31st Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator D. B. Scott) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-by leaveLast night, by motion of the Senate, I was required to table some documents from which I had quoted during a speech I made in the adjournment debate. Some of the documents were tabled and I handed others to an attendant, a Mr Campion. He in turn handed them to Mr Egan of Hansard. Hansard handled the documents and inadvertently addressed them back to Senator Harradine. One of the documents was a letter from the Tasmanian Minister for Education. The other documents were the notes from which I quoted during my speech. I apologise to the Senate for the unfortunate situation which has arisen. I now formally table the documents, together with the envelope addressed to Senator Harradine.
-I present the following petition from 25 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.
The continuance of the Means Test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the means test on all Aged Pensions.
To ensure a pension for all on retirement and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.
Acknowledge that a pension is a right and not a charity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-On behalf of Senator Melzer, I present the following petition from 60 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to 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 S6 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:
Restore twice-yearly pension adjustments in the Autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment:
Australian Marine Science, with particular reference to (a) the development of a marine science program for Australia, including tropical, temperate and sub-Antarctic waters; and (b) the co-ordination of research efforts between the various agencies involved in the increasing development and exploitation of off-shore resources for both commercial and marine park purposes and in fisheries development.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I remind the Minister of a statement on 8 August by the Prime Minister in which the Prime Minister said:
The community rightly demands a high standard from the Ministers of the Government. If those high standards were not upheld the people’s confidence in government would be undermined.
The Government has an obligation to uphold them even though the cost could be and is in this instance a high one.
In view of the different approaches taken by the Prime Minister in respect of previous Ministers such as Mr Lynch, Senator Withers and, more latterly, Mr Eric Robinson, will the Minister inform the Senate what are the standards referred to by the Prime Minister in his statement of 8 August? If he is unable to do so, will he undertake to bring down a statement setting out the standards of conduct which we can expect of Ministers of the Government and, in particular, the standard of conduct expected by the Prime Minister himself when these matters arise, which they will inevitably do again?
-I think that the standard of conduct expected of Ministers is known to be the highest possible and has been observed as such. Lest there be any doubt about that let me look at what has happened with regard to ministerial changes in the two Fraser governments and let me dwell upon what has happened -
– Last week will do. Just tell us about last week. Never mind about what happened 2 years ago.
-I respond to that interjection by saying that the question asked was as to how last week’s events related to other events. Let me deal with that. Let me remind the Senate of the varying standards- indeed, the lower standards- of the Whitlam Government.
– Which you criticised. We want to know what are your standards.
– With the help of the interjections- they will let the public know what is intended- I will remind the Senate of what has happened. Mr Garland stood down because there was a question as to whether he had acted improperly. When he had been exonerated he was reappointed. The real test applied by the Government is the test before the law and not before internal politics. Mr Ellicott had a viewpoint on one of the most complex and difficult subjects that has to be considered. It was not a question of some internal dissension within a party but an important question of sophisticated principle regarding parliamentary privilege. He sought, quite rightly, to assert his view. I hope that all members of the Parliament would be willing to acknowledge what a fine thing it is for a person to be prepared to assert a personal viewpoint on such a standard. It can scarcely reflect upon a government if in fact that happens. Mr Lynch stood down during the election campaign. A public inquiry was held into the allegations against Mr Lynch and Mr Lynch was exonerated.
– Who exonerated Mr Lynch?
-I hope the laughter of honourable senators opposite will continue when I remind them of another track record in a moment or two. Senator Withers was involved in a royal commission. Arising out of the commission’s findings the Prime Minister saw fit to relieve Senator Withers of his ministry. We are talking about standards and explanations. I invite the Opposition to explain to the public now- we have been without an explanation for four years- why Mr Frank Crean, on 11
December 1974, was sacked as Treasurer. If explanations and principles are being asked for, let it be asked now why Mr Crean was sacked and why the Prime Minister of the day did not come forward with an explanation. I think some question was raised about personality conflicts between Prime Ministers and Ministers. Has a track record ever been as bad as that of Lionel Murphy, an ex-senator of this Parliament, who in fact was transferred elsewhere because notoriously he was continually clashing with the Prime Minister of the day? The Prime Minister of the day acted to remove him from the ministry. Was any explanation advanced in principle or in any other way? A Deputy Prime Minister named Barnard was kicked upstairs. What was the explanation for that action? A Minister named Clyde Cameron on 6 June 1975 was sacked as Minister for Labor and Immigration and replaced by another Minister.
– I take a point of order.
– No explanation was given to the Parliament by Mr Cameron.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I call Senator Keeffe on a point of order.
– I am worried about the Minister. I think he needs medical treatment and I suggest he should be given time off to obtain medical treatment.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no point of order.
– As one knows, that is the oldest trick in the book. It comes, fittingly, from the honourable senator who interjected. The question of explanation and principles was raised. Do I need to go further in this? There was a fellow named James Ford Cairns who, on 2 July 1975, was dismissed as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Environment over particular allegations. The Prime Minister of the day, Mr Whitlam, was deadly silent in this regard. We are talking about principles and explanations. I can refer to another gentleman, namely, the late Reginald Francis Xavier Connor who, on 14 October 1975, resigned as Minister for Minerals and Energy over allegations of -
– I raise a point of order. As I understood the question asked by Senator Wriedt, the Leader of the Government was asked to inform the Senate of the standards and the guidelines for the conduct of Ministers and what was expected of them by the Prime Minister. What happened under a previous Government has no relevance at all to the question. I submit to you, Mr Deputy President, that the Opposition asked for the current Government’s attitudes in respect of standards of the Ministers serving under the Prime Ministership of Mr Fraser. The Minister in fact is not answering the question. He has already been on his feet for some six minutes. I think he should be asked to answer the question.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I believe that the Minister is answering the question as he sees fit. That is his province. If he finds it necessary to make a form of comparison, he may do so as he sees fit. I ask the Minister to complete his answer.
– It is important to understand the principles that have been observed by the two Fraser Governments but which the Whitlam Government failed to adopt. I have given the track record of the Whitlam Government. Over the course of the Fraser Government, where there has been any query of the quality of action taken by a Minister or where a question of high principle has been involved, the Minister concerned has stood down voluntarily or has been asked to stand down; a public inquiry and a debate have occurred and, as a result, the matter has been resolved. There has been no question, now that we examine the track record, that the highest standards of principles are demanded of, and in fact observed by, the Ministers of the Fraser Government. I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for showing the difference between those standards and the poor and ambivalent standards of the Whitlam Government.
– I have a supplementary question. I remind the Minister that my question was about the standards set by this Government when Ministers resign or are dismissed. The Minister, in the course of the earlier part of his answer, listed the reasons why four Ministers, Messrs Garland, Ellicott, Lynch and Withers, stood down or were dismissed from the Ministry. Did he deliberately omit to mention, and thus complete the story, the circumstances that required Mr Robinson’s resignation? Would he agree that that is the information that the Senate, the Parliament and the Australian people are entitled to have? If the information is so forthcoming in respect of the four earlier cases, why is it not forthcoming in this particluar case? That is the information that we seek. I ask the Minister, if he considers, in his own words- the words which he has just used- that it is important to understand the principles of action taken by a government under these circumstances, to tell us what those principles are.
– //a/wan/ will reveal that I have shown that there is a constant, high standard of principle on the part of the Fraser Government, both in the past and in the present. The highest standard of behaviour is required of Ministers and, in fact, it is achieved. I demonstrated that that was not so with the previous Whitlam Government. There was no omission on my part regarding the Robinson incident of last week. The Minister concerned made it clear in his own statement that there were certain misunderstandings between the Prime Minister and himself that were not of a policy nature. Subsequently they were totally resolved between them -
– The Queensland bagman and the New South Wales bagman.
-I think I heard some question of Queensland politics intruding. How could Labor senators from Queensland possibly raise the Queensland question? The whole of the Labor Party in Australia is in total disarray because of its Queensland politics. Mr Hayden, the Federal Leader of the Party, is thoroughly discredited with regard to Queensland Labor politics. We are talking of the credibility and acceptance of people who are Ministers or poten.tial Ministers. Let the goings on in the Federal Labor Party speak for themselves in terms of standards and principles.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. The question arises from an article in the Canberra Times of last Tuesday in which an air traffic control group warns of collision risk in the area around Canberra. It follows from a question that Senator Bishop asked yesterday following Mr Nixon’s statement that there were 33 near misses involving commercial airliners during 1978, more than double the number in 1977. 1 am sure it is a matter which we all view with concern because none of us would want to fall out of the sky in aircraft pieces or personal pieces. Therefore, I ask whether the Minister is able to say how many of the near misses of last year involved small aircraft. How many involved two commercial aircraft approaching close to each other? How many of the near misses- if any- involved a Department of Defence aircraft? Finally, are Department of Defence aircraft equipped to receive and listen to appropriate civil aircraft frequencies which happen to be in use in their area? In other words, can they be advised by radar and air traffic control of an imminent collision?
– I do have some information on the matters which were raised by Senator Townley. My advice is that in 1978 there were 23 reported incidents suggesting less than the prescribed standards of separation between general aviation and airline aircraft. I note that my information is provided in terms of there being less than the prescribed standards of separation, which I take it is a departmental way of saying that there have been near misses, although the quality of those near misses may indeed vary and some of them may not be what we, as passengers, would regard as near misses. In any event there were 23 incidents between general aviation and normal commercial aircraft. In 1978 seven incidents were reported suggesting less than the prescribed standards of separation between civil aircraft and defence aircraft, and five of those reports involved general civil aviation aircraft. In relation to the last part of the honourable senator’s question my advice is that within areas covered by radar, facilities exist for direct communication between the relevant civil control units and all military aircraft.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to his answer to the question he was asked by Senator Wriedt in which he gave a somewhat garbled version of the circumstances in which four Ministers of the Government were removed from office. He then went on to say that the Government observed the highest standards in these matters. I ask the Minister: In what way were the highest standards manifest in the Robinson resignation and reinstatement? How is the Parliament or the public of Australia to know whether in fact high standards or the lowest standards were observed in relation to that matter?
– The highest standards were observed. The fact is that Mr Robinson resigned, as it turned out, because of certain misunderstandings that were in his mind. Those misunderstandings were not in relation to policy matters. Mr Robinson, the Prime Minister and Mr Lynch have given a clear indication to the public that they having had extensive discussions all those misunderstandings have been resolved. Mr Robinson has indicated his total commitment, loyalty and dedication to the Government, to the Ministry and to the Prime Minister of the day. I remind the Senate that in the track record of the Australian Labor Party which I enunciated that was never possible with the Whitlam Government. Only vacancies in the High Court were ways in which that Government sought to translate chronic conflicts and misunderstandings -
- Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I am sure that on reflection Senator Carrick will reconsider the remark he has just made about appointments to the High Court. Irrespective of the political arguments we get into here, I do not think that is a statement which should be made, particularly in his position as Leader of the Government in the Senate. Irrespective of whether or not the previous leader of the Labor Party in this place was appointed to the High Court, I do not think it is a matter ofl which, in the course of this debate, Senator Carrick ought to reflect. I ask him to withdraw that reflection.
– There was no such reflection and I am not to be deterred by that kind of remark. The fact is that I was not reflecting on the High Court or a High Court judge as such. I was saying something that is a notorious fact.
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. Before you allow Senator Carrick, to continue in this vein, may I point out that, if he is allowed to reflect in this way on an appointment to the High Court, to be consistent you would have to allow honourable senators on this side to reflect in the same manner on the appointment of the present Chief Justice of the High Court and others. Then there would be a very real change in the standard of debate in this place.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I do not believe that there was any intended reflection on the High Court. Having said that, I ask Senator Carrick to complete his answer.
– Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me say that I was referring to parliamentary events in this Senate and in the Whitlam Government prior to an appointment. No infringement of Standing Orders can be inferred from that. I was saying that it is a notorious fact that the conflicts between the then Australian Labor Party leader in the Senate and the then Prime Minister were such that the then Prime Minister could resolve the matter only by a transfer of that person from the Senate. That is in no way a reflection on the High Court. It is simply a statement of cold, honest history.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question.
– What about Barwick? Barwick looked after Webster, or we would not have him here.
- Mr Deputy President, I heard an interjection which I find offensive. I heard, and I ask Hansard to record, an interjection by Senator Grimes that Barwick had looked after Webster. I take it that that was a reflection in terms of the High Court decision in another matter. I find that remark utterly offensive and utterly against the Standing Orders. I ask that it be withdrawn.
- Mr Deputy President, it was inevitable that statements would flow from the original statement made by Senator Carrick. That is why I raised the matter. I am surprised if Senator Carrick believes that he can make the statement that he made originally and not invite some reaction from this side of the chamber. That is exactly the extent to which it will degenerate. Mr Deputy President, with respect to you, let me say that you did not ask Senator Carrick to withdraw the original remark, which was offensive to honourable senators on this side of the chamber, and he did not volunteer to do so. If that is the standard of conduct that is to apply in the chamber, I suggest that you do not uphold the point of order.
– I wish to say that my remark was deliberate, because of the previous ruling made by the Chair. I have raised the matter before in this place. It is quite wrong that Ministers should have the liberty to use language of the type used by Senator Carrick in relation to exsenator Murphy; yet we on this side of the chamber are prevented from doing so in relation to a gentleman who was a Minister in a previous Liberal-Country Party government. The rule should be the same for both sides in this place, and I make no bones about the fact that that is exactly why I made the remark that I made. In fact I happen to believe the remark, but I made it for that reason.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I believe that there has been a measure of inference on both sides of the chamber. I ask that that sort of thing cease and that honourable senators continue with Question Time in a more balanced and quieter manner.
-Mr Deputy President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. In answer to my earlier question, Senator Carrick said that Mr Robinson was suffering from a misunderstanding. I now refer to Mr Robinson’s letter of resignation, in which he said that he was incapable of giving the Prime Minister unqualified loyalty. Is Senator Carrick now saying on behalf of Mr Robinson that he was suffering from a misunderstanding, something which Mr Robinson himself is not prepared to say?
-I draw the attention of the Senate to Mr Robinson’s statement in which he indicated that on the Thursday there were misunderstandings in existence. As a result of intense discussions between the Prime Minister, Mr Lynch and Mr Robinson, those misunderstandings were all resolved and at that point he was able to indicate unqualified support for the Prime Minister.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I draw the Minister’s attention to the report tabled yesterday of the Public Accounts Committee of the South Australian Parliament, which revealed that massive financial losses were incurred by the South Australian Hospitals Department in the period from 1972-73 to 1977-78. Is the Minister aware that the as yet uncalculated losses, which are likely to run to several million dollars, were incurred largely during and as a result of the period of office of the Whitlam Government when lavish sums of money -
– I raise a point of order. I suggest that the matters raised by Senator Messner are matters upon which the Minister would have no information. This is purely a political stunt. Senator Messner is trying in some way to denigrate the South Australian Government or the responsible Minister. I suggest that the question should not be allowed.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! If the Minister has no relevant information I believe that she will indicate to that effect.
– I was making the point that during that period the Whitlam Government dished out lavish sums of money to the States and that the State Government, without proper planning, indiscriminately spent money on white elephants such as frozen food factories which -
– What is the question?
-That is part of the question.
– I raise a further point of order. I suggest that the question is not framed in the way that questions are to be framed under the Standing Orders and that the honourable senator is disregarding the practice of the Senate. Therefore the question should not be allowed in its present form.
-Mr Deputy President, I am trying to put the question but with all the interruptions it is very difficult to do so.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I would appreciate it if the honourable senator were to put his question.
-Does this mean not only that the people of South Australia are suffering these huge losses as a result of the gross mismanagement of the Corcoran Government and previous governments but also that federal taxpayers have been contributing to these losses through the Whitlam Government’s unwieldy open-ended hospital funding arrangements -
– I raise another point of order. The honourable senator is offending against every Standing Order of the Senate. He is making a political speech; he is not asking a question. It is clear that he is not asking a question. He is certainly not asking a question which is within the competence of the Minister to answer. I suggest that he should not be permitted to proceed any further.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. The honourable senator is seeking an opinion from the Minister, which is not permitted under Standing Order 99. The question should be disallowed. If Senator Messner wants such information he should re-frame the question and ask it later. He should give only such details as would enable him to get the information which he desires.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I would appreciate it if Senator Messner completed his preamble and asked his question.
– Finally, will the Minister consider the report with a view to determining whether a need exists for further controls over the health expenditures of State governments?
– I have no knowledge of the report on hospital costs that was tabled in South Australia yesterday by the Public Accounts Committee. I have noted the matters raised by Senator Messner and I will ensure that they are referred to the Minister for Health. It would be appropriate to say, however, that I think all honourable senators are aware of the hospital and medical costs that are sustained by the Federal and State governments. They may be aware of the continuing discussions which are held by the Federal Minister for Health with his State counterparts. This is a matter which is getting urgent attention at present in an endeavour to ascertain the appropriate ways in which some containment of hospital costs may be achieved. If the Minister for Health has anything to report on this matter I will ensure that Senator Messner is advised accordingly.
– I was absent last week when the Robinson affair blew up; I was otherwise diverted. Nevertheless, I am sufficiently surprised to ask a question of the Leader of the Government. When may we expect to receive confirmation and to be formally told that Mr Eric Robinson resigned and, further, that he has been reappointed? Why is it that the Leader of the Government has made no announcement to this Senate and so given us an opportunity to debate the matter? I remind the Minister that it is a customary practice for the Prime Minister to give reasons for the resignation and reappointment of Ministers. He did that on the occasion of the reappointment of Mr Lynch and- I think quite unfairly- at the time of the dismissal of Senator Withers. My direct question is: Why has the Prime Minister not given a statement to Parliament concerning the resignation and reappointment of the Minister for Finance? I am also asking directly: When may we expect a statement on the issue from the Prime Minister? We have heard the remarks that Mr Eric Robinson has had to make. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate not to get excited over the matter.
– For Senator Georges, who is in a state of frenzy over his own Queensland tribal customs, to suggest that others should not get excited can relate only to his compulsory haircut upon which I commend him.
– I raise a point of order. I have to take offence at the reflection by Senator Carrick on the appearance of my Whip.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is no point of order.
- Senator Georges raised two points. One related to why a statement had not been made in the Senate on the resignation and the reappointment. As events turned out, a statement was made in the House of Representatives late on Thursday but not in the Senate because of the program. It was necessary to make the statement of reappointment in the House of Representatives but not here because no previous statement concerning the issue had been made in the Senate. It was competent for the Labor Party at any time to seek to have a debate on this matter. It could have done so yesterday if it had so desired but apparently it chose not to do so. That is a matter for the Labor Party’s own judgment. Mr Eric Robinson chose to resign, lt was therefore competent upon Mr Eric Robinson to make his explanation. He has done so. The matter clearly rests there.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence follows from a question I asked here last Tuesday week. In view of the fact that most navies of the world, including those of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, have fast patrol boats and small attack craft armed with surface-to-surface missiles and that indeed Indonesian boats now in service are armed with the same Styx missiles with which the Israeli destroyer Elath was sunk by a patrol boat by missile fire in 1967, and in view of the fact that the Fremantle class patrol boat to be constructed for the Australian Navy is at 42 metres, 220 tonnes and a speed of 30 knots, reasonably comparable with missile boats elsewhere and indeed bigger and faster than some, will the Government urgently reconsider plans for these ships with a view to providing missile capability to at least some of them so that in the eyes of possible aggressors and, in fact, they are fighting ships? Can the Minister confirm that the cost of these ships, which are planned to be armed with small arms, machine guns and one small close range gun, is now in excess of $ 10m each? Would the Minister agree that our entire flotilla could be destroyed by any one of a number of possible aggressors without our patrol boats being able to defend themselves in any way?
– The question posed by Senator Mason has many facets, some of which require particular and expert information. I ask the honourable senator to put the question on notice.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether the Commonwealth Government is able to take unilateral action which will force the State of Tasmania to close the maternity unit in the Ulverstone Hospital in Tasmania, as is indicated in Press reports by the Tasmanian Minister for Health, Mr Barnard?
– I will need to refer that question to the Minister for Health for his views. I have no knowledge of the matter raised by Senator Walters.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security whether her attention has been drawn to an article in the Australian Liberal of February this year in which Mr Eric Robinson, the Minister for Finance, states, amongst other things:
Can the Minister advise whether her Department has made attempts to locate these fit and tanned young people who do not want to work, but who are receiving the unemployment benefit? Has Mr Robinson given any information which would assist the Department of Social Security to identify these allegedly indolent young people?
– I may have seen the article in the Australian Liberal. I recall that at that time there was some public expression of comments made by Mr Robinson. I am not aware whether Mr Robinson has given any personal details to the Department but I could have that matter checked. However, I would say that my Department has the responsibility to see that only those who are eligible for the unemployment benefit receive it. In this matter we are assisted by the Commonwealth Employment Service which conducts the work testing arrangements for us. If the work testing arrangements are not fulfilled then the person is not eligible to receive the unemployment benefit, and he or she does not receive it. However, I will check the second part of the question with regard to any personal information.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is it a fact that British pensions are paid to Australian residents direct by cheque in British currency and that some banks in Australia are charging as much as 66c per cheque to convert these cheques to Australian dollars, which can amount to as much as $13 per annum? I also ask the Minister: Are this charge and the amount charged the result of commercial decisions of individual banks? Further, is there any particular reason for these pensions being paid by cheque in British currency initially?
– With regard to the last matter raised, that is, why the pensions are paid initially in British currency, it was a decision of the British Government that pensions be paid in this manner. It was not a decision in which the
Australian Government participated. With regard to bank charges, I think this matter has been raised in the Senate on numerous occasions, particularly by South Australian senators. I say again that this is a matter for the individual banks. I understand that the charges vary in certain circumstances. Pensioners from the United Kingdom might find it to their advantage if they inquired at the different banks as to what charge is made by the bank concerned. As the bank charges vary, it is impractical for us to allow any common deduction from British pensions to take account of what may in some cases amount to $ 1 3 per annum in charges.
The Social Services Act makes no provision for income to be reduced by bank or similar charges. I must say to Senator Young that I feel that this is a matter in which the Australian Government is unable to take any steps to alleviate the charge which has been sustained by this decision of the British Government to pay pensions in this way.
– I preface my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate by stating that despite commitments by Mr Lynch in March 1976 and Mr Eric Robinson in December 1976 that the Government would introduce a natural disaster insurance scheme, the Government has now, three years later, decided to scrap the proposal. I ask: Is this not a sellout of property holders in potential natural disaster areas? Will the Minister assure the Senate that the Government is not considering reducing the amount of Commonwealth funds paid to the States for disaster relief?
– There is no question of a sellout or anything of that nature. Because the honourable senator’s question requires a response at first hand I will direct the substance of it to the Minister concerned and seek a response.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to Press reports this morning of statements by Mr Sam Nujoma, the President of the South West African People’s Organisation- SWAPOrejecting the composition of the United Nations Transitional Group in Namibia, of which Australia is proposing to be part. Is this a major reversal of the position of SWAPO, which in September 1978 wrote to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kurt Waldheim, endorsing the plan which he had submitted to the Security Council? Is this, in fact, an attempt by Mr Nujoma to bolster his shaky position in SWAPO, which has been under threat since the split in SWAPO between him and his former executive member, Andreas Shipanga? Will the statement by Mr Nujoma, including his threat of continued violence against any United Nations force, cause the Australian Government to revise its position on the commitment of our servicemen to this vital United Nations undertaking?
– I acknowledge the significance of the question that has been asked by Senator Puplick. I am aware of the statement yesterday by SWAPO ‘s President Mr Nujoma, in pleniary session of the Organisation of African Unity Ministerial Council, to the effect that SWAPO would not accept UNTAG contributions by, as he said, ‘NATO countries’. He listed Australia, although not a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation country, as among the unacceptable countries and argued that the UNTAG force should be made up of African contingents. Nujoma ‘s statement was a strong one but the United Nations has all along been aware that the composition question has yet to be settled. We have had assurances from SWAPO representatives in New York that an Australian contingent would be acceptable, and we continue to hope that this will be so- in other words, that SWAPO is in fact aware that a United Nations force has to be a representative international force. If such agreement is not forthcoming, of course, the UNTAG plan cannot go ahead. The reported comments by Mr Nujoma that Western contingents would receive a hostile reception from SWAPO are most disturbing. The question of risk to an Australian contingent has been treated as a matter of utmost importance by the Government and statements such as those made by Mr Nujoma will have to be studied most seriously. It may be that Mr Nujoma ‘s comments relate to differences within SWAPO but I am unable to comment on whether the position of Mr Shipanga of the SWAPO Democrats is relevant.
Mr Nujoma also raised the question of SWAPO bases, arguing that SWAPO must be allowed to establish such bases within Namibia as part of the settlement process. Given the difficult and sensitive nature of the settlement process in Namibia, the negotiations initiated by the Western Five- the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Federal Republic of Germany and Canada- have been long and exhaustive. The remaining points of difficulty, which are serious and important ones, are now being fairly clearly denned as relating to the question of the composition of the UNTAG force and ceasefire machinery, including, of course, the question of regroupment of SWAPO and South African forces within Namibia.
In the light of continuing difficulties as reflected in statements such as that now made by Nujoma, time for further negotiations involving the United Nations Secretariat, the South African Government, SWAPO, the Western Five and the African front line states will be necessary. Security Council debate on the SecretaryGeneral’s report on the deployment of UNTAG may have to be delayed, though it has been hoped that this debate could be taken up early enough to enable a ceasefire to be called for midMarch. We hope that outstanding issues can be speedily resolved and that deployment arrangements can proceed at an early date. The Australian offer to contribute an engineering unit was in response to informal approaches in New York and is, of course, contingent upon final agreement emerging between the parties on the implementation of the United Nations plan.
– My question is directed to Senator Guilfoyle both as Minister for Social Security and as Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware of reports on a national television show, Nationwide, on 26 February 1979, to the effect that Australian medical consumers are being subjected to more doses of X-rays than are good for them? Is the Minister aware that a senior researcher at a major hospital has said that up to 50 per cent of medical X-rays may be unnecessary? Finally, is the Minister aware that the Doctors Reform Society says that the situation is so serious that an immediate official investigation is necessary? What steps has the Minister taken, or will the Minister take, to establish such an investigation, or at least to establish the need for it, in order to protect medical consumers, as well as to have regard to the financial implications of the issue so raised?
– The matter raised by Senator Gietzelt has had some public comment in recent days. I am advised by the Minister for Health that the Commonwealth Radiation Laboratory is responsible for monitoring and minimising radiation dosage received by patients through the medical use of X-rays. Currently, it is conducting a dose assessment survey with a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council, and results should be available in the latter half of this year. Presently there is no scientific proof that individuals in Australia are being exposed to a higher dosage of X-rays than is medically necessary. Two additional groups, the new Radiation Health Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council, participate in promoting the safe use of X-rays. I understand that when the results of the survey are available in the latter half of this year this matter will again be subjected to public discussion. I will see that Senator Gietzelt is advised as soon as the results of that survey are available.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education. In view of” the special importance of the development of the Australian Maritime College to all aspects of the maritime industry as well as to the people of Tasmania to whom it constitutes a new industry, can the Minister inform the Senate of the latest progress in relation to the staffing and the capital development of the College, as well as the commencement of the courses there?
-Senator Rae will know that the Maritime College Act 1978, which established the College as a corporate body with its own council, came into operation on 10 October 1978. The initial council of 10 persons, who were appointed by the Governor-General, had its first meeting the following day in Launceston. Mr Swanson was elected Chairman and Mr Edwards, the General Manager of the Port of Launceston Authority, was elected Deputy Chairman. The council may appoint an additional six persons. With regard to the progress, I can inform the Senate that eight senior academic staff commenced duty last month and a further eight will commence by August of this year. Three senior administrative staff, including a business manager, commenced duty in October of last year. It was proposed to appoint some eight Tasmanians to the clerical staff in February. College administration is now located in temporary quarters on the Newnham campus.
With regard to the capital development at Beauty Point, the Senate will know that in a joint statement made on 12 February 1979 by Mr Groom and Mr Newman it was announced that contracts had been let for an academic and residential complex and a seamanship and fisheries training complex at Beauty Point on the Tamar River, about 45 kilometres from Launceston. Both contractors are Tasmanian firms and the projects will boost the State’s building industry. Gordon Ibbot Pty Ltd will build the residential and academic complex under a contract for $714,406, while the seamanship and fisheries training centre will be built by Arthur B. Moore Pty Ltd under a contract for $668,748.
The residential and academic complex will be of brick construction. The residential block with facilities for 40 people will have two storeys and the academic section will be a single storey building. The seamanship and fisheries training complex will provide educational facilities, offices, boat and gear storage. Eighty men will work at the Beauty Point site at the peak of construction and a similar number will be employed off-site. At Newnham the land for the main site was formally handed over to the Commonwealth in December. Major work on renovating Newnham Hall will be completed this month.
– I wish to take a point of order.
-I can understand the Opposition’s not wanting to hear the progress of a very fine story.
– I do not know whether the Minister has finished. No one was interested in the details. We know what the question was about. Nevertheless, I take a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, will you permit prepared, rambling statements in answer to questions without notice? Many people on this side of the chamber wish to ask questions. Question Time passes and we are not able to do so because of repetitions of the type of answer which the Minister has given. It is not fair to other honourable senators that Question Time should be monopolised by a Minister reading a prepared statement. He could have put down a ministerial statement so that those who wanted to discuss it could do so. He could have incorporated the statement in Hansard and only those who desired to read it need have done so. He would not then have bored us all with details of whether eight clerks will be employed in Tasmania. What is the national importance of that? That is why we are laughing. I ask you, Mr Deputy President, to be strict on this matter. It is not fair to honourable senators.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I ask that both questioners and those who answer questions be as brief as possible.
– I ask a supplementary question. Can the Minister also say what has happened in relation to the letting of the contract for the construction of the fisheries instruction vessel?
-I will be happy to give that information to Senator Rae and the Senate.
I find it surprising that Labor senators find no interest in what is to be a major industry for the Tasmanians.
– I take a point of order. The Minister is obviously extending the time he would normally take to answer a question in order to avoid answering questions about crooked Ministers on his side. Mr Deputy President, I ask that you overrule his behaviour and make him answer questions quickly.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I ask all parties to observe a measure of brevity.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether he or the Minister for Primary Industry has studied the American conservation journal Monitor which criticised Australia’s voting posture at the International Whaling Commission Conference in Tokyo last year? Why did we not support the proposal by the United States and France to ban the exploitation of the sperm whale?
– I am aware of the substance of the criticism by the journal Monitor. I consider that the criticism in that article of the actions of the Australian delegation is completely unjustified. Australia has consistently supported the recommendations of the International Whaling Commission’s scientific committee. The Australian delegation at the recent International Whaling Commission meeting in Tokyo successfully proposed the banning of sperm whaling in division S which includes the area off the Western Australian coast. It also gained assurances from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Japan, the pelagic whaling nations, that they would not take whales within the division 5 area during the 90-day period of acceptance. With respect to the 1979 catch limits for North Pacific sperm whales, the Australian delegation voted only to break a deadlock and to ensure quotas were set at the lowest possible level. Senator Mulvihill would be keen to know that the quota was set at 3,800 compared to the 1 978 quota of 6,444.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science and the Environment. Can the Minister indicate how many scientists were able to undertake research last year in the area of the Antarctic claimed by Australia? Is it a fact that during the last 12 months ISO New Zealand scientists and 300 United States scientists were able to do valuable research work at their bases due to excellent transport facilities being available to them? In view of the vast resources that obviously are present in the Antarctic region and the fact that Australia lays claim to a very large area, has the Minister any plans to step up our research effort in this very important region which, in my view, should be given urgent priority if we are to justify our large claim?
– I am afraid that I am unable to tell the honourable member the exact number of Australian scientists who were involved in the area to which he referred during the past research session. The definition of the term ‘scientist’ comes into question because the research carried out covers a wide field, as the honourable senator would know. Senator Jessop has the very proud record of being the first senator in this place, other than a Minister, to take a flight to our stations in the Antarctic. That is of great credit to him and he should certainly receive some recognition for making that flight. The honourable senator made his position clear when he returned from that territory. I would support his comment that further research is needed.
I should like to point out the difference between those who may be accredited as scientists and those who are not. The Antarctic Division is carrying out research in a number of areas. Some of those areas are geology, geophysics, glaciology, meteorology, polar medicine and upper atmosphere physics. A great deal of down to earth work is being done in polar engineering. This involves looking at methods of transportation, the way in which clothing may be used and the way in which accommodation may be built. It is questionable whether those people should be regarded as scientists. I believe they are doing excellent scientific research. However, I take on board the honourable senator’s recommendations for further investigation and further involvement in research by this country in the Antarctic. I will certainly push to see that an investigation is undertaken by the Government.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, relates to the matter which was the subject of an earlier question by Senator Puplick. In view of the fact that the President of the South West African People ‘s Organisation has declared that Australia would be unacceptable as a country to take part in the United Nations supervision of the elections in
Namibia, does the Minister not agree that this indicates a very serious collapse of Australian foreign policy insofar as Australia, through its actions in the past, through its opposition to the South African Government’s proposals for elections within South West Africa, had shown implicitly that it supported the policies of SWAPO and has been rewarded by being declared unacceptable as a supervisory force by the leadership of SWAPO. Can the Minister give any assurances to the Parliament that the same recognition would be given to Australia ‘s efforts by the Patriotic Front in the event of similar developments occurring at some time in the future in Zimbabwe? Can the Minister explain to the Senate exactly what it is we are trying to do and why it is that whatever it is we are trying to do is proving to be so lamentably unsuccessful?
– It had been my understanding until this moment, and I am saddened to be disabused of my understanding, that there was a bipartisan view between the Opposition and the Government that requests by the United Nations for peace-keeping forces should be acceptable to both sides. I am asked whether what has happened in the area is a collapse of our policies. The reverse is true. Quite clearly the United Nations thought that Australia would be acceptable. The United Nations made the decision to invite the Australian contingent. That is a value judgment by the United Nations. I would rather be prepared to accept that value judgment than Senator Wheeldon ‘s inference.
The fact of the matter is that in the previous answer I made no attempt to disguise the fact that this is a very difficult matter indeed and that what is needed now is an assessment of what has happened. I make it perfectly clear that the United Nations- we support the United Nations in these things- made a value judgment that Australia would be, in essence, an acceptable neutral nation in making a contribution of an engineering unit to this area. It is sad that the turbulence is such that there should be controversy over the composition of the force.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science and the Environment. Has the Minister noted an article in today’s newspapers reporting a successful bud transplant of a white variety of vines onto a red variety? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether any research into such transplants has been conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. If the CSIRO has not done so, could it urgently undertake such studies in order to help to alleviate the problems of the grape growers due to there being a large surplus of the red grapes used for the production of red wines?
-The CSIRO is aware of the work being done at Saxonvale. I noted the comment in the news media today that there was switching from red to white by bud transplants. The Saxonvale vineyard is apparently attempting the budding of white varieties onto red established root stocks. The CSIRO understands that this has become necessary due to a shift in the market from reds to whites. I am advised that these days newly established vineyards probably would establish white varieties on their own root stocks. However, the Saxonvale vineyard is of an age which makes the budding of whites onto reds a method feasible and economically sensible. The management of the Saxonvale vineyard has discussed this program with the CSIRO ‘s Division of Horticultural Research and has visited the Division’s field station at Merbein. There is a need perhaps to consider the last paragraph that appeared in the article to which the honourable senator referred, which states that the industry can no longer afford not to be able to supply the market needs. Whites are popular at the moment but reds could swing back at any time. Some of us may have a view relating to that proposition.
-Yesterday at Question Time I undertook to obtain additional information relating to questions asked by Senator Teague and Senator Wriedt on a recent briefing provided for the Parliamentary Press Gallery on the conflict in Indo-China. I have the following information concerning points which were not specifically covered in my earlier answers: The briefing referred to in the Australian on 27 February was given on a background basis by officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs, with the assistance of the Office of National Assessments. The Australian newspaper was represented at the briefing and it is assumed that the report was prepared by the representative concerned. There was no breach of the confidentiality requirements of the Government.
-Yesterday Senator Kilgariff asked me a question about the movement of a customs launch from Darwin and I have obtained information from the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs whom I represent in relation to this matter. In a media release on 9 July 1978 the Minister for Transport made a statement concerning civil coastal surveillance and announced the redeployment of two customs launches to Geraldton and Port Hedland. This arrangement involves the movement of the customs J class vessel Jerboa from Darwin to Port Hedland. The transfer is expected to take place in June this year. Customs needs in Darwin will continue to be met after the movement of the Jerboa by another customs launch which has recently been transferred to Darwin. Navy patrol boats are also available for civil surveillance and enforcement tasks in the area. The location of a Nomad aircraft in Darwin for customs response and enforcement needs is also expected to take place shortly.
- Senator Walters asked me a question today with regard to Press statements relating to the closure to the Ulverstone maternity unit. I now have information from the Minister for Health to which I draw the Senate’s attention. He has advised me that discussions have taken place between Commonwealth and State officials on the subject of rationalisation of public hospital services, cost containment, efficiency and hospital productivity. Whilst the officials have reported back to the Commonwealth Government, it has not yet adopted a firm position. The Commonwealth Govenment has no power to force the closure of any hospital facilities within a State and it is unfortunate if a State Minister sees fit to blame the Commonwealth Government when he well knows that it is the State Government which is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the public hospital system. I assure Senator Walters and the Senate that the Commonwealth is not moving to force upon the State Government proposals that will cause unnecessary hardships.
-Senator MacGibbon asked a question on 27 February relating to the re-entry of the Skylab spacecraft. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has advised that it is not possible to predict the time or place of re-entry of the Skylab spacecraft until a few hours before the event occurs and even then it is with little degree of accuracy. It is expected that re-entry will occur between May and September of 1979. The orbital path of Skylab covers the area from 50 degrees north to 50 degrees south latitude. The whole of Australia lies within that area.
It is pertinent to note, however, that Australia represents less than two per cent of that area and that since the commencement of the space program about 20 years ago there has not been one recorded instance of a person being injured by a re-entering spacecraft. I do, however, share the honourable senator’s concern about the possibility of re-entry occurring over Australia. To amplify the comments I made on 27 February regarding disaster co-ordination, I am informed that arrangements are in hand for an interdepartmental committee to monitor impending events such as this. The departments which will be co-ordinating the arrangements include my own Department of Science and the Environment and the Department of Defence which also incorporates the Natural Disasters Organisation. The Australian Government, of course, is being kept informed by NASA of current details of Skylab’s position and status.
-Senator Primmer asked a question on 27 February relating to nonpayment of levies by some co-operative dairy factories, and my answer to him, through the Minister for Primary Industry, is that the problem in relation to the collection and payment of the levy was confined to a small number of Queensland co-operatives. The amending legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in November 1978 in no way altered the position of co-operatives which were liable to pay the levy previously. Similarly, it did not alter the liability of those co-operatives to pay a penalty for late payment of the levy. The only way in which the Queensland co-operative dairy factories could have been placed on an equal basis with the other co-operatives would have been to provide in the amending legislation for the Queensland co-operatives to pay the levy retrospectively. However, this would not have been in accordance with the policy of the Government.
-Questions were asked by Senator McAuliffe and Senator Martin relating to historic buildings being placed on the register of the National Estate. As those honourable senators are not present in the chamber, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the answers to the two questions.
The documents read as follows- 28 February 1979
My dear Senator,
I refer to the question you addressed to my colleague Senator the Hon. J. J. Webster on Thursday 22 February concerning the Bellevue Hotel in George Street Brisbane.
The Australian Heritage Commission advertised on 29 March 1977 that it proposed to enter the Bellevue Hotel in the Register of the National Estate. It had taken these steps bearing in mind the special value of the street elevations with their decorated cast iron verandahs which had formed an important element of the George Street Precinct of buildings including Parliament House, the Queensland Club and The Mansions. In addition as the home for country parliamentarians for many years it had strong historic associations with government in Queensland.
The Queensland Government objected to the registration of this building. The Commission employed an independent consultant who re-assessed the building and the objection was carefully studied by the Australian Heritage Commissioners. In the light of evidence available to it the Commission resolved on 31 July 1978 to place the Bellevue Hotel on the Register of the National Estate.
Senator R. M. McAuliffe, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 28 February 1979
Mr dear Senator,
I refer to the question you addressed to my colleague Senator the Hon. J. J. Webster on Thursday 22 February concerning The Mansions in George Street, Brisbane.
The Commission advertised its proposal to enter The Mansions on the Register of the National Estate on 29 March 1977. This was done on the basis of architectural merit and contribution made by this building to the George Street Precinct.
The Queensland Government objected to the building going on the Register of the National Estate.
The Australian Heritage Commission employed an independent consultant to re-assess the building, and after giving the objection and nomination due consideration, resolved to enter The Mansions on the Register of the National Estate.
The reasons for listing this place included its significance as a townscape element in the group which includes Parliament House, The Queensland Club and the Bellevue Hotel. This was supported by its architectural merit as one of the finest Italianate Terraces in Australia.
Senator K. J.Martin, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600
-On 22 February I provided an answer to a question on notice from Senator McLaren relating to expenses incurred by Mr Harry M. Miller. I think it was on the same day that in the House of Representatives some figures were cited and some discrepancies noted. That matter was debated and, I trust, explained in the Senate last Thursday evening. A further statement has now been made in the House of Representatives by Mr McLeay, the Minister for Administrative Services. That statement repeats the explanation I gave last week with respect to the discrepancy. It goes on to deal with some other figures which will have to be brought to account. As this matter is of some interest in the Senate and as there are questions on notice from Senator McLaren which remain to be answered, I seek leave to incorporate in the Senate Hansard the material which appeared in the House of Representatives Hansard on 28 February.
– This is the result of my raising it in the adjournment debate on Tuesday night?
-That is right. Senator McLaren has seen a copy of this statement and I have discussed the matter with him. I understand that he is quite happy for it to be incorporated, and I think it sets the record straight.
The document read as follows-
HARRY M. MILLER: TELEPHONE ACCOUNT
Mr McLeay; Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to correct certain cost figures that I gave to the House last Thursday 22 February in answer to a question.
– The honourable gentleman has my indulgence.
Mr McLeay; Thank you. The figures were given in the course of an intervention I made on a question asked by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) about telephone accounts submitted by Mr Harry M. Miller. The figures I quoted were supplied by my Department. On subsequent checking the departmental accountants concluded that an amount of $702.93 in respect of telephone services and $ 1 73 .60 in respect of car hire ought more properly to be apportioned to the 1 977-78 period of the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation. Accordingly the figures were amended to that extent. The amended figures were included in the answer to Senate Question No. 1051 on 22 February put down in the Senate subsequent to my reference in the House. At the rime I gave the information to the House I had not been advised that the accounting amendments were to be made.
The figures given in the reply to Senate Question No. 105 1 are for expenditures brought to account during the period of 1 July 1978-31 December 1978 in respect of Mr Miller’s position as Special Adviser in relation to preparations for the 1988 Australian Bicentenary. They exclude the cost of facilities referred to in the October meeting of the Estimates Committee relating to the July meeting of the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris.
I call to the attention of honourable members the fact that these are the amounts actually brought to account in the period. I am advised by my Department to expect some further payments relating to that period and subsequent periods which will have to be brought to account. This arises from the time lag in the presentation of accounts, particularly for telephone services. The telephone services in question refer to one in each of Mr Miller’s office in Sydney, his private residence in Sydney and his country residence at Manilla. His company pays the accounts and seeks reimbursement from the Department.
There is a number of questions on notice relating to the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation and the preparations for the 1988 Australian Bicentenary. I have called for full details in respect of these questions and will put down answers as soon as possible.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Oilseeds Levy Collection and Research Act 1977 I present the annual report of the Oilseeds Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1978.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled Mainline Upgrading- Evaluation of a Range of Options for the Kalgoorlie-Perth Rail Link’.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Reference to Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs
I spoke to this motion last week so I will not take up the time of the Senate by extensively arguing it. However, to make the Hansard report intelligible I think I ought to speak very briefly about the motion. This petition, with nearly 10,000 signatures, is the largest to be presented to the Senate in eight years. It asks the Senate to consider possible introduction of the right of citizen initiative in this country. Citizen initiative means that the right of making law would no longer be the sole prerogative of members of Parliament but would be exercised through a referendum when the Australian people themselves wished to do so.
Such a referendum would be initiated by a petition. This is the position already in many States throughout the world including notably Switzerland and California. If the petition were to be signed in Australia by 2 per cent of the electorate, as is the situation in some of the overseas states, it would require 171,000 signatures. When a government receives a petition of at least that size asking that a certain matter be put to referendum, it would have to be put. The government would have no right of veto. If the referendum were carried the terms of the petition would become law.
This petition, as I have said, is the largest to be presented to this House since 1971. It is much larger than most petitions which are presented in this place and I suggest it would be intolerable to the many thousands of Australians who have signed it if it were not considered further when the machinery exists to consider it. That machinery is a reference to the appropriate Standing Committee of the Senate which in this instance is the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
In this place last August I moved that this matter be referred to that Committee. That motion is No. 89 under Orders of the Day, General Business. In view of the public support and interest indicated by the petition and the fact that it is a continuing petition I ask the Government to permit this matter to proceed within a reasonable time. I commend the motion to the Senate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
-The Opposition opposes the reference of this matter to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on the basis that no useful purpose would be served by so doing. The arguments for and against citizen initiative are well known. We of the Opposition regard the case against it as sufficiently obvious and clear cut as not to justify the kind of expenditure of time and effort that a reference to a committee would involve.
A rude and dismissive response to Senator Mason’s proposal might be to say that this is just another example of that cheap, crude, two-bob populism which the Australian Democrats have made so peculiarly their own; their tendency to confront complex problems with slogans and simplistic solutions and to do so wallowing in the luxury of the knowledge that they will never be in the position of having to govern, and confront these problems, in their own right. But because the proposal has acquired a degree of support in the community, as evidenced by the size of the petition which Senator Mason has submitted to the Senate, it does, I acknowledge deserve a more thoughtful and reasoned response than one along those lines.
Let me begin by saying that the fundamental problem with the proposal for citizen initiative is that it is a nineteenth century solution to a nineteenth century problem. Although I readily acknowledge that citizen initiative does enjoy some current popularity in certain overseas countries, particularly the United States, it is true that the idea of citizen initiative and a referendum dates from the time, and was most fashionable at the time, when nations were essentially run by elites elected by rich and powerful minorities, when full adult franchise was unknown, when representative democracy was not fully developed, and when there was genuine frustration at the absence of an opportunity for the popular voice to make itself heard in the business of government. Perhaps more importantly it dates from the time when governments had much less to do and when they were expected to do much less. The questions which confronted them were much less complex than they are today.
Unfortunately, the issues with which governments have to deal today are no longer simple; our world is no longer as simple as it was. The important issues, particularly those involving the allocation of community resources and the raising and spending of public revenue- the kind of issue which was involved in the notorious Proposition 13 decision in California a couple of years ago- are no longer the kind of issues for which every voter will be able to find answers from within his or her personal experience. Attractive though it is maybe, for any democrat to favour the idea of the people making the decisions, the fact is that it is just no longer possible, if indeed it ever was possible, for the people to be aware of all the factors that are necessary to sensibly determine an issue.
– Never trust the people, only the politicians.
-What I have said should be clear enough from the lessons of our own history and from the record of the Australian people in constitutional referendums. It is well known, of course, that only eight out of the 40 referendums that have been held to change the Australian Constitution have been agreed to. I suggest this has happened not because most of those proposals have in fact been bad- indeed, a great many have achieved either bipartisan support or support from different political parties at different times when the referendums have been put- and should not have been passed; rather it is because most of them have been extraordinarily complex. They have raised large and difficult questions which have been all too capable of being cheapened and vulgarised by opponents of the particular change in issue. They have been vulgarised in terms of crude appeals to prejudice and self-interest. I am not suggesting- despite the suggestions of Senator Chipp in earlier interjections that this is so- that the electorate is unintelligent; rather 1 am simply suggesting that politicians and others in the community can be quite unscrupulous in appealing to prejudice and fear. It is a far easier task to suggest that people play safe and vote no than it is to persuade people to agree to change.
There are many recent examples of this phenomenon at work. Perhaps the most recent example is the simultaneous elections referendum in 1977. But perhaps the worst single example of the way in which the Australian people have been misled by a totally unscrupulous campaign occurred 12 years ago when some members of the Senate opposed an amendment, which was supported by all the political parties, to abandon the nexus which links the size of this chamber with the size of the House of Representatives. The campaign was run essentially, and quite cynically, along the lines of hatred against all politicians- ‘Don’t vote yes or you will finish up politicians more of them’. The success of that appeal to ignorance and prejudice will affect the course of government and of parliament in this country for many years to come. Most of us will acknowledge now, as then, that the Senate is large enough to perform the sort of review functions which most of us believe we ought to be concentrating on, and confining ourselves to. But the fact that the Senate is generally agreed to be large enough does not mean that the House of Representatives is; that its size is appropriate in terms of the representative function of its members of the balance between the front and back benches that is necessary in that chamber. Yet, thanks to the insidious campaign mounted by a minority of the Senate in 1967, the House of Representatives can be increased in size only if the size of the Senate is also increased.
Let me turn to another aspect of this problem: The cost of citizen initiative in the sense of the resources that need to be expended if an initiative and referendum system is to be introduced, and the implications of that cost for the quality of the democracy it is supposed to embody. I would have thought that Senator Mason’s party and Senator Chipp ‘s party would have been aware that there is a vast difference between getting the support of 10 per cent of the Australian people in an election and getting the support of over half the population, which of course would be necessary at the second stage, the referendum stage, of the citizen initiative system. I seem to remember that in the last election their party complained bitterly about its lack of financial resources and its inability to get much space in the media to put its programs. Yet it seems that Senator Mason just has not applied that lesson to the proposal he now puts.
Whilst Senator Mason might well be able to whip up a campaign to get the support of 2 per cent of the electors to force a referendum on a hot political issue, it seems that he just has not thought about the problem of what will happen after he has succeeded in getting that referendum. That is the point where money and access to the media really begin to matter. It matters to our party and I would certainly have thought that it would matter to his Party. Presumably it will not be his party, and I can assure the Senate that it certainly will not be ours, which will control most of the resources open to persuading the public how to vote on the issues. He ought to realise that putting a pamphlet of a Yes case and a No case in everyone’s letterbox is not going to lead inevitably, by itself, to a rational decision. Those who will be concerned about the issue will spend a lot of money and expend a lot of effort to persuade people to support their views. But those resources will not be shared equally among the proponents and the opponents of the change. To take a familiar and recent United States example, it is widely accepted that the defeat of a Californian initiative proposal for a ban on smoking in public places was primarily due to a massive $5m advertising campaign by the tobacco industry.
It is frequently suggested that Australians have too many elections with which to concern themselves. They have two elections every three years if both the State and Federal parliaments run their full terms and if upper and lower Houses are elected at the same time. Of course they have rather more than that if the system operates in the perverse way in which it has been operating in recent years. We on our side of the chamber certainly find it difficult enough to marshal the necessary financial resources to put the Labor Party’s point of view to the people in those elections. To add to those elections an unknown number of referendums would be to change the system and deliver it into the hands of those with financial and communications resources to spare.
Let me put the argument finally back on the plane of democratic principle where Senator Mason has insisted throughout that it should remain. I recall in particular his remarks, when seeking unsuccessfully to introduce this matter last week, that one was either for or against democracy. Are those of us who oppose this system against democracy in the way in which Senator Mason suggests that we must be? I suggest that to argue and to talk in those terms again simply cheapens and vulgarises the argument, and the debate. What I would suggest is that the approach in this respect of Senator Mason and his colleagues is really a quite irresponsible one. Far be it for me to concede, after the events of 1975, that our present system of democracy is perfect, but the point that has to be made is that our system of government is one of representative democracy in which the people make a choice between the people and the parties that they want to represent them on the basis of the programs produced by those seeking election. When the representative does not make the right decision, he has to answer for that at the next election. He and his party can be judged, and are judged, on how successful they are in coping with a whole range of different issues. I suggest to Senator Mason that a politician is acting in a cowardly fashion, a non-responsible position, if every time a difficult issue comes up he says that he will have none of it, and that he would regard it as more appropriate that on that issue the initiative and referendum course bears the responsibility of producing a policy decision, a policy result. Politicians have to make unpopular decisions from time to time. By definition, of course, they are decisions that go against the popular will at the time they are taken. By and large we tend to distinguish these sorts of decisions as being ‘statesman like’ rather than political because, and just because, they tend to look beyond short term political popularity towards the greater good, in the long term, of the nation. Senator Mason’s proposal would eliminate the possibility of responsible politicians acting contrary to popular prejudice. That, I suggest, would be the ultimate tragedy for Australian democracy if his proposal were to come to fruition.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Young)- Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, Mr Acting Deputy President. I claim to have been misrepresented by Senator Evans. I am sure that he did so unwittingly and, even though it does not involve a massive point, I want to put the record straight. Senator Evans said that during the election campaign I had complained bitterly about the inability of my party to obtain funds and to obtain space in newspapers. The first statement is true: I did complain bitterly about the inability of my party to get funds simply because it was the only party to engage in open funding.
– What is the point of order?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Chipp is not raising a point of order, Senator Georges. He is claiming to have been misrepresented and is making a personal explanation.
– Then I take a point of order. Senator Chipp has not been misrepresented. He has just admitted that what Senator Evans said is correct. He is going on to debate something else. There has been no misrepresentation. I do not want to inhibit Senator Chipp but perhaps he, too, would accept that.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! I extend a courtesy to Senator Chipp to give some background to his claim of misrepresentation.
-Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. Senator Georges must have missed what I said. I said that Senator Evans had made two statements about what I said during the election campaign, one of which was true. The second one- that I had complained bitterly about newspapers not giving my party space in its columns- is untrue. I have never complained about that. In fact, I have said quite the opposite, that is, that the Australian media has been impeccably fair to the Australian Democrats since its inception.
– I want to speak very briefly, not really on the substance of this matter and the matters canvassed by Senator Evans, but rather on the question of procedure. As the chairman of the committee to which this reference would go if the motion were carried, I want to draw attention to the fact that there is a substantive proposed reference- No. 89 on the Notice Paper- by Senator Mason relating to the whole subject of democracy by referendum as against representative democracy, which is a question that has arisen in the United States in particular in recent times. This of course is no new matter. It has been debated and discussed over many generations. However, I do not think that I should canvass this matter in any way at this time.
– But not in this Parliament.
-It probably has been. I would be very surprised if the matter had not been canvassed in the Parliament. If Senator Mason means the Parliament that has been sitting since 1 977, he is probably right.
– No, in the history of this Federal Parliament. According to my information, the matter has never been raised before.
– It has not? I am extremely surprised at that. To my knowledge, over the years it has certainly been discussed in journals and has been debated in many places. So far as the committee of which I am chairman is concerned, it is currently engaged in a very detailed reference with regard to freedom of information which will take it some months to deal with. There are also other references to the committee which have not yet been completed but which will be completed before the middle of this year. So the committee is not in a position to take up any immediate reference and give it attention. But that situation will change by the middle of the year.
I repeat, I draw attention particularly to the fact that there is on the Notice Paper, but not yet debated, a substantive proposed reference on the subject. The motion before us concerns a petition related to this question. I take it that Senator Mason sees that large petition as a substantial indication of popular support, and therefore supporting evidence, for his major proposal. So it would seem to be quite mistaken to make a decision on the supplementary evidence involved here before debate and decision take place on the major reference. For that purpose I propose that the resumption of this debate be taken cognately with the debate on the proposed reference by Senator Mason set out in General Business Notice of Motion No. 89. I would merely indicate my intention to move to that effect. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Missen) agreed to:
That the resumption of the debate be taken cognately with the debate on the proposed reference to the Committee moved by Senator Mason and shown as General Business Notice of Motion No. 89.
– I move:
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations: All expenditures incurred since February 1977 by and related to the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation, the Silver Jubilee Appeal and the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris and all expenditures incurred in anticipation of Bicentennial Celebrations Organisation.
It was some years ago that the Senate decided to establish a number of standing committees as part of its responsibility to oversee government operations and executive decisions, and to peruse bureaucratic decisions and actions. One of the committees that the Senate in 1969 or 1970, in its wisdom, chose to establish was the Finance and Government Operations Committee. One of our colleagues, Senator Rae, is Chairman of that Committee, which recently has tabled a number of excellent and publicly well-received reports. As a result of the activities of that Committee, and because it is held in such high respect and repute by the Senate and by the Parliament, I believe that the reference that I now seek to make to it is in the interests of the Australian community.
It is no secret that all of these organisations involve one Harry M. Miller. I know that Mr Miller, as chairman of the Silver Jublee Commemorative Organisation, in his inter-related capacity of one contributing to the Silver Jubilee Appeal, as the Director of the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris, as Special Adviser to the Bicentennial Celebrations Organisation, and a member of the boards of Qantas and of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation- all of these appointments having been made by the present Government- has a great deal on his hands at the present time. I have mentioned only the activities that he is carrying out for and on behalf of the Australian Government. We all know that also he has problems with his company, Computicket. He has problems with Myers. He has problems with David Syme and Company, with theatrical entrepreneurs and entertainment promoters. In addition, and I speak only from recollection, he is also honorary treasurer of the National Country Party.
I am motivated to move as I have done on the basis of the principle of public accountability. For some years my colleague Senator McLaren and I during the Estimates Committees debates, have been studying the activities of these various organisations. The time is now ripe for a thorough investigation by a Senate standing committee of all of these areas. The explanations that have been given to date have not been satisfactory. I do not think that they dovetail, that the figures tally. Indeed, the explanations given are either unsatisfactory or incomplete. In November 1978 Mr Miller tendered to the then Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Chaney, his final report on the activities of the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation. That report was tabled in this Parliament last week, in February 1979. On page 2 of that report the following is clearly stated:
The Federal Government authorised an allocation of $500,000 from the Department of Administrative Services vote -
I emphasise those words- to enable the Silver Jubilee Organisation to undertake its nation-wide activities-
Anyone reading this report would get the distinct impression that a sum of $500,000 only had been made available by the Government to finance the expenditure and activities in connection with the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation. On the other aspect of finance, one reads at page 24 of the report:
From all of these activities the Silver Jubilee Organisation raised in excess of $100,000 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal for Young Australians, while at the same time providing a vigorous profile through its general program to encourage further donations.
Those are the only two sums that are mentioned in the report-$500,000 from the vote of the Department of Administrative Services, and a sum in excess of $100,000’ collected from the activities of the Silver Jubilee Organisation. But as I mentioned here last Wednesday, very heavy administrative expenses, in addition to the $500,000 have been, and are, involved. Despite the explanations given to date, the figures do not dovetail one with the other. If one goes through the explanatory memorandums provided to the Senate by the Department of Administrative Services in respect of this expenditure one sees that in 1976-77 a sum of $45,058 was expended on the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation, In 1977-78 there was an expenditure of $249,400. In 1977-78 an additional sum of $30,000 was expended. All told, those figures amount to $325,000-odd. That amount is in addition to the $500,000 that is set out in the report. They were the figures that were set out in the explanatory notes for the financial years 1976-77 and 1977-78.
In another document a further figure of $338,000 is mentioned as having been the total government expenditure involved. I just cannot put my hand on that document at the moment. According to other explanatory notes of the Department, $424,645 was involved, and that figure did not include salaries and allowances for staff who were permanent officers of the Public Service, because the salaries and allowances relating to them were charged to another vote. Different figures have been given to date. One estimate provided put the figure at $325,000, another one put it at $338,000, and another estimate was $424,645. All of those amounts are additional to the sum of $500,000 which is set out in Mr Miller’s report. So, in fact, the total sum expended is much higher than that which is mentioned in the report, and the accuracy of the figures is severely in question.
In addition to that, the matter of the fitting out of the Silver Jubilee train for the purpose of taking certain exhibits around Australia was raised by Senator McLaren and me. In an answer given to me on 26 September last, the then Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Chaney, said:
The Royal Silver Jubilee Exhibition train was specially fitted out by the Public Transport Commission of New South Wales to meet specifications of the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation. The organisation has paid to the Commission -
That is, the New South Wales Public Transport Commission- the sum of $250,000 in respect of the fitting out costs and running costs. Other amounts totalling $146,841 have been paid to the Queensland Railways, Victorian Railways, Australian National Railways and the Western Australian Government Railways in respect of running costs incurred on those rail systems.
I can find no explanation given to date of the vote from which those funds came. Whether they came from the vote of the Department of Administrative Services or whether they came out of the $500,000 trust fund that was established by the Government, I have not been able to ascertain. Therefore I do not know whether the sum of roughly $400,000 involved is in addition to the $424,000 that I have seen in other explanatory notes, whether it is in addition to the $338,000 that I have seen in some other figures, or whether it is in addition to the $325,000 that I was able to arrive at by adding up the figures in the explanatory notes provided to the Senate Estimates committees. Where is the explanation of the expenditure of that sum of $400,000 concerning the fitting out of the train and the running costs of that train? From which vote did it come? Surely, all of these matters, should be looked at by a committee of this Senate.
The matter of telephones has also been raised. Last week my colleague in the other place, Mr Innes, asked whether it was a fact that $20,000 had been paid by the Department of Administrative Services to the Postal and Telecommunications Department for telephone accounts submitted by Mr Miller to the Department of Administrative Services for payment. I think the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) said that he would have the matter investigated. The present Minister for Administrative Services, Mr McLeay, subsequently gave some figures in response to a question asked of him by Dr Klugman on another matter related to the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Appeal. On the same day my colleague, Senator McLaren, received an answer which set out figures in connection with Mr Miller’s activities since his appointment as Special Adviser in relation to the preparations for the 1988 Australian Bicentenary. My colleague, Senator McLaren, by way of answer to Senate question No. 105 1, was told that the total amount involved was $45,422. On the same day Mr McLeay said that the figure was of the order of $46,000. In the adjournment debate on Tuesday night, Senator McLaren, pointed out to Senator Chaney, who represents the Minister for Administrative Services, that the two figures did not square. The Minister said that he would have the matter investigated. Yesterday Mr McLeay made a statement on this matter in the House of Representatives. He said:
The figures given in the reply to Senate question No. 1051 -
That is, the question asked by my colleague Senator McLaren- are for expenditures brought to account during the period 1 July 1978 to 31 December 1978 in respect of Mr Miller’s position as Special Adviser in relation to preparations for the 1 988 Australian Bicentenary. They exclude the cost of facilities referred to in the October meeting of the Estimates Committee relating to the July meeting of the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris.
I draw the next part of the Minister’s statement particularly to the attention of honourable senators, bearing in mind the question asked by my colleague, Mr Innes, as to whether telephone accounts to the extent of $20,000 had been received: 1 call to the attention of honourable members the fact that these are the amounts actually brought to account in the period. I am advised by my Department to expect some further payments relating to that period and subsequent periods which will have to be brought to account. This arises from the time lag in the presentation of accounts, particularly for telephone services. The telephone services in question refer to one in each of Mr Miller’s office in Sydney, his private residence in Sydney and his country residence at Manilla. His company pays the accounts and seeks reimbursement from the Department.
Clearly we do not know the extent of that amount for which the Department has been billed. Because on Tuesday night my colleague Senator McLaren had shown up the discrepancy between the answer the Minister gave on Thursday in the House of Representatives and the answer Senator McLaren received on Thursday to a question on notice in this place, the Minister had to say in the course of his statement:
The figures I quoted were supplied by my Department. On subsequent checking the departmental accountants concluded that an amount of $702.93 in respect of telephone services and $173.60 in respect of car hire ought more properly to be apportioned to the 1977-78 period of the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Collard)- Order! Two hours having elapsed from the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate, pursuant to Standing Order 127 the debate is interrupted and I call on the Orders of the Day.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to: That Standing Order 127 be suspended for this day.
– I appreciate the courtesy that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has extended to me to enable me to complete my remarks. I had pointed out that the Minister for Administrative Services had to say yesterday in the House of Representatives that certain expenditures ought more properly to be apportioned to the 1977-78 period of the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation. Accordingly, the figures were amended. It is quite obvious to me that the Department of Administrative Services does not know where it is in relation to expenditure by the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation or the proposed bicentennial organisation, or in respect of many other matters. In his answer yesterday the Minister for Administrative Services said that the figures that had been cited by him amounting to, I think, about $46,000 excluded the cost of facilities referred to in the October meeting of Estimates Committee A relating to the July meeting of the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris. I refer to what was said by the Department to the Senate Estimates Committee last October in its additional explanations. Senator Jessop, a Government supporter, requested that the Committee be provided with a breakdown of the amount of $2,200 provided as overseas travelling allowance for Mr Miller. My colleague,
Senator McLaren, requested that the Committee be provided with details of the salary Mr Miller was receiving, the number of staff employed to assist him and what their remunerations were. Senator Jessop is not a member of the Opposition, he is a Government supporter. The answer to his query was this:
The Government appointed Mr Harry M. Miller as a Special Adviser in relation to preparations for the celebration of the Australian Bicentenary in 1 988:
to present Australia’s case for a 1988 Exposition at the July meeting of the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris; and
for work preparatory to the setting up of a National Organisation to develop the Bicentenary Celebrations.
In this connection he has been provided with a staff of two whose respective remunerations are $25,824 -
That is for one person. He must be a senior officer of the Public Service- and $ 1 1,209 per annum.
Mr Miller, accompanied by a senior officer of the Department of Administrative Services, attended the Bureau meeting in Paris from 30 June to 5 July 1978.
He was there for one week. The answer continued:
For the purpose of this meeting a bilingual secretary was made available.
I have every reason to believe that the bilingual secretary was brought from Geneva to Paris to act as Mr Miller’s interpreter. I ask the Minister to tell me whether that is a fact. The answer continued:
Also a car was provided on a standby basis.
Mr Miller and a senior officer of the Department of Administrative Services attended the meeting in Paris to put a case on behalf of the Australian Government and a car was provided for them on a standby basis. I doubt whether that occurs when Ministers go abroad on behalf of the Government. The answer continued:
The Department’s 1978-79 estimates included a provisional amount of $2,500 for Mr Miller’s expenses in Paris.
That was for one week. It sounds a fair amount.
The answer continued:
In the event the cost has amounted to about $4,500 although final details are not yet to hand from the Embassy.
It cost $4,500 for one week in Paris from 30 June to 5 July. The answer continued:
The dissection of this cost included fare $300 ( Mr Miller is a Director of Qantas and the Department was charged a concession rate), accommodation at the Hilton Hotel which is near the Embassy -
I ask, therefore, why a car on stand-by was required- $2,700 (this cost includes substantial telephone and telex charges associated with the Bureau meeting) -
There must have been many telephone and telex charges- and car hire $1,550.
The answer added:
Mr Miller has received no fee or remuneration in respect of his work as Special Adviser or his attendance at the Paris meeting.
Mr Miller spent $4,500 on accommodation, car transport and telephone and telex charges in one week in Paris in June and July of 1978. 1 doubt whether any trip taken by even a Minister of this Government would have cost the Australian taxpayer as much. I believe that these matters require the Senate’s detailed investigation. They should be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations.
I have not said anything yet in relation to the Silver Jubilee Appeal which is separate to the Silver Jubilee Organisation. The Government decided in February 1977 to establish an organisation to conduct the celebratory events and it also established an appeal to raise funds in connection with the celebrations. The Government contributed $2m to the Appeal. Notwithstanding the activities of the Appeal Committee, including the amount put in by the Government a total of about $5m was contributed. I refer to some comments of former Senator Wright relating to the Appeal. On page 1 5 of the Hansard of Senate Estimates Committee A on 2 May 1 978 he said:
In relation to item 14, on page 22 of the explanatory notes $28,500 for salary reimbursement is mentioned.
Whose salary is that and what were the circumstances?
Mr White, an officer of the Department of Administrative Services, replied:
The amount shown as salary reimbursement relates to salary reimbursed to the ANZ Bank in respect of the secretary of the National Appeal Committee in Melbourne, a bank officer loaned to the Appeal Committee in Western Australia and an officer loaned to the National Appeal Committee in Melbourne by BHP. Those people were not employees of the Commonwealth. The salaries therefore were not chargeable to the salaries appropriation of the Department. We reimbursed their employers for the salary payments that their employers continued to make to them during the period when they were loaned to the Appeal committees.
Former Senator Wright asked:
Were they the only persons whose services were made available to the committees?
Mr White replied:
Mr Palmer mentioned earlier that there was a considerable amount of voluntary activity related to the Appeal committees in various States, particularly in Tasmania and Queensland where the Commonwealth was virtually relieved of responsibility for the administrative costs of the Appeal in those States.
Former Senator Wright then asked:
On what basis is a decision made to reimburse salaries only of specified people?
Mr White said:
A National Appeal Committee was appointed and a committee was appointed in each State. Chairmen of the Appeal committees were appointed in each State and the chairmen had a certain degree of autonomy in the way in which they managed the affairs of their own Appeal committees. The arrangements that finally were made were different as between the various States. That is largely as a result of the different approaches taken by the various chairmen of the State Appeal committees.
Former Senator Wright said:
I leave the matter by saying only that it is obvious that inequities arise on that basis and people who gave their services voluntarily I think would bitterly resent special cases where salaries are paid.
We have inconsistency on top of inconsistency. The figures that I have related and referred to as a result of documents provided to this Parliament over time do not dovetail. As far as the Silver Jubilee Appeal is concerned, if one reads the explanatory notes which were provided to the Parliament one will see at page 107 of the explanatory notes of the Department of Administrative Services concerning expenditure under division 130.3.13 for the financial year 1977-78 that any net proceeds of the program of events are to be paid by the Harry Miller organisation to the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal Fund. Any funds received by that organisation have to be paid into the appeal fund. Page 24 of the report of the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation states:
From all of these activities the Silver Jubilee Organisation raised in excess of $100,000 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal for Young Australians, while at the same time providing a vigorous profile through its general program to encourage further donations.
Surely this Parliament is entitled to know what was the exact amount that was raised by the organisation and paid into the appeal fund. It is not satisfactory to use the words ‘in excess of $100,000’ which were contained in that report. We are entitled to know whether the amount in excess of $100,000 was 2c, $2, $20, $200 or $20,000. It is not good enough for anyone presenting a report to this Parliament simply to say that an amount in excess of $100,000 was raised.
I could allude to a number of other matters but I believe that I have presented sufficient facts to the Senate to persuade it that these matters deserve close and detailed investigation by the Parliament. There is no better way of providing such an investigation than by referring this matter to a committee of the Senate which consists of representatives of all parties. I refer to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. This Committee obviously was established by the Senate in the late 1960s or early 1970s to investigate matters of the type that I have raised. The public is entitled to a better explanation. The Parliament is entitled to know all the circumstances and all the facts. For those reasons, I believe that the matter should be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. The Senate should support the motion that I have moved.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Collard)- Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion. In doing so, I want to make a few brief remarks in addition to what Senator McClelland has already said. I think that Senator McClelland has outlined in full detail the events that have transpired because of the appointment by the Government of Mr Harry M. Miller to various organisations. I think Senator McClelland has made out a very strong case for why this matter ought to be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. I hope that the decision of the Senate today will be that this matter should be referred to that Committee without delay so that the business of that Committee can get underway and it can investigate all the matters that need to be investigated so that the taxpayers of this country have a clear picture of how their money is being spent by organisations run by a person who, we are told time and time again in the Parliament, is serving in an honorary capacity. Of course, we know that Mr Miller is in no end of trouble in other spheres. That is all the more reason why this matter ought to be investigated and cleared up as soon as possible.
Senator McClelland pointed out that there have been some discrepancies in the answers that have been given by the Government to questions that have been raised in the Parliament. Senator McClelland also pointed out that on Tuesday night I took the opportunity during the adjournment debate to bring to the attention of the Parliament some discrepancies which had occurred in the accounting procedures. The discrepancies occurred in an answer given that day in the other place by the Minister for Administrative Affairs (Mr McLeay) and in an answer that was provided to me in writing by the Minister through Senator Chaney. That is the reason that the matter had to be raised.
I refer to the Estimates Committee hearings of 12 October last year. In particular, I refer to page 180 of the Hansard record of the proceedings of Estimates Committee E and the questions I asked about the expenditure, of Mr Harry M.
Miller. Senator McClelland has mentioned the fact that when Mr Miller spent a weekend in Paris it cost $4,500. Senator McClelland also mentioned a question raised by Senator Jessop. I want to refer to another question raised by Senator Jessop during that inquiry. Senator Jessop said:
I was interested in the provision of $300 for overseas travel for Mr Miller. I wanted to know where he was going and how he could get there for $300?
Mr White, an officer of the Department of Administrative Services, said:
I can answer the question. Mr Miller travelled to Paris with a departmental officer in July to attend a meeting of the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris. Mr Miller, as you may know, is a director of Qantas and has certain privileges attaching to that position. Qantas billed the Department for the 1 0 per cent of the normal fare.
Honourable senators will realise that if one is lucky enough to be in favour with this Government and to be appointed to a body such as Qantas Airways Ltd, one can travel around the world for 10 per cent of the international air fare. We know that Mr Miller has been appointed to other bodies. He was appointed by Mr Sinclair to the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. No doubt he receives many privileges in that position, as he does with the three bodies into whose transactions Senator McClelland wants an inquiry to be held. Senator Jessop agreed that it was reasonable when he was told that Mr Miller could travel to Paris for 10 per cent of the ordinary fare. In reply, Senator Chaney said:
A great thrust for frugal Government.
It certainly is frugal; it is at the taxpayers expense. I then went on to say:
You might recall that I put a question to you a fortnight ago on the activities of Mr Miller. You have answered it in part and I am still waiting on the rest. I wanted to know whether his office was going to be used for the promotion and sale of a certain book which is to be published and of which he is going to be the promoter. I think I told you the probable title of it: It is ‘ Kerr’s Capers ‘.
I was mistaken there. They hit upon another title.
– Who wrote the book?
-We know the exGovernorGeneral Mr Kerr wrote the book. I have a question on notice concerning Mr Kerr’s expenses. It precedes the notice concerning Mr Miller’s telephone account. I want to know what the telephone account is for Mr Kerr for his calls between Australia and England, where he is now domiciled. The two questions on notice are linked because Mr Miller was the promoter of that book. We want to know all the expenditure incurred as a cost to the Australian taxpayer. In his answer Senator Chaney said:
I understand that Mr Miller does presently have office accommodation which we are supplying, but I think that would be solely for the purpose of his duties on our behalf. He would not be able to use it for other purposes.
I replied by saying:
I should hope so. That is the reason I put the question. I will be interested to get your answer on that.
Last Thursday I was given an answer in writing which I referred to in the adjournment debate. Part of that answer says that 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. In the letter I received from Mr McLeay this morning, from which Senator McClelland has already quoted, it is interesting to look at part of the answer as to where these telephone services are because Mr McLeay says on page 2 of the letter:
The telephone services in question refer to one in each of Mr Miller’s office in Sydney, his private residence in Sydney and his country residence at Manilla. His company pays the accounts and seeks reimbursement from the Department.
If the Senate agrees to this inquiry we will be looking to see how the Department is able to dissect Mr Miller’s telephone expenses in connection with these three offices. I will be interested to see how the charges are separated between the work that he is supposedly doing in an honorary capacity and the work which is done in his own private capacity. No doubt the wires have been running hot because of the problem he has with Computicket. Mr McLeay went on to say:
There is a number of questions on notice relating to the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation and the preparations for the 1988 Australian Bicentenary. I have called for full details in respect of these questions and will put down answers as soon as possible.
I support Senator McClelland in his endeavours to have this matter investigated by the appropriate Senate Standing Committee. He has made out a very strong case on the necessity for an inquiry to be held forthwith. I hope the Senate will take it on board so that in the very near future we can get full and adequate answers in Parliament as to how Mr Miller is incurring expenses in the positions to which he has been nominated by this Government. All that needs to be done now is for Senator Rae ‘s committee to take this matter on board so as to expedite the investigation into all the expenses incurred by Mr Miller.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) 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 Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Dairy Produce Sales Promotion Act 1958 in order to widen the definition of ‘dairy produce’ under Section 4 of that Act so as to enable the Australian Dairy Corporation to undertake the domestic promotion of all dairy products, including market milk- that is milk sold for human consumption- and fresh milk products. Under the Dairy Produce Sales Promotion Act 1958, the Corporation has been given the charter of promoting the sale of dairy produce in Australia. Dairy produce is defined under Section 4 of the Act as being butter and cheese and such other products derived from milk or the constituent parts of milk as are prescribed. The funds for this purpose are derived from a levy on all wholemilk and butterfat imposed under the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Act 1 972.
The Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Act was amended in 1976 to provide for the domestic sales promotion activities of the Corporation to be funded from a levy on all wholemilk produced in Australia, that is milk used for manufacturing purposes, market milk and in the production of fresh milk products, such as table cream and yoghurt. The Corporation has since undertaken the promotion of cream and other fresh milk products on its own account, and the promotion of market milk in conjunction with the respective State milk marketing authorities.
There is some doubt, however, as to whether market milk, cream and fresh milk products, such as yoghurt, could under the present definition of ‘dairy produce’ be prescribed for the purposes of the Dairy Produce Sales Promotion Act. To remove any legal doubts in the Dairy Produce Sales Promotion Act, clause 3 of the Bill redefines ‘dairy produce’ to cover all dairy products, including market milk, cream and fresh milk products. Provision has also been made in the Bill to validate any payments made by the Corporation in respect to the domestic promotion of such products since 1 August 1976 when the levy base was widened to cover all wholemilk produced in Australia.
The market for market milk and for fresh milk products is the most profitable outlet for milk in Australia and with the decline in domestic butter consumption it is important to take full advantage of the potential demand for milk and fresh milk products. The dairy industry should benefit as a whole if the consumption of these products can be stimulated through the promotional activities of the Australian Dairy Corporation in co-operation with the respective State authorities. The opportunity has also been taken to make a number of formal amendments to the Act to bring the wording into line with current drafting practice. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
1 ) That the Senate concurs in the resolutions of the House of Representatives contained in Messages Nos 22 1 to 224 of the House of Representatives.
That the foregoing resolution be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
– There is no explanation on those questions. I take it there is some alteration in the number of the membership of the Committee. Is that so?
– I understand that the messages merely contain information about a different procedure which will be adopted within the House of Representatives by which they will select their representatives on certain joint committees. It is a domestic matter of the House of Representatives.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 2 1 February, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose the Foreign Antitrust Judgments (Restriction of Enforcement) Bill with the normal vigour which would be manifest if it were a matter of great political and ideological importance.
-Senator Tate says that it is, and he will indicate his position, I presume, when he speaks later in the debate. The Opposition will, however, be moving an amendment to the second reading which is designed to establish a particular consequence. I will refer to the provisions of that proposed amendment in a moment. The Senate will, I think, recall that on one previous occasion, in an atmosphere of high drama, we met here to deal with legislation relating to the action by Westinghouse Electric Corporation in the United States which was brought against 29 companies, some of them domestic United States companies, and some of them foreign companies registered in the United States. In that case Westinghouse alleged price fixing agreements contrary to the United States anti-trust laws. The price fixing agreements were alleged to have been entered into by uranium producers. Four Australian companies were concerned with that matter and I recall that one night in November 1976 the Government introduced very hasty legislation known as the Foreign Proceedings (Prohibition of Certain Evidence) Amendment Bill. Its purpose was to deal with the particular proceedings in the United States courts to which I referred earlier. It seems that the prohibition against certain evidence being given in those proceedings in the United States does not, however, go far enough to exempt the four Australian companies, to which I have referred, from the provisions of the United States anti-trust laws. The purpose of the present Bill is to provide that certain anti-trust judgments made in United States or foreign courts- but the United States courts in particular- are not recognised or enforceable in Australia. I do not wish to delay the Senate with the circumstances in which at common law judgments of foreign courts can be enforced in the courts of Australia. There are certain very clear principles at private international law which apply to that situation. Firstly, the foreign court must have exercised a jurisdiction which was recognised by our courts. Secondly, the judgment of a foreign court must be final and conclusive before it can be registered in Australia. Thirdly, it must be for a fixed debt if it is an action in personam and so on. These principles of the common law are, in a sense, abrogated by the legislation which the Parliament is now discussing but the consequense of the legislation, as I have said, is simply to make sure that foreign judgments are not recognised and enforceable in Australia.
The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) in his second reading speech of course dealt with these things at some length and gave a background explanation as to why this legislation was necessary. One matter which has concerned the Opposition is the fact that there is no provision in the Bill for the Attorney-General to give reasons to the Parliament- he is exercising a very important and sensitive function I would have thought- in relation to his non-recognition and decree that a foreign judgment should not be enforceable. He should not just gazette his determination. It is the view of the Opposition that before he exercises that function he should give reasons to the Parliament. This would have the consequence that a determination of the Attorney-General would not take effect until he had obtained the consent of both Houses of Parliament. Those are matters which are referred to in the amendment to be moved on behalf of the Opposition to the second reading of this Bill. We will move those amendments not because, as I have indicated, we are concerned about the intention of the legislation particularly, but because we feel it is important and sensitive legislation which could be improved if the amendment I have suggested were incorporated in the Bill. It would be in the interests of Parliament if the Bill were withdrawn and redrafted to incorporate that provision.
The second matter of concern is that under the present Bill the Attorney-General has power not only to refuse to recognise a foreign judgment and to say that it would not be enforceable in Australia but also to vary the amount of that judgment if it were recognised in Australia and in so far as its enforcement by an Australian court would be allowed. We will be moving, in the Committee stage, that those provisions empowering the Attorney-General to vary the amount should be deleted. V/c do that because we think the picture should be quite clear. If the foreign court judgment is to be recognised and enforceable in Australia then we say the judgment should have full effect or no effect at all. It is for that reason that those other amendments will be moved. One suspects that the inclusion of those provisions in the Bill leaves the AttorneyGeneral of this country open to a great deal of potential criticism, having regard to the circumstances in which he might exercise his discretion to vary the amount of a judgment in favour of one company as against another. For example, there may well be circumstances where the Attorney-General exercises that discretion for the benefit of one Australian company and in another situation does not exercise his discretion but allows the full effects of a foreign judgment to be enforced in Australia. We suggest that the way in which he exercises his discretion might put him in a situation where he is potentially open to a great deal of criticism for alleged favouritism. We consider we have raised very important matters which ought to be considered by the Senate and we suggest them in terms of seeking improvements to the Bill now before the Senate. It may well be that the AttorneyGeneral although it will be a refreshing experience if he does it- can set our minds at rest about these various matters which I have raised. If he can do that I imagine that our amendment will be defeated because honourable senators on the Government side of the Senate will vote against it. If he cannot do that we suggest these matters as improvements to the legislation.
I made a general comment that in spite of the amendments we have suggested the Opposition approves the general principles of this Bill. The whole question of the enforcement of anti-trust judgments and of anti-trust laws is a very vexed one internationally. One would like to think that we lived in a perfect world in which we in Australia fully respected the rather forceful antitrust legislation which exists in the United States and were prepared to enforce their judgments here, but of” course we do not. The practices of international trade and trading arrangements and agreements are such that it is by no means a perfect world.
I should like to summarise an approving view of the legislation put forward at the Fifth International Trade Law Seminar, which was held in Canberra last year, in a paper by Professor Ryan of the University of Queensland. He spoke about the earlier legislation and the general principles which, in his view, would apply to the correct course to be taken by an Australian government in protecting the interests of its national companies and protecting the national interest as the Government sees it. Although quoting from Professor Ryan’s paper, nonetheless I retain the qualifications I made about some of the detailed provisions of this Bill and the circumstances in which the discretion of the Attorney-General would be exercised. Professor Ryan said:
It is suggested that while it should be ‘our duty and our pleasure’, as Lord Denning M.R. said, to assist the courts of the United States in anti-trust proceedings, and while we should be ready to meet with United States officials to explore means of limiting any harmful effect on their economy which may originate in this country, the limits of our ability to co-operate must be set by two principles: that we cannot co-operate where the action proposed by the United States is inconsistent with our conception of international law, nor can we permit action here which we judge to be contrary to our public interest. It is inconceivable that we would agree to allow any foreign tribunal, however distinguished, to determine whether its national interest in a matter was greater than ours, so as to bind us not to act to prevent effect being given to its decrees in this country. These are the two principles which are to guide the Attorney-General in the exercise of his powers under the Foreign Proceedings (Prohibition of Certain Evidence) Act 1976. They are principles which it is essential to maintain.
The Opposition does not disagree with those principles, subject to the qualifications I have made. We do not disagree with them insofar as they have similar effect in relation to the legislation now before the Senate. On behalf of the Opposition I move:
– I rise to speak very briefly on the Foreign Antitrust Judgments (Restriction of Enforcement) Bill 1979. Firstly, I wish to deal with the amendment moved by the Opposition. I agree with the purpose of the amendment. I think it is very important that the Government should make quite clear what balance of national interest it is protecting. We have a national interest in the elimination of international trusts. We also have a national interest in the preservation of the effective working of our companies operating inside Australia. It is very important that the Attorney-General, when he makes his order should make quite clear on what balance of national interest he is proposing the order. I do not think it is necessary to go to Parliament first. That would be very ineffective; Parliament is not in session for long periods of the year. I think it would be perfectly adequate if the Attorney-General when making his order, attached documents setting out in detail the national interest on the basis of which he is proposing to put forward the order. Of course, the order is subject to disallowance by either House of Parliament
– He still has to gazette it and wait for the period for disallowance.
– He has to do that, but if these documents were attached to the order so that they could be examined by the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, for instance, I think that would be an adequate protection. I would like an assurance from the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) that that will be done as a matter of course and that the Attorney-General will state very clearly what national interest he is protecting.
The second point with which I would like to deal concerns the power of Parliament over the decisions of the Attorney-General on these very important matters. In sub-clauses (5) and (6) of clause 3 the Bill provides very properly for disallowance of the Attorney-General’s order by either House of Parliament; and if neither House of Parliament disallows the Attorney-General’s order it must be taken that Parliament agrees with the wisdom of his decision. That is fine; but what happens if the Attorney-General or his successor for good reasons or bad changes his mind and rescinds his order? What power does Parliament have over this abrupt change of a decision which has been implicitly approved by Parliament. I think that the power of Parliament in this respect is very doubtful.
I would be very grateful if the AttorneyGeneral, in his reply, could answer a number of questions that bear on this problem. The first question is: Under the provisions of this Bill, is his order in writing an instrument within the meaning of section 33 (3) of the Acts Interpretation Act? Secondly, if it is and if the AttorneyGeneral wished to rescind an order he had made, would it be necessary for him to issue another order rescinding the first order and would this rescinding order be subject to disallowance by either House of Parliament? Thirdly, even if this rescinding order were subject to disallowance, is that an effective power? Would disallowance revive the original order? I do not think it would; and, if it did not, the disallowance power would be futile. I would be very grateful if the AttorneyGeneral could clarify this point. I think it is just as important for Parliament to have power over a rescinding order which alters a decision implicitly approved by Parliament as it is for Parliament to have power of disallowance over the original order. I would be very grateful if the Attorney-General would deal with this matter in his remarks.
-The Foreign Antitrust Judgments (Restriction of Enforcement) Bill 1979 brings to a sort of finality a dispute which has been festering between the Australian and United States Governments for some years, particularly in relation to the United States Department of Justice. I say that it brings the matter to a sort of finality because no doubt this Bill, if it becomes law, will be seen to be only a step in the further negotiations with the United States Attorney-General in particular over the enforcement in Australia of judgments of United States courts in anti-trust proceedings. It is final in that at last the Australian Government has given notice of its answer to the question: To what extent will decisions by foreign courts concerning anti-trust matters be enforceable within Australia? The answer is very clearly given, namely, that Australian companies will be affected by United States judgments within Australia only if the Government thinks it is desirable.
Clearly, in many cases the Government will make the judgment that in the public interestthe national interest, as it is called in the Bill- it is not desirable. This decision could be made on one of several grounds. The first is fairly simple and most obvious. The damages awarded, particularly under treble damages provisions, against Australian companies for colluding in arrangements which force up the price of metals sold in the United States, for example, may be so astronomical that the effect of allowing the enforcement of the award in Australia would be crippling to the companies concerned. The Westinghouse company alone, I believe, is seeking damages of some $7 billion from the cartel of uranium producers which it is alleged forced up the price of uranium on the American market to a very large extent. To have to share in even a very small part of the $7 billion which might be awarded against some 29 companies that are alleged to have acted in a consortium to bid up the prices would be to face the Australian companies concerned with crippling damages. It may be judged in the national interest that those companies should not be so subjected. Indeed, as Senator Button noted, part of the Bill provides that, even if the Attorney-General accepts that the judgment’s validity ought to be recognised in Australia, the amount of the damages awarded can be reduced.
The second major ground on which the Australian Government might consider it undesirable to have foreign anti-trust judgments enforced against Australian business enterprises lies in a changed perception by this Government of its proper role in helping Australian producers of minerals and energy resources to achieve satisfactory prices on the world market. There is, and no doubt there always will be, a basic conflict of interest between say, the United States purchasers of Australian resources, whether they be alumina, zinc, uranium or natural gas, and the Australian business enterprise exporting the commodity. The conflict clearly lies in relation to the price to be paid. Clearly a cartel of cooperative bidders in relation to a particular commodity is the last thing with which the United States purchaser wants to be confronted. Yet now, belatedly, following the dramatic initiative by the late Rex Connor when he was the Minister for Minerals and Energy under the previous Labor Government, this Government has acknowledged price fixing in the case of uranium, and in regard to iron ore, coal, bauxite and alumina the setting of prices below which commodity enterprises in Australia must not go in selling our mineral and energy resources abroad. That is now all part of Government policy.
I should like to quote from a ministerial statement on our uranium export policy by the Rt Hon. J. D. Anthony, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Resources. The Minister, amongst other things, said:
The Minister will also determine terms and conditions relating to the duration of the contract, the quantity of the uranium to be sold under the contract, the method of shipment of the uranium, the price payable for the uranium, the manner, including the currency, of payment and the use to which the uranium is to be put by the purchaser.
We of the Opposition, of course, commend that approach. As far as the other minerals I mentioned are concerned, the Government also, as is well known, has taken the view in regard to iron ore, coal, bauxite and alumina that parameters should be set in respect of the prices which Australian exporters can negotiate in the world markets. We think that this is an absolutely necessary step to take in order to present to the invariably united purchasers of our commodities a united front by our producers.
This legislation, seemingly so esoteric and dealing only with the legal process, is really part of that support by this Government for Australian commodity producers. For that reason the Australian Labor Party certainly supports the spirit of the legislation. This legislation is our legal system’s answer to the use by United States consumers of their legal system to protect their interests. There is no doubt in my mind that the decision by the United States Department of Justice to enforce vigorously its anti-trust legislation against overseas resource companies selling minerals and energy products in the US is simply a part of the US consumers’ effort to strengthen their bargaining position in the world market for the sorts of commodities that we can provide. It is very clear that what may be in the interests of
US consumers will not coincide with the interests of this nation in securing a reasonable return for the depletion and exploitation of our resources. This legislation enables the Australian nation, acting in its national interest, to resist the enforcement of judgments favouring overseas consumers purchasing our products. To that extent, and for that reason, the Opposition agrees with the underlying principles embodied in the legislation, in particular the provisions in clause 3 (2) (b) which in part says that the AttorneyGeneral may, when he is satisfied that it is desirable for the purpose of protecting the national interest, order that the judgment not be recognised or enforceable in whole or in part in Australia.
But it is a fact that the very vagueness of the criteria ‘national interest’, the lack of specifics and the lack of detail which could enable one to lay down certain measures against which to argue, have naturally led to the most important, perhaps legal, alteration to the present situation; namely, that the decision whether to enforce a foreign judgment is taken out of the hands of our superior courts and given to a Minister of the Crown. The member of the Ministry no doubt willmake his judgment of the national interest according to broad political criteria in assessing whether or not to enforce the judgment. We think that that obviously is necessary in that there is an abandonment of the usual specific criteria regarding the enforcement of a foreign judgment, such as whether the court gave its decision because of fraud, duress and so on. Given the broad criteria to which the Attorney-General is asked to address his mind, it is appropriate that he, as a political officer, be the one to make the decision.
There needs to be some check on this, however. At first glance the Bill does provide a check in that either House of Parliament may set aside an order of the Attorney-General by moving in the usual disallowance period. But I must say that this seems to sit ill at ease with those provisions of the legislation which allow the Attorney-General ‘s order to be effective from the date of publication in the Gazette. For example- I pose this question so that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) may be able to help the Opposition- if the Attorney-General were to decide that it is not in the national interest that some Australian company should pay some millions of dollars awarded by way of punitive damages in a United States judgment, but that in his view compensation might properly be payable to the US plaintiff for loss actually proved, and as a consequence ordered that the amount of damages for which the judgment could be enforced in Australia be reduced from say $3m to $500,000, then on publication in the Gazette would not the judgment for the reduced amount become immediately enforceable? No doubt the party who wished to benefit from the judgment would try, with great speed, possibly and probably even before either House of Parliament had an opportunity to move to disallow the decision by the Attorney-General, try to enforce the judgment. What would be the position if steps were taken to enforce the judgment before the period for disallowance was up?
– It applies the Acts Interpretation Act but not sub-section (2).
-Is that the answer?
– I think it is right.
– In the course of the remarks that I have made I have been helped to come to a fuller understanding of that provision. Whatever the answer to that question, the Opposition still believes that the Government ought to look at this Bill again to devise a means whereby each House of the Parliament may have an opportunity to consider the reasons which appear to the Attorney-General to be weighty enough to take the extraordinary course outlined by the Bill. We put it more strongly and say that the Attorney-General should make such an order only in consequence of or with the consent of both Houses, that is, of the whole of the Parliament. This seems entirely appropriate both because of the issues to be examined- the national interest is a broad matter and properly could be looked at by this Parliament- and because of the impact of the decision on our international relations. This power will be used very sparingly and in matters of great international interest, as demonstrated by the constant exchanges between the Attorneys-General of Australia and the US. Given the gravity of the matter as seen at a government-to-government level and a nationtonation level we feel that the national parliament ought to be the body which says to the US superior court system: ‘Your judgment, for the reasons outlined by the Attorney-General and given to us, ought not to be enforced either in whole or in part in Australia’. In other words, this Parliament needs to be convinced before the Attorney-General’s order ought to become effective. For that reason the Opposition requests the Government to take back the Bill and redraft it so as to bring about that result. We of the Opposition hope that that course of action commends itself to the Government.
Debate (on motion by Senator Webster) adjourned.
– by leave- I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to information I have received from the Director of the Bureau of Meteorology about Cyclone Kerry. At 10 a.m. eastern standard time tropical cyclone Kerry, with a central pressure of 985 millibars, was located 1 10 kilometres east of Bowen and 120 kilometres north of Mackay. It was moving west north-west at 10 kilometres per hour. The centre is expected to move parallel to the coast and be near Hayman Island at 2 p.m. eastern standard time and near Bowen at 10 p.m. eastern standard time. Maximum wind gusts near the centre are expected to reach 170 kilometres per hour. Destructive winds from Bowen to Sarina with gusts above 130 kilometres per hour will be experienced. There will be gales northward to Ayr and southward to St Lawrence with gusts above 90 kilometres per hour. Winds will increase to gale force in Townsville by this evening. Tides between Bowen and Mackay will be higher than normal and could cause minor flooding in coastal areas. Hourly warnings are being issued to the affected communities. Satellite pictures of the cyclone are being received hourly from Japan. The Director of Meteorology advises me that the Bureau is keeping a constant eye on the situation.
– What time was that?
-The advice was received in my office at 2 p.m.
– There has been radio news about the situation at Mackay since then.
-That may have been an interpretation. The statement I have made is based on the latest satellite information.
– I support the Bill and thank the Opposition for its support. Whilst we understand that the basic purpose of the Bill is to ensure that certain anti-trust judgments passed in foreign courts are not recognised and are not enforceable in Australia, we have some difficulty with the general principle that the United States law, as judged by that country in regard to its own sort of national interest, ought to apply in respect of operations of companies whose activities are designed chiefly with the Australian national interest in mind.
In particular the Bill is designed to counter the activities of the Westinghouse Corporation, which has entered into proceedings relating to arrangements alleged to have been made in 1 972 for the marketing of uranium. The proceedings included a grand jury inquiry in that country and civil proceedings by Westinghouse, in which it claimed $US7 billion from 29 American and foreign uranium producers, including four Australian companies. The grand jury inquiry led to no proceedings being instituted against any Australian company but civil proceedings in which Westinghouse is claiming treble damages are still pending. In the proceedings nine nonAmerican defendants declined to enter appearances. This led to default judgments against them, the amount of which to my knowledge has not yet been announced. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) may have some information for us about that.
The situation seems to me to be quite clear. I appreciate the points which Senator Tate has made on behalf of the Opposition. There are a number of circumstances in which Australia’s national interest in respect of the export of minerals and the activities of the various firms which are engaged in exporting certainly needs to be protected against the sort of law that applies in the United States. In fact we have known of the anti-trust legislation which has applied in that country for the last 80 years. That country’s chief exports are dependent not upon natural resource-type products but rather upon manufactured products which are gauged against and sold against a very competitive market in the rest of the world.
Australia’s position is totally different. We are exporting raw materials which are dug from the ground. Any changes in the supply of these materials, quite apart from the demand, for them, could have a violent effect on the price structure. In that respect we have only to have regard to the situation in Iran at present. The significant change which has occurred in the supply of oil from that country has brought about a violent change on the world oil market. That, in turn, has reflected itself in the pricing structure of other raw materials, such as copper, gold and alumina, throughout the rest of the world. Naturally Australia, in its national interest, should seek to protect itself against that sort of activity which is ostensibly, without the passage of legislation such as this, outside the control of Australia. Consequently we seek, through this legislation, to ensure that our national interest is paramount and that the matter is kept within the ambit of Australian law. I appreciate the points which Senator Tate has made on the amendment which has been moved. I look forward to the comments of the Attorney-General on those matters.
– I thank the Senate for its support of this measure. Although the Opposition has moved an amendment, which, if accepted, would have the effect of defeating the measure, I think it has been moved only for the purpose of having the Bill redrafted. In fact, the Opposition has supported the legislation in principle. I am pleased that it is prepared to do so. The necessity for a measure of this kind does not give me, the Government or the Parliament any satisfaction. It arises out of rather unhappy circumstances which have arisen as a result of the wide application that the United States of America gives to its anti-trust laws. It seeks to meet a situation of potentially irreconcilable conflict which could arise as a matter of emergency. The Government’s policy is to endeavour to prevent a situation of this sort arising at all. To that end, we have been holding very extensive consultations with the Department of Justice in the United States to try to see whether there are ways of preventing conflicts of this type arising.
As the Senate knows, I visited Washington with officers of my Department, the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and the Department of Trade and Resources in September of last year and had very fruitful discussions with officers of the Department of Justice, the State Department and the Federal Trade Commission. I hope that those discussions will result in a worthwhile agreement which will prevent the occurrence of these problems with which this Bill is designed to deal. However, of course they cannot prevent what has already been done, that is, the proceedings that have been instituted by the Westinghouse Corporation which have resulted in the entering of judgments for which, as yet, damages have not been assessed. It may be some considerable time yet before damages are assessed. Nevertheless, in one sense the damage has been done in that judgments have been entered, but there does not seem to be any way under American law and from negotiations we have had with the United States Government to undo that situation.
I think it is only fair to say that even if we do reach agreement with the United States on this matter it still will be very difficult to apply that situation to civil proceedings and to gain damages in those proceedings, because this is a case between private litigants. It would be difficult to gain an intervention by a Government- in this case the United States Government- into those proceedings or to provide for a court to take account of the sorts of considerations which basically are political considerations. I think that was recognised very clearly by Senator Tate in his address, that in fact what we are applying here are broadly political criteria, not criteria that can be applied easily by a court. I must confess that it would be my preference to have these matters dealt with by courts if possible. I do not get any joy at all and I do not think that any of my successors would get any joy at all out of having to exercise discretions of this kind. As I said, in theory it would be better if they could be exercised by a court in Australia, but we recognise that really that is not feasible and in discussions we have had with the United States Government it has expressed the same concern about how it could introduce these sorts of considerations into its private civil processes. So there we are. We have the problem and this is the best way that the Government can see to solve it.
The Bill does set out a good deal of criteria. I do not know that we could be much more specific in setting out the way in which a discretion by the Attorney-General is to be exercised than we have been in this legislation. It is a discretion which would be exercised in this case by an AttorneyGeneral, certainly in consultation with his political colleagues. It would not be the type of discretion exercised in other spheres, that is, by the Attorney-General alone and without political considerations. These sorts of criteria set out in the legislation are obviously criteria which would require consideration in consultation. That is why there is provision in the legislation for any decision that the Attorney makes on these matters to be subject to disallowance by the Parliament.
A question has been asked as to what would be the detail given by an Attorney in relation to his decision and what would be the aspects of that decision as regards the national interest. For example, what would be the aspects of the adverse effect on trade and commerce with other countries, taking into account a particular criterion or all of the criteria that may be applying here. An order made by the Attorney-General and published in the Gazette may not set out such criteria; certainly the legislation does not provide for it. But it would be very strange indeed if an Attorney-General did not make a very full statement on a decision of this character made by him. If Parliament were sitting I would expect him to make that statement to Parliament, but of course Parliament is not always sitting. There are at least six months of the year when it does not sit. So when statements are made outside Parliament, one has to take account of the fact that such statements were not in fact made in Parliament. If an Attorney said to me that people were dissatisfied with any of the reasons he had given, I would expect that he would be prepared to make a statement about them when Parliament met. In any event, the fact that any order made is subject to disallowance would inevitably mean that an AttorneyGeneral, in defending a decision, would be required to give the full reasons for his decision at that stage. As I have said, I would certainly expect that in a matter of such moment as this, very full details for the decision would be given when the decision itself was made.
The points that I have made indicate that we cannot accept the amendment moved by the Opposition to redraft the Bill to provide that the Attorney-General shall first give his reasons to Parliament, together with all supporting evidence and that no determination shall take effect unless the Attorney-General has first obtained the consent of Parliament. Such a situation in those terms would be impractical because as Senator Hamer has recognised, Parliament is not always sitting. It may well be that the AttorneyGeneral has to make an order in a situation of this kind quite hurriedly and such order may well have to take effect promptly, but in a sense it is only a holding order. If Parliament disagrees with the determination and disallows the order, all that has happened is that the company has been held up- it may be for days or it may be for months. It is only a holding operation and if Parliament disagrees with the Attorney’s decision and disallows the order, of course the company is in the position it was in before and can proceed to enforce the judgment. There may be some disadvantage in that but there is not any great disadvantage. So I do not believe that there is any need for the amendment that has been proposed by the Opposition.
asked what the position would be if the Attorney-General himself changed his mind and wanted to rescind an order whereas the Parliament wanted the order to be maintained. I can say to the honourable senator that in the time available to us we have checked the Acts Interpretation Act and it is certainly my view and the view of my advisers that that situation would be covered by the Acts Interpretation Act. Any order rescinding a decision would of course be subject to the same treatment as any order making a decision. It would be tabled and would itself be subject to disallowance.
– Would the original order be revived?
– No, the original order would have been dealt with by the Parliament and would be gone. Senator Tate raised a query in relation to an order which enabled part of the judgment to be enforced in terms of an order for, say, $3m to be enforced as to $500,000. I suppose that the effect of Parliament’s disallowing that would be to revive the original judgment which then, presumably, could be enforced. I would think that the order a responsible Attorney-General would make subsequently would depend upon the reasons given by Parliament. Parliament may have disallowed the order because it wanted the full judgment to be enforced, or because it did not want it to be enforced to any degree. There is very little chance of getting around that short of introducing a Bill. That could be done.
– It has been done before.
-On the other hand, I think that the Attorney-General would get the message and honour the reasons given by Parliament. If not, I remind the Senate that there are other ways for Parliament to deal with recalcitrant Attorneys-General.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-During the second reading debate I foreshadowed moving two amendments relating to the discretion given the Attorney-General to vary or reduce the amount of a judgment for purposes of a specific order and the recognition of that judgment in Australia. I refer to sub-clause (2) paragraph (d) and sub-clause (3) paragraph (b) of clause 3. The amendments go to the same point; in a sense they stand together. If it would be agreeable I would move them together.
– At an earlier stage I indicated the point of the amendments and the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), in closing the second reading debate, kept referring to responsible Attorneys-General and what they would do. I recall that in this Parliamentcertainly when Labor was in government- it has been alleged frequently that there were Attorneys-General who were not responsible. Although I would not make such an allegation, it may be that at some other time someone would suggest that that was so. We would have the difficulty of the Attorney-General exercising his discretion, as he would be allowed to do under this Bill, and perhaps not taking all the steps that the Minister suggested a responsible AttorneyGeneral ought to take in acting under this legislation. As I recall it, the Minister said that he would consult his colleagues about these matters and take a variety of factors into account. If Parliament were sitting he would explain the situation to everyone.
– He could not avoid it.
– If he did so he would behave, if I might say so, in a manner totally inconsistent with that required of him by the legislation. We are not here dealing with the mythical, perfect Attorney-General but with the terms and clauses of the Bill. That is why we query the appropriateness of reposing in the Attorney-General the discretion to vary or reduce the amount of a judgment. We see that as leaving the Attorney-General very much open to the allegation that he has exercised his discretion in favour of company A, whose judgment he reduced, but not in favour of company B whose judgment he did not reduce in the same way and in accordance with the same principles. We consider that to be undesirable; that if a foreign judgment is to be enforced in Australia it should be enforced in full. The decision whether it should be enforced should be made on the basis of the judgment given by the foreign court. It should not be possible for that judgment to be varied by the Attorney-General of this country in the way suggested in the two clauses referred to. Accordingly, I move:
– You are exercising your discretion against me- on balance.
– I am reasoning. I take it that I have a discretion to reason. That is probably all that I have. I have but one vote, so I do not think that I am exercising a discretion in any other sense. The insertion of this clause was prompted by the treble damages provisions of the United States legislation. It was felt that although there may be cases in which there would be justification for an ordinary damages judgment but none for a treble damages judgment. Also, there is the very respectable argument that treble damages judgments are penal in nature and should not be enforced by the courts anyway. In view of their enormity, and the risks attached to them, we do not feel it proper to leave the matter to the courts only; that we should rather supplement it by this legislation.
On the other hand, the Government felt that there might not be the objection to an ordinary damages judgment that there may be to a treble damages judgment. That might also be of importance in relation to achieving comity with the United States. In the light of the discussions that we have had, the United States authorities may be prepared to accept more readily that treble damages judgments not be enforced. They would be less likely to object if part of the judgment- perhaps more properly obtainedwas in fact enforceable.
I have already referred to the way in which I believe a government or its Attorney-General would react if Parliament expressed a view contrary to that expressed in the order. I do not propose to go over that ground again and, although giving due recognition to the merit of the proposed amendments, believe that on balance I must come down to the view that the Government must oppose them.
– You never come down my side.
– I do sometimes.
– I do not want to enter into the detailed consideration of the Bill, but there are general questions which I think are open to challenge and which I wish to raise. I have always opposed decisions taken under any legislation which are dependent on the state of mind of an individuai In this legislation we again have the phrase:
Where . . . the Attorney-General is satisfied . . .
If a person complies with the rules I do not see why the Attorney-General cannot make an order accordingly. If there is a right of appeal in respect of any aspect, it is in respect of whether the Attorney-General should have made the order in the circumstance of the person meeting the requirements of the legislation which provided for it to be made ‘under certain requirements’ and not in respect of the actions of the person being to the satisfaction of the Attorney-General. I take the matter no further than this because I do not think it affects anyone greatly.
As I said the other day, this aspect seems to have become an obsession with me since the Karen Green case. In that case a young girl was deprived of her rights. Despite a court action, she could not get the unemployment benefit because we put everything in the hands of an individual. I point out- I think I may have misled Senator Tate in this-that, as is stated, the provisions of this legislation come into effect on the date of publication of the Attorney-General ‘s order. The Attorney-General’s order either cancels the right to collect a judgment of a foreign court or reduces the amount of the judgment which the foreign court is seeking to collect. When that provision is brought into operation, the matter then comes before Parliament. That does no more than suspend the power to enforce the judgment until such time as it is made definite by lack of a decision on the part of the Parliament or by the Parliament rejecting any move which seeks to object to it.
I draw attention to sub-clause (4) of clause 3 particularly because of the injustice that has been done to some sections of the community. I raised this matter during the consideration of the Aboriginal land rights legislation. In that legislation an alteration was made to the right of Parliament to reject an order. Although under the National Health Act the Parliament has the right to reject an order of the Minister, there is no compulsion to bring the matter on for consideration within 15 days. Therefore the Government by its numbers can stop such a matter being considered. When it is a question of preventing a firm from meeting the terms of a judgment of a foreign court, the principle or wording of the Acts Interpretation Act has application, except those sections which have no relevance to this legislation. Under section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act, which applies to a regulation, if the matter is not dealt with in 15 days the Attorney-General’s order is disallowed automatically. But that provision is not made in the other two Acts I mentioned.
– That is better, is it not?
-This is better, and I say that this formula should be used. But for some reason or other in the case of certain people a definite decision of Parliament has to be made or the order is disallowed. But that provision does not govern the Aborigines or, under the health regulations, the unhealthy. That is why I want to know why we insist on including that provision in this legislation.
It is interesting to note in this regard that the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act that are exempted include paragraphs ( 1) (a) and (b) of section 48, which provide for the order to come into operation on the day of publication or such other day as is mentioned. This means that we cannot make orders of the Attorney-General retrospective; they come into operation on the date of publication. We are also exempting section 49 of the Acts Interpretation Act from being enforced. It provides that, if the Parliament disallows a regulation another regulation cannot be made within 6 months. So what is envisaged is that, if the Parlaiment disallows a declaration of the Attorney-General, another declaration can be made, I take it, forthwith.
If the declaration disallowed in a declaration under paragraph (ii) of sub-clause (2) (b) of clause 3, which reduces the amount of a judgment, I do not know how the Attorney-General or officers of his Department can know, unless they gauge it by parliamentary debate, whether the Parliament disallowed the declaration because it did not think a declaration should be made or because it did not think that the amount in the declaration was the correct one. How many times will we have to go through the procedure of the Attorney-General making a declaration? I suppose a declaration made under paragraph ( 1 ) of sub-clause (2) (b) of clause 3 could be disallowed in the circumstances that we think that a declaration to protect the company should not have been made. However, Parliament could well agree with a declaration made under paragraph (ii) in that a payment is justified. However, while not wanting to see the company protected to the extent of not having to make any payment, we might not agree with the amount of the payment and might want to reduce it. How many times the Attorney-General will have to make declarations if earlier ones are rejected by Parliament, I do not know. Unless it is very obvious to him that no declaration will be accepted by Parliament, he may have to make declarations for a long time- until he arrives at an amount which is satisfactory to the Parliament. It would seem to me that there are many problems involved in this. Whether they will eventuate I do not know. I suppose that we will manage somehow.
– I certainly agree with
Senator Cavanagh when he says that there are likely to be a lot of difficulties in operating this section, but I think most of the difficulties that can be foreseen or that one feels are likely to occur in the end are not so great as they may at first appear to be. I think one could get over those sorts of problems fairly easily. The fact of the matter is that somebody has to have a go at making a decision in regard to these matters. I would not have thought that there would have to be terribly many parliamentary debates. Surely Parliament could not be so unclear in giving its reasons that an Attorney-General would not be able to ascertain what sort of an order would be acceptable to the Parliament.
With regard to the point Senator Cavanagh raised about the Attorney-General being satisfied, I also agree that where there is a formula of the sort he mentioned there should be some method of reviewing the decision of the Minister. That may be provided for by objective criteria being required in the Act itself. That could be reviewable by the courts in the ordinary way or may be reviewable by an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. However, I would have thought that in this case we have provided for the highest form of review there isnamely, by the Parliament itself- in proceeding to disallow such a decision. I feel quite satisfied with the way that provision has been drafted in the legislation. The method of reviewing the Attorney-General’s decision is a perfectly adequate one. I am not aware of the matters that Senator Cavanagh raised in regard to the formula used in other legislation, but I must say that the proper formula is provided for in this legislation. If Parliament does not deal with an order within the time specified, then, of course, it is disallowed.
– I am glad that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) agrees with me that the objective criteria are correct if there is a right of appeal. He thinks that there is a right of appeal to a higher court in the Parliament. I admit that that is so. That is why the matter is perhaps not so important. But I am concerned that there is no right of appeal to the Parliament if the AttorneyGeneral does not act when he should. The Parliament can consider a matter only when the Attorney-General has acted upon it. If a company deserves relief and the AttorneyGeneral will not use his power under this legislation there is no method whereby the company can say that it has all the qualifications under the legislation and is entitled to protection. If a company goes to a court and seeks a writ under the common law that the Attorney-General should issue a declaration it does not have to establish that a judgment of the court complies with clause 3 (2) (b) (i) of the Bill or that a declaration is desirable for the purpose of protection of the national interest in accordance with clause 3 (2) (b) (ii) but it has to establish that the Attorney-General is satisfied. How one establishes that an Attorney-General is satisfied is quite beyond me. I think that takes the matter out of the realms of the legislation.
As to how many times will a decision of the Attorney-General have to be put before the Parliament before we get a final decision, if a government takes into account when debating matters in Parliament the attitude of people it could well be that it will not make a decision unless it knows it has the numbers in Parliament to support it. Such decisions could well become the decisions of a political party rather than the responsible officer of a political party.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27 February, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill with its rather unexciting title is an extremely important piece of legislation for the Parliament. The amendments contained in the Bill were first introduced into the Parliament in May 1976. Because the Parliament was prorogued in 1977 the Bill was not proceeded with. Consideration is now being given to the original amendments and amendments which have come before the Parliament as a result of the Bill being referred to a legislation committee of the House of Representatives. The Audit Act 1901 has not been amended until now. This is significant in itself. It means that while commercial accounting and audit practices have been evolving- quite rapidly in the last 20 years- the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth has been restrained by what must be regarded as ancient legislation. This, of course, is no criticism of the Auditor-General. Many of the amendments contained in the Bill are consequences of the recommendations which he made to the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. The Royal Commission made a number of recommendations which the present Government has largely ignored. However, by accepting the recommendations relating to amendments to the Audit Act, the Government has taken a substantial step forward.
The amendments contained in this Bill fall into two main categories. The first is a series of miscellaneous amendments which set about to rectify some of the changes which have taken place due to changes in technology and the fact that the Northern Territory, for example, has been given a degree of self-government. The second category and perhaps the one that arouses most interest is the introduction of the notion of efficiency audits. In brief, these are procedures which go beyond the normal official audit to assess the capacity of a department or statutory corporation to fulfil its tasks with an effective use of staff and financial resources.
I shall deal later with some of the concepts surrounding the development of efficiency audits and the problems associated with them. I want now to deal with some of the more machinery matters. It is an important part of the Westminster system that a Minister is responsible for the actions of his department. In the end he stands or falls on his ability effectively to administer his department and represent it in the Parliament. The permanent head and other officials should remain almost as silent characters who carry out their work behind the scenes and provide the advice and information required by the Minister. This concept worked reasonably well in the latter part of the last century and until fairly recently when the number of ministries was smaller and the scope of their operations was much less complex than it is now.
There has been a very large expansion of the functions of this Government, as there has been of other governments since, say, the Second World War; as well as an explosion in the number of statutory authorities with which the Auditor-General is required to deal. The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations recently reported that there are well over 300 Commonwealth statutory organisations. Each of these bodies, with some exceptions, is audited by the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral. Clause 5 of the Bill strengthens and clarifies the degree of responsibility of the permanent head of a department in relation to the implementation and provisions of the Act and subsidiary legislation. The Opposition supports the Government’s view that this degree of responsibility is essential. It would be physically impossible for the Minister to have a detailed knowledge of the day-to-day running of his department. In the case of larger departments, especially those with very large cash flows such as the Department of Social Security, there would be no chance of a Minister really knowing whether moneys have been properly expended and received. It is therefore proper that he be able to rely upon his officers, especially his departmental head, to inform him accurately of the manner in which moneys are handled.
It is impossible to make a direct comparison with the private sector in the receipt and expenditure of funds because the purpose and basis of accounting is somewhat different, especially for government departments. However, the degree of accountability for the expenditure of those funds is equal to or greater than that of the private sector because if there are any losses or misappropriations the Government is responsible to the entire electorate, not just to a group of shareholders. In addition, unlike the shareholders in a company, there is no legal action available to an individual person to deal effectively with any misappropriations. It is thus important in these circumstances that both the departmental heads and the Auditor-General should be empowered to act in the most efficient way possible.
The Opposition supports the legislation but with some reservations. We are also concerned that in some respects it does not go far enough. Whilst it is impossible to foresee what will happen in the next decade, it is certain that the role of computers and related technology will intrude more and more into the general administration and functions not only of government but also of the private sector. The mere fact that the calculations of social security payments and other benefits are now done by computers is an indication of what we will see in the future with the extension of technology. The Australian Society of Accountants, the Institute of Chartered Accountants as well as various auditor bodies have been trying to cope with the greater introduction of computers in general accounting work. In the United States where computer technology is much advanced we have seen a number of examples where both private and government employees have been able to fiddle the system- I suppose that is the correct term to use- for a long period of time. Without casting an undue reflection upon accountants and auditors, it appears that they have not been able to cope adequately with the rate of change of this new technology.
Thus the Opposition would like to be satisfied that the amendments now being made to this legislation will empower the Auditor-General to audit effectively those areas of government receipts and expenditure in which computer technology does or will predominate. It is also clear that the rate of advance in technology is accelerating. It would be a great shame if future amendments to this Act take as long to be introduced as the amendments which we are now considering. Thus, the Opposition would like some assurance from the Government that continued consultations will take place with the Auditor-General to ensure that necessary amendments are brought forward more quickly than they have been in the past and, in particular, to enable us to meet the contingencies which one could expect to arise because of the changes that are rapidly taking place.
I also raise the question of audits of statutory authorities. The report of the Standing Committee pointed out that these play an extremely important part in the functions of the Commonwealth Government and, in many cases, compete with the private sector. Recently I placed a series of questions on notice. I directed a question to each Minister about the presentation of annual reports from the statutory authorities under each Minister’s control. I sought to establish whether each of the statutory authorities, but more especially those which operate as commercial trading bodies, lodged its audited accounts within the same period required under the companies legislation and the stock exchange listing requirements for publicly listed companies. To my surprise, I find that there is a different set of standards. Statutory authorities have displayed a poor performance in submitting audited accounts for tabling in the Parliament. In most cases, had the same standards been applied to the statutory authorities that are applied to the publicly listed companies, most of the statutory authorities would have been fined or possibly deregistered.
The reasons which were given seem to relate to delays by the Auditor-General in completing the audit of the accounts. I have not been able to establish clearly whether the real reason is that the accounts or the internal audit procedures of the statutory authorities are inadequate and the Auditor-General has to undertake unnecessary work or that the Auditor-General’s Office is overworked, understaffed or inefficient. I note that the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) has received submissions from the Institute of Internal Auditors dealing with the question of internal audit. I am inclined to agree with the proposal which has been adopted from the Canadian Controller-General’s internal financial standards, which states:
Internal audit has long been accepted as one of the essential tools of management. It functions by independently reviewing and evaluating the effectiveness of other controls, as a service to management. It is an initial step in Treasury Board’s plan to establish an integrated internal audit program in all its departments and agencies, one which will examine all aspects of managerial control, financial and non-financial.
That is a quotation from the remarks of the Canadian Controller-General. I do not purport to understand fully every clause in the legislation with which we are dealing because it is complex legislation. I am sure that the Minister and his advisers would be the first to agree with me that it is an area in which one must have almost a day-to-day involvement to comprehend fully all the details involved. It would appear that the Institute’s proposal may have some merit and that there is justification in the Australian Government, in co-operation with the AuditorGeneral, looking more closely at the possibility of strengthening the internal audit procedures within each department and statutory authority. This may reduce some of the workload on the Auditor-General’s staff and enable departments and statutory authorities to meet the same sort of standards which the Parliament requires of public companies. I also wish to express some concern about proposed section 70b of this Bill which provides for the exemption of accounts of prescribed departments and organisations from inspection, examination and audit by the Auditor-General. I recognise that there are procedures for reporting to Parliament in respect of exempt accounts, but on information which I have been given it would seem that some concern which has been expressed about the secrecy and security is not necessarily unjustified.
My major concern both in the area of financial expenditure as well as efficient audits is with the Department of Defence. Whichever way the figures are examined, one must have great reservations about the efficiency of that Department’s expenditure and management procedures. I should like to take a few items as examples. It is clear that all sections of the defence forces probably are holding large amounts of obsolete stock. The recording system for that stock is such that in many cases the Department is not really aware of what it does have and does not have. In commercial terms, this could mean that large amounts of cash are tied up unnecessarily. It also appears that there is unnecessary expenditure in some of the tendering and purchasing operations. Because of political limitations on defence and expenditure and the necessity to obtain the most cost-effective results, the Department of Defence should be subjected to more stringent auditing procedures than any other Department. I suspect that one of the reasons that that Department is seeking an exemption from having its accounts audited is a fear that audits will show up not only a great deal of inefficiency but also what could possibly be described as a laxity in management control involving large sums of money. I am reasonably certain that members on both sides of the Parliament share my concern about this exclusion.
I wish to make a few comments on the question of efficient audits. This is not a new concept. It has been operating in commercial enterprise in the United States for many years and subsequently has been introduced into government agencies in other northern hemisphere countries. The concept of efficient audits certainly is supported by the Opposition. We agree that there is a necessity to determine whether a department or a statutory authority is utilising its resources in an efficient manner. We agree that the causes of any inefficiencies or uneconomical practices should be revealed quickly. The normal official audit procedures would not be able to pick up inefficiencies because all they are concerned about is whether expenditure is being made in accordance with the rules and regulations. It does not question whether the rules and regulations themselves allow for the most economical expenditure.
The Royal Commission found that the powers given to the Public Service Board under section 17 of the Public Service Act were too narrow in scope and mainly assisted in improving managament functions rather than an audit or assessment of performance of a department. The essential point of the proposed amendment to clause 40 of the Bill is that the Auditor-General should now be in a position to locate, to expose and, I suppose, to eradicate inefficiency and poor performance. It will make departmental heads responsible in that any apparent inefficiencies can be ascertained by more detailed inquiry. If the inquiry discloses that the inefficiencies in fact exist, then alterations can be made to the procedures adopted by the department and the Auditor-General can be given the opportunity to comment on them.
Under the provisions of the Aci there is also an opportunity for the Parliament rather than the Executive itself to exercise greater influence. We strongly support the view that the Parliament rather than the Executive should be the custodian and guardian of the administrative and general efficiency of government. With the extension of sophisticated computer and management techniques, that view becomes more and more important. Regrettably, it appears that the Auditor-General is empowered only to report to the Parliament. It is not a direct requirement that he should do so. It is the Opposition’s view that the Auditor-General should be required to report to the Parliament except in areas where the Auditor-General exercises a discretion to restrict the reporting for security or other reasons. This aspect of the Bill is important but my colleague Senator Evans will deal with it in greater detail. Again, my reservations about restricting that degree of reporting and auditing are important. I think it is reasonable to restate the view that it has been unreasonable to unduly protect the Department of Defence where it is involved in security areas of the Commonwealth. If it is to remain protected and in some cases to actively resist the introduction of efficient audits, some other procedures must be adopted.
In addition to the procedures for efficiency audits, there is also the prospect of introducing program reviews or program effectiveness audits. These reviews are what could be regarded as a third level of audit of government administration. They also are well established in the United States and in some European countries, certainly in Sweden and Germany. However, there is a view that under the Westminster system and the notion of ministerial responsibility, program effectiveness reviews may not be so important. With the increasing sophistication of the systems of government, I am not so sure that that attitude is relevant.
These are the main views which the Opposition has about this Bill. It believes that the discussion which took place in the Legislation Committee in the other House is important and should be read in detail. Whilst we support actively the introduction of efficiency audits, we believe that the individual rights of civil servants who may be affected by the new provisions should be secured and therefore agree with the appeal provisions which exist in this legislation. We do contend also that in future the Act should be the subject of continuing review and that from time to time the Auditor-General and the Departments of Treasury and Finance should consult and advise the Government if the procedures are inadequate. If they are the Government should have no hesitation, either on its own account or in consultation with the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, in referring further amendments to the Parliament. The Commonwealth remains the steward of the taxpayers’ funds and, in an environment which is seeking more effective use of those funds, should be conscious of the obligations which arise from that stewardship.
-The Audit Bill is, in part, a response to public expectation that increased economy must be practised in the area of government operations where transactions are increasing in volume and, in many cases, also in unit cost, with the result that the necessary funding is taking a growing proportion of gross national product. Few Bills that come before this Senate have received as much scrutiny within the Parliament and its committees and the Auditor-General’s office as this Bill to amend the Audit Act of 1901. I wish to concur with many of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) in that I think it is rather deplorable that it has taken so long for these amendments to reach this House. Under ministerial responsibility each departmental head has the responsibility for the proper management of his department, including the implementation of internal audit.
Within the Joint Committee of Public Accounts I have expressed deep concern at the lack of internal audit procedures in the majority of departments. The Public Service Board, under section 17 of the Public Service Act, is charged with promoting efficiency and affecting economies. As a third tier we are now adding this concept of efficiency auditing to be conducted by an independent statutory officer, the Auditor-General.
Until now, the legislative requirements of the Audit Act have been designed to ensure regularity or compliance of financial transactions, and to provide the Parliament with an assurance that the departmental accounts have been properly kept and that the Treasurer’s statement is in agreement with those accounts. This Bill extends the concept of auditing to a second and more important phase- to allow the Auditor-General to carry out efficiency audits not only of government departments but of public authority undertakings of the Commonwealth, of Commonwealth organisations and of companies which are owned by the Commonwealth. The definition of efficiency auditing in the Bill covers an examination to ensure that efficiency and economy are practised, and to look at the functions performed, the procedures of implementation and the operations to be carried out. Therefore, the resources, personnel, plant and equipment must be utilised in an economical and efficient way while inadequacies in the information systems are highlighted.
Regretably in some respects the Bill does not incorporate a third and most important phase of auditing known as effectiveness or purpose audits which are concerned with the relationship between purpose on the one hand and result on the other. Thus a program, effectiveness or action audit results in a situation where an action is effective if the purpose for which it was initiated has been achieved, and then that effectiveness must be achieved with an economic use of resources. One reason why the Bill did not extend to this third and most challenging area of audit arises, as Senator Wriedt mentioned, because of our Westminster style of government where the lines of demarcation between executive and legislative arms are not as distinct as in the Presidential system. However, I think it is extremely important that the Auditor-General guard against becoming involved in political judgments as it is imperative that he maintain his independence and objectivity at all times.
As we are aware, the Auditor-General reports annually to Parliament. He is the agent of Parliament and not of the Prime Minister. The scrutiny of public funds is most important. This Parliament recognises the importance of the scrutiny of public spending and one medium that it uses is the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. This Committee is said to be a link between the executive and the legislative branches of government. As such, the Joint Committee of Public Accounts has a very close liaison with the AuditorGeneral. This Committee, which represents members and senators from the major parties, is an effective medium in opening to public scrutiny matters which may not otherwise be disclosed.
I believe that the administrative arrangements within the Auditor-General’s office, the centralising of the whole of the efficiency segment of his work here in Canberra is to be condemned; rather the officials should be deployed in the areas where many of the examinations are to be performed such as Melbourne, Sydney and other principle locations. But this decentralisaton does not mean that it is not desirable to provide some form of central co-ordination of efficiency audit activities here in Canberra. The Act recognises new auditing standards and techniques that apply for the safeguarding and control of information through the increasing use of computers. I welcome the section 54 amendments in Part XI which require that public authorities keep proper records of transactions in accordance with accounting principles generally applied in commercial practice and that the annual financial statements are reported upon based on criteria which are not fundamentally different from those required under company legislation relating to the private sector.
Let me draw the attention of the Senate to one aspect which I believe will not be repeated as a result of this legislation. I refer to a matter which I raised during Question Time and that was the interim profit result of Telecom Australia, because as I stated then and as I state now that profit result is false. It is misleading because capital or asset items which affected future periods had been charged to the current year’s operating costs, resulting in a substantial reduction in reported profit, and furthermore the effect of that decision was not disclosed. Such manipulations, I believe, would be covered in the AuditorGeneral’s report by virtue of clause 54 requirements for standard accounting and auditing provisions. Division 4 relates to the summary of financial transactions of the Commonwealth Government and recognises a practice that has been carried on for some time, but which was not covered within the scope of the previous Act.
I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to a comparison of not only the Budget figures but also the figures for this year to date as compared with last year, because as a Parliament I believe we should be concerned at the increasing cost of government. Where, as a result of misconduct or gross negligence there is a loss of public money, public property or the destruction of Commonwealth plant, equipment, et cetera, then under the Act the person responsible is now required to make good those losses. This is somewhat similar to the situation which applies in private enterprise. The Auditor-General was of the opinion that the previous provisions in the existing Act were insufficient. I do not wish to gaze at a crystal ball, but I believe that implementation under these new provisions will not be as easy as is envisaged by the Act, because blame will be difficult to apportion as a result of departmental structures. The Auditor-General has been given a major area of new responsibility, yet we find that he is being hindered in the execution of many of his duties due to staff ceilings. These are causing his Department severe embarrassment because of the insufficient numbers to perform work that is required. I therefore suggest to the Senate that to overcome such problems as staff ceilings and other such blanket measures and in order to improve accountability to this Parliament, the Auditor-General should be made an officer of the Parliament. Further, I believe it is appropriate on this occasion to call on the various accounting bodies, the directors’ institutes and corporate affairs commissioners in the respective States to seek the implementation of efficiency audits for companies and trusts which borrow money from the public, or which are listed on a recognised stock exchange. Such an audit would highlight features that are hidden in a jungle of statistical figures in the modern company’s report.
I feel particularly sorry for retired people seeking a financially stable company in which to invest their life savings or lump-sum retirement benefits. Many of those people seek a reputable name in a prospectus, and having found one, they assume that the company is competently managed. Last week my attention was drawn to an instance where $25,000 was deposited with Associated Securities Ltd in such circumstances. I believe that this Bill will further enhance the important and influential role of the AuditorGeneral. It will seek information in areas of cost production and efficiency of government operations, and provide taxpayers with an improved reporting in the management of the nation’s resources.
-As my learned and gallant leader, Senator Wriedt, indicated in his opening remarks the Audit Amendment Bill is not nearly as boring as it looks, or indeed as the state of the chamber would suggest. The most important part of it and the part to which I, like Senator Watson propose to confine my remarks, concerns the introduction of efficiency audits. This could prove to be one of the most important innovations in public administration that this country has seen for many decades. A recommendation for the introduction of efficiency audits in the public sector was made- as previous speakers have said- by the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration, that is the Coombs Commission, which was established by the Whitlam Government in 1974. What the Bill proposes is not exactly what the Coombs Commission recommended and I will return to some of the major differences later. It was the Commission’s report which gave the impetus to the present Government to legislate for efficiency audits and that is a decision which we certainly applaud. It is very important to appreciate that the proposed new functions for the Auditor-General, the efficiency audits, are not merely a quantitative extension to the existing work of the AuditorGeneral and his staff. An efficiency audit is something fundamentally different from the financial audit with which we are all familiar. As Senator Watson has indicated, in a financial audit the Auditor-General is concerned to ensure that money is spent in accordance with the requirements of the law and especially Treasury regulations, that there is proper accounting, that money appropriated for one purpose is not spent for another and matters of that kind. He is concerned that there are no criminal practices and no fraudulent appropriations whether by officers of the Government or by recipients of government benefit. The Auditor-General’s reports on account of all departments and authorities are presented to the Parliament and are examined by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. His annual reports tend to highlight areas where there have been breakdowns in the system. Those breakdowns are, for the most part, very rigorously and effectively scrutinised by existing parliamentary machinery.
The existing audit procedure involves no evaluation of the efficiency of departments or authorities and the programs they administer. It involves no consideration of whether in respect of each program it has defined objectives, whether it is meeting those objectives, or whether if it is meeting them it is doing so with minimum wastage of human and other material resources. This, of course, is essentially what efficiency auditing is all about. It is a system, as has been said, which was pioneered in the United States and indeed is so well entrenched there now, that the Government Auditing Office in the United States devotes only about 10 per cent of its resources to the traditional financial audit and 90 per cent of its resources to efficiency and program auditing.
To clarify these terms- to some extent this has been done by other speakers, although regrettably it was not done at all either here or in the other place by the Ministers who introduced the second reading speeches- I point out that efficiency auditing is the middle stage in what is generally described as the audit continuum at the lower end of which is financial auditing, as presently practised by the Auditor-General’s Office and at the top end of which is what Senator Watson has described as a program effectiveness review which involves a full-scale analysis, not merely of whether the program in question is meeting its objective, but of the objectives themselves. Full-scale program effectiveness reviews are not within the AuditorGeneral’s brief, nor are they proposed to be by virtue of the present legislation. I note we were told in November 1976 that program effectiveness reviews in future would be the function of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, although it remains, to me at least, a matter of some considerable obscurity just to what has happened to that particular commitment. I would be interested to know from the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) in his reply exactly what is happening in respect of program effectiveness reviews. Whatever machinery is adopted and applied in respect of both program reviews and efficiency reviews which are embodied in the present legislation, the Opposition is certainly fully in favour of the existence of and the move towards a situation of continuous and independent program effectiveness and efficiency reviews, so as to force a constant re-thinking and re-analysis by the Government of the programs on which so much public money is spent.
I make a point of emphasising on behalf of the Labor Opposition the importance of this kind of rigorous scrutiny of both efficiency and effectiveness simply because our attitudes in this respect are so often caricatured. Certainly, we on this side of politics, believing as we do in the virtue of public expenditure as a vehicle for the attainment of a whole variety of social objectives, are particularly conscious of our responsibility to ensure that the public sector works as efficiently and effectively as is humanly possible, and that resources, which we readily acknowledge to be scarce, in Australia as elsewhere, are allocated in the best possible way. One of the virtues of efficiency audits, as we see them from our perspective in politics, is that they enable us to assure the community that the expenditure of public money is being carried out in a proper and considered manner. Secondly, they offer a means of demonstrating to the community, which we are all too happy to do, the areas in which, due to Government policy, inadequate services are being provided.
The Opposition welcomes the framework for efficiency audits which is set out in clause 40 of the Bill. However, it remains a matter of concern to us whether the system will work out as well in practice as it looks on paper. It is certainly true that the scale of efficiency auditing will be much more limited than generally has been appreciated. That this is so became clear, if it was not already so, from evidence given by Mr Steele Craik and Mr Jones, who is the head of the proposed Efficiency Auditing Division in the Auditor-General’s Office. On 6 November last year those two gentlemen gave the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations a very full account of the intended operation of the new efficiency auditing system. It became quite clear from what they told that Committee, of which I was a member, that at least in the immediately foreseeable future there will be only three or four efficiency audits fully completed each year, each one of which will take at least three to four months to complete and cost in the order of $100,000. We were told that it is proposed that the full scale efficiency audits be preceded by feasibility studies to determine whether the cost of full scale efficiency auditing- a sort of full scale spring cleaning- is likely to be justified by the savings that might accrue from greater efficiency. Indeed, it seems to be anticipated that in any given year there will be about twice as many feasibility studies as actual efficiency audits.
At this rate, it is evident that it will take a very long time to get around the full range of departments and authorities with programs which one might think are ripe for review. Of course, this is partly because of the nature of the efficiency auditing exercise itself. It is a large scale enterprise if done properly. As I think Mr Steele Craik put it at the Committee hearing, it is not a matter of chasing paper clips and candle ends. It is clear that the kinds of criteria that will be applied to justify the attention of the AuditorGeneral are such matters as the size of the program and the fact that it is a reasonably stable program in the sense that it is not in a state of flux or subject to imminent full scale government review. It is also clear that the considerations justifying a move beyond the initial feasibility study stage to a full scale efficiency audit will be, as we were told by those gentlemen in the evidence to which I have referred, considerations such as the unclear articulation of program objectives, the absence of internal efficiency assessment mechanisms, and some evidence that the program is just not performing very well. An example given to the Committee of the kind of area in which efficiency audits might operate was the whole area of welfare housing.
I put these matters on record simply in order to explain to anyone who is interested just what the system is about. I repeat that, regrettably, the Government has done remarkably little to articulate to this Parliament or to the community what is about to happen. I also mention the nature of the enterprise in that degree of detail in order to repeat the obvious point that, in view of the scale and cost of the investigations that are contemplated, it is clear that we cannot expect a very wide area of public administration to be covered very quickly. What worries me also in this respect, and along the same line of thought, is that the resources that are being made available to the Auditor-General’s Office- this point was made very effectively by Senator Watson- I fear are too little to enable a more than derisory approach to this whole problem. For example, I have been led to understand that the present total staff of the Auditor-General’s Office is less than the staff employed in the computer section alone of the Department of Defence. In the light of these considerations the Opposition would appreciate an assurance from the Government that it is really serious about efficiency auditing; that It will not treat this matter as just another shop window exercise, glittering out front but empty behind; that it will make available to the Auditor-General’s Office staff and other resources in sufficient quantities, given the scale of the enterprise involved in carrying out efficiency audits, to enable the presence of the AuditorGeneral and his staff to be felt in this crucially important area.
I have one further serious qualification to make, not about the administration of the Bill but about the terms of the Bill itself. It concerns the method of ensuring that the AuditorGeneral’s efficiency audit reports come promptly to the attention of the Parliament and the public. I said at the outset that there were some important differences between what the Royal Commission recommended and what the Government proposes in this Bill. As I see it, those differences concern the role Parliament is to play in the process, a role which, I regret to say, it appears the Government is trying to downgrade. Paragraph 3.6.1 of the Commission’s report states:
The Commission proposes, therefore, that there should be a regular program of efficiency audits in which departmental performance will be assessed. These assessments should be so designed that they would bring before ministers, Cabinet and Parliament both the assessment itself and the data on which it is based. Such a presentation would, at least to some extent, make the assessment open to public examination and comment. It would also clearly establish the primacy of political responsibility for administrative efficiency, including not merely that of the minister and Cabinet but also that of Parliament, which many observers consider has in recent decades been significantly eroded.
Linked with that is a recommendation at paragraph 3.6.20 of the report in the following terms:
The Commission considers that Parliament should have a significant role as guardian of the administrative and executive efficiency of government. It contemplates, therefore, that a report by the Auditor-General on the outcome of his audits of efficiency should be presented to Parliament and examined by a special committee specially designed for this purpose. This committee should be assisted by the AuditorGeneral and his staff. To strengthen the role of Parliament in this matter the Commission suggests for the consideration of Parliament:
that the role of the Auditor-General as an officer of Parliament should be clarified and strengthened;
that there should be a parliamentary committee on administrative efficiency (it is not for us to determine whether this function should be added to that of the
Public Accounts Committee, or another existing committee, or whether a new and separate committee should be established for this purpose); (c) that the parliamentary committee on administrative efficiency should have the same powers to call witnesses as does the Public Accounts.
If we look at this Bill we just do not see that this primacy of the Parliament has endured beyond the high hopes of the Royal Commission. It is true that in proposed new section 48g ( 1 ) the Auditor-General is required to report to Parliament once a year on the efficiency audits he carried out during the year in question. But this is a general report and it is distinctly different from the detailed reports on individual departments on which he has conducted efficiency audits and on which I suggest Parliament does need to be briefed. There is in addition, I acknowledge, a provision that does deal explicitly with individual efficiency audit reports. It is in proposed new section 48F, which provides that those individual reports which the Auditor-General prepares must be sent to the Public Service Board and to the responsible Minister except where the reports are actually on the functioning of departments of the Parliament. There is no reference so far to reporting to Parliament.
Where the reports are in the class which is described as ‘restricted’- this is a matter on which I do not stop to speak at length; I simply make the point that the classification of a report as ‘restricted’ is a matter which is to be determined by the Auditor-General on grounds which do seem extraordinarily wide under proposed new section 48f (5)- they go to the Public Service Board, the Minister and the Prime Minister. Again, there is no specific requirement in this part of the text of the Bill that the reports in question go to the Parliament. It is true when one looks at the specific text of proposed new section 48f (8) that the Auditor-General ‘may’ include these reports on efficiency audits in his annual report to Parliament on the body in question or in some other financial report which he might make to Parliament on the Department or body in question or in some special report which he might make to the Parliament. But he is not required under the text of that provision or any other provision in the Bill to do any of these things. There is nothing in the Bill which ensures, as the Coombs Commission recommended and as Senator Watson noted in the course of his remarks, that the role of the Auditor-General as an officer of Parliament should be clarified and strengthened ‘. There is nothing, insofar as going to that extent is concerned, which even requires him to report to the Parliament in detail on specific efficiency audits at all. I suggest that the thrust of the Bill is, if anything, to make the Auditor-General a more useful adjunct not to the Parliament but to the Executive. He is drawn into the net of government through additional reports which he is required to make to ministers, which reports there is not requirement that Parliament should ever get to see. I have no doubt that the Auditor-General himself, as indeed he made clear in his evidence to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, sees clearly his primary responsibility as being to report to Parliament, but a wilful Executive embarrassed by the disclosures he may well be endeavouring to make may well make it difficult or impossible for him to realise that intention. I am prepared to assume for the moment that this is not the Government’s intention. I am prepared to assume that it is enacting this legislation with the intention both of making it work in the way to which I drew attention earlier and also of ensuring that the Parliament’s central role in the process is acknowledged and accepted. But I would be reinforced in that assumption if the Minister for Science and the Environment were to give some assurances to that effect in the course of this debate and I would believe even more in the Government’s good faith if it were to accept the amendment to proposed new section 48F which I propose to move in the Committee stage.
– The Bill with which the Senate is dealing has a substantial history. Senator Evans was critical of the Government because he considered that the public and the Parliament have had little opportunity to consider the Bill. I draw the attention of Senator Evans to the fact that the second reading speech in this place of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and in the other place of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) consisted of a closely typed 12-page explanation of this particularly important subject. The Audit Act has been with us federally since 1901. 1 am well aware of the arguments and discussions on proposed amendments to the Audit Act that have taken place nearly every session since I have been a member of this Parliament.
One needs only to recall some of the arguments put in the Senate by former Senator Wright to recognise that over a period of many years there was a good deal of discussion in accounting circles, in legal circles and certainly in the Parliament relating to the provisions of the Audit Act. The Government has not acted hastily in bringing this matter before the Parliament. In that regard one could well refer to the previous
Administration and indicate the interest that it, as a responsible government, took in this subject at that time. An amending Bill was introduced on 29 April 1976. 1 think it would be irresponsible for anybody to say about a piece of legislation which has been available for so long to members of parliament for their evaluation and which is being debated on 1 March 1979 that there has not been sufficient time for consideration of the legislation by those who would be interested in its subject matter.
This Bill includes an extensive range of amendments to the Audit Act and by its nature it is somewhat technical and very complex. It has undergone a lengthy preparation, as I have indicated, and many of the provisions in it have been endorsed by both the present Government and, of course, the previous Administration. It has undergone detailed consideration in the House of Representatives. In response to the deliberations of a legislation committee of that House a number of amendments were made to the Bill as it was originally introduced. Any proposals to amend the statutes governing the administration of the Commonwealth’s financial operations must rightly be regarded as matters for serious consideration.
I was delighted to hear the contributions to this debate. I am thankful to those honourable senators who have spoken on this Bill. They have addressed themselves to this Bill most reasonably from a legal standpoint and a commercial standpoint. In the case of Senator Wriedt, the Senate heard from a man whose background is that of a person who has spent a great deal of time in this place and who has vast knowledge of the way that the administration of government finances operates. Honourable senators have contributed intelligently to the debate.
This type of legislation is likely to be on the statute book for a long time. Undoubtedly the Audit Act will regulate the responsibilities of the Minister for Finance, the Auditor-General and the permanent heads of the various departments who are responsible for financial administration at their level.
The Bill, when enacted, will enable efficiency audits to be conducted by the Auditor-General. This is a universally accepted initiative of the Government. We certainly will be breaking new ground in Australia but will not be breaking new ground in the commercial world or in other parliaments. The Parliament will be looking forward with great interest to the efficiency audit reports of the Auditor-General. I believe that we must recognise that we are encompassing a period of development. The Government certainly recognises that it is a new and important initiative. The Auditor-General naturally will be developing the necessary skills which, as Senator Watson indicated, are not gained quickly. They will need to be gained by the Auditor-General over a period just as the Comptroller-General in the United States had to gain his knowledge when efficiency audits were introduced some 1 5 years or 20 years ago in the United States. Dramatic benefits may not emerge in the short term. Senator Evans said that he hoped that this would not be just a showcase for some action. It will be necessary for the Government and the Parliament to be confident that these measures will be a valuable addition to the tools which are already in force for the security of the operations of departments and authorities.
Other important improvements to the reporting provisions of the Audit Act will be of great benefit to the Parliament. I believe that the statement of the Minister for Finance on receipts and expenditures on which the Auditor-General reports will give greater emphasis to departmental stewardship in respect of the financial resources which this Parliament makes available. That is the whole thrust of what the Parliament hopes to do. The Auditor-General this year will not just be required to report upon receipts and expenditures but also to use the modern method of efficiency audit. Further information which will form a most useful basis for further examination and scrutiny, for instance, by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, will be published. The information will come, obviously, from the extra written documentation which will flow when the provisions of the Bill are enacted. The processes for the payment of accounts by departments will be capable of being improved in terms of procedural efficiency as a result of this Bill. Computer processes are now used widely in the processing of government accounts. The volume of transactions today could hardly be handled without these processes. The processes will be given a proper basis for approval and recognition.
I have noted the remarks of the honourable senators who have spoken. I appreciate them very much. The remarks of Senator Watson, which were more in relation to the commercial effects of what is taking place, will certainly be read by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). Senator Wriedt asked for an assurance that the amendment will allow the Auditor-General adequately to audit computer based accounts. The Bill will provide for properly approved control procedures which in turn will facilitate the
Auditor-General’s work. Senator Wriedt also sought an assurance from the Government that it will bring forward amendments to the Audit Act more frequently in future. ‘More frequently’ is perhaps a good term. One feels confident in 1979 that these amendments are coping with matters with which former governments were previously unable to cope due to the very intricate nature of the requirements.
The Bill has been 10 years in the making. The Whitlam Administration had endorsed many of the proposals and had the opportunity to bring them before Parliament. At the time it was not capable of doing so. The Government undertakes, in line with the requirements of the Senate, to keep the provisions of the Audit Act constantly under review. They will be regularly reviewed. The Government will bring forward amendments in future as they are appropriate. I think that Senator Wriedt and Senator Evans mentioned the Auditor-General’s resources. The Government has full regard of the AuditorGeneral’s responsibility in setting staff ceilings for his office. The Government will continue to do so. I have always been amazed at the volume of work which has been carried out by the Auditor-General in reviewing the procedures of so many Commonwealth departments. The Auditor-General has an enormous task. I think that some of the brightest works that are carried out by the Commonwealth are carried out within the Auditor-General’s Office. I think that perhaps we can deal with the remarks of Senator Evans concerning his amendment at a later stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 39- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
-The Opposition proposes an amendment to that part of clause 40 which seeks to introduce a new section 48F into the legislation. In particular, the amendment that has been circulated in my name is to sub-section (8) of proposed new section 48F. The substance of the amendment is as foreshadowed in my speech during the second reading debate. It is to convert what is at the moment merely a permissive requirement, in our submission, so far as the Auditor-General’s reporting to Parliament is concerned, into a mandatory requirement that he so report. The present sub-section deals with the reporting to Parliament in respect of particular efficiency audits in relation to particular departments or authorities. Other provisions of the Bill deal with the general reporting that the Auditor-General would do in this respect on an annual basis.
It will be noted that the present text of the subsection in question states that when the AuditorGeneral prepares a report of the results of an efficiency audit, he may:
That is, his usual annual report with respect to a particular body-
It is our contention, as is the subject matter of our amendment, that the expression ‘he may’ should be deleted in each of those sub-paragraphs. The sub-section should simply state that the AuditorGeneral shall either do one or other of those things. The effect of the amendment, in our submission, is, as I indicated, to convert a merely permissive section into a mandatory requirement. The reasons for our thinking that it ought to be a mandatory requirement were stated at some length during my speech in the second reading debate so I do not propose to repeat those remarks.
However I do suspect that it may be argued by the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster), in reply, that this amendment, while not unexceptionable in principle, and while consistent with the Government’s intention and the Auditor-General’s intention and everybody else’s intention, is nonetheless unnecessary as a matter of strict statutory language because- no doubt this will be suggested- in this instance ‘may’ is to be read as meaning ‘shall’. It will be argued that it is one of those curious categories of ‘may’ that one finds in legal literature which are to be construed by the courts as mandatory rather than directory. I suggest in answer to that sort of contention by the Minister that whether a ‘may’ can ever be construed as a shall’ is always a matter for construction or interpretation in the context of a particular section. From the way in which this section is drawn, one could not be confident that a court would so construe this provision. Perhaps I could put the point to the Minister in a form which he might understand. For example, if my wife, in a fit of tolerance- unusual, I suppose, for wives of members of parliament- were to say to me one weekend. ‘You may go to the beach, or you may go to the cricket, or you may go to the pub’, I suggest that I would not regard myself as being strictly required by her to do any one of those things. It would simply be a permissive indication of how I might spend perhaps a permissive weekend. I suggest that that is the way in which this ‘may’ as it recurs through this section ought to be understood.
The situation is unsatisfactory on a matter as important and as central to this legislation as this is. It is not a minor quibble on some obscure aspect of the legislation that is unlikely ever to be of practical significance: It goes to the heart and soul of this legislation and the relationship between the Auditor-General and this Parliament. For those reasons, I suggest it is imperative that the Government accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition. Mr Temporary Chairman, I seek leave to move the two amendments together.
Let us look at proposed new section 48F. There is no permissiveness about it. We do not act in that way. The honourable senator can apply it to the problems with his wife if he wishes. Proposed new section 48F ( 1 ) states:
There is nothing too permissive about that. It is a direction to the Auditor-General as to what he shall do.
– What does he do with the report after he has written it and signed it? That is the question. Does he just deliver it to the Minister or does he have to give it to the Parliament?
-The point is that we establish that the Auditor-General shall carry it out and whether we carry on -
– Whether you carry on from there is the sixty-four dollar question.
-Right. If we carry on from there we find that the general situation so far as the Auditor-General is concerned is that he has some freedom as to the way in which he will prepare the report and as to what he should include in it. In this regard the Bill then states:
A report of the results of an efficiency audit of operations of a relevant body carried out by the Auditor-General-
– I have no quarrel with any of that.
-Fine. We find that there is no argument about the first part.
– This doesn’t help you; that’s all.
-Yes, it does. We have established that the Auditor-General shall do certain things. I think we are half way towards that situation described by Senator Evans of a husband being given a direction to go to the beach. What he is likely to do when he gets there may be permissive. But the legal advice is that that is not so in this case. I refer Senator Evans to sub-section (8) of proposed new section 48F which reads:
Subject to sub-section (9), where the Auditor-General prepared a report (other than a restricted report) of the results of an efficiency audit of operations of a relevant body-
he may include the report in the next report made by him under section S 1 that includes his report with respect to the accounts, or financial statements, of that body;
he may include the report in a report made by him, otherwise than under section 5 1 , with respect to the financial statements of the body, being a report a copy of which is required by an enactment to be laid before each House of the Parliament; or
he may treat the report as a special report and transmit signed copies of the report to each House of the Parliament.
Basically the amendment moved by Senator Evans is to insert after the words ‘relevant body’ the words ‘he shall either’ and to delete the words ‘he may’ wherever occurring in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of proposed new section 48F(8).
– Now you are getting warm.
-Well, as proposed new section 48f stands at the moment it gives the Auditor-General three options when dealing with efficiency audit reports. Clearly, paragraphs
A further relevant point is that proposed section 48g, which deals with the AuditorGeneral’s annual report on efficiency audits, gives him two options in transmitting the report to Parliament. The wording of the options in that proposed section has the same structure as that used in proposed section 48f (8) but, as I understand it, no objection is raised to proposed section 48g. I have attempted to explain that the Government has had the benefit of the advice of Parliamentary Counsel. That advice seems to me to be fairly logical. The word ‘may’ is used, but as to the assertion that the Auditor-General may do nothing I point out that he is required to follow one of the options that are provided.
-With respect, we have been subjected to some of the most mercilessly unmitigated waffle that we have been privileged to hear from the Minister for Science and Environment, Senator Webster, outside of the context of Question Time where, regrettably, that kind of behaviour is par for the course. Ninety per cent of what he said, and I suppose that as an accountant he has to be forgiven these excursions into the thickets of legalism, was absolutely and totally irrelevant to the point being made. Of course it is acknowledged that the Auditor-General has to prepare and sign a report, the contents of which are governed in various ways by other provisions of the Audit Act. The big question that remains to be considered is whether, having prepared a report, he is in fact obliged to give it to Parliament. All I will say about this- because it is the point to which the Minister finally came at the end of what he had to say- is that he was willing to concede what I am contending, that one possible construction of the language was that it had merely permissive rather than mandatory quality.
The Minister was also willing to acknowledge that in this respect the Opposition was speaking on the basis of not merely a thought under the shower but rather a fairly careful legal analysis of the provision. All that he could weigh against that was the advice, which I readily concede is normally quite respectable, of Parliamentary Counsel to the effect that in this context the provision was to be read the other way; that there were all sorts of implications of a mandatory character. Might I put once again that in a situation like this, which surely concerns a matter with an importance of a very high order as far as this Parliament is concerned, if he is genuine in his desire to persuade the Senate that the Government of the day is anxious to look after the interests of Parliament he would concede at least the possibility- as indeed he has- of there being a rival interpretation of the provision and, as a result, indicate the Government’s willingness to put the matter beyond doubt. That is what I ask him to do. If he concedes that there is some possible point to what I am saying, and if he concedes its importance, why will he not accept this amendment and involve himself in the necessarily rather cumbersome procedural things that will then have to be done to send the Bill again to the other House. Why will he not accept this point and put this important matter beyond doubt?
– I suppose that one may disregard the earlier remarks of Senator Evans. He is well noted for such comments and they bring him no credit. The fact is that the ‘waffle’ to which he refers was the advice of Parliamentary Counsel. Undoubtedly, that is what he thinks of that advice. The honourable senator’s judgment over a period of years has been very suspect and has been criticised in many circles. I might add that I do not hold it in very high esteem either.
Such an amendment would achieve precisely the result that will be achieved by the existing provision. As I have indicated, if Senator Evans does not accept that view it is basically a case of lawyers disagreeing as to the interpretation of the law. However, there is no disagreement as to the intention of the provision. It has been noted and undoubtedly the debate here will endorse it.
The Government has decided that the amendment should be rejected on the ground that it is totally unnecessary.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of the Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
-The remaining matter on which the Opposition would appreciate a response from the Minister for Science and the Environment, although our position is not expressed in the form of an amendment, relates to clause 60 and the question of exempt accounts. As it stands, the clause has, it appears, the effect of removing altogether from the Auditor-General’s domain certain classes of accounts, essentially in the national security area, if I may thus summarise the effect of a quite substantial section of the Bill. It has traditionally been the case that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and other government operations of that kind have been immune from parliamentary and public scrutiny as far as their detailed working is concerned, but at least the Parliament and the public have had the considerable comfort, given the reputation and credibility of the Auditor-General’s office, of the knowledge that at least these agencies and operations were being subjected to the rigorous scrutiny of the Auditor-General. Now it appears there is to be a new ministerial certification procedure, and we will all simply have to be satisfied with that.
Could the Minister please articulate, if that fairly rudimentary account of the effect of the clause is accurate, why it has been thought desirable or necessary after all these years to take the final complete plunge into secrecy as far as this regrettably large area of public expenditure is concerned?
- Senator Evans is referring to proposed new section 70D, which provides for the exemption of certain accounts from inspection, examination and audit by the Auditor-General. The exempt accounts would normally comprise highly confidential expenditures the disclosure of which, even to auditors, may prejudice operations being pursued, or would be contrary to the national interest. Senator Evans may be comforted in the knowledge that there is no automatic application of the provisions. There must first be a regulation prescribing a department or an organisation. In that regard Parliament will then be able to reject a proposal to bring this section into operation, should it so desire. There is no intention that all of the accounts of a prescribed organisation be exempted- only particularly highly confidential expenditures. Such expenditures in practice represent only a very small part of the budgets of organisations which may be prescribed.
As was indicated, the responsible Minister is required to furnish certificates for presentation to the Parliament. That is found in section 70D (5) of the Act.
The legislation provides in a formal way only for a procedure similar to that followed for many years, as was indicated, for instance, in the case of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Perhaps I could direct the attention of honourable senators to page 2551 of the Senate Hansard of 8 December 197 1, a copy of which I have here. That basically sets out the position. Of course, somewhat similar arrangements have been followed for many years in other countries- for instance, the United States of America- in relation to secret expenditures. I refer honourable senators to that earlier transcript, which may satisfy them.
– I wish to pursue that matter one step further. If in the areas that it is proposed this new procedure should cover the confidentiality of the material is such that it is too sensitive for the eyes even of our auditors, I ask the Minister: What has been the change of circumstances which has precipitated this legislative action? If the material in question is too sensitive now to be able to be contemplated as being within the reach of the Auditor-General, surely one would have thought that in the past similar material has been equally as sensitive. What has been the change of circumstances? What has been the leakage, if any, from the Auditor-General’s Office which has prompted the Government to take this course of action and to create this new machinery?
– I am advised that this legislation only legalises the situation which has applied. I do not think it is appropriate to speak of leakage from the Auditor-General’s Office. The fact is that successive governments have thought fit to have the matter treated in this way. Perhaps I could refer to a letter dated 4 November 1971 and addressed to Senator Withers. It reads:
During the Estimates Committee A sittings on Tuesday, 26th October, dealing with the Division 459, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Senator D. McClelland asked, ‘Are these funds subject to audit by the Auditor-General?’
A comment was made by Senator Georges which was not relevant to the point of what I desired to refer to and then the Chairman said, ‘I understand that the gentleman at the table is a Treasury official who may be able to help Senator Marriott’.
Senator Marriott then said, ‘My advice is that the AuditorGeneral’s Department does not audit the ASIO accounts. My advice, which I repeat, is that it is accountable to Treasury’.
I have now been informed by the Depanment of the Treasury that the answer given by Senator Marriott on the advice of the Treasury official present at that time was not completely accurate and I therefore desire to give the corrected information to your Committee as supplied to me by the First Assistant Secretary of Treasury, Mr D. J. Hill.
The corrected answer as supplied to me is as follows:
The accounts of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation are audited by the Auditor-General under arrangements agreed in 1 949 between the then Prime Minister and Treasurer and the then Auditor-General. These arrangements provide for a normal audit of transactions and include as pan of that audit the provision of a certificate by the Director-General of Security in respect of a minor portion of the expenditure and by the responsible Minister certifying that that portion of the expenditure was properly made in the interests of the Public Service. The Auditor-General accepts these certificates in completion of his audits. This arrangement is patterned on the British practice, dating back to the late 1 9th Century’.
Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson then made some comments and other honourable senators spoke. I think that gives an indication of the ambit of what we in the Parliament should consider to be secure.
– I am prompted by the Minister’s remarks to ask one further question: If it has been the case all these years that this kind of informal certification procedure has been operative in respect of ASIO and it is only now that the Audit Act is being amended, in fact, to give legal force to that arrangement, are we to understand that the auditing of ASIO for the last 30 years has been characterised by illegality in that the procedures required by the Audit Act, as unamended until today, have not been complied with?
– The reason that this Act is being amended is generally in line with what Senator Evans has said. This amending legislation formalises the legal procedure for the Auditor-General. Earlier I read to the Committee what had been an arrangement. We believe it is necessary to formalise that arrangement. Basically this formalisation follows the report of the Hope Commission. That is what is being done at this time.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Webster) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7 November, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Family Law Amendment Bill 1978 seeks to amend the Family Law Act. It does not deal with a matter which is, in a sense, controversial on party lines. The fact that I speak first for the Opposition should not be interpreted as my putting an Opposition position in relation to this amending Bill. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack), in introducing this Bill and in a series of subsequent private discussions, has indicated that there are a number of amendments which might be regarded as being of a technical nature and which, in part at least, stem from the recommendations of the Family Law Council.
The major amendment, however, relates to the establishment of the Institute of Family Studies which was referred to in the original Family Law Act. The Attorney-General, in his second reading speech, has given a lot of time to explaining to the Senate the difficulties the Government has encountered in establishing that Institute. The Act establishes the Institute as a national research and educational body with the following objectives:
Those are the objectives as set out in respect of the Institute. One hopes that it will be able to play a positive role in developing an understanding of what makes for satisfactory family relationships or, to use a somewhat tarnished expression, what makes for good marriages as distinct from bad ones. At present the emphasis appears to be on what makes marriages break down. To that extent it is much more important that a more positive role is emphasised in connection with this legislation and the activities of the Institute. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) in his second reading speech said that the amendments make no changes of principle to the Act. They generally correct defects or otherwise contribute to the smoother administration of the Act according to its existing principles. Speaking as an individual senator, I am very grateful for that assurance. I am concerned that the principles underlying the Family Law Act which seem to me to be sound should be maintained. Because the amendments do not alter those principles but rather intrude into the legislation a more positive aspect by establishing the Institute and spelling out its functions, one can hope that the sorry situation regarding marital breakdown will be improved to some extent by the activities of a body such as this.
There are certain assumptions in the terminology of the Bill in setting out the objectives of the Institute which we should be examining in a broader sense. To be more specific, there is a reference to the protection of the family as the natural and fundamental group unit in society. I think that there are some reasons for querying whether we are stuck with the notion of the nuclear family as the most natural and desirable group unit. Perhaps the Institute should explore a great variety of factors which bear on the desirability of the nuclear family which I think most historians and sociologists would say is a sort of bastard child of the industrial revolution. I think it would be desirable if in many of our policies relating to social issues more consideration were given to the situation which exists in more primitive societies than ours in which much more care and attention is given to the wider ramifications of family relationships than in the typical Australian family as it is sometimes described with a husband, a wife, two children and the television set. The point I am seeking to make is a serious one. The organisation and formulation of government policies- I make this comment irrespective of party lines- which bear on the family situation are very much structured towards encouraging the continuance of the nuclear family and against the possibility of encouraging wider and more supportive relationships in families which involve more than just a husband, a wife and two children.
I refer as an example to the housing policy in this country which seems to be singularly inflexible in the emphasis which is placed on accommodation for that group unit. That is simply one example of the situation about which I am concerned. Of course, there are plenty of others. I have implied that the objectives of the Institute are slightly narrower than they ought to be. I also hope that in carrying out its objectives the Institute will have regard to many of the matters raised in the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships, which, unfortunately, has not been a matter of debate in the Senate. The report was tabled and roundly condemned in the atmosphere of political expediency which existed at the time.
– I do not think that ‘roundly ‘ is the right word.
-Is ‘squarely’ the right word?
– Narrowly, I think.
-Perhaps it was narrowly condemned in an atmosphere of political expediency. Whether one likes the findings and the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships or not, the report raised fundamental issues which should be of concern to the Senate, the Parliament and Australian society as a whole. I would hope that the matters it raised would be of great concern to a body such as the Institute established by this legislation. If it is to operate in vacuo, without consideration of some of the broader social factors raised by the Royal Commission the Institute will not do justice to itself, society and the Parliament which, by legislation, has created it.
I now refer to one other very important aspect of this Bill which seeks to extend the range of circumstances in which a court can order the parties to confer with a counsellor or order a counsellor to report to it on the welfare of children. I think that this is to be commended given the importance which must be attached to the family unit. I am sure that a number of senators have had the opportunity of visiting family courts in their respective States or elsewhere. I think that they would almost universally approve of the work which counsellors are doing in those courts. Frequently there are too few counsellors and the facilities which they have are not as adequate as they ought to be. From the time of the introduction of the Family Law Bill into the Senate and throughout the discussions of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on the clauses of the Family Law Bill, there was great concern and emphasis that the counselling procedures offered by the courts should be as informal and as adequate as possible. Many of the criticisms and frictions which have arisen in relation to the operation of the Family Law Act have done so from difficulties over maintenance and custody matters which might have been resolved by counselling. It is unfortunate that much of that criticism has developed into criticism of the substantive grounds under the Family Law Act on which marriages are dissolved.
A further major point of the legislation is that it also slightly extends the authority of the courts to set aside or discharge property settlements or maintenance orders under the Act if there has been a miscarriage of justice in the original settlement. What does one say about that except that one hopes that that would facilitate the just operation of the provisions of the Act and that there will be an improvement in the existing situation. I am not sure whether the jurisdictional position in relation to property and maintenance settlements has been resolved satisfactorily. At this stage, I think not. Anything which would facilitate the making of adequate settlements in relation to property or maintenance matters is to be encouraged and commended.
As I indicated earlier, the Bill also contains a number of what I understand are machinery amendments which are described as being of a technical nature. They do not alter the spirit of the Bill. It is the spirit of the Bill about which I am concerned because for some reasons- I think it may be my fault as much as the Minister’s fault- I did not see the last batch of technical amendments until a short time ago. They appear to me to be of that character and I do not wish to advance any opposition to them. What I am concerned about is that the spirit of the original family law legislation should stand and that the more social aspects of the legislation and the aspects of the legislation which affects society as a whole should be constantly and more frequently examined in a constructive way. Thousands upon thousands of Australians are affected by the provisions of this Act. One would hope that in years to come thousands upon thousands of Australians will benefit from the deliberations of the Institute of Family Studies. I express the hope that its deliberations will be carried out in as broad and as inquiring a spirit as possible with a view to grappling with some of the matters which I raised earlier in my remarks. In general terms, I commend the Bill to the Senate and wish the Institute a speedy and successful establishment.
– I rise to support the amendments that are contained in the Family Law Amendment Bill 1978 and to welcome its introduction. The Bill deals with one important area in particular which has already been mentioned by Senator Button. I refer to the establishment and the powers of the Institute of Family Studies. The Bill also contains a number of relatively small but nonetheless useful amendments that I think should be put into the legislation. Of course, at this stage other considerations are taking place. The Family Law Council has met and, in its two annual reports, has made very substantial suggestions for amendments which, in the main, I think are useful to the legislation. A number of those suggestions are not contained in this Bill. They are matters which may be of some controversy and they are, of course, also being considered by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Family Law Act which the Parliament set up.
In dealing with the limited nature of this Bill as it exists, I do not want to trespass on the ground that Senator Button covered because I agree in general with his remarks about these amendments. I cannot resist saying that the establishment of the Institute of Family Studies is a matter about which I have moaned in the Senate on many occasions now for some years. I am not happy that it has taken three years for this Institute to get off the ground. I recognise the problems that were inherent in the original drafting of this part of the Bill. Those problems did not seem to be the real cause for such a delay. On previous occasions in this Senate I have said that money has been set aside for this project but it has not been used and, of course, we have not reached the stage of appointing the Director. I think that this is most unfortunate. Regrettably, it shows a lack of appreciation of the necessity for this Institute. This Institute ought to be operating contemporaneously with the development of the Family Law Act. It should be investigating what is happening and how the Act is working, quite apart from the statistics and so forth which are, of course, being obtained. An analysis should be made of what is happening both in regard to the breakdown of marriages and, on the positive side, what can be done in a more active way to improve the success of marriages and marriage relationships in this country. Therefore, I think it is most regrettable that this Institute has not been established earlier.
I think it is regrettable that we do not already have the results of the research of the Institute. Such research would be of inestimable value to the Joint Committee on the Family Law Act because it is impossible for that Committee to carry out investigation which requires very detailed and considered research. I hope that these amendments will put the Institute into proper shape. I hope that the board of management and the Director of the Institute will be appointed quickly and that the Institute shortly will be in operation. I have always regarded that as an important part of the 1975 Act. I hope that the Institute will soon begin to play its part.
The other amendments contained in the Bill originated substantially but not entirely from recommendations of the Family Law Council. I pay tribute to that Council which meets under the chairmanship of the Hon. Justice Evatt. It has taken a very active and, I think, positive role in looking at the way in which the Act is working and in making suggestions to the Parliament in that respect. I note, for example, in regard to the matter of counselling, which is given emphasis in this Bill, that the Family Law Council had this to say in its 1977 report:
Situations have arisen where the Court may seek information about the children (e.g. where there is an issue about occupation of the home). Though these situations are not likely to arise very often there seems to be no good reason for the present restriction which may prevent the Court from obtaining a report or from taking action in the interests of the children. Further, there may be cases where it is unnecessary to adjourn the case while a report is being prepared.
The report then recommended that the Court should have the power to call for a report in any cause and at any stage in the proceedings. This is terribly important. I doubt that this power has been used enough, mainly because of the lack of ancillary staff and councillors available to the court. It is important to be able to use that type of power at an early stage in proceedings before the parties have reached the situation where they have placed on record affidavit after affidavitwhen parties, their friends, relatives and so on have sworn to a certain situation and the position has become rigid. Counselling was regarded as a cornerstone in the unit operation which the Family Court of Australia is to use. Criticisms made now very often arise from the fact that there has not been sufficient opportunity to use the counselling service. Thus clause 1 1 of the Bill, which relates to the powers of the Court in custodial proceedings, will be useful in ensuring that counselling is used at any time. I have great hope that much use will be made of counselling services.
I note also that the Bill provides that in future appeals will be conducted de novo. In other words, they will proceed afresh. They will not be dependent upon evidence that may come forward. Very often the evidence may have been given in a magistrate’s court and may not have been recorded. Very often an unsatisfactory situation arises. In future, any evidence can be brought before the Court on appeal. This will enable the Court to consider the whole question and to make decisions that do justice to the parties involved. Senator Button has mentioned the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships. The part of that report concerning family law and family matters is a most excellent document. The areas which are covered by the recommendations are worthy of study by all members of this chamber. I hope that more of the recommendations of that report will be soon brought into legislative form.
I believe that the relatively small but useful amendments which this Bill provides will make the Family Court a more effective instrument than it has been already. Together with Senator Button, I believe that the Family Court has been responsible for very great achievements and that it has worked remarkably well. It has had its difficulties. It has had an inbuilt problem because of delays which have had to be endured. It has other problems, such as the one I have mentioned of a lack of staff. Nonetheless, I believe it has been responsible for substantial achievement. It is staffed by some very able people both on the side of the judiciary and on the side of the officers who work in that court. I believe that what we are doing today is improving the legislation in some respect. There is more that needs to be done, such as the matters which have been recognised by the Family Law Council and which I hope will soon come into legislative form. Nevertheless I welcome this Bill as a useful contribution to the work of the court.
– I think it is necessary to put on record the background to the Bill. The Bill’s major amendments affect the establishment of the Institute of Family Studies which was provided for in the original Family Law Act at the time of its passage. However, as the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and other speakers have pointed out, the relevant provisions were found to be inadequate when a director was to be appointed. I believe the amendment has the thrust to correct that situation. It is not necessary for me to speak at great length on this matter. It would be evident if I spoke for much longer that I know very little about the Bill itself. Having in mind the program that the Senate must meet and for the sake of the exercise, I propose to seek leave to incorporate in Hansard so as to make the matter clearer than perhaps it is at the moment the short digest of the Bill which has been prepared by the Law and Government Group of the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library. I know it will add somewhat to the record. Some may deem it unnecessary since most members of this Parliament would have this digest. Nevertheless, I think it should be in Hansard for the benefit of those who seek to become familiar with the intention of the Government. With those few words, I rest my case. I seek leave to incorporate the digest in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted?
– I have not seen the document. I thought it was the ususal practice for documents being incorporated in Hansard to be shown to the Minister in charge of the Senate before leave is sought for their incorporation. This seems to be a somewhat unusual procedure. I thought that the purpose of the Bill had been adequately explained by me and by other honourable senators. If it is better done by the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library it may well be that we will be able to do away with the necessity for second reading speeches in future.
-Speaking to that point, I think it rather extraordinary that the AttorneyGeneral should object -
– I am not objecting. I am just saying that I have never seen it.
-The Attorney-General did object. He rose to his feet and said he had not seen the document. I described the document carefully. Surely he would accept the document as a valid one. I know I did not pay him the courtesy of showing it to him. I really did not have time. He may have noticed that I came into the chamber rather suddenly and picked up these papers before me. If it is necessary to show these papers to the Attorney-General, I shall do so. Perhaps with the concurrence of the AttorneyGeneral I will be able to incorporate this short digest in Hansard! I seek leave to do so.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Georges, you have sought leave and the Attorney-General has indicated that he would like to see the document.
– I have a few words to say now that I did not have to say before. I hand the document to the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General made a few terse remarks to the effect that if we were to follow the precedent which I have established we may be able to do away with second reading speeches. He also said that perhaps the Legislative Research Service of the Library could do a better job than we can do in a second reading debate. That may be the case. If the Attorney-General were to put that proposition to the Senate we could debate it and perhaps agree to it and thereby shorten our sitting hours. Perhaps we could then spend more time in our electorates. Because of the complicated nature of this Bill, I believe that this digest would be of some use in the record. Surely it does not need the perusal that the Attorney-General is giving it at present, unless he wishes to question the work that the Legislative Research Service has done on the matter.
– You would not want the Minister to be other than thorough, would you?
– I believe that the Legislative Research Service is a highly efficient and well qualified body. If the Attorney-General were to accept the motive behind doing what I am doing he would approve with alacrity. What is the present position? Is it to be incorporated or is it not?
– I would not object to the incorporation of the document. All I am saying is that it seems to me to be setting a rather strange precedent for honourable senators to provide the Senate with an analysis of a Bill by the Legislative Research Service, presumably in lieu of making a speech themselves on the BUI. That is only a matter of comment. It is rather a strange precedent to set. I have no objection to its being incorporated if Senator Georges wants to do so.
-Thank you. If I had read it without saying what it was would the AttorneyGeneral have noticed any difference? Perhaps he would have guessed it knowing that I know fairly little about this matter. Perhaps he would have been bemused by my competence and expertise. We have a problem today which in some way has been complicated by the transport system. We have had to make certain that people from faraway places can get home. That has meant that honourable senators have had to put up with me for a short time. Honourable senators ought to be grateful for it and not critical. Besides, I thought the device I used was a rather clever one. Please admit it and let us get on to the next business.
The document read as follows-
PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA DEPARTMENT OF THE PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY
Family Law Amendment Bill 1978
Date Introduced: 7 November 1978 House: Senate
Presented by: Hon. P. D. Durack, Attorney-General Short Digest of Bill
To amend the Family Law Act in a number of respects, notably by establishing the Institute of Family Studies.
The Bill’s major amendments affect the establishment of the Institute of Family Studies which was provided for in the original Family Law Act at the time of its passage. However, as the Attorney-General points out in his Second Reading Speech, the relevant provisions were found to be inadequate when a Director was to be appointed. Proposed Part XIV A of the Act, which is inserted by clause 1 8 of the Bill, re-enacts with the necessary amplification the substantive provisions of s.l 16 of the Act thereby retaining the same functions and basic structure for the Institute as originally provided.
The rest of the amendments are of a technical nature and do not substantially alter the spirit of the Family Law Act. Principal among these other amendments are those affecting counselling. The Bill seeks to extend the range of circumstances in which a court can order the panics to confer with a counsellor or order a counsellor to report to it, on the welfare of the children of the marriage. There are also formal amendments to establish more clearly the separate identity of court counsellors from officers of State and Territory welfare departments.
Section 116 of the Act, which establishes the Institute of Family Studies, is repealed (clause 19) and new provisions substituted by clause 1 8. This provides for the establishment of the Institute with the same functions as originally provided (proposed s. 1 14b) and the same basic structure except that there is to be a Board of Management of the Institute as a means of distinguishing between the Institute meaning the governing body and the Institute meaning the Director, members and staff as a whole. The Board is charged with the general direction of the Institute (proposed s.114d). Proposed sections 1 14e to 1 14M contain standard provisions dealing with such matters as the term of office of members, their remuneration and allowances, resignation, termination of their appointments, the holding of meetings and appointment of staff.
Section 62 is amended to extend the circumstances in which a court can order the parties to confer with a counsellor or can order a counsellor to report to it on the welfare of the children of the marriage. This can now be done whenever the welfare of a child under 1 8 is relevant (clause 9).
Clause 1 1 widens the power of a court to issue a warrant expressed to apply to any vehicle, vessel, aircraft, premises or place where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child the subject of a custody order may be found. This overcomes a problem which anses at present because warrants must specify a particular vehicle, aircraft, premises et cetera.
Clause 17 will remove doubts which existed about whether it was possibe by regulation to allow garnishee of wages paid by the Commonwealth, by making specific provision on this question in the Act.
In line with a recommendation of the Family Law Council, the Bill extends slightly the authority of courts to set aside or discharge property settlement or maintenance orders under the Act. At the moment the Act limits the court’s powers to circumstances where the order was obtained by fraud, by duress, by the giving of false evidence or by the suppression of evidence. This is extended to include any other circumstance where there has been a miscarriage of justice (clause 12).
Law & Government Group LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH SERVICE 13 November 1978
– As a member of the Senate with a nonlegal background one perhaps is a little hesitant to enter into a debate on a matter of this kind.
– I just proved that.
– I was going to say that perhaps a little more hesitancy should have been observed. But let me accept Senator Georges ‘s reasons for entering into the debate, as I hope he will accept mine, and that is that, like others, I am very concerned about the effectiveness of the family unit in the total building of Australian society. In the second instance I am privileged to be a member of the Joint Select Committee on the Family Law Act. When a Bill relating to the Act, albeit only an amending Bill, comes before the Senate I like to indicate my stewardship in relation to that Committee as well as my interest in the wider ramifications of the family situation within Australian society by involving myself, albeit in a general and brief way, in the matter. This Bill was first brought to our notice some time ago. I think it is quite wise of us to have an amending Bill in relation to these issues because when we have a legislative act which impinges so much upon our community welfare, our social practices and indeed our family lifestyle, it is good that there is a review from time to time in relation to detail. This amending Bill is such a measure.
We recall very stongly the debate relating to the original Family Law Act in which there were a number of new initiatives. The Act made radical changes in the Australian law of divorce and matrimonial causes. All existing grounds for divorce were changed, and indeed abolished, and in their place was placed one new ground which, generally speaking, was described as the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Of course, there were other matters. However, the Act caused quite a considerable change and had farreaching effects on certain personal styles and on marriage relationships.
The Bill which is before the Senate this afternoon makes a wide variety of amendments. A great number of these amendments revolve around a matter which has been referred to by earlier speakers today, and that is the Institute of Family Studies which has been set up as a national research and educational body and, as the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) said in his second reading speech it has an object which is to try to identify and disseminate information on negative and positive factors which affect family stability in Australia. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Government attaches great importance to the establishment of the Institute of Family Studies as does the Parliament and the community. In our work with the Joint Select Committee there is obviously great interest in and great importance attached to the establishment of the Institute of Family Studies. We have become more than aware of the continuing interest in the Institute, both within the Parliament and throughout the community.
I join with other honourable senators and speakers- indeed other leaders in our society and community- in the concern they have expressed that there has not been as much progress in the establishment of the Institute as we had hoped. Its principal function will be to promote, by encouragement and the co-ordination of research, the identification and understanding of the factors which affect marital life and family stability in Australia. As I think the Attorney-General said in another context, the aim of the Institute will be to look at family life to see- as he stressed- not what destroys but what makes a good marriage. In short, the Attorney-General was placing the emphasis very strongly on the positive side. He said that hopefully that information could then be passed on to those who are approaching marriage or who, for one reason or another, need counselling or consultative services. We join with him and with others in the hope that the Institute will assume great social significance in the years to come. I believe that it will assume great social significance in the years to come because, as this Family Law Act has been established within our community, and as the Committee which has been appointed by the Parliament to go into the Act brings in its report and its influence upon the Family Law Act, so the Institute of Family Studies will assume an even greater degree of importance. Furthermore, as community attitudes evolve towards the whole institution of marriage then the Institute will, in my view, assume greater importance because it will be used to examine and research the results of experience. In my view it will also give a great lead to attitudes, thought and the implications of the institution of marriage in the total context of our Australian community.
I am pleased that the amendments in the Bill relating to the Institute are as detailed as they are and I accept the Attorney-General’s assurance that the functions of the Institute which were provided originally in the Act have been preserved without change. As he said, they fill in the blanks and streamline the terms and conditions and other matters which relate to the Institute of Family Studies. Later in the second reading speech there was some emphasis on the matter of marriage counselling. I think this is a matter which is assuming considerable importance within the community. It gives attention to the matter of stability and soundness of the institution of marriage. For very many years marriage guidance was largely in the hands of certain institutions within our community, but today we have an active marriage guidance movement which is being supported by public funds. But for the efforts of voluntary agencies it is perfectly obvious that the rate of marriage breakdown and divorce might well have been higher than it is today.
Marriage guidance as an institution and as a process generally comes into the picture when something seems to go wrong with a particular marriage. Only recently the Government agreed to commit funds to education of a pre-marital nature, the object of which very obviously is of a preventive nature. There will be a need to evaluate the effectiveness of what are called preventive services. This is a task which the Family Law Act has established, not only in the marriage guidance movement, but also for the Institute of Family Studies, to which I have already made reference. In the counselling sphere the Bill extends the range of circumstances relating to marriage counselling and consultation. It confers certain powers on the courts and makes certain recommendations in relation to the welfare of the children of such a marriage. The Bill makes some formal amendments to establish more clearly the separate identity of court counsellors, separating them from the officers of State and Territory welfare departments. It would be wrong to suppose that the only aim of the Family Law Act was to make divorce easier. One of its chief objectives was to provide counselling services and to help people who have been caught up in the unfortunate circumstances of a marriage breakdown. Counselling is provided for a variety of reasons, but I think it is true to say that it is mainly to ease the problem of human relationships for all the members of the families involved. In the book The Family in Australia the authors Krupinski and Yule in relation to counselling and consultation have this to say:
We have no measure of whether marital conflict itself is more common, nor the degree to which marriages may survive periods of conflict and emerge to function effectively and happily. The growing number of Marriage Guidance Council clients reflects the increased availability of services rather than proving increased need.
It is, however, obvious that people now complain of problems that previously would have been accepted or unnoticed. The changes in expectations of marriage, the striving- not merely for security, mutually contracted services and offspring, but also for love and companionship- bring couples for counselling who, in previous generations, might not have imagined their situation to be unhappy. This possibly reflects a positive change in attitudes towards marriage, although casualties may be greater when ideals are higher.
So the Bill, with its emphasis on a series of amendments, is an important development in the legislative processes that are going on in relation to the area of marriage and family life. As we move towards the adoption of this Bill, it is important to add that none of the amendments contained in the Bill affects the main principles of the original Act. The feature that is common to all of the amendments, including those that have been recommended by the Family Law Council and those concerning the Institute of Family Studies, around which so much of the Bill revolves, is that they are intended to facilitate the operation of the Act in the manner in which it was originally defined. I am glad to have had this brief involvement in the debate, and I commend the measure to the Senate.
– in reply- I thank the Senate for its support of this measure. The Opposition announced in advance its support of amendments I have yet to move, which is even better. I do not think that I need to add anything to the debate. I hope that the Bill will have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I understand that there is no real debate in relation to the Government ‘s amendments, although honourable senators may wish to raise some questions. With the leave of the Committee, I therefore move the following amendments en bloc:
The third amendment is a very technical one, simply enabling a court other than a court that approved a maintenance agreement to revoke approval of that agreement. The fourth amendment is also very technical. It rewords the section dealing with the right of appeal. That comment applies also to the fifth amendment. The sixth amendment is of interest in that it enables a court exercising jurisdiction under the Act to punish a breach of an undertaking given to the court as a contempt of court. That amendment also is necessary because of some deficiency found in the Act in regard to the Family Court of Western Australia.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 February, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Patents Amendment Bill, in view of the accompanying memorandum, is obviously a fairly complex and technical matter, rather than what one by contrast might describe as a politically controversial matter. The Bill is not seen as being politically controversial. It relates to a question of administration, and the Opposition will not be opposing it. I do not propose to say very much about it, other than that it establishes a form of two-tiered patenting under which petty patents, as they are referred to in the second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), may be taken out for terms varying between one and six years. The petty patents will cover technically simple inventions which often will be covered by only one patent and will therefore not require the rigorous and exhaustive examination to determine whether an invention is patentable to which inventions are necessarily subjected under the existing law. For more complex inventions the existing patenting procedures will continue to apply. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition for its support of the Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I rise to speak on the point I raised previously. Unfortunately, although I had an earlier edition of the Bill in which the relevant passage was marked, I am at a loss to find the real basis of my objection to this Bill. All the provisions in the Bill are subject to the Commissioner’s being satisfied. I know that references to this fact earlier than those in clause 36 which inserts new section 68 appear in the Bill. I have always been opposed to such a provision. I have not convinced my party of the significance of it yet. If the Commissioner is satisfied that a novel patent complies with the Act and with every other condition he shall register the petty patent. An appeal is available under the Act against the Commissioner’s decision to refuse registration, but that makes the matter more pertinent in my mind. When an appeal is made against the Commissioner not registering a patent, we come up against the question of what has to be proved before the appeals tribunal. Under the wording of the clause, the applicant has to prove that the Commissioner was satisfied. It does not matter that the law and the conditions of getting a patent are complied with. The Commissioner has to be satisfied. As I said before, since the Karen Green case and the recision about giving power to a commissioner or director, there is no validity in placing restrictions upon an applicant or an appellant in a particular case. There is no subjective criteria. The applicant may think that he has all the qualifications in the world and that the patent should have been registered, but he still cannot prove his case. Because of doubts in the Commissioner’s mind the Commissioner was not satisfied and therefore was exercising his function as laid down by the Parliament in refusing to register the patent. Despite the fact that the Commissioner should have been satisfied the fact is that he was not satisfied. I think it is against the very principles of justice to couch legislation in these terms. It is easy to make an objective test. It could be that if the application for a patent complies with certain things the Commissioner may grant a patent protection. Obviously the Commissioner has to make the decision. Any appeal against that decision must be based on the grounds of qualification and the fact that the patent was not registered. Despite the fact that the applicant has the qualification and registration of the patent he cannot prove that the Commissioner was satisfied, which is the thing laid down in the Act that has to be proved essentially for the purpose of registration of the patent.
– The matter raised by Senator Cavanagh lies within the principal Act. I understand it is the principal Act which gives the right of appeal against the exercise of the Commissioner’s discretion. It is my understanding that it is true, as Senator Cavanagh has said- I will need to check thisthat the appellate body, be it the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or a court, cannot simply substitute its opinion for the opinion of the Commissioner. The appeal provision provides a safeguard against a capricious exercise of the Commissioner’s discretion. It is no more than that. That is in common with most appeal provisions which do not provide even in a normal court situation for the appeal court to simply substitute its view for the view of the judgment against which an appeal is made. An additional safeguard is that if the Commissioner is to exercise his discretion adversely to the person who is seeking protection. He is not permitted to do so without first giving that person a chance to be heard. An opportunity exists, as I understand it, for a person to argue his case before the Commissioner.
– Will you look at clause 17 which proposes to insert new section 49A? You will find that an appeal is mentioned in subclause (10).
– My understanding is that there is also this other requirement on the Commissioner that he give the applicant a chance to be heard. This is contained in the principal Act. I am unable to be of any further assistance. I have noted the point which Senator Cavanagh has made. I will examine the matter further. I am quite prepared to do so and to write to Senator Cavanagh with the results of the examination.
– I suggest that, rather than examining the matter further and then writing to me after the amendment becomes law, perhaps Senator Chaney could consider the matter now and find out whether there is any validity in or justification for what I say. It could well be that we should amend the clause before it becomes law. He could write afterwards if he gets some satisfaction from writing. I want to achieve something other than building up the correspondence file in my office. I think to clarify the situation I should point to proposed new section 49A (5) which states:
If the Commissioner is satisfied that a proposed amendment is an allowable amendment -
Sub-clause 6 contains the phrase ‘where the Commissioner is not satisfied’. The words ‘to the satisfaction of the Commissioner’ appear throughout the proposed new section. Sub-clause (10) refers to an appeal, but the question of appeal relates to whether the Commissioner was satisfied. That is the whole basis of what I am saying. It should not matter whether it was an allowable amendment or whether a petty patent would comply with the requirement of the Act. The appeal relates to whether the Commissioner was satisfied. I suggest that while Senator Chaney is prepared to look at this matter he might do so over dinner as it is past the normal time for the suspension of the sitting. As general business takes precedence tonight, he might let us know next Tuesday whether he and his officers have considered the point I have raised.
- Senator Cavanagh indicated that he had not been able to convince even his own Caucus on this point. I made the point to him that it was not unusual in an appeal situation -
– That is what I am complaining about.
– This is a matter on which the Act has been consistent, as I understand it, for some time. The Commissioner does have certain discretions. He cannot exercise those discretions unreasonably because appeal provisions protect people against the unreasonable exercise of the discretion. Someone has to make the decision. The Act provides that the Commissioner makes the decision. The protection to the citizen is that the Commissioner is not permitted to make that decision unreasonably.
– Where does it say that?
– The Commissioner is required to be satisfied, and the appeal would require him to show that he had reasonable grounds to make that decision. In that sense I do not believe that the appeal provision is peculiar or that it requires further examination.
– There is a contradiction here. I am sorry to have to take up this question. I thought I had elaborated the matter and made it clear. Senator Chaney thought that there were reasons for examination. He said that he would think it over and write to me. After my emphasising the importance and urgency of the matter, Senator Chaney finds that there is no need for more examination of it at present. The fact that the provision is in many Acts does not justify it being in this Act. The Commissioner, as an individual, has to make a decision. Proposed new Section 49A(1) states:
Where an application is made for the grant of a petty patent, the Commissioner shall consider the application and petty patent specification and, if he is satisfied that the application and petty patent specification comply with the requirements of this Act and that the grant of the petty patent is not able to be refused under section 155, he shall, subject to sub-section (2), accept the application.
Therefore if someone has the qualifications, if the patent complies with the specification and is not contrary to the Act and is not refused under sub-section (2) the patent should be granted.
Sitting suspended from 6.6 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business at 8p.m.
Report on Drug Problems in Australia
Debate resumed from 28 September 1978 on motion by Senator Peter Baume:
That the Senate take note of the report
– I recall that I am in continuation from 28 September last year.
– You have a good memory.
– I jogged my memory, senator.
– I am being complimentary to you.
-Thank you. That is unusual. I did not recognise the compliment. But you do me too much justice, senator, because I had to re-read my speech to find out where I was up to. While doing so 1 found several firsts. For example, Senator Georges agreed with me for the first time.
– I didn’t agree with anything you said.
-Yes you did, senator. It was on 28 September last year.
– It is a matter of record, is it? Great day! Great day!
- Senator Georges, you have not done that since except for yesterday when again you agreed with me. By way of interjection you said that we were the only people who at least had tried to look after the unemployed but the others had not tried at all.
- Mr Deputy President, I take a point of order. Obviously there has been a misunderstanding here. I know that if we look at the Standing Orders we will find that strictly this ought to be a matter -
-Yes, and therefore there is no point of order.
– No, it is a personal explanation.
– Well, I will take up the matter at the correct moment but Senator Walters is quite wrong.
-Senator Georges, if you read yesterday’s Hansard you will find that you said: ‘At least you tried to do something about it: The others didn’t try at all’.
– That means you.
-That is in the Hansard record and the interjection was addressed to me. However, as I say, yesterday was the first time since 28 September last year that Senator Georges agreed with me. But I did rather better on that occasion because, according to Senator Cavanagh, I also won him over. Senator Puplick, you probably will remember that on that occasion you said that I had not won you over. I also made the comment that I did not really anticipate that I ever could. Senator Mulvihill also agreed with me on that occasion so I really feel that I did pretty well.
– What is the debate about?
– If you had not arrived so late, Senator Georges, you would know what the debate was about.
– Look, you have ruined my next preselection prospects.
-Senator Georges, I will give you a recommendation for your preselection.
– That’s done it!
– It has. I am in enough trouble as it is.
-Senator Georges, do you really believe that I could pull the last straw? I would if I could, senator. I think, Mr Deputy President, that I should get back to the subject at hand. On 28 September I was in the process of reading the recommendations that our Senate Standing Committee had brought down in respect of analgesics.
– Oh, yes, of course; I do agree with you. Now we can get on with the debate.
– Thank you very much, senator. I had already read one recommendation by the Committee- that all analgesics, whether prescribed or not, carry a warning on the container. I said that we were not particularly happy about this. We felt that it was something we could do but we realised that such a warning had not really been successful in the case of cigarettes. Another of the recommendations was that all non-prescriptive analgesics in packets containing more than 25 tablets or 12 powders be available only from pharmacies. The next recommendation was that the Commonwealth Department of Health monitor consumer usage of and attitudes towards the proprietary medicines to measure the effects of the various intervention strategies.
On 25 May last year the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) brought down a statement on Parliamentary committee reports. I should like to read just a short part of that statement because it is very important to Senate standing committees. The Prime Minister said:
All honourable members will recognise that a great deal of most valuable work is done by committees of this Parliament. It is important that the reports of these committees, many of which reflect considerable thought, effort and often insight, receive full and careful attention by Ministers and by the Government. It is equally desirable that a procedure be established to make sure that Parliament is aware of the decisions which the Government takes in connection with such reports.
The Prime Minister then went on to say:
Henceforth, within six months of the tabling of a committee report, the responsible Minister will make a statement in the Parliament outlining the action the Government proposes to take in relation to the report. If the six-month period expires during a parliamentary recess, the ministerial statement will be made at the earliest opportunity in the next parliamentary sitting.
We know that our report was published in October 1978, well before the Prime Minister’s statement. But six months have elapsed since that statement was made and the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has sought an extension of time. It is a very complex report and I believe that at the moment it is being looked at by an interdepartmental committee. I also believe that recommendations will be going to Cabinet shortly. I sincerely hope that the recommendations of the Committee will be looked upon favourably. They are very important. I consider that the whole report has been very worth while. It has been an education not only to the Senate Standing Committee members but to the whole of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Use of Consultants by the Commonwealth Public Service
Debate resumed from 28 September 1978, on motion by Senator Lewis:
That the Senate takes note of the report.
-So that Senator Georges and other honourable senators know what we are talking about, we are dealing with the report from the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations on the use of consultants by the Commonwealth Public Service. It is a very short report. The Committee came to the conclusion that the use of consultants could be of benefit to rather than a burden on the public purse.
The Public Service has guidelines for the use of consultants by departments. Those guidelines have been tightened considerably in recent years. They have developed to the extent that, in the opinion of the Committee, if implemented, they should prevent the unnecessary expenditure of public funds. Those guidelines apply to all bodies staffed under the Public Service Act. The Committee recommended that statutory bodies which are not staffed under the Public Service
Act, and which therefore are not required to seek Public Service Board approval for the engagement of consultants, should use the guidelines as a useful model. To assist all the bodies in the use of those guidelines, the guidelines are set out in one of the appendices to the Committee report.
There has been a drop in the number of consultants employed in the Public Service in recent years. That is set out in appendix 6. Simply stated, in the period from the introduction of the current procedures on 18 September 1974 to December 1975, a total of 587 management and other consultants were used; whereas for the 6-month period of January to June 1977 only 68 were used. However, as I have said, the Committee took the opportunity of setting out all of the guidelines in its report thus making them readily accessible to those bodies that may need to refer to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 21 November 1 978, on motion by Senator Jessop:
That the Senate take note of the paper. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 21 November 1978, on motion by Senator Sheil:
That the Senate take note of the paper. Question resolved in the affirmative.
170th to 173rd Reports
Consideration resumed from 21 November 1 978, on motion by Senator Georges:
That the Senate take note of the papers. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Ethics in Wine Promotion
Debate resumed from 23 November 1978, on motion by Senator Melzer:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
– I feel at bit like Senator Georges -
– In what way?
– In that I am speaking on a subject without the benefit of my notes. Senator Georges often takes up time by talking about red kangaroos and all sorts of things while he waits for someone to come into the chamber.
– For whom are you waiting?
– I am waiting for Senator Melzer. The Australian Wine Board prepared a film which the Standing Committee on Social Welfare saw some 6 months ago. In producing the film the Board abused every section of the voluntary advertising code. The film that we saw was done in the form of a skit. I yield to Senator Melzer, who has just arrived in time to relieve me of my task of carrying on. I wish to thank her.
-In the spirit of camaraderie that prevails in the Senate tonight I ask: Whatever happened to the senator from Warrnambool? I rise to speak on the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare on ethics in wine promotion. Honourable senators may have forgotten that this matter came to light late last year when the attention of the Committee- which has a continuing role in the area of the use of drugs and which has said that alcohol is the drug that is most used in Australia and deserves much more attention than is given to it by the community, the government and the Parliament at times- was drawn to a film that the Australian Wine Board made to promote the consumption of wine in Australia. We were asked to look at it because, we were told, it contained specific inferences that people should drink wine whereas, our original report, entitled ‘Drug problems in Australia- an intoxicated society?’, had stated that people should not be put in the position of feeling that they had to drink wine. I remind the Senate that that report, which we brought down in 1977, in part recommended:
That the Commonwealth Government ban the advertising of alcoholic beverages, whether by way of corporate advertising or by exhibiting of the brand name of such beverages in a planned fashion, on radio and television and in areas under direct Commonwealth control, such as in the Territories and at airports.
It also recommended:
Thai, until a total ban has been implemented, the question of substantial compliance with the voluntary code for the advertising of alcoholic beverages by brewers, distillers, wine makers and all retailers of alcoholic beverages be reviewed annually.
That State Governments and local government authorities be encouraged to ban the advertising of alcoholic beverages.
Our whole feeling when we brought down that report was that, because of the danger to the community as a result of the increasing use of alcohol, the advertising of alcohol should stop. We were persuaded to the view that rather than immediately ban the advertising of alcohol we should implement such a ban slowly, if only because of the voluntary code that the entire industry was bringing into being. We were told by the industry that it could regulate itself through the voluntary codes that it was bringing down. We were persuaded to that point of view. We were told that the voluntary code that we were given was adhered to by the Media Council of Australia. I refer to the Voluntary Codes of Advertising Practice. That code did seem to us in many ways to cover the points we would like to have covered. It might not have gone as far as we might have liked but at least it did seem to take account of the fact that children, young people and the community in general should not be pressured into the use of alcohol.
We were told that the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations believed in self-regulation and had voluntarily agreed to self-regulation. We were advised that a code of alcohol advertising had been registered, or was about to be registered, with the Trade Practices Commission and that the industry saw the point that we had been trying to make and agreed to this self-regulation code. I repeat that from what we had been able to ascertain and had reported to the Senate, we felt that advertising should cease. However, we had been told by the industry generally that it understood the problems and that it would adhere voluntarily to a code.
In the light of all that, we saw this film which the Wine Board had produced. The Wine Board told us that as it was not an advertisement for wine it was not covered by any voluntary advertising code. We were told that it was not a feature film but that it was a documentary film. That was the spirit in which we saw the film. It is one of the worst films that I have ever seen. Apart from any standards as far as the advertising of alcohol is concerned, it is an appalling film. It is badly made. Its story line, if one could put it as high as calling it a story line, is very poor. It is a childish and rather stupid film. The Wine Board released it.
We were told that it was a documentary film about the wine industry. We saw it, and we were appalled by the standard of the film and appalled that the Wine Board should see this film as being anything other than a film designed to promote wine in the cheapest possible way. We were appalled that the Wine Board, which takes money from this Government, should see its role as being one of using government money to promote alcoholic beverages in that light. We reported to that effect. We tried to find out from the Censor the light in which he had seen the film. We got certain information from him. We reported to the Senate in all good faith that we felt that the film did not do anybody justiceneither the film industry nor the wine industry.
Then we found that we were the subject of rather crude comment by the newspapers and by the Wine Board itself. The Wine Board, in a publication called Wine Brief, insinuated that, in a rather heavy-handed way, in the role of people who promoted temperance and abstinence and the wowser influence in the community, we had gone out of our way to rubbish the film. Newspapers reported this as being evidence of our political interference in this field. I think it is time the record was set straight. It was not a matter of political interference at all. We saw the film. We thought it was bad. As far as we were able to ascertain it had no censorship rating. We rang the Film Censorship Board to inquire why it had not been given a rating. When we first inquired we were told that the film had never been submitted to the Board. That worried us a great deal. We were told that the Board would look at it then and there and give us a report.
The Board looked at the film and rated it NRC- not recommended for children. Frankly, I do not think it would do children any harm. It is so bad that the only harm it would do adults would be that they would be appalled by the fact that anybody could make such a bad film. We reported to the Senate to the effect that the Censor had rated the film NRC and that we thought this was not in the spirit of the report we had made to the Senate. We were then rubbished in every newspaper in Australia, because it turned out that the film had been rated by the Censor, under another title or a different number. When he first saw the film he had rated it G- suitable for general exhibition.
– Who had given us the misinformation?
– The Censorship Board gave us the misinformation.
– And also Mr Robert Mayne of the Wine Board.
– When we asked Mr Robert Mayne of the Wine Board about it, he said that the film did not need to go before the Censorship Board because it was not a feature film and it was not a trade film. He said that it was in some sort of category of films which did not need to go before the Censorship Board at all. That appalled us because that meant that a lot of films would not go before the Censorship
Board, just because the makers of the films said that they were not advertising films or that they were not feature films. Evidently the Censor would accept that sort of word and would then say to the makers: ‘Well, you do not have to go before the Censor at all’. This leaves a great opening for people to put out appalling films, putting up appalling points of view, without them ever having to go before the Censor.
We finished up in a situation where we had to raise with the Censor the fact that this was a film which said to the community: ‘Unless you drink wine you are not a really swinging, up-with-it member of the community’. That was the very point by which we said we were appalled in relation to the advertising of alcohol. If people drink alcohol, that is one thing; but for people to be told that they are not really modern, intelligent, proper members of society if they do not drink alcohol, we think, is appalling in a society whose members really drink far too much alcohol too often.
– Speak for yourself.
– Some of us drink far too much alcohol far too often. I will not speak for the other senators in this place. That was the situation in which we found ourselves. We were the bad boys because we had raised the matter and because nobody else had bothered to find out the facts. The Wine Board, through its national promotions manager, did not bother to find out the facts. It rubbished us as having engaged in some sort of heavy political interference to have the Censorship Board’s classification of the film changed. This was not so. We had asked for the facts. The Censorship Board had given us the wrong facts.
We were then left with the situation of having seen a film which had had its rating changed, only because we had brought the matter to the attention of the people concerned. One wonders about the Censorship Board when on the one hand it can rate a film G- suitable for general exhibition- and then, after it has had another look at the film, can rate it NRC- not recommended for children. It does not say much for the Board. Above all, in my opinion, it does not say much for the Wine Board either. We know that the growing of grapes is very much a part of Australian primary industry. That does not mean that the industry can, on the grounds that it has a great crop, push alcohol down everybody’s throat.
What worried us greatly in the report entitled Drug problems in Australia- an intoxicated Society?’ was the fact that in every area of Australia now it is accepted that the consumption of wine and alcohol is a must. Honourable senators will know that once when they went to a function they were not offered wine, or alcohol in any form, until after 5 o’clock in the evening. Now more and more of us find that we go to functions at 10 o’clock in the morning and along with the tea and coffee and chicken sandwiches we are offered a glass of wine, a glass of sherry or a beer. That does not happen only at functions we attend. It happens at all sorts of functions which all sorts of people attend.
While the Wine Board is allowed to use the money that it is given to promote wine in producing these tawdry films that appeal to the lowest possible denominator in the community and in all of us, I do not think we are doing ourselves any sort of service at all. We feel that the newspapers in this instance were irresponsible. They could have looked at the facts and not reported us as being wowsers who were trying to get on the bandwagon and to use whatever means we could to denigrate films- they said good films- which had been made about wine. They did not bother to look at the film or to make a judgment themselves. We think the industry is irresponsible because, although it told us that it was prepared to use self-regulation, as far as we can see it really has not done anything other than go all out and try to sell in any possible way that it can every bit of alcohol that it possibly can sell to the community. We do not think that the community is responsible because, when it gets down to it, if the community really saw alcohol as a problem and really wanted to solve the problem, it could do so.
There is a lot of talk about educating people in how to use alcohol and about the difficulties and the problems associated with alcohol. There is no point whatsoever in setting up educational programs in high schools, in primary schools or, as we are now told should happen, in kindergartens, if at the same time those children see their parents using on every possible occasion amounts of alcohol that can only be detrimental to their health and to their conduct and using alcohol as though they intend to go on drinking it forever. If the community is responsible it can identify the problem and deal with ii, but there is no point in talking about the problem until people take a responsible attitude towards it.
– I support a great deal of what Senator Melzer has said this evening. (Quorum formed). I was not a member of the Standing Committee on Social Welfare during its inquiry into drug abuse, but I joined the Committee in time to see the film to which Senator Melzer referred. I can only say that I was appalled at the film and the way it promoted the drinking of wine. Sex was involved. All sorts of vicious things happened. People were being mugged. It was certainly not the type of film I would want to be shown to adults, let along children. I was appalled also during the questioning of the witnesses who came before the Committee in relation to the film. I recall that during my early days in the Parliament there was a debate concerning the banning of advertising of cigarettes. That was a successful debate and legislation was introduced to ban the advertising of cigarettes. Cigarettes, according to doctors- one of my colleagues, Senator Baume, has often said this- are bad for the health. They can cause various diseases.
I believe that over-indulgence in alcohol has caused more deaths in this country than the smoking of cigarettes. Yet we allow the advertising of all kinds of alcoholic beverages. I make it quite clear that I am no teetotaller, I am no wowser. By the same token I do not believe in the advertising of alcohol, particularly wine, in the fashion in which it is being done. It is suggested to young people that to be with it today they have to drink white wine with one kind of food and red wine with another kind of food. The film showed a young man and woman sitting together drinking wine. It suggested that this would lead to better things later in the evening. Those kinds of films should not be shown without due respect and care for those of tender years. This kind of advertising is wrong. Something must be done about it. As I said, I certainly support the contribution made by Senator Melzer. The Government must look at this matter closely. If necessary we should ban this kind of advertising of alcoholic beverages particularly wine.
-For some reason no one had the courtesy of letting me know that I was to speak on the two previous reports. I placed those reports on the notice paper and should have spoken on them. I cannot speak on them now; they are matters of past record. Therefore I shall speak on this report. The report of the Standing Committee on Social Welfare on ethics in wine promotion is presently being debated in the Senate. I should have thought that it would have been a matter of considerable interest to the Senate, particularly to Senator Davidson. If I recall correctly he is strictly opposed to wine and similar commodities. I would have thought that he would have entered into the debate tonight. Instead he is on this side of the House engaged in conversation on another matter. I wonder whether I can inspire him to enter this debate and give us his well thought out and considered opinion on the matter of ethnics in wine promotion.
-Ethic, not ethnic.
– I am sorry. I am obsessed by the word ‘ethnic’. It is something I am reminded of from time to time as Senator Lajovic would appreciate. When I look at the letters ‘eth’ I see the letter ‘n’ following them. Nevertheless, the point I was making is valid. Perhaps Senator Davidson will be prepared to give us his considered- 1 used that word before but I repeat it- opinion on the subject. It seems to me that the purpose of this report was to highlight the fact that in the promotion of wine there has been a lack of understanding. The utmost restraint should be exercised. Another person from the Government side whom I would have thought would have been drawn into this debate is Senator Walters. Senator Walters had quite a lot to say on the drug problem in Australia.
– She is still recovering from your agreeing with her again.
-Yes. She said that on 30 September last year she and I reached a point of agreement. That seemed to be some sort of highlight in her life. There seemed to be a momentary understanding on our part. During the taking of evidence by the Standing Committee in its inquiry into the drug problem in Australia she read the minority report of a previous investigation.
– The drug question was six items ago.
-Nevertheless, when we are talking about wine we are talking about drugs. When we are talking about drugs we can refer to attitudes taken by other honourable senators in this place. My memory stretches back at least half an hour to what Senator Walters had to say. She said that drug abuse in this country is a serious problem. She spoke of the need to restrict the promotion of drugs, especially drugs of addiction, which include alcohol. Alcohol is a general term which covers wine and the ethics of wine promotion. Drug abuse seems to me to tie in sufficiently with this subject to allow me to refer to what Senator Walters said earlier. Senator Walters said that the promotion of drugs of addiction should not be encouraged. What this report says is that the ethical standard of wine promotion in particular, is seriously–
– At risk.
-At risk? No, it is the subject of considerable criticism. For that reason it was necessary for Senator Melzer to take this matter in hand and to place it on the Notice Paper so that it could be debated. It should be debated. The reason I am on my feet is that perhaps there is some unspoken criticism or some reflection on the fact that I was not here when the two previous items were dealt with. I do not want to disappoint anyone. I cannot speak about woodchips now and I also missed out on the debate on the Australian Trade Commissioner Service.
– We would never know the difference.
– Sometimes, senator, it is necessary for me to take a position in this place in order to assist the Government to fulfil its program. I am beginning to believe that is a rather false position for me to be taking. I am now reaching the position- I have been encouraged by Senator Cavanagh- where I think that I should not be in any way of any assistance to the Government. It is not my role as Opposition Whip- Senator Cavanagh is right about this- to assist the Government to maintain its program in this place. I should be sitting back and allowing the Government to get into an administrative mess, in fact a legislative mess. Whilst I am on my feet I apologise to Senator Cavanagh for being missing for the debate on the previous two matters. I also apologise to him for getting to my feet at odd times in order to bring about some sort of continuity in this place. Having made that clear, let me apologise also for the sudden call to attendance in this place. I do not think I have made it clear to everyone concerned that because of a sudden and unexpected crisis, which may have stranded many of us -
– But we put lights in those places.
– I know that one of my few achievements in this place- I will always go down in the records for this achievement- is that I was responsible for the installation of the flashing lights -
– In the toilets.
– In the toilets. I was not going to use that term. It resulted from a speech I made during the debate on the adjournment one night. I was not aware that in some way I was confusing the program but I am told that I am confusing it.
– There is confusion as to whether it should be a red light or a red hot probe.
-Perhaps there should be a telephone to the toilets- a hot line. I have said sufficient. I do not see why I should take up the time of the Senate. If the Government had been reasonable- I thought it would have been reasonable- it would have accepted the proposition that was put to it earlier: That because of some difficulties, which may strand many honourable senators in this place, the Senate should adjourn at 6 o’clock. It may have seemed as though we were succumbing to some pressure from outside influences to bring this place to a halt. The reality is that because of some industrial dispute many honourable senators may be stranded in this place for several days. Because of that situation, the Whips came to an understanding that we should rise; that we should allow honourable senators to go to their duties in their electorates and not be stranded in Canberra. For some reason or other, the Executive Government decided that that was not the thing to do. Here we are tonight, with diminished numbers, endeavouring to proceed with this debate and with me on my feet filling in time unnecessarily.
– That is a disadvantage. You are filling in time?
– Yes. I have been informed that it is no longer necessary for me to speak and that others now wish to take up the debate. For that reason I have nothing further to say.
– Hear, hear!
– I did not want to hear hear, hear! ‘, from the other side of the chamber. I take this opportunity to give a lesson to the Government over this matter. If the Government seeks co-operation from this side it will only obtain it on reasonable terms. If it is believed by honourable senators on this side of the chamber that I am coming to an unreasonable arrangement with the Government then that is a matter for discussion outside the chamber, not inside the chamber.
-Having heard Senator Georges’ contribution to this important debate, I am reminded of something that appeared as a quotation from Horace in the report which we are debating. It said:
No poems can please for long or live that are written by water drinkers.
In relation to Senator Georges’ contribution to the debate, I just wondered whether he was trying to prove some point about the need for cooperation not only in relation to the question of drinking wine or water but also a number of other things.
I would like to raise briefly my concern over reports such as this. When one reads the report it is hard to take exception with the careful details contained in it. But when one only reads a Press report indicating that a Senate committee has taken upon itself to say whether it is fair or not fair for the Wine Promotion Board to be trying to promote the consumption of wine and what the standards ought to be, I think that the Press is rather taking upon itself the role of my brother’s keeper. The consumption of alcohol and its effects in the community, which are well known, concerns me, as does the consumption of tobacco and nicotine and all the other things which society does because it wants to do them. Society usually knows the risks that are involved and, notwithstanding that knowledge, makes a conscious judgment that it will do them. Driving cars and killing ourselves at an incredible rate is but one example.
– And killing other people. That is where the libertarian ethic breaks down.
– That is the point I was going to make but Senator Peter Baume, the Chairman of the Committee, has made it for me. I would have thought that we should concentrate our attention far more on what is killing other people as a result of our choices than simply what is killing us as a result of our choices. That is where I disagree with the imposition of authoritarian attitudes in relation to the advertising of tobacco, wine, fast cars or whatever it may be that is dangerous to somebody if they mishandle it. We should start saying: ‘When are we going to do something about the people who are given a licence to murder on our roads? When are we really going to get down to the psychological testing of the fitness of people to be able to take in their own hands a missile with death written on it?’ That is what our roads are all about. When one starts to worry about whether the banning of an advertisement in relation to the consumption of wine or the advertising on television of cigarettes is going to make any difference -
– Tt. has not made any difference at all.
– It has.
– Perhaps I can butt in for a moment to the debate that is taking place across the chamber and say that what it has done is to help cricket because the sponsorship of cricket has become far more obvious now. The Benson and Hedges organisation has made that very clear.
The sponsorship of other well televised public sporting events, such as golf, has become the advertising medium for the tobacco companies.
– For the time being.
– For the time being.
– Have a Winfield.
– When the honourable senator who is known as ‘feathers’ starts flapping about having a Winfield I wonder whether he is talking about having a ‘win’, a ‘field’ or some combination in between and what he is cackling about. Returning to the subject matter, I am concerned that we will become authoritarian if we are not careful, even if we act with the best of motives. I am concerned that we will start to adopt the role of our brother’s keeper. I am concerned that, instead of being a society that is organising itself to prevent people from harming others by positive acts against the will of the other person, we will start to say: ‘Thou shalt not because it may have an effect’.
I would find it hard to believe that the debate in relation to the consumption of alcohol could be regarded as novel in the whole history of humanity. I think of the role of wine in the whole of Greek mythology. Classical Greece was one of the great societies with which we on this earth have been blessed.
– A slave society.
– A society of its time. I will be happy to debate with Senator Tate the details of what was imperfect about it as well as what was good. I would rather feel that classical Greece advanced civilisation notwithstanding its shortcomings. Certainly there was no suggestion that it would ban advertising of the consumption of wine. In fact, a lot of the Greek gods seemed to have the whole of their mythology based around the consumption of wine.
– And other activities.
– I was not trying to be limiting in my identification of what was important to them. The point I wish to make is that that society grew and developed to such an extent that it made a major contribution to what has been described as one of the four ages of civilisation of the world and there was a very substantial emphasis within that society upon the consumption of wine. I do not think it could ever be claimed that the consumption of wine destroyed that society. I do not think it could be said that it destroyed any of the other great civilisations. I do not think it can be said that it will destroy ours. What can destroy ours is the failure to adopt one of the other rather famous Greek mottoes of moderation in all things, self-moderation. Surely what we ought to be trying to achieve in our society is a situation in which the people judge for themselves what is moderation and what is excess.
– Is advertising directed to that?
– I would have thought that that was one of the dilemmas of our society. I would hope that our education system, with the total development of our society, can proceed along the lines that people will be able to withstand advertising, interpret advertising, receive advertising and not be destroyed by advertising. If we cannot, the banning of one single thing or another will not achieve the results which may be desired. I think we are making a mistake in picking out one or two things and saying ‘let us ban tobacco advertising’ or ‘let us ban or control the advertising of alcohol’ instead of saying ‘let us educate the community so that it can interpret and digest the sort of pressures which have come from the technological media’, in the same way as people in ancient Greece were able to withstand that which was the living, lasting communication system of that day, that is the paintings, carvings and what have you, most of which depicted the use of a number of things which are now regarded as bad.
-What happened to them?
– I said that they were members of one of the more lasting and most contributory civilisations that have existed in the whole history of mankind. I do not accept that it was wine, tobacco or anything else that destroyed them. I think there were other events. I said that moderation in all things was also a Greek motto, which may well be observed by a large cross section of the community.
– Is there any evidence that education has produced any effect whatsoever and is the answer?
- Senator Walters asks whether there is any evidence that education has produced any answer at all. If that requires debating then let me simply say to those who do not believe it can achieve: Let us cut $2 ,200m off the deficit immediately by cutting out expenditure on education. If it has failed it is because of the mode of delivery and the message, not because education cannot achieve. I am not suggesting that our current education system is providing the answer; but I am suggesting that we stop thinking about repressive measures and start thinking about education measures as an approach to our problem.
In conclusion, I was fascinated by a book which was sent to us all a little while ago by a doctor in New South Wales who says that smoking is good for you. I know that lots of people would not agree with him. But I thought the point he made about the use of statistics was rather good. He made the point that so often statistics can be conveniently used and that really one could show that the progression in the rate of lung cancer in the United States equated with the increase in the consumption of cigarettes, but it also equated with the increase in the number of Toyota or Japanese cars and that, if you like to graph them both out, you could prove equally that it was caused either by the consumption of cigarettes or the increase in the number of Toyota or Japanese cars.
– And the testing of nuclear weapons was the other point.
– Thank you. The point is that one must be very careful about jumping to conclusions.
– There is not a lot of nicotine in Toyotas.
– No, but there are a lot of deaths in them. I do not select them as being a dangerous car but a very large number of people die in motor vehicles as well as at the end of a cigarette. I would ask the Senate, whilst expressing its concern about what is happening to our society, not to think that repressive measures provide an answer. Let us not think that if we ban the advertising on television of tobacco, wine or fast cars that we provide an answer to any social problem that is causing death and misery in our society. I do not disagree with this report in its detail but I do think it needs to be seen in a context in which there was greater emphasis on the education of our society so that people can make well informed individual choices and less emphasis on repressing some activity in our society.
– If there are no other speakers I shall respond to close the debate. I listened with great interest, particularly to Senator Rae and the other honourable senators who joined in this debate. I thank Senator Rae for his contribution and his discussion about the dangers in banning advertising. The Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare report which we are discussing has said nothing at all about banning advertising. Whatever this report is about, it is not about banning the advertising of anything. I am grateful to the honourable senator for remaining to listen. This report made three recommendations only. The first recommendation was that the Commonwealth Government develop guidelines to cover the production by its department and statutory authorities of promotional material. That is not about banning advertising. The honourable senator reminds me that he may have been misunderstood. The second recommendation was that the Australian Wine Board, as an interim measure, and of its own volition, accept one of the voluntary codes for the advertising of alcoholic drinks. What has that got to do with banning? We have invited the Wine Board to go to the voluntary codes which existsthere are several of them- to examine them, to make its own choice and to adopt one of those codes as the standard by which it will produce its promotional material. What has that got to do with banning anything? The fact that this Committee made some recommendations in another report at another time about the banning of advertising has nothing to do with the report before us tonight. This report before us tonight expresses our concern that the Commonwealth of Australia funds statutory authorities which adopt no standards whatsoever in their promotional activities, and which do not adhere to or recognise any of the voluntary codes. I could not think of a more reasonable proposition to put to the Wine Board or to the Senate.
Senator Rae raised some very important points in relation to the use of drugs which have to be discussed before we close this debate. First of all the use of tobacco is changing in different age cohorts. If the community is divided into different cohorts it will be discovered that the use of tobacco is dropping in every cohort and in every age group except for the very young, the teenagers, where the use of tobacco is increasing. I am reminded that it is increasing at a fast rate. But use is dropping in the older age groups. The problem we have in this country at the present time is a specific one in relation to tobacco usage. There has been a positive educational effect upon those who feel mortality creeping upon them, and there has been simultaneously an increasing recruitment to tobacco use by those who are in their teens and who believe they are invincible.
– And younger.
-And who are younger. The issue concerning tobacco use in this country today is the seduction of infants into the use of an addictive drug before they have reached an age where they can make mature judgments.
– How do they do that?
– Amatil Ltd, one of the tobacco companies, came before the Senate Committee and asserted that the decision to smoke was one for mature people. That was its assertion in sworn evidence. The company said that it was a decision to be taken by mature people. How do they tie that in with the emerging statistical evidence that shows that the people who are being recruited are aged between 10 and 13 years?
– What happens in Russia where they have never had advertising?
-Senator Jessop is not listening to the argument because I am sure the honourable senator would be one of the first to agree with the evidence which shows that it is the young teenagers in Australia who are being recruited. When looking at advertising we have to decide whether the Hogan image, the Marlboro man, and the various advertising techniques are playing any role in enhancing that seduction of minors into using a product which the law of most States does not permit to be sold to minors.
I assert, as a person who for some 10 years was director of the family advertising agency, that we thought we were in business to increase markets. That is what we told our clients. When we went out to get an account we said that we would help increase the market. Of course, we had the other objective which was to increase our market share, but it was our belief as an agency that we would increase markets. I believe it is absolute hogwash for the advertising industry and its apologists to come before us and to say that they are not interested in increasing markets and in recruiting people into the use of those products. Of course they are. If anyone saw a very famous advertising man who appeared on Monday Conference a year ago, they will remember that he acknowledged- he did not dodge the question-that advertising companies were out to increase the number of users of their products, to increase the market, for example, the use of drugs.
The purchase of tobacco by people under the age of 16 is illegal in New South Wales. I believe it is illegal in Victoria. If the advertising industry is directing any of its efforts towards that market in those states it is illegally advertising the use of a product to a group of people. We cannot run away from this issue and the advertising industry will not get away by simply asserting, as is Mr Clemenger at the present time on behalf of the industry, that what is legal should be freely advertisable. Everywhere such people go they are saying that that is their right; that whatever is legal is freely advertisable. What nonsense. Many honourable senators will have seen an excellent rejoinder by Mr Alex Dumas, who is the managing director of Spasm Advertising. He wrote an outstanding article in which the demolished the argument of Mr Clemenger and of the industry. What legal right is there to advertise firearms? Yet the sale of firearms is perfectly legal. Honourable senators might recall that in my profession of medicine it is not legal to advertise our services or the products which we sell perfectly legally.
– They have the same effect as rifles.
-Thank you very much, senator. Mr Clemenger ‘s assertion of a right that does not exist is nothing more than a self-serving claim or special-interest pleading by a profession which has shown itself as unwilling to face up to its responsibilities. I will come back to the Senate some time during this session with a carefully prepared answer to Mr Clemenger ‘s statement because I believe it is an insidious and dangerous claim. He has said that what is legal to sell should be freely advertisable. That sounds attractive but it is just not so.
Senator Rae drew attention to his very legitimate concern that we should not attempt to become a nation which wants to control what other people do. Let us examine the libertarian ethic. Let us examine what John Stuart Mill might have said, and let us do it in relation to cigarette smoking and alcohol usage. For the purposes of the argument let us ignore any question of whether passive smoking will harm me. When someone else is smoking is it going to harm me? For example, if the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) is having one of his infrequent cigarettes and I inhale the smoke, let us ignore any effect that that smoke might have on me. The effect of cigarette smoking in that model is felt entirely by the user. It is the person who smokes who suffers the damage. In those circumstances, provided that the decision to smoke is made by a mature person, I have no real concern about whether he smokes or does not smoke.
– Who pays for his health care?
– I believe that the product should be taxed at a sufficient level to cover society for the cost incurred. However, in libertarian terms it is the person’s decision and he bears the consequences. My main concern about smoking in this country is that the tobacco companies are deliberately, cynically and continuously trying to develop a juvenile market which, on their own admission, consists of a group of people who are unable to make thenown mature decisions. They told us in evidence that it should be a mature decision.
Alcohol, on the other hand, is a different matter because the effects of alcohol and other drugs are felt not just by the individual but also by those around him. In terms that John Stuart Mill would have used, we as a society have a legitimate interest in what the effects of that drug use are and where it leads. I say to my colleague Senator Rae that his argument is only partly correct. He is quite right to admonish us against state paternalism. He is quite right to warn us about the dangers of moral absolutism. We on the Senate Committee are quite careful in what we produce to avoid anything that could leave us open to a charge of either of those things.
– He is also right when he says something about education.
-The honourable senator has made some statements about education. Unlike the honourable senator, we have studied this matter and actually we have some facts rather than some slogans and some beliefs. The fact is that most people who have studied the behavioural effects of drug education have found either no effect or an effect opposite to the one they want. In other words, drug education put into many areas increases the use of drugs. What that says is not that education is no good but that we have not yet learned the right kind of educational techniques or application to cope with the problem. It also means that the battle is not equal. The advertising industry puts tens of millions of dollars into increasing the use of drugs, but minuscule amounts are put into any efforts, whether they be educational or anti-drug use programs, designed to have the opposite effect.
The Committee in its report has objected to the quality and the content of a particular form of promotion by a particular Commonwealth authority. This is not a blanket condemnation of promotion. It is not a suggestion that the Commonwealth authority should not engage in promotion. However, it is a plea that the authority at least adopt one of the voluntary codes. It should know that the voluntary codes are promoted by the industry as the best protection against governments coming in and regulating what the industry does. The advertising industry must understand that if it will not accept its responsibilities, if it will not voluntarily regulate what it does, it increases the pressures for government to do something. It is perfectly proper for a committee to ask the Australian Wine Board to join the game, to have some interest in one of the voluntary codes, to accept what it puts up. We have not been on tonight about banning advertising. We have not been on tonight about banning anything. Whilst I thank honourable senators for noting the report, I would not want them attributing to the Senate Committee views or conclusions that we did not offer, or a line of thought that we are not necessarily following in this report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 23 November 1978, on motion by Senator Davidson:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– The report introduced by the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts entitled ‘Children and Television’ tries to come to grips in large measure with a recent phenomenon that is shaping society in a way substantially different from the way in which societies have developed in the past. It is probably true to say that at almost no other time in the evolution of human society has there existed quite such a pervasive method of influencing people which is as completely distributed throughout the community as the television set is in Australia.
On 20 February this year, in answer to question on notice in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) provided some information covering approximately 120 countries around the world. He set out the details of the number of radio sets or licences and the number of television sets or licences in each of the countries and the number of television sets per 100 inhabitants of those countries. In themselves, those figures are most revealing. They show that, in the United States of America, for every 100 people in the population 55.2 have a television set. When one goes to the next highest country on that list of more than 120 countries one finds it is the figure given for Australia at 35.2 sets per 100 inhabitants. This compares with figures of 24.3 for Japan, 27.1 for New Zealand, 32.1 for the United Kingdom and 34.8 for Canada. It can therefore be seen that the television set, as a means of communication and thereby as a means of influencing both development and behaviour, is so widespread throughout the Australian community that only the United States may be said to be in a worse position- and I use that term advisedly.
Undoubtedly it would come as a surprise to many honourable senators to see the statistics given in the Committee’s report indicating that more than 20 per cent of Australian children watch more than 30 hours of television a week. Apart from the effect that this has in terms of taking up time in which children could be engaged in other pursuits, be they sporting, cultural, recreational, social or educative pursuits, it can be seen that for a very large section of the young community of Australia television is about the most important thing in their lives. It is quite some years now since Marshall McLuhan’s work first came to public attention; yet that work made it quite clear to anybody who was prepared to read and study it and to absorb McLuhan’s conclusions that it was about time social planners and people interested in education and similar pursuits paid attention to the actual means by which information was communicated instead of paying attention just to the type of information communicated.
It is interesting now to reflect on the report of the royal commission into television in Australia in 1953. In its report to the Parliament it said:
The objective of all television stations from the outset must be to provide programs that will have the effect of raising standards of public taste.
One would have thought that raising the standards of public taste was about the last thing that Australian television stations have actually done and about the lowest thing on the agenda of the television stations, particularly the commercial stations, in terms of what they are trying to do. We know that raising the standard of public taste, or indeed providing quality education, is something that can be done through the medium of television. One does not need to go into considerable detail about the role of the British Broadcasting Commission, for instance, or to indicate the quality and nature of BBC programs that appear on television in Australia- programs such as The Ascent of Man, in which Dr Bronowski took a most fascinating intellectual journey through human history. He presented the program to a viewing audience in a fashion which was both comprehensible and interesting. Nor should it be thought that television stations in Australia are incapable of doing the same. I have no doubt that the production of programs such as In The Wild has done more to bring about the real education of Australian children and adults about the country in which they live than just about any other undertaking.
Part of the phenomenon of being young these days is that one gets almost all of one ‘s contact with nature and almost all of one’s understanding, comprehension or vision of one’s own country not by the personal experience of going out into the bush or by travelling but by the surrogate personal experience of sitting in front of a television set. To a large extent this has resulted from what I believe is abdication of parental responsibility for the behaviour of children. It simply cannot be held that the children themselves, without any involvement by parental authority, are turning on the television set and choosing what they will watch and when they will watch it.
I recall a remark, I think it was made by Senator Button, when this report was first introduced, that one of the things that he had done was to get rid of the television set or limit the access to the television set which his children watched.
– Just watch Match of the Day.
-That in itself undoubtedly would be a considerable improvement on some of the funny things we in Sydney have to suffer broadcast secondhand from Victoria. The report itself draws attention to this behaviour of parental authorities by quoting evidence from the United States in which a committee responsible for producing a report entitled ‘Television and Growing Up: The Impact of Televised Violence’ reported as follows:
Parents usually exert little influence over their children’s viewing. Our data indicate that in an overwhelming majority of families, the children control the use of the television set through early evening. Indeed, one study reports that parents often ask advice from their children when they select early evening programs.
If parental authorities are going to abdicate not only the responsibility but also the choice in this matter, not so much to their children but to the people who decide what will be shown on the television screens, we will reach a situation in which anybody attempting to play a legitimate role in shaping the moral code, the ethical values or even the educational framework of children is abdicating that responsibility to some total stranger in the programing departments of the television stations. To that extent the gulf that may exist between children and parents- the socalled generation gap which may be growing at an even faster rate as children’s knowledge expands these days- is in part encouraged by the fact that parental authorities have done nothing to prevent it from occurring.
One of the many important recommendations in the Senate Committee report relates to the creation of patterns of unrealistic lifestyle which the television seeks to encourage. It is certainly true that if one were to observe over a prolonged period the nature of social relationships, the nature of physical relationships and the nature of sheer physical conditions of living in which most of these television soap operas and most of the television programs tend to be shown, one would get without doubt the most unrealistic picture of life in the United States, Great Britain, Australia or anywhere else. It is certainly true that television is better able to recreate the realistic lifestyle of bygone eras whether it happens to be the recreation by the BBC of a program such as Elizabeth R or the re-creation in Australia of the lifestyle and more apparent in an excellent program such as The Sullivans, but in terms of dealing with contemporary matters and conditions of life the television without doubt gives a most unrealistic portrayal. I believe that in shaping false expectations and perceptions television, in fact, is playing its part in ensuring that young people, impressionable people, when sent out into the world at large are incapable of adjusting to a situation that they had no idea really existed. Instead of finding the Utopia out there they find a world with all of its cruelties and harshness. They are as ill-prepared for it as if they had been brought up in a monastery.
Perhaps the most important single aspect of the Senate Committee report is the way in which it deals with the promotion- and indeed it is the promotion- of violence on the television. This problem has been known to researchers for a considerable period. In 1964, Berkowitz a very eminent American psychologist, published a series of detailed articles in the Scientific American dealing with the effect of television and film violence on the development of young people. This matter has been taken further and updated considerably in the Committee’s report. Paragraph 5.28 of the Committee’s report states that a survey undertaken in Canada came up with these conclusions:
We can conclude on the basis of the present data cumulation that television, as it is shown today, probably does stimulate a higher amount of aggression in individuals within society.
It is no wonder. For instance, a letter appeared in a recent edition of, I think, TV Week relating to one of the more hideous programs on Australian television at the moment called Cop Shop. The viewer wrote in and complained that there was too much sex in Cop Shop. The letter said, in effect: ‘Why don’t we see a bit more police violence?’. This viewer has written to a television magazine and the magazine has published the letter which complains that there is not enough realistic violence on the shows produced on Australian television. That in itself is a serious problem which needs to be faced. I believe that the recommendations, particularly those for the adoption of an industry code and self-regulation, show that this Committee has faced up to the problem very squarely and with a considerable amount of courage. It is not enough simply to say that watching television gives people square eyes. There is in fact even a postulate advanced by the Emerys that the effect of television is far more serious. I quote from paragraph 5.74 of the Committee ‘s report:
In essence, the Emerys postulate that by its very nature, the television signal produces a temporary numbing of the left hemisphere of the brain which is the perceptive or thought processing function -
It seems to me that there are some honourable senators here whose left hemisphere is somewhat depressed this evening.
– It depends on whether they are right-handed or left-handed.
-It depends which way they are watching television. The quote continues: . . thus allowing other parts of the brain to dominate. In other words, television viewing induces a passivity or mental torpor in the viewer which leads to an impaired capacity to process and remember information thus limiting the medium’s educative ability to familiarise the viewer with something but not to inform him about things.
Part of the problem that is faced in the development of Austraiian television at the moment is the question with which I am sure most honourable senators are familiar. I refer to the way in which the rating system operates. Many honourable senators will have seen correspondence from the Australian Association of National Advertisers which relates to the way in which television executives and television stations in general manipulate the nature of television programs so as to produce attractive quality on high rating programs during particular periods of the year in order lo demonstrate that their ratings are up and therefore their capacity to attract advertising is greater. During the remainder of the year they abdicate any responsibility for attempting to provide quality programs on television.
It is certainly true that major changes are taking place in the viewing habits of the public, not only in Australia but in many comparable countries. Who, for instance a couple of years ago would have been prepared to concede the point that a television show produced for children in which animated glove puppets singing and dancing and mixed with a variety of live guest stars- of course the program to which I refer is The Muppet Show- would attract worldwide audiences larger than audiences for any other undertaking ever produced on the public media? It is a strange world in which Miss Piggy and Kermit are probably better known than the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen).
The report goes on at some considerable length to indicate the need for more constructive research to be undertaken in any number of areas relating to the television industry- not only the nature of programs, not only the viewing habits that are connected with those programs, but also the effect of television, the effect of television violence, and the effect of excessive exploitation of sex on television. I believe there comes a point where, if the Federal Government believes that its control of the airways is absolute- it has asserted this since the start of broadcasting in Australia by issuing licences, by denying other people the right to broadcast, or to broadcast on particular frequencies, or to broadcast at a particular time- then surely it bears the responsibility of providing people with accurate information about the effect on the rest of the community of the way in which the airways are being used. To the extent that this report urges that there must be greater expenditure and that there must be greater attention given to the question of research, it is one that the Government should take with particular seriousness. Undoubtedly this report will be one to which the Government, in the course of the next six months, will make some reply.
I turn briefly to the question of programming for children. It is not simply because this is the International Year of the Child that this matter requires our attention: It is because in the whole development of television, and, in particular, in the hearings that have been conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, people in the community have expressed a greater degree of concern about children’s television than they have about anything else. Those who followed the proceedings of the Tribunal in Adelaide would have seen the extent to which that was a dominating factor. Those who have seen the attempts of certain members of the Broadcasting Tribunal to prevent similar submissions being made to the Sydney hearings, and the way in which the Tribunal has now decided that it will accept those submissions, will also be impressed with the number and the quality of the submissions relating to children’s television. In paragraph 3.14 of the Committee’s report there is a quotation from Mr R. Casey, the general manager of Channel 7 in Melbourne. He told the Committee:
Quite frankly, it would be reasonable to say that the industry was surprised at the great accent which emerged throughout Australia through the (ABT) hearings. There was so much discussion about children’s television. We thought there would be a lot of discussion about many things but there is no doubt that children’s television developed as the central issue of that inquiry.
I believe that the Committee, in coming to its conclusions, has paid particular attention to the need for more research in this area and to the need for the development of better programs in this area. It has for instance, suggested that there be no transmission of programs between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. on weekdays during school terms and that the Broadcasting Tribunal take the necessary action to implement this recommendation. It has recommended that at least 30 minutes of kindergarten programming be shown by commercial stations on each weekday. The Committee has made recommendations about the classification of programs to be shown on television. It has made recommendations about the employment and the use of children on television and it has made particular recommendations that the Government establish an independent children’s television program production unit. It has recommended that there be no advertising of any form during the screening of programs designed for pre-school children. This goes very much to the heart of the discussion that Senator Baume and other honourable senators had on the previous report. It is quite clear that commercial interests in Australia are using the medium of television in order to have an influence on the way in which young children, pre-school children, react to the sale of products, and to influence them to bring pressure to bear on their mothers in the supermarkets. They also have an influence on the demands which are artificially created in the minds of young children about what commercial products they demand that they should have. The recommendation about advertising in this regard is one which, as I say, the Senate has already heard discussed in another context this evening.
It seems to me that a large number of other matters arise out of this report. There are many other areas in this report that I would have liked to discuss in greater detail but which I am not able to do because of the relatively short notice given as regards this matter. I know that Senator Ryan and other honourable senators equally would want to participate in this particularly important debate. I would not like to see the report disappear from the Notice Paper and therefore, Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Reports on Scrutiny of Bills, and Delegation of Parliamentary Authority
Debate resumed from 23 November 1978, on motion by Senator Missen:
That the Senate take note of the reports.
-The reports in question were tabled in this chamber on 23 November last. On that occasion it was indicated to the Senate that the reports were aimed at tackling a series of problems which have beset the procedures of this place and this Parliament as a whole over the years and which have not really been satisfactorily resolved. The basic problem with which each report sought to deal was the way- regrettably it has been an all too common feature of our proceedings- in which Bills that come into the Parliament contain provisions which impinge in various ways upon the rights and liberties of the subject or, on the other hand, have the characteristic of amounting to a potentially excessive and unreasonable or inappropriate delegation of Parliament’s authority. The particular problems in this respect that have been a feature of our legislative process are explained at some length in the reports. They were mentioned at some length in the comments of Senator Missen when introducing the reports and by me in speaking to them.
Let me simply remind the Senate of the solutions to these problems proposed in the reports in question. The solution that is proposed by each of the reports in issue- the Scrutiny of Bills and the Delegation of Parliamentary Authority- is the same. It is the creation of a joint committee of this Parliament to be titled, we hope, the ‘Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Bills’. The function of the committee would be to scrutinise Bills and report to Parliament about whether the text thereof, expressly or otherwise, did one of three things: First, trespassed unduly on personal rights and liberties; secondly, made rights, liberties and obligations unduly dependent upon insufficiently-denned administrative powers, or non-reviewable administrative decisions; or, thirdly, inappropriately delegated legislative powers or insufficiently subjected its exercise to parliamentary scrutiny.
I remind the Senate also that the proposed joint committee would include four members of the House of Representatives and four members of the Senate. The proposed procedure would be that whenever a Bill was introduced in either House of the Parliament the committee would examine the terms of the legislation to see whether they conflicted with any of these three enunciated criteria- that is, any of the interests that the committee would be designed to safeguard.
We recommend that the Standing Orders be changed so as to require a minimum delay of four sitting days between the introduction of a Bill and its passage. Of course, during that period the Committee would be expected to sit and to exercise its particular watchdog function, then report its findings to both Houses. In order to cope with the problem, which can arise from time to time, of” the need for emergency legislation, it was proposed that the Government still be able to pass legislation within that four-day period, but in order to do so be obliged to suspend Standing Orders. Also the committee would still have the power, after the legislation had been passed, to report, possibly adversely, on its terms. This would at least allow the Parliament an opportunity to come back and demand, after the event, that certain remedial action be taken.
The Committee acknowledged that there were occasions when the Government, in the course of advancing some carefully thought out policy objective, would need consciously and deliberately to seek to pass a measure which, on the face of it, infringed one or other of these criteria. It may often be the case that when a government is set upon such a course that will be clear enough on the face of the legislation and the policy aspects of the legislation in that respect will be as a result the subject of extensive parliamentary debate. But that is not the particular kind of situation to which this proposed procedure is directed primarily. It is directed primarily at legislation which infringes these criteria in ways that are not obvious on the surface and tend not to be picked up. As I said earlier, all too often regrettably that is the case in the rather rushed circumstances in which we tend for the most part to go about our business. It is to ensure that there will be a residual safeguard- a watchdog or back-up mechanism to protect these fundamental parliamentary and community interests- that we are proposing the establishment of the committee.
Having spoken at length previously on the subject, and not wishing to delay proceedings unduly by repeating myself, let me say simply that since the tabling of this report its virtues have received a considerable degree of editorial attention in the media. There has been some discussion of it in major feature articles in the Press. I refer in particular to an extensive article along these lines by David Solomon in the Age of 15 December. The report has been received with quite a degree of enthusiasm in the world at large. I hope that that enthusiasm will be repeated in this chamber, indeed in the Parliament as a whole and where it matters most- in the bosom of the Government.
It is important to make just one final point in answer to those, perhaps now thankfully few, Senate chauvinists in our midst who may be tempted to take the view that there is something inappropriate about recommending a parliamentary review body of a joint rather than of a one-chamber kind. One does hear from the lips of some such people suggestions that it is the Senate which is, and ought to be, the chamber of review in this Parliament and that it is somehow an abdication of that function for the Senate to share the review process- even if it is acknowledged as highly desirable that there should be an innovative review process of the kind that is involved in this legislation. It is said by some to be undesirable that that function should be shared. I do not believe that that is a veiw that will commend itself to most honourable senators. I certainly hope that it is not one that ultimately will prevail.
It ought to be a matter of maturity for us to appreciate and squarely acknowledge that what matters when one is talking about the reviewing of legislation, by reference to criteria such as these, is not the power or prerogatives of one chamber vis-a-vis another. What ought to be treated as mattering most is simply whether it amounts to an improvement in the legislative process as a whole. My suggestion is that the procedure contemplated in these reports which the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs have brought down, one that is quite innovative, not in existence to our knowledge anywhere else in the Westminster parliamentary world, will add a great deal to the quality of our legislative process. It is on that basis that I commend it to the Senate.
– During the recess I read the reports and would commend the consideration that has been given to them. The conclusion is that we should have a joint standing committee to supervise legislation which goes through this House, such committee to have outside legal assistance. I support the conclusions of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs except those which relate to the appointment of a joint parliamentary committee. I do not think that such a committee would be suitable. The Senate, as a House of review, has the responsibility to pick out the defects in legislation. I have never seen a report that expressed with such a degree of regret the failure of politicians to carry out their duties or their lack of courage, when faults were found in legislation, to correct those faults without legal assistance. I shall give an illustration which will make that assertion more plain.
We have followed a system of building up committees to which everyone is overcommitted. Although they bring down valuable reports those reports are pigeon-holed and nothing is done about them. The result is that legislation which we are appointed to scrutinise so that is meets the requirements of the citizen lacks scrutiny by politicians because they are too busily engaged in other activities. Therefore, some outside assistance is sought to perform the duties which politicians today do no carry out. Recognising that this is a fact of life, and rather than see a continuance of the way in which legislation is passed at present, I would support the proposed committee. It can be shown, as it has been at times, that certain legislation does not meet the requirements of human rights and civil liberties- the rights of individuals generally. But because the attention of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee is drawn to such shortcomings by outside legal advisers there is no such deprivation of rights passing through as a regulation. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee would ensure that that did not happen. However, such breaches of human rights slip through in legislation simply because we have not the benefit of outside counsel. In its absence, we have not the courage to reject legislation that is brought before us by trained draftsmen. Therefore, if we had a committee which was advised by outside legal counsel who could point out the defects, we would then be in a position to reject the legislation. I illustrate this point by saying that for a long time I have been picking out defects in some legislation and bringing them to the attention of the Committee of the Whole. I have rarely succeeded in getting legislation altered because it is a Minister’s draft Bill which is presented and we do not alter that.
– You would be aware, Senator, of the style of the House of Westminster where many amendments are accepted. Do you not think that perhaps we are being a little immature in our approach, with the Executive never accepting amendments?
– I definitely think we are and I think it should accept amendments. Let us take the illustration of a Bill being agreed to by the whole of the Senate. I am pleased that Senator Chaney is the Minister in the chamber at the present time because we will see the relevance of this to the point I was asking this afternoon. The Karen Green case has become an important one to me. Karen Green thought she had an entitlement to the unemployment benefit.
– It is Donoghue v. Stevenson. She is a bad example.
– Let us see whether she is a bad example. She thought she had an entitlement but it was refused by the DirectorGeneral of the Department of Social Security. She made application to the court, and the judgment of the court was, in effect, that the DirectorGeneral had no justification for treating in globo a whole group of applications, and that he had to judge each case on its merits. Let us see what arises out of the criticism of that decision. Senator Guilfoyle, the Minister for Social Security, when challenged on an urgency motion, replied by criticising the number of people in the Opposition who were saying that the Government was acting illegally in not paying Karen Green. She pointed out very definitely that there was nothing illegal in the Department’s attitude to Karen Green. In the Hansard of 25 May 1977 she is reported as saying:
The persons who represented Karen Green sought an order from the High Court in December 1976 to the effect that Karen Green was entitled to the unemployment benefit throughout the period from 27 December 1976 to 22 February 1977, that the benefit had been wrongfully denied her, and that she was entitled to an order from the court accordingly.
I want to state carefully some of the matters that were raised in the judgment, it is not my intention to quote selectively from the judgment because I have already incorporated the total text of the judgment in Hansard. In his judgment Mr Justice Stephen restated the provisions of section 107 of the Social Services Act. That section of the Act provides that a person who -
. . .
satisfies the Director-General that he is likely to remain permanently in Australia; and satisfies the Director-General that he is unemployed, that his unemployment is not of his own making and that he is capable of taking a position. They are the pertinent considerations. Senator Guilfoyle went on to point out:
In his judgment Mr Justice Stephen makes the comment that paragraph (c)- that one which talks of the satisfaction of the Director-General- is not directly concerned with factual circumstances but rather with the state of mind of the Director-General.
Therefore it does not matter if you can establish a case- that you are unemployed, that you do intend to remain permanently in Australia, that your unemployment is not due to your own action, or that you are prepared and capable of taking a job- according to the judgment of Mr Justice Stephen, this does not mean that you are entitled to the unemployment benefit.
– No, that is a misconception.
– Well, let us see. I am quoting the words of Senator Guilfoyle:
In his judgment Mr Justice Stephen makes the comment that paragraph (c)- that one which talks of the satisfaction of the Director-General- is not directly concerned with factual circumstances but rather with the state of mind of the Director-General.
Senator Rae says that the Minister was wrong.
– I say your interpretation is wrong.
– I am quoting the interpretation of the Minister, as I understand it.
– No, you are interpreting the interpretation.
-Let us see what the judge said. However, the Minister said:
The criteria it prescribes are matters to which the DirectorGeneral must turn his mind. It’ is his satisfaction as to an applicant’s compliance with them that determines whether or not an applicant becomes qualified to receive an unemployment benefit.
Further on the Minister stated:
Mr Justice Stephen said that there is no doubt that it was not until 22 February 1977 that the Director-General became satisfied in terms of the Act.
That is a determining question, namely ‘that the Director-General became satisfied in terms of the Act’. The Minister continued:
These are the facts that are continuously misstated with regard to the judgment that was written by the learned judge, and those responsible for that continue to misrepresent his judgment . . .
The Minster further stated:
On page 24 of his judgment Mr Justice Stephen said:
To make a declaration in the form proposed will not involve any element of futility, nor of retrospectivity. The fact that the plaintiff has now been recognised as qualified to receive unemployment benefits as from 22 February 1977 does not affect her complaint that prior to that date she was denied qualification for a reason which lacked statutory justification. There remains in question her eligibility before that date -
That was the date on which the Director-General became satisfied- should the Director-General, in conformity with my declaration, undertake a re-examination of the plaintiffs position and conclude that, on the facts then existing, she was in fact qualified as from some earlier date she will, no doubt, receive payment accordingly, but this will not involve, in any true sense, the making of a retrospective determination.
Therefore, the whole question was one of the satisfaction of the Director-General. At a later part of her address the Minister continued:
The Social Services Act confers upon the Director-General the responsibility of satisfying himself in the determinations which he makes with regard to eligibility. One may argue that that is not how the Act should be written, but the fact remains that that is how the Act is written. I have taken care to go back to the period when the Social Services Act was first introduced in the 1940s.
That reference indicates that the Act could have been introduced by a Labor government. That is supported by the next sentence of the Minister. She said:
The honourable senator would do well to go back and read it. I may amuse him when I say that because at that time the Director-General was referred to by many members of my Party as a dictator-general and not as a DirectorGeneral, because the absolute discretion conferred upon him is something that has been misrepresented in the honourable senator’s statements today.
The Minister referred to the absolute discretion conferred upon the individual. She again quoted Mr Justice Stephen who said:
For the plaintiff, it was urged that I should form my own conclusions as to the plaintiff’s compliance with the requirements of section 107, that these should be in the plaintiff’s favour, that I should then impute to the Director-General my own state of satisfaction under section 107 (c) and should accordingly declare the plaintiff to have been qualified to received an unemployment benefit as from 27 December 1976 . . . Even where I minded to find the necessary facts in her favour, as to which I say nothing, the course suggested is not, I think, one which is open to me. It is to the Director-General or his delegates that the legislation assigns the task of attaining satisfaction and the Court should not seek to usurp that function.
I do not know how Senator Rae would interpret that. Even if the judge found that she was entitled to unemployment benefit it was not for him to usurp the power that the Parliament had given to the Director-General.
-But there is an appeal procedure to ensure that the Director-General is not the sole and final arbitrator.
-No, there is not. Karen Green used her right of appeal to take the case to the High Court.
– That is another appeal procedure. Her case was misconceived. It is the Donoghue and Stevenson no-snail-in-the-bottle case. It is the wrong example to use. I am not disagreeing with your point, I am disagreeing with your example.
– The example I give is a judgment of the court. If Senator Rae holds himself up as a greater legal authority than the stated word of Mr Justice Stephen he is entitled to his opinion. Mr Justice Stephen is of High Court status. The Minister also said:
Everytime Senator Grimes states that the judge directed the Director-General he misrepresents completely the judge’s own words when he says that it is not for the court to usurp the function . . . of the Director-General.
– It was not that sort of appeal. That is why I am suggesting that you are misconceiving the case. An entirely different procedure could have been adopted.
– In the literal and grammatical meaning of the words of the Act an applicant for benefit must meet the criteria in order to receive the benefit. He has to satisfy the Director-General. Therefore the criteria depend upon the state of mind of the Director-General.
– Yes, but that is reviewable.
– There was an appeal through the Tribunal with unsatisfactory results. What is one appeal? This lass went to a higher tribunal.
– On a misconceived basis.
– It was not a misconceived basis. She qualified for unemployment benefit from 27 December. She lacked only one qualification- an ability to satisfy the DirectorGeneral. That was what the judgment found. She was unemployed. Her unemployment was not her own fault. She intended to live permanently in Australia. She was prepared, able and willing to take employment if it was offered. They are the criteria which she had to satisfy. But the Director-General was not satisfied because there had been a decision by Cabinet that the unemployment benefit would not be paid to school leavers for six weeks after leaving school.
– That is not so.
– I know that that did not come within the legislation controlling the Director-General. He could not grant the unemployment benefit. But something else did not satisfy him. Even if the High Court judge found that she had the qualifications- he made no determination on that- she did not meet the requirements to satisfy the Director-General.
– Because the proceedings were misconceived. She received bad legal advice. I agree with the whole of what you are saying but you are misconceiving the result of that judgment.
– I do not think that Senator Rae has exclusive entitlement to the only good legal advice. The legal advice she had was sufficient to encourage her or someone with her to go to the High Court. It was sufficient to exercise the judge’s mind to bring down a judgment, an interpretation of the Act which differs from the honourable senator’s.
– It does not differ from mine.
– It does.
– I accept his interpretation entirely.
-I do not want to continue these polemics with Senator Rae.
– Why not come back to the debate instead of trying to misinterpret a High Court judgment?
-Let me put it another way as a layman. Senator Guilfoyle said that the matter was beyond Parliament and that it was in the hands of the Director-General. She said that members of her party- I suppose that they were scornful because it was Labor’s legislation- used to call the Director-General a dictator-general. I suppose the people who called him a dictatorgeneral would agree that it is not right for legislation to confer such power. Any standing committee considering the question of power should never permit power to be exercised by an official unless it is a delegated power. I understand that a Minister cannot do everything. Parliament would grind to a halt. There must be some delegated powers. But the power to act under legislation must be retained by the Minister. The Minister then has the power to delegate to the Director-General. The Minister for Social Security should not have stood back and said: ‘Whatever I may think about whether Karen Green should receive the unemployment benefit, the Parliament gave the power to the DirectorGeneral. ‘ Never again should we make that mistake. If the Director-General was using delegated power we had a responsibility to say to the Minister ‘Your delegate did this and if it is not right you should alter your delegation.’ I do not want to go further into the question of whether Karen Green should have received the social security benefit she sought. That is one question which needs to be raised. That matter does not need to be investigated by a committee.
We do not need outside counsel to tell us that it is wrong because everyone agrees that it is wrong. We, as politicians, do not have the courage to alter the situation and we will let it continue as it is until doomsday. We all agree that something is wrong but we do not do anything to alter it.
This afternoon we discussed the Patents Amendment Bill 1 979. The essential provision of that Bill is that if someone feels he has the qualifications to have his product patented the first thing he has to do is to satisfy the requirements of the Commissioner of Patents. A right of appeal exists but the person who appeals has to satisfy criteria established by the appeal tribunal. It is like the case of Karen Green. The Commissioner has to be satisfied. This was pointed out today. The Minister concerned indicated that he would examine what was said in the debate and would write to honourable senators who had raised questions. This is to happen at some time in the future after the legislation is passed. I think everyone knows that the procedure is wrong. If we say that the patent of a person who complies with the Act has to be registered, the Commissioner of Patents will have to make the decision. An appeal can be made if a person feels that he satisfies all the requirements for registration of patent. But now one has to satisfy the Commissioner of Patents.
– Someone still has to make a judgment.
-I know that. The Act provides for appeal against a judgment. But what does the appellant have to do to establish his appeal? That is the question I raise. What did Karen Green have to establish in her appeal? She did not have to establish that she was unemployed or that she intended to live permanently in Australia; she had to prove that the DirectorGeneral of Social Security was satisfied.
– You do not want an appeal. You want a rehearing in each case.
-I do not.
– You want an appellate court to hear the case all over again.
– When a person appeals to a higher authority or to a tribunal for redress in respect of an administrative action there should be subjective criteria on which the case may be based. The criterion should not be whether the administrator was satisfied or not satisfied. The criterion should be whether the person complied with the conditions in the Act passed by Parliament. That is what the Senate
Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances does. This situation is picked up frequently by the legal advisers assisting the Committee. When it is found something is done about it. I think the same principle should apply in this Parliament.
I have brought before this Parliament many questionable provisions contained in legislation. Sometimes the provisions have been imperfect and sometimes it has been a misunderstanding on my part. Perhaps I look at very few of the multitude of Acts that pass through this Parliament and therefore I welcome the interest of other honourable senators. I think more people should do this. I question whether the setting up of more committees is wise. No one can properly attend to their parliamentary duties because of the number of committees they are on. If another committee is set up it will further tax the time available to members of Parliament.
I do not know why it has been recommended that a joint committee be established. I have served on only one joint committee and I would never serve on another. I think that members of the House of Representatives and members of the Senate have different attitudes. Whether it is right or wrong I think that we in the Senate scrutinise legislation. Perhaps members of the other House make decisions at the second reading stage of a debate and decide whether there is a vote in it for them in the electorate. Then they decide how to vote.
– Do you think it is time they also did it?
– I do not think we can change the attitude of members of the House of Representatives. For them it is a question of survival. They are in districts where they have to receive votes in order to survive. I think senators are more use to playing a scrutinising role than members of the House of Representatives, with the possible exception of the Australian Capital Territory senators and possibly the senators from the Northern Territory. On the basis of two senators from each of the Territories being elected, their positions are pretty secure if they satisfy their parties rather than spending all their time campaigning outside. A joint committee would be bogged down because of its size. I think there would be endless discussions on matters not associated with legislation.
I repeat that I think the Senate has a role in scrutinising legislation but, for God’s sake, if legislation is shown to be faulty, let us have the courage, irrespective of the party which introduced it, to change it. Let us have the courage to say that our draftsmen do not have all the brains when it comes to drafting legislation, no matter how highly qualified they are. I think sometimes the draftsmen get away from the reality of the everyday activities of the application of legislation. We are the law makers and we should ensure that we maintain our position.
– I have just listened to Senator Cavanagh speaking about recommendations contained in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. He misconceived on argument. If it had not been for the bad example I would have agreed with him. Having interjected, I should like to take the opportunity to explain the situation. I interjected to suggest that Senator Cavanagh ‘s example was the equivalent of the Donoghue and Stevenson case- one well known in the law- in which a woman brought on action for damages after she obtained a bottle of cordial with a snail in the bottle. This case eventually went to the House of Lords. It became a cause celebre in the development of the law of negligence. But the fact is that in the final wash up of the whole matter it was found that there had been no snail in the bottle.
The point Senator Cavanagh was making was valid but his example was disastrous. That was the point of my interjections. I believe that he entirely misconceived what the Karen Green case was all about. I take the opportunity to make those few remarks because I would like to support totally the other remarks made by Senator Cavanagh about joint committees. I wish to develop fully what I believe to be some of the misconceptions of the Committee’s report, the thrust of which I agree with totally. I refer to the importance of ensuring that in the legislative process there is adequate protection of civil liberties and the rights of the individual. That is what the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee has been doing for 46 years, and I believe that it has been doing it extremely well. I have had the privilege of being a member of that Committee with Senator Cavanagh for a period of time. I know the strength of his belief in the importance of the work that that Committee does. In suggesting that he was wrong in the example he used, I do not want it to be taken that I am in any way saying that he was wrong in the theme that he was putting.
– You have not convinced me on that yet.
– I will not take the time to do so right now because I understand that I am expected to make a couple of brief remarks and then to seek leave to continue my remarks. The thrust of the Committee’s report was to ensure the protection of civil liberties. The problem which the Committee perceived was one of ensuring that Bills introduced in the House of Representatives were covered in the consideration of this matter at an early stage. The Committee saw the establishment of a joint committee as the only answer. It believed that the only way of ensuring that a Bill which has not yet come to this chamber will be considered from the point of view of the protection of the rights of the individual, of the civil liberties in our society, was to have a joint committee and to have the Bill go before that committee at an early stage. That is just not so. Canada, to give an example, has a Senate of far less strength and, without disrespect, public repute than the Senate in Australia. It is not an elected chamber, and there are severe limitations on its activities. However, Canada has overcome this problem. It follows one of the other ways by which this matter can be approached. It has the capacity to consider, and does consider, Bills which have been introduced into the lower House before they have been introduced into the Senate. If it wishes to have a committee consider a Bill introduced in the other chamber it can refer that Bill to a committee for consideration prior to its being introduced into the Senate. This shows the fallaciousness of the basis of argument which has been the mainstay of the report we are debating.
What the Committee is saying about the importance of the protection of civil liberties is something with which I totally agree. The Committee is saying that the only way to ensure it, in effect, is to have a joint committee. I have just demonstrated tonight that at least one other parliament similar to our own has found another way. At a later stage I wish to debate in some detail the other aspects of the undesirability of joint committees and the desirability of this chamber continuing to develop its role, such as has been exemplified by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. By arrangement, I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Tonight some other senators and I want to raise a matter which, as far as I know, has not been the subject of any real consideration by either of the chambers of this Parliament. It concerns a country or a district known as Eritrea, which has suffered 17 years of war and which has been virtually ignored by most of the countries of the world with perhaps the exception of the Soviet Union, which is now directing operations for Ethiopia to subdue that territory, and some other countries which have supplied arms for the suppression of that state. Eritrea is a long way from Australia, but a number of us have had representations from Australians who have put it to us that there is a substantial reason why Australia should take an interest in the concerns of 3te million people who live in the northern part or district of Ethiopia, whom the Ethiopians claim they have to control and who claim for themselves the right to self-determination. They have fought for a long time to obtain their own independence. They were taken over by the Italians before the Second World War. They were freed by Britain in, I think, 1941 and later they came under United Nations control. It is interesting to know the history of these people. They are not entirely united in religion or views because there are Christians, Arabs and Moslems among them and their politics are different, but for 17 years they have been maintaining an heroic struggle for independence and dignity under the most trying circumstances.
It is claimed that the Eritreans have an historical, legal and moral right to nationhood. This is maintained in an article in the New Statesman by John Pilger, who has been there and knows the situation. In that article, which appeared on 12 January this year, he stated:
In 19S2 Britain, which had administered Eritrea after driving out the Italians, supported a United Nations decision that Eritrea would be constituted as an autonomous unit federated with Ethiopia.
The Eritreans were forced into that situation. They felt they had no friends. The graphic words of this writer were:
Eritrea’s ‘mistake’ is to be allied with no one, to go it completely alone, to grow its own socialism, to have no political debts.
It has a simple form of socialism. It has no practical economy at present, but it is a country which was forced into this situation. The article continues:
When, in 1962, Haile Selassie -
The then ruler and controller of Ethiopiaattacked and annexed Eritrea, abolished its parliament, bombed its towns and villages, banned its languages and murdered thousands of its partisans, the Western powers did nothing -
That has been common to the present day. The article continues:
Ethiopia, with its American communications bases, was then firmly in the Western ‘camp’.
We know that this was not the situation later. Ethiopia overthrew the dictatorship of Haile Selassie and substituted a Marxist dictatorship of a particularly virulent nature. It is one in which there has been Red terror, in which thousands have been murdered and which has led very largely to the breakdown of the economy of that country and its excursions into other parts known as the Ogaden for its own aggrandisement.
The fact is that, since the time when by force the existing rights of the people of Eritrea were taken away, they have fought, and had a great deal of success, to maintain their right to selfdevelopment But the situation has been that in that period of years there has been tremendous unhappiness, death and destruction in that country. Some 300,000 of the people have been displaced since 1975 alone. I think most of those people are now refugees in the Sudan where they are receiving some assistance from a world charity.
In Australia and overseas there are Eritrean relief committees. I will say little about them because Senator Tate, who is a member of the Australian committee, no doubt will say more. In its recent publications it has pointed out that in the last few years there has been a change, that the Soviets and the Cubans have changed sides. They have now become allies of the Ethiopians and have directed operations. They are proceeding not only in an attempt to defeat and take away the rights of these people but also to cause genocide. It is clear from the evidence before me that they wish to destroy the people in that country and do not wish them to have a government of their own, a language of their own, or powers and rights of their own. The 17 year struggle has been bitter and has been accompanied by the destruction of homes, crops, property and the means of livelihood for hundreds of thousands of people. As I have said, 300,000 of those have left the country. I regret to say that during this time the Western powers to our shame have made no real progress. There is unfortunately no real economic interest in Eritrea. It is not a country that has those sorts of supplies. I am afraid that neither the United States nor other powers have made any attempt to assist in this regard. The present situation is described by the Eritrean Relief Committee as follows:
So far in large areas, especially north of Asmara in the highlands, most of the crops, now dry and ripe for harvest, have been burnt to ashes.
They have been burnt and destroyed by aeroplanes which have come across and damaged them. The report goes on to state:
Close to 40 villages of populations of about 1,000 persons have been totally ruined and over 100 more have suffered big damages; close to 5,000 civilians are reported dead and seriously wounded; 8,000 getting medical treatment. Heavy military activities, east and north of Asmara, have forced 60,000 people to abandon their homes and flee to safer areas in the north. About 40,000 have been evacuated from Keren -
That is a town which has been taken in the Russian-led offensive in the last few months - and its surrounding areas alone. As a direct and immediate result of the present Ethiopian offensive -
That is the one in the last few months- therefore, a total of 100,000 persons have been displaced and made homeless.
The situation is, of course, that the Marxist government of Ethiopia, with support and effectively armed by the Russians and Cubans and led by Russian generals, has proceeded to endeavour to occupy the area and destroy what remains of the resistance. They have not succeeded in doing this so far. These activities have not been unobserved by impartial international organisations over the years. A report which Amnesty International made in November 1978 on Ethiopia described the reign of terror which exists there. It also went on to state:
Although there were serious violations of human rights in Ethiopia under the Haile Selassie Government, under the Provisional Military Government there has developed since 1974 a consistent pattern of gross violations of fundamental human rights.
The report states that this has gone on for four years. It continues:
The ‘Red Terror’ campaign had come to an end, and by mid 1978 the large-scale arrests and killings associated with it were no longer taking place. However, Amnesty International has learnt that arrest and torture continue, and that there are still large numbers of political prisoners, whose conditions are not known to have improved.
That applies to Ethiopia as well as to the occupied territories of Eritrea, and no doubt will continue until international pressure comes to bear on Ethiopia. I think it is also of particular significance that in the course of the warfare that has been waged, these people have been getting little or no assistance in their military campaign but they are capturing weapons from the Ethiopians. Mr Pilger ‘s article gives the following example:
Napalm B, which sucks to human skin and fries to the bone, often over a period of weeks; cluster bombs, whose myriad needles ‘swim’ through human flesh and organs and are difficult to detect even under X-ray and often cause slow death; defoliant poisons, such as 2, 4, 5-T, which destroy vegetation ‘deaden’ the earth and sow the seeds of human mutations for generations, and more.
To my tremendous surprise I found a description of the cluster bombs which are used in an article again written by Mr Pilger a little earlier in July of last year, and likewise printed in the same journal. He had this to say:
Last month, in Eritrea, a village called Hergego was cluster bombed shortly after dawn by Ethiopian MIG-21 jets supplied by the Soviet Union. The cluster bombs, supplied by Israel, spray minute needles that are designed to ‘swim’ through flesh and organs and are difficult to detect, even under X-ray, and cause a slow death.
I am indeed sad, as one who is a great admirer of the Israeli people, to find that Israel has supplied considerable supplies to Ethiopia enabling her to help wage this war. These are matters of economics as far as countries are concerned, but they are matters of death and destruction for the people who thereby suffer. The position, is that in this particular country with these people huddling in refugee areas, there is a tremendous feeling and a great deal of resistance. As I read the various articles before me I see that there is no doubt about the fact that the wounded have terrible supplies in the form of hospitals, doctors and so forth. These are hardly available. People must be left to die because they are bombed and only a certain number can be saved. Supplies are not available. Schools continue and these people are determined to keep up with their language and culture. In fact it is called the Nation of the Night because it is during the night that people proceed to educate their children in order to keep their country going.
There is, as I have said, destruction of crops and these people are suffering a very great problem with famine. Surely it is of great concern to us that in this day Australia is providing some supplies to Ethiopia but not to these people. We are supplying some 10,000 tonnes of grain to Ethiopia. Ethiopia, partly due to the folly of its own behaviour, is suffering a great deal of famine and its economy has largely broken down. Very little has been supplied- nothing by us- to the Eritrean people. This has been a matter for discussion by other countries in the west. Eritrea has received hardly a mention from Western countries. The article to which I referred earlier states as follows:
Dr David Owen dutifully followed a speech by President Carter in Nigeria earlier this year with his own verbal leg slap for the Russians, Cubans and Ethiopians.
It then proceeds:
This speech was much acclaimed for its bellicosity, but it amounted to nothing; last month the Foreign Office made publicly clear that it was ‘not policy’ to extend humanitarian aid to ‘unrecognised states’ such as Eritrea. Judith Hart, the
Overseas Development Minister, has since tried to help by promising to send money through the International Red Cross in Geneva.
The amount was the very small sum of $ 1 50,000. I do not think we have supplied anything to this day to help in this plight. I believe that Australia with its reputation and record for helping refugees at least should be helping the refugees who have left the country. I believe also that because of its aid to Ethiopia it should be bringing international pressure to bear on Ethiopia to stop this genocide which is occurring in this corner of the world. It is an international atrocity which has been going on for 16 years. I hope that we might be able to interest members of the Parliament and the Government in taking an interest in this country. There are 3,500,000 people. That is not very many people. In Australia there are not many people. But I believe they are all people who are entitled to live and make their own decisions. They have very few friends in the world and I hope that they will soon have more.
-Tonight several senators have raised for the attention of the Senate, and in particular of the Government, the plight of the inhabitants of Eritrea. Senator Missen has outlined some of the facts of their tragic situation. He has done so very eloquently, and he has directed attention particularly to the intensification of their situation, brought about by the heavy Soviet involvement in the offensive that has gone on since 19 November last. Senator Missen has done that so well that I wish to confine my remarks to what I see as the proper response of Australia to the facts he outlined. Regretfully, Australia has had a very sorry history in understanding that region, in seeking to protect its inhabitants from the murderous invasions of colonialists, whether Italy in relation to Ethiopia or now Ethiopia in relation to Eritrea. It ought to be recalled with some shame that Australia publicly advocated the lifting of sanctions imposed on the Italian invaders in 1935 by the League of Nations and in fact was the first nation to lift sanctions.
On a reading of the statement made some days ago by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), which contains a few threadbare lines on the threat in the Horn of Africa, one wonders whether the political and humanitarian challenges thrown up by the present invasion of Eritrea by the Dergue of Ethiopia, led by Colonel Mengistu, are going to be met with the same callous disregard for international morality and human suffering as the Australian Government displayed in the mid and late 1930s. It seems to me that we have to direct the attention of the Australian Government to the correct political and humanitarian response to the atrocity, the genocide, occurring at the moment in the Horn of Africa.
That there is a breach of international law, or at least of expectation as outlined by the United Nations, is undoubted. In 1952 the United Nations intended that Eritrea be an autonomous unit federated with Ethiopia. Clearly, the elements of that formula would always be difficult to reconcile in order to attain an autonomous unit. But at the very least the culture of the people, whether they be Moslem, Coptic or Christian, ought to have been kept intact. Instead, the main languages of Triginaya and Tigre were suppressed. Rights to self-government surely are to be acknowledged when one speaks of an autonomous unit, but the Eritrean flag was dishonoured and banned. So the expectation of the United Nations in 1952 was completely overridden because, for the Ethiopians, Eritrea has always been simply a stretch of country astride its routes to the Red Sea. It is a necessary stretch of land inhabited, in the opinion of the Ethiopians, by an unnecessary people, and when that attitude prevails genocide follows.
There can be little doubt that the vastly superior technology and tactics of the Russian commanders of this war will bring about a situation little short of the devastation of a whole people while the world and, apparently, Australia remain silent. Where is our protest at the integration of Eritrea as the fourteenth province of Ethiopia in 1961? Admittedly, that appears to have been condoned by the Parliament of Eritrea, but Ethiopian soldiers were patrolling its galleries. One is reminded of the Bolsheviks in Moscow; but a closer analogy, both geographically and historically, lies in the integration of East Timor by a so-called decision of its Parliament within the nation of Indonesia while Indonesian occupying forces guarded the town of Dili. One is allowed to wonder whether the Foreign Minister’s abject acceptance of the forcible integration of that small people by Indonesia’s military force now silences him equally on the utterly similar situation in the Horn of Africa.
When will we hear of instructions issued to our ambassador in Nairobi, Kenya, to raise Australia’s protest at this military adventurism by the colonels of the Dergue? Where is our call to the United Nations to regain for the Eritrean people at the very least their intended autonomy? Where is our straightforward condemnation of one of the world ‘s super powers joining in a conflict on the continent of Africa in order to secure for itself port and dry dock facilities on the Red Sea, across which lies the wealth and strategic importance of Saudi Arabia? It appears that we save our diplomatic spleen and posturing for those occasions when we can mimmick our major allies, as we quite rightly have done in condemnation of the Vietnamese and Chinese invasions of Kampuchea and Vietnam respectively? All the Eritrean people ask is that the same principled protests be applied to the murderous onslaught under which they are withering. Have we as an Australian Government the political insight and the courage to do it?
I turn from the political response to the humanitarian response to the claims of the displaced families of Eritrea, the 1,200,000 persons who have been made homeless, of whom, in this International Year of the Child, 400,000 are thought to be children under 12 years of age. Will the Government channel aid to these defenceless, vulnerable, voiceless, dispossessed people? Surely ways can be found to get relief certainly to the refugee camps in the Sudan, as Senator Missen suggested, and even into Eritrea itself. Is it too much to ask that basic medical supplies be rushed to the victims and casualties of the war on both sides? Senator Missen has quoted from an article on Eritrea by John Pilger, which appeared in the New Statesman on 28 July 1978. Pilger spoke of Gebreab Tmarian who on average amputated a limb every other night by candlelight. What was unusual was that his precious hoard of anaesthetics ran out completely and he was forced to operate using only a saw, surgical spirit and a mouth gag. In his hospital’, as in others in Eritrea, stocks of blood, antiseptics, antibiotics and antimalarials also expired and have not been replenished.
I have the honour to be a sponsor of the Eritrean Relief Committee in Australia. Recently we received a letter from the Khartoum-based Eritrean Relief Association. In it the current situation is outlined very shortly; but, more importantly, attached to it is a very practical, detailed list of the humanitarian aid- whether by way of food, shelter, blankets, clothing or medical supplies- which the victims of this conflict require. I seek leave to have the letter incorporated in Hansard. I have already indicated the nature of its contents to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney).
ERITREAN RELIEF COMMITTEE
Acute Humanitarian Situation In Eritrea
The Eritrean people have been subjected to man made displacement suffering for many years. These sufferings have now assumed unprecedented proportions and therefore require an immediate and substantial special attention. The root cause of the present sufferings is the Ethiopian offensive waged against liberated towns and areas of Eritrea. lt is to be recalled that the Ethiopian army, supported by the Cuban officers and troops and active participation of Soviet war advisers, had launched its first offensive against liberated Eritrea July last. In their first attempt, the Ethiopians were able to bring under their control the Asmara- -Adua road and all the towns of Debaroa Mendefera Adi Quala, along it; the towns of Tessenei and Agordat and the road joining them with Ethiopia’s bases in the North Western Ethiopia. They also reoccupied the towns of Segeneiu, Digsa, Decemare, abandoned by the EPLF. This brought the south and west of Eritrea under their control.
The present offensive started on 18 November. This one distinguishes itself from the first one by the very heavy Soviet involvement and its destructive capacity. Two Soviet Generals, eleven high ranking officers and hundreds of other military personnel are carrying military activities, including the piloting of Mig 23s, manning and servicing of the heavy artillery and handling of logistic support to the battlefields and medical services. It is stated that the Soviet officers actually plan the strategy of the present offensive and are in complete command of its execution. More than a hundred thousand Ethiopian troops with about SOO tanks and hundreds of heavy artillery and guns, several dozen planes and many Soviet war ships have been deployed for this offensive. Besides sophisticated equipment and methods of warfare, modern techniques are being used by the Soviets for reconnaissance and other military activities. The war and its destructive impact has therefore escalated to unprecedented proportions.
Seventeen long years of bitter armed struggle for selfdetermination have been accompanied by destruction of homes, crops, property and means of livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people. 300,000 people have left the country and over half a million have been displaced within the country especially as a result of the heavy engagement since 1975. The present offensive was started by the Ethiopians on all three fronts simultaneously: in the east from Massawa, from Asmara in the direction of Keren and in the west from Agordat towards Keren. Hard battles with the involvement of tens of thousands of Ethiopian troops, bombings, straflings, heavy artillery and tank shelling in very large numbers have caused massive destruction of property and have inflicted heavy casualties.
So far in large areas, especially north of Asmara in the highlands, most of the crops, now dry and ripe for harvest have been burnt to ashes; close to 40 villages of populations of about 1,000 persons have been totally ruined and over 100 more have suffered big damages; close to 5,000 civilians are reported dead and seriously wounded; 8,000 getting medical treatment. Heavy military activities, cast and north of Asmara, have forced 60,000 people to abandon their homes and flee to safer areas in the north. About 40,000 have been evacuated from Keren and its surrounding areas alone. As a direct and immediate result of the present Ethiopian offensive, therefore, a total of 100,000 persons have been displaced and made homeless.
To satisfy the basic needs of food, shelter and medicine of these destitutes for given periods the items are listed below:
Durra, Wheat, Maize, etc.- 50 tons per day; Milk powder- 5 tons per day; Beans, Lentils, Peas, etc.- 3 tons per day; Oil, Butter, Fat- 3 tons per day.
All food items can be purchased in the Sudan relatively cheaply.
Tents of various sizes are required.
Crystalline penicillin- ( 10,000 x 1 ml vials); Surgical gauze- (50,000 sq. meters); Elastic bandages- (25,000 rolls); Eurazin soluble dressing- (500 x 400 gm. jars); Bactrim tablets-( 100,000); Baralgin tablets–(50,000) Tetanus Anti-toxin-( 100,000 amps 1500 u); Baralgin ampules-( 100,000 amps).
We therefore appeal to you in this emergency situation to secure in funds or in kind any amount of the above mentioned relief items urgently.
Goods sent by ship to-ERA, P.O. Box 285, Port Sudan
Air freighted goods to-ERA, P.O. Box 8129, Khartoum, Tel. 74175.
All transfer of funds to be credited to our account No. M/2728, Sudan Commercial Bank, Khanoum.
Please do not hestitate to contact us for any additional informations.
With kind regards.
ERA telex 55 1 Kameiroo Khartoum
– 1 thank the Senate. Two days ago I was visited by two persons with an intimate knowledge of the situation in Ethiopia, the Sudan and Eritrea. One was Miss Valerie Browning, who has nursed in the refugee camps of the Sudan and travelled at great risk within Eritrea, relieving suffering. This young lady, who is a nurse, personifies a humanity and courage of which Australian youth is sometimes said to be incapable. That is certainly not so in her case. With her was Fesse Haie Abraham, a young Eritrean who is studying in Australia, a gentle and intelligent man who has worked for many months with Tadesse Kahsai to help their brothers and sisters at home. Together with Russell Rollason of the Australian Council of Churches, they have established an organisation that is respected for its integrity in explaining the Eritrean situation to the Australian people. Each member of this Parliament has received their pamphlet headed ‘Eritrea- a forgotten suffering people’. I hope that that pamphlet and the contributions by senators tonight help to create a climate of opinion, especially amongst the Government parties, so that a formula may be devised to get substantial and appropriate aid to these people quickly. It requires the support of every
Government member to rouse the Government from its lethargy.
I have grounds for doubt about whether that lethargy will ever be displaced. In October last year the Australian Red Cross launched a Sim national appeal called ‘Operation Distress’ for the victims of famine and conflict in Africa. It raised only $153,000. Early in August Leon Stubbings, the Director-General of the Australian Red Cross, called on Andrew Peacock, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and asked the Government to support the appeal. Early in January the Chairman of the Australian Red Cross, Noel Buckley, wrote to the Prime Minister and again asked the Government to support the appeal financially. There has been no response.
It may be that the Government is attempting to hide behind supposed diplomatic problems in channelling aid into a purported province of Ethiopia. Ways and formulas can be found if the will is there. The British Government- this is detailed in an answer in Hansard of the House of Commons of 5 July 1 978- was able to make a grant-in-aid of £150,000 sterling in support of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Horn of Africa including Eritrea. We can and should do likewise, at least. I conclude by saying that I am particularly grateful that Senators Missen and Bonner, and perhaps Senator Knight, intend to convey to the Government their sense of the widespread bipartisan support which the Government would enjoy if it adopted the honourable and humane steps I have outlined. We hope it does so quickly.
– When we receive information in the Parliament we expect that information to be correct. One way that I know of receiving information that is often helpful to a member of the Opposition is to ask questions on notice. If we receive incorrect information as answers to questions on notice the whole basis of trust in those answers will fall. I refer to a question that I asked of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) on 2 1 February and the answer which I received tonight. The question read:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
The answer that I received this evening reads as follows:
-The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In other words the answer was that the Foreign Minister had left Australia once since 24 October 1978 and on that occasion he paid his departure tax. Last year I asked a question of the Foreign Minister, on notice. It and the answer supplied read:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 24 November 1978:
Did the Minister and each member of his party of six officials pay the Departure Tax when they travelled from Weipa to Daru on 2 November 1978. If so, where and when was the tax paid. If not, why not.
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes. I, and each of the six officials accompanying me, paid the Departure Tax in Weipa on 2 November 1978.
In other words the Foreign Minister has replied and said that he left Australia and visited Daru on 2 November. I also have a copy of an article from the Australian of 26 January this year. The article is headed ‘Peacock’s absence’ and the first sentence reads as follows:
A deal of sound and fury has been whipped up around the fact that the Cabinet decision to suspend its aid to Vietnam was made during the absence overseas of the Foreign Minister, Mr Peacock.
Obviously Mr Peacock was also absent from Australia in January this year. I have information which suggests that Mr Peacock left Australia at least on two occasions since the date in question, 24 October 1978. There does seem therefore to be a discrepancy between what I have outlined and the information that was given to me tonight. Honourable senators might ask: What is the difference between Mr Peacock going overseas once or twice? It may have been even more. The fact that it is such a small difference really does not matter. The fact is that it seems that incorrect information was given to me in answer to a question that I placed on notice. If we start to receive incorrect information in answer to questions on notice we cannot trust information that is given to us any more. It seems that we will have to look at answers carefully to see whether the information can be used for the purpose for which we asked for it. I would like to be informed at some time in the future- I hope next week- the correct answer to the question that I asked on 21 February 1979. Was the Minister away once? Was he away more than once? If so, how many times was he away? If incorrect information was given to me in answer to a question upon notice, I would like to know why.
– in reply- Two speeches were made this evening on the matter of Eritrea. I have to confess that lam now better informed about that country than I was. I am not able to respond on behalf of the Government to the substance of the requests which were made by Senator Missen and Senator Tate. I undertake to convey the content of these speeches to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and seek some response from him on behalf of the Government. I refer now to Senator Colston’s comments. I am sure that it will be a matter of concern to Mr Peacock if he has supplied an answer which is not accurate. I will certainly seek further information on that matter from Mr Peacock. As recently as today I had to follow up an answer which I gave to a question on notice last week. It was drawn to my attention by Senator Robertson that there was a discrepancy between information I had provided and information provided in the other chamber. I had to provide an explanation as to why that discrepancy occurred. I am sure that if Senator Colston consulted with his colleagues who have served in the Ministry they would explain to him that this sort of thing can occur with the best will in the world. The Government takes seriously its obligation to respond with accurate information to requests whether on notice or without notice. I will seek clarification as early as possible on the matter for Senator Colston.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 24 November 1978:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There will be no change to the existing situation where superannuation and other retirement benefits are taxable as to only5 per cent of the amount of the lump sum benefit.’
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 21 February 1979:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
– The Minister for Finance has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
Has the Australian Government sought to use the United States Refugee Program for Latin America (see the Australian, 11 December 1978, page 4) to expedite the release of the political prisoner, Ana Maria Mohaded, so that she may join her sister in Australia.
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The United States program referred to by Senator Mulvihill is designed to resettle in the United States500 Latin-American political refugees and detainees. In Argentina the program is applicable to those who are being held without charge by the Executive Power under state-of-siege laws and who have the right of option to leave Argentina.
As Senator Mulvihill will be aware from my letter of 30 November 1978, Ana Maria Mohaded was removed on 3 October 1978 from the jurisdiction of the Executive Power and transferred to that of the Permanent Special War Council of Cordoba Number One. As a result, right of option procedures no longer apply. It is believed that Miss Mohaded is being held because of alleged involvement in serious crimes. However the Argentine authorities have not as yet responded to enquiries made through the Australian Embassy in Buenos Aires about the precise nature of any charges or allegations against her.
The Embassy will continue to pursue the matter with the Argentine authorities and Senator Mulvihill will be advised of developments as they occur.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
Are there any indications, following the change of political leadership in Algeria, that Ben Bella will be released from imprisonment.
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There has been some speculation in international news media about whether the new Algerian Government might release Mr Ben Bella but there are no indications at present that it is considering this.
Destruction of Rhodesian Aircraft
-On 20 February 1979 Senator Wheeldon asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following question without notice:
Has the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs noticed that Mr Joshua Nkomo has claimed that his organisation was responsible for the shooting down of a Rhodesian airliner and the subsequent killing of some 59 people who were on board that plane? Has this exploit reinforced the Government’s view that the negotiations should be pursued with the Rhodesian Patriotic Front rather than with the parties to the internal settlement? Does the Government feel any concern or regret about this event? If so, has it expressed any concern or regret to Mr Nkomo or to anyone else?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government is aware of claims by Mr Joshua Nkomo that ZAPU guerrillas were responsible for shooting down an Air Rhodesia plane which crashed without survivors on 1 1 February near Kariba in north western Rhodesia. The Government utterly deplores this latest incident in a conflict which has caused increasing casualties and suffering to innocent civilians. The Government’s attitude to acts of terrorism and violence is quite clear and has been stated on many occasions.
In the House on 14 September 1978, following a similar incident when an Air Rhodesia aircraft was shot down and some surviving passengers killed, I stated the Government’s concern at the ‘series of tragic, grievous incidents involving innocent civilians, both black and white as a result of the conflict’. I should like strongly to reiterate that concern and to express the Government’s deep sympathy for the families of those people killed in the crash.
Incidents such as this serve only to escalate an already bitter conflict. The Government believes that a first step towards a peaceful settlement in Rhodesia and an end to bloodshed must be a ceasefire. This can only be achieved with the co-operation of all the parties now involved in the conflict, including the Patriotic Front. It is for this reason that the Government supports the continuing efforts of the British and American Governments to bring together all the parties to discuss a ceasefire and to lay the basis for a peaceful and lasting settlement in Rhodesia.
-On 22 February 1979 Senator Wriedt asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following question without notice:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the decision by the United States to abrogate its treaty with Taiwan and the recent statement by Admiral Zumwalt, a United States Admiral, in Australia that signalled a clear warning to this country that we have to rely more on our own efforts for defence, has the Government considered the possible implications for United States commitments to the ANZUS Treaty? Does the Government remain firm in its belief that the United States is as committed to the ANZUS Treaty as has been the case in the past?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government’s view on this matter was provided by the Prime Minister in his reply to a question without notice asked by Mr Dobie on the same day, 22 February. The reply is reported on page 249 of Hansard nf 22 February.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 March 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790301_SENATE_31_S80/>.