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Private students would be responsible for payment of these fees. As at 30 June 1977 there were 2,261 private students from Malaysia, 250 from Singapore and 480 from Hong Kong.
I regret that figures of the same base date are not available.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 8 March 1 978:
How many unemployment beneficiaries are currently taxed 35 cents in the dollar because a rebate declaration has not been completed.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Unemployment beneficiaries who have not completed an income tax instalment declaration are taxed 32 cents in the dollar. The number of such beneficiaries is currently 5,766.
The Hon. Senator would be aware that the income tax instalment declaration which is attached to the First Income Statement fully explains the need to lodge the declaration to avoid the automatic tax of 32 cents in the dollar. This is a requirement of the Income Tax Assessment Act.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 7 April 1978:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The matters referred to come within the responsibility of the Queensland Government. Questions on these matters should therefore be directed to the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 13 April 1978:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 3 May 1978:
Does the Government propose to sell Crown Land in the region of Maryport Rehabilitation Centre, Mount Martha, by public auction.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The former Maryport Rehabilitation Centre at Mount Martha is leased at a nominal rental to the Victorian Association of Curative Education of Rudolph Steiner pending completion of the Association’s new accommodation at Seville.
As there is no Commonwealth requirement for the property, it has been offered to the Victorian and local government authorities. The State has indicated it has no requirement for the property and negotiations are continuing with the Shire of Mornington at the present time.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 3 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 9 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 1 1 May 1 978:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
People can normally be expected to be assisted in any move to a second and subsequent home through gains on the sale of the first home. This may not be so significant in a case such as Mr Clark’s where the period between the purchase and disposal was three months. It has to be appreciated, however, that fairly broad tests are usually called for in a taxation concession of this kind and that each and every variation in personal circumstances simply cannot be taken into account. The Government believes that the broad test it has adopted in respect of this rebate is generally appropriate.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 1 1 May 1978:
What are the ‘large tenders for sophisticated units’ which are emerging’ in the Department of Primary Industry referred to in the article ‘New-generation typewriters outsmart the old electrics’, Financial Review, 1 May 1978.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Department of Primary Industry received Australian Government Stores and Tender Board approval on5 May 1978 for the purchase of word processing equipment comprising central processors, work stations and printers valued at$135,805.
Capital Gains Tax
– On 4 May 1978 (Hansard, page 1393) Senator Messner asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning section 26AAA of the Income Tax Assessment Act. The Treasurer has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australia does not have a capital gains tax as such. Section 26aaa of the Income Tax Assessment Act, introduced by the Labor Government in 1974, subjects to income tax certain kinds of profits which might not otherwise be taxed. Tax which becomes payable as a result of the operation of the section is part of the ordinary income tax and is not a separate penalty tax. Broadly, the profits to which the section applies are profits from the sale of property, or an interest in property, held for less than 1 2 months, but the section has no application in circumstances where the property is an asset of a business carried on by the taxpayer and, as a result of the sale, income becomes assessable under any other provision of the Act; nor does it apply where, as a result of the sale, an adjustment is made under the depreciation provisions of the Act. In a large percentage of cases a profit from the sale of property held for less than 12 months would be assessable in any case, by reason of the application of provisions other than section 2 6 aaa.
In addition, section 26aaa does not apply to profits from the sale of a property used by the taxpayer as his sole or principal residence, if the sale takes place as a result of a change in his place of employment or place of business. Thus the section does not discriminate against self-employed people who change their residence by reason of a change in their place of business.
It is true that a slice of the taxpayer’s income will bear whatever marginal rate he reaches. However, there is no reason to single out income from any particular source, whether that to which section 26AAA or any other specific provision applies, and say that it is the income which bears his marginal rate.
In these circumstances I see no justification for applying a concessional rate of tax on income assessed under section 2 6 aaa.
Public Service: Age Limits Placed on Applicants for Positions (Question No. 25)
asked the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1978:
Is there an upper age limit placed on applicants for positions within the Australian Public Service and other statutory bodies formed by the Commonwealth Government; if so, what is the age limit?
– The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in public service matters has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am advised that there is no upper age limit placed on applicants for positions within the Australian Public Service and Statutory Bodies except in the categories listed below. However, it is not normal practice to employ persons over stipulated retiring ages.
In the case of recruits to the Australian Capital Territory and Commonwealth Police, there is provision to make exceptions in special circumstances.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) As responsibility for education is shared by the Commonwealth and the States- and in relation to schools, the non-government school authorities- the bulk of the recommendations in the chapters specified in the Fifth Main Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty (the Fitzgerald Report) requires active participation by all these authorities. Many of the recommendations will require action by schools themselves in consultation with parents and the local community.
The recommendations have received individual consideration in the context of a comprehensive analysis of a number of inter-related reports in my Department. This provides the basis on which further action can be taken, in consultation with the other authorities concerned, to establish how the community’s educational needs can most effectively be met.
Since the Fitzgerald Report was presented to the Prime Minister on 13 August 1976, a number of initiatives have been taken by the Commonwealth and, within its own direct area of responsibility, many of the recommendations have already been substantially implemented. These include special provision for children at risk including migrant and aboriginal children and in the latter respect, the establishment of the National Aboriginal Education Committee. In relation to ‘learning and work’, the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training (the Williams Committee) has been established and will be reporting shortly. Under the aegis of the Australian Education Council, a Commonwealth/State Working Party has been set up to examine transition from school to work and further study. Teachers are a key factor in educational improvement, and I recently announced the setting up of an inquiry into teacher education in which the emphasis will be on the qualitative aspects of teaching and teacher preparation.
While disadvantage and education are sensitively discussed in the Report, no priorities are indicated nor has any attempt been made to cost the implementation of the recommendations. The Report does not focus on important matters such as the particular education situation of women and girls, and the inner city environment which affects education. Whilst the Report makes it clear that education in itself is not a remedy for poverty, the precise relationships between poverty and education are only tentatively explored. Very little reference is made to non-government education which has an important role to play, particularly in the education of migrant and disadvantaged children.
Nevertheless it is a valuable addition to the information available to the Government on needs in education. So far as possible, action is being taken through the agencies within my portfolio and in consultation with the other authorities concerned to make substantial progress in the directions indicated by the Report.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (3) See my answer to Question No. 46.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2 ) and (3 ) See my answer to Question No. 46.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) See my answer to Question No. 46.
Poverty: Commission of Inquiry (Question No. SO)
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1978:
I ) Which of the recommendations of Chapter 6, ‘Aboriginal Education’, of the fifth main Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, Poverty and Education in Australia, presented to the Prime Minister on 13 August 1976, have been accepted by the Government, and which were rejected.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), ( 2 ) and ( 3 ) See my answer to Question No. 46.
asked the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 23 February 1978:
Does the Public Service Act 1922, or any other Act or consequential regulation, impose restrictions on the publication of memoirs by people still employed in the Government service: if so, what are the restrictions.
– The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There is no specific restriction as such on the publication of memoirs.
However, Public Service Regulation 34 prevents an officer from using, for any purpose other than the discharge of his official duties, information gained by or conveyed to him through his connection with the Service, whilst Regulation 35 requires officers to have the express authority of their Chief Officer before disclosing information gained during the course of their official duties.
Certain restrictions, with penal sanctions, are also imposed under Sections 70 and 79 of the Crimes Act 1 9 1 4 upon the release of information by Commonwealth officers which has come to their knowledge or into their possession by virtue of their office and in relation to which it is their duty to treat as secret or not to disclose. These provisions do not restrict officers from releasing other forms of information gained in the course of their duties with the Commonwealth.
In addition, officers in a number of departments and statutory authorities, for example in the Department of Social Security and the Australian Taxation Office, are bound by statutory provisions not to disclose information concerning the affairs of other persons obtained in the performance of official duties except in the circumstances specified in the legislation. Certain restrictions are also imposed in relation to specific subject matters in defence, supply, and atomic energy legislation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 2 March 1 978:
What steps has the Government taken, or will it take, to implement the recommendations contained in the First Report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, that research and development programmes into (a) liquid fuels to replace petroleum, and (b) energy sources other than fossil and nuclear fusion are immediately and urgently required.
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Negotiations regarding the proposed study are nearing completion.
In addition, it is possible that funds from the coal research levy will be used in the further investigation of the production of liquid fuels from coal.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 2 March 1978:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 2 March 1 978:
In view of the urgent need to develop alternative energy sources in Australia over the next decade, and considering the long lead times from research to development, will the Minister undertake to encourage projects in (a) oil from algae, (b) oil from cellulose, (c) alcohol from sugar, (d) use of wastes as a source of energy, (e) increased car engine efficiency, (f) wind energy, (g) coal liquefaction, (h) coal gasification, (i) photochemical and photobiological production of hydrogen, (j) tidal and ocean wave energy.
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Report of the National Energy Advisory Committee or. a Research and Development Program for Energy which I released publicly on IS December 1977 contained a number of recommendations including suggested priorities for an expanded energy research and development programme.
The National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council will be providing advice on the coordination of the national energy research, development and demonstration effort and on the disbursement of additional funds provided by the Government for the expansion of energy R and D.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 2 March 1 978:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 15 March 1978:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 7 April 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Not all the information asked for by the honourable senator is available in the form in which it has been requested. Commonwealth capital fund allocations for the construction of dental therapy schools are provided. However, similar details are not immediately available for dental clinics, of which there are over 400.
Information concerning clinics has been provided on a State-by-State basis for the years 1973-74- 1 977-78.
If it would assist the honourable senator, I could provide details relating to any individual clinic in which the senator is interested; however, to provide details of al clinics would require a diversion of resources which at present, I would be reluctant to authorise.
Information concerning dental therapy schools and the school dental clinics is presented below: 1 (a)- Details of Commonwealth capital fund allocations for the construction of dental therapy schools in each year since 1973 are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 June 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780607_senate_31_s77/>.