31st Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate met at 2.30 p.m.
The Acting Clerk- Honourable senators, I have to announce that the President, Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke, is about to proceed overseas on parliamentary business and is unable to attend the sitting of the Senate. In accordance with Standing Order 29 the Chairman of Committees, Senator Scott, will take the chair as Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator D. B. Scott) thereupon took the chair and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
That, during the absence of the President, the Chairman of Committees shall, on each sitting day, take the Chair of the Senate as Deputy President and may, during such absence, perform the duties and exercise the authority of the President in relation to all proceedings of the Senate and to proceedings of standing and joint statutory committees to which the President is appointed.
-On behalf of Senator Keeffe, I present the following petition from 208 citizens of Australia:
To the honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of North Queensland support this protest at the unjust treatment by the Federal Government of people depending on the old age pension, which is considered to be below the poverty level.
That we protest at the Federal Government’s failure to provide all sections of the Australian community with conditions of retirement more comparable to that section who now retire in comfort under superannuation and long service leave schemes.
That immediate action be taken to provide that all sections of the Australian work force be allowed to retire under a more comparable level than that which exists at present.
That we protest at the re-introduction of the means test for people over seventy years of age, especially those people who have already been assessed by the Social Security Department before being placed on a full age pension.
That we protest at the Government’s failure to honour their promise to have pensions adjusted in line with the C.P.I. cost of living adjustments, which is applied to all other sections of the community.
That the amounts allowed for earnings by single and married pensioners should be increased to a more comparable level to the high cost of living, before it affects the pensions.
That the amount allowable before a pensioner pays income tax which covers all forms of income, including the annual pension, should be increased, as the high cost of living warrants this consideration.
And your petitioners as 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 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 Chaney.
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 part 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 ageinvalid 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 ail 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 as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Webster.
The Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the Victorian Federation of State School Parents’ Clubs respectfully showeth:
That as citizens of Victoria and parents of State school children, we are most concerned that the quality of education available in our school be of the highest possible standard.
We believe that this can only be achieved if adequate Federal funds are provided. The recently announced policy of direct cuts to Government schools for 1979 must have an adverse effect on them.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should arrange for
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Webster.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior adjustments the 1 978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments “that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate” is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Primmer, Button, Guilfoyle, Puplick, Peter Baume, Carrick, Webster and Hamer.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the following matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs:
The petition relating to the right of Citizens Initiative presented to the Senate on 2 1 February 1979 by Senator Mason.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who represents the Prime Minister Can he assure the Senate that the Prime Minister has his unqualified support?
– Absolutely, yes; now and in the past.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I hasten to say that I hope we never have a hijacking or a siege by international terrorists. Does the Government have any plan in hand to deal with such a hijacking or siege and has a chain of command been established, with proper communications between the police and the military, to deal with such an event should it occur?
-Senator Sheil indicated he intended to ask me that question but I have mislaid the details for the moment. May I respond in a very short time?
– My question is directed to Senator Guilfoyle, the Minister for Social Security. Has the Minister seen the report in the newspaper Neos Kosmos which alleges that Commonwealth Police sent 1,000 letters to Sydney Greeks seeking confidential information which would implicate Greek migrants in the alleged pension fraud? In effect it asked them to be police informers. Is this a fact and does the Minister agree that the basic rule of justice is to obtain evidence first and then make the necessary arrests later? In this particular case, if the facts are as stated, would she agree that this rule was departed from?
– I would need to have the article to which Senator Button refers drawn to my attention so that I would be in a position to answer the specific matters raised by him. I am of the inclination that some of the questions he raised may be more properly addressed to the Minister for Administrative Services. However, if the article concerned is drawn to my attention I will make a response to any matters which may be within my responsibility.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. It is about people coming from New Zealand. Is it true that New Zealanders coming to Australia do not need a passport? If this is so, what proof of identity do they need?. What safeguards does Australia have that these people will eventually return to New Zealand? Does the Minister feel that these present safeguards protect Australia against illegal immigrants who may come to Australia under an assumed name and an assumed nationality? What provisions have to be satisfied by a person coming from New Zealand before that person can get the unemployment benefit?
– I think that the first two parts of the question relate to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I am able to say on his behalf that all persons other than Australian and New Zealand citizens and citizens of the Commonwealth countries who have been granted permission to reside without restriction in either country are required to be in possession of passports. No limit of stay is imposed on New Zealand citizens and citizens of the Commonwealth resident in New Zealand without restriction travelling to Australia within the terms of the arrangement. Other persons are granted temporary entry permits on arrival and are subject to the same requirements as temporary entrants from other parts of the world.
The third part of the question concerns my own responsibilities. I am able to say that if a person from New Zealand or any other country is accepted as likely to remain permanently in Australia he is immediately qualified for the unemployment benefit subject to the normal conditions; otherwise 12 months residence is required. However, a person from New Zealand is deemed to be permanently resident in Australia after 6 months by virtue of the reciprocal agreement on social security between Australia and New Zealand. As I understand it, if a person from New Zealand claims an unemployment benefit or any other matter from the Department of Social Security, the Department endeavours to establish his intention that he will be remaining permanently in Australia. It is under those conditions that he is able to qualify for the application of the benefit.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Which States have accepted the Federal Government’s offer of a dollar for dollar arrangement up to $4,000 as seeding grants for the International Year of the Child?
-I am not aware of whether any State has said that it would not accept the dollar for dollar arrangement, although I have some feeling in my mind that there might be some record of that. I will need to check it. When the offer of the seeding grants was made, most of the States at the meeting indicated that it would be very useful to them. I am not aware now, although I have some reservations about it, as to whether any State has refused to participate in the arrangement. I will have it checked and try to give the answer by the end of Question Time.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. With Australian enterprises now competing for, and successfully gaining, contracts for many large overseas development projects and with the renewed emphasis on export, will the Minister consider extending the investment allowance to include new items of machinery, plant et cetera which are used on such contracts and which are currently excluded by reason of their use outside Australia?
– This is, of course, a policy matter. I will bring it to the attention of my colleague the Treasurer.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister. On Thursday last did the then Minister for Finance send a three-page letter to the Prime Minister and later have a discussion lasting over an hour on the difficulties he had experienced, both administrative and organisational, concerning the Government of Australia and the Liberal Party? What difficulties were experienced?
-As to the first part of the question, my understanding is that the then Minister for Finance did not send a three-page letter to the Prime Minister. The text of the letter, which I think was one of a very few words, has been incorporated in the House of Representatives Hansard and is available to the honourable senator. As to the second part of the question, which concerned the substance of the reasons, perhaps I should indicate the text of a statement made in the other place a few minutes ago by the Minister for Finance.
– Who is he? We have not been told here officially who he is.
-I understand Senator McLaren’s difficulties. The Minister for Finance made this statement:
Mr Speaker, the facts relating to my resignation and acceptance of the invitation of the Prime Minister to rejoin the Ministry are on record. On Thursday last I handed the Prime Minister a letter in which I informed him of my decision to resign from the cabinet. I reached this decision after experiencing a series of difficulties in a number of areas. These included administrative and organisational matters concerning the Government and the Liberal Party. These matters are now passed. There had been, at times, some terseness in my relationship with the Prime Minister. The effect was a cumulative one. Government policy was not involved.
On Sunday last I had extensive discussions with the Prime Minister and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party: It became clear that there were no significant differences which could not be resolved. As a result the Prime Minister proposed that I might consider rejoining the Ministry as Minister for Finance. After further discussion it was agreed that my reappointment to the Ministry as Minister for Finance would be far the best course for the well-being of the Liberal Party, the Government and Australia.
Mr Speaker, inherent in my decision to accept the Prime Minister’s invitation to rejoin the Ministry was inevitable criticism by some, satisfaction by others. If the type of discussion which took place on Sunday with the Prime Minister and Deputy Leader of the Party had taken place earlier, I would not have resigned. With hindsight, it is unfortunate that that discussion did not take place. The essence of these candid and very explicit discussions was that we were able to have a full exchange and able to understand each other’s views. I make it perfectly clear no deals were involved; there were no changed arrangements; there were no policy implications.
I am deeply conscious of my responsibilities to the Liberal Party, the Government and the Prime Minister. After our discussions, let me affirm my full support for the Prime Minister. I have been a member of the Liberal Party for 22 years, and a parliamentary representative for a little over six. I have served on the Queensland State Executive continuously for a period of 14 years; five of these as State President. I am convinced the future of Australia is deeply interwoven with the principles of the Liberal Party. I make these comments in relation to the Liberal Party without in any way detracting from the enormous success and co-operation of the coalition parties in the Federal Government. My rejoining the Ministry dashed the hopes of the critics of both the Government and the Prime Minister.
That is the end of the statement, Mr Deputy President.
-Mr Deputy President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. The Minister did not answer that part of my question which asked: Did the Minister for Finance have a discussion for over an hour on Thursday on the difficulties he had experienced, both administratively and organisationally, concerning the Government of Australia and the Liberal Party? If he did, what was the difference between that discussion and the one that changed his opinion on Sunday?
– I am not aware of an hour’s discussion taking place at that time.
Whilst I am on my feet, let me say that I inadvertently failed to read the final paragraphs of the statement, and I do so now. They state:
Their howls of indignation were merely a reflection of the chagrin that they feel -
– I raise a point of order. If the Minister is going to read a prepared statement, should not this matter be the subject of a statement on ministerial arrangements after Question Time?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The Leader of the Government is answering the question and the supplementary question as he sees fit. I believe that that is what we would require him to do.
– On the point of order: The Minister answered the question. He was asked a supplementary question relating to whether there was discussion on the Thursday for over an hour. The Minister said that he had no knowledge of that. That completely answers the question. I do not see why he is taking the opportunity to put a doubtful justification for Mr Robinson’s attitude.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I say again that I do not believe that there is a point of order. The Minister is answering the question as he sees fit, and I ask him to continue.
– The statement continues:
Their howls of indignation were merely a reflection of the chagrin that they feel at the removal of what they hopefully saw as a tool with which to beat the Prime Minister and the Government, but it is nothing more than a dressing up of their disappointment that they will not have the opportunity to attempt to foster division within the Government. To put it plainly, there must be considerable disappointment among those who looked upon my resignation as a tool to use to damage the Government. The Opposition’s disappointment must be so much the greater because it lacks the cohesiveness and ability to develop solutions to the tasks facing this nation.
The events of the past few days demonstrate plainly that, where there is a difficulty in the Liberal Party and the Government, there exists a will and basic unity of purpose which allows us to resolve it quickly and effectively. That has been done. I support in the clearest terms the policies of the Government- policies which I helped frame and which are essential to Australia’s economic recovery.
That is the full text of the statement.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, deals with the matter of relations between Australia and Malta. In particular I refer to the matter of some 58,000 Maltese citizens who are now loyal citizens of
Australia. Because of reports concerning the situation existing between Australia and Malta I ask the Minister to indicate the present arrangements.
– There have been differences between successive Australian governments and the Maltese Government over a number of aspects of our bilateral relationship. On 2 May 1978 the Foreign Minister stated in the House of Representatives that the Australian Government would like to see its relations with Malta restored to their former warmth, and that this was more likely to be achieved by a quiet diplomacy than by a public exchange of grievances. Also in May last year the Secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Parkinson, discussed Australian/Maltese relations with the permanent head of the Maltese Commonwealth and Foreign Affairs Ministry, Mr Abela On 1 1 September 1978, the Prime Minister, in reply to a letter from the Maltese Friends of Australia Association said, amongst other things, that the process of reconciliation was sometimes protracted but success over the long term should be greatly assisted by the large store of mutual goodwill present among the people of our two countries. I take this opportunity to reaffirm the Government’s desire to see Australian relations with Malta restored to their former level.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I, too, refer to Mr Robinson’s resignation and later reappointment. I remind the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who also represents the Prime Minister, that no statement has yet been made to the Senate- to which it is entitled- of the great matters occasioning the resignation of Mr Robinson except a letter of explanation given to the House of Representatives today. The Prime Minister has not explained what happened to occasion the resignation of Mr Robinson. The event has been variously described by the Press -
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I thought this was Question Time. I ask you to rule whether this is a question or a statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I believe it is a responsible prelude to a question.
-I think the Leader of the Government in the Senate will agree that surely it should be his province, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, to make a statement on the first occasion the Senate sits explaining these very important things because, as I was going to say, the matter has been variously described as a mystery and a demeaning matter.
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I ask whether a prelude has an ending. It appears to me that this prelude has now gone on for a long time and it surely is now a statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I believe a prelude does have an ending and I ask Senator Bishop to come to that ending.
– In concluding the short prelude, I ask the Leader of the Government whether he intends to give the Senate all the facts concerning the resignation by Mr Robinson and the later arrangements which were made between him and the Prime Minister which have been described as a deal, in order that the Senate may be fully acquainted with all the information surrounding the matter, because a part of the information we have is the statement in the Press describing the Prime Minister, in the words of Mr Robinson, as a bastard.
– The facts of the matter are that Mr Robinson resigned on Thursday; discussions took place subsequently and he has reentered the Ministry. Mr Robinson has given a detailed statement in the House of Representatives as to the reasons for his resignation. It is quite clear that Mr Robinson is the one person who must know the reasons. Those reasons have been given and have been accepted by the Government and I think that discharges the matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What is the position regarding discussions between Australia and Indonesia on the off-shore region between Australia and East Timor? When will a statement be made on this matter?
– This is an important matter. It is one on which I would need to have the most up-to-date information. I will get it and let Senator Young have it.
– 1 address a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In India last month the Prime Minister stated that there were no restrictions on the export of Australian merino sheep and promised, in response to a request, both written and oral, from the
Raymond Knitting Mills Co. of Bombay, to deliver 20 merino ewes. In view of his earlier statement I ask the Minister whether he is confident that the Prime Minister knows his Government’s policy on this matter and that he knows the difference between ewes and rams. Has the policy announced by the Government last year to permit the export of up to 300 merino rams and to maintain a total embargo on the export of merino ewes been changed? If so, when? If not, will the Prime Minister guarantee to find out his Government’s policy before he again glad-hands abroad?
-Stripping all the persiflage from a would-be bell wether, let me simply say that I will refer the question to the Prime Minister for an answer.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I refer to the recommendation of the Family Law Council, recently endorsed by the Australian Council of Social Service, relating to the prolonged delay in obtaining reciprocal arrangements with New Zealand in respect of the recognition and enforcement of custody orders. Will the AttorneyGeneral confirm that there is still no agreement with New Zealand for the reciprocal enforcement of custody orders? Has it been brought to the Attorney-General’s attention that, because passports are not required for travel between the two countries, it is possible for children to be snatched from the parent to whom the court has given custody? Will the Attorney-General take up this serious and urgent matter with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and emphasise the importance of negotiations with the New Zealand Government for the earliest possible conclusion of reciprocal arrangements as an effective means of preventing child kidnapping?
– I am aware of the recommendations on this matter. It certainly is important to endeavour to obtain such reciprocal arrangements. I will make inquiries from my Department to ascertain the latest position and I will let Senator Missen know the result as soon as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. As we are all aware of the interest of the Government and especially of the Prime Minister in computer firms, I would like to ask a question on the following facts: IBM
Australia Ltd, Melbourne, and Honeywell Pty Ltd, Melbourne, are both firms dealing in computer systems. It is now a fact that IBM has an unlisted telephone number on each side of Honeywell. The telephone numbers in use are IBM 6993287; Honeywell 6993288; and IBM 6993289. Will the Minister agree that it would be wrong for an outside influence to be used to obtain such a listing which many other firms have sought but have been denied because it constituted unfair competition? Will the Minister investigate the matter?
– I have no knowledge of the matters raised by Senator Melzer. I will refer them to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Mr Staley, and seek a reply for her.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services. It relates to the invasion of the Commonwealth Parliament Offices in Sydney during lunch hour on 26 February 1 979. I ask: Were the demonstrators removed by State Police even though assistance had been sought from the Commonwealth Police? Can the Minister comment on whether it took half an hour for Commonwealth Police to respond to a call for assistance by an official in the Commonwealth Parliament Offices reception area? Is one reason for the delay the fact that only one Commonwealth policeman is available in the Sydney building and that he, not unreasonably, may have been absent having his lunch when the demonstration occurred?
– I do have some information on the matter raised by Senator Baume. I am informed that the New South Wales Police moved with the demonstrators from Martin Plaza to Chifley Square, outside the Government Centre. When some of the demonstrators entered the building, the New South Wales Police entered the building with them and requested them to leave. The building was then cleared without incident. I am advised that Commonwealth Police were informed of the presence of the group at 1.33 p.m. and that the first Commonwealth Police car arrived at the building at 1.40 p.m. So the response time was only 7 minutes. However, it is my understanding that by the time Commonwealth Police arrived the building had been cleared. I am not certain on that point, but my understanding is that it was cleared without incident and the Commonwealth Police were not involved. The post in question is normally manned by two members of the Commonwealth Police, but one member was absent that day due to illness. There was only one member on duty on 26 February. He was temporarily absent from the entrance area conducting an inquiry in another part of the building when the group arrived.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. With respect to his answer earlier today on the subject of Mr Robinson’s resignation and re-birth, I ask: Are there any precedents in the history of this Parliament for a Minister resigning his portfolio for administrative and organisational reasons unconnected with matters of government policy? Is not a resignation for these reasons one that trifles with the principles of ministerial responsibility- indeed, one that trifles with this Parliament- and for that reason, if for no other, it deserves the censure of this House?
– Such a convoluted question deserves the answers that I now give. As to the first part of the question, I do not know whether there are any precedents. As to the second part of the question, the answer is no.
-Has the Minister for Science and the Environment seen an article in the Press indicating that the Queensland Government has decided to delay for as long as possible the compulsory use of the metric system in advertisements for food and household items? Can the Minister tell the Senate whether the Federal Government intends to persevere with its metric conversion program so far as the advertising of consumer goods is concerned?
-The statement by Mr Campbell, the Minister responsible for weights and measures in Queensland, has been noted by me. Mr Campbell has already advised me that legislation has been passed in Queensland to provide for solely metric trading. I would be disappointed- I feel confident that the majority of the Australian public would also be disappointed- if the benefits of working in one simple system were to be withheld from Queensland for a further period. As the honourable senator will be aware, most scales in Queensland, as in the rest of Australia, are already metric. Quite obviously, to allow traders to continue to price their meat or their vegetables or whatever per lb and then to convert those prices on a metric scale would only cause confusion to the public, and merit expression of concern. In other States, for example South Australia and Tasmania and throughout most of my own State of Victoria, pricing and advertising of goods are required to be in metric terms. This has provided the education by experience which almost overnight can cure the confusion created when two types of weighing and measuring are used.
Australia is nearing the end of its conversion to the metric system, which has been well supported by the country’s leaders, both State and Federal. Indeed, metrication has progressed so well in Australia that it is being used as a pattern in many other countries which are in the process of converting at present. One area in which metrication has not yet been completed throughout Australia is that of advertising and the pricing and selling of commodities by measurement. I am hopeful and confident that the Government will effect this change there within the near future.
– I preface my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate by saying that if the question that I am about to ask seems familiar it is because it has all been said before and by none other than Senator Carrick in 1975. My question refers to the unemployment level of more than 400,000 and the efficacy or otherwise of the Budget in meeting this disastrous situation. I refer also to the Minister’s response ‘that we see no need to recast the Budget’ and that time will prove that it is the best Budget possible in the present economic circumstances. I ask the Minister: Is that not a flat admission of total defeatism and demoralisation, an abject acceptance that a level of 400,000 unemployed is inevitable and an indication that nothing beyond the Budget will be done to alleviate it? Alternatively, what positive steps in addition to the Budget are proposed by the Government to overcome this disaster? As the unemployment rate is now even greater than it was then, I invite the Minister to give the Senate the benefit of his answer on the subject.
– There are very few occasions on which I would agree with the federal leader of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Hayden, but I would agree with the statement he made in his Budget Speech of 1975 that if one is to overcome unemployment, to restore employment, one must first of all get down the rate of inflation. I take it that Senator McAuliffe does not agree. I have noticed that his colleagues are having troubles in Queensland at this momentthat like the Irish they have their troubles.
– What about your own troubles? You should be given out l.b.w. for not attempting to play the ball in your answers to questions about Mr Robinson.
-I would refer all interjections to Sir John Egerton, who seems to be an interjector of some merit at this moment with regard to the activities of the Labor Party in Queensland. Senator McAuliffe would know, and I hope would applaud the fact, that in the latter half of last year month by month the unemployment rate in Australia fell steadily. He must know that the rate of unemployment, both before and after allowing for school leavers, has ceased to rise and that economic commentators are now looking to a future where the rate of unemployment will fall and fall steadily. But since he asks the question I ask him to go back to the 1975 Budget Speech of his leader and look towards the solutions that were then offered by him to overcome unemployment. His leader said then that increasing the monetary supply would only increase the rate of inflation and exacerbate the unemployment situation and that the way to tackle unemployment was to beat inflation first. On that aspect, and that alone, I agree with Mr Hayden. On other points I agree with Sir John Egerton.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Social Security been drawn to the article in the Saturday evening Mercury of 24 February which ridicules the International Year of the Child and underlines the journalist’s total ignorance of the aims of the United Nations and of this Government in celebrating that year? Can the Minister indicate the damage that this type of irresponsible reporting does to the Year of the Child and would she remind the media of the need for their co-operation in this regard?
– I think everyone would know that Australia, as a member of the United Nations, is joining in the celebration this year of the International Year of the Child. A great deal of work has been done by the Federal Government, by State governments and by the voluntary organisations in this country to make it a fitting year of celebration in recognition of the rights of children and of our responsibilities to them. Articles may be written which do not sustain the serious responsibilities which have been accepted by government. I think this is regrettable. Articles may also be written which express the expectation that at the end of the year we will be able to say that we have solved all of the problems of our children or that we have discharged our responsibilities to them. Such articles equally show an unrealistic approach to the celebration which is being undertaken.
In Tasmania, the State in which the article to which Senator Walters refers was written, a great deal of planning with regard to the Year of the Child has been undertaken. The State Minister, in consultation with other State Ministers and me, is participating in the national celebration of the year. At the same time, his State committee is developing many projects at a local level in order to celebrate this year in a fitting manner. I hope that the media will give their support, as they have done previously, to the efforts of the governments and the people of this country to draw attention in this year to the needs and rights of children and our responsibilities to them, and to see that it is a year that is enjoyed by children in whatever way they are able to enjoy it. Having said that, I commend the celebrations of the Year of the Child to everyone. I know that it will be a year of noteworthy participation.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, follows from the question asked of him by Senator Baume. Is it not a fact that the Commonwealth Police generally are seriously understaffed and that the Department of Administrative Services is deliberately not filling vacancies because of the proposed merger of the Commonwealth Police with the Australian Capital Territory Police? Is it not a fact that plainclothes police are often withdrawn from their protection duties in order to engage in activities of a surveillance nature, particularly those related to the Department of Social Security? Further, is the Government aware that the consequences of these processes are that Commonwealth properties, embassies and airports, et cetera, are often not properly protected, making a mockery of the Government’s professed concern about security?
– Once again, I cannot give the honourable senator a detailed answer to his question. I recall that during my short period as Minister for Administrative Services the Commonwealth Police Association raised with me the question of staffing levels in a number of areas. Honourable senators will recall a question asked, I think, by Senator Baume about the number of people in the cheques squad in the light of a large number of outstanding complaints about cheques. As I recall, I certainly put to the Police Association the point of view that any significant review of staffing ought to await the formation of the new Australian Federal Police on the basis that a good deal has to be done in the merging of the two forces. To expand one force significantly, if that were required, just prior to merger seemed to me to be not a very sensible procedure. I have no knowledge of there being any difficulty with respect to security matters, as is suggested in the last part of the honourable senator’s question. However, I will refer the various elements of the question to Mr McLeay, and seek a full reply.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It relates to the situation in the New Hebrides. Following the declaration of a People’s Provisional Government by the nationalist Vanua’aku Party, has a Government of National Unity been formed in the New Hebrides and is the Vanua’aku Party participating in it? What progress is being made towards a constitution and independence for the New Hebrides? Can the Minister say whether Australia is playing any role to ensure a peaceful transition in the New Hebrides?
– I have some briefing material in relation to a Government of National Unity in the New Hebrides. I am advised that a Government of National Unity, known as GNU and consisting of five Francophones and five Vanua’aku Party members, that is VP members, was formed in Vila on 22 December 1978. The Chief Minister is Father Gerard Leymang, a French speaker, while Father Walter Lini of the VP is Deputy Chief Minister. M. Dijoud, the French Secretary of State for Department of Overseas Ministries and Territories visited the New Hebrides in mid-February and told the Francophone Assembly that it would support the GNU. Dijoud, also announced that British and French experts would soon arrive in the New Hebrides to assist with the drafting of a constitution which is to embody principles such as proportional representation, protection of minority rights and bilingualism. The constitution is to be drawn up by May when Dijoud and Lord Goronwy-Roberts, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, will visit the New Hebrides to study it. It is planned that the constitution be put to a referendum and, if approved, it will form the basis for elections. The elected government will then decide on the date for independence which will occur by 1980.
The Australian Government is closely interested in developments in the New Hebrides. It welcomed the formation of the GNU. On 13 January the Australian Consul in Vila delivered a message of congratulations to the GNU. The New Hebrides is a near neighbour and an important part of the South Pacific region where Australia has a special responsibility. Australia has allocated $A5.3m in development assistance to the New Hebrides for the three-year period 1 976-79. We look forward to the full and early independence of the New Hebrides.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that last year’s amendment to the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Collection Act has led to a serious injustice in the administration of the Act. The Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Collection Bill, the purpose of which was to close a loophole and remove legal doubts about the liability of certain co-operatives to pay the levy, has had the effect of penalising honesty. Those who chose not to pay while the legality of the Act was in doubt are now not obliged to pay. Those who paid now have their payments legitimised. Not only are they not entitled to any refund but also, in some cases, they are being fined for the late payment of the levy. Does the Minister not agree that this type of legislation sets a dangerous precedent? Will he undertake to ensure that all cooperatives are treated equally and are equally liable for levy? In particular, will he undertake to ensure that no fines for late payment are proceeded with?
– I understand the general statement made by Senator Primmer to be correct. Some discomfort has arisen in relation to the requirement for payment as he has described. He asked that there be no fines for late payment. I must refer that matter to the Minister for Primary Industry. The honourable senator may be assured that the Minister, Mr Sinclair, was concerned at what happened in relation to the late payment of certain levies. I have an idea that a question was raised in the Senate towards the end of the last session about this matter. I will refer the latter part of the question to the Minister and attempt to obtain an early response.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce. With the first of the cheap air fares into and out of Australia now in operation and, I understand, working successfully, can the Minister advise whether the Australian Tourist Commission has anything in the pipeline to capitalise on the cheap air fares and encourage tourists into Australia?
-The Australian Tourist Commission has developed a scheme called Make Friends for Australia’ which is meant to motivate Australians going overseas- of whom there are very large numbers- to act as tourism ambassadors for this country. The travelling public are being told about the scheme through Press, television and radio advertising which commenced on Monday, 26 February. A booklet is available for travellers as they depart the country which will provide information to enable them to talk knowledgeably, and, we hope, enthusiastically about the attractions of Australia as a tourist destination.
The booklet also incorporates a follow-up system which will enable people who show interest to be contacted and encouraged to visit Australia. This proposal is receiving support from both State and Territory governments and the tourist industry, with total contributions from those sources of $270,000. This development of international tourism is of great importance to Australia because a great number of Australians proceed in the other direction. This is one of a number of marketing thrusts being undertaken by the Tourist Commission as a result of the increased support given to the Commission by this Government and other governments. I should mention, I think, that if honourable senators are interested in the development of this scheme, as I have just been reminded by Senator Rae, there is to be a discussion on it in Senate Committee rooms 1 and 2 at 6 o’clock this evening. Any honourable senators who have 20 minutes to spare at that time might go down and listen to the officers of the Australian Tourist Commission expounding on this subject.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. The statement made by the Minister for Trade and Resources, Mr Anthony, in Saudi Arabia on 13 February 1979, pointing out the perilous position the world is moving into because of the present oil crisis, which, in turn, is being exacerbated by the unstable situation in Iran, suggests to me that Australia should be not only looking for alternative energy sources but also preparing a comprehensive and detailed conservation program aimed at lessening Australia’s dependence on imported oil. In view of the Minister’s statement I ask the following questions: Has any attempt been made to develop a plan that would ensure that the misuse and wastage of oil and its products are cut to a minimum? If the answer to my first question is yes, will the Minister make the details available to the Senate? If the answer to my first question is no, will the Minister explain to the House what his Government intends to do in regard to the problem of getting the electorate to adapt to the conditions that will prevail when the full force of the oil shortage becomes apparent?
-Senator Mcintosh has asked an important series of questions which require some detailed answers. I will refer them to the Minister and ask him to give an early reply to the Senate.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. It relates to the possibility of building a uranium enrichment plant in Australia. Building such a plant would have considerable employment benefits and other benefits. Because of the South Australian Labor Government’s refusal to allow an enrichment plant to be sited in South Australia and its most damaging refusal to allow the Roxby Downs project to proceed, will the Government give favourable consideration to the request from the State Government in Western Australia to allow an enrichment plant to be built in that State?
– The Government is pressing ahead with feasibility studies with other governments and organisations which have previously expressed interest in the establishment of a uranium enrichment industry in Australia. It is proposed to involve the State governments and private enterprise as fully as possible in any firm proposals for feasibility studies. It is recognised that any decision to locate an enrichment plant in Australia raises many complex questions having regard to the technology of enrichment which might be employed and the domestic and international considerations involved. The Government certainly is most anxious to enter into detailed consideration of this matter which involves the States.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for Science and the Environment, relates to a conference on endangered species to be held in Costa Rica at which, I understand, a senior officer will be present. In view of the fact that not so long ago we were thinking about importing the Parma wallaby back from New Zealand, on what basis can we now go to that conference and ask that that species be deleted from the list of endangered species?
– It is delightful to know that some honourable senators are interested in the endangered species in this country. The honourable senator will recall, that in 1 973 the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora was finalised and that the Parma wallaby was included in appendix I. This appendix includes all species threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by trade. Trade in specimens of these species must be subject to particularly strict regulation in order not to endanger further their survival and must be authorised only in exceptional circumstances.
For many years the Parma wallaby was believed to be extinct in Australia. The species was rediscovered in Australia in 1966. In 1973 the species was considered endangered and therefore appropriate for inclusion in that appendix. The Parma wallaby apparently has now been shown to be reasonably common in coastal northern New South Wales and the adjacent ranges. Many areas where the species occurs are reserved and populations of the species are considered to be secure. I am sure the honourable senator will be pleased with that. During November 1976 the parties to the convention adopted biological and trade criteria for the selection of species for inclusion in the appendices. On the recommendation of the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers, Australia submitted a proposal to transfer the Parma wallaby from appendix I to appendix II. The proposal was upheld by the required majority of voting countries and remains the current listing.
In August 1 977 the ad hoc working group on endangered fauna of the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers agreed that the Parma wallaby no longer satisfied criteria for inclusion in appendix II to the convention and recommended its deletion from that appendix. The working group, which is an advisory body established by CONCOM, is made up of biologists from all State, Territorial and Commonwealth government fauna authorities. The Council of Nature Conservation Ministers later endorsed the working group’s recommendation. To become effective the proposal to delete the Parma wallaby from appendix II must be supported by the required majority of voting countries at the forthcoming Costa Rica meeting in March. Under the existing policy, the export of Parma wallabies from Australia is restricted to transactions between approved scientific institutions and zoological gardens. Zoological transactions are confined to zoo bred progeny which are surplus to the exporting zoo’s requirements. These exports have no impact on wild populations of the Parma wallaby. I can assure the honourable senator that the conservation of this species will not be affected in any way by the deletion of the species from appendix II.
– I ask a supplementary question. In view of the fact that all this began in 1973, which was the year that a very outstanding jurist, Mr Justice Murphy, held the portfolio in the Senate, am I correct in saying that he made a lot of this possible?
– I believe the honourable senator is correct in saying that he was the responsible Minister at that time. The balance of his statement I would put in question.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Will the Minister give consideration to allowing unemployed workers to earn up to $20 per week before such income will affect their unemployment benefit? Does the Minister agree that such a scheme would provide work experience, would put unemployed workers on a parity with age pensioners in relation to earnings and would serve as an encouragement to them to seek part time employment, which in the majority of cases leads to full time employment?
– Any matters in connection with pensions or benefits will be reviewed in the context of the Budget. As to giving an undertaking that this matter could be reviewed to the level which has been stated by Senator Watson, this is a matter for consideration and it has not been considered. As to the statement he made that this would serve to give work experience, I would not argue with that although I would say that unemployment benefit has always been seen as a temporary benefit and one that does not act as a subsidy for those who choose to have part time employment. This is the nature of the unemployment benefit as we have it in this country. Another matter that would have to be taken into consideration is that if there were the same free area of income as applies to age pensions a person with a dependent spouse and two children would be able to have an income of over $250 a week before the unemployment benefit ceased. In those terms there could be a lack of equity in comparison with those who are in full time employment and who have the same sort of family responsibilities. These are some of the considerations that need to be taken into account at Budget time. Another consideration, of course, is the increased expenditure which would result from having a larger area of free income before the unemployment benefit diminished. However, all such matters are subject to consideration in the Budget context.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. He will recall the statement of the Prime Minister last week in which he claimed that the Government now had the money supply under control. I now ask, firstly, whether the plan to transfer $2 50m to $300m of the Australian Wheat Board’s outstanding debt on the 1978-79 wheat pool from the Reserve Bank to the trading banks was still operative at that time. Secondly, has that plan now been abandoned? If the answer to both questions is yes, what alternative means of curbing money supply growth does the Government have or will the Government implement? If the plan to transfer the debt was abandoned before the Prime Minister claimed the money supply was under control, what alternative means were used to make up the troublesome $250m to $300m?
– The question demands first-hand technical knowledge and I ask the honourable senator to put the question on notice.
– I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment whether he saw the article in last Thursday’s Australian about the 85-tonne American space craft Skylab which is due to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere prematurely later this year or early next year and is planned to impact in a corridor 1,600 kilometres by 160 kilometres, which area includes part of eastern Australia. Has the Australian Government obtained the precise location of this corridor? If not, can it be obtained as a matter of urgency? What emergency procedures have been instituted to cope with any disaster that might occur?
-The matter to which the honourable senator refers has great public interest. I did note the article to which he refers and I believe my Department supplied me with one or two minutes relating to it. Of course, it is through the Department of Science that matters *br the United States Government in relation to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration organisation are conducted in Australia. With regard to the direct lane into which the space ship may enter, I will attempt to get that information for the honourable senator at the earliest opportunity. I see no reason why that should not be obtained. With regard to the possibility of a disaster, my attention has not been drawn to that possibility of risk to the public. The proposition of disaster co-ordination would not necessarily be one for my Department but certainly I could give my attention to alert any other body. I will do that and attempt to bring an answer to the senator tomorrow.
-I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment a question which complements a question asked earlier today by Senator Maunsell. I refer to an editorial in the Sun of 22 February 1979 which stated:
Shopkeepers who advertise food and household items in imperial units will soon face prosecution by the Metric Conversion Board.
Can the Minister advise whether the statement in the Sun in fact is correct? If it is correct, can the Minister advise whether there have been recent innovations to assist the public and shopkeepers to understand what the Sun has referred to as a metric monster?
– I am not sure that I saw the article to which the honourable senator referred, but during the past week I have noted a number of articles querying the possibility of the imposition of a fine where the metric system is not being applied. In answer to the question asked previously by Senator Maunsell, I pointed out that it is necessary to give some encouragement and that both in the commercial sense and in the retailing sense we should attempt to move quickly towards the use of the metric system. I referred to an instance where it may be attractive for one shopkeeper in a shopping area to advertise in the old imperial system, to have in his window a sign referring to goods priced at so much per lb, when other shopkeepers who are attempting to go along with what has been proclaimed in Australia for the last 10 years, that is, that by 1980 we will have the one system of measurement in this country, are advertising in kilograms.
Many people in the community faced with the problem of moving from the imperial to the metric system perhaps are loath to do so. It is an imposition on all of us, and those of us who are a little lazy mentally are not anxious to give our full attention to an understanding of the metric system. Basically, in most areas the metric system has been introduced in Australia. When purchasing petrol, for instance, where the public has been presented with a fait accompli, there is no question of people going to a bowser and asking for so many gallons. Likewise, signposts which were originally in miles are now in kilometres. It is necessary in the market place to impose some restrictions and perhaps to give some slight encouragement to shopkeepers to ensure that they carry out their advertising in the metric system. By far the majority of shopkeepers throughout Australia are doing that. I have already mentioned that in South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and substantially in Victoria they have moved progressively to a point where metrication is the main system in use.
In answer to Senator Colston, I can say that, whilst penalties do exist, they have been used in only one or two instances, as I understand it, in the many areas in which metrication has been brought to the Australian public. I suggest that nobody would question that there should be some encouragement, or indeed that there should be some penalty if there is a possibility of the consumer being misled about what he is buying. I am sure the honourable senator will agree that some penalty should be considered where goods are advertised in the imperial system and then weighed in the metric system.
– With the indulgence of the Senate, let me reply to Senator Sheil, who asked me a specific question relating to Government plans to deal with hijacking and/or sieges involving international terrorists. I regret that the information was not at hand at that time. I am advised that on 20 October 1977 the Minister for Administrative Services, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, informed the Parliament that in respect of any international terrorist incident in Australia precautionary measures are maintained and procedures and arrangements to respond to and to deal with such incidents have been established and are under constant review. It would be counter-productive and against the interests of public safety to give details of these arrangements.
The Department of Defence is associated with the precautionary arrangements announced by the Minister for Administrative Services. Its association is strictly in accordance with legal provisions relating to aid to the civil power. Senior departmental officers have held discussions with Mr Justice Hope and provided him with information in connection with his protective security review.
- Senator Coleman asked me a question earlier today and I said that I would try to get information for her by the end of Question Time. It was with regard to seeding grants for community groups for purposes of the International Year of the Child. She asked me which States had not responded. I am able to advise her that official acceptances have been received from all States and Territories, with the exception of New South Wales and Western Australia. I understand that New South Wales will be accepting the grant, but I have had no official response or a final decision with regard to Western Australia.
– Last week Senator Rae asked me a question with regard to the Tasmanian poppy growing industry and I said that I would try to get information for him without delay. I am advised by the Minister for Health that requests for curtailment have arisen, not from the United States of America as might have been suggested in some reports, but from the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The request was that producing countries should voluntarily cut back opiate production to restore the balance between supply and demand. A cut of up to 20 per cent in the Tasmanian acreage in 1979 has been mutually agreed. Substantial reductions by other major producing countries are anticipated. This reduction should not be considered to be an attack on the Tasmanian industry. I confirm that the Tasmanian Government agreed to the reduction. It is believed that in the present situation of oversupply of narcotics the reductions that have been requested from the United Nations should have an effect on the control of illicit drugs around the world.
-At Question Time today Senator Missen asked me for some up-to-date information concerning the reciprocal enforcement of custody orders between Australia and New Zealand. As far as we are concerned our Family Law Act contains an appropriate provision. The provision was inserted on the understanding that New Zealand would be enacting similar legislation. I have made inquiries and I think Senator
Missen recognises that the necessary legislation is still to be enacted by New Zealand. Representations for the enactment of this legislation have been made by my Department through the Department of Foreign Affairs. My Department has received information from the Department of Justice in New Zealand that the preparation of reciprocal legislation is currently under consideration.
-On 21 February Senator Lewis and Senator Primmer asked me about squid fishing off the Victorian coast. I have an answer from the Minister for Primary Industry who states: The Minister for Primary Industry and the governments of Victoria and South Australia recently approved a feasibility fishing project for squid in waters off South Australia and Victoria to be jointly undertaken by the Australian company Safcol and the Japanese interests C. Itoh and Co. Ltd and Chuo Gyogyo Kosha Ltd. The project was approved in accordance with the guidelines for feasibility fishing adopted by the Australian Fisheries Council in January 1978. In accordance with those guidelines the project will operate for a maximum period of two years and will assess the extent and distribution of squid resources, of which little is known, in waters off South Australia and Victoria. It will examine the feasibility of commercial exploitation of these resources in both the catching and processing sectors.
Twelve Japanese vessels will be participating in the project. The fishing method to be used is restricted by licence to squid jigging gear and lights which will ensure that incidental catches of other fish species are minimised. Australian vessels are encouraged to participate in the project and suitable vessels will be equipped with squid jigging gear at no cost. Japanese skippers will provide instruction in squid-fishing techniques to Australian fishermen participating in the project. There will be two Australian observers who will report to governments. Both observers are experienced Victorian professional fishermen. The fishing operations are being constantly monitored by Commonwealth and State fisheries authorities. The Government’s objective is to ensure the continuation of the squid resources as a viable fishery.
-Last week Senator Cavanagh asked me a question about Mr Tiger
Yadijajeri, an Aboriginal who, as the question stated, was employed by Lord Vestey ‘s Gordon Downs Pty Ltd and who was knocked off his horse while mustering. Senator Cavanagh asked me whether workers compensation had been paid and, if not, whether something would be done about the matter. I have made some inquiries, as I undertook to do. I am advised that the Aboriginal Legal Service is aware of Mr Tiger Yadjajeri ‘s situation but it has not been able to lodge a claim for compensation. It has not been able to contact Mr Yadjajeri. The difficulty in making contact arises from the fact that he has been moving frequently among different stations and communities in the East Kimberleys. His uncertain whereabouts, combined with communication problems occasioned by adverse weather conditions and the remoteness of the area, have prevented the finalisation of a claim. I have asked my area officer in Wyndham to assist, in whatever way he can, in locating Mr Yadjajeri I am confident that the Aboriginal Legal Service will pursue the matter as quickly as it is able when Mr Yadjajeri has been contacted.
– Was he hit by an aeroplane?
– The implication, from the information I have, is yes, but I have not been given a firm reply.
– Pursuant to sections 10 and 10a of the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans Residences Act 1953, 1 present the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans Residences Trust annual report and the associated AuditorGeneral’s report for the year ended 30 June 1978.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present a report entitled A Basis for Soil Conservation Policy in Australia’. It is the first report of the Commonwealth and State government collaborative soil conservation study 1975-77 prepared under the auspices of the former Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development.
– Pursuant to section 48 of the Australian Housing Corporation Act 1975 and section 50b of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918, 1 present a further copy of the annual report of the Australian Housing Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1976. This version is in substitution for the copy which I presented on 2 1 November 1978 and which contained certain printing errors.
Pursuant to section 48 of the Defence Service Homes Corporation Act 1976 and section 50b of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918, 1 present a further copy of the annual report of the Defence Service Homes Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1977. This version is in substitution for the copy which I presented on 21 November 1978 and which contained certain printing errors.
– by leave- I speak in my capacity as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. I remind the Senate that the Committee investigated the lateness of these reports last year. It presented a report to the Senate on the reasons for the very long delay which had taken place in the presentation of these reports. Therefore I do not seek to have these reports referred to the Committee.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929 I present the annual report of the Australian Wine Board for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– by leave- I move:
In the last sessional period I was critical of the lack of promotional activities abroad on the part of the Australian Wine Board. Because I have not had the benefit of reading the report that has just been tendered, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-Pursuant to clause 2 of the Sugar Agreement Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for the year ended 30 June 1978.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Australian Film Commission Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Australian Film Commission for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– by leave- I draw attention to the fact that the Australian Film Commission report is for the year ended 30 June 1977 and that its presentation has been considerably delayed. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator PETER BAUME (New South Wales- by leave- I wish to make a brief statement in relation to the report of the Australian Wine Board as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare which, in November last, brought down a report in this Senate relating to certain activities of the Aus.tralian Wine Board. Honourable senators will be aware- and I think Senator Douglas McClelland referred to it briefly- that the charter of the Board is to promote the sale of wine; that it has no other real charter, certainly none with respect to any form of social responsibility or responsibility to the wider community. In the committee’s report of last November it invited the Board to accept voluntarily, of its own volition, any of the voluntary codes of advertising, of which there are several in existence, and to use this as the yardstick against which it would work in the future. I rise to place on record the fact that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare is still awaiting some response from the Board. I remind the Senate that there is now laid down a procedure, which the Government follows, by which a response is made by the Minister, and eventually in the Parliament, to reports from parliamentary committees of this kind.
-That is right. We are still well within that time scale. I would have thought that it was such a simple request- to invite the Australian Wine Board to accept any of the voluntary codes- that it should not take any time at all for it to respond. The Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare is watching this matter very closely, watching the passage of the weeks and months. It will no doubt have to raise the matter again in the Senate unless it receives some response from the Wine Board, preferably of the kind that it has sought.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the text of a statement dated 22 February 1979 by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) concerning the introduction of export facilitation measures to the motor vehicle plan.
– by leave- I move:
I am disappointed that we have not yet in front of us a copy of the text. However, I think we all have a fair idea of what is in it and I would like to make one or two brief remarks about it. What the Government hopes to achieve with this policy is to make the Australian motor vehicle industry more competitive by entering upon a higher degree of specialisation, probably of capital intensity and certainly of length of production runs. This policy to manufacture between 240,000 and 300,000 four-cylinder engines in Australia, some two-thirds of which are destined for export, I think can correctly be seen as a declaration of intent by the Government to make the Australian motor vehicle industry more international and to facilitate the interchange of components between Australia and other countries. The 85 per cent local content plan is, of course, to be reduced effectively to an 80 per cent local content plan when this scheme comes into operation.
However, the detailed effects of this Government policy are far from clear. I think that virtually everyone who has looked at the motor industry recognises that, if it is not to become progressively more uncompetitive, with progressively higher costs, and if it is not to become progressively smaller, demanding everincreasing levels of protection from imports, some rationalisation of the industry is essential. Today the nation is suffering from the legacy bequeathed to it in the 1960s, principally by Sir John McEwen but also by the Menzies, Holt and Gorton governments of that period. We note with some regret that the people who are politically sponsoring this plan today resisted an attempt by the Australian Labor Party in 1975 to rationalise the industry by interchanging components on an inter-company basis within Australia. This would have achieved at least most, if not all, of the objectives which the Government seeks with its present policy. The proposal which the then Labor Government put forward in 1975 was for the establishment of a four-cylinder engine manufacturing plant in South Australia, the objective being that that plant be established by a consortium involving Chrysler and, I think, two Japanese manufacturers and that it supply the four-cylinder engines for all Australian motor vehicle manufacturers.
As I said, that proposal would have allowed us to achieve many of the economies of scale, of specialisation and of length of production run which the current Government policy seeks to achieve; but it would have been done on an internal rather than an international basis. Whilst there probably are arguments for and against both policies, I observe in passing that we would have had more control over industry rationalisation which was carried out not only on such an inter-company basis but also, so far as Australia was concerned, on an internal basis. However, the Government has chosen to pursue the same objective through a different means, that is, to achieve the economies of scale by further internationalising the manufacture of motor vehicles within Australia. Because of that decision we will in the future be more vulnerable both to economic shocks which are generated abroad and to managerial decisions regarding the size, location and output of plants. To a significant degree such decisions are already made abroad, but they will be made abroad to a greater degree in the future.
The only other comment I wish to make is that this is about the fifth car industry plan which the Government has produced in a little over three years. We have had almost as many car industry plans as ministerial sackings. I think the record short term car industry plan, which was supposed to have lasted six years, lasted about six weeks. The industry plan which this proposal replaces was supposed to last until 1984. This one is supposed to commence in 1982. One would not have to be too sceptical to question how long this proposal will last and whether- if the Government runs true to form- it will be abandoned in 1982, before it supposedly becomes operative.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chaney) adjourned.
– by leave- Since the Government came to office, international affairs have been largely dominated by economic issues. International recession, inflation, the drift towards protectionism, concerted pressure for economic change by the developing countries and the ensuing dialogue between north and south- all combined to ensure that this was so. Of necessity, therefore, most of my previous statements to the Parliament on foreign policy have focused to a considerable extent on national economic matters and their implications.
In dealing with these matters, however, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has consistently and emphatically sounded one warning- that it is utterly and dangerously wrong to assume that the prominence these economic questions has acquired means that the traditional issues of power politics are no longer of fundamental importance. These issues are in no sense displaced or rendered obsolete by the growth of economic interdependence or by anything else. So long as the world is organised in a system of sovereign states, power will continue to be the main arbiter in international affairs. Any doubt about the validity and importance of that warning should have been dispelled by recent events. Taken together these events represent a deterioration in the international strategic and political environment which has serious implications for our interests, as well as for those of our regional and Western partners. They are of grave concern to the Government.
In this statement I will concentrate on the current geo-political situation and the Government’s response to it. In general outline, the features of the situation are familiar to honourable senators. After three and a half years of comparative quiet, South East Asia is again the scene of armed conflict- first with the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea, then with conflict between China and Vietnam. The conflicts reflect and were created by the hostility and rivalry existing among four states: the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and Kampuchea. No one else contributed to them. No one else wanted them.
In the Middle East and west Asia- a region of enormous strategic importance- instability has increased alarmingly. Military and political confrontation threaten the whole region. The most dramatic event has been the collapse from essentially internal causes of the Shah’s regime in Iran. But this event, though of critical importance in its own right, cannot be seen in isolation. It follows closely on Marxist coups in Afghanistan and South Yemen, coups which have resulted in a very significant increase in Soviet influence in both countries. It has also happened at a time when Iran’s neighbour, Turkey, is experiencing very serious economic and political difficulties. This pattern of events is unfolding when negotiations between Egypt and Israel are at a critical and finely balanced stage and when the area can least afford further uncertainty and confusion.
In the Horn of Africa, military and political confrontation is not a threat but an established fact. It looks like remaining so for the foreseeable future. The same is true of southern Africa where the situation in Zimbabwe is becoming critical and prospects for a peaceful settlement of the civil war on the basis of majority rule are receding. Both in the Horn and in southern Africa, indigenous conflicts and instabilities which were already serious enough have been rendered progressively more so during the last four or five years by the pouring in of vast quantities of sophisticated arms- and the advisers deemed necessary to deploy them. I emphasise this deliberate and substantial militarisation of African conflict by outside states- particularly the Soviet Union and its Cuban surrogates- because I do not think that the qualitative change it has wrought in African affairs has registered clearly enough.
Looking at this tense and volatile situation in the broad, I believe that several aspects require emphasis. Firstly, the regions involved are not on the periphery of international politics, not of marginal significance. On the contrary, they are geo-politically critical. They possess vital resources and some of the world’s strategic chokepoints are located in them. Collectively, their destiny is not merely of local or regional consequence but of vital global concern. Together they form a significant segment of the southern rimland of Asia and adjoining parts of Africa and as such constitute the interface between land and sea power. What happens in these regions is of great significance to the balance between those two forms of power. Secondly, it is a dangerous fallacy to assume that local conflicts in such critical areas can be contained and managed indefinitely. Instability is infectious. Unless resolved, local crises have a habit of getting bigger. An alternative to timely resolution of these crises is likely to be wider, more dramatic and inherently more dangerous confrontations at a later stage.
Thirdly, the current instability coincides with what are widely assumed to be the final stages of the negotiations for SALT II- the strategic arms limitations talks. The Australian Government strongly supports the completion of SALT II as a crucial contribution to arms control over the next decade. It is precisely because we do so that it is necessary to point out that both in strategic and political terms what is currently happening in Africa, the Middle East and Asia endangers a new SALT agreement. Such agreements cannot rest on air. They cannot be divorced from the general strategic and political environment and to the extent that that environment deteriorates, their credibility as instruments of crisis management is diminished. They are a product of, not a substitute for, a basic minimum of trust. And if that trust is absent it is difficult to see how they can be concluded, let alone be made effective.
My fourth general observation is that all the conflicts and instability to which I have referred are taking place in Third World countries. Those who believe that the Government’s emphasis on Third World matters is misplaced should ponder this. Over the last three decades, the strategic, ideological and economic interests of the great powers have consistently interacted with the affairs of the Third World. To that extent there is nothing new in the present situation. But there is one difference. Over the last few years, and for a variety of reasons, one of the superpowers, the United States, has adopted a lower posture and a strategically less active policy towards the Third World. Many, inside the United States and outside it, have welcomed this. I will simply observe, as a matter of fact, that this restraint has not resulted in a greater insulation of the Third World from international power politics. On the contrary, it has coincided with the rapid rise of the situation we now face.
I make one last general observation, also concerning the Third World aspect. When we think of the Third World, we are conditioned to think in terms of poverty and the problems of poverty. But in this case one of the regions, the Middle East, is not only the richest in the Third World but contains some of the countries with the highest per capita incomes anywhere in the world. One of the key countries, Iran, had experienced significant economic growth and modernisation before its current troubles. It is well to remember therefore- it is a question of remembering, for the truth is amply illustrated in the West’s own earlier experience- that exceedingly rapid economic growth can cause profound social, cultural and political dislocation. This is particularly the case when it impacts on a traditional society unused to coping with change. This is a point of the utmost importance for there are many Third World countries which are currently experiencing rapid growth and some of them are in our region. We should not make the easy assumption that as growth occurs these political problems will diminish and disappear. We should rather be appreciative of the serious problems of social and political adjustment which will confront them as a result of their economic progress. If we wish to avoid further instability and conflict we should be concerned to be sensitive not only to the needs of the poor of the Third World but to those who are achieving a measure of economic success. I repeat: Those who believe that international political and strategic questions and the economic questions relating to the Third World are separate matters are profoundly mistaken. They are doomed to be surprised by the world.
In our region the conflict in Indo-China is the greatest cause of concern and I now turn to look in more detail at this and the Government’s reaction to it. The basic situation which now exists in Indo-China is a matter of great concern and disappointment to the Government. But it is not a source of great surprise. In the foreign policy statement which my colleague issued for the Liberal and National Country parties three and a half years ago, in October 1975, we recognised that:
Regionally, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, South East Asia seems set to become a major theatre for the working out of a Sino-Soviet rivalry.
That document went on to recognise the weight of Vietnam in that context and concluded:
The unstable relationship between these three powers is certain to have an important effect on regional affairs in the near future.
I refer to that document to establish that the Government’s early recognition of the present crisis was firmly based on a long-standing analysis of the strategic situation. When we came to office, however, we did not base our foreign policy on the assumption that conflict among the three communist states was inevitable. The main thrust of our policy was to work to integrate Vietnam into the peaceful and generally prosperous life of the region. For a while, there were promising signs that this would happen. No one sought to isolate Vietnam or to make it difficult for her to enter fully into the life of the region. The member countries of the Association of South East Asian nations, even in the face of the Vietnamese Government’s sponsoring of the flood of refugees with which they had to cope, were positive and forthcoming in their dealings with Vietnam. Australia, Japan and other Western countries gave aid to Hanoi and sought to encourage her more active participation in the international community. In the case of the United States there were special problems in the aftermath of the war; but it seemed that these were gradually being resolved. Vietnam joined and received assistance from international bodies.
The situation began to deteriorate last year with increasing hostilities between Kampuchea and Vietnam, a worsening relationship between China and Vietnam and the signing of a treaty of friendship and co-operation, which included a military assistance clause, between the Soviet Union and Vietnam. That deterioration became precipitate with the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea.
It has been suggested in some quarters that the nature of the Pol Pot regime of Kampuchea provided some justification for Vietnam’s invasion. But Vietnam did not take over Kampuchea in order to restore civil liberties, and the fact that the Pol Pot regime was an evil and vicious despotism in no way affects our opposition to the methods of its removal by Vietnam. The Vietnamese attack on Kampuchea was an attack by a client of the Soviet Union on a client of China. Whatever its motivation the attack bore directly on the rivalry and competition between the Soviet Union and China for long term influence in the region and, more generally, on the whole Sino-Soviet dispute. It was therefore doubly objectionable from our point of view: Firstly, because it sought to settle a dispute within the region by military means of the most extreme kind, a general invasion across a border; secondly, because it created the conditions for an escalation of great power rivalry in the region. It was a mark of the gravity with which the Government viewed this action that Australian aid to Vietnam was suspended.
China’s subsequent incursion into Vietnam can only be understood as a reaction to Vietnam’s treaty with the Soviet Union, its invasion of Kampuchea and the installation there of a pro- Vietnamese government. China’s motives in striking across the border do not relate only to a border dispute but are aimed at Vietnam’s political influence in Kampuchea, which is beyond China’s immediate reach. In turn, its concern about events in Kampuchea relates not only to the extension of Vietnamese influence but to the role of the Soviet Union as Vietnam’s principal backer.
The issue between China and Vietnam therefore is not likely to be resolved with any element of permanence by a settlement on the VietnamChina border which leaves the situation in Kampuchea unchanged. In responding to this unfolding crisis, the Government quickly and accurately assessed the course the crisis was likely to follow. We took prompt action to draw international attention to the gravity of the situation and to mobilise international opinion to press for moderation and restraint. Indeed we were among the first to do so. We have counselled prudence and moderation on all the parties to the conflict. We have called on Vietnam to withdraw its forces from Kampuchea, on China to withdraw its forces from Vietnam and on the Soviet Union to exercise restraint to prevent the last turn of the screw, which could be disastrous not merely for the region but for the peace of the world. It is to the latter’s credit that in the current phase of the crisis it has so far shown such restraint.
Throughout, we have been open with the people of Australia- giving prior warning, explaining our understanding of the situation, what we are doing and why we were doing it. We are under no illusions that we can play the pivotal role in resolving this crisis. That is no reason for not taking action and doing so as effectively and as energetically as we can.
I do not intend wasting much time on the Opposition’s performance during this crisis. From the national point of view it is not a matter for rejoicing that it has been so feeble. Emotional charges of Cold War mentality do no good in the face of a serious regional crisis. It is those who respond to any warning of danger by making such charges who are the real emotional and intellectual prisoners of the Cold War. The parrot-cry of even-handedness is no substitute for thinking through a policy. The Opposition has accused the Government of a pro-China bias. The only bias this Government has in regional affairs is towards peace and stability. To the extent that China if left alone and unprovoked, would prefer peace and stability at this stage of its development in order to concentrate on internal modernisation, and only to that extent, there is a convergence between its present interest and ours. Is it being suggested that we should therefore change our interests in order to escape the charge of bias and ensure even-handedness? The idea is absurd. Apart from this, all the Opposition has said is: ‘Take the matter to the Security Council’. Fair enough! This is precisely what the Government has done.
Last month the Government’s views about the dangers of Vietnam’s action in Kampuchea were put before the Council. Our representative called for a peaceful solution based on a cease-fire and withdrawal of Vietnam’s forces. Last week, the Government with other governments including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Japan called for an urgent meeting of the Security Council. Last Saturday, our representative again expressed the Government’s views very clearly. He emphasised that there should be immediate cease-fires in the conflicts, that Vietnam must withdraw its forces from Kampuchea and China must withdraw its forces from Vietnam, and that there should be concerted efforts leading to lasting settlements, possibly using the good offices of the Secretary-General.
The Council already has two resolutions before it: A Soviet draft calling for a Chinese withdrawal and a Chinese draft calling for a Vietnamese withdrawal. Obviously, a broadly-based resolution has not yet been found, but we hope that there will be a positive and constructive outcome. I can assure the Senate that the Government will not sit back. We will continue, in company with our regional and other friends, to search for and to consider all possible means which may help restore peace and stability in the South East Asian region.
I turn now to a second issue of pressing concern to the Government, the political upheaval in Iran and its ramifications. Iran is a major country in one of the world ‘s most sensitive and important regions. It is a neighbour of the Soviet Union, a major oil producer and a principal member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Its location on the Gulf gives it strategic importance. Until very recently- although its regime was repressive- Iran was an important force for order and stability in an extremely volatile area. Any change in the political configuration of the Gulf region which were to jeopardise access to energy resources would represent a major threat to the economic well-being of the West.
The cessation of oil exports from Iran, previously the world’s second largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia, has brought into focus again- as if the 1973 oil crisis was not sufficientthe world’s heavy dependence on imported oil, most of which originates from the Middle East region. It has also reminded the world that oil is not simply an economic and resource problem but also a political one and that the politics of the region are very unstable. The glut on the world oil market has evaporated virtually overnight. The world’s vulnerability to further supply dislocation has increased. The situation, if it persists, could have adverse repercussions on oil prices, inflation, trade, economic growth and for international relations generally.
Given our partial self-sufficiency in oil, Australia has not yet been severely affected by the Iranian situation. However, we have to be concerned at the possible future impact on our major trading partners who are more directly affected. Assured delivery of oil is just as vital as an assured source of production and supply. The entire area of the Indian Ocean is influenced by the quest for oil and access to major oil fields. Geography has made it possible for a few countries, especially in the Gulf region, to control vital choke points to and from the Indian Ocean. Political instability in the Gulf region, highlighted by the dramatic events in Iran, has therefore considerable strategic significance.
The West has very sound reasons for being concerned over developments in Iran. With its commanding position at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, through which the bulk of oil is shipped, Iran has acted as a deterrent to antiWestern forces both within and beyond the area. What has happened in Iran has to be considered at several levels. The situation inside the country itself has still to be resolved and it is still far from certain what the outcome will be. In terms of the local balance of power within the Gulf region itself, one of the principal restraints on the ambitions of several countries concerned to challenge the status quo has been removed, at least for the time being, and the balance has been seriously disturbed. In terms of the so-called northern tier’ countries that border on the Soviet Union, the upheaval in Iran, following closely on the pro-Soviet coup in Afghanistan and accompanied by very shaky conditions in Turkey, creates an entirely new situation.
In ideological and political terms, it remains to be seen what ‘demonstration effect’ the Iranian revolution will have on neighbouring countries whose internal stability can never be taken for granted. Again, this has to be considered in conjunction with other recent political successes by radical elements within the region. But in the case of Iran there is the added question of what effect the resurgence of a populous Islamic fundamentalism will have on the region and, for that matter, beyond it in other Islamic countries. The indications are that the resurgence of Islam could cause significant and far reaching changes in the world. It is a revived force of great dynamism which is being generated in the context of social and cultural changes. It is our earnest hope that this force will be harnessed effectively to the benefit of both Muslim countries and the remainder of the world.
Last, it would be idle to deny that events in Iran are also important in geo-political terms. With Saudi Arabia, Iran was the West’s principal friend in the region. The comparative ease with which the Shah was removed and the fact that major Western powers could not affect the course of events must have some influence on perceptions both inside the region and beyond it. It will be vitally important that wrong conclusions are not drawn and that the temptation to exploit the situation in opportunistic fashion is resisted. This region is vital to Western interests and it should be apparent that there are very distinct limits to what the West can tolerate in terms of external attempts to undermine its position. Western countries will have to come to terms with the new realities, but it is also true that others will have to come to terms with the continuing reality of the Western interests which are at stake there. Australia, along with other Western governments, has indicated its willingness to work for good relations with the new Government in Tehran.
I have talked at length about two critical situations and touched on others which deserve equally full treatment. But I will leave them for another occasion.
I have said enough to indicate the general air of uncertainty and tension which currently hangs over the international scene. At the end of this decade of detente there are many signs that a familiar international landscape is changing and that new patterns are emerging. This is true not only within particular regions but at the global, great power level. Some of the changes which have taken place at that level- the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the United States and China, the expansion of Japan’s relations with China- are in themselves desirable; but what significance they will ultimately have will depend on how they fit into a picture which is not yet complete.
As we approach the 1980s some perceptive commentators are pointing to a dangerous assymmetry. While the Soviet Union is increasing its already enormous military power faster than any other country, and while it is increasingly active in relation to the trouble spots of the world, politically it is the odd-man-out among the great powers. A country which at the same time feels militarily confident and politically vulnerable may easily miscalculateespecially if its military effort imposes increasingly heavy economic burdens and especially it its decision-making processes are complicated by the likelihood of an impending change of leadership. The regional crises I have been discussing must be measured against this background as well as in their own terms.
The Government is committed to work for peace and the reduction of tension. That commitment is global. The Government will do what it can to support all efforts to promote peace and stability. To this end, should the proposed United Nations peacekeeping force in Namibia be established, the Government has decided to offer an Australian contribution to that force. But the commitment is most fully demonstrated, and necessary, in our own region. We are committed not only for moral and ideological reasons, but because it is in Australia’s vital interest that we should live in peaceful and stable surroundings. Our security and economic prosperity depend on it. We have an interest in making it clear that we oppose the settling of disputes by military means. It is for these reasons that we made a real effort to prevent the situation in Indo-China from developing. As it has developed, we have sought to restrain the main protagonists.
The role a country like Australia can play has some limitations. But that must not be an excuse for inertia and resignation. There are several things that we can do as well as anyone else and they are not of negligible importance. We can endeavour to dispel inertia and complacency and to make a serious effort to understand, assess and explain what is happening. We can stimulate international interest with the aim of containing the current crises. We can work at creating and maintaining momentum for peace. So far as our region is concerned, we are as well placed as any to do these things. If we do not, we can hardly complain if other, more distant countries, fail to do so. I move:
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I regret to interrupt this debate but pursuant to Standing Order 127 the Senate should now proceed to other business.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
That Standing Order 127 be suspended for the duration of this sitting.
-The statement which has just been put down in the Senate by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) is one of which we had indication last week when the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said in a previous statement that the Minister for Foreign Affairs would deliver a major foreign affairs speech this week. No one would argue with the complexity and the enormity of the matters that are dealt with in the statement. I trust that no one would argue whether a meaningful debate can take place after our having received notice of the substance of this speech only a matter of two or three hours before it is debated here. That is no reflection on Senator Carrick who has delivered the speech here because we know that it is practice for statements to be made available to the Opposition spokesman two hours before they are presented in the Parliament.
In many cases that is not of any great concern because so many of the statements which are delivered are ones that can be dealt with fairly readily. But the area that is canvassed in this particular speech by the Minister is one which obviously requires a lot of consideration. I indicate to the Minister and to the Government that I feel that the Government and the Opposition ought to give some very serious consideration to the methods we have adopted in the Parliament so as to ensure that in future we can have sufficient time to consider a statement of this nature. I know it applies under any government that not only do Ministers have a tremendous number of people at their disposal and resources in order to prepare a speech of this character but there is also much greater time for them- days, as against a couple of hours.
With those thoughts I now make a few comments about the speech itself. No one would argue how complex, potentially dangerous and indeed disappointing have been the events we have been witnessing, especially in South East Asia over the past few weeks. I believe that all who have followed the events there to some extent have kept their fingers crossed that the disputes, especially that between China and Vietnam, would not involve other nations and particularly the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. 1 do not propose to go into the history of this matter. Again I think we are familiar with the background of the conflct that has ensued between these two countries but it has a particular relevance today in this case because of the pact which was formed last November between Vietnam and the Soviet Union and therefore because of the implications that flow from it.
I agree with the Minister that the Soviet Government has exercised restraint and it is hoped that that will continue to be the case. However, there were one or two comments made which would make one question the general line taken by the Minister. He does say in more places than one in the course of the speech that the Government has wished to play a constructive role in this area of dispute and yet the conflict which has really brought the immediate concern on us, namely, the Chinese attack on Vietnam, following the Vietnamese attack on Kampuchea, involves us with a couple of nations with which this Government has had much involvement over the past 10 years, and indeed in the case of China going back a lot further.
As I indicated in a speech last week, we are dealing with a government which years ago made a speciality of heaping abuse and vilification upon China. Last week I quoted some of the things which the present Prime Minister said in the middle 1960s- provocative, inflammatory remarks about China which obviously could only enable that country to believe that its enemies were not only to the north and west of it but also could be very far to the south. I have no doubt today that the Prime Minister does not want to be reminded of the things he said then. No doubt he wishes that he had never said them. The same thing applies in our relationship with Vietnam over the past 10 or 15 years in which we, as a nation, involved ourselves in a struggle in which we had no right to be involved. It has left a bitterness on the part of most Vietnamese towards those who took part in the destruction of their country. There were the tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars which Australia expended in the effort by the United States of America to try to determine the course of events within Vietnam- actions unacceptable on the world scene which should never have been condoned and which should never have been embarked upon in the first place. China has now taken the view, for reasons best understood by itself, that it wishes to take a much different and more conciliatory approach towards the United States. Those who took the trouble to read the interview with the Chinese Vice Premier, Deng Xiaoping, in Time magazine only two or three weeks ago would not be left with any illusions as to the reason for China’s new approach to the United States of America.
The Opposition has not isolated China in the world community and our record, for at least two decades, is one of ensuring that China was not the odd man out. In 1972, before we came to Government, we took the initiative, as a party, to send a deputation to China in order to try and establish a relationship between the Australian Labor Party and the Chinese authorities, one not based on hostility. That, of course, was far from the policy of the Government at that time. So we do not need to apologise for or explain the fact that we have never attempted to pursue the line, or to support those who advocated the line, that China should in some way be isolated from the world community. It is quite apparent now that the present Government also does not want to see China isolated.
However, there are two things that flow from what I have said. It does not pay in international affairs to make statements which inflame issues and which inflame hostility by other governments of any political description. That applies particularly to the major powers. Unfortunately, in this statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs we see the same line developing again in this Government’s policies. There is a suggestion towards the end of the statement that this time the Soviet Union is the odd man out. With the world as it is, it is foolish to do anything that will exacerbate that feeling of the Soviet Union being the odd man out amongst the great powers. I do not doubt that the Soviet Government probably feels at this time that it is the odd man out. The statement goes on to indicate the danger of such a situation and how such a nation might easily miscalculate.
If the Government feels that is the position, I would suggest that it not repeat the mistakes that it made in the 1950s and 1960s by forcing, or helping to force, China into a state of isolation. I hope that in this case the Government will not take any action which will help to force the Soviet Union into the same sense of isolation. That paragraph, I might add, does not make any suggestion about what the Government might do in order to prevent that happening. The trend so far is in the opposite direction and I presume that Senator Sim, the Chairman of the Government’s Foreign Affairs Committee, will speak on this in the course of this debate. He was reported in the media a fortnight ago, after a Press conference in Singapore, as saying that he was concerned with a pro-China tilt developing in the Australian Government’s attitude. I do not have the report in front of me but I do not think I am misquoting him. He went on to say how important it is that the Government maintain a balance in its relationship between the Soviet Union and China. I would fully support that contention. I believe he only said it because he fears that there is every sign that that is not happening under the policies of his own Government. He is to be commended, I think, for the manner in which he has carefully weighed the implications of what that could mean for all of us.
We on this side of the House agree that the presence of troops across borders is to be opposed. For example, the presence of Cuban troops in Africa is a travesty- they should not be there. It is true that we oppose the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea and I said in a Press statement at the time of the invasion that Vietnam should be condemned if it, in fact, invaded Kampuchea, which it now appears to have done. We must take exactly the same view in respect of Indonesia’s attack on East Timor. I believe this Government has glossed over the enormity of what Indonesia did in that particular episode.
It is true also, as the Minister said on page 5 of his statement, that if trust is absent it is difficult to see how the problems that arise can be overcome. It is fundamental that no government is going to have any impact on what happens in any of these disputes unless it has the trust of both sides. This Government obviously has not got the trust of one side in the dispute in Southeast Asia. There is no question of that and we would be deluding ourselves if we thought that that was the case. If we take a side in matters which are of international moment we forfeit the right to be able to act as a mediator and to have the trust of both sides. Everybody knows that in any dispute a mediator must have the trust of both sides. If he does not have that trust he should not even begin trying to mediate. It is well to remember that if the Australian Government wants to have that capacity it should be careful about what it said in years gone by as well as in weeks and months gone by, as has been the case here.
I reject the contention by the Minister that our criticism of a pro-China attitude is an invalid one. I believe it is right and I also believe that Senator Sim has vindicated the views that we have expressed. It is true that the United States has adopted a lower posture so far as the Third World countries are concerned and we all know the reason. It was during the Vietnam war that America learned its lesson about involvement in this type of conflict. It was said then that it will take generations of United States presidents to overcome the effect of that war on the United States community. No American president is going to leave himself open to that again, hence the reason for this much more cautious approach now being taken by the United States.
Turning now to the problems in Iran, obviously we all appreciate the danger they are so far as the supply of oil to various nations who have been customers of Iran is concerned. Again, we would be unwise to try in any way to influence the outcome of the internal affairs of that country. It is on record that statements supporting the Shah were made before his downfall- a quite incredible thing for anyone to do in the light of the fact that the Shah was a lost cause and that any incoming government of one of the factions or groups at work in Iran would take exception to such a remark. We ought not to be taking sides there, because we know that it is a matter for the Iranian people to work out. The comments made last week by authoritative spokesmen in Iran, to the effect that that country will get back into the exporting business as quickly as possible, ought to be encouragement for us to accept that that country under its new government, whatever it is, will act responsibly and recognise the importance of its resources to the world economy.
During the Minister’s speech he made one remark which could not give other than the greatest concern. I do not quite know what it means, but he said, referring to the Persian Gulf:
This region is vital to Western interests and it should be apparent that there are very distinct limits to what the West can tolerate in terms of external attempts to undermine its position.
I find it difficult to believe that the Minister would make a statement such as that without spelling out what it means. For example, does it mean the Minister is saying that, if whatever government is formed in Iran decides that it will limit its production of oil to, say, one million barrels a day, which would cover little more than its own domestic requirements, the West will take action to ensure that Iran will supply it with sufficient oil? There is only one conclusion that can be drawn from that, if that is what it means, and that is that we will force Iran to do that. I do not know what other interpretations one can place on it.
I suppose one could place on it the interpretation that if the events in Iran in some way lead to a pro-Soviet regime taking over the West will take action. I do not know how the Minister can speak for the West in terms such as that. If I were in Iran and I had some concern about Western policy I would treat such a remark with the greatest concern; I would regard it as being inflammatory. It is a typical case of what should not be said by any government around the world. It seems that, for whatever motives, those who want to play the world scene have to be limelighters they have to flex their muscles and say things that tell the world how tough they are and what other countries ought to be doing. I regret that an Australian Foreign Minister has seen fit to allow that statement to appear in a speech made in this Parliament. He can rest assured that that paragraph will not go unnoticed in other parts of the world.
As I indicated initially, the statement is a complex one. There are other matters with which I should like to deal, but it is a matter of picking them up as one goes along. I can only restate that Australia’s position can be an important one. We on this side of the Parliament have maintained all along that Australia can play a positive role, but we will not play it if we line up and take sides. This Government, I regret, has done that, notwithstanding protestations to the contrary by the Minister. He has done that. He did not initiate the position, of course. The Prime Minister initiated it, and it would seem that Mr Peacock is now going along with his Leader and taking the line that he has followed. That is to be regretted. We on this side are not going to be baited by statements by Mr Fraser or Mr Peacock into taking sides in these disputes. We will continue with the line we have adopted from the beginning, that is, that Australia must maintain a position in world affairs where our good offices can be brought to bear and where we can maximise our trust with all governments.
-I wish to make a contribution- I recognise that it is hurried- to the debate on the presentation of this paper by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). I have some observations that I hope will shed some light on the situation that exists. The whole world seems to be a tinder-box of conflicts at the moment, with the acute troubles in Indo-China, the sudden events in the Middle East and the events in Africa. The whole world is alight with a new kind of conflict that to many of us who do not want to see any kind of conflict at all appears to be quite dangerous. It appears that the big powers, when it suits their interests, can move rapidly to any part of the world and exploit differences that already exist. They have been doing this for some time. For example, having been to the People’s Republic of China, I know that the Chinese are concerned about the encirclement of their country by the Russians. Because of the conflict in Vietnam and the antagonisms between the two different communist forces in Indo-China, the Russians moved in to support one side; so the Chinese moved in to support the other side in order to prevent encirclement of their country. This has created a dangerous situation, with a confrontation now between Russia and China. I hope that they are able to disengage from the confrontation.
Another place that I have visited and studied is southern Africa, and I see a similar situation occurring there. The whole problem of the subSaharan nations hinges on land. Over the last 20 years there has been a growth of what is called African nationalism, but to describe these countries as nations is a misnomer. They are simply not nations. These countries arose as a result of a conference in Berlin about 100 years ago, when there was a race by the European powers to settle Africa. Britain, Italy, Belgium, France and Germany were involved and they held a conference in Berlin to rationalise progress. Of course, they did not ask any Africans. They set a whole lot of colonial boundaries, and those boundaries largely exist to this day. They have been the cause of most of the bloodshed that has occurred in Africa and will be the cause of most of the future bloodshed on that continent. The boundaries bear no relationship to the natural divisions of the people, to the geography of the country and to tribal or national origins. In fact they divided the black nations in no uncertain terms. Nearly all the struggles that have since taken place in Africa have been through these people trying to get together again. It has happened in the west, in Nigeria, as far east as Ethiopia, and down to South Africa and Rhodesia. The problems have been immense and they will remain immense unless the boundaries are fixed. The leaders of those new nations have agreed to an international law that the colonial boundaries should be retained. This law has been passed and it is recognised, but it will only create more and more problems because the detribalised black leaders of these artificial countries are trying to run countries which are ungovernable and which will remain ungovernable.
– It was all our fault, was it not? It was the fault of white civilisation.
– It was not our fault, but our forefathers ‘ fault. The European thrust for Africa was the cause of this problem. As I have said, the problem will remain until the Africans are able to sort themselves out without the benefit of the politics that have been forced upon them. The detribalised leaders of these nations who have entrenched the borders will create more problems. Until those borders are altered, there will be problems in Africa. These problems do not exist in South Africa and Rhodesia where the people have been allowed to retain their nationalities, their land, their languages, their religions and their ethnic practices. We do not see these problems there.
It is a long story and it is complicated by other factors. One of the factors I mention is the march of Islam into Africa. I think it is bigger and more important than anyone has appreciated so far. We cannot really classify the Mediterranean Africa states as part of African nationalism. They have their own nationalism towards the Arab people. Nevertheless they are still followers of lslam. The prophet Mohammed appeared around soo to 600 a.d. and did not claim any supernatural powers. But he did claim to interpret the Christian religion, or the word of God for the Arabs. He said that the Jews had their interpretation in Hebrew, the Christians had theirs in Greek but his Arab people did not have an interpretation at all. He said in effect that the Jews and the Christians had the message wrong anyway. His interpretation was found to be eminently acceptable to all those people. Islam spread right across the north of the Mediterranean, through trading, including slave-trading, down to the west and east of Africa. In nearly all the black languages in Africa the word for Moslem is the same as the word for trader. We have had Christian missionaries working in Africa for centuries, claiming many converts, but in many instances it can be said that the Africans are bread and butter Christians. They will accept help from one religion on one day and they will change to another religion if they are getting help from it on another day. In reality they are mainly followers of Islam. I see Islam as a dominant force in further events which will occur in Africa.
Concerning Russia’s intervention in Africa, Russia has not caused any of the problems in Africa, neither has China, nor Britain, although all these nations have exploited the problems which already exist when it has suited their purpose. Russia has moved into the Horn of Africa and has exploited the Somalia problem. Of course, when it did not suit Russia to exploit Somalia it moved over and supported Ethiopia. But these are all just international political plays. The basic problem will remain in Africa. I do not think we ever need fear the presence of a Russian army on foreign soil, because to my mind all the members of that army would defect. This is why I think Russia has to use surrogate troops where it wants to cause trouble, such as Cubans or East Germans. These people are creating problems now. I mention the settlement in Namibia.
– What about the Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia?
– And Hungary.
– They are in their own satellites behind the Iron Curtain where they cannot get out.
– Aren’t the Yugoslavs moving troops to the Bulgarian border?
– They are still all behind the Iron Curtain. In Namibia there is a huge problem. There are 1 1 nations of black people and three nations of whites, that is the Dutch, the Germans and the British. In coming to a settlement concerning self-government I think, if anything, the three nations of whites have been more difficult to deal with than the 11 nations of blacks. It is interesting to note the difference that exists between the situation in Namibia and the one that existed in Tanganyika, because they were both German protectorates. In Tanganyika- as it was then- the Germans moved in and carried out a program of pacification. They had a scorched earth policy. They wrecked the tribes, cancelled all the languages, made the people speak Swahili, killed many people, but unified the country by this process of pacification. They tried the same thing in Namibia but it did not work. President Nyerere had had a far better chance than all the other black African leaders to run a country that was at least governable.
In South West Africa we have had this continuing problem of trying to bring together a multinational state where all people can be represented. They did not have an election recently although I note that it was called an election in the newspapers in Australia. It was a referendum to see if those peoples would agree to a constitution. They did and have now gone ahead towards forming electorates. As honourable senators know in September they will be holding their election. This they have to do in the face of the South West African People’s Organisation under Sam Nujoma who is an armed terrorist leader. I hope that the peacekeeping force being placed there will be able to contain his activities so that the country can have a peaceful election.
I am pleased that it was at the invitation of the South African Government that we have agreed to send a contingent of engineers to help in the transition arrangements towards selfgovernment in the territory. I have mentioned before in this chamber and as the old Romans said, we always see something new out of Africa. One of the things we will see over there is the first signs of ethnic democracy. I am sure we will see this occur in South Africa, and eventually, by another road, in Rhodesia. Rhodesia, of course, is coming to an election in April. One of the greatest difficulties it has had has been in being able to hold an election because of the activities of terrorists from outside the country. As I understand it at the moment Rhodesia has been made secure. They are determined to have an election. I have spoken to many of the joint Ministers there and it appears that in order to run their country, the blacks and the whites are determined to make their internal settlement work. They are determined to make their elections work. All of them are well aware of what life is like in the countries surrounding them. They know what happens when the black nations are split up and told that they belong to somebody else, such as has happened in the Congo. When the Belgians moved in there, they took over four kingdoms, told the people that they did not belong to those kingdoms and that they were now all Congolese. In the time when we all thought the Belgian Congo was a peaceful state there was a ceaseless war in which millions died. When they reached independence they immediately fractured and started to resettle themselves. We have had nothing but trouble ever since the decision about the new colonial boundary of Zaire. This applies particularly to the province of Shaba, which was formerly known as Katanga. If ever a place should be its own nation- it always had been its own nation- it is Katanga. Katanga’s fight for independence has been not only ignored but also frustrated by United Nations activity. We see constant warring in Africa because of the fracturing of the tribes.
As I see it the big powers are moving into areas where they do not belong and should not be. The problems of the people of Indo-China, Africa and even the Middle East are being aided and abetted by the foreign ambitions of the bigger powers. I am sorry to see this happening. I do not see how the situation can be ameliorated. That is a point of observation that I make from travelling round the world. I think this is the area to which we should be looking rather than looking towards the big solution from the big powers.
– I feel that I should open my speech by congratulating Senator Sheil for having one characteristic and that is that of consistency. At least I have always known what is Senator Sheil ‘s foreign policy. It is not very frequent that I agree with it but it has always been perfectly clear what it is that he is saying. It has also been the case that he has quite courageously, at the cost of personal inconvenience and discomfort, been prepared to advocate that policy. I think that there ought to be a great deal more of that than there has been in the Parliament. I think that Senator Sheil stands out quite conspicuously in the ranks of the Government parties for at least sticking to a policy and putting forward that policy. I do not think that the same can be said about the present Government because, as I shall go on to show, it would defy the ingenuity of an Einstein to distinguish what is the foreign policy of the present Government.
I know that it is often very difficult to have a debate on foreign policy. We do not have them here very frequently. I think that one of the reasons is that the public generally is not concerned about foreign policy. Generally foreign policy is something which concerns the mass of the population only when bombs are actually falling on their heads. Normally their representatives in the Parliament are quite oblivious of issues which affect the lives of all their people. If one were to look through the debates in the British House of Commons and the French Chamber of Deputies in the 1930s one would see how little attention was given to a menace which, restrospectively at any rate, was quite apparent. I refer to Nazi Germany. The people did not want to talk about it. They wanted to talk about the subsidy for Algerian wine or the future of the pig iron industry in Lancashire. They wanted to talk about anything but what was the real problem and that was the threat to the lives of their societies which was coming from another source. I am afraid to say that the same has been the case in Australia for a great many years.
We are debating this statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) at one of the most dangerous periods in modern history. I do not think that it is just hyperbole or some effort to add flamboyance to what might be otherwise a dull address when I say that because if we look at three important areas of the world at present we see a state of affairs which cannot be described as being anything short of a conflagration which could not only threaten our oil supplies and cause us to shut down petrol stations over the weekend but also cause the whole lot of us to be shut down permanently.
Where are these three areas? First of all there is South-East Asia where we are seeing a conflict between allegedly Marxist states- the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; the People’s Republic of China; Socialist Vietnam and Democratic Kampuchea. The Soviet Union, which is certainly one of the two most powerful countries in the world, and China, which is at the very least one of the half dozen most powerful countries of the world, are on the very edge of armed conflict with states with which they were allied. In the case of China it is the so-called Democratic Kampuchea and in the case of the Soviet Union it is Vietnam. They are engaged in serious armed conflict. People are making claims about 24 divisions being destroyed. It is not just some minor border skirmish; it is war.
In Africa we are seeing the collapse of a whole system of states which Senator Sheil has very correctly said were artificially created by colonial powers throughout the 19th century and which retained some sort of tatterdemalion existence after the Western powers rapidly evacuated from those states. This very day we heard about an invasion of Uganda by the armed forces of Tanzania. Probably one of the most brutal conflicts in modern history is taking place at present in parts of Ethiopia. Only the other day my colleague Senator Tate and I were talking to two people who had come from Eritrea. What is being undertaken against the Eritrean people by the Government of Ethiopia and those countries with which it is in alliance can be described as little short of genocide. Then we move to the events in Iran. Iran, which is one of the most formidable countries in the Third World, if one can talk about Iran’s previous situation as being part of the Third World, is in a state of disintegration before our very eyes.
All of these conflicts are important from the point of view of the economic consequences which might flow from a shortage of Iranian oil or some other product from somewhere else and have serious consequence for all of us because all of the Western powers and all of the powers within the Soviet bloc are in one way or another involved in every one of these conflicts. Powers which have been standing off in some sort of condition which could not be described as anything better than non-belligerency are now having their clients, their supporters and, in some cases, their own troops actually fighting each other.
What we have seen over the past few years has been a total failure of Western foreign policy- a total, abject failure. First of all let us look at the situation in South East Asia and specifically Indo-China. What a sorry record this Government and the governments of the United States and Western Europe have in this area. After the eviction of the Japanese from Indo-China in 1945, when the British troops moved in, the French were brought back but clearly they were not wanted by the local inhabitants and were evicted after the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The United States then moved into that country and bolstered up various puppet regimes which clearly again did not have the support of the population. Thousands upon thousands of people from our own country and the United States as well as from Indo-China died trying to preserve regimes which obviously could not last, whatever the morality of it may have been, and were bound to be destroyed. We see now what is left. Warring factions such as the supporters of Pol Pot, the supporters of Pham Van Dong and the supporters of the twice resuscitated First Deputy Premier of China are brawling, fighting, murdering and bombing in Indo-China. It is now in a mess and in chaos. This very largely- not entirely because people are capable of doing things for themselves- a product of Western foreign policy, including that of this country.
I turn to the situation in Africa. For years it was apparent that the regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa would have to make drastic changes if they were to survive and that if they did not make those drastic changes there would be a terrible, bloody conflict. The West did virtually nothing. It is only now that arms are in the hands of organisations such as the Zimbabwe Patriotic Front and South Africa has been forced, under whatever terms, to get out of Namibia that at last the West is starting to take an interest in this situation. It is difficult to know what the West is trying to do but at least it seems to be trying to do something. I must confess that I would have been very grateful if the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in his statement, had explained what it is we are trying to do, because I still do not know. But we are clearly trying to do something other than giving the sort of support, moral or otherwise, which we previously gave to the governments in Pretoria and Salisbury.
In Iran we have another debacle, another sign of the complete inadequacy and stupidity of Western foreign policy. What happened in the early 1950s? A moderate Prime Minister was elected in that country. Dr Mohammed Mossadegh, a very cultured, Western style, slightly left of centre intellectual- a product of the Sorbonne- an historian, became the Prime Minister of Iran. He had a modest proposal- the nationalisation of oil. One may or may not think that oil ought to be nationalised; I take it that Senator Puplick does not. But it was Iranian oil and the Government of Iran wished to acquire ownership of that oil. Never was any claim made that Iran would not export that oil to Israel or to anybody in the West. It was purely a domestic matter concerning the people of Iran.
What was the contribution of the West? Here I refer specifically to the United States of America and even more specifically to the Central Intelligence Agency. I am not one of those people who say that the explanation of all the world ‘s ills is to be found in the CIA. I do not believe that that is anything like the case; in fact I have grave doubts that the CIA still exists. Certainly in those circumstances the CIA was quite open about it. It did intervene on behalf of the United States. It removed the democratically elected government in Iran and installed one of the most barbaric dictatorships to be found anywhere in the world- the dictatorship of that cowardly cur, the Shah of Persia, a man who flew around in aeroplanes apparently with gold taps and gold baths; the man who, according to some reports, in conjunction with his family has been able to ship $ 17,000m worth of assets out of the country. He is the man who based himself on one of the cruellest, most barbaric secret police forces- the Savak- known to humanity since the German Gestapo. He is the man who did not even have the courage to stay in Iran when trouble started, but cleared off at the first sign of an uprising. When he was going he was kind enough to invite Dr Baktiar, the Prime Minister of Iran, to stand firm. That was his parting message as he fled his own country, after living off the penury of the mass of his own people, and their persecution and torture by his own secret police.
What do we find after all that? What has been the end result of Western foreign policy in Iran? Not only has the Shah gone, but Iran does not have a moderate Paris university professor like Dr Mossadegh; it has the Ayatollah Khomeini, who wants to cut off people’s hands, who wants to persecute minorities like the Bahais, the Jews, the Christians, the Zoroastrians and the free thinkers of that country. He is the man who, at his residence outside of Paris, had a sign: Women: Respect the Veil’. In the minds of some people the Ayatollah is emerging as some sort of a marxist. If he is a marxist he must have read some different volumes from those that I have read.
This is probably one of the most reactionary, obscene, obsessive dictatorships that one could imagine anywhere, replacing one which was almost as bad. I must confess that I am no admirer of the Shah. In fact when the Shah was in this country a luncheon was given for him which I refused to attend.
– A few of us boycotted it.
– I was one of them. But I must say this: I am now in the awful situation of believing that in Iran it is probably going to be worse under the Ayatollah Khomeini than it was under the Shah. Who is responsible for this? I would say that it is quite clear that the people who are responsible are the people who put the Shah there and who kept the Shah there, and they are the people who are still conducting foreign policy in Australia. They are precisely the same.
This foreign policy statement, if that is what it is to be called, offers us nothing but platitudes and bromides that we ought to offer a bit of advice here, we ought to work for a bit of peace there and we should not overdo it, we ought not to push too hard and not upset the Chinese, not upset the Russians and not upset anybody, and in the end it will all pan out as long as we keep a pleasant smile on our faces. I do not believe that this is so. I think it is dme that Australia had a clear foreign policy so that people can know what it is we are doing. It is no use saying that in all these arguments everybody is equally to blame because they are not. There is never any argument in which everybody is equally to blame. What we ought to be enunciating, or rather what the Government ought to be enunciating- it is not much use my doing it and not much use the Opposition’s doing it- is what it stands for and what goals it is going to work for. We do not want a patch-up here and a patch-up there and the attitude ‘let us not upset the South Africans too much, but on the other hand do not upset the Patriotic Front either’, because that is not going to lead us anywhere. Those were policies that British governments followed throughout the 1930s. If it had not been for the recall of Churchill in 1940, it would have led to the end of the whole lot of them. I think we and the dithering Administration in the United States are embarked on precisely the same course.
– What would your goals be for Australia in Iran in particular?
– I will come to them in a moment. What I think has to be said is that at least in a period in the past one knew what the
Federal Government’s policy was. At least in the days of Dulles and Casey one knew what the Federal Government was trying to do. As it happened, their plan did not work and in any event, I did not agree with it. They were saying that they were going to set up a network of noncommunist or anti-communist countries around the world and they were going to resist the enlargement of any territory by the communist countries. They were pretty broad in their definition of what constituted a communist. According to their version even Dr Mossadegh was a communist. President Arbenz Guzman of Guatemala, another liberal, also was removed by the same sort of people and replaced with another military dictatorship which in due course will probably go the same way as the Shah and there will be a similar sort of situation down there to that existing in other places where their sponsored governments have come to grief when their own people have ultimately caught up with them. That policy failed and now it can be seen that we do not have any policy whatsoever.
Senator Baume has invited me to make some suggestions as to what we ought to do. I would like to do that. First of all, with regard to South East Asia, and I hope that this does not seem contrary to what I said earlier, I believe that we ought to dissociate ourselves as far as we possibly can from all the parties to the current dispute in Asia. What we are seeing there is a brawl between rival dictatorships. I do not believe that we are in any better position to make a moral judgment on the merits of the parties than we would have been as a government to have made a moral judgment on the merits of the parties of the Chicago-north side bootlegging wars between Al Capone and Bugsie Moran.
In South East Asia are two major dictatorships and two smaller dictatorships. I say this with some grief in the case of Vietnam. I think that I was the first member of this Parliament to visit Vietnam. I was certainly opposed to our own warlike activities in that country. None of the parties respects the human rights of its own people. There is scant, if any, respect for human rights in the Soviet Union, or in China, or in Vietnam or in the previous and, I should imagine, present regimes in Cambodia. I do not believe that any government that does not respect the human rights of its own citizens is going to respect the human rights of the citizens of any other country any more. I think that is what we are finding. These countries do not respect the human rights of other countries.
How outrageous are the statements that the Chinese government is now making that it is going into Vietnam to teach Vietnam a lesson. It is a punitive war. These are the sorts of things that were denounced in the British Parliament in the 1850s by people like Gladstone. He denounced punitive missions being undertaken against some tribe that had engaged in an insurrection whereby the sepoys were sent to kill the Khan and his supporters. If one talks about imperialism, I do not think that one could find a more classic example of it than one sees in South East Asia. If Senator Baume asks me what we ought to do about that, the only thing I can suggest is that we stay out of it. If it makes us feel happier, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has said, to offer some helpful advice, to say ‘Please do not be nasty, remember that goodness is better than nastiness because goodness is nicer than nastiness’, or a few things like that to cheer us up, by all means let us do it. But if we are talking seriously about what our Government ought to be doing, I suggest that we not identify ourselves with any of the parties to these disputes because none of them is following democratic principles or practices and each of them, for whatever purpose, is in favour of inflicting its regime on people who do not want it. That is the only suggestion that I have to make about South East Asia, deplorable as it is. The only subsidiary suggestion that I would make is that we act in concert with the democratic countries that do, in fact, exist in Asia, to see that they are not mocked, scorned and weakened, and that their democratic systems are supported.
There are democracies in Asia. We often hear romantic stories about how wonderful it is in China. We have been hearing them for years. Very few people have ever spoken about how wonderful it is in India, the country with the second greatest population in the world. Although many Indians live in penury India has been able, with all of its vicissitudes- the problems with Mrs Gandhi and the emergency- retain a free Press, free elections and freedom of assembly. I know that the argument sometimes used is ‘Yes, but the water supply is not as good in Calcutta as it is alleged to be in Canton’. That is quite irrelevant because democracy is not a means to an end, it is an end in itself. You do not have democracy in order to get better water supplies; you have democracy for the sake of having it. In India there is democracy. In Sri Lanka there is democracy. In both Malaysia and Singapore, with all their faults, there are at least elements of democracy. It is to the advantage of not only humanity generally but also Australia as a nation to see that those countries that do follow a democratic system are given support so that they do not themselves subsequently become the victims of the depradations of their autocratic neighbours, whoever they happen to be and whatever phoney branch of Marxism or Leninism they claim for the moment to be representing.
If a suggestion were sought of me by Senator Baume concerning Africa, I would say that in regard to both South Africa and Rhodesia we have dragged our feet for many years. We made no effort to apply the sort of pressure that should have been applied to both countries to ensure a dramatic change in their race relations policies, policies which to varying degrees have been cruelly oppressive of the great mass of their people. But now, for whatever reason, we find that there is a sudden panic. We suddenly find that in the case of Rhodesia, which I notice the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and everybody else, apart from Senator Sheil, on the Government side in both houses, refers to loyally as Zimbabwe, efforts have been made by not only the illegal Prime Minister, Mr Smith, not only by the representative of the chieftains, Chief Chirau, but also by two long-standing advocates- very brave advocates I would suggest- and leaders of African independence, certainly people who could not be described as Uncle Toms, Bishop Muzorewa and the Reverend Mr Sithole, to come to some sort of peaceable agreement.
They have not been able to carry with them other parties, other leading members of the African national movement within Rhodesia or Zimbabwe- the so-called Patriotic Front- but I put it to honourable senators that surely it ought to be a policy of the Australian Government, if it is concerned about stability, if it is concerned about saving people’s lives, if it is concerned about the avoidance of some international conflagration, that a peaceful settlement be obtained within Rhodesia or Zimbabwe. I know that we cannot go this alone. I know that Australia alone cannot suddenly intervene in Zimbabwe. We are not in any position to do that but presumably we at least have some influence with those powers that can do this sort of thing, and however much or little influence we have the best that we can do is to exert it.
I suggest that we ought to be making greater efforts with the Patriotic Front to see whether it would be prepared to talk to the parties to the internal settlement. I asked a question the other day- if it has been answered I have not yet seen the answer- about whether there had been any protests about the shooting down of an Air Rhodesia airliner by those members of the Patriotic Front who support Mr Nkomo. This was an outrage; in any sense it was an outrage that somebody should shoot down an airliner full of people, killing the occupants and then boasting of it, even making some sort of joke of it to the effect that ‘We thought General Walls would be on it so he is at fault for not catching the plane’. Certainly, if Smith did it he would be condemned, and justifiably so. Anybody who did that ought to be condemned, even Mr Nkomo, with whom our Prime Minister seems to have achieved some sort of rapport. We ought to protest to him. It is of no use to say that it is just one form of terrorism; that there are also other forms such as depriving people of their voting rights and sending police into settlements. I would not deny this is so but whether that is so or not, it does not avoid the fact that the shooting down of an airliner full of civilian passengers is an unmitigated outrage and ought to be described as such to the people who did it. We ought to make clear to the Patriotic Front that we deplore this sort of thing; that we will not sponsor its candidacy to take over the government of its country if it regards that as a proper way of conducting its affairs.
Turning to South Africa, I assure honourable senators that I have no reason to be sympathetic towards the present government of that country. I do not think that it can last. I believe that its policies, apart from being wrong, have been silly and are bound to end in disaster of one form or another. I do not think that there is any question about that. Various resolutions have been adopted about apartheid, with which in itself I do not agree. I have been a member of the antiapartheid movement for about the last 20 years. But I have not heard from this Government, or from any of the Western governments, whom we regard from time to time as our mentors, any proposition ever put to the South African Government as to the minimum that would be acceptable before we would allow it to resume some sort of a place amongst the nations of the world. It may be that what we put would be unacceptable to South Africa but at least we would have put it. Merely carrying resolutions condemning apartheid, singling one country out for its deprivation of human rights while doing nothing whatsoever about Uganda, for example, smacks of humbug. It is worse than that; it is weakness.
It is apparent to anybody that the reason we are now adopting this position with regard to South Africa, after having been its tacit supporter for decades, is not that we have made any moral judgment, or strategic or even long-term tactical evaluation of the situation, but that we know that more countries are condemning the South Africans than are supporting them and we have to be in the swim or we might miss an invitation to somebody’s cocktail party. It is almost as crude as that. What it is that we are asking the government of South Africa to Ethiopia how far do we want it to go? How quickly do we want it to go as far as we want it to go? We have said not a word about that. There is always mention of how we deplore this and deplore that and how we hope that there will be a peaceful settlement, but what have we given any South African government to go on? Nothing whatsoever. I say that. I can assure honourable senators, as an opponent of any form of racial discrimination or apartheid.
Also within Africa- as I mentioned earlier- a conflict is taking place in Ethiopia which could be fairly described as virtual genocide against the Eritrean people. There has been a remarkable silence on that conflict. Certainly, and I do not want to sound like an advocate of the South Africans, if the South African government were doing anything remotely resembling what the Ethiopian government is doing we would be jumping up and down 24 hours a day on the question. We would be writing letters all around the place and carrying resolutions and banners, and sending items to the United Nations. But apparently we are blithely unaware of it when our major traditional opponent, in view of what the Government has said in the past and apparently is still saying, is very keenly interested indeed. The Soviet Union is heavily involved in Ethiopia, as is East Germany- in the same way as they were heavily involved, and probably still are, in Angola and Mozambique.
Certainly, the Soviet Union does not content itself with writing a letter to the editor if it does not like what is happening in Eritrea; it sends in troops. They are very tough troops. Senator Tate and I were informed the other day that one of the functions of the Soviet troops is to act as a back-up to the Ethiopian forces which have been sent in against the Eritreans. We were told that among the Ethiopian peasants who are sent into the front line are conscripts, that many of them have had minimal training and that they are provided with minimal arms. The Russians are posted behind them and when they retreat from the Eritrean nationalists the Russians open Are on them in order to drive them back into the attack. They are doing that; yet we are doing nothing about it. We do not even mention it. A vague glossing-over mention is made of the fact that there are problems in the Horn of Africa but we hope that good sense will prevail. Our
Government is not the sort that wants to be nasty to anybody. This Government, which was responsible for young Australians being killed in Vietnam only a few years ago, suddenly seems to have lost interest in all of these great issues. It has no interest whatsoever; no policy. It is a forlorn, weak, wishy-washy government which staggers along from day to day wondering what the next editorial in the London Observer or the Washington Post will say so that it can adopt that as its foreign policy.
– You are not suggesting gunboats?
-I am not suggesting gunboats at all. I am suggesting that we adopt a clear position in opposition to foreign intervention in any of the African countries. No, I certainly am not suggesting gunboats, but I certainly am suggesting that we at least make a statement on the subject. I am not suggesting that we should be as concerned about our interests as the Russians are about theirs and actually do something physical about the situation. However, I would have thought that we could at least mention it at the United Nations; we could at least make mention of it in an important foreign policy statement such as the one which has been brought down today.
What we are also seeing at the present time, despite the United Nations Charter and despite the constitution of the United Nations, is an acceptance of the doctrine that other countries are entitled to intervene in the internal affairs of countries whose policies they do not like. I do not want to rake up issues that occurred in Europe during the 1950s and the 1960s, but at the present time we are seeing two such episodes taking place. One of them is the Vietnamese intervention in Cambodia and the other is the Tanzanian intervention in Uganda. As our former colleague, the Honourable Kim Beazley, said of the Cambodian Government, it may well be that through its behaviour it had lost all moral right to exist. I think that is an argument which could well be made. It is doubtful whether, since the Nazis, there has been anything much more barbaric than the genocide of its own people which took place under the previous Cambodian regime. Certainly I do not think very many people would find much to emulate in the Government of Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada, V.C., the President of Uganda.
In both of these matters we see neighbouring countries unilaterally deciding to intervene to change the government of their neighbour- the Vietnamese in the case of Cambodia and the
Tranzanians in the case of Uganda. Both of those countries were acting completely contrary to the United Nations Charter. How can one take seriously the decisions of the United Nations when nothing happens following such gross breaches of its Charter? Again we hear no comment whatsoever from the Australian Government about the situation. Does the Government believe that the Tanzanians are entitled to intervene in Uganda? What does the Government say about the situation? What is its position? We are given no idea whatsoever.
In closing my remarks I suggest that the Government ought to have a fresh look at its whole approach to foreign affairs. When we look around the world at the present time we find very few countries which have political systems which can be described as in any way democratic. By democratic’ I mean societies in which the people of a country are able freely to choose their parliament or their government, are able freely to express their opinions, have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the right to form political parties, and have the other basic democratic values. I believe that we have a moral responsiblity to align ourselves with all of those democratic countries whenever we can, to make it clear that democracy is important to us not only domestically but also internationally. We have to make it clear that, whether or not we like the economic policy or the tariff policy of a country or whether a country has nationalised oil or denationalised oil, provided it is a democratic country which has some respect for human rights it is a country with which the ought to be aligned. At the same time, doubtless there are countries which do not have a democratic system but with which, for some economic reason or for some other reason, the Australian Government has to have an alliance or some sort of treaty arrangement. We can have such a treaty arrangement but at the same time we should make it clear that we deplore the deprivation of human rights which may take place within that country.
I do not believe that that constitutes an unjustifiable interference in the domestic affairs of other countries. I think that we are entitled to make judgments in relation to the merits of other systems of government, just as any other country is entitled to make judgments in relation to the merits of the systems of government of other countries with which it has to deal. I do not believe that we ought to be basing our foreign policy solely on economic motives. That is what was done in relation to Iran, with disastrous results. By basing our approach to the Government in Iran on what served the short term economic interests of the United States and other Western countries, we finished up with the debacle with which we are now faced.
I suggest also that, despite what many people think, the great conflicts that take place in the world are ideological conflicts; they are not economic conflicts. No sensible German economist, geographer or historian could have supported the lunatic policies which were carried out by Hitler under the Nazi regime. I think one should look at what happened in Nazi Germany because a study of that can be very revealing in regard to the lengths of absurdity to which human behaviour can go. The sort of nonsense that was carried on is exemplified by the fact that Einstein’s relativity theories were regarded as a Jewish science and therefore something not to be studied. The consequence of that, fortunately, was that the Germans did not build an atom bomb before the end of the war.
Nonetheless, despite all of this nonsense, the ideology of so-called National Socialism, of Nazism, in the middle of Hitler’s career probably appealed to the overwhelming majority of the German people. We are finding a sort of pseudo or phoney Marxism or MarxismLeninism having an appeal to all sorts of people around the world at the present time. In my view, we ought to be putting forward the proposition that the ideology to which we subscribe is an ideology of democracy, of human rights. Doubtless there are great difficulties in consistently applying such a policy to our international relations; but, however, unsuccessful such a course of conduct or such an underlying principle of foreign policy may be, it certainly could not be any less successful than those policies which we have followed over the past 20 years.
– It was very interesting to sit back and listen to Senator Wheeldon express his thoughts on world affairs. There is no doubt that it was a very capable and interesting speech. Of course, there are some aspects of it with which one could not go along, but I shall deal with those a little later. Senator Wheeldon spoke first about human rights and democracy. I believe that that is what the statement delivered to the Senate this afternoon is all about. The statement put down by the Government is a statement on human rights and democracy and how Australia sees the world situation. Senator Wheeldon made quite a few points with which one could agree. He implied that the situation is that in Australia there is a lackadaisical- he did not actually use the word lackadaisical’- or could-not-care-less approach to world affairs; that we are completely unaware of and certainly uncaring about the world situation. I agree that the present situation is probably worse than any that we have experienced over the last few decades. I compare the present situation with that which prevailed from 1937 to 1939. Things got out of control to such an extent then that we became engaged in a second world war which nearly destroyed the world. That could very easily happen again. I do not think that the people who are creating the present chaos have within themselves the power to stop. The situation is so inflammatory that reason could easily snap and we could become engaged in a third world war.
In tracing the problems that exist round the world today and the fighting in various areas Senator Wheeldon very rightly highlighted the fact that problems exist within the communist camps, regardless of their various philosophies. I was fortunate last year to visit Japan, China and the Phillippines. Those visits were very interesting, particularly the visit to China. I was later asked to undertake a second trip at the invitation of the governments of Romania, the Soviet Union and Hungary. After leaving the Communist bloc countries I took it upon myself to go to Iran. I was told that it was an interesting country and that things were happening there. I thought that I should see it for myself. I saw something that I did not expect to see. I thought I would see an up-and-coming country. However, last July it was obvious that Iran was on the brink of revolution.
I now turn to the problems which exist in China, Russia and Kampuchea. When I visited China I spoke to many Chinese officials. To the best of my ability I also spoke to the Chinese people. I went into the back streets of various towns. Language, of course, was a problem. I believe that the Chinese do not really have any ambitions to invade for invasion’s sake, to gather more territory and to squeeze and squash the people along its borders. I believe that the Chinese have invaded Vietnam because they have an extreme fear of what they call the Black Bear.
– An obsessive fear.
– It could be obsessive. However, one can understand that fear. China’s border with Russia extends for thousands of kilometres. The Chinese have seen so many movements by Russia. They have seen the strength of Russia. They know that it is a country with much more sophisticated weapons and vast amounts of armaments. I am not protecting China. I agree with the Australian Government that its invasion of Vietnam should come to a halt. But we must appreciate why the Chinese feel the way they do and why they have taken this action. They fear Russia. Russia is engaging in many activities not only along the Chinese border but also in various other parts of the region. The Chinese may have an obsessive fear but, regardless of that, their thoughts day by day are directed towards Russia. They are wondering what Russia will do and whether it is endeavouring to squash them. This is reflected in the attitude of the Chinese people.
In this regard I refer to the underground city of which the Chinese are so proud. They spend their leisure time, of which they have very little, digging that city. They believe it is necessary because one day the bombs, the artillery and the tanks of Russia may descend upon them. People have been impressed with the underground city. I was not impressed. I believe that the work put into it has only been a means of allowing the people to relieve their pent up emotions and their fear of Russia. I think that this work will be of little avail. The Chinese have seen the Russians- or the Soviets as they like to be called- do certain things. Perhaps the Chinese believe that they are being encircled. I wonder whether China’s invasion of Vietnam would have taken place if the Soviets had not made a treaty with the people of Vietnam. Possibly the Chinese felt that they had to take this move. In doing so, perhaps they underestimated the strength of the people of Vietnam. Whilst Vietnam is a smaller country, the Vietnamese are experienced fighters. They are possibly as good at fighting as anyone in today’s modern world. They have sophisticated weapons.
The Chinese said that their raid into Vietnam was only punitive, but we have to think beyond that. We can no longer look at such a raid as punitive. It is likely that the fighting in Vietnam will bog down, as it did between the French and the Vietnamese and the United States and Vietnam. The danger is that the fighting could escalate into a war in which China poured such manpower and resources into Vietnam that the Vietnamese would at last bring forward- I do not believe that they have done so yet- their crack troops to fight the Chinese.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was discussing the fact that China and Vietnam are locked in battle. I said that the time could come when China would find it most difficult to extricate itself from the position in which it has now placed itself. I think that one of the real fears is that this punitive battle- if I can call it that- could escalate into something that could easily be akin to a world war. We may find that the Chinese become locked in battle and are unable to remove themselves from Vietnam. This would place the Vietnamese in a most difficult situation. Russia is hovering on the sidelines and may well decide to join- indeed it may be forced into a situation where it would have to join- forces with Vietnam. If that happens one wonders where it will all finish.
It has been said before- many honourable senators have said the same thing, as has Senator Wheeldon who spoke before me in this debatethat the battles and the wars that are taking place now are communist-based. They are based on the various philosophies and ideologies of communism which are confronting each other. Of course, we could well reach the stage when communist countries are at war. If that happens, we then have to look at the European situation, at the communist bloc countries and their association with the Soviet Union. I refer to Yugoslavia, Hungary and Romania. These satellite countries attached to the Soviet are, in many ways, flexing their muscles. They are not flexing their muscles for the first time because that happened in 1956 in Hungary. It has happened in other places where there have been revolutions and where Soviet tanks have entered countries and brought about civil wars, thereby suppressing those countries. These countries remember well that their youth and their people were conquered and killed by the Soviet who are now supposed to be their friends.
A very uneasy situation exists. Of course, the battle between these two giant communist countries has now extended to Europe. China has endeavoured to woo Hungary away from the Soviet bloc. This is a most dangerous and difficult situation. It has been said, of course, that Soviet troops would never fight outside a communist country. I appreciate the viewpoint of the honourable senator who said that. I spent some time in Russia only last June and July. It is my view that Russia has a fine fighting machine. It has an immense number of very well trained troops who are ready for action. I think that if the situation ever arose and the troops were required there is absolutely no doubt that the Russian people would participate in order to prove their supremacy.
I think it is a pity that this situation exists. I commend the Government for bringing forward this paper and for bringing forward other papers in the last week or so. I believe that these papers must be of interest to the Australian nation. They surely must make Australians interested and more aware of the problems that confront the world, particularly those problems confronting South East Asia and indeed Australia. We are a part of the South East Asian area and as soon as we realise that we will appreciate where we stand and what we have to do. At page 5 of the paper delivered today a very important point was raised. The paper discusses this situation and states:
My fourth general observation is that all the conflicts and instability to which I have referred are taking place in Third World countries.
That is quite true. It is a grapple for power by the communist giants. The statement goes on to state:
Those who believe that the Government’s emphasis on Third World matters is misplaced should ponder this. Over the last three decades, the strategic, ideological and economic interests of the great powers have consistently interacted with the affairs of the Third World. To that extent there is nothing new in the present situation.
One of the most important facts coming out of this paper is contained in the last paragraph on page 5. It reads:
But there is one difference. Over the last few years, and for a variety of reasons, one of the superpowers- the United States- has adopted a lower posture and a strategically less active policy towards the Third World. Many, inside the United States and outside it, have welcomed this. I will simply observe, as a matter of fact, that this restraint has not resulted in a greater insulation of the Third World from international power politics. On the contrary, it has coincided with the rapid rise of the situation we now face.
That is only too true when one looks at the current situation, when one sees the struggles and the wars that are taking place now within communist countries. Would these struggles and wars have reached this tempo if the United States had not stepped back several steps and if it had not, as the paper stated, adopted a lower posture? Perhaps some people in the United States felt that by taking this action there would be less trouble in the world. If they did feel that, of course they have been proven wrong. The United States reduced its posture by stepping backwards. I believe what the United States has done is to allow the communist countries to exercise their full power in many countries throughout the world. The communist countries are now endeavouring to swallow the smaller countries. Perhaps that is only a side effect. The main effect, of course, is that it is a world contest between Russia and China as to which country will be the supreme being within the communist world.
Much has been said about Australia’s role. Much criticism has been made of the Australian Government inasmuch as supposedly little has been done. I think that we have to be realistic now and ascertain where Australia stands in the world situation. We have to determine our ability to influence the problems that confront various countries. Let us examine the situation since World War II. We were very lucky during that war to escape being conquered and destroyed. Many people do not realise this fact. People living in the north today still remember the fact that many Australians were killed on Australian soil. Many Australians were bombed and machinegunned in Darwin. Australia tasted war and was very lucky that it was not conquered. The Coral Sea battle and other such battles saved Australia. Australia was very fortunate. From that day I think Australian people have looked inwards. They have wanted more. They have disregarded where they live in the globe. They have allowed themselves to become a rather spoilt type of society, wanting money spent on them in various forms, thus gulping the amount that the Government can spend each year in the Budget. Little thought has been given by Australian people to ensuring that Australia remains a healthy country. To my mind a healthy country is one that can defend itself. I do not say that we should fight a war on another country’s soil but a healthy country is one where defences are in a suitable situation.
– What does that mean? What is suitable?
– A suitable situation is one in which we have sufficient people in our services to provide the necessary surveillance and to defend Australia. The Army, Navy and Air Force need strengthening. If we wish to participate in world affairs and to have our voice heard, not only must we be able to go to the United Nations to put various views and ideas forward, thus seek solutions through that body; we must also be in a state of preparedness. We are not in that state today.
At the close of the paper there is a reference to the inertia and complacency of the nation. Surely the time has come when we must realise that if we are to reach a healthy situation in this regard we must improve our defence capability. I believe that under the circumstances facing this nation the Australian Government has done a lot. I would expect that Australia, a nation in South East Asia, will continue its endeavours to exert influence in the United Nations and with the various countries now engaged in battle as well as with those which have not yet gone to battle. I believe that that is all that Australia can do because we are a mere 15 million people and not so far from us now divisions, and immense number of them are locked in mortal combat. I appreciate the paper that has been brought forward. I believe it is the third paper produced recently. I believe that the Government is bringing to the Australian people the facts of the situation today. I hope that we in Australia will not remain in this situation of inertia; I hope that we will stand by the Australian Government and endeavour to bring about a situation which will stop this war developing.
For too long Australian people have considered that we are still a British colony- that we are still attached to the British Isles and to Europe. People forget. They fail to realise that that situation no longer exists and that we are a part of South East Asia. For the good of Australia we must grow more and more towards South East Asia. The people of South East Asia are our neighbours and they must be our friends. I believe that the more we take this fact into consideration and move towards that end the better it will be for Australia.
-Firstly, I agree with what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wreidt) said earlier about the timing of this debate. I do not believe it is good enough that tonight we are debating a comprehensive, 19-page report on the global situation which was presented this afternoon. We deserved an interval of at least 24 hours in which to look at it and thus be able to make a better contribution to the debate.
Senator Sheil spoke earlier in the debate. It is seldom that I agree with him but when he spoke about the borders of the African countries I thought he was right. He has to realise that those borders are remnants of our colonial past. He spoke about the elections in Rhodesia. I am glad to see that Great Britain and the United States are not going to support a puppet regime which I believe will fail regardless of the results in that election. I think that for once the foreign policies of Great Britain and the United States will be proved correct. They are not interfering with a government which I believe will not have the support of the people after the April elections.
Senator Kilgariff spoke on a number of issues and he mentioned the present roles of the Romanians and the Yougoslavs. It is very interesting to see the Romanians being critical of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the United Nations and also warning about the dangers of Warsaw Pact troops being used in South East Asia. From what I have read of the Romanian statements that country certainly would not commit its troops to South East Asia.
Yugoslavia, not being a member of the Warsaw Fact, would not be in that situation, but Yugoslavia has its own problems at present in the form of border disputes with one of the Soviet Union’s allies, Bulgaria.
Although the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) on important events throughout the world concentrated essentially on the recent developments in Indo-China, he did not review closely enough some of the mistakes that this Government has made with regard to this conflict, nor did he look sufficiently at the ramifications for the South East Asian region overall. The Sino- Vietnam conflict has made the whole of the Indo-China and South East Asia region far less stable. This conflict marks the entry of Sino-Soviet rivalry into the politics of the region on a scale greater than the rivalry between those two powers in Africa, or that of the United States and the Soviet Union in other part of the world. Unless there is a rapid conclusion, escalation of the conflict could well eventuate in a Soviet military strike against China. Viewed in the context of Sino-Soviet rivalry throughout the world, the implications are disastrous and could lead to a protracted conflict. Some commentators still have not ruled out the possibility of a fullscale conventional war between China and the Soviet Union. The situation on the Sino-Soviet border at present is that the Chinese have 9 1 divisions. The Soviet Union has 44 divisions, half of which are heavily armoured. Half the divisions could be activated in a matter of 24 hours and the full 44 divisions could be in conflict within a period of five or six days.
Although some newspapers say that the Soviet Union has not placed its troops on alert, its 44 divisions on that border are in such a state of readiness that they do not have to be put on a 24-hour alert. In this situation a miscalculation could lead to World War III. The attitude of the Soviet Union at the moment has remained low key. I think that it has acted quite moderately up to the moment but I have no doubt that there are some people in the Soviet armed forces who would like to encourage a pre-emptive strike against China. Luckily enough, at the moment those people do net seem to have the numbers in the Politburo, which is where the decision would be made. I think it is also fortunate from this point of view that it is not in the interests of Vietnam to encourage a Soviet military strike against China since the Chinese would then be forced to take rapid strike action against Vietnam in order to neutralise their southern flank. This does not preclude the possibility of a nuclear strike. I know people say that a nuclear strike in that area is unthinkable, but I put it to honourable senators that the scenario is there at the moment and a miscalculation could lead to one occurring. I remember reading Harrison Salisbury’s book in 1969 on the inevitability of a war between China and Russia. I did not think it was possible then but I have just started to read the book again.
– Did you read The Crash of 797
– Yes, I did, as a matter of fact. My essential criticism of the Australian Government’s current approach to Indo-China is that we have allowed ourselves to be seen as taking a pro-Chinese stance. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), on a number of occasions, has been seen as committing himself to one of the participants. On 19 February the Sydney Morning Herald said:
The Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, was muted in his criticism yesterday of China’s attack on Vietnam, claiming that it was a direct result of Vietnam’s earlier invasion of Kampuchea.
Of course the same Malcolm Fraser was such a staunch critic of Gough Whitlam ‘s China policy. In August 1 97 1 , Mr Fraser said:
The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, has ignored China’s support for revolutionary warfare, he has ignored the fact China is building strategic military roads in Asia.
At that time he made a number of other statements that showed that he was violently opposed to the Chinese. Then the other day we had the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Country Party, Mr Anthony, describing as ‘louts’ the unionists who were blocking wheat shipments to China in opposition to its invasion of Vietnam. I would say that if that action had been taken a few years ago he probably would have been recommending that medals be struck and given to the people that were stopping ships that were going to China. Recently Mr Anthony told Parliament:
If there is to be this continual disruption and discrimination against China, because somebody doesn ‘t like its involvement in the Vietnam war, all I can say is that those people are doing great harm to a great Australian industry, to the nation as a whole and to our relationship with China.
I do not think that basically I disagree with that statement but when one considers some of the remarks that Mr Anthony made a number of years ago concerning South East Asia one can see just how hypocritical that statement is.
It is interesting and important to note that, whilst the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea obviously provoked Chinese intervention, the Chinese have not yet demanded Vietnamese withdrawal as a condition of the cessation of hostilities. It is also important to recognise that the escalation of any conflict between nations is usually a result of a series of real and sometimes imagined provocative actions between the two parties. I give two examples. Firstly the Khmer Rouge guerillas were frequently crossing the border and harrassing Vietnamese border positions for months before the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea. The other example, of course, is that the Vietnamese, as we know, have been exporting thousands of ethnic Chinese, especially the Wau people, throughout the last six months. These two examples show that neither side is innocent of provocative activity and, at the same time, show that both sides believe they are justified in their actions or at least believe that their cases are more justifiable than the case of their opponents. This is why it is essential that Australia does not allow itself to be seen as a partisan supporter of either side.
Much attention has been given to the fact that Vietnam is a pro-Soviet regime but it is important to realise that the Vietnamese have been increasingly forced to rely on Soviet technology, advice and expertise because of the democratic nations’ reluctance to help Vietnam gain access to United Nations developmental funds and, more recently, the cutting off of aid funds by many nations including and especially Australia. I believe it was a decision that was wrong and a decision that we will come to regret. I believe the Vietnamese still wish to avoid colonial dependence on any nation but the further they are forced into the Soviet strategic alliance the more intense Sino-Soviet rivalry in the Indo-Chinese and South Pacific region will become and the more likelihood there is of there eventually being a Soviet naval base in Cam Ranh Bay, both of which would be disastrous developments as far as Australia is concerned. It is fairly obvious that the Chinese believe that they have the tacit support of many Western nations for their actions. Mr Lin Ping made it clear in an interview on television by the Australian Broadcasting Commission that he interpreted Mr Fraser ‘s statement as being sympathetic to China.
Whilst it is fairly obvious that the Chinese are a greater potential source of trade for Australia and that it may be of benefit to Australia to share China’s attitute in regard to the demilitarisation of the Indian Ocean and a reduction of super power activity in Asia it does not justify, either on moral grounds or strategic grounds, Australia’s unqualified support for China. The highest priority for Australia must be the achievement of a cessation of armed conflict and the recognition by both sides of the principle of national sovereignty. Surely we have learned, after our tragic mistakes in Vietnam, that to support any super power in the area and give it unqualified support is wrong and will always be wrong. It amazes me that some government back benchers, some of the very same people who gave unqualified support to the United States in its wars in Vietnam, are now giving unqualified support to Chinese military action in the very same country.
– Who is giving unqualified support?
– One has only to read in the newspapers some of the comments from the former hawks in that last conflict to see that there is muted admiration that somebody else has taken up the military position of the United States in Vietnam.
I now wish to make some remarks about the situation in Iran. One of the things which concerned me about the situation in Iran was the lack of warning that we received generally- the lack of Western intelligence coming out of Iran and certainly the lack of warning in Australiaand why. From looking at the situation and trying to find out what was the position, it became quite obvious to me that we were not getting any intelligence out of Iran because we were taking the Shah’s word on what was happening. If the United States had had a decent intelligence operation going in Iran, surely it would have known that the key to the whole of the conflict in that country was the political control of the 30,000 oil workers who brought down the former government and who could bring down the present government if they decided to take more political action and not to get the oil moving again. No wonder Australia, in those circumstances, had no prior warning of what was happening. Is it not ironic, as Senator Wheeldon was saying this afternoon, that Prime Minister Baktiar was one of the West’s main hopes. The United States gave him unqualified support a matter of 24 hours after he was made Prime Minister. Who was Mr Baktiar? He was a colleague of Mossadegh. He worked with Mossadegh, whom the United States had helped to overthrow in August 1953. It is a strange turn of events. If the Mossadegh regime had not been overthrown, Baktiar might have been the Prime Minister of Iran and might have had the support of the people instead of being forced to flee the country in the way that he was.
There will be a meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries within the next month. It is quite possible there will be an oil price rise. I hope that the Government is closely watching the likely developments, especially in the light of the fact that a number of countries, including Great Britain and Japan, have already begun stockpiling oil in anticipation of a decision by OPEC that is contrary to the interests of those nations. One has only to look at the position in New Zealand to see what the situation will be if oil from Iran does not start flowing again and the OPEC countries put up the price. New Zealand will be placed in a horrendous situation.
– They are cutting out weekend driving there.
– Weekend driving already has been cut out. If this situation occurs, I would say petrol will be rationed on a very strict basis. I wish to make some remarks on the related topic of defence. I know that it was not dealt with at length in the statement today, but the Prime Minister touched on it in the address he gave last week. In general terms, the Prime Minister’s review of the defence situation was extraordinarily deceptive, since the depletion of capital expenditure which he claimed occurred under a Labor government was a result of action taken in a period in which he was Minister for Defence and defence expenditure was reduced on a votebuying basis. The capital expenditure which represents 12.9 per cent of total defence outlays this year, is almost entirely a result of orders initiated under previous Labor governments. Of the capital outlays mentioned by the Prime Minister, the orders for two of the three guided missile destroyers were announced by Labor, the construction of the Tobruk was announced by Labor and the purchase of 12 Hercules aircraft was announced by Labor. The modification of the FI 1 1Cs was announced by the present Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). However, in October 1 975 the Labor Minister for Defence announced that the FI 1 ls would be given in-flight refuelling capacity and stand-off weapon capability. In three years, all that has been achieved is provision for reconnaissance pods. The purchase of the two PC3 Orions was also announced by the Labor Government.
I do not think that the statement is sound. It lacks depth. It lacks an understanding of the role Australia can play in this region. It is too simplistic. Our thinly-veiled support for one of the combatants in the Indo-China conflict at the moment is certainly not in Australia’s long term interests.
-I rise to support the statement that has been made and to welcome it as a very real contribution to the debate on foreign affairs at this time. Quite clearly, Australia is facing a period of change. The events of the last few months have been rapid, to say the least. As with the rest of the world, we have been caught up in having to make rather rapid assessments of changing events that are occurring almost daily. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) admits that this document is not total in its treatment of all nations and all flash-points or potential flashpoints in the world, but certainly it is a summary in very clear terms of the immediate interests of this nation.
I should like to join with the other speakers, all of whom have mentioned the word ‘miscalculation’. Frankly, that is the very real problem the world faces in the difficulty in Indo-China. We all realise that. The great fear we all have is that one nation or another will make such a mistake as to think it can win a war based on the use of nuclear armaments. However, Australia’s application of its principles in the last few weeks has been to make clear in the various councils of the world its position as to the withdrawal of forces in the Indo-China war from Vietnam as well as from Kampuchea. Clearly, an even-handedness emerges from that point of view. However, some Opposition senators take the simplistic view that because there is a capacity for Australia to say that we require peace and stability in South East Asia, and because that view happens to coincide with the views of China but apparently does not coincide with the views of Vietnam, we are somehow showing bias towards China. If our views do correspond, that is coincidental and there is nothing more to be said on that point. Australia remains a critic of aggression, from whatever nation, and consequently has made its position clear in the world ‘s councils, to the limit of its national capacity and its recognition of its real place in the world, by ensuring that its voice stands for the establishment of peace in South East Asia and not for the continuation of the fighting.
I do not believe that one can regard oneself as an instant expert on foreign affairs because one has travelled recently to both China and Japan. However, I should like to make some observations on the basis of personal contact and experience within the last month in both those places. Quite clearly, the impression I gained of China’s position in the world today was one not only of a fear of Russia but also of the very real concern that its national position is at risk visavis the Russian situation on its immediate northern borders. I heard Senator Chipp refer earlier to that as an obsession. However, there are some points to be made in that regard. Quite clearly, China faces very grave difficulties in its industrial area in the immediate north-eastern region north of the Yalu River. A very well-timed and organised force could cut that region off from the rest of China and so make a quite considerable impact on China’s capacity to fight a war. That could be attained through a very quick and relatively easy strike, but might of course risk the return of nuclear weapons on the part of China if such an attempt were made. However, the risk is there. In addition, the heartland of China, the rice area, is exposed on the south to Vietnam, which has been making incursions across the Chinese border in recent times. That threat has to be realised. That situation is quite apart from the ring of 44 divisions of Soviet troops all the way round the China border. The threat is not an obsession, it is a very real fear; and it is based on the experience of many years. We have to have regard to that as a major factor in Chinese thinking.
Australia’s position regarding the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics also has to be made clear. This nation stands for the further development of peace in the world and consequently supports the United States and the USSR in seeking to find ways to enter into the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. Clearly, that will have advantages for the world in the future. One should also consider the Iranian problem, which is based very largely on the politics of oil in the world, and the geographical presence of the Soviets in that region. I might say that is was made known to me in Japan that an agreement dating back to 1921 exists between Iran and Soviet Russia and provides for intervention in Iran by the Soviets in the event of any attack. There is some question as to whether that agreement is still in force, but I am led to believe by those who should know that the agreement does exist, and that does lead us into a position of some worry for the immediate area.
The oil question has very significant possible effects for Australia. We know that a relatively small amount of Iran’s oil is used in Australian industry. However, we must have concern for the fact that other nations with which we trade rely very heavily on oil from that source. In Japan, for instance, some 80 or 90 per cent of electrical production is dependent upon the burning of oil. That is in addition to mobile energy, which is a vital part of the Japanese economy. The second area of concern is that not only is Japan facing a major industrial change by automating its factories, it is also facing a revolution on the world’s markets because its cost structures have risen significantly above those of countries such as Korea and Taiwan. Consequently, as it automates more to keep its cost levels in line, there will be more dependence on energy, whether of the sort coming from oil, uranium, or other sources, and that will escalate geometrically in the period to come. In the shorter term Japanese industry will become increasingly dependent on Iran’s oil. Our trade interests will immediately come into focus when one considers that there is a possibility of a downturn in Japanese trade. I am not suggesting that this may happen, as the Japanese are very well prepared. They are more prepared for an oil shortage than they were in 1973. However, the fact remains that our interests are at stake to a very large degree.
Turning to the Kampuchean situation there is no doubt in my mind that China’s strike in regard to Vietnam stems directly from a challenge to its interests, as it perceives them, by Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia. It is clear to me after talking to Chinese officials in that country, that there is a very real fear that the Vietnamese may not stop at the Thailand border.
– Have you talked to the Thais and asked them whether they are frightened of that?
-Not recently. I do not intend to make that an essential point of the analysis, but rather to suggest that the whole area is in some doubt and it is certainly not our perceptions to which I am referring, but to the Chinese perceptions. Consequently there does seem to be some real doubt that Vietnam will stop at that border. In that case it seems reasonable to expect that Chinese pressure on Vietnam is aimed at seeing whether it can get a negotiated settlement in favour of a withdrawal of troops from Kampuchea. I think the question must be asked: If Vietnam- as it is presently occupying Kampuchea and, as it has said, installed a government in Phnom Penh based on the popular feeling of the people of Kampuchea- has, in fact, the general support of those people, then surely the time has come for the withdrawal of Vietnam from Kampuchea. Yet we do not find any answer to that question. In fact, it is obviously a perception of the Chinese that Vietnam will not withdraw unless it is forced to do so by military action conducted on its northern border. As to the continuation of the war, no one knows.
We turn again to that fundamental question which we all faced earlier, and that is a possible miscalculation in these very complicated series of events interwoven with a whole series of interlocking relationships, alliances, and conflicts of interest. It is hardly for us to talk in terms of principles based on whether this or that regime ought to have control of a particular country. The first point, naturally, is that we do not concern ourselves with the internal affairs of various countries, and the second is that our interests might rely on factors different from those which would come into consideration. I believe that we have to concern ourselves with the immediate facts. The practical situation in Indo-China is a very dangerous one for the world. I find that the statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs as clearly as possible calls.upon both Vietnam and China in their present conflict to withdraw their forces from the countries which they are presently occupying and to return to the establishment of peace and stability. Our interests rely very heavily on trade, and consequently trade in areas where there is no peace leads to a very difficult situation. Quite apart from that Australia stands for peace in the world and I strongly support the Government’s statement made today by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick).
-I support the Opposition in its condemnation of the statement which was made this afternoon. I suppose the best that one can say for the Government in this instance is that the statement has been produced as a result of the conflict which has recently broken out in Asia. I think that this evening we are all somewhat like the Government in that we surely realise that the first casualty of war is truth. I think that was a very profound statement made perhaps 10 or 12 years ago by the late Arthur Calwell, the then Leader of the Opposition, in relation to the conflict in Vietnam. I suspect that all of us, when we try to get a fairly close analyses of what might be happening in South East Asia are faced with the problem that truth is the first casualty of war. I also believe that the statement the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) made this afternoon is, to a large extent, full of double standards. It is pitted throughout with double standards, full of platitudes and little else.
What the Minister and Government are doing in reality is posturing a holier than thou attitude while wars such as this are being fought thousands of miles away from home. I ask honourable senators on the Government side to recall the attitude of this Government when Indonesia marched into East Timor and what has been the continuing attitude of this Government in that regard. I said that I believed the statement was full of double standards. It is my intention to go through the statement in part and to pick out areas where I believe the Government is promoting double standards. In the Minister’s statement we read:
Both in the Horn and in southern Africa, indigenous conflicts and instabilities which were already serious enough have been rendered progressively more so during the last four or five years by the pouring in of vast quantities of sophisticated arms- and the advisers deemed necessary to deploy them. I emphasise this deliberate and substantial militarisation of African conflict by outside states- particularly the Soviet Union and their . . . surrogates . . .
What a statement of double standards when we refer to what I said earlier about the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. What did the Government do then? It totally acquiesced. It continued to supply arms and all forms of aid to the Indonesian Government. Nice soft, gentle noises were being made by certain militarists in Indonesia that those arms would not be used in the battle going on in East Timor. I frankly suggest that any militarist, any general, any battalion commander, any corporal in action who would make a statement such as that would be laughing up his sleeve at the time he was making it. Wars are fought with all the weapons that are available. Any military commander who goes into battle with one hand tied behind his back, as such statements would indicate, would be a fool and he would be a fool to the men. under him. We are not aware whether weapons that were provided by Australia were used. If they were not, even if the best situation prevailed, it is patently obvious to me that other weapons which the Indonesian Government had at that time were released for use in that campaign. I believe that is an example of the type of double standards that the Government is applying on this occasion. The Government applies one standard when someone else is involved and a totally different standard is applied when it is one of our friends and we perceive some self-interest as happened in East Timor at that time. The Minister’s statement continued:
No one sought to isolate Vietnam or to make it difficult for her to enter fully into the life of the region.
What a load of hogwash. I am not prepared to stand in this place and defend what Vietnam has done in Kampuchea. I am not prepared to stand here and defend China’s invasion of Vietnam. That part of the statement is a load of hogwash. Every person who has followed politics since the end of the Vietnam war knows of the promise made prior to the end of hostilities by the then President Nixon of the United States, that America would supply large sums of aid to Vietnam to rehabilitate it. As far as I am aware Vietnam did not receive one red cent. Our own
Government, less than one month ago, suspended aid that had been promised to Vietnam. As my colleague Senator Sibraa who spoke just a few minutes ago stated, that sort of action is the trigger mechanism that must surely drive Vietnam more and more into the arms of the Soviet Union.
The next question relates to not fully explaining the truth of the situation and of using one argument and not being prepared to talk about the other. The statement goes on;
The ASEAN countries, even in the face of the Vietnamese Government’s sponsoring of the flood of refugees with which they had to cope, were positive and forthcoming in their dealings with Vietnam.
Why does the statement not go on and mention the fact that Vietnam is currently playing host to 150,000 refugees from Kampuchea and that Vietnam, in consultation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has pledged to house some 5,000 of those refugees as soon as possible and in the long term has pledged to the same Commissioner to house some 50,000 over the next few years? It is obvious that the Government is using the arguments that suit it and that it is not prepared in a statement such as this to place all the cards on the table and to give to the Australian population the full facts on what is happening in South East Asia. The Minister then said:
The Vietnamese attack on Kampuchea was an attack by a client of the Soviet Union on a client of China. Whatever its motivation the attack bore directly on the rivalry and competition between the Soviet Union and China for long term influence in the region . . .
I said earlier that the statement was full of double standards. Why did the statement not go on and condemn the Australian Government for exactly the same thing which, in my opinion, happened in East Timor on 7 or 8 December 1975? As far as I am concerned, Indonesia was a client of the American vested interests and, as latter day news reports and meetings are tending to prove, a client also of Australian oil interests in the Timor Sea area. Let us be honest today and not tip the bucket on a nation when we ourselves have been guilty of exactly the same type of approach to a problem. The statement goes on further: . . because it created the conditions for an escalation of great power rivalry in the region. It was a mark of the gravity with which the Government viewed this action that Australian aid to Vietnam was suspended.
Again I suggest that we did not adopt the same sort of attitude when the Indonesians marched into Timor. Perhaps it is only because of the term great power rivalry* that all of a sudden we are becoming holier than thou and very indignant about countries that carried out exactly the same type of operation as we supported in East Timor. The statement continues:
We have called on Vietnam to withdraw its forces from Kampuchea, on China to withdraw its forces from Vietnam and on the Soviet Union to exercise restraint to prevent the last turn of the screw, which could be disastrous not merely for the region but for the peace of the world.
I suggest that this is one of the great problems of the current crisis in South East Asia. If the Russians move I suggest that America is obliged to do likewise, or vice versa; if America moves the Russians must surely respond. That would surely place this country in a very dangerous situation. Thankfully, as far as I can assess, the Soviet Union has so far played quite a statesmanshiplike role in that it has called for calm. I note in today’s Sydney Sun that the Soviet Foreign Minister, Mr Gromyko, is reported as having said: Stop before it’s too late’. I think that is about the way that we in Australia would hope that the situation is played. If the scenario comes to fruition this country will be placed in a very dangerous situation. I think that the type of situation was very well portrayed on the program Four Corners, which first appeared on Saturday night and which was replayed on Sunday afternoon. I would like to refer to some excerpts from that program, a transcript of which I received this morning from the Parliamentary Library. The interviewer, Mr Woolley from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, was speaking with Dr Robert O’Neill from the Australian National University. Any senators who have been on committees inquiring into defence and foreign affairs matters over the years I suggest would have met Dr Robert O’Neill. Certainly he has been a recurring witness- for want of a better term- and has presented a large number of submissions to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in the years I have been in this Parliament. Mr Woolley said, according to the transcript:
They say that for the men in the missile silos nuclear war is never more than 20 minutes away. How close did they come this week to pressing the button? As close presumably as their counterparts in Russia. In Russia, all military leave was cancelled. The Soviet forces went on to combat readiness number one. Beneath the oceans of the world the submarine fleets of the two super powers maintained their sentinal patrols. A silent implacable killer, the nuclear submarine can remain undetected until the very moment it strikes. Like the Americans, the Soviet submarines, armed with ballistic missiles, are cruising everywhere. Did they lie silently off Australian shores this week? As attention rose where they ready to take action?
The transcript goes on:
Dr Robert O’Neill (ANU): These days, with the reach of weaponry out to several thousand miles, no one on this globe is safe from a major conflict if it occurs.
Woolley: What son of involvement, and how would it come about, in terms of Australia?
Dr O’Neill: Well if Australia was to be involved in some sort of global nuclear exchange the main ways in which we would be drawn in is through the American installations that are on Australian soil. lt seemed fairly obvious to many members of the Labor Party back in the early sixties- I cannot recall the date- that when a low frequency radio station was being installed at North West Cape in Western Australia we were selling out our rights, our heritage and our freedom to move in any global conflict. I suggest that if the scenario that I have just tried to outline here ever comes to fruition Australia could become a hostage. What we thought back in 1964 or 1954 or whenever it was about Australia becoming a hostage could well come to fruition. It may well come to that within the next week, the next month or the next three months; we do not know. It all depends on how people in the Pentagon, in the Kremlin, in Peking or somewhere else play their cards. This nation could become a hostage because of the fact that we are stuck with a number of foreign military bases on our soil.
Mr Woolley and Dr O’Neill discussed the matter for quite some time. I do not want to hold up the Senate by quoting verbatim the whole of the interview but it is patently obvious from what Dr O’Neill states that what we in the Labor Party have been saying about these foreign bases over the years could well become a reality. I was rather surprised to hear Dr O’Neill’s comments on this matter. I was going to say that Dr O’Neill was being forthright. I am not suggesting that Dr O’Neill is not forthright on every occasion but I was surprised to hear him espousing the type of situation that had been espoused so often by the Labor Party. I had not expected him to be as close to the Labor Party attitude on this matter as he was. He painted a very dismal picture should the scenario that I painted, and which was in fact painted on that program on Saturday night, come about. Later in the interview, Mr Woolley said:
We do know that during the 1973 Middle East crisis this base - that is, the North West Cape base- went on to full alert. We also know that the Australian Governmentt wasn’t informed.
Mr Woolley then asked the question:
Will we know what happened at North West Cape this week?
Dr O’Neill replied:
We almost certainly will know about it but it will take some time.
That is very handy, of course, if the nation is about to be wiped out by two or three nuclear bombs! Dr O’Neill continued:
My feeling is that these bases have not yet been put on alert but that could happen at some stage, but if they are placed on alert then I think the people on the base will know about it a darn sight more quickly than the Australian Government.
I suggest that what Dr O’Neill said there is the truth and I suggest that it is a terrible thing for any Australian to have to admit to such a situation. As I said earlier, we have sold our heritage, our birthright, and our right to move in an armed conflict of world proportion by virtue of the fact that we have foreign bases on our soil. It would not matter whether they were Soviet bases, Chinese bases, American bases, Greenland bases, Denmark bases or any other bases. It is alienation of our sovereignty. I suggest that one of the first things that should be done by any government concerned about foreign policy and the ability of an Australian government to move in times of crisis is to get rid of those bases. Mr Woolley went on to ask Dr O ‘Neill:
Do you think the Australian Government should be directly informed the moment anything happens?
Dr O’Neill replied:
Yes and I think the Americans would try and do that but of course the bases are hooked into an American Defence Command System directly so they would know almost instantaneously from Washington. That system then has to inform our diplomatic mission in Washington before messages come on to Australia, or else do it through the American Embassy in Canberra. There is not a direct hot line between Canberra and Washington for those sorts of things.
So in the event of a crisis blowing up and this country being endangered, we would be placed in exactly the same situation as the American Air Force or, if I remember correctly, the Army commander who at the time of the Pearl Harbour crisis was obliged to get in touch with Washington by telegram through Western Pacific via San Francisco. In the meantime lots of things happened at Pearl Harbour that may not necessarily have happened had there been a direct line to Washington at that stage. I will not quote any further from that interview, but I suggest that anybody who has any concern about foreign bases in Australia would be well advised to read that transcript from the Four Corners program of last Saturday night.
I turn now to the Minister’s statement. In the second half of the second paragraph on page 13 of the statement he said:
Until very recently- although its regime was repressiveIran was an important force for order and stability in an extremely volatile area.
That probably is a true statement. I do not doubt that Iran was an important force for order and stability in an area that was extremely volatile. But I think we have to wake up to ourselves and realise that the sort of stability that was dominant in Iran until recent weeks was a stability built on the backs of thousands of political prisioners and God alone knows how many political deaths. It was built on a system that allowed only two classes of people- the extremely wealthy and the extremely poor. If we as a nation are going to build a rampart of that sort in the world and rely on it for stability, for any form of defence or protection, then I think we are truly fooling ourselves. No regime that exists on that form of ‘stability’, as it is termed, can last. The whole history of” mankind shows that if people are oppressed, no matter their nationality, their colour or their religion, no matter where or when, eventually they will rise up and throw off their chains. Our own political history is proof of that. It is happening now in other parts of the world. In fact as someone said to me quite recently: ‘When we look at the problem spots around the world, we realise that perhaps they are only now going through their Battle of the Roses as England did some centuries ago’. That is a rather interesting thought.
I wonder how our own intelligence services read the scene in Iran. I was there in 1973 or 1974 with a parliamentary delegation and despite the fact that we were only taken where the Iranese wanted us to go and despite the fact that we were guarded by armed police day and night- I suggest that that was not only for our own protection but also to make sure that we only saw what they wanted us to see- it was patently obvious to me that the regime in Iran would crumble and that it would not be all that long before it did so. Reports in the Press suggest that the American Government is concerned that the Central Intelligence Agency was not aware of the pressure that was building up in opposition to the Shah’s regime. As I said, I just wonder what our own intelligence people read of the situation as it has developed over the years. If other intelligence organisations are not better equipped than the CIA is reported to have been equipped, I suggest it is time that governments got rid of them and sent a couple of ordinary politicians overseas every now and again to have a look at some of those countries. Anybody with any nous at all would gain a pretty fair impression of what was going on and would have some idea of whether anything was going to blow up in the face of the oppressive government in six months ‘ time, in six years ‘ time or never.
On page 16 of the Minister’s statement, he said:
But in the case of Iran there is the added question of what effect the resurgence of a populous Islamic fundamentalism will have on the region- and, for that matter, beyond it in other Islamic countries. The indications are that the resurgence of Islam could cause significant and far-reaching changes in the world. It is a revived force of great dynamism which is being generated in the context of social and cultural changes. It is our earnest hope that this force will be harnessed effectively to the benefit of both Muslim countries and of the remainder of the world.
That is a very fine statement. It is full of pious hopes. I suppose that one cannot blame the Minister for thinking in that way. I suggest that that paragraph is basically a truism; that as a result of this resurgence of the Moslem religion there will be a change in politics in the Middle East, near East and in any other area of the world where there is a reasonably strong group of countries, or even one country, in which the Moslem religion is dominant.
I had the opportunity during the winter recess of visiting Libya. Irrespective of whether one agrees with what has happened there, there is no doubt that the Moslem religion has been the driving force behind not only the bloodless coup that occurred there some 9 or 10 years ago but also the way in which the government operates and thinks, and its general approach to countries outside its border. I must admit that none of us at this stage is blessed with a glass ball. We are not to know what will be the final outcome in Iran. But if the people who win out are supporters of the Moslem religion there is a great potential for very fundamental change in the whole balance of power in the Middle East. We would see, very rapidly, changes in the governments of other countries right across the Middle East.
The Minister also used these words:
That, again, is a very high ideal. I do not think that there is any person in the world who does not want to live in peaceful and stable surroundings, regardless of whether he lives in China, the Soviet Union, America, Australia or somewhere in the Middle East. I am convinced that the people of Iran, of Kampuchea or of Vietnam would give their eye teeth to live in peaceful and stable surroundings. But I would suggest that any Australian government that was worth its salt would make quite sure that it did its utmostagain, I am not suggesting gunboat diplomacy, as was proposed by a Government supporter when Senator Wheeldon was making basically the same point earlier- to work for those ideals. It is in the interests of Australia that it should do so. But I do not believe that we can expect to live behind that barricade, or whatever it might be termed, while human rights are suppressed by any regime in our area.
This takes me back to what I have said on several occasions this evening. I do not believe that we have any right, particularly any moral right, to hide behind a barricade and expect to live in peaceful and stable surroundings while people in, for example, Timor- the example that I have used throughout tonight- are being oppressed, slaughtered, murdered, raped and deprived of everything they have owned by a more powerful and aggressive neighbour apparently just because it is in our interests, as seen by a lot of people high up in this country, not to ruffle Indonesia’s hair.
Basically, we can see the same situation prevailing- I have referred to this also in this place at various times- in West Papua where we are hiding behind the actions that an aggressive, militant and repressive Indonesia has taken, and is taking, to kill off indigenous political movements. People there have been suppressed, are being suppressed and will be suppressed, especially while we acquiesce in what has been done. As far as this Government is concerned, it would appear that it intends to do that forever and a day.
– I enter this debate briefly, largely as a result of certain experiences that I have had in recent times, particularly during a visit to Geneva, and in seeing the Australian mission to the United Nations in action at the various international conferences and negotiations which take place in that interesting international city. It also flows from my association with our mission at the United Nations headquarters in New York. I am impressed by the amount of time, effort, talent and knowledge that is employed in international negotiations.
I mention this because, as a visitor, it seems to me to be a fairly straight-forward kind of operation. I refer to the activity in the various committees and among the delegations from various countries which sit down at conference tables and discuss a wide range of matters. It is only when a statement such as that which has been made today by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) is before us that we come to realise that it is not always from occasions such as this, or emergency situations in the Security Council or visits at one time or another of delegations to crisis spots that results emanate. We should pay tribute to that considerable group of men and women who, throughout the year and almost around the clock, negotiate on behalf of Australia as well as other nations at a wide range of conferences, seminars and meetings in which the highest standard of intelligence, negotiation and diplomatic effort is called for. Therefore, the Minister’s statement today was not only of great importance but certainly of great interest to someone who, Uke myself, has had the opportunity of seeing a great deal of diplomatic effort in progress in recent times.
The Minister’s speech was made against the background of certain very serious and important events in the Middle East and South East Asia, in Indo-China in particular. But unlike some other statements, that of the Minister placed particular emphasis on what he called international economic matters and their implications. He sounded the warning that it was quite wrong to assume that the prominence of these matters meant that he had laid to one side as it were the traditional issues of what I suppose can be generally summarised as power politics. However, regardless of whether one has economic, domestic, political or personal and social issues, as long as the world is organised in a system of free and sovereign states there will be this emphasis on power and power politics and it will continue without doubt to be the main interest in international affairs. I suppose that if we had had any doubt about the importance of the role of power politics and its influence on international negotiations and relationships, recent events would have dispelled that doubt entirely. I think that the Minister was absolutely right when he said that the matter of economic influence and interest, the matter of power politics, certainly has played a part in reaching the point where we have a deterioration in the international environment.
I think we need to consider very carefully the fact that this deterioration in the international situation has very serious implications for Australian interests. It has very serious implications for Australian interests because of the geographical situation in which Australia is placed, namely, the fact that it is, I suppose, the onlycertainly the major- Western-style, developed nation in this part of the world. Its geographical situation is such that it is flanked on the eastern side by the Pacific Ocean and developing, independent island state nations and on the western side by the Indian Ocean with all the international implications that exist there, and to its north has the troubled area of South East Asia and Indo-China. Therefore, the Minister’s statement, giving as it did its mixture of warnings and outlining something of the stable program which the Australian Government is pursuing and has in mind, was indeed to be welcomed.
It is a matter of very great regret to the people in this country that, after approximately three years of what seemed to be a reasonably quiet time, the area to our near north is again the scene of some very distressing and very serious armed conflict. We have become aware of the implications of the Vietnam invasion of Cambodia or Kampuchea and now, of course, as we very well know, the conflict between China and Vietnam. To reflect on what I mentioned earlier, I point out that these conflicts were created by the power rivalry that exists between four major states adjacent to the areas, namely, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China, Vietnam and Kampuchea.
I was interested in the Minister’s observation in his speech earlier today that all of the conflicts and the instability to which he made extended reference were taking place, and indeed are taking place, in what we know as Third World countries. For some considerable time Mr Peacock has placed emphasis on Third World matters. From time to time he has received a considerable amount of criticism to the effect that he may be placing undue emphasis on matters relating to the Third World. I think his emphasis today on the fact that the situations about which we are speaking tonight have developed within the Third World is proof of his concern about them. The Government’s emphasis on them has indicated its understanding of the situations within the Third World. In the Minister’s speech he said:
Over the last three decades, the strategic, ideological and economic interests of the great powers have consistently interacted with the affairs of the Third World.
He went on to make this observation:
To that extent there is nothing new in the present situation.
The conflict in Indo-China is, of course, the greatest cause of concern. I suppose that that is an easy statement to make. It is a matter of concern; it is a matter of disappointment to those governments in the area and in other parts of the world which over recent years have lent their support, interest and attention to matters relating to the Indo-China area and which hoped that the steps which had been taken might have contributed to the stability and a settling down of the situation in the South East Asian area. But, as I said a few months ago, I suppose it is equally true to say that the developments in recent days have not been surprising. I refer to an extract from the Minister’s speech in which he referred to a statement which he made in October 1 975. He said:
Regionally, in the aftermath of the Vietnam war, South East Asia seems set to become a major theatre for the working out of a Sino-Soviet rivalry.
. The unstable relationship between these three powers is certain to have an important effect on regional affairs in the near future.
I hope people realise that the Government’s recognition of the present crisis was firmly based on a long-standing analysis of the situation in that region. In 1975 the developing countries on which the Minister placed such emphasis in his statement today held approximately 20 per cent of the world ‘s production, although at the same time their share of the world’s population was 75 per cent. I am using these figures not in relation to the Third World countries in our part of the world but in relation to the Third World or developing countries throughout the world. At the time that the Minister made these observations about the problems that almost certainly would emerge in Third World countries, these countries held about 20 per cent of the world’s production although their share of the world’s population was 75 per cent. The result of this situation, which can be described only as an imbalance, is that today throughout the world, and particularly in the Third World countries, some 800 million people in the developing world are living in absolute poverty.
As honourable senators will be aware, in my comments tonight on the Minister’s statement I am leading up to placing some emphasis on a matter on which I have spoken from time to time. I have even raised this matter in this place with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). It refers to people in the Third World and particularly those who are most affected by international upheavals such as those to which we are referring in this debate, namely, the matter of refugees. But refugees are not the only people who are affected by such events as the wars which we are seeing within our own part of the world at this time. The matter of international poverty has its relationship to international affairs and, indeed, its influence on events such as those which are referred to in the Minister’s speech.
The observation is made in a document from the World Bank that, even on the most optimistic assumptions about the future progress of Third World countries and the rate of further expansion of international assistance, by the year 2000 approximately 600 million people are expected to be living in what is described as ‘absolute poverty’. Six hundred million men, women and children living in absolute poverty without access to the basic amenities which we take for granted is, of course, a very frightening situation. Such widespread poverty, need and distress for peoples of the world has a disastrous effect not only on any development prospects, international aid or assistance programs but also on international relations. Throughout history those people who have been described as those who vote with their feet not only have been the result of international upheavals or wars but also have contributed to the cause of international actions and international wars. The desperately poor are excluded from the economic, social and influential life of any country. They are unable to contribute to, to take part in, to share in or, indeed, to have any influence on affairs and events in any way whatsoever.
The observations relating to the figures from the World Bank were made in 1975, at the time when the Minister was making observations on the problems of Third World countries and their influence on events which might occur in 1979. So it is not surprising that in the Minister’s statement today he made a very early reference to the fact that these major upheavals are taking place within Third World countries. I believe that the Minister’s statement reflects a very sound policy approach to international affairs generally. I commend the Government for its approach in these extremely difficult circumstances relating to the current upheavals within South East Asia.
I return to my reference to the international refugee situation which concerns the welfare of people. The Australian attitude to the refugee problem is consistent with the kind of approach which the Minister made today in his speech on international affairs. Only three weeks ago the Acting Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr Ellicott, said that since the fall of Saigon in April 1975 Australia had resettled about 17,000 refugees from the very part of the world which was the central theme of the Minister’s speech today. The Acting Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs pointed out that per head of population Australia has done better than any other country receiving refugees. The Government expects that by the middle of the next decade the figure will have risen to about 32,000. The Acting Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs said that the exact number of Indo-Chinese refugees resettled since the fall of Saigon was 16,000 nearly 2,000 of whom had arrived in small boats.
It is not sufficient in any discussion of international affairs to recognise only that a particular country, in this case Australia, has taken in a considerable number of refugees. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr
MacKellar) only a few weeks ago indicated that Australia would support the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This was of particular interest to me as a few weeks ago I had the opportunity of some conversation with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, particularly the High Commissioner’s deputy. Although Australia has taken a large number of refugees and its record is better than other countries, we have to remember that there are refugees in other parts of the world. The situation in Africa is, of course, much worse. The refugee situation in the Middle East is also serious. As a result of conversations with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees the two Ministers announced that Australia would contribute about $3m to assist in the overall refugee situation, but particularly in Indo-China. This is a considerable contribution. It represents a recognition by the Australian Government that we have a responsibility which is to the needy people around us different from that of any other nation in the world.
I know that foreign affairs must, of necessity, relate to the importance of power struggles. It must take into account the supreme importance of defence capacity. It must also place prime emphasis on strategic moves, negotiation and diplomatic activity. Australia’s place in international affairs will depend very much on political structures and the ebb and flow of international instrumentalities. All these things are tied up with trade relations and financial interchange. I understand that the Senate wishes to deal with some other business. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
On 29 April 1976, the Minister for Finance and Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) introduced a bill to amend the Audit Act 1901. That Bill passed the House of Representatives and was subsequently introduced in the Senate but it was not debated here and was lost when the Parliament was prorogued early in 1977. The reason why that Bill was not proceeded with was because the Government wished to give further consideration to certain of its provisions. That has now been done and the changes decided upon are reflected in the Bill now before the senate.
The Audit Act of 190 1 has been amended on a number of occasions since first enacted. It has an important place in the statutes because it not only provides for the audit of the Government’s accounts but it sets down important controls which are fundamental to the accounting for receipts and payments under the control of the parliamentary departments and the departments of state. It conferred important powers and responsibilities on the Treasurer for financial management across the entire departmental spectrumpowers which, following the transfer of the administration of the act to the finance portfolio, became the responsibility- with one important exception, that is, section 70B- of the Minister for Finance. Historically, the Act was drawn from the Audit Acts of the States in force at the time of federation, but its origins can be traced to the British Exchequer and Audit Departments Act of 1866.
Because of the important part the Audit Act plays in the regulation of accounting for receipts and expenditure of public moneys, all governments have approached the question of its amendment with appropriate caution. Substantial amendments were last made in 1969 and many of the proposals embodied in the current Bill have been under examination since then. It is, however, important that the audit legislation be responsive to growth in the volume and variety of transactions and, more particularly, to changes in accounting and auditing methodologies, while maintaining in an appropriate way, proper elements of control and accountability which parliament would expect to be applied to the management of the Government’s financial affairs. In the past ten to fifteen years there have been significant changes in accounting methods and procedures. Many of the accounts payments systems now in use, particularly those which process repetitive payments such as pensions, are fully automated, that is to say, the calculations are performed by computers which also prepare the accounting documents and write the cheques. The Department of Finance makes extensive use of computers in maintaining the accounting records of the Government- use which commenced as long ago as 1964. In fact, most of the Government’s millions of individual transactions are recorded, analysed and summarised in accounting records that are processed by computers. The benefits of modern computer technology have been well and truly realised in this field of government administration.
I want to emphasise that it is not enough to have modern equipment and up to date systems unless the legislation under which departments must operate is sufficiently flexible to allow vast numbers of accounts to be processed quickly yet accurately without the need for unwarranted clerical effort. This Bill will amend the Audit Act in a way which will provide that flexibility without destroying the principles of control which are necessary, and have been necessary since 1901, to ensure that moneys are paid out only when it is clear that there is proper authority for the transaction and that the supply or service has been performed.
As was said in relation to the 1976 Bill, many of the amendments are of a technical nature and I do not propose to explain, or even to refer to all of them in this speech. Some have been decided upon, following legal advice, to rectify defects in the present law and thus to validate existing procedures. All of them have the full support of the Auditor-General, who has been closely associated with the preparation of the Bill. The proposals have, with certain exceptions, been explained to the eighth, ninth, eleventh and twelfth Joint Committees of Public Accounts. I now mention some of the principal changes which are proposed.
Clause 5 makes it abundantly clear that the permanent head of a department is responsible for making appropriate arrangements for implementing the provisions of the Act, the regulations and directions in relation to his department. The existing legislation makes no reference to the responsibilities of a permanent head in relation to the financial management of his department and the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration felt that some clarification was needed, although, in practice this responsibility was accepted and exercised by permanent heads. Not only does the Government consider it desirable to put the matter beyond all doubt but the amendment will be followed up by the transfer to permanent heads of responsibility for certain management decisions which have, up to now, been under the control of the Minister for Finance.
Clause 20 amends section 32 of the Principal Act in order to remedy a defect in the present wording which was raised by the previous Auditor-General. In certain acts which contain standing appropriations, the payment of moneys is expressed to be conditional upon some event occurring or some action being carried out, and legal advice is that until that event occurs or that action is taken there is no available appropriation. The proposed changes to this section will make it clear that an appropriation is available for expenditure subject to the occurrence of the contingency or condition expressed in relation to the appropriation. This does no more than give proper legal backing to procedures which have been followed for many years, probably since Federation. This and other amendments to this section do not imply any change in procedures, or any reduction in control, and they do not vary the long-standing requirement for the minister to seek a Governor-General’s warrant to cover the amounts he expects to be disbursed, and the Auditor-General to certify, before the warrant is submitted to the Governor-General, that parliament has provided an appropriation which will authorise the disbursement of those amounts.
The steps relating to the payment of accounts set out in the present section 34 are to be amended by clause 24 to provide a framework of control within which the processes governing computer-based and other payment systems may be developed and prescribed. Such processes depend upon control points built into computer programs and officers whose duty it is to certify as to the correctness of the Accounts cannot certify as to the correctness of individual calculations other than by reliance on the execution of the programs and the observance of appropriate checks and controls as designed for the system. Under the proposed amendment it is this latter aspect- that of full observance of appropriate checks and controls- that becomes the central responsibility of the certifying officer.
Clause 25 introduces a new section 34a in place of section 34 (4). The new section spells out more clearly the Minister’s power to approve act of grace payments and will authorise him to delegate this power. Provision is also made for a committee of officials to advise the Minister on the merits of requests for substantial act of grace payments- those exceeding $25,000 or $5,000 per annum in the case of continuing payments. The total number of act of grace payments and the aggregate amounts thereof made by each department will be reported to Parliament as part of the statement prepared in pursuance of section 50 of the principal Act- see clause 42.
Clause 27 inserts a new section to deal with the considerable administrative difficulties which currently arise with appropriations and appointments when the administrative arrangements are changed resulting in the abolition of departments or existing functions being transferred to another department or departments. This provision will authorise the Minister to issue moneys, already appropriated for the discharge > of functions in one department, to another department for the purpose of corresponding functions which have been transferred to it by order of the Governor-General. The Minister would not, however, be authorised to issue funds beyond the limit of appropriations already made by the Parliament.
Section 42 (2) of the principal Act contains what is known as the surcharge power. Clause 36 of the Bill will repeal that provision. Over the years that the surcharge provision has been in existence the Auditor-General’s Office has experienced almost insurmountable difficulties in establishing default or neglect and the section has therefore been virtually non-operative. Moreover, it is no longer considered appropriate that the Auditor-General have the responsibility of deciding that recovery should be made in a particular case and without there being a requirement for proof of guilt or for a defence by the person at fault. Clause 57 replaces these unworkable and, indeed, unjust provisions with more equitable procedures for the recovery of the loss of public moneys or stores where the loss was caused by the gross negligence or misconduct of an officer. The proposed provisions will require a permanent head to take action to effect recovery in respect of such a loss; they include a right of appeal by the officer to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or at his option to have his liability determined by a court. The Government expects these provisions to provide a more effective and satisfactory means by which losses caused by the gross negligence or misconduct of its officers can be pursued and appropriate recompense made.
Clause 40 will give effect to the Government’s decision that the Auditor-General should be empowered to undertake efficiency audits of departments, statutory authorities and government-owned companies. Honourable senators will recall that this decision followed a very strong recommendation from the Royal Commission on Australian Government
Administration. A report of an informal working party of officials on efficiency audits together with the text of a statement made by the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters in connection with the report was tabled in the Senate on 7 November 1977. The proposed definition of efficiency audits is contained in section 2 (4) and the proposed ambit of the efficiency audit powers is dealt with in the new section 48c while sections 48f and 48G set out the requirements for reporting the results of efficiency audits. Subject to exceptions outlined in the Bill, these reports will be transmitted to the Parliament. I add that it is the Government’s intention that the concept of efficiency auditing is to be applied across the whole of the Commonwealth Government administration subject only to the very limited exemptions provided under clause 60. The proposed sections 48J to 48p make provision for the appointment of an independent auditor to carry out both financial and efficiency audits of the Auditor-General ‘s office.
Clause 41 amends section 49 of the principal Act to require the Minister to publish a monthly statement of the receipts and expenditures of public moneys in a prescribed form as shown in the Bill. An important change to the form of the Minister’s annual statement of receipts and expenditure under section 50 of the Principal Act is proposed by clause 42 of the Bill. I refer, of course, to the statement which the AuditorGeneral is currently required to report upon and explain.
It is proposed that, with effect from 1978-79, the annual statements of the Minister for Finance will comprise statements for each department grouping Minister for Finance and expenditure together with summaries of those statements and other relevant information. Each permanent head will be required to provide, for inclusion in the statements, information as to act of grace payments; waivers of amounts due to be received; amounts written off section 70C of the Act; particulars of action taken by him under part XIIA of the Act during the year and information relating to and explanations of the financial transactions of his department.
I mention that for administrative and privacy reasons it is not proposed to publish names, addresses and other details of individuals who have received act of grace payments or benefitted from the waiver of monies due to the Commonwealth The joint committee of public accounts has the power under its own Act to require information from departments in relation to these matters. If a question of privacy arose it could be overcome by the committee pursuing its enquiries in camera. The Minister for Finance may include such further explanations as he deems desirable in the statements transmitted to the Auditor-General. This change will emphasise the responsibility of individual permanent heads for reporting upon the use of appropriations under their control and on other financial transactions. The Government believes that this new format will be greatly welcomed by the Parliament because it will enable information on each year’s transactions to be reported more clearly and concisely without any loss of the information now published.
As a consequence of the significant changes to be effected by clause 42 of the Bill, clause 43 will amend section 51 of the Act to omit the requirement that the Auditor-General explain the statement in full. Instead, he will be authorised to add what further information and explanations of the statements that he thinks appropriate. This will have the desirable effect of allowing the AuditorGeneral to make more effective use of his professional staff resources.
Clause 54 inserts a new part XI to make provision for the audit by the Auditor-General of certain authorities established under an Act or an ordinance; the inclusion of standard accounting and audit provisions of the kind normally included in public authority legislation; the making of arrangements for the audit of other bodies and the payment of audit fees. The standard provisions were proposed by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to simplify the task of drafting future public authority legislation. The purpose of Division 4 is to provide proper authority for the Auditor-General to undertake ‘by arrangement’ and other audits including audits of certain companies in which the Commonwealth has an interest.
Two further amendments of particular interest to honourable senators are contained in clause 58 of the Bill. The first is the repeal of existing section 70B of the Principal Act under which the Treasurer may guarantee loans made by specified banks for the purposes of the Commonwealth. The Government has taken the view that such guarantees ought, in future, to be given only upon the authority of the Parliament. This is provided for in the new section 70B. The second is a provision to enable the Auditor-General to authorise an officer to sign for him reports in respect of particular bodies nominated in regulations. The Auditor-General will, of course, still have the general responsibility for the audit of the accounts of those bodies. The purpose of the amendment is to relieve the Auditor-General of some of his personal work load which has increased over the years.
Clause 59 will authorise the Minister for Finance to waive the recovery of amounts of monies which are legally recoverable but which, for good reason, ought not to be recovered, under similar procedures as those proposed for act of grace payments. Clause 60 inserts a new section to provide for the exemption of certain parts of the accounts of prescribed departments and organisations from inspection, examination and audit by the Auditor-General and introduces processes for reporting to Parliament in respect of expenditure from such exempt accounts. Under the Act as it stands at present there is no provision to exempt any part of the public accounts from such examination and audit but the Government is satisfied that provision should be made to allow the exemption of certain parts of the accounts of the security and intelligence organisations relating to highly confidential expenditure so that there could be no risk that the operations of the organisations might be prejudiced in any way. The Government is concerned to see that the principle of accountability for the monies appropriated by the Parliament is preserved and believes that the procedure required to be followed will ensure that accountability.
Honourable senators will appreciate from what I have said that this Bill contains some far reaching changes which are directed towards the more efficient regulation of our public accounts and the efficient use of resources by departments and other bodies. The need for many of the changes has been forcefully drawn to our attention in the reports of the Auditor-General and of the previous Auditor-General extending back for some years. The Government has recognised that need. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
-by leave- The matter I wish to draw to the attention of the Senate is of great importance to the Parliament and its committees. It concerns reporting by the Press of proceedings of parliamentary committees. On Thursday 8 February the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act held public hearings in Canberra, the principal witness appearing before it being the Department of the Attorney-General. On the following day, 9 February, when the Committee was also meeting in Canberra, a number of newspaper reports of the proceedings of the previous day were brought to the Committee’s attention. These articles, instead of reporting what actually had been said to the Committee, under sensationalised headlines such as ‘Maintenance for Women Must go’, selected complaints made by members of the public to the Attorney-General and then represented them as being endorsed by the Department. This, of course, was not the case; nevertheless the Daily Telegraph, the Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald and other newspapers elsewhere in Australia created a dangerously false impression ‘ of the Department’s submission. Those reports were in fact blamed for an event in Melbourne whereby a group called the Women’s Revolutionary Guerilla Army threw a brick through the Attorney-General’s office window. It may well have been more serious. Each newspaper contained a statement that the Committee’s deliberations would be over 3 years.
With the concurrence of the Committee the Chairman, Mr Ruddock, wrote to the editors of the Australian, Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph saying that the Committee was concerned to ensure that the public obtain a balanced view of the evidence being taken by the Family Law Act Committee, and offered its cooperation in ensuring that this was possible. It was not until the weekend that the attention of the Chairman was drawn to an editorial that appeared in the Sydney Daily Mirror of Friday 9 February which stated:
The number and type of complaints to the Federal Attorney-General’s Department about the Family Law Act are only a shadow of the real extent of public disquiet about this controversial law.
Women in particular are concerned because they feelwith justification- that the Act takes away any protection they may have had under the old divorce laws.
Indeed it often seems that the only ones to benefit from the Act are people who change partners like ordinary people change their underwear.
The Act has now been in force for three years and the thought that it will take another three years to examine its impact on the community is a little disturbing.
The Federal Government seems to be bent on establishing records for the speed with which it pushes through legislation.
But it would do well to speed up its review of the Act by the Federal Attorney-General ‘s Department and repeal the Family Law Act if it has, in fact, been a flop. 1 do not wish to detain the Senate for any length of time. I think that senators will recognise the inaccuracies of fact and the unfounded and sweeping assertions made about the Act contained in that editorial. The Chairman wrote to the editor of the Mirror on 12 February informing him that the inquiry was being conducted by a select committee of the Parliament and that its resolution of appointment requires it to report by 3 1 December this year. Mr Ruddock concluded by requesting him to publish a correction. To the best of our knowledge, this has not yet been done. Unfortunately the impression has been created in the mind of the public that this Committee will take three years to report to the Parliament. This, in turn, has caused great concern and distress. This misapprehension is most unfortunate and must be corrected. To date, none of the newspapers which so reported appears to have seen fit to correct it.
The task which the Joint Select Committee is appointed to perform is of very great importance. The provisions and operations of the Family Law Act affect many thousands of Australians in an extremely sensitive area of their lives. In appointing the Committee, Parliament has established a public forum to enable those people with views about the Act and its operation to express those views. It is the Committee’s intention to ensure that the entire range of those views can be expressed in the course of the inquiry. It is vital that the media, in reporting public hearings, co-operate with the Committee to ensure that what is conveyed to the public is a balanced view of the evidence given and of different attitudes concerning the Act. The Press can play a constructive role by providing the public with accurate information and fair reports or it can trivialise and sensationalise the issues.
I consider this to be an issue of very great importance to this House and to the effectiveness of all committees. Unless reporting of proceedings is fair and accurate the efforts of a committee such as the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act to inform the public and facilitate intelligent debate on family law will be frustrated. The Committee intends to take up the matter with the Australian Press Council but I raise it in this place at this time because it seems to me to be a matter of concern to the Parliament as a whole. I make this statement as Deputy Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act. The Chairman, Mr Philip Ruddock, has this day made an identical statement in the other place. In conclusion, both in my capacity as Deputy Chairman of the Committee and as a member of this House I express my concern that such reports have been made, particularly as no member of the Press was present at any of the hearings.
-by leave-In the first place I should like to support the remarks made by Senator Coleman. I commend her on her very mild report. I will not be quite as mild as she was in her statement. It seems to me that for some weeks now we have seen outrageous behaviour by the Press of this country. I am ashamed to see the way in which the activities of the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act and the evidence given to it have been distorted. I agree with what has been done by the Committee. Unfortunately I was not present when the Committee decided to take this course of action but I am happy that it is raising this matter with the Australian Press Council. The situation in this instance is that representatives of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) gave evidence before this Committee and were examined in the course of the Committee hearing. Members of the Press were not there to hear the evidence but they then produced nonsensical accounts of that evidence which were published throughout Australia. One realises that at times some members of the Press work quite hard but if one wanted to hide some secret, for example, perhaps the best way to do it would be to read it into the Hansard record after 8 p.m. One would then know that it would never be reported by the Press of this country. The secret would be safe.
This Committee met and called evidence. Let me point out that I am not disclosing anything that is not public knowledge. As the Chairman of the Committee pointed out quite recently, 200 submissions have been made to the Committee and 54 of them have been of a general nature. They have not just dealt, of course, with individual complaints and they have been relaeased to the Press. They are available. The AttorneyGeneral’s submission is, of course, in that position. What the statement does not say- I think this ought to be said- is that the particular submission from the Attorney-General’s office set out in considerable details the results of the correspondence which it had received over a period of some 20 months. I speak now from my memory of the evidence- I do not have it with me here in Canberra- but I have examined it fairly closely. My recollection is that some 120 people have written to the Attorney-General expressing views about parts of the Act. They did not all express views about the same parts. In fact, when it came to the somewhat sensational news which the Press picked up- members of the Press did not come to hear this evidence or the examination of witnesses but apparently just read the submission beforehand- it turned out that about 30 people had written saying that a certain course of action should be taken and 30 people expressed the opposite view. In fact, 30 of them said that men were being prejudiced under this Act and about 30 people said that women were being prejudiced under this Act. The other 60 people were writing about other things.
Of course, what had happened was that the members of a couple of fairly strong organisations had written a number of letters. There was no real suggestion that this represented any heavy public opinion at all or that it necessarily reflected any strong opinion within the community. What is more to the point, of course, is that it was never suggested that this represented the opinion of the Attorney-General’s Department or the Attorney-General. It was merely a helpful piece of material put before the Committee. It was turned into the sort of sensation that we saw in one newspaper after anotherthat most people feel that the Attorney-General is advocating this type of reform to the Act. The material referred to in these editorials is of a particular nonsensical type. The Committee has to deal- I will not go into the work of the Committee in detail- with many suggestions that are made by many people throughout the community. It will hear evidence. It will travel around the country to hear evidence about this Act from people and organisations. I express the view, as I have often done in the past, that the Family Law Act is one of the great legislative achievements of this country in the last 20 years.
– Hear, hear!
- Senator Button has reason to say ‘Hear, hear! ‘. He played an important part in seeing that the Act came into being. It has been found, even after three years, that some difficulties and problems have not yet been solved. People are putting forward suggestions, mostly of a constructive nature, to solve these difficulties. But to talk about it being a flop and to talk about the investigation lasting three years is incorrect. Any idiot would be able to find out that the Committee has to report by the end of this year. That is the deadline. I have no doubt that the Committee will make every attempt to reach that deadline, even taking into account the considerable size of the submissions which have been forwarded and the considerable number of public hearings it will hold. This type of nonsense perpetrated on the Australian people has the effect of upsetting and frightening some people and also of leading to rubbish being printed in the daily newspaper columns. This is unfair to the public. It is most unfair to the Committee and to this Parliament.
I just want to add to what has been said by Senator Coleman. Perhaps I have used slightly stronger language than the diplomatic language contained in the statement which the Committee issued. I stand strongly behind the Committee. The Press of this country has not shown a sufficient and proper interest in this inquiry. Many comments have been made in the course of this inquiry. Members of the Press should not just read the submissions but should come along to hear the evidence and to hear the examination conducted by the members of the Committee. They should hear the very excellent evidence that is given. I hope that we will see a change of attitude and that in future members of the Press in this country will perform well in regard to this particular inquiry, just as they have done in some other inquiries. I am afraid that the Press has something to answer for in relation to this inquiry.
-by leave- I was present at the meeting of the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act this morning when the decision was made to release the statement which Senator Coleman put before the Senate tonight. I want to support what Senator Coleman and Senator Missen have said. I make only one observation. By this irresponsible reporting the members of the Press concerned have created, and are creating, a considerable amount of distress amongst people. We are dealing with the lives, the happiness, the stability and the wellbeing of men and womenthe family unit in particular- of this country. The kind of reporting that we have seen in relation to the work performed by the Committee so far has not contributed to the family unit. Indeed, it has made people worried; it has made them upset, it has made them frightened and it has made them very concerned. Therefore, I think it was timely that the Committee drew the attention of the Parliament to the situation that has existed. I hope that these circumstances will be remedied in the future.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator the Honourable Sir Condor Laucke on account of absence overseas on parliamentary business.
– In reaching the conclusion of my remarks in relation to the motion that the Senate take note of the statement on foreign affairs I reiterate the importance in dealing with matters of this kind of taking into account the defence issues, the power issues and the international political structures and I reiterate that throughout history the movements of people have caused the greatest effect and influence on international affairs and have been the greatest cause of international tensions. The movement of distressed, displaced and refugee people has been the festering point in the great and tragic areas of international conflict. I have made that observation in my contribution to the debate about the motion before the Senate because I feel that Australia should recognise the facts that now exist as far as these people are concerned and that Australia should recognise the possibilities that may emerge as a result of the tensions that exist in South East Asia because if these conflicts go on we, as individuals and as a nation, may well have to make some very serious decisions and take into account certain serious circumstances in relation to these people. As I said right at the outset of my remarks, we are in a peculiar and particular position and the world may well be looking to us for certain decisions and certain actions. I think it would be wise to give consideration to them while we have plenty of time and before we are forced to make decisions, perhaps in haste and perhaps unwisely. I commend the Minister’s speech.
– I agree entirely with the last few words of Senator Davidson’s remarks. I think we ought to start by thinking about the things we should not do rather than by adding to the difficulty by putting forward a number of dangerous propositions which will not help to achieve peace. For example, I suggest that if one reads closely the statement of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) one will construe it not as a peace-making statement but one which is critical of a number of countries and which to some extent can be read as encouraging military action. I start with the general notions about the strategic arms limitation talks and detente. Despite what is happening in Vietnam and despite the argument between the Soviet Union and China, we still have an acceptance by the United States and the Soviet Union that detente ought to be achieved and that the SALT discussions ought to be concluded. Apparently both super powers consider that progress is being made in that connection. However, if one reads the Minister’s approach to these discussions one will see that he said:
Third, the current instability coincides with what are widely assumed to be the final stages of the negotiations for SALT II. The Australian Government strongly supports the completion of SALT II as a crucial contribution to arms control over the next decade. It is precisely because we do so that it is necessary to point out that both in strategic and political terms what is currently happening in Africa, the Middle East and Asia endangers a new SALT agreement. Such agreements cannot rest on air. They cannot be divorced from the general strategic and political environment and to the extent that that environment deteriorates, their credibility as instruments of crisis management is diminished.
And if that trust is absent it is difficult to see how they can be concluded, let alone be made effective.
If one couples that statement with the references to the Soviet Union in a later part of the statement one will see that it draws a number of observations which could impede what has been widely accepted as progress towards the completion of the SALT discussions and the continuation of detente as we understand it. To me that is not a good statement. It seems to me that we should say that, despite the troubles that are occurring in the Middle East and Vietnam, the Government is confident that the super powers will complete the SALT discussions and achieve detente. This is the advice that I think the experts have given to the back bench members of certain committees. One of the things that is absent from these parliamentary debates is thorough advice and information on this subject for all members of the Parliament. It is rather strange to see the Minister criticising the Opposition about its stand with respect to these matters. No parliamentary system can operate unless the Opposition takes an active and critical view about government policy. Today in the other place and in this place Opposition speakers are doing exactly what I am doing, that is, pointing to the facts which have not been put correctly in the statement and pointing to statements which to me verge almost on the point of being dangerous statements. In that regard I refer to the Minister’s statement about the position of America concerning detente. He said:
But there is one difference. Over the last few years, and for a variety of reasons, one of the super powers- the United States- has adopted a lower posture and a strategically less active policy towards the Third World. Many, inside the United States and outside it, have welcomed this. I will simply observe, as a matter of fact, that this restraint has not resulted in a greater insulation of the Third World from international power politics. On the contrary, it has coincided with the rapid rise of the situation we now face.
That is a dirge comment. It is an encouragement for people to assume that one way or another the United States may well employ a military action, as it has done in the past. To me it is a badly phrased statement. It may have been unintended. When the Minister talked about the way to solve the China- Vietnam situation he made it almost a pre-condition. He said:
The issue between China and Vietnam therefore is not likely to be resolved with any element of permanence by a settlement on the Vietnam-China border which leaves the situation in Kampuchea unchanged.
Again, that is a fairly positive and firm statement that in the opinion of this Government the situation in Kampuchea, which was first destroyed by military operations, must be permanently connected with the China border incident. That is a bad approach to the situation. The statement goes further than the situation we are talking about- the issue of China versus Vietnam, with Soviet Union on the fringes- and talks about the situation in Iran. The Minister made some very dangerous observations about Iran which will be read by friend and foe alike as a threat. The Minister said:
It will be vitally important that wrong conclusions are not drawn and that the temptation to exploit the situation in opportunistic fashion is resisted. This region is vital to Western interests, and it should be apparent that there are very distinct limits to what the West can tolerate in terms of external attempts to undermine its position.
That is a glaring encouragement to people who want to take a military solution. The early part of the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs is strange in view of the Liberal Government’s policies over the years on the question of not settling disputes by military means. He said:
It was therefore doubly objectionable from our point of view first because it sought to settle a dispute within the region by military means of the most extreme kind.
As has been pointed out by members of the Opposition with regard to the origins of trouble in this area, certainly the United States, Australia and other countries saw the Vietnam war as one which must have a military solution. We, the Opposition at the time, took strong exception to this as far back as 1964 when the first group of army advisers were sent to Vietnam. We cautioned the Government about their activities and argued that their presence would mean an adventure into a military situation; later that was so. In another 12 months we sent the first battalion which took an active interest in the affairs of Vietnam.
At that time Prime Minister Holt and the many Liberal Foreign Affairs Ministers spoke of the need to continue and to escalate the war. We all know the American President’s demands that the war had to be escalated and accentuated until the Vietnamese were beaten by military means. At the same time there were associated persuasions in border countries because the French-Indo group had always been somewhat interdependent. We knew of the actions of the then American Central Intelligence Agency in Cambodia. It challenged Sihanouk’s attitude, his policy of neutrality and attempted on more than one occasion to have him assassinated. So the origins of this very bad situation are in the early adventures, trying to solve political situations such as that by other than political means.
To hear the Minister for Foreign Affairs talking about this present Government’s interest in such an approach is rather unusual when it was the Whitlam Government which, for the first time in the history of Australia, brought a new breeze into the international sphere. Prior to Mr Whitlam we had always been challenged at election time by the red threat from China. How many elections were fought on this issue? How many times did they say the real threat was China? How many times did they influence the Australian electorate that this was the cause of the whole trouble and to recognise China as we were the first to do, was a wrong decision? So it is extremely wrong for a Foreign Minister, it seems to me, to place into a document emphasis in the way that I mentioned which would encourage further military action.
What we should be doing is using our greatest endeavours to ensure that there will be no operations of a military nature which can extend the war. We should be making sure that any encouragement of a settlement is, not on the limited basis that I have referred to, not on the basis where the Minister says that nothing can be done unless the Vietnamese get out of Kampuchea. We should be attempting to localise and minimise the conflict in any way we can. We should be assisting in reducing tensions and we certainly should make sure that the present encouraging relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States of America is preserved and pointed to.
The best advice that we have from the experts is that presently the Soviet Union and the USA both expect detente, and that the SALT discussions should proceed satisfactorily. We have the encouragement of knowing that at the present stage the Soviet Union has not intervened in any way except by some sort of support operation. That is a good thing. It should be applauded. We should not write or say things which might encourage the reverse. It is rather unusual to find that a government which resisted in the first instance the recognition of Red China now accuses the Opposition of not being critical and sensible about the situation. But then, in respect to our whole position the Government has not given consideration to a basis for foreign affairs which might well be studied. Senator Sibraa and Senator Kilgariff pointed to the need to review some of the current defence situations which must be closely related to foreign affairs. The defence area as we all know has deteriorated alarmingly since Labor left office.
Nothing has been done about recommendations from our own Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee about the need to reorganise defence industrial support and many other recommendations which were made. I might mention some of them quickly. One which was in the report, which was not considered for 18 months and has now been dismissed was as follows:
That decisions to purchase specific aircraft . . . must be contingent on firm assurances of adequate levels of suitable workload; that the local industry should be closely involved in decisions as to what is a suitable workload; that high technology engine and avionics work should form a substantial pan of that workload; and that the reciprocal purchase of Australian defence products should be actively pursued as a very effective form of offset.
As Senator Sibraa pointed out earlier the sort of equipment which we are purchasing now was basically ordered by the Whitlam-Barnard Government. A national requirement as a basis for any stable or firm foreign policy must surely be a subtantial and adequate shipyard capacity. What has happened since the Fraser Government came to power? There has been the abandonment of a substantial part of our ship construction capacity at Whyalla and Newcastle because of Government policies. One of the recommendations of the joint committee stated:
That the Government sets up an expert group comprising representatives of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and South Australian Governments, managements of the shipyards, the ACTU, to examine these proposals (contained in a six point ‘package deal’ . . .) as a matter of urgency and report on the cost and practicality of their implementation as an integrated package and whether the industry could then be reasonably expected to be economically acceptable.
The Labor Party has an extremely good record in the defence area. No government can speak in the strong way that Mr Peacock has spoken unless it has a satisfactory defence basis. Not only do we not have the equipment; we are getting the equipment on long periods of loans and finance, but we have not got adequate workshop capacity within our own country to make essential equipment to keep the defence forces going. In relation to the Middle East and Iran a number of important recommendations were made by that very worthwhile report of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on the Middle East- much welcomed 12 months ago. Presently there has been no consideration by the Government or any reaction to it. Many other recommendations, if they had been accepted, would have helped to provide a more peaceful situation in the Middle East. One of the recommendations that comes to mind straight away is recommendation 67 about Australia’s representation in the Middle East. It stated:
Australia should continue to expand its diplomatic representation in the Middle East to improve understanding and trade with the region. This should include Australian Services Attaches in Israel, Egypt, Syria and perhaps in Iran, Irak and Libya. Australia should not be dependent on other powers for information on the Middle East- politics, ideology, commerce, and military affairs require the accreditation of Australian diplomats who have a knowledge of Arabic.
The report goes on to nominate a number of other matters in connection with developing better relationships not only with Israel but also with the Arab countries. Those matters have not had the support and reaction that they should have had from the Government. In addition, as we all know, when the Government came to power it abolished a number of posts overseas, and we criticise the Government for doing so. In the Whitlam era we extended diplomatic representation and the country was better represented than ever before.
More recently, the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence has drawn attention to the number of obstacles that are placed in the way of the Department of Foreign Affairs. One of the interesting contributions from that Committee appears on page 67, where it refers to the general question of security. This illustrates the point that is much argued now in the Senate about staff ceilings imperilling not only the ordinary routine departments but also the operation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the change of staff from one post to another. The report states:
There is a growing threat to the security of personnel and property of diplomatic missions throughout the world. Unfortunately this fact has been forcefully demonstrated with increasing frequency. Australian representatives overseas are not immune from these threats and the Committee has received information to illustrate that any complacency in relation to security is foolish.
Within the Department of Foreign Affairs the Diplomatic Security Section deals with personnel, protective and technical security. The Committee has been briefed on the operations of this Section and its ability to deal with security matters. A number of factors emerged from the Committee’s inquiry into security aspects which it feels constrain the Section ‘s operation.
For example: staff ceilings throughout the Department have left the Section with some 25 per cent of its positions unfilled; financial constraints restrict the amount and type of work the Section sees as necessary; travel restrictions, within the Department’s ceiling of permissible visits overseas, limit security surveys and inspections, as a result security checks of posts are less frequent; regulatory authorities are less inclined to accept that a threat exists unless it can be demonstrated, any assessment of a threat is countered by a request to demonstrate it.
The report goes on in an extended way. In contrast to the very strong position taken up on the Minister’s statement, there has been a general weakening of the basis of the country’s defence and foreign affairs structure. When one looks closely at the statement and at the badly phrased sections about which I have spoken, it is apparent that the statement does nothing to provide a satisfactory approach on a peaceful basis to the very serious matters that involve the whole world, and our own country in particular. In respect of the Middle East situation, the Government is encouraging another power, a greater power, to take action when it considers that to be appropriate. None of these approaches are solutions in the long term. This country has to emphasise that in all these disputes the main thing is to work towards not a military solution but one that employs every device of negotiation and does not lay down pre-conditions that will prevent the parties from talking to each other.
– The debate already has ranged over a number of issues raised in the statement made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). I should like to focus on one or two matters; but, before doing so, I think it is worth drawing attention to the fact that in a number of statements in the last three years the Foreign Minister has drawn the community’s attention to important developments as they have occurred within the international arena. For example, in 1 976 he drew attention to emerging international economic issues which had developed, particularly since 1973, and emphasised the volatility of those sorts of issues in international relations and their potential for causing conflict amongst nations. He qualified the importance of those issues in relation to the continuing significance of what are usually referred to as ‘power’ politics and ideology in international affairs, and I think it is generally recognised that these remain the main arbiter of international relationships. In a statement to the National Press Club in November 1 976 Mr Peacock said: it would be an utter mistake for us to regard the old’ and the ‘new’ agenda as mutually exclusive alternatives- to think that we must accept one completely and reject the other completely. It would be a mistake because things do not work like that. On the one hand, the old issues- the issues of ‘power politics ‘-are not there as a result of capricious choice, but because of the basic character of the international system. They will not go away and cannot be wished away, but will remain of central importance.
Another theme to which the Foreign Minister has drawn attention in his statements is the growing importance of Third World nations as a group. The Government has set up a committee of inquiry into Australia’s relations with the Third World, and the Foreign Minister referred to that in his statement today. He emphasised again the importance that the Government attaches to the role of the Third World as a group of nations, particularly because of its significance, strategically and ideologically, its economic interests, and its views on the need for the development of a new international economic order, which have been pressed in the United Nations over recent times.
The third major theme that has been referred to by the Foreign Minister in the last three years is the growing concern over signs of possible major conflicts. Again, the Foreign Minister today referred to statements in 1975 in which he foresaw the possibility that Indo-China might become the scene for a Sino-Soviet conflict to be played out. That statement, which was made in October 1975, reflected considerable foresight about what might happen, and indeed has happened, in Indo-China. That foresight was also reflected in his statement to the Parliament in May 1978, from which I quote briefly:
The world is in the midst of a period of change that could prove to be as significant as any in modern history. The character of international relations as we have known it is changing.
As I mentioned at the outset. I would like to cover a couple of points which emerge from the Minister’s statement and which in many respects draw together those three themes from his earlier statements. The particular point I wish to discuss is the critical role of the super powers in the situation which has developed. The Minister and the Government have recognised this. For example, the Minister makes reference to the importance of the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty talks and the impact that recent events might have on these very important talks- important particularly for the control of strategic arms. I should like to quote from what the Minister said, because I think it is especially important:
The Australian Government strongly supports the completion of SALT II as a crucial contribution to arms control over the next decade. It is precisely because we do so that it is necessary to point out that both in strategic and political terms what is currently happening in Africa, the Middle East and Asia endangers a new SALT agreement. Such agreements cannot rest on air. They cannot be divorced from the general strategic and political environment and to the extent that the environment deteriorates, their credibility as instruments of crisis management is diminished. They are a product of- not a substitute for- a basic minimum of trust.
It is the events to which the Foreign Minister referred that in many respects are endangering this quite crucial process of negotiation and, we hope, agreement between the super powers. The Minister has made a very important reference in his statement to the restraint that has been exercised by the Soviet Union in the current crisis in Indo-China. In his statement he makes the point that it is to the Soviet Union’s credit that in the present phase of the crisis it has so far shown restraint. I think that is an important concession that should be made to the Soviet Union. Thus far we should recognise that it has exercised very considerable restraint in its approach to the issue. I would suggest that we and others have to be careful not to isolate the Soviet Union and perhaps force it into acts which it would presumably prefer to avoid. In this respect the Minister made a very important statement when he said:
As we approach the nineteen eighties some perceptive commentators are pointing to a dangerous asymmetry: While the Soviet Union is increasing its already enormous military power faster than any other country, and while it is increasingly active in relation to the trouble spots of the world, politically it is the odd-man-out among the great powers. A country which at the same time feels militarily confident and politically vulnerable may easily miscalculate . . .
I think that raises important issues, which in a statement of this kind obviously could not necessarily be comprehensively addressed by the Minister. But it does emphasise the importance, as I have already mentioned, of the limitation of strategic arms and the proposed SALT II agreement. It also emphasises the importance of other nations not forcing the Soviet Union into a situation where it considers itself isolated and threatened. Perhaps this sort of attitude is reflected in the treaty which was signed in November between Vietnam and the Soviet Union. Article 6 of that treaty points out:
The two Parties signatory to the treaty shall exchange views on all important international questions relating to the interests of the two countries. In case either party is attacked or threatened with attack, the two Parties signatory to the treaty shall immediately consult each other with a view to eliminating that threat, and shall take appropriate and effective measures to safeguard peace and the security of the two countries.
No doubt that sort of statement in the treaty between Vietnam and the Soviet Union reflects, in part, the sons of ambitions we have seen expressed by the Soviet Union in many parts of the world. We should also be concerned that it might express a growing concern on the part of the
Soviet Union, at least, with its isolation as a great power and indeed as a super power. For example, it is not hard to see that the Soviet Union might feel that Europe, Japan, the United States of America, and China are in fact in many ways aligned against it. I believe that we have to be careful about that sort of development if we expect the Soviet Union to continue to exercise the sort of restraint it has exercised so far in the conflict in Indo-China. I only add that in the context of the tendency towards alignment between Europe, Japan, the United States of America and China, Australia obviously falls into that group along with members of the Association of South East Asian Nations and the countries of the South Pacific.
It is in that context also that we ought to look at our treaty with the United States of America. We also ought to consider very carefully its real meaning. I have spoken before in the Senate about the need to re-examine that treaty. Certainly we need to re-examine the extent of our reliance upon it, whether it is in rehetoric or whether as it so often does, it goes far beyond rhetoric and the dangers that creates of a false sense of security in this country.
Article IV of the ANZUS Pact is as follows:
Each Party recognises that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.
The Minister, in his statement this afternoon referred to the United States in the following terms:
Over the last few years, and for a variety of reasons, one of the super powers- the United States- has adopted a lower posture and a strategically less active policy towards the Third World. Many, inside the United States and outside it, have welcomed this. I will simply observe, as a matter of fact, that this restraint has not resulted in a greater insulation of the Third World from international power politics. On the contrary, it has coincided with the rapid rise of the situation we now face.
The Minister’s words are very diplomatic but I think that statement reflects the fact that the United States must inescapably adopt a position of active leadership. Earlier today I think Senator Wheeldon referred to the need for the democracies of the world to act in some degree of concert. If that is to happen it is important that the United States should give a lead in that process. All I say in relation to that is that we in Australia should not base our strategic thinking only on ANZUS or assume that our security and defence is firm because of ANZUS.
The Guam Doctrine, as enunciated by President Nixon, made it clear that the United
States- to put it in its most simplistic terms- will help those who are prepared to help themselves. Australia has existed in peace and security for a long dme. We have established- whatever problems we may face at particular dmes- a relatively secure, affluent, sometimes self-indulgent and often selfish society, because we have been insulated from many of the problems and crises that have faced other parts of the world. As we now look outwards at a potentially major crisis in our own region, then we must question some of the assumptions that have been at the base of our strategic, defence and foreign policy thinking in recent years. I think we must say that we, like many others, look to the United States for more effective leadership, for more decisive action, and it may be worth recalling that in 1976, the Foreign Minister, in his statement to the National Press Club, to which I have already referred, made the following statement:
In terms of the established traditional agenda, framed essentially in terms of political and military power, our problem has always been that we do not possess enough of that power. Our broad foreign policy strategy has been to make up for that deficiency by maintaining close alliances with other democratic countries.
That is true. My point is that we must question the assumptions of the past and I think the Foreign Minister does that to a considerable extent. I think we must continue to do so. In doing that we have then got to accept that in this peaceful and relatively quiet continent that we occupy we have a greater responsibility now, and in the future, to do more to look after ourselves. I do not want to canvass the many complex issues and implications in regard to our security outlook, Australian defence policies, or in relation to reserve forces in Australia, but I think they have very significant implications which perhaps can be pursued in the course of another debate in this place. An important element- as I said at the outset, about what the Foreign Minister has been saying for three years- is to stress emerging trends, whether they are economic issues, the increasing role of the Third World, or the growing potential for conflict in the international community. This statement today draws much of that together and raises issues particularly in regard to assumptions that have been behind much of our thinking in the past, assumptions which I believe the Government is now questioning as it ought, and which I believe that we as a community and as a parliament ought to continue to question so that Australia’s interests are best protected. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Proposed Casino in the Northern Territory- Minister for Finance- Trade Union Training Authority- Answers to Questions on Notice- Wheat Industry- Honours and Awards
Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise the matter of the proposed casino at Mindil Beach in the Northern Territory. It is most appropriate that Senator Webster, the Minister for Science and the Environment, is here tonight as he has a particular interest in this subject. The Minister will be aware of a proposal to build a casino at Mindil Beach, Darwin, in the Northern Territory. My concern, and the concern of a large number of people in the Northern Territory, is that no environmental impact study has been made of the proposal to build the casino. I call on the Minister to respond to the submission which the Save Mindil Committee has already sent and of which no doubt he has a copy. I want to make it clear at this stage that I am not discussing the desirability of casinos per se or of a casino in the Northern Territory. Contrary to the emotional outbursts by the Chief Minister in the Northern Territory I have not made a comment on this subject, nor do I intend to do so in the adjournment debate tonight.
The question to which I wish to direct my attention is the erection of a building on the foreshore. The fact is that the building is to be a casino. Let me give a brief background to the matter to assist the Minister in his consideration of the subject. The casino was first mooted in 1976. Although the Minister probably will not recall it, on 10 November 1976 1 asked him a question on this matter. He responded on behalf of the then Minister for the Northern Territory, Mr Evan Adermann, and said that he had no knowledge of the building of any casino. At that time an advertisement had been placed for an investor with $15m to $20m to spend who would be interested in building a casino in the Northern Territory.
The next step occurred on 23 December 1977 when the Northern Territory Government sought entrepreneurs interested in establishing casinos in Darwin and Alice Springs. An executive member, Mr Tuxworth, went to Hobart in January 1978 and had discussions with personnel from Federal Hotels. He came back and announced that Mindil Beach had been selected as the ideal site for a casino. An officer from Federal Hotels, Mr Farrell, said that he knew of the opposition to the Mindil site but that Mindil was the ideal place. He claimed that it was the best place in Darwin for a casino and went so far as to say that any other site which might be selected would retard the development 12 months. Following this the Government changed the town plan and this caused a great deal of comment. I would like to read from the Northern Territory News of that time an article headed: ‘Rezoning Recalls Gilruth’. The article states:
Chairman of the Save Mindil Committee, Mr Barry Spurr, has called the rezoning of the casino site at Mindil beach government a la Gilruth. ‘
He claimed the Government was ruling by executive decision rather than by representation of the people.
The new Darwin town plan showed the Mindil beach area zoned 01 and 02 (public open space) before it went to Cabinet.
The zoning was altered to B5- commercial development- on Monday.
Labor Member for Fannie Bay, Mrs Pam 0’Neil said the rezoning was a ‘dictatorial action reminiscent of some of the worst examples of Canberra decision-making!
The acting Chief Minister, Mr Perron, said today: “It was obvious the Mindil site would have to be rezoned to allow the complex to replace the caravan park.
Even Blind Freddy could have worked that out two months ago when the site was announced, ‘ he said.
If the Acting Chief Minister makes those comments one has to suggest that perhaps the Northern Territory is like the country of the blind where the one-eyed man is king. But the Government changed the plan. Let me quote now from the Star of 25 January this year, which gives details of the matter. The newspaper states:
The corner of Mindil selected as the site of Darwin’s proposed casino is no longer shown on the Town Plan as being for recreation.
And the change has been made without the people of Darwin being given the opportunity to object.
Normally the Town Planning Board, which is responsible for the Town Plan, would have published notice of the proposed change for four consecutive days.
Citizens would then have 28 days to lodge objections.
If the Town Planning Board disregarded those objections the decisions could be appealed.
And so the article goes on. Basically the Mindil Redevelopment involves 15.1 acres of what was recreation reserve. The buildings that have been proposed for the casino will cover 1.7 acres. The balance will be landscaped and there will be car parks and so on. The building which is to be erected on the site has been referred to in a statement put out by the Acting Chief Minister as follows:
Eighty-eight double rooms and eight luxury suites are planned. A pyramid tower equivalent to five stories in height will contain entry lobby, guest reception, retail shops, a casino, four bars, a ISO seat grill room, 300 seat cabaretdining, a convention area for a capacity 300 and an a la cane dining room for ISO. Landscaped gardens and recreation facilities will add to the resort atmosphere- swimming pools, tennis courts, bowling and putting greens and a health club.
The Save Mindil Committee has claimed that the development will destroy the beach. This clearly is outlined in the document which the Minister for Science and the Environment has in his hand. The development will create, the Committee claims, a situation similar to that at Surfers Paradise where a lot of development has occurred close to the shore. People of all political persuasions have signed petitions. Well over 3,000 signatures will be forwarded to the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister himself called the Save Mindil Committee an ‘ALP front’, a statement which caused almost as much furore as the Chief Minister’s original decision. I will not go into the details. Plenty of evidence from Country Liberal Party supporters suggests that the Chief Minister was as wrong on that statement as he is on most other matters.
I do not intend to canvass the arguments of the Save Mindil Committee. They are well covered in the document and I commend them to the Minister. My concern is to bring to the attention of the Minister the fact that no environmental impact study has been undertaken. The Chief Minister has claimed that there was one. Let me read from a Press release put out by the Chief Minister which states:
Although the Government was not compelled to carry out an environmental impact study, environmental considerations had been taken into account.
Mr Everingham stated:
The foreshore studies indicate the casino will not unduly affect the environment, as the development is further back than the existing caravan park.
I draw to the Minister’s attention the fact that the report to which Mr Everingham is referring is entitled: ‘Environmental Planning and Coastal Management Study’ and relates to Vesteys.Mindil Beach and Casuarina-Lee Point Beach. It was prepared by the Department of Construction for the Department of the Northern Territory in June 1 978. It had nothing to say about the casino. It certainly was not an environmental impact study in the sense that we would understand one. It did not consider the impact of the building of the casino on that site. The report deals with extensions to the caravan park but virtually nothing else, as far as we are concerned, about development.
I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to calling for an environmental impact statement before any development proceeds. There is no doubt that the Federal Government has the right to do so. I draw attention to a paper produced by our own Parliamentary Legislative Research Service and headed ‘Environmental Conditions or Safeguards applying to projects in the Northern Territory since the conferral of selfgovernment’. The paper begins by saying:
Before self-government on 1 July 1978, the Commonwealth Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1 974 applied to all projects in the Northern Territory.
It then puts the argument for the legislation still to apply. It finishes virtually with this decision:
Consequently, without any provision to the contrary, it can only be concluded that the Environment Protection ( Impact of Proposals) Act continues to apply to ail projects in the Territory after self-government.
I have indicated that the Federal Government has the right to do this. I now suggest to the Minister that it has a responsibility to do so. The Northern Territory Government is a new government feeling its way. In keeping with sentiments which were expressed in this place and other places when the Northern Territory (SelfGovernment) Bill was being discussed Federal colleagues, as suggested, might assist their colleagues in the Northern Territory as they move towards their own political maturity. I suggest that the Minister has the right and the responsibility to do so. He also has the responsibility to protect the rights of the Territorians.
I appreciate the fact that this is an emotional issue. I suggest that the way to diffuse the issue is to have a study made and a statement put out. The building of the casino or the erection of any other building on that site can then be considered in the light of that study. The thrust of my plea to the Minister tonight is that he might help to resolve this matter in a mature and sensible way.
-I had intended to raise the matter I am about to raise during the debate on the Audit Amendment Bill, which will be coming before the Senate soon and which outlines the responsibility of the Auditor-General to provide for the audit of the Government’s accounts, sets out important controls which are fundamental to the accounting for receipts and payments under the control of parliamentary departments and departments of state and confers important powers and responsibilities on the Treasurer for financial management across the entire departmental spectrum. I regret that Senator Harradine is not present in the chamber tonight. Normally I would have waited for him to be present but his attendances here are becoming less frequent. So this matter concerning him and his successor in the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council has to be raised in his absence.
I refer to a matter that is of considerable concern to many people in Tasmania and, in particular, to trade unionists. It involves money intended for the use of a Commonwealth statutory body- the Trade Union Training Authority or TUTA, as it is known. I believe that money from the Tasmanian Government has been paid to the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council for use by a Commonwealth body and has not been properly accounted for. I want to ask questions in relation to this matter and to ask that, if necessary, the Auditor-General or the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) investigate this matter because of its serious nature.
– What was the wording you used? You referred to payment by whom, to whom?
– It was money paid to the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council by the Tasmanian Government for use by a Commonwealth body- the Trade Union Training Authority. I ask: Has this money been misappropriated? Has it been used for a purpose other than that for which it was granted, namely, trade union education and, in particular, a State government supplement to Commonwealth Government funds for the Trade Union Training Authority? If there are no skeletons in the closet, why is the Secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council not replying to specific questions being asked of him by the premier of Tasmania and by unions affiliated with the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council? I have here two letters from different trade unions concerning this matter, written to the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council. Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
The letters read as follows- 14th February 1979
Mr R. Watling,
219 Main Road, New Town 7008
In January 1974 the State Government paid $15,000 to the TTLC for an Education Program to employ an Education Officer who subsequently went on to the Commonwealth Payroll when the Interim Trade Union Training Authority was set up in April 1974. Since then the State Government has paid the TTLC $10,000 each year to the end of 1977 for Trade Union Education purposes, making a total of $55,000 in State Government Grants.
It is a matter of concern to the ETU that the abovementioned amounts do not readily appear to be evident in the TTLC financial statements for that reason I would on behalf of the ETU request answers to the following questions.
ETU Tas. Branch. 20th February 1979
Carolside’, 219 Main Road,
New Town 7008
Dear Mr Watling,
Your statements quoted in the media on 16 March 1979 raise a number of additional questions and I ask that you both clear them up publicly now and place this letter on the agenda of the next TTLC Council Meeting.
– Does the Secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council, Mr R. Wading, not realise that these questions must be answered? Is he also protecting his predecessor, Senator Harradine? Both men received and signed for cheques issued by the Tasmanian Department of Education. The first cheque of $15,000 was paid to the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council in January 1974 for an education program to employ an education officer who subsequently went onto the Commonwealth payroll when the interim Trade Union Training Authority was set up in April 1974. Since then, the State Government has paid the Trades and Labour Council $10,000 each year to the end of 1977 for trade union education. That adds up to $55,000 in State Government grants which have not been properly accounted for, either to the State Premier or to the full Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council. Senator Harradine not only received the first cheques paid during his term of office as Secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council but also was the person who banked the 1976 cheque after he had entered the Parliament. Mr Watling banked only the last $10,000 paid in November 1977. Why was this money not placed in an audited Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council account or immediately forwarded to the State Council of the Australian Trade Union Training Authority? The annual reports of the Australian Trade Union Training Authority for 1975-76 and 1976-77 made no mention of the Tasmanian Government providing any funds. Yet when the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Doug Lowe, wrote to the Secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council asking how the $55,000 had been spent, Mr Watling, the Secretary, forwarded the letter to TUTA, the Commonwealth body.
I am asking what Mr Watling is trying to hide and I am also asking, because of the earlier history, whether Senator Harradine can provide the answer. Is there truth in the report that the money was deposited in a savings investment account attracting about 9¼ per cent interest? If so, then every cent of the considerable interest earned has to be accounted for. As the last audit of the TTLC accounts was a qualified one, it would seem that all its financial affairs are in a sorry state. Whatever the situation may be, the matter I am raising involves money intended for a Commonwealth statutory body- TUTA.
– You know that question has been answered.
– It has not been answered. Senator Walters has been lecturing at the Authority at the invitation of these people, so she would want to protect them. If Senator Walters disagrees with me she will be able to get up later and answer the questions.
– Why don’t you do your homework.
– I have done my homework and I am not going to pay attention to the interjections of Senator Walters because she does not know the facts and I do.
– Well then, do your homework.
– I am giving the facts to the Senate tonight. I ask Senator Walters to be silent; I object to her interjections.
– I can understand that. It is embarrassing.
– It is embarrassing because the honourable senator who has just been interjecting has been speaking to National Civic Council students at the invitation of these people and therefore has a vested interest in the perpetuation of this very questionable situation. She might have to answer for it herself. However, I will continue with the more important part of my contribution, disregarding the interjections. I say that whatever the situation might be, the matter I am raising involves money intended for a Commonwealth statutory body and we in this Parliament are entitled to know whether the money, plus any interest accrued, has been properly accounted for. Perhaps Senator Walters or Senator Harradine can enlighten us on that.
The Launceston Examiner of last Friday informed the public that Senator Harradine flew from Canberra on Thursday last especially to attend that night’s meeting of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council. The newspaper heading concerning the report of the meeting read: “TTLC still in dark over money’. So I ask Senator Walters where her interjection comes into the matter. Mr Watling admitted to the meeting that the State Government grants for trade union education were intended to be administered on behalf of all unions in Tasmania, not only those affiliated with the TTLC. The only new information that Mr Watling provided to the meeting was that he had spoken to the Director-General of Education that day and would soon meet him to explain details of the fund and its operation. What sort of accounting for public money is this? It was not just last year that this fund was set up: It was five years ago. Both the present and the former Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council secretaries cannot continue to cover up the situation. The antics of these two manipulators of the Watergate variety would make good slapstick comedy if it were not such a serious matter.
It would seem that the TUTA was unaware of the State Government grants and yet the State Government was given to understand that the money went to TUTA. Why has the $55,000 not been shown in the TTLC financial statements? Has the $55,000 been subject to official audit? Who banked the money? What is the name of the account and at which bank and branch is it lodged? What interest rate does it draw and how much interest has accrued? How much of the $55,000 together with interest is still in this account? If any payments have been made from it, what Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council education program received the money and who authorised the payment? Why have no reports on this money, or any payments from it, been made to the full Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council? Do the State and national councils of the Trade Union Training Authority know about it? There is no alternative to a full and frank explanation of these questions by Mr Watling or by Senator Harradine. The Auditors-General of both the Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments must meet their responsibility to investigate these serious questions concerning Treasury funds.
– I would very much like to do my homework on the very important question of the resignation of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson), and his reappointment, but my principal will not give me any material at all to study. Not wanting to come to any wrong conclusions, I am trying to see whether we can derive any light from the statements that have been made. I was interested this evening when Senator Coleman, followed by Senator Missen and Senator Davidson, complained about the inaccuracy of newspaper editorials. The pertinent remark by Senator Davidson was that it was important because the. lives, happiness and well-being of people were affected. It is very important that accurate information be given to this Parliament. Even more than the lives, well-being and happiness of people is involved. The whole welfare of the country is at stake when there is a lack of information or wrongdoing that is left uncorrected.
Honourable senators will recall that during the 1975 crisis the argument was put that we in Australia are governed by a Parliament; that the Parliament consists of the Crown, the Senate and the House of Representatives and that members of the House of Representatives are entitled to accurate information. I am concerned about the reply of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) on Thursday last to the remarks of Senator Grimes and myself on this question. Hansard shows that the Minister replied at one minute past 1 1. 1 regard that time as important because the Minister then referred to a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Fraser) in the other place on the same night. After Mr Fraser had made his statement, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, was in the process of making a statement but got only a short way through it when the Deputy Speaker stated:
It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
That was at least half an hour before Senator Durack replied to my remarks and referred me to the statement made in the other House. At that time, I suggest, not only should he have known what was being said in the other House, but his statement would indicate that he did. I do not think his reply conveyed accurately to this House what was being said in the other place, the record of which I was referred to upon making my protest that night. Senator Durack said:
The only matter I wish to take up is that which was raised by Senator Grimes and by Senator Cavanagh who said that the Government had some obligation to the Senate when a Minister resigned. The fact is that the former Minister for Finance, the Honourable Eric Robinson resigned at an earlier hour this evening. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has gone into the House of Representatives and he has informed the House of that fact. Honourable senators can read what the Prime Minister said on the subject in Hansard tomorrow morning. Honourable senators on the opposite side show an abysmal ignorance of constitutional conventions. I suppose we are not to be surprised by that. The fact of the matter is that if there are any traditions about explanations in these matters then the explanations are given by the Minister who has resigned. Ministers are perfectly free- they are given every facility- to go into a House and give the explanations for their resignation. That is all. The tradition as far as a resignation is concerned is as I have said. The Prime Minister has gone into the House and announced the facts. He has spoken briefly about them. What the Prime Minister has said will be, of course, available tomorrow morning for honourable senators who are interested.
Therefore, he implied to me that the facts Senator Grimes and I were seeking had already been stated in the other House and would be available in Hansard; that therefore it was useless querying it, the facts were available and open to question. However, the Prime Minister had this to say in the other House:
I inform the House that the honourable Eric Robinson, Minister for Finance, has submitted to me his resignation from the Ministry. I have accepted Mr Robinson’s resignation with very great regret. I shall be proposing to His Excellency the Governor-General tomorrow that Mr Robinson’s resignation be accepted and that the honourable John Howard be sworn in as Minister for Finance in addition to his portfolio as Treasurer. I shall give consideration in due course to a permanent appointment of Minister for Finance.
Contrary to what Senator Durack told us- that we would read all the facts in Hansard- we got nothing from the Prime Minister other than that
Mr Robinson had resigned. Therefore the AttorneyGeneral was not open and did not reply to the criticism made during the adjournment debate. He stated that if there were to be an explanation it was the responsibility of the Minister resigning to make it. I heard the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in the other place today tracing the history of these matters back to the eighteenth century and pointing out that never under the Westminster system had a Minister resigned without the full information and facts being given to the Parliament. Indeed, in 1971 when the present Prime Minister resigned from the Gorton Government as Minister for Defence he accepted that fact and believed it. On that occasion he said:
The Prime Minister, because of his unreasoned drive to get his own way, his obstinacy, impetuous and emotional reactions, has imposed strains on the Liberal Party, the Government and the Public Service. I do not believe he is fit to hold the great office of Prime Minister and I cannot serve in his Government.
– It sounds like history repeating itself.
-Very much so, but at least he gave an explanation. He said further
My responsibility through the Government is to this Parliament and through it to the people of Australia.
That great, conscientious Minister who resigned because he could not serve under the then Prime Minister had two responsibilities- to the Parliament and through it to the people of Australia. Those were high sentiments but apparently the whole of the negotiations in the present case was based upon the fact that it there were to be an acceptance of responsibility to the Parliament, to the nation, and the people of Australia it came after responsibility to the Liberal Party. The responsibility that Mr Eric Robinson recognised that he had, that Mr Lynch hoped he would continue to fulfil, was to the Liberal Party. Therefore, apparently some complaint in regard to the Liberal Party was the cause of the whole problem. The Prime Minister released the letter that he sent to the then ex-Minister, in which he said:
I understand it is your intention to stay in the Parliament. I look forward to your continued contribution to the Liberal cause.
He did not ask for a contribution to the Parliament, to the Government or to the nation. He referred to a continued contribution to the Liberal cause. The Prime Minister, in his statement of 25 February, after the meeting in Melbourne, said:
After further discussion it was jointly agreed by all three that that would be by far the best course for the well-being of the Liberal Party, the Government and Australia.
The Liberal Party is the first consideration.
– Parliament is not even mentioned.
-No, Parliament is not even mentioned. The Prime Minister ignores it, and that has been my complaint all along. I have made that protest in relation to the legislation which is being brought forward. The Minister for Finance made a statement in the other House today which was supposed to explain everything. He said:
On Thursday last, I handed the Prime Minister a letter in which I informed him of my decision to resign from the Cabinet. I reached this decision after experiencing a series of difficulties in a number of areas. These included administrative and organisational matters concerning the Government and the Liberal Party. These matters are now past.
Following the discussion which took place on Sunday, the matters concerning the Government and the Liberal Party are now past. He went on to say:
There had been, at times, some terseness in my relationships with the Prime Minister. The effect was a cumulative one. Government policy was not involved.
Therefore the Minister had no disagreement with government policy, the Liberal Party or the Government.
– Are you suggesting that he just did not like him?
– In the statement which he made earlier today I think he indicated that he does like him. Unless the Minister resigned later in the day, he does like him, but last Thursday he did not like him. Mr Robinson went on further to state:
After further discussion, it was agreed that my reappointment to the Ministry as Minister for Finance would be far the best course for the well being of the Liberal Party and the Government of Australia.
– Harry Miller must have written that speech.
-No, I think the President of the Liberal Party wrote it. Every concern is for the Liberal Party. The statement continued:
If the type of discussion which took place on Sunday with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Leader of the party had taken place earlier, I would not have resigned. With hindsight, it was unfortunate that that discussion did not take place.
Yet the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) said today that he was not aware of any discussion which took place between Mr Robinson and Mr Fraser on Thursday. Everyone else in the chamber is aware that that discussion took place. Mr Robinson stated:
I reached this decision after experiencing a series of difficulties ina number of areas.
So the situation has been in existence for a long time. Its effects were cumulative as a result of the terseness in the relationship. However, never during the period in which these difficulties had a cumulative effect had the prime Minister and the Minister for Finance have a discussion of the type that they had on Sunday. What type of discussion took place on Sunday?
– Mum’s the word.
-Was mum the word? Did Mum have the controlling interest in the discussion? In his statement the Minister said:
I make it perfectly clear- no deals were involved; there are no changed arrangements; no policy implications.
Mr Speaker, I am deeply conscious of my responsibilities to the Liberal Party, to the Government and to the Prime Minister.
– Not to the Parliament?
– No, his responsibility is first to the Liberal Party, then to the Government and then to the Prime Minister. The Minister further stated:
After our discussions, let me affirm my full support for the Prime Minister.
After that discussion, the Minister affirms his full support. After the terse scenes and the difficulties that accumulated, he could not given unqualified support. He does not say that he can given unqualified support. He says that he can give full support. I do not know the difference between the terms but he used those words for some purpose. He did not say: ‘I can now give unqualified support’. But the weekend discussions had some effect. On Thursday, as Senator Primmer said, Mr Eric Robinson was not prepared to serve under the bastard’.
– The big bastard.
-The big bastard. He had changed after the discussions from a bastard to someone to whom Mr Eric Robinson could give full support. I would like to know what the discussions were about. I ask honourable senators to have a look at the record of Mr Eric Robinson. He said:
I have served on the Queensland State Executive continuously for a period of 1 4 years, five of these as State President.
What more loyalty does anyone want from a Minister who has served on the State Executive of the Liberal Party? Mr Eric Robinson went on to say:
I am convinced the future of Australia is deeply interwoven with the principles of the Liberal Party.
And so it goes on.
– You are quoting there, I take it?
-They are quotes. He went on to say:
My rejoining the Ministry dashed the hopes of the critics of both the Government and the Prime Minister.
I thought there was no bigger critic than the one we heard about on Thursday night. He went on to say:
Their howls of indignation were merely a reflection of the chagrin that they feel at the removal of what they hopefully saw as a tool with which to beat the Prime Minister and the Government . . .
I ask honourable senators: Who was using a tool more than the man who said ‘I wouldn’t work under the big bastard’. Who sought to destroy the Prime Minister more than that man did? At the time he sought to destroy the Prime Minister he left the Parliament with a grin on his facethis is an ambitious man who rose to a Cabinet position- and simply walked out happy about the fact that he had resigned. Malcolm Fraser was livid as he came into the House of Representatives to make the announcement. Meanwhile Reg Withers was walking around the lobbies of this place with a grin on his face saying: ‘Now the truth will come out’. This is the history of this affair.
Why cannot we as representatives of the people, as members of Parliament, be told how the Liberal Party was threatened? Why did Mrs McComb receive an instruction not to let this be discussed at the national executive meeting of the Liberal Party when the question was mentioned in passing? The only conclusion that one can justifiably reach is that Mr Eric Robinson found out something about Mr Fraser that would destroy Mr Fraser and the Liberal Party. To bring it to a head he announced his resignation. Smilingly, Mr Eric Robinson said that ‘Fraser will tell you the reason; go and ask him what the reason is’. Then on Sunday pressure was brought to bear and he was brought to Melbourne. Mr Eric Robinson can never disclose the reason because his power over the Prime Minister at the present time, the power of a threat of exposure, would simply be the finish. The Prime Minister can never tell the reason because its disclosure would be more dangerous to the Prime Minister and to the Government than a non-disclosure. Eventually the full story will come out. I think we are entitled to the full story on the whole matter. Most Queensland Liberal Party members would like a disclosure of this story.
I have raised this matter because I know that at Question Time this morning the Government was very concerned about it. It was very annoyed and very worried. Those who know about it are worried. It is a big threat. Surely Mr Fraser and the Government have a responsibility to the people of Australia and a responsibility to the Parliament. Apparently there is a danger to the Liberal Party. Mr Robinson had to shut up because the Liberal Party was in danger. It did not matter about the country or the Parliament. That is why there has been no explanation of the whole matter. If someone is at fault and if the knowledge that Mr Robinson has is enough to discredit the Prime Minister, we have a right to know and he has a responsibility to tell us.
– Like members of the Liberal Party I too had to sweat it out over the weekend on some matters I wish to raise tonight. This is the first occasion I have had to do so. On Wednesday or Thursday I asked -
– You don’t know what day it is.
– Yes I do. I am more confused over what has been happening in the Liberal Party ranks and by what Senator Cavanagh has put to the Senate tonight. There are a lot of worried faces on the other side of the chamber now that some of the truth has been revealed to members of the Liberal Party. Senator Jessop said that I do not know what day it is. All senators do not yet know who is the present Minister for Finance. We are talking about Mr Robinson as though he is still the Minister for Finance. If there are any changes in the ministry it is the usual practice of the Leader of the Government to announce them in this chamber after prayers. This was done in the House of Representatives. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) got up in the House of Representatives this morning and announced that Mr Robinson had been sworn in again as the Minister for Finance but no announcement has yet been made in this chamber. Officially, as far as senators know, Mr Howard is still the Minister for Finance. We will have to read Hansard tomorrow, as Senator Durack told Senator Cavanagh to do, in order to get some information.
One of the three matters I wish to raise tonight concerns a question I asked Senator Webster on Wednesday. It relates to the first advance payment to wheatgrowers from the Wheat Board. I asked the Minister:
Can he confirm that the Reserve Bank of Australia will coerce the trading banks into funding some $2 50m of the first advance payment on the 1978-79 wheat harvest? Will the Australian Wheat Board be paying about 1 1 per cent interest on money borrowed from the trading banks, as against an interest rate of 9 per cent to 914 per cent if the money were borrowed in the traditional manner from the Reserve Bank ‘s rural credit department? If the Minister cannot provide an immediate answer will he undertake to endeavour to provide an answer before the suspension of the sitting of the Senate for dinner this day?
However, Senator Webster was not able to do so. After Question Time the next day he provided me with an answer in part. He did not answer the most important part of my question. I suppose one cannot blame him for that because he was acting only on behalf of another Minister. His answer was published in Hansard of 22 February. He said:
On 1 December 1978 the Minister for Primary Industry announced that wheatgrowers will receive a first advance payment of S75 per tonne for deliveries to the Australian Wheat Board from the 1978-79 season’s harvest. The Minister said that arrangements had been made for funds required to pay the first advance to be lent by the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank to the Wheat Board under the security of a Commonwealth guarantee. It was forecast at the time that deliveries of wheat to the Board would be 13 million tonnes. The forecast now is that deliveries could be in excess of 1 7 million tonnes.
This situation has been brought about by the unusual moist temperate conditions during October/November resulting in ideal growing conditions which led to phenomenal yields in late planted crops.
Yet, from the statement made by Mr Fraser on the same day last week one would have thought that is was the policies of this Government which led to the good wheat harvest. He talked about the buoyancy in the rural sector. One would think that that happened because of this Government’s good policies. Senator Webster destroyed that argument. He said that the wheat harvest was the result of phenomenal rains during part of the year. His answer continued:
As a result growers are benefiting significantly from increased cash flows resulting from the higher yielding crops. This would be helpful especially to those growers whose cash flow may have been affected by changed delivery arrangements for wheat from the 1978-79 harvest. However the wheat industry’s funding arrangements are characterised by first payments over a shorter period than those of other industries whose financial requirements are spread over the whole year. The nature of the harvest means that the bulk of deliveries of wheat come forward during a three month period. The effect of the unprecedented level of deliveries to the Wheat Board will be the injection of an unexpected large amount of money into the rural economy through the first advance payments. Of course the Government continues to place emphasis on the control of the monetary aggregates as a key element of its general economic policy and would therefore naturally be reviewing developments closely.
But Senator Webster did not state in his answer what the interest rate would be. That is what the wheat growers in this country want to know. Will the Government increase the interest rate by VA per cent, thus forcing the Australian Wheat Board to borrow the money from the private trading banks? When we do our sums, we find that it will cost the wheat growers in this country an extra $6m in interest payments because this Government is not funding the first advance payments from the credit department of the Reserve Bank of Australia. It is handing this over to its friends, the private trading banks, so that they can reap the benefit of the increased interest rates. If I am wrong in that assumption, I hope that the Minister will provide a reply before the Senate rises at the end of the week.
- Senator, could you tell me where you obtained your information?
– I have read the answer given to me by the Minister. I asked him last week whether the interest rate was to increase from 9 per cent or 9V4 per cent, which it usually is, to 1 1 per cent. He provided me with a part answer but he did not tell me what the interest rate would be. I am pointing out to the Minister that the industry is concerned that if what I have asked him is correct- that is, whether the Government is coercing the Reserve Bank into seeking funds from the private trading banksthe industry itself will have to incur an extra Vh per cent interest charge on that $250m to $300m. If my quick mathematical exercise is correct, that amounts to about $6m. If I am wrong, as I said, the Minister can correct me this week. I hope that I will receive an answer before the Senate rises at the end of this week.
The other matter I want to raise- this is the first opportunity I have had to mention it- is this: On 2 1 November last year I placed a series of questions on the Notice Paper concerning Mr Harry M. Miller. I was given an answer to my question on notice last Thursday. On the same day the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr McLeay) gave a verbal answer to the honourable member for Melbourne, Mr Innes, in the other place. I am concerned that there is a grave inconsistency and discrepancy between the answer given to Mr Innes and the answer that was given to me in writing. I asked, among other things, this question which was not answered:
What measures have been taken to ensure that these costs are specifically related to the Bicentenary planning, and not combined with Mr Miller’s other extensive Government positions or his private interests.
That was part 3 of the question. Part 3 of the answer states:
The Department of Administrative Services is meeting only the cost of the facilities which have been continued on. Within the context of the arrangements normal administrative processes, including certification where applicable, are applied by the Department in meeting these expenditures.
I will be pursuing that matter when the supplementary Estimates are examined later in the session. There is a discrepancy to which I want to refer. I have quoted from the answer which was given to me by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), who represents the Minister for Administrative Services in the Senate, in reply to question No. 1051. I placed that question on the Notice Paper on 21 November so the Minister had three months to compile the answer.
– It is correct.
– The Minister states that the answer is correct. He might be sorry he said that. When I read the other answer he will see that there is a difference. I will not bore the Senate by reading the answer that was given to me. However, I was told that an amount of $18,545.40 was provided for staff salaries. That tallies with the answer given in the other place. The rent for office premises amounted to $20,827, which also tallies with the answer given in the other place. It was stated in the answer that the amount for office facilities, which include telephone, stationery and incidental charges, was $4,519.19 and that the charge for office travel and transport was $1,530.56, giving a total of $45,422.15. On Thursday in the other place Mr McLeay, after he had answered a question by Dr Klugman dealing with the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Appeal said:
I wonder whether it would be appropriate, since the honourable member for Prospect has raised the question of fees and payments to Mr Miller, to answer the question which the honourable member for Melbourne -
That is Mr Innes- directed to my colleague the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
Mr Speaker said:
The honourable gentleman may proceed.
Mr McLeay said:
I just happened to have this information; I thought that it might come up this morning. It is not directly related to what the honourable member for Prospect has asked. No expenditure related to Mr Miller’s new post has been included in that for the 1977-78 period. Expenditure on facilities provided for Mr Miller, brought to account during the period 1 July 1978 to 31 December 1978- six months of last yearexcluding the cost of facilities referred to in the October meeting of the Estimates committees, and associated with the July meeting of the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris, totalled $46,300.
Honourable senators will realise that there is a discrepancy in the answer given in the other place by the responsible Minister and the answer he provided to me on the same day. The words I have quoted were also used in the preamble to the answer that was given to me. I refer again to the answer given by Mr McLeay in the House of
Representatives. Mr Armitage, by way of interjection, said:
Was the telephone bill $20,000 of that?
Mr McLeay replied:
No. That is why I am very pleased to have the opportunity to put the record straight. Staff salaries amounted to $18,545.40. Rental of office premises amounted to $20,827. Office facilities, which included telephones, stationery and incidentals, amounted to $5,222. 12 -
Yet the answer with which I was provided gave that figure as being $4,519.19. Mr McLeay continued: and official travel and transport totalled $1,704. 16.
In the answer provided to me on the same day the figure given was $1,530.56. Dr Klugman interjected:
Did you check on those?
Mr McLeay replied:
Very carefully. The total, therefore, is $46,298.68.
The rest of the answer is not important to my exercise tonight. I hope that Senator Chaney can explain to the Senate why there have been two different answers to the same question from the same Minister on the same day in two different Houses of the Parliament. It seems to me that there is a difference in the accounting of $876.53. If we can find a difference of that amount in the accounts of Mr Harry M. Miller, I wonder what sort of difference we will find in the answers to the questions on the Notice Paper about the telephone accounts for three of the other establishments in which Mr Miller is supposedly- this is the answer we received- serving the Government in an honorary capacity. These are the things we want to pursue. As I have said before, if my colleagues and I cannot get the answers in the Senate we will be pursuing the matter when the Supplementary Estimates come before the Estimates committees.
The other matter I want to raise relates to another question which I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, on Thursday of last week. It related to the telephone account of the previous Governor-General, Mr Kerr. The question I asked appears in Hansard.
– Harry Miller was also the agent for his book.
– I know that Harry Miller was the agent for his book. That is what concerns me. What did it cost the taxpayers if the former Governor-General had a free telephone service between England and Australia? If he did, it has cost the Australian taxpayers an enormous amount of money just to put that book on the market. Were any telephone calls to the person who did the proof reading of the book and Mr Miller, who marketed the book for Mr Kerr, made at a cost to the Australian taxpayers? My concern tonight is not with that aspect because I have put a question about that on notice. My concern is with the way the question appears on the Notice Paper. I have said in this Parliament on many occasions that I do not use titles. I deliberately referred to the former GovernorGeneral as Mr Kerr. As the question appears on the Notice Paper, I am asking a question about Sir John Kerr. When I made inquiries to find out why this was so, I was told that Standing Order 99 gives the President the power to do certain things with questions. Standing Order 99 states in part:
The President may direct that the language of a Question be changed if it seems to him unbecoming or not in conformity with the Standing Orders of the Senate.
In my view, the fact that I gave the former Governor-General the prefix of ‘Mr’ is not unbecoming. I am a member of a political party which does not believe in titles. In the Australian Labor Party booklet Platform Constitution and Rules, in the constitutional and legal section under the heading ‘A Constitutional Reform’, clause 9 states:
No titles to be conferred but appropriate recognition to be given to persons who have rendered exceptional service to the community or to mankind.
I belong to a party which has a policy of not conferring titles. People know what our policy is. They know that we do not believe in conferring titles. When I, as an elected senator from South Australia, placed a question on notice referring to a Mr John Kerr, the ex-Governor-General, I found that the name was altered to read ‘Sir John Kerr’. I do not know whether the President has ordered that that should be so. If he has used his discretionary powers in that respect, I would like the Senate Standing Orders Committee to look at Standing Order 99 and to determine whether the powers given to the President have been used in a way that they should not have been used. On looking at the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles today T found ‘unbecoming’ defined as being ‘unsuitable’ or ‘improper’. I believe that to use the word Mr’ is not unsuitable and is not improper. I leave it at that. I hope that the members of the Standing Orders Committee when next they meet will look at the rights of senators to frame a question in the way that they think it ought to be framed when, in the view of the senator concerned, the words used are not improper or unbecoming.
– I refer only to the second of the two matters raised by Senator McLaren this evening. That matter related basically to a discrepancy between an answer given by me in the Senate to a question on notice and an answer given without notice in the House of Representatives by the Minister for Administrative Services, Mr McLeay, on 22 February. Senator McLaren has correctly pointed out that there is a discrepancy between those two answers, with Mr McLeay indicating a slightly higher total figure than the figure which I gave Senator McLaren in response to his question on notice. Senator McLaren made it quite clear that two of the four categories of payment which were referred to in my answer correspond with the figures given by Mr McLeay and there is a difference with respect to two of the items. In one case there is a difference of $702.93 and in the other case a difference of $ 1 73.60. 1 think that Senator McLaren is certainly entitled to an explanation of that difference.
I sought information from Mr McLeay, on whose behalf I answered the question. He has advised me as follows: The answer that was originally prepared for Senator McLaren and the material which had been prepared for that answer was in Mr McLeay ‘s possession. That was the basis of the answer which he gave in the House of Representatives. However, subsequent to Mr McLeay being given that information, officers of the Finance Branch of the Department of Administrative Services performed a further detailed check of the figures included in the draft answer and, as a result, determined that amounts totalling $876.53 should be excluded from expenditure in relation to the 1988 bicentenary because they were properly chargeable to Mr Miller’s work for the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation. Those amounts are the amounts I mentioned of $702.93 for telephone services and $ 1 73.60 for car hire.
Mr McLeay had only just found out about this discrepancy and proposes to correct those figures in the House of Representatives. But I thought that, in view of the fact that the matter had been raised here, it should properly be cleared up here. That information can be repeated in the other place. As Senator McLaren has also indicated in his comments, he has placed on notice a series of questions about telephone accounts submitted by Mr Harry M. Miller. I do not have the ability to give an answer to those questions on notice now. That answer should be made available in the not too distant future and will be made available to the honourable senator.
– I will attempt to deal with the several matters which were discussed. Firstly, Senator Robertson raised in the adjournment debate the matter of Mindil Beach. I cannot give the honourable senator a great deal of information this evening. I have received applications by letter from the people to whom he referred. I think the first was from Mr Barry Spurr, who is the Chairman of the Save Mindil Committee at Fannie Bay at Darwin. Another letter is from Ms Sally Meredith, a coordinator of the Environmental Council of the Northern Territory Inc. I also had a communication earlier this year from Mr Sam Calder, who is the member for the Northern Territory. In each case those individuals raised with me the possibility of the Federal Government taking some hand in an environmental impact study relating to this area.
The problem that my department is posed with is related to the change that occurred in the Northern Territory as at June 1978. We have advice from the Attorney-General’s Department that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and the Public Service are ‘authorities of Australia and thus the Act probably still applies to the Northern Territory Government’. On the other hand, I understand that the Chief Minister for the Northern Territory also has legal advice that the Act probably does not apply to its proposals but the Act may apply to projects involving Northern Territory statutory authorities. I have replied to each of those three proponents to me that some action should be taken. I am placed in the situation yet of awaiting firm advice as to whether there is a part for the Department of Science and the Environment under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act to have any application in that area. I take on board the fact that Senator Robertson suggested in a very concise address to the Senate that it would be necessary for the protection of the Territorians and that there was a responsibility within my department to take some action. I can assure the honourable senator that the matter is before us and I will bear his requests in mind as this is pursued.
Senator O ‘Byrne raised a matter relating to the appropriation of funds allocated to the Trade Union Training Authority. Again I thank Senator O ‘Byrne for raising this matter. I was a little uncertain basically as to the reasons why Senator O ‘Byrne would raise the matter in the Senate. Perhaps a reading of Hansard will bring that to light but he certainly challenged some other senators as to their attitude in this matter.
– I want the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth to have a look at it.
– I note that Senator O’Byrne, a senator from Tasmania, brought forward the name of the Auditor-General. That will be brought to his attention. If the note that I took of his comments is correct he stated that in 1974 $10,000 was paid by the Tasmanian Government to the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council for payment to the Federal Trade Union Training Authority. When the senator mentioned that my memory went back to the fact that at that stage the Federal Trade Union Training Authority was not established.
– Three months later it was established.
– I have not been noting the Tasmanian newspapers over the past years which I should have done as a good Tasmanian myself, but undoubtedly the Tasmanian Government has paid great attention to this matter. I am sure that the Tasmanian Auditor-General, if State Government paid $10,000 to a trade union- do I understand that it paid up to $55,000 over the period?
– That is correct.
– I think it would be appropriate if this matter were referred to the Attorney-General here and that he should refer the matter to the Labor Government in Tasmania. Has Senator O’Byrne referred it to the Tasmanian Government?
– It has been referred to the State Government, yes.
– If a State government has paid over money without requiring some basic responsibility for it, the honourable senator would acknowledge that the initial authority lies in the hands of that State Government. Certainly the honourable senator did not produce any basic authority to say that the money had been paid by the State Government on the basis that -
– I said that it had been authorised by the State Government to be paid to the Tasmanian Trades and Labor Council.
– I think it would be very helpful if the honourable senator were able to deliver to this Attorney-General proof that that was the case. If that is so, I think undoubtedly Senator Durack would be anxious to take this matter further.
– I will give you a copy of the letter from the Minister for Education stating the dates when the money was paid to the Trades and Labour Council in Tasmania.
– I thank the honourable senator. I think the points which I have made give reason for the exercise in my mind as to whether the money had been paid over by the State Government before the Authority had been formed. It does not sound right. If after five years the State Government has not acted, there seems to be something peculiar about that also. But undoubtedly these things will come to light.
-Exactly. That is what I raised it for. Do you think I raised it for fun?
-No, I do not. But I do not know the fun the honourable senator might be having with his State Government.
– It is a very serious matter.
– It sounds like it to me.
I thank Senator Cavanagh for raising the points that he made. He gave an exposition of his thinking in relation to the resignation of Mr Robinson. All I can say to the honourable senator is that my understanding is that while the Senate has been in operation today the Minister for Finance has laid before the House of Representatives an explanation of his action. So far as I am concerned, that statement must be subject to the questions that the honourable senator has raised. There is nothing further that I can add to that comment. I have seen that statement and it appears to me basically to cover those things that Senator Cavanagh has raised, other than his allegations that may be political in nature. Of course, he is free to discuss those as he wishes.
– What were the difficulties that the Minister encountered, both administratively and organisationally?
– I do not understand the question that the honourable senator is raising. My understanding is that the Minister put down a statement today.
– He said that he experienced difficulties. We want to know what they were.
– I think the honourable senator is raising matters for a political argument. That may be fair. Again a re-reading of his speech may bring some wisdom to the matter. I did not note such wisdom as he was delivering his address, but I will study it further and certainly draw the attention of the Leader of the
Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) to the points that he has made.
Senator McLaren raised a question about Wheat Board payments. I regret that my attempts to get a quick and proper answer for Senator McLaren have not found a ready acceptance. He asked me to respond to the question: Will the Reserve Bank coerce private banks into funding the Wheat Board?’ If the honourable senator raises such a question and expects me to answer it, it is not likely that he will get a response. I came back at the first opportunity. Senator McLaren had the paper before him and read from it. I told him of the statement by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) about first advance payments of $75 per tonne. I said that the Minister for Primary Industry had said that arrangements had been made for funds required to pay the first advance to be loaned by the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank to the Wheat Board under the security of a Commonwealth guarantee. Now that was a fairly straight forward statement and I can only accept that that was the situation at the time the Minister was speaking. I then went on to saythis is in the last paragraph of the statement which I read- that of course the Government continued to place emphasis on the control of the monetary aggregates as a key element of its general economic policy and would therefore naturally be reviewing developments closely. I cannot agree that the comment that the honourable senator has made can be answered by me. He asked a question about the interest rate. Tomorrow morning I will immediately take that question to the Minister for Primary Industry and if, at Question Time tomorrow, I can give an answer as to what the interest rate will be, I will certainly do that.
The honourable senator then raised a question about Harry Miller and that has been answered by Senator Chaney. The honourable senator questioned the changing of words on the Notice Paper. I imagine that that matter can go directly to the Senate Standing Orders Committee. In the honourable senator’s wisdom I think he will agree that if people have a title in the land it is probably only common decency to use it. If he does not wish to use it, he cannot be forced to. One cannot be forced to do anything in this great free country. The honourable senator can come into the Senate and use titles if he wishes to but I think there is a requirement that when Hansard is printed, in all probability it has to give the proper title to the individual. I do not know why the senator raises this matter. I hear honourable senators, probably on both sides of the chamber, not giving the right titles to Prime Ministers or ministers. We heard Senator Cavanagh attempting to use some words against the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) tonight. It is proper for Hansard to refer to the Prime Minister as the Rt Hon. Malcolm Fraser. That is the title he has. It would be very disrespectful if someone were to come in here and use the Christian name of the Queen when the Queen has a proper title.
– I did not use the Christian name. I used ‘Mr’ and I am not complaining about Hansard. I have no quarrel with Hansard. It is the Notice Paper.
-Well, senator, a number of people around here, including the honourable senator, have titles of love and if we used those titles in the Senate and hoped that they would be repeated in Hansard, it would be very disrespectful. I think the honourable senator will agree with me.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 19 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 15 November 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Air Terminals in New South Wales (Question No. 1049)
asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 17 November 1978:
Who is responsible for the maintenance of each air terminal in New South Wales?
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Department of Transport is responsible for the maintenance of the following New South Wales terminal buildings: Sydney International (domestic terminals are owned and maintained by the airlines), Canberra, Broken Hill, Coffs Harbour, Tamworth, Wagga and Williamtown.
All other terminal buildings are maintained by the particular aerodrome owners, with financial assistance provided by the Commonwealth under the Aerodrome Local Ownership Plan where applicable.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 23 November 1978:
Was consideration given to the inclusion of a Senator for Queensland in the party which attended discussions in the Torres Strait region concerning the Torres Strait Treaty during the week ending 4 November 1978; if not, why not.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Discussions in the Torres Strait region concerning the Torres Strait Treaty during the week ending 4 November 1978 were held to enable responsible federal and state Ministers to explain the Treaty to island representatives. It was decided that Mr David Thomson, M.P. be included in the party in his capacity as parliamentary representative for the area.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
– The Minister for Productivity has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
National Energy Conservation
-On 22 November 1978 (Hansard, page 2357) Senator Melzer asked me a question without notice concerning the Government’s objectives in the conservation of energy. In my answer I undertook to refer her question to the Minister for National Development.
The Minister for National Development has provided the following information on the Government’s energy conservation measures:
The basic goal of an energy conservation campaign for Australia is the reduction of the rate of growth in liquid fuel consumption. Improvements in the efficient use of energy, particulary in the transport sector, together with the substitution, where possible, of other fuels where liquid fuels are now used, will enable our dependence on this rapidly diminishing energy source to be more carefully controlled.
The monitoring of the national publicity campaign will be undertaken by the Commonwealth and State Ministers under the auspices of the Australian Minerals and Energy Council.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 February 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790227_senate_31_s80/>.