31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m.. and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 30 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition or the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60.000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 769 citizens of Australia:
The Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
That as citizens of New South Wales and parents of State school children, we are most concerned that the quality of education available in our schools be of the highest possible standard.
We believe that this can only be achieved if adequate Federal funds are provided. The recently announced policy of direct cuts to Government schools for 1979 must have an adverse effect on them.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should arrange for:
Withdrawal of the Guidelines to the Schools Commission for 1979 and acceptance of its recommendations for Government schools.
An increase of a minimum of 5 per cent in real terms on base level programs for 1979.
Restoration of the $8m cut from the Capital Grants for Government Schools.
Increased recurrent and capital funding to Government schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following pet ition from 82 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition ofthe undersigned respectfully showeth:
Telephone users outside major metropolitan telephone districts, particularly those conducting businesses outside those districts, suffer an unfair burden for fees charged for calls.
The system of charging for calls on the basis of distance between non-adjoining zones instead of for the time of the call is unreasonable.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should require Telecom Australia to meter all calls, including local calls, and charge a uniform rate on a time basis regardless of distance between calling parties.
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 Senator 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 ofthe Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition ofthe undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth.
That the provision of payments for abortion through items ofthe Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Hamer.
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 Hamer.
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully say that we are concerned about the discrimination which exists against the children of those parents who are in receipt of the Supporting Parents Benefit in comparison with children of Single Parents who receive the Widows Pension. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to ensure that this year’s budget allow the Lone Parents to be given the right to receive a pension with the same benefits as are given with the Widows Pension, and we also request that Parliament take immediate steps to instigate one ( 1 ) category of Lone Parent Pensions to eliminate the discrimination currently experienced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Elstob.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to offences committed at sea in foreign ports or harbours and matters connected therewith.
-Is the Minister for Social Security aware that yesterday the Treasury claimed that the Budget estimates for the payment of unemployment benefit in the current year is for an average 290,000 recipients a month as against 265,000 recipients a month last year? Does she agree with this estimate? If so, will she agree that her departmental estimate for the National Welfare Fund- that expenditure on unemployment benefit in the coming year will be $10m less than last year- is a deliberate deception and that, as in the case of last year, the Government is again deliberately understating the amount of money which will be required for unemployment benefit so as deliberately to understate the Budget deficit?
– At this time last year we went through somewhat the same exercise, discussing the way in which the unemployment benefit figures had been derived as a best estimate at that stage of the expenditure for the National Welfare Fund. The figures in the Budget statements of this year show the best estimate that the Treasury is able to give of the amounts that will be required for the estimated number of unemployed.
– You would not describe them as rubbery?
– I have never described figures as rubbery, but perhaps I could say that Senator Wriedt did not bounce very well on his predictions with regard to family allowances. The figures for unemployment benefit take into account the changes that were announced in the Budget with regard to the nonindexation of payments for those people without dependants, and it will be accepted that about 70 per cent of unemployment beneficiaries have been known to be in this category. That has been taken into account. The Treasury has made a calculation with regard to unemployment benefit figures and, as far as my Department is concerned, it is the best estimate that can be given at this stage of the funds that will be required.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. If the number of unemployment beneficiaries next year will be exactly the same as that of last year, taking into account the changes that the Minister has announced to the unemployment benefit for people without dependants and taking into account the yearly indexation of the unemployment benefit for those with dependants, will the Minister not admit that the estimation in relation to unemployment benefits in those circumstances should be at least $70m more for next year than for this year? In view of the Treasurer’s admission that the number of unemployment beneficiaries will increase, can she tell us how her Department can estimate the amount needed as being $ 10m less than that of last year?
– The figures in relation to the payment of the unemployment benefit are worked out in conjunction with the Department of the Treasury. If Senator Grimes will submit to me the calculations on which he claims that there is a $70m difference between the departmental estimate and his estimate, I will be prepared to subject his figures to checking with the Department of the Treasury and I will be prepared to make available to him whatever response is given in relation to those figures that he presents to me.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I note that in Budget Paper No. 8 the Government records its support for the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. However, the Budget itself provides only $640,000 as aid to the High Commissioner compared with total expenditure of almost $3m last year. Am I correct in understanding that this much lower amount represents a grant to the High Commissioner’s general program fund only and that the Government will be prepared to give prompt and sympathetic consideration to the provision of entirely additional grants for special appeals which will undoubtedly be needed in the next year to cope with the growing tragedy of the international refugee situation?
– The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is financed by voluntary contributions both to its general program and to special appeals made from time to time on behalf of particular groups of refugees and displaced persons. The 1 978-79 Budget aid appropriation of $640,000 referred to by Senator Puplick provides for payment of the second half of Australia’s 1978 calendar year pledge and the first half of the 1979 calendar year pledge. Australia’s support for the High Commissioner’s general program will be maintained in the 1979 calendar year. The 1977-78 Budget also included an initial provision of $lm for the United Nations High Commissioner’s special appeals. A total amount of $2.3m was ultimately provided in 1977-78 for special appeals for refugees from Indo-China and Thailand and other peoples in Asia, including the boat people. Whilst the 1 978-79 aid Budget includes no initial provision for the contributions to the United Nations High Commissioner’s special appeals, consideration will be given during the year to Australia’s making appropriate responses to particular special appeals.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral recall yesterday telling Senator Georges in answer to a question concerning the McGregor Royal Commission that after he had approached Senator Withers he- that is Senator Withersreadily and immediately gave the AttorneyGeneral the information concerning his involvement with the change of name in Queensland? I ask: Firstly, is the Minister satisfied that Senator Withers informed him fully and frankly of his whole involvement in this issue? Secondly, was the matter of Senator Withers’ involvement in the change of name fully and frankly put to meetings of Ministers on 17 April and 23 April of this year?
– The sequence of events in relation to this matter has been the subject of a lengthy statement made by the Prime Minister in another place and also admitted here. I have been asked a number of questions in relation to this matter and yesterday I answered a question in relation to it. It is for honourable senators in this place to form their own opinions about the matter. At Question Time Ministers answer questions as to facts, not as to matters of opinion. Information on Senator Withers’ involvement in the matter and the question of when it came to the knowledge of the Government was summarised in the letter that was finally written to me. That was the information and knowledge that the Government had at the time. Other information on this matter was the subject of evidence before the Royal Commission, and that is a matter in the public record.
– I ask a supplementary question. Am I to take it from the AttorneyGeneral’s answer that he is refusing to answer the second part of the question that I put to him? I am not seeking an opinion; I am asking him: Was the matter of Senator Withers’ involvement in the change of name fully and frankly put to meetings on the dates I have nominated? Will he tell the Senate whether that is the case? Is he refusing to answer that question?
– I declined to answer some of Senator Wriedt ‘s questions which involved matters of opinion. Everyone can form his own opinion. What I am saying is that, as a matter of fact, the knowledge that the Government had- that was the knowledge Senator Withers gave to other Ministers and to me- was the information that was summarised in the letter of 2 1 April written to me. It first came to my knowledge verbally from Senator Withers. What he had given us verbally was incorporated in the letter of 21 April.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education. With the current debate and concern in the community regarding spending on education, can the Minister inform the Senate what share of the national wealth has been spent on education in the last few years?
– In very recent years, and indeed over the past 10 to 15 years, there has been an enormous expansion in the real expenditure on education and the relationship of that expenditure to total public expenditure. Perhaps I can demonstrate it best by giving figures. In 1964-65 public expenditure on education took up 3.3 per cent of the gross domestic product. Some 10 years later, in 1974-75, education took up 6.2 per cent of the GDP. So it had virtually doubled then. In 1976-77, after two years of the Fraser Government, it took up 6.4 per cent of our national wealth. So education has been progressively increasing its share of the national wealth. In 1 966-67 the total expenditure on education by all governments in Australia was estimated to be $800m or 10.9 per cent of total outlays by government. Some decade later, in 1976-77, total expenditure on education by all governments in Australia was $5,240m, representing 1 6.5 per cent of total outlays. This is the progress that has been made and which continues to be made. In dollar terms, these are massive increases in the share of our national wealth given to education and of course we need to look beyond the spending of more money on education, which has been achieved- as I have repeatedly said in this Senate- to the increased quality and relevance of education.
– My question addressed to the Attorney-General follows a question asked by my colleague, Senator Wriedt. As at 24 April 1978, when the first terms of reference were drawn up and given to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Electoral Redistribution of Queensland in 1977, was not all the information relating to Senator Withers’ involvement in the subject matter of the inquiry within the knowledge of the Attorney-General? If not, what new facts came to the Attorney-General’s knowledge between 24 April and 30 May which led him to change his mind about the terms of reference of the Royal Commission?
– As I have said and repeated, the information I had when the terms of reference were drawn up on 24 April was the information which was contained in the letter of 2 1 April and which was to the effect that Senator Withers had been in touch with the Chief Electoral Officer and as a result- I suppose it was at the request of Senator Withers- the Chief Electoral Officer had been in touch with the Chairman of the Distribution Commissioners. A great deal of misunderstanding seems to be in everyone’s mind about that. The Royal Commissioner did not find that that was an improper or illegal act in itself. His finding of impropriety was based upon the purpose or motive with which Senator Withers made that approach. That evidence on which the Royal Commissioner made his finding came out in the course of the Royal Commission. People can read the transcript of evidence and the Royal Commissioner’s decision. That is why I have been referring to the fact that other evidence obviously came out at the Royal Commission.
The second part of Senator Button’s question was what further information came forward between 24 April and 30 May. On 30 May the terms of reference of the Royal Commission were amended and extended to provide for a finding in relation to the actions of any person in approaching the Distribution Commissioners, not just Senator Withers. The fact is that when the Royal Commission was established on 24 April our attention was fixed upon the allegations that were being made specifically against Mr Robinson and his actions in relation to approaching the Distribution Commissioners. I think Senator Button asked what further information came to my knowledge. Apart from the fact that Senator Withers and Mr Pearson had given evidence and that Senator Withers had answered a question in this place, I am not aware that there was any further information at that stage. As I have already indicated, the reason why the terms of reference were extended was that on reflection it appeared that they were too restrictive and that they should be widened to provide the opportunity for further findings to be made.
– I ask a supplementary question. The Minister said that it was on reflection that the terms of reference were widened. I ask again: Were not all the material facts within his knowledge as at 24 April? Were there any different facts between 24 April and 30 May which led to the enlargement of the terms of reference?
-There were only the further facts to which I have referred in my answer. The evidence given by Mr Pearson and Senator Withers at the Royal Commission provided a good deal more detail about the whole matter than had been in our possession previously. You have only to compare the letter that Senator Withers and Mr Pearson wrote with the lengthy transcript of the Royal Commission’s proceedings. I have not really anything further to add.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Construction whether early consideration will be given to instructing the Department of Construction to make it mandatory that its head contractors, their sub-contractors and its own sub-contractors employ directly and train apprentices where those contracting entities employ tradesmen? Will the Minister further cause examination to be made of ways and means which will ensure that increased numbers of apprentices are employed on Commonwealth Government construction projects?
– Honourable senators will appreciate that the construction industry has now a very alert honourable senator to represent it in this place. I do not doubt that the industry will benefit by his presence here. The Department of Construction, so far as I am aware, has over a number of years given consideration to this question, including the proposition, now put by the honourable senator, that there should be a mandatory requirement that contractors employ a proportion of apprentices. I understand that the experience has been that, having in mind such factors as the types of contractors, the size of their businesses and the geographical spread of the contracts which must be undertaken and which range from Darwin to Alice Springs and to any remote station wherever situated throughout the Commonwealth and the territories, if the Department were to write in such clauses problems would be encountered. I understand that it has not been possible to make common contractual conditions as has been suggested by the honourable senator. However, the Department is itself a competent employer of tradesmen. I understand that at present in the vicinity of 400 apprentices are employed. That is on the basis of about one to six tradesmen employed. The honourable senator’s question is reasonable and I will seek from the Minister for Construction an early answer, which will be conveyed to him directly.
– My question is directed to Senator Carrick in his capacity as Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has his attention been drawn to an article by Alan Reid in this week’s Bulletin magazine in which Senator Withers is reported to have informed colleagues that the Prime Minister had suggested to him that he wanted Senator Carrick to attend the special meeting of Ministers held in Sydney to discuss Senator Withers’ fate? Is he aware that Senator Withers is quoted as replying to the Prime Minister: ‘Now wait a minute. I’ve got nothing against John. But he’s not at arm’s length. He’s an interested party. He stands to benefit- to become Leader.’ Did the present Leader of the Government attend that meeting in Sydney with the expressed purpose of dislodging Senator Withers from the leadership? Why was it that he attended the meeting and not Senator Guilfoyle, Mr Killen and Mr Peacock?
– The presence–
– Tell us about open government.
– Indeed, one would need to tell Senator Wheeldon and his colleagues about open government. It was a thing they never understood. It is a long-standing and totally respected protocol that Ministers attend Cabinet and Cabinet committees when summoned to do so. I undertake to follow that protocol. Of course, we do not respond to reports in newspapers as they relate to certain hypotheses of what might happen. I have nothing to add to that.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and refer to an incident on 9 August involving a Mr Michael Brandon, a member of the Ananda Marga and, I understand, head of that organisation in Australia, New Zealand and part of the South Pacific. I refer in particular to a document that was distributed yesterday in the House of Representatives in which it is pointed out that Mr Brandon’s passport has been confiscated. As the possession of a passport and the right to travel are widely recognised as fundamental personal rights, I ask the Minister: Can he give details of why the passport has been confiscated? Specifically, I ask the Minister to say whether the following statement relating to Mr
Brandon which appeared in the document provided for members of the House of Representatives yesterday is correct:
He is being persecuted because of his religious and political beliefs.
-The Passports Act gives to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and to authorised officers a discretion to determine the issue of Australian passports. In exercising this discretion the Minister takes into account advice which includes matters concerning peace, order and good government, in relation to both international relations and domestic affairs. However, it has not been the practice of successive Ministers in the exercise of this discretionary power to give reasons in respect of particular cases for deciding to withhold passports. I have not seen the document to which Senator Knight has referred. In the circumstances, I think that it would probably be wise of me to refer the document to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, whom I represent, and for me to ask him whether he can comment specifically on the point Senator Knight has raised in relation to it. As I said, the Minister has certain guidelines upon which he does exercise his discretion. I think it would be preferable for me to confine my answer at this stage to indicating that I shall refer the specific point Senator Knight has raised to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General and follows the answer he gave to Senator Button in which, as I recall, the Minister said that he was not aware of any particular reasons for the widening of the terms of reference of the McGregor Royal Commission. I ask the Minister whether he recalls that in a letter he wrote to Mr Justice McGregor on 1 1 May he stated:
It has been represented to the Government that matters could arise concerning the propriety of what occurred in the course of the redistribution of the State of Queensland into electoral divisions that may not fall within the terms of reference set out in the above letters patent. The Government has not however been informed of the nature of these matters. No specific allegations have been made.
I ask the Minister two questions. Firstly, does he still stand by the contents of that paragraph? Secondly, does he not agree that a government does not widen the terms of reference of a royal commission unless it has substantive reasons for doing so?
– My answer to Senator Button was not to the effect that I was not aware of why the terms of reference were extended.
asked a different question. He asked whether any new facts were made available which led to that being done. I have given the reasons the terms of reference were extended. The letter to which Senator Wriedt now refers is a letter, which has been tabled, which I wrote to Mr Justice McGregor on 1 1 May. It arose out of the further statutory declarations which Mr Donald Cameron produced alleging leaks, really, in relation to uranium by Mr Eric Robinson.
-It is a fact, although perhaps Senator Wheeldon is not aware of it, that Mr Cameron–
– I was just suggesting it was almost impossible to imagine that there could be any leaks from your Government.
– I see. These statutory declarations were produced. As a result, the Government decided to extend the terms of reference to include those matters. Mr Cameron had seen me and indicated that there were some other matters of a very general kind- that is why the letter says that they were not specific- which might be raised in the inquiry but which the terms of reference would not be wide enough to cover, and so on. That is the background and the reason why the letter of 1 1 May was written.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, concerns the means testing of family allowances. Was the introduction of a means test on family allowances aimed principally at wealthy children who receive an unearned income through inherited property or through devices such as income splitting by trusts? Is it possible to means test these people without discouraging enterprising children, many of whom are from low income families? What would be the cost to revenue of exempting from the family allowance means test any income earned by the personal endeavour of the dependent child?
– The Government introduced the means test on children’s income after reflecting on the fact that the family allowance scheme replaced the tax rebate which had previously been given to parents for a dependent child. I am unable to advise on the cost or saving involved in the proposition put forward by Senator Hamer about exempting certain incomes from the test. I could refer that matter to the Treasurer to see whether any figures could be provided for Senator Hamer. When the tax rebate was given to the parent for a dependent child the income of the child was taken into account. At that stage there was no differentiation between income from property or investments or income from personal exertion. However if there is any information relevant to this question which I can make available I will see that Senator Hamer is advised of it.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: What is the policy of her Department on the payment of unemployment benefit to persons who are dismissed as distinct from stood down- I emphasise that distinction- as a result of their having been direct participants in strike action? Has the Minister had drawn to her attention the case of Mr Donato Ruberto a Victorian builders labourer, whose application for unemployment benefit in these circumstances has now been languishing in her Department for nearly four weeks? How much longer will Mr Ruberto and his family have to wait for a decision in this not excessively complex matter?
– I can give information on the general treatment of people who are seeking unemployment benefit as a result of strike action. The usual policy is that members of striking unions at the establishment at which the industrial dispute is in force are not eligible for unemployment benefit under section 107 of the Social Services Act. However, members of other unions at that establishment who are stood down as a result of the dispute will be paid unemployment benefit, subject to the usual conditions. I believe this matter was canvassed very widely during the protracted Victorian industrial dispute last year. Persons who are stood down at other establishments as a result of the dispute will be granted unemployment benefit, subject to the usual conditions, irrespective of their union membership.
asked me about the distinction between members who are dismissed and members who are stood down. I am able to advise that our Department’s inclination is to make no distinction between members who are dismissed and members who are stood down. The basis of this, regardless of that technicality, is the fact that their current employment statusthat is, their unemployment- is as a result of the industrial action by their unions. So there is no distinction between the standing down and the actual dismissal.
I want to be excused from dealing publicly with a particular and individual case, but I am able to advise Senator Evans that an urgent approach has been made by my Department to the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations on which we heavily rely in matters of clarifying unions which are direct participants in strikes and disputes. In particular we have sought urgently a clarification on the unions which were direct participants in the dispute on the State Savings Bank site in Melbourne. As soon as this information is available I will see that any application about which Senator Evans has shown concern and any others in that category are expedited.
It ought to be said by way of background that industrial disputes are occurring at various building sites in Melbourne at present, and bans are being imposed by a group of building trades and builders labourers unions. Some workers have been dismissed, some have been stood down and some have simply walked out in protest. So there is a need for some clarification. I give an undertaking that that will be expedited and any claims will be dealt with as early as possible.
-Could the Minister for Education provide the Senate with the latest projections on primary and secondary school enrolments in Australia?
– The question of projections of enrolments in schools, both primary and secondary, is dealt with- and the honourable senator would be able to find it- in a recent Schools Commission report for the triennium 1979-81 which I think was issued in April this year. The projections are important because they show what is happening in Australia in terms of demography in line, incidentally, with the projections of Professor Borrie. The Appendix which is entitled ‘Statistical Background ‘, states:
Primary enrolments are expected to peak in 1979 and then decline slowly until 1987 when the trend is likely to be reversed.
Secondary enrolments which peaked in 1977, are projected to decline until 1980 when a period of increase is expected to take them to a new peak in 1985.
Total enrolments should peak in 1978 and steadily decline until 1987 at which time enrolments are expected to be some 5 percent below those in 1978.
That is today. That is the picture almost 10 years from now. The report continues:
Even statisticians cannot succeed in projecting human fertility or, in fact, immigration programs. This, I think, is said with all the caveats applied to it.
– What about you? Can you doit?
-Senator Button should restrain his natural personal enthusiasm. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard for the information of honourable senators the table of projected enrolments.
The document read as follows-
– I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in my Gallery of a delegation from the People’s Assembly of the Arab Republic of Egypt led by Dr El Sayed Ali El Sayed, Deputy Speaker of the Assembly. On behalf of all honourable senators I extend a warm welcome to members of the delegation and trust that their stay with us is a pleasant one.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– My question is directed to Senator Carrick in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister, the Teasurer and the Minister for Environment, Housing and
Community Development. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the statement by the Managing Director of the Hooker Corporation, Mr Keith Campbell, who, when referring to the unprecedented growth in shopping complexes, said that Australia was in danger of being ‘overshopped’? Does the Government recognise that scarce private capital, as well as loan moneys, is being invested in new commercial shopping centres and that this constitutes a gross misuse of resources as well as increasing the price of consumer goods in the marketplace? Has the Government undertaken any survey to determine whether this distortion is happening at a time when there is a burning need for such investment funds to be employed in building homes? If not, will the Government institute an inquiry into how such capital can be diverted to a more useful community need?
– In my capacity as described as a sort of a troika, for which I apologise, I respond. I have not seen the statement made by Mr Keith Campbell but I will certainly seek to do so. May I say that Mr Keith Campbell is a distinguished Australian and a person who ought to be regarded as authoritative within his sphere of activities. I will certainly look at the statement. One element that has distinguished the free society from the totalitarian regimes has been that the free society is able to make its judgments from within itself and to adjust from within itself by the free exercise of trial and experience and the kind of flow of dialogue that is now apparent because, if Mr Keith Campbell is right, he will be able to sustain a dialogue in this community and there will be adjustments.
Let me simply say that it is a practice of free society that no one goes on building shopping complexes unless it has been proven that the consumers want them and that they are profitable. So the free movement of the free society, which of course the Labor Party finds abhorrent, will itself be magnificently self-corrective. I am unaware whether there has been a survey. I think it would be important to have that kind of information. I will seek to find out whether there has been such a survey because in itself any information that could show distortions would be valuable and the position would be perfectly clear. I acknowledge the statement by the honourable senator that there was an overproduction of commercial buildings- and he is utterly right in drawing attention to this- in the late 1960s and early 1970s and there has been a stockpile ever since. I will seek information on it.
I am not aware whether there has been any desire for an inquiry. I will let the honourable senator know.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I ask: Is it a fact that the tourist industry is a major growth area in the provision of new employment opportunities? Is it also a fact that the Government has recognised the importance of this industry by a major increase in the Budget provision of funds for the Australian Tourist Commission- an increase of nearly 40 per cent in the amount provided?
– Certainly I, and I am sure the Minister for Industry and Commerce also, would agree with the first part of Senator Rae’s question. The tourist industry is a major growth industry. I certainly accept that and the Government accepts it. In fact, it has recognised this in the current Budget because the Tourist Commission appropriation has been increased from $3. 1 m last year to a record level of $4.24m this financial year. My mental arithmetic is not as good as Senator Rae ‘s but I will accept his estimate that it is a 40 per cent increase. They certainly are the figures. This is the most significant increase in the Commission’s appropriation since it was established by the coalition Government in 1967. It will enable the Commission almost to double its expenditure on marketing activities and to undertake increased market research. Also, funds have been made available in the present Budget for the Bureau of Industry Economics to commence a detailed study of the economic significance of tourism in Australia. The Government has also agreed in principle to extend the Export Market Development Grant Scheme to the travel and tourist industry, and detailed proposals about this will be submitted to the Government in the near future.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. In his letter to Mr Justice McGregor on 1 1 May the second paragraph opened:
It has been represented to the Government that matters could arise concerning the propriety of what occurred in the course of the redistribution of the State of Queensland into electoral divisions that may not fall within the terms of reference.
Who made those representations to the Government? When were they made? What were the matters referred to and why did they lead to an expansion of the terms of reference?
– Let me make the matter quite clear again although I thought I had done so already. The particular matters that I referred to in the letter of 1 1 May were not matters which led to the extension of the terms of reference on 30 May. There had been further allegations made by Mr Cameron in relation to the uranium matter. As I have said, Mr Cameron had been to see me and had said that the terms of reference would not cover other allegations, which were not specified. Therefore, we were concerned that something more may come out in relation to the matter and we wanted to make it quite clear to the Royal Commissioner that if they did we would be wanting to have the whole thing cleared up.
- Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Senator Durack has dealt with only one aspect of the question, that is, the matters. I make the observation that, so far as uranium is concerned, the terms of reference were widened on 10 May, before the AttorneyGeneral wrote that letter. The other questions I asked have not been dealt with. Who made the representations? When were they made?
– I cannot remember specifically -
– More amnesia.
– I cannot remember exactly when -
– You wrote the letter.
- Mr Cameron came to see me after the original terms of reference were drawn up and obviously before the letter of 1 1 May was written. It was some time in that period. I do not have time to keep a daily diary. I cannot remember, but it was some time in that period that I had the conversation with him.
– It would have to be something important. Wouldn’t you remember that?
– Of course it would have to be of importance and that is exactly why we were not prepared to go ahead without something specific being raised.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister seen the headlines this morning in the country’s national daily, the Australian, which show that the Sydney Stock Exchange index has soared to a record 4!4-year high? Does the Minister interpret this as a massive vote of confidence by the Australian community in the Budget and in the Budget strategies?
-I indeed read the Australian and the Border Watch. Yes, I read this morning’s Australian. I think that all people who have a real interest in the welfare of all Australians will be delighted with what that newspaper reported, because what has happened on the stock exchanges of Australia reflects not merely the belief of commerce and industry in Australia but even more importantly the state of confidence in Australia of overseas countries. It is an expression of confidence that what we are doing in the Budget will reverse the errors of the unhappy years of 1973-75. Indeed, it is an expression of confidence by overseas and Australian people that in the first half of next year we can get to a five per cent inflation rate which will put us in a better position than any country in the world, other than Germany and Japan. That will be a proud record of achievement and one which will force down interest rates. It will reverse the errors which we inherited and which we were put into office to reverse.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, refers to the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act 1965 and the statement made in relation to that Act by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech on Tuesday. The Treasurer stated on page 12 of his Speech that the cost of this scheme would be $40m in 1978-79. 1 now ask the Minister: Why is it that under the heading Estimated Expenditure from Special Appropriations for the Year Ending 30 June 1979’ which is to be found on page 31 of Budget Paper No. 4, the figure given is $35,900,000, which is a lesser amount by $4, 100,000? Will the Minister tell the Senate which of those two amounts is the correct one?
-I will be happy to seek the information and let the honourable senator have it.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Social Security or, alternatively, the Minister representing the Minister for Construction, concerns the great problems which paraplegic and quadriplegic people face in gaining quick or convenient access to public buildings and facilities in Australia. Does the Minister agree that the new Australian Standard Design Rule No. AS 1428, which caters for easy access by people in wheelchairs to public buildings and community facilities, will help to meet the special requirements that disabled, incapacitated and elderly people have for access and mobility? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Commonwealth Government will ensure that all public buildings constructed by or for it will abide by this design rule and therefore provide suitable opportunities and facilities for disabled members ofthe community?
– I am prepared to say in respect of my responsibility for these matters that wherever possible we place accent on this design rule and have given publicity to its promulgation in conjunction with the Department of Construction. I think it is probably in the province of the Department of Construction to say whether the Commonwealth Government will provide that all Commonwealth buildings be equipped in accordance with this design rule. I am unaware of any reason why it would not attempt to do so. From the point of view of giving prominence to the matter and urging others who are constructing buildings to give recognition to the needs of paraplegics, I point out that there is a design symbol which is used on buildings which do provide this access. I am very pleased to say that Mr Speaker and the President have acceded to our request in regard to access at the entrances to Parliament House. Notice is given that that assistance is provided to paraplegics visiting this place. I will refer to the Minister for Construction the matters which come within his responsibility with regard to Commonwealth buildings and I will see that Senator Missen is advised.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs to two statements made by Mr Michael Somare, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. The first statement was made in the Papua New Guinea Parliament by Mr Somare on 8 August. He said: . . the time will come when we may in this country have to say we need a kind of treaty so that in the event of invasion we could call upon other nations for aid.
The second statement was made by Mr Somare the next day, 9 August, also in the Papua New Guinea Parliament. In reply to a question from Mr John Noel, who asked whether or not Papua New Guinea should seek to enter into a defence treaty relationship with Australia before it is too late, Mr Somare said that he would rather not have Papua New Guinea enter into a treaty relationship with Australia, given the special understanding between the two nations. What would be the present Government’s attitude if the Government of Papua New Guinea approached Australia with the request for a formal defence pact? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Australian Government had any communication with Mr Somare in the period between the making of the two statements?
- Senator Sibraa raises a particularly serious and important matter. I propose to refer the question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and endeavour to obtain an early answer to it.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that I placed two questions on notice on 1 June this year dealing with expenditures of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? As I consider that these are important matters for the Senate as a whole, I ask the Minister whether he will again approach the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to obtain answers to these questions which related to the previous appropriations considered by the Estimates committees. We would like the answers before the Estimates committees deal with further appropriations.
– I am aware that Senator Young asked questions about the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I regret very much that he has to inform me that the answers have not been forthcoming. I have been striving to have provided outstanding answers to questions from honourable senators. I shall seek to do so and let the honourable senator have the information.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I point out that the Prime Minister has already informed the Parliament, on 23 April, that the Attorney-General advised that Senator Withers’ telephone conversations were not contrary to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I ask the Minister two questions. Was the advice given verbally or in writing, and if the latter, will the Minister provide a copy of the advice to the Senate? Secondly, was that advice given to the meeting of Ministers on 23 April which settled the terms of reference of the
Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Electoral Redistribution of Queensland in 1977?
– The advice was verbal, and it was given to the Ministers at the meeting on 23 April.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport: Did AUS Student Travel withdraw a brochure which it issued recently in conjunction with Qantas Airways Ltd? Was this brochure withdrawn on the instructions of the Department of Transport because it breached a departmental direction of February 1978? What were the breaches of regulations or departmental directions contained in the brochure?
– I am advised that after consultations with the Department of Transport AUS Student Travel did withdraw a brochure it issued recently. The Department indicated to AUS Student Travel that as no approval had been granted in respect of the student membership waiver to cover the flight shown in the brochure the brochure should be withdrawn. My understanding is that the company complied with the Department’s request. Under a commercial arrangement Qantas has given AUS Student Travel general approval to advertise the airline in its publications. However, I am informed that AUS Student Travel did not submit this particular brochure to Qantas for approval prior to its distribution. I assume that the contents of the brochure are the responsibility of AUS Student Travel.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. When a single age pensioner dies, is the amount of pension owing to the pensioner until the date of his or her death payable to either the next of kin or the pensioner’s estate? If not, in the case of a pensioner in a nursing home, is the next of kin expected to pay any nursing home fees that remain unpaid due to the non-payment of the age pension?
– I understand that payment of the age pension is neither in arrears nor in advance. When a pensioner dies that is the date on which the pension ceases. There is no period after that date in respect of which payment is due to anyone on behalf of that pensioner. As to the second part of the question, I will make a check with regard to nursing home requirements and advise Senator Colston of any information I am able to give.
– I ask a supplementary question. The information I was given by officials of the Department -
– I take a point of order. This is not a supplementary question. Obviously the honourable senator is opening a debate. He already has an answer.
- Senator Colston’s question must seek further elucidation. It must be a supplementary question. He must keep his supplementary question within the parameters of his first question.
-I preface my supplementary question by saying that the information given to me by the Department of Social Security was different from the information which the Minister gave me. I therefore ask whether the Minister would check the information that she gave me in relation to my first question.
– I certainly will do so. As I said, it is my understanding that that is the position. I seem to recollect minutes to me stating that there is no payment of pensions either in advance or in arrears. I will certainly check that information and see that an accurate answer is given to Senator Colston. If he has a particular instance in mind I will be happy to have it checked for him. I will also seek information with regard to his question on nursing homes.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Unfortunately he has had many today. It is about the serviceability of Australia’s Leopard tanks. Is it a fact that the wrong grease has been used on the turrets of these tanks and that this has affected the rate of firing of our entire tank force? If so, in what way has the rate of firing been affected? Who was responsible for the use of the wrong grease? What action is being taken against the people responsible?
– I have not any information in relation to this matter. I will refer the question to the Minister for Defence and seek an early answer from him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Has the Government received a considerable number of submissions and representations during the last few months concerning the decision to wind up the Australian Services Canteen Organisation? In the light of these representations and the views expressed by many staff members of ASCO that the Government’s action will mean greatly reduced services to defence personnel and a substantially increased cost to the Federal Government, will the Minister seek a review of the decision?
– I will also refer that question to the Minister for Defence and endeavour to obtain an early answer.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the Schools Commission report for the triennium 1 979-8 1 dated July 1978.I seek leave to make a brief statement.
– I released this report last week so that State and non-government school authorities would have as much time as possible to study the report’s recommendations. The report makes recommendations for the allocation of Commonwealth funding for schools in the States in 1979 through the programs of the Commission in response to the Government’s guidelines which I announced in the Senate on 9 June.
These guidelines were in turn developed from the Governments ‘s assessment of its budgetary situation and its consideration of an earlier report, for the triennium 1979-81, which the Schools Commission presented in April 1978. The guidelines, as honourable senators will recall, are based on the continuation in 1 979 of the Government’s existing policies and foreshadow a public debate on the questions related to schools funding. This debate, which will take place later this year, will guide the Government in its consideration of appropriate funding arrangements to apply after 1 979.
The Government has not yet considered the report for 1979, but our decisions on the recommendations will be announced as soon as possible during the Budget sittings.
– I move:
I seek leave to make a brief statement.
– The Minister has provided us with an undated statement and I am uncertain as to the time at which the report was available. Certainly, it was not available to the Opposition until yesterday.
– Well, I regret that.
– And it is a cause of regret that the statement itself is undated. The Minister says in the final paragraph that the Government has not yet considered the report for 1979 but that its decisions on the recommendations will be announced as soon as possible during the Budget sittings. I merely make the point that the Opposition is in exactly the same difficulty as the Government- perhaps an even greater difficulty- because of the delay in providing this report. I think that the Minister states fairly in the third paragraph of his statement, the historical situation regarding the guidelines, and the fact that they foreshadow a public debate on questions related to schools funding. My interpretation of the earlier statement of the Schools Commission was that the public debate foreshadowed by it related to a relatively narrow aspect of school funding, but in the circumstances in which this document is now presented to the Senate, I hope that the Minister will accord us the opportunity at the earliest available time to debate the issues which are raised in the report. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to Section 6 of the Environment (Financial Assistance) Act 1977, 1 present an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and South Australia made under the provisions of that Act.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present a report of the Industries Assistance Commission on brooms and brushes.
– Pursuant to section 41 of the Export
Development Grants Act 1 974. 1 present the report of the Development Grants Board for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– by leave- I wish to present a statement relating to aviation safety in Australia. It is identical with that made yesterday in the other place by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and therefore, when I use the personal pronoun, it refers to the Minister for Transport. As it is important, I intend to read it. It states:
As the Minister for Transport, I regard it as my duty to make a statement to the House today concerning aviation safety in Australia. All honourable members will be aware of a number of allegations and charges made in recent weeks through the media concerning aviation safetyallegations and charges that have little foundation in fact. It is of course not necessary for me to defend Australia’s air safety record which on the basis of aviation accident statistics alone is exemplary. Australia has one of the best aviation records in the world. There is a need however for me to set out the actual record of those in my Department, such as flight service officers, rank and file air traffic controllers and our highly trained pilots, and others in the aviation industry who have been denigrated by many of the recent statements and Press stories. There is also a need to reassure the people of Australia who have been caused quite unnecessary concern by these irresponsible statements.
Let me say right at the beginning it is the Government’s policy to maintain aviation safety at the highest possible level. However, aviation safety is for experts to maintain; it is not for politicians, journalists or laymen to determine. As Minister I, of course, rely upon the advice of my Department and the industry on all aviation safety matters. I never have, and will not, make arbitrary personal judgments on aviation safety matters, but will continue as always to rely on those experts in my Department and in the industry itself who can and do advise me.
Let me give one example of the sort of allegation, and the sort of media headline that has caused a totally incorrect picture of the level of aviation safety in Australia to be presented to the Australian people. I refer to an incident concerning two domestic airline aircraft near Brisbane on the seventh of this month. The Sydney Daily Telegraph on Monday of this week carried the headline: ‘Mid Air Near Miss for Three Jets’. The story quoted a so-called departmental spokesman saying the three jets were only seconds from collision and went on to quote the Vice-President of the Civil Air Operators Association, Mr Gosling, as saying:
It is a very serious incident.
The Melbourne Herald carried an extravagant front page story but, so far as I can ascertain, no check was made with responsible officers in my Department. Other newspapers carried similar stories and headlines claiming my Department had covered up the incident.
Now let us look at the facts. An interim report by my Department indicates there was no danger of collision between any aircraft. The incident concerned only two aircraft, not the three reported in the newspapers. The incident involved only a marginal breakdown in the standard separation of five miles. The report indicates the aircraft were flying in the same general direction about four miles apart instead of five and were also separated by 1,000 feet in height when the situation was recognised by the air traffic controllers themselves and appropriate action taken. What is even more disturbing is that the departmental spokesman quoted in the paper was not a departmental spokesman, a fact later acknowledged by the journalist himself.
Of equal concern is a report in yesterday’s Courier Mail quoting the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) as saying that the Department’s view of the incident appeared to conflict with information provided by ‘an air safety official’ on Friday. The honourable member for Shortland was even quoted as saying a spokesman from my office confirmed the view that the incident was a near miss and attributable to pilot error. There was no spokesman from my office, and there has been no suggestion that pilot error was involved. The honourable member of Shortland clearly does not want to believe the facts. He is prepared to say anything in order to get a headline and to denigrate officers of my Department, including air traffic controllers as well as airline pilots.
The honourable member for Shortland has made recent public calls for a public inquiry into aviation safety. My statement this afternoon rejects entirely the need for the expenditure of public moneys on the undertaking of such an inquiry. The honourable member for Shortland would be contributing far more to aviation safety in this country if he were to support and be constructive, rather than try to undermine the activities of those involved in safety matters in the aviation industry. It is clearly necessary for me to present the true position of aviation safety in Australia to defend our pilots, our air traffic controllers, and other officers of my Department, men and women who, I believe, are doing a difficult job magnificently, maintaining our aviation safety standards as perhaps the best in the world.
Let me take the incidence of air accidents as a beginning. That our scheduled airline safety record is beyond reproach cannot be denied. Since 1968 there has been only one fatal accident in scheduled airline operations. That accident occurred in 1975 with the loss or 1 1 lives.
The safety trend of general aviation is best established by the consideration of accident ratesthat is the ratio of accidents to hours flown- over relatively long periods. In practice, the rates are established over each year and the preceding two years. Examination of these statistics up to and including 1977, the most recent year of complete figures, shows an improving safety trend until about 1973 and, from then on, a relatively stable accident rate. There is no evidence to suggest that this pattern has since changed.
This conclusion is in no way varied by the fact that in early July there was a series of fatal accidents, two of which occurred on successive days- one causing the deaths of six people in a Melbourne suburban home. I can assure all honourable members that in putting these accidents into their proper perspective, I am not seeking in any way to diminish or gloss over the tragedies. However there have been other instances or a cluster of fatal accidents, of three accidents in three days- in May 1978, in July 1977, and back in 1969, to quote examples. These clusters do not in themselves provide any basis for conclusions about safety levels.
In 1 969 there was a total of 236 accidents of all kinds in general aviation, that is, in operations other than in airline and in gliding. This in a year when a total of over one million hours was flown by general aviation. In 1977, the last year of complete record, there were 224 accidents, despite a huge increase in hours flown in general aviation in Australia, to a total of nearly 1.5 million hours. The number of accidents has actually fluctuated from 236 in 1969, to a high of 245 in 1970 and to a low of 182 in 1972. Yet during this period there has been a dramatic upsurge of some 42 per cent in the numbers of hours flown by general aviation aircraft.
During this period of increasing activity the number of fatal accidents in general aviation has ranged from 1 6 in 1 969 to 1 8 in 1 974 and to 1 9 in 1977. Although there have been 17 fatal accidents in a total of 133 fixed wing accidents in geneal aviation in the first seven months of this year it is not possible to make any meaningful comparisons with previous years. I point out, for instance, that in the first seven months of 1974, there were 16 fatal accidents in a total of 132. A real comparison can be made only a the end of the year, when we can measure the total accidents against the total hours flown. What can be said is that the number of fatal accidents in any one year is relatively small and, certainly in terms of rate, the Australian record compares more than favourably with most other countries. One needs only to contrast this record with the appalling carnage on the roads to put it into some sort of perspective. So statistically our safety position has improved rather than deteriorated. The plain fact is there is no tangible evidence of a deterioration of aviation safety in Australia.
As well as the charges in recent weeks about so-called near disasters, there have been allegations of cover-ups by my Department of aircraft incidents. On Tuesday my Department made a statement which explained the incident reporting system and I table a copy of that statement and seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
AVIATION INCIDENT REPORTING AIDS SAFETY
The public was being confused by recent unofficial accounts of ‘near misses’ of aircraft and allegations of a decline in aviation safety standards, a Department of Transport spokesman said today.
Many media reports had exaggerated the danger of incidents which were being investigated by Departmental aviation safety investigators.
There was a well-established reporting system which encouraged operational people throughout the industry to report incidents to enable them to be investigated in the interests of improved aviation safety.
Departmental aviation personnel were required to report as an incident any departure from the Department’s operating standards.
The incident reporting system was additional to the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) system whereby pilots were given instructions or were advised of circumstances which had a bearing on flying safety.
The Department made available to media enquirers on request the basic details of aviation incidents, but could not comment beyond the factual circumstances while the incident was under investigation.
While such incidents were always treated seriously, the degree of actual danger was often more potential than actual.
The real value of the incident reporting system lay in proper and full investigation of incidents by experienced investigators with the aim of taking initiating action to prevent recurrences.
Exaggerated, incorrect and emotionally-written media reports were causing unnecessary public unease.
Yet Australia’s aviation accident rate- and there were millions of aircraft movements each year- still remained among the world ‘s best.
The Department was nevertheless not complacent about Australia ‘s record and continued to take steps to improve it further.
The incident reporting system was a vital part of the machinery to enable this to be achieved.
Canberra 15 August 1978
– Essentially the aviation incident reporting system is an aid to safety. There are several thousand incident reports submitted to the Department each year. For instance, in 1974 there were 8,198 incidents reported, 7,051 in 1977 and 3,160 in the first seven months of this year. The majority of the reports are related to occurrences such as communications or weather problems and these reports are used essentially for monitoring effectiveness of departmental facilities and services.
Obviously my Department cannot be expected to put out a public statement every time an incident is reported. When an incident occurs which does have significant safety implication however, my Department provides factual information when requested to do so. I might add the system of notification of incidents to the Department has not changed significantly in over 20 years. There is not, there has not been, and there cannot be any ‘cover-up’. The fact, however, that these incidents- and I emphasise ‘incidents’- are reported and fully investigated, is indicative of the high standards we maintain. It is a well established fact that the Australian incident reporting and investigation system is one of the most comprehensive in the world. It is now being adopted as a model by some other countries. I make the important point, however, that it is implicit in that system that it attracts reports where danger or the potential for danger can be seen, however remote the real probabilities of disaster might be. The intent is that the proper investigation and reporting of these occurrences will point to lessons which can make the probabilities even more remote.
The recent charges and claims orchestrated through the media would appear to be part of a campaign- a campaign designed to cause concern in the minds of the travelling public, a loss of morale of those in the safety areas of the aviation industry and political gain for those behind the campaign. But sadly for those concerned the campaign has no basis of fact; it is clearly not supportable. For instance, the Manager of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, Mr Coysh who, in case there is lack of knowledge by the public, is not a pilot himself, but a paid industrial officer has made claims about the alleged breakdown of navigational aid facilities and used the Department’s notices to airmen system, known as NOTAMS to try and demonstrate his point. Mr Coysh ‘s allegations were all investigated and were all rejected on the facts as providing evidence of any deterioration in the Department’s safety standards. For the information of honourable members I table two statements I issued on 14 and 1 8 April dealing in detail with these allegations and seek leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
The documents read as follows-
Statement by the Minister for Transport, the Honourable P. J. Nixon, M.P.
The Minister for Transport, Mr Peter Nixon, said this evening he had made a thorough investigation of all the allegations made by Mr Coysh of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots concerning aviation safety yesterday.
On the reports submitted to me by my Department today there is no basis of truth in the allegations made by the AFAP, Mr Nixon said.
In releasing details concerning each of the specific allegations made by Mr Coysh, Mr Nixon said he was satisfied that all the proper procedures had been followed in rectifying and servicing navigational aids and other equipment.
In all cases concerning the breakdown of specific navigational aid facilities there were appropriate back-up facilities available.’
Mr Nixon reiterated that he would not allow air safety to be prejudiced.
There has been no cut back in funds but rather an increase in funds for the provision and maintenance of navigational aids ‘, Mr Nixon said.
Mr Nixon said the appropriation for the maintenance of airways had risen from $5m last year to $5.2m this year while the appropriation for capital equipment had risen from $5.5m last year to $6.4m this year. Similarly the appropriation for airport fire fighting services had risen from $920,000 last year to $ 1 . 9m this year.
Mr Nixon pointed out this was a substantial increase on the appropriations under the Labor Government three years ago.
Australia enjoys an air safety record unparalled throughout (he world and that record will continue,’ Mr Nixon said.
Mr Coysh has done nothing by his extravagant claims to assist air safety but has merely raised unnecessary concern in the minds of the travelling public, ‘ Mr Nixon said.
Canberra 14 April 1978
ATTACHMENT TO PRESS RELEASE
Ofthe 19 NOTAM sub-items listed only 4 related to faults occurring on 10 April or preceding weekend. all properly categorised at category 3 because of availability of alternative aids in accordance with designed reundancy all rectified on or before 12 April in relation to 2 (Casino DME and Coffs Harbour NDB) we have no record of any NOTAM during the period in question. Both aids operated continuously during period. 3 were long term notifications of permanent withdrawal of facilities 1 (Sydney radar) was planned maintenance of part of facility over period of 2 hours no traffic handling significance 1 was correction of a chart printing error and of no significance to normal operations 2 were advisory notices in respect of new aids yet to be commissioned 2 were standing cautionary notices on aids in use but subject to long term intermittent problems such as industrial radio interference. Major investigations in progress
I related to long term withdrawal of facility requiring major maintenance to achieve better performance 2 involved obstruction lighting at Albury discussed under item 2 1 involved short term unserviceability of obstruction light on radio lower for which maintenance is responsibility of owner. No significance to controlled operations.
In summary, actual failures of radio aids were minimal; were restored in accordance with long standing procedures; and co-sited alternative aids were available. Statement that there was ‘failure of 19 aids’ is quite erroneous and misleading. There is no evidence that cost cutting or lack of preventative maintenance had any bearing on the few failures or on the longer standing item as discussed.
Item (2)- Obstruction lights at Albury failures were designated as Category 3 to be restored at next visit of appropriate maintenance personnel restoration was effected in accordance with categorisation level of categorisation was appropriate having regard to availability of other lights and operational procedures in force.
Primary criticism of this route relates to non-availability of VHF tracking facilities particularly at Point Lookout and West Maitland withdrawal from service of Point Lookout VAR was essential to permit more modern and efficient VOR equipment to be installed in its place commissioning of VOR is imminent in meantime co-sited NDB is available and operating
West Maitland VOR withdrawn because of unsatisfactory performance. Major maintenance and/or replacement being effected co-sited NDB available and operating neither program influenced by budget allocations.
Rescue and Fire Fighting Services at Perth meet international civil aviation requirements
Category 8 provided in comformity with ICAO guide lines
Service maintained at this level without significant interruption over 6 month period referred to notwithstanding this involved one period of temporary loan of equipment from RAAF no spare Fire Tenders are currently available ten additional Fire Tenders on order expected to be delivered by end of August.
Department has on order 12 Rapid Intervention Fire Tenders from UK. nine have been delivered to Australia but none accepted by Department pending fault rectification by the supplier at his expense remaining three vehicles are en route to Australia
Department has made progress payment representing less than 30 per cent of total project cost this fully recoverable in unlikely event of inability to rectify faults.
Department team of two tested 6,800 litre Ultra Large Tenders ( ULFTs) in USA 28 January-10 March tests were prolonged by bad weather but completely successful deferment of visit would have delayed acceptance guaranteed deliveries now only one and a half months behind original schedule first ULFT will leave US factory 1 7 April all ten of order will have left US factory by 1 7 July.
Statement by the Minister for Transport, the Honourable P. J. Nixon, M.P.
The Minister for Transport, Mr Peter Nixon, said today that an investigation of further allegations made by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots concerning aviation safety had shown they had no foundation.
Mr Nixon said Mr Coysh of the AFAP appeared to be ignorant of the NOTAM system.
NOTAMS (notice to airmen) are issued as required to ensure that any change to the information published in radio navigation charts issued to pilots is brought to the immediate notice of pilots, ‘ he said.
Mr Nixon said an extensive pattern of radio navigation aids is established to provide en route navigation for the network of airline routes and for instrument approach procedures into nearly 200 airports.
The system is designed to ensure the number of navigation aids available at any time is sufficient to ensure a pilot can navigate with the required degree of accuracy even if a number of the aids fail to operate correctly.
The NOTAM system is of itself a safety mechanism and the list of NOTAMS issued yesterday by Mr Coysh is an example of the system in operation.
In all cases where navigational aids listed in the NOTAMS yesterday were unserviceable adequate back up aids were available’, he said.
Mr Coysh ‘s statement that there is not and there has not been a serviceable tracking aid between Sydney and Brisbane for some months is quite ludicrous.
What Mr Coysh is doing in fact is casting aspersions on both the members of his own Federation and air traffic control personnel.
Pilots are able, indeed obliged, to submit air safety incident reports if they are of the opinion that a situation exists which is prejudicial to air safety.
My advice is that only one such incident report relating to the Sydney Brisbane route ( 1 1 February) has been received this year. The report indicating all VHF tracking aids were out of service. Investigations showed VORs at both Sydney and Brisbane were operating normally as were sufficient NDBs and DMEs at intermediate points. The route was also under radar surveillance and control.
Similarly the Senior Operations Controller at each air traffic control centre has the responsibility of exercising his own judgement on the urgency that navigational aids which are reported as unserviceable are to be repaired.
In making this judgement the air traffic controllers have been instructed to ensure that adequate air safety standards are preserved ‘, Mr Nixion said.
He said there are a total of 57 navigational aids covering the Melbourne to Brisbane direct route and 50 miles either side.
Fifty-five were serviceable yesterday and the two unserviceable aids presented no problems whatsoever for pilot navigation as there were sufficient back-up aids.
Mr Coysh has also questioned levels of Government expenditure and suggested there had been a cut back in funds for navigational aids and fire-fighting equipment.
I repeat my statement last week that there has been an increase in funds for provision of these facilities. The attached table demonstrates the fact quite clearly.
If Mr Coysh is serious about assisting air safety he should stop publicly casting aspersions on the members of his own Federation, air traffic controllers and officers of my Department and stop causing unnecessary concern in the minds of the travelling public by his public allegations.
If Mr Coysh has substantive matters of concern relating to air safety he should bring them to the notice of the proper authorities in the Department of Transport immediately they come to his attention. If they have substance he can then make a public outcry if he wants to. ‘
Canberra 18 April 1978
Attachment to Press Release
The list of Notams attached to yesterday’s statement by M r Coysh refers to 1 4 items: only three of these (Holbrook NDB, Mudgee VOR, Mt McQuoid NDB) relate to navigation aid faults occurring on 1 7 April or preceding weekend of these, only one (Mudgee VOR) is on the Melbourne-Brisbane direct route, and the NDB at that location was serviceable three of the Notams related to permanent withdrawal of obsolete navigation aids (Wagga VAR, Point Lookout VAR and Canberra Middle Marker) two advised that new navigation aids were operating on test prior to commissioning (Wagga VOR, Point Lookout VOR) one related to the long term withdrawal of a facility requiring major maintenance to achieve better performance (West Maitland VOR) two were long standing cautionary notices on aids in use but subject to intermittent problems such as industrial radio interference (Sydney DME and Sydney Runway 16
Outer Marker- not Sydney radar range as misquoted by Mr Coysh) one related to impairment of some radar facilities due to storm damage on 2 1 March which has no effect on pilot navigation one related to planned preventative maintenance of Sydney secondary surveillance radar for three hours one related to the non-availability of some runway and taxiway lighting at Melbourne which in no way affected the safety of aircraft operations because alternative lighting was available.
To put the whole matter into perspective it should be noted that there is a total of 57 navigation aids covering the Melbourne-Brisbane direct route and 50 miles either side. 55 were serviceable yesterday the two unserviceable aids would have presented no problem whatever for pilot navigation
As to the expenditure figures quoted by Mr Coysh the $ 13.2m for capital expenditure for 1 975-76 included amounts such as a progress payment of $6m towards the F28 which was reduced to $3m in the 1976-77 figure of $10.3m. the total expenditure figure of $9 16m for 1975-76 included such things as shipbuilding, which was in another Department ‘s expenditure in 1 976-77.
– Of the thirty-six accusations made by Mr Coysh in April this year, I gave thirty-six answers presenting the facts, which in each case demonstrated the allegations were not supportable. I can only refer to the prevalent practice of putting constructions out of context on internal documents ‘leaked’ from the Department. One such document, originating from the Victoria-Tasmania region of the Department, was used last week in an article in the Melbourne Age of 12 August to suggest that funding for overall maintenance materials would be inadequate. In fact the primary purpose of the document was only to ensure that the maintenance material requirements for safety services and facilities had precedence over other requirements. This can hardly be construed to be detrimental to safety. It is quite a normal administrative measure to ensure maximum efficiency in the use of public moneys is maintained and that aviation safety is in no way prejudiced through material shortages.
So far as funds are concerned, there has been a substantial increase in expenditure on the provision and maintenance of navigational aids compared with the Labor Government. Expenditure on the maintenance of airways has risen from $9.57m in 1973-74 to $14m in 1977-78 which does not suggest any lack of appreciation ofthe safety importance of this area. To illustrate further the Government’s recognition of the importance of safety services, let me quote other examples of expenditure. For instance, the airways capital expenditure was $4. 8m in 1973-74- it was $7.5m in 1977-78. Fire service capital expenditure under the Labor Government actually fell from $120,000 in 1973-74 to an all time recent low of $30,000 in 1974-75. By 1976-77 we had increased this to $250,000 and to $lm in 1977-78. Again, in respect of fire service maintenance, expenditure has risen from $960,000 in 1973-74 to $ 1.35m in 1977-78.
Yet the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) claimed in a statement of 1 1 August that this Government was following a policy of deliberate neglect’ and ‘denial of proper funding’ of air safety requirements. Needless to say his statement did not contain any actual figures to sustain that claim. The figures I have just quoted obviously do not sustain that claim; instead they demonstrate quite the opposite.
I have been referring to actual expenditures to date, and I cannot talk in the same terms in respect of our 1978-79 Budget as the money is yet to be spent. I make it clear, however, that in the 1978-79 appropriations we have maintained adequate levels of funding in the safety areas and have increased appropriations where required.
It is true that there has been a reduction since 1975 of 558 staff to a 1978 total of 6,078 in the technical and operational areas of the regions of the Department. These are the areas of the Department most closely concerned with the implementation of safety aspects. This reduction reflects improvements in efficiency, and technology and economies resulting from changing demand. One example is the close-down of flight service facilities at Katherine which are now handled from Darwin. In the key operational areas however, which include air traffic control, flight service, fire service and flying operations and airworthiness, the 1978 total is still 2,630 compared with 2,666 in 1975. In the area of air traffic control staff numbers are down less than 3 per cent of the presently required strength of 955 in the regions or 27 officers. This requirement takes into account all operations needs plus relief for leave and sickness. I point out that this is not an abnormal situation for any organisation of this type but in addition the Department took action some time ago to accelerate the trainee intake to alleviate even this small shortage as quickly as possible. More particularly the Department and the Public Service Board are currently giving urgent consideration to a restructuring of air traffic control training. This will give even earlier relief, whilst at the same time giving better training and improved prospects of career satisfaction.
In the area of flying operations, a recruitment campaign was initiated some months ago. More recently offers of employment were made to five examinersofairmentoprovideadditional strength in this area and another recruitment campaign for examiners is being planned. There has been a significant increase in the number of aircraft on the register and in the number of licensed pilots. Accordingly, the staffing situations in flying operations and airworthiness areas are being examined to determine what additional staffing may be required to ensure that appropriate standards continue to be maintained in the industry.
Before I conclude, I want to make reference to one additional matter. It illustrates perfectly the point I have been making about the unnecessary concern being generated in the minds of the public by unsubstantiated claims and assertions about safety from people who should know better, and by media reports that are directed towards the sensational and the selling of newspapers rather than the fact and responsibility. On 8 August I announced the Government had purchased 10 ultra-large fire tenders from an American company. At the same time, I said a separate order for 12 rapid intervention fire tenders from a British company had been cancelled because the vehicles delivered had not met the required specifications and were unsuitable for the task required of them. One Sydney newspaper interpreted this in both an article and an editorial as the cancellation of the British order at a cost to the public purse of $450,000 with the United States order replacing the cancelled tenders. That is incorrect, as any inquiry to either my Department or my own office would have shown. To demonstrate this point, I table a copy of my statement on the matter and ask that it be incorporated in Hansard.
NEW AIRPORT FIRE ENGINES
The Department of Transport has bought ten Ultra-Large American-built fire tenders for use at airports throughout Australia, the Minister for Transport, Mr Peter Nixon, said today.
The tenders, which will substantially increase fire suppression capacity, cost $ 1 . 5m.
They were built by the Walter Truck Company of Boorheesville, United States of America, specifically for airport fire-fighting and are among the most modern in the world.
Mr Nixon said eight of the fire tenders had already arrived in Australia and the full ten would be introduced progressively at Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Hobart, Launceston, Adelaide, Darwin, Brisbane, Mt Isa and Coolangatta airports.
Training of departmental instructors to handle the tenders, which have a water capacity of about 6,800 litres of liquid through-put rate of about 3,400 litres-a-minute through the monitor, had already begun at the Department ofTransport’s fire training schoolat Melbourne Airport.
The unit would be demonstrated to senior department officers, industry representatives and unions at Melbourne Airport on Thursday.
Mr Nixon added that the department had cancelled an order with another company for twelve Rapid Intervention Tenders because they had failed to meet the department’s contract specifications.
Mr Nixon said the department was taking further action to obtain suitable replacement vehicles.
Canberra, 8 August 1978.
– The original order for the British built rapid intervention tenders was placed by the former Government in May 1975. When they arrived they proved unsatisfactory; they did not meet the specifications. As a result, under the contract all moneys were refunded and no public money was lost. The American built vehicles are not to replace the British built tenders but were designed to complement them in the airport rescue and fire fighting plan. Indeed, as I announced, action is being taken to re-let the tenders for the rapid intervention vehicles.
This Parliament should be deeply concerned at the serious effect such inaccurate reporting is having, not only in the minds of the Australian public but also on the morale of officers of my Department, on the pilots flying our airline services, and others in the aviation industry. As I have said, they have a proud record in aviation safety and they are maintaining, as my statement has demonstrated, that record.
I repeat again that the Government will not allow air safety to be prejudiced. Where circumstances come to light indicating weaknesses, they are rectified. Nothing but public distress and uncertainty will be achieved by the present irresponsible campaign by the honourable member for Shortland and others who are trying to make a political issue out of one area that must be kept out of politics- aviation safety.
I repeat: I have confidence in my Department of Transport and its operating officers who include air traffic controllers, flight service officers, fire service officers, and examiners of airmen, as well as all others in the aviation industry. I present the following paper.
Aviation Safety in Australia- Ministerial Statement, 17 August 1978. and move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
-by leave- The statement that has just been read to the Senate by Senator Carrick is a repeat of the ministerial statement made in the House of Representatives yesterday by the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon. This is the first time I had heard about it. As the shadow minister representing my colleague the honourable member for Shortland, Mr Morris, our shadow Minister for Transport, I would like to comment on the statement. I find the statement somewhat repugnant insofar as it seeks to suggest that Mr Morris’s motivation is based purely on some political issues, not on the problems of aviation safety in Australia. I live in an area in which a great proportion of those who are associated with the aviation industry also reside. It is a very salubrious and a very nice suburb not far from Mascot. So far as suburban living in New South Wales is concerned the area possesses a number of attributes. From time to time those people who are associated with the aviation industry come to my office to acquaint me with their concern about the deterioration in air safety.
As my colleague Mr Morris said in his contribution yesterday following the putting down of this statement, he has for the last year or so received many deputations and had interviews with people who have come to him as the Opposition spokesman on transport. They have put to him similar sorts of complaints and concerns about what they see in the industry. I refer to people such as pilots, and air traffic controllers and those who just take an interest in the whole subject of aviation safety. They have convinced him, as indeed I have been convinced by constituents in my area, that there has been some deterioration in air traffic safety. Therefore I find it somewhat provocative that Mr Nixon should suggest there is something doubtful about Mr Morris’s approach to this matter although he has been asked by people who perhaps have a more intimate knowledge of the industry than anyone else to consider these matters. Mr Nixon went on to say that he is prepared to leave aviation safety in the hands of the experts and it is not a matter for politicians, journalists or laymen to determine. While we can always rely upon experts to help us in an evaluation, I think it is proper that politicians, journalists and laymen- that includes everybody in the community- should be concerned about air safety. I applaud those people who in their private or other capacities seek to bring under public gaze the problem as they see it.
I am not suggesting that Mr Nixon is derelict in his responsibilities as the Minister but I think that, if we were to follow the reasoning of Mr Nixon, it would be a dereliction of duty, if Mr Morris had not raised these matters in the way in which he has and it would be a dereliction of duty on the part of the media if it was not to ventilate views that have been expressed from time to time by those involved in the airline industry. What is the point in suggesting that because Mr Coysh is an industrial officer he has no particular expertise in the aviation industry? It is a fact that he represents an aviation organisation, he is employed by it and he reflects the views of that organisation and the views of people who are involved in the industry day by day. The same applies to Captain Cameron of the Australian Guild of Air Pilots, who is involved in the industry day by day, and to many other people.
We are aware of the views that have been expressed in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission over the last 18 months in respect of the conflict involving the air traffic controllers. In their representations to the Commission and in statements in the newspapers they have expressed the view that some additional problems concerning aviation safety have developed and that they have been called upon to bear a greater burden or share of responsibilities in respect of air traffic movements in Australia, particularly in respect of safety regulations. So I reject, and I am sure that the community at large and the media would reject, the fatuous remarks that the Minister has made about the media for highlighting the information that has been given to them. In fact, it is part of their job to be a watchdog in these matters, particularly when there is no way that members of the Parliament and members of the media are able to get access to departmental documents, information or officers in order to check the veracity or otherwise of the statements that may be made by some people.
I can see that people may exaggerate a particular incident or concern but if we are, as we have been, denied access to government or departmental information how can we check the veracity of statements that are made from time to time? It is one of the great weaknesses of the Westminster system that only government members, and particularly Ministers, have access to departmental advice and that the rest of the Parliament and, in fact, even back bench members of the government ofthe day have limited access to that sort of information. I refer those honourable senators and members of the public who may have some interest in this matter to the speech made by my colleague, Mr Morris. I do not want to traverse the ground that Mr Morris has covered. I know that he is very sincere in his views. I also know that he is expressing the statements that have been made to him by people in the industry over a considerable period. Those statements coincide with statements that have been made to me, although I admit that I do not have any intimate knowledge ofthe industry.
Therefore, one is entitled to say that, whilst Mr Nixon presents a rather glossy report, he is the Minister in charge of civil aviation and he ought to concede to the public at large and certainly to members of the Opposition their obligations, rights and responsibilities to raise matters when they are properly put before them. It appears to me that Mr Morris was making a very relevant point in his contribution yesterday when he said that officers of the Department have made it very clear in some interviews and discussions that have been held with other industry leaders, that safety was and remains a secondary matter to budgetary considerations. This Government is pursuing a policy of reducing public expenditure. That is the principal consideration in respect of the airline industry of Australia, and safety, therefore, plays a secondary role.
I am certain that my party would concede that generally in Australia we have an excellent record of safety and that policy pursued by the Department of Transport over many years has shown that safety is a prime consideration. But I think there is enough evidence to show that, in the light of budgetary restraints in the current economic climate of Australia safety is taking a lesser importance. If that is so, if staff cuts and cutbacks in public spending are in any way influencing the responsibilities of the Department of Transport- we have witnessed the abolition of regional authorities in some of the far flung parts of our continent, the pursuance of cutbacks and some deterioration in safety- then I think members of the Parliament, the Press and those in the industry have an obligation to examine this aspect, without being accused, as Mr Nixon has suggested, of being politically motivated and seeking to undermine public confidence in arline safety. After all, if a tragedy of major dimensions occurs- we have seen that happen in many other countries- those who failed to raise their voices, those who had the information, who had been intimidated and who had not raised the matter in the proper place, may well be held responsible for the deterioration in airline safety.
So, rather than to denigrate Mr Morris for having raised these matters, rather than to suggest that the media have some ulterior motive- as a general principle the media support this Government- rather than to suggest that there is something wrong in highlighting what information has been given to them, the Minister should have taken the view that all of these matters ought to be examined and that we ought to have a structure or a process in the Department so that all of these questions relating to airline safety and traffic movements can be examined. After all, it has to be conceded that there has been a tremendous increase in airline traffic in recent years and that is expressed in this document. It seems to me that the Minister ought not to be so subjective in his approach to this problem but rather he should see that there is a genuine desire in the community and in the Opposition to play whatever part it can to keep the Government on its toes to assist the Department of Transport in maintaining the high standard of safety which is expected of it, having established that principle over many years.
I refer to the very objective reply that Mr Morris made in the House of Representatives and ask honourable senators to compare that to the tirade of abuse that was heaped upon him and those who have tried to indicate publicly their concern about what could be described as some deterioration in the whole question of safety in the airline industry of Australia.
-The ministerial statement that has been made in the Senate and that has already been made in another place by the Minister for Transport ( Mr Nixon) is an indication, I believe, of the inability of this Government and the Treasury to grasp the consequences of the cheeseparing and the skinflinting that is going on at the direction of Treasury. The statement claims that Australia has one of the best aviation records in the world. Australia had one of the best aviation records in the world.
– ‘Has’ is the word.
-I am contradicting this statement because in the last six months that record has been sadly blemished as a consequence of the lack of proper funding of the Department of Transport as is evidenced by -
– What rubbish. Give me one fact.
– You would not know an aircraft from a blowfly and you are only buzzing like one, so keep quiet.
– At least I am talking sense which is more than you are doing.
– You are just muttering in your beard. Keep quiet and let me have a go.
– Certainly, but get on to the facts.
-I am saying that in the last six months, in Victoria in particular but all over Australia, the record of the safety of civil aviation has been very sadly blemished. That has occurred as a consequence of the lack of staff and of the deterioration in the very high standards which existed in the former Department of Civil Aviation. The figures show that since 1975 the number of officers and personnel in the Department of Transport has been reduced by 1 ,600. That in itself is a ridiculous situation, especially when it is noted that the number of people travelling is increasing, that the volume of traffic is building up and that the facilities at aerodromes are inadequate. The political situation which developed when an alternative aerodrome was planned for New South Wales in such a busy area was absolutely scandalous. Every ounce of political capital was squeezed out of trying to provide an alternative to the Mascot airport. Now we are facing the consequences of a government which has set out to use politics and to use economies in areas where informed people would fear to tread.
This statement is an indication of the general arrogance of the Government and members of the Cabinet. The disease is spreading from their leader. Their leader would without doubt be the most arrogant and -
-I would say that he is very forgetful. That disease of forgetfulness is spreading. As well as that, he has behind him a disgusting, overwhelming majority of people who are interested in the headlines about the stock exchange and the effects of the Budget. Like Senator Archer who has been interjecting, they are very interested in land deals and matters of that nature which are the result of the Government’s policies. But we are drawing attention to a very serious situation which involves the lives of the people of Australia. The fact is that the civil aviation section of the Department of Transport is not able to police the very severe standards that have been set in the past.
I cite as an example the allocation of A class licences. Flying is a very popular sport with young people. One has only to drive past the Canberra airport or any other airport to see the proliferation of private aircraft. It is easy for people to get a pilot’s licence. An officer of the Department will let an applicant for a licence go through his circuits and bumps but because the subsequent procedures cannot be followed up the licence is issued. After that person has done a few more hours flying he is allowed to carry non-paying passengers. But the policing of the efficiency of these people is such that an ever-increasing staff is required to see that they are thoroughly capable not only of flying themselves but also of carrying such passengers and of coping with circumstances that can crop up at any time when flying an aircraft. Having been the pilot of an aircraft myself, I know from my own experience the suddenness with which weather conditions can change.
– Did you get your licence because they got sick of training you?
-Senator Archer would not give anyone–
– You just accused other people of that. I don’t accept the accusation.
– I am just trying to drive something into the thick head of the honourable senator who is interjecting. A number of accidents have happened recently in our winter weather conditions. Those accidents have been due mainly to human error. Because of sudden variation in weather conditions and unusual weather conditions, those people who have not had enough experience in blind flying and who have not been supervised sufficiently even to the extent of flying under a hood in an aircraft have not been able to cope with changed weather conditions in which they have not been able to fly visually. They have not been able to see the horizon and have not been able to keep their balance. A term used in flying is ‘flying by the seat of your pants’. That is flying with your faculties, with your visual capacity, your sense of balance and the like. But once the weather closes in and you are in cloud, all of those senses are disturbed and you have to rely implicitly on your instruments. You have to have the ability to read those instruments. That comes from experience. It comes from building up your operational hours. With experience you are able to cope with changing weather conditions. In a series of accidents which have happened recently people have flown into the sea, into mountain tops–
– Into houses.
– And into houses. Senator Archer would not have a clue. He lives in a little backwoods. If he wants to interject on these occasions he has to take what is coming to him. The position is so serious that all honourable senators should be aware that something is very wrong in the Department of Transport because of the growing number of accidents, the growing number of complaints coming from the staff and the whole breaking down of the high standards thai have always been maintained in this Department.
It is a very poor defence for the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, who himself is a very selfsatisfied and smug person and a very arrogant man, to attack Peter Morris, the shadow Minister for Transport, for drawing to his attention and to the attention of the people of Australia the state of affairs which not only is present but also is continuing to be aggravated by the Government’s policy. I hope that my contribution will increase the pressure on the Government to get the Treasury people to have another look at what they are doing in the area of air safety and of that part of our lives in Australia which involves transportation by air.
– I shall be very brief in my contribution on this issue. Once again I must complain that when a statement is made in this House we find that it is being placed on our desks when the Minister is about to introduce it. Consequently we have not had time to read this statement. That is my first point. My concern with air safety is that, according to information with which I was provided only a few weeks ago, if it became necessary to abort take-off from the Perth airport of a 747 which was fully loaded with passengers, fuel and cargo, it would not be possible safely to do so.
I ask whether in the statement there is any information about whether that is the correct situation. My information is that that is the situation which applies to any 747. A great number of them land at the Perth airport. Is there anything in the statement which indicates whether it is the intention of the Department of Transport to upgrade the safety regulations which apply to that airport until such time as we receive money from the Government either to extend the airport or to transfer it to a more suitable site? Is it intended to take action to prohibit 747s from using the Perth airport until safer conditions apply?
– I will ensure that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has cognisance of what has been said.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Although the motion has been declared formal, I have a statement which I wish to make in support of the proposal. In view of the wide interest in this matter I would seek leave to read it.
– How long is it?
-I will read quickly. Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement on the establishment of the Committee.
-The Family Law Act has now been in operation for more than 2!6 years, having commenced on 5 January 1 976. Honourable senators will of course be aware that the Act contains the divorce law of Australia and the law governing maintenance, custody and matrimonial property disputes, and that it superseded the Matrimonial Causes Act.
The Family Law Act was passed after a very lengthy debate in both Houses of Parliament during late 1 974 and the first half of 1 975. Before that, the Family Law Bill had been examined by the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs as part of its examination of the reference on the then existing divorce law. During its passage through the Senate, where it was introduced first, the Bill underwent extensive amendment. Many of the amendments were moved by the then Government as a result of the report of the Senate Committee. However, some other important amendments were moved by Opposition senators.
The previous legislation on the subject- the Matrimonial Causes Act- was the first national law and it consolidated the divorce laws of the States. However, the Family Law Act introduced major changes in the principles governing the laws not only of divorce but also of maintenance, matrimonial property settlements and custody. More importantly, it also established the Family Court of Australia as a specialist court to administer the law, and provided the opportunity for
States to establish State Family Courts. After such a long debate on the legislation by this Parliament, it may well be asked what is the need for such a general review of the Act after such a relatively short period since it commenced operation. It was 10 years after the Matrimonial Causes Act commenced that the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs was given the reference on the state of the divorce law. The rough edges of the Family Law Act, it could be said, were ironed out in the two amending Acts passed in 1976.
As I mentioned a few moments ago, the Family Law Act marked a conscious change of basic principle in a number of areas of matrimonial law. Even the most convinced supporters of the Act at the time it was before Parliament would acknowledge that the results of at least some of the changes made by the Act could not be predicted with certainty. In fact, there are several instances in which the provisions of the Act have operated rather differently from what was expected. For instance, I think it is fair to say that the Family Law Act aroused wide expectation that the conduct of parties would not be examinable in proceedings under it. Whilst an objective examination of the Act at the time would have disclosed that conduct was not excluded from custody proceedings, it has apparently come as a shock to some parties to custody proceedings that their conduct relevant to their suitability as custodians has been the subject of protracted examination in defended custody proceedings.
On the other hand, I think it is equally fair to say that sceptics of the Family Law Act were confidently predicting that the provisions for counselling, unless at least given the force of compulsion, would prove largely ineffective in preventing bitter disputes or increased family breakdowns. One of the features of the Family Courts that few deny is the tremendous help counselling has been in the settling of proceedings which might otherwise have become protracted contested cases. I think that the success of counselling has exceeded the expectations of even the stronger supporters of the Family Law Act. There are no doubt many other examples that will be given to the committee, when it is established, of provisions of the Act that have operated differently from predictions or expectations. The fact that provisions of the Family Law Act have not operated as expected might not, in itself, be sufficient reason for submitting the operation ofthe Act to a parliamentary committee. However, the Act has continued to be the subject of widespread critical attention by interested groups and individuals. The continued criticism of various aspects of the Act has as much as anything persuaded me, as it persuaded my predecessor in office, that the community will be satisfied with nothing less than a review such as I have proposed.
I am not conceding that all criticism of the Act has merit. It is quite clear from the tenor of some correspondence I have received that the writers would be dissatisfied with whatever divorce law prevailed. However, there has been sufficient critical comment which appears to spring from genuine grievance to warrant the proposal I am now moving.
Some honourable senators may be wondering whether the establishment of the committee is necessary when the Act already provides for a Family Law Council with the stated function of monitoring the operation of the Act. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the valuable work that has been done by the Council since it was established by my predecessor in office in November 1976. Interested senators will be aware that the first annual report ofthe Council, which I tabled last year, contains a considerable list of useful recommendations for amendment of the Act. Legislation will be introduced shortly to implement some of the recommendations of a technical nature.
However, the Council is, and is intended by the Act to be, a small body of professionals working in fields associated with various aspects of the Act and its administration. They would judge the shortcomings of the Act from their observation of its operation in the course of their professional work, and their recommendations are, as one would only expect, concerned with the more technical aspects of the Act. I do not think that such a body can fairly be expected to know the feelings of the community at large about the Act to the same extent as a committee of parliamentary representatives. I see also the work of the proposed joint select committee as complementing, rather than competing with, the work of the Council. I would expect that the committee, when established, would find it helpful to consult the Family Law Council, particularly in relation to recommendations it has already made.
The terms of reference of the proposed committee have been deliberately drawn as widely as possible, so that all aspects of the Act and its administration are intended to be within the charter of the committee. The areas singled out for mention are those that have been the subject of comment in correspondence to me and in the media.
I should like to conclude by paying tribute to the tremendous efforts of the Family Court of Australia and the Family Court of Western Australia since their establishment, in coping with the work of administering the large volume of applications filed under the Act, particularly in its early stages. I mention that the latest statistics suggest that the volume of divorce applications under the Act, which dropped from 65,788 in 1976 to 41,698 last year, will drop again slightly this year.
I have already mentioned the success of counselling under the Act, and this must be attributable, in the case of counselling in the course of proceedings, to the commendable efforts of the Family Court counsellors. I commend equally the tireless efforts of the judges who have worked hard and effectively, and have won the high respect of the profession appearing before them. I feel confident that the Committee will not fail to be impressed by the dedication and professionalism shown by the people that make up the Family Courts. The Family Law Act, when before the Senate, was the subject of a non-party debate. My motion proposes the establishment of a joint select committee that is bipartisan and representative of the Parliament as a whole. Senators on this side are free to vote on this motion according to their personal views, and I hope that the same attitude will be adopted by the Opposition. I move:
-by leave- I indicate briefly that the Opposition supports the establishment of this joint select committee to review the Family Law Act. The Opposition congratulates the Government on its initiative in this regard. However, I would like to make one or two comments. Those of us who were associated with the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs at the time it dealt with the family law legislation when it was before the Senate will recall that many of the issues which now re-emerge in the terms of reference of the select committee were gone over fairly thoroughly by the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee. I think it is a matter of regret that because the family law legislation was not voted on along party lines in the Senate the Government did not see fit to consult with the Opposition regarding the terms of reference of this joint select committee which, as I said, canvasses much the same grounds as the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee canvassed in 1974 and 1975 and indeed members of this Senate canvassed in the debate that took place when the legislation was considered on totally non-party lines. Had we had that opportunity, as members of parliament as distinct from members of the Opposition or the Australian Labor Party, we might have been able to make some comments on the proposed terms of reference and- the Attorney-General, Senator Durack will indulge me in this fantasy- we may have been able to assist in suggesting some matters which should have been included in the terms of reference.
One other unsatisfactory aspect of the proposed joint select committee concerns me as a senator and which I think should concern all senators. The Family Law Act as it was adopted in 1975 was basically dealt with in the Senate. It was initiated in the Senate. The Bill which finally became an Act was a result of the deliberations and debate of a committee of the Senate. Those of us who were here at that time will recall that, the debate in the Senate- I make no pejorative references to the House of Representatives- was carried on at a particularly high level. The results of the voting in the Senate were clear on a number of issues. By contrast, in the House of Representatives the debate was ill-informed, emotional in content and was not nearly as succinct in terms of its conclusions compared with the debate which took place here. In 1978 we find that the proposed committee will be predominantly composed of members of the House of Representatives as distinct from members of the Senate. It may be the reality of political life in Australia that all the decisions which are made here in the Senate may in fact be dictated in another place. We are familiar with that. The fact is that the wealth of information and thought about this subject exists in the Senate. Members of the House of Representatives will have a very large say in relation to the proposed terms of reference of the joint select committee.
I want to make one other comment: That relates to the constitutional difficulties which have occurred since the Family Law Bill became law, particularly those which have occurred in relation to custody and maintenance matters. These matters were adverted to by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) in his speech. Unfortunately, I cannot refer to it in detail because I do not have a copy. If I had a copy I would be able to draw attention to the specific matters to which the Attorney referred. They were problems in the administration of the Family Law Act relating to custody and maintenance. These were adverted to by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs in 1975. They were at least pointed to by a minority of the Committee as being the areas which would cause difficulty. Senator Durack, as a member of that Committee, will recall and acknowledge that fact. Because of the constitutional hang-ups which loomed large in the minds of Government senators it was not possible for them to agree with that view at the time. I think the point is worth recalling. Many of the matters which will now be included in the terms of reference arise as a result of a failure to grapple with those issues in 1 975 either in constitutional terms or by means of seeking agreement between the States on the referral of certain powers to the Commonwealth Government.
I agree with the Attorney-General that the functions of this committee of inquiry need not in any way derogate from the functions of the Family Law Council. If there had been a Committee stage I would have liked to hear from the Attorney-General how he thinks the Family Law Council is operating. It took a very long time to appoint it, and we have not heard much from it since. It seems that it would not be necessary for the select committee to impinge on the proper functions of the Family Law Council and vice versa. Having made those brief remarks and criticisms, which like the products of Carlton and United might be described as mild rather than bitter, I commend the motion to the Senate and indicate that it has the full support of the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent concurrent consideration of General Business Orders of the Day Nos 1 and 20 relating to Australia and the South Pacific and the questions in relation to the Orders of the Day being put in one motion.
Debate resumed from 7 June, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate has before it a Bill entitled the Diplomatic and Consular Missions Bill 1978. The purpose of the Bill as set out in the second reading speech is to prevent false and what may be considered misleading claims that a particular establishment represents in Australia a particular government, country or part of a country. We will not oppose the legislation, but we have an amendment to move to the motion for the second reading of the Bill and a couple of amendments to move in the Committee stage. We have in this country international obligations towards countries with whom we have normal diplomatic relations. Although the Bill does not nominate the socalled Croatian Embassy, reference is made to it in the second reading speech.
The Bill is designed to embrace and encompass any such establishments that may be set up in this country. It should be said- I think this opinion would be shared by virtually everybody in the Parliament- that the Bill is not directed at the Croatian community in Australia. It has been said before and, no doubt, will be said again during this debate that those Croats who have come to Australia and accepted Australian citizenship have made a contribution to our community. We welcome that, and we welcome those people as Australian citizens. The concern of the Governmenta concern shared by the Opposition- is that there appears to be a desire to continue many of the very deep and strong feelings that have existed amongst Croatians throughout the world about events which have taken place in that country and in Yugoslavia over the years. I am sure that all of us who have read of these events realise the terrible and tragic things that happened, especially during the Second World War. Many people of Croatian extraction who now live in Australia feel very strongly about those things. We can all understand that.
We want those people to come to this country and live as Australian citizens. We certainly do not want the bitterness and resentment that has existed in the past in other countries imported into this country. Our tradition is essentially one of ‘live and let live’ in an atmosphere of political freedom. We do not want those rights interfered with by anybody. Because of the establishment of the so-called Croatian Embassy the Government has been obliged to accede to its obligations under the international convention- the Vienna Convention- which is quite specific in its requirements of the Australian Government. Article 22, paragraph 2, states:
The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.
In this case it simply means that the Yugoslav Embassy is entitled to normal diplomatic protection under that Convention. At the same time, it is to be protected against what appears to be an effort on the part of others to subvert its proper role as the embassy of the Yugoslav Government. I do not think there would be much argument about that.
I was somewhat distressed to note that in the debate in the House of Representatives the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) distorted, grossly and deliberately, the arguments that had been put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, Mr Lionel Bowen, and tried to give the impression that Mr Lionel Bowen was attacking the Croatian community. In a debate of this nature, bearing in mind the importance of the decision that the Government is taking, one which has basically been accepted by the Opposition, it is to the shame of the honourable member for Denison that he should seek to distort the sound, and basically sympathetic, argument put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
I see no need to speak at length on the Bill. I would hope that the debate would not resurrect the bitterness and divisions that have existed between the Croats and other sections in Yugoslavia. We are here to enact legislation which will protect the diplomatic establishment of a country with whom we have diplomatic relations. Therefore, I believe that should be the principal thing that we should keep in our minds.
I shall make some brief remarks about the Opposition’s proposed amendment, which seeks to add, to the motion for the second reading, the following words: but the Senate calls on the Government to introduce legislation forthwith to have the effect of closing the Rhodesian Information Office.
As honourable senators know, United Nations Resolution 409 of 27 May 1977 asked that any such establishment that had been set up should be discontinued. The Australian Government advised the Secretary-General of the United Nations that it would, in fact, take some action. To date it has not done that. It gave that undertaking, but no such legislation has been introduced, and we have not been given an indication that there are plans that it will be. The Opposition draws to the attention of the Government the need for action to be taken in respect not only of a decision of the United Nations but also its commitment to take the action that the United Nations asked be taken. We move this amendment to remind the Government that it has had ample time to comply. From memory, the letters to the United Nations go back 12 months, but in the interim nothing has been done. I put it to the Minister that we shall be moving that amendment in the hope that the Government will take specific action in respect of the Rhodesian Information Office. I will reserve my further remarks until the Committee stage.
– I could not start off on a better note than to refer honourable senators to the third paragraph of the second reading speech of the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Sinclair), in which he spoke of the overwhelming number of Croatian people who had demonstrated a commitment to their new homeland. In that regard, the fact is that any country must consider its prime commitment as being to world peace. One of the reasons that we have diplomatic ties with Yugoslavia is that, quite apart from the fact that our links with people of Yugoslav origin go back to the early 1900s, at present countries such as Yugoslavia, as part of the non-aligned forces, have a unique role in regard to world peace. If the people who clamour about specific autonomy for a new Republic of Croatia are to jeopardise world peace, all countries, particularly those in which minorities take such a stand, have an obligation to submerge that concept for the common good. I do not say that for one moment in a provocative way.
Let us look at historical parallels: There was a time when there was a military dictatorship in Greece. The Committee for the Restoration of Democracy in Greece might have agitated against its Government, but it never attempted to set up a bogus embassy. It would have been given short shrift. Also, an influential body of people in this country have strong opposition to the policy of Indonesia in regard to Timor. The average person in the street has complained about the fact that Indonesian students have demonstrated outside of our Embassy in Jakarta. I think it came home to us that we had to put our own house in order. The legislation is pretty low key. I do not question, any more than does Senator Wriedt, that people can have reservations about their home government. As a matter of fact, certain people whom I would term as being of the Republic of Ireland have had strong views ever since the twenties. They did not accept what Michael Collins did in regard to setting up with Britain an Irish Free State but, again, no bogus embassy was established by them.
The more serious aspect of this: The world is getting smaller. We do not have to like a person whether he be a Minister, a trade union secretary or a captain of industry; but, having said that, I say that when people take these inverted attitudes they must, for the common good, be controlled. I emphasise that even the State police have been very tolerant. I do not know of any government of a right-wing philosophy whose consulates have been subjected to the brickbats and other things that have been hurled at them, and has exercised the patience that has been shown these people. The crux of the matter is that these people argue that they are very antiLeft and that they fear the super powers of the Left. Without embarrassing the Government of Yugoslavia or the Government of my own country, let me say that we know that if we disturb the balance of power between the NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations, particularly in those countries in the middle, we certainly are not going to help the cause of world peace. I could be more specific, but I think that honourable senators know that I am referring to the Adriatic coast and to its strategic value.
I make another point, on this idea of a government suppressing indigenous culture. I suppose that has happened in many cases, but the wellillustrated book in my hand, entitled Croatia, is one of many publications that are available in Australia. There has been no imposition of Serbian nationalism on the State of Croatia. That is a burning question with these people, but I repeat that the contention is not valid. The fact is that, on the many problems that have confronted Yugoslav people in Australia, those who have been behind the establishment of this Croatian embassy, of sorts, have never been prepared to help their compatriots here. Between 1969 and 1972, there was the clamour for pension portability. There was the question of the imposition of a Crimes Act provision whereby, if one were not born in Australia one could, even if one had citizenship, be deponed upon conviction. I know that pre-War Yugoslavs who had a very good record in our trade union movement were threatened with that course of action. These selfsame emancipists of Croatian hopes and ideals represent a sizable section of the Yugoslav community but they have never been identified with those crusades. People from Yugoslavia, of many persuasions, have joined in agitation directed at the last Labor Government and this Government, and I know that they would do so again.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-I think I could do no better than to repeat part of the concluding paragraph of the second reading speech by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), which states:
With the passage of this Bill Australia will be able to fulfil, as a responsible member ofthe 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.
I think that every ambassador and his staff in an Australian post overseas would say ‘Amen’ to that. I know that I and many of my colleagues got that reaction when we were overseas. I must confess to the Minister that I was perturbed that the presentation of the Diplomatic and Consular Missions Bill had been delayed. I was very pleased to note that this legislation had top billing when we resumed our parliamentary deliberations following the recess. I have given the Minister a copy of a letter from a Mr S. Perica, the President of the Yugoslav-Croatian Community Committee of South Perth, to a very illustrious jurist and senator at the time the letter was written, the then Senator Murphy, who was Attorney-General. Attached to that letter is a copy of a document headed ‘Yugoslav-Croatian Community Committee’ which sets out a resolution deploring the minute minority- that is the best way to describe them- trying to develop schisms between the Australian Government and the Yugoslav Government on a diplomatic and cultural plane. I ask that the letter and the document be incorporated in Hansard.
The documents read as follows-
Mr S. Perica, President, YugoslavCroatian
Community Committee, 53 Collins Street, South Perth 31 May 1973
Senator the Hon. L. K. Murphy, Q.C., Attorney-General, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600
On behalf of the Yugoslav-Croatian Community Committee I enclose herewith a copy of the Resolution which was carried, unanimously by an estimated attendance of 600 in the packed Perth Town Hall.
The Committee will continue to function as long as there is a need for it. It is proposed, in the very near future, to circulate a Petition which will support the work ofthe Committee andthe Resolution
It is confidently expected that the Petition will be signed by thousands of Croatians in Western Australia who could not attend the meeting for various reasons such as distance, sickness or just plain fear of fanatical extremists.
YUGOSLAV-CROATIAN COMMUNITY COMMITTEE
A public meeting held in the afternoon of Sunday the 20th of May 1973 in the packed Penh Town Hall was compered by Mr E. Bumbak, who read a telegram from Mr Snedden, the Leader of the Opposition in the Federal Parliament, as to the reason for his inability to attend the meeting. After having read the supporting telegrams from Yugoslav-Croats from Carnarvon and Boulder, all those present enthusiastically applauded (some with tears in their eyes) dynamic and hearty speeches delivered by Mr Ralph Pervan (a West Australian born Croat), a lecturer in politics at the University of New England, NSW, Mr A. Pogorelic, a well known identity in the Yugoslav-Croatian community (who spoke in Croatian), Mr Herbert Graham, M.L.A., Deputy Premier of Western Australia and Mr A. Bennett, M.H.R., who represented Mr Whitlam, the Prime Minister of Australia. Also present were Senator L. D. Wilkinson and Mr T. Burke, M.L.A.
On behalf of themselves and of their numerous absent relatives and friends, who for various reasons- distance, illness or fear- could not or did not attend, the excited gathering unanimously adopted the following
We, loyal Australian citizens of Yugoslav-Croatian origin with other Yugoslavs, are disturbed and concerned that a very small but noisy element of so-called “Croats” has tarnished the good name of the overwhelming majority of honest, law-abiding, hard-working Croatians in this country.
Gathered together at this mass meeting we YugoslavCroatians and other Yugoslavs condemn the fanatical groups whose leaders consist of remnants of the defeated USTASHA fascist forces of the so-called “Independent State of Croatia” which the USTASHA, with the support ofthe fascist and Nazi occupation forces, carved from Yugoslavia at the time when the Croats and other peoples of Yugoslavia were fighting the Fascist and Nazi invaders for survival, in the process the USTASHA war criminals gave away a large part of our sacred Croatian soil and our beautiful Dalmatian coast to Fascist Italy and at the same time invited an Italian Duke to the Croatian “throne”. The USTASHA officially declared war against the Allies (including Australia) and took an active pan in it.
Exceeding the terrible examples set by the Nazi masters during the war, they brutally exterminated fellow Croats who dared to hold opposing views, a huge number of our brother Serbs, other Yugoslav nationals and numerous men, women and children of Jewish faith.
This mass meeting expresses its deep concern that a handful of these war criminals and their supporters are able, in this country, to terrorise Yugoslav diplomatic staff, Yugoslav travel agencies and Yugoslavs who are opposed to their views.
Irrespective of our political beliefs we strongly condemn the terrorist activities of this small group of notorious and dreaded USTASHA, well-known “Nazi and Fascist collaborators,” who have continued their activities under the names of various “Croatian” organisations and who incessantly spread false and alarming rumours about our former homeland.
We believe that the Croatian people in Yugoslavia must be allowed to decide their own future within Yugoslavia without any interference from outside and that a strong nonaligned Yugoslavia is not only a necessity but a reality.
In conclusion, we appeal to all leaders of our adopted homeland and the fellow Australians to support the investigations into and eradication of these fanatical terrorist groups, which have no place in the Yugoslav-Croatian Community and in the Australian community as a whole’.
Yugoslav-Croatian Community Committee, 53 Collins Street, South Perth.
-I said before lunch and my leader, Senator Wriedt, said that we have no objection to reasonable outbursts by people whose opinions differ from majority decisions. But the point we are trying to get through is that, quite apart from diplomatic embarrassments which, as I said, we can suffer and perhaps do suffer in Jakarta and elsewhere, people should not continue to offend. We do not accept this policy of separatism. I think it was significant that two days ago when tributes were paid to the late Pope Paul by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, he referred to the late Pontiff’s efforts to remove differences between eastern European countries and the Vatican. Of course, those efforts had a spin-off elsewhere. I know that as far as the Australian Catholic Church is concerned not so many months ago we had a situation in Melbourne where priests had to tell one of two people who were fermenting nationalistic trouble that they were not to use the church as a forum for that sort of activity.
I know of one of the most niggling things which many people here of Yugoslav origin have had to face. When Robert Ellicott was AttorneyGeneral the predecessor of the present
Attorney-General- I took some people with a complaint to see him, people of Yugoslav origin who resented ultra right-wing Croats. He was very sympathetic. When I introduced them I found that one of them had served with the 6th Division of the Australian Imperial Force and another, a much younger man, had been a conscript in Vietnam. I do not object to their views about an independent republic of Croatia. These people represented various age groups and they said that what they resented was that when they differed from the views of other people they were told that they were not patriots. I do not see military service alone as an overall indication of patriotism, but constantly an assumption is made by people and on every occasion they seek to smear other people.
I could take the matter a little further and refer to a very competent officer in the Department of Immigration. I shall not name the officer because he is presently in the Public Service, but I shall cite this case to indicate the venom of certain people. This officer was the manager of the Bonigilla Migrant Centre and he had the job of letting in to the camp Lutheran, Uniting Church, Anglican and Catholic clergymen. The Centre had the misfortune to have a Croatian priest and the only people he would serve were Croatians but not Catholic Slovenes, Poles or other migrants of the same religious belief. This is not related to temporal or religious aspects. When there are people with such a narrow vision there is certainly a cancer in society. I know that that is the reason that on many occasions over the past few years people have reached the stage where they regard several of the Catholic bishops to be in receipt of money from left wing governments. That is the obsession they have. On that count alone the activities of such people have to be curbed.
Beyond that again, the great tragedy is that so many people of Yugoslav origin worked their first days in an Australian enterprise, whether it be in metalliferous mining in Kalgoorlie or in Broken Hill. Many of them did serve during World War II. I know that those honourable senators who happen to be historians would know that 1 934 was a bad year for Australia. We had racial riots in Kalgoorlie then. I think it speaks for the durability of people that they forget those events. I think Senator Durack can confirm what I say. During World War II one of the highest enlistment rates State-wise was in Western Australia and the enlistment rate in Kalgoorlie was the highest. I think also the first Victoria Cross presented in World War II was presented to a person of Yugoslav origin. It is significant that when some of the post-war Croatians arrived here they scorned those people who were accepted in the community and who had earned their place in Australian history.
It is not my place to go on with a continual nagging, but I think that obviously the Government’s patience is exhausted. The plain fact of the matter is that there is nothing to stop people from demonstrating and from banner carrying, but I repeat that even with the most left wing segment of the Greek community, and whatever they thought of Greece’s military Government of some years ago, nobody attempted to set up a bogus embassy. I say that because we know that in our own society there are always many more problems to solve, not the least of which are within the ethnic community. It is only through viable groups with newspapers and clubs that these problems will be able to be remedied. As the Minister knows, there were some very unfortunate incidents during a social security drive when the Greek people in our community had to be the target of the Press and the matter was ballooned out of all proportion. A similar situation has occurred due to some of the misdeeds of a minute group of people of Yugoslav origin. I think that with the problems we face at this time we have to bind relations and we have to have close ties with various countries.
Without documenting the situation any further, I simply say that when we sat on the celebrated Townley Committee- the Minister knows about this, although probably he was not quite as involved as others of us on the Committee were with our different attitudes- we learned that it would be completely wrong for these people who are protesting to claim that they are being persecuted. People can become obsessive that way. I know that a former illustrious member of the House of Representatives, a man named Brendan Hansen, was faced with a situation in which a Christian Brothers school at Wide Bay had to exclude pupils. Irrespective of whether a school is a State school or a denominational school, there is often a cut-off point for numbers. These people who were excluded really believed that there was a plot involving the Yugoslav Government and the Australian Labor Government to stop these people from being enrolled in that school, saying Slovenes got enrolled but not our children. When people have such mixed up mentalities it is obvious that they will go further.
I shall finalise on this point: We are in a difficult age of demonstrations. Many demonstrations within a certain dimension are perfectly justified. But honourable senators should remember that after the era of Lionel Murphy as Attorney-General certain detections were made at a State level. A number of people were misguided and there has been a continuation of missile throwing at Knox Street, Double Bay, and I think to a lesser degree in Melbourne. I say here and now that if the United Kingdom High Commissioner’s residence here in Canberra or the accommodation of the United States people had copped the lot with demonstrations we would have received some pretty strong complaints from the United Kingdom and United States people. I know what the Government would have done about that. I can rememberand Neville Bonner would be more aware of this than I- when here in Canberra we had an ‘Aboriginal Embassy’ and there were people whose patience got pretty thin. Events then never reached the magnitude of some other happenings. I simply say that because of the situation with the ‘Croatian Embassy’, which may be equated with the problem of the Rhodesian information centre, I hope the legislation will be implemented, and that there will be no pussyfooting about with it. These people have to accept the facts.
At one stage when Australian forces were serving in Vietnam two or three Croatians in Canberra made a plea to their people. They were going to get a legion of loyal Australian Croats to go to Vietnam. It never happened, although quite a number of Australian boys of Yugoslav origin went as conscripts to that war, accepting the law even though with most Australians they regarded the Vietnam war as futile. They had a man named Shaw with them. He was not a Yugoslav. He was a sort of mercenary. These people did a complete disservice. This is one of the rare occasions when I commend the Government for grasping the nettle. I think the documentation I have given shows that this legislation will get a virtual bipartisan endorsement.
– Firstly I take this opportunity to congratulate you, Mr President, for being re-elected as President of the Senate. I should have done so last night, but as it was three minutes to 1 1 when I rose and as I had certain things to say I thought I had better get them over with. I think that you have done a very fair job in the past, and I am sure that you will continue to do so in the future.
This Bill is welcome. I feel that it should be stronger. I understand that a Liberal back bench committee has cut it back several times. In fact, a spokesman for one of the back bench committees appeared on television and boasted that the legislation had been sent back to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) four times by the committee. The Minister for Foreign Affairs indicated in the House of Representatives that the Bill, whilst having direct application to the existence of the so-called Croatian Embassy, applied generally; but I do not think it applies generally enough. It applies to persons promoting an operation; that is, displaying public signs or information. It does not, however, apply to the doing of acts that should be done only by an embassy or a consulate. The ‘Croatian Embassy’ is an entity claiming to be an embassy, but seemingly unable to do the things an embassy or consulate might do. It does not represent anything other than past history.
The Bill might therefore cover that particular situation, except that all it will have the so-called embassy do is to take down its name plate and keep up its operations indoors. The Government has found it necessary on several occasions to warn Australian citizens and Yugoslav citizens resident in Australia not to seek consular assistance from the ‘Croation Embassy’. That being the case, why has it not put in the Bill provisions covering doing such things, not just promoting them? I was quite surprised to learn that on Saturday, 8 April, Senator Knight told the Australian Capital Territory branch of the Liberal Party that there was no reason why the ‘Croatian Embassy’ should not continue as a cultural or information centre. I certainly hope that that statement was made because of the inadequacy of the Bill. If that is not the case, I urge Senator Knight to consider whether something which symbolises the past history of the state of Croatia represents the best place of culture or information for the Croatian people who are now in this country.
I would like read into the Hansard report some historical facts about the state of Croatia. I think these facts have a direct bearing on the establishment of the ‘Croatian Embassy’. The so-called Croatian Embassy does not represent the whole of the Croatian population in this country or elsewhere. It does not reflect the broad interest of the Croatian people. It has never done so. Far from it. Its roots are in the extreme right wing Ustasha movement. Yugoslavia has a population of over 22 million. It is a federation of six states. One of these states or republics is the Republic of Croatia. I suppose one of the Croats with the most distinction in Yugoslavia today is President Tito, the leader of that country. Croats in Yugoslavia, enjoy absolute equality with other nationals, as citizens of a recognised republic in federal bodies. Yugoslavia was established after the First World War.
The Ustasha movement acquired a reputation for right wing terrorism and violence in the late 1920s. As a result of various acts of terrorism, in particular the assassination in Marseilles of King Alexander of Yugoslavia, the Royal Yugoslav Government brought the activities of the Ustasha to the attention of the League of Nations, at a meeting of the Council in December 1934, at which Australia was represented by Mr S. M. Bruce, later Lord Bruce. It was brought to the League’s attention because the Ustasha movement was being harboured in another country and because the French Foreign Minister was also assassinated in the company of King Alexander.
Germany and Italy invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941. Immediately after the invasion on 10 April, the independent state of Croatia was proclaimed, with the leader of the Ustasha movement, Ante Pavelic, named as its leader. Pavelic led a nazi satellite state and formally declared war on the allied powers. Croatia was occupied by Italian and German forces. Pavelic ‘s government collapsed with the collapse of nazism.
Mr President, I think it is important that these historical aspects be looked at in this debate. I believe one of the main reasons for the setting up of the so-called embassy is to provide ammunition for propaganda to be used in other parts of the world by people who wish an independent state of Croatia. The tragedy of this that some Croatians, expecially young people, believe this is possible. As Senator Mulvihill said earlier, the result of any armed uprising in Croatia would probably be the intervention of the Soviet Union with a resultant blood-bath. It would be to the detriment of the Western world and, of course, to the Yugoslav people.
The Australian Government is in an impossible situation in this matter. We have established full diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia. The people from Yugoslavia would be one of the largest migrant groups in Australia. Travel between the two countries is increasing. JAT, the Yugoslav airlines, is the only eastern European airline operating into Australia and the Yugoslav people use it extensively to travel freely between the two countries. I think a point ought to be made here about the number of people who travel from Yugoslavia to Australia and back again. Of all the eastern European countries, Yugoslavia is probably the only one that makes passports available to the majority of its population to travel frequently to the West.
The Croatian people who have come to this country have done many fine things. We want that to be recognised. Their rights to preserve their cultural identity also has to be recognised. The people who have come here from Croatia are welcome. They have made a positive contribution to our country. The people who have been advocates of non-peaceful means- advocates of terrorism, operations against friendly governments and violence against people and premises in Australia and other countries- are not welcome. I do not think we can forget that in the week this embassy was established the Yugoslav airlines office in Sydney was severely damaged by a bomb blast and the Yugoslav ConsulateGeneral in Sydney was the object of a violent demonstration.
– Who was responsible for that bomb blast?
– -It would be impossible. I suppose, to say who was responsible for this bomb blast.
– Are you implying that it was the Croatians?
– That is what the Special Branch says.
– Does it? So you convict people without trial; is that what you are saying.
-That is not what I am saying.
– That is what Senator Mulvihill is saying.
- Senator Harradine has been answering Senator Mulvihill. I have not answered his interjection. I will address the Senate through the Chair and say to Senator Harradine that there have been a number of bombing outrages in this country. I do not intend to go through them. There are many people from different extremist organisations on the Right and on the Left who have been responsible for them.
– Like the incident that Murphy said was a bombing attack by Croatians. The culprit turned out to be a person with an Australian name.
- Senator Harradine will have an opportunity to speak in this debate. I wish he would wait until I finish. I have a few words to say about terrorism. As I was saying, Australia cannot be used as a haven for terrorism of any kind. I urge Croatians to be proud of their culture, but to put bitterness behind them and to get on with the business of being Australians. If they want to be obsessed with Yugoslav politics, let them exercise their right to go back to
Yugoslavia. We in Australia cannot tolerate terrorism from any fringe group of the Left or of the Right. At present there are very encouraging signs of co-operation between the governments of western Europe and of eastern Europe. There have been the arrests of Baader-Meinhof terrorists in Yugoslavia. There have been recent arrests of Baader-Meinhof people in Bulgaria, where there was unique co-operation between the west German police and the Bulgarian police in a joint operation that resulted in these people being detained. I am sure that all members of the Senate would welcome that sort of co-operation. It will be only through this sort of co-operation between governments that the horror of international terrorism will be halted. If no country provided a refuge for these terrorists, some sanity might return to the world.
In conclusion may 1 simply say that 1 note that on 9 March President Carter told President Tito, in Washington, that the United States ‘continued support of the independence, territorial integrity and unity of Yugoslavia’ and also that he indicated that the United States would ‘take firm measures to prevent and prosecute criminal terrorist activities’. Knowing how concerned this Government is to identify itself with United States policy, I trust that this Government will be no less firm. I think that the delay in passing this Bill has created great hardship for and embarrassment to our representatives in Yugoslavia. I hope that it will be passed quickly this afternoon, with the amendments to be moved by Senator Wriedt.
– I begin by saying that it is good to see Senator Sibraa back with his aggressive instincts so finely honed. I will respond later to a few of the comments that he made. I would like to approach the subject from a slightly different angle. Firstly, I think it is worth reiterating some of the reasons behind this important legislation which because of circumstances that have arisen does fill a gap in the existing laws in Australia relating to diplomatic and consular missions. I think it is particularly worth emphasising that the Government is intent on preserving the opportunity for minority groups in Australia to voice their attitudes and views. This legislation does not in any way detract from those important fundamental rights within our community. I think it is also important to recognise that the legislation is not directed at one group within our community. It arises because of particular events, but it will have general applicability. It is not designed to apply to a particular group within the community. There is certainly no intention on the part of the Government to interfere in the exercise of the important rights of individuals within our community.
The fundamental purpose of the Bill is, I think, worth recalling and I would like to do so by quoting from the second reading speech made in the House of Representatives by the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Sinclair) at that time. He said:
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.
I think that sentence sums up very clearly and thoroughly the purpose and the potential impact of this legislation. I have a particular interest in this subject because what has been referred to as Croatian Embassy is within my electorate. In fact I attended the opening of the ‘embassy’ late in 1977. I understand that that caused some consternation in some circles, but it seemed to me an important symbol and that it was intended to be a symbol to the Croatian people in Australia. The Croatian community has, I believe, a very distinct sense of its identity and its history. Whatever the problems and whatever the difficulties may be it is an identity that I believe ought to be treated with sympathy within our community. The so-called embassy was to be a symbol. It was to be open for a short time. It was to operate as a focal point for the Croatian people of Australia. I quote from a report in the Canberra Times of 12 June this year in which the person who has been in charge of that institution made the point that when it was opened it was opened only on the basis of a lease for one month. I must say that it had been my understanding that the Croatian Embassy, as it has been called, would be there for a short time, that it would be a focal point for the Croatians of Australia and that it would symbolise the views that they hold very stronglyviews which in our society those people of course have a right to express by peaceful protest and demonstration.
Senator Sibraa referred particularly to the statement that I had made relating to the name. I think it is worth considering that comment. I would like to make a number of points in relation to what Senator Sibraa said. Before doing so I would point out, referring to the same report in the Canberra Times of 12 June, that the person who has been in charge of that institution has said that the people involved would in fact consider changing the name of the establishment to one not covered by the legislation. The point is that it is not just a matter of the name; it is a matter of the function of the institution. That is covered by the legislation. It is not simply a matter of the building being renamed but then continuing to purport to be a diplomatic or consular mission. If only the name were to be changed and the institution were to conduct a function which clearly suggests a diplomatic or consular function then that would be contrary to the provisions of this legislation.
When I made the statement to which Senator Sibraa referred I suggested that there was no reason why such a centre should not operate as a cultural centre and be called the ‘Croatian Cultural Centre’. It would still be contrary to the provisions of this legislation if the institution although having the name ‘Croatian Cultural Centre’, sought to operate as a diplomatic or consular mission in some way by claiming to issue passports and visas or by operating in other ways like a diplomatic or consular mission. So I think one has to take into account that element and the fact that it is covered by clause 4 of the legislation. To me that sort of institution seems to be a valuable one both to the Croation community and to the wider community. I point out that in Canberra we already have two Croatian clubs- one in Deakin and one in O’Connor. Perhaps I should point out that my brotherinlawSenator Mulvihill may not be particularly pleased with this- plays soccer for the Croatian Club in Perth.
– I am objective on some things.
– I do not think the Croatian Club in Perth plays rugby league, senator. There are already two Croatian clubs in Canberra. This legislation will have no impact on such social and sporting clubs. It would have no impact on a cultural centre, for example. It does relate directly to something that is called a consular or diplomatic mission or to an institution that purports to provide services of a diplomatic or consular nature, and it is that which I think is important.
– If you have too many backs in a movement, that is when you get into a jam. This is what this would do, is it not? It is like having an extra man in the back line which upsets passing movements.
– Is that in rugby league or rugby union?
– General rugby.
– I would like to conclude merely by saying that I think the legislation in its specific relevance to a particular issue that has arisen ought to be recognised as having much wider application because in such situations it fills a gap in existing laws in Australia. It is also important to recognise, as Senator Sibraa and others have, that the Croatian community is a very significant community in Australia. The Croatian people have made a great contribution to this country over recent decades. Problems have arisen, but I think that because of those problems it is a community which deserves particular sympathy and ought to be treated in that way. When there is a difficulty such as this I think it has to be stated emphatically that the effort to overcome it should not detract in any way from the individual rights of the members of any community and certainly should not detract from their right to run social, sporting and cultural clubs. However, the legislation does have effect when there are particular references and claims relating to diplomatic of consular functions. Foi that reason I think the legislation is important and deserves support. It must be emphasised that in this case it does relate to the particular nature of the institution involved. It most certainly does not reflect on a very significant community in Australia which has made a great contribution to this nation.
-I rise to speak very briefly in support of this Bill and the amendments moved by my leader,’ Senator Wriedt. I want to make some slightly different comments which do not relate directly to the specific purposes of the Bill. The express purpose of the legislation and of the particular provisions of the legislation, as stated in the Bills digest available to all honourable senators to assist them in making speeches is to prevent the establishment of spurious embassies in Australia and the making af false claims to diplomatic or consular status. It will therefore prevent interference with the work of accredited diplomatic or consular missions, which are protected by the Vienna Conventions of 1961 and 1963.
The digest goes on in the specific provisions to deal with how those purposes might be carried out. It contains a number of references to the obtaining of injunctions in the Federal Court of Australia to restrain various activities and so on. Those specific provisions are of course applicable to the present situation which others of my colleagues have discussed. In introducing the legislation the former Minister for Administrative Services also had some words to say about its purpose which were couched in the following terms: that the Government could not view with indifference the destruction of a state and the establishment of an organisation which arrogates to itself an unacceptable title and status which in time could disrupt the orderly conduct of Australia’s relations with another universally recognised member of the international community. Those are pretty stern words designed to deal with a specific situation.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the contrast between the wide purposes of this legislation as expressed and the somewhat more limited machinery for carrying out those purposes. Let me counsel the Government and the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Durack) to exercise those provisions with restraint when having regard to the generality of the diplomatic representations in this country. Let me indulge for a moment in a touch of fantasy to illustrate the point which I seek to make. I do so by drawing the Senate’s attention to the very colourful and important role that consular services have played in the literature, life and culture of countries such as ours. First of all let me illustrate that point in relation to the literature of our culture.
– You have been able to read some novels, have you?
- Senator Durack interjects to say something about the reading of novels. He is feeling pretty good this week because he has actually started to read a novel. He told me that the novel he has chosen to read is E. M. Forster ‘s famous novel A Passage to India, which older senators will recall is a great work of literature which had a great influence on politicians such as Attorneys-General and others in the 1940s. I am glad to hear from Senator Durack that in 1978 he is going to read that book.
– I have nearly finished it.
-He says that he has nearly finished it. I hope it has a great deal of influence on him. The point I make is that a minor theme of A Passage to India is the whole issue of diplomatic and consular representations. The whole theme of Lawrence Durrell ‘s great books The Alexandria Quartet, which made a great contribution to English literature, turns on the question of the consular service. I say more specifically to Senator Missen that I was browsing in a book shop this morning and I noticed a number of books by perhaps the greatest living writer in the English language, Graham Greene. Honourable senators who are familiar with the works of Graham Greene, as Senator Davidson clearly is, will realise that nearly all those great works of contemporary literature depend upon fantasy and imagination in relation to the consular service. If the purposes of this Bill were exercised in the way that is prescribed, it would take a very colourful slice out of the life of contemporary Australia and indeed of the literature of the present and the future.
– You are hankering after The Power and the Glory.
- Senator Missen should look for a moment at some of the great Graham Greene novels which depend on this theme and, of course, The Power and the Glory is not one of them. Honourable senators will recall that The Power and the Glory depends very much on a theme of alcoholism, which probably brings it to Senator Missen ‘s mind at this moment and leads him to interject. The theme of most of the novels of Graham Greene is the consular service, and I refer honourable senators to novels such as The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana, Stanbul Train, The Honorary Consul and more recently, The Human Connection. All these are important books which I think draw attention to a great richness and fantasy surrounding the life of the consular and diplomatic service which could be erased if this Bill were taken to its extreme.
In Australia we have perhaps a less imaginative cultural life but even here it is true that there have been some very interesting incidents in the history of this country which involved the consular service. For example, there have been the efforts of Prince Leonard of Hutt to establish consular services in various capital cities of this country. This action, whatever one might think about it, has given a little life to the situation and a degree of amusement. More particularly, honourable senators will recall the fact that Mr Peter Clyne, a former barrister, was once consul for the Maldive Islands in Sydney. Honourable senators on the opposite side will recall his two very well known books which, I understand, are compulsory reading in Government circles at the moment. One is called How Not to Pay any Tax and the other is called How to go Bankrupt Gracefully. It was in the course of his consular service that Mr Peter Clyne first began writing those books. He was also able, as a result of being a consul, to obtain diplomatic immunities and give a large number of parties in Sydney which were, at least before this Budget, based on the fact that, as a consular representative, he could obtain cheap alcohol.
There are other instances of the same sort of thing. In 1976 a gentleman in Sydney was appointed Honorary Vice Consul for Mauretania. For those honourable senators whose geography is as bad as mine and whose research is worse, Mauretania is a small west African country bordering on Morocco, its main export being dates. The capital of Mauretania is a place called Nouakchott. The consular representative for Mauretania in 1976 decided on behalf of his Government to award a number of knighthoods to distinguished Australian figures. I remind honourable senators, because I think this would appeal to Government senators, that a number of knighthoods of importance were awarded, and if he were still the consular representative for Mauretania some honourable senators on the other side might receive awards. The awards were made to Sir Norman Gunston, who was awarded a knighthood for services to culture; to Sir John Kerr, for services to Australian republicanism; to Sir Rupert Murdoch for services to imaginative journalism; and to Lady Sonia McMahon for services to Sir William McMahon. Each of those knighthoods was awarded in 1976. The recipients had to pay $5 to the consul who awarded them and those $5 sums were paid to a worthy charity in Sydney. The importance of that, of course, is that the system of awarding imperial knighthoods in Australia has never been quite so specific. It has never been as specific as the sorts of specifications which I have just read out and which resulted in those awards by the Consular of Mauretania in 1976. Imperial knighthoods traditionally have been awarded for such euphemistic reasons as services to charity, services to business, services to the Liberal Party and things of that nature. But they have never been awarded for purposes quite as specific as those which I mentioned. I shall illustrate in cultural terms the point which I was seeking to make. The existence of consular representatives like the Consul for Mauretania provides a very significant and important way for Australia in 1976 and beyond to award knighthoods on a proper basis in a multicultural society, because the system of awarding knighthoods of the imperial kind was restricted in its nature.
There are a number of points of a similar kind which could be made, as I say, about the cultural, political and literary significance which attaches to the consular service. In speaking to this legislation I said that I concur with the observations of Senator Wriedt and with the amendment which he moved. I point out that in terms of its expressed purposes this legislation looks very much as though it is wider than the Government actually intended. We hope that its application will be confined to the particularly difficult sorts of situations which have been the subject of specific comments by members of the Senate. Having said that, I commend the legislation and the amendment to the Senate.
– I enter this debate to support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, in relation to the closing of the Rhodesian Information Office. This is an opportune time for both of these matters to be dealt with together. I feel also that I should put on record my views about the so-called ‘Croatian Embassy’. I consider that the fashionable refuge of loss of memory is very prevalent at the present time in this country. I seek to revive the memory of some of those people who forget, perhaps conveniently, and others who are not old enough to remember that during the 1939-1945 war Ante Pavlic led a group of people in Yugoslavia who were hostile to the British and Australian allied forces in Europe and who were traitors to our cause. The cause that they were fighting was a similar one, namely, for the establishment of a fascist Croatia. I believe that we in Australia should treat with great respect the minority ethnic groups and give them every opportunity to develop and to widen their cultural activities here. I believe that they should be respected for their individual contributions and that their status should be treated with the greatest respect in this country.
I consider that the Government in introducing this legislation has come to grips with something which has been festering in Australia for the last 25 years. At last it has grasped the nettle, because the ultimate in effrontery for this minority group of a minority group is what has been happening. At this stage I pay tribute to the Croatian people who have come to Australia and who have made a magnificent contribution to the development of this country. The majority of them are law abiding and decent citizens. I believe that the smaller group who have formed themselves into what one would call almost a guerrilla band fighting a lost cause have caused great embarrassment to all governments. In the past they were given a certain amount of encouragement because they came under the general banner of being antiCommunist, and anyone who was not antiCommunist in Australia during the long period of the Menzies regime and in later years up till now, anyone could be classified as being not friendly to the Government, could be placed in the category of being a Communist. This small group of people was able to gather a certain amount of sympathy and strength as a result of attaching themselves to this so-called popular anti-Communist bandwagon. Ultimately they were able to reach the stage of expressing themselves in the manner in which they have created the ‘Croatian Embassy’.
It is my view that the legislation admits that we have obligations under international law to make certain that the consulates and other diplomatic representation are properly accredited. It is highly embarrassing to a government, whichever political persuasion it may be, to have an organisation such as this intruding into the accepted form in which consular representation is maintained. For that reason I place on record my appreciation of and congratulations to the Government for having at long last reached the stage of putting into the legislation of this country a complete prohibition against such a charade which previously gave encouragement to people who at times in their history- I do not know whether this still happens- have formed themselves into paramilitary groups and who have used Australia as a springboard to go into Yugoslavia. They have been arrested and punished there for acts of terrorism and the like in that country. That brings Australia into disrepute not only in that country but also in other countries of the world.
I believe that now the Government has taken this official stand we will see the situation in which the dissident Croats will realise that Australia expects them to join in with the ordinary lifestyle of Australia. We are asking them to try to forget their grudges and their difficulties which supposedly exist in their minds about the far distant past of Croatia. They have to realise that there is now no future for them in acting as a terrorist minority, which is certainly the way in which they have been acting in the past. The abolition of the ‘Croation Embassy’ is the final symbol to indicate that the days of organised terrorism in Australia for these people are over and that they have to act as ordinary Australia citizens. They have a great opportunity here to start a new life and to bring up their children as Australian citizens with the same common purpose that all Australians have. I commend the Government. I also support the amendment which I believe could tidy up the provisions of this legislation by incorporating the closing of the Rhodesian Information Office which, in my view and in the view of the Opposition, could create dissension and division in our community. I support the amendment.
– I enter this debate to express the view that it should have been maintained on a level which is appropriate to the legislation. The legislation is designed to establish a realistic situation which is consistent with the present Government’s foreign policy. However, some segments of the debate have degenerated into unwarranted and indiscriminate attacks upon a large number of Australian citizens of Croatian origin. It is for that reason that I enter the debate in order to stand here and to protect those citizens from the type of unwarranted and indiscriminate attacks that have been launched upon them, not only in certain aspects of this debate, but also on the last occasion when this matter was debated in this place in, I think, May of this year.
I have a wide circle of friends who are Yugoslavian- Slovenes and Croatians. It is not for me to enter into- nor do I desire to enter into- deep discussion or to take sides on any questions of difference, but I know that most of the Croatians to whom I have spoken feel deeply about the unwarranted attacks that are launched against them under the privilege of Parliament. We have had examples of those attacks in the Senate and outside this place. We have had suggestions and innuendoes that the bombs that have been placed have been the work of the Croatian people. I accept what Senator Sibraa said, that he is not drawing that inference. Incidentally, I must congratulate Senator Sibraa on his return to this place. His contributions in most cases are well worth listening to. All honourable senators know that during the hysteria whipped up by former Attorney-General Lionel Murphy there was some suggestion about a bombing in a Sydney car park. What happened in that case? The Croatian people were convicted without trial. Indeed, the person who eventually stood trial for that act had a peculiarly un-Croatian name. In fact an Australian-born Australian was convicted for that offence.
I do not accept what Senator O ‘Byrne has said. I shall not waste the time of the Senate in detailing the historical factors which would deny what he said. This was done in great detail by the late Senator Ivor Greenwood in a more intelligent and reasoned way than I would be able to do it. I want to use this opportunity to refer to some things that are said. It is asked: Why do the Croatian people not realise that they are in Australia and forget where they came from and be Australian citizens? I have in my hand a letter that was written to me- and presumably to all senators and members of the House of Representatives- from the Slovenian-Australian Association of Canberra. That letter deals with dual citizenship. It states:
The Yugoslav regime has implemented the law by which every citizen of Yugoslavia is forced to retain his or her citizenship whether or not he or she obtains a citizenship of another country. Furthermore, the clause extends over children of the first generation who are not even born in
Yugoslavia. In practical terms, this means that it is impossible for an immigrant from Yugoslavia or his children to renounce their Yugoslav citizenship despite the fact that they become Australian citizens.
This claim by the Yugoslav regime gives its embassies abroad, and in particular Australia, an outstanding power to control, through intimidation and harassment, their former citizens should these citizens ever require a visa to visit their friends and relatives in their homeland. It is particularly effective for Consular authorities to intimidate those individuals and groups who are, or would wish to be, vocal against the political regime in their homeland. The article in Attachment (A) reveals only a bleak picture of what is happening in reality. It is the Yugoslav regime ‘s stated policy, quote: to secure access to the top offices in these organisations (clubs and associations formed by citizens of all parts of Yugoslavia) for members of all our nations and nationalities and a policy of mutual ties with other forms of organisation of our citizens according to the principles of Yugoslav community.’ (Speech delivered by Stane Dolanc at the meeting of the Presidency of the Socialist Alliance of Working People of Yugoslavia on 14 October 1976 as reported in the Review of International Affairs No. 638 of 5 November 1976.) He also stated, quote:
The problems involved in the organisation of social clubs are being dealt with in the course of their regular activities by the Socialist Alliance, trade unions and other socio-political and social organisations and are an area for their permanent cooperation with progressive parties and other organisations or trade unions in the countries in which our workers are employed ‘.
The letter from the Slovenian-Australian Association of Canberra continues:
It is no wonder that our national clubs in Sydney and Wollongong have been taken over and that our free news media in Australia is gradually becoming the instrument for Yugoslav communist propaganda. Where they have been unsuccessful, as for example in Canberra, they have established their own parallel organisation with the purpose of eventually taking over other free-thinking establishments, as for example, our own organisation . . .
This formidable success in takeovers of groups and individuals by Yugoslav agents was made possible only because Yugoslavia can still claim citizenship over its dissidents. The fact that it is impossible to obtain a cancellation of Yugoslav citizenship is well-illustrated by correspondence in Attachment (C) by Martin and Barker, Solicitors, who have been trying, since September 1 976, to find a way of cancelling citizenship for a family living in Canberra. So far, the solicitors have received no reply.
There are a number of individuals and families who would wish to get rid of their former Yugoslav citizenship should this be made possible. Yet the International Bill of Human Rights, Article IS, states:
Everyone has the right to a nationality,
No-one should be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality, nor denied the right to change his nationality. ‘
How ironical to see Belgrade providing haven for the most recent Conference on Human Rights.
The Australian public has been fed with publications claiming that terrorism among Yugoslav nationalities in Australia has been the product of Croatians and other anticommunist groups but very little has been said about the underground forces of the Yugoslav regime in Australia who are the very cause, and apparently the authors, of such terrorism. It is even more disturbing to see the Australian
Government acting indifferently, or worse still, determined to retain its good relations with the Yugoslav regime, despite the fact that it has been well-informed about Yugoslav secret police activities in Australia, as illustrated by the article in Attachment (B).
I think that all honourable senators will have received this letter. It is not addressed to me personally. It is a roneoed letter. It continues:
It seems strange that in Australia, where all citizens enjoy their rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and have freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of affiliation, that citizens of Yugoslav origins have their rights interfered with by the Consular officials of another country.
What is most astonishing, is to find Australian citizens of Yugoslav origins who have re-entered, through visa, their homeland undergoing police examinations and being harrassed by the Yugoslav secret police, being imprisoned, and some of them even executed, whilst the Australian Government looked the other way.
Apropos of that subject I wonder whether the Australian Government or anyone interested has done anything about a recent report in the Canberra Times of 14 July 1978. It is headed Canberra man tells of years in Yugoslav jail’. The article states:
Mr Marko Nazor, 3 1 , of Downer, who returned to his family in Australia this month after three years in a Yugoslav jail, said yesterday that he had been subjected to psychological torture and threatened with the death of his wife and three children while a political prisoner.
Psychological torture had occurred both before his trial in 1973 and during his term in Lepoglava Prison, at Split, on the Dalmatian coast.
Here is the significant point:
The only charge on which the Yugoslav authorities had been able to convict him was that he was a member of the Australian Croatian Club, O’Connor, which he said was a social club with no political overtones.
I am simply informing the Senate of this matter. I do not know the case. I do not know the man from a bar of soap. I found the article in the Canberra Times. It continues:
Before his holiday visit to Yugoslavia in 197S, he had taken part in some demonstrations in Australia against the Yugoslav Government, but had not thought his protests here had been active enough to incur the wrath of the Yugoslav authorities.
Therefore he had not bothered to apply through the Yugoslav Embassy in Australia for an ‘amnesty’ for his visit to Yugoslavia, which should have guaranteed his safe exist from the country.
He had been roused from his bed at 3 a.m. in June, 1975, the house had been ‘turned upside down’ while secret and uniformed police had searched it and had been told that ‘he had just returned from Australia so his political views would be against the State’.
He had been taken from his family’s home and imprisoned and been subjected to periods of interrogation lasting anything from eight to 16 hours before being put on trial in October.
Mr Nazor, who for most of the press conference spoke through an interpreter, Miss Dinko Sidic, said a number of other ‘trumped-up charges, including bringing explosives into Yugoslavia to blow up bridges’ had been levelled at him. He had been threatened that unless he admitted the charge of membership of the Australian Croatian Club -
Honourable senators should listen to this point;
Yugoslavia-bom Mr Nazor is an Australian citizen and he will resume his trade as a panelbeater.
This is an example of an Australian citizen who was gaoled in a foreign country for an act committed in Australia, the act being that he was a member of the Australian Croatian Club in O’Connor in this city. I ask the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) to take cognisance of this situation and make some investigation of it.
I remind the Senate of the damage that was done to the Croatian community during the regime of Senator Murphy as Attorney-General. Honourable senators will recall that on 27 March 1973 Senator Murphy tabled in the Senate a vast number of documents relating to Croatians- all within the context of the then Government’s attempt to search for alleged Croatian terrorists. Honourable senators should bear in mind that it was the former Attorney-General who tabled those documents. On This Day Tonight on 27 March 1973 Richard Carleton said that the documents comprised 2,000-odd pages. He said that they would be fingered through by everyone interested. They were publicly available. There were 72 departmental documents amongst this total. Twenty-seven of those documents were previously classified as secret. They originated from places such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Commonwealth Police. Among the 2,000 pages of documents there were references to no fewer than 715 Croatians resident in Victoria and 142 Croatians from the other States. The whole context of the documents and the references to these 857 people meant that if they or their relatives ever returned to Yugoslavia for a holiday they might be accused of all kinds of so-called crimes.
Here is a situation in point. A person went to Yugoslavia and was convicted for an offence committed in Australia, that offence being that he was a member of the Australian Croatian Club. That is how it is reported in the Canberra Times. The document I have from the SlovenianAustralian Association summarises the situation. I think it is important for us to bear these things in mind if we are to treat all our citizens equally and if all citizens are to have equal status before the law and not be subject to initimidation by foreign agents or by innuendo from other citizens of Australia. The summary of the document states:
Members of our community are deeply concerned that they have been discriminated against as Australian citizens, in Australia and when abroad, by the simple fact that they find it impossible to free themselves of being citizens of the Yugoslav regime. They are also concerned that this very fact gives the Yugoslav Consular authorities in Australia power to haunt its dissidents beyond their terrestrial life, since this claim of citizenship extends beyond them to their children. They are concerned of course to see the Australian Government so indifferent when its citizens are being harassed by foreign powers in Australia, imprisoned by a foreign power abroad and even executed by a foreign power abroad.
Concern is also expressed over Article 44 of the Constitution -
That is our Constitution-
That is not confined only to the Yugoslav situation. The last appeal is:
We therefore ask the Conference to request the Government to extend its political protection to all its citizens on an equal basis at home and abroad.
We also ask that Slovenes in Australia receive at least as much recognition about their national identity as they have enjoyed for centuries in their homeland.
I simply raise those matters for consideration by the Attorney-General and by others in authority in the Government, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and his Department, so that the principles of equality will be maintained within this country.
– This debate seems to have engendered a very wide-ranging discussion, a great deal of which, if I may say so with respect, has had little or nothing to do with the Bill before the Senate. I thank honourable senators for what appears to be their unanimous support for the Bill. In a moment I will say something about the amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt). I have not detected any issues on which I think I need to comment to any extent. Senator Sibraa suggested that in regard to conduct the Bill should have a wider operation. Senator Knight answered that proposal as effectively as could be done. Whilst adopting his reply, I would merely add that to take the definition of conduct further than it is taken in the Bill would be fraught with considerable danger. I could imagine that one could quickly get into a situation where one might be interfering with the perpetuation of the cultural interests and traditions of various groups that have come to Australia, not only since the war under our greatly expanded migration program but in earlier times.
I view with some trepidation the kinds of problems that might arise if we were to trespass upon the province of the Caledonian or Hibernian societies. One has to be particularly cautious in drafting definitions in legislation of this character. I was pleased to find that, obviously, Senator Button recognised this and expressed the need for caution. At one stage I wondered what relevance his contribution had to this debate apart from a discussion he and I had had about novels and novel reading recently, but it transpired that he was making a very important point- namely, that caution was needed even in the administration by the Government of this legislation. I accept that warning fully and, as the Attorney-General is to be largely responsible for the enforcement of the legislation, have taken it on board. I am sure it will be observed.
There has been a great deal of discussion about related problems concerning the Croatian community, dual nationality and so forth. Since these matters have been raised specifically for my comment by Senator Harradine, I would say that the Senate has long been familiar with, and that many honourable senators have taken particular interest in, the problems relating to these matters; that there was a prolonged debate beginning in the year to which he referred, 1973; that there was the establishment of a Senate select committee; and that there were many debates and a great deal of consideration. I would commend to honourable senators who might be interested a perusal of some of the proceedings before the Senate Select Committee on the Civil Rights of Migrant Australians, as it was called. A great deal of evidence was brought to light. In the event, that Committee never reported to the Senate: As a result of a double dissolution it went out of existence, and was never revived. I merely emphasise that the problems that have been raised today have been debated in the Senate for a long period. A great deal of information about them is in existence and the Government is well aware of their problems.
One specific problem to which I might refer is that which arises from dual nationality. That has presented intractable difficulties, not just to this Government but also to former governments. Efforts have been made to do something about it. The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence has also given it special consideration. The major question is how to solve it.
I turn to the amendment by the Leader of the Opposition, which calls on the Government to introduce forthwith legislation which would have the effect of closing the Rhodesian Information Office. I have been tempted to submit that under
Standing Order 139 the amendment is out of order. It provides that every amendment must be relevant to the question to which it is proposed to be made. However, I know that in the Senate a certain latitude is always extended to such amendments. I will not submit that as a point of order, although I confess to that temptation. The matter referred to in the amendment really has nothing to do with the Bill. Frequently, by way of amendment, expressions of opinion are tacked on to the motion that a Bill be read a second time, but invariably they have some relevance to the subject matter of the Bill. However, in my view, this is not so in this case. For that reason alone, I believe that the Senate should vote against it. That is the view of the Government.
The proposal is one to which the Government has given a great deal of thought. It is certainly one about which the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), whom I am representing in this chamber at the moment, has had a good deal to say. I think I should perhaps note for the record the Government’s attitude in relation to it. The Government had under consideration for some time the continued operation of the Rhodesian Information Centre. It has had in mind its obligation in relation to Security Council Resolution 409, which called on member states to take action in relation to Rhodesian information offices. The Government has also very much in mind the need to protect the rights of individuals, especially in relation to freedom of expression. Hence, the whole matter requires the most careful and detailed consideration before action is taken. That consideration has not yet been completed. Therefore, the Government will oppose the amendment which calls for the taking of action forthwith. The Government still has the matter under consideration.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I move:
Sub-clause 5(3) states:
The purpose of our amendment should immediately be obvious. The strict meaning of subclause (3) is that authorities, presumably acting under the overall authority of the AttorneyGeneral, if they saw fit could enter premises where the items which the Diplomatic and Consular Missions Bill disallows are deemed to exist on the premises, or where disallowed items are being displayed, or where actions are being taken or might be interpreted to have been taken. It seems to me that under such a provision a government would be allowing the exercise of force without reasonable precautions being taken to protect the persons on those premises. Irrespective of how many offensive signs as provided for in clause 4 might be displayed or what actions are being taken and irrespective of the existence on premises of the items which are disallowed under clause 4, it seems to me that by way of this provision a government would be allowing to individuals a latitude which might well be abused.
Let us take, for example, the Rhodesian Information Centre and the so-called ‘Croatian Embassy’. They have been there for some time. It hardly seems necessary for us to decide that the police force should suddenly barge into those premises. It does not matter whether those involved be the Croats, the Serbs, the Russians, the Chinese, the Americans or any other people; that is irrelevant. The fact is that in accepting this provision we will write into the statutes an authority which will enable people simply to knock down the front door of premises if necessary because it is believed that certain provisions of this legislation have been infringed.
If there were some immediacy about having to adopt force in such a situation there might be some justification for including this provision, but certainly on experience in this country so far there is no immediacy. We might well find that we are breaking down the door of some person or persons who are innocent of any offence under this legislation. All we are asking in our amendment is that, if it is presumed that persons are in breach of the provisions of this legislation, the persons concerned are told: ‘You are being given 14 days in which to remove the offending signs and then, if need be, we will exercise force’. I ask the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) whether he would care to indicate why he feels it is necessary to allow this immediate power of entry to any of his enforcement authorities.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) in moving his amendment certainly has raised a matter which deserves careful consideration. He quite rightly has said that simply because somebody has offended the law it does not mean to say that we can have people barging into premises and removing signs and so forth. However, the position is that under the Diplomatic and Consular Missions Bill as drawn I think the situation is covered fairly thoroughly and an amendment of the kind moved by Senator Wriedt is not necessary. Under the Bill two steps are contemplated. Clause 4, which the Committee has passed already, relates to applications by the AttorneyGeneral for injunctions to restrain persons from certain conduct which is contrary to the provisions and the purposes of the Bill.
If an injunction is made, clause S deals with the actual enforcement of such an injunction. That is a further step which has to be taken. If a court has issued an injunction, under clause 5 the court may, upon application made by the Attorney-General issue a warrant authorising the sheriff, or a deputy sheriff, and so on to remove the signs et cetera. That is the part about which Senator Wriedt is concerned. So the first step is the application for an injunction, then the granting of an injunction and then another application, namely an application for a warrant. I think that in the ordinary circumstances what would happen would be that an injunction would be given unless there were some special reason for urgency. I concede that so far there has not been any indication that there might be any emergency which would create urgency, but we never know when such an emergency might arise- in the normal case, the court having issued an injunction, that injunction would be served and inevitably time would be given by that process for the persons concerned to abide by the injunction. The only purpose of clause 5 is to provide for a right to enter premises only after application has been made for a warrant to that effect, if a person is in fact in defiance of the injunction.
I think that the usual and normal process which we might expect the court to take even if there is defiance of an injunction and the Attorney-General had to go back to seek such a warrant, again there would be time for the person concerned to take heed of the injunction and to abide by it. So, what I am saying really is that the provisions of the Bill as it stands leave the matter to the discretion and to the ordinary processes of the court. In the first stage an injunction has to be issued and in the second stage a warrant has to be issued by the court. The court is then authorising, certainly in the second stage by issuing a warrant, entry onto premises and the pulling down of signs and so on. But I do think that, because of the way the courts operate and by virtue of the provisions I have outlined, there is ample scope to protect persons from any really hasty or unwarranted intrusion onto their premises or into their rights or liberties. My feeling is that this matter can be safely left to the discretion of the court.
– Is there to be any right of appeal to a higher court, or does clause 7 preclude that?
-There would be a right of appeal to courts, yes. A Federal court is involved and there is a right of appeal against the decisions of a Federal court.
-I accept the explanation of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). As he has pointed out, in the normal course of events presumably the course of action he has outlined would apply. I raise two matters. I refer firstly to the matter of appeal. I presume as the Bill does not specifically state that, that he is saying that under no circumstances would that right of entry be forcible entry on the decision of a Federal court and that pending an appeal to the High Court no such right of entry as defined in the clause we seek to amend would be permitted. Perhaps the Minister would indicate whether that is correct.
– It is true that the Bill itself does not give the right of appeal, but the Bill in clause 7 confers jurisdiction on the court to determine applications under sections 4 and 5 of the Act. In the ordinary provisions of the jurisdiction of the Federal Court there is a right of appeal from decisions of that court. I cannot see any reason- nor can my advisers at this stage- to think that there would be any problem in relation to that. I will make absolutely sure of that.
– There is just one other matter. I take it that what the Minister is saying is that once a matter is determined and there is no right of appeal, therefore by direction of the court the law enforcement officers could immediately make forcible entry into the premises involved. Am I to take it that that must follow?
– Clause 5 of the Bill deals with the removals of signs, et cetera. I want to take the opportunity to say that I had misinterpreted the remarks of Senator Knight when he said there was no reason why the ‘Croatian Embassy’ should not continue as a cultural or information centre. I assumed at the time that he was also implying that diplomatic and consular activity would still take place in that building. It is quite obvious after talking to him and listening to him that in fact he did not mean this and I think the situation has been cleared up. By the same token I still think it would be provocative if that building about which we were talking were used in future for any sorts of activities about which Senator Knight was talking.
Senator Harradine made some remarks about the fact that a large number of Croats had been smeared. I want to take the opportunity to say that I did not intend that in any way. In fact, I used the word ‘fringe’ very carefully. Unfortunately there are fringes existing not only in Australia but throughout the world today. There has been a bombing attack on a building in the United States of America. There has been a highjacking of a plane and I think only last week there was a bombing attack on the United Nations for which a group calling itself ‘Croatian Liberation’ or some similar name in fact took and claimed responsibility. I am sure that there would be no honourable senator in this place who would go along with those sorts of activities. One other point that was raised was in relation to the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence that dealt with dual citizenship. It is a problem. Anybody reading the report will see that it is quite extensive and that in fact we cannot come down with a solution because, as the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) said, there is no solution to it. It does not apply only to Yugoslavia but also to Greece which is one of the countries of which I can think straight away. It is obvious from the number of Yugoslavs and Greekswho are constantly in trouble that we will continue to have such incidents. I certainly do not approve of those incidents; I agree with the Minister that it does not seem as though we can do much to stop them.
Clause agreed to.
) The Minister may give a certificate, in writing-
– I have circulated on behalf of the Opposition an amendment which is intended only to make the powers under this Act much more specific. In order to ensure that any action taken by a Minister in relation to issuing a certificate can only be for the purposes of this Act and for no other purpose, I move:
– I do not think this amendment is really necessary but at the same time it does provide for extra caution in ensuring that the certificate would have a purpose only for the Act. I am agreeable to the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to. Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26 May, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– I suggest for the convenience of the Opposition that these three Bills be debated cognately.
– There are two Bills. I understand that the Whaling Amendment Bill has been deferred by agreement until next Thursday.
– We are dealing with the Fisheries Amendment Bill 1978 and the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Amendment Bill 1978.
– I seek leave for the Senate to consider the Fisheries Amendment Bill and the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Amendment Bill together and to make the Whaling Amendment Bill a separate order of the day.
– These are important bills. I must say that I thought their importance was such that they should have been dealt with before the end of the last session of Parliament. Nearly all the countries, certainly those in the South Pacific region, have already declared the 200-mile fisheries zone. Any honourable senator who has bothered to look at the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on the South Pacific will have seen a map which outlines the 200-mile zone. It shows that very few areas of the South Pacific are not within this zone. In a number of instances the zone overlaps another country’s territory. The fishing zone is a step towards creating an exclusive economic zone, which has wider implications. It is a most complex matter and is still being discussed at the Law of the Sea Conference.
This legislation has tremendous importance to Australia because at the moment Australia gains no benefit from the resources of its seas. Very little is known about the extent of the resources of the sea and what is known comes mainly as a result of the fishing activities beyond our 12-mile limit which are carried out by vessels of other countries. Certainly to the north of Western Australia the major research information is coming from the Taiwanese, who have been fishing in this area for many years. I am told by the Director of Fisheries in Western Australia that the Taiwanese are the only fishermen who share their research knowledge and that they share it very freely with Australia. That is not to say that we have not been neglectful. I think we have been neglectful. I think there is a great need for Australia to do far more research to ascertain the available resources in its seas. It is believed that the resources are not inexhaustible. Whilst they are vast, unless there is proper conservation we could in the years ahead find ourselves in serious trouble.
Australia has received no benefit from the fishing activities which are carried on by foreign vessels off our coastline. This legislation gives us for the first time the opportunity to take advantage ofthe resources that are available. We have to face the fact that our knowledge is very limited. We do not have the ships or the expertise amongst our fishermen to tap these resources. It will be many years before these things are available to us. In the meantime there are tremendous opportunities for joint ventures between Austalian fishing interests and those of countries which in the true sense are not traditionally involved in fishing in our area but certainly have been fishing our waters for many years. Of these countries Taiwan is probably the most important. At any one time off the Western Australian coast there could be between 200 and 300 Taiwanese vessels. Other countries such as Korea, Japan and some European countries together with Russia are also interested in the resources of the sea.
The main reason that I am speaking in this debate is to draw attention to the advantages that can accrue to Australia by these joint venture operations, which are of course within the guidelines which have been laid down by the Government. The one I have in mind which I think highlights these advantages is the proposed joint venture between M. G. Kailis Gulf Fisheries and Kaohsiung Commercial Fishing Guild of Taiwan. I cite this joint venture as an example because it is the only proposed one that I know about. I think it highlights the advantages that will accrue from joint ventures. Firstly, we will get licence fees. At the moment we do not. Secondly, there is the question of surveillance. It is difficult enough for us now to maintain surveillance over the 12-mile zone without having to control the 200-mile zone. As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Metrics I should be saying the ‘320 kilometre zone’.
I very briefly refer to this proposed joint venture to illustrate the advantages which can be gained. Firstly, in phase one of this proposed joint venture the Kaohsiung Commercial Fishing Guild has been authorised by the Government of Taiwan to control all Taiwanese vessels fishing in Australian waters. Any vessel which is not under the control of this company will not be allowed to fish in our waters. This to a great extent will help us in our problem of surveillance. We will not have to go around searching for poachers. The organisations involved in this joint venture will do the job for us and report to the Australian authorities or take action themselves. So from a surveillance point of view this type of joint venture is of course invaluable. It also provides an opportunity for the collection of economic and ecological data relating to the fish resources of the area which is a pan of the proposed joint venture. Despite the fact that already we get a great deal of information from the Taiwanese fishing fleet on the resources of the sea, we would under this proposed joint venture obtain a great deal more because Australians will be able to be with the fleet. More importantly, such a joint venture would provide tremendous employment opportunities for Australians and particularly the opportunity for members of the Australian fishing industry to gain expertise in new fields of fishing technology.
It is proposed that eventually Australian vesselswilltakeover.Imentionthetremendous cost of these vessels and the expertise. It will be necessary to allow for a great deal of flexibility in any arrangements before Australia gains the expertise or the capital to construct its own ships. There is a tremendous paucity of the right type of vessel in Australia. This joint venture proposes that it will be at least five years before the question of the replacement of vessels is raised and that progressive, scheduled replacement will then be considered. This also applies to the progressive replacement of foreign crews by Australian crews as the expertise is gained. I particularly draw attention to the importance of phase two of this proposed joint venture. I think this is the important one for Australia. Honourable senators will realise that all the fish caught off our coast are taken by the Taiwanese, the Koreans or the Japanese and processed in their own countries. Australia gains no economic or financial advantage from that.
Under phase two of this proposed joint venture the processing eventually would be done on shore in Australia. It means that the great bulk of the processed products would be exported from Australia, thus earning Australia export income. I point out that most of the fish that are being caught by foreign fishing vessels off our coast are not the types of fish which are eaten in Australia. Phase two also provides that ship repair facilities will be available on shore. These vessels would remain in Australian waters and they would not have to go on the dead haul back to Taiwan, Korea, Japan or any other country entering a joint venture. The maintenance and repair work would be done in Australia. It is confidently estimated that this proposed joint venutre alone will provide employment for up to 600 Australians in processing and ship repair work. Of course, this would cover a wide range of technicians and technical people. So we can see that it is open to Australia to take advantage of the opportunities provided by this legislation.
Careful consideration should be given to this type of joint venture operation. As I said, it would provide a tremendous uplift to our export income. It would provide the expertise for Australian fishermen for the future and eventually it would assist our small shipbuilding industry to construct ships for fishing in these waters. I commend the Bill. Earlier I gave an example of its benefits. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, it does not mean that Australia itself should not do far more research into the resources of our own seas. The need for conservation of these resources is a tremendously important factor. We cannot decide upon conservation until we know what resources are there.
Let me make one other brief reference so that there can be some discussion on it. I do not want to make an issue of it, but I draw the attention of the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) to clause 25 of the Bill which, on proclamation of this legislation, will close off the Gulf of Carpentaria to foreign fishing. My understanding is that there is a large number of sharks in the Gulf of Carpentaria and that they are a menace to the prawn fishing industry. They make predatory attacks on the trawl pockets when they are full of prawns. Perhaps there would be some merit in granting some discretion to the Minister to enable these types of joint ventures, under control, to fish for sharks. It is a suggestion which I do not labour but which might well be given some consideration on the passing of this legislation.
– As has already been indicated, these Bills and the Whaling Amendment Bill have been around the Parliament for some months. The Opposition has sought to have the Whaling Amendment Bill deferred until next Thursday, and the Government has agreed to that request, because the impending closure of the Cheynes Beach Whaling Station at Albany, in our view, gives rise to a number of complications which we would like more time to consider. It is our belief that these Bills, which are concerned with the proclamation of the 200-mile zone require some further legislation to regulate whaling but do not pre-empt the nature of further legislation to control whaling. As is normally found these days with the Bills the Government is introducing, this Bill leaves a great amount of detail uncovered. We seem to have drifted into the situation- I overstate the case slightly but not to an unpardonable extent- where the Government introduces legislation which says that the Minister shall be given the power to make regulations about A, B and C, and that is about as much as we are told in the Bill which is actually presented to the House.
Partly for that reason I will later be moving on behalf of the Opposition the amendment which has been circulated in my name- we recognise that it has no legislative significance- the purpose of which is to lock the Government at least morally into a more definite commitment to honouring the guidelines for joint venture fishing and feasibility fishing determined by the Australian Fisheries Council. The Continental Shelf Bill, the minor Bill of the two currently being debated, does little but to close a loophole in the existing law under which vessels apprehended within the declared Australian zone have been able to escape from prosecution on the ground that they are not engaged in commercial operations. That is not terribly important. The major Bill of the two currently before us is the Fisheries Amendment Bill which arises out of the decisions of the sixth Law of the Sea Conference held last year and which is the first step towards proclamation of a full, exclusive economic zone upon which international agreement still has to be reached. It proclaims Australian sovereignty within the 200-mile area and imposes two obligations on the Australian Government, the first being an obligation to assess the marine or fisheries resources in that area, and the second being an obligation, under conditions to be determined by the costal state, to allow any unused resources to be exploited by other nations within the framework of joint ventures.
The principal defect of the Bill is its failure to give any definition to Australia’s obligations or to ‘assess the resources of the Australian fishing zone as required by the sixth session of the Law ofthe Sea Conference’. For example, section 5B simply requires that the Minister shall have regard to the objectives of proper conservation and management measures and achieving the optimum utilisation of the living resources of the Australian fishing zone. It would not be unreasonable to expect something a bit more tangible than that. The reality, as implied in the remarks of the previous speaker, Senator Sim, is that the other countries have a great deal more knowledge of the resources of the coastal waters of Northern Australia than Australia has. As my colleague, Mr Jacobi, observed in the House of Representatives, this places Australia in a somewhat disadvantageous position when it comes to negotiating joint venture arrangements with those countries. How can we arrange for the management of a resource when we do not really know what the resource is?
– Isn’t it important that we try to find out what those resources are?
– Of course it is important. I will come to that later. There is little indication that the Government has any intention of doing anything serious about that. I refer again to the comments of the previous speaker. Obviously there will be some difficulties in determining any joint venture or feasibility fishing arrangements with Taiwan, a country with which we do not have diplomatic relations. A related defect is the lack of money to carry out the research to which Senator Young referred a moment ago. I will come to the research later on. What I am talking about now is the capacity to enforce effectively Australia’s sovereignty over the region. I noticed again today that the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) stated in his second reading speech:
Hand in hand with penalties, -
That is, penalties for vessels apprehended within the area- we must also have some capacity to enforce the law, that is to say, to catch offenders.
The figures which have come out in this year’s Budget suggest that we will have a very limited capacity to do that. Under the appropriation item, apprehension and prosecution of foreign fishing vessels, appearing at page 100 of Budget Paper No. 2, we find that the allocation for this purpose this year has been increased by only $27,000, or about 10 per cent. I know that there is an additional appropriation which covers the same area, namely, grants to the States for this purpose. That appropriation is being increased by $50,000 from a total of $700,000, or in real terms by about 6.7 per cent. So we find in fact that in real terms there has been a negligible increase in the Commonwealth’s fiscal appropriation for this purpose, even though obviously the passing of this Bill by the Parliament will significantly expand the need for such an appropriation.
The legislation provides for the closure of the Gulf of Carpentaria which has already been exploited. Of course, the critical aspect about the guidelines to which my amendment refers is the intention to ensure that the Australian fishing industry has a clear priority over the resources within the 200-mile zone. There seems to be a belief- I am not sure how well founded it is- that the proclamation of this zone will lead to some sort of bonanza in the Australian fishing industry. If the follow-up action is taken- that is particularly an assessment of the Australian resource to gain more adequate knowledge of what we have available- whilst the move will be significant, it will not alter the biological reality which appears to be that by world standards the Australian continental shelf has very limited commercial fishing potential or the economic reality that Australian marine products, apart from high priced speciality items such as lobsters, prawns and abalone, will find difficulty in competing in price on world markets. There is or appears to be considerable scope for the expansion of the Australian fishing industry in the area of import replacement.
I move by way of amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bills:
At the end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate calls upon the Government to ensure that the guidelines determined by the Australian Fisheries Council in January 1977, to control foreign participation and give first priority to the local industry, are strictly observed.
Before concluding my remarks I wish to give a brief outline- this is not a comprehensive outline- of the sorts of matters that are covered in the guidelines. Important matters covered in the guidelines include proposals that any joint venture must be approved by both the Commonwealth and the relevant State Minister, that joint ventures are to be limited to areas not adequately developed by Australian fishermen, that it must be required that there be some advantage in arrangements for the resource to be exploited by foreign vessels, and so on. Other regulations cover conditions under which vessels can enter Australian ports. Another important matter in the guidelines deals with feasibility fishing. Such arrangements are to be either on foreign initiative or in response to Australian fishing authorities. In the second case it is envisaged that both Australian industry and interested foreign governments would be notified. Again the proposals are to be approved by both Federal and State Ministers. Approval would be limited to areas and species not sufficiently exploited by Australian fishermen.
Whilst the Opposition recognises that even if this amendment were carried it would have no strict legal significance, it is concerned that, given the vague nature of the main Bill which is before us or the enormous areas upon which it says nothing except that the Government will issue regulations, the Government be committed, at least in a moral sense, more firmly to adherence to those guidelines.
– Firstly, may I congratulate you, Mr Deputy President, on your election to the position which you now hold. I wish you every success in that position. I support the Fisheries Amendment Bill 1978 and the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Amendment Bill 1978 which are under consideration. I will be as brief as I can in my remarks. I agree with a great deal of what the two previous speakers have said. Firstly, Australia is not a fish rich country. We do not have any of the major natural facilities that go to make good fishing. There is no Gulf Stream, no Dogger Bank, no upswelling currents, no major estuary feedings and so on. The whole history of Australian fishing regrettably is one that shows a whole series of ups and downs. It is a history of over-fishings and recoveries. I see the 200-mile limit about which we are now talking more from the point of view of what it imposes upon Australia in regard to responsibilities than the benefits that it provides. I see that it produces responsibilities both to harvest and to replenish. I see that there is a duty to safeguard the Australian fishermen. There is a duty to people from other countries who depend on fish for protein.
On looking back over the history of the industry, I would say that there has never been a fishing industry but that there has been a collection of small fishing industries of all sorts. I think that the statistics ought to go into this debate in as brief a way as possible. At this juncture there are approximately 9,000 commercial fishing boats, approximately 18,000 fishermen, approximately $250m invested in the boats, and approximately 150 shore-based processing plants. The annual catch is worth approximately $200m. What is important is that over the last 10 years the growth rate has been 1 1 per cent a year, and that represents double the growth rate in any other rural industry.
We are getting close to facing the world-wide problem, however, of having too many boats chasing too few fish. In this regard, any sudden surge of either Australian based or joint venture fishing may not be in the best interests of the industry. I am not against joint ventures. In fact, I support them if they are efficiently based and in the long term interests of the Australian industry. I think what is of greater importance is the better utilisation of existing resources. If we look at the world position in regard to fish we find that the two great shortages in the world are, firstly, cheap basic fish such as we in Australia do not use ourselves and, secondly, gourmet fish such as prawns, lobsters, abalone and so on.
Australia’s future depends very heavily on expanding the two export classes or on some expansion of our local trade by way of import substitution. Much has been said in reports of the last year or two about import substitution. I believe that whilst some substitution is possible, a considerable amount is not. I think that at all times we need to determine three things: Can we do it; will we do it; and is it going to pay if we do it? At present all sorts of discussions are going on about the fact that there are new boats galore. New proposals are current and, in many cases, I fear for them because I believe that they are being based far more on unexplored expectation than in accordance with the facts as we know them.
We go into this new phase of Australian fishing with something like 150 shore-based plants and approximately 150 licensed processing boats. This clearly indicates that the processing sector is vastly over-capitalised at this stage and needs to be rationalised by the industry. I do not see that the Government can do so except by financing that rationalisation or by assisting with advice. I say also that, whilst the industry is one of the most individualistic industries, in the processing sector many of the fishermen are controlled or restricted in such a way that some changes may be needed.
The previous speaker, Senator Walsh, talked of research. The latest figures that I have been able to obtain show that currently expenditure on research is $6m a year, or 3 per cent of the value of the total catch. In many industries 3 per cent of total income would be a lot of money. But the fishing industry as it is now requires more than that really to get the industry on to a rationalised basis. Historically fishing has been the step-child of primary industry. I have often wondered whether it should be dealt with more appropriately through our Department of Primary Industry or through the Department of National Resources. From going around Australia and talking to the fishermen in various places I have learned that there is a great appreciation that there is a need for change at all levels. We are finding in particular that what are often referred to as the cut lunch fishermen have to change and to try harder if they are to retain their positions.
Fishing has been a small boat industry. This is changing. The latest figures that I have been able to obtain show that in 1975-76 of approximately 9,000 boats that were licensed for fishing 4,388 were under six metres; 3,007 were under 1 1 metres; 1,373 were under 17 metres; and only 151 were between 18 and 20 metres and only 191 were over 20 metres. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in chapter 4 of its report dealt with the fishing implications of territorial boundaries. I do not wish to quote from the report but I commend it as being well worth reading to anyone who is interested in the matter. It shows the great contribution that has been made.
As usual, I would like to make one or two references to Tasmania. Fishing is an important industry for Tasmania. In 1976-77 Tasmania caught approximately $8.5m worth of fish. By 1977-78 the figure was $12m and represented 6 per cent of the Australian total. Tasmania has several fishing ports and approximately 25 processing plants. But, more importantly, it services the large area of southern waters. It is also the base for all the Japanese southern tuna fishing boats and is also now the headquarters of the Japanese squid research area. Ultimately it will also be the base for krill exploitation on the southern shelves. Tasmania is much different geographically from the rest of Australia. I refer to the Australian Year Book which shows that while Tasmania has a land area of 67,800 square kilometres or 0.88 per cent ofthe Australian land mass, it has 8 per cent of the coastline. Also, while it has 67,800 square kilometres of land, the extension to the 200-mile or 320-kilometre territorial waters would add 400,000 square kilometres of water- approximately six times the land area. As in all States, the declaration of the extended limit will have little effect on the great majority of Tasmanian fishermen but collectively and to the industry as a whole it will be very important. I believe that the important section of the Fisheries Amendment Bill is clause 6- which Senator Walsh mentioned- which will become new section 5B of the amended Act. It states:
In the administration of this Act, the Minister shall have regard to the objectives of- (a) ensuring, through proper conservation and management measures, that the living resources of the Australian fishing zone are not endangered by over-exploitation; and (b) achieving the optimum utilisation ofthe living resources ofthe Australian fishing zone.
I believe that is important and the strength of the legislation. It will take a lot of research really to determine what are these resources and what is necessary. At this stage it is not possible to consider writing in to the legislation aspects that we know absolutely nothing about. It will take a lot from the industry to be able to insert those provisions. Much more research and more funds from both the industry and the Government will be required to make the objectives of clause 6 obtainable. I do not consider that just money for more boats is what is at question at present; I believe that money spent on investigation into the type and construction of boats, fishing methods and equipment, processing and merchandising, probably would be far better spent than money spent on just more boats. I support the Bills.
– I thank the Government for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I gave notice that I intended to speak only a few moments ago and for that reason I shall be rather brief. I have always held the opinion that the Australian fishing fleet can be described as nothing more than a cockleshell fleet. In saying that I do not wish it to be seen as a derogatory remark. The fact that we have only a cockleshell fleet largely has been brought about because no one has been prepared to put the money that has been required into vessels of larger capacity than anything we have at the moment. The fishing industry has been traditionally a family type of operation with sons following fathers down the line. Because of the nature of the marketing the product particularly in Australia there has never been the ability to accrue capital to the families involved.
I concur with all the remarks made by the previous speakers about the situation developing now, particularly those of Senator Archer. There is a need for some caution on how far we go. I wonder at times what research may have been done by other nations. It has been a well-known fact around the coast of Australia that the Russians, the Japanese, the Koreans, the Taiwanese and goodness knows who else have been out there for a number of years not only catching fish but also doing research. I would be surprised if their research archives were not much fuller than ours in relation to the fishing potential around this coast.
A moment ago I mentioned the lack of capital in the local industry. In Victoria there is hardly a fisherman who brings in a load of fish who can tell his crew on the way back what the value of that fish is landed on the wharf or sold on the wet fish market in Melbourne. Every fisherman who goes out hopes to hell that he catches the only fish available, that he comes back with a full boat and all of his mates come back with empty boats. If he lives in the western part of Victoria he hopes that there is a gale blowing in Orbost and in Gippsland and western Victorians are the only ones who will get a load of fish because if the market is short the price will go up. That has been the situation ever since the fishing industry has been established. As a nation, of course, we are not large fish eaters. If my memory serves me correctly, we export roughly the equivalent in dollar value of what we import.
In the past the situation with foreign fishing vessels has left a great deal to be desired because as a nation we have gained nothing from their activities. I hope that, if any of these joint ventures with foreign countries are established, one of the rules that will be laid down will be that all fish caught will be processed on shore. I see that as the only way that Australia as a nation or the Australian people will ever get a share out of such operations. If that could be brought about- as I hope it will- a great many job opportunities will be provided in many of the depressed coastal rural areas in Australia. I hope the Government will press on with the matter. I have had the privilege of seeing some of the foreign proposals which have been put to the Australian Government. I believe that some of them are very good. I think that by and large they comply with the Act as it is set out here in relation to the regulations. One only hopes so. Of course, once the Act is implemented the proposals will have to comply. Whatever vessels are brought in to assist our industry and our people in catching whatever may be out there, on-shore processing is a must. That is the only answer for Australia.
– in reply- The Senate is considering a most important Bill, namely, the Fisheries Amendment Bill 1 978 and, with it, the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Amendment Bill 1978. Honourable senators who have spoken have certainly contributed a great deal to the debate, mainly in relation to the Fisheries Amendment Bill. I thank them for their contribution. I think the debate has conjured up general feelings not only of national interest but also of the international consequences and the purpose of such a Bill. Interest has been levelled at the requirements that we may have within Australia for research. Certainly there has been comment about the varieties of food which can be obtained from this area not only for Australia but also for international sale. It is of interest for me to hear several honourable senators mention research and what may be necessary in this totally new area. Australia, by this Bill, will be extending Australian fisheries jurisdiction to the 200-mile zone.
When introducing the Bill into the Parliament the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said that it would come into operation somewhere about mid-year 1978. Of course, that suggestion was predicated on the possibility of the Senate passing the Bill in June of this year, but it did not do that. I say at the outset that some of the work which will be necessary following the passing of this Bill will make it necessary for the legislation to become operative later this year. It may even be early in 1979. It is necessary, as was noted, that the regulations be written on a very strict basis. It will be necessary for machinery steps to be taken and an assessment will have to be made of the applications of our own fishermen and of those who intend to move into joint fishing operations.
The zone to be brought under Australian jurisdiction is a very large area of water. The comments of Senator Archer, as he spoke about his State of Tasmania, brought out very forcibly the resources which become available adjacent to some of the smaller States. Those resources will be much larger than the resources presently available to some of the larger States. The resources are there and although the wording used by the Minister in his second reading speech sounded a word of warning as to what we should expect from this area, I feel that a whole new set of resources is available to this country which, until this year, we perhaps have never considered to be as vast. On behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry in the second reading speech I stated:
However, I feel I should issue a word of caution. Honourable senators will be aware of reports which speak of the vast fisheries wealth of a 200-mile Australian fishing zone which, in area, will approximate the land mass of the continent itself. Australia does not generally have a wide continental shelf with suitable trawling grounds. We do not have the upwellings of nutrients which attract large fish populations; we do not have a Gulf Stream meeting a Labrador current and we do not have the fast flowing rivers which are prerequisites for spawning salmon. This is not to say that there are not substantial fish resources unexploited around Australia, but one should get the position into perspective. Our waters do not produce the abundance of fish which are found in other parts of the world. Our fisheries resources therefore require very careful conservation and this is a major reason for extending our jurisdiction to 200 miles.
I think they are appropriate words which we should consider. One is comforted that honourable senators on both sides of the chamber have given careful consideration to the matter as is shown from the words which they have spoken this afternoon. In that regard, of course, the Government is perhaps challenged by the amendment which is proposed by the Opposition. I respond that the Government has a recognition ofthe importance of the resources of the area and the need for regulations to be written in such a way which will protect those resources. As the Minister for Science I am aware of the need for conservation and for research which has been conducted over many years by the Division of
Fisheries and Oceanography of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
In the last few years I have felt that there has been a growing interest in and recognition of the vast resources available, not only in fisheries but also in some other matters of interest in this area which we are now proclaiming as far as Australia is concerned. This year in the Budgethonourable senators will note it- there has been an allocation to the Department of Primary Industry of some $700,000 of which CSIRO will get the bulk. I think all that amount except for $44,000 will go to CSIRO for the development of research programs and for the assessment of fisheries in the 200-mile zone. That is particularly important. Also important is the fact that some $400,000 has been allocated for resource management and development within the zone itself. That fund is available to the Department of Primary Industry.
I notice one honourable senator raised the question of whether this type of work should be handled by one department. I do not think he suggested the Department of National Development. He suggested that the Department of Trade and Resources should handle this matter. It appears to me most appropriate that the work should be undertaken by the Department of Primary Industry. We are progressively seeing in so many areas of government responsibility an interaction in various disciplines between departments. Within areas of research it is necessary not only to have an understanding of oceanography as far as Australian coastal waters are concerned but also it is necessary to promote some assessment of the coastal engineering requirements of this country. It is also necessary in an activity involving trade, in a primary industry which calls for control of an enormous area, that a large department such as the Department of Primary Industry take the principal responsibility. I would expect that situation to continue.
The Government has under consideration a number of feasibility proposals for fishing by foreigners. Honourable senators will have heard many questions asked in this chamber regarding joint ventures, feasibility fishing and the allocation of fishery licences. Applications for these come from many countries, including Taiwan, and must be assessed carefully by the appropriate authorities. The Government is aware of the need to consider all of the advantages that Australia could gain from such proposals. I emphasise that Australia must consider carefully the advantages that can accrue from them. I do not doubt that the Government’s intent will be to ensure that whilst necessary fulfilling its obligation to manage the resources of the area, the maximum benefits therefrom will flow to Australia.
Reference was made to the Gulf of Carpentaria. I can assure the Senate that that area will be properly controlled; that licensing will make it possible to deal with Senator Sim ‘s point with regard to the shark catches that are available. In regard to the point raised by, I believe, Senator Walsh, the Government has recently announced an upgrading of the system of maritime surveillance. This has been a necessary responsibility, but, in line with the Government’s current economic philosophy, the expenditure thereon must be proportionate to the value derived by the industry. The Government is conscious for the need t*or effective surveillance and has now moved to provide it. Two honourable senators made the point that people from overseas who may be granted licences under fisheries agreements will, in their own interests, have responsibility to contribute to surveillance of activity in the areas in which they fish.
Comment was made by Senator Archer about over-capitalisation of the industry. The Australian Fisheries Council and the Standing Committee on Fisheries comprise State and Federal Ministers and senior officials. They are concerned with the proper management of not only biological stocks but also the economy of the industry. Governments, both State and Federal, are conscious of their responsibility to the industry in this regard.
Comment was made by Senator Sim, and I believe also Senator Primmer, concerning vessels, and the state of the industry generally. Larger vessels are necessary. In the past five or six years there has been considerable change in the industry. There are now many more larger vessels, with sophisticated equipment for the detection of schools of fish; but to give an impetus to the development of the 200-mile zone the Government has recently agreed to inviting over the next two years the participation of at least 20 large overseas vessels. Probably they will be secondary vessels, to aid the Australian fishing industry in developing off-shore deep fishing interests.
The amendment moved by the Opposition is similar to one which was moved earlier in another place. The Government believes that it is quite unnecessary. It adds virtually nothing to the point in question, which was canvassed and well covered, in my second reading speech, in which I said:
In establishing the Australian fishing zone it is the Government’s intention to ensure that the fisheries of this zone are developed and managed in the long-term interest of Australia and Australians. Australian fishermen and fishing enterprises will be encouraged to develop the resources of the zone.
Australia is under an international obligation to permit foreigners to take surplus fisheries, fisheries which Australians cannot or do not wish to take. So far as the Government is concerned, foreign participation will be on terms and conditions determined by Australia and will be in the interests of Australia and Australians. The matters canvassed in the amendment are already very much in the mind of the Government. Indeed, I repeat, they were covered adequately in my second reading speech. I assure the Opposition that the amendment is not necessary. The Government opposes it. I thank honourable senators for their contributions to this debate.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
– My question, which relates to clause 6 of the Fisheries Amendment Bill, concerns the expenditure on research. The Minister for Science (Senator Webster) in his second reading speech gave some figures for expenditure on research which I could not entirely follow, and in the limited time since the Budget has come out I have not had the opportunity to check properly. I refer to Budget Paper No. 4, page 37, and the proposed expenditure under the Fishing Industry Research Act. Although it shows that there has been a substantial increase from $521,000 expended last year to an estimated expenditure this year of $882,000, obviously this year’s appropriation will not finance the massive research program that will be needed. In addition, no comprehensive strategy for carrying out the necessary research has been announced, but I suppose that is another matter. Can the Minister now or, if not, tomorrow or next week, after the Bill has passed, provide a statement of consolidated expenditure, whether through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation or the Department of Primary Industry, on fishing research by the Commonwealth Government for both 1977-78 and 1978-79?
– I will attempt to get those figures for the honourable senator. The figures I used earlier related to a matter which I imagined was of interest to the Senate, and that was that the Budget allocated to the Department of Primary Industry a sum of $700,000 which is to be spent in relation to the 200-mile fishing zone. I was aware that, excepting $44,000, the whole of that amount would go to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to increase its research, on the direction and on the agreement of the Department of Primary Industry.
I mentioned another figure of $400,000. 1 believe that this was allocated to the Department of Primary Industry for the management of resources in the area. The honourable senator asked a wide question. It may take a day or two to get the figures together. For instance, I have before me the estimates of expenditure for 1 978-79 for the CSIRO Division of Fisheries and Oceanography. One could say that this will all be spent within the 200-mile zone. I know that the chartering of three vessels belonging to CSIRO, the development of scientific equipment, the tracing of currents down the eastern coast, looking at lobsters and their life cycles in Western Australia- Senator Walsh will be aware of thisand other work that it will do in the coming year will account for some $5,458,000. It will be difficult to break up that amount into the exact amounts which will be spent in relation to this research. The honourable senator’s question is clear. He wishes to know the total amount being spent from Commonwealth sources in relation to fisheries research. I will attempt to get that figure for him.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Webster), read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 August, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I wish to raise briefly on the first reading of this money Bill a matter which, I think, warrants some comment in the Senate. It would take too much time to raise the matter in Question Time, and I have an aversion to raising matters during the adjournment debate. This matter is applicable to the Insurance Acts and Life Insurance Acts. I ask the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) who is in the chamber at present to convey to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) who represents in this chamber the Treasurer (Mr Howard) who is responsible for those Acts what I have to say on this topic.
I rise because I noticed recently an action which had been taken in one of the courts in the United States by an aggrieved person who was proceeding under the consumer protection law applicable in at least one of the states of the United States. A person who had appeared in an advertisement for a certain service or article was being brought before the court by the plaintiff who had claimed that the product or service was unsatisfactory. The defendant in this action was not a principal of the organisation which had marketed the product but was one of the people whom we see quite frequently in the newspapers and on the television, endorsing the value of a product. As it apparently turned out, not only was the product not valuable but also it was harmful. Under the American consumer protection law it is possible in those circumstances to bring an action against any person who has induced some other person to purchase a product.
I realise that the Commonwealth Parliament does not have the power to legislate across the broad spectrum of consumer protection in a way which could cover instances such as this in all the various fields of commerce, but there are certain areas in which this could be done. I suggest that it would be a very desirable piece of legislation which could prevent people who have a reputation as sportsmen or television personalities from quite irresponsibly appearing on the television or in the Press and saying that some commodity is highly desirable and beneficial, thereby inducing the purchase of the commodity by people who, as a result of the representations which had been made to them through the advertisement, suffered some ill. Although the Commonwealth Parliament cannot legislate with regard to the whole field of consumer protection I think there is one field in which it possibly could. That is in the field of insurance with regard to the matters dealt with by the Insurance Acts and those dealt with by the life insurance Acts.
What has prompted me to speak is some of the circumstances which preceded the collapse of VIP Insurances Ltd. I do not want to comment on the merits or otherwise of the directors of VIP or what might happen to the creditors of that company in future. I think that most senators would be familiar with an advertisement which appeared frequently on Australian television for VIP Insurances. I am not a frequent television watcher. The amount of time I spend watching commercial television is very small, but even I was submitted on a number of occasions to a television advertisement for VIP Insurances which featured a gentleman who appears on television. I think his name is Ward. I am not quite sure what he does on television apart from appearing on it. I think that he is one of those well-known personalities who were once described by somebody as being well-known for being well-known.
Mr Ward who certainly appears on some current affairs programs concerned with news was seenintheadvertisementforVIPInsurancesto emerge from a palatial residence or superior motel and get into a very expensive car. I think it was either a Rolls Royce or a Mercedes. He assured viewers- that appeared to be what he was doing- that the reason he was living in such style was that he was insured with VIP Insurances. He then explained to everybody what desirable policies were provided by VIP Insurances. He said that not only was splendid protection provided for those who were fortunate enough to be insured with VIP Insurances but also that no one had anything to worry about, it being such a safe and secure company because it was re-insured with one of the biggest reinsurance companies in the United States. Anybody who knew anything about insurance would treat this for the nonsense that it is. The fact that somebody is re-insured with a big re-insurance company does not mean anything. It depends on the amount of re-insurance. It certainly does not have anything to do with somebody tickling the peter and vanishing with the assets of the company. Nonetheless, I believe that this advertisement must have induced some people to take out insurance policies with VIP Insurances. The proprietors of VIP Insurance, at least one of whom has vanished from the jurisdiction of the Australian courts, obviously must have thought that this would induce people to take out policies with their company otherwise they would not have taken out the advertisements in the first place.
I imagine most people in the community do not know very much about insurance. I think it is a very sad state of affairs that people who do not know very much about insurance were induced to put into that insurance company what for them would have been quite significant sums of money, only to find themselves without the insurance cover which they thought they were getting when they paid this money on the say-so of somebody who, presumably for a fee- I cannot imagine it would be done in an honorary capacity- appears on television, has some reputation for being a television personality, induces people to risk their money and, indeed, in this case to lose their money. As happened to be the case in this instance, as a result of this person ‘s representations the unfortunate policy-holders of VIP Insurance were placed in the unfortunate position that they are in at the present time and no redress whatsoever can be sought against the person whose encomiums and endorsement led them to take out their policy. This has been corrected in the United States by legislation- as I said, I am not sure whether it was by Federal or State legislation - which provides for damages to be obtained from somebody who has done this. I think that the Commonwealth Parliament should consider introducing such legislation in those areas where the Commonwealth Parliament does have the power to do so. I think that it has that power in the field of insurance and life assurance.
I notice that other insurance companies are engaging in the same sorts of advertising techniques lately and we see appearing on television and in advertisements in newspapers people who certainly are not actuaries, accountants or people who have any especial knowledge of insurance or life assurance, but who are called on to say how magnificent it is to take a policy with a particular insurance company. I think that this is a very bad practice indeed. I think that it is particularly bad when one remembers that, as Senator Archer reminded us yesterday, the Corporation of Insurance Brokers of Australia has claimed that at the present time something like 50 insurance companies operating within Australia are financially insecure. I can well imagine that some of them could be among those companies which are using this type of advertising. I ask that the Minister convey to the Minister representing the Treasurer the thoughts which I have just expressed on this matter.
– I take the opportunity on the first reading of the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 3) to raise a matter which is of particular interest throughout the Northern Territory. I speak of the subject of assistance to migrants. I look at the area of migrant settlement. Honourable senators in this place will know and appreciate that the Northern Territory has what one might call a multicultural society. In Darwin alone there are 5,000 or 6,000 Greeks, a large Italian community and a large Chinese community. In fact, at last count, as far as I know, some 32 nationalities were represented in Darwin. This situation does not pertain only in Darwin. In the mining towns, particularly in place like Nhulunbuy, there are many migrants and many of these are nonEnglish speaking migrants, people who have come to Australia with little or no English. I think that the situation in the Northern Territory might be a little different from what it is elsewhere. We do have many new arrivals per head of population. Figures have been taken out on this but I do not have them on hand at the moment. I think we would find that in the Northern Territory there are more new migrants per head of population than in other areas.
I draw attention to the assistance that has been given to migrants to settle in by the Northern Territory Good Neighbour Council. That Council was formed in 1970 with a salaried staff. We are very fortunate that this salaried staff was a very dedicated and competent group of people. They have given valuable service to the migrants in the Northern Territory. But the particular point I draw attention to is the fact that this couple of salaried staff members have been supported by volunteers- 200 volunteers in Darwin, 50 volunteers in Nhulunbuy- and all the major centres in the Northern Territory have regional representatives or small groups operating to assist the migrants in those areas. The work done by these people is particularly valuable. These people assist the migrants to settle in, with all that that means. I do not want to go into detail on this as we do not want to prolong the debate.
These people act as interpreters, both in the legal situation and in the normal social situation, such as getting children into school, arranging contacts with employers and so on. They act as a link with government departments- there is a number of -government departments in the Northern Territory- acting not only as interpreters but also as people with some local knowledge of the situation so that the people who come out to Australia do not, shall we say, go cold into a situation when they need some assistance. These people also encourage ethnic activities. Those of us in this place and in other places who know how important these ethnic activities are will support this proposition. These people carry on a particularly good service, namely, the home tutor service, teaching English. The Good Neighbour Council of the Northern Territory has done an excellent job. It has been singled out in the Galbally report, in which the following is stated in section 6.5:
Another example is provided by some of the regional offices of the Good Neighbour Council and the smaller councils, for example, Darwin. Indeed we found that the operations of these offices correspond very closely with the model we have in mind.
I shall speak later about the model that Galbally had in mind. Of the Darwin Council Mr Galbally had this to say in the report:
In the light of this, it is very difficult to understand what the Government has in mind in deciding to dismantle the Good Neighbour Council office in Darwin. One must ask why this has been done. Of course, there is no doubt that it has been done. I refer to a Press statement by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) dated 2 June, in which it is stated:
A Commonwealth-financed ‘self help’ program will encourage local ethnic and community organisations and assist them in migrant counselling, welfare and cultural services in future.
Announcing this today, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Hon. M. J. R. MacKellar, said: ‘The Government appreciates that the ethnic communities have many voluntary organisations in close contact with their community members. These organisations are willing and able to assist their communities and Government resources will be available to them. We hope to get right away from an old-style paternalistic approach’.
This decision has caused a great deal of concern in the Northern Territory. The Director of the Northern Territory Good Neighbour Council, Mr Hamilton, was reported as follows in the Northern Territory News:
Acting director John Hamilton said today he was ‘flabbergasted ‘ the Government planned to stop council funds and create a new scheme.
Support for the comments made by Mr Hamilton has come from the Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, from the Leader of the Opposition in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and from the Chairman of the Australian Ethnic Council. As a matter of fact, support has come from other members of the Northern Territory Government. I happened to be sitting in the Assembly when I heard the Minister, Mr Robertson, commend the work of the Good Neighbour Council. He went so far as to suggest that the Council would be supported in the work it was doing. Obviously the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs was concerned to see that the Northern Territory Good Neighbour Council was being disbanded because he said in a telegram of consolationalmost of condolence- to the Northern Territory Good Neighbour Council:
Australia, no less than the thousands of individually assisted migrants, is indebted to the succession of dedicated Council members and tireless workers who breathed humanity into official procedures.
I think the Minister put that very well. He continued in his telegram to say that he would be quite insensitive if he failed to accept that the phasing out would raise questions in the minds of members. The question that one must ask is: If this is an effective organisation, why should it be disbanded? If it is going to be disbanded we have to ask what the Minister has in mind. A model for a migrant resources centre is suggested in the Galbally report. Section 6.7 of the report states:
The centres we envisage should be locally based, in areas where large numbers of migrants live, and multicultural. While we support the concept of ethnic communities providing services for their own members and recommend, later in this chapter, specific measures to help them to do this, we believe resource centres should generally be multicultural and available to all groups. This will enable a more effective use of resources, but more importantly, will help to improve coordination and communication between the various migrant communities, and between service providers at the local level.
The organisation suggested by the Minister following the presentation of the Galbally report was that in 1979-80 a staff of two will be provided in Darwin and finance will be given to rent a headquarters building. There are many disadvantages associated with this proposal and I would like to look at a few of them. The first is the question of what will happen in the period of dismantling the present effective organisation and in reassembling a new organisation. In that period when assistance is needed no assistance will be available. We all know that if we have a strong group of volunteers working and we put them off and leave them for 12 months it is extremely difficult to get them back together again, particularly in the light of what Mr Hamilton was moved to comment on what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had written to them. The Press report stated:
Mr Hamilton said many volunteers were affected by a letter from the Prime Minister Mr Malcolm Fraser, which said that the Government would help with the re-deployment of volunteers.
I do not know in which areas the Prime Minister suggested that these volunteers might be redeployed. Certainly that sort of comment did not help the situation. Another disadvantage would be that the new group would be based in Darwin with no funds for travel. This would mean that the organisations outside Darwin, in those areas which need assistance- Nhulunbuy, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and the others- would get no assistance. I think it will be accepted from what I said earlier that in the mining camps and the mining towns there are many non-English speaking migrants who would need assistance. There is a big job to do outside the Darwin area and the migrant resource centre proposed by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affiairs following the Galbally report would not be able to do this job. I ask again why it is necessary to dismantle a unit that is effective and replace it with a unit that will duplicate only some of the functions of the Council; it will not duplicate the lot. I ask the Minister to give very serious consideration to keeping the Northern Territory Good Neighbour Council operating. It is clear from the Press release that he is able to do so. The Press release states: . . 18 multi-cultural resource centres, run to suit the needs and priorities of local ethnic and community organisations, would be established in areas of need;
I will read the last part again:
I claim that at present the Good Neighbour Council meets the needs of the Northern Territory communities. It has been proved to be effective and, I refer again to the fact that this has been recognised by the Minister and by the Galbally report. I claim that the Good Neighbour Council would not cost much more to operate than would the migrant resource centre organisation which would not effectively replace it. The Minister in his statement has drawn attention to the emphasis on volunteers. I have shown that in Darwin alone there are 200 volunteers and that there are another 50 in Nhulunbuy, and so on. So all centres have shown that they have volunteers who are prepared to assist. It is not a government run organisation with only salaried staff operating. A great band of dedicated people has been doing this work, simply getting organisational support from the Good Neighbour salaried staff. It would provide the on-going assistance; we would not have a break of 12 or 18 months or two years. It would keep the effective machinery operating. I ask again how long it would take to assemble the machine and the volunteers if we simply chop off funds. Of course, one must not overlook the social cost of the change, with so many new arrivals coming in, so many non-English speaking people looking for assistance.
I would like to mention another related matter although the main thrust of what I had to say was directed at the retention of the Northern Territory Good Neighbour Council. I noticed with some concern that the Budget provides for the pre-embarkation classes and the shipboard classes that have been operating so effectively over the years to be disbanded. I ask anyone who has a knowledge of the value of these classes what comment he or she would make about this action. I ask them just how effective these classes have been to the migrants who have come out here. They have had assistance beforehand in the form of the pre-embarkation classes and have had assistance on board ship. The classes that are provided, both pre-embarkation and shipboard, are in the English language- that is essential- but they also look at the Australian way of life and try to introduce the migrants to the mores and social customs of Australian people. I think all educators would appreciate that this sort of training is much more effective than what becomes basically remedial training, when people are thrown into a situation and then have to be given assistance later.
I make the point here that many of the people who wish to come to Australia have to wait for quite a long period before they can do so and this time can be spent in preparation. We should continue to use this technique to avoid adding to the difficulties that people face when they come to a new country. Once again, there is no great saving in disbanding these classes. The money that will be saved by stopping pre-embarkation and shipboard classes is not significant. I am sure that migrants will all testify to the value of the work that has been done. I do not think I need to elaborate on that point but I draw the Minister’s attention to it. I call on him to give consideration to retaining the present Northern Territory Council. This would mean, of course, providing funds with which it can continue operating. I remind him that the present Council does much more than the proposed resource centre could do, that the work it is doing could be more effective and that it has been shown to be effective. This has been proved by the fact that Mr Galbally used the Darwin office of the Northern Territory Council as his model for the resource centre.
I ask the Minister to give thought to a continuation of the pre-embarkation and the shipboard classes. I have made the point that the migrants accept their value, the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs accepts their value and I am sure honourable senators would all see the value of avoiding the creation of a problem. The Opposition firmly believes in the most effective utilisation of scarce resources and 1 am sure that the Government would not disagree with this concept. I contend that the suggestion made for ‘the needs and priorities of local ethnic and community organisations’ sums up what the voluntary group was doing in Darwin. It met those needs and it was able to provide assistance to the migrants. It would be a great pity if this wonderful resource were to be taken away from the migrants in the Northern Territory.
– The contribution that I make to this debate will be rather brief. As was the case with my colleague Senator Wheeldon who spoke earlier in the debate, the matter which I wish to raise could I suppose more appropriately be raised in the adjournment debate. I raise it in this debate for the same reasons as Senator Wheeldon made his comments in this debate. The Minister who represents the area about which I am about to speak is not in the chamber but I believe that my comments will be made known either to him or to the relevant Minister in the House of Representatives and that I will be provided at an early date with a reply to the questions that I shall pose.
It has been brought to my notice that a section of Telecom Australia employees in Queensland- the section is called the Primary Works Section- has been requested to work what I consider to be excessive overtime. If they work the overtime as requested their working week will be a six-day week of 12 hours a day. This means that they will be working 72 hours a week, or about twice their normal working hours. The work they will be doing concerns a coaxial cable to link Brisbane and Toowoomba. Why they will have to work this excessive overtime I am not sure. Why the project has to be completed in such a rush that overtime will have to be worked, again I am not sure. If the facts as I have stated them are correct, as indeed I believe they are, they raise the question of why additional staff could not have been employed for the task.
Unemployment in Queensland, as in every State of Australia, is unacceptably high. It would seem to me that if work is available which would allow some people to work 72 hours a week, it should be spread over more employees so that more work can be made available for more people. Further, my a’dvice is that staff numbers in this section have been reduced over the past 1 8 months because of a diminishing work load. If this is so and if the facts are correct with regard to the coaxial cable work between Brisbane and Toowoomba requiring 72 hours work a week, this staff reduction seems to indicate a lack of foresight and a lack of planning. The questions I would like to pose to the Minister who is responsible for Telecom are these: Firstly, are the facts as I stated correct? I believe that they are, but I think that I should ask the Minister that question. Secondly, why was there a need to incur such excessive overtime? Thirdly, why was additional staff not used instead of incurring the overtime that I have described? Fourthly, why has staff been reduced over the. past 18 months when such overtime is now found to be necessary? Fifthly, can anything be done about the situation at this stage? In other words, can the overtime requirement for these people be reduced and can additional staff be put on to the work that has to be carried out? They are the only statements and comments that I want to bring forward in this debate. I am sure that they will be passed on to the relevant Minister.
– Earlier today we had a -discussion on a statement, by the Minister for Transport, Mr Peter Nixon, on aviation safety. He stressed that there was a need to reassure the people of Australia, who have been caused quite unnecessary concern by irresponsible statements. I believe that for the record I should refer to an article in today’s Melbourne Herald that perhaps could be better understood by the Senate if 1 were to read it verbatim and to point out that some of the material that I submitted and that most of the material that was submitted by the shadow Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Shortland, Peter Morris, in another place is borne out by this factual article. I would like to have it recorded in this first reading debate. It is headed: ‘ Minister must calm down ‘. it reads:
Mr Peter Nixon is sitting in a very hot seat as Australian Minister for Transport. Professionally , he had a bad weekend One newspaper quoted a ‘leaked ‘ document from his department ordering restrictions in buying emergency equipment for Victorian and Tasmanian airports. Another reported a statement by the president of the Civil Air Operators’ Association that work fatigue among air traffic controllers was reaching critical levels.
A third article carried an attack by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots on a reduction of fire-fighting services at Sydney airport at the weekend. It was the latest concrete complaint on a theme of warnings by aviation specialists over a lack of materials, of staff shortages and of a lack of experienced air control officers because of ‘disillusionment’.
To all this, the recent spate of light aircraft crashes, and to a succession of airliner near-miss incidents, one of Mr Nixon’s answers has been to quote statistics that apparenly do not impress the people on the job. Another was to say that the Budget would show where the Government’s heart was in air safety.
The Budget has, however, left Mr Nixon under industry accusations that spending on air safety and associated services has been cut by four per cent in real terms. He has now resorted to blaming a campaign ‘through the media to damage the industry ‘s morale and scare passengers ‘. What pointless nonsense.
If Mr Nixon thinks that everything is fine in the air and at the airports, and that newspapers should not report what his pilots, controllers and officials say, he should read recent statements by Sir Reginald Swartz, Sir Richard Williams, and Sir Reginald Ansett. Or does he want to silence them, too?
Having read that newspaper article into the record, I should like to conclude my remarks by saying that the vitriolic attack that was made by the Minister does him no credit. I believe that he has been badly advised because along the line in the aviation industry there is great disillusionment. Whoever is advising the Minister needs to have another look at the situation.
– in reply- I thank honourable senators for the comments that have been made. On behalf of the responsible Minister, I will take into account the comments of Senator Wheeldon relating to the insurance industry. The comments by Senator Robertson about the Northern Territory will be conveyed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr Michael MacKellar. Senator Colston mentioned overtime involving Telecom employees. I will direct his comments to the responsible Minister. I note Senator O ‘Byrne ‘s comments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1978 now before the Senate proposes amendments to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. The Bill introduces tariff changes foreshadowed by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in his Budget Speech on 15 August in relation to the imposition of a special additional duty of 12.5 per cent on imports of certain finished goods on which an import ceiling is imposed through tariff quota arrangements or import licensing restrictions. The additional duty does not apply to goods the produce or manufacture of New Zealand. A summary of the commodities to which this levy applies has been prepared and I seek leave to have the summary incorporated in Hansard.
-The Bill provides that the additional duty will apply from the day after the reading of the Budget, 16 August 1978. I commend the Bill.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I had not realised that we were to proceed immediately with the second reading debate on this matter. As a result, the Opposition is still having drafted an amendment which will be moved later by, 1 think, Senator Georges. It could be argued, as it has been in the past, that a tariff, no matter how high, is preferable to quota restrictions which provide the same amount of effective protection. The potential monopoly profit in a tariff situation accrues to the Government or public authorities. If effective protection is provided by way of quotas then the monopoly profit is transferred to the person who holds the licence to import. Any licence to import which has any significant effect on imports at all is tantamount to a licence to print money. It has been observed in the financial Press recently in criticism of the Government’s previous quota policies that, although the Government had not expanded the private sector, as its rhetoric consistently claimed it was its objective to do, it had done something which was quite unknown at least in this century. It had transferred taxation into the private sector, which meant of course that by granting quotas to particular importers the Government had in effect given those importers the right to levy taxation.
It is arguable and it is probably unprovable whether this 12$ per cent increase in tariffwhich of course is almost a 30 per cent increase in the actual rate; from 45 per cent to 57’/2 per cent the increase works out at about 28 per centprovides a greater or a lesser degree of effective protection than the previous quota restrictions. But to the degree that it provides a greater level of protection than the previous quota restrictions, it will be contradictory to one of the Government’s other policy changes in this area, that is, the decision to reduce sales tax on motor vehicles from 27Vi per cent to 15 per cent. If this increase in the tariff on certain imported goods does increase the effective protection to the Australian motor industry then the price of domestically produced motor cars is unlikely to fall to the full extent of the 12V4 per cent sales tax reduction because to the degree that this extra protection will minimise competition among Australian motor car producers they are likely to appropriate that benefit to themselves instead of passing it on to the public.
I guess that in a perverse way there is some consistency in the Government’s introducing the measure at this time. We have just had a succession of Ministers travelling to the European Economic Community lecturing and hectoring politicians in that area and in other parts of the world about the virtues of free trade and the damaging, deflationary, depression-inducing effects of increasing protection. In a way I suppose it is quite consistent for the Ministers who have just been lecturing and hectoring the rest of the world along those lines to come back to Australia and, in the first week of sitting, to present a Bill to the Australian Parliament which does precisely that. It is fully consistent with the actions of a government which won an election with the promise of tax cuts by holding out a fistful of fivers, and then immediately it brings in another Budget, the fistful of fivers disappears back into the Government’s collective pocket. It is wholly consistent with the sort of duplicity which we have come to expect from this Government and which we now regard as normal.
I return to the effect of this Bill on Australia’s trading position. If the succession of Ministers who visited Europe- Mr Fraser, Mr Anthony, Mr Garland, Mr Howard in his time and a few others whom I cannot recall off the cuff- are not already the laughing stock of Europe as a result of their posturing in the EEC, they certainly will be after this Bill has passed through the Parliament. Initially, we heard a lot of rhetoric from the Government, particularly from Mr Garland, Mr Anthony and Mr Fraser, about the negotiation of bilateral arrangements with various countries of the EEC to secure less restricted access for Australian agricultural products into that market. After several months of this posturing and grandstanding it appears that it finally penetrated the consciousness of the senior Ministers of this Government that, in fact, one could not do bilateral deals with members of the EEC with respect to entry for agricultural imports, that the European Economic Community has a common agricultural policy- I think it has had it ever since the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1963- and that any negotiations to change that common agricultural policy would have to be directed at the whole bloc of the EEC and not at individual nations. So the antics of these senior Ministers leave two possible conclusions. The first one is that they did not know that the common agricultural policy existed. The second conclusion is that their posturing on the stage in Europe was designed for domestic political consumption and was not intended by them ever to be taken seriously.
I note that the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council issued a sycophantic statement yesterday endorsing the Budget on the ground that the really good thing for farmers about the Budget was that it would get on top of inflation, which begs a couple of interesting questions. Firstly, the only ground on which that Budget can be considered anti-inflationary is the degree to which it will drive the economy deeper into depression. On any other ground, whether the Budget is anti-inflationary is at least highly debatable. However, the President of the AWGC issued a statement saying that he approved of the Budget because it would get on top of inflation. It is worth observing that we got on top of inflation in Australia very effectively in 1931 when, in fact, the retail price index, as it was known at the time, fell by 1 1 per cent. We had 1 1 per cent deflation. It did not help the farmers very much.
Notwithstanding the many years of campaigning and the number of very good arguments which have been put forward by the AWGC on the effects of protection on the agricultural sector of the economy, it seems to have entirely escaped Sir Samuel Burston ‘s notice that one of the measures which was associated with the Budget, of which he approves, is that tariffs will be increased effectively by nearly 30 per cent for our most highly protected industries. That makes rather a mockery of the document, Rural Policy, which the AWGC circulated last year which concentrated largely on tariffs. The President of that organisation seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that the Budget, of which he approves, contains a provision like this.
But the other matters in this Bill to which the Opposition mainly objects and which will be the subject of the amendment to be moved later by Senator Georges are- on the face of it, at least, it appears to be illegal- that it is in conflict, certainly with the spirit and probably with the letter, of the Industries Assistance Commission Act. It would be surprising indeed if there were not a legal challenge mounted to this Act. For that reason we will be moving an amendment later along the lines that the House declines to give a second reading to this Bill until the Government offers a satisfactory explanation of why it does not breach the relevant sections of the Act.
To summarise, if for any given level of protection it is preferable that the protection be in the form of tariffs rather than quotas in that way the Bill could be counted to be an improvement, because the tariff accrues to the Government and the equivalent licence to print money, if protection is provided by way of quotas, accrues to those people who hold the quotas. We cannot tell at this stage, and as far as I know the Government has not attempted to give any official estimate as to whether this measure effectively increases the rate of protection or whether it does not. But if it does effectively increase the rate of protection it will seriously erode the objective of the Government in reducing sales tax for motor vehicles because the additional profits are likely to be appropriated by the motor vehicle manufacturers rather than to be passed on to the public, as indeed, quite obviously, the level of protection provided for the clothing and footwear industries is appropriated by the manufacturers who have recorded average levels of profits on funds employed double that for manufacturing industry as a whole.
Finally, if Australian Ministers junketeering in Europe are not already regarded as galahs by the trade negotiation people of the EEC, they certainly will be regarded as galahs after this series of events. That is just comment. The Opposition’s real objection to this Bill, which will be the substance of the amendment, is that it appears to us that the proposed Act is, in fact, illegal because it is in conflict with an existing law of this country.
– I must commend Senator Walsh for contributing to this debate, on such short notice, in such an intelligent and resourceful way. I wish to add a few comments. I have not the expertise or the economic experience to support an argument in the way that Senator Walsh has done. However, I think it is reasonable to say from an ordinary layman’s point of view that the 12.5 per cent which has been imposed as a special additional levy on imports of certain finished goods is, to my mind, counter-productive to the intention which the Government has stated. The Schedule seems to refer to many items but on the last page it refers briefly to passenger motor vehicles and it does so on two occasions under two different classifications. It seems to me extraordinary that the Government should decide to reduce the rate of sales tax on vehicles from 2 7 te per cent to 15 per cent in order to stimulate the car industry and, in the words of the Government, to give some incentive to people to purchase vehicles by giving what on the surface is an attractive reduction in price. It will not work that way. It just does not ever work that way. The 12.5 per cent surcharge will lift the price of new cars imported into this country by 12.5 per cent. The Australian industry, whose sales have dropped considerably in the past because of the economic recession, will seek to recover its position. We will find that the price of Australian cars will start to move up to the price of imported cars, either at the point of manufacture or at the point of distribution. So really nothing has been gained, except the introduction into the economy of what I consider to be a highly inflationary measure.
If we look at the list of commodities to which the 12.5 per cent levy will apply we find that it begins with a very interesting item, namely, brandy. It then goes on to mention pilches. As we move down the list we find some very substantial consumer items which concern the every day family, including woven shirts, knitted undergarment shirts, babies napkins, women’s blouses, knitted coats, female outer garments, dressing gowns, swim wear, men’s shorts, men’s trousers. So we see that protection is being re-introduced to the textile industry. Although the textile industry in Australia has clamoured for it in the past, in the present circumstances it is unnecessary and to my mind highly inflationary. I cannot for the life of me understand why the Government- I think Senator Walsh has properly explained the situation- should impose this protection in such away.
I may sound repetitive, but I think honourable senators will understand why at times I become repetitive. Sometimes, of course, my purpose is to fill in time while waiting for a certain result to be achieved. It is my responsibility to move the amendment which the Australian Labor Party moved in the House of Representatives. There is a game which is played on the radio and which is called Just a Minute. The rules of that game are that a player should not repeat himself, should not pause and should not deviate. I have done all of those things, so I probably would not be very good al thai game! I trust that Iiic amendment is now being circulated. When I get a copy of it I will formally move it.
The Opposition does not intend to divide the Senate on this amendment. Government senators are possibly wondering why this week the Opposition has not divided the Senate on amendments. We on this side take the view that the House can take a week to settle down. Next week we will be dividing the Senate because I believe it is a procedure which we ought not to neglect. No matter how much we wish to cooperate, I feel it is necessary under the forms of the Senate to call for a division on important amendments. I am not speaking about trivial amendments. Amendments such as this one should be the subject of a division.
We in the Opposition might even possibly decide to remind the Government that it is responsible for the state of the House. I think it would be quite unfair if we were not to remind the Government of that responsibility from time to time. I think I have mentioned before that it is a sad reflection on the part of the Government on the President if, while he is in the chamber, he is not supported by a reasonable number of senators in attendance. For that reason, we give Government senators the necessary notice that while the President is in the chair, and perhaps for other reasons, from time to time we may draw attention to the state of the House. I do not intend to give support to my deputy who at the present dme is trying to get me to draw attention to the state of the House. I move the following amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That ‘, insert: the Senate declines to give the Bill a second reading until the Government gives the House a satisfactory explanation, inter alia, as to-
whether the Bill is in conflict with section 23 (3) and section 23 (4) of the Industries Assistance Commission Act;
why the Bill disregards the commitments accepted by Australia as signatory to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; and
what machinery will be used to ensure that the additional Customs duty will be paid from “monopoly profits” and will not be added to the price of the goods concerned ‘.
I trust that the House will consider that amendment and give it the support that is necessary.
– in reply- I thank honourable senators for their comments on this Bill. I note the various remarks that have been made by Senator Georges on this matter.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 16 August, on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– I do not have much more to add to this debate. I rose to speak on this matter last night just before the adjournment and therefore did not have time to complete my remarks. The principal reason why I rose was to point out to my Deputy Leader that I was one of the people who made a submission to the Privileges Committee. My submission was rather brief. In it I referred the Committee to the remarks that I made in the debate on this matter earlier this year. My colleague Senator Georges last night made the point that there was not much point in adding to what had already been said in the debate on the matter. This was one of the reasons why he did not make a submission. I held a similar view and just referred the remarks that I had made to the Committee. I am sure the Committee looked at them and considered them when it was deliberating on this matter.
The only other point I wish to raise in this debate is something that was also raised earlier last night by, I think, Senator McLaren. I reinforce the remarks that he made about the admission tags that are given to guests. Some of them have a notice on them stating that the holders are not to be admitted to the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms or that they are not valid for Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. This is something that should be looked at. An example of this occurred last night when my wife and other people were guests here. My wife was given an idenification card to wear which stated that she was not to be admitted to the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. Of course she was admitted. But I think it is a strange notation to be made on the identification given to guests who come to this place. Any further remarks that I could make about the report would be traversing again the same arguments that I made when we originally debated this question and therefore would be redundant. So with those few remarks I conclude my contribution to this debate.
– I have listened with interest to what Senator Colston had to say in presenting his views with respect to this report. J. think he might be confused with respect to the restrictions placed upon visitors in this place. I take it that his wife or my wife are at liberty to go into the parliamentary guests’ dining room and the areas set aside for such purposes. I would like someone ‘s clarification on this, but I take it that the term ‘Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms’ refers to those places to which only members of Parliament are allowed. That is my interpretation of it. That advice may assist Senator Colston and his wife in the future.
– I think, then, it should be made more clear what it means.
– I agree with that. Perhaps some light will be thrown upon this. This reference came to the Privileges Committee because of the disastrous happenings in Sydney- a most regrettable incident. Of course we do not want to see anything like that happen in Canberra. The Committee, of which I was a member, interviewed several witnesses. It was clear to us that there was some confusion in the minds of those in the two police forces that have some responsibility in this area. We considered that that presents problems and there should be some unity of protective police force when dealing with this place. I have just returned, together with Senator Colston, from overseas. I refer to the question of identification of parliamentary members. I would not wish to wear a badge with my face on it. It is bad enough to walk around with my face without having another one pinned on my -
– Your face is your identification.
– I have some objection to that and I am egotistical enough to believe that anyone on duty at the doors of Parliament House should recognise me when I come in. I cannot see any reason why senators and members should not carry their gold passes which have been provided to them at the expense of the taxpayer. I imagine that that would be a suitable means of identification. I can imagine how sartorial my friend, Senator Georges, would look if he had his gold pass draped around his tie in the form of a tie stay.
– There is one member who wears it on a chain around his neck; he looks like a stud bull.
– Honourable senators can place the interpretation on that as they wish. Senator Colston and I observed that in Japan members of parliament wear a neat little badge which I think looks tidy. If people decide on that form of identification, perhaps even Senator Georges and I might agree to that. The report of the Committee sums up pretty well the evidence that was presented to us by the people indicated in appendix A. I think I should pay a tribute to Senator Tom Drake-Brockman for the chairmanship he was able to perform during the Committee hearings. The Privileges Committee does not meet often. This was a significant effort on the part of the members of the Committee and I believe the report deserves the commendation of the Senate.
– The Senate has been considering together two orders of the day, General Business No. 2 and No. 41, relating to Parliament House security. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall put the questions relating to the two matters together.
Questions resolved in the affirmative.
– Pursuant to section 8 1 of the Reserve Bank Act 1959, 1 lay on the table the annual report of the Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia together with financial statements and the Auditor-General ‘s report thereon for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
Debate resumed from 1 3 April, on motion by Senator Sim:
That the Senate take note of the report. and from 28 February, on motion by Senator Knight:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
– I want to speak on the two reports which we are considering cognately, namely, the report from the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence of Australia and the South Pacific and the official report of the Australian Parliamentary delegation to the South Pacific. I had the privilege of being involved in both matters. I was a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and also a member of the Parliamentary delegation which visited the South Pacific in June and July 1977. 1 make the point that part of the purpose of participating in the Parliamentary delegation to the South Pacific in mid- 1 977 was related to my involvement with the Senate Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs and Defence in the inquiry which that Committee was then conducting into Australia and the South Pacific.
Firstly, I shall make a few points about the report of the Parliamentary delegation and about what was learnt on the visits which we made to various territories and countries in the South Pacific. One of the things which emerged, I think, was a very significant identity of views among members of that bipartisan delegation. There was an essential degree of bipartisanship in the approach to the South Pacific. The delegation was led by the Attorney-General, Senator Durack, who is in the chamber at the moment. One of the important elements was reflected in the fact that an Australian delegation was visiting the South Pacific and thereby symbolising the growing recognition of the significance of the small territories and countries of the South Pacific to Australia. For a long time the nations of the South Pacific were taken for granted, partly because for a long period they were territories of metropolitan powers beyond the region. Australia tended to take them for granted and they were treated as areas simply for trade, not really as neighbours and in no sense as equals.
In the years since the early 1960s when these countries began to become independent there has been a changing attitude on the part of Australia which has accelerated over the last few years. There is a growing recognition which I believe, as I will point out later, is reflected in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, that the South Pacific countries must be treated as neighbours on a basis of equality. There is a good deal of evidence now of that happening. Some of the recommendations made in the report of the Senate Standing Committee will contribute to that process being consolidated.
As I have mentioned, I shall refer to the parliamentary delegation which visited the South Pacific. The report begins by dealing with some regional matters. It is worth emphasising that the first of the regional institutions mentioned in the report is the South Pacific Commission. It was established shortly after the Second World War and was, to a very significant degree, supported and stimulated by the efforts of the then Australian Foreign Minister, Dr Evatt. I believe he had a very clear recognition of the future development of the South Pacific countries as independent national entities. He sought to further that process immediately after the war.
The South Pacific Commission, as the delegation discovered, faces some increasing problems because as the constitutional process has continued in the South Pacific the role of the Commission has tended to be questioned in some respects by the emerging countries of the region. For example, in more recent years- that is since 1970- the South Pacific Forum has tended to take over as the more significant representative organisation for the various independent and self-governing countries of the South Pacific. But over the last 30 years the Commission has played an important role- it continues to do so- in particular with respect to social and economic development in the region. I mention one aspect which I think is of particular importance because Australia can make a contribution to it and because many countries of the area are already participating, and that is in the development of fisheries. The South Pacific region is already a very important source offish protein.
The Commission is currently conducting a major investigation into the potential for the development of skipjack tuna fisheries which could be worth many hundreds of millions of dollars annually to the countries of the South Pacific. It has the potential for very significant development but it carries with it many equally significant problems. One problem is that as small South Pacific countries declare- as they have indicated they will do- their 200-mile economic zones, they will have considerable difficulties with surveillance and the policing of those zones in order to protect the economic resources of those zones which will fall within their jurisdiction. The most important immediate resource is protein and, in particular, skipjack tuna.
The Australian Government has contributed substantially, I think at the rate of about $250,000 a year, to that project, which is being led by an Australian expert in fisheries. It is a project which holds out great hopes for the smaller countries of the South Pacific because it concerns a resource they have great expertise in exploiting. They have gained experience over many generations. But it seems that there are great resources still to be exploited. This survey could be of special significance to them because of that fact. I think the development illustrates to a degree the changing role of the South Pacific Commission but also its continuing important role in areas such as social and economic development.
The delegation’s report also referred to the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation which is the secretariat of the South Pacific Forum. As I have already mentioned, the South Pacific Forum has tended to take over as the major political and economic forum in the South Pacific region. The members of the Forum are the independent and self-governing countries of the region. The South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation is now conducting important investigations into various aspects of future economic development in the South Pacific and also other areas of potential co-operation such as the South Pacific shipping line, civil aviation, telecommunications and a range of other areas.
The report also deals with the University of the South Pacific which is another major regional institution. Australia has provided some support to it. I hope that we will provide increasing support because the University of the South Pacific is of great importance in the development of the region. It is based in Fiji but has campuses in Samoa and, I think, in Tonga. It trains students from all over the South Pacific region. My knowledge of this matter is not as up-to-date as I would like it to be but when the delegation was there the University was very anxious to develop a marine resources centre. It was anxious that Australia should support that centre. This matter is referred to in the report. To me it seemed to be a proposal of considerable merit given the nature of the South Pacific region and the potential for the development of marine resources.
I shall refer briefly to a few of the countries which we visited. I think that one country of special interest to Australia at the moment, because of developments there, is the New Hebrides. The delegation found a problem of considerable proportions developing in the New
I Hebrides, one fraught with great complexity because of the interplay of race, language and re- ; ligion. We had talks with a number of the politia cai leaders and members of various political : organisations including the Tan Union and, in particular, the Vanuaaku Party. Again, my i knowledge about the situation in the New Hebrides is not so current as I would like it to be, but it is a situation that is fraught with difficul ties. Potentially, it is one of considerable significance to Australia. It is already of significance because t the New Hebrides is a close neighbour and a country in which Australia has considerable interests. It is of even greater potential significance because of what seems to be the potential for instability there if some of the forces that are currently at work have the effect that I fear they may have. I suppose we must hope that the i situation will be resolved peacefully and that those in the New Hebrides will act in the best interests of the people, the indigenous people in particular.
We visited the Solomon Islands briefly, but it is worth noting in passing that the Solomon Islands has since become an independent nation within the South Pacific region. Also worth mentioning is the fact that in economic terms that country is in perhaps a better position than are most other countries in the South Pacific. It has a particularly favourable economic balance in terms of resources and trading position and is probably looking forward to the future with considerable optimism. It has quite significant resources in some areas but, in common with so many other new nations, also has considerable problems. It is a nation with which Australia has worked closely. I am sure that we will continue to do so.
The delegation also spent some time in Nauru. Because Australia’s relations with that country have been so close for so long, most members would be familiar with it. It was one of the first in the South Pacific to achieve its independence, which it did in 1 968. On 30 January of this year it celebrated the tenth anniversary of its independence. I mention it not only to emphasise the significance of the relationship between that country and Australia, but also because I think that it is a unique international relationshippartly because of its closeness and partly because of the remarkable disparity between the two countries. Nauru is a tiny phosphate island in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean and has a small population. Australia, on the other hand, is a continent with a great diversity of resources, with 14 million people, and one that is a long way away across the Pacific Ocean. Despite that the two nations, for a number of reasons, have developed a very close and unique relationship, one to which Australia should pay close attention. That is important both to Australia and to the Nauruans.
Two other small but, in the South Pacific context, important countries that we visited have recently been going through the process of constitutional change and facing all the difficulties that go with that. I refer to the Gilbert Islands and what were once the Ellice Islands but are now known as Tuvalu. We visited both briefly and for the delegation- certainly for myself- what came out of that visit was the need of those countries, and particularly Tuvalu, which consists primarily of very small coral atolls, for assistance and the scope for Australia to provide it to them in their development. They tend to emphasise the special obligation of Australia in the South Pacific, first because of its proximity to them and, secondly, because most of these countries use Australian money, depend upon trade with Australia and get many of their basic resources from this country. We have a special obligation to them, and they have special needs, which we can meet. I hope we will continue to do that. When the delegation visited Western Samoa one of the points put to us was that Australia should have closer and more immediate diplomatic relationships with that country. It is worth while noting that an Australian diplomatic representative has since been appointed to Western Samoa. I am sure that, at a time when Australia’s development assistance program to Western Samoa is expanding very rapidly, the presence of an Australian diplomatic mission in Apia will contribute significantly to the development of that relationship.
We visited Tonga all too briefly. I must concede that it has a special place in my own thinking. I have visited it several times. Australia still does not have a mission in Tonga, but does have special ties with it. For example, a number of Tonga’s leaders have spent many years in Australia. And they play very good rugby union. Our relationships with Tonga are close. As I recall, Australia is represented in that country through our mission in Fiji, and members of the mission make regular visits to ensure that that relationship is maintained. I would only say in passing that considerable emphasis should be placed upon that relationship, even though it does not include resident diplomatic representation. It is important in terms of our political and economic relationships, and with respect to trade and developmental assistance, that
Australia maintain the closest possible ties with Tonga.
Fiji is a country of considerable significance in the South Pacific and the delegation spent some time there. I do not think it is necessary for me to emphasise the importance to Australia of either Fiji or New Zealand. They tend to be better known to Australians than do many of the other countries of the South Pacific to which I have referred. The significance of our relationships with the two countries are more generally recognised and understood. I therefore will not say very much about them, except to emphasise that, because those relationships have been of long standing, and because they are so close- and assumed to be by both sides- there does tend to be on occasion a tendency to take them for granted. That is the greatest risk in our relationships with them, but particularly with respect to New Zealand. I hope that, increasingly, we pay closer public attention to our relationship with New Zealand.
I would only add that Fiji must be recognised as perhaps the most influential nation in the Polynesian and Melanesian regions of the South Pacific. In saying that I would set aside Papua New Guinea which, as a Melanesian nation, has its own special relationship with Australia. Apart from that country, Fiji must be recognised as the most influential nation in the PolynesianMelanesian region- one of considerable economic importance and one to which Australia must continue to give the closest attention; a nation with which, in the interests of the whole South Pacific region, we must work cooperatively.
The report of the Senate Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee has been and will be dealt with by others and I shall refer to it only briefly. I know that the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Sim, will want to say a good deal more about it. It seems to me that the most significant element in the report is the suggested change in emphasis in Australia’s relations with the South Pacific. Our traditional relationship with all of the countries of the South Pacific, and in this respect Fiji is of particular significance, has been in economic and commercial terms. Because of the development of both of those aspects of our relationships, and because of the rapid growth of development assistance in the region, the existing relationship is likely to continue to a significant extent. The report has sought to suggest that those traditional elements ought at least to be modified by the continuing extension of diplomatic links, cultural, social and sporting ties and a closer identity by those means between Australia and the various countries of the South Pacific. The intention is that the emphasis ought to some extent at least be modified. Hopefully, we can then develop a more rounded relationship with each of the countries of the South Pacific.
In that context I think it is also worth making the point that each of those countries, small though they may be, must be treated as an independent entity with its own interests, its own problems and its own obligations and with which Australia must develop a unique bilateral relationship. While we can talk about the South Pacific quite reasonably as a region and we can perhaps refer to sub-regions of Micronesians, Melanesians and Polynesians, diplomatic relations and Australia’s relations with the region as a whole have to be based on strong bilateral relationships with each country, self-governing territory and those dependent territories that remain in the region. The important element in the Committee’s report is an attempt to suggest new areas where Australian policy might initiate new measures and new aspects of our relationships with these countries, thereby modifying to some extent the dominance of economic and commercial elements in our relationships.
Since this report was tabled I think that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has indicated that in future Ministers will be required within six months of the tabling of a parliamentary committee report to respond to each of the recommendations in that report. If I am correct in my recollection that the tabling of this report occurred after that directive being issued, I hope that this report will be given some special treatment. Perhaps the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) might give a detailed statement on the various recommendations. I believe they have particular significance for the continuing development of a healthy and effective relationship for Australia with the various countries in the South Pacific.
Senator MclNTOSH (Western Australia) (8.33)- I concur with quite a lot of what Senator Knight said but I should like to emphasise that if any Senate standing committee has a term of reference that involves the lifestyles of people, the geographical background of a region, and a complete understanding of the relationship between Australia and some other country, the report it brings down should be a fairly authoritative judgment on that term of reference. There are two important things we should bear in mind.
The most important factor of all is that a committee can bring down a report only on the evidence submitted to it. It cannot bring down a report on anything other than the evidence which comes before it. This may be gathered from the documents submitted to it or by crossexamination of witnesses. We narrow the field when we look at a broad term of reference because the only people who will bring evidence before a committee are a particular section of articulate people, those who are willing to submit a document in writing or come before the committee and give oral evidence. I feel that this is a rather narrow basis upon which to make a judgment. It is time that the Senate had a good look at this situation and realised that a committee requires a lot more exposure to the people, the country or the situation on which it is making judgment.
Senator Knight reported his experience around the Pacific Islands. It was nice to hear his report, but it was not a report from the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence; it was a report from a separate delegation. The Committee was certainly advantaged by the experience of Senator Knight and Senator Brown who were members of that delegation. The point I would emphasise is this: We should give consideration to this aspect. After all, we can look ridiculous and be held up to ridicule by people. I believe that on one occasion a Committee member, talking about the Committee’s report was held up as a laughing stock when he was asked whether the Committee had visited the Pacific Islands. He could only say no. I feel that the report that this Committee brought down was quite good, but it could have been much better had we been exposed to the situation that exists in the Pacific Islands.
– I rise to speak in this debate for two reasons. Firstly, naturally enough, I wish to speak on the report. Secondly, I wish to complain about the delay in debating committee reports such as this. I believe that it should be compulsory that committee reports be debated within a period of, say, six months. I know that something has been done along those lines, but I think that the situation could be better. Time could be set aside weekly, if necessary, for consideration of committee reports. This is especially necessary in relation to foreign affairs when events pass us by very quickly.
Unfortunately, it is often the case that by the time a report on foreign affairs is debated events have passed us by. We have a general debate on the subject and not a debate on the report itself.
For example, I was on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which reported on Australia and the Middle East. That was a very good report. Unfortunately, when it was debated in the Senate, a great deal of time afterwards, a general debate took place on what had happened in the Middle East, and some of the crucial things we brought forward in that report were ignored. One of them was oil storage capacities in this country, something of concern to all of us. Instead we talked about the rights of the Israelis and the Palestinians and other things that had occurred in the Middle East. I was a member of that Committee. I did not get a chance to speak on the report.
– That debate lapsed, didn’t it?
-When the time for the debate finished a number of senators were still on the speaker’s list and we did not get a chance to speak in it. In December 1976 this Committee called for submissions of evidence on its reference. Hearings commenced on 22 April 1977. The Committee concluded the taking of evidence on 1 September 1977. Now we are debating the Committee’s report in August 1978, nearly 12 months later. I do not feel that this is satisfactory.
Senator Mcintosh raised the issue of the Committee visiting the area. Although three members of the Committee were able to visit certain countries in the South Pacific region these visits were not directly related to the Committee’s reference. Throughout the inquiry, the Committee was aware of the limitations its deliberations may have suffered due to the lack of opportunity to canvass firsthand the views and opinions of the South Pacific Islanders on the subject and to inspect relevant aspects of Australia’s work and involvement in the countries. I believe that Senator Knight attended a conference at the Australian National University. In answer to questions from some academics he had to say that the Committee wrote a report but that it did not go to the South Pacific. I know that some people would say that such a visit was a jaunt. I am sure that members of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee would not expect to go to the Middle East. We were inquiring into the South Pacific area, which is an area close by. We used interstate travel entitlements to attend meetings of the Committee in Perth. These entitlements certainly would have enabled us to visit at least one or two of the centres in the South Pacific where we could have talked with some of the people concerned.
It is fair to say that in the past our presence in the South Pacific has not always been of benefit to the South Pacific. Our attitudes have changed as have those of the South Pacific countries. I hope that the change will develop into better relations and understanding between Australia and the South Pacific nations. If there is a theme in this report it is probably summed up in the paragraph which states:
Because of its relative size and proximity Australia has been and remains a prominent feature on the South Pacific horizon. While there are clear signs of a new awareness in Australia of its South Pacific neighbours and an increased participation in the affairs and development of the region there remains some uncertainty and scepticism in the region as to Australia’s role. But there is increasing acceptance that a genuine effort is being made by Australia to be a partner in the region and to contribute to its progress. Australia has made a substantial increase in its financial contribution to the development of South Pacific countries but the Committee realizes that money alone cannot ensure friendship, win respect or necessarily promote development.
We went on to mention Australia ‘s relations with the South Pacific. We covered the way we should go about improving them. Again I think that perhaps the position is best summed up from the report, when we stated:
It is recommended that Australia’s initiatives should convey the message that close and friendly relations are desired equally with all South Pacific countries and that no one country should predominate in Australia’s diplomacy. While Australia has responsibilities towards Papua New Guinea this does not relegate other countries to a secondary position in our considerations.
The Committee believes that it is important for Australia to encourage and welcome further diplomatic representation from the region in Australia and recommends that assistance should be given to the establishment of this representation where possible. The Committee notes that Australia has recently increased its diplomatic missions and extended its representation in the region and recommends that this high level of representation be maintained and kept under review.
I wish now to deal with some of the recommendations that the Committee made. I shall not deal with all of them. Firstly, I make a few remarks about the Committee’s recommendations on trade.
In one of our recommendations on trade we stated:
While Australia’s commercial image in the South Pacific region is improving, it is recommended that close liaison between the Australian Government and Australian firms operating or intending to establish businesses in the South Pacific be promoted. Intending firms should be made aware of the host government’s business guidelines to ensure that an acceptable code of business conduct is maintained.
It is unfortunate that we have had a bad image in the past. I think that our image is improving. But I think it was a pity that one of the major firms working in the area did not co-operate with the Committee. I refer to W. R. Carpenter Holdings Ltd. That company was criticised, as was a number of other Australian firms. Companies such as Burns Philp and Co. Ltd, the Bank of New South Wales and Rheem Australia Ltd were all accused of exploiting people in the South Pacific. I think it is fair to say that representatives of all of those companies I have just mentioned came along and presented their points of view to the Committee. Burns Philp admitted that it had made some serious mistakes in the past, but at least it allayed some of the fears that the Committee had about that company’s role in the South Pacific at the moment. It is a pity that Carpenters could not see its way clear to do exactly the same. Because it did not I am afraid it has left us with the opinion that its attitude is not the right one for the South Pacific at the present time.
In the report we dealt then with Australian development assistance and development assistance identification, on which we made recommendations. We dealt then with the environment. This was one of the issues which I thought was particularly important because the South Pacific region is fortunate in relation to environmental matters. Comparatively little damage has occurred there, with the exception of Nauru and Ocean Island, where the mining of rock phosphate has caused serious harm to the natural surroundings. Of course, many of the countries in the area have expressed concern about the environmental damage that might have been caused by French nuclear testing in the region. That was an important issue. Another important issue was the fact that plans had been made for super tanker ports to be built on or near some of the islands in the South Pacific. When we dealt with this matter I was very pleased to find out that most of the countries involved were extremely aware of the environmental damage that could occur and also were extremely aware of the dangers that the French nuclear tests could pose for them.
The Committee dealt with urbanisation, employment, education and health. On health, I and the rest of the Committee were amazed at what has happened to the people in the area. The changes in lifestyles due to increasing contact with1 the outside world have increased the incidence of diseases previously unknown in the region- for example, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. The Committee recommended that Australia should continue to fund regional medical projects for the study and treatment of these diseases. It was a serious problem. When the Committee was made aware of the facts and saw some of the statistics we were amazed at the decline in the health standards of some of these people in the South Pacific because of their increased contact with the West.
We dealt with social welfare and with cultures and traditions. I thought that the area of cultures and traditions was most vital. The Committee acknowledged the unique lifestyle of the islanders and endorsed the views often expressed by island leaders on the importance of their cultural heritage in maintaining these unique lifestyles. This was where we came into what seemed to be a paradoxical situation because the South Pacific is an area where internal communications are breaking down. It is not like the rest of the world where, with modern transportation, people are coming more and more in touch with the South Pacific. In fact, at the moment the trend internally in the South Pacific region is going the other way. One of the main reasons for this is that these days, with the international flights tending to over-fly the Pacific completely, there has been a breakdown of communications within the area. If one looks at the number of places where Qantas Airways Limited and Pan Am used to land aircraft in the South Pacific and then looks at the places where it lands planes now one finds that more and more communities have been cut off from communication, especially from Australia. We now have a situation where a flight flies from Sydney to San Francisco non-stop and completely over-flies Fiji, Hawaii- the lot. Only a few years ago the aircraft used to go to Western Samoa and a number of other islands- island hopping in the area. In fact, it was brought to the attention of the Committee that it was quicker to fly from Sydney to London or to Washington than it was, say, to go to Tonga or to American Samoa.
A regional airline should be the answer, but of course regional airlines have not been a success; they have been a failure. It is an unfortunate fact that, no matter what work has been done by Qantas or by Air New Zealand, the nations of the South Pacific seem to all want their own airline. The result is that most of the airlines are losing money; the services are bad; there is competition and rivalry; and the network of communications in the South Pacific that only a few years ago was quite intensive is breaking down. Of course, what happens then is that the countries ask: ‘What do we do to get over this breakdown? How do we get people back and improve our economic situation?’ They turn to tourism. I believe, and I am sure that the rest of the Committee believes, that tourism is not the answer. We had some quite strong words to say about tourism. Concern was expressed to the Committee about the effect of tourism on the quality of life in the South Pacific.
The Committee is conscious of the dilemma faced by the island governments and leaders in trying to rationalise the benefits of a tourist industry against its possible adverse impact on their people. On the one hand, much needed revenue is brought to a region by travellers. On the other hand, tourism contributes to urbanisation, dependence on foreign goods, possible downgrading of island cultures, increased prostitution and possible misuse of the environment. The thoughtless behaviour of some Australian tourists does little to foster friendly relations. The Committee is aware that the ‘Ugly Australian’ image is not unknown in the South Pacific. It is essential for the islanders to determine whether the benefits of tourism outweigh the social costs. The Committee noted that most island governments had adopted a more cautious approach to the development of tourism. The Committee is of the opinion that the Australian Government should consider action to ensure that Australian tourists going on to the South Pacific have available to them information on the traditions, culture and way of life of the islanders before their arrival. I think that that sums up the situation extremely well. Need I say any more?
I was very pleased to hear Senator Knight remark on the role of Dr Evatt in the region. If one looks back at the history of the South Pacific region and at the history of Australia’s involvement there one sees that Dr Evatt was perhaps the leading person to try to bring Australia into contact with the region. All of the recommendations of the Committee about which I have spoken present some of the major problems that face South Pacific governments. Australia’s development assistance effort should be directed at alleviating some of these difficulties, but it should be done in such a way that we observe the wishes and the priorities that these governments determine for themselves. We are not helping them because we have any motive or wish to dominate their affairs but because we should be and want to be a good neighbour in a peaceful region. Our image is improving in the South Pacific but the task is not complete. So our efforts and help to these people is part of an ongoing program among a very small and sensitive group of countries that is extremely important to the future of Australia.
– I appear at this stage to be the only senator to be involved in the discussion who is not a member of the Committee. One is a little reluctant to intrude into an area which has been contributed to for some time this evening by a series of experts and people who have been involved in the preparation of the report. It is a matter in which I evince some personal interest as a result of certain experiences. I think all members of the Senate are aware of Australia’s relations with the South Pacific rather more acutely than we were a little while ago. Therefore the Senate is very grateful for the opportunity of discussing this report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. When an item like Australia and the South Pacific is referred to a Senate Standing Committee that reference reflects a considerable area of Australian thinking. I think it would be true to say that more and more Australian people are taking an interest in the South Pacific. A considerable amount of this interest stems from the concept to which reference has already been made and from the ability of a greatly increased number of Australians to travel through and around the South Pacific region. Additionally the events of history in both the long term and the last 30 years have focused on the great potential of Australia’s relations with the South Pacific. Again the matters of education and the concept of international relations and co-operation have all developed very considerably and have invoked the interest and involvement of more and more Australian people.
The report does well to introduce its content with some historical references and remind everyone of the various circumstances relating to the historical development of the relations between Australia and the South Pacific. Some of these relationships have been of a colonial nature whilst in latter days we have seen the development of commercial and economic issues. This development, both commercial and economical, has been well described in this report as inevitable. I think it is inevitable given the attitudes and general circumstances over a considerable period of time of the international order. It is not surprising that following the Committee’s hearings and the preparation of its report a very early recommendation in that report deals with Australia’s initiatives and relationships with all the Pacific countries. The report states:
Mr Acting Deputy President, this is a very desirable principle and it reads well. The theme is supportive even allowing for our special relationship with Papua New Guinea. The expression of this theory may have elements of difficulty in interpretation. After all, there is a very wide range of difference between South Pacific nations. Some of them are more developed than others; some are or used to be on the highways of the Pacific and in a position of what I would call a more immediate relationship; others have what I would describe as a colonial relationship; and others again are more recently emerging and enjoying a status of independence. Others again are very small indeed whilst others consist of very widely scattered, lonely territories. Whilst equality in status and in relationship may be our desire and achievement, I think as I read the report that I must draw attention to the fact that we must always have concern for effectiveness in our results and in our understanding.
I think the report does well to remind us that considerable emphasis needs to be given to the fact that what the Committee has been looking at covers not only a wide demographic area but also a wide range of cultures, interests and, indeed, lifestyles. I am reminded of my own experiences of travelling through the area in another capacity. I do not think we should overlook the fact that through the centre of the area which has been the subject of the Committee’s attention is the international date Une. If the Committee had visited Tonga it would have been reminded many times that the people in Tonga are the first people in the world to greet each new day. In Fiji it most certainly would have been presented with a newspaper which amongst other things described itself as the ‘first paper published in the world each morning’. On one ‘s travels from one part of the South Pacific to another one crosses the international date line. On one occasion when I asked whether I should adjust my watch in moving from one place to another a stewardess of the airline reminded me as I was approaching the next port of call that it would be the same time but a different day.
It is important to recognise the place of the South Pacific in today’s world. The South Pacific area is one of the three areas in the world where there is a major concentration of what are described as micro States. The other two areas are the Caribbean and the Persian Gulf. In this concentration of micro States of the South Pacific Australia’s position is unique. It is unique because it has a combination of opportunity on the one hand and responsibility on the other. Australia is the only western style nation in the world which is surrounded by such a number and such a wide variety of what I would call small States. I stress that in our relationship with the South Pacific we need to develop within our total foreign policy an element of attitude to small States. An attitude to small States is something at which we need to look very carefully. It must never be a paternalistic attitude. It may take on an emphasis of an avuncular attitude but on the other hand we must always understand that we must have a flexibility in our relationship and a readiness to be part of this community of small States, in our own particular way.
While the small States to which I am referring in the South Pacific may grow in productivity and whilst they may- as indeed they are doingraise their standards of living and improve their quality of life, we must never overlook the fact that their cultural backgrounds, their styles of living, their attitudes and, indeed, their total inheritances are quite different from ours. Their hopes for the future are quite different from ours. Unlike people who are reared in an Australian society, they may not have given a great deal of thought to their hopes for the future and indeed to their quality of life in the future. Therefore the Committee has in its report very properly drawn attention to the constitutional development of the South Pacific nations and has reminded us all of the very many problems, opportunities, circumstances and relationships that closer contacts with external countries have yielded. This has not only been of benefit to the countries concerned but also has reminded countries like Australia of their total interdependence in world affairs. As everybody knows, external countries are becoming increasingly conscious of the South Pacific countries, and the various contacts and relationships are multiplying. There may be mutual advantages in all of this. I suppose it is easy enough to write them down on paper, but I do not think that we should overlook the complexities that arise as these contacts and elements of interdependence are developed.
One of my interests in the report, and indeed in the area, revolves around the matter of international assistance, Australian development assistance and co-operative development or whatever name one chooses to use. I notice that the Committee placed on record its welcoming of the fact that the new development assistance initiatives by Australia in the South Pacific had been achieved and it drew attention to the need for careful planning and a constant assessment of the needs of the area. Bearing in mind the wide geographical area which it covered, bearing in mind the various ethnic, cultural and other needs of the area, there is always a need for a program of flexibility. The report went on to say that while acknowledging that development assistance is already being directed to many of the problem areas covered by the report, the Committee, by making recommendations in relation to development assistance wishes to emphasise that there is a continuing need for attention in these areas. The assistance that Australia has given to the South Pacific has grown over the years. As far back as 1976 the Minister for Foreign Affairs announced at a meeting of the South Pacific Forum in Suva that there had been a revised and expanded program of Australian development assistance. The Minister said the commitment was $60m for a three-year period from 1 July 1976. For the previous three-year period the assistance had been about $15m. I point out that not only was the new commitment significant in content but also it reflected some of the things which are set down in this Committee’s report. It included grants to support such things as national development banks and related finan- cialinstitutionswhichprovidedirectcreditto small farmers and other business enterprises. He indicated that where appropriate Australia would meet local costs of development assistance projects and initiate a scheme to provide assistance with the funding of joint commercial ventures. Although Australia’s South Pacific aid program showed that the Government had a recognition of these developments, it was seeking to do more than merely donate dollars. We must, as the report reminds us and as I think the Government’s program indicates, constantly seek out the best ways to effect development assistance so that the recipients are strengthened and are not kept weak by continuing dependence upon any aid programs.
I move from the aid program to a segment in the report which deals with education. The report says that the Committee endorses the move by island governments to make education curricula more relevant to island life. Accordingly the Committee recommended that Australia should examine the extent to which it can assist with the provision of facilities for technical, agricultural, marine, mechanical, medical and social welfare training. The Committee was careful to point out that this training should be consistent with island requirements and that preferably the training should be in the islands. Whilst there is value in the training facilities in Australia and whilst training could be undertaken in Australia, it is preferable that where practicable it should be established at the relevant point within the area of the South Pacific. The Committee further welcomed regional co-operation in education and it made a special reference to the University of the South Pacific and its role in educational matters throughout the islands of the South Pacific. As one who has had the opportunity of visiting the University of the South Pacific, I have observed a very great interest in Australian educational methods and the role of Australian education as such in the development of that University not only in Fiji but also in its extension throughout the area that is covered by the Committee’s report. The provision of effective education and information is the provision of an asset of incalculable value, and if I may say so I think it is also of permanent value.
It is true that our aid programs over the years have had their aspects of well-meaning, but I think the time has come when there has to be a new approach and a new flexibility in relation to educational programs from the point of view of not only providing opportunities for students but also making available facilities in the adult and community sense and taking advantage of world developments both technically and educationally, including developments in education which make various information and resource material available in a form which is most useful to the people who are receiving it. I have found from my own experience that the people of the South Pacific today are certainly much more culturally assertive than they used to be and above all- this is very obvious- they are much more confident now than they once were. They are well aware of the values of education and of information resource material. As one who is an enthusiast for the whole world of libraries, as everybody here knows, I say that it is quite unwise to suggest the sorts of libraries which we have in this country should be established in the islands, because even if they were transported to the areas of the South Pacific, they may not meet the needs of the people. Therefore continuing attention must be given to the matter of resource material that is available and suitable for the people who live within the South Pacific area.
The only other thing I wanted to say in relation to this report deals with the world of parliament. As honourable senators may very well know, for two years it was my privilege to be what was called the Australasian representative on the executive of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and within my area were not only the parliaments of the Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand, but also the parliaments or legislatures of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Gilbert Islands, Tuvalu, Fiji, Niue, Tonga and the Cook Islands. It was my responsibility- a very pleasant one, as I am sure everyone will appreciate- to visit these parliaments and legislatures. In an earlier period of last year I undertook that assignment. Of course it was a very interesting assignment, from my point of view, to visit the various branches of the CPA throughout the South Pacific. When I fulfilled the appointments with the officers of the various branches of the CPA in all of their legislatures, it was very apparent that we were able to get over the formalities very quickly indeed. I went to those places purely as a CPA representative, but I also went to them, as was very quickly made apparent to me, as a senator from the Australian Parliament and therefore the questions, the demands, the inquiries and the seeking were put very heavily upon my shoulders, upon my plate and upon my notes.
I want to refer to the very important role that the Australian Parliament has to play in the development of the countries of the South Pacific. The legislatures of the smaller states, of course, are just emerging, and they are modelling themselves one way or other on the Westminster system. They wanted assistance; they wanted advice; they wanted education; they wanted opportunity; and above all they wanted the nation of Australia and the Parliament of Australia to be interested in them and to help them.
I come back to the matter which I have mentioned a couple of times already, and that is the establishment of parliamentary libraries. It is perfectly understood that a parliamentary library such as the one we have in this place is not applicable to the legislatures in many of the areas which come within the South Pacific region. It is equally true to say that our experience with the Parliamentary Library here in Canberra enables us to make whatever is an appropriate, useful and effective contribution to the library situation within the legislatures of the South Pacific. Librarians or office bearers from many of those legislatures have been coming to and from the Library in Parliament House in Canberra, obtaining advice, training and experience and, indeed, having their horizons widened as to the possibilities and the opportunities that are open in developing legislative resource centres within their own particular legislatures. Obviously this cannot be done quickly. It has to be geared to the needs of the legislature concerned.
I want to underline to the Chairman and the members of the Committee that in their work in this reference and, indeed, in the report which they put down in the Senate, they may very well have done the parliaments and legislatures of the South Pacific area a considerable service by reminding them and us that there is an interdependence at this level which I am sure will be of benefit not only to the legislatures in the Pacific areas but also, through the legislatures, to the people who are affected by them. The matter is an on-going one. Already we have had a visit from the Speaker and the Clerk of the Parliament of Papua New Guinea who spent some time here in this building and in this Parliament. There has also been a visit by members of the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament of Papua New Guinea who have conferred with our own Public Accounts Committee and have taken note of the style, the practice and the procedure of the operations of the Public Accounts Committee in this Parliament.
Officers from the legislature of Tuvalu are coming here soon to look at the systems and the operations in this place and also, recognising that they are in a different position, they are proceeding to look at the legislature within the Northern Territory, bearing in mind that they have a territorial legislation and by association with the Northern Territory legislature they will be able to gain some advantage. In the middle of September, a few weeks from now, a delegation of three members plus the Clerk from the Solomon Islands legislature will be visiting Canberra, again in connection with their public accounts and other parliamentary and legislative building accounts operations. So there is a whole range of areas where Australia has a relationship with the South Pacific. In these days, Papua New Guinea, with which we have a special connection and interest, has embraced its own Independence and as a gift for its Independence, the Parliament of New Zealand has given to the Parliament of Papua New Guinea a parliamentary library. Within the last few days the Librarian of the New Zealand Parliament passed through here on his way back to Wellington from a visit to Port Moresby. Australia’s gift to Papua New Guinea for its Independence, as we have, heard in the Senate before, is a national library. The National Library of Australia has been very much involved in setting up that library, both in its construction and in its collection and, indeed, in the programs which will provide an information resource centre for Papua New Guinea. Here again, this extends the relationship between Australia and the whole of the South Pacific area.
My visit as a regional counsellor on behalf of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association convinced me of the urgent need for increased communications in both radio and transportation fields. I hope that this Committee, perhaps on some occasion in the future, will look at the developing needs of the South Pacific recognising, as I said right at the outset, that we are in the heart ofthe South Pacific. We are the largest and most developed country within the South Pacific.
We are surrounded by a great company of small states, all of which are looking to Australia not only for a lead but also for understanding, support, assistance and co-operation. Therefore, the Senate is indebted to one of its own committees not only for this report but also for alerting the Parliament and indeed the Australian community to the relationship that we have with the area, our responsibility to it and our opportunity to help it.
-One of the problems that we seem to have in this place when debating reports such as this is the time lag between when the Committee starts and finishes its reference, and the documents are tabled and when we actually get around to debating them. The Senate Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee has now finished taking evidence on a further reference, and here we are just debating the report that was put down some months ago. Over that period one ‘s memory slips a little and at times it is hard to recall where one heard certain evidence, and to which committee it was given. So if some of my remarks tonight are a little confusing it is because I am confused and cannot remember exactly where evidence was given and who gave the evidence before the Committee.
Back in April when the report was put down I mentioned the inability of the Committee to travel. I think it is a matter that must be reiterated until such time as some action is taken. That point was brought up this evening by my colleague, Senator Sibraa, who said that on a previous reference members of the Committee travelled from eastern Australia to Perth and back again and no one raised any queries about it. I suppose the man in the street on the average wage would consider it to be a rather costly exercise. But when it comes to travelling beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth the Committee is stuck with this restriction. Quite frankly, I believe that it is not beyond possibilitypresupposing that the report will be read by the indigenous people in the South Pacific- that the Committee could be accused of being pretenders, great white fathers or colonisers because we were unable to go out there and talk to the people. If my memory serves me correctly, on this reference the Committee spoke to only two indigenous people. I stand corrected. Some other members of the Committee may have a better memory, but to the best of my knowledge we spoke to only two indigenous people from the South Pacific.
– That is apart from two of us who were fortunate enough to be able to travel separately.
– This is entirely true. Just by chance, both of those people were resident in Australia at that time. I do not believe that a committee can be totally sure it is bringing down an unbiased report when it speaks to only two people of the thousands of people who belong in that area of the world.
Earlier I mentioned the question of trade and quarantine regulations. I hope that our Department of Trade and Resources and our quarantine people will look very closely at this reference because it appeared to the Committee on evidence submitted to it that there is the possibility of importing into our large capital cities what might be termed exotic fruits and vegetables at times when those particular exotic fruits are not available from Australian sources. Also it may well be that the quarantine regulations which currently apply are totally unnecessary. So I hope that that is one matter that will be investigated.
The Committee also raised the question of the inability of the peoples of the South Pacific to sit in the forums of the world where trade discussions are going on. The Committee made certain recommendations in that regard and said:
To help overcome the relatively short term experience and lack of representation of many South Pacific countries in international trade meetings and marketing promotion, it is recommended that Australia, if the Island Governments request consider
presenting Island views at international trade meetings and/or inviting Island representatives to accompany Australian missions and delegations as observers.
attaching Island trainees or officers to Australian Trade Commissioner Offices overseas for training and promoting their countries’ products in countries where they are not represented.
assisting where appropriate with the marketing of Island goods but taking into account the interests of Australian producers.
That is another recommendation to which one hopes the Government will give serious consideration. The question of the environment in the South Pacific was raised also. On page 5 of the Committee ‘s report it states:
The South Pacific region is fortunate in relation to environmental matters, as comparatively little damage has occurred, with the exception of Nauru and Ocean Island . . .
The Committee then went on to make some observations about French nuclear testing in the Pacific. From the evidence we could gather, certainly there was little evidence of environmental damage, but I think we should take the time to have a further look at what has happened on Ocean Island over the last decade. Those of us in Australia who have an agricultural background are very much aware of the great benefit that superphosphate has had on agriculture in this country. In fact, in my lifetime agriculture in Australia has been lifted by all sorts of means from a peasant type existence to what it is today. Surely one of the most basic tools that Australian primary producers have had over the last 40 or 50 years has been superphosphate.
With the help of other nations we have stripped Ocean Island bare. A comment which appeared somewhere in the Press recently was attributed to one of the personnel on the British Phosphate Commission who was reported to have said that it would be impractical to do what the Banabans are now asking, and that is to resoil their island. We desoiled it. We are not prepared- no one seems to be prepared- to resoil the island and allow those people to go back to their homeland. To me that reeks of blatant colonialism. While this nation climbed the ladder through agriculture to secondary industry and to tertiary industry, largely with the help of superphosphate, we denuded a complete island and deprived the people of their home. Despite court hearings in England it now appears that these people will be forever deprived of their homeland. If Australia’s name, along with the names of some other countries, smells somewhat in the South Pacific, we have only ourselves to blame. I believe that largely we would still be peasant farmers except for the advent of superphosphate. I say that as a person who has a farming background.
I wish to mention another matter involving the environment. Some information came to me in recent weeks from a friend who travelled recently to’ Bougainville. Late in 1945 I was fortunate enough or unfortunate enough to be at what was then the pre-war capital of Bougainville, Keita. The only memory I have of it is a largely unspoiled area of land except for some war damage caused at that time in isolated areas. This friend of mine who has returned in recent weeks from a visit to the mining operation informs me that the tailings from the present mine have polluted and are continuing to pollute at a very high rate the river that takes them away from that mine. He expressed the opinion’ that that will change the landscape in the immediate area. So now it seems that Bougainville is to be fraught with an area which is environmentally damaged. That situation will continue while the operation continues there.
One other matter I would like to mention concerns the Committee’s recommendation in the report in relation to youth and sporting exchanges. I suppose there are no more easygoing, friendly, hospitable, homely people anywhere in the world than the people of the Pacific Islands. Any of us who have ever been there, any of us who have ever read any stories at all about the South Pacific, have been made very much aware of the lifestyle, the friendliness, the homeliness and the hospitality of these people. We do not really see very many of them in Australia. By and large we do not see any groups of Pacific Island people in Australia, except on relatively rare occasions. I believe that as a nation we should be looking towards promoting more contact between our own young people and the younger people of the South Pacific. They are extremely good sportsmen; they are extremely good dancers. The music they play would lull one to sleep, or to love, or to doing something else. It is extremely charming music. After a couple of beers I could dance all night to it.
I believe that this is a matter at which governments and perhaps private enterprise, as the Committee recommends, may well look with a view to sponsoring cultural or sporting groups from some of these islands in order to bring about that shoulder-rubbing with the youth of Australia. I believe that we as a nation are still a very racist people. I had hoped that with the advent of the younger generation some of that racism would have died out. Quite frankly, when I hear some of the remarks of some of the younger people in our society today I am horrified. Perhaps one of the better ways of trying to overcome that situation would be to let them rub shoulders with the people of the South Pacific. They are a people with a different culture, but because of their friendliness and the way in which they operate, such an exchange may well be a way of starting to break down the racism in our society.
I wish to thank those members of the Committee who took part in this examination. I refer to the matter of the inability of the Committee to travel. I think it was Senator Davidson who made some remarks along the lines that he hoped that the Committee would look at this matter again some time in the future. I certainly hope that if that time ever comes the members of the committee, whoever they may be, will be able to travel there and have a grass roots look at what is going on.
I was about to conclude my remarks but I just remembered another point I wish to raise. I think this matter may have been mentioned in evidence given in relation to another reference made to the Committee. I refer to the matter of the inability of the officers of the Australian Development Assistance Bureau to travel and to look at projects. I think that is a tragedy. I believe that in the aid area of the Department of Foreign Affairs we have some exceedingly fine young men. I say ‘young men’ because they are younger than me.
– And women.
– And women, yes; I am sorry. We have some very young people working in that area. As those people presented themselves before the Committee it was obvious they were certainly much younger than the average age of officers in the Department of Foreign Affairs. They were extremely Ween, capable young people. They feel very frustrated at the fact that they are unable, because’ of the limitations imposed by the vote for any given project, to have a look at what is happening. That again is of great disadvantage to this country. How are we to know and how are they to know what is the gut feeling of the ordinary, common people out in those countries about our aid projects unless they can go and see? That is just the position in which this Committee was placed.
-in reply- For the second time I participate in this debate. I thank those speakers, particularly the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and Senator Davidson who have spoken tonight. I think the debate highlights the point made by Senator Primmer in relation to the need for reports from Senate committees to be debated as close to the time of presentation as possible and not, as sometimes happens, when events have overtaken recommendations of the reports. Today world international relations move very quickly and events can quickly catch up with and pass what is at the time the current assessment. It always seems a pity that we have to talk about reports which are three or four months oldsometimes when events have overtaken their recommendations. The debate highlights the urgent need for reports to be debated quickly after they have been presented. I think Senator Sibraa mentioned the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) recently gave a directive to Ministers that they must respond to parliamentary committee reports within six months of their presentation. Perhaps six months is a long time. Nevertheless, I think that is a forward development. Although this report was tabled before that directive was issued, I trust that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) will respond quickly to it.
I pay tribute to the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. We operate in an area of sensitivity. At times there are party disagreements, as will always happen. But it is remarkable that all of the reports of this Committee since its formation in 1970 have been unanimous. This is because we as senators can sit down to examine the evidence impartially, talk about it, compromise where necessary and compile reports which, despite the difficulties, have been extremely substantial. That we can do this is indicative of the type of co-operation and understanding which we senators have with one another. I thank all members of the Committee, and Senator Davidson, who have spoken tonight. Indeed, they have left little for me to say because between them they have covered the report in considerable detail.
Senator Primmer and Senator Mcintosh referred to the problems committees such as the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee have because of their inability to travel. Senator Primmer referred to the lack of evidence that the Committee received from the South Pacific itself. This was not our fault. We wrote to a great number of people in the South Pacific to ask them to submit evidence to us. But because of, I suppose, their lack of confidence in some cases, their humility, we received little direct evidence except from two people who were temporarily resident in Australia. I pay a tribute to Mr Sione Tupouniua who is doing post graduate studies at the Australian National University and who is a lecturer at the South Pacific University in Suva. He was an adviser to the Committee. I am sure the Committee would wish me to say that his contribution and understanding were a tremendous help to us. We all formed a great friendship with and affection for him during our inquiry.
We were fortunate to the extent that some members of the Committee had travelled in the South Pacific. Of course Senator Knight as a serving officer in the Department of Foreign Affairs had served there. Senator Primmer had visited the South Pacific and Senator Mcintosh, on his own initiative, visited the area. I had the opportunity to attend the South Pacific Conference in Pango Pango in September of last year and took the opportunity of visiting some of the countries of the South Pacific on my way. Of course this was invaluable. But I do not think it compensates for the inability of the Committee to travel as a committee and to talk as a committee to leaders and other people in the region.
This matter has concerned us for a long time. It is about time that the Parliament controlled its own affairs in these matters.
Having said that, because of the thoroughness with which this report has been debated I wish to comment on only a few matters. I draw the attention of the Senate to the explanatory note on page 1 of the report which was an important observation. It states:
In this report the terms ‘South Pacific countries’, ‘Islands’ and ‘Islanders’ are used extensively. The use of this terminology is for literary convenience only and the Committee stresses that it has been very aware throughout the inquiry that the South Pacific consists of independent sovereign states, self-governing states and territories. There are ethnic, cultural, political, social and economic differences which distinguish these countries from one another and make them distinct.
There is no intention on the part of the Committee to treat these countries as an entity. Although they share an oceanic region they are each a distinct entity within that region.
It is important to understand that there is a growing sense of regionalism but it cannot be taken for granted. Many of the countries are mini states with populations of 2,000 or 3,000 people. There are states such as Fiji with 600,000 people. There are tremendous economic, social and ethnic differences among them which create problems within the region. It is important for the Committee to identify this and to draw attention to it. It is so easy to regard the region as one region containing one people; in fact they are not one people. This always will be a problem.
Another point which has been referred to is the very sensitive position of Australia. I think it is true to say that the South Pacific to a large extent until about 1972 or 1973 had been an area neglected by Australia. This can be partly explained because the metropolitan powersFrance, the United Kingdom and the United States of America in particular- were the dominant powers in the region. It is an area of tremendous strategic importance to Australia. Perhaps we were rather slow to realise that this is a region of rapid change. The metropolitan powers began to move out as more and more countries- as I said, some only mini states- achieved independence. Australia had to realise that this was an area in which we were the largest single power. I suppose an analogy would be the position of Japan in South East Asia. There was a fear of Australian economic dominance and of big brother, which is real and which we have to understand and to appreciate. We have not always been sensitive enough in our relations with the South Pacific countries. I think we now understand the situation and our relations are becoming far more sensitive. Nevertheless the area poses a continuing challenge to Australia. We have vital interests there and Australia’s association is becoming more and more highly regarded. We never want to appear to be trying to dominate the South Pacific countries. The Committee was conscious of this in its report. We did not want to appear to be using words that perhaps would indicate that we are looking at the South Pacific from the point of viewpoint of Australia and appearing the big brother.
Perhaps there were statements which the Committee would have like to have made and perhaps should have made. They would have been misinterpreted in the sensitive sorts of relations which exist. Australia is playing a very significant part in the region. Australia, with all the independent states which are growing in the South Pacific, is a member of the South Pacific Forum. The future of the South Pacific Conference may be in question. There are areas of dispute between the powers and authority of the South Pacific Forum and the South Pacific Conference. Eventually they must work out these problems. Australia must not try to dominate. Any suggestion we make must be made in a sensitive manner.
The Committee was conscious of these problems. So if at times we appeared to be ducking away a little bit it was because of our feeling that we had to be sensitive in what we said. Nevertheless, I think this is a valuable report. I think it was Senator Sibraa who drew attention to page 3 of the report where the Committee dealt with Australia’s relations with South Pacific states. We are very conscious of the need to have an even-handed relationship with them. We detected a sensitivity in our relations with Papua New Guinea which might have been regarded by some of the states as being rather predominant. Papua New Guinea is one of the largest states. There is a sensitivity by the smaller states towards Papua New Guinea. They think Papua New Guinea as a major state in the South Pacific might try to dominate. Therefore our relations had to be carefully weighed and even-handed. We should not indicate that we have a closer relationship with Papua New Guinea despite the historical and other relations which we have. That might affect our relations with the smaller states in the region.
The Committee was very aware of this situation and, I think, drew attention to it. We believed it was important to encourage and welcome further diplomatic representations from the region in Australia. We recommended that Australia should assist in the establishment of further diplomatic relations from the smaller states. We welcome the fact that we are increasing our diplomatic relations within the region and that we are opening up new posts. We think that this is not only desirable but also very important. I think it is important- again, this is mentioned on page 3 of the report- to bear in mind the points made that Australia, in increasing its efforts in the region, should broaden and develop its relations beyond economic and political areas. These relationships should be political, diplomatic, social, cultural and sporting.
We in Australia, in partnership- 1 stress the word ‘partnership’- with the South Pacific countries must work to promote more widespread and frequent exchanges between people at all levels- not only leaders- so that there is an increasing understanding between Australians and the people of the South Pacific. I make a brief reference to the Australian Development Assistance Bureau because it has been dealt with at some length. Reference was made to the fact that in 1976 the Minister for Foreign Affairs announced that Australia, over a period of three years, would provide $60m in assistance to the South Pacific region. In anybody’s language that is a lot of money. The Committee was well aware of the problems involved. They are very fragile societies.
We drew attention to the question of environment, urbanisation and health- I think Senator Sibraa referred to health- and to the problems which sudden economic development could have upon the very distinct cultures of these people. Therefore we welcome the clear understanding of the leaders of the South Pacific of the dangers involved in sudden change. Economic development itself is not necessarily the best if we are going to destroy the cultures and the traditions of these people in these very fragile societies. I think it is fair to say that we are well aware of this situation. Those responsible for our aid program are aware of it. They are well aware of the need of our development to be at the grass root level. As we all know there is always a danger with aid programs that perhaps those at the top are assisted and those at the grass roots are not. I was very pleased to hear Senator Primmer pay a tribute to our people involved. I think that without question they are aware of these problems. Overall there is a sensitivity in the development of our aid program and an understanding of the need to take into account the fact that we must not destroy that culture by our economic aid. Economic development by itself is not necessarily the end or the means to all happiness and satisfaction.
There are only two or three other matters to which I shall refer. Before going on to them I point out that I noted Senator Primmer ‘s closing remarks concerning the problems which ADAB has in regard to travel. That will be the subject of another report. Certainly there is a tremendous need for people who are responsible for the development of aid and for the supervision of it to have an understanding of the people and of the countries in which they operate. I believe that restriction upon travel is a false economy. It does not assist either those countries or Australia. We are well aware that many of these countries’ administrative infrastructure is very weak. They require a lot of guidance and assistance in the administration of aid. Something like $7m over three years to a country like Tonga is a lot of money to a society such as that of Tonga. Tonga realises that administratively it not strong. Therefore for it to achieve the purpose which we hope it will achieve I think it is necessary that it is properly supervised and that guidance and support are given by Australian aid officers. I know that that guidance and support are welcome.
In the past there has been some criticism of Australia’s commercial operations. I think it is fair to say that this has been an area in which, in the past, we have earned the title of the ‘Ugly Australian’. The Committee was pleased to note in the inquiry the attitude of Australian companies which are now involved. Some of them, like Burns Philp and Co. Ltd which has been in the area for many years, have freely admitted the mistakes of the past. At page 20 of the report Burns Philp, in relation to Australia ‘s commercial image in the region, stated:
As an Australian commercial enterprise we must also accept criticism Tor what is largely termed ‘Australia’s economic dominance in the South Pacific’ and accept that we and other Australian companies have not always favourably projected a good image or directed our activities to the overall benefit ofthe region.
Burns Philp then proceeded to provide the Committee with information as to the amount of money that is being re-invested in the region for the benefit of the region; and as to the tremendous degree of localisation that has taken place in its operations there. In travelling in the region, and speaking to senior Ministers and officials, I noted that, despite their past criticisms, they now welcome countries such as Burns Philp, which they believe, having in mind the lack of expertise which exists locally, have gone as far with localisation as they can be expected to go.
They also recognise, as we report on and recommend, that Australian companies should closely follow the guidelines for investment and commercial operations that are laid down by the countries of the region. We noted in the evidence that we received from Australian companies an understanding of the necessity for this and their desire to follow guidelines closely. I think that, despite the fact that there have been mistakes in the past Australian companies now operate within such guidelines and according to the wishes of the governments in the various countries concerned. As long as that happens, Australian investment is welcomed. I am bound to say that, despite past criticism of Australian commercial investment in the region, I found none during my visit. The countries realise that if they are to develop they must have investment; but they are conscious that it must be on lines that suit their aims, objectives and development. If the companies are not prepared to accept those guidelines, the Australian Government has a responsibility to see that they are not allowed to go to those countries, or they are told how they should behave.
My last point is not dealt with at length in the report but is of importance for the future. I refer to Great Power relationships within the region. As more and more countries become dependent and become aware of the outside world, and as more and more of the countries of the outside world become aware of them, there must be changes. We should be eager to ensure that no Great Power rivalry exists in the region. We know that many Great Powers are interested in it. Fisheries constitute one element in which Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russians and others are interested. It offers a tremendous potential for development. We all realise that there is tremendous advantage to these countries in the development of fishing through joint ventures, as long as those ventures are to their longterm advantage and do not involve competition one against the other.
This is an area that may become sensitive for Australia. There is no doubt that, if this type of competition develops, the countries of the region may well be looking to Australia for advice and assistance on how to handle that kind of relationship. Already the Soviet Union is interested and has made advances to some of the countries of the South Pacific. The Chinese, of course, are interested too, if only for the reason that the Soviet Union is interested; the converse also applies. In time that in itself can create problems. The Japanese, for commercial reasons, are also interested and are giving these countries significant aid. They are interested in co-operating with such countries in the development of fisheries. As the operation of the 220-kilometre fisheries zone affects their traditional fishing areas in the north, they look more and more to developing fishing operations in southern waters. This creates problems for these small States in determining how to handle such situations and not be exploited by the larger powers. They have no great experience in that field. It is an area in which Australia may be asked to become involved in some way or another.
The surveillance of their fishing grounds is another matter which can become very sensitive for Australia. There is no question that we could well become involved in trying to assist them in this matter. Thus, there are many areas in which Australia’s relationships with the countries of the South Pacific will be growing and becoming more sensitive. We should be aware of that. We can never forget that these states more and more will become of interest to the Great Powers; that by some they may be regarded as being of strategic interest. Indeed, if one looks at the map one notes that they are of strategic importance. It is certainly in our interest to see that these states, whether the large states or the mini-states, develop their economies slowly; that their culture and traditions are not destroyed; that Australia becomes, in a true sense a partner in the region, not a country seeking dominance. Although our image has improved, we should be very well aware that mistakes on our part could destroy the image that has been developed over the last five or six years. It is an area of sensitivity. It is one that we have neglected in the past. It is one with which Australians should become more familiar. We should learn to understand more clearly the hopes and aspirations of these peoples. I think it was Senator Primmer who referred to their charm, their hospitality and their friendship. It is open to us if we react to it in the proper manner.
In the report we have tried to spell out how Australian relationships should develop. Of our aid program we have no real criticism. We believe that it is being exercised with sensitivity, care and understanding, but we point out the dangers inherent in all of these programs unless we continue to be very careful in our relationships, and careful as to how they develop.
I commend the report to honourable senators and once again would thank the members of my Committee for the hard work and understanding that they contributed to” it. The production of these reports is not always easy. We have developed on the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence an understanding, co-operation and friendship which does help in preparing such reports for the benefit, I trust, not only of the Parliament but also of many outside the Parliament, including people in other countries who perhaps read them more than they are read in Australia and who are more interested in them than is the case in Australia. I trust that such reports will give an understanding of what we are trying to achieve. They represent not an executive or a government view but more importantly a parliamentary view of foreign policy and of the way in which it should develop.
- Mr Deputy President, on each occasion I have sought to congratulate you on your elevation to the office of Chairman of Committees there has been a sudden change in the occupancy of the chair, and I have not had the opportunity of so doing. I take now the opportunity of repeating what I have said in the corridors. I look on your appointment with considerable satisfaction. I have served with you on committees. I think I have even inflicted myself upon you as chairman of a committee. Now you have your chance to get your revenge. I commend you for the honour which the Senate has bestowed upon you. I do not doubt that your tolerance and patience will be all to our advantage. I am certain that we will not take advantage of it.
Tonight the Senate has a choice of listening to me speak on the report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence or the next subject on the Notice Paper which is a report of the Public Accounts Committee. As we are now approaching the time at which we adjourn perhaps I can spend some time on the report of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee. It is a pity that we have to speak on this excellent report a year after it was presented. Senator Sim has enhanced his reputation considerably, as Chairman of the Committee. Although I do not agree with him 90 per cent of the time I accept that he has done a good job as Chairman of the Committee. In particular, I enjoyed the previous report which the Committee brought down when the Prime Minister (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) was endeavouring to establish that there was a Soviet threat in the Indian Ocean. What happened? The Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence under the chairmanship of Senator Sim came down with the opposite conclusion- that there was no threat. It took a lot of courage on the part of the Committee and the Chairman to bring down such a report. As a result Senator Sim’s reputation has been enhanced not only in the Senate but also on an international level. We cannot claim that he is pro-Soviet, but we can claim that he is impartial and that he has the courage of his convictions. For that reason the
Committee can be trusted, with any reference given to it, to come down with the truth as it sees it depending upon the evidence which has been presented to it.
The Senate is a lame Senate this week. It has 10 new members. That means that 15 per cent of the Senate can make only a limited participation at present because the new members have as yet not made their maiden speeches. They have had to put up with the old members of the Senate. I trust that after next Wednesday we will have to put up with them. If this week has been rather a docile week it has been for that reason. Things will liven up next week. I now refer to the Committee’s report on the reference to it on the South Pacific. To all of us in the Senate the South Pacific is one of those vague, grey areas. We know that there are some newly emerged nations in the area. We know that they are very small. We often wonder why we establish their right to independence. The Senate has debated this matter on many occasions and has accepted that even the people of East Timor have the right to independence, self-management and nationhood. That applies to all countries, no matter how small they may have been or how little their chance of economic viability. We recognise the rights of small countries to independence and their right to establish their own type of society.
I agree that the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee is important and that it ought to receive the flexibility referred to by Senator Primmer and subsequently supported by Senator Sim. A committee of this sort needs to move in order to obtain the evidence and experience it needs to present a balanced report. It may be necessary to extend to this Committee the right to travel within the region of its reference, in this case the South Pacific. The Committee has brought down a substantial and intelligent report despite great difficulty, but how much better would that report have been if the Committee had been able to go to the areas with which it was concerned and with which Australia is concerned. I think that the Senate would accept that this Committee ought to have the right to travel within the area of our influence. This is not an undue influence. It is an influence which we can use to the best advantage to assist the countries which are referred to in the report.
Those of us who have sympathy with Senator Sim are most certainly in favour of the Committee being given those facilities. It is not satisfactory that members of the Committee should travel as indivduals in their own time and pick up in a disjointed way the experience they need. We have heard from Senator Davidson, Senator Mcintosh, Senator Sim and others who have travelled independently in the area. They travelled without the facilities necessary, the research support, to draw out of the area all the information required to present a report to the Senate.
I now refer to the operations of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. Perhaps we should alter the words Defence and Foreign Affairs’ to ‘Peace and Foreign Affairs’, particularly with regard to the Senate Committee. The approach of the Senate Committee has been to seek a common understanding. It seems to me that peace is the best sort of understanding and the best sort of defence. That has been my argument continually. We ought to accept that peace, understanding and communication between nations is the best way in which we can support our own defence. To Senator Sim the word ‘peace’ might bring an association of ideas, a reaction or even a revulsion, but I suggest to him that it is not such a horrid word. His whole approach to the references which have been given to his Committee has been such that he has accepted that peace and understanding are the best solution to the problem. That stands out in all his reports.
I should like in the five minutes- I repeat in the five minutes- that I have left to speak to refer to one of the submissions which was given to the Comittee. It was a very good submission by a young man who, I believe, has a future. He is not with the Parliament at present. He served as an assistant to a senator. He is now a research assistant to the Attorney-General in New South Wales. I refer to Ian Macdonald who presented a submission to the Committee called ‘The Australian Connection: Investment Trade and Aid in the South Pacific’. He went to a considerable amount of trouble to present this report. When former Senator Cotton was a Minister in this place he asked about the background to the report and commended the young man who prepared it. The amount of work and research that went into this submission indicates a growing interest in the area by the young men and women of Australia. If the rest of the submissions were of this standard the Committee would have had good material on which to base what has turned out to be an excellent report.
The frontispiece of the submission contains a couple of quotations which I think ought to go into the record. The first quotation is from the Melbourne Age of 18 April 1977, in which the Prime Minister of Fiji, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara is reported to have said:
I think Australia is helping us because it is a rich country and not because it has respect Tor us.
This might have been so before the Committee reported, but I think it would be less so now that the Senate Standing Committee has considered the area and presented a report on it. I would say that that would be a statement which the Prime Minister of Fiji would be less likely to make now. This is the importance of the Committee, its reference, and the report that it has brought down.
A further quotation appears in the frontispiece of Mr Macdonald ‘s submission. It is of a statement made by John Garrett in a paper entitled Australia in the Pacific: A Christian Interrogation’, which appeared in St Mark’s Review of March 1977, Number 89, at page 36. It reads: . . virtually all Pacific island cultures are subtle in their ability to assess the motivation and character or givers. A great gift in many Pacific cultures normally pre-supposes that in politeness the recipient will respond spontaneously at some later time. The fact that gifts have hidden strings is therefore understood by Pacific governments. Being small, and used to the game in economies where relationships were forged by courteous barter, they will look skilfully for what underlies the gifts. If Australian giving is matched by a change of heart, increased ability to listen and learn, the power to say sorry for aspects of the past and to make amends, the giving will be enhanced by trust.
I think that the record of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence is one which will be enhanced by trust. The debate on this report tonight under General Business is worthy of the Committee and its report. Perhaps too few speakers have participated in the debate and too few honourable senators have known the background of the report. Of course, that is because we are a new Senate. I do not doubt that the Committee will receive further references from the Senate and that it will deal with them as effectively as it has done on this occasion. For that reason, I commend all honourable senators who were members of the Committee and trust that at an early opportunity we shall give them another reference with which they will deal just as effectively.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
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:
If it suits the convenience of the Opposition, I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to seek the approval of the Parliament for the establishment of an Australian Overseas Projects Corporation to assist Australian private organisations to compete for overseas development projects so as to encourage the export of Australian goods and services. Honourable senators will be aware that there has been a massive expansion in investment in largescale development projects in developing countries during the current decade. Following the rise in international oil prices, developingcountry oil producers in the Middle East and elsewhere have embarked on huge and continuing development programs. In addition, international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are providing large funds for development projects in developing countries to improve basic infrastructure, increase food-producing capacity and establish new industrial capacity. As a result, development projects now make a significant and growing contribution to world trade.
It is well known that there is strong international competition for overseas development projects, particularly in view of depressed domestic demand in the industrialised countries. As a result, overseas governments, including those of the United” States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and the Republic of Korea, are actively involved in various ways in supporting their industries to gain contracts for large projects. Moreover the governments of several developing countries, in view of their limited domestic expertise in project development, have a requirement or preference for some form of official government backing or involvement in tender bids submitted by overseas suppliers. By their very nature, most of these development projects encompass a range of activities from initial design through to actual construction and purchase of equipment. Many of the projects are awarded to groups of specialist private firms organised into consortia to undertake the whole project. Australian private organisations involved in consulting, contracting and equipment supply have the necessary technical capability and expertise to enable them to undertake the whole or substantial elements of projects in a range of fields. However, in a number of fields of particular interest to Australia, certain elements of essential expertise are located only in government instrumentalities.
A further limiting factor is that many of Australia’s most progressive companies in these fields are relatively small by world standards, while the size and complexity of most overseas development projects are usually very large. As a result of the growing commercial interest in overseas projects, the Government has received a number of requests from Australian firms for support, assistance or direct participation in various development projects. At the same time, several of the major private sector industry organisations have made representations te the Government requesting the establishment of a greater degree of co-operation between the Government and industry in the overseas projects area. It became apparent to the Government that the present ad hoc arrangement for considering each request on a case- by-case basis was not a satisfactory way of providing continuing government support to Australian exporters in this field.
The Government, accordingly, undertook a thorough study of the overseas projects market during 1976 and 1977. Submissions were sought from private enterprise groups and the Trade Development Council. Following this study, the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) discussed the possible approaches to the problem with representatives of industry organisations and the Trade Development Council. As a result of this consideration, the Government was convinced that if Australian interests were to be able to compete on an equal footing with overseas competitors, an overseas projects corporation would need to be established to facilitate direct co-operation between, industry and government in this field. The Government undertook to establish such a corporation during 1978 as part of its policy outlined at the last election.
We have moved speedily to implement that commitment. The Bill now before the Senate provides for the establishment of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation as a statutory corporation which would undertake the following functions: It will make available to Australian private organisations information on opportunities for Australian involvement in overseas projects. It will assist Australian private organisations to negotiate with overseas governments or organisations for the carrying out of overseas development projects. It will assist Australian private organisations to carry out overseas development projects by providing special expertise available within the Government. Finally, it will be able to carry out the whole or part of an overseas development project at the request of Australian private organisations. The actual work in relation to such a project would be carried out, on behalf of the Corporation, by Australian private organisations.
The Corporation will be controlled by a board of directors, the majority of which shall be appointed from private industry and shall have had experience related to development projects. At least one director shall have had experience in matters related to rural industry. The day-to-day operations of the Corporation will be directed by a managing director. The Government intends that the managing director will be an executive of high calibre who has proven experience in matters relating to development projects. The Corporation will be provided with capital of $2m with an initial instalment of $ 1 m being provided to enable it to commence operations in 1978-79. In addition, the Corporation will be empowered to enter into total contingent liabilities up to $50m initially in respect of its participation in all projects. I am pleased to be able to inform honourable senators that this Bill has the support of the private sector organisations that have made representations to the Minister for Trade and Resources on this matter.
The Australian Overseas Projects Corporation will meet a pressing need for government support for Australian exporters in the particular field of overseas development projects. Unlike the Overseas Trading Corporation proposals which were advanced by the Whitlam Government, this Corporation has adequate safeguards written into the Bill to ensure that its operations will concentrate on the important task that needs to be done. In particular, there are provisions to ensure that the Corporation does not engage in general overseas trading.
As I mentioned earlier, the Corporation will act at the request of Australian private organisations. Additional safeguards are provided to ensure that the Corporation does not compete against competent Australian organisations for the same project in normal circumstances. The Corporation will not undertake the prime role in carrying out the whole or part of a project unless the Minister is satisfied that there is no competent Australian private organisation willing to undertake the project.
The Corporation will be expected to conduct its business in accordance with sound commercial principles and to charge proper fees for the provision of its services. The financial statements of the Corporation will be subject to examination by the Auditor-General. The Corporation will submit an annual report to the Parliament on its operations.
Acting in co-operation with the Department of Trade and Resources and in particular the Trade Commissioner Service, the Corporation will provide strong backing to consultants, contractors and equipment suppliers in their efforts to extend Australian participation in overseas development projects. The establishment of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation is the first of several new initiatives being introduced by the Government to encourage a strong export effort by Australia in the future. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances
– I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) advising that certain honourable senators have requested that they be discharged from further attendance on the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances and nominating, in accordance with Standing Order 36a, certain honourable senators to be members of the Committee.
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That Senator Collard and Senator Ryan be discharged from further attendance on the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances and that Senator Bonner, Senator Evans, Senator Hamer and Senator Lewis, having been duly nominated in accordance with Standing Order 36a, be appointed members of the Committee.
– I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) advising that certain honourable senators have requested that they be discharged from further attendance on certain legislative and general purpose standing committees and nominating, in accordance with Standing Order 36aa, honourable senators to be appointed members of the committees.
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That the following honourable senators be discharged from the legislative and general purpose standing committees indicated:
Constitutional and Legal Affairs- Senator Cavanagh, Senator Lewis and Senator 0 ‘Byrne.
Education and the Arts- Senator Martin and Senator Robertson.
Finance and Government Operations- Senator Walsh.
National Resources- Senator McAuliffe and Senator Townley.
Science and the Environment- Senator Bonner and Senator Colston.
Social Welfare-Senator McAuliffe.
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That the following honourable senators, having been duly nominated in accordance with Standing Order 36aa, be appointed members of the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees indicated:
Constitutional and Legal Affairs- Senator Evans. Senator Puplick and Senator Tate.
Education and the Arts- Senator Colston and Senator Teague.
Finance and Government Operations- Senator Evans.
Foreign Affairs and Defence- Senator Sibraa.
National Resources- Senator Tate and Senator Teague.
Science and the Environment- Senator MacGibbon.
Social Welfare- Senator Bonner and Senator Elstob.
Trade and Commerce- Senator Gietzelt.
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That the following honourable senators be discharged from attendance on the Standing Committees indicated:
House- Senator Lewis, Senator Melzer and Senator Sheil.
Library- Senator Harradine.
Publications- Senator Robertson and Senator Ryan.
– I move:
– May I have an explanation of the proposals that are being put before the Senate? From the previous motion moved by the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) I understand that I have just been discharged from the Library Committee. Is that correct?
– That is what I read. I have just been informed that that might be incorrect, but I did not prepare the wording of the motion.
– I do not mind being taken off the Committee so long as I am put on again.
-Mr President, I suggest that the changes of membership of the standing committees be left for the moment. I will proceed with other committees. I say to Senator Harradine that the document I have indicates that he was discharged from that Committee and is not to be replaced on it. I understand that that is incorrect and until that document is made correct I suggest we defer the changes to the standing committees.
– Thank you.
Senate Standing Committee on Standing Orders Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders Senators Carrick and Georges be appointed members of the Senate Standing Committee on Standing Orders.
Joint Statutory Committee on Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1976 Senator Hamer be appointed a member of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings.
Joint Statutory Committee on Public Accounts
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951 Senators Colston and Messner be discharged from further attendance at the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Senators Keeffe and Watson be appointed members of the Committee.
Council of the Australian National University
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Australian National University Act 1946 the Senate elect Senator Georges to be a member of the Council of the Australian National University to fill the vacancy created by the resignation from the Senate of Senator the Honourable James McClelland.
Senate Standing Committee on Publications
Motions (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That Senators Lewis, Melzer and Sheil be discharged from attendance at the Senate Standing House Committee, and that Senators Robertson and Ryan be discharged from attendance at the Senate Standing Committee on Publications.
That Senators Bonner, Georges and Martin be appointed to the Senate Standing House Committee; that Senators Knight, Tate and Harradine be appointed to the Senate Standing Library Committee; that Senators Chaney and Scott be appointed to the Senate Standing Privileges Committee; and that Senators Elstob, Georges, Mcintosh and
Sheil be appointed to the Senate Standing Committee on Publications.
– I seek leave to ask a question concerning formulation of those committees.
-It seems from the announcement of membership of the committees that there is no nomination for membership from the minority party which terms itself the Australian Democrats. Is that because it has not made any nomination? The Opposition by arrangement made provision for Senator Mason to take his place on the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment. If he has not formally done so perhaps it can be left for another occasion.
-In response to the query raised by Senator Georges, my understanding is that agreement has been reached on this matter between the Government and the Opposition and a position has been left for the minority party to be represented on some committees. Regrettably, both representatives of the minority Party are absent this evening so that motion was unable to be moved. I understand that it will be moved on Tuesday should they be present.
– The operative word is not some, but one. Nevertheless it can be done next week.
– I acknowledge the decision of the Opposition.
Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I raise a very important matter and I will detain the Senate for only a very short time. I refer to a matter of taxation. Earlier this week I was told by a Sydney union source that a letter dated 14 June 1978 on the letterhead of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association and signed by B. T. Egan was sent to the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in New South Wales. The letter requested the Commissioner of Taxation to disallow payments made as union contributions by members of the New South Wales Branch of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association. The letter purported to have been signed by Mr B. T. Egan in Mr Egan’s capacity as National Secretary-Treasurer of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association. Of course all payments made by members ofthe New South Wales branch of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association to the Association are allowable deductions and should be claimed as such. Sub-section 3 of section 73 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1 936 as amended provides for an allowable deduction for income tax purposes for:
I leave out the unimportant words- paid by the taxpayer in the year of income in respect of his membership of any trade business or professional association -
Presumably acting on the basis ofthe letter bearing Mr Egan’s name and title, the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in New South Wales has disallowed claims for union contributions paid to the Association and possibly in excess of 20,000 incorrect assessments have been made. The SDA first learned of the existence of the letter bearing Mr Egan’s name and title this week. The Commissioner of Taxation and his deputy were approached and the facts were drawn to their attention. As a result the Taxation Office in New South Wales today immediately withdrew the direction previously issued to assessors to disallow claims of SDA members and payments of contributions made to the SDA will now be treated as allowable deductions.
In addition any SDA member who has been assessed for tax upon the basis of Mr Egan’s letter will have his or her assessment amended if the SDA provides the Taxation Office with the member’s name, address and taxation file number. A Taxation Office spokesman has advised that the Taxation Office does not have the facilities to identify each of the persons to whom an incorrect assessment has already been issued but has undertaken that if the SDA supplies this information all assessments already made will be amended. Further assessments will be made on the correct basis, namely, that contributions paid to the SDA are allowable deductions. I want to know whether Mr Egan wrote and sent the letter dated 14 June 1978 which led to about 20,000 New South Wales shop assistants being assessed to tax which they were not obliged to pay. If he did, his action will be condemned by every trade union official in Australia as petty, vindictive, disgraceful and contemptible. If Mr Egan did not write that letter he should publicly say so immediately and the Commonwealth Police should be asked to investigate who used Mr Egan’s name, title and stationery to hoax the Taxation Office into issuing incorrect taxation assessments to tens of thousands of New South Wales shop assistants. I invite any member of the Senate who have heretofore stood in this Senate and tried to defend Mr Egan to do so now.
- Mr President, I would not have intervened but for the taunt in the last sentence of Senator Harradine ‘s remarks. I am not au fait with everything that goes on in the New South Wales trade union movement, but I can tell Senator Harradine that my office received several inquiries along the line that he has implied. My information from a senior officer of the Taxation Office in Sydney is that the officers themselves are masters of their own destiny and they would not take notice of any letter about taxation that may have come from any source. They accept as a justifiable deduction membership contributions to a nominated union. I make this point very clear to Senator Harradine. The people who approached me would not be involved in union factionalism. They asked for a ruling, and I got it from the liaison officer in Sydney. I am not saying that there will not be taxation errors. From my examination of the situation, the taxation officers in Sydney regard themselves as neutral. Whatever assertions have been made on either side, my information is that despite whatever letter may have been written the taxation people followed the accepted line of allowing as a deduction membership of one of the two unions in the retail and merchandising industry. That is the information I received in a conversation I had as a result of the two instances that came to my notice. Had I remained silent it might have been said that I was overawed by the presence of Senator Harradine. That will be the day when that happens.
I make it clear that I did not go on any muckraking expedition. When two rank and file members asked me whether what is alleged to have happened was true, I conveyed to them what the taxation official said. It may be that there have been errors. However, I feel that if because of a union dispute the names of 20,000 members are plucked out of the air and are wrongly assessed for tax it is a very serious thing. From my experience with taxation officers in Sydney I have found them to be fairly professional people. I have merely conveyed to the Senate what was said to my staff in Sydney. If I am wrong and other mistakes have been made, it is regrettable. I just wanted to make my point because I did not want people to read in Hansard that Senator Harradine sounded a tocsin and nobody responded. I will never let that happen; I will always respond.
– in reply- One must acknowledge that Senator Harradine brought his matter forward with great force, and the Senate will acknowledge that. The Taxation Office has provided information relating to this matter. I apologise to Senator Harradine for the ministerial representative of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) not being present. Regrettably he is attending to another matter at the moment. However, the Taxation Office has provided the following response to a request relating to this matter that has been raised:
If the facts are as stated by Senator Harradine it appears that the Deputy Commissioner has been misled.
That is the Treasurer- . . would be unhappy to think that any union member did not get the deductions to which he was entitled. However, it would be a fairly simple matter for the union to provide the Deputy Commissioner with a list of the fees paid by its members last year and if it does this Jam sure the Deputy Commissioner will see that any assessments wrongly made are amended.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am informed by my Department that:
1 ) Section 1 1 A of the City Area Leases Ordinance permits any lessee to apply to the Supreme Court for a variation of any provision, covenant or condition of a lease which bears on the purpose for which the land in question may be used. The Minister, however, is able to file a certificate with the Court to prevent a variation being made if in his opinion the variation sought would be repugnant to the principles for the time being governing the construction and development of Canberra.
The National Capital Development Commission advises the Minister in this regard and in the case of the Barry Drive sites advised the Minister that a variation from residential to commercial use was not repugnant to current planning principles. However, the Commission stipulated that the lessees should be aware and acknowledge that approval would not be given to any increase in the . floor area of existing buildings.
If the owners wished to redevelop the sites having regard to this restriction they should first obtain a variation to the lease purpose clause. Any use of a property for other than the purpose specified in the lease may be subject to legal action.
The registered lessee of one of the specified blocks, namely Block 6, Section 24, Turner, is Bruce Small Pry Ltd. The Company has held the lease since 24 August 1973. The registered directors of this company are William Robert Bruce Small, John David Evans and Valerie Edith Evans. Mr John David Evans has advised that Sir Bruce Small has no interest in law or equity in the company or its property.
A number of leases have been redeveloped for purposes consistent with the use covenant contained in the lease in question sometimes following a variation of the lease purpose but generally without any change in the lease. However, new structures are required to comply with National Capital Development Commission policies in respect to matters such as height, siting, external design and in many cases maximum floor area.
In the cases of redevelopment applications which are not in accord with the purpose prescribed in the relevant lease or the relevant Commission policy, the applications have been refused.
No. See Question 3.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 8 June 1 978:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
None. Acquisition of land and property for Commonwealth Government purposes is the responsibility of the Minister for Administrative Services.
Information on properties purchased by the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission is contained in my answer to House of Representatives question 895 (Hansard, 7 June 1978, page 3224).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Services use their adult tradesmen schemes to adjust for foreseen discrepancies in the apprentice output, i.e., to compensate for an intake with a particularly high or low wastage rate over the four years. In the case of high apprentice wastage, the number of adult tradesmen under training is increased.
Cattle Embryos: Importation from New Zealand (Question No. 568)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 9 June 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 9 June 1978:
– The Minister for Primary Industry provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government is not yet in a position to bring forward a proposal to assist young farmers to make a career in farming. I can, however, inform the honourable senator that the proposal has been examined by my Department as well as bv the Government Members’ Rural Committee. The development of this proposal has been affected by the Government’s expenditure priorities within the context of prevailing economic circumstances, particularly the provision of assistance to those rural industries suffering severe financial hardship and by the overwhelming need to restrain public sector expenditure in order to control inflation. The Government’s continued success in reducing inflation and improving the competitive position of the rural sector will greatly enhance the future outlook for new entrants in agriculture. It will enable the Government to more readily consider means to assist young farmers during their early establishment years and to implement them at an appropriate time.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 8 June 1 978:
Has spare training capacity in Commonwealth and State government departments, under the scheme introduced in 1975 to assist industry and commerce in the training of apprentices, been fully taken up for 1 978.
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Since 1972 my Department has fully subsidised the employment of apprentices by Commonwealth government departments and instrumentalities which were then additional to the requirements of the employing bodies. The aim of this additional apprentices scheme is that on completion of training, apprentices will be released as fully qualified tradesmen for employment in the private sector. As a result of the declining economic situation and the effects this was having on overall apprentice recruitment and employment in the latter stages of 1 974, the scheme was extended to operate in State government departments and instrumentalities in 1975. No intakes of such apprentices, either in the Commonwealth or State sector, have been approved since 1975, but currently over 1 ,000 apprentices are still being trained under this system. The scheme has been found to be a very costly training venture and is being wound down in favour of the group one-year training scheme which commenced on a pilot basis in 1975. Under the terms of this Scheme, apprentices who are indentured to private employers spend their first year of training in an appropriate Government industrial establishment. They then return to complete the remainder of the apprenticeship period with their sponsoring employer. The costs of the first year of training except for workers compensation premiums are met by my Department. A total of 221 apprentices are involved in the scheme in 1978. Although this represents a number less than the potential maximum number of vacancies which existed at the beginning of the year, no more apprentices could be taken on this year because sponsoring employers could not be located in the localities where the training was available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Nil to 50 cents from 1.3.60. 50 cents to $ 1 .00 from 1 . 1 1 .72. $1.00 to $1.50 from 1.9.75. $1.50 to $2.00 from 1.3.76.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 9 June 1978:
What are the details ofthe support given by the Minister’s Department to Mr Robert Orbinski who was arrested and convicted in Melbourne on 1 9 May 1 978.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Representations were made to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on behalf of Bozo Dubajic alias Ronald Orbinski, while he was being held in custody following his arrest on 19 May 1978. I believe this is the Robert Orbinski referred to by the honourable senator. The Department was asked if it could assist with accommodation if he was released on bail. A departmental social worker made arrangements for his accommodation. Mr Orbinski was released but did not take the offer up. He elected to stay with a friend. Subsequently a social worker has been in contact with him in order to assess the most appropriate form of assistance in conjunction with the relevant Victorian authorities.
My Department has in fact had contact with Mr Orbinski since 1968 through its social welfare service. On various occasions it has endeavoured to help him in respect of his problems with accommodation, employment and health.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commission has stated that ABC staff have a responsibility to ensure that in dealing with controversial issues of public interest, in any program or program series, a fair balance of views must be presented. This need not necessarily be achieved within a single program, though the nature of the subject matter many call for this. A balance of views should be achieved, however, within a series of programs where the emphasis is on controversial issues.
asked the Minister representing the Minister ibr Home Affairs, upon notice, on 9 June 1978:
Does the Minister intend to introduce amendments to the Australian Film Commission Act 197S to change the role of Film Australia to make it a fully commercial operation in direct competition with the private sector, in view of the rejection by the Minister of the Film Commission project, 77ie Unknown Industrial Prisoner, on the grounds that the project did not have commercial potential.
– The Minister for Home Affairs had provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
High Court: Cost of Copies of Judgments
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, as Minister representing the Attorney-General, the following question, without notice, on 13 April 1 978:
In view of the interest in government and politics generated through seminars, symposiums, et cetera, will he contact the Attorney-General to have a review made of the prices charged for copies of High Court judgments, particularly the recent findings on the Privy Council decision? I was astonished to learn that the price of a copy of that judgment was as high as $11. As these publications are about the equivalent of the Daily Hansard in size, why is the cost for a copy of a judgment so much greater than that for a Daily Hansard, especially as law students and other interested people should be entitled and encouraged to read these documents by having them available at a much more reasonable price?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The considerations which govern the price of a Daily Hansard were referred to by the Minister for Administrative Services on 1 3 April 1 978 and are not here repeated.
The price of a copy of the Reasons for Judgment delivered by a Justice of the High Court is fixed by Rules of Court made by the Judges. The current rule (Statutory Rule No. 10 of 1978) provides for a minimum fee of $2 for up to 13 pages, and for Judgments exceeding 13 pages a fee of 15 cents per page up to a maximum of $ 1 5.
At about the time the current fees were fixed the Court introduced a new system of preparation of copies of Reasons for Judgment which reduced considerably the number of pages to be purchased.
The cost of a copy of the Reasons for Judgment in Viro v. The Queen (wherein the Court dealt with the effect of Privy Council decisions) under the charges and arrangements which applied until recently would have been $75 against the current cost of $ 1 1.25.
Copies of Reasons for Judgment are distributed without charge to, inter alia, law school libraries, Supreme Courts, the National-Library and the Parliamentary Libraries.
It is not intended that the service provided by the High Court should supplant the normal law reporting services commercially available.
As I have indicated, the fee payable for a copy of Reasons for Judgment is fixed by the Rules of the High Court, which are a matter for the Justices themselves.
-On 3 May 1978 (Hansard, pages 1324-5) Senator Wriedt asked me, as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, questions, without notice, concerning consultation with the States on the uranium legislation.
The following is in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
See my statements on 26 May 1978 concerning the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978 and the Atomic Energy Amendment Act 1978 (Hansard, pp. 1965-69).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, without notice, on 8 May 1978:
In view of representations I have received will the Minister ascertain whether touchfones which are currently being heavily promoted have passed all reasonable operational trials? Are they proving to be more or less trouble free than the type of telephone they are designed to replace?
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The touchfone has passed all reasonable operational trials. The incidence of fault conditions in the early production model touchfone manufactured between 1976 and mid 1977 was found by Telecom Australia to bc somewhat higher that for the standard colorfone. However, from mid 1977, improved techniques were introduced by the manufacturer and it is expected that these improvements will be reflected in a lower touchfone fault rate more closely in line with that for the colorfone. Telecom will continue to monitor the in-service reliability of the touchfone with a view to ensuring that the instrument proves to be as trouble-free to subscribers as practicable.
Mail Sorting Bans, Adelaide
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, without notice, on 10 May 1978:
I refer to the overtime ban imposed on 9 March, some nine weeks ago, by 450 mail sorters in Adelaide as part of a dispute, which began in October last year, over the payment of a tax-free meal allowance of $3.90 when overtime is worked. Is the Minister aware that last week Australia Post’s public relations officer said that the backlog in mail would not be cleared for another six weeks? In the light of this, 1 ask the Minister whether he is aware that two weeks ago- seven weeks after the bans were imposed- the State manager of Australia Post said that 15 extra workers, as recommended by Commissioner Clarkson of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, had been employed a fortnight earlier and that it would take a further three weeks to train them fully. That means that this extra staff would have been available early next week. In view of this, can the Minister say why the Australia Post public relations officer has now said that these extra personnel who would assist in clearing the congestion of mail will not be available for a further four weeks? Will the Minister investigate the reason why these confused statements have been made?
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Mail Officer recruits normally undergo training for a period of approximately seven weeks. This training includes up to two weeks familiarisation immediately after commencement and approximately five weeks of subsequent training in specific mail sorting duties.
The additional trainee Mail Officers, who were recruited to decrease the need, in the long term, for overtime to be worked at the Adelaide Central Mail Exchange, commenced duty between 12 April and 17 April 1978. On completion of their familiarisation period, they commenced mail sorting training on Monday, 24 April 1978. The recruits have now completed training and an additional fifteen Mail Officers became fully operational on S June 1978.
It appears that some confusion arose from the report which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser on 26 April 1978. The initial two week familiarisation period was in addition to the five week training period referred to in that article.
The later report, which appeared in ‘The Sunday Mail ‘ on 7 May 1978, but was based on information provided on 2 May 1978, indicated that the Mail Officer recruits would be fully operational ‘in about four weeks ‘.
Both reports thus imply that the recruits would be fully operational around the week ending 2 June.
As you will be aware the dispute, which was responsible for the build-up of mail at the Adelaide Central Mail Exchange has now been settled. Almost all of the backlog at the Adelaide Central Mail Exchange was, in fact, cleared by Monday, 29 May 1978.
Rugby League: Televising of Matches
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, without notice, on 25 May 1978:
Is the Minister aware that many country areas in Queensland are one station areas as far as television is concerned and that in these areas there is widespread concern at the drastic cuts in the sporting programs of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, particularly regarding rugby league replays. Queensland country people believe they are now in a sporting desert and that they have been discriminated against as there do not appear to be similar reductions in sporting programs elsewhere. Will the Minister take the matter up with his colleague, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, to see whether some improvement can be brought about?
The Chairman of the ABC has informed me that the only reduction in the ABC’s sporting coverage in Queensland has been on Saturday afternoons when the transmission of programs does not begin until 4 p.m. except when a direct telecast of a sporting event is being replayed from another State.
There have been no drastic cuts in rugby league replays on ABC television. Matches are no longer played at Lang Park, Brisbane rugby league headquarters, on Saturdays. The major competition games axe played on Sundays at Lang Park and they are recorded and transmitted at 6 p.m. the same day. As a result of a recent agreement with the Queensland Rugby League, of which the honourable senator will be aware, the Sydney rugby league match of the day is now shown in Queensland on Saturdays at 6 p.m. Thus the extent of the ABC’s coverage of rugby league is now the same as in previous years. People living in Queensland country areas receive the same ABC programs as people living in Brisbane.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, without notice, on 3 1 May 1978:
Last week I asked the Minister a question about the terms and the extent of the inquiry into an ethnic television channel. At the time the Minister was unable to inform me about the matter. This morning I hear on an FM radio broadcast an announcement that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications had decided to establish a new channel for ethnic television and to extend ethnic radio throughout Australia. Will the Minister confirm this statement? Will he now inform the Senate to what extent groups and individuals involved in ethnic broadcasting were consulted by the Government before it reached this decision?
The Prime Minister has made announcements which confirm the Government’s commitment to the establishment of an ethnic television service. It is also the intention of the Government that ethnic radio progamming will be extended over the next three years to cover all capital cities and provincial centres with large numbers of migrants.
The National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council (NEBAC) has been consulted on a number of occasions about these matters. The Government is presently examining various options for establishing ethnic television services and is planning an extensive program of consultation with ethnic communities on programming issues and matters associated with the operation of ethnic television stations.
Purchase of VIP Aircraft
-On 5 May 1978 (Hansard, page 1420) Senator Wriedt asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister a question, without notice, concerning the options considered by the Government before its decision to purchase additional aircraft for the VIP fleet. The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the statement ofthe Minister for Defence on 5 May 1978 which outlined the reasons why aircraft with the capabilities of 727s were considered necessary for the VIP fleet. I do not propose to reveal details of discussions which took place in Cabinet.
Germ and Chemical Warfare Research
-On 10 May 1978 (Hansard, page 1548) Senator Melzer asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question without notice concerning germ and chemical warfare research. The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government is aware of Sir Philip Baxter’s call for $15m to be spent each year on chemical and biological warfare research. The Government has no intention of acceding to it.
Nuclear Waste Disposal
-On 31 May 1978 and 6 June 1978 (Hansard, pages 2120 and 2388, respectively) Senator Wriedt asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, questions, without notice, concerning the Government’s attitude to the importation of other countries’ nuclear wastes for storage in Australia. The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
I refer the honourable senator to my statement on 25 August 1977 (Hansard page 536) on the announcement of the Government’s decision on the mining and export of uranium, which makes it clear that there is no intention of Australia storing other countries’ radioactive wastes. The Government’s policy on this matter has not changed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
January-June 1976; (c) July-December 1976; (d) JanuaryJune 1977; and (e) July-December 1977.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The results are set out below:
Average number of pathology services for patients never direct billed- 3.84: Average number nf pathology services for patients always direct billed- 3.99; Average number of non-pathology services for patients never direct billed- 3.29; Average number of non-pathology services for patients always direct billed- 3. 12.
Note: Tables 1 and 2 include only doctors who have direct billed at least one service rendered during the appropriate period.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 2 March 1978:
– The answer the the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Section 103 (2) of the Act provides that-
Where an endowment ceases to be payable to a person, other than an institution, by reason of an event specified in a paragraph, other than paragraph (a) or (b), of the last preceding sub-section, the endowment ceases to be payable from the end of the endowment period during which that event occurred ‘.
Paragraphs (a) and (b) relate to situations where an endowee ceases to have the custody care and control of a child and where a child enters an institution.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 24 May 1978:
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Where employers who do not retain trainees after the subsidy period indicate that they want to employ another trainee in the same or a similar job the CES must be sure that the employer has dismissed the trainee for valid reasons before approving placement of another trainee. It must also be satisfied that the training provided by the employer will improve the chances of another disadvantaged young person finding stable employment.
Every specific allegation of abuse by employers is thoroughly investigated by the Department and these investigations have revealed no evidence of large scale abuse.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The Acting Prime Minister has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 9 June 1978:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The outcome of the trial will be judged by the data which will become available on the efficiency of the methods tested. If these should point to sufficient benefits to warrant adoption of such methods by firms in the industry, with resultant reduced costs being passed back to growers, the Government and woolgrowers will have reason to be satisfied with the results of the trial.
At this stage, estimates of likely purchases of wool under the Scheme have been made only for the 1978-79 woolselling season. Although estimates of likely offers received and accepted are difficult to make, the Wool Corporation anticipated that in the 1978-79 season purchases in the following ranges will be made:
Melbourne-25,000 to 35,000 bales
Fremantle-30,000 to 40,000 bales
Brisbane-25,000 to 30,000 bales
Lubricating Oil: Re-refining (Question No. 173)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 2 March 1978:
Will the Minister make available to the Parliament copies of reports on the re-refining of lubricating oil in Australia, which have been prepared by officers of his Department and also which have been received from outside sources within the last two years.
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The question of re-refining of lubricating oil has been given some attention by the Department of National Development as staff resources permit, but there are no reports which are considered appropriate for tabling in Parliament at this juncture.
As a matter of principle, there are arguments in favour of re-refining on resource and environmental grounds, but the economic considerations are, of course, also relevant. The issues involved are to a large degree ones which fall within the responsibilities of the oil industry and the State Governments.
The Commonwealth will continue to follow developments and will be prepared to work with industry and the State Governments as appropriate.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 August 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780817_senate_31_s78/>.