31st Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator D. B. Scott) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) left Australia on 2 March to attend meetings of the International Monetary Fund interim committee in the United States of America. He is expected to return on 18 March. During his absence the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) is acting as Treasurer. The Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) left Australia yesterday for further trade discussions with the European Economic Community. He is expected to return on 20 March. During his absence the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) is acting as Minister for Special Trade Representations. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom) is also absent overseas, leading the Australian delegation to the Economic and Social Council for Asia and the Pacific. He is expected to return on 13 March. During his absence the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr McLeay) is acting as Minister for Housing and Construction.
-On behalf of Senator Townley I present the following petition from 41 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 $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:-
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.
The Acting Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That 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 $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senators Scott and Puplick.
The Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the Parents and Citizens of Jasper Road Primary School, Baulkham Hills, New South Wales respectfully showeth:
That as a citizen of N.S.W. and parents of State school children, we are most concerned that the quality of education available in our school be of the highest possible standard.
We believe that this can only be achieved if adequate Federal Funds are provided.
The recently announced policy of direct cuts to Government Schools for 1979 must have an adverse effect on them.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should arrange for:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Peter Baume.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That abortion is the deliberate killing of a human beinganathema to God and man.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this house direct the Government-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Chaney.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the following matters be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs:
The desirability of amending section 44 (iv) of the Constitution in the terms proposed by the Constitution Alteration (Holders of Offices of Profit) Bill 1978 or otherwise;
The desirability of changes to other provisions of the Constitution relating to the qualification and disqualification of members of parliament.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he recalls saying, in response to a question on ministerial propriety asked last Thursday:
Over the course of the Fraser Government, where there has been any query of the quality or 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 debate have occurred and, as a result, the matter has been resolved.
I ask the Minister: What were the public inquiries involved in the standing down of Mr Lynch and the resignation of Mr Eric Robinson?
– The circumstances regarding Mr Lynch were that the Prime Minister asked Mr Stephen Charles, Queen’s Counsel, who is the Chairman of the Ethics Committee of the Victorian Bar Council, to conduct an investigation into Mr Lynch ‘s business affairs to determine whether anything improper had occurred or whether Mr Lynch had been involved in any conflict of interest in his position as Treasurer. Mr Charles found that no impropriety or conflict of interest had occurred in connection with any of the activities which he examined. The circumstances of Mr Robinson’s resignation and reappointment are well known. They were outlined in detail last week.
-Mr Deputy President, I ask a supplementary question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is he saying that the inquiry by Mr Charles was a public inquiry? Is he saying also that a public inquiry was held into Mr Eric Robinson’s resignation? If the Minister is not prepared to say emphatically yes to those two questions, I ask him: Was his statement of last Thursday in answer to a question in fact incorrect?
- Mr Charles sought evidence available and inquired into it as regards impropriety. To that extent that was public. There was never any suggestion at all on my part that any public inquiry was involved with Mr Robinson. We were talking of the matters precedent to Mr Robinson’s resignation. I commented on matters prior to Mr Robinson’s resignation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and refers to a Press report of the departmental paper delivered to a meeting of the International Social Security Association. Is it a fact that today social security and welfare payments represent some 28 per cent of the Budget? Has the Minister any further figures which indicate the cost to the taxpayer of social security and welfare payments? Does the Minister expect the demands on social security programs to grow and to extend? If so, and in view of both government and community obligations in these areas, has the Government plans for providing appropriate funding and, in particular, any incentives to encourage community contributions?
– I think it is known to the Senate that almost 28 per cent of the national Budget expenditure is of an income security or welfare nature. The cost to the Department of Social Security of welfare payments is increasing because the numbers of persons in each category of the income security system are increasing each year. There are considerable increases in the age pensioner population. There are also increases in all of the other categories of pensioners and beneficiaries. I am unable to project the increase this year, although I think it is perhaps in the range of about seven per cent taking into account the increase in numbers that I have mentioned. Maintenance of the income security system, is a commitment of government under its own legislation and the funds need to be found to meet the increases that are required.
The honourable senator also referred to the encouragement of community support for welfare matters. There are many programs in which the Government and the community share the responsibility. These programs are important to individuals and to government. I would assume that a continuation of those programs will ensure that the welfare dollars which are expended are used in the best way. When I spoke during an urgency debate in respect of social security expenditure raised by the Opposition in the Senate last week or the week before, I was able to give many figures which showed the increase in expenditure that does occur and has occurred over, say, the last decade.
– I also direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the answers that he gave on Thursday of last week regarding the Government’s standards of ministerial propriety and to his following statement:
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.
Was the finding of the royal commission decisive in the dismissal of Senator Withers or were there any other reasons for this dismissal? Further, is it correct to say that the decision to remove Senator Withers was exclusively a decision of the Prime Minister or was it made by a small and carefully chosen group of Ministers of whom Senator Carrick, now Leader of the Government in the Senate, was one?
– Every fact regarding this matter is documented in Hansard. It is quite clear what were the grounds in that unhappy matter. Equally, the consultations of the Prime Minister with his Ministers are documented in Hansard. I commend Hansard to Senator Button.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer, concerns the abolition of death duties which has become the subject of such an enormous political controversy in South Australia this week following the Liberal Party’s renewed commitment to abolish death duties imposed by the State. I ask: When the Fraser Government last year abolished death duties imposed by the Commonwealth, were there any negotiations with the States seeking a parallel abolition by those States still holding out? If so, is the Federal Government in a position to continue to press in these negotiations for the abolition of death duties in South Australia?
– My advice is that there were no negotiations with the States when the Commonwealth abolished Federal estate and gift duties. My advice is that it was purely a decision about Commonwealth Government taxation. What the States do about their own death duties is, of course, for them to decide. The Commonwealth Government, ably assisted by, I think, a Senate Committee on this matter in its advice, believed that the abolition of death duties would be a significant and enlightened reform. We hold that view.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate, in the light of his answer to Senator Button: In view of the fact that he has now indicated to the Senate that the decision to dismiss Senator Withers was based on a decision of an alleged public inquiry- that is, the McGregor Royal Commission- are we to understand that there were no other factors involved in that dismissal? For example, was it not taken into account that Senator Withers had advised the Cabinet sub-committee of which Senator Carrick was a member of the fact that he had informed the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of the action he had taken in respect of the matters that were raised at the royal commission? I ask the Minister specifically: What other factors were involved apart from the decision of the royal commission?
-A11 the factors involved are recorded in Hansard.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Because of the greatly changed political situation in Rhodesia and an acknowledgment that trade sanctions are causing economic crises, bringing famine to some sections of the African population and playing into the hands of communist backed guerrillas, will the Government consider the lifting of sanctions in non-military matters?
– The policy of the Government in regard to Rhodesia is well known and has not changed. I am not competent to comment further on the matter. I will refer the question to my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs in another place, and seek his comments.
– My question also is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I remind him of his answer to a question asked in the Senate last Thursday on the subject of ministerial propriety when he spelt out the principle that Ministers should stand down or be stood down if there is any query as to their actions or where matters of high principle are involved. I ask: Is it not a fact that there have been substantial queries in relation to the activities of the current Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair? Under those circumstances, why has the Minister for Primary Industry not stood down voluntarily or been asked to stand down?
- Senator Evans must know that no charges whatsoever have been made in regard to Mr Sinclair. On the contrary, I understand that the Corporate Affairs Commission in New South Wales advised the Government that there were no grounds on which to base any charges. At this moment the facts concerning Mr Sinclair show that he is without any blemish upon him at all.
– I wish to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a supplementary question. Is he asserting in his reply that as a matter of fact no query has been made as to the quality of Mr Sinclair’s action, to use the language used by the Minister in his answer last Thursday? Does not that assertion fly in the face of the mass of parliamentary and community comment that has been made over the last few months about Mr Sinclair’s activities, raising very serious questions about his quality and capacity to continue office as a Minister of the Crown?
– The public rhetoric could be paralleled only by the rhetoric of Senator Evans in this chamber. The fact of the matter is that there has been a lot of rhetoric and no hard facts on this matter. At this moment, no charges have been made against Mr Sinclair’s character or behaviour.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. What is the present situation in respect of the export of meat products to Iran, with particular reference to frozen or chilled beef shipments and the trade in mutton? Also, what is the situation in respect of live sheep exports?
-As the Senate will be aware, on 1 March the Ayatollah Khomeini declared frozen beef and frozen mutton religiously unclean and instructed the Iranian Prime Minister to ban the import and consumption of frozen meat and to destroy existing stocks. Subsequently, the Iranian Minister for Agriculture broadcast nationally a statement that Iran had no choice but to continue imports of frozen meat until such time as the country was selfsufficient in meat production. At this stage, it is not clear whether the ban has been imposed. However, the Australian industry is concerned about the matter. It has carefully followed Islamic slaughter requirements for meat for export to Iran and to other Islamic countries. The Australian Trade Commissioner in Tehran is discussing the matter with Iranian authorities and is making every endeavour to dispel any doubts about Australia’s ability to supply meat slaughtered in accordance with Islamic rites. The Australian Government is prepared to invite Iranian religious leaders to visit Australia to satisfy themselves that our slaughter procedures are in accordance with Islamic requirements. Australia’s exports of live sheep to Iran have been reduced over the past few months. Shipments are currently running at approximately 50 to 60 per cent of the total at this time in 1978. The major exporters in this trade are hopeful that shipments of live sheep to Iran will revert to more normal levels in the near future.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I remind the Minister that in a response to a question on ministerial propriety last Thursday, he said:
Mr Garland stood down because there was a question as to whether he had acted improperly. When he had been exonerated he was reappointed.
I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that Mr Garland was prosecuted for attempting to bribe a candidate in a Federal election? Is it also a fact that the magistrate found a prima facie case against Mr Garland? According to the standards of the Government is this finding of the magistrate equivalent to being exonerated?
– I presume from what Senator Ryan has said that every time a magistrate found a prima facie case and subsequently the person was acquitted, she and her party would nevertheless find against the person. The facts concerning Mr Garland are publicly known. They are in Hansard, and I commend them to Senator Ryan.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer. Current taxation provisions allow a minimum $2 deduction from assessable income for donations to recognised charitable institutions. I understand that this minimum was set in 1936. Will the Treasurer give consideration to increasing the minimum deduction allowable to $50, thereby preserving the intentions behind the measure adopted 43 years ago? Will the Minister at the same time grant tax deductible status to approved institutions active in the areas of arts, amateur sport and overseas aid?
– The first part of Senator Rocher’s question has been the subject of questions in the past in the Senate. I am aware that my colleague, the Treasurer, has been looking at whether there is virtue or not in raising the tax deductible threshold from $2. I know that the Treasurer realises that we do not want to discourage people from making small donations, including $2 donations, and therefore there is some virtue in keeping the threshold at this level. On the other hand, many charitable organisations would like the threshold raised to encourage people to increase their donations. As to the second part of the question. I have no comment other than that I understand that it is Government and Treasury policy to encourage such institutions. I will refer both parts of the question to my colleague in another place.
-Does the AttorneyGeneral agree with the answer given by Senator Carrick to the question by Senator Ryan about ministerial propriety and does he accept the interpretation that Senator Carrick gave concerning Mr Garland?
– The question in relation to Mr Garland concerns proceedings in the Court of Petty Sessions and the finding of the magistrate. The magistrate’s decision was that he would not commit Mr Garland for trial, and that was the end of the proceedings. There was clearly a full public inquiry into the allegations that were made against Mr Garland.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. I asked Senator Durack whether he agreed with the opinion expressed by Senator Carrick.
– I do not propose to add anything to my answer. I am not here to give legal opinions or to express opinions at all.
-Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of recent statements by Opposition spokesmen, including the Leader of the Opposition, advocating the introduction of a capital gains tax? Can the Minister inform the Senate as to the likely impact of these Australian Labor Party proposals on the earning capacity of Australian primary producers and business enterprises? How would the introduction of a capital gains tax affect the individual ability of Australians to dispose of private property? Finally, at a time when personal effort and personal initiative more than ever before are valuable to the recovery of this country, could a more devastating way be designed to discourage this initiative?
– In common with all other Australians I heard the announcement, by the Federal Leader of the Australian Labor Party, of the Labor Party’s policy to introduce a capital gains tax. Also in common with all other Australians, I heard the response of the Prime Minister of Australia that the Government parties would reject the concept of such a tax because it would be thoroughly inequitable and would do great harm to the future of Australia.
– Slug the pensioners instead.
-I would like recorded in Hansard Senator Wriedt ‘s comment that we would slug the pensioners instead. Let me simply say to him that today the age pension represents 24.1 per cent of the average weekly wage, a significantly higher percentage than when Senator Wriedt was a Minister in the Whitlam Government. If that is slugging the pensioners then the Whitlam Government must have used a bulldozer. The fact is that a capital gains tax, by restricting the amount of free investment capital in this country, would destroy the very money that is necessary to provide growth and development in business in order to regain the employment that was destroyed by the former Government.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the fact that my question to him here last Thursday asking the Government to consider an upgrading of the armament of our new Fremantle class patrol boats to missile capability was edited out of the Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcast of Question Time that night, can the Minister tell me, firstly, why he asked for the question to be placed on notice rather than following his usual custom and that of other Ministers of informing honourable senators that the information would be provided on a later sitting day; and, secondly, whether he was aware that by asking for the question to be placed on notice it would effectively be censored from the broadcast? What other distinction can the Minister put forward between asking for a question to be placed on notice and telling an honourable senator that he will provide an answer on a later day?
– May I extend now to Senator Mason the invitation which is readily availed of by Australian Labor Party senators. If he or Senator Chipp requests detailed information which may not be available to me and if he lets me know before Question Time I will get the information and give it to him at Question Time, at the risk of being accused of answering Dorothy Dixers. I make that offer to him quite clearly.
Opposition senators interjecting-
- Mr Deputy President, when the noise subsides, may I say that there was no attempt by me to use a device in terms of the answer I gave. I would need to look at Hansard, but my memory is that I gave a volume of information and then indicated that there may be more information that could be given. If that is wrong then I stand corrected. The aim of asking to put the question on notice, if I did ask that that be done, was a valid one- to get more information. I will see that the question is answered in quick time.
– I ask a supplementary question. The second part of the question was: Was he aware that by asking for the question to be placed on notice it would effectively be censored from the broadcast?
– When I asked that the question be placed on notice I had no overt awareness at all, but in fact I am aware that, as a principle, a question placed on notice is edited out. I am also very much aware that there is a tendency on the other side of the chamber for honourable senators to seek to have questions and answers edited out by the simple device of trying to take points of order.
– I wish to ask a further supplementary question. The Minister has not answered the third point.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The honourable senator has asked his supplementary question.
– Is that your ruling, Mr Deputy President?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes, that is my ruling. The honourable senator will resume his seat.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. With the Western Australian Government giving the go ahead for the mining of uranium at Yeelirrie in Western Australia and the request of the Premier of Western Australia for the establishment of a uranium enrichment plant in that State, can the Minister say whether this latest development will have any adverse effects on the establishment of an enrichment plant in South Australia while the present South Australian Government continues with its current attitude towards the mining of uranium, even though South Australia, with the backing of the South Australian Government, is the most advanced State in Australia on research and negotiations for the establishment of uranium enrichment?
– I do not know whether this is to become a contest between a Western Australian senator and a South Australian senator about which State is the most advanced in the pursuit of uranium development, knowledge or anything else. Honourable senators will be aware that the Western Australian Government has demonstrated a progressive attitude towards the development of the uranium industry in that State. The recent announcement of the Premier of Western Australia concerning the development of the Yeelirrie deposits and the Western Australian Parliament’s passage of the Yeelirrie agreement between the Western Australian Government and the Western Mining Corporation exemplifies that State’s interest in and its ability to secure the development of a uranium industry.
The Western Australian Government has expressed a strong interest also in studying the feasibility of undertaking uranium enrichment. The attitude and achievements of the South Australian Government towards uranium development have been quite to the contrary. It is clear that the electorate of South Australia is being denied potential benefits that could accrue to a State successful in attracting the development of uranium- I refer to places such as Roxby Downs and Beverley- and through possible participation in a uranium enrichment industry. On 23 January the Minister for Trade and Resources stated in a joint statement with the Minister for National Development that the Commonwealth
Government will now press ahead with feasibility studies with foreign governments and foreign organisations which have an interest in collaboration on uranium enrichment, and it is hoped to involve State Governments as fully as possible. It is certainly the wish of the Commonwealth Government to involve State governments, including the South Australian Government, as fully as possible in any firm proposals for feasibility studies. It is recognised that any decision to locate an enrichment plant in Australia involves complex issues. Of course, the ultimate decision in these matters will depend very much upon the attitudes adopted by the State Governments concerned.
– In directing a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate I refer to the statement made by him last Thursday. I apologise for doing so because I think the principles contained in the statement were of the highest. I want to know whether the Minister was expressing the Government’s view or the philosophy that he would like to see adopted. In relation to the resignation of Mr Ellicott, the Leader of the Government said:
He sought, quite rightly, to ascertain his views. 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 ascertain a personal viewpoint on such a standard.
I think that we agree with that. If these comments apply to Mr Ellicott, should they not apply equally to Senator Sheil and the reasons for his resignation, because he was not permitted to have personal views?
– In both cases, again the circumstances are well known in Hansard. I commend Senator Cavanagh to read past issues of Hansard to get the information.
– I have a supplementary question. Can the Minister direct me to the Hansard issue where Senator Sheil ‘s resignation is ‘well known*?
-I will seek that information and let the honourable senator have it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services. Is it a fact that the wives of servicemen who accompany their husbands to overseas postings are not permitted to vote in Federal elections whilst their service personnel spouses are so entitled? Does the Minister agree that this is blatant discrimination of a sexist nature to disfranchise these Australian citizens?
Can he assure me that this anomaly will be corrected so that these women will be given their democratic rights to cast their votes in all future elections?
– I understand that the position with respect to wives of servicemen is as indicated by Senator Bonner, namely, that if they are not resident in Australia they are not entitled to be on the electoral roll and hence not able to vote. The position with respect to their husbands is that there is a specific exception with respect to servicemen overseas which enables them to vote. As far as being blatant discrimination of a sexist nature is concerned, to pick up Senator Bonner’s terms, if he means by that that there was some intention to discriminate on a sexist basis, I do not agree with him because I suspect that it is simply an historical fact that at the time when the legislation was introduced it was not thought that wives of servicemen would be overseas with their husbands. I think that the matter is one that could properly be reviewed in light of the fact that the Government is reviewing the Electoral Act. I will refer the matter to the Minister for Administrative Services and seek some further response from him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that the infamous and barbaric seal slaughter season is to commence in Canada on 10 March, and mindful of Australian public opinion of disgust with regard to this carnage, has the Prime Minister conveyed our concern to the Canadian Prime Minister or does he contemplate doing so?
– My advice on this matter is that two issues are involved. The first is the method of killing the seals and the second is the impact of culling on the seal populations. The Canadian Government’s view is that the method currently employed to kill the seal pups is the most humane. I am advised that neither species concerned, the harp seal and the hooded seal, is considered to be endangered. Although both species have been reduced from their former numbers and distribution, they are still quite widely distributed in the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. There is international debate on the validity of population estimates which are the basis of decisions on total allowable catches. We understand that the Canadian Government’s position is that the 1979 quota will still allow the population of adult harp seals to increase from about 1.3 million to 1.5 million within 10 years.
Therefore, I am advised, it would seem inappropriate for the Australian Government to take any action on this matter at this time in the absence of a clearly denned threat to the species. Nevertheless -
– I have a supplementary question. Perhaps I am a very naive person, but what I am putting to the Minister is whether we do not regard the British Commonwealth as a sort of superior club of Prime Ministers. Would it not be possible for the Prime Minister to ring Pierre Trudeau and to suggest that we are supposed to be much better than non-Anglo-Saxon countries?
– I fully appreciate and acknowledge Senator Mulvihill ‘s very keen interest in flora and fauna. I also acknowledge the sensitivity of many people on this subject. Just as the honourable senator asked me his supplementary question, I was about to say that, nevertheless, I would direct the substance of his question to the Prime Minister so that he could have the value of Senator Mulvihill ‘s comments.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science and the Environment who is also the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. Is it a fact that the Mumimbidgee River is heavily polluted downstream from Canberra? Is the pollution so bad in places that even stock will not drink from it? Is the pollution caused by the discharge of Canberra sewerage into the river? If the Minister doubts that there is that level of pollution, is he prepared to drink a glass of Mumimbidgee River water? If he accepts that level of pollution, can he say what is being done about it?
– I understand that pollution has occurred in the Mumimbidgee River. If Senator Hamer invited me to view this problem I would be very pleased to go with him. My understanding is that there has been some hold-up in the building of facilities for the purification of the water that flows down the Mumimbidgee but that when that work is completed in the near future the quality of the water will improve. Senator Hamer has previously mentioned to me the pollution that occurs in the river. If it is as serious as Senator Hamer has indicated, I think that action should be taken immediately. I will direct the attention of the Minister for the Capital Territory to the situation. I accept Senator Hamer ‘s invitation to view the problem at some stage.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Why has the linchpin for the protection of both the Aboriginal people and the environment at the Ranger uranium mine site- that is, the declaration of the Kakadu National Park- not been used? As mining operations at Ranger are now proceeding and hundreds of workers are expected to come into the area next month, can the Minister inform the Parliament when the Park will be declared, as promised by his Government?
-This matter is not directly within my portfolio responsibility, but I understand that the Park has to be declared by either the end of March or the end of April. I am not sure which it is. I will seek further information on the subject for the honourable senator and let him know.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport a question. In January it was indicated that for economic reasons the Minister for Transport, on the advice of the Australian National Line, was considering removing the vessel Darwin Trader from the east coast Darwin route. Since then a delegation comprising Northern Territory members of parliament and industry representatives has seen the Minister in Canberra and the management of the Australian National Line in Melbourne. I understand that this meeting has been followed up by various authorities. Is the Minister now in a position to indicate the present situation in regard to the Darwin Trader, and, as requested by the delegation and industry, to indicate that no action will be taken to remove the Darwin Trader from her route until a full economic assessment is made of the whole situation?
– I understand that the facts are as indicated in the question asked by Senator Kilgariff. I am advised that at the moment the Northern Territory Government is having a study of transport needs undertaken. It is thought that that study will be completed by the end of this month. In the meantime, following the various discussions which have been held, the Australian National Line has agreed to continue the service; but I understand that that agreement was made simply to allow the study to be completed so that the Northern Territory Government would be in a position to assess the situation.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education. I ask the Minister whether, in view of the Queensland Government’s arbitrary decision to ban the social education course known as the Social Education Materials Project, including its component The Consumer in Society’, from the curriculum of Queensland schools, he would consider making available in all Queensland schools a copy of the book produced for the Trade Practices Commission entitled Shoppers Rights- A Guide Book to Consumers’ Problems.
-I think the Government did something even better than that, in the same spirit. We arranged for a display of the Social Education Materials Project to be made available in Brisbane for the public to see. When that display was here in this Parliament House- I made available to this Parliament for about a week facilities for members to look at the SEMP material- a display was also made available in some independent school and this was known to the public. If indeed there is any desire for people to see again the SEMP material I will be happy to have it on display. The fact is that the curricula and material made available to state schools are matters for the sovereign decision of the particular State Government concerned.
– Not when you are supplying the money. Then it is your responsibility.
- Senator Georges interjects: ‘Not when you are supplying the money’. The Curriculum Development Centre is a cooperative effort on behalf of Federal and State governments. Its purpose- I commend its charter to Senator Georges- is to provide materials which can be accepted or rejected by the client. The client can decide to use them or not to use them. That client can be a State department, an independent school, a private citizen or a parent. These materials are made available to such clients. It is quite clear under the CDC that it is proper for a State to reject the material. My Government and I thought that since there was a controversy over social education material- this material is often controversial- the best thing to do was to make it publicly available, and we did so.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. What evidence, if any, is there to support public assertions in the letter columns of the Medical Journal of Australia of a possible link between the Monte Bello atomic tests of two decades ago and the later development of some forms of neoplastic disease? If no evidence exists can the Minister state clearly the basis on which the letters might have been written?
– I am advised by the Minister for Health that there is no evidence to support the assertions made in the letters referred to. The likelihood that there is a genuine correlation between radiation fall-out and the Monte Bello atomic tests is very small because of the measured negligible radiation dose to the community mentioned in the Medical Journal of Australia. No detectable radiation was observed in that part of the country from the Monte Bello trials. Results of fall-out surveys for this period were published in the Australian Journal of Science, volume 20, 1957, page 125.
The risk factors for radiation induced leukaemia are relatively well known, and quite excessive radiation doses would be required to give rise to the number of cases mentioned in the letters in the Medical Journal. The pattern described of a sudden and isolated cluster of cases nine years after exposure is not typical of the incidence in larger population groups such as those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am not able to give the basis upon which the letters might have been written, except that in the first letter it was made plain that a cluster of cases of leukaemia occurring in a country area was being investigated and presumably, all possible hazards would be investigated.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he has had his attention drawn to an Australian Associated Press report out of Chicago yesterday, the first paragraph of which read:
Australian Treasurer John Howard had a message for American businessmen and politicians today- Stick with a tough anti-inflation policy, even at the cost of rising unemployment, and it will work.
Does this not indicate an awareness at the highest levels of Government that the pursuit of certain anti-inflationary measures causes unemployment? Given the trade-off of a 7.8 per cent inflation rate at the end of last year against 493,000 people unemployed, what further numbers of persons will need to register with the Commonwealth Employment Service as seeking full time work in order to achieve the Government’s Budget target of an inflation rate of 5 per cent within the next three or four months? If the
Government does not expect the level of unemployment to increase significantly, has the Government abandoned any hope of achieving its Budget promise of a 5 per cent inflation rate by mid- 1979?
-Senator Tate was good enough to inform my office that he was going to ask a question on the substance of that message. I am therefore able to say that the Treasurer’s office cannot confirm the exact words that the Treasurer used in Chicago. The text from which Senator Tate quoted is a Reuter message and therefore would be a journalist’s report. The fact of the matter is that both the Federal Leader of the Opposition and the Government agree that the best way to overcome unemployment in the long run is to get the inflation rate down. The Federal Leader of the Opposition is on record as saying that and as saying that unless we get the inflation rate down we will get more unemployment; if we increase the money supply we will get more unemployment. So in fact what Mr Howard is saying, coincidentally, as I have said -
– You are better than Hans Christian Andersen.
- Mr Deputy President, I am perfectly willing at any time to read the significant passages of the 1975-76 Budget Speech by Mr Hayden. I am asked what further unemployment is necessary to achieve a 5 per cent inflation rate. I draw Senator Tate’s attention to the fact, as I have noted in this Senate in recent weeks, that the real level of unemployment has been falling now for six months, month by month. I cannot indicate when the inflation rate will get to 5 per cent. I can say this: I would have believed that the Australian Labor Party, in common with the Government, would want the inflation rate to get to 5 per cent and lower since that would be the best way to help people on fixed incomes, poor people, people who have minimum fixed savings, pensioners and others. I would have thought that the goal of getting the inflation rate down would have been commonly shared. Apparently that is not so. It is true that the latest consumer price index figures showed a worrying increase in the price of food, particularly beef. There has been a worrying factor overseas in the fact that both America and the United Kingdom have put up their interest rates significantly. This may cause some headaches in the journey downward of the inflation rate. However, the Government is confident that we will continue our progress.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I draw the Minister’s attention to the comments made by Mr Bert Kelly, a former member of the House of Representatives, at the National Agricultural Conference on 2 February 1979. Is the Minister aware that Mr Kelly has called on the Commonwealth Government to close down the tobacco industry in Australia so that the Government can trade off cuts in the tariff on United States tobacco imports for lower United States duties on Australian wool? Is the Minister aware also of a recent Capital Territory Health Commission report which claims that cigarette smoking is costing Australia $800m a year in medical bills, lost production through absenteeism and fires caused by cigarettes? In view of this, will the Minister comment on Mr Kelly’s claim that tobacco growers are costing the Australian taxpayer $80 a hectare of production? Does the Minister agree with Mr Kelly’s novel suggestion that the nation would be financially better off without an indigenous tobacco industry?
-My attention was drawn to the comments made by Mr Kelly at the meeting referred to by the honourable senator. I think it would be very difficult for the Commonwealth to accept the comments of Mr Kelly in relation to a variety of commodities which this nation produces. There may be a question whether it is appropriate for us to continue the production of a particular commodity. Such a consideration can be given to many things. Although honourable senators opposite are laughing, they must see the wisdom of what I have just said. A number of them would be very upset if we were to decide, for instance, that Aspro were to be taken off the production list. We all know that this product is required by the community today. It is true that studies have led to some adverse comment about these products.
I cannot say whether the cost figure mentioned by the honourable senator is correct. As honourable senators opposite have said before, the decision whether or not to smoke is one for the individual to make. I hope that Senator Missen is not suggesting that action should be taken against individuals who exercise that right. Certainly honourable senators should recognise the fact that a large number of Australians use tobacco products and, whatever the health authorities may suggest, will continue to do so. The cost which Senator Missen mentioned would continue to be borne at the expense of Australia’s overseas earnings if Australia did not have an indigenous tobacco industry. Of course, if that were the case this cost would add to the rate of inflation. This, again, would hardly be in the nation’s best interest.
The tobacco industry is of very considerable economic importance, particularly in those areas of Queensland, northern New South Wales- and I hear all senators from Queensland and New South Wales agreeing with what I am sayingand my own State of Victoria, particularly in the north east of the State, where tobacco leaf is grown. The industry contributes to the national economy through the employment opportunities which it gives. This is a very important contribution to some of the rural districts that I have mentioned.
As far as the comments of Mr Kelly are concerned, I refer the honourable senator to a recent statement made by the Minister for Primary Industry that Australia has made no decision to trade off Australian wool for American tobacco and has no intention in the MTN trade discussions of relating offers on one product to offers on another. The Government has no intention of putting at risk the interests of a significant group of Australian farmers.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Prime Minister during his policy speech in November 1977 said:
We will co-operate with the States and financial institutions to set up an insurance scheme, protecting savings deposited with building societies.
The Minister is no doubt aware of and would deplore the situation that developed last Friday in his home State where irresponsible and malicious rumours began a run on one of the largest building societies in New South Wales. I remind the Minister of the Prime Minister’s election promise to set up an insurance scheme in conjunction with the States and financial institutions to protect savings. What progress has been made with this scheme since the meeting with the States early last year or can we just take this as another broken promise?
– In common with ali other senators, I was most unhappy to learn of the events of last week where quite baseless rumours created an unnecessary situation. I make that point abundantly clear. I am aware of the promise made in the policy speech. I will ask my colleague the Treasurer, or if necessary the Prime Minister, what the progress is and I will let the honourable senator know.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Science, is about that bug- I think it is called the spotted alfalfa aphid- which has been destroying lucerne pastures in eastern Australia
– And in the Northern Territory.
-It is in the Northern Territory, too. As I understand it, the season in southeastern Australia, anyway, has been such that the bug seems to have gone underground, or it has gone somewhere, because it is not destroying the lucerne as much as it was. However, many people in that area believe that it will come back in a devastating way as soon as the season turns a little sour. Can the Minister say whether his Department has made any progress in regard to the bug-destroying facilities that were proposed, including the breeding of some other bug which might eat this bug?
-The problems associated with the lucerne aphid and the various other species that we apparently have in Australia have been discussed in the Senate on a number of occasions. I recognise that a number of honourable senators opposite are very interested in this pest. The honourable senator’s comments about the activities of the aphid in South Australia and Victoria in particular appear to be correct. He will recall that one or two years ago a successful attempt was made to introduce into Australia species of lucerne which would be resistant to the aphid. That has been done fairly satisfactorily. My understanding is that, although the bug may attack during the early leafing of the lucerne, if the circumstances are favourable, those plants that develop and get beyond the early leaf stage manage to survive. The discussions I have had lead me to believe that that is what may have happened in some parts of Victoria.
The honourable senator asks whether there could be biological control of the lucerne aphid. I will seek a comment from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation which has been doing a great deal of work in this area. So far as I know, studies have been aimed mainly at developing an aphid resistant lucerne and at the proper spraying of the crop at the appropriate time so that the economics of the situation can be to the greatest advantage of the grower.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the States Grants (Rural Adjustment) Act. I ask whether the Minister is aware that Part 1 (d) of the Schedule to the Act states:
Companies will not be eligible for assistance -
That is, assistance by means of loans- unless the Authority, having considered the shareholdings and being satisfied that the shareholders are bona fide primary producers relying primarily on the income of the company for their livelihood, considers it appropriate to provide assistance.
Would that Part of the Act render the Nareen Pastoral Co. ineligible to receive a loan? If not, as the wife of the Prime Minister is a shareholder in that company, can she be regarded as a bona fide primary producer relying primarily on income from Nareen for her livelihood, as required under the terms of the Act?
– I ask the Leader of the Opposition to put the question on the Notice Paper.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport a question which relates to the continued advertising campaigns of Qantas Airways Ltd. Has the Minister seen reports that advertising agencies in the United Kingdom have rated the Qantas advertising campaign as the worst advertising campaign of the year? Has he seen reports that in the Survey of Australian advertisers reported in the Advertising News of 22 December last the Qantas campaign was rated as the worst advertising campaign introduced in Australia this year? Has he seen that Qantas has now developed a new advertising style for the United States of America based on the premise that Americans are unable to understand the language, grammar and slang of Australians, and should therefore be made familiar with the way in which the average Australian talks? To that extent I ask the Minister whether he is able to give a translation of the following terms used in Qantas ‘s advertising: ‘To drink with the flies’, ‘a fizzgig’, ‘an onkus’. or the phrase: ‘Some of you cackyhanded galahs would dob in your cheese and kisses, dead set’. If the Minister is unable to give a translation of these, is he prepared to say how much longer the Government is prepared to allow Qantas to indulge in this style of promotion of Australia in foreign countries.
– The honourable senator raises matters which are of considerable importance and I answer him as follows: No, no, no, no and no. I will refer all the matters to the Minister whom I represent to see whether he can give the honourable senator a more helpful reply.
-On Thursday last Senator Rae asked me a supplementary question concerning the letting of the contract for the construction of a fisheries instruction vessel for the Australian Maritime College. I am informed by Captain Waters, Principal of the Australian Maritime College, that tenders have been called for the construction of the vessel. These tenders closed at the end of February. However, some additional suggestions were made concerning the design and layout of the vessel. These suggestions have been referred to the College’s principal fishing consultants, the United Kingdom White Fish Authority, for comment. The Authority’s comments are expected in the next few weeks. As soon as these comments have been received and assessed, the College will then be in a position to proceed to the determination of tenders and to the letting of the contract for construction of the vessel.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the first volume of the report of the Study Group on Structural Adjustment, and I seek leave to make a statement concerning the report.
– The Study Group, chaired by Sir John Crawford, was set up to examine and advise the Government on the adjustment problems of Australian manufacturing industries. Other members of the Study Group were Sir Brian Inglis, Chairman of the Government Australian Manufacturing Council and Managing Director of Ford Australia, Mr R. J. L. Hawke, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and Mr N. S. Currie, Secretary, Department of Industry and Commerce. I would like to place on record the Government’s thanks to the members of the Study Group and particularly to the Chairman. The Study Group’s report represents a further contribution made by Sir John in the course of a long and distinguished career.
In its preface the Study Group expresses its concern that ‘expectations about its report have been raised too high in many quarters ‘. As the report makes clear, the challenges facing Australian manufacturing industry are great and there are no easy solutions. The answers are necessarily to be found in a wide complex of policy measures. The report, as requested in the terms of reference, has addressed itself to these measures. In the view of the report, lower population growth rates, technological change, import competition, changing patterns of consumer demand and wage cost pressures are all part of the challenge requiring these measures. The report notes that:
In the early 1970s, wages, especially those for women, increased sharply, partly as a result of the introduction of equal pay. In 1973-74 alone, minimum award wages increased 37 per cent for females, and 27 per cent for males.
In addition the report underlines the fact that:
Government action has at times contributed to the adjustment pressures on industry. The 25 per cent across-the-board tarin” cut in 1973, appreciations of the exchange rate to 1972-73, and a scaling down of the Export Incentive Scheme in 1974 are important examples of such actions. However, more recent Government actions have been directed toward reducing inflation and reducing external pressures on the hardest-pressed import-competing industries through limiting imports by quotas and temporary increases in tariffs. Devaluations of the Australian dollar since 1974 have also assisted the import-competing industries as well as the export sector.
The report proposes a series of positive measures to respond to the challenges and opportunities faced by Australian manufacturing industries. The Government believes that the analysis and recommendations contained in the report will be an important contribution to its consideration of long-term policies to assist industry to adjust to a changing environment and to promote sound industrial growth in the future. The report also provides a focus for all interested parties in their evaluation of future prospects for Australian industry. The report endorses and considerably elaborates the need identified in the White Paper on Manufacturing Industry for Australian industry to become more competitive, better able to compete with imports and to enter export markets. The manufacturing sector must be export oriented if it is to use fully our resources and skills. The Austraiian market is seen by the report as being too limited for any other policy.
The Study Group is ‘in favour of the Government following policies that set the right climate for investment and growth’ and it has proposed an extended range of incentives as the principal means of encouraging industry to become more competitive and export oriented. In this way, the report believes growth rates in the sector can be raised and employment better sustained and expanded. Many of the areas covered by the report are matters to which the Government is giving continued attention: Export development, industrial research and development, investment incentives, productivity improvement and industrial financing. The Government has already introduced taxation concessions to encourage investment; made significant improvements to export incentives; substantially increased funding for industrial research and development, and instituted other programs designed to improve productivity in industry. In addition, particular emphasis has been given to increasing our efforts to secure better access to overseas markets for Australian goods, a matter heavily emphasised in the report.
The Crawford Study Group believes that further improvements could be made in the range of programs and has put forward a large body of recommendations. It sees the need for a positive’ strategy to deal with adjustment problems, what it terms an ‘industrial adaptation policy’. Other elements in the strategy outlined and developed in the report include the gradual adjustment downwards in the higher reaches of Australian protection levels; an overseas trade policy designed to secure markets for Australian manufacturing exports; manpower policies to help the work force to adjust to new employment opportunities, and special policies for the most highly protected industries, aimed at easing the process of adjustment for them.
Each of the Study Group’s recommendations will be given very careful consideration. Many of them have far-reaching implications. In a number of cases, the Study Group’s analysis of particular issues will, as it recognises, be complemented by related studies commissioned by the Government such as the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training, the Inquiry into the Process of Technological Change in Australian Industry and the Inquiry into the Australian Financial System.
Mr Deputy President, the Report will be a very valuable input to the Government’s decision-making process. It is very much concerned with what the authors believe to be necessary and practical programs. It will assist the Government to ensure that future policy decisions will contribute to the maximum possible extent to achieving the Government’s overall economic and industry policy objectives, and to improving the competitive position of Australian industry and to assisting the transfer of resources to those competitive, export oriented industries which in the years ahead must provide the basis for a successful industry policy and enable manufacturing to play a much stronger role in the economy as a whole.
Significant progress has been made in bringing down inflation and improving the competitive position of local industries, and the report recognises that ‘ manufacturing is in a better position to export than it has been for some time’. There is now evidence that Australian industries are increasingly being able to exploit market opportunities overseas and that our improved competitive position has generated significant interest in new investment in local industry. It is essential that these gains be sustained and new opportunities actively sought if the economic growth which would facilitate structural adjustment is to be realised. In view of the importance and breadth of the matters raised in the study group’s report, it is being tabled now so that it can be widely and intensively discussed and the community’s response registered by the Government. A special committee of Ministers has been set up to coordinate the Government’s assessment of the recommendations. This committee will be chaired by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Other members will be the Ministers for Primary Industry, Education, Industrial Relations, the Treasurer, Employment and Youth Affairs, Productivity, Business and Consumer Affairs, and Special Trade Representations.
– by leave- The report just tabled by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) contains many far reaching recommendations which will require considerable study. Obviously one can make only very brief observations in view of the short time one has had to look at it. I presume that we will have an opportunity for a much more detailed debate on it very shortly.
I am sure that it is hoped by everybody that the report will not be buried as was the report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry, known as the Vernon Report, or ignored as was the report of the Committee to Advise on Policies for Manufacturing Industry, known as the Jackson report, but that it will lead the Government and the community to a greater understanding of the problems that are involved, particularly in the Australian manufacturing industry, and of course the consequences if nothing is done. The Opposition will study the report in depth, but one thing which can be said immediately and which comes clearly from the report is that this Government’s notions of small governments and what might be called untramelled enterprise just does not square with reality.
On page 55 of the report is a section which should be read at this stage. It says:
The process of changing the orientation of the manufacturing sector cannot be left to business alone. It will require positive government support and involvement. Without government involvement the market as it now operates is not capable of supporting industrial development and restructuring at the desired rate and with costs acceptable to the Australian people.
No clearer statement of the need for government involvement could possibly have been put down by any committee. It is a statement with which we in the Opposition agree and something for which we have argued for the past three years. It makes nonsense of the views that have been expressed by Ministers in this Government, that the decisions of industry, especially manufacturing industry, should be left entirely to the private sector and that the role of the government sector should be continually downgraded.
The Government itself has made it clear that there is a need for government involvement with industry on a wide range of matters to ensure that there is a proper development of the manufacturing sector in this country. The report also envisages a much wider role for government than has been considered necessary by the present Government. The report makes the obvious points that government policies will be necessary to give direction to manufacturing industry, that government action will be necessary to smooth the problems that will be created by the continuing adjustment which has been going on and which we can expect to go on in the various areas of secondary industry. The report goes even further. It suggests that the Government should take the lead in aiding new industries and, particularly, in the creation of new markets in Asia. It also clearly envisages government intervention directly in a number of areas. It strongly suggests that the planning and intervention are long overdue. In particular it supports some things which have been advocated by the Opposition- the establishment of a capital market, the development of a manpower policy, the supply of information which will enable us to co-ordinate development programs and, particularly, the co-ordination of Government policy with that of the private sector.
All these activities have been ignored until the present time and it now appears, even from looking at this report in a fairly cursory way, that the Committee is saying to the Government that no longer is it enough for this Government to opt out of the responsibility of getting the manufacturing sector back on its feet. For too long this Government has said that it is the responsibility of the private sector to get the economy back on its feet and to get people back to work. We now know from this report, which has been issued to one of the Government departments here apparently only in the last couple of days, that the Committee is telling the Government that 600,000 people will be unemployed next year if the present policies are continued. It must surely be time for us to realise, as this Committee’s report is saying, that the policies which have been adopted are simply not working. Not only are we looking at an increase in unemployment of another 100,000 in the months ahead, but also we find that even the Government’s much vaunted success in getting inflation down has taken a reverse turn. Various areas of the Bureau of Statistics have been cut back, notionally on the basis of cost. But that has meant that less information is coming forward to help us understand the problems which we have in the manufacturing sector. We have seen steps taken to deplete the numbers in the Public Service which again is making it very difficult for the proper information to be assessed.
Over the years there has been very little attempt by this Government to develop a manpower policy. We see a classic case of manpower policy in what has happened in Sweden over the years. Even 10 years ago that country had a policy of retraining one per cent of its work force every year. The success of that policy in Sweden under a social democrat government is shown by the fact that that Government has been much better able to withstand the recession that has hit all the Western world countries over the past three or four years. The various programs which the Government has adopted, allegedly to create employment, have until now not been successful; and this has been the pattern over the last three years. I think it adequate at this stage to complete what has been a very brief comment on the report, but I take it that the Government is prepared for there to be a full debate on this report. I am not sure whether that has been indicated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, but I ask him whether he will indicate now whether there will be an opportunity very shortly for a full debate to take place on this report.
– The Whip is proposing to move a procedural motion to that effect.
Motion (by Senator Peter Baume)- by leave- proposed:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- I am sure that Senator Carrick did not deliberately avoid Senator Wriedt ‘s question. I wanted to seek leave to make a statement on this subject now, but I was assured by the Opposition Whip that an undertaking had been given by the Government that this debate would be resumed in the next sitting week or at a very early opportunity. Senator Wriedt asked Senator Carrick a question about that, but such an undertaking was not given. I seek an undertaking from Senator Carrick that this debate will be resumed either during the next sitting week or very soon thereafter.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesMinister for Education)- by leave- In order to facilitate the seeking of leave by Senator Wriedt to continue his remarks later, my intention was to indicate that the Government intended that at an early date a full debate should take place.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement by the Treasurer concerning schemes to avoid income tax, dated 1 March 1 979.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 28 of the Legislative Drafting Institute Act 1974 I present the annual report of the Legislative Drafting Institute for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– by leave- The statement which follows is now also being presented by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in the House of Representatives. Where a first person singular pronoun is used it refers to Mr Nixon.
Some five months have now passed since I announced the Government’s international civil aviation policy, and I think it is now timely to point out to the House the achievements that have been reached to this point. I do not intend to go over in detail the aims of the ICAP. These should now be well known to all senators. It should be sufficient to say that, in a nutshell, the policy sets out to combine the best features of charter and scheduled operations in the one air service. That policy is succeeding. In fact, its success in the five months of its operation has been outstanding. It is specifically this success that I want to bring to the attention of senators today.
Implementation of the Policy
Like all other countries of the world, Australia’s ability to operate international scheduled air services depends on formal agreements reached on a bilateral basis with other countries. Australia has 27 such arrangements. To make the changes required to implement our new policy we therefore have to negotiate with our bilateral partners. On the Kangaroo route alone this involves negotiations with 13 other governments. Negotiations began in October 1978 to implement the ICAP. On the Australia-Europe routes, which in terms of ethnic ties are by far our most important, we have been able to reach agreement on our policy with the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I am confident that we will shortly be able to conclude a similar agreement with the Greek Government. Each of these arrangements has meant significant fare reductions. We have reached an interim agreement with the United States which has resulted in quite dramatic reductions in fares between Sydney and Melbourne and the American West Coast.
Negotiations began last week on the important Australia-New Zealand route and it was agreed that Air New Zealand and Qantas will meet shortly to formulate low fares proposals for consideration by our two governments. Exchanges have also taken place between Australia and Canada on new low fares, and I am hopeful that in the near future we might reach an agreement which will allow early introduction of lower fares to Canada. Arrangements are currently under way to organise a new round of negotiations with the Dutch Government, and I hope that here too we will shortly reach formal agreement.
Much publicity has been given to the position of negotiations with members of the Association of South East Asian Nations. I am the first to admit that discussions in this area have not, up to now, progressed quite as well as I had hoped. But I am still confident that agreement can be reached between Australia and the ASEAN nations, and I hope in the very near future. Before I go into detail as to the approaches that we have made to the ASEAN countries, let me put to rest- I hope once and for all- what seems to have become a popular misconception about our dealings with South East Asia; that is that the Department of Foreign Affairs has not been involved in the negotiations. That is simply not true. I say, most emphatically, that in all negotiations, with all of our bilateral partners, including negotiations with the ASEAN countries, Foreign Affairs officials have been fully involved. There has been no time when Foreign Affairs has not been involved. Furthermore, officials of my Department consult with Foreign Affairs officials on a daily basis.
Negotiations began with the ASEAN countries at the same time as they did in Europe. It was the Government’s aim that all countries with which we have bilateral arrangements would have been able to participate in low fare arrangements from 1 February 1979. In our discussions with the ASEAN countries we have offered to negotiate fares including stop-overs at a reasonable cost for those who wish to spend time in South East Asia. We have proposed low fares and tour basing fares to South East Asia and have offered to negotiate the levels of those fares. We are prepared to work out with the ASEAN countries the extent of capacity required to cope with the expected traffic demands and to provide some additional landing rights to ASEAN airlines. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and I have been collaborating closely in this matter and I am pleased that we appear to be getting close to arranging a significant round of discussions with the ASEAN countries later this month. I sincerely hope, and will be using my best endeavours, to ensure that that meeting clears away the difficulties which have so far prevented the reaching of agreement with our ASEAN neighbours and enabling them to participate in the benefits already flowing from ICAP.
The ASEAN problem centres in the main on concern that their tourism from Australia will decline as a result of our new policy, and that their carriers will lose access to Australia-Pacific traffic. On the first point, we confidently consider that stop-over traffic in South East Asia will not diminish, providing the correct fare levels are struck. Obviously, setting the correct fare levels is something that must be sorted out at the negotiating table. But let me point out that while there have been expressions of concern on the part of some ASEAN countries that stop-over traffic will decline, it is a fact that 47 per cent of Australian stop-over traffic is destined for Asian regions, not for Europe. On the second point, as I have already mentioned, we have proposed new fares that will allow stop-overs in the ASEAN region, at levels which are lower than those currently applying. By this means, we believe, the access previously enjoyed will be retained.
The New Fares
Now let me point out some specifics, in terms of figures, to demonstrate just how successful and how significant the new lower air fares have been. The APEX Advanced Purchase Excursion fares to the United Kingdom, previously the lowest on a cents-kilometre basis, have been reduced by 12 per cent in the mid or shoulder season and 32 per cent in the off peak. This now makes them comparable with the lowest cents per kilometre costs in the world. APEX fares to Germany, the first of their type to Continental Europe, produced reductions of 16 per cent, 21 per cent and 49 per cent for the three seasons. Similar reductions have been achieved in AustraliaYugoslavia fares which have been reduced by 14 per cent, 20 per cent and 48 per cent for the three seasons and similar levels of reduction are envisaged for the Australia-Greece fares. On the Australia-USA route APEX fares to San Francisco have been reduced by 6 per cent at the peak, 27 per cent at the shoulder and 53 per cent off peak.
The implementation of the new fares has caused a massive increase in bookings. Indeed the public response to advance purchase conditions has been overwhelming. As an example, on the Continental Europe route where there had been no advance purchase fares, Qantas alone has estimated that total forward bookings- that is to say bookings for all fare types- in the period March to December 1979, are up by 62 per cent out of Australia, and 98 per cent into Australia, compared to the same period last year. On the trans-Pacific route, comparable figures show that Qantas forward bookings are up by 125 per cent out of Australia, and 132 per cent into Australia. Obviously these figures reflect pent up demand, but indications are that the underlying generation rate is very close to that forecast by the committee which undertook the review of policy for the Government.
The introductory period has, of course, been a particularly trying period for the airlines in terms of making sufficient seats available to meet the pent up demand. The airlines have coped with this problem by adding additional flights as demand warranted and are now at the stage where not all seats are being taken up on the additional services. Looking specifically at the new APEX fares, Qantas and British Airways together on the Kanagaroo route have booked a total of more than 213,000 seats between Australia and United Kingdom. Breaking that figure down, over 100,000 seats have been booked into Australia and almost 1 13,000 seats into the United Kingdom. On the trans-Pacific route, Qantas has so far booked 53,700 APEX and budget fare seats out of Australia and nearly 51,000 into this country for the period February to December 1979. With total low fare seat bookings now approaching the half million mark, I believe that even our most ardent critics must now concede that our policy is an outstanding success.
Let me also give the Senate an indication of the actual fare reductions. In 1971, the lowest available return fare to London was $730.70. Expressed in 1979 dollar terms, the 1971 fare would be $1,644. I ask honourable senators to compare that with the $568 now achieved. Similarly, the lowest return fare Sydney to San Francisco in 1971 was $580.40, which in 1979 dollar terms would be $1,306. The actual lowest fare now is $430. Put in the simplest terms, the lowest available return air fare from Sydney to London in 1971 was equal to about 8Vi weeks of average weekly earnings, whereas today’s comparable fare is equal to only about 2lh weeks of average weekly earnings.
There have been claims that our tourist industry will be disadvantaged by the new lower fares. Yet the Australian Tourist Commission predicts a growth of 10 per cent in overseas travellers visiting Australia in 1979 alone, as a direct result of the lower air fares policy. Foreign exchange earnings are expected to total some $400m in the current calendar year as a result. The Tourist Commission is forecasting annual growth rates as high as 15 per cent for the period between 1979 and 1982, with over one million tourists coming to Australia annually by 1983. Taking another estimation, Qantas says that it is absolutely certain that in the first year of the lower fares being generally applied, it will have a growth, conservatively, of 20 per cent in the incoming non-business travel market. That would be the greatest annual growth rate in the last 10 years in tourism to this country, and the greatest absolute growth ever. So clearly, there is enormous potential for the tourist industry in Australia, and clearly it is all being brought about because of this Government’s policies.
There has also been much said about the socalled open skies policy. The proponents of such a policy fail to recognise that the pre-ICAP situation, in which 17 carriers on the AustraliaUnited Kingdom route had access to all fare types, resulted in overcapacity on the route and airlines having to keep fares up to remain viable. It must be remembered that the aviation industry is one which is heavily controlled by governments- all governments. So to speak of open competition in such an environment pays no regard to the international situation. Other governments will not embrace open skies policies, and, given that, for Australia to declare such a policy would simply be to hand over aviation policy to other governments, allowing them to make decisions for us on such areas as scheduling and pricing.
This brings me more specifically to the question of charters. As I said at the outset, our policy combines the best of both worlds. It seeks to preserve the best features of scheduled air services, yet allows them to meet the needs of passengers who want fares comparable to those offered by charters. Let me again say that there is no veto in the possibility of charters operating to and from Australia on a regular basis. Once the new fares policy has been fully implemented, and once demand has been fully assessed, then we can again look at the charter prospects. I personally believe that late 1980 will be the absolute earliest that this can again be considered, and if we are to consider any charter operations, then I would expect an Australian charterer to also participate.
Also, let me inform the Senate of moves towards lower add-on fares within Australia. The Government realises the urgent need to reach agreement with the airlines for equitable add-on air fares for international passengers wishing to travel to, say, the United States, from cities in Australia not presently served by direct connecting international flights. As a result, discussions are under way as a matter of priority between my Department and Qantas and the domestic airlines, and I hope that in the near future agreement will be reached that will prove to be of significant benefit to Australians wishing to travel overseas and to overseas visitors coming to Australia and wanting to see more than just the city in which they land. I am not in a position to say more than that at this stage, but let me again assure the Senate that the Government is mindful of the need for add-on fares and is pursuing all possibilities vigorously.
Achievements of the Policy
In conclusion, I summarise the very great benefits which flow from the Government’s international civil aviation policy as follows:
The introduction of the fares is satisfying a long awaited consumer demand,
The low fares are providing the tourist industry with the opportunity to market Australia overseas as never before,
The aspirations of our ethnic communities to visit their homelands and to have their friends and relatives visit them in Australia are being met.
The policy has enabled the greatest spread of benefits to the community in a nondiscriminatory manner. This will become more evident with the advent of new low add-on fares in Australia which are currently being negotiated with the airlines. The arrangements already negotiated will permit for greater flexibility than in the past in being able to vary fare types, schedules, service arrangements and capacity to meet demand. The pricing of fares over the seasons will enable airlines to smooth peaks and troughs in demand resulting in more economic operation and providing scope for maintenance of fares at lowest possible levels.
The fares included in the total fare package provide for economically efficient market segregation through pricing which caters for passengers wishing to travel on demand, the provision of stopovers, the establishment of fare levels to cater for those who wish to travel point to point and also provide for the tourist market and for those wishing to visit friends and relations.
The policy allows for the continued viability of Qantas, an essential element of Australia s ability to negotiate successfully in international civil aviation fields and to control our international civil aviation destiny.
Discriminatory benefits which resulted from illegal discounting will give way to the broadest spread of benefits.
The policy respects the rights of each of our bilateral partners to an equal share of the traffic between our two countries.
The retention of Qantas as a viable and efficient operator provides essential defence capacity for times of peace and of national emergency.
In conclusion, our policy is working. It is being advanced as rapidly as possible. It is bringing tourists into Australia. It is satisfying consumer demand. It is meeting the promise made to the people of Australia to give them the best possible access to the cheapest possible air travel and at the same time is boosting our tourist industry by also offering lower air fares to the residents of countries with which we have reached agreement. I present the following paper:
International Air Fare Situation- Ministerial Statement, 6 March 1979.
-by leave- I move:
We welcome the statement made by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and presented in this place by his colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chaney, but we want to consider it in the context of the history of this whole issue of cheap air fares, recognising as we do that Australia is located in an isolated part of the world, that it is a country with a reasonably high standard of living and that great difficulties flow from that isolation as far as the movement of Australians is concerned. As is so often the case with statements made by Ministers, this statement can be placed in the category of being a statement of self adulation because this statement seeks to justify the Government’s reluctance to face up to its responsibilities concerning cheap air fares for overseas travel.
Actually, the Government has been dragged reluctantly into the whole reduced air fares issue. During 1978 tremendous public concern was expressed about the level of fares for travel outside Australia and now concern is continuing to be expressed about the high level of domestic air fares in our country. I find it somewhat hypocritical that the Government should talk about cheaper air fares for consumers when in fact we have lost a whole tourist season as a result of the Government’s procrastinations. Cheaper air fares were not an initiative on our part. In fact, we dragged the chain and came to the party very late and in such a way as to disadvantage completely a considerable number of Australians who were attracted to the concept of cheap air fares.
The statement must be seen as a prelude to Mr Nixon and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, attending a ministerial meeting with Association of South East Asian Nations member countries in Jakarta next week. It is interesting that our Ministers are attending the meeting at the invitation of the ASEAN countries. We should ask why this is so. We should thank ASEAN for at least getting our two Ministers to a negotiating position because, if that invitation had not been extended, there would probably have been no ministerial statement.
My colleague in the other place, the shadow Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Shortland, Mr Morris, described this issue as a saga of incompetence and indicated that if an invitation had not been extended to Australia for it to be represented at Jakarta we would not have Ministers attending that meeting, nor would the sorts of decisions that we have been forced to make in recent times have been made. So let us hope that Messrs Peacock and Nixon will discuss their attitudes on the flight to Jakarta. By all appearances, they have not previously had such a discussion. Let us look at the record. Firstly, Mr Nixon has alienated the ASEAN countries and has endangered valuable economic links that we have with our closest geographical neighbours. We have alienated Holland, a member of the European Economic Community, at a time when our Government allegedly is interested in establishing closer economic links with the EEC countries. We certainly have alienated New Zealand, our closest neighbour and an important trading partner, a country with which we have had and should maintain the closest links.
We are entitled to ask why these sorts of problems have existed. Clearly they result from a lack of communication between Mr Nixon and Mr Peacock on their respective areas of responsibility. Mr Nixon is not a diplomat, to put it mildly, and has not been shown to be very competent at high level consultations with the diplomatic service, with the Department of Foreign Affairs or with Mr Peacock. But that is typical of this Government. For example, we have just learned that the Minister for Finance, Mr Eric Robinson, is said not to have spoken to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for four months. How can policies be made in that way? Have we had that sort of sulking by those other two Ministers? We are entitled to know how long it is since Mr Peacock and Mr Nixon have spoken. We know that it must be difficult for them to speak because Mr Fraser keeps Mr Peacock out of the country for great lengths of time.
We have seen the result of this impasse in the lack of communication and in Mr Nixon’s amateurish attempts to determine foreign policy. In case honourable senators have any doubts about that, I shall read into the record a section of an editorial in the Singapore Straits Times of 14 December last year, which talks of Nixon’s double talk. I am not talking about the former
American President; I am talking about our own Minister for Transport. The editorial stated:
Mr Peter Nixon’s thinlyveiled attack on the Singapore aviation authorities, and not the press as he purported, must rank as a masterpiece of double deception. It started out as an attempt to swing public attention away from the principal issues in the air talks, but in the end, he deceived only himself by believing his own words. Suffice to say that under all the honey Mr Nixon oozed, his intentions bore no goodwill to Singapore.
His statement was full of contradictions. He implied his new policy would do no harm to countries like Singapore. Then, he admitted he had considered and rejected other options which (in his own words) would have been even more harmful to Sinapore
In his statement, he maintained no threats were made to Singapore. Yet, by his own admission his team of negotiators had made it clear to Singapore that Canberra could have taken steps more deleterious to the Republic. And those steps can still be taken if Singapore refuses to fall in line.
Mr Nixon had skirted several major issues. He insisted travellers can still make stopovers, and he does not intend to raise fares for those who do stop over. But he had avoided the specific cost of stopping over relative to flying direct.
If his proposals were carried out, the additional cost of stopping over would be abortive for many. Let Mr Nixon explain why it is necessary to raise the cost travellers have to pay to make an additional stop.
Why not cut all fares uniformly so travellers will have to pay much less even if they choose to break their journey back to Australia. That would be the best for Australians themselves.
The Minister also justifies excluding other carriers from the fare cuts. Is it not blatant protectionism that with his new scheme, the traveller between London and Australia can fly economically only by Qantas or British Airways? People in Singapore might become unnecessarily alarmed, Mr Nixon said.
If Singaporeans do in fact become alarmed, then it might be argued the alarm has been caused not by misreporting but by the inexact and insensitive information from the Transport Minister himself.
With so much at stake, the least he can do is to place his cards on the table and call a spade by its proper name.
So it is clear that Mr Nixon has not been diplomatic and that Singapore holds and maintains the view that he has not even been honest. What a state to which to reduce Australia’s foreign policy. What a mess to create in an attempt to try to achieve a very simple and proper objective- that is, the reduction of air fares. But is the saga of incompetence over? lt is not by any means over. When Mr Nixon starts talking sensibly with Asia, he will find out.
What about Australia’s domestic consumers and their interest? As I have said, we welcome the reduced international fares. Obviously the public also welcomes this reduction. Of course, the report acknowledges the overwhelming response in this respect. But the questions to be asked include: Why such a long delay? Why were consumers kept waiting for so long? Of course there is now a flood of applications to take advantage of the new air fares. Even though consumers have to book in advance, even though they have to buy insurance in case they change their plans, even though they lose interest on the money that they pay in advance, even though they lose flexibility- and they are the lossesthere is still a flood because consumers are looking for cheaper fares. However, the fare reductions were overdue because of bungling and incompetence.
It is clear from Mr Nixon’s figures that there are more Australians going out than tourists coming in. On Mr Nixon’s figures at page seven of the report, 13 per cent more people will go out than will come in. What will that do to Australia’s balance of payments? Of course, the curly question is: What about domestic flights? The position now is that it is cheaper to fly to Honolulu or even to San Francisco than it is to fly from Sydney to Perth. It is now almost cheaper to fly to Perth via London. One has to ask the question: Why are we still procrastinating in respect of domestic air fares? When the fares are negotiated with New Zealand it will be cheaper to fly from Sydney to Auckland than to fly from Sydney to Melbourne. One is surely entitled to ask the question: Does not the Government want Australians to see Australia first?
If it has taken many years of bungling to get cheaper international air fares, how long do we have to wait for cheaper domestic fares? Do we have to wait until 1980 or 1990? Thank heavens this Government will be long gone before then. The price of domestic air fares is out of the reach of the ordinary Australian citizen. Surely there must be concern generally in the Australian community and in the Government parties themselves about the tremendous cost of fares in Australia. Why do we have to wait until international pressure is put on us before in fact we approach this question of cheaper domestic air fares? For many Australians, if not for most Australians, interstate flights are an impossibility. People who want to visit relatives or to go on holidays are not able to do so. It is because domestic fares are so high that demand is low. It follows that, because demand is low, domestic fares continue to rise. The interests of the domestic consumer are placed last every time and this is quite consistent with other government policy.
I think it is worth looking at the economics of some companies which generally speaking, have been able to increase profitability as a result of Government policy. In this respect I refer not only to the airlines but also to the private sector of our economy. We should look at the half dozen or so companies upon which this Government’s policies are based. Look at the increased profitability of the companies as expressed in our newspapers in the last few weeks. The Bank of New South Wales has increased its profit by 37 per cent; Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd has increased its profit by 53 per cent; Burns Philp and Co. Ltd has achieved a 46 per cent profit increase; the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has increased profits by 55 per cent or $ 161m; Woolworths Ltd has had an increase in profit of $29.6m; the profit of Email Ltd has increased by 32.6 per cent; and the Nylex Corporation Ltd has increased profit by 48.4 per cent.
What is the position of consumers? They are missing out in the market place as they have been missing out in the air fare area, whether overseas or domestic. Neither their interests nor their opinions are considered. This Government has already rejected requests made by the Opposition both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate for consumer representation on matters affecting domestic airline policies and air fares. I think that we can surely see the need for such representation because in fact there is a greater need for it today than ever before. Perhaps the Government will see the obvious need for this now that we have compared what has happened internationally with what has not happened in the national sense. Of course, the Government might see this if Mr Nixon and Mr Peacock are talking and if perhaps Mr Fraser is talking to Mr Eric Robinson and if Mr Peacock and Mr Fraser talk to Mr Nixon and Mr Eric Robinson. Perhaps it is the lack of communication that has got us into this somewhat unsatisfactory state of affairs.
International air fares are slowly coming right and we welcome this development. However, we deplore the length of time and the saga of incompetence that has characterised this whole episode during 1978-79. What has transpired has threatened our foreign affairs interests and has frustrated our domestic consumers. Domestic air fares are clearly wrong and clearly too high. We can only hope that it will not be too long before the Government bites the bullet and takes on the challenge of reducing domestic air fares in the same way as the New South Wales Government has been able to reduce fares in its public transport system, thereby attracting people to use that system. Similarly that sort of emphasis is needed in our domestic airline industry. We should not have a situation in which domestic aircraft are only half full of passengers because of the high cost structure which renders people unable to afford to use air services. It seems to us that the Government has a big responsibility to take some very energetic steps to reduce domestic air fares in line with the reduced overseas fares. If the Government is not able to do this, it ought to say so to the Australian people; it ought to say so to the Parliament and not present a report which indicates that all is rosy, that there is nothing wrong with its policies and in fact -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)- Order! Two hours having lapsed from the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate, pursuant to Standing Order 127 1 call on the business of the day.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
That Standing Order 127 be suspended for this day.
– I was making my concluding remarks on this matter. All we were suggesting was that the style in which this Government operates leaves very much to be desired. The question of air fares has been a vexed one. It has been one on which there has been much public concern and comment. It is also affecting the tourist industry. In fact, I know of no section of the Australian community that has not expressed in some way its concern about the Government’s reluctance to tackle the problems of air fares in Australia, both domestic and international. I think that the time has arrived for the Government to put less emphasis on painting rosy pictures in its report. In fact, it should admit that it has been unable to face up to its responsibilities and has failed to provide Australians with the sort of fare structures which would enable some resurgence to occur in our tourist industry, whether it be for those people who wish to travel outside Australia or those people who want to use the tourist facilities in their own country.
– by leave- There is much I would like to say in relation to this matter. I will place some facts before the Senate so that honourable senators may weigh Senator Gietzelt ‘s remarks with the aid of these facts. They are basically taken from a publication Air Transport World of January 1979. The figures show that as of November 1978 the average air fare in Europe, expressed in United States cents per mile, was 31.7c; in the United States of America the average air fare was 13.4c per mile; and in Australia the average normal economy fare was 13.7 US cents per mile. That means that Australia’s air fares are fractionally above those of the United States and less than half the average in Europe. These facts are relevant to this debate. I do not wish to say that there are not ways in which further economies can be made and in which further alternative choices can be made available to travellers and tourists in Australia; but it needs to be understood that some of the allegations made against the Australian domestic airlines are not necessarily well founded. Perhaps this matter can be debated further at another time. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table giving a comparison of air fares.
– What is the average distance travelled? That might give us a better picture.
– Examples are given for varying distances in Europe, and the United States and Australia. I think that the honourable senator will be able to find the comparability he wants from the table. The interpretation is a matter for honourable senators. I have made it available so that they can take it into account in further considering this matter. I thank the Senate for the opportunity to incorporate this document in the record.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chaney) adjourned.
– by leave- On behalf of Senator Durack, who has been called away from the chamber, I wish to make a statement relating to the work test and unemployment benefits. The statement is made on behalf of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner). Where a first person singular pronoun is used, it refers to him.
There is, I believe, genuine concern within the community to see that all those persons who cannot obtain employment through no fault of their own should receive unemployment benefit. This is strongly supported by the Government. There is also some feeling within the community that any people who are not making reasonable attempts to obtain work or who might be refusing work that is available and who are still receiving unemployment benefits should not be assisted at the expense of the general taxpayer. Against this background, the Government has decided that the certain administrative arrangements associated with the provision of unemployment benefits should be reviewed.
Part VII of the Social Services Act sets out the legislative provisions relating to unemployment benefits. In particular, section 107(c) of the Social Services Act specifies among the qualifications for benefit that a person is unemployed and that his unemployment is not due to his being a direct participant in a strike; is capable of undertaking, and is willing to undertake, work which in the opinion of the Director-General of Social Services is suitable to be undertaken by that person; and has taken reasonable steps to obtain such work. The Commonwealth Employment Service acts as an agent for the Department of Social Security in reporting on whether suitable employment for a given individual is available.
The procedures and guidelines which the Commonwealth Employment Service adopts as an agent of the Director-General is commonly referred to as the work test. Under the Act the determination of what is suitable work in terms of section 107(c)(ii) is properly a matter for him to determine. Clearly, however, they involve matters of administrative judgment. For instance, in administering these arrangements the present practice is to seek to make an offer of employment to a person in his usual occupation or of an equivalent kind. Work of an equivalent kind is work of a type or nature in which the person usually engages or in which the person’s experience, qualifications and training could be used. Where, after a reasonable period, it has not been possible for a person to obtain employment in his usual occupation or work of an equivalent kind, the range of suitable jobs to which he may be referred is extended to all which are within the person’s capacity and which are open to him even though they may involve a change in his status or wages. A period of six weeks after registration for employment has been regarded as a reasonable period. However, this period may be extended up to three months where it is considered that to do otherwise would be detrimental to the person finding employment in his usual occupation.
The CES’s present instructions provide that in extending the range of suitable jobs it is not envisaged that, as a general rule, registrants would move after a period of 6 to 12 weeks immediately from one end of the occupational scale to the other. Rather, there is a counselling process, over the full 12 weeks in some cases, in which the applicant is encouraged to consider and accept employment in selected occupations which are within his capacity and available to him, even though a change in status may be involved. It might be considered that such a provision for counselling over a period of up to three months- whilst still receiving unemployment benefits- with the object of advising an individual to seek employment which may involve a lower status than he has been trained for, or is accustomed to, is somewhat generous. It might be considered that a more appropriate and objective criterion would be to have regard only to his or her mental and physical health in applying the work test. From time to time Ministers for Social Security and Ministers responsible for the Commonwealth Employment Service have established working parties of officials from both departments to examine the administrative arrangements appropriate to these provisions of the Act. The Government has decided, having regard to current practice, that it would now be appropriate to establish such a group to review urgently these administrative provisions and report urgently to my colleague, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), and me.
Furthermore, in reviewing the current arrangements, officers have been asked to include in their examinations the question of applying the work test to casual vacancies and arrangements in respect of referring people to jobs out of their district. We have also specifically requested that our attention be drawn to any persons or classes of persons who might be adversely affected by any variations in administrative arrangements. We have also asked them to advise on whether the current allocation of responsibilities between the respective departments with regard to the application and administration of the work test is the most appropriate arrangement. We have asked that this report be available in two weeks. When this report has been received it will be considered by the Government.
At the same time as establishing this working party I have asked my officers to reaffirm current instructions relating to the application of the work test and ensure that it is strictly applied. I have said on other occasions that there are some hopeful signs showing up amongst the economic indicators being released. I say ‘hopeful signs’ because I do not wish to be accused of overstating the emerging signs of recovery, real as they are. In these circumstances, I think the community would wish to be satisfied that all those who are unemployed and genuinely seeking work should be properly protected by receiving unemployment benefits but that the administration of the application of the work test would be such that it would protect the taxpayer from abuses of the system. I move:
-The Opposition questions the timing of the statement, the content of the statement and the need for the inquiry which has been announced. The timing of the statement we find quite interesting. In today’s Australian Financial Review is a report of an interview by a representative of that paper with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). In that interview the Prime Minister was asked whether he was satisfied with the administration of the unemployment benefit. His reply was:
I have no reason not to be satisfied. It is a highly complex area and improvements have been made.
Over the weekend we had the news that the very department of the Minister who originally made this statement, the Minister for Employment and
Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), is predicting in its forward estimates an increase in unemployment in this country in the next year to 600,000 people. In making this prediction, it is requesting further staff. The Prime Minister says that he is satisfied with the administration of the unemployment benefit; the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs is predicting a rapid increase in unemployment in the next year; yet we have this strange statement questioning the work test and the administration of the work test.
The statement is strange in several ways. It announces an inquiry which will question the desirability of people being allowed to seek work of a nature in which they usually engage, which is the present situation, and whether the counselling and the adjustment period that these people can take advantage of at the moment should be made shorter. It goes on to question whether the only criterion by which people should be judged as to whether they should accept work of the nature they usually undertake is their mental and physical health. One doubts very much whether the assessment of their mental health is a very objective form of measurement, no matter what claims are made for modern psychiatry and psychology. Some of us involved more intimately in the medical profession may even question how objective the measurement of their physical health may be under these circumstances. One assumes that the Government is looking at putting all applicants for unemployment benefit through psychological and medical tests. The statement goes on to say that this inquiry will look into whether people should have to travel outside their home area to get work. I point out in passing that at present single people over the age of 1 8 years may well be required to travel outside their own area to seek work. Does the statement mean that the Government is now looking at forcing married people to travel out of their own area to seek work? It is also suggested that this inquiry, made up of working parties of officers from the Department of Social Security and the Commonwealth Employment Service, will look at the general administration of the unemployment benefit and the allocation of responsibilities between these two bodies when dealing with the work test, the test applied to determine whether people qualify for unemployment benefit and whether they are making themselves available for full time work.
All of these things are to be looked into in a fortnight. The Government is expecting a report in two weeks. We do not believe that it is possible for a working party to report on such a wide area in two weeks. The Government already has available to it reports which it commissioned itself on this very subject. One wonders why we have to have another report on these subjects, when in October 1976 the Government established the Norgard committee to look into the objectives and functions of the Commonwealth Employment Service, including its role vis-a-vis the unemployment benefit. The Norgard committee reported in June 1977. Early in 1977 a draft report indicated to the Government that the Norgard committee would not make any tough recommendations about the unemployed and what should happen to the Commonwealth Employment Service. So on 30 March 1977 the Government set up yet another inquiry under Dr Myers, and this inquiry reported very quickly, in July 1977. The Myers committee was set up to look at unemployment benefits with a view to ascertaining, amongst other things, what limits if any should be placed on the levels and duration of unemployment before people received unemployment benefits, and the effect of income support measures on the incentive of unemployed persons actively to seek employment.
Both of these reports have come down, both of them have been looked at by the Government and debated in this Parliament, but the Government has implemented neither of them. Several recommendations made in the Norgard report were supported by Dr Myers. Both reports asserted that the creation of job opportunities should have the highest priority when the Government is looking at the unemployed. Both reports stated that the removal of the responsibility for continual work testing and income support services from the Commonwealth Employment Service was desirable, and recommended that responsibility for income support services should be assumed by the Department of Social Security. Both recommended that the Commonwealth Employment Service should concentrate on the placement of job seekers. Both stated that the Department of Social Security needed more decentralised offices and more staff posted in outlying areas to carry out face-to-face interviews and counselling with the unemployed. The Opposition and many other people in the community supported these recommendations, but the Government has pigeonholed them and done nothing about them. Dr Myers in particular had things to say about the work test and about unemployment in general. He said:
He recommended that registration with the CES should be regarded as prima facie evidence of the willingness to work. He went on to say:
The inquiry has doubts about the desirability of the work test. If it succeeds in its objective of encouraging the reluctant worker into the work force, unless an additional job is created, the consequence is that another worker is displaced from the work force and becomes eligible for benefit . . . unless the community is willing to allow one of its members to receive no income whatever, the value of a general application of the work test must be in doubt.
He further said:
Further tightening (of the work test) is not really practicable in the absence of vacancies against which to test people.
He recommended a more lenient approach than the Government’s approach on voluntary unemployment. He recommended that a six weeks penalty should not be imposed unless the circumstances have been carefully investigated, and he wanted school leavers paid immediately and ‘ treated in the same manner as other new entrants to the work force ‘.
The Government appointed its own nominees to conduct these two inquiries and wrote its own terms of reference; but apart from giving the Commonwealth Employment Service marginally more staff, and appointing more field officers in the Department of Social Security to police unemployment benefits, not to act as counsellors, and apart from causing hardship by introducing payment of benefits in arrears, without eliminating the seven-day waiting period, it has buried both of these reports. This time the Government is not risking getting the wrong answers. This time the review will be internal. Departmental officers will not be allowed to come up with any glimmerings of compassion when they are dealing with the unemployed, only with punitive measures. The Opposition submits that the Government does not need any more information or any more reviews. It needs to take note of the reports and reviews it has already and it has to take note of reports prepared by honest departmental officers. One example is the officer who recently prepared the speech given by the Director-General of Social Services, Mr Lanigan, yesterday. A few short sentences were removed from this speech. They were:
Administration of this latter provision -
That is, the work testing provision- . . is difficult at iiic best of times, and rational administration can be impossible when willingness to work cannot be tested by offering a job.
Its moralism is inconsistent with the rest of the system -
That is, the social security system- . . although apparently strongly approved by the electorate and appears gratuitous in times of high employment when the allegedly work-shy could not get jobs anyway, and when in some respects it may be better for the available jobs to go to people who want them than people who do not.
This was an honest and innocent statement. It was removed from the speech delivered by the Director-General of Social Services although it was contained in the original speech forwarded to the organisation he was addressing. One can bet quite safely that the officer who wrote that statement will not be on the work force that has been established to review the application of the work test. Those paragraphs were deleted because they were contrary to the Government’s line and contrary to the conservative approach which the Government has taken to this problem all along.
Since the Government was elected in 1975 it has made continual alterations to the work test and the conditions which apply to those receiving unemployment benefit. The first statement issued by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and her colleague in another place, Mr Street, was entitled ‘Moves to defeat dole cheats’. It talked about dole cheats and dole bludgers. Since then the Government has, amongst other things, refused benefit to claimants who failed the work test on the grounds of their appearance or their demeanour in the office; obliged single persons over 1 8 years of age to move from home if work is available elsewhere; deprived school leavers of unemployment benefit for six weeks after completion of their studies; tightened the restrictions whereby skilled persons were forced to accept unskilled work; required income statements to be delivered personally to the office of the Commonwealth Employment Service; required persons voluntarily leaving their jobs to wait six weeks before becoming eligible for benefit; changed the identification procedures so that no longer could identification be established by bank book or driving licence- the recipients must supply a birth certificate more than five years old, an insurance policy, a rates notice or other suitable documents; required that the failure of the CES work test would result in the cancellation of benefit whatever the family or personal situation- in other words, the work test applied by the CES applied to the Department of Social Security no matter what other conditions applied; refused to accept post office addresses and terminated benefit if such an address was given despite the fact that many rural people travel from town to town; and refused payment of unemployment benefit to persons laid off during the Christmas-January shut-down in industries such as the motor vehicle industry even when they had no holiday pay. It is worth while noting that according to the figures the DirectorGeneral and the State Directors are knocking back six times the number of recommendations from the Social Security Appeals Tribunal in favour of claimants that they were a year ago.
The Opposition submits that a working party such as that referred to in the statement is unnecessary; that it cannot gather the facts and report in two weeks; and that there are ample reports to go on which should have been acted on in the last three years, particularly those of Mr Norgard and Dr Myers. We believe that this is just another attempt by the Government to cover up the facts, as stated by the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs, that unemployment will increase rapidly in the next year to anything up to 600,000. We believe that what is needed is to find jobs for those people, not to tighten the work test to prevent those out of work from getting unemployment benefit. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Amendment Bill 1979.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Amendment Bill 1979. Postal Services Amendment Bill 1979.
Motion (by Senator Jessop) agreed to:
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment: Australian Marine Science, with particular reference to:
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.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That consideration of Government Business, Orders of the Day Nos 2 and 4- Dairy Produce Sales Amendment Bill 1979 and International and Domestic Affairs, Ministerial Statement- be postponed till after the consideration of Government Business, Orders of the Day Nos 5 and 6- United Nations Peacekeeping Force- Namibia- Ministerial Statements.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the concurrent consideration of Government Business, Orders of the Day Nos S and 6 relating to a United Nations Peacekeeping Force- Namibia- and the questions in relation to these Orders of the Day being put in the one motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator Missen requesting that he be discharged from further attendance on the Senate Standing Committee on Publications.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That Senator Missen be discharged from further attendance on the Standing Committee on Publications and that Senator Messner be appointed a member of the Committee.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I ask that the speech be incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill, which was introduced into the House of Representatives on 23 November 1978 as the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 5) 1978, contains further measures designed to prevent income tax avoidance. It covers three main matters and the amendments now proposed were foreshadowed in announcements made by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in April and June last year.
The measures contained in this Bill, along with amendments that have already been enacted in both the income tax and the sales tax fields, constitute a most significant attack on tax avoidance. They are further evidence of the Government’s continuing effort to ensure greater equity in the tax system. Other legislation against tax avoidance was foreshadowed during the latter part of 1978. Regrettably, it was not practicable to bring forward all the planned measures before Parliament rose for the summer recess. Legislative form remains to be given to proposals outlined in the Treasurer’s statements of 24 September and 3 October 1978. Avoidance schemes identified in these announcements will be the subject of legislation to be introduced during the current sittings.
Anti-avoidance and other taxation legislation introduced last year had, because of its wide scope and unavoidable complexity, placed a considerable strain on those responsible for its preparation. It was just not possible to do any more in the time. So I think those who might be inclined to be critical that this or that was not done earlier might acknowledge that an extraordinary amount of difficult tax legislation has been produced and a lot of it put into the administrative system.
There has been some criticism of the policy of announcing an intention to legislate against particular avoidance schemes as soon as they are identified, with legislation being introduced at a later date to take effect from the date of the announcement. The Government is convinced, however, that this is the right way to take action against what, in most instances, are blatantly contrived and artificial arrangements. At the same time, an early announcement is vital to prevent a continuing and substantial loss of revenue. It is accepted, however, that lengthy intervals between announcement and introduction of legislation should not occur. The Government will be guided by that objective.
Turning now to the subjects of this Bill, I point out that the first group of amendments are about the pre-payment schemes referred to in the Treasurer’s statement of 19 April 1978. The second group is concerned with avoidance of tax on income from ex-Australian sources derived through trusts, and related problems concerning partnerships. The Treasurer spoke about these in his statement of 8 June 1978. The third lot of amendments is concerned with tax avoidance arrangements involving trust-stripping. A statement on this subject was made on 1 1 June 1 978.
Pre-paid Interest, Pre-paid Rent and Similar Schemes
In the statement of 19 April 1978 the Treasurer described schemes involving prepayments that fall within two general classes and outlined remedial measures proposed.
The first class embraces schemes for prepayments of amounts under arrangements designed to secure an incometax allowance for what purports to be deductible expenditure but is, in essence, either not a real expense or one of a non-deductible capital nature.
An example of a scheme designed to secure an income tax deduction for an unreal or manufactured expense is the pre-paid interest scheme described in the statement of 19 April 1978. Under that scheme, a taxpayer obtains a loan of $ 1000, promptly pays $700 as a pre-payment of interest, and they buys back, or has an associate buy back, the rights in the loan for $370. The aim is to secure a $700 tax deduction- for interest- for a net outlay of only $70. The $70 is the lenders reward for participating in the scheme.
An example of a scheme designed to secure a deduction for an otherwise non-deductible capital expense is the pre-paid rent scheme referred to in the April statement. Under this scheme, a taxpayer wishing to obtain new business premises worth $lm arranges for a tax-exempt institution to purchase the premises for that amount, then leases the premises from the institution and pays it $800,000 rent for five years in advance. The taxpayer also takes up an option to acquire the premises for $250,000. The institution makes a non-taxable profit of $50,000 and the taxpayer aims to secure a deduction- in the guise of an expenditure on rent- for the major part of the capital cost of the building.
Provisions of the Bill relating to these prepayment schemes will preclude the allowance of income tax deductions for outgoings incurred under such schemes after 19 April 1978. The second type of scheme referred to in the April statement embraces tax avoidance arrangements between associated parties designed to provide a tax deduction to one of the parties in a year of income for an amount that, in whole or in part, will not be taxable to the other party until a later year or over a series of later years.
Provisions of the bill relating to these schemes will apply in two different ways according to whether or not the arrangements involve outlays for the future provision of goods or services. In cases involving such outlays, a deduction is to be available in a particular year of income for only so much of the total amount as can reasonably be apportioned to the goods or services actually provided in the year. In other cases, the deduction in a particular year of income is to be limited to the amount actually paid in the year.
The provisions will apply only where the arrangements between the associated parties are entered into for the purpose of tax avoidance and theoutgoingsareincurredafter19April1978.
I stress that the provisions of this Bill designed to counter pre-payment schemes are concerned only with the schemes outlined in the announcement of 19 April 1978. They do not extend to variations of the schemes referred to in the Treasurer’s later statement on 24 September. Legislation directed against the further schemes will be introduced in the current sittings.
Foreign Source Income of Trusts and Partnerships
The second group of measures contained in the Bill is designed to limit opportunities to avoid tax on income from an ex-Australian source that is derived through a trust or a partnership. These measures were foreshadowed in a statement by the Treasurer on 8 June 1978 and, as indicated then, will apply for the 1978-79 income year.
The need for these amendments arose out of a High Court decision to the effect that the trust provisions of the income tax law do not apply to income of a trust that is derived from a foreign source. The Asprey committee described this result as ‘unacceptable ‘ because it means that Australian residents can defer- or even escape completely- tax on foreign source income that is accumulated for their benefit.
The basic thrust of the proposed provisions is to ensure that both Australian and foreign source trust income to which an Australian resident beneficiary is presently entitled in the year of income will be taxed under the trust provisions to the beneficiary or, if the beneficiary is under a legal disability, such as infancy, to the trustee.
To provide also for situations in which there is trust income to which no beneficiary is presently entitled- broadly, income that is being accumulated without any beneficiary having a right to demand it from the trustee- a concept of a resident trust estate is being introduced. This was recommended by the Asprey Committee. A resident trust estate will be one with a resident trustee, or with its central management and control in Australia, at any time during the year.
In terms of the Bill, a trustee of a resident trust estate will be taxed on the part of world-wide income of the trust estate that is assessable income under the general provisions of the income tax law and to which no beneficiary is presently entitled. As at present, no further Australian tax will be payable by a beneficiary to whom such income is subsequently distributed. The Bill provides, however, for refunds of Australian tax in a special and unusual case. This is the case where foreign source income is later distributed to a beneficiary who was a non-resident at the time the income was derived by the trust estate. In that case Australian tax attributable to the foreign income so distributed is to be refunded on application by the beneficiary.
Provisions are also included to ensure that a resident beneficiary is taxed on foreign source income that had first been accumulated but was later paid or applied for the beneficiary’s benefit. These provisions will apply if the income was not taxed in Australia while accumulating in a trust estate that is not a resident trust estate and would have been taxable to a resident beneficiary had he or she been presently entitled to it when it was derived by the trustee. The provisions include rules designed to prevent a beneficiary escaping tax on a technicality that an amount or benefit is not received as income.
Existing provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act will prevent double taxation of foreign source income to which the amended trust provisions potentially apply where that income has also been taxed in the foreign country of source.
To aid administration, a trust which does not have a resident trustee, and which carries on business or derives income from property in Australia, will be required to appoint a public officer in the same way as a company is now similarly required.
The Bill also contains provisions to make it clear that income from abroad is to be included in calculating the net income of a partnership, and that a resident partner is liable to tax on a share of the partnership’s world income, subject to provisions giving relief from double taxation of foreign source income that is taxed in the country in which it arises. Non-resident partners will continue to be subject to Australian tax only on income attributable to sources in Australia.
Before moving to the next group of amendments I note that, as the Treasurer said on 8 June 1978, the taxation of trust income of beneficiaries is- as has always been intended- to be based specifically on the present entitlement of the beneficiaries. The fact that a beneficiary is paid income to which he or she is otherwise presently entitled will not impair the operation of provisions of the income tax law the application of which depends on the beneficiary being presently entitled to income.
Trust Stripping Schemes
The remaining provisions of the BDI will implement proposals announced on 11 June 1978 to deal with trust and associated arrangements seeking to bring about the situation that neither the trustee nor an intended beneficiary, nor anyone else, pays tax on substantial income derived by the trust estate.
As explained in that announcement, there are several variants of the schemes but, for the most part, they rely on a nominal beneficiary being introduced into a trust and being made presently entitled to income, thus relieving the trustee of any tax liability in respect of the income. It is, however, a feature of the arrangements that the introduced beneficiary also escapes tax by one means or another. For example, the nominal beneficiary may be a tax-exempt body such as a charitable institution. In any event this nominal beneficiary retains only a minor portion of the trust income, while the group for whose benefit the trust in substance exists secures effective enjoyment of the major portion, but in a tax-free form. For instance, the nominal beneficiary may have acquired its interest in the income by payment of a broadly equivalent sum to the persons really intended to take the benefit.
The provisions designed to counter these schemes will look to the existence of an agreement or arrangement under which, for purposes of tax avoidance, present entitlement to a share of trust income is conferred on a beneficiary in return for the payment of money or the provision of benefits to some other person, company or trust. In those circumstances, the provisions will treat trust income dealt with under what is aptly termed the reimbursement agreement as not being income to which any beneficiary is presently entitled. The effect will be to make the trustee liable to tax on the income under section 99A of the Income Tax Assessment Act at the prescribed tax rate, which is 61.5 per cent for 1978-79.
The change in the law will apply to trust income paid to or applied for the benefit of a beneficiary on or after 12 June 1978 under tax avoidance schemes of the kinds mentioned and will not apply in the context of an agreement or arrangement that is entered into in the course of ordinary family or commercial dealing.
Details of the various provisions of the Bill are contained in an explanatory memorandum that is being circulated to honourable senators.
I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through al! its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I ask that the text of the second reading speech be incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to raise the level of the general exemption from pay-roll tax applicable to the Australian Capital Territory. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) announced the proposed increase on 16 November 1978. The exemption is to be raised from $60,000 to $66,000 per annum. The higher level will apply from 1 January 1979, thus providing an exemption for 1 978-79 of $63,000 on a full-year basis.
The last increase applied from 1 July 1978 when the exemption was brought up to $60,000 in line with that allowed in New South Wales. New South Wales has since increased its exemption level to $66,000 per annum with effect from 1 January 1979.
The maximum exemption allowable in monthly returns will increase from $5,000 to $5,500 and, in conformity with the existing rules for the phasing out of the maximum annual exemption, will be reduced at the rate of $2 for every $3 by which the wages for the month exceed $5,500. There will be no exemption once the monthly pay-roll reaches $ 1 3,750.
As a general rule, the new exemption will apply first for the month in which this Bill receives the royal assent. End-of-year adjustments will ensure that the benefits are in all cases backdated to 1 January 1979. For returns lodged on an annual basis the new exemption will apply from 1 January 1979.
From the day on which the provisions of the Bill come into operation an employer paying wages of $1,250 or less a week will not be required to register for pay-roll tax purposes.
Explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in an explanatory memorandum being made available to honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Poultry Industry Levy Amendment Bill 1979 and the Poultry Industry Assistance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned. (Quorum formed).
Consideration resumed from 1 March.
– Last Thursday I referred to the wording of the proposed new section 49a in this Bill which says that an application must be decided to the satisfaction of the Commissioner. I have since had discussions with Senator Chaney on this question. I understood that he would make a statement today, explaining this section. I do not wish to say any more at this stage.
– As Senator Cavanagh has just mentioned, last week when we were debating this Bill in Committee he mentioned some difficulties with proposed section 49a. To some extent he explained the difficulties further when we were in debate on general business. He made reference then to the problem which faced Karen Christine Green in her case which came before the High Court of Australia. In particular he drew the Senate’s attention in Committee to the use of the expression in Section 49a which reads:
It continues and then states that the Commissioner shall accept the application. Senator Cavanagh also drew the Senate’s attention to the use of the words ‘if he is satisfied’ and ‘the Commissioner is of the opinion’ which appear in a number of the sub-sections. As I understood it, his concern was that notwithstanding that an appeal might be granted, the appeal tribunal would be able to look only at the question of satisfaction of the Commissioner. He felt that this was undesirable.
On Thursday night I made a couple of responses. In one I suggested that in fact the position of the Commissioner on an appeal would be that the court would be looking at least at the reasonableness of the Commissioner’ findings. Since last Thursday I have had time to seek advice on this matter and to further examine the principal Act. It appears to me that Senator Cavanagh ‘s particular fears are not appropriate in this case. The advice that I have is that the appeal provisions of the Act make the appeal effectively a rehearing of the application. I refer the Senate to section 150 of the Act which replaces what was section 149, if honourable senators are examining their consolidated statutes. Section 150 of the Act, as amended in 1976, provides:
Upon the hearing of an appeal from a decision or direction of the Commissioner, the prescribed court may -
It then lists in sub-sections (a) to (g) all the things which may be done by the appeal court. It can call in the aid of an assessor; it can admit further evidence orally or upon affidavit or otherwise; it can permit examination and crossexamination of witnesses, including witnesses who give evidence orally or on affidavit or otherwise at the hearing before the Commissioner; and it can order an issue of fact be tried in such a manner as it directs; Perhaps the most important sub-section is sub-section (e) which says that the prescribed court may affirm, reverse or modify the decision or direction appealed from. The penultimate sub-sections says that the court may give such judgment, or make such order, has in all the circumstances it thinks fit, or refuse to make an order. Lastly, it may make an order as to costs. My reading of that is that that effectively amounts to a rehearing. So we are not in the sort of position that Senator Cavanagh was concerned that a citizen should not be, namely, an applicant’s saying to a court: ‘For all these reasons I should have had the grant’, and the court’s saying: ‘That is bad luck for you because all we are interested in is the opinion of the Commissioner’. That situation does not apply.
I asked my advisers to give me some judicial authority for the way that could be read and they referred me to a case called Bernard Joos’ Application which is reported in 1946 Australian Law Journal Reports at page 438. That judgment says in part:
The Tribunal ‘s proper function is to say whether the Commissioner properly directing himself could reasonably hold that there was no reasonable doubt as to the invention being outside the Statute, that is to say that the application was plainly without possible justification.
That really is close to the sort of test that I suggested last Thursday night. My officers also referred me to another case called Kaiser Aluminium and Chemical Corp. v. The Reynolds Metals Co., which is reported in the Official Journal qf Patents, Trade Marks and Designs of 7 May 1970 at page 1289. 1 refer to a judgment of the High Court by Mr Justice Kitto which is printed there and particularly to page 1291 of the Journal. It makes some references which I think will be of some assistance to the Senate and to Senator Cavanagh. It says, in part:
The appeal is, of course, only an appeal in name. In truth it is an original proceeding, being the first judicial proceeding in the matter of the opposition. The right of appeal is given to an opponent . . .
It goes on to refer to various points and then says:
That is the section which is now section 1 50: . . that upon the hearing of an appeal the Appeal Tribunal may (inter alia) admit further evidence and give such judgment or make such order as it thinks fit in all the circumstances.
So I think- certainly my advice is to this effectthat the problem that was concerning the honourable senator does not apply in this case. There remains, I suppose, the question posed to me by Senator Cavanagh this morning when he asked: ‘If in fact we can substitute the court’s opinion for the opinion of the Commissioner, why have those words in there at all?’ I think that Senator Cavanagh agrees that somebody has to give an opinion on the matter to reach a decision. I have discussed the matter with my officers who point out to me that that is the general way in which this matter is approached through the whole Act. I think that it is explained on the basis that in these patent applications situations arise in which it is very often not possible for all the facts to be known. Essentially when one brings forward something, applies for a patent and says: ‘This is something novel, something new’, one is relying on the evidence one can find to bring forward; and the Commissioner, or whoever is called upon to determine whether patent protection should be given, is in a situation m which he simply has to rely on whatever evidence is available to him from his records, from the evidence which is brought forward and so on. Really it is appropriate to be quite explicit that protection is being granted on the basis of the satisfaction of the Commissioner.
There is not a substantial problem in this for the person who might be otherwise injured by this action of the Commissioner, because I am advised that the granting of a patent is always open to challenge subsequently. In other words, a person gets patent protection but, if somebody can show subsequently that the product is not novel and should not have been given patent protection, the patent can be set aside. So we are not in the sort of position in which the proprietary rights of a citizen are being put under some sort of permanent threat which is secure from subsequent challenge. After as close as examination as I have been able to give the matter over the last day or so, I think that in the circumstances the form in which the Act now stands is quite appropriate and that there is no risk in it.
– Unfortunately, despite the long discussion with Senator Chaney, I cannot accept his solution as a remedy to all the fears that I had. He has tried to persuade me that the fears are not well founded. I shall not say that I am correct in respect to all cases, but I hope Senator Chaney realises that they were fears that there may be in this Bill something injurious to those applying for patent rights in that a person may have his product patented by someone else. Senator Chaney referred to a judgment of Mr Justice Kitto which said that under the Act, as amended in 1967, an appeal court is an appeal court in name only and that its function is not only that of a court of appellate jurisdiction but also that of a court with as much original jurisdiction as if there were no Commissioner. He said that therefore it can examine everything and not make a decision based on the state of mind of the Commissioner. One would accept that; I think that one must accept that. But, as Senator Chaney said, the question is: ‘Why include the words?’ If the Parliament decides to put words into an Act, they must have a meaning. We know that judges, especially when a couple of Queen’s Counsel appear before them, can give any interpretation to a meaning. I do not know why we make a section ambiguous by including words which have no value.
However, Senator Chaney ‘s statement that all I am complaining about is the fact that an appellant can have a new hearing in an appeal tribunal is not correct. I am complaining about several clauses. Section 1 46 of the Act says:
Subject to sub-section (2), every prescribed court has jurisdiction to hear and determine proceedings that, under this Act, may be instituted in a prescribed court.
Senator Chaney assures me that the safeguard there is only a safeguard against those actions of the Commissioner that can go to the prescribed court, but all actions of the Commissioner cannot go to the prescribed court. If we look at the Bill, we see that proposed new sub-section 49a(1) says that the Commissioner can accept an application for a patent. Proposed new sub-section 49a(5) says that the Commissioner can allow an amendment to the application for the patent. Further, proposed section 49a(6) provides:
Where the Commissioner is not satisfied that a proposed amendment is an allowable amendment or is not satisfied that, if any proposed amendments that are allowable amendments were made, the application and petty patent specification would comply with the requirements of this Act . . . he may refuse the application.
The Commissioner has the power to refuse the application. Proposed section 68b (5) provides that if the Commissioner is not satisfied of the existence of any of the grounds set out he may grant an extension of the term of the petty patent. This applies after the expiration of the 12 months earlier referred to. Section 68b (6) provides that if the Commissioner is satisfied of the existence of any of the grounds he may refuse to grant an extension. If all those matters could be taken before a court of original jurisdiction I do not think that any complaint would arise. However, the court’s powers are restricted to what can go before it under this Act.
– But in the proposed section to which you have just referred- proposed section 68B- sub-section (11) does give a right of appeal.
– If it does, I have not noticed it. Proposed section 49a (10) provides:
An appeal lies to a prescribed court from a decision of the Commissioner to refuse to accept an application for the grant of a petty patent.
– That applies also if you look at proposed sub-section (6), which I think is the one to which you referred me. It states that if the Commissioner is not satisfied he may refuse to accept the application, and that is subject to appeal under proposed sub-section (10).
– Where is the power of appeal against an action of the Commission under proposed sub-section (5)?
– The applicant does not want to appeal there because the Commissioner is agreeing with him.
-No, he is not.
– If the Commissioner is satisfied with the amendment, then he allows the amendment.
– There is no appeal for any other aggrieved person.
– The other person would have his remedies under different sections relating to challenging the patent. That section is one which permits an applicant to make an amendment.
-He would have his right of redress to a court, but what would the court have to decide on that occasion?
– I am subject to correction, but my understanding is that if a person thought that there was some challenge to a petty patent he would have access to a court on the ground that it was not new; he would have grounds for going to a court and the court would hear that case on its merits and on the facts brought before it. Therefore, in proposed section 49a (5), to which the honourable senator has just referred, an appealable situation does not arise. It is a matter of satisfaction to the parties if the amendment which has been requested is allowed. A conflict might arise in respect of proposed sub-section (6) and it is here where one might ask: What is the remedy? The remedy is an appeal under proposed sub-section (10). If an outside person felt that he was aggrieved by this application, he could, as I understand it, bring an action challenging the registration of the patent. I have received the assistance of further advice from the departmental officers. They have referred me to proposed sub-section 68B (3), where a person may be asserting under section 100 that the patent should not be extended. In that circumstance too, if the Commissioner makes a finding which is adverse to the applicant, the applicant has a right of appeal under sub-sections (11) and (12) of proposed section 68B.
– I note the point which was made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), but it somewhat belies the earlier suggestion that the expression ‘to the satisfaction of the Commissioner’ is all through the Act. Matters under the clause to which the Minister directed my attention are not subject to the Commissioner’s decision. Certainly that is so in respect of proposed section 68b( 14). If there is no harm in a court of original jurisdiction reviewing the matter, why do we use words which we do not need? We have seen an adverse decision in the Karen Green case, one which I do not think the Minister could ever justify. A repatriation Bill which was introduced in the other place provides that the officer concerned has a right to refuse or grant if he is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt. I think that compliance with an Act should give a person an entitlement. He should not have to rely on something being to the satisfaction of an adminstrative officer.
– I have considered carefully the matter which was raised by Senator Cavanagh and I am satisfied that it causes no problem. Therefore, I propose to persist with the Bill as it stands.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27 February, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
– I guess that I will never learn. I have been in politics for 17 years and every time the newspapers report that a statement on foreign affairs will be delivered by either the Prime Minister or the Minister for Foreign Affairs I cannot resist tingling with excitement. After all, it is one of the most important statements to be made in a House of Parliament. However, I always feel disappointed when the statement has been made. That is not necessarily a criticism of the Minister of the day who made that statement because normally all that a Minister can do in a parliament under our Westminster system is make a statement which provides an excellent basis for a study group discussion. It gives no information. It gives no indication of the discussions that have taken place between heads of state or between Foreign Ministers. Sometimes at best it might state a government position or a philosophy or contain a bias.
It is those aspects of the Minister’s statement to which I address myself this afternoon. A statement, therefore, does not do much good. I can understand that. It throws no new light on events, it cannot provide confidential information. But a statement can do some harm, not only in what it says but also in what it does not say. I am critical of Mr Peacock’s statement in one or two areas. I will deal firstly with what it does not say. I deplore the absence of any condemnation, except in what the Minister meekly and weakly said of the monstrous action of the Vietnamese Government in sponsoring the flood of refugees out of the country, thus exacerbating the problems of other countries in trying to solve the internal problems of Vietnam.
– The Vietnamese can never be right. If they stopped the refugees from leaving they would be criticised.
– No, but as I understand it, the Vietnamese Government was virtually encouraging the exodus of certain of its citizens, particuarly those of Chinese descent, and then extracting a price- blood money- from those people so that they could leave the country. I am not here to take sides this afternoon, but that sort of action ought to be deplored.
– You had better take a look at that one.
– Inasmuch as the Australian Labor Party supported North Vietnam in the recent conflict, I appeal to Senator Georges to look with an air of objectivity and fairness at that country’s present actions. For my part, I absolutely denounce that action which virtually trades in human beings. I am sorry that the Minister was not stronger in his condemnation of the Vietnamese Government. Secondly, this statement does some harm in that it states these pious words:
The Government is committed to work for peace and the reduction of tension. That commitment is global.
In the light of the lack of action with regard to Indonesian aggression in Timor, that statement is full of hypocrisy. I will refer further to that matter later in my speech. I compliment Senator John Wheeldon on his speech on this matter. To my mind, it was one of the best speeches on foreign affairs that I have heard since I have been a member of this Parliament. I totally agree with his plea to the Australian Government and the Australian Parliament not to take sides in these matters that are threatening the security of the world at the moment. The wisdom of that advice can be seen in the light of the mistake that the United States of America made in taking sides with the previous regime in Iran. I should have thought that Australia should not blindly follow the advice of the United States of America. I was disappointed that the Prime Minister of this country did not publicly deplore the recent statements by the beleaguered President of the United States during the conflict in Vietnam that the United States could not stand by and see this happen. What the hell could he do except mouth some words? What did he mean by ‘not stand by’? That sort of statement seems to me just to add to the game of brinkmanship which too many nations are playing today. I should hope that we would be objective and independent in our appraisal of foreign situations.
As Senator Wheeldon so eloquently said in his speech, one did not need to be a genius in foreign affairs to know that the regime in Iran was incredibly repressive, that civil liberties were being annihilated everywhere in that country. Yet only a year ago we heard the unfortunate remark of Jimmy Carter, something to this effect: Thank God we have a politically stable regime in Iran which assists in the stability of that region’. That statement ought then to have been deplored by an objective, independent Prime Minister or Foreign Minister of Australia. I know that the Liberal Party of Australia still suffers from a hangover of the words of Sir Robert Menzies, said many years ago, that the most precious piece of paper in our archives is the ANZUS treaty. I dispute that, I hope not irresponsibly. I have little doubt that if Australia’s territorial integrity were attacked by a neighbour the United States would come to our aid in some form or other. But I refuse to believe- I am not being offensive to our American allies- that it would do so on the basis of the ANZUS treaty. It would do so simply in its own self-interests so that this ‘bastion in the South Pacific’ would not fall into unfriendly hands.
– It would be improper of any American government to act otherwise.
– Indeed it would. I prefaced my remarks by saying that I hope I am not being offensive to the Americans. The point I am making- obviously not as well as I had wished- is that we should not just follow the Americans in everything they do, on every statement they make. Do not let us back every nation the Americans back simply because of the ANZUS treaty. The Americans in all their wisdom in the past have been proved palbably wrong in their assessments on so many occasions. I am sometimes disturbed at the Americans’ dependence on and confidence in the regime in Saudi Arabia. I should have thought that the repressive nature of that regime, whilst perhaps not comparable to that of the Shah, is again suspect. So much of the stability of that region hangs on Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil supplier. That sort of philosophy on the part of this Government was emphasised in this pan of Mr Peacock ‘s statement:
Until very recently- although its regime was repressiveIran was an important force for order and stability in an extremely volatile area. Any change in the political configuration of the Gulf region which were to jeopardise access to energy resources would represent a major threat to the economic well-being of the West.
That sort of statement worries me. Almost every foreign affairs article I read in the last 12 months pointed to the possible instability of the regime in Iran. One does not have to be a student of foreign affairs to question how there can be stability in such a country, where there is repression and where there are diverse religious political groups; and when one knows that Russia and other great powers are trying to get into countries like Iran where torture is practised and where the secret police is as notorious as any in the world. I am disturbed that the Foreign Minister is naive enough to say that the Government conceded that there was stability in that country. I wonder to what extent we rely on our own intelligence sources. I wonder whether we blandly follow the Americans on every occasion.
Another criticism that I wish to make of the statement and, indeed, of many of the speeches of Government members is that I have detected a pro-China bias and an anti-Soviet bias. That disturbs me a great deal.
– That is not so.
– It is so. The honourable senator might dispute that there has been a pro- China bias or an anti-Russia bias, but he cannot dispute that I have detected it. Maybe I am wrong, but that has been my reaction to reading the Minister’s statement. I have heard every speech delivered on this subject by Government senators. That apparent bias does bother me because I believe that it means virtually that they are taking sides. If we are talking about selfinterest, that attitude runs directly contrary to the views expressed very strongly by the Prime Minister when he vigorously attacked the Soviet Union as being a threat to peace in the Indian Ocean. That was followed a year or so ago by the Minister for Defence, Mr Killen, making an even stronger attack on the Soviet Union and speaking of the dangers of its presence in the Indian Ocean. His statement was even too strong for the Prime Minister, who asked him to withdraw part of it.
If we are talking in terms of self-interest, it seems strange to me that we should be alienating publicly the country that we name as the greatest danger to our security. Again I agree with Senator Wheeldon that, in this delicate matter of foreign affairs, we should be seen to be evenhanded and we should not take sides. I quoted a statement made by Senator Messner, when he said that surely our foreign policy should be determined where our interests rely heavily on trade. I wonder whether that is the reason that this pro-China bias is apparent in the statement by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and in the speeches made by Government senators.
I suppose one could argue that if we see China as a potential massive trading partner of the future, which it is- if the supporters of one’s party see China in that light- there might be a philosophy of let us not be nasty to China because it might affect our trade negotiations. But if foreign policies and foreign philosophies are based on that kind of expedient argument I think we will get ourselves into diabolical trouble. I agree that there is little if anything, we can do militarily. As I said, we could have deplored the United States President’s inflammatory brinkmanship, the rather pathetic statement that they cannot stand by.
The other night I was rather sickened to watch on television the laughing rulers in Vietnam when they declared that they would fight to the last man. I remind the Senate that politicians cause wars but very seldom fight in them. Millions of people are killed in wars in which they are not personally involved and in which they have no personal enmity. That is why war is the ultimate obscenity. Human beings slaughter each other because of the whim, the selfishness and the lack of tolerance of politicians of opposing nations who send other people to war.
If we are talking about trade, let us be fair dinkum about using our trade as a barrier. I know that there are some members of the Liberal Party of Australia- I do not think any members of the Australian Labor Party- who have waged a concerted campaign to get back on Russia for its alienation of the civil rights of the Jewish people in that country. I totally support that condemnation. I debated with one of those Liberals on television on Monday Conference the suggestion that we should use all our resources to try to prevent Moscow from being the venue for the next Olympic Games. I think to do that would be a pathetic way of going about international relations. Politicians of the world have fouled up almost every decent thing in the world. The one area left which is decent is that a contest can be held between young people competing on the sporting field, where politics is forgotten. But now pressure is being applied by people who are saying: ‘Let us take the Olympic Games away from Moscow; let us boycott the Olympic Games because Russia is being beastly to the Jews’.
If we are fair dinkum about that sort of thing we can use our trade weapon. As I understand it, Australia has a more than favourable balance of trade with Russia. If we want to teach the Russians, the Soviets, some son of lesson and to tell them that they are violating the human rights of people of the Jewish faith, let us call a trade embargo against Russia. That would hurt. It would also hurt a lot of Australian exporters. It would hurt a lot of Australian people because we would have to accept a lower standard of living. But maybe that is the kind of action that other friendly nations might follow and there might be a snowballing action.
I would like to refer to the statement on Iran and the danger of cutting off oil supplies which appears at page 14 of the Minister’s statement and reads:
The cessation of oil exports from Iran, previously the world’s second largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia, has brought into focus again- as if the 1973 oil crisis was not sufficient- the world’s heavy dependence on imported oil, most of which originates from the Middle East region. It has also reminded the world that oil is not simply an economic and resource problem but also a political one and that the politics of the region are very unstable.
I agree 100 per cent with that. But, in the light of that statement, I ask the Senate: Does the Government not know that an Islamic renaissance is sweeping the world at the moment, that the recent moves in Iran are only the tip of the iceberg? Does the Government not realise that supplies of this precious resource to which the Minister referred are capable of either being cut off or severely diminished within a very short time? Then I ask: What are we doing about the energy crisis? I think that issue is closely allied to a debate on Iran. We talk about the shortage of petrol and claim that our self-sufficiency is going. We talk about the need for oil to preserve our economy. Yet what do we see being done?
I might surprise the Senate with the answer to a little puzzle. Can the Senate tell me what is the cheapest fluid, other than water, that is available in Australia? I can give honourable senators the answer. To my knowledge, it is petrol. Petrol is cheaper than orange juice. It is cheaper than beer. It is cheaper than any sort of spirit. How crazy it is. We talk about the total dependence of our economy on oil or petroleum and the Minister has said that supplies of it might be severely diminished in the near future. Yet this resource is the cheapest liquid, other than water, that can be bought in Australia. What grieves me is the fact that no real attempt to create an energy policy seems to be made by the Federal Government.
I do not blame the Federal Government entirely on this. I have been a Minister. At one time or another I have held, I think, about 10 different portfolios and I have chaired those curious meetings which are called between Federal and State Ministers on various subjects. I have convened such meetings on national development, forestry, customs and whatever. One of the things that is most disheartening at those conferences is the pathetic insistence of State Ministers and State public servants on sovereignty of the States, on States’ rights. I say categorically to the Senate that in my view we will never have an energy policy for Australia unless we go to the people and obtain a transfer of powers on energy to the Federal Government. While sitting as the Federal Minister convening a meeting of State Ministers I have been disgusted- I use that strong word on purpose- after presenting an unanswerable case on the question of why the States should do something on oil, forestry and off-shore rights, to see the reaction of the State Ministers.
None of us can forget that that pathetic interest- that obsession- with State rights was one of the main elements that defeated, crucified, destroyed one of the greatest parliamentarians this Parliament has known in the past 20 years, namely, John Gorton. He had a vision to have the Federal Government involved in those sorts of issues. It was the sniping of State Ministers and of State branches of the Liberal Party and National Country Party of Australia that destroyed him.
– And some newspaper proprietors.
-They helped. But the real sting was in the States rights issue. I have sat at those conferences at which an unanswerable case for the transfer of powers was put forward. But the State Labor and Liberal Ministers would jack up, they would caucus; and they would say: No, let us get together’. They would get together and say: ‘We must not let this power go to the Commonwealth because it is an intrusion of States rights’. It did not matter a damn what was good for the people or for the country as long as the precious States rights were not infringed. The holding of a referendum is one way over that.
The Australian Democrats regard the lack of energy policy in this country as one of the most serious problems facing us. No matter what goodwill the present Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) or the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) may have- and I believe they have the goodwill to get an energy policy- I can tell them they will never get it and they ought to know they will never get it unless the people give us this power at a referendum.
How can we use alternatives to petroleum? We know the possibilities of obtaining power alcohol from sugar cane, sugar beet and cassava. We know what California has recently done in the solar energy field. It is almost trendy to mention solar energy today. When one raises this subject one is told it is ‘old hat’. California has just instituted an authority which by 1980 will use solar energy to provide something like one-quarter of the electricity needs of southern California and will create 376,000 jobs a year. Yet the Minister for Education talks about an energy crisis and a shortage of oil. I would like the Minister for Science and the Environment or any other Minister to tell me what real steps are we taking to solve the future energy problems of Australia. The United States gives tax credits of up to 55 per cent of the total cost of solar devices as an encouragement to conserve energy resources by using energy from the sun. What do we do in Australia? We put a sales tax of up to 12V6 per cent on solar devices. Yet, the Minister for Science and the Environment and the Minister for National Development say: ‘We believe in solar energy’. Let them justify to me, please, if they want those things and if they are sincere, why we have that tax of up to 12Vi per cent which has to be paid by anybody who wants to install an electricity saving or a solar device in his home.
Finally, I mention China. I thought that Senator Kilgariff made an excellent speech on China. The honourable senator has been to China and he confirmed the views that I have had expressed to me by travellers to that country. Mr John Siddons, a most distinguished Australian and the National President of my party, recently visited China with a group of people. He was fortunate in having as his travelling companion Mr Ross Tyrell, another most distinguished Australian who I think is regarded internationally as in the third top group of China experts in the world. John Siddons came back and said to me that there is an obsession among the Chinese from the top to the bottom that Russia will invade them. He did not say, nor do any experts say, that there is any evidence that Russia will invade China. But that is not the point. The point is that every Chinese person sincerely believes that Russia will attack China and will attack from that country’s soft underbelly. History has shown that the invasion of China from the north, the north-west and the west is difficult because of the problems presented by Mongolia and the Himalayas and with respect to logistical support. But invasion is a possibility with the help of friendly allies through China’s underbelly- that is, up through Indo-China.
I believe that Russia catastrophically miscalculated the Chinese reaction when it supported Vietnam’s actions in Kampuchea. It is a miscalculation which could have been quite catastrophic. Whether it is true or not, there is an old saying of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the Chinese have an obsession about the Russian threat, they are bound to react possibly at the wrong times. Let us not forget another philosophy that has been in China for many years. My friend and colleague, Senator Mason, in his days as an author had a best seller entitled The View From Peking. One sentence from that book which I remember was that the Chinese believe they would be great survivors in a world war’. One reads in Chinese literature and hears from Chinese diplomats- and this is in line with the Maoist theory- that even in the event of a nuclear war China would kill 200 million of the 230 million Russians and Russia would kill 200 million Chinese but China would still have 800 million people left. This is a terrifying concept- a frightening philosophy. Even though we may discard this concept in terms of logic, it is there and that is where the danger lies.
I suggest that we should not play to Russia’s paranoid fears- and that nation has the same fears of paranoia as does China. If we want to have good relations with China, by all means let us go out to have them. But let us not chase good relations with China at the expense of unnecessarily offending the other great paranoid power in the world, namely, the Soviets. I remind the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs that if in an attempt to ingratiate themselves with China they offend or play to the paranoia or the fear that is in the Russian mind they will do a great disservice to this country.
I wish to incorporate in my speech the remarks about peace made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He said:
The Government is committed to work for peace and the reduction of tension. That commitment is global. The Government will do what it can to support all efforts to promote peace and stability.
I inject a few words in respect of Timor. One could read the statement both ways. Indonesia was an aggressor in Timor. Mr Peacock’s stance when we were in Opposition was impeccablewe would not recognise the aggression; we would not rest until all foreign Indonesian troops were out of Timor and until a plebiscite conducted by the United Nations was held and the International Red Cross was freely admitted by the Indonesians. Up until last year, the Foreign Minister’s stance had been impeccable.
But overnight Cabinet changed his mind and he said: ‘We recognise the Indonesian take-over of Timor’. That sort of cowardly aquiescence of an aggressor could be read to mean that the Government will do what it can to support all efforts to promote peace and stability. One could excuse that monstrous act on the grounds that it will promote peace and stability in the area. The Minister in his speech continued:
We are committed not only for moral and ideological reasons, but because it is in Australia’s vital interest that we should live in peaceful and stable surroundings.
I ask: At what cost? The Minister went on to say:
But that must not be an excuse for inertia and resignation.
If we do not, we can hardly complain if other, more distant countries, fail to do so.
I add this: If we do not stand up against aggressors in our own immediate region, if we simply and weakly acquiesce to other acts of Indonesian aggression and acquisition, how stupid we would look, how puerile we would look, in five years, 10 years or 20 years time if Indonesia decided to turn its predatory side to Papua New Guinea and we appealed to the United Nations to assist us in that territory. That request would be pathetic and it would be laughed out- and rightly laughed out- of the United Nations.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bonner)- Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Earlier in the debate today Senator Chipp referred to certain remarks that I made in the Senate on Tuesday, 27 February 1979, during the debate on the geopolitical situation. He made the point that during my speech I appeared to make trade the sole issue of national interest to Australia in the China-Vietnam conflict. My statement was taken entirely out of context by Senator Chipp insofar as he sought to represent it as an individual fact. Of course, I related the remarks in my speech to the question of peace and stability, not only in South East Asia and in Asia generally but in the world as a whole. I made the point quite clearly then that peace and stability, and in particular trade, were in the interests of all nations, not only Australia. Insofar as the honourable senator represented my statement as relating only to trade, it was a misrepresentation of my point
– The Senate is debating the document entitled ‘The Geo-Political Situation: A Pattern of Instability’. I imagined that the Government would state its position much more clearly than it has done in this document, which I can only describe as being somewhat pious, superficial and unreal in view of the world scene today. The only positive remark that can be made about the document is that, for the first time in living memory, it lacks any belligerance, which was a feature of most foreign affairs documents presented in the Parliament by conservative governments in the 1930s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The document contains a resume of rhetorical statements and platitudes to which we have heard most Government speakers make reference in their remarks about achieving human rights, peace and stability. In fact, these sentiments mean nothing unless they are understood in the Parliament and in the Australian community.
It seems to me that the mere mention of the words ‘a pattern of instability’ conveys the impression that we have a somewhat new situation. It is new insofar as two friends, or maybe three or four friends, have fallen out; but that is not unusual in international affairs. As we know, the history of Western civilisation shows a pattern of friends falling out almost since there was any cognition of Western civilisation. Therefore, I do not get any consolation from the use of these words and statements which really have little relevance to the problems in the Asian region. Senator Sheil gave us an interesting historical account of what had taken place in the colonies, particularly in the African situation of which he claims to have some knowledge. Of course, the most important point about the document and about the contribution made by Senator Sheil was that since man gained more mobility and so was able to assert himself and the interests of his country- the word ‘imperialism’ developed during the early period of the last thousand years but more particularly from the actions of the Portuguese, the Spanish and the other colonisers- we have seen the emergence of countries, governments, dictatorships and feudal states which only in the current period of political history are beginning to be put into some proper perspective.
I agree considerably with the statement that was made by Arthur Schlesinger Jnr, who is one of the more far-sighted American exponents of reality in world affairs. He said recently:
Will we never understand that nationalism is the most potent political emotion of our age?
If we accept that statement as having any substance at all- I think we must, although this document fails to deal with the matter- we ought to have some regard for what has been the pattern of development in this century and more particularly in the period since the end of World War II. We must understand that this is what is happening in the former colonies, whether they be in Africa, the Middle East, Asia or even Latin America. The determination of the people in those countries is to win for themselves the very things that we take for granted; that is, selfdetermination, democracy, a decent sharing of wealth and living in peace within their nation and with other nations. Because we have failed to understand this fact and live with it, we have seen ourselves involved in numerous incursions, wars and difficulties, particularly in the post-war years.
It seems to me that the first break in this respect- it is relevant to the struggles that are engulfing our region at the moment- took place during the Russian revolution of 1917. It was an attempt by the people to establish some control over their lives. It is not for me to debate whether they succeeded in that process. My remarks relate to what Senator Chipp and other honourable senators have said in the debate. This document completely ignores the fact that the Western powers then set about creating the sort of conditions that were referred to by Senator Chipp. A paranoid fear accompanies the whole subsequent development of the social system associated with that revolution in 1917. After all, the wars of intervention cost the Russian people very dearly. Also, the fear of encirclement brought about in their approach to politics, and perhaps even in their interpretation of the political system with which they were associated, the belief that they had to look after their own interests.
As has been said by so many people, when a point of conflict arises, whether it be in a war of words or in the wars on the battlefields, the first casualty is truth. That has been symptomatic of the sort of problems that we have seen in foreign affairs, certainly in my lifetime. I wish to quote a statement made by another eminent American, George Washington. He observed that it was a maxim founded on the universal experience of mankind that no nation is to be trusted farther than it is bound by its interests’. The force of the way in which we reacted to that change in 1917 built up a chain of events and a process which has moulded the foreign policy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in subsequent years. This was borne out, was it not, in World War II when the greatest might that has ever been unleashed in a world war was directed against the Soviet Union by the forces of nazi Germany? It was only the united efforts of the Western powers as well as the USSR that defeated that attempt to turn the clock back perhaps a thousand years.
Time does not permit me to deal with every other incident that has taken place in foreign affairs since then, but a somewhat similar situation developed in the Chinese revolution, which was consummated in 1949 when the Chinese people liberated their country from the forces of Chiang Kai-shek, who had at certain stages of that country’s history collaborated with the Japanese in defence of the feudal system that operated there. What did we do? What did the West do? For the next 25 years at least the West set about the isolation of the People’s Republic of China in exactly the same way as the West had treated the emergence of the state known as the USSR. So the conditions of fear were created, and China was driven into a thinking which I think is part of the underlying cause of the problem we are dealing with today. In the countervailing sense, we have the same sort of fearwhen I say ‘we’ I am talking of the West- of the forces that are the paramount political and social forces in the countries I have mentioned and in other countries which have taken a somewhat similar path in their own development or emancipation, depending upon what the point of emphasis is.
It is in this fear that has been engendered that we find every issue that has emerged since 1917 on the international arena as an issue between them’ and ‘us’. A view expressed principally in the first instance by the United States of America, and to some extent by the United Kingdom and certainly by the conservative governments in our part of the world is that we have a bounden duty to take a position opposite to whatever may be the point of view expressed by certain countries. As the West came together, so did the East, but what we failed to take into account was the development of forces which broke the monoliths which existed on both sides. It seems to me from the document to which I have referred that this Government is following very closely, the policies being pursued by the United States. I refer particularly to what is said by Mr Peacock. He says that the United States has adopted a lower posture and a strategically less active policy towards the Third World. He is dealing with the activities of one of the super powers. This is exactly what this document seeks to do- to put us into a low posture position and to place in the realms of reason a number of platitudes that in fact are meaningless. There is no recognition at all by Mr Peacock, the Government or members of the Government Parties in this place or in the House of Representatives of any of the historical factors which go to make up the sorts of problems which face us in the world today.
One can sit down and make many lists of events to indicate how wrong we in the West have been. I am talking principally of those who have the real power in our community, the conservative sources of power in our community, whether they be in the Parliament, in the media or in the corporate sector of our society- those who really influence the thinking of most of our people. Look at the attitude we adopted towards Kenya, for example. How did we describe Kenyatta, who was to become Prime Minister? In the editorials and in the debates in this place he was once described a terrorist leader. Subsequently he became a respected leader of his country, mourned by his people. As Senator Wheeldon said, Mossadegh in Iran, was described as a red agent, an agent of the Kremlin, and so on.
We all recall the way in which we adopted a negative attitude towards Indonesia during its establishment of self-determination and sovereignty in 1945-46. We all remember, of course, the statements made by the members of this Government, and the Prime Minister in particular, about China and about the war in Vietnam. We were told that it was to be the hordes of China who would come down through the IndoChina peninsula and invade this country. That was the prevailing view of all of the conservative forces in our country. If one undertook some research into the speeches, the newspapers’ comments and the remarks of the commentators on radio and television, one would see that the Vietnamese were described as the agents of the Red Chinese. How incorrect that assessment was. We recall the attitude we adopted towards the struggles of the people of what was formerly known as Rhodesia and the attitude we adopted towards apartheid. In the early days some of us were actively trying to interest the Australian people in the problems of the discrimination which was taking place.
Take our attitude to the developments in the Middle East, even our attitude in 195 1-52 to the war in Korea and the manner in which we allowed the Cold War sentiments to prevail upon the whole of the community conscienciousness The same attitude in the Cuban incident almost sparked World War III. I think that was some time in the early 1960s. Together with the justification that was used for events in the Indian Ocean, and more particularly for the events in Timor, all these examples show the impotence of Western thinking and the inability of the West to make a proper evaluation and assessment of the events taking place throughout the world.
We did not even have an inkling of recent events in Iran, although I note that Senator Kilgariff claimed in his speech that when he was in Iran last year he felt that that country was on the brink of revolution. But our intelligence organisation did not say that and certainly the Americans had no idea about it, because after the overthrow of the Shah they were backing the Baktar government, which lasted several weeks, if it lasted that long. Of course events are still developing in that country. All we can look at in the area of foreign affairs points to a failure to understand and appreciate that all of these developments which have taken place, including the war in Vietnam, have been an expression of people wishing to determine their own affairs, and that nothing in the world can quench that desire. The might of the United States of America was thrown into Vietnam, with our support. To our everlasting shame, we committed Australian troops to the war in Vietnam. What was the justification behind that? There are those in our country and in the United States who believe that the United States has the power, the wisdom and the obligation to decide the future of nations everywhere in the world. It was in acceptance of that principle that we became involved in that unwinnable war. I have yet to hear a member of the conservative parties in this country acknowledge the grievous mistake that they made, that in fact they are the ones who can be termed to be the guilty ones in respect of the conflict that is taking place in the Indo-China peninsula today.
– You will not hear that here today, senator.
– That is right. Senator Button is right. Yet in the United States there are Democrats and Republicans who have changed from being hawks to doves in respect of that war. In every country, without exception, there is a lot more intellectual development and a lot more understanding of the social forces that are operating. Some are acting faster than others; nevertheless they are acting in a way that will ultimately lead to the right of all people to determine their own affairs.
Let us look at the manner in which this document deals with the current problems in our region. I do not want to touch on what Senator Chipp said because I agree with him, as you do, Mr Deputy President, about the tragic events in Timor; but I want to deal with the problems in the Indo-China peninsula as we see them at this point. This document says that we have an evenhanded approach to the issues there and that if everybody was good and behaved themselves properly, then everybody would retreat back to their own borders and the problem would be solved; there would be no further difficulties. That ignores the issues that I have canvassed and the historical developments in the Indo-China peninsula which go back into history. Certain attitudes have developed for generations, from century to century, which form the basis of some of the current problems in that region. What did Mr Peacock say? When dealing with this current question in the United Nations on 25 February, he said:
We call on Vietnam to withdraw its forces from Kampuchea and on China to withdraw its forces from Vietnam.
That is a very simple statement. He went on to say, in a somewhat self-righteous analysis:
The wars which have engulfed the Indo-China States over the past thirty years have brought untold human suffering and misery.
If that is not a piece of rhetoric, I do not know what is. He continued:
Australia seeks an environment which would enable countries of the region both individually and collectively to pursue policies designed to enhance political stability, economic advancement and cohesion.
They are very fine sentiments with which no-one could disagree, but what do they really mean in terms of the current conflict? They mean precisely nothing and, of course, the document makes no reference to our areas of responsibility, whether we in fact contributed or the Western powers contributed to the dilemma, the problems and the disaster that now face the people in the Indo-China peninsula. We want to analyse the position of this Government and its predecessor governments, many members of which still occupy important positions in the Government. On 27 February in the House of Representatives Mr Peacock said:
The conflicts reflect and were created by the hostility and rivalry existing among four states: the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and Kampuchea. No one else contributed to them. No one else wanted them.
Is that a fact? It is patently superficial, patently not true. Whilst there are certain differences in emphasis between the major communist powers, China and the Soviet Union, they are not the underlying causes of the present conflict. We recognise that it was this Government’s predecessor conservative governments, this party of which the Minister for Foreign Affairs is a member, which led Australia into a war which supported corrupt and unpopular governments in Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos. We contributed to the problems in those countries and if we did not actually send troops into Laos and Cambodia, as it was then known, we supported the American presence and the American involvement through the Central Intelligence Agency which overthrew the Sihanouk Government. That Government was part of the movement for self-determination, led by the people who have been referred to by Senator Wheeldon and myself, people who could have built the sort of government which could have avoided the tragedies which subsequently took place.
What did we do? We took the steps that dismantled that apparatus and permitted the development of other forms of government which contribute now to this problem. As I have said, we refused to recognise China. We refused to understand China, but all of a sudden, in pursuance of this anti-Sovietism, to which Senator Chipp referred, we seem to be adopting a pro-China, anti-Soviet position as if that were the only issue that ought to be considered in respect of the problem concerned. We continue therefore that same sort of superficial analysis which has been spoken of by those who give a huie more attention to the issues and which clearly is reflected in different attitudes, even in the top echelons in the United States. I am very pleased that there are people in influential positions in the United States who take a much broader view than that which is found in this document. I refer, of course, to the document to which I have made some reference previously which is released by the US International Communication Agency and which refers to the sentiment upon which all Western government policies have operated in the post-war years. The document states:
Every local upheaval calls for American counter-action. Every American client government overthrown by its own people is defined as a gain for Moscow. This viewpoint surrenders the world to Moscow with an almost masochistic relish. a couple of years back hard liners -
The document refers here to the American Government-
The document makes the point that we just do not understand the evolution and the development of national sentiment taking place throughout the world. We, of course, contributed to the Cold War atmosphere. We contributed to the isolation of the USSR. We contributed, as part of the West, to the isolation of China and we contributed to the problems in Vietnam. An incorrect understanding of the forces that are operating on a world scale forced Vietnam into a dependence upon the USSR which was formalised on 3 November 1978 when the SovietVietnam Treaty of Friendship was signed.
I referred previously to the monolith. We have seen evidence of the breakdown of the monolith concept, both in the West and in the East. We have seen, for example, the Yugoslav communists refusing to join the Warsaw Pact, refusing to join the COMECON organisation. But the very purpose of the COMECON organisation was to be a counter-balance trade economic bloc to overcome the difficulties of trade that existed because of the way in which we operated in the West. They set up their own defensive organisation. But despite that Yugoslavia took an independent position. More recently, we have seen the Romanian Government refusing to accept the assessments and the dictates of the Warsaw Pact powers, in fact taking a more independent position- perhaps not as independent as Yugoslavia, but independent. There is of course some evidence that the same sentiment is growing in Hungary. There was an opportunity to create an Asian Yugoslavia, an independent country, following its own social path of development, but making its decisions of selfdetermination and not being pan of the China bloc, which the Liberal-National Country Parties said was the cause of the war in Vietnam.
It is now being said that Vietnam is antiChinese and is part of the Soviet power bloc. Let us think a little more about that, because that is where Western policy has failed, and that is where Western policy is at the root of the problems we have in the Asian region. Vietnam has been devastated for a great many years- 30 or 40 years. It was occupied by the Japanese. It was occupied by the French prior and subsequent to the Japanese occupation. It was then involved in a war with the United States and Australia. It was devastated. It was a place where experimentation of modern weapons was carried out to see whether they would work, in order to establish the superiority of Western armaments.
Vietnam wanted assistance, which I will deal with in more detail. When it set out on its second five-year plan from 1975 to 1980, in order to rehabilitate the country and put it on its feet to occupy an independent position, it required $7.5 billion for that plan. The Soviet Union was prepared to make available only a third of the amount required, $2.5 billion. China agreed to contribute $300m, but unfortunately, as the events show, that was cancelled at the end of last year. What was Australia’s contribution? It was $7m. Belgium contributed $ 18.5m. Canada contributed $9m. Denmark, for God’s sake, contributed $50m. Japan contributed $155m. Sweden, a small country, contributed $3 70m. The United States, the real villain in the whole picture, contributed nothing- no money at all. Vietnam, in order to carry out its plan of rehabilitation and development in accordance with its victory in the CiVil war, was forced more and more into a position of dependence on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
What was the evidence to indicate that Vietnam wanted to occupy an independent position? What did it do? The evidence shows that it joined the World Bank, it joined the International Monetary Fund, it joined the Asian Development Bank. I do not think anyone in this chamber could say that those agencies are not independent and Western oriented. Vietnam made a major effort to obtain Western technological assistance for oil exploration. In 1975, the first year of Vietnam’s second five-year plan, Vietnam invited a representative of the Bank of America to go to Vietnam, which he did. He reported back to the American Government that Vietnam desired to resume economic links with the United States despite the subjectivism that obviously existed at the end of the long drawn out war, during which the mighty United States of America had been humbled. This was of course done in the face of a United States trade embargo. In 1976 Vietnam embarked on a major diplomatic exercise to achieve increased trade and aid.
I recall that representatives of the Embassy came to see me and several of my collegues. We then went to the appropriate Minister and asked him to exercise his good offices to persuade the United States to accept part responsibility for the devastation and the problems that existed in Vietnam. We suggested that Australia should make more than a token contribution towards Vietnam ‘s rehabilitation.
In 1977 the Vietnamese Government released a liberal and flexible foreign investment code for joint and foreign owned projects. The Prime Minsiter of Vietnam went to Europe in pursuit of funds so that his country would remain independent of the power blocs in the region. At the same time he expressed Vietnam’s resistance to any suggestion that the USSR should have a naval base at Cam Ranh Bay.
What have some of the competent commentators said about Vietnam’s problems; its independence as a communist state, its not wishing to be drawn in on one orbit or another but its being enabled to pursue its own independent position, its own independent development? Writing in the Far Eastern Economic Review on 2 February 1 979 Derek Davies said this:
At the time of Carter’s election at the end of 1976, Moscow was losing ground in Vietnam, the Kremlin’s only significant foothold in Asia (Indira Gandhi’s pro-Moscow Emergency rule in India was to crumble by March 1977). Already, during a mid- 1976 tour of South-east Asia, Vietnamese Vice-Foreign Minister Phan Hien had made it clear that Vietnam did not accept the Soviet view of Asean . . .
That is, the countries of ASEAN- . . as an imperialist creation, a successor to Seato, nor did it support the Soviet proposal for an Asian collective security treaty. At home Vietnam was re-absorbing the South with kid gloves.
Hanoi had irritated Moscow with its membership of the World Bank, the IMF and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Mr Davies goes on to say:
A few months later, by the spring of 1977, it had become evident that Hanoi was bent on improving relations with China.
Further on Mr Davies goes on to say:
In May, 1977, Pham Van Dong himself went to Europe where he obtained a small aid package from France. Other European countries refused to talk to him, indicating that they could not draw closer to Vietnam until the US had either given the go ahead or itself normalised relations with Hanoi.
Pham Van Dong returned to find his country in a major crisis. A serious drought had led to food shortages- and there were no funds for industry or for the massive task of reconstruction. In April, Cambodia had diverted attention from the main economic task by launching large scale attacks over the border.
Further on Mr Davies said:
Vietnam had nowhere else to turn. By June, when Pham Van Dong went to Moscow, he had no cards to play. The Soviets, characteristically, took a hard line. Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev made any aid conditional on Hanoi changing its ways.
Those of us who had been approached by representatives of the Vietnamese Embassy pleaded with the Australian Government to begin serious government to government negotiations between our Government and the Vietnamese Government, but there was no significant change, no large scale mission of technical support. In fact while Mr Peacock was abroad the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- he emerges as villain No. 1 in this whole incidentcancelled aid, as meagre as it was. He cancelled the measly $7m that we had agreed to give. Nothing but ignorance of what our responsibilities were, nothing but ignorance about what our role should be, nothing but ignorance about attempting to influence the United States and nothing but anti-Soviet hysteria- that is what has emanated from this Government.
I know that time is moving on, but I want to make just one or two final points. Those of us who have been concerned about foreign affairs and in fact have taken a somewhat prominent part in foreign affairs issues within our parties and within the Australian community over a number of years have always been transduced because we do not take definitive positions when disputes such as these break out. We are in the hands of those who control the media. Last week there was a meeting at which most of the active peace movements in this country were present. Some of those groups adopt a pro-Soviet position; some adopt a pro-Chinese position; some take an independent position; and some take just the plain pacifist position. We considered the issues which are involved and we issued a Press statement which I think ought to be read into the record so that we can nail the lie of those correspondents and editorial writers who say that the peace movement does not genuinely represent and reflect the sentiments of peace in matters of international concern. I stand to be corrected, but unfortunately I have not been able to find a report of this statement in any newspaper in Australia despite the fact that it was placed in every Press box in Canberra. It states:
The Australian Peace Liaison Committee believes that the Chinese invasion of Vietnam contains great dangers for world peace and heightens the possibility of a world nuclear war.
We maintain that the most immediate and urgent task confronting the peace movement is to work towards ending the war.
We believe that we should take five major steps:
I stress that this statement was made prior to the decision of the Chinese Government to withdraw its forces. The statement continues:
Firstly, we call for an immediate withdrawal of all Chinese forces from Vietnam to allow negotiations to begin and call on United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to avoid any action or statement that could provoke a further escalation or inhibit the resolution of the conflict. We propose that the independence and sovereignty of Kampuchea be guaranteed by international agreement and that the Kampuchean people be left to resolve their internal problems free of interference from Vietnam, China or any other outside forces. We support the Vietnamese Government’s proposals for the resolution of all Indo-China border disputes by internationally supervised negotiations. We call for restoration of reconstruction aid to Vietnam on a more adequate scale and undertake similar aid programs to Kampuchea and Laos.
I think that that even-handed approach is much more in tune with the reality of the problems that exist in that region than the pious sorts of statements which are expressed in the document which says nothing, which sticks to platitudes, and which ignores the historical development and the fears that exist in the minds of many of the countries of the world as a result of their development and progress towards establishing a society in which the rights of people shall be paramount. In those circumstances I suppose that we can say that this debate has at least presented an opportunity for both sides of the Senate to express their points of view.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I draw the attention of the Senate to the presence in the gallery of a very senior member of the Chinese Government, Madam Chen, and her party. I wish them a most pleasant visit to our Parliament and to our country.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– In this debate we have heard some quite interesting speeches, including the one given by the honourable senator who has just resumed his seat. I was amazed to hear Senator Gietzelt say that all the wars happening today, wherever they are, are the fault of the Western nations. Ethiopians are killing Eritreans and Vietnamese are killing Kampucheans all because of the Western nations’ foreign policies. This is what Senator Gietzelt said. He said that it is all the fault of Australia that the Vietnamese are the friends of the Soviet Union because we and the United States have not given support to the Vietnamese and have forced them into the arms of the Soviet Union. According to the figures supplied to me by the Research Service of the Parliamentary Library, during the so-called liberation war between North Vietnam and South Vietnam China helped the North Vietnamese by giving them $20,000m. I do not know how anyone can say that that is peanuts or that the North Vietnamese were not puppets, as Senator Gietzelt
Senator Gietzelt spoke also about the progressive forces in the world who want to give people the right to determine their own destinies. I wonder whether he was referring, amongst other nations, to the Soviet Union where a few days ago elections were held with a strange result- 99.99 per cent of the people voted for the communist candidates! If that is a demonstration of the right of people to determine their own destinies, I am sure that I do not want something like that. I wonder what Senator Gietzelt would have said if the United States of America had given to Vietnam the support which he accused the United States of America of not giving. I am sure that he would have said that the United States was again wanting to buy another country and take it over. He is saying that because the Vietnamese turned to the Soviet Union the United States is one of the bad boys. I believe that Senator Gietzelt is blaming everyone for the fight which is happening today between his old friends. I will mention something about that later. Senator Gietzelt said that Western world friends were having wars and, therefore, why could not friends in the so-called socialist world have wars? That is what he told us tonight.
I would like to refer also to Senator Chipp. He said that today there is an Islamic renaissance in that the people of the Mohammedan faith are trying to show that they believe in their faith. I wonder when that renaissance will happen in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I wonder when that renaissance will happen in Iraq or in Syria. I wonder when the 400 million Moslems in the world will have that kind of renaissance. I wonder whether the socialists and the progressives of this country admire and applaud the proposed Islamic laws requiring the cutting off of hands and heads and the kind of punishment that some dictators are proposing today.
– What about the four wives?
– I do not want to mention the wives. I congratulate Senator Wheeldon on his address in this debate. It was an excellent address. I am always delighted to listen to his addresses on foreign affairs; but in this speech I found two inconsistencies. As recorded on page 278 of Hansard, after Senator Baume had invited Senator Wheeldon to make some suggestions about what had to be done in regard to the situation in South East Asia, Senator Wheeldon said:
I believe that we ought to dissociate ourselves as far as we possibly can from all the parties to the current dispute in Asia. What we are seeing there is a brawl between rival dictatorships.
Therefore, hands off, he was saying. By the way, they are the dictatorships of the progressive parties, the socialist parties and the communist parties. Senator Wheeldon continued:
If a suggestion were sought of me by Senator Baume concerning Africa, I would say that … we made no effort to apply the sort of pressure that should have been applied to both countries to ensure a dramatic change in their race relations policies, policies which to varying degrees have been cruelly oppressive of the great mass of their people.
Further on in his speech he said:
We are not in any position to do that but presumably we at least have some influence with those powers that can do this son of thing, and however much or little influence we have the best that we can do is to exert it.
Did he mean that when we have power we should try to tell these countries what to do? Did he mean that when these nations have governments which listen we should tell them what to do? Or did he mean that when they are Red dictatorships we should not tell them what to do but should tell them to do their own thing and let them kill as many of their own people as they want? Nobody protests about the killing of human beings, about the Vietnamese being killed by Chinese bullets, or about the Angolans or the Eritreans being killed by the Ethiopians. According to the socialists, as long as they are killed by their own people, all is well- nobody suffers.
– What sort of rubbish is this that you are talking?
- Senator Georges interjects by saying ‘rubbish’. How many sit-ins, how many pitch-ins, how many moratoriums and how many demonstrations -
– Or street marches.
– Or street marches, have been held recently over what is happening in South East Asia? I have not seen one. As far as I know, human beings- children and women- are being killed, but nobody is interested in that. Nobody is saying anything about that. An article appeared in the Australian of 24 February. It was written by Max Harris. In it he said:
The world ‘s biggest threat at the moment is the opportunist imperialism of the Russians.
It’s not the old imperialism of military invasion, occupation and annexation. There have only been two examples of this in the post-war era- the brutal Chinese seizure of the ancient nation of Tibet and the Vietnamese seizure of Kampuchea.
The Russians build up their imperial power by what the Chinese call ‘hegemony.’ That is, the Russians stir up civil wars, send in Cubans or Vietnamese to do the fighting by proxy, and set satellite governments which provide the USSR with subservient regimes more useful than they’d get from a government of Russian military occupation.
This is a fact and we have seen it all over the world. We have seen it in Africa. We are seeing it today in South East Asia. But strange things are happening now. We see that the old comrades in arms are fighting each other. I believe that an Australian communist said once: Between the Elbe River and the China Sea no man points a gun at another’. That statement was made some time ago. We should not forget a statement which was made by old father Lenin. He said:
The war is rooted only in imperialism and will be banished by socialism.
I wonder what the Vietnamese soldiers who are fighting the Chinese are thinking about this kind of war which should have been banned by socialism. At a meeting of the Communist Party in Moscow on 1 March 1965 the following was said:
What unites the communists of various countries is much stronger than what at present divides them.
All was lovely in the garden of the international socialist camp some years ago. Now all that has been shattered. We see the two great socialist countries standing one against the other, ready to fight and in some places we see them fighting. The nationalism which was supposed to have been extinguished by the ideology of socialism and by internationalism, so preventing any future wars, is back again. Now we have the USSR against China; China against Vietnam; Yugoslavian troops on the Bulgarian border; African countries with Soviet-type dictatorships fighting each other; and Ethopia fighting Somalia. The Horn of Africa has been a battlefield, but we do not know much about it because the media do not report wars that are being fought between fraternal parties. Apparently they are not worth reporting.
As somebody said- I think he put it quite nicely- from Algeria to Tanzania, from China to Canada, the national inspiration and the need to embody the culture in a national estate and a national society are still with us. I would prefer to say that they are the strongest moving forces as the world plunges towards the twenty-first century or the new wars, as national interests have overcome ideology. This is the danger in today’s world. Nationalism is again raising its head. Nationalism is the one thing which has surpassed the ideologies as the major force in the future wars.
The Parliamentary Library has issued a paper, No. 1 1979, entitled ‘The Sino-Vietnamese Conflict’. I shall quote from that paper. Under the heading ‘Origins of the Conflict’ it states:
It has been often observed that relations between China and Vietnam have traditionally been characterised by enmity . . . The Vietnamese who led these successful anti-Chinese revolts are today venerated as national heroes.
The paper further states: . . a territorial dispute over the small Paracel and Spratley Island groups; conflict over Cambodia; the problems of ethnic Chinese in Vietnam; and improved relations between Vietnam and Russia.
These are the causes and origins of today’s war. On page 2 of the paper it states:
Traditional Vietnamese-Cambodian enmity seems even more intense, at least on the Cambodian side, than that between China and Vietnam. Common ideology did little to heal this rift since Hanoi’s national interests, from the 1950s, have generally clashed with those of the Cambodian Communist Party.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) said:
The conflicts reflect and were created by the hostility and rivalry existing between four states: The Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and Kampuchea.
Then he added:
No one else contributed to them. No one else wanted them.
How true. There were no American troops there to get them fighting. There were no Australian troops there to fight them. The war was of their own making. Further on the Foreign Minister said:
Again, no honourable senator on the other side of the chamber has put forward the point that instability is infectious. We are already hearing the rumours that there is some kind of a war afoot in Laos. What will happen later we do not know. But our Foreign Affairs Department and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) warned what can happen. It did happen. The fact that the media have ridiculed that matter shows clearly where the media stand and where the socalled experts on foreign policy stand. Further in his statement Mr Peacock said:
We know that for a fact. Those Third World countries, which need peace and stability more than any other countries, are engaged in the wars. The moneys which were supposed to be spent on human beings and their welfare are being spent on war materials. This is the tragedy of the events which are occurring today. The Foreign Minister also said:
It is well to remember therefore- it is a question of remembering, for the truth is amply illustrated in the West’s own earlier experience- that exceedingly rapid economic growth can cause profound social, cultural and political dislocation.
I am sure that very few honourable senators will remember, if they ever knew, the problems Kemal Ataturk had in Turkey, after he became the powerful leader of that government, when he introduced reforms on religious grounds. In 1924-25 attempts were made to overthrow or crush his regime or to assassinate him just because of that. The Foreign Minister said in his statement:
We are under no illusions that we can play the pivotal role in resolving this crisis. That is no reason for not taking action and doing so as effectively and energetically as we can.
How true. We are not a world power. We cannot dictate to other people what they should do. But whatever suggestions or counsels we make can contribute to achieving what we are all after. Regarding the Soviet Union, the Foreign Minister said:
While the Soviet Union is increasing its already enormous military power faster than any other country and while it is increasingly active in relation to the troubled spots of the world, politically it is the odd-man-out among the great powers.
Have we forgotten the problems of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe? Have we forgotten the problems of the communist regimes in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia? All these governments exist by the sheer force of Soviet power. The people of those countries would have been free a long time ago if the Soviet divisions had not been stationed in their own countries or on the borders. Of our role in the 1 980s the Minister said this:
The role a country like Australia can play has some limitations.
I agree. It has limitations. He continued:
But that must not be an excuse for inertia and resignation.
I compliment our Foreign Minister, not only on his statement but also on the warning he has given the Australian people and the world about the problems which were brewing in the Far East. The Minister said in his statement:
Throughout we have been open with the people of Australia- giving prior warning, explaining our understanding of the situation, what we are doing and why we are doing it.
Finally, I would like to say only this: All those progressives, all those people who continuously speak about human beings and human rights, all those people who so recently marched in the streets protesting about the cruelty of war- any war- have forgotten that wars are still going on in which the same people, the same human beings, are being killed. But the fact is that the people I mentioned are silent because these people are being killed by people of their own ideology. I fully support the statement.
– I commence by referring to the section at the bottom of page 5 of the statement made by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), in which the Minister drew attention to the very low posture that the United States of America has maintained in the present conflict. Taking further what Senator Lajovic said, I wonder whether we consider the result which appeared on the balance sheet of those fateful years in
Vietnam. At the time we were told that we were going to create a new society. Money was tonned in, as was materiel, American conscripts and Australian conscripts. But only in the last couple of years, when we have read the various books written by people from the inside, high American authorities, have we realised the dilemma, which was this: Could we have a profit motive society that did not have the will to fight? The fact is, unpalatable though it might be, that it was probably through an amalgamation of some Marxist tenets and other militant nationalism that the Viet Cong fought on when they were outgunned early in the war. It is true that later in the war the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and others supplied them with aid.
But what was the cancer in the makeup of the people in the successive governments in Saigon? When the society was under siege from the north it did not have a complete call up of its troops; it did not have conscription of its wealthy who are among the people who today are skedaddling down this way claiming that they were victims of the Marxists. They were people who bought their sons out of the army when American and Australian conscripts were dying for them. No wonder the United States is a bit dubious about being involved in those sorts of situations. I want to take this point a little further. If Australia and the United States had adopted the same posture as Britain did in Vietnam and had stayed out of it, no doubt we would have had an amalgamation of Vietnam then. We would have been then where we are today. I said this eight or nine years ago. I visualised a situation in which Vietnam was something like an Algeria in the Middle East or a Yugoslavia or Romania in Europe, that is, Vietnam would skilfully play one super power against another.
What did the war in Vietnam mean in practical politics? We have that little balance in Europe between Warsaw and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. That is a very effective stabiliser. It plays the same role as that of Algeria in the Middle East. That was a sort of strategy that the Americans would not buy, although there were top commanders, both Macarthur and Matthew Ridgway who succeeded Macarthur in Korea, who agreed that there was no future for a Western power in a land battle in Asia. But it took the Americans a long while to learn that lesson. That was the reason for their subsequent low posture in the Horn of Africa and their reluctance to go into that area. I will be quite frank about this. I am probably only echoing the theories of Kardels, an outstanding Yugoslav theoritician on socialism and Marxism.
There has been some hegemonism from the far Left. That attitude is not shared by all the socialist countries in Europe; I do not share it either.
We get all worked up about this issue, but the fact is that after China exercised its rights over a boundary dispute with India it retreated. As far as the present situation is concerned, I agree with Senator Wriedt: The game should be played on a percentage basis. One does not become a slave of any of the super powers. But at the same time, I am satisfied that the Chinese adhere to treaties. They kept their word in regard to the settlement with India. I spoke earlier about corruption in Vietnam. Whether we like to admit it or not, that was virtually paralleled or was even worse during World War II with the aid that we gave Chiang Kai-shek. What did we get out of that? One of the big difficulties is that if we can accommodate some of the war reformers of the Left to a certain stage, we do not necessarily push them into the arms of another super power.
If we read of the relationships and attitudes of Roosevelt, whatever else might be said, there is no doubt that it was a British Labour Government under Attlee that faced up to the fact that it had to relinquish its colonies, or perhaps we should call them dominions. That was done. But the regrettable fact was that Holland took a bit longer in this respect and France took even longer still in relation to the bloody conflict in Algeria. after the mess in Vietnam. Finally, it was the far sightedness of De Gaulle that made them relinquish control of North Africa. All those things happened, but the one country in which we did not learn anything about the various major powers was Vietnam. It certainly was not Marxism alone that kept the flame of nationalism burning. We know all that they did with their primitive equipment to circumvent the effects of top technical ability. They finally won.
Of course, China and the Soviet Union came into this. But to me the lesson was this: As far as the Western powers- we could call them that or a loose alliance of the ANZUS powers- are concerned, if we look at it strictly on percentage lines, we are no better off than we would have been if we had not worried about the futile war in Vietnam because by now the ideological rivalries between China and the Soviet Union concerning the land mass of Asia, in particular South Vietnam, would have been apparent. If that had occurred, would the United States and Australia not have been in a far better position to provide United Nations peacekeeping troops if our hands had been clean? I am always amazed when we talk about the sins and omissions of previous governments. There is not one senator on the Government side at any time in any election who can say what we achieved in the futile war in Vietnam. We did not achieve anything. All we did was to antagonise people. As a matter of fact, honourable senators opposite ought to have learned their lesson a lot earlier when the question of whether or not Indonesia should claim West Iran was being decided. Of course, times change and we certainly have reservations now about the takeover of Timor. But at the time, when the Australian Labor Party questioned West Irian becoming part of Indonesia, it was the Menzies Government that was so quiet. When Elsworth Bunker came and did the deal we did not say a word.
When we talk about sea green incorruptibles and conscience honourable senators opposite had better look at their own record. Reference was made by Senator Gietzelt and the previous speaker, Senator Lajovic, to the question of who starts wars. Regardless of the momentum of the Soviet Union, what happened in Europe would not have happened if we had not had fascism on the march in Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. They created a conflict. I suppose that politics and wars make strange bedfellows. But with Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill and the subsequent ‘big three’ discussions there was certainly a change in the balance of power in Europe. I wonder at Senator Lajovic ‘s nostalgic references to the past in Europe. There were all these queer people there, the King of Romania with about nine mistresses, King Zog in Albania, and a lot of other such people. Does Senator Lajovic think that the working class people in those countries wanted to fight to keep those people in their positions? Of course they did not. If the pendulum did swing to the far Left, that was only to be expected.
I noticed that Senator Lajovic was silent after a very intelligent interjection was made by Senator Button on Yugoslavia. At the time of the Stalinist era, when Yugoslavia was under seige, I can remember talking to a Yugoslav General. I said: ‘Do you think there will be many Cominformist infiltrators?’ He said: ‘Comrade, if they come over the Hungarian border, they will be shot.’ I return to what Senator Lajovic said. People may be left of centre but that does not mean that they cannot have love of their own country or their own nationalism. The honourable senator knows that, whatever the type of government in Yugoslavia today, the people of that country will not be pushed around on. the one hand by the Brezhnev doctrine on Soviet imperialism, if one can use that term, or American power on the other. It has worked. The honourable senator and I can sit back and say: ‘Well, it is not quite the same form of parliamentary democracy’. Perhaps it is not. However, sometimes the King’s representative or the Queen’s representative in this country can fudge in their actions based on the constitution. Honourable senators should not say that we have the perfect political system. We do not.
Let me turn to other disturbances in the world. I refer to the decisions faced by the Western democracies in relation to the situation in South Korea and North Korea. North Korea can be termed as within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic’s orbit. But what is the track record of South Korea? I can remember on one occasion mentioning- and Senator Davidson from South Australia agreed with me on that occasion - that Anglican, Baptist and Catholic missionaries had been thrown out of South Korea. It was alleged that they were Russian agents. They had had the temerity to tell the clothing workers in Seoul that they were being exploited. If that is the sort of society that we get in South Korea after all the money that we have put into that country, we have certainly been backing the wrong horse; there is no question about that.
The major issue- the present conflict between Vietnam and China- has had a pretty fair hammering. I was annoyed by part of this ministerial statement. Australia today is made up of people from many lands who take a very high and intelligent viewpoint of what has happened in their countries. I notice that the following commentand I am very curious about who drafted itappears on the top of page 3 of the statement:
It has also happened at a time when Iran’s neighbour, Turkey, is experiencing very serious economic and political difficulties.
The statement talks about the pattern of events between Egypt and Israel. I go back to the question about Turkey. I am always amazed that some of these countries indulge in political adventurism when their economy is in bad shape. We know that sometimes the United States of America bails them out. One of the most unparallelled ambitious types of aggression was the Turkish adventurism when that country invaded Cyprus. Let me explain why I am perturbed at this meagre comment on page 3 of the statement. About two years ago Senator Georges and I took a large delegation of the Cypriot brotherhood from all major States to see Andrew Peacock, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Minister gave us a solemn pledge that we would get numerous reports of what Australia was doing at the United Nations. At a time when
Turkey wanted economic aid because it was experiencing all sorts of difficulties it is reasonable to suppose that Australia could have said: ‘You pull your troops out of Cyprus: Bring them back into productive work in your own country. If you want to have an overseas army in this form of political adventurism ‘-I would call it Bonaparteism- ‘you stew in you own juice’. Surely the Minister could have said to the large number of Australian taxpayers of Greek and Cypriot origin: ‘Yes, we have risen at the United Nations and denounced this Turkish aggression. We have said’- perhaps this could be done through the World Bank- ‘that Turkey should spend its money on civilian activities and not on warlike postures’. This is the sort of statement that is missing.
Australia has a growing Portuguese community. The people of Portugal have just emerged from a long period of fascism. They have had governments to the left of Soares. Naturally people in such circumstances become a bit impatient. That is understandable. All that they have obtained from the Western powers are some loans from the World Bank. These people face a life of blood and sweat and terrible taxation. If these people are pushed back into some form of totalitarianism, the shallowness of the World Bank will be demonstrated. The situation in Portugal could be changed if the United States in particular played a more vigorous role. I know that there was a time when McNamara was President of the World Bank. During the Kennedy Administration there appeared to be an awareness of the needs of that country. There was an early period in Latin America when, to use the appropriate terminology, the greedy gringo was going. Of course, one only has to look at Guatemala and other places to realise the ruthless way in which the United States responded. A man called Bosch fought for 20 years to become leader of his country. However, he struck some opposition. A revolution was manufactured, the American marines regrettably went in on the other side. This is the son of duplicity which is revealed after the event.
I can see some glimmers of hope. I noticed recently that the assassins of members of the Allende government were tried in Washington and convicted. Of course, some of the bigger fish escaped. My complaint is not what is in the statement but rather what is not in it. The statement also refers to the Horn of Africa and the battles that are taking place there. To me the question is not whether the United States, the Soviet Union or China are involved. Of course, these countries have embassies in this region. The people of these countries ask for views and trade agreements are negotiated.
One of the great tragedies of Africa is the manifestation of tribal rivalries. This problem exists and one has to live with it. I can remember a man called Mboya who regrettably was cut down in his prime. This man might have succeeded Kenyatta. I think ‘Burning Spear’ played his role. In fact if we look at the political ‘purity ‘ of people in their younger days we could say that Kenyatta would never have been accepted as a leader. But he did give his own country stable government. There are several other countries in the same category. We should not forget that a number of these countries are beset by tribal rivalries, the fires of which may be fanned at times by the governments of other countries. I think that someone on my side of the Senate referred to the early days of British colonial policy. We should not forget that many of the boundaries were drawn to suit the occupying power, be it Britain, France or other nations. Once boundaries were defined and the people grew up within them, constant tribal friction existed. The United Nations cannot solve the problems that have been created by these boundaries. Would anyone say that the Congo could have continued in its former state? Belgium did well out of it. Of course Belgium had its mining technicians. We do not question that aspect. But this state of affairs could not continue into the present age. The same could be said for the successionist move in Katanga where nickel was to be found. One has to look at political motivations. There is still the basic motivation of profit and greed. It does not matter what a person’s politics are; one always gets that type of person. The big difficulty arises when these people are in high places and are out to make a quick dollar.
I now turn to the question of Iran and the type of government that will be established in that country. People are a little fearful- especially non-moslem people- about this question. They want to know whether there will be violent suppression of other groups. Long before the USSR influence in the Middle East, the Armenians seemed to be a people who were always getting trampled on and denied their rights by other groups. If it was not Marxism or Soviet foreign policy, it might have been other Middle East religions, sultans or other people. For anyone to get up and say that the troubles have been caused by the ideology of Soviet imperialism is to talk rubbish. Of course, all the super powers like to feel their strength.
In fact, I can remember events that took place early in the accession to self-government in
Indonesia. I think that it is agreed that we played a pan in helping that country to shake off the shackles of Dutch colonialism. This had to happen and it did happen. I can remember when Joe Chamberlain, a man who held, among others, the positions of National Secretary and National President of the Australian Labor Party, was in Indonesia on one occasion. Some bureaucrats became difficult with him at the airport. He said to me: ‘You know, one minute I felt like saying that the Chifley Government certainly stood up on their behalf against Holland and other powers’. He also said: ‘I suppose they felt they would have to kowtow to the Dutch and the Europeans and they wanted to show their own strength’. I think that most countries suffer these teething troubles but then enter into calmer waters.
We must understand what happens behind the scenes when someone makes a quick dollar. For example the film The Wild Geese might be considered to be a military adventure story. I do not know whether it was intended to portray the glories of British armies of the past but it dealt with efforts to get people out of an unnamed African country. It was not made by any eastern European film company. I think that it was a combined British and United States effort. The merchant banker type depicted in the film hoped that when a civil war broke out he could move in and get mining concessions. When looking for the motivation for wars, small or large, we must look at the machinations of capitalist interests. This applied to World War I, although I do not think it was altogether the case in World War II. In any event, fascism, not communism, started World War II.
I believe we should not have to wait so long for these documents. Some of the references made could have been tabled a month ago. Instead of using this rather wary prose that we have before us we could be a huie more clear cut. When we get a document of this nature we ought to get a supplement showing how our delegates at the United Nations voted on crucial divisions and how they voted in committees. If we knew that, in relation to Cyprus there would be the same pressure on this Senate as the Greek and Cypriot communities applied to the American Congress when soft pedalling by Nixon and Ford failed to force Turkey to make gestures to Cyprus. That is the sort of situation I would like to see. We would have a more informed Australian elector in regard to what foreign affairs is about. We hope that the conflict in South East Asia will decline again, but if it does develop the cross we have to bear is that, in relation to Vietnam, we cannot say that we were altogether impartial. We were not.
– The paper being discussed is ‘The Geo-political Situation: A Pattern of Instability’. It makes a fine title. It would made a fine title for a bookperhaps a science fiction book or a book of fantasy. It seems to me an odd title for a very serious situation- a pattern of instability, uncertainty, insecurity and fear. Perhaps fear is at the back of the minds of all of us when we debate this foreign policy statement. It is fear concerning what is happening in the world today; a fear that we may have reached a position where just an error on the part of one nation may lead us into a conflict from which none of us can survive. On the top of my papers is an article headed ‘Trident Horror Weapon’. The article states:
The Trident is one of the latest in an arsenal of horror weapons. This submarine, built at a cost of $2 billion, is armed with 24 missiles each containing 17 independent warheards
This means that each Trident submarine will be able to destroy 408 targets, each with a nuclear blast about five times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
A Trident submarine commander would be the third most poweful man in the world, next to the US and the Soviet Presidents. He would control a destructive force greater than that of Britain, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, West Germany, Japan, the Philippines, India and Pakistan put together.
Thirteen Trident submarines will be deployed in the Pacific Ocean. As a National Times article March 6-11,1978, stated: Australia is to play a much more significant role in the strategic weapons plan of the United States, the Soviet Union and China. This will place Australia in the front line of any nuclear exchange between the US and either the Soviet Union or China . . .
When I speak of fear I speak of that situation, because it is exactly the situation in which we are all placed. When those on the Government side attack the Soviet Union, perhaps they can give some credit to the Soviets because in the crisis which confronted them and us they showed the utmost restraint in the face of great provocation. This evening I learnt of one way to get the Government members into their seats in the Senate. I had earlier in the day tried calling a quorum and that succeeded for about five minutes. It took a Chinese delegation in the President’s gallery tonight to bring them all in.
– Not all.
-Not all; perhaps I do the honourable senator an injustice. I would say a considerable number of the honourable senator’s colleagues did come into the Senate because they must have been informed that this Chinese delegation would be here. It seemed to me to be the height of hypocrisy for Government members to show now so much respect for a delegation from China when some six years ago they were the greatest spokesmen against China and made statements about the downward thrust of communism, with the force behind that downward thrust being China. When one considers some of those remarks one can appreciate their hypocrisy tonight in coming in to honour such a delegation. When I interrupted some remarks being made by the Acting Deputy President and said, ‘And remind them of Vietnam’, they chided me for so doing.
Let us be straight and honest about it. If, in the past, we criticised the United States for its position in Indo-China, then surely we should be criticising today the position that China takes against Vietnam. That is clearly the attitude that I take. Those criticisms which I levelled against the United States in adjournment debates early in the morning, I level now against China. A visiting delegation does not inhibit me in any way, especially when the Leader of that delegation made some very caustic and undiplomatic remarks about the Soviet Union at a national Press conference today. I would have thought that the Chinese people would remember that their philosophy is akin to the philosophy of the USSR and it does them little credit to make a continuous attack on the Soviet Union.
Let me speak of fear, and the fear of the Soviet people. I spoke of my own fear- I do not doubt the fear of other Australians- at being a prime target in a nuclear strategy, because if we engage in a nuclear war that war will take place in a selective way with the major powers picking off odd targets in order to show their determination to carry it through. Australia will be one of those expendable targets because it has upon its soil at the present time a number of United States bases which are aimed at monitoring the strength of the USSR and of the People’s Republic of China. In the event of any attack that takes place, Australia will be one of the first to go. That is why I am fearful, and that is why other people are fearful.
Let me speak of the fear that I felt transmitted to me by people in the Soviet Union when I was there some time ago. They are paranoic in their fear of an encirclement of their nation, of their people, by the United States of America, by the People’s Republic of China and all the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces. Their reaction, of course, is to engage in an arms race to match the arms race against them. Now we are poised in a state of terror. It seems to me that the action of the Chinese in invading Vietnam was to put that balance in danger, and again I commend the Soviet Union for its restraint in the face of the action of the Chinese against the Vietnamese people.
When we speak of instability, insecurity and fear, we must think of the part we play in creating the terrible insecurity that exists in the minds of the Soviet people. This instability is the same instability as is felt over the whole continent of Africa, from the north to the very south, where it has now become the practice for nations to cross borders to punish and teach a lesson. Just as the Israelites moved across the border into Lebanon to punish and to kill, the Chinese have now moved across their border to punish and to kill. What sort of lesson is that that we are permitting? It is a lesson which means that many die on both sides. We are seen to be, and we are, incapable of preventing it, and if we are incapable of preventing it, then of course we reinforce this instability, insecurity and fear.
I could speak of the crisis situations which exist between nations and from which some peoplethe industrialists, the armament makers and armament suppliers- benefit. The crisis between Greece and Turkey is reminiscent of the 1920s, when the Greeks were encouraged to go into Asia Minor and became embroiled in a war with Turkey in order to use up the vast surplus of armaments which existed after the First World War. At present those two nations, living in fear of one another in a situation of instability and insecurity, spend 60 per cent of their budget on arms. Yet their people to a large extent suffer poverty. The crisis has been created by external forces; yet the people live in a situation of poverty, insecurity and fear. Other nations which have been mentioned- Ethiopia, Eritrea, other African nations and nations of South America and South East Asia- are in the same state of insecurity, instability and fear.
Recently Iran had a change of government by way of revolution. This matter was suitably dealt with by Senator Wheeldon. One thing that emerged from that revolution was the cancellation of armament contracts with United States, France and the United Kingdom worth billions of dollars. Iran had been purchasing tanks 1,000 at a time. In contrast, Australia purchases the same tanks 50 at a time and we congratulate ourselves. One can understand the great conspiracy that went on in the Middle East with the escalating cost of oil. Fuel sales poured dollars into the Middle East but these dollars were not spent to improve the lot of the ordinary people but to purchase millions of dollars worth of arms. As a result the industrialists and the armament makers in the United States, France and the United Kingdom benefited greatly. The Western democracies are responsible for creating the tremendous instability and insecurity in the Middle East.
I often wonder whether man’s destiny on earth is to destroy the earth and make the world a barren planet, to match the other planets of the universe. Perhaps our destiny is just that. Whereas 100 years ago that seemed to be something in the dim, distant future, now it seems to be something that will be possible within our time, or within the time of those of us who may have 1 0, 20 or 30 years left. Instability is very much the word.
Let me say a word now about Vietnam. I think the Vietnamese nation has been a nation much maligned in this place. Remember that the Vietnamese people fought the French to free themselves from the colonial bond of the French and the exploitation of the French landlords. They fought the French and defeated them. They fought the Japanese and defeated them. They were betrayed by the British in the agreements that were made, and they fought again- this time the French again and subsequently the full forces of the United States. Perhaps I should amend that, because the United States could not bring to bear the massive armaments it had at its disposal. Nevertheless, it put into that struggle every sophisticated weapon that could be used in land warfare short of nuclear warfare. It put into the field half a million men and lost many thousand of them, and it was defeated.
Having defeated the United States, the Vietnamese people set themselves a program of reunification and economic recovery. Senator Gietzelt has already explained how that was frustrated by the United States, by countries such as Australia supporting the United States, and by the Chinese. The Chinese said that they did not wish Vietnam to continue to be a part of the Soviet sphere of influence. They then engaged in a series of actions which in fact forced Vietnam completely into the area of Soviet influence. The Chinese did not want Vietnam to engage in the last assault upon Saigon. They wanted the United States influence to remain in that area as a counterbalance to Soviet influence. That was the Chinese intention. Their advice to Vietnam was to not carry out that last assault. On the other hand the Soviet Union did not believe that the Vietnamese could succeed and, as is now history, the United States folded before that last assault and the Vietnamese were victorious.
Whether or not we agree with the system of government in Vietnam we should recongise that it developed because of a lack of understanding by the Western democracies of the need and the desire of the Vietnamese people for national independence and freedom from a colonial yoke. As has continually been our attitude to fights for independence or struggles for independence by minor nations, we took the side of the exploiters and the ruling class and did not understand the innate feeling and desire for national independence of the people concerned. We thrust them into other philosophies, and that is what we did to Vietnam. Make no bones about it! The Vietnamese chose the only way they could see possible to develop their nation’s independence and to develop as one people, not a split people. We partitioned country after country after country. We were determined to partition Vietnam, but we failed in Vietnam.
The Chinese persisted in the attempt to frustrate Vietnam’s independence and national sovereignty. They supported the Kampuchean or Cambodian regime. One of the conditions of the support for Cambodia- if I can use that term which we more properly understand- was that Cambodia would maintain pressure on the Vietnamese border, that it would engage Vietnam and divert it from its struggle for economic recovery. For 2V4 years the Cambodian Government was responsible for incursions into Vietnamese territory. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) himself has said, the Cambodian Government became one of the most oppressive governments known to the history of man. It was guilty of the genocide of its own kind. It destroyed its own people. It executed its opponents, resulting in the development of areas of insurrection. But it also was responsible for incursions into Vietnamese territory. We are told that after 2’A years of patience Vietnam crossed the border to protect its own border, because it supported the insurrection in Cambodia. This was an invasion, and Vietnam deserved a lesson which China proceeded to teach it.
I was in Hanoi seven months ago and when I returned I said that the situation in Vietnam was serious; that there were 15 Chinese divisions massed on the northern border in order to reduce the pressure on Cambodia; that Vietnamese divisions were going north; and that China had engaged in a psychological campaign against the Vietnamese. The Chinese spread rumours throughout the northern provinces of Vietnam, amongst the Vietnamese of Chinese descent, that there would be war between Vietnam and Cambodia; that if that happened they would be supporting Cambodia and that people of Chinese descent would be persecuted. The rumour went further and said: ‘If we do come in on the side of Cambodia and you are still in Vietnam, you will be considered traitors’. The People’s Republic of China suddenly withdrew aid from 500 projects in Vietnam. It did to the Vietnamese people what it accused the Soviet Union of doing to itself, which is at the basis of the conflict between the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union. I refer to the sudden withdrawal of aid by the Soviet Union from China at a crucial time in China’s development. China did to Vietnam exactly what it accused the Soviet Union of doing to itself.
When, as part of the reunification and the change in the nature of Vietnamese society, the Vietnamese Government decided to change the currency it gave the Vietnamese in the south 48 hours in which to convert their currency and said that they would be allowed only $500 in currency for their own use and that all other moneys were to be invested in state enterprises. This caused confusion in the market place of Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City. There was a rush to convert to portables, a rush to convert money into valuables. Many of the merchant class succeeded. Many of this merchant class in the South were Chinese who had fled from the revolution in China. Some went to Taiwan while others went to Indo-China. They were caught up in this change of currency and in the change in the nature of society which was being imposed upon them. The claim by China that Chinese nationals were being persecuted arose from this incident and it seems to me peculiar that China should accuse Vietnam of something which it did itself after the revolution. It is surprising to me that China should come to the defence of Chinese merchants in Ho Chi Minh City who were refugees from the regime in China and who subsequently, when they left Vietnam, went not back to China but to France and, as most of them did, to Taiwan.
They were free to go. On the Air France jumbo jet on which I left Ho Chi Minh City, three sections were reserved for refugees who were free to go. When we got to Bangkok some of the refugees remained on board while others transferred to another plane whose destination was Taiwan. I put it to honourable senators that they were free to go. When the ships that came from China to pick up refugees anchored outside Haiphong, the only condition that the Vietnamese people put on the refugees leaving was that it should be done in the normal way; that lists should be given to the Vietnamese authorities of people wishing to go; that the Chinese ships could take only three days for the whole of the operation; and that they should enter only two pons, Haiphong and Ho Chi Minh City. Yet the Chinese refused those conditions. In fact it was pan of the confrontation, pan of the propaganda, pan of the psychological campaign against the Vietnamese people.
My belief is that China manufactured a case against Vietnam in order to invade Vietnam and to teach it a lesson because it felt that Vietnam was very much a pan of the Soviet system and part of the Soviet sphere of influence. It was afraid that the Soviet Union would obtain bases in Vietnam. It did not properly understand the Vietnamese people who, as Senator Gietzelt explained, tried their best to disengage from dependence on the Soviet Union and sought an independent position. If the United States had assisted in reconstruction and if Australia had supported it in doing so, Vietnam would possibly have reached an independent position, but it was not allowed to do this. Because it was not allowed by China to do this, China subsequently was able to use this to justify its invasion.
What is the result? The result is that many thousands of Chinese and Vietnamese people have been killed in an empty exercise. The world was brought to the brink of an international disaster. As I have described before, had the Soviet Union not used restraint, had the Soviet Union crossed the northern Chinese border in order to relieve the pressure on Vietnam, of course we would have been engaged in a war of great magnitude. It would have been difficult not to become involved following the chain reaction that would have taken place.
The Australian Government has evidenced by its reception of the Chinese delegation here tonight and the subservience it is now showing to China that it is taking part in a dangerous exercise. I believe that the United States also is engaged in the same dangerous exercise of encouraging China and is taking sides against the Soviet Union. I believe that is a dangerous policy. I believe it was quite wrong of the Australian Government to have received the delegation from China at a time when China was engaged in an act of aggression, irrespective of how the Australian Government may have viewed the Vietnamese incursion into Cambodia.
China is a major nation, one of the four world powers. It is engaged in an act of aggression against a small country, yet Australia has given no indication of any criticism of that position. For some reason we now seem to think it is to our advantage that China is strongly opposed to the Soviet Union, as a result of which we believe we may be able to engage in some further trade negotiations with China. Because we have this belief we take a very short-sighted position and support China.
I have spoken at length on my belief that the Chinese position is insupportable, inexcusable, leads to further ^stability, leads to further insecurity and certainly adds to fear.
– I do not wish to delay the Senate, but I take this opportunity to speak briefly and fairly generally in the rather unusual circumstance of having a debate in this Parliament on foreign affairs. The fact that we are debating a statement put down by the Minister for Foreign Affairs ( Mr Peacock) is something for which I suppose we should be grateful. I believe the fact that we rarely do so and the fact that even the media in this country rarely discuss foreign affairs, except on spectacular occasions of war and revolution, is regrettable.
As a result of the lack of interest in the Parliament and in the media, the fact that in the past we have felt secure in view of our geographic isolation and that we considered ourselves under the protective umbrella of the United Kingdom or the United States, Australia has had little interest in or knowledge of world affairs. This situation has not been helped really by the sort of attitude and debate that we have heard sometimes in this chamber. I do not intend to attempt to compare the various analyses of the historical situation which has led us to the present position. At the moment I do not care to go into the details of the rights and wrongs of the situation in Vietnam as Senator Georges has done tonight.
However, I do wish to express some regret at the attitude of Senator Lajovic. His remarks were reminiscent of the son of debates we had in this country in the mid-1950s and the mid-1960s. There was the use of loose terminology. There was the naming of everybody who opposed his point of view. The words ‘communist’ and socialist’ were used in an interchangeable way. There was the son of cold war attitude which led him to condemn those who took part in marches and demonstrations against Australia’s involvement in Vietnam. He demanded that those people who took part in those demonstrations should take part today in demonstrations against every war that occurs in other parts of the world. That sort of illogical debating technique does nothing to improve the knowledge of foreign affairs. It does nothing to improve our attitude to the rest of the people in the world. It does nothing to improve the understanding of the ordinary person in this country.
As a result of this ignorance the media and the people of this country expressed shock at the apparent suddenness of the events in Iran, at the apparent suddenness of the VietnameseKampuchean situation and the apparent suddenness of the Chinese- Vietnamese conflict. This shock leads to a disturbed state of mind when contemplating a conflict between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and China.
As Senator Lajovic said, it is true that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- echoing the Minister for Foreign Affairs- anticipated by a couple of days the Chinese attack on Vietnam. It demonstrates that part of our security force in this country had at least some few days or even some few weeks foreknowledge of what was to happen. As Senator Georges has said, seven months ago he was in Vietnam. Many of us remember that upon his return from Vietnam he expressed a very real concern at the dangers of a conflict between China and Vietnam. At that time it was being commonly spoken about in Vietnam and in other parts of the world.
Last November I was in Vancouver at the Congress of the Socialist International where the possibility of conflict between China and Vietnam and between the USSR and China was commonly brought up in speeches, around dining tables and in conversation outside the congress. What impressed me at that time, as I expressed when I returned here, publicly and in the Press, was the very different attitude and approach to world affairs taken by those leaders and representatives of foreign governments compared with the complacent attitude that we had in this country, an attitude we had because we had no knowledge to the contrary from the media or the Government in this country. It has now become obvious to us that we are in a perilous position in world history. Major conflicts exist in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. In fact the potential is there for a third world war. In his opening address to the Socialist International Congress, Willy Brandt, the President of Socialist International and a former Chancellor of West Germany and Mayor of West Berlin, who is a socialist, I remind those opposite, and who has suffered at the hands of those who misuse the term ‘national socialists’ of Germany, for example, and of the communists in East Berlin who call themselves socialists, said:
We know the saying: War is the Father of Everything. Today, the consequences of a great war are almost beyond imagination. Therefore only peace can be the father of everything.
Unless we- and others who bear political responsibilitysucceed in helping to make peace wherever war is still being waged, and in securing peace wherever new conflicts threaten, we shall never achieve what democratic socialists have so long been striving for.
I would suggest that this is what all of us have so long been striving for: a world in which freedom, justice and solidarity are part of every man’s everyday life.
Overcoming the differences between what we call, in a simplified manner, North and South has become another dimension to peace policy. It includes our obligations to our fellow men and, at the same time, a well-understood self-interest.
When we hear such words from a leading statesman we must remember that we should develop, in the words of Senator Wheeldon when he was speaking on the subject, a distinct foreign policy of our own, a foreign policy that we can declare to the world and in which we can act in solidarity with others in the world to achieve this peace and freedom about which Herr Brandt talks.
Today probably more than half the population of the world is suffering from famine and malnutrition. The economic imbalance between the rich and the poor, or the north and the south as the economic jargon would have it now, is getting worse and we seem powerless to do anything about it. The beggar-thy-neighbour type of protectionism is increasing, thus making more likely the potential of trade wars which so often in the past have been the precursors of military wars. The developed countries, with three exceptions, cannot reach the targets of foreign aid which they set for themselves to assist the nations of the less developed world to increase their standard of living and the freedom which should be available to them.
Admittedly, all is not necessarily gloomy. The statement put down by the Foreign Minister does not mention those countries in the world where things are not so gloomy. In recent years Spain has passed from being an oppressive feudal state to being a democracy, however fragile that democracy may be. Portugal has similarly overthrown a dictatorship. In the Dominican Republic a democratic socialist government under Pena Gomez has been elected. Certainly external pressure and moral exhortation was needed from countries outside the area to make sure that that election was completed, but it was completed and we have a democracy there. George Fernandez, who is the leader of a sister party to the party that sits on this side of the House, has been released from gaol in India as part of the return to democracy in that country. All is not gloomy everywhere, but so often in the world things are gloomy.
In this situation I believe it is unfortunate that so many members of this Parliament still see the proper basis of our foreign relationships as being whether the country we are considering is communist or pro-communist rather than whether it observes human rights and basic human freedoms. This leads to our being in favour of governments such as that of the Shah of Iran, even that in Haiti or that of Franco in Spain. It leads to our approving of dictatorships of the Right and disapproving of dictatorships of the Left. This sort of hangup from the days of Dulles, of course, is still with us. We still judge our friends internationally by what we perceive as being their economic usefulness to us. This perception, I believe, has led us to the excessively pro-Chinese stance that Senator Georges spoke about and to the claim that we should not be critical of the abuse of human rights or human freedoms in countries such as South Korea or Indonesia for fear of upsetting trade with those countries.
We are a relatively small country in world affairs, but we can and should have a firm and independent view on foreign affairs. We should make our voice heard in world affairs and establish our credentials as a pro-democratic country in favour of human rights, human freedom and the right of people to selfdetermination. We should express disapproval of countries which abuse human rights and freedoms and we should express disapproval of those who interfere with the right to selfdetermination for others or intervene in the affairs of others directly. We are not often in a position to make great gestures. We can do all this without futile gestures. We can do it by maintaining relationships with some countries, but we must and should do it to preserve our national self-respect and our credentials in world affairs. For instance, we should disapprove of torture in the world, wherever it is practised, because torture is torture. There is no distinction between torture practised by left wingers or by right wingers, by Christians or by Moslems. There is no distinction between torture in Brazil or in Belfast. We should disapprove of the use of tanks and guns to deprive people of their political rights and their freedom, whether it occurs in Prague, Tehran, Suweto, Chile or anywhere else. We should express disapproval of the gaoling of such people as Kim Dae Jung in North Korea, George Fernandez in India, any number of dissidents in Russia or democratic socialists in Vietnam, a subject about which Senator Georges may disagree with me. We must disapprove of the banning of journalists in Africa and the deprivation of human rights everywhere.
If we sit back with complacency at the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea because we are justifiably horrified at the excesses of the Pol Pot regime, if we ignore the excesses of the Shah of Iran because he was pro- Western and then ignore the excesses of the Ayatollah Khomeini because he is allegedly anti-Marxist and ignore what his sort of religion will do to the women of that country and to the basic freedoms of people in that country, or if we remain silent about East Timor for fear of offending the Indonesians, we have no international standing and no right to be heard in international forums. If we use the logic of Dulles and, later, of Kissinger of intervention in the affairs of other countries to assist our own economy or our philosophical prejudices, we will have difficulty seeking assistance if and when we need it.
Earlier in this debate Senator Wheeldon suggested certain precepts that we can use to govern our international stance in various situations. For instance, we should oppose the intervention of countries in the affairs of others to change their governments. That is true solidarity and we should do it, regardless of the nature of those governments. We can express forcefully disapproval of the deprivation of human rights, of torture, of racial discrimination or of exploitation of man by man in any country, and we should do so. We can assist to the limit of our capacity- and it is often not great- in the freeing of all mankind from the scourges of famine, disease and malnutrition and we can urge others as fortunate as us to do so. We can increase our foreign aid to the levels that are expected of us by the United Nations and even beyond that. The policy of tolerating injustice for economic or philosophical reasons leads us nowhere. The tacit approval of intervention in the affairs of others because of political preference has been shown in the past to be disastrous and to lead us nowhere. We are perceived in the world as a white enclave, underutilising our resources, being over-protective and having a foreign policy which is dependent on the views of others and on our economic selfinterest. Whether or not that is true, that is the way in which we are perceived.
We should try to be perceived in the world as being in favour of democracy, human rights and human freedom, and where we see those things abused we should oppose it and express our opposition. We can do so without interfering in the internal affairs of others; we can do so without interfering with the national rights of others. In doing so we can take a realistic stance on foreign affairs and not just in this place indulge in a yearly debate which is comprised largely of platitudes and prejudices from the past and which leads us into the sort of disaster in which we found ourselves in the days of the Vietnam conflict.
Debate (on motion by Senator Carrick) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Excise Act 1901 to authorise the introduction of a system under which regular exporters of excisable goods may furnish to the Customs periodic returns of exports instead of submitting an export entry on each occasion that excisable goods are exported. The amendents proposed in this Bill represent a further step in the restructuring of the general requirements for exportation which began with changes made in 1977 to the export provisions in the Customs Act 1 90 1 .
The system will operate in the same way as that which was introduced to streamline export procedures for goods, other than excisable goods, following amendment of the Customs Act 1901 by the Customs Amendment Act 1977. The measures contained in the amending Bill will simplify documentation when excisable goods are exported regularly, thereby streamlining export procedures and providing economies for both industry and government. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
– I rise to speak in this debate because of one point that perturbs me very much indeedAustralia’s credibility in international affairs. I have taken notes of some of the comments made by previous speakers in this debate, but I will not go into them too deeply. Senator Lajovic was arguing as though we were back in the 1950s and seemed to be very concerned about creeping hordes of socialism. He never at any time worries about the hoarding creeps of capitalism. Senator Kilgariff said that the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) was all about human rights and democracy. He wished to know where Australia stands and what influence it has in the present situation. Senator Messner said that Australia remains a critic of aggression, no matter what nation is involved.
I am concerned about our credibility as a nation. Mr Anderson, the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, in his address to the Security Council on 15 January, when the Kampuchean invasion was being discussed, said:
The Australian Government and the people have been deeply moved by the suffering which the ordinary people of Kampuchea have had to endure.
Any such use of external force must be a matter of deep concern to the United Nations, the more so when a small and weak country is attacked by a powerful neighbour.
My Government therefore considers it urgent that the Security Council should reaffirm the right of Democratic Kampuchea to independence, sovereignty and the integrity of its territory and the right of the Kampuchean people to determine their future themselves, free from outside influences or interference.
They are very lofty and noble sentiments and they were very ably stated. I agree with the sentiments expressed by Mr Anderson. But I wonder where Mr Fraser and this Government were when Indonesia brutally annexed Timor. That was an instance of a strong and powerful nation annexing a small nation. What happened when Timor was brutally annexed? This Government, than in Opposition, decided that it would oppose bitterly the Whitlam Government’s recognition of Soviet control of the Baltic states. The then Opposition opposed bitterly the de jure recognition of the incorporation of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union, 40 years after the event. But in the case of Indonesia’s brutal annexation of East Timor this Government decided to give de jure recognition to Indonesia while the blood was still running in the streets of Dili. I remind the Senate that Indonesia stated that she could not tolerate the trouble on her border; she could not tolerate the differences of opinion within East Timor. We all know that there was very little difference of opinion. In fact there was none.
There was no difference of opinion at all between the UDT and Fretelin because Fretelin had complete control of the situation.
On the other hand we have Vietnam. It has been acknowledged by this Government that up to three million people have been brutally murdered or have died of starvation in Kampuchea. We are not too sure of all the facts, but it is considered that the number of people murdered is between one million and two million. What did we decide to do there? We decided to withdraw aid. But the situation is entirely different in respect of East Timor. We are now to give de jure recognition to Indonesia’s incorporation of East Timor. The reason for our de jure recognition, of course, is to allow us to exploit the seabed resources between East Timor and our own coast. It appears to me that when it comes to human rights our decisions are based entirely on economic principles. I draw this parallel to illustrate the double standards that are adopted on human rights. It certainly appears to be a question of economics, not of human rights.
Because of what has taken place in East Timor, we can regard only with the deepest suspicion and cynicism the pious utterances of sympathy and concern for the Kampuchean people that have been made on behalf of this Government. I am very concerned indeed about our Government’s credibility abroad when we consider the double standards that have been applied to the situation in East Timor and to the situation in Indo-China. I wonder what the Vietnamese people feel when they are criticised by the Australian Foreign Office. Australia has a moral obligation in the rebuilding of Vietnam. I do not subscribe to what happened in Kampuchea or to what happened in Vietnam, but I am deeply concerned about our position. It would appear that the Government is making excuses for China and has decided that it is far easier to withdraw aid than to abandon trade. It therefore seems to be taking sides with China.
Questions without Notice: The Fraser Government
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
-I wish to raise in the adjournment debate tonight a matter which I did not get an opportunity to raise today at Question Time. I am rather sorry that the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick) has now left the chamber because it concerns him. However, he can read what I have to say. I wanted to ask a question about the public inquiry into the allegations against Mr Lynch, which are reported at page 396 of the Senate Hansard of 1 March.
– If you talk about something else for a minute, Senator Carrick will be back.
– Well, I want to pursue this matter. In the chamber today Senator Mason said to Senator Carrick that he thought Senator Carrick asked for his question to be put on notice and that Senator Carrick did that for the simple reason that it would not be rebroadcast. Senator Carrick said in reply that if Senator Mason was to do what most Australian Labor Party senators do- I dispute that statement- and forewarn him of the questions that he was going to ask, that would help him to expedite his answer. The reason I am putting this question tonight is to assist Senator Carrick to expedite an answer to me tomorrow after Question Time or before Question Time if he likes. During the questioning of Senator Carrick on Thursday last in relation to the Robinson affair, Senator Carrick, as we all know, got quite excited when giving his answers, but I am not going to delve into that tonight. As reported at page 396 of the Senate Hansard of 1 March, he said:
Mr Lynch stood down during the election campaign. A public inquiry was held into the allegations against Mr Lynch and Mr Lynch was exonerated.
- Senator Carrick is here now.
– He is here. I am pleased that he is in the chamber. However, one of the things that disturbed me was that in the Press report on Friday of this altercation that took place the Labor Party members were taken to task because nobody twigged that Senator Carrick had stated in the Parliament quite categorically that a public inquiry had been held into the allegations against. Mr Lynch. T realised straight away that I had interjected. Part of my interjection is now recorded in that Hansard. I am reported as saying:
Who exonerated Mr Lynch?
It is quite obvious that the Labor members were taking notice of what Senator Carrick said, but the members of the Press who reported this incident were not taking notice of what the Labor
Party members said. Senator Carrick having said that there was a public inquiry, I now ask him: What were the terms of reference of the public inquiry into the allegations against Mr Lynch to which he is recorded as referring at page 396 of the Senate Hansard of 1 March? Were the terms of reference of this public inquiry advertised as is the usual practice with public inquiries set up by the Parliament and with all other public inquiries? If so, what was the date of the advertisement? If the inquiry was not advertised, what were the reasons for that not being so?
I further ask: Was a transcript of evidence taken at that public inquiry? If so why has that transcript of evidence not been made available to the Parliament? Finally, I ask, as I wanted to ask at Question Time today: When was the report tabled in the Parliament and what was the total cost of the inquiry? These are the questions to which I would like Senator Carrick to provide me with answers tomorrow. I raise these questions now in view of the fact that he said today that many Labor Party senators do give him notice of questions, which helps him expedite the answers. I am one who has never given him notice before of any question that I have wanted to ask without notice. I have taken him at his word today and I give him notice tonight that I want those answers. Not only do I want the answers but there are also many people who are interested in the public inquiry that he said was conducted into the affairs of Mr Lynch and the allegations made against him. We are very interested to know in what newspapers the terms of reference were advertised, what the terms of reference were, who conducted the inquiry and what the cost was. Most important of all, we want to see a transcript of the evidence taken so that we can ascertain for ourselves whether in fact that public inquiry was conducted, as are all parliamentary public inquiries, in the proper manner, or whether it was a so-called public inquiry held within the four walls of the Liberal Party, and then, as Senator Carrick said today, a public answer was given.
– A select accountant made the inquiry.
– A select accountant, was it? We want to know who conducted the inquiry. These are the questions which I would like Senator Carrick to give me an answer tomorrow at Question Time so that I or even my colleagues can pursue the matter further before the Senate rises for the week’s adjournment on Thursday night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the then Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 12 September 1978:
– The Minister for Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Sydney-532; Melbourne-483; Brisbane-71; Newcastle-20; Port Kembla-20; Townsville- 3.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 12 September 1978:
– The Minister for Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
A. ( 1 ) Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority.
Stevedoring Industry Act 1956- Section 58 and Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Act 1977- Section 16.
and (4) The Report for 1976-77 was presented to me on 2 December 1977, and tabled in the Parliament on 22 February 1978. The Authority’s final Report, for 1977-78 was presented to me on 30 May 1978, and tabled in the Parliament on 8 June 1978.
and (6) The principal reason was the time taken in the preparation and audit of the financial statements.
B. ( 1 ) Australian Trade Union Training Authority.
Australian Trade Union Training Act 1975- Section
and (4) The Report for 1976-77 was presented to me on 29 August 1978, and tabled in the Parliament on 12 September 1978.
5 ) and ( 6 ) The principal reason was the time taken in the preparation and audit of the financial statements.
C. ( 1 ) Industrial Relations Bureau.
Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904- Section 126R.
, (4), (5) and (6) The Industrial Relations Bureau was not in existence in 1976-77.
D. ( 1 ) Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee.
Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Act 1977 - Section 30.
, (4), (5) and (6) The Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee was not in existence in 1 976-77.
Automation: Effect on Employment (Question No. 943)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 24 October 1978:
What statistical information is available to or kept by the Department to indicate the number of people who have been retrenched from industry or have lost their jobs as a result of the introduction of automated techniques.
– The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Department of Employment and Youth Affairs (formerly the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations) does not collect on a regular basis, statistics which indicate the number of people who have been retrenched from industry or who have lost their jobs as a result of the introduction of automated techniques.
However, some information relating to the number of persons retrenched or about to be retrenched is gathered by Employment Office managers of the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) as part of its day-to-day activities. Not all employers notify the CES of the fact that retrenchments have occurred or are about to occur. The data thus collected are incomplete and the reasons for the retrenchments are not always specified. When reasons for retrenchments are specified, they include retrenchments attributable to a wide variety of circumstances- of which automation represents only a small proportion of the stated reasons.
Automation: Effect on Employment (Question No. 944)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 25 October 1978:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Surveys conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics from time to time as supplements to the labour force survey have provided details of the reasons why persons have lost their jobs. However, the Statistician has advised that when a person loses a job it is not practicable to determine with any reliability whether the cause is directly attributable to automated techniques being introduced, other factors, or some combination of both.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 25 October 1978:
– The Minister for Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 7 November 1978:
– The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Commonwealth should have a close look at experienced barmaids being employed in city pubs and subsidised as “trainees”.’
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 22 November 1978:
Will the Minister assure the Senate that those responsible for the compilation of unemployment figures make sure that statistics concerning young people who have never been employed are included in unemployment statistics.
– The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Young persons who have never been employed are included in the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) unemployment estimates as long as they satisfy the definition for unemployed persons set down for the monthly population survey, namely that they were aged 15 years and over; that they were not employed during the survey week and had actively looked for full-time or part-time work at any time in the four weeks up to the end of the survey week and (i) were available for work in the survey week or would have been available except for temporary illness or (ii) were waiting to start a new job within four weeks from the end of the survey week and would have started in the survey week if the job had been available then.
In addition, the ABS monthly survey provides separate estimates of the number of persons aged 15 to 19 years who have never worked for 2 weeks or more in a full-time job.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 20 February 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1978:
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Ministerial Meetings with Business Consultants (Question No. 1184)
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Overseas Telecommunications Commission
-On 26 September 1978 Senator Ryan asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the following question without notice:
My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, refers to an announcement by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications that Mr Harold Cottee is to be appointed Commissioner of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. I ask the Minister: Is this the same Mr Cottee who, as Chairman of Metro West Broadcasters, was twice the unsuccessful applicant for a commercial radio licence for Sydney’s western suburbs last year? Is Mr Cottee ‘s appointment to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission an attempt by the Government to avoid a second High Court injunction being lodged by Mr Cottee against the granting of this licence to another applicant.
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
My answer to the honourable senator’s first part of the question is yes. As to her second part of the question the answer is no.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 March 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790306_SENATE_31_S80/>.