31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
THE PRESIDENT- I have to inform honourable senators that today, for the first time, a shorthand writing machine will be used to report the Senate. A recent vacancy for a reporter on the Hansard staff was advertised and the most eligible applicant was a machine writer. He was therefore appointed and will take his place on the reporting roster in the Senate this afternoon.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– I present the following petition from 100 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Terminaton of Pregnancy Ordinance (No. 16 of 1978) has the effect of prohibiting the operation of private abortion clinics in the ACT.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Senators should vote to:-
1 ) retain this Ordinance, and
2 ) reject any move to disallow this Ordinance since its disallowance would enable private abortion clinics to operate in the ACT.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 99 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled-
The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the Fraser Government was elected in December 1975 after promising that pensions would be adjusted instantly and automatically in relation to quarterly Consumer Price Index figures; and whereas that Government subsequently announced that pension adjustments should properly be made half yearly each May and November; it is the current intention of the same Government to legislate for pensions to be adjusted only once a year, and this constitutes a serious breach of generally accepted ethics of democratic government and also deprives many needy pensioners of increases that are essential to their subsistence.
The foregoing facts impel the undersigned Petitioners to request the Australian Government to uphold the principle that the trustworthiness of governments should at all times be above question, and to appeal to the Parliament to prevent the imposition of further economic hardship upon Australian pensioners by rejecting any Bill which has for its aim the introduction of annual adjustments of pension rates.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 105 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth, we feel very strongly that we do not want any interference from the Government in the payment to families of the family allowance.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 9 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the Fraser Government was elected in December 1975 after promising that pensions would be adjusted instantly and automatically in relation to quarterly Consumer Price Index Figures;
And whereas that Government subsequently announced that pension adjustments should properly be made half yearly each May and November;
It is the current intention of the same Government to legislate for pensions to be adjusted only once a year, and this constitutes a serious breach of generally accepted ethics, of Democratic Government, and also deprives many needy pensioners of increases that are essential to their Subsistence.
The foregoing facts impel the under-signed Petitioners to request the Australian Government to uphold the principle that trustworthiness of Governments should at all times be above question.
And to appeal to the Parliament to prevent the imposition of further economic hardship upon Australian Pensioners, by rejecting any Bill which has for its aim the introduction of annual adjustments of Pension rates.
And your pensioners in duty bound will ever pray.
The Acting Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled-
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the Fraser Government was elected in December 1975 after promising that pensions would be adjusted instantly and automatically in relation to quarterly Consumer Price Index figures; and whereas that Government subsequently announced that pension adjustments should properly be made half yearly each May and November; it is the current intention of the same Government to legislate for pensions to be adjusted only once a year, and this constitutes a serious breach of generally accepted ethics of democratic government and also deprives many needy pensioners of increases that are essential to their subsistence.
The foregoing facts impel the undersigned petitioners to request the Australian Government to uphold the principle that the trustworthiness of governments should at all times be above question, and to appeal to the Parliament to prevent the imposition of further economic hardship upon Australian pensioners by rejecting any Bill which has for its aim the introduction of annual adjustments of pension rates.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Sibraa (3 petitions), Martin (2 petitions), Bonner, Carrick and Coleman.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the people of Australia having taken pan in the government of Australia through universal suffrage in December 1975 and again in December 1977 and that on the basis of their expressed choice at the ballot box the people of Australia gave authority to the LiberalNational Country Party Coalition to form a federal government to bring into affect specific policies promulgated throughout the length and breadth of Australia by the said Coalition and that, whereas by virtue of being elected through universal suffrage, the Government Members now sitting in the House of Representatives were authorised to implement their state objectives by legislation and that such authority did not extend to acting otherwise or to enact legislation not previously submitted to the will of the people, namely:-
Revoking the legislation for twice-yearly pension payments.
Imposing a freeze on the free-of-means-test pension.
Unemployed divided into those with dependents and those without.
Imposing income tax on pensions under age pension age- invalid and repatriation service pensions; rehabilitation allowances and incentives; sheltered employment and allowances for tuberculosis sufferers (civilian and service) and any other impositions.
Your petitioners submit that all or any of the foregoing proposed legislation of the Lower House, if implemented, will greatly disadvantage many thousands of citizens as either against their expressed will or not submitted to universal vote as the democratic right of the Australian people, therefore,
Your petitioners call on the Senate as the House of Review to take appropriate action to release these persons from burdens unfairly placed in order to finance a deficit not of their making.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Missen (2 petitions), Carrick (2 petitions), Grimes, Bonner, Jessop, Guilfoyle and Watson.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of 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. by Senator Jessop and Senator Guilfoyle.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and follows a series of questions that have been asked by my Leader, Senator Wriedt, and me in the past few days. Is it a fact that the Budget allocation for capital works in 1978-79 is down? Is it a fact that Commonwealth and State capital works represent a smaller proportion of Budget outlays than for many years, yet in the Treasurer’s letter of 12 October 1978 to Senator Wriedt and me he accepted that Government overseas borrowings have been higher than for many years and stated that these borrowings have been used for developmental purposes? Will the Minister defend the Government’s position by enlightening the Senate about the nature of the capital works that have occurred as a result of these borrowings which would not have occurred otherwise and will not occur in the future?
-Senator McAuliffe has asked a question in three parts. As to the precise question: ‘Is it a fact that capital works for 1978-79 are down?’, I take it that he meant relative to the previous year. I will get those figures and let the honourable senator know. I do not have in my memory a clear picture of that but I will get a general statement on what the capital works have been -
– I can save you the trouble. In your Budget Papers at page 199 it is stated specifically.
-I will even turn to page 199 of the Budget Papers. That is also relevant to the second question. The overall relationship between the capital works that are going on in Australia and the loan funds raised either here or overseas is one of the details I have not got in my mind. I will refer that matter to the Treasurer. I should add that the overall picture for Australia should include the new ventures into infrastructure financing which will be pan of a Loan Council meeting, I hope within a few weeks time.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question concerning statements by the Australian Capital Territory Chief Magistrate reported in yesterday’s Canberra Times. Have there been problems of administration between the Minister’s Department and the courts in the Australian Capital Territory? Have problems also resulted from staff ceilings? If so, what action will be taken on this and the related accommodation situation reportedly referred to by the Chief Magistrate? Is it correct to suggest that there has been a decline in the quality of justice in the Australian Capital Territory?
– My attention has been drawn to a statement made by the Chief Magistrate reported in the Canberra Times yesterday. I have discussed the matter with officers of my Department. First of all let me say that the allegations in the broad terms made by Mr Kilduff appear to me to be rather exaggerated. That is not to say that there are not problems that arise from time to time as a result of staff ceilings. However, the fact is that there is sufficient staff and accommodation for the five magistrates, which is the normal number provided. There are also two special magistrates. Probably there is sufficient staff to accommodate one more special magistrate sitting at the same time. However, naturally people are sick from time to time and problems can arise when a situation like that develops. However, there are usually ways and means of overcoming a temporary problem of that kind.
We have looked at the matter that has been raised. There has been an increase this year of two in the staff ceilings. I might say that the arrangements for each magistrate provide for three staff to be present in court. I do not think it is always necessary that there ought to be three staff in court. On many occasions, of course, it would be necessary but on other occasions it may not be necessary to have three in attendance in the court. As I said, I think there are ways and means of overcoming these problems. Arrangements exist between the Chief Magistrate and my Department for consideration of administrative problems. A First Assistant Secretary in the Department and officers of his section are concerned with the administration of the courts in the Australian Capital Territory and regular meetings take place. In addition to that, Mr Mahoney, the Deputy Secretary of the Department, is also available for discussion with the magistrates.
I have asked Mr Mahoney, the Deputy Secretary who is concerned with this area, to have discussions with the Chief Magistrate and the other magistrates to endeavour to ascertain whether changes could be made in the sitting arrangements of the magistrates and perhaps staff arrangements as well to service them. As I said, there are five magistrates and two special magistrates in the Australian Capital Territory. I have set in train the appointment of an additional special magistrate. It is a question sometimes of how many magistrates sit on a particular day. On the one hand, if one or two special magistrates sit in addition to the five magistrates of course there could be difficulties. On the other hand, magistrates do not all sit every day. I think some changes could be made, as I have said, in the sitting arrangements of the magistrates themselves. I have asked Mr Mahoney to discuss these questions with the Chief Magistrate. However, as I said at the beginning of my answer, I think the problems are ones that can be overcome and I think it is exaggerating matters to say that as a result of the situation there is a decline in the quality of justice.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs with a reference to the statement made by the Fijian delegates to the South Pacific Conference held in Noumea last week. The statement accused the Australian Government of paternalism and disinterest in regard to its relations with the South Pacific nations. The statement in part said:
Yesterday, Mr Chairman, we heard one of the countries represented here say that it cannot make a decision on an issue of crucial importance to the island countries unless and until it has sought and obtained clearance from its capital.
The statement went on:
How much longer are we, the island countries and, in fact, Ministers representing island peoples at this conference, to allow ourselves to be treated in this insulting and paternalistic way.
Similar sentiments were expressed by delegates from Western Samoa and the New Hebrides. In the light of this, will the Minister consider making a statement to the Parliament regarding Australia’s present relations with the South Pacific nations? Will the Minister explain why the Minister representing the Government was not present for the full Conference? Further, will the Minister undertake to ensure that there is representation at least at Cabinet level at such future conferences?
– I am not aware of the statement that was made, as alleged by Senator Sibraa, and therefore I cannot respond. But I will bring it to the attention of my colleague in another place, the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. I am not aware of any degeneration or difficulty in the relationships among South Pacific countries. I am aware that Australia’s relationships with those countries in the immediate past has been excellent, and I take that from direct statements that have been made to me by leaders of those countries. Nevertheless, since the question has been raised I will invite the responsible Minister in another place to respond.
-No doubt the Minister for Science is aware of a new device called the condensator supplementary carburettor which is being marketed in America for approximately $70 by Energy Concepts Limited. I understand that this device is designed to restore engine performance which automobiles lose as the result of pollution controls and is claimed to boost engine performance by 25 per cent and petrol mileage by some 10 per cent as well as reducing automobile emission by between 50 per cent and 90 per cent. I ask the Minister whether he and his Department have investigated this device and these claims. If so, does he consider that it should be installed in all Australian vehicles to reduce the drain on our energy resources?
-So far as I am aware, neither of my responsibilities, the Department of Science and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is basically looking at the problems of emission control or the efficiency of motor vehicles. The honourable senator has referred to something of which I am not aware, but this matter is rightly within the responsibility of the Minister for Transport and I will certainly bring it to his attention. The proposition that Senator Bonner has put forward looks particularly exciting, if it has a proven concept. If we consider the name that he gave for the company involved, it certainly should have.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. I refer to an article in the West Australian of 16 September relating to the possible formation of a national human rights commission. Recognising that the Minister has said, according to that newspaper report, that he has held talks with all States, will he now advise me with whom those talks were held in Western Australia, how many meetings have been held and whether the establishment of a federal human rights commission will require complementary State legislation? If so, have the terms of that complementary legislation been discussed with either the responsible Minister in Western Australia or members of his Department? Can the Attorney-General give some indication when legislation to establish a human rights commission will be introduced?
-The statement to which Senator Coleman has referred was, I think, a report of a speech that I made at about that time in relation to the question of the establishment of a human rights commission for Australia. The position is that earlier this year a Deputy Secretary in my Department, Mr Bailey, was given the task of conducting discussions with officers in the States about the possibility of their participation in a human rights commission which would be a co-operative arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States. The Senate will recall that my predecessor introduced a Bill to set up a human rights commission which would have been confined to the Commonwealth area. When, earlier this year, I received some indication that it might be possible to involve the States in this exercise, with the concurrence of the Government I delayed proceeding with that legislation in an effort to explore fully this possibility of involving the States. The question was discussed at the last meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in Darwin. It seemed from that discussion that there was value in the discussions that were being held by Mr Bailey and that something positive might well come out of them. I have since been advised by Mr Bailey that his discussions have proceeded since that meeting, which was in July, and that further developments have taken place. I have received reports and had discussions with him as to what form this arrangement with the States may take. It is hoped that there will be a further meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General next month, at which a special time will be set aside for a discussion on the progress in this matter. We are tentatively looking at a date about the middle of November, but I cannot be definite yet. All I can say is that these discussions have proceeded in a promising way.
I cannot say with whom Mr Bailey has been conducting his discussions in Western Australia; but, of course, the Attorney-General for Western Australia, Mr Medcalf, was at the meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in Darwin and presumably will be at the next meeting which we hope to set up next month. The probabilities are that there will be complementary legislation if this scheme eventuates; but at this stage it is really too early to give any further details to the Senate.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, relates to the problems which have arisen in Queensland in the last 24 hours regarding the export of live cattle. Is the Minister aware that the current problem has its sources in a four-year ban on the export of live cattle which has been imposed by the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union? Is the Minister aware that live cattle have been loaded and shipped from Queensland recently under an arrangement reached by the AMIEU and the Cattlemen’s Union? Since it is clearly possible to reach agreement with the union to ship live cattle, what action does the Government intend to take? Is the Minister aware that there is currently a 24-hour stoppage in meat works in Queensland as a result of an attempt by the livestock agent concerned to ship cattle outside the agreement, which clearly has serious implications for Queensland? In view of the importance of our beef export trade- live and otherwise- to Australia, but particularly to Queensland, and in view of the fact that this dispute is four years old, what action does the Government intend to take to try to overcome the difficulties with that union?
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, of course, is aware of the problem which exists and which has reached a fairly critical stage today in Queensland in regard to this ban on the export of live cattle. However, I have been advised that the cattle, in fact, are being loaded and that the ship is expected to leave today. I will refer the question asked by Senator Martin to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and ask him whether he will let her have an early answer in respect of the further details that she sought.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime
Minister or to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, refers to the ACTU Jetset Travel Service Pty Ltd inquiry. The Minister will be well aware, of course, that by the acceptance of the Government there is a well-established agreement to consult the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which the Government does on all occasions, on a wide variety of matters. More particularly, when there are national disputes Ministers properly use the good offices of the ACTU by ringing up and discussing the matter with the ACTU President. How is it that in respect of the occasion involving the air navigation regulations an offhand procedure was used to communicate in writing with the ACTU on a Saturday morning when the opportunity might have been taken first to discuss the matter with the ACTU President in the same way that Ministers and the Prime Minister often discuss important matters with him over the telephone?
– Actually, the question comes within the ambit of a number of Ministers, including the Minister for Transport, but I will respond in general terms and then, if it is necessary, get more specific information. I think it is reasonable to say that the relationships between the Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions over the years have been very good indeed and that the Government would want those relationships to be good. My understanding, which is subject to correction, of the ACTU Jetset Travel Service Pty Ltd incident is that in the first instance the Minister wrote to the Managing Director or responsible officer of that calibre in the ACTU pointing out the difficulties and problems and that the subsequent procedures were in no way, in the melodramatic sense reported in the Press, a raid or anything of that nature. As far as I understand, they were the normal procedures under the regulations. A public servant and a Commonwealth police officer called to deliver some papers which asked for certain information. As I understand the position legally, these are procedural matters and are done in this way.
I stress that my advice is that there was in no sense a raid; there was in no sense a forcible entry; and there was in no sense the seizing of material in any way. Under the legal requirements-as has been done, so I am instructed, in six other instances regarding travel agencies and this kind of problem- there was the delivery of a paper which set out the information that was requested. If, when I have looked at the full substance of Senator Bishop’s question, there are further matters that need to be answered, I will respond. If there are any unwitting inaccuracies on my part I will happily respond.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. The substance of my question to the Minister was: Does he agree that, in view of the very close relationship which I know obtains in disputes when the good offices of the Australian Council of Trade Unions are often sought, it is reasonable to expect that there might have been better communication?
-I hesitate to relate the question of better communication to the recent incident. What I have said is that I believe it desirable at all times that the relationship between the Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions be as good as possible. I am not instructed that there was any departure from that situation. If there had been any departure I have no doubt that the Minister in another place would have commented on it. However, that is not the advice I have. The advice I have is that there had been communication and that what happened was the normal process of serving a paper requesting certain information and papers.
– I ask the Minister for Education: Is the basis for the abolition of fees for tertiary education at least in part a desire to make such education more accessible to the socially and economically disadvantaged? If so, is the Minister aware of a national study recently carried out which has shown that the abolition of tertiary fees has largely failed to achieve its objective? Is the Minister able to advise us what further study will be necessary and how long it might take before a reliable judgment on this matter can be made? Finally, if the study is confirmed, is he able to say whether examination of alternative propositions is anticipated which might more effectively open up to students from a wide variety of social and economic backgrounds the whole field of tertiary education?
- Senator Baume raises a very interesting, complex series of questions. The basic principle of this Government and, I am sure, of all governments, is to provide equality of opportunity for all. That means that one must look at the socio-economic structure of those seeking education. It is, I would imagine, part of that principle of equality of opportunity that led to the abolition of fees, that led to the development of scholarships and bursaries and then to the stucture of the Tertiary Education Assistance scheme, as such.
I am aware of the report in which I think Donald Anderson had a major part. I have read the report and have put it aside for further study. On the surface, it indicates- but this is a simplistic conclusion- that in the years that followed the abolition of fees, there has been no major apparent change in the socio-economic structure of those in tertiary institutions. My own reading of the report suggested a number of things, but a rereading of it may suggest more. I think the period to which the report has been directed has been altogether too short. It will also be found that there are qualifications in the report. Therefore, I do not think the conclusion can be drawn that one should revert from the current situation because the present structure has not achieved its purpose. I think the report makes other claims.
The question of achieving equality of opportunity inside education lies not only with fees or allowances: It lies also, of course, with our moving Australian families as far as we can up the socio-economic scale in terms of standards of living so that their conditions are conducive to further study for the young. That is our aim.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, although the Leader of the Government in the Senate may desire to answer it. My question follows on that asked by Senator Bishop. I ask the Minister: Who requested the Commonwealth Police to accompany an officer of the Department of Transport to deliver a document to ACTU Jetset Travel Service Pty Ltd? As Senator Carrick has said that this is a legal requirement, where is the authority for such a legal requirement? In what Act or in what Bill or in what rules of court or in what regulation, et cetera, is such legal requirement to be found? Was there any purpose in making the visit late on a Saturday morning when the office was sparsely attended? Was the officer from the Department of Transport on overtime on Saturday morning for the purpose of delivering this document? What other documents that are not legal require the accompaniment of Commonwealth Police for the service of them?
-Because this question clearly follows on the question asked by Senator Bishop and also because no Minister here would have in his or her possession the details, I will take the questions to my colleague in another place, the Minister for Transport, and request the information as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Since the presentation of the statement on Australia’s ‘International Civil Aviation Policy’ by the Minister for Transport last week, has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the following: Firstly, claims by Sir Freddie Laker that the Minister for Transport has deliberately distorted his Skytrain proposals; secondly, the suggestion that cheaper air fares will not be available to Australian travellers before Christmas 1979; thirdly, the possibility that airlines such as JAT, KLM and UTA will be forced off the EuropeAustralia run; fourthly, the suggestion that Australia-United Kingdom flights will be reduced from 1 7 to seven a week ex-Sydney and from 17 to five a week ex-Melbourne; and, fifthly, the generally-held editorial view that the announcement serves only to protect and to featherbed Qantas to the financial detriment of Australian travellers and potential tourists coming to Australia? In the light of these serious allegations, can the Minister say whether any of these allegations are true? To allow the Parliament to examine these matters in more detail, will the Minister press to ensure that debate on the Minister’s statement is brought forward in the Parliament with the minimum degree of delay?
-Although I had not seen all of the allegations which are referred to by Senator Puplick in his question I had seen some of them. He did indicate to me that he wanted to get some detailed response on the matters which he had just mentioned in his question. The general answer to those questions is, I think, no, the allegations are not true. But to answer them in more detail and in accordance with information I have obtained from the Minister for Transport: Firstly, the Minister has not deliberately distorted Sir Freddie Laker’s proposals. In the first instance, these proposals were not for a Skytrain such as he operates between London and New York. Skytrain is a scheduled service offering one class of standby fare. The Laker Airways proposal made to the Government was for a nonscheduled or charter operation of two DC 10 services per week with advanced booking conditions. The proposal was to operate these services between London/Luxembourg and Sydney or Melbourne.
The second question related to a claim that cheaper air fares will not be available to Australian travellers before Christmas 1979. The Government is pressing ahead to have cheaper air fares introduced on as many routes as possible in the first quarter of next year, as Mr Nixon told the Parliament last week. He said he hoped to be in a position to make a further announcement by Christmas this year, not Christmas next year, but that this must necessarily depend upon the consent of other governments. The third question related to whether the Yugoslav, Netherlands and French airlines would be forced off Europe- Australia run. The Minister for Transport has said repeatedly that the intention is that discussions should be held with other countries in Europe apart from the United Kingdom, and his statement last week made it plain that it was hoped to do this quickly. Those discussions will be aimed at ways of maintaining direct air services, but also will wish to take account of the policy objectives the Government outlined last week and the Australian Government’s interest in securing lower fares on those routes.
The fourth question suggested that flights to the United Kingdom would be reduced from 1 7 to seven per week from Sydney and from 17 to five per week from Melbourne. This is, I am pleased to inform honourable senators, quite untrue. While discussions with the United Kingdom remain to be finalised, as the Minister for Transport made quite clear last week the discussions that have been held to date were predicated on British Airways and Qantas Airways Ltd between them providing 10 services per week from each of Melbourne and Sydney to London. The last question said that we are aiming to featherbed Qantas and this would be to the detriment of Australian travellers and potential tourists. These comments reflect little understanding of the Government’s intention. Indeed, the announced indicative fare levels for London from eastern Australia indicate the very significant fare savings that we believe can be made. Secondly, and most importantly, these fare reductions are offered while at the same time regular services offering travel for those members of the public who wish to travel quickly or at short notice are retained. It is of little value to a businessman or to a person wishing to visit a sick relative in the United Kingdom to have to wait 2 1 or 45 days to get a service. The report of the review committee made very clear the interrelationship between the supply of different classes of air services. The honourable senator’s attention in this respect is particularly directed to annexure E of the committee’s report which attempts to quantify the scheduling implications for alternative policy course.
I would draw his attention to the section in the statement appearing at page 19 which showed that the Government carefully considered whether arrangements would lead to inefficiencies in the production and distribution of air travel. In particular I would ask him to note the measures the Government has said it will take in future and importantly to note that the Government is to review its single designation policy in 1981. The principal limitation to moving away from that policy at this stage was the size of existing markets. The Government hopes that the measures it is seeking to put into effect will encourage travel growth and expand markets very rapidly. Certainly a reduction of nearly $300 in the lowest available individual fare between eastern Australia and London cannot be held to be to the detriment of Australian travellers or the attraction of tourists to Australia. Finally, I will consult the Leader of the Government in the Senate on the timetable for debate on the statement, which obviously is of considerable interest to honourable senators.
– My question without notice is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the growing practice of prepared questions and answers of Government senators, which abuses the principle of questions without notice and I specifically draw the Minister’s attention to the disgraceful incident on the last sitting day in the Senate last week involving the publication of a private and personal letter from Dr Everingham to the Chairman of the Northern Land Council, Mr Yunupingu, and the same incident taking place almost simultaneously in the House of Representatives, all of which showed a degree of organisation. I ask the Minister: Does he genuinely believe that this was a spontaneous question without notice? Will he take steps to ensure that the proper principle of questions without notice is adhered to by Government senators? Will he give an assurance that this despicable breach of principle and confidentiality is not repeated in the Senate?
-Quite clearly it is not for me to express a belief as to what the origins of a question are; nor is it required under the Standing Orders that that should be so. Nothing that Senator Gietzelt has said has indicated any breach of the Standing Orders. Mr President, you have been good enough to make clear from time to time what the Standing Orders are. Questions can be asked without notice, although on occasions notice has been given. This was a practice widely followed by Labor senators in the past. The obvious intention of that is so that if one sincerely wants a detailed answer one can get it rather than having to experience delay. I for one would not object- I never do object- to an approach by any honourable senator, Labor or Government, asking sincerely for information. I think it is our job to give the information, if we can, and to give it in good detail, if we can. We will try to do so, as we have done in the past.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware of allegations in the Hobart Mercury of 16 and 17 October of reported large scale closures of beds in recognised public hospitals in Hobart? Will the Minister inform the Senate of the precise position in relation to recognised hospital beds in Hobart?
– I understand that on 24 May the Minister for Health announced that the Commonwealth Government would negotiate with the States measures directed to achieving increased hospital productivity, efficiency and cost containment. Subsequently, with the agreement of State Health Ministers, Commonwealth and State officials have discussed these and other measures suggested by State officials. The purpose of these discussions was to have the measures and their implications fully explored. The discussions were held against the background that all Health Ministers share a concern about the growth in hospital costs. No decision in relation to the introduction of any proposals has been taken by the Government, but I anticipate that it will be considering some proposals in the near future. Until decisions are taken and announced, any reports of the kind appearing in the Hobart Mercury are pure conjecture.
– I direct a question to Senator Chaney as the custodian of the Commonwealth electoral laws. In view of the successful simplified system that applied in the New South Wales Legislative Council elections, does the Minister see himself as a pacesetter reforming the present ponderous Senate voting system?
– I must confess that I have not set as my ambition for these first few months to be a pacesetter in the reform of anything very much at all. I have to say at this stage that my answer to the honourable senator is no. As I have indicated to the Senate before, and as was indicated by Senator Withers over a period, it is the intention of the Government to bring forward a general review of the electoral laws. It is my intention to discuss that general review with officers of the Australian Electoral Office within the next few weeks and to get some idea of the parameters of that proposal. I will bear the honourable senator’s suggestion in mind when I am having those discussions.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister, in his research, have a look at the dialogue, as recorded in Hansard, between Senator Douglas McClelland and me and his predecessor when that Minister gave partial promises that he would look at the matter? To me the word ‘partial ‘ signified that the Minister was rather sympathetic to the suggestion.
-I certainly will look at the extracts from Hansard to which the honourable senator has referred me and bear them in mind when I am having those discussions.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It concerns the recent change of government in Sweden. Has the Centre Party in Sweden been thrown out of office by the Social Democrats on a pro-uranium issue? Does this mean there is now in office in Sweden a predominantly Labour government dedicated to making Sweden the world’s most advanced nation in harnessing nuclear fission? Is it a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has not reported any of these events? Can the Minister say whether it is true that the newscasters of the ABC and the producers of the ABC commentary sessions such as AM and PM have in fact refused to report these events?
– My attention has been drawn to a recent article in the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial which does suggest that there has been a complete reversal of the policy of the Swedish Government with respect to the development of nuclear power. It is further suggested in that article that that radical turnaround has not been remarked upon by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I am afraid that my study of what has been happening in Sweden is very small indeed and I am not in a position to confirm the facts which have been indicated by the honourable senator. I must say with some trepidation that the extent to which I listen to the ABC has become fairly limited so I cannot even confirm whether it has been covering the Swedish position.
However, I think it is a matter of some interest. I shall make some inquiries about the matter raised by the honourable senator. I am sure that if the Swedish Government has seen fit to make such a radical change in policy it will be of interest to the Australian people and is a matter which I think they would wish to see publicised.
-TON- I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports in yesterday’s Brisbane Telegraph that a Liberal Federal Minister and a Liberal back bench member of the House of Representatives declared a holiday for the Everton Park State Primary School in Brisbane? Has the Minister’s attention also been drawn to the comment from the Queensland Education Department that Federal members of Parliament, including Cabinet Ministers, had no right to go around handing out holidays to Queensland school children? In view of the distress caused to pupils and the relief of many mothers when the holiday did not eventuate yesterday, will the Minister lay down guidelines to his Liberal colleagues in relation to the granting of such holidays?
– I must confess that I have not seen the report at all.
– Lucky for you.
– Yes, indeed, but I shall look at it.
– Don’t you read the newspapers?
– Yes, I read them, and read them diligently. I have not any knowledge of the assertion that certain people offered a holiday or whether or not they had the right to do so. As to the rights of a Federal Minister or a member of Parliament to grant holidays for primary schools, I will look that up and will let honourable senators know. I have not found it a necessary part of my armament in the past.
– My question without notice is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is the Minister in receipt of a letter from Mr J. F. Barnard, managing director of Barnard Bros Pty Ltd, which outlines a campaign by one trade union to breach the wage fixation principles established by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? Is the Minister aware that
Barnard Bros has been subject to industrial intimidation by the Builders Labourers Federation in its campaign for a 35-hour week? Is he also aware that by refusing to accept the excessive demands of the BLF and by choosing not to make a sweetheart deal with the union, Barnard Bros has sacrificed a number of its long-standing contracts and suffered business loss? What does the Commonwealth Government intend to do to protect the rights of Barnard Bros or any business enterprise, which is, by its actions, taking a public interest stand against the irresponsible actions of one trade union?
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, whom I represent, is aware of the matters raised by Senator Missen. They involve a claim by the building industry unions that their members employed by some contractors at the Altona oil refinery site of Petroleum Refineries Australia work a 35-hour week. Employees of the contractors went on strike in support of the 35-hour week. The matter was referred to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission but due to some jurisdiction limitations the Commission was prevented from arbitrating on the matter. Subsequently, several employer organisations representing other employers agreed to arrangements, which included the 35 hour week, to enable the work to resume and the job to be completed. However, Barnard Bros refused to be part of that arrangement. Those are the circumstances to which Senator Missen referred.
Certainly the Government is very concerned about any sweetheart arrangements of that kind that are made in circumstances revealed by this situation. However, as I have said, the circumstances seem to be outside the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Government believes, of course, that that is the proper forum for the consideration of claims for reduced hours of work and is opposed to attempts by industrial pressure to achieve a shorter working week outside the arbitration system. However, I will refer to the Minister the specific question raised by Senator Missen.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In case he is not aware of this, I preface my question by telling him that the Prime Minister announced in the House a short time ago that the Minister for Primary Industry would be leaving this evening for the United States. I ask the Leader of the Government whether he has seen the report in last weekend ‘s National Times that the Minister for Primary Industry would be making a statement shortly concerning his problems associated with the accounts of Allan Walsh Pty Ltd, funeral directors. Will the Minister for Primary Industry be making that statement before he leaves tonight for the United States? If the Leader of the Government does not know now, will he find out this afternoon?
-I am aware that the Minister for Primary Industry is leaving later today to go abroad on Government business. I am not aware of any intention on his part to make a statement, presumably on a personal matter. I will draw the attention of the Minister concerned to Senator Walsh ‘s question.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is the Minister aware of problems encountered by citizens living in remote areas in obtaining regular mail deliveries? Does he agree that many people who live on station properties do not have the benefit of any deliveries at all? Do any provisions exist which allow for relief in cases of hardship arising amongst families which rely on the mails for educating outback children?
– As the honourable senator is aware, I do have some knowledge of these problems because he and I were in Meekatharra at the same meeting some weeks ago.
– For the races.
– At that meeting there was a considerable airing of the difficulties faced by some people living in remote areas. Although that seems to cause some hilarity opposite, for reasons I do not understand, there are in fact Australians living 20 or 30 miles from their nearest neighbour, often in quite difficult climatic conditions and of recent years in conditions of considerable economic difficulty. The fact is that the mail services available to those people have tended to diminish in recent years, in part because of the lessening population and in part, I suppose, because of the greatly increased cost of doing almost anything. I am aware that these difficulties exist. They are matters which have been the subject of representations to the Minister and they are matters which I think are currently receiving Government attention. I am not aware of any specific measures that are available to provide assistance to those families which are particularly reliant on the mails for providing education for their children. That is a matter which I will take up with the responsible Minister, who already administers extensive programs of assistance for education in remote areas.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Will the Primary Industry Bank of Australia Ltd be funded by $30m at 5 per cent from income equalisation deposits and $50m borrowed from the public at 10 per cent or less- that is, at an average of less than 8 per cent? Will the money be lent out at a minimum of 101/2 per cent interest? Finally, how will the Bank’s profits be distributed or will the potential profit be grabbed up by the superfluous administrators and bureaucracy associated with the Bank?
-As to the lending arrangements of the Primary Industry Bank of Australia Ltd, Senator Primmer may well have his attention drawn to a news release dated 16 October of a Press conference in Sydney at which Mr John Frearson, the General Manager of the Primary Industry Bank of Australia Ltd, outlined the Bank’s lending policies. This follows the joint announcement by the Commonwealth Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry concerning interest rates on loans refinanced by the Bank of 10.5 per cent per annum for loans of less than $100,000 and 12.5 per cent per annum on larger loans and the provision of Commonwealth funds of $30m to the Bank. Because I fancy the rest of that statement would be of general interest I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
PRIMARY INDUSTRY BANK OF AUSTRALIA LIMITED
News Release 1 6 October 1978
Embargo 4 p.m. 16 October 1978
Primary Industry Bank Announces Lending Policy
At a press conference in Sydney today Mr John C. Frearson, General Manager of the Primary Industry Bank of Australia Limited outlined the Bank’s Lending Policies.
This follows the joint announcement by the Commonwealth Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry concerning interest rates on loans refinanced by the Bank of 10.5 per cent per annum for loans of less than $100,000 and 12.5 per cent per annum on larger loans and the provision of Commonwealth funds of $30m to the Bank.
Mr Frearson said that the Bank’s funds would generally be available for the refinancing of loans to persons engaged, or intending to be engaged, in primary production including fishing and forestry operations, in Australia. He stressed that participation by lenders would be spread as widely as possible.
Mr Frearson emphasised that the Bank had been established with a view to increasing the availability of longer term loan funds for purposes of primary production. This would be accomplished initially through the banking system and later through wider financing avenues. The Commonwealth Development Bank will have early access to the refinance facilities provided.
Refinance loans will be available for periods from 8 to 30 years appropriate to the life of the assets being financed in all cases. In refinancing machinery and equipment the Bank will have regard to the normal depreciation periods used by the Commissioner of Taxation.
Mr Frearson outlined some of the purposes for which Bank refinancing would be available. These include- purchase of rural land acquired for primary production; assistance in holding together a rural enterprise, e.g. where death of a proprietor creates financing difficulties; capital expenditure involving fixed and structural improvements including farm buildings, fencing and pasture improvement; recovery from flood, fire, drought, plague and any other major adversity or to mitigate the effects of future such adversities, including re-establishment of pastures and water conservation, not covered by the provision of any natural disaster recovery scheme; purchase of fishing vessels and facilities, machinery and farm equipment and stock; expansion of existing farm development and fishing projects; refinancing, in appropriate cases of existing debt (particularly short term debt), and/or the rearrangement of existing borrowings in times of special need.
Mr Frearson said that for the time being minimum loan amount for refinancing by the Bank would be $ 10,000 with a preferred maximum loan of $250,000. He stated that the Bank would be prepared to consider larger loan amounts in special circumstances.
In response to a question, Mr Frearson said that the loan repayment programme by end borrowers would commence as soon as practicable after the loan was made. But that provision was included for variation to programmes in special circumstances, e.g. during the initial non-income-earning period of a new project or to meet the genuine needs arising from adverse circumstances. He said that these cases will be considered by the Bank on an individual basis.
Mr Frearson expects that the Bank will be open to receive refinance loan applications from the banking system within the next 3 to 4 weeks.
He forecast that the Bank would be seeking funds from the fixed term securities market early in the new year. This will give the public the opportunity to invest in the new Bank.
The Primary Industry Bank of Australia Limited
Mr John C. Frearson
Telephone: (02) 231 5655
- Senator Primmer asked about one or two other aspects, including the precise financing of the Bank itself. Whilst I believe that what he says is correct, I will check the matter and let him know.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry any information on the evaluation of trials being carried out by the Bureau of Animal Health and the Victorian Department of Agriculture into the alternative method of detection of brucellosis known as the indirect haemolysis test or IHLT which I understand is hoped to take over from the existing method and which would involve not insignificant savings of both cost and time in the eradication program? If not, will the Minister please obtain a report and advise the Senate?
– I understand that officers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Division of Animal Health and the Victorian Department of Agriculture laboratories at Atwood, which is very near where I live, are collaborating in a large field trial to evaluate a serological test known as the indirect haemolysis test or IHLT as the honourable senator mentions, for use in the brucellosis eradication campaign. I understand that results from the trial to date indicate that technically in Victoria the test may be as good as the accepted definitive test currently in use- that is, the complement fixation test or CFT- and that it may be more effective in differentiating animals vaccinated with brucellosis strain 19 from brucellosis infected animals. This could be of some importance as the campaign in Australia proceeds. However, I understand there is a reluctance to use the new tests in the middle of a full-scale eradication campaign. The existing CFT test has an excellent reputation. It is an excellent test which is accepted internationally and it has been proved under field conditions. Unfortunately it is a fairly intricate test and very time-consuming as the honourable senator knows. The greatest practical advantage of the new test may be its simplicity of operation and reduction in costs. At this stage IHLT has been trialled widely in only Victoria but the Queensland Department of Primary Industries also will be looking closely at the test. In summary, considerable field work under different management systems will be required before any decision can be made to replace the present CF test with the IHL test which the honourable senator mentioned.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General and follows the question asked by Senator Knight regarding the charge by the Chief Magistrate, Mr Kilduff, that there has been a decline in the quality of justice in the Australian Capital Territory. I ask the AttorneyGeneral a further question because I find his reply to Senator Knight’s question quite unsatisfactory, given the serious nature of the charge made by Mr Kilduff. I now ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he will inform himself and the Senate about the length of delays in court hearings, the amount of time wasted by public employees such as police officers because of these delays and the increased legal costs caused to citizens because of these delays.
– I do not doubt that saying there has been a decline in the quality of justice is a serious charge and because that claim was made by the Chief Magistrate I made it my business to inform myself about the matter. Of course, I have discussions from time to time about these questions with officers of the Department, but having gone into the matter it seems to me that it was an exaggeration to say that there was a decline in the quality of justice because of the nature of the staffing difficulties that had arisen. Senator Ryan has asked me about delays in the magistrates’ courts. No complaints have been made to me recently about delays in the courts. I know that Mr Kilduff has said that on some occasions magistrates have not been able to sit because of the staff problems. If those problems have arisen naturally there would be delay in those cases, but when one talks about delays in court one is really talking about a much wider and more serious problem. As far as that is concerned, I have appointed a special magistrate in recent months and I have set in train the appointment of another special magistrate. I am not aware of any claim that there ought to be more magistrates. I will make inquiries to answer the question that Senator Ryan has raised. I think that the problems that have been indicated are capable of resolution with the existing number of magistates and within the staff allocation to the magistrates ‘courts.
– My question is to the Minister for Education and relates to media education. My interest arises from recent inquiries in South Australia. I ask: What initiatives has the Government undertaken in relation to media education? To what extent has the Department researched this area? Are there any plans for additional funding for studies or programs in media education?
– A number of quite significant initiatives has been taken in the field of media education. I could refer at the outset to the Schools Commission which has shown an interest in a number of ways. It has shown interest in two main ways. In research in collaboration with the Australia Council it has sponsored a national study of education and the arts, including media education. The study was conducted by national and State committees and its findings are reported in a document entitled Education and the Arts. Secondly, I refer to special projects of the Schools Commission in which a number of media education projects have been funded through the Special Projects (Innovation) Program, through the Disadvantaged Schools Program and through the Disadvantaged Country Areas Program. I refer also to the Curriculum Development Centre, which is involved in a project to organise the exchange of State media materials. The CDC is beginning to catalogue all material available in the States and to co-ordinate the production and exchange of this material. The CDC also has funded two small mass media projects. One is a tape-slide set showing the importance of mass media education in schools. This has not yet been published. It was organised through the Catholic Education Office in Sydney. The other project involved teaching modules on different aspects of media education. This is being produced through the South Australian Education Technology Centre.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I do so with great expectation, in view of the Minister’s intimate knowledge of the Department of the Minister he represents in the Senate. Has the Government made a decision to reduce the Port Augusta-Alice Springs railway service known as the Ghan service? If the answer is in the affirmative, can the Minister say whether the Australian Workers Union, which has many of its members working on this service, was consulted prior to the decision being made? If a decision has not yet been taken, will the Minister undertake to have discussions with the AWU in South Australia at the earliest opportunity in the interests of industrial harmony?
– I hate to disappoint the honourable senator, but I can only say that I will refer that question to the Minister for Transport and seek a detailed reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Having in mind the declining interest rates now being offered to the Australian investor by various Australian authorities seeking finance and also the fact that some banks appear not to favour the reduction of interest rates on borrowings, what is the attitude of the Government to the situation and what action is contemplated?
– The Government shares the concern for lower interest rates and has directed its economic policies to lowering inflation so as to permit sustainable reductions in interest rates. This process is well under way. Decelerating inflation has been followed by lower interest rates as market conditions permit. For example, the Government long term bond rate has fallen by 1 Vi per cent over the last year. That is very significant. The interest rate on housing finance has fallen, giving savings of around $9 a month on an average savings bank loan. The interest rate on small trading bank loans was lowered early in the term of the Government and has stayed at a relatively low rate, in the circumstances, of 10½ per cent. The cost of borrowing from finance companies has been falling recently. The Government’s policies will continue to be directed towards sustainable lower rates as circumstances permit. There is wide confidence that further progress will occur in the period ahead.
-Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to a recent speech by Mr Justice Muirhead in which, when discussing the Family Law Act, he said: ‘The judges are undertaking unacceptable work loads, counsellors are at their wit’s end, the welfare officers despite best endeavours find it almost impossible to keep up to date ‘? Mr Justice Muirhead described the family law counsellors as a vital arm of the system and drew attention to the fact that the system is understaffed by at least 30 per cent in this area. Will the AttorneyGeneral investigate this matter and give consideration to the relaxation of staff ceilings so that the people of Darwin are given adequate counsellors and the people at Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, where there are at present no counsellors, will have the advantage of this vital arm of the system?
– I am not aware of the speech made by Mr Justice Muirhead. I am aware of the problems that certainly arise in the Family Court generally because of the number of matters with which it has to deal. I will refer the specific question raised by Mr Justice Muirhead to the Chief Judge of the Family Court and discuss the matter with her.
- Mr President, I wish to add briefly to answers I have given. Senator
Sibraa asked me a question relating to the Fiji delegation to the South Pacific Conference. In fact, I had the information here and should have been able to render it. I think that it is important. My advice is that the Fiji delegation to the South Pacific Conference last week criticised Australia for not having sent, in its judgment, a sufficiently senior delegation to Noumea to enable it to take decisions without referring them back to Canberra. I am advised that in the two instances referred to by Fiji there were good reasons for referring the matters concerned back to Canberra. In the first instance, accession of any state- in this case, Tuvalu- to the Canberra agreement affects Australia’s treaty relationships and is, therefore, a matter for decision by the Foreign Minister himself. In the second instance, a draft resolution on civil aviation, the subject matter was connected with a major statement on civil aviation which the Minister for Transport was to make that day in Canberra. It was necessary to ensure that the resolution which Australia was being asked to support was not inconsistent with the Minister’s statement. In these circumstances the delegation was quite correct in referring the two matters back to Canberra for consideration. It did so not because the delegation was not sufficiently senior but because the particular matters needed to be considered in Canberra by relevant Ministers.
– Earlier Senator Baume asked me a question about a report on the social composition of students in Australian higher education. As I thought, the study was done by Dr Anderson, but Professor Fensham and Dr Powell were also involved. It was initiated in 1974 by the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee. One of the interesting and significant things is that more than one in five students covered by the survey stated that they either would not have enrolled or would have had to defer enrolment if fees had been charged.
-Senator McAuliffe and Senator Wriedt have asked a series of questions on loans and Senator McAuliffe asked a follow-up question today. It would be helpful to all honourable senators if I incorporated in Hansard the text of the letter of reply to previous questions because it provides tables which are part of the continuing process. I seek leave to incorporate that letter.
Senator K. S. Wriedt
Canberra, ACT 2600
Dear Senator Wriedt,
I refer to your questions, asked of Senator Carrick in the Senate on 27 and 28 September, concerning the amount of overseas borrowings undertaken by the Commonwealth since this Government came to office and the extent of the exchange losses incurred.
Attached for your information is a table listing all Commonwealth overseas borrowings since December 1975, including relevant interest rates and periods to maturity. As you will see, the table includes a Y50 billion public issue with a maturity of 12 years and an interest rate of 6.6 per cent, undertaken in February this year, to which you specifically referred in your question. The approximate Australian dollar equivalent of the principal amount of the loan (using the exchange rate supplied by the Reserve Bank at the time proceeds were received) was $A1 84.0m.
I would point out that while it is possible to make an assessment of paper exchange gains or losses at a point in time, it is of little consequence as these calculations fluctuate from day to day with movements in exchange rates. Actual loss or gain is not known until the loan is eventually repaid.
In this regard, it is relevant that the present Government ‘s policy, as has been the policy of past Governments, is for overseas borrowings to cover a wide range of separate international capital markets. This effectively allows the Government to spread its risks across various currencies and smoothes out the possible long term effects.
In a question asked of Senator Carrick in a similar vein to yours, Senator McAuliffe was concerned with the limited recourse to borrowings in US dollars compared with other currencies. I point out here that the Commonwealth has borrowed substantially in US dollars in recent years- between June 1976 and 1978 the proportion of the Commonwealth’s borrowings denominated in US dollars has risen from 4 1 per cent of outstanding debt to 5 1 per cent.
In regard to the overall level of overseas borrowing undertaken by this Government, there has been a marked expansion in recent years. In 1977-78, gross overseas borrowings by the Commonwealth totalled $ 1,764m, compared with $458m in 1976-77 and $276m in 1974-75-on present indications, the level of the Commonwealth ‘s overseas borrowings will again be substantial in 1978-79. This increased borrowing program reflects the Commonwealth’s policy of attracting sufficient overseas capital, on both private and public account, to supplement resources available to this country for development purposes and to maintain the level of international reserves. This has been an essential element in the Government’s ability to maintain the value of the Australian dollar.
Australia’s outstanding official overseas debt is, however, still low by both historical and international standards. At 30 June 1978 (the latest date for which national income data is available), Australia’s outstanding overseas debt of $3,635m represented approximately 4.0 per cent of GDP in 1977-78; our recently announced borrowings in relation to this financial year would probably increase that figure slightly. In 1966-67, the corresponding proportion was 6.5 per cent.
Due regard has been paid to debt management considerations in selecting maturities for the loans undertaken, and care is taken to ensure that the pattern of repayments does not result in undue commitments in respect of any one year.
I trust these comments are of benefit to you in understanding this Government’s policy in respect of the Commonwealth’s loan raisings.
I am providing a copy of this letter to Senator McAuliffe for his information. Yours sincerely,
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– I claim to have been misrepresented in an article in today’s edition of the Hobart Mercury. In an article on page 3 under the headline ‘Hodgman Abortion Challenge’, the newspaper claims that I am in favour of the establishment of private abortion clinics in the Australian Capital Territory and Mr Hodgman is alleged to have claimed that I and other Australian Labor Party members were openly promoting the establishment of private abortion clinics. The article refers to a motion by Senator Ryan to disallow the Australian Capital Territory Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance and implies that the aim of this disallowance is to establish private abortion clinics. Quite apart from the fact that Senator Ryan’s motion does not do that and is not intended to allow the establishment of such clinics, I have not expressed my views publicly or privately on this issue anywhere. Therefore, Mr Hodgman ‘s statement is not based on anything he has heard or read. In fact, I am very much opposed to the establishment of such clinics in the Australian Capital Territory or anywhere else. That Mr Hodgman makes such claims without evidence is, I believe, understandable and occurs only too often, but that a newspaper claiming to be responsible should make such statements without checking with me or on the authenticity of the statements is unfortunate.
– I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– Following Senator Grimes’ personal explanation, I simply would like to add that I also have been misrepresented in the same article referred to by Senator Grimes, an article appearing on page 3 of today’s Hobart Mercury, in which it is claimed that I along with some of my Australian Labor Party colleagues am, to quote from the article, openly promoting the establishment of private abortion clinics and that I have some interest in a proposal to establish private abortion clinics thereby commercialising the termination of pregnancy. I have never supported and do not at this stage support the establishment of private abortion clinics in the Australian Capital Territory. When I moved the motion for disallowance of the Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance I made that quite clear. I wish to quote now from what I said when I moved that motion. I referred to recommendation No. 2 in the Legislative Assembly report which states:
That a permanent Termination of Pregnancy Ordinance be made to ensure that private free-standing abortion clinics do not operate in the Australian Capital Territory.
That happens to be a recommendation which I personally support . . .
Further on in the same speech I said: the provision of the Ordinance which is supposed to implement recommendation No. 2 of the Legislative Assembly report . . . does that. Clause 3 (2) will prevent the opening of private abortion clinics. I have no argument with that. But it is so worded as to prevent also the establishment and administration of a public abortion clinic as recommended in the Legislative Assembly report.
Mr President, the particular ordinance is currently under consideration by the Senate and will be resolved at a later date when presumably I will be able to repeat my position. I simply repeat now the words of Senator Grimes that it is highly irresponsible for a newspaper such as the Mercury to publish such a misleading article when the subject of the article is a matter of grave concern to all Australians.
– I lay on the table Supplementary Explanatory Notes of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Department of Social Security and the Department of Transport, and revised Explanatory
Notes of the Department of National Development, relating to the Estimates of Proposed Expenditure for 1978-79.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of an inquiry conducted by Sir Basil Osborne, C.B.E. on the Australian Services Canteens Organisation, together with the text of a statement by the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence.
-by leave- I move:
In view of the substantial reorganisations taking place in the Canteens Organisation and the number of people that have been affected by such change, I think it is necessary that the Senate debate this matter at the earliest opportunity. With those comments, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a statement by the Minister for Defence concerning Maralinga.
-by leave- I move:
I just make the comment that I put more emphasis on this matter than Senator Georges did in connection with the Australian Services Canteens Organisation. I hope that this matter will take precedence in any debate even before the next day of sitting. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 32 of the Albury-Wodonga Development Act 1973 I present the annual report of the AlburyWodonga Development Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1 977. An interim report for 1 976-77 was presented on 30 May 1 978.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 30k of the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973 I present the annual report of the Temporary Assistance Authority for the year ended 30 June 1978. together with a statement outlining the action taken during the year 1977-78 on reports made to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 30b of the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1 973 I present reports of the Temporary Assistance Authority on: Carbon coated film; and gearboxes, gears and shaft couplings.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the interim report of the Industries Assistance Commission on asbestos- short term assistance.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators, I present a statement by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations concerning the re-opening of Wiltona Hostel.
– by leave- I move:
I have moved this motion in my capacity as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations whose report in relation to the Wiltona Hostel was presented to the Senate earlier this year. In referring to the statement very briefly, I indicate that the Committee, I am sure, would be quite happy to note that the fire precautions which were considered to be necessary before there was any occupation ofthe Wiltona Hostel have been taken.
The Committee has a continuing interest in the latter part of the statement which relates to the future of the Wiltona Hostel, the arrangements for its sale. With a view to ensuring that the matter can be further discussed at a later stage, I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 42 of the Australian Citizenship Act 1942, I present the annual return of persons granted Australian citizenship for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Dried Fruits Export Control Act 1924, I present the annual report of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation 1970, I present the annual report of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the annual report on Norfolk Island for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the annual report of the Patent, Trade Marks and Designs Office for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
– by leave- In August I tabled in the Senate the report prepared by the
Schools Commission in response to the Government ‘s funding guidelines for the 1 979-8 1 rolling triennium which I announced on 9 June. The Commission’s report contained financial recommendations for 1979 only at this stage. I am now announcing the Government’s decisions on these recommendations. Decisions on funding for 1980 and 1981 will be taken by the Government following public discussion of a number of issues relating to the funding of schools.
The guidelines provided by the Government asked the Commission to recommend programs in 1979 which are one per cent higher in real terms than in 1978. The entire base programs will be adjusted to price levels obtaining in December 1978. The largest component of these programs, wages and salaries, will also be fully supplemented for cost increases during 1979. The Government’s expenditure program for schools in 1979 amounts to $63 1.6m in estimated December 1977 cost levels. Government schools will receive $360. 2m, and non-government schools $245.3m, while $26. lm is to be shared jointly between government and nongovernment sectors. Details of funding for individual programs in each State are shown in the table that follows. The Government has taken its decisions on the basis of the allocations recommended by the Schools Commission and has accepted all of the recommended allocations, with one adjustment to which I will refer later. The Government’s decisions provide for the continuation of all existing programs for government and non-government schools, and of all existing joint programs. In addition, they provide for new initiatives in a number of areas.
I deal first with general resources programs for government schools. The allocations the Government has approved provide $ 182.6m for general recurrent grants and $ 129.4m for capital grants for government schools in the States. These compare with amounts of $180. 7m and $139.4m in 1978. Notwithstanding the facts that most States have achieved the Karmel resource use targets ahead of schedule and that total enrolments will be falling from 1979, the Commonwealth has more than maintained, in real terms, its support for recurrent resources in government schools, while some reduction has occurred in the capital balance. It should be noted that the balance between recurrent and capital allocations recommended by the Schools Commission took account of the wishes of each of the State Governments. Since the Schools Commission’s report was made public, the Queensland Government has made a supplementary request that an amount of $3. 1 m should be transferred within its allocations from general capital to general recurrent. The Government has accepted this request. Subject to this adjustment, the Government’s allocations are in agreement with the Commission’s recommendations.
For non-government schools in the States, the Government has allocated $200. 8m for general recurrent grants and $30.4m for capital grants in 1979. These compare with allocations of $ 186.8m and $3 1.4m in 1978. The increase of $14m in general recurrent grants reflects the Government’s policies of automatically linking per capita grants to non-government schools to average costs in government schools and of taking another step in raising, by 1980, the base level per capita grant to all non-government schools to 20 per cent of the cost of educating a pupil in a government school. It also demonstrates the Government’s recognition of the serious needs of level 6 low resource schools reported by the Commission in its April report. The Government has provided for level 6 schools increases in grants of $5 per primary pupil and $6 per secondary pupil, in addition to the increases from the automatic linkage. Indeed, more than 70 per cent of the total increase in per capita grants to non-government schools in 1979 will go to level 6 schools. The per capita rates to apply in 1 979 together with existing 1978 grants, in estimated March 1978 prices, are shown in a table, which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
– Non-government general recurrent grants for 1979 will continue to be distributed in the same manner as in 1 978. Funding for capita] projects in non-government schools in 1979 will be $lm less than in 1978, although, as recommended by the Commission, the 1978 initiative of providing funds to assist building programs in newly expanding areas of population will be maintained. On the advice of the Commission, the Government has also decided to alter the conditions applying to short term emergency assistance grants to nongovernment schools catering for students from the country. In 1978 these grants were restricted to non-systemic schools on the basis that block funding arrangements for systems would provide flexibility to allow emergency situations to be met.
Situations have arisen, however, where systems have been unable to respond to an emergency in one school without serious aggravation to other schools in the system. The Government has therefore decided to amend the conditions to reinclude systemic schools in 1979. It has also extended the conditions to permit the making of grants where a school catering for country students finds itself in an emergency situation for reasons not directly related to those enrolments, but from which, if emergency assistance was not provided, there would be adverse consequences to country students at the school. The funds available for these grants will be $545,000 as in 1978.
The funds which the Government is providing also include increases in programs for migrant and multi-cultural education. Earlier this year, the Government adopted the recommendations of the Galbally Committee report on post-arrival services to migrants. Flowing from this decision the Schools Commission programs for next year include increases in funding totalling Sim to government and non-government schools, mainly for the teaching of English as a second language. This is the first instalment in a program to provide an additional $ 10m over the next three years. These funds are distributed so as to reflect the needs of children of non-English speaking background in different areas. Additionally and also arising from the Galbally Report, the Government has accepted the Commission’s recommendation that a new joint program should be established with funding of $5m over three years for multi-cultural education. In 1979 an amount of $500,000 will be provided, which will be concentrated mainly on stimulating the teaching of community languages in schools. An expert committee, with ethnic representation, is advising the Government, through the Commission, on how these funds should be used.
The Government has decided, on the recommendation of the Commission, that the special purpose programs for special education and disadvantaged schools should continue at their present levels in 1979. The distribution of funds within the joint programs proposed by the Commission has also been accepted. These allocations mean there will be increases of $399,000 in the disadvantaged country areas program and $75,000 in the children in institutions program in 1979. The services and development program, including schools travel and exchange and education centres, will be reduced by $349,000 to $ 15.8m and the special projects, innovations, program by $525,000 to $3.4m next year. This will include $2.9m for school level projects and $500,000 for national level projects.
Two new schemes will be started within the special projects program. These schemes will be for the encouragement of school level evaluation projects and for the promotion of choice within government schools. An amount of $200,000 has been provided in 1979, for each of these schemes. The Schools Commission will cooperate with education authorities and school communities in drawing up plans for the effective use of these funds. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table summarising the financial details of the approved programs for schools in the States.
The table read as follows-
-Legislation will be introduced into the Parliament without delay, to give effect to these decisions. I move:
– In the absence of Senator Button who normally would speak on education matters, I wish to make a few comments in respect of the statement put down by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). Firstly, I wish to say that I shall not accuse the statement of being dishonest, but I shall say it is misleading, bordering on dishonest. I say that deliberately because throughout the whole of the speech the inference is that this Government is acting on the recommendations of the Schools Commission. That is a false argument and a false impression deliberately created by this Government ever since it has been in power. I shall quote from the Schools Commission to illustrate that this Government has in fact put the Schools Commission in a strait-jacket. The Schools Commission is virtually saying that in its reports and yet this Government is creating and writing speeches which give the impression of course that it is doing as the Schools Commission requests. Let us look at the supplementary report on which this speech is based. It is important that we read the introduction by the Chairman, Mr McKinnon. He pointed out that he was reporting to the Government on the basis of what the Government required. In the preface to the supplementary report which is the subject of this statement, Mr McKinnon states:
In response to the Commission’s proposals in the Report for the Triennium 1979-81, submitted in April 1978, the Government made known its decisions in guidelines announced in the Senate on 9 June. On the same date you asked the Commission -
That refers to the Minister- to prepare a further report which would recommend detailed financial allocations for the 1979 year within those guidelines. In accordance with that request the Report of the Commission is submitted herewith.
In the introduction to the report it is stated:
Allocations for 1979. This report is written in response to guidelines issued by the Government on 9 June 1978. The text of the guidelines is contained in Appendix A. The Commission’s estimates ofthe needs of schools for the next three years were made explicit in its Report for the Triennium 1979-8 1, submitted in April 1978. For the present report, the Commission’s task is simply to recommend appropriate State-by-State and program allocations for the 1 979 calendar year within the amounts designated by the guidelines. These recommendations with relevant explanatory material form the remainder of this report.
I know that this is not the time for a full debate on the education issue in this country but I do feel that it is incumbent on me to expose the misleading intent of the Minister’s statement. In the second last paragraph on page 1 it is stated:
The Government has taken its decisions on the basis of the allocations recommended by the Schools Commission, and has accepted all of the recommended allocations with one adjustment to which I will refer later.
In the second paragraph on page 2 it is stated:
Subject to this adjustment the Government’s allocations are in agreement with the Commission’s recommendations.
In the fourth paragraph on page 3: although, as recommended by the Commission . . .
In the next paragraph:
On the advice ofthe Commission . . .
On page 4: the Government has accepted the Commission’s recommendations . . .
On page 5:
The Government has decided, on the recommendation of the Commission . . .
It is quite clear that the intention is to convey the impression that this Government is acting on the recommendations of the Schools Commission. The fact is, of course, that it is not. The Schools Commission is doing the best it can within the confines of the straight-jacket in which this Government has placed it. I want to refer now to the main triennium report of the Schools Commission which was tabled in April of this year. In paragraph 2.8 on page 17 the Commission had this to say about the Government’s policies on education:
The assumption that real improvements in general resource standards in schools would be paid for by Commonwealth grants- increasing until the resource targets were met- has not been tenable since 1 976.
That is what the Schools Commission has said -
Consequently the role of the Commonwealth in relation to the definition, attainment and maintenance of basic resource standards in schools requires re-examination. Such a reexamination must take into account the general pattern of Commonwealth-State financial arrangements and take into account recent statements on Commonwealth financial commitments to school-level education. Continued operation on the basis of present assumptions will in effect not raise nongovernment schools to minimum resource standards and, by default will gradually redefine the balance of the Commonwealth’s existing role as one of reduced direct commitment to general resource standards in government schools and as one in which the needs of non-government schools for recurrent grants will inhibit the possibility of more general national educational initiatives designed to encourage improved educational processes and to underwrite the claims of target groups of students having special needs.
How could anyone remotely interpret that statement by the Schools Commission to mean that its recommendations are in line with the policies of this Government on education? The unfortunate part, of course, is that the statement does not tell us those things. Any person reading the Minister’s speech would say: ‘Goodness me, what is the Opposition growling about? Obviously the Government is doing what the Commission wants it to do ‘. Of course, the Government is not. It takes some delving into these reports to realise how different is the education policy of the Government to what the Commission itself is indeed recommending. Take, for example, the area of capital payments for government schools which is mentioned at page 126 of the report wherein it is stated:
The Commission felt that the total needs -
The total needs, I emphasise- . . were well in excess of that which could be reasonably supported during the triennium.
In other words, the Commission is saying that the capital grants needs of government schools in Australia is away beyond the support that they are actually getting from the Government. This next paragraph in the report deals with the capital requirements for non-government schools. The report states:
The needs for non-government capital funding are also acute.
A table at page 128 of the report sets out the various allocations for the programs of government and non-government schools and so on. Paragraph 10. 1 6 of the report states:
These amounts compared with the amounts which would be available under existing guidelines from the Government for 1979 and 1980 (there are as yet no guidelines for 1981) are shown in Table 10.2. Current guidelines for 1979 and 1980 predicted a compound growth of one per cent. There is no possibility of maintaining even existing program provisions within the guidelines.
I repeat: ‘There is no possibility’. The Schools Commission is saying that there is no possibility of this Government maintaining even present standards of education in this country. Then on the following page of the report we see projections of needs which the Commission has estimated it will require to meet the needs of Australian education. It says that we will need $656m in 1979. But the guidelines tell us they will get only $63 lm, a deficit of $25m. We are also told that in 1980 the Commission estimates that $683 will be required. However, under the guidelines it will get $638m, a deficit of $45m. This is the broad picture to which the Commission itself is referring. It illustrates the degree to which the Government has allowed funding for education to decline in this country in the last three years. As the report says, we cannot make any assumptions any more from 1976 on about government support.
I would like to refer quickly to one or more detailed matters. In particular I refer to the Minister’s statement concerning the allocation to non-government schools. In particular I refer to the section that deals with the increase in payments to level one schools. It is important to realise that level one schools in the nongovernment sector are the schools with the highest resource capability. These schools include Scotch College, Melbourne Grammar and all the rest of them. We know them and we have heard of them so many times before. Under the needs principle of the Schools Commission, for years ever since the Commission was instituted by the previous Government, those schools have received a smaller per capita assistance than have what are known as level 6 schools. Level 6 schools, of course, overwhelmingly comprise the Catholic primary school sector and these are the poorer schools in the country. The Commission consistently has said that the higher one goes up the scale to level 6 the more one should get. That, of course, is common sense.
But what do we find now? We find a gradual reduction in the difference being paid between the wealthier schools in this country and the poorer schools. For example, under this program where this Government is allegedly meeting the needs principle of the Schools Commission, an additional $27 a head is being given to students in level one schools. The assistance is being increased from $119 a head to $146 a head which is a difference of $27 a head. What is received by level 6, the poorer schools? They get only $27 a head also. In fact if it were not for the additional $5 a head that is tacked on they would get only $22 a head. To make the allocation look not as bad as it really is, the Government put another $5 on it to square it up. The situation is that the two highest resource level nongovernment schools in the country, levels 1 and 2, get increases of $27 and $30 a head respectively. When we get down to levels 5 and 6, the poorer schools, level 5 gets an increase of $18 a head and level 6 an increase of $27 a head. That is this Government’s concept of a needs basis and fairness in the education system of this country. It is a continuing trend which, as has been pointed out on many occasions by the Minister, is intended; it is not an accident. The Government says: ‘We are going to increase that allocation for level 1 to 20 per cent of schools’ costs even though there is no justification for it’, but the Schools Commission distinctly pointed out in its 1977 report that there was no justification of the steps that were being taken by the Government.
I wish to refer to one other matter. It concerns the Disadvantaged Schools Program. We find on page 5 of this statement:
The Government has decided, on the recommendation of the Commission, that the special purpose programs for special education and disadvantaged schools should continue at their present levels in 1 979.
With great respect to the Minister, that is close to being a dishonest statement. As I said earlier, I am not going to say that it is dishonest but it is misleading to the point of being dishonest because the Schools Commission did not recommend that. If we refer to page 89 of the Schools Commission report of April 1978, in paragraph 7.22 the Schools Commission said:
The education of country children requires a considerable mobilisation of effort in Australia, a mobilisation in which local communities should play a significant part. Funds in the program are not sufficient to be used for the large scale and expensive changes often required. These include improved teacher housing which is an urgent need in some places.
That paragraph finishes with the following words:
The Commission therefore recommends that over the coming triennium the funds for the disadvantaged country areas section of the Program be doubled to $8. 48m and that it be extended to more areas.
That is not being done. The Commission did not recommend what the statement claims that it recommends.
I know the time problems we have today with Estimates committees so I will not pursue the matter any more, but I think that I have said sufficient to make the Senate aware that statements such as the one we have just had, which are fairly general statements, can be misleading to anybody who is not conversant with the area and can give a false impression. But on examination we find that the claims that are made in that statement are not accurate. If the Government wishes to pursue this course of gradually destroying the needs principle of the Australian education system which was set up by the previous Government through the machinery of the Schools Commission, it had better hurry up because it has only two years left in which to do it. As is pointed out by the Commission, any attack on either the Goverment or the non-government sector will be to the detriment of the other. This Government has obviously adopted the principle that the Schools Commission does not know best but that the Government knows best. The total Australian education system is to suffer as a result. The Opposition, of course, stands firmly by the principle that we introduced in 1973 of allocating funds on the basis of need and being as frank and as honest to the Australian people about the education system as should be required of any government. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978. Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill 1978. Income Tax (Individuals) Bill 1978. Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Bill 1978.
Health Insurance Levy Bill 1978.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill gives effect to the Government’s proposals for social services pensions and benefits for 1978-79. It reflects the Government’s concern that assistance to those in need should be maintained notwithstanding the necessity for restraint in Government expenditure generally. The provisions of the Bill cover the following: Indexation of pensions and benefits; age pensions for persons aged 70 or more; rationalisation of payments for children; family allowances, including handicapped child’s allowance and double orphan’s pension; maternity allowance; and payments of benefits in respect of children living abroad.
Indexation of Pensions and Benefits
Under the current automatic adjustment provisions of the Social Services Act, the single and married rates of pension and certain rates of unemployment and sickness benefit are adjusted in May and November each year in accordance with movements in the consumer price index. The Bill amends these provisions so that pensions and benefits will be adjusted once a year in November rather than twice a year as at present. This change has been made in the light of the significant reduction in inflation achieved by this Government. The increase in November of each year will be based on the percentage increase in the CPI over the 12 months ending with the previous June quarter. The first increase under the new arrangements will be in November 1979. The annual automatic adjustment provisions will not extend to the rate of benefit for unemployment beneficiaries without dependants or to the rate of benefit for single unemployment and sickness beneficiaries under 18 years of age. These rates will be reviewed annually in the Budget context.
Under the existing indexation provisions the rates of pensions and benefits will be increased in November of this year in line with the rise in the CPI between the December 1977 and June 1978 quarters. The single rate of age, invalid and widow’s pension, supporting parent’s benefit, and unemployment and sickness benefit will rise from $51.45 to $53.20 a week. The combined married rate will rise from $85.80 to $88.70 a week. These increases reflect the full 3.4 per cent increase in the CPI for the first half of 1978. The Bill provides that the increases will be paid to persons aged 70 years or more only if the income test is satisfied. I will cover this in more detail shortly.
Furthermore, there will be no increase in the rate of benefit paid to unemployment beneficiaries aged 18 or more who do not have dependants. They will continue to receive $5 1 .45 a week. Similarly, single unemployment and sickness beneficiaries under 18 years of age will continue to receive $36 a week. The new rates of pension and supporting parent’s benefit will come into effect on payday 9 November 1978. Increases in the rates of unemployment and sickness benefits will operate in respect of payments due on and after 1 November 1978. The cost of these increases is expected to be $95. 3m in 1 978-79 and $ 145.7m in a full year.
Age Pensions for Persons Aged 70 or More
The single and married rates of age pension are payable free of the income test in the case of persons who have attained 70 years of age. The single rate is currently $51.45 a week and the combined married rate is $85.80 a week. Additional payments- that is, additional pension for children, guardian’s allowance and supplementary (rent) assistance- are income tested.
As from November 1978 pensions payable to persons aged 70 years or more will remain at their current rates, but the pensioner may qualify for the new indexed rate subject to the income test. Where no increase is payable pensions will continue to be paid at the rate in force since May 1978-that is, $51.45 or $85.80 a week. It is estimated that over 500,000 pensioners 70 years of age or over will receive the full increase payable in November 1978. Blind pensioners will continue to be paid free of income test. Many pensioners have continued to advise the Department of Social Security of their income for fringe’ benefit purposes. This information, held in the Department’s records, will be used to assess the entitlement, if any, of pensioners to the November 1978 pension increase without the need for further contact from the pensioners involved.
Pensioners aged 70 years or over who have not advised the Department of their income should do so as soon as possible if they wish to be considered for an increase. Single pensioners 70 years or over who have income, apart from pension, between $20 a week and $23.50 a week will receive a partial increase. The corresponding figures for couples receiving the married rate of pension are $34.50 a week and $40.30 a week.
Mr President, the following table sets out the rates of pensions which will be payable to pensioners 70 years or over as from 9 November 1 978. It will be noted that, for single persons, any income over $20 a week reduces the increase in pension by only 50c a week for each $ 1 of income over $20. In the case of a married couple the reduction is 25c a week each for every dollar of combined income in excess of $34.50.
Rationalisation of Payments for Children
Handicapped child’s allowance of $15 a week is payable to parents or guardians in respect of a child under the age of 16 years who is cared for at home and who, because of the severity of the handicap, is in need of constant care and attention. Subject to the discretion of the DirectorGeneral, a handicapped child’s allowance is also payable, wholly or in part, where a person has the custody, care and control of a substantially handicapped child and, as a consequence of continuing substantial expenditure associated with the child ‘s disability, the person suffers financial hardship.
The Bill gives effect to the Government’s decision to extend payment of handicapped child’s allowance for full time students aged 16-25 years providing the child is not receiving an invalid pension. Existing provisions allow continuation of payment of handicapped child ‘s allowance for not more than 30 days in the case of severely handicapped children who are temporarily absent from the family home but exclude those who are not severely handicapped. The Bill gives the Director-General discretion to continue handicapped child’s allowance in respect of any child during short absences from the family home.
In order to make provisions regarding children uniform the Government has also decided that the upper age limit of 25 years for payment of family allowance and double orphan’s pension will also apply to payment of additional pension and additional unemployment or sickness benefit for children. It has also decided to preclude payment of family allowance and double orphans pension where the child receives an invalid pension. The Bill contains savings provisions which will ensure that current pensioners and beneficiaries are not disadvantaged by these changes.
The Government will continue the new scheme of family allowances which it introduced in 1 976. These allowances will not be subject to any income test or to taxation. The Social Services Act provides that family allowance, including double orphan’s pension and handicapped child’s allowance shall be payable in respect of endowment periods as determined by the Director-General. A four-weekly payment cycle applies for each benefit. Payment may be made by cheque or by credit to a bank, building society or credit union account.
The Bill amends the Social Services Act to provide that family allowance be paid in respect of monthly endowment periods rather than the existing four-weekly periods. The new endowment periods will commence on the fifteenth day of a calendar month and end on the fourteenth day of the next month. The rates of family allowances will accordingly be expressed in monthly amounts. However, the total amount paid to parents in a given year will not be less than the total amount now payable. Mr President, the following table shows the present weekly rates and proposed monthly rates of family allowances:
The first monthly endowment period will commence on 15 May 1979, this date being the day immediately following the end of the previous four-weekly endowment period. Thus there will be no lag between the end of the last four-weekly period and the beginning of the first monthly period. Payments on 1 5 May will be at the fourweekly rate and the first payments at the new monthly rates will be on 4 June 1 979.
The Bill gives effect to the Government’s decision that family allowance will no longer be paid for students receiving TEAS allowances or other related Commonwealth education allowances. In order to compensate for the loss of family allowance, the rates of TEAS and other related Commonwealth education allowances are being increased by $5.25 a week.
As the Act stands at present, the Department of Social Security has been advised that it is possible for two people to be paid a full family allowance for the same child at the same time. This is clearly not the intention of the legislation. The Bill therefore proposes to remedy this deficiency by giving the Director-General discretion to apportion payments on such basis as he determines where he is satisfied that two persons are each qualified to receive payment in respect of the same child at the same time. For example, where parents living permanently apart have joint custody of, or joint access to, a child.
Maternity allowance is payable under the provisions of the Social Services Act to mothers, irrespective of means, to help meet the expenses associated with the birth of children. There has been no change in the rates of the allowance payable since 1943. Costs associated with confinements are now largely covered by health insurance arrangements. The Bill abolishes this allowance for births occurring on or after 1 November 1978.
Payment of Benefits in Respect of Children living Abroad
Provisions in the Social Services Act currently enable family allowance, including handicapped child’s allowance and double orphan’s pension, and additional pension or supporting parent’s benefit or additional unemployment or sickness benefit for children to be paid for a child living abroad. The Government believes it is inappropriate for the Australian taxpayer to contribute to the support of persons who are permanently resident overseas, who have never been resident in Australia and who may never come to Australia; the rates of family allowances and the size of the tax rebates for dependants are set in the light of Australian conditions and, in many cases, would be over-generous having regard to the cost of maintaining a dependant overseas.
In the light of this the Bill provides that such payments will not in future be made for children outside Australia unless: A child is temporarily abroad; a child is living abroad pending migration to Australia within four years after the commencement of the benefit; and in respect of additional pension/benefit a child is living abroad with a person who is himself receiving an Australian pension or benefit overseas. Expenditure on pensions and benefits payable under the Social Services Act is estimated to be $6,602m for 1978-79 which will be an increase of $399m over that period in 1977-78. 1 commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
Leave granted. 77it? speech read as follows-
This Bill provides for amendments to the Repatriation Act and associated Acts to give effect to the Government’s decisions covering: Nominations of persons to repatriation determining authorities by organisations representing dependants of deceased veterans and exservicewomen; the provision for pulmonary tuberculosis to be dealt with in the same way as other disabilities; automatic adjustment of the main repatriation pensions in accordance with movements in the consumer price index only once a year; the provision of an upper age limit of 25 years for student children undertaking full time education, in respect of whom service pensioners receive additional allowances to their basic service pensions; the provision for incometestfree pensions to be frozen at their present cash level and additions to income-test-free pensions to become subject to the normal income test as applied to pensioners under 70 years of age; and the removal of references to sustenance allowance. There are also a number of machinery amendments.
I will now outline to the Senate the provisions of the Bill. The Government has over the years received representations from organisations representing dependants of deceased veterans and ex-servicewomen that they be able to nominate persons for appointment to the repatriation determining authorities. At present the Repatriation Act provides that only organisations representing returned soldiers may make nominations. The Government believes that, by broadening the class of organisation permitted to make these nominations, repatriation determining authorities will more accurately reflect the composition of persons in the community whose lives are affected by the repatriation system. Organisations currently entitled to nominate persons to the determining authorities will, of course, retain their right of nomination.
This Bill provides for amendment to the provisions dealing with pulmonary tuberculosis. Up to the present, pulmonary tuberculosis has been treated separately from other disabilities under the legislation and those suffering from or who have suffered from the disease have occupied a privileged position in relation to other repatriation beneficiaries. A veteran who has served in a theatre of war and contracts pulmonary tuberculosis, whether as a result of his war service or otherwise, is eligible to receive benefits under the repatriation legislation. Furthermore, a tuberculosis pensioner who is no longer suffering from active tuberclosis is entitled to receive a 100 per cent general rate pension and, as a consequence, free medical and hospital care for all disabilities, irrespective of whether they are war caused or not.
While recognising that pulmonary tuberculosis is a horrible disease and those who suffered from it have had to endure a great deal, the Government is firmly of the view that there is no longer any reason for these people to be in a privileged position, particularly when the disease is no longer active. In future, only service-related pulmonary tuberculosis will attract a disability pension and the amount of pension paid, as with any other illness or injury, will be determined according to the degree of” actual incapacity. Veterans in receipt of benefits for pulmonary tuberculosis at the 100 per cent general rate will not lose their pensions, but will have these pensions ‘frozen’ from 2 November 1978 at the May 1 978 cash level of that rate.
As the recipient of a pension equivalent to 100 per cent of the general rate or greater, a veteran who has or has had TB is entitled to free medical, hospital and ancillary treatment for injuries, ailments or medical conditions irrespective of cause. Treatment covered includes optical, dental and pharmaceutical. A veteran whose pension has been frozen will not be entitled to full free repatriation medical treatment other than for TB and other associated service-related conditions. However, if he is a 1914 War veteran, an ex-prisoner-of-war or a service pensioner who qualifies for fringe benefits, he will retain full free medical treatment rights. As with other veterans assessed at less than 100 per cent, and all other Australians, he will be covered for hospital and medical care at a uniform level. The Government will pay 40 per cent of doctors’ schedule fees, with a maximum payment by each person of $20 for each service. A doctor may bulk bill’ for a disadvantaged person so that he will not have to pay out of his own pocket.
If a veteran’s pension entitlement is reassessed at 100 per cent or greater, full restoration of free medical treatment will be made together with reimbursement of all reasonable costs, including medical and hospital insurance costs borne by him from 1 November 1978 and date of reassessment. Commonwealth medical benefit will be available to those registered with a fund before 1 November 1978 or when they lodge their first claim with a fund. The normal waiting period of 2 months normally applicable to private health funds will be waived when a person lodges his claim between 1 November 1978 and 31 December 1978. The universal Commonwealth medical benefit will be available during any subsequent waiting period. If a person is satisfied with standard hospital care he need not join a fund. If he requires his own doctor in a public or private ward, it will be necessary for him to join a fund.
All veterans receiving pensions for pulmonary tuberculosis are to be reviewed to determine the severity of the actual incapacity arising from their pulmonary tuberculosis and other servicerelated disabilities. If, on the extent of actual incapacity, they are found to be overassessed, pensions will continue to be paid at the May 1978 cash level- $74.40 per fortnight- until such time as the cash payment for actual incapacity as assessed exceeds this level. Those veterans whose pensions are ‘frozen’ from 2 November 1978 and who on subsequent review are found on actual incapacity to be entitled to a pension at the 100 per cent general rate or higher are to be entitled to arrears of pension from 2 November and reimbursement of” any medical expenses privately incurred from that date. It is considered that the changes provided for in this Bill will have only a minimal impact on future claims made for pension as, in 1 977, there were only 76 disability pensions granted in respect of pulmonary tuberculosis. Existing service pensions in respect of pulmonary tuberculosis will continue in force, but pulmonary tuberculosis will not be a special qualification for service pension for which, in future, veterans will be required to satisfy the normal conditions of age or permanent unemployability.
Mr President, I now turn to other amendments in this Bill which will implement decisions taken by the Government in the context of the 1978-79 Budget. The Repatriation Act, as currently framed, allows for the main disability pensions, namely, the special rate- totally and permanently incapacitated- pension, intermediate rate and general rate as well as the war and defence widows’ pensions and service pensions, to be adjusted automatically in May and November of each year, in accordance with movements in the consumer price index over the prior six months ended 3 1 December and 30 June respectively. In line with proposed changes to pensions paid under the Social Services Act, the main repatriation pensions will now be automatically increased once a year. Increases will apply from the first pension payday in November and will be in line with changes in the consumer price index for the 12 months ending the preceding June quarter.
Provision has been made for the imposition of an upper age limit for the payment of additional pension in respect of student children who are in the care, custody and control of service pensioners. Currently, service pensioners can receive in addition to the basic service pension, additional allowances to assist support of a student 16 years of age and over undertaking full time education but no upper age limit is specified. The absence of such a limit is inconsistent with the upper age limit of 25 years applied in respect of family allowance under the Social Services Act and with the 25 years age limit included in the income tax legislation. It is the Government’s view that the child of a service pensioner will have had sufficient time to embark upon and complete his full time education and attain appropriate qualifications to facilitate entry into a chosen vocation by the time he attains 25 years of age.
It is now proposed that an upper disqualifying age limit of 25 years be applied in respect of the additional allowances paid to service pensioners who are supporting student children. However, allowances already in payment in respect of student children 25 years and over will continue while students are undertaking full time education.
The Government has decided to make changes in the rules governing the rates of service pension payable in line with changes in social services legislation. I should explain that the service pension is a social welfare payment, broadly equivalent to the age pension under social services legislation. The basic difference is that service pensions are paid five years earlier than the age from which age pensions become available to take account of the indefinable and intangible effects of war service which could cause premature aging and a lessening of ability to earn a living. In reaching its decision, the Government considered that provisions similar to those applied to social services pensions should apply to persons receiving service pensions under repatriation legislation. -
Under exising repatriation legislation, a service pension can be paid free of the income test to a person who is permanently blind or who has attained the age of 70 years. The Government has decided to modify the income-test-free provisions for persons aged 70 years and over, except for pensions paid to the permanently blind. Existing pensions will continue to be paid free of the income test at the current rate of $85.80 per fortnight each to a married couple or $102.90 per fortnight to a single pensioner. The November increase in service pension will not be paid to this group of pensioners unless they qualify under the provisions of the income test currently applicable to persons under 70 years of age.
Pensioners on reaching 70 years of age or those over 70 who have not applied for service pension will automatically qualify for an incometestfree pension but it will be granted at the May 1978 rates or at such higher level as applies to them if they are able to satisfy the existing income test.
The Bill also provides for an amendment to the Repatriation Act consequent upon the Government’s decision to replace sustenance allowance with a more comprehensive loss of earnings allowance. Finally, there are a number of machinery amendments to bring the Act into line with current drafting practice and to provide for consequential amendments following the removal of special provisions relating to pulmonary tuberculosis. Mr President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
Bills received ‘ from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the National Health Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978, the Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978 and the Health Insurance Commission Amendment Bill 1978 being put in one morion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
National Health Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978
This Bill provides for amendments to the National Health Act 1953 to implement two separate decisions taken by the Government. First, provisions in the Bill together with provisions contained in the Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978, implement the Government’s changes to the health insurance arrangements to come into effect from 1 November 1978. Secondly, the Bill provides for the expansion of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme to allow dentists to prescribe certain pharmaceutical benefits for the dental treatment of their patients.
In a statement in another place on 15 August 1978 explaining in detail the Government’s changes to the health insurance arrangements, the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) advised that a Commonwealth medical benefit would be payable to all Australian residents for medical and some optometrical expenses incurred. Persons wishing to take out additional medical benefits cover with a registered medical benefits organisation will be free to do so. Further, free standard ward treatment in recognised hospitals will continue to be available, under hospital cost-sharing agreements with States for persons who do not have hospital benefits insurance with a health insurance organisation. The principle of universal health insurance cover for all Australian residents remains. All Australians remain covered for the Commonwealth medical benefit and are entitled to standard ward accommodation in recognised hospitals at no cost to them. They will not have their doctor of choice unless they insure for a doctor of their choice.
However, the Government recognises that people who now are receiving Medibank Standard medical benefits and optometrical benefits, at a level of 75 per cent of schedule fees with a maximum gap of $10 for each service, will need to insure privately to retain this level of cover after 1 November 1978. There will be little change in the hospital insurance arrangements. The abolition of the subsidy to levy payers for hospital insurance in general will mean a small increase in premiums for the continuation of this type of insurance cover.
Having regard to the above position, the Government has decided to retain the concept of basic medical and hospital insurance tables in the legislation. It is to be a continued condition of registration of medical and hospital benefits organisations that contributors to the organisation be offered benefits in accordance with basic medical and hospital benefit tables. Such tables are defined in clause 3 of the Bill and, in brief, ensure that, on the basic medical benefits table, persons are able to obtain insurance benefits which, together with their Commonwealth medical benefit entitlement, provides a level of benefits equivalent to the present 75 per cent of the schedule fee with a maximum gap of $10. In relation to the basic hospital insurance, the new basic table retains the existing coverage which organisations must provide under standard hospital benefits tables.
From 1 November 1978 organisations will be permitted to offer a variety of benefit tables, including tables providing deductibles. Such tables are referred to in the Bill as optional hospital or medical benefits tables, and are defined in clause 3.
These optional medical and hospital benefit tables must conform with basic criteria, for example, an optional medical benefits table must relate to medical benefits for scheduled medical services. Optional hospital benefit tables must provide hospital benefits to cover shared room hospital accommodation and provide nursing home benefits. In addition to these basic criteria, optional tables must comply with guidelines determined by the Minister for Health. While these guidelines will be flexible to allow registered organisations to offer a variety of health benefit packages, the Government still considers it has a responsibility to ensure that such tables offer adequate benefits for reasonable contribution rates, and will take this into account when considering applications from registered organisations. The guidelines and conditions which could operate from 1 November 1978 are as follows:
GUIDELINES AND SPECIAL CONDITIONS
Optional Medical Insurance Tables:
Fund benefits ranging up to 60 per cent of the Schedule fee;
Exclusion from fund benefit of services or groups of services in the Schedule; or
While providing fund benefit coverage for all items in the Schedule exclusion from fund benefit of a specified sum of fund benefit entitlements- up to $500 a year (family) $250 a year (single).
Optional Hospital Insurance Tables:
Exclusion of fund benefits ranging from 1 to 5 days (inclusive) per year;
Exclusion of fund benefits ranging from 1 to 5 days (inclusive) per period of hospitalisation;
Exclusion per annum of fund benefits of an amount equal to 5 times the amount currently charged to private patients in shared rooms of recognised hospitals (currently totals $200); or
Exclusion of other benefits specified by the hospital insurance organisations.
Registered organisations should frame their rules so that in assessing when the exclusion has been met by the contributor it should regard a family as one unit and total the days or number of services or cost of services or days used by the whole family.
There can be subsidisation between full basic medical or hospital table with other medical or hospital tables providing options and vice versa.
In framing rules for hospital benefit tables which include options, organisations would provide the same level of benefit exclusion for both family and single contributors under that particular table.
Optional tables cannot be constructed so as to exclude the payment of nursing home benefits.
Waiting period for entitlement to nursing home benefits shall not exceed two months.
The Minister for Health has asked me to make it quite clear that the benefits available for exclusions under part (iv) of the optional hospital insurance tables guidelines relate only to benefits for ‘professional services’ and ‘outpatients services’ as referred to in the basic hospital table as defined. They do not relate to exclusion of benefits for hospitalisation on account of confinements, psychiatric illness, alcoholism or other illnesses. Both basic and optional hospital tables will include the provision of nursing home benefits to maintain the new nursing home arrangements introduced by the Government last year. The Government is awaiting with interest the various benefit packages and contribution rates to be offered by organisations, once they assess the freedom and flexibility available under the new arrangements.
At present organisations are subject to conditions of registration. Statutory conditions are specified in section 73BA. It is necessary, under the new arrangements, to specify further conditions to which the registration of organisations will be subject after 1 November 1978. In addition to specifying the new conditions, the Bill incorporates them, and the statutory conditions currently contained in section 73BA, into a Schedule to the Act. I do not propose to explain all the conditions in detail, but would like to mention specifically the following new conditions: The first is included in paragraph (g) of the Schedule which provides that a registered hospital benefits organisation can offer supplementary hospital benefits only to a person who also contributes to a basic or optional hospital benefits table. This condition, together with the condition specified in paragraph (h) of the Schedule will ensure that registered organisations continue to pay nursing home benefits for nursing home patients who are contributors to the organisation. The second condition I would like to mention concerns waiting periods. This condition is specified in paragraph (n) of the Schedule and provides that organisations shall not apply any waiting periods for persons who insure in a basic or optional benefits table before 1 January 1979.
Clause 9 of the Bill amends provisions relating to hospital benefits reinsurance accounts. From 1 November 1978 registered hospital benefits organisations will be permitted to debit to those accounts hospital benefits for hospital treatment received outside Australia by contributors to the organisations. Recently the Minister for Health has been made aware of action taken to preclude a. person from becoming a contributor to an organisation where that person is a patient in an institution. Such action is considered to be a direct attempt by an organisation to abrogate its responsibility to pay nursing home benefits for such patients who are contributors to the organisation- a responsibility which was accepted readily by organisations when the new nursing home arrangements were introduced last year. Accordingly, clause 1 1 introduces a new section 73BFA. This provision enables the Minister to direct an organisation to accept a person as a contributor, to a basic table conducted by the organisation where he is satisfied that the person was not accepted as a contributor because the patient was in an institution.
Under the Act a medical benefits organisation is required to offer from the basic medical benefits table, medical benefits for certain optometrical services and benefits for all other professional services. Representations have been received from organisations and individuals in the community objecting to the requirement that medical benefits be offered for all services, particularly procedures involving abortions. New section 73F, in clause 14 of the Bill, provides for the Minister for Health, upon application by a medical benefits organisation, to grant an exemption to the organisation from paying, out of its basic medical benefits table, benefits for specified professional services. However, to ensure persons are aware of the exemption, the organisation is required, by virtue of the condition of registration specified in paragraph (s) of the Schedule, to advise contributors and registered persons of the particulars of the exemption and to publish the particulars in a manner satisfactory to the Minister.
Whilst there is at present no legislative requirement, it is expected that registered organisations which obtain exemptions from paying for specific medical services would ensure that arrangements are made for the transfer of dissatisfied contributors to other organisations without penalty. Equally an organisation offering a table with the specific exemption would be expected to provide that a person wishing to transfer to that organisation from another fund by reason of that exempted item would not have any waiting period applied to comparable tables. In fact, the Minister has received some assurances in that regard. For some years, organisations have accepted contributors who are financial transferring from comparable medical benefit entitlements without serving a waiting period. Most organisations have a rule to this effect. It is expected that this convention will be followed by the health funds so that persons are not disadvantaged when transferring from one fund to another fund at the same benefits levels.
A significant drawback in the effective analysis of the health insurance system has been, to date, the unavailability of related and adequate information. This question has been raised with representatives of the industry at a meeting of the Health Insurance Advisory Committee where the continued difficulty of maintaining and furnishing proper information has been recognised. The Bill enables proper information to be obtained under a number of provisions. New Section 74c, clause 15, provides for the prescription by regulations of certain records to be kept by organisations. New section 74d enables the prescription of information drawn from those records to be furnished to the Director-General of Health. In addition, organisations are required, by the conditions of registration specified in paragraphs (k) and ( 1 ) of the Schedule, to maintain membership and other records of contributors and registered persons. They will also be required to furnish returns ofthe number of persons so enrolled and relevant financial information.
I have already mentioned that this question has been discussed at meetings of the Health Insurance Advisory Committee. It is understood that registered organisations are already familiar with the nature of the information to be maintained and furnished and that the provisions on the Bill generally are in accord with the wishes of that Committee. The Bill, in clause 18, repeals divisions 1a and 2 of Part III of the Act. These relate to the subsidy paid to registered organisations for persons insured for hospital benefits only and to special account provisions which no longer operate after 30 September 1978. The amendments made by clauses 5 and 6 are consequential upon the repeal of the special account provisions.
As mentioned earlier, the Bill also provides, in clauses 20 to 42, for the expansion of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme to allow dentists to prescribe certain pharmaceutical benefits for the dental treatment of their patients. Under existing State legislation dentists are permitted to prescribe medication for the dental treatment of their patients. However, at present, the National Health Act does not permit dentists to prescribe pharmaceutical benefits, so patients must pay the full cost of medication prescribed by dentists. To obtain the medication at pharmaceutical benefit rates, dentists must refer their patients to medical practitioners who then prescribe the medication. This anomalous situation will be corrected by the Bill.
It is anticipated that this expansion of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme will have very little effect on expenditure. The cost of this proposal under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme will be offset to a large extent by a reduction in medical practitioner fees subsidised through the government-financed medical benefits arrangements. The same payment conditions will apply to pharmaceutical benefits prescribed by dentists as those which apply to pharmaceutical benefits prescribed by doctors; that is, pensioners with a pensioner health benefits entitlment card will receive them free of charge, while other patients will pay the normal $2.50 patient contribution.
Finally, the Bill amends the definition of ‘dependant’ in relation to a pensioner to impose an upper age limit of 25 years on student dependent children of pensioners. This amendment ensures that the definition remains in line with corresponding definitions in social security and repatriation legislation. The amendment will maintain uniformity in the operation of the various Acts which provide ‘fringe benefits’ to pensioners and enable the Government’s policies in relation to pensioners to be applied equally across the board. A savings provision has been included in the amendment to preserve the entitlement of a person presently qualifying as a dependant of a pensioner who otherwise would cease to be so qualified solely as a result of the amended criteria. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978
The Bill before the Senate contains provisions which give effect to the Government’s changes to the health insurance arrangements announced by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in the Budget. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), in a statement in another place on 15 August 1978, explained in detail the new arrangements proposed to operate from 1 November of this year. Therefore it is not necessary to address myself to the details of the changes, but to the outline of the legislation before the Senate.
I would point out to honourable senators that the proposals embodied in this legislation, and in other legislation to be considered, arise out of the Government’s continuing review of the costs of health care in Australia. As health insurance has such an important influence on the costs of these services, it is vital that we continue with these reviews. In another forum, we are actively engaged with the States in discussions on the rationalisation and utilisation of hospital services. Since approximately 60 per cent of our total costs are in hospitals, cost containment and efficiency in the use of resources in the hospital sector are vital in any program to arrest the accelerating rate of health costs.
While the 1 October 1976 changes to Medibank, and subsequent amendments to the health insurance arrangements effected by this Government, have resulted in a significant decline in the rate of acceleration of health costs, this rate of increase continues to be high. The new measures will, in the Government’s view, continue the downward trend in the rate of acceleration of cost rises. The new arrangements which will result in the abolition of the Medibank levy and the reduction of medical insurance premiums will reduce the burden of costs to the individual. At the same time they will simplify the complex arrangements of the existing scheme. The principal provisions of the
Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978 relate to payment of the new Commonwealth medical benefit.
Under the new arrangements, a Commonwealth medical benefit will be payable for medical and some optometrical expenses incurred by Australian residents. As is the present position concerning the rate of medical benefits, the levels of the new Commonwealth medical benefit will be based on scheduled medical fees. Clause 9 of the Bill provides for the amounts of Commonwealth medical benefit to be: firstly, where the medical expenses relate to services rendered to eligible pensioners or their dependants, 85 per cent of the schedule fee with a maximum gap of $5 for each service; secondly, where the medical expenses relate to services rendered to a disadvantaged person, who has entered into a direct billing arrangement with his doctor, 75 per cent of the schedule fee; thirdly, where the medical expenses relate to services rendered to all other Australian residents, 40 per cent of the schedule fee with a maximum gap of $20 paid by the resident for each service.
I have just mentioned direct billing arrangements to apply from 1 November 1978. This aspect of the new arrangements is authorised by clause 15 of the Bill, which is a key provision and inserts new sections 20 to 20f. New section 20a provides that direct billing arrangements may entered into only for services rendered to eligible pensioners and their dependants, or to a person who, in the opinion of the practitioner rendering the service, is a disadvantaged person or a dependant of such a person. Eligible pensioners and their dependants are able to assign their Commonwealth medical benefits to the practitioner rendering the service. While the legislation does not specify that the practitioner shall accept the benefits in full settlement of the expenses involved, the Minister for Health is confident that, in accordance with the policy of the Australian Medical Association, practitioners will continue to waive payment of any payment by the eligible pensioner or his dependant in these circumstances.
In the case of a patient who is considered by the practitioner rendering the service a disadvantaged person, new section 20a provides for an agreement, between the person and the practitioner, where the person assigns his Commonwealth medical benefits to the practitioner. In such circumstances the doctor will accept the benefits in full settlement of the medical expenses involved. The specific direct billing arrangements will not apply to an eligible pensioner, or his dependant, or a disadvantaged person, who is a medically insured person with a medical benefits organisation, for such medical benefits related to schedule medical services.
The amendments effected by clauses 13, 18 and 19 of the Bill also relate to direct billing procedures. These clauses extend the above principles into the approved pathology practitioner arrangements, and into undertakings given by medical practitioners and participating optometrists.
Lengthy consideration has been given to the question of including in the legislation guidelines or definitions relating to disadvantaged persons. The Minister for Health also discussed the matter with the AMA. On balance it was decided not to specify such guidelines in the legislation. It is considered that the relationship between a patient and his practitioner is quite uniqueindeed quite personal. The term ‘disadvantaged person’ is difficult to define in legal terms, but the specification in the legislation of categories of disadvantaged persons’ could introduce rigid procedures, which could be complex to administer. Such definitions may not be readily adaptable to changes in patients ‘ circumstances. There is also the possibility that this could lead to interference in the patient-practitioner relationship to which I have just referred. It is felt that the spirit ofthe Government’s proposals in this area is best achieved by leaving the judgment as to whether or not a person is disadvantaged to the practitioner and patient concerned. For the information of honourable senators, the new direct billing arrangements could include persons in the following categories:
Persons on low income including social security unemployment, sickness or special beneficiaries;
Newly arrived migrants and some other ethnic groups;
Refugees who are financially disadvantaged;
Persons who suffer financial misfortune because of substantial medical expenses caused by prolonged or severe illness.
Let me assure honourable senators that arrangements have been made for the Department of Health to watch closely the operation of the new direct billing procedures and to review them after they have been in operation for six months. Where a practitioner classifies a patient as disadvantaged, and bulk bills accordingly, he will be required to accept the 75 per cent Commonwealth benefit in full settlement for his services.
Appropriate action will be taken where it is determined that provisions operating after 1 November 1978 are being breached or abused. Claims for Commonwealth medical benefits under the new arrangements will be paid through two sources.
Firstly, the Commonwealth Department of Health will pay benefits direct to practitioners, for claims made under the new direct billing procedures. Although the practice under current bulk billing procedures is for the practitioner to give the patient a copy of the assignment agreement form, there is no mandatory requirement for the practitioner to provide a copy. This matter has been the subject of representations by the Austraiian Council of Social Service. The Bill before the Senate provides that a medical benefit will not be paid, under the new direct billing arrangements, unless a copy of the assignment or agreement form is given to the eligible pensioner or the disadvantaged person.
Secondly, registered medical benefit organisations will pay claims for Commonwealth medical benefits from persons who are contributors to the organisation or who are registered with the organisation for Commonwealth medical benefit purposes only. Advances will be made by the Department of Health to registered organisations to enable them to make Commonwealth benefit payments for claims lodged by contributors and registered persons. However, the Health Insurance Commission will continue to pay claims for medical benefits for Medibank Standard persons, for services rendered prior to 1 November 1978.
A person may obtain payment of Commonwealth medical benefits, from a registered organisation, without becoming a contributor to the organisation, by registering for Commonwealth medical benefit purposes. This facility will be available only through a medical benefits organisation which has entered into an appropriate agreement with the Minister for Health, on behalf of the Commonwealth, for the registration of persons for this purpose. The agreement will cover such matters as:
The institution and maintenance by a registered organisation of satisfactory records and procedures;
The payment by the organisation of claims for Commonwealth medical benefits;
Periodical inspection of records by officers of the Department of Health;
The payment by the Commonwealth of amounts towards meeting the administrative expenses incurred by an organisation in paying claims for Commonwealth medical benefits.
Most medical benefit organisations have advised the Department of Health of their willingness to enter into agreements to pay Commonwealth medical benefits. The only funds which have not applied are four funds which restrict membership to persons employed in certain corporations. The Bill also contains provisions relating to hospital payments. At present, payments for the operation of hospitals in the Northern Territory are made through the Department of Health. Following the achievement of self-government by the Northern Territory, the Government has decided that future Commonwealth funding of Territory hospitals should be placed on the same basis as that applicable to the States. Accordingly, clause 20 of the Bill enables a hospital cost-sharing agreement to be entered into between the Commonwealth and the Government of the Northern Territory. The agreements between the Commonwealth and the Government of the Northern Territory will be based on the heads of agreement in Schedule 2 to the Health Insurance Act, which is similar to existing agreements with the States.
The second matter in the Bill concerning hospital payments is contained in clause 39 which amends heads 7, 8 and 10 of the heads of agreement in Schedule 2. These heads provide, principally, for the charging policies specified in the Commonwealth-State hospital cost-sharing agreements and, in this context, refer to the term privately insured person’. This term derives its meaning from sub-sections 3 (7), (8) and (8a)’ of the Health Insurance Act 1973, and relates to a person entitled to both medical and hospital benefits in accordance with standard tables operated by medical and hospital benefits organisations. The effect of a person being deemed to be a ‘privately insured person’ is that such a person is exempt from payment of the health insurance levy. In accordance with the heads of agreement and the agreements with the States, such a person is also excluded from entitlement to free standard ward hospital treatment, unless an agreement provides otherwise.
Since the health insurance levy is to be abolished, the term ‘privately insured person’ is no longer relevant in that context. It is still necessary to exclude, from free standard ward treatment under the Commonwealth-State agreements, persons who are insured for hospital benefits with a hospital benefits organisation. Accordingly, the Bill substitutes a new term, hospital insured person’, in the heads of agreement for the reference to a ‘privately insured person’. This new term is defined in clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill. Formal concurrence by States is being sought to the variation to the hospital costsharing agreements consequential upon the substitution of the term ‘hospital insured person’ in the heads of agreement.
The Bill, in clauses 41 and 42, ensures that current scheduled medical fees will apply, for Commonwealth medical benefit purposes after 1 November 1978 and that outstanding claims for medical benefits received after 1 November 1978 will continue to be paid. The Bill also amends the definition of ‘dependant’, in relation to an eligible pensioner, to impose an upper age limit of 25 years on student dependent children of pensioners. This amendment ensures that the provisions of the Health Insurance Act remain in line with corresponding social security and repatriation legislation to maintain uniformity in the provision of ‘fringe benefits’ to pensioners. I would mention, for the information of honourable senators, that this Bill was amended in another place. The amendment is contained in clause 13a, and enables Commonwealth and fund medical benefits to be paid, after 1 November 1978, for charges made by family planning associations and, where applicable, other organisations receiving health program grants under the Health Insurance Act.
The remaining provisions in the Bill contain amendments consequential upon:
The introduction of the new Commonwealth medical benefit;
The abolition of the health insurance levy; or
The transfer of functions relating to the administration of certain provisions of the Act and payments under the Act, to the Department of Health from the Health Insurance Commission.
I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Health Insurance Commission Amendment Bill
The Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978 and the National Health Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978 give effect to the Government’s health insurance arrangements to operate from 1 November 1 978. This Bill amends the Health Insurance Commission Act 1973 and establishes the role of the Health Insurance Commission in these new arrangements. In framing the revised charter of the Commission, it is the clear intention of the Government that Medibank Private will operate in a competitive position with other health insurance organisations and should be in as flexible a position as possible, having in mind that there is a statutory relationship with the Commonwealth as a Commonwealth authority.
Before commenting on the specific matters covered by the Bill I would like to inform honourable senators that the principles embodied in the legislation relating to the employment of the staff by the Commission have been discussed with representatives of relevant staff associations whose members are affected by the Government’s proposals. The Government has taken into account the views of the staff associations in the framing of the legislation.
The Bill may be divided into four principal parts: Firstly, the reconstitution of the Health Insurance Commission; secondly, the removal of the Medibank Standard functions and the continued operation of Medibank Private; thirdly, provisions relating to the engagement of staff by the Commission after 1 November 1978 and the terms and conditions applying to the staff; and fourthly, the transitional provisions necessary to effect the changeover to the new functions of the reconstituted Commission.
Whilst the Bill does not, in any way, affect the corporate identity of the existing Health Insurance Commission, it does, by the amendments contained in clause 11, provide for the Commission to be reconstituted. The new Commission is to be constituted by up to seven commissioners, including a Chairman and the General Manager of Medibank. All commissioners, with the exception of the General Manager, will be appointed by the Governor-General on a part time basis, for a period, not exceeding five years, specified in the instrument of appointment. The abolition of Medibank Standard and the transfer to the Department of Health of the administration of various Commonwealth benefits and payments now made by the Commission mean the principal functions of the new Commission will be the management of Medibank Private and payment of the new Commonwealth medical benefit on the same basis as other registered health insurance organisations. The performance of these functions is reflected in the amendments made in clauses 7 and 8 of the Bill. Clause 10 of the Bill provides for the Commission to perform such other functions in relation to health insurance as the Minister for Health directs. This provision enables the Commission to pursue government policy objectives in health insurance where so directed. Initially, the only additional function to Medibank Private and the payment of the Commonwealth medical benefit will be the payment of medical benefits under the winding-down of the Medibank Standard functions of the Commission. The Bill provides for any direction of the Minister, relating to additional functions to be performed by the Commission, to be included in the annual report of the Commission. Further, provision is also made for the Minister for Health and the Commission to enter into an agreement for the payment to the Commission of administrative expenses arising out of the performance of functions which are the subject of a direction by the Minister for Health.
In order that the Commission can compete with the private health funds on an equal footing, the Bill provides that the Commission will no longer be required to seek Public Service Board approval of its terms and conditions of employment and will be subject to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Clauses 32 and 33 of the Bill contain transitional provisions to protect the terms and conditions of existing staff of the Commission. Any changes to the terms and conditions of existing staff will, of course, be discussed by the Commission with relevant staff associations. I should also mention that the Commission management has already agreed with the staff associations that the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act and the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act should continue to apply to all staff of the Commission and the Bill has been drafted to take account of this.
The Bill provides that the Commission may establish and conduct its own superannuation scheme. However, the intention is that staff who are contributors to the Commonwealth superannuation scheme at the time of the introduction of the Commission’s superannuation scheme, or who join the Commission thereafter and are already contributors to Commonwealth superannuation scheme, will retain such membership. Persons who join the Commission staff after the introduction of its scheme, and who are not already contributors to the Commonwealth superannuation scheme, will be able to elect to join the Commission’s superannuation scheme or request to be treated under the Superannuation Act 1976. The Bill, in clauses 16, 17, 19 and Part III gives effect to the above proposals.
Part IV of the Bill contains transitional provisions. It is accepted that, with the abolition of the Medibank Standard functions of the Commission, there is likely to be a significant number of surplus staff. Discussions have already been held between the relevant staff organisations, the
Department of Health, the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, the Commission and the Public Service Board about this situation. In the first instance they have concentrated on the transfer of staff associated with bulk billing functions to the Department of Health. At this stage it is not possible to give any accurate indication of the number of staff who may ultimately be surplus to the requirements of the Commission as this will be dependent on the market share obtained by the Commission. However, the Bill in clause 3 1 recognises the need for action to be taken and provides for the Public Service Board to be involved in the redeployment of surplus staff. There will be continuing discussions with the staff associations on this aspect as the situation develops.
The remaining provision of the Bill to which I would specifically draw the attention of honourable senators is clause 34. This provision enables a reconciliation to be effected of the assets and liabilities of the Commission as at 31 October 1978. The Bill provides for the Commonwealth to pay to the Commission an amount which represents the liabilities of the Commission, both current and contingent, which are attributable to the Medibank Standard functions of the Commission. Similarly, provision is included for the Commission to pay to the Commonwealth an amount that represents the value of the assets of the Commission acquired by the Commission in carrying out its Medibank Standard functions. The purpose of this transitional provision is to provide for a distribution of assets and liabilities which properly relate to each of the Medibank Standard and Medibank Private functions as at 31 October 1978.
The remaining provisions in the Bill are consequential amendments relating to: The reconstitution of the Commission; the abolition of the Commission’s Medibank Standard functions; and the inclusion in the Act of more relevant provisions, applying generally to statutory corporations, concerning borrowing and investments by the new Commission and the entering into of contracts by the Commission. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grimes) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Sheil be granted leave of absence for one month on account of absence overseas on parliamentary business.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)Before I move a motion for the suspension of the sitting of the Senate to enable Estimates committees to meet, I wish to make a brief statement on the general conduct of business. Last week, when seeking the co-operation of honourable senators in the program of legislation proposed by the Government, I mentioned that the social services Bills would be available for passage in the Senate this week. We all appreciate that the meetings of Estimates committees affect the time available for Government Business. I therefore seek the co-operation of all honourable senators in the consideration of the Social Services Amendment Bill and the Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill which the Government regards as essential for passage this week. Hopefully it will not become necessary again to use the time scheduled for Estimates committees on Thursday.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That the sitting of the Senate be suspended until 15 minutes past 10 p.m. to enable Estimates Committees C, D and E to meet.
– The sitting of the Senate is suspended until 15 minutes past 10 p.m. Estimates Committee C will meet in the Senate chamber. Estimates Committee D will meet in Senate Committee Room No. 1 and Estimates Committee E will meet in Senate Committee Room No. 5. The bells will be rung for two minutes prior to the meeting of the Committees.
Sitting suspended from 4.26 to 10.15 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I want to speak tonight about a matter which has worried me for some time and which I believe now needs to be placed before the Senate. It relates to the circumstances surrounding the recent appointment of the Secretary-General of the National Aboriginal Conference. This important position in the community was being filled for the first time. It was a position for which nominations were called. Briefly, I want to place before the Senate the circumstances in which one important candidate for this position, Mr David Anderson, has been passed over. Mr Anderson, a
Victorian resident, is an Aborigine who has had a long experience in Aboriginal affairs. I believe that he has quite high qualifications. These circumstances certainly call for an explanation which so far I have not been able to receive. I will refer to some documents which I hope to have incorporated. I have shown them to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt).
There are circumstances which must be retailed. Advertisements for the positions of Secretary-General and Executive Officer on the secretariat appeared in the newspapers on 27 May 1978. Mr David Anderson, whom I have known for a number of years, made an application on 12 June seeking these positions and in the application he gave his address, 53 Eliza Street, Black Rock in Victoria, and also his place of work. He was at that stage lecturing at the Christ College, the State College of Victoria, in Melbourne. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a copy of the application that he made.
The application read as follows- 53 Eliza St Black Rock, 3 193, Vic. 12 June 1978
Chairman NAC Interim Secretariat c/o Department of Aboriginal Affairs POBox 17 Woden, ACT 2896
I refer to your public notice which appeared in ‘The Age’ on Saturday 27 May seeking certain staff for the National Aboriginal Conference Secretariat.
Please consider this letter as my application for the positions of (a) Secretary-General and (b) Executive Officer.
My qualifications and experience are as follows. I have a BA in Anthropology and Sociology from Monash University. The experience I have in Aboriginal Affairs is nearly fourteen years. In the period 1973 to March 1977 I served as a member ofthe NAC’s predecessor, the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. From March 1976 to March 1977I held the portfolio of Executive Member for Information and Communications on the Executive of the NACC.
Currently I am lecturing in Aboriginal Affairs and sociology at Christ College- S.C.V. in Melbourne.
I am applying for these positions because I am sure I could carry out these functions more effectively than they were carried out in the past. I seek a position within the Secretariat as I want to see better cross-cultural communications between Aboriginal Australians and non-Aboriginals in our multicultural society.
I would be available from the end of October; however an earlier arrangement could be made should my application be successful.
Yours faithfully David R. Anderson
-It will be observed that in that application he made it clear that he was applying for these positions, that he was lecturing at this college at the time and that he was not available until the end of October but could make an earlier arrangement. He made it abundantly clear where he was living and that he sought the position. He received an acknowledgement dated 14 June of receipt of the application. He was told that his application would receive attention. The acknowledgement was signed by the Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. On 3 1 August Mr Anderson was at a seminar of the Aborigines Advancement League at Northcote in Victoria and there was told by a member ofthe executive of the Conference, Mrs Nessie Skuta, that he had not been appointed and that she was surprised that he was in Australia because the executive had been told that he was out of Australia. Clearly he had not been considered as an applicant and his application for appointment had not been voted on by the executive.
Mrs Skuta had taken a tape recording of the proceedings of the executive meeting on 8 August when the decision was made. I have taken a tape recording of the relevant parts; it is not the original recording. I think it is important that we realise that in the course of making the decision statements of the nature I shall indicate to the Senate shortly were made. I will read from a transcript of the executive meeting in Adelaide on 8 August. At the beginning of the discussion on this matter a Mr McNamara of the Public Service Board, the officer seconded to act as secretary and to deal with the important investigations and the interviewing of applicants for this position, said that certain people had withdrawn because of their commitments. Then he said:
A couple we were disappointed because they did withdraw. One person, David Anderson, of Black Rock in Victoria, was contacted; however David is overseas and obviously, because of the terms of reference of filling the position, cannot be contacted. That was one disappointing aspect.
That, of course, is a very clear but mistaken statement. Later on he said:
I mentioned a letter went to David Anderson, no reply to date.
He then discussed the various candidates- the members of the executive discussed them fullyand at a later stage but before the voting took place Mr Bird, a member of the executive, mentioned Mr McEwen, who was the successful candidate. He said:
Just about McEwen, as Greg said, we interviewed him twice, not on the same day. His reason that he didn’t apply for the top position was that he thought it should have went to an Aborigine.
I draw attention to that because he was appointed to the top position. I understand that that was the decision which was made although at that time Mr McEwen was not even an applicant for the top position. A little further on in the discussion, Mr Munro, another member of the executive, said:
Before we vote, gentlemen, there’s just one thing that Bill said, to carry on from there, about an Aboriginal in that position, I think there was one nomination, wasn’t there? He was overseas, he couldn’t get back in time, that was David Anderson, we gave him every opportunity, we were very disappointed that he didn’t contact us where we could him and . . .
What was said then is unclear on the tape. There was reference to another Aboriginal candidate who was not appointed. Again before the meeting voted, Mrs Skuta who took the recording, said:
Mr Chairman, could I just make one comment, seeing that David Anderson, you know, never came for the interview, possibly, you know, when he does come back and we know what he’s up to or what he’s intending to do, possibly later on he can meet with Mr McEwen and you know, because he is the only Aboriginal we ‘ve got in Australia today that has got the qualifications of that top position.
There was further discussion. Someone said:
It’s a pity David was overseas . . . and he couldn ‘t get back till October . . .
Mrs Skuta also said: no, it’s a shame, very disappointing, but never mind, you know, we’ve made a wise choice, I believe.
Just before that statement was made they had voted in favour of Mr McEwen over the two other candidates who were in the final ballot. At the end of this discussion Mrs Skuta said:
I would like it to- for the Executive to state that they were disappointed that David didn ‘t turn up for the interview.
Then Mr McNamara concluded the discussion by saying:
If I can perhaps act as mediator here, on NAC letterhead perhaps I could write to David and thank him and express the disappointment of the Executive that he didn ‘t -
Then the recording is unclear, but later continues:
I suggest that it is very clear that it was a very important discussion, that it was put before the Executive that David Anderson was overseas and not available, and that he was not chosen for those reasons. Some two or three weeks later he discovered that he had not been chosen. He had not been called for any appointment but the meeting had been held. The position is that he has not been overseas, was not overseas in that period, had no intention of going overseas, did not tell anyone he was going overseas, was lecturing in behavioural studies at Christ Collegeand his colleagues there knew he was- was living in the residence in which he had lived for some considerable period, but did not get any mail there about the subject of call to attend any interview.
As soon as he discovered the position he sent a telegram on 1 September to the Hon. Ian Viner, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, stating that he had not been given the courtesy of any reply to his application and that he would appreciate some response. Mr Hay, the Secretary to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, replied saying, amongst other things:
I understand however that the NAC wrote to you on 2 1 July concerning interview arrangements.
Mr President, I seek leave to have those two telegrams incorporated in Hansard.
The documents read as follows-
Have not had courtesy of any reply my application for N.A.C. Secretariat positions (A) secretary general (B) executive officer. Would appreciate some response. My address 53 Eliza Street, Black Rock.
David R. Anderson, 53 Eliza Street, Black Rock.
Mr D. R. Anderson, 53 Eliza Street, Black Rock
The Minister has asked me to respond to your telegram concerning your application for a position in the NAC Secretariat. Under NAC charter responsibility for recruitment of staff rests with the NAC Executive. I understand however that the NAC wrote to you on 2 1 July concerning interview arrangements.
D.O. HAY, Secretary, Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Canberra.
-The position then becomes, if anything, more strange. On 13 September Mr David Anderson received two identical circular letters. They are letters from the National Aboriginal Conference and are signed Gregory N. McNamara, Interim NAC Secretariat, Canberra’. Certain parts of the letter have been filled in by hand and the rest is a normal letter telling someone that he has not received the appointment to the position. The parts that have been filled in by hand seem to me to bear the same handwriting as that of the person who signed the letter, that is, Mr McNamara. The interesting thing about both documents is that they are dated 6 August 1978. Apparently they took five weeks to be received by Mr Anderson; but, significantly, they are dated two days before the Executive meeting which made the decision to appoint the Secretary-General and the Director. I do not know the explanation for that. I do not think our mails are so bad that those letters would take so long to reach Mr Anderson. I cannot understand why they should be dated and telling a person that he was not appointed to the position two days before the appointments were actually made.
At around this time I came into possession of a tape. I had it transcribed and I made it available to the Minister on about 12 September. I spoke to the Minister at about that time and ever since I have been seeking an explanation of these curious circumstances. Mr President, I seek leave to have the letter dated 6 August 1978 to Mr Anderson from Mr McNamara incorporated in the Hansard record.
The letter read as follows-
NATIONAL ABORIGINAL CONFERENCE
C/o Department of Aboriginal Affairs P.O.Box 17, Woden, A.C.T. 2606 6 August 1978
Dear Mr Anderson,
I refer to your application for the position of Secretary General, Class 10 in the National Aboriginal Conference Secretariat.
The final selection for appointment to this position has been made by the Executive ofthe National Aboriginal Conference and on their behalf I regret to inform you that your application has not been successful on this occasion.
The Executive has requested that I pass on their sincere appreciation of your interests in the National Aboriginal Conference Secretariat and the role the Secretariat will play in assisting the National Aboriginal Conference.
If you wish to discuss your application would you please contact me (reverse charges) on 8962S2 Canberra, area code 062.
Yours sincerely, Gregory N. McNamara, Interim NAC Secretariat, Canberra.
-On 22 September I wrote to the Honourable Ian Viner about this matter, having already spoken to him about it. In that letter I referred to our discussions. Mr President, I seek leave to have that letter incorporated in Hansard.
The letter read as follows- 22nd September, 1978.
The Hon. Ian Viner, M.P., Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Parliament House, CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600
My dear Minister,
Re: Mr David Anderson, Applicant for the position .of Secretary General National Aboriginal Conference Secretariat
I refer to discussions which I have had with you and the transcript which I supplied to you of a tape, relating to the apparent misleading advice given to the Executive of the National Aboriginal Conference, as to the availablity of Mr David Anderson for appointment to the position of Secretary General.
I note that you did receive a telegram from Mr Anderson some time ago in regard to this position, and I hoped that you have made enquiries of the Executive to find out whether this unsatisfactory position is to be remedied.
I have now received from Mr David Anderson a copy of a circular letter,.dated the 6th August, 1 978, which apparently was received at his private Black Rock address last Wednesday, 13 th September, 1978. 1 enclose a copy of that letter.
I would appreciate hearing from you as a matter of urgency.
Yours sincerely, Alan Missen Senator for Victoria
-In that letter I drew attention to the misleading advice that had been given to the Executive. I also drew attention to the telegram that Mr Anderson had received and I sought to hear from the Minister as a matter of urgency. Following that occasion, Mr David Anderson also made attempts to find out what was happening. Not only he but also Mr Hagan, a member of the Executive, have endeavoured to obtain this mysterious letter of 2 1 July which apparently was to be sent or was sent to Mr David Anderson, inviting him to make an appointment to be interviewed, but which Mr David Anderson has never seen. Neither I nor Mr Hagan nor Mr Anderson has yet been able to obtain a copy of that letter.
In fact, when Mr Anderson spoke to a Mr Brian Bourke in the Department on 27 September in the absence of Mr McNamara who was either ill or had suffered an accident, he was told by Mr Bourke that Mr Bourke could not answer his questions. Mr Anderson sought to find out about this letter and the letter dated 6 August and told Mr Bourke about the tape. Mr Bourke told him that he could not answer his questions as he had no knowledge whatever of the facts. In respect of Mr Anderson’s request for a copy of the letter of 2 1 July, Mr Bourke said that he had no access to documents. He said that the applications were regarded as a hot potato as far as the Department was concerned and that the Department had endeavoured to ensure that they were processed in such a way as to ensure impartiality. So nobody seems yet to have been able to get hold of this document or to have been able to see it.
In addition, after these further inquiries, Mr Anderson also sent a telegram to the Honourable Ian Viner of 29 September 1978. Mr President, I seek leave to have that telegram incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Re your departmental secretarys telegram 26-9-78 would appreciate copy of supposed letter of 21 July 1978 inviting me to attend job interview stop would also appreciate clarification of why I received letter signed Gregory McNamara and dated 6-8-78 informing me my application was unsuccessful when I am informed by members of NAC executive that I was on shortlist for selection and the shortlist was discussed by the selection panel on 8-8-78 stop I have tape of deliberations of selection panel on 8-8-78 in Adelaide on which McNamara and others are heard to say that every effort was made to contact me but that I was overseas and could not attend interview which is quite untrue stop these inconsistencies suggest irregularity in processing my application and warrant full investigation stop reply my address 53 Eliza St Black Rock 3 1 93
David R. Anderson
Wired 3.50 pm Friday 29 September 1978 Black Rock Post Office, 3 1 93
- Mr Anderson then sought to obtain further information about these events and why they had happened. On 3 October I wrote again to the Honourable Ian Viner, trying again to find out what the position was and seeking some explanation of this circular letter which apparently was sent on 6 August. Mr President, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard my letter of 3 October and the Minister’s reply, which is actually dated 2 October.
The letters read as follows- 3rd October 1978
The Hon. Ian Viner, M.P., Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600
My dear Minister,
Re: David R. Anderson- Applicant for position of Secretary General National Aboriginal Conference.
As you are aware, I have been concerned for some weeks with the situation whereby this applicant was passed over on mistaken information, which was apparently advised to the National Executive of the National Aboriginal Conference by an officer of the Public Service Board, then seconded to that Executive.
I supplied you some time ago a copy of the transcript of the tape which I have, relating to discussion at the National Executive on the 8th August 1978, and I note that Mr Anderson has now received a circular letter, received on the 13 September 1978, but signed by Gregory McNamara and dated the 6th August, advising that he was unsuccessful for the N.A.C. Secretariat positions. Mr McNamara has, so far, failed to explain to the Acting Chairman, Mr J. P. Hagan, the arrangements he made to contact David Anderson. This seems extremely curious in view of the fact that the decision was made on the 8th August.
I understand from my discussion with you that you were going to make enquiries, and I am surprised that you have not given me any answer to my written complaint about this matter. I do not intend to let the matter rest where it is, and intend to raise the matter in the Senate if I do not receive a satisfactory explanation of this situation, and am informed that justice will now be done to this man, preferably by the re-opening of the appointments.
Yours sincerely, Alan Missen Senator for Victoria
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 2 Oct 1978
Dear Senator Missen,
Thank you for the copy of your letter of 4 September to Senator Bonner concerning allegations that Mr David Anderson was passed over for appointment as Secretary General to the National Aboriginal Conference and for your further letter of 22 September.
The true facts ofthe matter are that:
A sub-committee of the National Aboriginal Conference Executive Committee assessed applications for positions with the N.A.C. Secretariat and acted as the interviewing committee.
Mr G. McNamara, a senior officer of the Public Service, was selected by the Public Service Board to assist the interviewing panel in its deliberations and to act as Secretary of the panel in a non-voting capacity. Mr McNamara has fourteen years service, is a qualified psychological examiner and an experienced interviewer.
Mr McNamara has advised that he sent a letter to Mr David Anderson on 2 1 July 1 978 asking that Mr Anderson contact him to arrange a suitable time for an interview. No response was received.
The interview panel were looking for the best applicant regardless of whether or not that applicant was an Aboriginal. There is no suggestion whatsoever that Mr Anderson was unacceptable to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. In fact, the Department had no involvement at all in the selection of applicants or in the interview of those applicants.
There is therefore no question of an investigation in a breach of the Anti-Discrimination Act.
I have sent a copy of this letter to Senator Bonner.
Yours sincerely, (R. I. Viner)
-The Minister’s letter to me described the way in which people were appointed. It also stated that Mr McNamara had advised that he sent a letter to Mr David Anderson on 2 1 July. But the Minister’s letter did not enclose a copy of that letter. It spoke about the way in which the panel went about trying to obtain a candidate. It finished with this somewhat curious remark:
There is therefore no question of an investigation in a breach of the Anu-Discrimination Act.
I presume that he means the Racial Discrimination Act. I had not at any stage made any suggestion that there had been any breach of that Act and I do not understand particularly that reference.
Since then I spoke to the Minister last week at some length. I have endeavoured to get him to ascertain the facts of this matter. I have not proceeded particularly quickly with this matter. I think that I have perhaps been a little slow in proceeding with this matter, but I have endeavoured to find out by all means possible the circumstances of the matter and an explanation for them. I have endeavoured to find out why this man, who appears to be the only Aboriginal in the particular field with the qualifications, was not appointed; how statements were made that he was out of the country: how letters were sent to him which took five weeks to arrive and which were dated before the appointments were even made; and why I cannot get hold of a copy of the letter alleged to have been sent to him, and nor can the other people concerned.
I think that clearly an injustice has been done. I have suggested to the Minister and I now suggest to the Senate and to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) that it is patent that any such appointment should be set aside so that there can be a reconsideration of a candidate who was passed over in these circumstances. I suggest that there needs to be an explanation as to how this set of circumstances came to pass. I therefore trust that this matter will get deep consideration by the Ministry and that in fact there will be an early answer to the matters which I have put on the record and before the Senate tonight.
– I want to talk about the Ranger uranium mining problem. I want to place in their right chronological context the events that have taken place, particularly over the last few weeks. I am motivated to raise this question tonight because of recent statements by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and in particular by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) that, regardless of the Aborigines’ wishes, uranium mining will go ahead. Last Thursday in this House we saw the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) read into the record a personal letter that had been written by the Opposition shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Australia to
Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, the Chairman of the Northern Land Council. I understand that the authority that was given by the Chairman of the Northern Land Council to have the letter used in any way thought fit was given as a result of the exercise of white pressure on him.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in another place also read into the record the same personal letter. I have not seen that happen in this country since the days of the famous Document ‘J’ in the phoney Petrov investigation. This is one of the last resorts in a political battle being fought by this Government to ensure that uranium mining is carried out at any cost, including the cost of the lives, health and everything else of the Aboriginal people. Dr Everingham wrote that letter. I think it was properly described by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, as a caring letter from a caring man. Dr Everingham followed it up with another letter which made some explanations and I will come to that in a few moments.
There are a number of other things I want to say firstly because I think the morality of this Government has reached the bottom of the pit. It is scraping away at every piece of mud it can find in an effort to discredit the official Opposition of this Parliament, I have never seen it happen in my 13 years as a senator. I was amazed that the Minister for Social Security produced a copy of that letter. Obviously she was embarrassed by it. She wanted to incorporate it. If she were prepared to go that far into the political gutter obviously the only thing that the Opposition could do was to make her read it into the record. Mr Viner in another place was equally disturbed and if the Prime Minister, with his standover tactics, had not been sitting beside him and saying ‘go on, keep reading’ he also would have tried to have had the letter incorporated. Obviously both of the Ministers were carrying out a very unsavoury part of their political work that neither of them wanted to do. The place to stand up against the Prime Minister is in the party room, not to try to get things incorporated or to read a letter in either House. As I said, it will go down in history not as Document J but as document V and document G. It is a disgrace to the Parliament of this country and both Ministers will live to regret it.
Galarrwuy Yunupingu has been forced to submit not by any pressure applied by the Labor Party, as the Deputy Prime Minister in particular is so fond of repeating, but because of the powerful forces within this Government and the powerful forces outside this Government. I refer in particular to the mining organisations. I asked a question in this House recently. It was quite an important question. It is recorded at page 1155 of the Senate Hansard for 10 October 1978. This was the question to the Minister:
I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs by reminding the Minister of a statement that I made in this place on 26 September 1978 regarding pressure being applied to members of the Northern Land Council by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in order to get uranium mining under way. I also remind the Minister that the Government made a promise that the Land Council would be allowed to meet without any outsiders being present, and that there would be no coercion by it. I further remind the Minister that a Government senator sat in on a meeting of the Land Council a few days ago. I now ask the Minister: Was the Government representative Senator Bonner of Queensland? Were all proceedings of the meeting taped, except when Senator Bonner was speaking, when the recording equipment was switched off? Which Minister directed Senator Bonner to attend the meeting? What instructions were given to the Government senator to pass on to the Land Council, and were instructions given to him to apply pressure for mining to commence? Finally, why did the Government break its promise to the Northern Land Council by instructing a Government senator to attend that meering, although a Government spokesman had made a public statement that no pressure or coercion would be applied to the Northern Land Council?
The Minister replied:
When the previous statements were made in September I had some advice from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. However, I have no information relating to meetings in recent days which Senator Bonner is stated to have attended. I will seek that information from the Minister and advise Senator Keeffe accordingly.
That was on 10 October- more than a week ago. Yet to date the Minister has not been able to come up with an explanation. The Minister does not know what is going on, has not been able to bring up a reply and obviously Senator Bonner is now under a cloud. I have always given Senator Bonner more credit than to have become involved in this rather underhand manner. It is of no use saying that he was not at the meeting because Mr Bishaw- I will have more to say about him shortly- was the man who drove him to the meeting room. The facts as stated in that question are correct. Again it is a matter of using another black man for the sake of mining uranium; nothing else. It is the same as the Government using Charlie Perkins and a number of other Aborigines who are employed in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Last night I walked into this chamber to participate in the examination of the estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I have never been so disgusted in my life. I am not blaming the representatives of the Department at all because most of them are decent and honest people. Last night one of the senior advisers was able to make two blatant mistakes within the space of 15 minutes and I was not going to waste my time listening to untruths about what is happening in the Department. One of the senior advisers said: ‘The Department has got more money now than it has ever had in the whole of its existence ‘. That is not true. We do not have to live in this country on a tissue of lies, misstatements and falsehoods. We do not have to live in this society in a fog of misstatements, untruths and distortions, but that is what senior representatives of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs now have to do in order to keep their place in the Department. One of the most unfortunate victims of the whole set of circumstances is Charlie Perkins.
There are a number of matters I wish to raise. I will make only brief reference to them. Tonight Senator Missen, a senator on the Government side of this House, raised a question that ought to have been raised before, but possibly we have not had the chance to raise it because of the sittings of the Estimates committees. That question had to be raised.
- Senator Bonner had a back injury, so he couldn ‘t.
– I accept the story that Senator Bonner did have a back injury even though he was missing for 10 days.
– He got it carrying the Government.
-That is not a bad sort of an interjection. Carrying the Government is enough to break anybody’s back in the present circumstances, particularly in the field of Aboriginal affairs. Last night at Estimates Committee C I asked a question about a company that had been formed in my own city of Townsville to look at the possibility of fishing for beche-de-mer. The Government has wiped all responsibility. The company has gone bankrupt. It has been taken down by one of the best con men in history. He has over a period of years taken down a number of Aboriginal enterprises and the Government is not worried about it. It says: ‘It is a private enterprise; we are not worried’. I was in Darwin in the last year or so and I was told by somebody working in a hardware shop that a departmental officer came in and wanted parts to repair a caravan; it was not for his caravan. He did not admit that. He wanted parts to repair a caravan that was on a particular Aboriginal settlement. When he was told that there was no caravan on that settlement he hastily departed from the store because obviously he was getting the parts to build his own caravan. There is at the moment in the Northern Territory a Mr Randell who has changed his whole lifestyle in order to see uranium mining go ahead.
The struggle for power in all countries today is very great. I do not suppose we had ever thought that we would see come to Australia the distortion and dishonesty that we see today in government of this country. It goes back to the days when we were fighting over petrol prices to see what was going to be paid for crude oil from Bass Strait when a Prime Minister of this country disappeared in the surf off the coast of Victoria. There has been no satisfactory explanation about how that happened. When I mentioned that by way of a remark to this chamber some few weeks afterwards I was howled down as making a false accusation. Honourable senators may remember that the next Prime Minister signed an aide-memoire with a number of oil company representatives present, but not all of them- not all of those who were entitled to be in attendance at the consultations. Some of them complained to me afterwards because I was associated with a certain committee at the time that they had not been given a fair go. Now we come to uranium which is a finite energy resource anyway. It is doubtful whether it will last for 20 years. There is an unhealthy immoral attitude on the part of this Government in trying to get the uranium out of the ground. The cost is going to be very great for this country, to the countries that we sell it to and particularly to the Aboriginal people.
Again I refer to the Labor Party. Mr President, I have a number of documents which I propose to have incorporated. If I am not given permission to have them incorporated I will read them into the Hansard. We can ask ourselves questions. We can ask who made tours overseas quite recently in an endeavour not only to sell the uranium but also to provide the background so that the uranium would be sold and mined with a minimum of inconvenience to this Government. We can ask whether a certain bank account was opened in a foreign country. As I noted in one Press statement today, we can also ask whether a knighthood is going to be given in a certain area. Not so very long ago a knighthood was given to a prominent member of the Australian Labor Party and the trade union movement. It was the end of his political and industrial career. If that knighthood is awarded in this area, it will be the end of somebody else ‘s career. It is very sad that this sort of incentive has to be used.
We can look back into history and remember that only a few weeks prior to 1 1 October 1975 a certain international organisation was able to make a public statement that there would be a change of Government in Australia and uranium mining would go ahead. Because of the limitation of time tonight, I am not going to refer to another matter which I want to raise but which I will raise in this House in the next week or two. That is the conspiracy by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner)–
– Order! Senator Keeffe, you must not suggest a conspiracy on the part of an honourable or right honourable member of the Parliament.
– I agree, Mr President. There is a conspiracy with a certain organisation in a commercial area. I will not refer to that tonight but I forecast that I will do so within the next week or two. I have a copy of the first letter that was written by Labor’s shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and a copy of the second letter. So that they are in their right context with the other documents which I hope either to read or to have incorporated, I seek leave to have these two letters incorporated in Hansard.
The documents read as follows- 21 September 1978
Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, C/ Northern Land Council, P.O. Box 3046, DARWIN, NT. 5794
I can understand your feeling that the A.L.P. may be using Aborigines for their own vested interests. It is true that some people, most of them on the Labor side of politics, care more about stopping uranium mining or changing the Government in Darwin or Canberra than they do about Aborigines or land rights. I am not one of them. I hope my speech in the House on 20 September 1978 and on T.D.T. (southern States) will help to persuade you of this.
I have heard that many Aborigines have a mind to remove you on 21 September 1978 from your Chairman’s job. I have been thrown out of a job as Health Minister and Parliamentarian in 1 975 by a Governor-General and an election and so I guess I know the sort of feeling this could bring about. So in case it happens to you I want to tell you how it affected me.
I was depressed that I had not been able to persuade people of my hard work- the hardest I’ve ever done- my capacities and my good intentions.
Slowly I came to be thankful for the rest. I took a (parttime working) holiday for 6 months away from phones with my wife. Some of our (adult) children joined us for part of this time while they were on holidays. I got through half a roomful of papers I’d collected ‘to look at later’ for 30 years. I did a refresher course and worked for a few doctors in my old job. Finally I went back to campaigning and acting like a local representative, at the end opening an office with my local State member to help local people with Federal problems as Federal members do.
I ‘m sure I’m doing better work and happier with it as a result ofthe break, and I believe if I’d missed on re-election I would still feel that way in some other job. I’m nearly twice your age, so you will do better than I did in adjusting to whatever you have to do.
If you are in real trouble- I don’t mean just like the drinking charge I read about a few months back, but something that your own people can’t help with- something which might be helped by a white man interested in hearing blackfeller secrets if they want to tell him and willing to tell whitefeller secrets if people want to hear them- then I would like you to think of me as a former family doctor who had a large following of Aboriginal patients years ago, who took time to explain things to them and who would like to be thought of as your friend whether our politics is the same or not.
I look forward to seeing you whenever I’m in the Territory.
With warm regards.
Yours sincerely, DOUG EVERINGHAM, M.P.
10 October 1978
Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu Chairman Northern Land Council Darwin
My last letter to you should perhaps have been marked Personal’ like this one, althoughI have no objection to any colleague who asks me having a copy (several of them have done so).
I’ve sent copies of this to Jon Isaacs, JimKeeffe and Bob Collins who seem to have had raised with them some objections to my last letter to you.
I want to stress that when I referred to some Labor people putting environment or mining issues before Aborigines I certainly did not have in mind any of our spokespersons. You will recall that Paul Keating, Tom Uren, Bill Hayden and other key persons joined me in sending you telegrams assuring you of our public support if you decided to prefer arbitration to the prepared Ranger agreement.
Whatever smooth talk you might get from our critics to try to convince you that we did not make such offers in good faith, I will continue to assure you of our moral support and our intentions when we return to Government to strengthen Land Rights legislation in favour of Aborigines, as we tried to in parliament in 1975 and 1976 despite a hostile Senate and later losing our Government majority.
All of my contacts with Bob Collins, Neville Perkins, Jack Doolan, Jon Isaacs, and other Labor members of the Legislative Assembly has led me to the conclusion that they share my view and that of our Party policy: that Aboriginal land rights should override mining and conservation interests and that our political opponents do not as a rule agree with this. Ian Viner made lots of speeches in parliament in favour of mining before he became a Minister.
I make special mention of Bob Collins because I believe everything he has done in this recent Ranger dispute business has been at the request of Aborigines and strictly in line with their wishes and their so widely expressed yearning to control their own land. If this means he opposed you, then he was helping Aborigines who were entitled to oppose you. I don’t believe he has any personal spite against you and neither have I.
I see as the first priority for my own shadow portfolio the fight for land rights. I am devoting my major efforts as a policy spokesman inside the party to preparing and presenting the case for this to those people who are a small minority in our Party still of a different view. It is them I referred to in my last letter, not our active members.
Yours sincerely, DOUG EVERINGHAM.
– I refer to the newsletter published by the Environment Council of the Northern Territory of recent date, September 1978. It refers to the Jabiluka project and I believe that it ought to be read out rather than just incorporated. It states:
While the signing of the agreement between the Northern Land Council and Ranger partners seems to have left the way open for Ranger to commence work soon, the same cannot be said for Pancontinental’s Jabiluka project.
Over the last month there have been repeated calls for a full public inquiry into Pancontinental’s proposed operations. Statements on and actions connected with Pancontinental’s final EIS for the Extension ofthe Arnhem Highway have been the catalyst for most of these calls.
The Federal Labor spokesman on Urban and Regional Affairs, Mr Tom Uren, claims that Pancontinental had begun work on the Arnhem Highway extension before environmental approval received wide publicity. He said that Pancontinental had cleared a path much wider than that needed to survey the road and that this work continued even after the final EIS had been completed. Mr Uren also called for a public inquiry into the whole Jabiluka project.
However, these allegations were denied by both Pancontinental and the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, Mr Groom.
As we mentioned in the last edition of the newsletter, many people challenged Pancontinental’s assertions in its draft and final impact statement that ‘no sites of significance were discovered or reported in the vicinity of the proposed route ‘.
That is of the Arnhem Highway extension. The newsletter continued:
Apparently these challenges were strong enough to cause the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to instruct one of its officers, Mr Ted Tonkin, to reinvestigate the matter. Pancontinental in its final EIS had repeatedly cited the original DAA investigation as proof of the absence of sacred sites along the road alignment.
The new survey was carried out by Mr Tonkin, representatives of the NLC and traditional owners of the area. It was by no means exhaustive, covering only seven kilometres of the proposed road from Hades Flat to Jabiluka Saddle. However, contrary to Pancontinental’s assertions, traditional owners pointed out seven sites of significance to Aboriginal people within this seven kilometres.
It goes on for the next column. I seek leave to have that column incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
A report of this survey was prepared and copies sent to the Minister and secretary of the Departments of Environment, Housing and Community Development and Aboriginal Affairs. In an accompanying press release, the acting chairman of the NLC, Mr Gerry Blitner, called for a full public inquiry into the proposed Jabiluka project.
Mr Hawke and Mr Isaacs (the opposition leader in the NT) also called for public inquiries.
However, on September 1, the Federal Government announced that it had given approval for a 13km extension of the Arnhem Highway and a temporary road linking the extension to the existing Oenpelli road. Approval was also given for the upgrading of pan of the Oenpelli road. The significance of this move was that alternative alignments which swing to the west of the escarpment outlier could be considered later. in spite of assurances by Mr Groom that the road goahead did not pre-empt the decision on the main Jabiluka operations, aborigines regarded the move as direct provocation. Mr Groom said that ‘any road works undertaken would be entirely as the company’s risk. ‘
The chairman of the NLC, Mr James Yunupingu, then reported that aborigines might not sign the Ranger agreement and so a meeting was hastily convened between the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, Mr Yunupingu, Mr Viner and Mr Anthony. The result of this meeting was that the Commonwealth Government reversed its decision to allow the Arnhem Highway Extension to proceed when Mr Yunupingu agreed to recommend that the NLC accept the draft Ranger agreement. In effect this means that the Government will consider the mine and the highway extension as one although some people have suggested that the Arnhem Highway extension was agreed to to enable Mr Fraser to have some leverage for his final negotiations with the NLC.
– I have a document which I understand was drafted by Mr Bishaw. I will refer to him in more detail later. It was one of the documents read out at a meeting of the Council. It states:
The Council has to make its first major decision.
The decision is about the Ranger and Narbalek mines.
But what is at stake is not just those mines but the whole future of the Northern Land Council.
If the Land Council makes a mistake on this question the whole of Australia will know and many people will support those who want to see Aboriginals without land, without any right to make their own decisions, and without a Land Council to represent them.
The first heading following that is:
What is the real position with the mining of uranium in Australia ‘.
The document states:
There is a whole lot of distortion. The whole campaign of the Government has been to distort any agreements that might ever have been made by the Labor Party. On top of that it is attempting to distort the statements that have been made to Aborigines. The document continues:
That is not true because the mining is going to go ahead whether or not the interests of Aborigines are cared for. The Government has no intention of caring for the Aborigines at this stage in view of the statement that has been made by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony). The document goes on:
The first point you need to decide is would both the present Government and a Labor Government (if one came to power) -
There will be one come to power not later than 1980. I invite honourable senators to mark that as a forecast for the future: . . continue to approve the mining of uranium.
The Labor people say they have changed their minds and would delay it for a while. On the other hand, if they became the Government they could change their minds again. The Liberals have always said that they will approve mining.
There is no danger of the Labor Party changing its mind. We have said that quite categorically and unequivocally as far as our policy is concerned. It is wrong that servants of the Government are distorting Labor Party policy in this way. The next heading is:
What is the real position with the opinion of the Australian people ‘.
The document states:
That is a distortion of fact. In fact it is a downright lie. The document continues:
That is a distortion of what Stephen Zorn has said. The document goes on:
The second point you need to decide is just how strong is this group of Australians and will they help Aboriginals if Aboriginals do what they want.
The next heading is:
What is the value of going to arbitration or otherwise delaying signing. ‘
The document states:
That is precisely what this Government proposes to do. If it does not get its way in the opposition now being put up by the Aboriginal people, it will go ahead and probably use legislation rather than arbitration. The document states further:
The Ranger deal has achieved-
That is not true-
That is not true -
That is a downright untruth -
This Government will meet those payments, if those profits are made, by reducing the Aboriginal vote and every Aboriginal in Australia knows that. The document continues:
Going to arbitration or otherwise delaying now that the Council has negotiated in good faith for months, using one of the world ‘s best negotiators, could be seen as evidence that this Council does not know what it is doing and has not carefully thought about the advice it has taken. This would be a wonderful opportunity for people of ill-will to Aboriginals to persuade the Government to change the Land Council system.
The next heading is:
The third point to be decided is whether or not any gains can be had from an arbitration or will Aboriginals lose out once again.
The document continues:
Does the Northern Land Council have the power to make demands on either the Australian or the Northern Territory Governments?
The Northern Land Council could represent about onequarter of the Northern Territory vote in its area.
Both the Australian Government and the Northern Territory Government stay in office by working out what voters think about current issues.
The majority of the voters in Australia are nonAboriginal. Many are sympathetic to Aboriginal people, but, comparing the $270m Aboriginals may get from Ranger and the thousands of square kilometres of land that have come from the Ranger deal with the lot of most non-Aboriginal Australians, it is not difficult to suppose what the general reaction would be to demands that the closing of the parts of the coastline become part of the deal as well.
It might be greatly damaging to Aboriginal people and destroy the Land Councils if public opinion hardens against Aboriginals because of the emergence of unreasonable demands over Ranger.
The next heading is:
The fourth point to be decided is whether or not it is wise to think about adding other demands to the Ranger deal.
That has obviously been written at the instigation of the Government. But the next document is even worse. This is signed by Galarrwuy Yunupingu himself. I am not exposing private correspondence in the same way as two Ministers in this Parliament did last Thursday. I would now like to refer to a document entitled: ‘Recommendations to the Council ‘. There has been a repudiation of the original terms of settlement. We all remember that as part of the original deal in respect of royalties to be paid to the Aboriginal people the Arnhem Highway would not go ahead. But that is not what happened when it came to talking to the Chairman of the Northern Land Council. This is what he said:
I would like to recommend to the Northern Land Council the possibility of road construction as a continuation of the Arnhem Highway to the 13 km limit as a combined effort by Pancontinental and Queensland Mines. We as a Council, recognised by the present Government and the people in general, have to play our part in fairness and in good faith with the Government.
This is what disturbs me. Here is a strong, Aboriginal leader who has backed down on the things he said only a few days before, in the same way as we saw Charles Perkins tonight in this chamber, and last night in this chamber, down on his stomach because the Government has driven him there; it is driving the Aboriginal leaders to the stage where they have nowhere else to go except on their stomachs, crawling to the Government. We saw Senator Bonner, a man who in the Aurukun and Mornington Island situations put up a strong stand. What does the Government do? The Government sends him there to pimp on its behalf and to talk to the Land Council to drive its uranium deals. Galarrwuy goes on to say:
As you may have heard, this Council and its people were under pressure when the Government approved and made the decision that Pancontinental could construct a road from the existing bitumen to 1 3 kms towards the escarpment.
I, as Chairman of the Northern Land Council, have had talks with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, in which I have put this Council’s views before the Government and have come to an agreement without prejudice.
This agreement is that we are a responsible body who are continually involved in political arguments, but having in mind that we must be firm in reasoning and consideration in considering what we must do to show ourselves responsible to the cause of our Government, and the public, by making decisions in regard to the Ranger agreement in the way that it shows reasonableness and understanding towards the future co-operation of this Council and whatever Government we are dealing with.
That statement was made as a result of that meeting with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) when the Prime Minister is alleged to have said: ‘We will go ahead with mining anyway’. He said to Galarrwuy: ‘Shut-up’. Those were the words that were publicly reported. The Chairman of the NLC said:
The Ranger Agreement is one of the first agreements negotiated with the Commonwealth and the Aboriginal people through the Northern Land Council and. therefore, having in mind that in good faith we have done what we have and shown our decision very strongly in our negotiating now we have to show a very strong decision and show our final decision in the way of meeting, approving and confirming that agreement, without showing that this Council is unworthy of negotiating with the Commonwealth and the mining companies in the future. I hope and trust that this Council will prove to the Government and the mining companies that we can come to a decision with understanding and through our political involvement, that we are reliable and trustworthy of building a future on our land which has been recognised and granted to us by the Government.
We are responsible people, able to meet the future of the Territory, the Federal Government and the Government of the Territory under which we have been legislated and we are expected to play our part in social, economic and political aspects to make our land within the Territory work.
That was written by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in collaboration with the Prime Minister of Australia. The Government has used that black man’s signature so it can sell out this country to the uranium miners. That is one reason why there ought to be a full, public inquiry into everything rotten that is going on in the negotiations. If there is not that son of inquiry the Government will need a dictatorship to implement its legislation. It is using responsible, respected black people to do its work. There is a consultation formula. This is another document which has not been published although some extracts from it have. The consultation formula says this:
We recall the circumstances of the Red Lillies meeting-
The program of dates for visits to the communities must be approved by all members of the consultative panel. ! 1. The consultative panel will be:
Who is one of the solicitors for the Northern Land Council:
I assume that is Geoff Eames- that is obviously a typographical error.
– No, it is not. It is definitely Geoff James.
– Thank you very much. It is a coincidence of the first name that attracted me because I do not know Geoff James. The statement continues: and
any person who the Co-ordinator might think should be at a particular community meeting.
Might I interpose there to say this is one of the accusations made that all of the lawyers are members of the Labor Party and that all of them are giving the wrong advice. That is not true, either. The statement continues:
That is contrary to what has been said today by the Deputy Prime Minister who said that we are going to mine regardless of what the Aboriginal people want to do. Point 19 of the statement says:
The time which the panel stays at a community will be decided by the Co-ordinator and the leaders of that community.
The Northern Land Council will hold its next meeting on the question of the Ranger Agreement after it has received letters from 30 councillors saying that their communities are ready for a vote.
1 . At the next Northern Land Council meeting about the Ranger Agreement, any councillor who thinks his community needs more time can ask the other councillors for more time.
There are other things that have happened in the last 24 hours that eventually will see the exposure of the media. I have here statements that were sworn in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory by three witnesses who gave evidence. The matter is no longer sub judice, and I seek leave to have those statements incorporated in Hansard.
The documents read as follows-
In the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia.
No. 703 of 1978
Dick Malwagu and Johnny Marali No. 1 .
The Northern Land Council.
AFFIDAVIT OF JOHNNY MARALI No. 1.
Affirmed this day of September 1978
Waters, James & O ‘Neil, Barristers and Solicitors, 4842 Harry Chan Avenue. Darwin, N.T. 5790. Telephone: 81 5544 Reference: JBW;DI. Plaintiffs ‘ Solicitors.
In the Supreme Court ofthe Northern Territory of Australia.
No. 703 of 1978.
Dick Malwagu and Johnny Marali No. 1.
The Northern Land Council,
I, Johnny Marali No. 1., of Goulburn Island in the Northern Territory of Australia, power house supervisor, MAKE OATH AND SAY as follows:
. I am of the plaintiffs herein.
I am the chairman of the Warruwi Council Incorporated, the Community Council for Goulburn Island in the said Territory, and I am also a duly elected counsellor for the community on the Northern Land Council, and I have been duly appointed as a counsellor by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
On the 11th day of September 1978 in response to a telegram from Mr Yunupingu, the chairman of the Land Council, I flew to Darwin the following day. I went with other counsellors and Aboriginal people to the end of the Arnhem Highway to have a meeting. Before I was called to that meeting I was not informed that this was to be the final meeting and that there would be no further opportunity to discuss the matter with my council and my community. At the Arnhem Highway meeting, both Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, the chairman of the Northern Land Council, and Mr Bishaw, the manager ofthe Council, spoke to us telling us that we should support the signing of the agreement to allow the Ranger Mine at Jabiru to proceed. I heard Mr Yunupingu tell the Northern Land Counsellors words to the following effect: ‘If we don’t sign the agreement, Mr Fraser the Prime Minister has told me he has power to block the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, and that he will stop the funds for our outstation ‘.Mr Yunupingu also said that Mr Fraser would take the Land Councils away from the Aboriginal people if we do not agree to the mining going ahead.
Mr Bishaw also spoke to the Council and said that the mining must go ahead. I was very unhappy about these statements, but I understood from what Mr Bishaw and Mr Yunupingu told us that we had no choice and that we had to agree. I felt under considerable pressure to vote in favour of the agreement.
At the meeting there were I believe about twenty eight people, although there is a total of 42 counsellors in the Northern Land Council. Of those people present, a lot of people were very unhappy with the fact that they would not be given the chance to talk to their communities about the decision. These people spoke out at the meeting that I was present at.
I did not know how important the matter was when I was invited to the meeting and I did not want to make my decision at that time although I was told I would have to.
A lot of the counsellors including myself had attended a meeting 3 or 4 weeks earlier at Galiwinku on Elcho Island, when we resolved that no agreement would be signed in respect of the Ranger Mine at Jabiru until such time as the question of Sea Rights and Fishing Rights had been sorted out with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. At this meeting there were some 42 delegates from 19 communities.
Mr Joe Mawndjil raised the question of the Galiwinku conference in the council meeting, and told Mr Yunupingu, who was not at the Galiwinku conference, just what had happened. Mr Yunupingu said that we couldn ‘t discuss the matter now and there was no hope that we could discuss the question of sea rights before the Ranger Agreement had been settled. 10.I was very unhappy about this as I knew that all the 19 communities that attended the Galiwinku conference had supported this resolution and that we would be going against their wishes if we supported the Ranger Agreement at this stage.
- Before the matter was discussed, I wanted to speak to Mr Toby Gangali and the other traditional owners from the Oenpelli area, and one of the counsellors asked Mr Yunupingu if we could talk with the traditional owners and be satisfied that they were happy with the matter.
Mr Yunupingu said ‘No’ and that we had to hurry the matter up and finish it before Friday. Mr Gangali did not address the meeting although two women from Oenpelli got up and spoke strongly against the proposed mining. I understood these women had responsibilities for some of the land around Jabiru.
- At the meeting Mr Leo Finlay of Boroloola said that he needed more time to consider that matter and discuss it with his community, but Mr Yunupingu refused to allow further time, and Leo Finlay and Mr Arthur Young, also from Borroloola, left the meeting before the voting was taken.
Also I believe Mr Joseph Gamaraidj who was a land counsellor from Oenpelli did not come along to the last meeting when the voting took place, nor did Andrew Yamirr and nor did Mr Dick Malwagu from Croker Island. All of these people were not prepared to come along and support the Ranger Agreement because they felt they had not had enough time to consider the matter and in particular discuss the matter with their own community.
Throughout the meeting we were told by Mr Yunupingu that we really had no choice in the matter and that the Commonwealth Government was determined to go ahead. I believed I had no choice but to support the motion, and I feel that most of the people who were present felt the same way as I did.
On the last day of the meeting, Thursday, there were only 23 or 24 people entitled to vote, who were voting, and all of them supported the motion that we sign the agreement, and we did this by raising our hands.
The agreement was that we agree to the terms of an Agreement initialled by the Northern Land Council ‘s negotiator, Mr Steven Zorn (hereinafter called ‘the proposed Agreement’). I have not at any time been given a copy of the proposed Agreement and I am unable to produce a copy of the proposed Agreement although Mr Bishaw and Mr Yunupingu had copies at the meeting.
At Arnhem Highway meeting, most of the members of the Northern Land Council had not seen a copy of the proposed Agreement, and nor was there any translation of that Agreement available in any of the languages of the Northern Land Council area. The proposed Agreement was never read over to us although Mr Yunupingu talked about it to us. No discussion was had at that meeting about the extent of the protection measures which had been promised to protect the land and the waterways.
I went to the meeting as a representative of the community of Goulburn Island and I believed that I would be given an opportunity to report to the community on the negotiations which Mr Zorn had carried out on behalf of the Northern Land Council.
The community is very concerned about the proposals for the following reasons:
many of the people on Goulburn Island have family and ceremonial links with the Aboriginal people of the Alligator Rivers and Oenpelli areas;
many of the Goulburn Island people have direct links with the land which is to be affected by the Jabiru mine and share dreaming stories and responsibility for the land;
the Goulburn Island community is worried about more white people coming into the area and are worried about the affect that this will have upon the Aboriginal people living in the Alligator Rivers area;
the Goulburn Island community is also concerned that the Aboriginal people get a fair percentage of the monies and we are not happy that this was achieved.
Throughout all the discussions at the Arnhem Highway meeting, I felt that I had not been given a choice and we had no choice in the circumstances but to sign the agreement because of the threats made by Mr Fraser to Mr Yunupingu.
To the best of my knowledge the traditional owners of the land, have not as a group or individually been consulted by the Northern Land Council and as deposed to above they did not in fact speak to the council and Mr Yunupingu refused to allow us to have them address the council, saying that he would look after this himself. I am not satisfied that they have been consulted and from my discussions with other Aboriginals from the Oenpelli area, I believe that the Oenpelli people and the traditional owners are very much against the mine, but have been pushed and pressured so much over the last five or six years, that they realise it is useless to keep saying no, and that for this reason they just do nothing. I believe this is the reason Mr Joseph Gamaraidj did not go to the voting and that he represented the traditional owners of that area more than most of us, and that he did not vote for the Ranger Agreement.
1 believe that the Northern Land Council has a duty to be satisfied that the traditional owners have consented to the agreement and I am not satisfied that this has occurred.
As chairman of the Warruwi Council, I am aware that the Goulburn Island community have not been consulted and have not been given the chance to express their views to the land council either through me or direct as to the proposed agreement or its terms. Members of that community had requested an opportunity to attend the meeting on the Arnhem Highway, but were advised that the chairman of the Northern Land Council had given an undertaking that no decision on the proposed Agreement would be taken until members of our community arrived at the meeting, and that the meeting would be extended until the following week in order for our people to attend.
In breach of this undertaking, the Agreement was discussed and voted upon and the meeting closed several days prior to the date on which we understood the members of our community were to arrive. As a result of discussions held at Goulburn Island since my return, I am aware that all adult members of the community on Goulburn Island are most concerned that the undertaking was broken, and that they were not given an opportunity to consider the terms of the agreement by the chairman of the Northern Land Council.
I believe from discussions with other Aborigines that the traditional owners of the land the subject of the Ranger Agreement, were told by the Northern Land Council chairman at a meeting at Merganella in July 1978, that the mining pits which would form part of the proposed mine would be refilled level with the ground at the completion ofthe mining under the proposed arrangement and that the Northern Land Council would insist that this formed part of any agreement made with the Commonwealth or with the developers.
On Wednesday the 13th September 1978 at the Arnhem Highway meeting, I saw and heard Mr Yunupingu say in answer to a question from a Land Counsellor as to whether the two proposed mining holes would be filled under the agreement ‘Yes that is my understanding without going into technical details and that is the word of Mr Steven Zorn. The Government said “Yes we will fill up the holes” ‘.
1 am now informed by Mr Bob Collins the member for Arnhem, and believe that the proposed Agreement does not provide for the mining company to fill up the holes to ground level after they have finished mining.
I believe that few, if any, of the people at the Arnhem Highway meeting had seen the agreement, and I was certainly under the impression that we were voting on an Agreement which provided for the holes to be refilled as required by the traditional owners of the land.
At no stage, to my knowledge, has the Northern Land Council consulted with the Goulburn Island community on the Agreement as is required by paragraphs A and B in subsection 3 of section 23 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, and I respectfully seek the relief set out in the Originating Summons.
As a counsellor I intend to call fora further meeting of the Northern Land Council and the object of the injunction would be to restrain any action until such time as that further meeting has been called at which the matter can be discussed freely and without pressure and as a result of the meeting, proper consultations can commence involving all ofthe relevant parties, and in particular the traditional owners, who I believe have not had their wishes reflected in the support for the Ranger proposal which came from the Arnhem Highway meeting.
The aforementioned affidavit was read over to me by Daryl Leggett of Goulburn Island, whose signature appears hereunder and who hereby affirms that I did well understand the full effect and meaning of this my affidavit.
Affirmed by the said deponent Johnny Marali No. 1 at Darwin this 1 9th day of September 1978, before me:
Affirmed by the said Daryl Leggett at Darwin this 19th day of September, 1978, before me:
This affidavit was filed by Waters, James & O’Neil, Barristers and Solicitors of 4842 Harry Chan Avenue, Darwin, N.T. Solicitors for the Plaintiffs herein.
In the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia
No. 703 of 1978
Dick Malwagu and Johnny Marali No. 1,
The Northern Land Council
AFFIDAVIT OF JOHN GWADBU
Affirmed this 1 9th day of September 1 978.
WATERS, JAMES & O’NEIL,
Barristers & Solicitors, N.T. Port Authority Bldg, Harry Chan Avenue, DARWIN, N.T. 5790
Reference: JBW:JAN Telephone: 81 5544 Plaitiff ‘s solicitors.
In the Supreme Court ofthe Northern Territory of Australia.
No. 703 of 1978.
Dick Malwagu and Johnny Marali No. 1.
The Northern Land Council
I, John Gwadbu, of Goulburn Island in the Northern Territory of Australia Make Oath and Say as follows:
I am a Counsellor with the Wurruwi Council on Goulburn Island and a former member of the Aboriginal Consultative Committee.I am also a full member ofthe Northern Land Council and I am on the executive of the Northern Land Council.
About a week before the Arnhem Highway meeting took place we received a telegram at Goulburn Island telling us that the meeting was on and that we should send Mr John Marali No. 1.
This was a bit surprising because normally when there is a full Northern Land Council meeting both Johnny Marali No. 1 and myself go along. I understood from the telegram that they only wanted one of us to come.
The telegram did not say how important the meeting was and it simply said that there was to be a meeting and that Johnny was to come should bring his swag as the meeting was to be held out in the bush.
I was not informed that the meeting was to ratify the Ranger Agreement but only that the meeting would be held out near Jabiru on the Arnhem Highway. We were not informed prior to this meeting that the final decision would be taken by the Northern Land Council on the question of mining at Jabiru.
We were not informed that following this meeting there would be no further opportunity to discuss the Ranger Agreement with our Community.
Up until the Arnhem Highway meeting the Goulburn Island people had not had a chance to learn the terms which had been agreed with Mr Zorn and the Ranger Company. We did not know just what had been agreed and what protection there was for the Aboriginal people or for the land.
The Aboriginal people on Goulburn Island were most upset when we learnt after the Arnhem Highway meeting that this Agreement had been made and that we would not have the chance to discuss it further.
As an Executive Member of the Northern Land Council I intend to raise this matter at the next Northern Land Council meeting and attempt to have a full meeting convened so that all Council members can hear about the Agreement which Mr Zorn made and then go back and talk to their Communities about whether we should agree to this or not.
Affirmed by the said deponent.
John Gwabdu at Darwin this 19th day of September, 1978, before me: D. J. M. Hart.
This affidavit was filed by Waters, James & O’Neil, Barristers and solicitors of 4842 Harry Chan Avenue, Darwin, N.T. Solicitors for the plaintiffs herein.
In the Supreme Court ofthe Northern Territory of Australia.
No. 707 of 1978.
Dick Malwagu and Johnny Marali No. 1.
The Northern Land Council.
AFFIDAVIT OF DICK MALWAGU
Affirmed the 19th September 1978
Waters, James & O ‘Neil, Barristers and Solicitors, 4842 Harry Chan Avenue, Darwin, N.T. 5790, Telephone: 81 5544, Reference: JBW:DI, Plaintiffs ‘Solicitors.
In the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia.
No. 703 of 1978.
Dick Malwagu and Johnny Marali No. 1.
The Northern Land Council.
Dick Malwagu of Croker Island in the Northern Territory of Australia, council president, make oath and say as follows:
I am one of the plaintiffs herein and I am chairman of the Minjilang Community Incorporated, the community council for the aboriginal community on Croker Island.
I am one of three representatives of the Croker Island community on the council of the Northern Land Council having been duly elected and confirmed by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I am also an executive member of the Northern Land Council.
Between the 14th and 15th September 1978 I attended the meeting of the council which was held on the Arnhem Highway south of Darwin at which the Ranger Agreement for Mining at Jabiru was discussed.
When I was asked to the meeting I was not told that this was to be the final meeting and that there would be no further chance to discuss the matter with my community.
Charlie Mangulda, another counsellor from Croker Island was not advised that the meeting was on and did not attend and the other counsellor from Croker, Mr Andrew Yarmirr was not advised either, but he came along with me.
At the meeting Mr Yunupingu addressed us for many hours although I can not recall the exact words, I clearly understood from what Mr Yunupingu said that if this Agreement is not signed by the Aboriginal people, Mr Fraser, the Prime Minister, had told Mr Yunupingu that he has the power to block the Aboriginal Land Right Act and that he will do so. Mr Yunupingu also told us that we would lose the funds that had been asked for for the outstation movements.
Mr Bishaw also told the counsellors that the mining must go ahead. There were a lot of people who were very unhappy about this and I am quite sure that at least 1 1 or 12 of the counsellors who eventually supported the motion, did so on the basis that they felt they had no choice and that if they did not sign the agreement, Mr Fraser would take the Land Councils away from the Aboriginal People. This was my clear understanding from what Mr Yunupingu told us.
I am not sure of the exact number at the meeting, but there are 42 counsellors in the Northern Land Council and there were only about 28 at the meeting. Of course, I believe five stayed away from the last meeting as I did, or walked out on the meeting before voting. Those people were Mr Arthur King, and Mr Leo Finlay from Borroloola, Mr Andrew Marmirr from Croker Island, Mr Joseph Gamaraidj from Oenpelli and myself.
I know that many other delegates were unhappy and felt that they had been pressured to vote for the Agreement and that they had no choice in the matter. I believe Mr Joe Mawndjil from Millingimbi and Mr Ray Fordimial from Bamyilli as well as Mr Johnny Marali No. 1 all felt that they were pressured and that what they were doing was against the wishes of their own communities and against their own better judgment.
I also believe that they and others felt that there had not been adequate discussion, or any proper consultation by the land council with the traditional owners for the area.
- At the meeting, I was not given a copy of the proposed Agreement and do not have one at this time. There was discussion by Mr Yunupingu concerning its contents, but at no stage was the agreement read out, and nor were any translations prepared.
This was very bad, because quite a number of the delegates could not understand English very well and would have needed to read the agreement in their own Languages to get a proper understanding.
At the meeting, I asked on several occasions for Mr Yunupingu to adjourn the meeting for a little while in order that we could have a chance to talk to our communities about what was in the agreement and what it meant for the communities. Mr Yunupingu said that we could not do this and we did not have any time to discuss the matter further and for this reason I eventually decided not to go the final meeting and nor did Andrew Yarmirr. We felt that we would not be representing our communities ‘ best interests if we continued to be involved.
1 represent the Croker Island community and they are very interested indeed in the land the subject of the agreement as many of the people there have family and ceremonial and language ties with the Aligator Rivers area and the Oenpelli people.
Many Croker Island people have direct links with the land which is to be affected by the mining and share dreaming stories and traditional responsibilities for the land.
Our community is also concerned about the possibility of the land and the waterways being poisoned by the mine, not only for ourselves but for the white people who may go into the area.
The community also feels that the aboriginal people should be given the best possible deal on royalties to compensate for the loss of use of the land, and we were not happy that this was the best that could be done as far as royalties were concerned.
My community have told me repeatedly that they want if possible for the land to stay as it is and as it was in our grandfathers’ times. ] 9. J do not believe that the traditional owners of the area have been consulted by the Northern Land Council and certainly we at the meeting did not have a chance to speak with them or to find out their views. One ofthe traditional owners Mr Toby Gangali was there for some of the time, but he was not asked questions by the council and I believe that he was asking for help and support from the Northern Land Council because of all the pressure that had been placed upon him.
1 believe that from his attitude he felt that future opposition was hopeless although he was very unhappy about what was proposed. 21.1 believe that the traditional owners should have been given the opportunity to speak with the Land Council members so that they could have had the chance to be satisfied that the traditional owners knew what the proposals meant and that they were happy with them. This responsibility was taken by Mr Yunupingu who said that he had already spoken with the traditional owners and they were happy with the agreement as proposed.
1 do not believe that this is true, or if it is true, it does not apply to all the traditional owners.
After the meeting the Croker Island community have instructed me to ask for further time to think about it and give an opportunity for the Land Council to come and discuss it with them.
As chairman of the Minjilang council on Croker Island, I do not believe that our people have been consulted and have been afforded a fair opportunity to express their views to the Land Council, and I have not had a chance to receive a vote from my members which I should act on. We have at no stage even seen the proposed Agreement on Croker Island and I could not explain its complicated terms to the members of my community on the basis of the things that James told us.
I believe that the Goulburn Island and Millingimbi communities are also most unhappy and want to have an opportunity to discuss the terms of the agreement before a final Agreement is reached with the Ranger companies.
As mentioned above I believe there was an undertaking to give us an opportunity after the Arnhem Highway meeting to consider the matter in our communities and it was for this reason that I refused to attend the final session.
1 can recall Mr Joseph Gameraidj asking a question of Mr Yunupingu concerning the filling up of the holes and I knew that he was unhappy about this. I do not recall hearing exactly what Mr Yunupingu answered. 28.I verily believe that the Northern Land Council has not properly given its consent to this agreement, as more than half of the people present were placed under so much pressure that they felt they had no choice in the matter and that if they did not agree to the Agreement, then the Land Councils would be taken away from them, or that the Agreement with the Mining companies would be taken out of the hands of the Aboriginal people. 29.I believe that many of the people felt that if they did not agree then they would simply be pushed and placed under more pressure until such time as they did agree and I believe that the majority did not feel that they had carried out their responsibilities to the traditional owners and be satisfied that the traditional owners supported the agreement. 30.I can name some of the counsellors in addition to those referred to above, who supported the motion but were not happy with it. They are”. Mr Jack Mutjbuy, Mr David Niyaniya, Mr Ray Fordimail and Mr Johnny Marali No. 1. Several of the proxy delegates who were not entitled to vote were also very unhappy with the proposal and in particular Mr Wesley Lanuphuy and John Mulawa and Ian Wulrruwal.
I believe that any signing of the Agreement by the Northern Land Council based on the purported consent of the counsellors as obtained at the Arnhem Highway meeting would not be a true consent of the majority upon the grounds set out above.
The aforementioned affidavit was read over to me by Daryl Leggett of Goulburn Island, whose signature appears hereunder and who hereby affirms that I did well understand the full effect and meaning of this affidavit.
This affidavit was filed by Waters, James & O’Neil, Barristers and Solicitors of 4842 Harry Chan Avenue, Darwin, NT. Solicitors for the plaintiffs.
– I want to make a further reference to comments made by Mr Uren which appear on page 1645 of the House of Representatives Hansard, of 10 October 1978, if anybody wants to refer to that. I will read three or four relevant paragraphs, in which Mr Uren said:
The Government’s tactics have been to undermine the ability of the Northern Land Council to fight for Aboriginal interests.
That has been the tenor of my contribution tonight to this chamber. That is precisely what is happening. Apart from prostituting the black leaders, the Government has undermined the whole of the activities of the Northern Land Council. Mr Uren went on:
It has used threats to convince the Chairman ofthe Northern Land Council that the Council ‘s position is not secure unless the agreement is signed soon. It has used the white manager, Mr Alex Bishaw, a Public Servant from the
Department of Aboriginal Affairs, to manipulate at every stage of the Council’s consideration of the Ranger agreement. He has used all the old bureaucratic tricks of restricting the flow of information and issuing 11th hour notices for meetings in order to keep Aboriginal communities in the dark.
Might I add a couple of words. I referred in this chamber some time ago to the fact that a number of people had written to members of the Northern Land Council. I understand that some of those letters were never delivered. Meetings have been called without adequate notice being given to enable people to come from remote areas to attend the meetings. That is a distortion of the democratic foundations of the Northern Land Council, a distortion by some people who are able to manipulate it. Unfortunately, in this case it appears that Mr Bishaw is one of the guilty people. Mr Uren went on:
We have only to look at the remarks of one ofthe two Aboriginals who took the court action three weeks ago. When asked if he had seen the draft Ranger agreement, he said that he did not know he was allowed to see it. He said that he thought it was the Government ‘s business. This indicates the success of the bureaucratic intimidation of Mr Bishaw. It is about time that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who is sitting at the table, took some action in respect of this Mr Bishaw and had an inquiry made into his activities.
I am asking for a wider inquiry. I am asking for a royal commission, if necessary, or for a select committee or some other type of inquiry that will investigate not only the activities of individuals but also the activities of some of the mining organisations, which I now say publicly have bought out people. I am not saying that they have bought out the Government but they are not far from doing that either. Mr Uren continued:
Mr Bishaw ‘s intimidatory remarks made to the Northern Land Council meeting which considered the draft Ranger agreement are on the record. He is also on the record in the Northern Territory News of 28 September admitting that he lied to the Northern Land Council regarding a statement by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Bob Hawke, in order to convince the Council that it would not get trade union support. It was only a little over two weeks ago that the Government’s efforts to rush a start to uranium mining foundered because of the courageous action of several Aboriginal communities whose members resisted the Government’s bullying and demanded an opportunity to examine and discuss the Ranger agreement in their own language. But the Government has not let up.
The Government still has not let up. It is still bullying the Aboriginal people. Mr Uren went on:
It is still trying to get the agreement signed without full consultation according to section 23 (3) of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act.
This Government has torn up the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act and thrown it down the drain. An article in the Northern Territory News on 27 September 1978 stated:
This follows a speech by Mr Bishaw to the Eastern Arnhem Land Meeting of the NLC two weeks ago.
Mr Bishaw claimed Mr Hawke told a group of people at a barbecue held at Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu ‘s home that if the Ranger agreement wasn’t signed, the Federal Government ‘would pin the NLC’s ears to the wall ‘.
Mr Hawke told the Northern Territory News that this was a total untruth’.
On Thursday, 28 September, a few days later, under the heading ‘Bishaw retracts’, an article on the front page of the Northern Territory News stated:
Northern Land Council Manager, Mr Alex Bishaw, today issued a statement fully retracting a comment he attributed to ACTU President . . .
In order to save time, I seek leave to incorporate the rest of that article in Hansard.
The article read as follows-
Mr Bishaw said: ‘It is true that I recently repeated a statement that I had been led to believe had been said by Mr Hawke while he was in Darwin recently.
This was to the effect that Mr Hawke had said that if the Northern Land Council did not sign the Ranger agreement the Government would “Pin its ears back ‘.
This was said by me to support my advice to the council that if the council rejected the negotiated Ranger agreement they would not necessarily be supported by all unions.
I said this in that context and because I had been led to believe those words were said by Mr Hawke.
In speaking to Mr Hawke today, he assured me that he had not at any time made any such statement and I accept his assurance absolutely and retract my statement’:
– I want to quote now from some sections of the so-called simple English version of the Ranger agreement prepared by the legal officer of the Northern Land Council following the injunction preventing the signing of the uranium agreement. I want to read this into Hansard because it would need a Philadelphia lawyer to understand it, yet we expect the Aboriginal people to understand some of the complex legal attitudes that the Government has used as one more of its bullying tactics. This document was left at Croker Island with the instruction that it was not to be shown to any European because it had been written in simple English especially for Aboriginal people. It was to be read only by them. The following extract is the answer to a vital question concerning whether or not the open-cut holes are to be filled up after the mine finishes. This was one of the basic demands of the traditional Aboriginal land owners and is a point of very serious discontent. Whilst the opencut holes are supposed to be refilled at the cessation of mining in that area, engineers associated with the mining companies have said that they will not do it. But what is the Government doing about it? Not a thing. The extract states:
About filling the mine pits at Ranger. This section deals with the recommendations of the Fox Report.
Where does that leave us?
That would mean that the first pit would be nearly filled just with tailing ready for a cover of rock and top soil which would fill it up.
This is simple English-
The other pit (called number 3) would be about half filled by the rest of the tailings. If that was the end of the story and nothing else had to be done it could be true that a big hole is left which could fill up with water.
That is the great fear. This is where the seepage will come out, with contamination of the water because of the residue of the uranium mining. The extract continues:
But that is not the end of the story. If we look at Clause 30 of the Section 4 1 authority together with Clause 5 of the Section 44 agreement of which the section 41 authority is annexed we notice that Clause S says that the miners shall observe all environmental requirements, specified in the conditions ofthe Section 41 authority. So we can make them do all that is in Clause 30. Clause 30 is grouped with other Clauses under the heading ‘Vegetation Protection’. But that heading cannot be read so as to interpret Clause 30 (see Clause 21 (B) of the Section 44 Agreement), so Clause 30 has to be interpreted on its own words within the whole of the Section 41 Authority. This means that there is no undue emphasis on ‘vegetation’ in interpreting Clause 30. We are dealing with ‘environment’ (see Clause S Section 44 Agreement).
There are another two foolscap pages of that simple English version which Aboriginal people are expected to understand, and I defy any member of this Senate to understand them. We have heard a lot about Bob Collins, M.L.A., who is supposed to be one of the stirrers, one of those causing trouble. Bob Collins makes no apology for the fact that he is opposed to uranium mining. I say publicly that I make no apology. I too am opposed to uranium mining, and people on the other side of the House can do what they like about it. But if it has to go on then the Aboriginal people have to get the best possible deal. They are not to be sold out, as the Government is selling out the Aboriginal leaders at this point in history. I wish to quote now from an extract of a Press conference given by Mr Paul Everingham, the Majority Leader in the Legislative Assembly, on Friday, 13 October, which states:
Mr Everingham said he was certain the divisions within the Northern Land Council over uranium mining had been orchestrated.
When we were trying to get a fine definition this afternoon of the word ‘orchestrated’ we found that in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary one interpretation was masturbation. One wonders whether some of these people are not involved in that instead of getting on with their work. I am talking about the people who are driving the Aborigines into their graves. Mr Everingham went on to say:
The Australian Labor Party is certainly involved in this orchestration . . .
I think you can draw you own conclusion when a Northern Territory M.L.A. arrived at Goulburn Island last Monday an hour before the schedule visit of the Northern Land Council Chairman, Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu. Then large and colourful banners are distributed and then there is a demonstration against Mr Yunupingu.
It’s pretty clear that Bob Collins the A.L.P. M.L.A. for Arnhem is vigorously opposed to uranium mining. His record in the Legislative Assembly and speeches to the House show that clearly.
That was a deliberate untruth because Bob Collins had not been there for six weeks. Why does the leader of an allegedly responsible political party in the Northern Territory have to tell lies? That is precisely what they were. Today Mr Collins wrote to Paul Everingham in these terms:
I like that ‘Sir’ part. He continued:
I write in regard to your press conference of Friday 1 3 October 1978 from which a press release containing gross untruths resulted.
Whereas I am more than happy to substantiate your statement that I am ‘vigorously opposed to uranium mining’ the inference that I was at Goulburn Island on Monday 9 October an hour before the arrival of Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu and was involved with the distribution of banners and subsequent demonstration against the Northern Land Council Chairman is a blatant untruth.
I was at that time in Darwin working at the Legislative Assembly and have not in fact set foot on Goulburn Island for six weeks.
I take exception also to your inference that the Aboriginal Community on Goulburn Island have not the conviction to stand up for those things they hold sacred to themselves and need outside pressure to do so.
This community has made a stand and will not allow untoward pressures to be placed upon them to follow a course of action that can only result in a situation that will be highly unacceptable to them.
I would appreciate it if in the future you would use the vast resources available to you through your Department to merely check the truth of events and not allow yourself to be placed in a position where it can only be assumed your lack of real interest in the situation leads to your appearing illinformed.
That was Bob Collins ‘s reply. Quite frankly, if he wanted to take the matter through a court of law he probably could bankrupt Mr Everingham and put him out of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. There is no need for the lying, cheating and everything else that is going on at present. Any attempt by this Government to shift the blame to the so-called stirrers in the Labor
Party is not warranted and I think I have read into the record tonight enough documentary proof to show that it is not warranted. The real pressure is coming from the other side of the chamber, under pressure from the international mining combines which want to get the uranium out of the ground regardless of the cost to the Aboriginal people, to the people in the countries in which it will be used and to Australians generally.
I am amazed, frightened and worried that the Government is using prominent Aboriginal leaders in this country and is prostituting them, manipulating them and misusing them, including Senator Bonner who had no right to be at the Northern Land Council meeting. I do not care who directed him to go there. It is not his fault that he was there, because he was bludgeoned by the Government into going there. He should never have been there, because the promise was made by the Prime Minister and by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that no outsider would be there. It does not matter whether Senator Bonner is black or white. He is a supporter of a Liberal Government and he had no right to be at that meeting. Honourable senators opposite did it; that is the point. Mr Bishaw is the man who drove him to the meeting place. I say now that if there is not an open and public inquiry this country is well on the way to a dictatorship and you, Mr President, and honourable senators on that side of the chamber will not know where Mr Fraser is leading you because he will use every possible thing to knuckle under to the great financial interests of the uranium mining companies.
– I am sorry that I was not in the chamber earlier, when Senator Keeffe started his tirade. It is a kind of unwritten law in this place that when an honourable senator is going to say something in the adjournment debate he pays those he may wish to take to task the courtesy of notifying them that he will be speaking and saying some things about them. Senator Keeffe, in his usual manner, did not see fit to proffer to me that kind of courtesy. Nonetheless, I forgive him. As people often say about we Aborigines, he is a victim of his circumstances and his environment.
Tonight and on 10 and 12 October, as I saw from reading Hansard, Senator Keeffe saw fit to mention me in this chamber in my absence through illness. Twice in one evening in this chamber I have witnessed the complete hypocrisy and duplicity of some members of the Labor Party. The sheer hypocrisy of them! They pretend to be the champions of the underdog and the Aborigines. Senator Keeffe stood here tonight and gave us a tirade on how he was so concerned for Aborigines and their rights. Twice in this chamber tonight I have heard Aborigines attacked by members of the Labor Party- firstly by Senator Keeffe and Senator Mulvihill at an Estimates Committee meeting and later by Senator Keeffe who attacked me, a proud Aborigine, one of those whom he alleges to be one of the champions. That is hypocrisy of the highest- or lowest- order.
On 28 September 1978 the Senate adjourned for a week’s break. On 29 September I returned to my State of Queensland. On 30 September I visited Darwin in the Northern Territory on the invitation and heart rending plea of my very close and dear young friend, an Aborigine, Galarrwuy Yunupingu. He asked me to go to the Northern Territory because he wanted me to sit and talk with him about many things that were concerning him. One of the main things concerning him, in his own words to me in the quietness of his home, was what a number of people were trying to do to the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. He was ably supported, Mr President, in his condemnation and criticism of some members of the Labor Party by none other than the shadow Minister for Aboriginal affairs who sits in your gallery this evening.
– That is not true.
– That is true. I was given a copy of a letter. I give all due credit to the person who wrote the letter for his feelings, understanding, sympathy and empathy with the Aboriginal people, particularly Galarrwuy Yunupingu. The letter says so. The first paragraph of that letter is very enlightening. It is more than enlightening; it is a condemnation of people like Senator Keeffe. I will read the first paragraph this evening because it has been read before. I would not have used the full letter myself; I would have used a paragraph. I certainly would not have named the author. The first paragraph states:
I can understand your feeling that the ALP may be using Aborigines for their own vested interests. It is true that some people, most of them on the Labor side of politics-
I emphasise the words ‘most of them on the Labor side of polities’- care more about stopping uranium mining or changing the Government in Darwin or Canberra than they do about Aborigines or land rights.
What a condemnation that is by one of the colleagues of honourable senators opposite of a number of members of the Australian Labor Party. That is exactly what they are doing in the Northern Territory, led by none other than a man who was mentioned in the Senate tonight by Senator Keeffe. I refer to Mr Bob Collins. He is leading the confusion that is taking place in the Northern Territory at the moment.
I answer Senator Keeffe and I dare him to call me a liar. I was invited to Darwin. I was not sent by any Minister or by any member of the Government. I went up there of my own free will. I went to Darwin because of my genuine heartfelt concern for what is happening to my people- people of my blood. These are people of my skin group, people of my toten and my bigum. Does the honourable senator understand what that word bigum means? Of course, he would not. He would not know what that means. These are people of my own bigum. I did not have the ticket bought for me by the Liberal Party of Australia. I did not have a ticket bought for me by the Government. I had that ticket on the aircraft paid for by the taxpayers of this country- my constituents in Queensland who gave me the right to move around my State and around this country to look into matters of concern to me and to this nation. What is happening to the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory is of concern to this nation.
Senator Keeffe accused me of being sent to Darwin by the Government. He said that I had no right to be at that meeting. I had every right in the world to be at that meeting, as did the four other Aboriginal observers who were invited to that meeting. I ask honourable senators to notice that I said ‘four other Aboriginal observers’. There were a number of non-Aboriginals- a number of balanda, as the Aborigines would say in the Northern Territory, breaking their necks to get into that meeting. They were told quite firmly by the chairman of that meeting and by the members of the Northern Land Council that they were not welcome because they were balanda. In other words, they were white people. The members of the Council said to me: ‘You are youlngoo like us. You are one of us. You can come in as an observer’. They said the same thing to the other four or five youlngoo We were invited in as observers.
In my usual way, I walked in to the room very quietly and sat in a chair right at the back of the meeting. The chairman spoke to the councillors very quietly. He then came to me and said: Brother, you are important to us. You come up to the top table. You do not sit at the back. We want you at the top table ‘. They invited me to sit at the top table with the chairman and two other prominent members of the Council. The meeting started with the chairman reading out a document which was read by Senator Keeffe tonight and which is alleged to have come from that meeting. That is an absolute lie. That document was given to the people to read by members of the Labor Party prior to the meeting starting. The chairman read the first paragraph and threw it away. He said, ‘We do not want that. That is from balanda. We youlngoo we make up our own minds. We talk about what we want to talk about, not that rubbish’.
After that meeting, the same members of the Australian Labor Party issued that statement to the media as supposedly coming out of the meeting as the determination of the Council. That is untrue- it is not the determination of that Council at all. It is a lie. That document was prepared and handed around because I received a copy of it before the meeting started. It was not discussed and not even considered by the Council. It was thrown aside in disgust, and the members ofthe Council proceeded without any documents whatsoever. But after the meeting that document was mysteriously handed around to members of the media and represented as being the determination of that meeting. That is an absolute lie.
– Name the people who did it.
– Your fine friend, Mr Bob Collins.
– He wasn’t at the meeting.
– I can assure Senator Keeffe that he was not at the meeting but he was downstairs, in the precincts of the building in which the meeting was held. I can assure Senator Keeffe that he certainly was not at the meeting because he was not allowed into the meeting. That is why everyone is so unhappy. They are so unhappy because they were not allowed in to manipulate the meeting. The Aborigines said: You will not come in here. You will not be allowed to manipulate this meeting. We will sit. We will talk. We will determine what we are going to do ‘.
– They got you as a Liberal senator there to manipulate them.
-They got no one to manipulate them. They invited me to the meeting as an Aborigine. I had every right to be there as an Aborigine. If Senator Keeffe wants to question that then he should question it with the Northern Land Council. Let Senator Keeffe ask the Council members who has a right and who does not have a right to be at their meetings. They invited me and they accepted me as one of them. Senator Keeffe talks a lot of nonsense about me b°ing sent up there or my being a pimp. Does he know that a pimp is? If he knows what a pimp is he will not use that word in this building. A pimp is a person who sells women in prostitution. I have never done that in my life. If Senator Keeffe would like to use that word outside this building, then let him try it. If he has the guts let him say it outside. I will not take him to court.
– Who called you that?
– You did this evening.
– I did not. Mr President, I take a point of order. Whatever other things I might think that Senator Bonner has done on behalf of the Government at the meeting of the Land Council, I never called him that at any stage tonight, and I seek a withdrawal of the word.
– On that point of order, I indicate that I distinctly heard Senator Keeffe use that expression tonight.
– Ord er ! I personally did not hear the word to which reference has been made. I must say that.
– I ask Senator Missen to withdraw also because I did not use that word at any stage tonight.
– I heard the word used by Senator Keeffe tonight. He said that Senator Bonner was pimping on his people. I distinctly heard that expression used and I noted at the time that it was used and I told Senator Bonner that it had been used.
– On the point of order -
– There will be no further discussion, Senator Cavanagh. The point of order should have been taken at the time the word was said. I call on Senator Bonner to continue his speech.
– I rise on this point of order now. Firstly, I do not think there were ever grounds for a point of order to be taken. Points of order are taken when our rules or Standing Orders have been breached.
– They have to be taken at the time of offence.
– What I am saying is that Senator Keeffe took objection to the fact that Senator Bonner said that Senator Keeffe used the word ‘pimp’. Immediately Senator Bonner said that, Senator Keeffe rose to his feet and said that the word was offensive to him and asked that it be withdrawn. If it is offensive to him and if he asks that it be withdrawn, I think you have to rule on whether it should be withdrawn, Mr President.
– I call on Senator Bonner to continue his speech. I did not hear the remark earlier on and I cannot substantiate it now.
-Thank you, Mr President. Senator Keeffe claims that he did not use the word. If Hansard verifies that he did not use it, I will certainly apologise for the fact that I accused him of using it, but I will not apologise until I have read Hansard. If it is not in Hansard tomorrow, I will certainly apologise to him. I am sorry that this had to happen here this evening. It is the second occasion on which members of the Labor Party- I do not say the Labor Party as a whole because there are some very fine people in that party and I have no quarrel with themhave shown themselves to be hypocrites. There are members of the Labor Party who are certainly very hypocritical and they have shown their hypocrisy this evening on two separate occasions when two Aborigines were attacked at an Estimates Committee hearing in this chamber by those purporting to be the champions and supporters of Aborigines. They support Aborigines while Aborigines do not try to be their equals, do not try to determine their own future, and do not start to raise their heads above the crowd. This type of person cannot abide such developments and will attack viciously those Aborigines who try to equal them or even, on some occasions, better them.
I categorically deny that I was asked, sent, cajoled or in any other way persuaded to go to the Northern Territory. As I said in the beginning, I went there because a young man asked me to go to discuss with him a number of issues that concerned him. The kinds of issues that concerned him were his role as Chairman of the Northern Land Council, the kind of criticism that he was receiving and Government attitudes. He wanted me to discuss with him the land rights Bill and many of its clauses because he was a little concerned about the steps that the Northern Land Council was taking. He was well aware of what was embodied in that legislation. He knew that, as always, the white man has the last say. The white man has the last say over Aboriginal land rights because the Government has the power to either put in an arbitrator or use the national interest clause. Galarrwuy was well aware of this. He wanted me to sit down and discuss these matters with him to confirm his understanding of the Bill and its implications. He felt that I, as a fellow Aborigine who is a member of this Parliament and who was present when this Bill was debated and passed through this Parliament, would have a little more understanding of the parliamentary procedures. He wanted me to sit and to talk with him. This I did willingly.
On the Monday that I was there Galarrwuy did not attend the Council meeting. His Deputy Chairman was chairing it. I met the Deputy Chairman in another part of Darwin when a problem existed in relation to some of the itinerant tribal, traditional Aborigines who had come into Darwin and were living on some of the reserve lands around Darwin. The Darwin Corporation- the local council- was treating them rather shoddily and we organised for them to have a meeting with the Mayor of Darwin in order to get these problems sorted out. On both of these occasions I was with the Deputy Chairman who chaired that meeting. He asked me whether I would like to go around to the meeting. He said to me: ‘I cannot tell you that you can come to the meeting and be present at the meeting until I get there, open the meeting and ask the members ofthe Council whether they will let other Aboriginal observers into the meeting’. That he did, and I stood outside the building. He then came out and said: ‘Yes. There are other Aboriginal observers at the meeting and you are most welcome to come in’. That is how I came to be at that meeting. I did not go to Darwin in the first place to attend the meeting. It just happened to coincide with my visit there. Following my meeting with the Deputy Chairman, who chaired the meeting, I was asked by him to go along and I willingly did. As to some of the other matters mentioned, yes, the tape recorder was switched off.
-While I was allowed to speak and ask questions, I was not allowed to cast a vote and, according to the Deputy Chairman, anything that I said was not to be recorded. Only what was said by the councillors was to be recorded to enable the preparation of minutes. They did not have anyone there who could take the minutes of the meeting. So they used a small tape recorder which could be taken back to their office and one of the typists would type up the transcript of the minutes of the meeting.
I was not part of the meeting because I was not a councillor so anything that I had to say was not relevant to the minutes of that meeting. It was only on invitation from the Chairman that on occasions I, as well as other Aboriginal observers, made comments. But we were told quite categorically that we were observers, that we could speak only when we were invited to do so and that we could not vote. We were told that we were there strictly as observers. That was adhered to strictly throughout the whole meeting. On two occasions I spoke on the invitation of the Chairman who, without any prompting from me, switched off the tape recorder when he asked me to comment or to give some information on various points that were raised. Mr President, the accusations made by Senator Keeffe are nothing really to me. They are just a lot of fabrications by him. He has no knowledge of what transpired at that meeting; he was not there. Anything that he might say would be based on hearsay and would not be accepted at all.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. The claim that my accusations were fabrications is not true.
– There is no point of order in that.
– But Senator Bonner has just admitted the veracity of one of my accusations.
– No, there is no point of order.
-Mr President, I still maintain that all the accusations against me by Senator Keeffe are complete fabrications. They have no substance and they certainly are not true.
– On the same matter, Mr President, I think that a few things need to be said after what Senator Bonner has said. On this occasion I am not the arbitrator who says who is more correct, Senator Keeffe or Senator Bonner. But I do think that Senator Bonner protested too much and did his case some harm in doing so. His protests suggested that there might have been some guilt which he thought could be overcome by his protesting and shouting in this chamber. His attitude was different from the attitude of Senator Keeffe. Senator Bonner, in attempting to justify his actions or to give what he claimed to be an explanation, did great disservice to some who he says are his friends. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber have criticised a Minister of the Government for reading a personal letter into the Hansard record. Senator Bonner assured us tonight that he would never mention the name of a person who wrote such a letter. So, he has disowned anyone who would read a personal letter into the Hansard record and has made a condemnation of one of his own Ministers.
He then made known publicly that, because of a remarkable series of coincidences, he was in Darwin at the time of the meeting in question and at the invitation of his great friend Galarrwuy Yunupingu. At the present time Galarrwuy
Yunupingu is under severe criticism, sufficiently so for the honourable member for Capricornia, Dr Everingham, to write to him and to try to console him somewhat. Senator Bonner said that Galarrwuy Yunupingu has asked him- a senator from the Liberal-National Country Party Government, who as such is a party to the legislation under which the Aborigines may be suffering at the present time- to attend the meeting. Two issues are involved. The letter from Dr Everingham which is now public property, is possibly one of the most understanding letters that could be written by any man who has a concern for another individual who finds himself in trouble.
– It is pretty revealing too.
- Dr Everingham wrote the letter as someone who has been in a similar position in an attempt to console the individual concerned and to see whether he could give help of any shape or form. Dr Everingham is to be highly commended for the letter he wrote. I do not think that the fact that it was read into Hansard hurt him. By not making the document public himself, he was man enough not to indicate how he had gone out of his way to assist.
I heard an interjection earlier stating that the letter was very revealing too. It is no secret that a big section of Australian public opinion is opposed to uranium mining. It is no secret that possibly more opposition would be found within the Labor Party than within any other group. Labor’s policy is that while we are not opposed to uranium mining, we are opposed to the mining and export of uranium when we do not have sufficient knowledge about safeguards to protect the human race. It is not a question of uranium mining being placed above Aboriginal rights: It is a question of concern for all the people of the world, not just a group of Aboriginals.
The question of the Northern Land Council has been a mess-up from the time it was first discussed. I know Alex Bishaw and those associated with the Northern Land Council. I do not know whether Senator Bonner explained the land rights legislation to them. If the traditional owners decide that the land is not to be mined it cannot be mined under any condition unless there is a declaration by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Government that such mining is in the national interest. But the Government can never declare that this mining is in the national interest. It is not for the defence of Australia. It is not for the protection of Australia. It would be an admission that the Government’s economic policy is such that it cannot continue without royalties that could be obtained from mining a dangerous material and exporting that danger to someone else overseas. The Government would never accept that. However, if the Aboriginals, the traditional owners, agree that the uranium can be mined but they cannot agree on the terms with the mining company, an arbitrator should then come in.
The Northern Land Council has a statutory obligation to discuss the question with the Aboriginals living in the area and to have the consent of the tribal owners. That is a sine qua non of the whole Aboriginal land rights legislation. The Council has to have this approval. On no account was the Northern Land Council prepared to sign the agreement without the approval of the traditional owners. The Northern Land Council has accepted such approval because it is made up of delegates from each area who may or may not be traditional owners, or who may be only one of many traditional owners. But at the time the Council went to get the approval, which it has a statutory obligation to do, the traditional owners said: ‘No, we are not prepared to sign the agreement’. So the Aboriginal land rights legislation has been carried out to its entirety at this stage. Whether the traditional owners are prepared to permit mining in the area under any conditions is another question.
But let us not get too emotional on this question as to who is at fault and try to blame someone. Let us be realistic. The people who decide whether the land can be mined are the traditional owners of the particular area. Let us leave the matter for their consideration. This will not break the Government. Australia will not be ruined if mining does not take place for two to five years. Let us tell Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who has been a great spokesman for the Aboriginal people, that if he is in trouble because of the pressure of the Government and the mining interests to have the land in that area mined, many in the Labor Party, not only Dr Everingham, will assist him.
The future of this land is still unknown, but it is worth noting that Galarrwuy Yunupingu praised Dr Everingham and described him as one of his greatest friends, the one white man he would trust above all others. That is an affinity, a loyalty and a service and these things must be remembered. I suppose that, being white, Mr Everingham could not attend the meeting, but he has a good reputation in the north of Australia as shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
– I do not intend to traverse what has already been said by other speakers. I wish merely to summarise my view of the episode in Estimates Committee C. Very simply, I felt that Senator Kilgariff was inclined to be a wet blanket as far as the expenditure by successive governments in endeavouring to alleviate the plight of Aborigines in the Territory is concerned. I said very bluntly what I felt about it. I also chastised one of the witnesses, Charlie Perkins, because I felt that nobody was defending the expenditure proposed by the Fraser Government for this year. I felt that the Northern Territory colleague of mine was implying that the money was not producing any return. I said that if only 10 Aborigines had better eyes and ears, as compared with the vast numbers who have had ailments in other years, it represented an achievement. I said that simply because I felt that the witness, Mr Perkins, did not sufficiently come into the play and act as militantly as he had been renowned for. That is the semblance of what I said. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) showed her usual commendable restraint, as did the Chairman, Senator Walters, who was equally efficient in the way in which she handled the matter.
For Senator Bonner’s benefit let me say that I am a volatile person, but I like to believe that 1 can serve it out without being worried about a person’s background or anything of that nature. I believe that if people merit criticism they should get it. I leave this thought with Senator Bonner: He would know that I have done so twice across the border in Queensland. On one occasion a white town clerk at Normanton asked for it, and he got it. Senator Keeffe would know of that situation. That person is still suffering from shock and if I ever go there again he will get another serve.
The other one will be know by Senator Bonner, and concerned an appointee or agent of the Whitlam Labor Government who was engaged in employment registration in the particular town in question. He spoke disparagingly of Aborigines as being non-employment statistics. Senator Bonner would know that that man got a good serve, and that when I came back to Canberra I told the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that the man was unfit to be an agent for the Government. So I can assure any honourable senator, especially Senator Bonner, that if I feel people merit criticism I am not worried about their background in giving it. I never take advantage of a witness but I think that, upon reflection, Charlie Perkins would know of my track record and of what I did to one or two racists in Queensland. I can assure honourable senators that when I go home to bed tonight I will not lose any sleep about what happened in Estimates Committee C. Politics is a robust game and if you give it out you have got to be able to take it. I never squeal for the Chairman’s protection, although I do commend the Minister for Social Security for her attitude when the flak was flying around, and also Senator Walters who, as Chairman of the Committee displayed a high degree of tact.
– Quite some time ago Senator Missen raised the matter of an appointment which was sought by a Mr David Anderson. I know that the honourable senator referred to correspondence which had been exchanged with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner); that on 3 October a letter was sent to the Minister and that a reply came back a little later. I can only say that I will draw to the attention of the Minister the correspondence that was mentioned by Senator Missen, to see whether any further information or response can be given on the matter. Senator Keeffe this evening raised at great length many matters, and made certain substantial allegations. Those allegations, which were many and varied, and involved the tabling of certain material will be drawn to the attention of the Minister.
I want to say that some of the statements that were made in regard to my colleague Senator Bonner and in regard to witnesses who appeared before Senate Estimates Committee C do bear some comment from me because of my attendance at the Committee hearing. I feel that the statements that have been made about witnesses at the Committe hearing are to be answered by a member of the Government or by the Chairman ofthe Committee because as public servants they are unable to answer for themselves in a way that might be appropriate in any other circumstance. Having sat on Senate Estimates Committee C for the past two days, dealing with the estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, I must say that I admire the patience, knowledge and skill of the departmental officers who are in attendance. Perhaps there is a feeling of some frustration amongst members of the Committee or the honourable senators who attend from time to time when we are looking at Aboriginal programs and the achievements that may have resulted from them. I would only want to say that I believe that each government needs to build on what has been done by the government preceding it and that it is a long and continuing program that will see the benefits that we all hope to achieve in education, health, housing and generally in making Aboriginals equal members of our society.
I think that what Senator Mulvihill referred to as an exchange- a fairly volatile one, as he expressed it- between him and Senator Kilgariff could be regretted in some way but perhaps understood in others. The Chairman of the Committee was able to deal with the matter in a way that maintained the importance of the committee system by which we are able to have an exchange of views and to seek information. I think that any embarrassment to officers who are attending a committee hearing would need to be regretted because I think we are aware of their responsibilities as public servants to serve the Government and the Opposition and to give whatever information is required at Estimates committee hearings. I feel sure that as we proceed with the examination of the estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs there will be continued interest in what is being undertaken in the various programs and through the grants that are made. I am sure that we all would hope that considerable achievements will result from what are in some cases attempts simply to understand the questions and to give the answers.
I would only say, in regard to the matter that was raised by Senator Bonner and followed up by Senator Cavanagh, that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs undoubtedly will wish to respond to the matters raised this evening. As I said, substantial matters were raised by Senator Keeffe. I feel sure that there is a good deal of information to be read by the Minister and I expect that an appropriate response will be made by him when he has had an opportunity to read the material that has been presented to the Senate this evening.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 4 April 1 978:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 17 August 1978:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
September 1976-8 fulltime, 2 part time
June 1977-15 full time
December 1977-15 full time
June 1978-45 full time
September 1978-1 full time.
The remaining staff member is involved in matters concerned with the wind-down of the Experiment.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 12 September 1978:
What cyclone surveillance equipment has been installed, or is planned for the future, to give early warning of any future cyclones in the northern areas, particularly Darwin.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The area in question is the coastal region between Byron Bay in northern New South Wales and Carnarvon in Western Australia, and offshore ocean areas.
1 ) Equipment presently installed:
Upper air observing stations- 1 3; Radar weather watch stations- 11; Automatic weather stations- 16; Manual surface observing stations routinely reporting- 71; Special purpose cyclone warning stations (report on request)-280.
The station at Darwin is equipped for a comprehensive program of surface observations, for upper air observations of wind direction and speed, temperature, pressure and humidity, and for radar weather watch.
The Bureau of Meteorology also makes extensive use of the Japanese Geostationary Meteorological Satellite and US polar orbiting satellites to monitor tropical cyclone activity.
Upper air and radar weather watch observations will commence at Learmonth during the coming cyclone season.
Networks and performance and reliability of equipment are regularly reviewed by the Bureau of Meteorology and this will continue in the light of future requirements in Northern Australia and from experience gained with the use of data from the Japanese Geostationary Satellite.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
– The Minister for Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
2 ) Before furnishing the financial statements to the Minister, the Corporation shall submit them to the Auditor-General, who shall report to the Minister-
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) (a) Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service.
(a) Australian National Parks and Wildlife Servicesee Section 52 of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975.
(a) Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service-28 September 1977.
(a) Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service- 1 November 1977.
) (a) Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
(a) Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority- the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Annual Report 1976-77 was not tabled within four months of the closing of accounts for 1976-77 financial year, but was tabled within four months of receipt of the Auditor-General ‘s report dated 1 0 February 1978. Reasons for the delay were:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 12 September 1978:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Executive members of the National Youth Council of Australia do not represent organisations. Clause 14. 18 ofthe Constitution of the National Youth Council of Australia states that upon assuming office to the National Executive all persons shall cease to act as representatives of any member organisations. Under Clause 14.19 member organisations whose representatives become members of the National Executive shall appoint new representatives to Council.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Many other CHP projects are directed specifically towards alcoholism treatment and rehabilitation and an element of these projects is educational/preventive. In addition, most general community health projects have a particular emphasis on prevention, including prevention in relation to abuse of alcohol.
As far as tobacco is concerned, the Commonwealth conducted the National Warning Against Smoking Campaign in the years 1972 to 1975 in conjunction with the State Governments. In all the Commonwealth expended $(M)1.52 for the campaign as follows:
Federal funds directed specifically against smoking have not been provided since the Anti-Smoking Campaign was concluded early in 1975-76. However, the Commonwealth has continued to discourage smoking in a number of ways such as the testing and publication of the tar and nicotine yields of cigarettes, the application of a ban on cigarette advertising on radio and television and by pressing for increased allocations of non-smoking seats on aircraft.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 1 3 September 1978:
Has a Protective Security Handbook been issued recently by the Commonwealth Government, and made available to Commonwealth public servants; if so, will the Prime Minister make the Handbook available to members of Parliament and other interested citizens.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
While all Commonwealth public servants are to have access to the Handbook, it is, however, for official use and as such would be of little use to those not in Government employment. Nevertheless, should members of Parliament wish, arrangements can be made with my colleague, the Attorney-General, for a copy to be made available to them.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 19 September 1978:
Has an environmental impact study, in accordance with Federal Government requirements, been carried out in the Bloomfield River area; if not:
has any approach been made by the Federal Government to Tennyson Holdings Pty Ltd regarding the possibility of that company ‘s dredging the Bloomfield River for tin; and
has the company supplied the Federal Government with an environmental impact study.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 14 September 1978:
How much did Trans-Australia Airlines pay P and O Australia for the 50 per cent interest which P and O Australia had in Dunk Island.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Such commercial matters are confidential.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 19 September 1978:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) It would not be appropriate for me to comment on press reports purporting to present the contents of documents claimed to be confidential to the Government. It is also not the Government’s practice to table any document containing information of commercial confidence.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 26 September 1978:
Will the Minister include in the valuable monthly statistics on Australian Defence force employment, the total number of public servants employed in the Defence Department, prepared on the same basis as those for the Defence force, but in the following categories: (a) the numbers and classifications of public servants; (b) numbers of other workers; (c) the location of such people; for example, defence, central, army bases, and naval dockyards; and (d) their broad duties; for example, personnel administration, defence science and technology, finance, procurement and quality assurance, strategic assessment, force development, professional and technical officers, and tradespeople.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The terms and conditions of employment and factors which affect recruitment, retention and wastage of Service personnel and civilian staff of the Department of Defence vary in significant ways. Consequently statistics relating to Service and civilian manpower are not directly comparable.
The Public Service Board in its annual report publishes details of full-time staff by employment category, division and location; staff ceilings; and establishments. Further information is included in the Board’s statistical year book. The annual Defence report also includes details of the allocation of Defence civilian manpower by broad functional classification as at the end of the year under review.
In the circumstances I do not consider that the diversion of the considerable resources necessary to produce the more frequent statistics requested by the honourable senator would be warranted.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 26 September 1978:
Will the Prime Minister ensure that Dames and Knights do not sit in the Senate, by refraining from recommending any serving senators for these titles.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 27 September 1978:
– The Minister for Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 28 September 1978:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am unable to say when the equal pay rates will be paid, although drafting of the necessary Statutory Rules has been given a high priority by the Attorney-General ‘s Department. This task, however, has to compete with the priorities of other departments.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 17 October 1978:
If, as indicated by the Minister’s answer to Question No. 886 (Senate Hansard, 11 October 1978, page 1254), the amount of $85.70 of his debt to Avis Rent-A-Car System Pty Ltd was not in dispute, why was the account sent on his behalf to the Government.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has forwarded me the following answer:
The account was neither sent by the Minister nor on his behalf.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 17 October 1978:
Did the Minister receive a receipt or any other record of payment for the amount of $1,265.90 referred to in his answer to Question No. 853 (Senate Hansard, 27 September 1978, page 1031); if not, how is he able to be so precise about the amount paid; if so, why is he unable to state the date on which it was paid.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer:
Yes. The amount was settled personally and is of no concern to the Senator.
-On 16 August 1978 (Hansard, page 52) Senator Archer asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning reports that the Corporation of Insurance Brokers of Australia has a list of up to 50 doubtful insurance companies which could collapse. The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am aware of reports to the effect that the Corporation of Insurance Brokers has a list of the kind referred by the honourable senator.
Since becoming aware of these reports I have received a letter from the President of the Corporation of Insurance Brokers of Australia indicating that the Corporation does not hold such a list. The President also drew attention to the obligation resting upon all reputable brokers to exercise the utmost professional discretion in selecting underwriters with whom to place their clients’ business, and explained that the way in which each Corporation member discharges this obligation, including the question whether or not the member maintains a list of underwriters with whom the broker will or will not do business, is a purely internal consideration for the individual broker concerned.
While I am, for obvious reasons, unable to make any statements that could be taken as applying to particular companies, I can say that the Insurance Act 1 973 provides for a comprehensive system of supervision of general insurance companies by the Insurance Commissioner and that I am not aware of any basis for questioning the general strength and stability ofthe industry.
Commonwealth-State Financial Arrangements
-On 13 September 1978 (Hansard, page 527) Senator Jessop asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning applications by the States for loan funds. In responding to the honourable senator’s question I said that it was my understanding that the matters he raised concerning States’ submissions to Loan Council in respect of loan funds for infrastructure financing were under review, and I undertook to seek further information for him. The Treasurer has now provided the following information in response to the honourable senator’s question:
As announced in Press Release No. 52 of 23 June 1978, the Loan Council resolved at its June 1978 meeting to establish a working party of officials of all States and the Commonwealth to examine and report back to the Loan Council as soon as practicable on proposals that had been submitted by the States for consideration under the guidelines for special additions to the semi-government borrowing programs for infrastructure financing, to assist the Loan Council in its consideration of them. It was noted that the size and phasing of the program would have to be decided in the light of the assessment of the projects and national economic and monetary policy considerations.
To date, officials have met on four occasions since the Loan Council meeting on 23 June, and I understand that a report by the working party has now been completed.
Further process following receipt by Loan Council of the officers’ report is, of course, a matter for the Council, but while the subject matter is important and complex and will require careful consideration, it is the Government’s wish that the matter should be resolved as expeditiously as possible.
-On 20 September 1978, Senator Elstob addressed a question without notice to Senator Guilfoyle as Minister representing the Minister for Finance in the Senate. The question related to taxation incentives for the installation of domestic solar heating devices. Accordingly Senator Guilfoyle indicated that she would refer the question to the Treasurer who has furnished the following reply:
I refer the honourable senator to the reply which Senator Carrick gave on 1 9 September (Hansard, page 735 ) to a substantially similar question by Senator Archer.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 October 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19781017_senate_31_s79/>.