31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from 68 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: Many Australian citizens suffer considerable distress and financial hardship as a result of inaccurate charges and accounts for the use of telephone, telegraph and other related services.
That: Telecom Australia does not provide adequate information in relation to the subscriber’s number called, duration, and distance of telephone calls and telegraphic services made or used by their subscribers.
Your petitioners do humbly pray that the Senate will initiate moves to ensure that:
. Telecom Australia eliminates all abuses of the account system to ensure the details of all customer accounts are accurate, and that
On request from the customer, Telecom Australia provide details of date, subscriber’s number called, duration and distance of all services for which the customer is charged.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-On behalf of Senator Ryan I present the following petition from 90 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the parlous state of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a matter of grave public concern, and because of the important role of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the culture and well-being of Australia, we urge the Government to institute an immediate Royal Commission into all aspects of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to allow for a full and open public inquiry.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 14 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That on the 10th December 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which declares that,
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration. . . . ‘ (Article 2) that ‘Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives . . . The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or equivalent free voting procedures. ‘ (Article 21(1) and ( 1 ).
Elections for Senators meet all requirements except one. Senators are elected periodically, by secret ballot, with universal franchise, and the quota-preferential method of proportional representation ensures that the vote values within states are equal as nearly as can be.
However the provision of the Electoral Act that compels voters to show preferences for ALL candidates on the ballot paper interferes with the free expression of the will of the voters, and is unjust.
Australia, as a Member State of the United Nations, is pledged to achieve observance of Human Rights and Freedoms.
We, the undersigned citizens of Australia, therefore humbly pray that the Senate will fulfil the pledge of a Member State of the United Nations and take steps to remove the compulsion from the Electoral Act in order to allow freedom of expression for everyone who has the right to vote for Senators.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– 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 Senator Lajovic and Senator Scott.
Radio Station 3CR, Melbourne
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That radio 3CR Melbourne, be made to adhere to the required standards of broadcasting, as laid down for all other radio stations.
The petitioners request that the Federal Government and Broadcasting Tribunal should enforce the required standard of broadcasting as laid down Tor all other stations, on community radio 3CR call on Federal Government to legislate against incitement to racial hatred and violence.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Guilfoyle.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
1 ) That, in the opinion of the Senate-
2 ) That copies of this resolution be forwarded to-
-I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment whether he is aware of an application for Government financial assistance by Dr L. Dintenfass of Sydney Hospital, to carry out a program which involves the participation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States. Also, I ask: What has been the reaction of the Government to this application?
-The Leader of the Opposition raised this matter with me during, I believe, 1978. Indeed, it has been raised on several occasions. As I understand it, Dr Dintenfass is a researcher at the Sydney Hospital and has the distinction of being the only scientific researcher, so far as I am aware, who has had a research project- in this instance involving blood viscosity and aggregation in space- approved by the NASA Space Lab program. As far back as 1 977 Dr Dintenfass first proposed to my Department that he be permitted to travel to the United
States of America to discuss these matters. My recollection is that at that stage my Department assisted him with funds. Earlier he had indicated that the provision of a sum of $1,000 which he believed he could obtain from private sources, would enable him to complete his program. I am not sure whether they were to come from the National Health and Medical Research Council, or from other avenues, but the figure mentioned approached $150,000. However, during 1978 he wrote to my Department seeking other funds. As the Leader of the Opposition will appreciate, that began to present a problem- even though I assure him that, as the NASA programs in Australia are managed by my Department, I was very anxious to assist.
My recollection is that a letter written in late 1 978 by Dr Dintenfass concerning the required $150,000 indicated that he was still confident that he would be able to obtain funds from the National Health and Medical Research Council, but was taking up our suggestion that he apply to the Australian Research Grants Committee for assistance. As the Leader of the Opposition will know, applications to the Committee are decided by peer review and I feel confident that if the doctor’s proposal is deemed to involve research of excellence he will receive some assistance. I would certainly hope so.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development by directing attention to a report published this week in a Canberra review that Government fuel experts believed that Australia faced a serious energy shortage- I take it that the reference was to an oil shortage- after 30 June. In view of the grave implications which this shortage could have for my State of Queensland and more especially its remote areas, will the Minister comment on the accuracy of the claims? If he cannot, will he undertake to make a statement urgently to the Parliament setting out the true position?
-The Minister for National Development has advised me that the Government is well aware of the current international and domestic oil supply situation. There is close consultation between Commonwealth and State governments and the oil industry in monitoring the situation. Recent meetings have confirmed that the situation is stable and that the outlook for the second half of the year, while naturally less certain than for the immediate future, at this stage does not appear to be a serious problem as far as Australia is concerned.
Fortunately Australia is 70 per cent selfsufficient in crude oil and much more so in motor spirit and light transport fuels. Cessation of oil exports from Iran so far has not affected us because of the small proportion of imports from that country. The shortages in the world market have been met by other countries increasing their oil production and by the use of accumulated stocks. However, if the situation deteriorates some action may be required.
Developments arising from the Government’s budgetary action in increasing crude oil price to world parity have given rise to fuel switching including the greater use of natural gas instead of fuel oil, and liquid petroleum gas instead of motor spirit. Also the recently increased production of oil in Bass Strait will increase the availability of crude oil in Australia. Additional reductions in demand will flow from the Government’s energy conservation campaign. I can assure the Senate that the oil supply situation is satisfactory. Iran has recently resumed exports of oil and consuming countries are reducing demand. The Government is well informed of the current situation and in fact officers of the Department of National Development are attending meetings on the oil situation being held at the International Energy Agency in Paris.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education. I refer to the Budget decision to make Commonwealth postgraduate awards taxable. Does the Government take the discretionary view that there is an income element in Commonwealth post-graduate awards, but no income element in nonCommonwealth awards which are not taxable? If so, I further ask: Why does a Commonwealth award have an income element which does not exist in the case of a privately endowed scholarship? If the answer to these questions is in the affirmative, either directly or in effect, is any review or other action under way to remove this anomalous situation?
-I have said in this Senate that it is clearly anomalous that one form of postgraduate award is taxed whilst al! other forms are not. I have said that the matter has been brought to the attention of the Government, and specifically the Treasurer, and that it is under review. It is anomalous.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. The subject of the adequacy and fairness of zone allowances has been debated for many years. Is the Government reviewing the present arrangement with a view to overcoming the existing anomalies? If so, what stage has the review reached?
– If changes in zone allowances were to be contemplated, they would be a matter for consideration in the context of the Budget, and would be subject to the overall constraints of the Budget. I am, therefore, not in a position to make any comment at all but I will convey Senator Thomas’s question to the Treasurer.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services. The Minister would be aware that cars used by the Prime Minister and Ministers are all equipped with radios, sun visors, weathershields, mudflaps and air-conditioning. Has the Minister any reasonable explanation as to why 10 new cars in the depot at Canberra have none of these accessories? Are the back benchers supposed to be second class members of Parliament in that, for instance, Ministers will be able to listen to the news service in their cars but we will not and, as our cars do not have the accessories that make for safe driving, are our lives regarded as being of little consequence?
– I suspect that Senator Melzer ‘s constituents would be somewhat nonplussed at her describing herself as a second class citizen when she is picked up in a pleasant limousine which does not have a radio or sun visor. However, I will check with the Minister for Administrative Services to find out why this action has been taken and give her a reply.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Science and the Environment, refers to the present status of the Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park. What is its present status, having in mind that the Park was proclaimed by the Governor-General on 24 May 1977 under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, and that on 29 June 1978 under the Northern Territory (SelfGovernment) Act the Commonwealth acquired the Park, including further land in the area? Did not this move bring about a change in the status of the Park so that at one stage it became unalienated Crown land? If that is so, was this latter move calculated to bring about a situation which encouraged an Aboriginal land claim over the Park, resulting in continual worry for the small tourist operators in the area of Ayers Rock because they do not know what the future holds for them? If that is so, has the Government plans to ensure that all interests are taken into consideration?
– I understand that the Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park was proclaimed a national park, as mentioned by Senator Kilgariff, on 24 May 1977 under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. Title to the Park was vested in the Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Service and is still vested in him. The Aboriginal Lands Commissioner, Mr Justice Toohey of the Northern Territory Supreme Court, proposes to consider on 2 April this year the claims lodged by the Central Land Council in respect of land comprising the Park and other lands in the area of the Park. I believe that the question of title which was raised by Senator Kilgariff contains issues which it would not be appropriate for me to discuss at this time, pending the completion of the claims before the Aboriginal Lands Commissioner. However, I am aware of the problems of some tourist operators in the area and it has been put to me that the Commonwealth should see to some funding of certain repair work that is required to be undertaken by those operators. It has been a pressing problem to determine where the funds to meet these needs, particularly in relation to the connection of sewerage outlets, should come from. Senator Kilgariff has my assurance that I will take up this matter quickly and assist in any way possible. He will recognise that land claims should be left to the April hearing.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, refers to the Crawford report. Is the Minister aware that employment in the manufacturing sector is now 10 per cent, or some 130,000 workers, below its peak in 1974 and no higher than it was 14 years ago? Is the Minister also aware that the catch about revival through exports is that this approach runs head on into the approach of a host of countries all of which are trying to do the same thing? In the light of this, will the Minister tell the people of Australia how the Government expects these export developments to lift factory employment by more than a small fraction of the decline of 130,000 workers?
-It is true that in 1 974 and in the following year employment in the manufacturing sector in Australia dropped by 1 10,000 persons and has never recovered from that. The cause was a combination of the soaring inflation of that period and the 25 per cent acrosstheboard tariff cuts. That is true. It is true also that following that we found that we were a country which had been costed out of world markets. Prior to 1973 Australia had a 30 per cent cost advantage over the United States of America. At the end of 1975, it had a 40 per cent disadvantage. That is the basic reason for the decline in manufacturing employment.
Whereas in 1975 Australia was in the top number of countries with high inflation and rising inflation, the position now is that, with perhaps the exception of Japan and West Germany, Australia’s performance in reducing inflation and controlling costs is one of the best in the world. It follows quite clearly that if Australia is to restore its competitiveness with other countries it must get its costs down. It is significant that we have reached a stage where General MotorsHolden’s Ltd has indicated it will be starting to export automotive vehicles. Other significant factors are arising.
It is true that with the emerging nations, the developing nations, wanting to trade in the world the task is much more difficult than it has ever been in the past; I acknowledge that. But the only place where Australia, whose main earnings come from two non-labour intensive industries, the farming and extractive industries, can employ people other than in some of the tertiary industries is in manufacturing. The way to employ people is to get our costs competitive with those of the world outside. That is our aim and we will be looking at the Crawford report with that end in mind.
– Is the Attorney-General aware that the National Health Act was last reprinted to December 1973? Since then the volume of amendments to it has reached such proportions that the publication, with pasted-in amendments, is well nigh impossible to manage. Can the Attorney-General say when the National Health Act will be reprinted incorporating all amendments to date?
– I am aware of the problem of reprinting the National Health Act and a number of other Acts of this Parliament. I would refer Senator Walters to the statement I made in the Senate on 22 February 1979, when I announced that in future amended Acts of Parliament would be published in separate pamphlet form rather than incorporated in a periodic general reprint. One of the major benefits of the system will be that a replacement copy incorporating amendments will be reprinted in a pamphlet form each time an item of legislation is amended in a special way. The proposal is that Acts of Parliament which are in most demand will have priority in the pamphlet reprint arrangements. The National Health Act falls into this category along with others such as the Income Tax Assessment Act and the Family Law Act. It is hoped that a new reprint of the National Health Act will be available before the end of the year.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. It refers to the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act and the disparity between that Act and the compensation legislation of the States. Is the Minister aware that this Act has not been varied since September 1976 and that presently the rates are much behind those payable in most of the States? Three States provide rates equal to full pay. In the Commonwealth employees area the rates have declined from 84 per cent of the minimum wage in 1972 to 67 per cent at present. What is being done in respect of the representations made by the unions on this matter? When is the Act likely to be amended?
– This matter has had consideration by me. I have had meetings with the unions representing employees affected by the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act. I am aware that there has been no movement in the rates of benefits for, I think, almost three years. I have made submissions to the Government bringing forward amendments that would reinstate the rates to the proportion that they were on the last occasion on which they were amended. I am hopeful that the Government will give consideration and support to my submission in the Budget context because I think the rates in the States, in all cases except one, by the time of the Budget will be ahead of the Commonwealth Government employees compensation rates. Further, we have allowed the rates of compensation for Commonwealth Government employees to erode.
It may be of interest to note that if the Government were to continue to apply the present rates the Commonwealth Government employee would be given little benefit beyond what would be given to an unemployment beneficiary. In this case the Commonwealth Government is making no gesture of support to its own employees who need compensation through injury in employment. I have given my attention to the matter and I am hopeful of government support for it in the Budget.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It relates to proposals that have been made recently for new taxes. I preface my question by reminding the Minister that less than one week ago the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, canvassed five changes to the tax system including the introduction of three new taxes when he said: ‘We are introducing new taxes to avoid jacking up old taxes’. I ask: Is it not a fact that in the years 1 972-75, the party of the Leader of the Opposition used the most macabre but nonetheless novel taxation device to fill its coffers, namely, a soaring inflation rate? Is it also not a fact that Mr Hayden as Treasurer in 1975 introduced a most vicious and deceptive new tax system which was calculated to produce the largest ever increase in receipts in personal income tax between any two Budgets of the Commonwealth, namely, an increase in personal income tax receipts of $2,61 lm or an increase of 43.02 per cent? Did not the then Treasurer, now Leader of the Opposition, say in the Budget Speech in 1975 that his proposals were ‘perhaps the most revolutionary changes since the inception of our personal income tax system’ -
– I take a point of order.
– And ‘the new system represents a very considerable advance ‘.
– I have been on my feet for almost a minute and Senator Rae continued to speak, despite my taking a point of order. He is giving far too much information in his question. If Government senators are suggesting that on this side far too much information is being given then perhaps I could remind you, Mr President, that Question Time has developed to a stage where senators are giving far too much information; they are using their questions as a means of getting across their propaganda point of view. I believe that this practice ought to be brought to an end and the Standing Orders adhered to.
– In the past I have pointed out that information must not be given in the putting of a question, that questions must be brief and to the point. I ask you, Senator Rae, to complete your question as briefly as possible.
– Thank you, Mr President. Was it not also a fact that the changes in 1975 were described by the then Treasurer, Mr Hayden, as a new system representing a considerable advance? Should the people of Australia bear these facts in mind when considering Mr Hayden ‘s 1 979 tax proposals?
- Mr President -
– This will be a beauty.
– With the enthusiastic aid of the Labor Opposition I will answer the question. Senator Rae asks whether certain matters are facts. The answer is yes, and in 1975 the people of Australia adjudicated on those matters and made a clear decision. I can understand that at any suggestion that one should state calmly and factually the record of those three disastrous years there should be an attempt by Labor supporters to substitute noise for facts. I do not mind the pauses to let the public outside know what Labor supporters are attempting to do. The fact is that in those years under the Hayden treasurership and under other Treasurers income tax in Australia was used as a banditry device to rob the ordinary working people of their wages. In fact, the take from -
– But we did not rob the dead like Sinclair or carry on like -
- Mr President, I find that a most offensive statement and I ask that it be withdrawn.
- Senator Grimes, it is a reflection on the Minister.
– I withdraw. I respect the sensitivities of the gentleman and I know why he is so sensitive.
– Now that the devices are clear to the people of Australia as to the aim to divert this answer, let me say that during the time of the Whitlam Government the income tax take was nearly trebled and revenue from other sources was doubled. Indeed, I think Senator Rae forgot to remind the Senate that there was a device, which happily died but would not have died had the Labor Government gone on, by which Labor was going to tax people on capital gains on the sale of their homes.
– I raise a point of order. The Minister is defying your ruling made a few minutes ago in relation to the length of the reply he is giving and I submit, with great respect, that he is also giving false information in reply to the question that was asked.
– Order! You must not make a charge of that nature. Senator Carrick will continue to reply.
-It is true that the Whitlam Government sought by the device of harvesting inflation to have the most notoriously iniquitous taxes on record in Australia. It is true that these were revolutionary because they robbed the poor- very much so. It is true that Labor was devising other taxes which would cut into the small personal savings of the ordinary householders in their only capital asset- their home. It is true also that the people of Australia adjudicated on this.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it not a fact that income tax collections today, after three years of a Liberal-National Country Party Government, remain exactly the same proportion of the gross domestic product of Australia as they did in 1 975 when this Government took office? Is it not also a fact that this Government in the last Budget had to impose a tax surcharge of $500m on the people of Australia and that no undertaking has been given that that will be removed in the forthcoming Budget? Is it also a means that this Government uses to take from pensioners twice-yearly indexation increases as a means of balancing the Budget? When will this Government produce the results from the promises it made about reducing personal income tax and maintaining twiceyearly increases for pensioners? If the claims made by the Minister are correct, when will we see some results of the greater return to the taxpayers of this country?
-I am very grateful indeed for the opportunity to add more vital information. Had the Whitlam Government’s policy of inflation harvesting continued the people of Australia would today be some $4 billion to $5 billion worse off than they are. Let me make it perfectly clear that the results of tax indexation and the tax scales themselves have discharged very effectively the Government’s policy of reducing taxation.
– Come on! All your mates are going to gaol.
– If Senator Grimes again is trying diversion in this matter -
– Don ‘t worry about me.
– I do worry about Senator Grimes- with very good reason. The second question asked when we would discharge our policies towards pensioners. Today the pension rate stands at 24.1 per cent of the average wage. That is the highest rate in the whole history of pensions. It is considerably higher than in the Whitlam Government’s time. If the aim is to give the pensioners increased real spending power- that is, to stop inflation from robbing the pensioners- we have discharged our policy not only by maintaining their spending power but also by increasing it.
-I again ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Will he give an undertaking on behalf of his Government that the tax surcharge of $500m will be eliminated in the forthcoming Budget? Will he also give an undertaking that twice-yearly indexation of pensions will be reintroduced?
– The Leader of the Opposition is, of course, attempting another diversion. He well knows that these are budgetary matters. The Treasurer and the Government made statements about the 1.5 per cent surcharge when they brought down the Budget and subsequently. I draw Senator Wriedt ‘s attention to those statements.
– I address my question which is in three parts to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It concerns the failure and proposed takeover of AUS Student Travel Service Pty Ltd, an event which sadly I anticipated more than a year ago. First, is the President of AUS Student Travel at last on record as saying that the company is unable to trade in a financially viable manner? Secondly, in relation to the proposed takeover of AUS Student Travel by a Swiss owned company, can the Minister advise the amount that has been repaid by AUS Student Travel to Qantas Airways Ltd and Trans-Australia Airlines? Can he identify the total present indebtedness of AUS Student Travel to Qantas and TAA? Thirdly, what new arrangements are proposed to enhance the prospects of repayment to Qantas and TAA of the large amounts owing to them?
- Senator Baume has previously asked me questions on this subject. Some of the concerns which he has expressed in the past appear to have been borne out by what has followed. I understand that the President of the Australian Union of Students has indicated that AUS Student Travel Service Pty Ltd cannot continue to trade in a financially viable way. I am further advised by the airlines that the amount paid by AUS Student Travel to Qantas Airways
Ltd is in the region of $54,000 and to TransAustralia Airlines about $30,000. The total present indebtedness of AUS Student Travel is estimated by Qantas to be about $930,000 and by TAA to be about $650,000.
Bearing in mind the question which Senator Sibraa asked me about the investments of Ansett Airlines of Australia a few weeks ago, I suppose he would argue that one of the reasons for our very high air fares is losses of that sort are sustained by the two government owned airlines. I remind honourable senators opposite who are making loud caterwauling noises that that is the point that was put by their colleague, Senator Sibraa, the other day.
In answer to the third part of Senator Baume ‘s question, the original scheme of arrangement between AUS Student Travel and its creditor airlines was agreed by the airlines on the basis of their own commercial judgment- I hasten to say that it was not mine. The scheme is approved by the Supreme Court of Victoria. The decision by the airlines to alter their arrangements with AUS Student Travel, has, no doubt, also been taken as a result of commercial considerations. I understand, however, that the new arrangements provide for moneys to be paid to the creditor airlines from the profits of the new company. We can only hope that there will be profits.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is the Government aware of the increased incidence, number and nature of product recalls, bannings and failures to meet safety and other standards under both State and Federal legislation in the years 1976 to 1978? Is the Minister aware that at least three major manufacturers- the Ford Motor Co. of Aust. Ltd, General Motors-Holden’s Ltd and Chrysler Aust. Ltd- and a number of motor vehicle component manufacturers have been obliged to recall motor vehicles? Can the Minister state whether these recalls have covered all the defective vehicles and whether buyers of used motor vehicles have been made aware of the defective vehicles, or are they mill on sale? Does the Minister’s Department or any Federal body other than the Trade Practices Commission- which lists only bannings under its own powers- list, record or make available to the public, retailers or manufacturers information on product recalls, failure to meet safety standards and product bannings? Would it not be in the public interest as well as in the interests of consumers if a list of such defective goods and products were published from time to time?
-I will refer that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and seek an early answer from him.
-Has the Minister for Science and the Environment seen reports about a cerium filter which has been developed by the vast Belgian firm known as the FN Group? It is claimed that when the filter is fitted to a car it can increase by at least 20 per cent the distance travelled on a litre of petrol, by converting water vapour into hydrogen and oxygen to assist in the combustion of the petrol vapour. As many well known car manufacturers are reported to be negotiating for the rights to use this cerium filter on their cars, will the Minister make inquiries to find what the facts are? If the filter is as effective as is claimed, will he endeavour to have it used in Australia not only to cut down the costs of motorists but also to assist in the conservation of fuel and to reduce vehicle emission pollution?
-Some short time ago Senator Young drew my attention to the article, the wording of which is certainly attractive. I referred this matter to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and to other sections of my Department for comment. I have had returned to me the view that the article is lent some credibility by the mention of the huge Belgian organisation, the FN Corporation, as a developer of this type of filter. It would seem to scientists in my Department that the operating principles mentioned in sketchy fashion in the article are improbable due to the vast amounts of energy that are required to effect the chemical changes that are hinted at. To achieve all the required chemistry at a suggested cost of $80 a car, as I understand was suggested in the article, would be an enormous bonus for motor car owners in this country. I was unable to gain any direct knowledge of the filter. However, I can say that the principle suggested requires a great deal of energy. A number of proposals have been mentioned to me by people in Australiawelding under water and a variety of other things of which the honourable senator is aware. They have not really proved to be satisfactory in the end.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. In a sense it follows from the question asked earlier by Senator McAuliffe. Is the Government aware of a recently legislated program for the widespread development of solar energy in the State of California where it is planned, among other things, to apply solar space and water heating to all practicable dwellings by the year 1990? Does the Government know that development under this program named Solarcal will be decentralised and based on small firms in areas of high unemployment, that its slogan is ‘Jobs from the Sun’ and that its goals will be to stimulate local economic development, to conserve energy and to create jobs, especially for young people? In view of the fact that Solarcal is estimated to provide 370,000 new jobs a year up to 1990, so halving the Californian unemployment rate, and in view of the Australian Democrats’ confidence that the Government is really sincere in its stated intention to reduce unemployment in our country by all reasonable means-
– I take a point of order, Mr President. This cannot be allowed to go on. I raise the same point of order as I raised when Senator Rae asked his question. We cannot continue to have information poured out by way of questions. If this continues we may as well all pack up and go home.
– The point of order raised by Senator Georges is valid.
– I have only one final part of my question to put, if I may.
– Put your question as succinctly as you possibly can; give no information. If replies are given succinctly it will ensure a greater spread of questions among senators.
– Will the Government consider an urgent study of this project, with the objective of beginning a similar project in Australia as soon as possible?
– As this question is really concerned with how we can develop the technology and the application of solar energy I think it may have been more informative for the Senate if the question had been directed to my colleague, Senator Webster, who has a great deal of knowledge of and interest in the whole question of the development of solar energy, as indeed does the Government. I share that interest. Obviously the development of suitable technologies in the solar energy field will have important job-creating functions. But the first problem that has to be solved is the development of the technologies.
The United States of America has been doing a great deal of work and spending a great deal of money on this. The Commonwealth Government has been giving greater support, through grants and through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, to solar energy research and the development of technology. I will draw the attention of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs to the matters raised by Senator Mason in relation to the program in California. But, as I said, I think the main problem will be the development of suitable technology-
– I have pleasure in drawing the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the Gallery of the Honourable Daryatmo, Speaker of the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat of the Republic of Indonesia, accompanied by Mrs Daryatmo and members of Mr Speaker’s party. On behalf of all honourable senators I extend to our visitors a very warm welcome. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I propose that Mr Speaker Daryatmo take a seat on the floor of the Senate.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear.
Mr Speaker Daryatmo thereupon entered the chamber and was seated accordingly.
– I direct a question to Senator Webster, in view of the oversight on the part of Senator Mason. It is directed to Senator Webster in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. I refer to local preference schemes which I understand operate in New South Wales and Victoria and which provide for up to a 10 per cent advantage for local firms tendering for the provision of goods and services in those States. Will the Minister consider as a matter of urgency the introduction of a similar preference scheme in the Australian Capital Territory to protect and assist local firms in their work for the Commonwealth Government?
-This matter has been brought to my attention on several occasions both by John Knight and -
-‘ Senator Knight’.
-As a matter of fact, Mr President, I meant John Haslem, M.H.R. I am sorry. I wanted to impress on honourable senators that those two representatives of the Australian Capital Territory have been particularly busy in regard to this proposition.
Opposition senators interjecting-
– I acknowledge that some honourable senators on the other side of the chamber recognise that those two representatives have been just that. This is a matter in which, both nationally and on a State basis, it has been wise to recognise that preference should be given to local manufacturers and producers of goods so that they will find economies in the usage of their goods in a nearby area. Indeed, on a number of occasions Senator Knight has brought this matter to my attention in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory in this chamber. As a result of those representations, I understand, the Minister for the Capital Territory is prepared to look at the introduction of some scheme such as has been mentioned. I will again draw the matter to that Minister’s attention.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport: Is it a fact that because of government regulations, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flies out of Sydney to Europe on a weekly basis with 190 vacant seats out of a total seating capacity of 365 and that from May, JAT- Yugoslav Airlines will also be forced to fly out of Sydney to Europe with a reduced capacity of approximately 100 seats a week? As this is happening at a time when people cannot make reservations to Europe because of capacity booking, how does the Government reconcile this situation with its stated philosophy of free enterprise?
– I would have thought that it was well known to honourable senators by now that the Government has a very clear policy in this area and that it is seeking to negotiate bilateral arrangements with the countries which fly into this country. With respect to KLM, I understand that there have been negotiations and that there are continuing exchanges on this matter, including exchanges at a diplomatic level. I think the same position applies with respect to the JAT airlines. What is quite clear is that where agreements have been concluded, as they have been with respect to the United Kingdom and the United States, there has been a vast benefit to the travelling public and a consequential great increase in the number of bookings. The Government is hopeful that it will achieve the same result in regard to the airlines to which the honourable senator has referred.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware of a report that Malta is discontinuing its meat imports from Australia and New Zealand and is placing future orders with the European Economic Community countries? It was stated that this change was made for economic reasons. Is this another example of the EEC interfering in bilateral trade arrangements in order to dump highly subsidised primary products on the world markets? Furthermore, what economic pressure did the EEC use to bring about this change?
– I regret that I am unable to give the honourable senator full information relating to this matter. It was brought to my attention that an article has appeared suggesting that this was indeed the situation. The honourable senator from Queensland quite rightly predicts that this is a matter of very serious concern to this country. An earlier inquiry from the Department of Primary Industry was unable to elicit any fact in this regard. The Department of Trade might know more about it than the Department of Primary Industry. The importance of the matter will certainly ensure that the question is put on the Notice Paper. I will obtain a response for the honourable senator at the earliest opportunity.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. The Minister is no doubt aware that the companies exploiting the hydrocarbon deposits of Bass Strait have been directed by the Government to increase production by 5 per cent in order to meet the shortfall in Iranian oil imports. Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether the enforced increased production will damage the Bass Strait oil wells in any way?
– I would think the answer to that question is certainly no. However, I will refer the matter to the Minister for National Development and obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs whether he is aware that the Shell
Oil Company has before the Prices Justification Tribunal an application seeking an increase in the price of Avgas of 4.96c per litre, plus a 3.5c per litre ‘into tank’ delivery charge which, if granted, will lift the price of Avgas in country areas- currently around 25.8c per litre- to around 34c, or roughly $1.56 a gallon, an increase of more than 30 per cent. Furthermore, is the Minister also aware that the Shell Oil Company is requesting approval for an additional 5c per litre drummed product surcharge on Avgas and that, as fuel is frequently delivered to country areas in 44 gallon drums, this will take the price of fuel to nearly 40c per litre, an increase of roughly 50 per cent against a current background inflation rate of eight per cent? In view of the importance of light aircraft in rural Australia, and bearing in mind that light aircraft compare more than favourably with cars as efficient users of fuel on a miles per gallon basis -
– I am sorry to disappoint the honourable senator but I will raise a point of order on him, too.
– I understand the point of order that the honourable senator is about to raise. I am quite concerned at the propensity of senators to ask long and involved questions, and in future shall direct that such questions be placed on notice. The honourable senator may complete his question.
– Thank you, Mr President. Will the Minister indicate what stage this application has reached and what the Government has done to oppose this increase?
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs is aware of the application that has been referred to by Senator MacGibbon. Indeed, the price notice has been the subject of public inquiry by the Prices Justification Tribunal. The Tribunal has completed its inquiry and is expected to report in the near future. I emphasise for the information of the Senate, although I would have thought it was clear enough, that the Tribunal has the function, under its Act, of determining whether prices charged, or proposed to be charged, are justified, and that the Minister has no power to direct what the findings of the Tribunal shall be, or to review its findings. The PJT will, of course, come to its decision in the light of the evidence. The General Aviation Association was a party to the recent inquiry and made submissions on behalf of its members. The Minister and, certainly, the Government would expect that the PJT would give full consideration to those submissions in preparing its report.
– Is the Attorney-General aware of a loophole in the Australian Capital Territory Police Offences Ordinance of 1930 whereby it is not an offence to pay wages by cheques which are dishonoured? Is he aware of a submission that has been made to the Minister for the Capital Territory by the Australian Capital Territory branch of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers’ Union regarding this matter? Can he inform the Senate when action is likely to be taken to close this loophole in the Ordinance?
– I am not aware of the matters raised by Senator Ryan but will have inquiries made into them. I am not sure whether it is my responsibility or that of the Minister for the Capital Territory, but I will certainly investigate the question.
– I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment: As New Zealand has recently announced a large discovery of underwater phosphate reserves in its off-shore territorial waters, is the Minister aware that any similar reserves exist in Australian territorial waters? If not, does he propose to have exploratory tests carried out?
– In past years encouragement was given to exploration for phosphate rock in a number of areas both on land and on the continental shelf. My recollection is that this was carried out in the 1960s and that the resultant research for phosphorite off-shore by a number of companies, assisted by the fundamental information provided by the Bureau of Mineral Resources, did disclose extensive deposits on the continental shelf off the east coast of Australia, off the coast of Tasmania, in the Great Australian Bight and, I understand, off the western and north-western coasts of Australia. I understand that the only significant deposit of phosphorite was found on the west coast of Tasmania. This appeared to be of relatively low grade. It is understood that some feasibility studies made by companies indicated that the deposits were basically not commercial.
We know that scientifically it is a changing situation, but the lack of success off-shore, combined with the discovery on land, as Senator Archer would be aware, of very large deposits of phosphate rock in north-western Queensland in the 1960s served to discourage the search for phosphorite. Whilst the Bureau of Mineral Resources undoubtedly continues to monitor prospective areas for phosphorite in the marine geological areas, I am sure that at the present time the state of knowledge for recovery does not indicate that those deposits are economical.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General.
– Make it short.
– It will be short. When does he intend to reintroduce the Criminal Investigation Bill?
– It would be difficult to give an answer as short as that question. The position is, as I have said in the Senate on several occasions, that the Government has been giving consideration to the various representations that have been made.
– Why don ‘t you just say never?
-That is not the case, Senator Evans. At present the Government is concerned with the establishment of a federal police force and believes that it would not be proper to proceed with that type of legislation on which the force would be entitled to make representations until that question was resolved.
– I call Senator Watson.
-Thank you, Mr President, for the privilege of being able to ask a question, my first for about 10 days; and then it was only after making representations to the party Whip about a fair allocation of questions.
– Order! The honourable senator will resume his seat. I must inform the honourable senator that I am aware that he had no opportunity to ask a question yesterday or the day before. I sought to give him the call as soon as I could I have a list of senators’ names. Those marked with an asterisk have not asked a question this week. It is not a fact that your call came because representations were made to me.
– The representation was made last week, not this week.
– By whom?
-To Senator Baume. My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. Now that stricter tests are to be applied to the payment of unemployment benefit will the Minister consider relaxing the conditions of the relocation assistance scheme to aid those who are forced to move to another area for employment?
– The Senate will be aware that the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has been giving consideration to the work test rules. I will draw his attention to the matter that has been raised by Senator Watson and ask him whether he will give consideration to that matter at the same time as he gives consideration to these other matters.
– Does the Attorney-General recall that in the recent guidelines issued by the Australian Legal Aid Office it was stated that legal aid would not, as a general rule, be granted in quasi-criminal matters, such as traffic charges and the possession and smoking of cannabis? In view of the concern expressed in the community about drug offences generally, in the light of the serious effects of any kind of drug conviction on matters such as employment and travel, and particularly given the present maximum penalty under Federal legislation of two years’ gaol or $2,000 for the possession of small amounts of imported cannabis for personal use, does the Minister really believe that the possession and smoking of cannabis can be characterised as quasi-criminal and not deserving of legal aid?
- Mr President-
– Do you regard the question as seeking an opinion?
– I am just going to answer the question by saying that I will give consideration to the matter which Senator Evans has raised.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education. I refer to the disclosure that the number of students proceeding from secondary education to tertiary education has risen from about 10 per cent in 1963 to about 30 per cent in 1 979 and that during the same period the failure rate among first year tertiary students has declined from about 40 per cent to about 1 8 per cent. Does the decline in the failure rate indicate a dramatic increase in ability or a decline in academic standards? Is one of the reasons for this changed situation the excessive competition between the tertiary institutions in an attempt to fill their establishments? Is there such a disparity in enrolments for some subjects and courses that it is clear that some institutions are now offering easy options to students to encourage them to enrol? Can the Minister indicate whether these easy options are likely to lead students into employment- Senator Grimes- Come on! Knock it off!
– I will repeat that question: Can the Minister indicate whether these easy options are likely to lead students-
– I can’t bear it.
– Order! I have indicated previously that questions should be couched in fewer words than the question which is being asked at present. The honourable senator should reword the question in as brief a manner as he can.
– With respect, Mr President, I take up this matter. This question contains about 20 words and it is definitely a question. Would you please listen to it?
– I rise on a point of order. That is a very grave reflection on the Chair and should not be permitted.
– I withdraw any reflection on the Chair.
– I did not take it as a reflection on the Chair. I was indicating, as I have done in previous statements, that honourable senators should not ask long questions.
– Can the Minister indicate whether these easy options which students are now taking are likely to lead them into employment or otherwise upon graduation?
– The series of questions which have been asked are important ones. I would like to respond to their general thrust by reminding Senator Lewis that later today I propose to table in this place the Williams committee report. He will find that it relates, as one would hope, to many of the matters which he has raised. It is true that a much larger percentage of the Australian population has been proceeding to tertiary education, and that in itself must be a good thing. It is also true that there has been some decline in the failure rate in the tertiary sector. That may well mean that we should look at whether we can reduce that failure rate further in genuine tests. My Government and I as the Minister for Education have been very keen to ensure that course evaluations should be established throughout the tertiary institutions to ensure that the highest quality in courses and delivery of lectures is achieved. We note the criticism that some institutions have been tending to fill empty seats by lowering standards. If this is so, then no doubt the Government and the Tertiary Education
Commission will work to achieve a remedy of that situation. In general we are aiming to upgrade the quality of delivery of education and to reduce any suggestion anywhere that there be a lowering of standards. The aim will be the raising of standards.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General is based on a question asked last week by my learned Victorian colleague, Senator Evans. What is the state of play on the legislation that is aimed at dismantling bogus embassies?
- Senator Evans asked me a question on this matter last week. I undertook to provide him with an answer which, unless he asked the question again, would be a written answer. I will be doing that. However, the specific question asked by Senator Mulvihill is the subject of consideration within the Crown Solicitor’s Division of my Department and the subject of advice by senior counsel. Until consideration is completed I am not in a position to make a decision or statement on the matter.
– I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– On 20 March Senator Sheil asked whether it was a fact that the Parliamentary Library was not taking publications emanating from the Republic of South Africa. I have made inquiries and I am informed that it is not a fact that the Library is not taking publications from the Republic of South Africa. Senator Sheil may be referring to the cancellation of the Johannesburg Star in August 1978. In November 1978 an airmail subscription was placed but difficulties were experienced with the supplier. These have now been ironed out and the latest issue on file is that for 15 March 1979.
– Yesterday I was asked a question by Senator Rae about the failure of the Australian National Railways Commission to produce an annual report since 1974-75. 1 have received further information from the Minister for Transport. I am advised that because of the takeover of the South Australian and Tasmanian railways by the Australian National Railways Commission the Commission has not been able to finalise accounts and therefore no report has been produced. It will be appreciated that a number of complicated financial matters in this transaction have had to be resolved. However, these have been resolved and reports for 1975-76 and 1976-77 are with the Government Printer and are expected to be tabled in Parliament in early April.
– I must inform the honourable senator that the practice of Question Time being terminated by the Leader of the Government requesting that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper is well established and has been recognised by successive Presidents. The history of this practice is described in the Australian Senate Practice, Fifth Edition, at pages 214 and 215. It is a practice which has been established and observed through many years.
-by leave- Mr President, I do not know whether what you have said truly conveys the position. Whilst there may have been a practice that operated some time ago, when I came into this Senate in 1962 there was no time limit for questions. We seemed to suffer a lot from the operations of Senator Murphy when he was leading the Opposition, and more particularly when he was Leader of the Government. On those occasions when there was no limit on Question Time questions went on for an hour and a half only on rare occasions. If one studies Hansard, one will see that on most occasions Question Time did not go beyond 45 minutes. Question Time was regarded as the opportunity for Opposition members to ask questions. At that time there was nothing to be gained by Government supporters serving up ‘Dorothy Dixers’ and getting a long reply which could have been given as a ministerial statement. When Labor came to government in 1972 the then Leader of the Government in the Senate introduced the practice of asking that further questions be put on notice after Question Time of an hour’s duration. The great idea then was that our Ministers should not be the dart board for questions from the Opposition and, when there was only an hour, half the time could be taken up with questions which would provide an opportunity for a Minister to get some publicity. That procedure developed into a practice which is still continued.
But if one reviews the position one sees that Question Time, when there was no time limit, was much shorter and was more beneficial to those who desired information. Also, the Dorothy Dixers’ were not asked. Although acknowledging that a practice has developed and that your ruling is correct, Mr President, I ask Government senators to consider again whether it would not be advisable to remove the limitation on question time and let us return to the previous procedure. As vertification of this point I ask honourable senators to study the Hansard to see how long Question Time took each day, at least between 1962 and 1972.
-by leave- The other day I raised the matter of Question Time, using a form which would allow the President to give some statement to the Senate so that we could debate the matter. Today Senator Townley has asked practically the same question as I asked and you, Mr President, gave a response. The result is that we are not in a position to take note of the statement so that we can debate it. It is important that the matter be debated. What has crept into the Senate is a new device by which a Minister can ask without seeking leave and without moving a motion, to place all further questions on notice- not just questions addressed to him but also questions which may be directed through him to other Ministers.
Since I raised the matter I have been attracted to a section in Mr Odgers’ Senate Practice, but with all due respect to him a close reading of the section does not give a clear indication or a clear decision. It seems to me that we may have fallen into error in allowing the Leader of the Government in the Senate to ask that all further questions be placed on notice without leave first being sought from the Senate or a motion being carried. If the matter is unclear then it ought to go to the Standing Orders Committee for debate. I believe that what Senator Cavanagh says is correct: A backlog has developed of questions not asked, and that backlog seems to go through the whole of the week. The point that Senator Cavanagh made is clear, that once the Goverment knows that there is a limit to the period for Question Time, in order to protect its Ministers from a period of aggressive questioning it plans its questions- there is much evidence of this- and there are planned responses. The questions that are asked of the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) are obviously planned questions. The answers that are given on many occasions are planned answers which have no relevance to Question Time and really ought to be confined to the adjournment. However, I do not wish to extend the debate at this stage.
Mr President, I had hoped that by your putting down a statement in response to my request a couple of days ago, the statement would have been brought before the House and we could have debated it at some length. It is important to us that the matter be resolved.
– I must inform the honourable senator that he is competent to take note of my reply to the matter.
– I seek leave to make a short statement.
– The Minister sought my call.
– by leave- I make two points. I would be prepared on behalf of the Government to have discussions between the Government and the Opposition as to the better conduct of Question Time. I think there is much merit in the suggestion. I indicate that as a result of some difficulties today, particularly with points of order, I personally extended Question Time by some five minutes as a minor form of compensation but that in itself does not overcome the difficulties. I would be perfectly happy to have discussions on this matter.
– I now call Senator Missen.
– I, as a Government back bench senator, want to say just a word on this matter. I welcome what the -
– Seek leave.
– Just a moment, Whip: I will speak as I want to speak. I want to say something about this. I think I do speak in this place as I want to speak, and there is nothing unusual in that. I want to say this. I agree with the proposal that there should not be a limitation on the length of Question Time. I think that surely it is within the compass and power of this House -
- Senator, pardon my intrusion, but you must seek leave.
– I thought I had obtained it.
– No, you have not.
– Start again.
-I will decline the offer of the Minister for Science and the Environment to start again- I will not: I will go on from where I left off. I support the idea and I am glad to hear that there is room for discussion in this matter because it seems to me quite unnecessary that there should be merely one hour for Question Time. I had a question for the Minister for Science and the Environment today; he knew nothing about it, and he never knows -
– He would not have been surprised.
-No, that is not right. Sometimes I and other honourable senators give Ministers some forewarning because we want some information particularly when they represent another Minister.
– You won ‘t get any now.
– You would be surprised to hear that we sometimes do get information. As far as this is concerned, I just want to answer what Senator Georges and Senator Cavanagh have said. Question Time is not just for Opposition senators; it is not just for them. I never ask any Dorothy Dix questions; I never have and never will in this Parliament. There is information that we as back bench members want to obtain from governments for our constituents as do Opposition senators. I put that on the record because it is suggested that this is a matter just for the benefit and convenience of Opposition senators; it is not. I know that Government senators feel unhappy about the short time which they have to ask questions, about long answers and so forth. I think that we ought to investigate this. I suggest that it is well within the competence of the Senate to change the Standing Orders and to extend the period of Question Time. I hope that that will be done.
-I seek leave to speak under the terms of Standing Order 408- a personal explanation.
– This relates to the length of Question Time. I feel that there has been an attemptheretoday,particularlybytheOppo- sition Whip, to suppress Question Time. Standing Order 99, in part, reads:
Question shall not contain-
statements of fact or names of persons unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can be authenticated;
If Senator Georges does not want planned questions, he must accept the situation- and I believe that all honourable senators should- that we must be permitted to give a certain amount of background -
– I rise to take a point of order. Surely this is not a personal explanation. It seems to me to be an attack on me which if it is allowed to proceed I will not be able to answer. I suggest that Senator Mason should take it up on the adjournment debate so as to give me an opportunity to answer what he is saying. I am fairly clear on this. I have made no attempt to suppress Question Time.
– You are making a personal explanation.
– I have merely made an attempt to improve Question Time.
– Order ! I call Senator Mason to make his personal explanation.
– I have no further comments to make about Senator Georges at the moment. Nevertheless, I think this is an important point. If we are to address questions to Ministers and say to them that we want information on Government attitudes on a matter with which they may not be familiar in detail but which is within the broad area on which they ought to be competent to reply, surely we must be able to bring forward relevant matters. There is nothing in the Standing Orders that I can see which provides for limitation or brevity. The Standing Orders simply say that ‘statements of fact or names of persons unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can be authenticated’ should not be used in questions. In other words, if those characteristics -
– Have a look at the back of the form for questions.
– I will proceed when Senator Georges is finished.
– Order! As I see it this is a matter more fitting for an adjournment debate than to be raised now.
– I conclude my remarks by saying that it appears to me that the present Standing Order relating to questions has that meaning. I respectfully seek your ruling, Mr President, on that matter.
– In this matter one has to be realistic and endeavour to ensure that as many questions as possible are asked and as much information as possible is received from Ministers. It is in pursuance of that objective that questions must be couched in terms as brief as possible. They must be to the point. I recall that at Question Time in the House of Assembly in
Adelaide years ago no information was allowed to be given in questions. They had to be brief and to the point. That allowed many more questions to be asked than are asked in this place. It is a matter of common sense.
-I seek leave to ask a question.
– Does the honourable senator wish to make a statement?
– I wish to ask a question.
– The honourable senator may seek leave to make a statement.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science and the Environment.
– Question Time has ceased. The honourable senator cannot ask a question now.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
-The question I wanted to ask was directed to the Minister for Science and the Environment. It concerns the importation of aquarium fish.
– The honourable senator is out of order.
– I take a point of order. Did we not give the honourable senator leave?
– There is no point of order.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter dated 22 March from Senator Wriedt:
Dear Mr President,
In accordance with Standing Order 64,I give notice that today I shall move:
That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
The failure of the Government to define and observe a proper code of ministerial conduct’.
Your sincerely, K..S. WRIEDT
Is the motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– I move:
On 12 March last year the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) told the nation:
My Government has demonstrated again and again our fundamental commitment to restoring integrity to public administration in Australia. Our record in this regard is without parallel in our history. As long as I lead this Government there is no way known that anything less than the highest code and practice of public administration will be tolerated.
The recent resignation and re-instatement of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) has highlighted yet again the so called code and practise of public administration pursued by the present Government. After three years of Mr Fraser ‘s administration we need to look at the manner in which he has been performing in respect of his Ministry. After reviewing the various scandals, resignations and sackings under the present Government, the Opposition has come to a number of conclusions. Firstly, no discernible standards of conduct for Ministers are practised by the present Government. Secondly, whatever code is in operation, it is honoured more in the breach than in the observance. Thirdly, the code of conduct applied by the Prime Minister is usually applied for reasons of political expediency rather than of principle, thus resulting in inconsistent treatment of issues and Ministers. Fourthly, and most importantly, the conduct of the Prime Minister in these various issues has been far below a reasonable standard of conduct and would appear to amount itself to gross impropriety.
Standards of conduct on the part of Ministers arise in a variety of circumstances. Traditionally they are issues of Cabinet and individual responsibility. By ‘Cabinet responsibility’, I mean the obligations on a Minister to support Cabinet decisions. If he is unable to do that he must resign or be sacked. It was this issue that was involved in the resignation of Mr Ellicott and the sacking of Senator Sheil. The notion of individual responsibility concerns the responsibility of the Minister for his department. This issue has not had much of an airing under this Government. Many of its Ministers seem to be inclined readily to blame their public servants rather than accept responsibility for mistakes of their own departments. There is also a Minister’s duty to the Parliament, which must not be misled, lied to or denied knowledge which is essential to the proper government of the country.
When the Prime Minister brought pressure on Mr Lynch to resign in November 1977, it was because of a conflict between Mr Lynch ‘s personal affairs and his public office. There was no suggestion that Mr Lynch should have resigned for deliberately misleading the Parliament as he did when his connection with Peter Leake was first raised by the Opposition. Even the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) seems to feel no inhibition in making statements which clearly cannot be sustained. Only recently, when confronted with a series of questions about ministerial behaviour, the Leader gave answers which bore little resemblance to the known facts. However, it is not really the traditional areas with which we are concerned. In raising this matter I am more concerned with the more murky problems involving illegality, conflict of interest and public and private corruption. It is in these areas that most of the difficulties have been encountered by the present Government. In some cases the issues can be quite clear cut. Illegal acts by Ministers connected with their public office invariably would lead to such condemnation as would produce the resignation or the sacking of such a Minister. Bribery and corruption, either for personal gain or for other reasons, would almost automatically attract such a sanction.
The situation becomes more difficult in the case of conflict of interest, as no proper statement about this matter has been put down by the present Government. The leading statement on this subject was made by the British Prime Minister Asquith in 1913, when he laid down the rules about the conflict of interest involving revelations about shareholdings on the part of two of his Ministers. In our present time the rules laid down by Asquith would clearly catch offenders such as the Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia, whose conflict of interest in share dealings is notorious. Those guidelines would almost certainly have caught Mr Lynch for the transactions in which he was involved. As yet, no such guidelines have been laid down by this Government, although it is possible that light will be thrown on the issue as a result of the findings of the Bowen Committee.
The most difficult area is the area which we generally described as impropriety. Clearly, the notion of impropriety gave Mr Justice McGregor considerable difficulty when looking into the activities of Mr Eric Robinson and Senator Withers. As Mr Justice McGregor pointed out, the word ‘impropriety’ is not susceptible to close definition. He made the remark:
It refers to an attribute, a quality of conduct which in the particular circumstances is dishonourable, wrong, unseemly, unfitting or unbecoming.
He went on to suggest that it may involve disregard of an obligation to observe forms and procedures. It may include the use of subterfuge to achieve what ought to be sought openly and it amounts to a serious departure from a degree of rectitude either generally recognised or readily deduced from settled principles of public morality.
The end result is that His Honour chose not to lay down clear guidelines as to what constituted impropriety, but suggested that that issue would be judged in the circumstances of each case. As it turned out, he had a particularly tough attitude as to what constituted impropriety, the result being that a comparatively minor indiscretion on the part of Senator Withers ultimately led to his dismissal. One of the reasons why Mr Justice McGregor had difficulty with the concept was that the Government of the day has made no attempt to define what it thinks are the proper standards of conduct of Ministers. Thus we have no clear yardstick against which to judge the activities of Ministers. Recently in this chamber, Senator Carrick sought to explain the principles on which the Government operates. He described them in these words:
Over the course of the Fraser Government, where there has been any query of the quality of action taken by a Minister or where a question of high principle has been involved, the Minister concerned has stood down, a public inquiry and a debate have occurred and, as a result, the matter has been resolved.
If that is the principle on which the Government operates, it is clearly a principle honoured more in the breach than in the observance. One way of discovering the Government’s attitude in these matters is to look at the way in which it has dealt with the various issues which have arisen. For this purpose we can put aside the resignation of Mr Ellicott and the sacking of Senator Sheil as they clearly involved the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility. What we are concerned with here is the four scandals which have afflicted the present Government.
The first of these was the Garland case, which involved illegality in that an attempt was made to bribe a candidate in a Federal election. The second one was the Lynch affair, which involved conflict of interest on a substantial scale. The factors involved in that issue were whether the Treasurer should appoint his personal accountant to boards of Australian authorities, whether he should be involved in tax avoidance schemes when the Government was trying to close a series of loopholes, whether he should be involved in land speculation while the Government was trying to clamp down on inflation and whether he, as Treasurer, should have put himself in a position where he received a loan on favourable terms from a large insurance company. The third scandal is what I would call the WithersRobinson saga, being the circumstances involved in the Queensland electoral redistribution and the aftermath of the McGregor Royal Commission. These allegations involved public corruption in that there were allegations of getting at electoral commissioners in an improper way. The fourth scandal, which is still to be resolved, involves private dealings surrounding the affairs of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). I do not propose to go over the details of these issues, as they are well known; but I would like to refer to some of the circumstances involved in each of them.
Although the Garland case appears to be largely forgotten in the light of subsequent scandals, it raised an important issue of principle. The Senate will recall that the matter was first disclosed by the Canberra Times, but no action was taken at that time. Subsequently the Attorney-General decided to get the Commonwealth Police to investigate the circumstances. It was at this point, and not at the time at which he was charged, that Mr Garland resigned. He gave this explanation for his resignation:
It would not be proper to act as a Minister while this matter is being investigated.
In accepting his resignation, the Prime Minister adopted a similar view. That principle was followed again in the case of Mr Robinson when he stood down during the royal commission into the Queensland redistribution. However, the principle was not applied to Senator Withers in the same case and has not been applied to Mr Sinclair in his present difficulties. This leads to the question whether that principle exists or whether it was adopted at the time of the Garland resignation merely because it looked as if Mr Garland had been caught red-handed. The Lynch affair clearly demonstrates that this Government has no intention of applying high standards to the conduct of Ministers. Because of massive conflicts of interest it was perfectly proper that Mr Lynch, the then Treasurer, should have stood down or been stood down. However, this was not the reason for his forced resignation. He was forced to resign because the matter became a public issue immediately prior to an election.
The circumstances of his affairs were well known to the Prime Minister as it was subsequently confirmed that Mr Lynch had disclosed these issues when providing information on his pecuniary interests. It would appear from those circumstances that the Government is prepared to accept that there can be significant conflict of interest between a Minister’s public duty and his private affairs.
Another factor in the Lynch case was that Mr Lynch was cleared by an artificial investigation carried out by his personal advisers. In such circumstances there would be no chance of any objective analysis of Mr Lynch ‘s financial affairs and of whether his activities constituted any impropriety. In confirmation of that fact, Mr Lynch at that time made no adjustment to his interests. He still had the loan from QBE Insurance Ltd and he was still involved with family trusts through a company established by his accountant who was on the board of Commonwealth authorities. No change in these circumstances occurred at that time. One can only conclude that this Government finds activities of that nature completely acceptable. Why then, we should ask, has the Prime Minister altered the structure of his own personal finances in response to the Lynch affair. The Withers-Robinson saga highlights the inconsistency which has bedevilled this Government ‘s approach to Ministerial conduct. While the Royal Commission was carrying out its investigation, Mr Robinson was stood down, but Senator Withers was not. Yet at that time Mr Robinson had completely denied any complicity in the change of name, whilst the Prime Minister and others knew that Senator Withers had been involved in that name change. One is entitled to ask why the same standards were not applied to both.
The Senate will also recall the manipulation of the terms of reference of that Royal Commission as various circumstances came to light. The end result does not appear to be consistent with other cases. Senator Withers was sacked for what appears to have been a minor indiscretion, even though that discretion was known to the Prime Minister and other Ministers. If he has been treated so severely, why are Mr Garland and Mr Lynch in the Ministry even though their activities involved a much greater indiscretion than that which could have been levelled at Senator Withers? It is the failure to apply an objective standard of conduct which has caused so much trouble for the Government in this area. The result has been ad hoc treatment of his Ministers by the Prime Minister which ultimately resulted in Mr Eric Robinson’s recent resignation. I will return to this issue in a moment.
The last of these four scandals involves the affairs of Mr Sinclair. This immediately raises the issue whether the private affairs of Ministers, if they are unconnected with their ministerial responsibilities, are subject to government scrutiny. To date the Prime Minister has been quite vague on this issue. Clearly. Mr Sinclair is being treated differently from other Ministers in that he has not been stood down even though a major investigation that could lead to charges being laid against him has been undertaken.
After reviewing the four cases I have referred to what are we left with? Clearly, Senator Carrick ‘s statement about the standing down of ministers under investigation is not a principle which this Government follows. It applied to Mr Garland and Mr Robinson but it was not applied to other ministers. There appear to be no standards laid down for an overall code of conduct. If there were any standards how does the Government justify the activities of Mr Lynch and Mr Sinclair? Whatever standards are applied they have been applied inconsistently. For a minor indiscretion Senator Withers is out of the Ministry, yet major offenders such as Mr Garland and Mr Lynch remain within the Ministry.
If there is one thing which comes through as a common thread in this whole episode it is that decisions will be taken on grounds of expediency. Mr Lynch was not forced to resign because of his family affairs; he was forced to resign because they became a public issue immediately prior to an election. Senator Withers was not sacked because of his telephone call to the Chief Electoral Officer. The Prime Minister and other members of the Government knew about that telephone call and were not concerned about it. Senator Withers was sacked because of the way in which he gave evidence before Mr Justice McGregor and his admission to the Senate that he may have misled it. He was sacked because of the public notoriety of his actions, not the actions themselves.
In the Sinclair case it is not difficult to assume that Mr Sinclair may yet escape either prosecution or conviction. Thus it is possible presumably for the Prime Minister to take the chance and to leave him in the Ministry. Such was not the case with Mr Garland. He had been caught virtually redhanded and the Prime Minister decided in that case that he would not risk the public outcry at Mr Garland remaining in the Ministry. As it turned out the decision of the magistrate exonerated Mr Garland. In all these cases the Prime Minister resorted to matters of high principle to justify his actions. The evidence would suggest that principle did not play a role in any of them. When one reviews the facts surrounding each of the various scandals one cannot help being struck by the conduct of the Prime Minister in most of them.
Let us briefly look at the role the Prime Minister played in each of those matters. In the case of Mr Lynch he forced the resignation of his colleague and deputy leader while Mr Lynch was in hospital. Due to his lack of trust in the Prime Minister, Mr Lynch then refused to disclose certain information to him on the ground that Mr Lynch believed that the information would have been made public. According to Senator Withers, the Prime Minister intruded into the investigation of Mr Lynch ‘s affairs by attempting to persuade Stephen Charles, Q.C., to bring down a finding that Mr Lynch ‘s actions were improper. Having decided that Mr Lynch would be allowed to remain in the Ministry, the Prime Minister then sought to suppress information about Mr Lynch ‘s financial affairs by insisting on the editing of the statement dealing with those affairs which was released to the public. The editing of this statement has been publicly damaging to Mr Lynch as the statement as it now stands is an inadequate explanation of his affairs and suggests concealment on his part. He may well be innocent of that. Yet honourable senators opposite know that Mr Lynch was prepared to make a fuller disclosure but was prevented from doing so by the Prime Minister.
The Lynch affair demonstrated a number of aspects of the Prime Minister’s style. The most striking of these is his lack of loyalty to his deputy. Merely because Mr Lynch ‘s personal affairs looked like becoming an election issue, the Prime Minister forced Mr Lynch ‘s resignation and no doubt would have sacked him had that resignation not been forthcoming. To ensure that there was no party disunity as a result of that action the Prime Minister moved to involve a number of his colleagues in the decision. Once it became obvious that he could not leave Mr Lynch out of the ministry, he became party to a cover-up about the true details of Mr Lynch ‘s affairs. It is this lack of loyalty, this expediency, secrecy and treatment of his colleagues which has become the hallmark of the Prime Minister.
All those elements were involved in the Withers-Robinson affair. His lack of loyalty was demonstrated in the manner in which he sacked Senator Withers and the circumstances under which Mr Eric Robinson stood down. His tendency to conceal the facts was demonstrated by his refusal to admit that he knew of the critical telephone call. His misuse of his colleagues was demonstrated by the way he stacked the kitchen Cabinet which agreed to the sacking of Senator Withers. His ability to apply pressure of the worst kind on his colleagues was demonstrated in his attempt to force Mr Eric Robinson to change the testimony he had given before the Royal Commission. His expediency was demonstrated by his re-admitting Mr Eric Robinson to the Ministry without any adequate explanation only a few days after Mr Robinson had indicated that he could no longer provide the Prime Minister with unqualified support. The real reason for the re-admission of Mr Eric Robinson was obvious. Failure to do so would have seriously eroded the Prime Minister’s authority within his party.
This pattern of behaviour by the Prime Minister has much wider implications than the manner in which he deals with his colleagues. It goes to the very heart of his Administration because it determines the style of that Administration. One of the major triggers for the resignation of Mr Ellicott was that the Prime Minister’s office had deliberately leaked to the Press an incorrect story which was damaging to Mr Ellicott. The Prime Minister’s treatment of other Ministers, including Mr Peacock, Mr Killen and Senator Durack is such that the administration of their portfolios is affected in a way that is harmful to them and presumably harmful to the Government’s operations.
Everyone is aware of the ruthless manner in which the Prime Minister deals with his colleagues. One only has to look at the manner in which he disposed of former colleagues and former leaders, Mr Gorton and Mr Snedden, to realise that no one could possibly feel safe from the sort of treatment that this man is capable of meting out when it suits him and nor would they trust him. In all of these matters he has cloaked his mistreatment of his colleagues under assertions of high principles. Yet we know from past experience that he will act for his own benefit when his own personal interests are at stake. Notwithstanding Government cutbacks on expenditure, we know that he has been lavish in his expenditure on overseas trips, the purchasing of aircraft for his own personal use and other areas of expenditure which suited him. In view of the manner in which the Prime Minister treats his colleagues, sooner or later they will have to face up to these issues before they join the list of victims on the backbench.
It is the conduct of the man more than any other factor which is the reason to establish the conditions which should be applied to Ministers. There would be a number of” benefits if a standard of conduct of Ministers is clearly laid down. Firstly, the Prime Minister himself would be forced to comply with those standards, something he appears loath to do at present. Secondly, if there were in existence an objective standard of conduct, this would provide some protection to Ministers against the arbitrary actions of the Prime Minister. Thirdly, if the Parliament were aware of the standard of conduct that should be applied to Ministers, it would not need to go on wide-ranging inquiries such as we have seen in several cases over the past 3 years. Finally, the spelling out of such standards would go a long way towards restoring public confidence in the activities and affairs of Ministers of the Crown.
We in the Opposition have given the Government an opportunity to set out the standards of conduct which apply to Ministers. To date, the Government has refused to do so. We can only say that as the number of scandals, sackings and resignations under this Prime Minister increases, as inevitably they will, the need for the spelling out of those standards will also increase. For the protection of Ministers, the Parliament and the public, it has become imperative that the Government make its position on this matter quite clear.
– If one wants to put this urgency motion in its perspective, one should look at the so-called serious nature of these urgency motions that the Labor Party has brought forward recently. One can come to one conclusion only and that is that the Labor Party is bereft of any constructive subject matter in regard to the great and important issues of politics. Today, the Labor Party is seeking, by diversionary tactics, to hide the fact that it has no quality of thought regarding the great issues of this day. That is the only conclusion that one can draw.
The Labor Party of course is aware that all its Jeremiah callings of the last few years have been proved utterly wrong. It now knows that in virtually every area of the economy, the policies of the Government are being proven right as day by day one section of the Australian community after another indicates further useful successes. Bereft, therefore, of any capacity at all to attack the Government on its policies, whether domestic or international, the Labor Party employs diversionary tactics.
One would have thought that if the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) were going to speak on the standards and principles of government, he would do so as a former Minister of the Whitlam Government and from a background of being a Minister in a government which itself had laid down standards. Therefore he would have been able to say to us: ‘These were the standards; these were the guidelines; these were the behaviour patterns of the
Whitlam Government. They were first class. Why don’t you copy them?’ In that eloquent science, in the absolute vacuum of that situation, lies the total destruction of Senator Wriedt ‘s case.
Senator Wriedt is a former Minister of the Whitlam Government which sought no evidence at all as to the pecuniary interests of its Ministers. It did not seek to reveal to the public what those pecuniary interests were and, to this day, the public does not know what happened around the Cabinet table regarding hundreds of matters in which Ministers in that Government may well have had subjective interests in the decisions that they themselves made. I am bound to remind honourable senators that the Fraser Government, on the other hand, has taken some very constructive steps in this regard. All honourable senators will be aware that, right from the time of the first Fraser Government, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) adopted the practice of writing to all Ministers regarding their pecuniary interests and has demanded that those interests be disclosed to the Prime Minister. The nature of that letter has been made public; it is known to all. The terms of Senator Wriedt’s matter of urgency are:
The failure of the Government to define and observe a proper code of ministerial conduct
Well, the Fraser Government has defined that code whereas the Whitlam Government remained silent. So, let the point score start at that.
It cannot have escaped honourable senators that the Fraser Government set up an inquiry under Mr Justice Nigel Bowen to look at the whole question of pecuniary interests, not only of Ministers but of members of parliament and others.
– So did we, Senator. We had a joint committee on it.
-Well, no doubt therefore, the appointment of a joint committee is regarded as important a method of looking into this matter of pecuniary interests as the appointment of the Bowen committee of inquiry. The fact is that the Fraser Government set up a public inquiry. It invited members of the public to come forward and give evidence. I understand that the report of the inquiry will be available to the public and to this Parliament very shortly. If ever there were an earnest of the Fraser Government’s good intentions to get right to the heart of the question of conflict of interests, it must lie both in the letter of demand that the Prime Minister sent to all his Ministers and in the Bowen inquiry as such. I cannot answer what shareholdings members of the Whitlam Government had in various things. I cannot answer what family trusts representatives of the Whitlam Government had or that they now have in Opposition, as has been disclosed. Senator Gareth Evans sought an answer from me on this matter of family trusts. In turn I asked the Labor Party to tell me what it regarded as valid family trusts and what it regarded as invalid family trusts. But that question remains unanswered because the Labor Party has failed to define and observe a proper code. It is indeed a question of: Physician cure thyself.
The whole of Senator Wriedt’s speech was an outpouring of completely incorrect statements. It was a tissue of inaccuracies. At all times he took liberties as to the facts. I do not propose to go through all the points one by one, but his speech was quite an irregular approach to such a significant subject. How, in the name of conscience, can the Leader of the Opposition come before this Senate and talk about a proper code of conduct for Ministers when, in fact, his own Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, instituted the Gair affair. Could there be a more ugly, self-interesed, irregular and unethical procedure than that which characterised the Gair affair?
– There may be some that were as bad, but I am glad that Senator Wheeldon acknowledges the principle that the Gair affair was a bad and unethical proceeding.
– Yes, it was; but it has been overshadowed.
– I note that the honourable senator says: ‘Yes, it was’. We have the Labor Party acknowledging that the conduct of its own Prime Minister in the Gair affair was improper. It is important that this be known. Yet today we had a hypocritical sermon from the Leader of the Opposition.
May I refer also to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation raids by a former Attorney-General. Does any one here defend them as a proper code of behaviour by.a Minister of the Crown? I repeat, because I want to hear the eloquence of silence: Does any one in this chamber defend those ASIO raids as a demonstration of the proper, ethical conduct of a Minister of the Crown? I record the fact that nobody was willing to defend that. Indeed, the pursuit and hounding of Ermolenko and the question of human freedoms -
-Now we hear ‘Nonsense’, but previously we had support from Senator Wheeldon for Mr Whitlam ‘s behaviour in the Gair affair and the behaviour of a former Attorney-General in the ASIO affair. Let us deal with these matters one by one. Let us allow for the fact that the brain fever birds are in season at the moment. Let as allow Senator Wheeldon his one little flight of fancy.
We have here a situation in which the Leader of the Opposition says: ‘You know, there have been standings down of Ministers; there have been changes of Ministers and so on. This is bad; it demonstrates something bad’. The track record of the Australian Labor Party in regard to the sackings and demotions of Ministers is unsurpassed in the history of Federation. Let we refer, for instance, to a little matter such as the demotion of Mr Crean who was, I think, Deputy Leader at the time; to the little matter of the forcing out of the chair of the Speaker. Remember the Cope incident and the clash between the then Prime Minister and the Speaker. We have before us a motion which refers to the failure of the Government to define the moral standards of behaviour of Ministers. Does anyone believe that Mr Whitlam ‘s behaviour in the Cope affair was of high ethical and moral standards? If so, let us hear him. My goodness, the eloquence of silence is there. We have exposed the utter humbug of the situation. I refer also to the little matter of Mr Cameron’s demotion, the matter of Dr Cass, the whole tissue of troubles, sad troubles, concerning Dr Cairns. In the case of Dr Cairns there was an unwillingness by the Prime Minister to tidy up standards of behaviour, the conduct of officers and the general conduct of the ministry.
– What happened to Dr Cass?
-I think Senator Wheeldon will find that Dr Cass was demoted in June 1975. Since we are asking for explanations in this little matter, what was the explanation for the demotion of Mr Clyde Cameron? What was the explanation for the dismissal in October 1975 of Mr Connor? Let us put this in some kind of perspective. We have here a Leader of the Opposition stating that there should be a code of conduct; that we should know what the selfinterests, the pecuniary interests, of Ministers of the Crown are; that for all of this business of Ministers standing down, being dismissed or resigning there should be proper public explanations. When we examine these assertions one by one what do we find? Firstly, the honourable senator’s own Government made no attempt to record pecuniary interest. Nobody knows what were the standards of self-interest, the conflict of interest, of his own Ministers. How extraordinary that this should be so. A public inquiry into conflict of interest was never set up.
Then we have the outrageous behaviour, on the admission of the Labor Party itself, of its own leader in the Cope affair. That was indefensible. There was interference by a Prime Minister in the true independence of a Speaker. If ever there were an immoral act in the context of the Westminster system the Cope affair must stand as such. Yet here we are given a lecture on such matters. So the list goes on- the Creans, the Camerons, the Connors. For all of these there have been no explanations at all. As members of the Labor Party have admitted today, the Gair affair was utterly indefensible.
– What about the Milliner affair? What about the scabby Queensland Premier?
– Let me make perfectly clear, as I have already said in this Parliament, that I have never supported actions by any of the States in doing other than observing the traditions of the past. I think Senator Mulvihill will know that I have said so publicly. I regard the whole sorry business as a very bad record, with no credit at all. My statement to that effect is on public record; it is not a matter of hindsight on my part. I have said so both in my own State and in this Senate.
We had also the ASIO affair. The whole of the Labor Party’s period of office was characterised by breaches of ethical conduct. Now Senator Wriedt presents himself as a latter day saint. Unhappily his halo is a little tight. He was trying to espouse these principles. I find that rather sad. Time and time again Senator Wriedt made charges. For instance he said that Mr Fraser showed no loyalty to his Ministers. The three years of the Whitlam Government were notorious for the utter disloyalty of the then Prime Minister to his Ministers. It was notorious in the Press and elsewhere that Senator Wriedt was himself distressed by the behaviour of the then Prime Minister. I sympathise with him in that regard because I understand something of the stresses that are involved.
In fairness, I must pay tribute to Senator Wriedt and say that I believe he is a man who wants to set principles in this place and who brings to this place a certain degree of dignity. I have already put on record that when he was a Minister he attempted to give good service, but I must say that the kind of picture that has been presented deserves to be brushed out. I have to point to the total inaccuracies. For example, Senator Wriedt sought to besmirch Mr Lynch by talking about his involvement in family trusts. The world knows that Mr Lynch has no pecuniary interest in the family trusts. That is quite clear.
– I was not besmirching him.
– Well, Mr Deputy President, Hansard will show that this was an allegation. I want to make it perfectly clear, and Mr Lynch has made it perfectly clear, that he has no interest in a family trust. The family trust does not concern his own assets but those of his wife and children.
If we are looking at this then let us have the family trusts of the Labor Party exposed. It will be most illuminating if that is the track record. In regard to the inaccurate recital of the unhappy matter concerning Senator Withers there was continuous repetition by Senator Wriedt that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) knew. The Prime Minister has made it abundantly clear that he did not know at that time. It does Senator Wriedt no credit to be making completely unjustified assertions to try to sow seeds of doubt in this regard. Senator Wriedt thought he would add a few thoughts. He talked about the lavish overseas trips. That is a latter day saintly reform. Does the Labor Party want us to table the comparative record of overseas journeys of the Whitlam Government and the Fraser Government? Does the Labor Party want us to table the lavish arrangements made by Mr Whitlam in all these overseas journeys, looking at Greek records and scarcely spending time to notice whether there happened to be a disaster in Darwin? In fact he was wandering the world looking at Greek ruins when he could have been looking at the ruin of his own Party.
Senator Wriedt has talked about the purchase of private aircraft. I ask the Labor Party quite clearly: In the knowledge that the best intelligence and security advice in the land says that the continued journeying of a national leader, the Australian national leader in particular, on commercial airlines -
– Charter a plane.
– . . . is likely to endanger the lives of those completely unwitting passengers on that airline, I take it that the Labor Party does not mind. I think somebody interjected and asked why we do not charter an aircraft. Have we looked at the comparative costs of continual charters and the costs of aircraft operation? Is it the Labor Party’s policy that as the BAC 1 1 1 aircraft become surplus they are to be sold out and not replaced? Is it the Labor Party’s policy that they were wrong in using VIP aircraft at the time that they were in government? They were notorious users of the aircraft. What does the Labor Party mean by dropping all sorts of insinuations which, when they are picked up and looked at, are rotten apples.
What does Senator Wriedt mean? What is his policy on VIP aircraft? Is he saying that we should not do that and that the Prime Minister of the day should travel on commercial aircraft? Is he saying that the kind of delays that happened in the last trips made by the Prime Ministerwhere people who had nothing to do with this Government were held up for five of six hours because of security checks- should persist? What is Senator Wriedt saying? This question does not deserve the length of time that I have taken. It is a mouldy thing that has been attempted. It is a diversion and an attempt to put up a smokescreen because of the Labor Party’s inadequacies, failures and destruction of government. If indeed the Whitlam Government had standards, and if honourable senators opposite could get up and recite those standards, one could have felt that here was a high moral principle.
The Prime Minister is on record in Hansard as stating the kinds of standards that we are and have been demanding. I draw attention to a statement by the Prime Minister in a report dated August 1978 which reads:
The community rightly demand a high standard from the Ministers of the Government. The judgments on Ministers are more exacting and sometimes more harsh than the judgments which might be passed on those outside the sphere of public life. If these high standards were not upheld, the people’s confidence in government- a confidence which is fundamental to Australian democracy- would be undermined. The Government has an obligation to uphold them even though the cost can be and is in this instance, a high one.
I conclude by pointing out that, in contrast with the Whitlam Government, the standards of behaviour, the declared and practised codes of ethics and morals by the Fraser Government are shining.
– On this urgency motion the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) made out a strong case for action against certain Ministers which necessitated an answer from Government spokesmen. If there was any weakness in the case made by the Leader of the Opposition, the case was definitely strengthened by the reply we received. There was never, at any time, any attempt to reply to the serious accusations made against Ministers of the Federal Government. There was no attempt to reply to them. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) said in his reply that the standards of the Labor Government were so low that Labor senators could not criticise the Government until it got down to that level or below. That was his attitude, and he has claimed that Government standards are not down to that level.
Time will not permit me to give an answer as to what Labor did in its three years of office, but it did insist on its members declaring their pecuniary interests to the Prime Minister when Ministers were elected to the Cabinet. Those declarations were given. I declared my 3 1 shares in the trade union hire purchase organisation in South Australia. A declaration of family trusts has been made by every Labor member. Although the Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party does not utilise family trusts for the purposes of taxation dodging, the existence of a family trust has been published. Even if Mr Lynch received no benefit from the family trust, it was established for taxation purposes. This was justified by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) who said that they both had a trust. When in government the Labor Party established the Joint Committee on the Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament, known as the Riordan Committee, to consider the pecuniary interests of members and officials. The only interest of a serious nature involved Senator Webster and it was of such a serious nature that it was submitted to the court of disputed returns. Although the Leader of the Government in the Senate said today that the Government is pure, the Prime Minister himself does not . know whether its members are pure.
In answer to a question from me on 7 March concerning the setting up of the Bowen Committee the Prime Minister had this to say:
I intend to appoint a judge or Queen’s Counsel, to be assisted by a businessman and an accountant, who will need to be familiar with modern commercial practice and procedures, to make recommendations to the Government on what interests should be disclosed.
They will also be asked to recommend that procedures should be followed to determine whether there has been any breach of the high standards which are properly required of those in public office. The Committee will also be asked to recommend the method which should be used to determine whether there has been a breach.
There we have the Prime Minister saying, in respect of the pecuniary interests of his members, that he did not know whether there had been a breach of the high standards required. All his members may be in conflict with that requirement, and he was setting up a committee to discover whether there had been any breach. How can we now expect the sanctity of that requirement to be preserved? Senator Wriedt, in his address, did not mention any conduct; he referred only to the standard of behaviour which the Prime Minister desired. He quoted from the statement which the Prime Minister made on 8 August and in which he said:
The community rightly demand a high standard from the Ministers of the Government. … if these high standards were not upheld the people’s confidence in government . . . would be undermined. The Government has an obligation to uphold them even though the cost can be, and is in this instance, a high one.
The Prime Minister was referring to the Withers case. In respect of Senator Sheil, the Prime Minister indicated, as he had earlier affirmed to the Ministry, that once a person was a member of the Ministry team, whatever might be his personal or private view, he must at all times support the Ministry view. He said that there was no room within his Ministry for a person who was not prepared to accept that requirement and abide by it. So here we have a dictum laid down by the Prime Minister for the conduct of his members.
The other day, in reply to a question asked in this chamber, Senator Carrick said that when Mr Ellicott found that he could not accept a Cabinet decision he had to be transferred from the important portfolio of Attorney-General. We were told that it was a matter of high principle for a man to stick by his principles even if it meant sacrificing his position and that, therefore, we should be grateful to Mr Ellicott for doing what he did. However, the same standard did not apply to Senator Sheil. Because he had expressed a personal opinion he could not remain a member of the ministry. I have no more liking for Senator Sheil’s opinion- in fact,. I am as much opposed to it as Mr Fraser- than I have for Mr Ellicott ‘s opinion on the the matter over which he resigned as Attorney-General; but here we have one minister being praised for making a sacrifice by adhering to his personal opinion and being permitted to remain in the Ministry and another Minister being condemned for doing the same thing. There is no basis for such differing attitudes.
Because of the limited time available and because we cannot go into all the details, I just want to say that, contrary to the reply given to the Senate about Mr Garland, Mr Garland was at no time exonerated- the Leader of the Opposition said this today- on a charge of a breach of the law. He went before a magistrate in a preliminary hearing to ascertain whether there was sufficient evidence for him to be sent before a jury to decide his guilt or innocence. Counsel representing Mr Garland made a plea to the magistrate not to commit the defendant for trial. The only opportunity that Mr Garland would have had to be exonerated was for the magistrate to have said that there was no breach and that he, therefore, could not submit the case to a jury or for the magistrate to have submitted it to a jury to let the jury decide whether there had been a breach of the law. Mr Garland did not get that opportunity because his learned counsel made representations to the judge not to send the case to a jury which could have exonerated Mr Garland if he had been entitled to exoneration. The magistrate, in a most unusual finding which I do not think has a precedent in Australia, found that a prima facie case had been established but that no jury would convict on the evidence available. He said therefore that he would not send the case on and deprived Mr Garland of the opportunity to exonerate himself. The magistrate commented on the necessity for amendments to be made to our Electoral Act.
Mr Garland, against whom a prima facie case of a breach of the law had been established, is in the Ministry today. Senator Withers, who was found guilty of impropriety but not a breach of the law- Mr Justice McGregor said definitely that there was no breach of the law- is out of the Ministry. This all points to the fact that who goes into the Ministry is decided by the Prime Minister and standards do not count with him. He makes the decision. Because from time to time he wants an excuse to exclude Ministers from the Ministry, he is bringing the judiciary under serious suspicion and accusation. Last week Senator Grimes was asked to withdraw a statement he had made about Senator Webster. His remark was: ‘Barwick looked after Webster’. He did not withdraw the remark, maintaining that it was the truth. One cannot condemn judges of the court because that is contrary to Standing Orders; but the decision of the Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick, in the Webster case has been criticised throughout the Australian legal profession. It is not accepted as an honest judgment.
Mr Garland was the favourite of the Prime Minister and the decision handed down after a prima facie case had been established not to commit him for trial is one of the most unusual judgments there has been. For some reason- I do not accept the reason given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate- Mr Robinson is the one man who under Fraser can do what he likes.
He can thumb his nose at the Prime Minister and call him a big bastard if he wants to.
-That is not my phrase; that is Mr Robinson’s phrase.
-I point out to honourable senators that it is against the spirit and acceptance of parliamentary language to quote expressions which in normal debate must not be used in this place.
– I will not offend again. Mr Robinson had the satisfaction of showing the low regard he has for the Prime Minister. Mr Robinson came back into the Ministry on his own terms. When an accusation was made in Queensland against Mr Robinson and Mr Robinson was not thrown out of the Ministry the suspicion was that something would have to be done to exonerate him. I am not saying that there was anything wrong with the recommendations of the royal commission, but justice not only has to be done but also has to appear to be done.
By way of a question recently we elicited from the Attorney-General information that the man appointed to head the royal commission, Mr Justice McGregor, was a man who could receive a benefit of many thousands of dollars. I am not suggesting that the Government influenced him, but one would have thought a Government that was not involved in the decision to be made, a government that wanted to appear just, would not appoint a judge who was depending upon government action for a benefit of many thousands of dollars. The Attorney-General said that although the Constitution was altered in July 1977 to make provision for compulsory retirement of Federal judges, nothing was done until October about providing those who may be forced to retire before they qualified for a pension. There are only two in Australia who benefited. One is a High Court judge and the other is the judge selected to undertake an inquiry which found there was nothing wrong with the activities of the man whom the Government could not dismiss from Cabinet.
Sitting suspended from 1.2 to 2.15 p.m.
– Again today we have listened to an urgency motion moved by the Opposition. Early in the session one wondered at the lack of substance of its motions. As this pattern has continued, virtually all that we have had has been an indication from the Opposition that it is probing to find anything of real value, a real issue, on which to move an urgency motion. The Opposition is very short of issues. The history of this Government clearly shows that, despite all the crises and ills following Budgets of the Labor Government and the actions of some people, from the time it came to power its fiscal policies and budgetary measures have been working.
Today in the Press some economists are reported as saying that we are going through the beginning of quite a boom and that this is going to create inflationary problems for the Government. What a change from what we were hearing from the Opposition as recently as three months ago. Economists today are standing up to say that government policies are working. So, is it any wonder that we find the Opposition moving urgency motions such as the one that has been moved today. One could go on to give examples of how well the economy is going but I will not do that today. In referring to the urgency motion itself, I suggest to the Opposition that perhaps it should have given its action more thought before it moved such a motion. What the Opposition has tried to say is that this Government in many ways is faced with problems of disunity; it has a leader who is both arrogant and uncommunicative. The Opposition has suggested that it has given the Government the opportunity to set out principles, standards and guidelines for Ministers to follow.
This is strange coming from an Opposition with the record that it had in three years of government. I remind honourable senators of the many glaring examples of the actions of its former leader and the incompetence of its Ministers. At times far worse than plain incompetence was involved. Some issues were absolutely sensational. Yet, the Opposition has the audacity today to make suggestions to the Government as to what it should do. Perhaps if the Opposition had done its homework and looked to its memories a little more it would have seen the wisdom of avoiding the language in which the motion is couched today. One can refer to many Opposition members who resigned voluntarily from ministerial office. Others were forced out by the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam.
One recalls the ‘C-sick days’, as they were called, of the Connors, the Cairnses, the Creans, the Camerons and the Copes. We say the virtual political assassination of Mr Speaker Cope. The then Prime Minister encouraged Government members to cross the floor of the House of Representatives to destroy James Cope, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, at a time when Mr Whitlam could have shown some discretion, sympathy and respect for a man who commanded so much respect not only in the Parliament but throughout his parliamentary life.
Continuing in this vein, we look to Mr Clyde Cameron- ‘Iron Clyde’- a renowned figure in this place who eventually was shoved sideways by Mr Whitlam. Mr Cameron dug his heels in because of principle, carried on and was determined he was not going to resign, but, as Mr Daly pointed out in his book, by persuasion of his colleagues he did it. One can still remember a photo on the front page of newspapers showing Clyde Cameron leaving this place by vehicle to go to the Governor-General to hand in his resignation of his then portfolio. We look to men such as Dr Cairns who was an Acting Prime Minister during his period of office. We look to Mr Connor who was an Acting Prime Minister during his office. Both men were fired by the then Prime Minister. Dr Cairns goes down in history as the only Treasurer- probably in all time- who never presented a Budget to the Parliament. That was a tragedy for Dr Cairns. This was brought about possibly by some indiscretions but particularly by the arrogance and dictatorial attitude of the then Leader of the Labor Party Government at that time.
On the subject of communication, I could go to the history of Senator Murphy who was the Leader of the Government in the Senate. He made that very foolish and sensational raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. However, that aspect has been dealt with by Senator Carrick.
I refer instead to a reliable authority, a man who would command the respect of many and most people in the Labor Party, Fred Daly, who in his book From Curtin to Kerr has quoted many things, one matter being the lack of communication. I refer to page 2 13 of his book where he says:
In February 1975, Whitlam followed an almost identical path -
Having referred to Mr Justice Kerr becoming Governor-General: to appoint Senator Murphy to the High Court. He walked into Cabinet and announced it, all formalities were completed, there was no going back.
Who is talking about dictatorial attitudes now? One of the Opposition’s leading colleagues, the former Leader of the Government in the other place Mr Fred Daly said this.
I refer to page 2 1 7 dealing with the scandals of the loans affair with the involvement of the Connors, the Cairns and the Whitlams. One can still remember the Khemlani days. At page 2 1 7, Mr Daly says:
Whitlam made his Cabinet changes in the manner of a person killing an ant with a sledgehammer- no finesse, no tact, just ‘ crash through or crash ‘.
He then goes on to make a very important point:
Except for Whitlam, Cairns and Connor it would be news to me if more than one or two other Cabinet Ministers knew of the overseas loans manoeuvres.
Yet the Opposition talks about lack of communication in the present Government. Here is one of the Opposition’s colleagues making it perfectly clear that there was totally none. I refer to page 22 1 of the book where Mr Daly says:
The negotiation of overseas loans was generally a matter for the Treasurer and the Treasury. Why this practice was departed from has never been satisfactorily explained. It created a sinister impression of ‘funny money’ from which the Opposition made great play.
Again, this is very important, and I would like Opposition members to listen to this:
The Executive Council meeting at the Lodge on 13 December 1974 was known only to the Ministers concerned. My first intimation of overseas loans was when Whitlam abruptly informed Fraser in answer to a question that the authority for the $4,000m overseas loan had been revoked.
Is this an example of communication and leadership? We find that the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, had not said a word about this proposed loan to anyone except one or two people within the Executive; it took a question from the Leader of the then Opposition, Mr Malcolm Fraser, to pull out in open Parliament a few facts about a loan which none of you fellows knew about.
– It is all history.
-Of course it is all history but it is a shining example of what the Opposition did not do when in office. Yet today it tries to lay accusations against the Government which has proven through its years in office what it can do through its Cabinet, its Government and party operations. These accusations are from members of a Party whose history is so bad that I can only say to them: People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put-
That the motion (Senator Wriedt’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964 and section 53 of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1976, I present the annual reports on the administration and operation of those Acts for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– I present the report of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner on the Alyawarra and Kaititja land claim and seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– The land claim to which this report refers is the third to be heard by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner in accordance with the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and the first which I have presented since my appointment as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The Aboriginal Land Rights Act provides the means for Aboriginals to make traditional land claims to unalienated Crown land in the Northern Territory. In considering a land claim, the Aboriginal Land Commissioner is required by the provisions of the Act to, among other things, establish the traditional Aboriginal owners, if any, of the land claimed, to assess the strength of their traditional attachment to the land and to report his findings to me. The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) as Minister responsible for the Northern Territory, and the Northern Territory Chief Minister have also received copies of this report. The Chief Minister has advised me that the Northern Territory Government supports the Land Commissioner’s recommendations and the tabling of the report.
The Alyawarra report deals with an application lodged by the Central Land Council on behalf of three Aboriginal clans, two of the Alywarra linguistic group and one Kaititja linguistic group claiming traditional ownership to an area of 1,540 square kilometres of vacant Crown land east of the Stuart Highway, roughly halfway between Alice Springs and Tennant Creek. This land runs from the southern part of Davenport Ranges in the north to Dulcie Range in the south, and from Spring Range in the west to the Ooratippra Creek and Lucy Creek in the east. Hearings of the claim commenced on 14 August 1978 and concluded on 21 October 1978 with some 64 persons appearing as witnesses. Those parties which appeared before the Land Commissioner representing the range of interests likely to be affected by this claim were the Commonwealth of Australia, through my Department, the Northern Territory Government and the Northern Territory Cattle Producers Council.
In the report, the Commissioner identifies those Aboriginals of the three clans who together comprise the 232 traditional owners of the land claimed. It concludes that there is a strong traditional attachment by the claimants to the land claimed and a desire to live on that country. The Commissioner gave consideration to the lack of substantial interest shown by Europeans in the claim area, the size and nature of the land and to the expressed wish of the claimants. The Land Commissioner recommended that the land claimed be granted to a land trust for the benefit of the traditional Aboriginal owners. I propose, therefore, in accordance with the Act to establish a land trust to hold title to the land for the benefit of Aboriginals entitled by Aboriginal tradition to the use and occupation of the land concerned. The granting of this area of land will provide a group of up to 1,000 Aboriginals which previously had no land of its own with title to its traditional lands. This grant of land recognises that special affinity which traditional Aboriginals have with their land and will provide an impetus for the establishment of Aboriginal communities with a discrete identity to enable them to live according to their desired way of life. In accordance with the undertaking given by my predecessor in the other place, I intend to table all future significant reports of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner for the information of the Senate.
-by leave- I move:
The claim made by the Aboriginal communities to the part of the Northern Territory to which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) referred was a successful claim and one that we applaud. It is to the credit of the Minister that he has made a decision to advise the Parliament from time to time on what action will be taken by the Commissioner on the claims that are made. It is to the credit of the Government that in this instance the claim of the Aboriginal communities has been recognised. However, I feel that one question ought to be raised in this respect, that is, the ready acquiescence of the Commissioner to the claim and the reasons he gives in the report, namely, the lack of substantial interest in the claimed area shown by Europeans. One would hope that that principle will not necessarily always be applied. Europeans should not be given undue preference just because they show some interest in the land claimed by Aboriginals.
It seems to me to be a pretty unsatisfactory state of affairs when Aboriginals who want title to their land have to suffer the indignity and the processes of white civilisation in order to establish a claim thereto, and if Europeans have particular interest in the land, the possibility of the Aboriginals winning title to their land being diminished, depending upon the value of the land or the mineral deposits that might be found in the land. I recall that Captain Cook laid claim to the whole eastern coast of Australia. I suppose that if I were to research this period of history more deeply I would find that some time later than 1770 white civilisation laid claim to the whole of the territory which we now know as Australia. It seems strange that the original owners of the land, notwithstanding their occupation and use of the land over hundreds and thousands of years, have to go before a tribunal set up by the usurpers of the land in order to establish their rights thereto.
It seems immoral that we have established that process because European civilisation, within the last couple of hundred years, said ‘We are taking this land’, and the original owners are forced to go to some tribunal to establish their claim to it. I hope that the lack of interest by European groups in this particular case will not mean that where title to property is sought by Aboriginals in the future too much weight will be given to the views of those who want to establish some pecuniary interest in the tribal lands. Most of us will be pleased to note that in this case recognition has been given to the original owners and their ancestors and that they have been given title to the land. I hope that this will be the forerunner of many successful attempts by Aboriginals both in that area and throughout Australia to gain title to their land. I recognise that we are not in a strong moral position to say that because such land is Crown land we have prior rights over those who were the original land owners.
– I will be very brief in my remarks. I know that the Government is anxious to get on with its legislative program. There are peculiarities about this land claim. A circular has recently been sent out by the mining industry which is endeavouring to establish some form of apartheid by giving Aboriginals land. In fact, its motive is to destroy the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. Among the things the mining industry suggests is that Mr Justice Toohey, when making decisions, recognises that the Act compels him to give more favourable consideration to Aboriginal ownership rights than to the rights of other sections of the community. This is far from the truth. It does not relate to Commissioner Toohey’s judgment in respect of the Borroloola land claim. He gave two islands to the Aboriginals, an area in common, but refused their rights apparently because the mining interests wanted to build a deep sea port for the shipment of uranium. Preference was given to mining interests.
This report suggests that because no white man was interested in this large area of land the Aboriginals were able to claim it. That might change if minerals are found there. I hope that the Government will do better than it did in relation to Borroloola. It is now withholding the titles to that land for the purpose of negotiation with the interested parties. The Commissioner granted the Aboriginals title to that land. Perhaps they will now have to give it away and the Commissioner has found that they have an entitlement to some other land in return. Under the present arrangement they will have no control over roads in the area. The Aboriginals are getting a poor deal from the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. The report states that the Minister will establish a land trust for the purpose of holding the title deeds. Let us hope that he gives the title deeds to the Aboriginals and not do as has been done in respect of Borroloola where the area in common has been withheld for future activities to see whether any more can be taken from the Aboriginal community.
– The remarks of Senator Cavanagh were, of course, nonsense. He made a reflection on Commissioner Toohey who is a judge in the Northern Territory Supreme Court. He said that Justice Toohey will grant land to the Aboriginal people only when white men do not want it or show little interest in it. I think many honourable senators would know Justice Toohey. He is a most fair man, Senator Cavanagh should have withdrawn the reflection he made on him. It does not do the honourable senator credit to make such remarks in the Senate under parliamentary privilege. He should not cast such a reflection on Mr Justice Toohey. I will not make a long speech on this matter. I just make that comment on the honourable senator’s speech. Let me say this: The Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory now are laying claim to a considerable area of land. It is completely wrong to infer that the land which has been given to the Aboriginal people is poor land and that the good land which perhaps has mineral deposits has been retained.
– The report says that. This statement says that.
-I do not care what the report says. I am talking about facts. The land that has been granted to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory is rich pastoral land. It is land on which they can make an extremely good living if they wish. It is very fertile land. We have heard enough of this nonsense. The situation in the Northern Territory now is that the Aboriginal people have about 40 per cent of the land. No one can say that all of that land is poor land. The Aboriginal land claims are proceeding. Everything is being done fairly. The Aboriginal people are being heard. However, as I indicated at Question Time this morning, there is a section of the community which is not receiving the opportunity to put its case, because of its poor financial situation. The people to whom I am referring are Europeans- the small businessmen, small tourist operators, who at the moment have great difficulty in putting their cases before Mr Justice Toohey for one reason, namely that they do not have the financial ability to obtain the services of the kind of people who are putting the cases for the Aboriginal people. I hope that, in fairness to all, the Government will come to the assistance of these people.
– I will take up at a later date some of the points which have been raised by honourable senators. It is true, as Senator Cavanagh has said, that I have yet to issue titles with respect to the land at Borroloola as has been recommended by Mr Justice Toohey. I draw the attention of the Senate to the statement which was made by the three Aboriginal land councils, the Northern Territory Chief Minister and me in Darwin on Saturday and which was published, I think, in Canberra on Monday. It deals with that point among other things.
As far as Borroloola is concerned, I have been reluctant to take action with respect to the recommendation because negotiations have been proceeding between the Borroloola people, the Northern Territory Government and Mount Isa Mines Ltd for a period of months. Until those negotiations are completed, I do not wish to commit myself on the requests which have been made to me or on Mr Justice Toohey ‘s recommendation. As far as I am concerned- I spoke on the matter in response to a question asked by Senator KilgarhTon Tuesday- there is every sign that sensible negotiations are proceeding. I am hopeful that I will be able to take action on Mr Justice Toohey ‘s report in accordance with an agreement between the parties concerned with Borroloola which will be more satisfactory for them than the position that exists at the moment. I leave that matter for further discussion later. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-For the information of honourable senators I present a report from the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment relating to annual reports referred to the Committee for consideration under the resolution of the Senate of 1 March 1978.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-Mr President, I seek leave to move that the Senate take note of the report.
Thatthe Senate take note of the report.
– Order! It being more than two hours after the meeting of the Senate, in accordance with Standing Order 127 this debate must be interrupted.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That Standing Order 127 be suspended for this day.
– My Committee has previously tabled a report on annual reports in March and June last year. In both those reports the Committee commented on the content of annual reports. Among the issues raised were: The need for annual reports to describe how they are fulfilling declared objectives and statutory obligations; the need to describe not only what has been done, but also what is planned to be done in the future; the need for a listing of major publications issued and published during the year; and the need for appendices giving information on such matters as organisational structure, staff numbers, a brief history of the organisation, and routine statistical information.
With some exceptions, the Committee continues to find shortcomings in the annual reports reviewed. Because of differences in the quality of various annual reports, the Committee undertook a brief investigation as to what guidelines had been laid down by others to inform government departments and authorities what was expected of them. It was found that most government instructions and decisions made in the last few years deal with printing, style, layout and expense, but not with content. The only instructions relating to content are expressed in a letter of 12 July 1976 from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to all Ministers. This says that annual reports should not be promotional or publicity documents, and that if such documents are thought necessary they should be printed separately. The Committee believes that all organisations should outline in their annual reports the powers, functions and objectives of their charter, whether statutory or otherwise, indicating how each is being exercised and fulfilled. Although this may seem obvious, it is rarely done. I note that the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations under the chairmanship of Senator Rae presented a report in December and made reference to the need to examine the whole question of how annual reports should be presented. I quote from page 93 of the report entitled ‘Statutory Authorities of the Commonwealth- First Report’. Paragraph 8.1 reads:
Statutory authorities have proliferated in the Commonwealth since Federation. These authorities are often outside the standard departmental structure with its safeguards of ministerial responsibility and accountability. The reasons for the creation of these authorities have varied considerably over the years. There has not been a systematic approach to their establishment.
The Committee also states in paragraph 8.10 on page 97 of the report:
The Committee envisages the following changes as a result of our inquiry so far
An annual comprehensive list of statutory authorities to be published by the Committee . . .
The creation of authorities by separate statute when they significantly vary from the departmental structure . . .
An analysis of the results of the Committee’s survey on the economic impact of authorities, to be published in 1979 . . .
The introduction of an Annual Reports Act, establishing the standard whereby authorities report annually to the Parliament with specified information . . .
That is a very important suggestion and it ought to be examined by the Government.
It is of interest that an interdepartmental working committee has been set up arising out of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. My Committee believes that the interdepartmental committee should report as soon as possible to facilitate preparation of annual reports for the 1978-79 financial year. The findings of the interdepartmental committee should help to produce annual reports which have maximum value for the public and Parliament. It would be unfortunate if further unsatisfactory annual reports were to be produced because of lack of overall guidance. The Committee accordingly looks forward with keen interest to the report of the interdepartmental inquiry.
In the longer term, the Committee would be interested in the findings of the current comprehensive inquiry of the Joint Committee on Publications into annual reports of Commonwealth departments and statutory authorities. The terms of reference under which annual reports are referred to standing committees say that committees may at their discretion, pursue or not pursue inquiries into reports so received. The discretion given to committees under the terms of reference is noted; nevertheless, most of the annual reports referred to committees fall squarely within their respective areas of interest, and some of them cover the activities of very large and/or influential organisations.
My Committee, for example, has had referred to it 19 annual reports. Among them are the reports of the Department of Science, the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, as well as other instrumentalities of importance in the fields of science and the environment. It is, therefore, hardly conceivable that the Committee could responsibly exercise a discretion not to examine these reports. Indeed the Committee would like to go very much further than it already has in pursuing inquiries into annual reports of Government departments and authorities. It sees in this activity a responsibility of the upper House of Parliament that has hitherto been very much neglected. But the staff resources- this is a point that ought to be notedavailable to Senate committees are meagre in the extreme when matched against what is expected of them. By comparison, public inquiries launched by the Executive are given considerable resources. Many of them have staffs of 20 or more persons. By way of example, let us look at the report of the Study Group on Structural Adjustment which was tabled this month in Parliament. The Study Group was provided with a secretariat comprising: Two joint secretaries; 8 professional staff, 4 experts, 9 support staff and 5 typists- a total of 28. In addition there were 7 working groups with a total membership of 55.
Senate committees are required to carry out somewhat similar public inquiries with a total staff of four and sometimes only 3 persons, including the typist. At the same time the same staff must attempt to survey the total fields of interest of the committee, keep abreast of relevant legislation, arrange field visits, deal with a continuous flow of correspondence and telephone calls on committee matters, and assist in the examination of annual reports. My committee at the moment is engaged in the organisation of a trip to examine the River Murray system. We are also engaged in preparing a program for the commencement of a substantial inquiry into Australian marine science. Also, in the next week or two hearings of the Senates Estimates committees will commence and a member of the staff of my Committee will be seconded in order to service an Estimates committee. This situation applies not only to the Committee secretariat but also to other important Senate staff members here. Those officers are already overloaded with work. This creates problems. This is a significant point raised by the Committee in this statement.
I believe the time has come when serious consideration must be given to Senate committee operations and their staffing needs. The committees are now well established. Their influence and their workloads are growing as they should. A measure of this is given by the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 25 May last year that committee reports were to be examined on a methodical basis by the Executive with a statement in Parliament by Ministers responsible, outlining action the Government proposes to take in relation to those reports. The scrutiny of committee reports by the public, by Parliament and by the Government gives Parliamentary inquiries a special significance which does not always attach to inquiries commissioned by the Executive. This of course places an additional responsibility on the committee staff. Yet we seem to expect the members of the committee secretariat to carry this increasing responsibility and workload without considering whether their numbers, their calibre, and the facilities provided for their use are adequate for the demands that we make of them. I believe the time is right for a review of Senate committees, looking in particular at the need for staff essential to help us make committee operations really effective. I commend the report to the Senate.
– I support the views expressed by the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment, Senator Jessop. I wish to deal with the value of these reports and the standards that we suggest they should attain. In relation to such bodies as the Joint Coal Board and the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority, the unions involved find the reports invaluable. There is a danger that some authorities will attempt to skimp on the format and presentation of the reports as well as publish the reports late. I was in Merriwa a few Sundays ago. The rank and file wheat growers there in discussions with me indicated that they look upon the reports of the Australian Wheat Board, for example, as a virtual bible in local discussion. We pay lip service to grass roots democracy. People who have access to such reports which often take a long time to percolate through from federal trade union officers are better able to come to grips with the causes of those matters in dispute.
Senator Jessop referred to staffing. The degree of our difficulties is made more evident when our level of staffing is compared with the staffing numbers in many overseas parliaments, particularly in the USA. The progress of the work of many committees such as the one that we are discussing may be likened to the result of the late application of fertiliser to a crop. In the first three years after the presentation of these reports many people called upon them. They are of tremendous value to the various public forums. I anticipated that somebody on my right flank would speak on this matter but I misread the signals. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training and seek leave to make a statement on the report and to move a motion to take note of the paper.
– The report was commissioned by this Government in September 1976. The Committee of Inquiry was chaired by Professor Bruce Williams, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, and its membership included: Mr M. H. Bone, the former DirectorGeneral of the Department of Further Education in South Australia; Mr C. O. Dolan, the National Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, Senior Vice President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a member of the Tertiary Education Commission and a member of the National Training Council; Dr A. M. Fraser, the Director of the Queensland Institute of Technology, a member of the Advanced Education Council of the Tertiary Education Commission and a member of the Queensland Board of Advanced Education; Miss Pauline Griffin, an Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commissioner, and a member of the Council of the Australian National University; Miss E. M. Guthrie, a Regional Director of Education in the New South Wales Department of Education; Mr J. A. L. Hooke, C.B.E., Chairman of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd; Sir Peter Lloyd, formerly chairman of Cadbury Fry Pascall Australia Ltd, and a member of the Council of the University of Tasmania; Dr W. D. Neal, Chairman of the Western Australian Postsecondary Education Commission; and Mr D. R. Zeidler, C.B.E., Chairman and Managing Director of ICI Australia Ltd.
It is a long report comprising some 1,500 pages in its three volumes. The Committee’s task, as reflected in its terms of reference, was very wide-ranging, covering not only the provision of educational facilities and services at the post-secondary level, but also the relationship between the educational system and the labour market, including the problems of unemployed youth, and especially early school leavers.
The complexity of the task and the necessity for wide consultation are reflected in the fact that the report took 28 months to complete and covers many important issues in its 116 recommendations. The Committee commented that the quality and range of the system of education are of great importance to the future of our country, and it hoped that its report will contribute to understanding of the problems and possibilities and help to raise both the quality and the efficiency of the system.
Recognition of the importance of education is highlighted by the fact that expenditure on education has more than doubled as a percentage of the gross domestic product in the last 20 years. However, the Committee goes on to note that demographic and social trends point to a reversal of that trend in the next 20 years.
In presenting the report to the Government the Committee has pointed out that its review of education and training in schools was restricted to the problems of transition to work or further study. Its main recommendations in regard to schools relate to greater emphasis in teacher education on ways of teaching reading and number work, further studies by the Australian Council for Educational Research to specify the range of performance levels to be expected of pupils of varying abilities at particular ages, and the accountability of schools for achieving specific objectives.
The Committee’s most important general recommendations in post-secondary education, as conveyed in the letter of transmittal, are:
The Committee considers that in the next 20 years problems of growth will be less important and problems of rationalisation and coordination more important. To respond to this change, the roles of the Commonwealth and State authorities will need to change also. Each State will need an authority capable of coordinating advanced education and TAFE activities in the middle level field, and for this and other reasons the Committee has recommended that the State authorities be given a greater responsibility for allocating recurrent funds to the colleges of advanced education.
Education and employment
The Committee commented that the links between education and employment are complex. One link is through research which, with the application of science and technology to primary, secondary and tertiary industries, has made possible great increases in employment and material standards of living. The Committee expects this relationship to continue, though it does not expect it to be a smooth process.
It recommends a considerable increase in operational research designed to identify the fields of science and engineering where Australia’s research and development are most likely to be effective. The Committee also emphasises that policies on applied research and development, as on hours and conditions of work, are important aspects of employment policy.
The Committee has noted that unemployment is high among teenagers and especially high among those with least education. The Committee’s suggestions for dealing with that problem relate partly to schools but mainly to technical and further education: In particular they suggest an extension of some of TAFE’s least conventional activities.
Despite changes in overall unemployment rates the Committee emphasises that the proportion of youth who are unemployed has not risen significantly relative to the unemployment rate for older people. The Committee’s proposals for changes in education to improve the employability of young people therefore concentrated on the general tendency for youth unemployment to be higher than for all persons and on the problems of special groups.
The Committee’s review of manpower forecasts, their reliability and application in educational planning, did not persuade it to advocate any substantial extension in this area. Forecasts of the need for doctors, dentists, veterinarians, technicians and tradesmen have proved to be very defective. The Committee did however recommend some extension of forecasts in highly specialised and /or expensive fields of training and a greater attention to sensitivity analysis.
The Committee argued that a considerable part of the demand for post-secondary education, and of the demand for the products of post-secondary education, is a consequence of the rise in material wealth. This was taken into account in projections of student numbers, in the Committee’s conclusions on the limited role of manpower planning, and in its interpretation of ‘credentialism’ The report concludes that the major factor in credentialism is the extension of opportunities for education.
The report discusses the future of some of the smaller universities and colleges of advanced education and has suggested the merger of
Murdoch University and the University of Western Australia. The report goes on to point out that there has been a continuing process of rationalisation in the advanced education sector involving a few closures and many amalgamations.
Government consideration of the report
The Government has decided to establish a committee of Ministers to co-ordinate the handling and consideration of the report, including consultations with the States and other interested parties.
The Ministerial committee will present to the Government, before the end of the Budget Session, proposals relating to the report as a whole.
In the meantime, the report having now been tabled in the Parliament, the important matters which it raises are open for public consideration. Consultation with the States will be essential on many of the matters raised, and the Australian Education Council is already planning to hold a special meeting to discuss the report, probably in June. Adequate time must be allowed for consideration of the report, and it is clear that a number of the recommendations, if adopted, will require several years to implement fully and effectively.
Lastly, I wish to thank all members of the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training, and especially the Chairman, Professor Williams, for the task which they have so ably performed in preparing this major report. The report will be of great assistance to the Government and, indeed, to all those concerned with education, training and employment. I move:
-The report of the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training has been Vh years in preparation and has cost the Government and the taxpayers some three-quarters of a million dollars. At the outset the inquiry had the most wide-ranging and ambitious terms of reference which raised immense hopes of producing, in the words of some Ministers, a blueprint for Australian education until the year 2000. I think it should be recorded as a matter of regret and as a matter of fact that the Williams Committee, with the terms of reference it got, probably was saddled with an almost impossible task and people who had anticipations in respect of its report are likely to be disillusioned by many of the recommendations made in that report.
Since the Williams Committee was established, its existence has been used continually by Government spokesmen as a reason for putting off consideration of a number of very important issues of concern to this country, particularly issues relating to youth unemployment, the relationship between education and work and things of that kind which were fundamental to the terms of reference. In Question Time in the Senate we have been told again and again that really we have to wait for the report of the Williams Committee in order to have a solution to these problems. Now that the report is here I offer the respectful suggestion that the solutions which have been sought, and which have been put off for 2lA years now, are just not available in this report. It is only fair to say that, because of the limited time for which the report has been available to the Opposition, it is difficult to make detailed comments on many of the proposals that are contained therein. Its great merit seems to be that it is painted, as it were, on a broad canvas; that it canvasses many of the issues of fundamental concern in relation to education. Whether in the process of so doing it has provided solutions is another question. Certain recommendations of the report at first sight, and probably at second sight also, commend themselves to anyone concerned with the future of education in Australia.
I refer first to the recommendation that there be increased funding of research for universities, one that is quite consistent with another that was made some three years ago by the examiners of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Also, it is consistent with the recommendations of two Tertiary Education Commission reports, but one upon which no action has been taken by the Government. It is an important recommendation, to which the Opposition attaches a great deal of significance.
Secondly, the report deals with the rational transferring of credits between tertiary institutions- another important recommendation towards inducing greater flexibility in the tertiary education system. It recommends a return to full triennial funding, and to better labour statistics and facilities for manpower planning. The absence in Australia of adequate statistics, and facilities for collecting them, has been commented on for years past. One hopes that the Committee’s recommendation on the matter will receive more prompt attention than have similar recommendations made in years gone by.
Another recommendation which commends itself is the need for a special effort to increase the numbers of Aborigines who are employed in skilled trades. Yet others relate to the endorsement of migrant education programs, to the need for women to have wide access to skilled trades, to the need for special efforts to improve numeracy and literary skills, and to the need for greater flexibility in the staffing of Australian universities. These are all very positive and important recommendations, as are those which relate to the special attention required to the needs of the handicapped in employment, and the need for arrangements to be negotiated with the Public Service, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, industry and the universities for the exchange and secondment of staff. I do not think there is. anything particularly new about any of those suggestions. For several years now they have been discussed in the course of the education debate in Australia. I emphasise that the important point is that the Williams Committee, because of its overview, has been in a position to bring all these factors together in one report. That is what makes it a significant document.
On the fundamental questions which were asked in the terms of reference of the inquiry, such as that concerned with the relationship between education and work, about which we have heard so much rhetoric in the political debate, the report is of course at its weakest. I must say that it contains some quite extraordinary passages, which it is perhaps unfair to take out of context. But I do find it strange that in a document that has been prepared by such an eminent group of gentlemen as those who comprise the Williams Committee, in dealing with a very great book, Fred Hirsch ‘s The Social Limits of Growth, the Committee had this to say at paragraph 1 1 7 about its impact:
These social limits to growth, if accepted as valid, call in question the main doctrinal basis of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations that man in promoting his own self-interest could be led ‘as by an invisible hand’ to promote the social good. Hirsch contends that to preserve harmony in an individualistic economy, the pursuits of oligarchic wealth should somehow be diverted and opportunities for it reduced.
I find it strange that a Committe of this calibre should in 1979 find Fred Hirsch ‘s book to be the definitive answer to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and, indeed it would seem, the first answer to his thesis. Be that as it may, I am happy to say that on issues that I would regard as being more relevant educationally, the report is not consistent with the statement that appears in that paragraph.
On one issue that is of very great importance to this Parliament, that of youth unemployment, the Committee had something very important to say. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in his statement to the House of Representatives on 9 September 1976, when the Williams Committee was established, rightly stressed the problem of youth unemployment in Australia and announced that the inquiry would examine the relationship between the pattern of youth unemployment and the role of our education system.
Ever since 1976, when that statement was made, the Government’s rhetoric has consisted again and again of two responses on the question of youth unemployment. The first has been to say, ‘The Williams Committee is looking after this for us; when they report we will really have the good oil ‘-if the Senate will pardon the use of the colloquialism- ‘and we will be able to fix it up’. The Government now has the good oil and, in the light of what the Committee has said on the subject, that oil is burning hot. The other response in the attempt of government supporters to dispose of the problem of youth unemployment will be only too familiar to honourable senators. Both before and after that statement of 9 September 1976 there have been, again and again, statements by members of the Government and people outside of it who ought to know better and to act more responsibly, blaming the youth of Australia for its incapacity to obtain jobs.
I say in all fairness that I do not know whether or not it is a correct newspaper report, but the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), who tabled this report in the Parliament, is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of 5 February 1979 as saying:
Almost all of them -
That is, the youth-
It is sad to note that one can survive in an education system for 10 years and beyond and yet lack the basic skills necessary for preapprenticeship training. The report continues:
Senator Carrick was speaking at the opening of the third stage of a junior high school at Keysborough, a Melbourne suburb.
He said the unemployed not only lacked the basic skills, but also a basic goal in life.
– Is that not largely true, senator?
– If the honourable senator will let me deal with the point I will in a minute perhaps resolve some of his difficulties.
– He is becoming as bad as I am.
-That would be hard. You said it, not me. My point is that the blame has been attributed to a number of factors. For example, the first attempt was to say that unemployment was a myth. The second was that anybody who was unemployed was a dole bludger. The third was that high rates of pay for juniors was responsible. This Committee, which had been asked specifically to look at this question, had this to say at page 65 1 of Volume I:
There have been many attempts to explain the very sharp increase in youth unemployment in terms of poor standards of education, a relative increase in award rates of wages for juniors, the high labour turnover rates of young workers, a large increase in unemployment benefits relative to post-tax earnings from 1973 onwards and its effect on the incentives to accept employment in the less pleasant or stimulating jobs, or by some combination of these factors.
But the very disturbing increase in youth unemployment from 1974 onwards cannot be explained in this way. The rough similarity of the rates of increase in the percentage unemployment of various groups in the labour market points to the more general factors which caused the recession and which sustain it.
That is the view of the Committee on that particular subject. I think what this group of educators and industrialists are really saying is that they reject many of the notions which have been implicit in the rhetoric of the political debate about the unemployed youth situation in this country.
There are one or two other comments of a more general nature which I wish to make briefly. I have drawn attention to some of the very positive recommendations in the report and I am sure that there are many more which I have not yet had a chance to examine. The Committee is very hesitant, for example, about the question of the rationalisation of tertiary institutions. Those of us who are involved in politics would understand that hesitancy because there are a great variety of problems involved in either the amalgamation or the closure of tertiary institutions.
– Not everyone hesitates.
- Senator Grimes points out that not everyone hesitates. I think that there was less hesitation in the United Kingdom. There are very real problems involved in terms of capital investment in institutions and things of that kind, quite apart from the political problems which led to the establishment of the college of advanced education in the Wannon electorate and in the area of the Northern Rivers, in another area which is regarded as important. There are very real and significant difficulties which the Committee undoubtedly was very conscious of in the somewhat hesitant recommendations which it made on these points. One of the things that the Committee discussed was the necessity for cutting down on confusion and complexity in educational administration. The Committee quotes a distinguished overseas educator, Dr Barbara Burn, as saying that every time she comes to Australia there seems to be an additional layer of control in tertiary education. She has stated that it is time to reverse the trend. I do not know when she was last here, whether it was before or after the establishment in most States of post-secondary education commissions, but of course what she has said is true.
The report goes on to recommend a greatly increased role for the Australian Education Council, which is a council of all State Ministers and the Federal Minister of Education. One suspects that this could have the effect of turning it into a de facto administrative body. Some reliance might be placed on the Government’s notion of federalism and its implicit criticism of federally established education commissions than to any rational or more rational consideration.
When one is reading this report one is repeatedly concerned with the question why the Tertiary Education Commission, perhaps restructured as the Williams Committee suggests, might not be a more appropriate body to deal with this matter than a rival administrative body such as the Australian Education Council. These are things which have to be thought about and which the Government- as Senator Carrick indicated- will be thinking about. The issues dealt with in this report must be of concern to all. There have been a lot of rumours and speculation about the Williams report in the Press. It was reported in the Press that the committee was very divided on a number of substantial issues but this was subsequently denied by members of that Committee. On reading the report, I must say that it seems to be a disappointing document in its capacity to grapple with certain of those issues which were at the nub of the terms of reference- very silly terms of reference in our view. The Committee has not grappled with some of those issues at the nub of those terms of reference as one would have hoped that it might have done. I think that is really because it was quite an impossible task to vest in any committee of this kind. One suspects that some of the rumours about the difficulties in grappling with some of those issues were perhaps correct, but one can put it no higher than that.
I would join with the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in commending a close reading of the report by all members of the Senate, largely as I say because it canvasses the issues in the important area covered by the report with which we have been concerned. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators, I table the report of the Committee of Officials on Medical Manpower Supply. I seek leave to make a statement on the report.
– Where I refer to a first person singular pronoun, I am referring to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt).
Honourable senators will be well aware of the debate as to the implications for our health services of the projected levels of supply of doctors in Australia. On the one hand, we have had views expressed by respected researchers that Australia is fast moving to the situation where it will have considerably more doctors per head of population than are actually needed. It is concluded that by having more doctors than we need health costs will rise unnecessarily, medical services which are not needed will be provided and that there will be little or no improvement in the health of the community. The contrasting view which has been advanced is that there would be benefits for all Australians if the supply of doctors is not regulated in the foreseeable future. Exponents of this view claim that the increasing supply of doctors will lead to reductions in the prices charged for medical services and to improved geographic and functional distribution of doctors. Another dimension is given to the implications of the future supply of doctors by some communities in Australiaparticularly in country areas and some locations in our capital cities- which find it extremely difficult to attract doctors to set up practice. These communities claim the prospective increase in the number of doctors available is their best hope of getting doctors to practise in their area. It was against this background that the decision was made to appoint the Committee of Officials on Medical Manpower Supply. The Committee, under the chairmanship of Dr Sidney Sax, Chairman of the Social Welfare Policy Secretariat, included representatives from the
Department of Health, from the Departments of Education, Employment and Youth Affairs, Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and from the Tertiary Education Commission. The officials were requested to examine and report on the implications of the current and projected levels of supply of doctors and to provide recommendations for future action.
The detailed views and recommendations of the Committee of Officials are set out in the report and, while I do not propose to outline them in detail, there are some specific matters which I wish to bring to the particular attention of honourable senators. Firstly, it is apparent that in 1981 Australia will have one doctor to 543 people. This is ten years earlier than anticipated in the report ‘Expansion of Medical Education’ which has been adopted by successive governments as the planning basis for the intake of students into our medical schools. Secondly, it is apparent that there are some medical specialties which are either in or fast approaching an oversupply situation. For example, the officials’ report concludes that the specialty of surgery exceeds its commonly accepted level of supply by a factor of four to one. On the other hand, the report notes that some specialties, such as geriatrics and rehabilitation, are underserved. I think it is also worthwhile mentioning that even the expert Committee took different views about the extent to which the increasing supply of doctors will affect health costs and the contribution it will make to the well-being of the community.
All in all, the officials’ report is an important overview of the current and future situation on the supply of doctors and the Government has accepted the very practical recommendations proposed. The Government also accepts the officials’ view that further detailed examination is essential. As the first step in the further examination of the matter, I believe that widespread reaction and comment on the officials ‘ report from the community generally, the medical profession and those working in the health services would be most valuable. I am hopeful that comments can be made to me by the end of May. Because future action on the matter extends beyond the responsibilities of the Commonwealth, I will be approaching State Health Ministers to seek their views and their co-operation in this examination. I believe that this important issue necessitates discussion on a wide scale because of its complexity. I also believe that future action on medical manpower supply would benefit greatly from such a course of action.
I commend the report of the Committee of Officials on Medical Manpower Supply to the attention of honourable senators and move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
-The Opposition welcomes the release at last of this report which has been long awaited. The matter is, of course, of great interest to me. It should be of great interest to all honourable senators, but it is of particular interest to me and to certain other senators. I was somewhat disappointed that I was unable to get a copy of the report before its tabling and before the ministerial statement was made. The number of doctors in this country and their distribution, both geographically and in terms of the various specialties, is an important matter and I hope it has been considered carefully by this Committee of Officials on Medical Manpower Supply. For some time we all have been aware of the great oversupply of surgeons and the potentially continuing oversupply of surgeons. Those of us who come from some of the smaller and outlying States have been acutely aware of the maldistribution of doctors’. As one who has done and sometimes still does occasional relief work in very isolated areas, I know the great difficulties experienced by people in those areas, in areas of bad climatic conditions and in areas with small populations, in attracting medical practitioners even though at the moment we allegedly have an oversupply of doctors.
I hope that the Committee has looked at the sort of people who are entering our great oversupply of medical schools. It is a great disappointment to me that, in New South Wales last year, of the first 500 people in order of success in the Higher School Certificate examination, the matriculation examination or whatever it is called, 396 decided to do medicine. Although I believe in attracting intellectually good people into the profession of which I am proud, I do not believe that that concentration of academic-type people in the profession can be good. If that situation had pertained in the days when Senator Baume and I did medicine we would not have been doctors at all, and that would have been a great loss to the profession. I welcome the report and will read it with great interest. I hope that it has come up with some solutions to the serious problems which we have- solutions which, as Senator Button said earlier, may involve even the closing of the odd tertiary institution where people are trained in medicine, and consequently the restriction of the number of medical trainees. Having made those few comments, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Reference to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence
Motion (by Senator Sim) agreed to:
That the following matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence: Australia and ASEAN.
– Next Tuesday Prince Charles will be in this building. I therefore move:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate at its rising adjourn till Tuesday, 27 March 1979, at 3.30 p.m., or such other time as the President may take the Chair.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 20 March, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
-When the adjournment question was proposed on Tuesday last I was speaking in the first reading debate on the Poultry Industry Levy Amendment Bill 1979 and taking the opportunity to discuss the problem which has arisen out of the Government’s failure to increase payments under the Commonwealth employees compensation scheme since 1 976. I was pointing out that this had resulted in an erosion of the value of the benefit paid under this scheme from about 83 per cent of the minimum wage to the present level of 67 per cent. I also pointed out that the Commonwealth payment of some $80 a week was lower than the payment made in any State except Victoria, but that Victoria was very likely, in view of its impending election, to increase the payment very soon or at least to promise to do so.
I pointed out that in the Australian Capital Territory people under private awards were in fact considerably better off than those under public awards, that is, public servants who work for the government. This must be a unique situation in this area. Canberra is a company town and most people here are employed by the government, but those who are sick or invalided as a result of their employment in private industry in the Australian Capital Territory are paid $7.89 a week more than those who are employed by the Government. I pointed out that this sort of situation had arisen because, firstly, there is a relatively small number of people in this situation compared with the large number of people who are being paid superannuation as a result of, say, retirement from the Commonwealth Public Service and, secondly, the people come from many different areas in the Public Service, are covered by many different unions, and come from many different geographical areas, and therefore they are not organised, are not combined and cannot put their case as strongly as they could if they were members of one large union. It would cost only some $100,000 a year to increase the payment to the level of 83 per cent of the minimum wage. This is a crucial payment because so many of these people, not having superannuation, are utterly dependent on the Commonwealth employees compensation legislation.
However, things are changing. The Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations has been making strong representations and conducting a campaign to get justice for these workers. All honourable members and honourable senators would have received copies of the report of the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations drawing the attention of the Government to the very real problems that have arisen. I was glad to hear the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) today, in answer to a question asked by Senator Bishop, state that she, at last after all this time, is aware of the difficulties and injustices which apply. I hope that she is successful in convincing the tight-fisted gentlemen in the Department of the Treasury and in her own Government that they should increase the payment to these people in a manner that they have not done in the last three years. Indeed one could suggest they follow the precedent of a previous conservative Government in 1954 and, in fact, introduce retrospective legislation to pay back to these unfortunate people some of the benefits they have lost in the last three years.
As I said, I attended in Melbourne recently a meeting of people from munitions factories, former Commonwealth car drivers, former Commonwealth employees of all types which was called to form a committee to look after their interests and the interests of others who have suffered in this way. The meeting was called to present their case and to swap information so that some justice could be achieved. Many were their complaints. Their complaints were echoed in a recent report of the Commissioner for Employees Compensation, who complained of difficulties in the various departments.
I have given some examples; I now give others. One man received no payments for months and was refused sickness benefits because he was, in fact, expecting compensation payments. This is a wrong and dreadful situation which I have referred to the Minister, and I hope the Minister’s Department will deal with it expeditiously. Another man owed some $700 in sickness benefits to the Department as direct deductions from his compensation payments. Of course, such circumstances create great problems for a man who is living on $80 a week and needs extra assistance because of his disability. It raises an important matter of principle. The man, who had worked for Australia Post, had a serious back injury and a long history of delayed payments. He had young children. He was on sickness benefits for a long time. He was on sickness benefits because he was awaiting compensation payments. I would remind honourable senators that sickness benefits carry no entitlements to health, travel or other concessions. There are no fringe benefits at all. He went into debt, as so many people do in this situation. When his compensation payments finally came through he was left in the position of not only having to repay his debts but also having to pay some $700 to the Department of Social Security. I am aware that section 115 of the Social Services Act requires that this money be recovered but it provides also that discretion may be exercised as to the rate of recovery and the pressure of recovery. I believe that in this case such discretion should be used.
I raise another point of some inequity and ask the Government to consider it. I understand that sickness benefits at the rate operating this year, last year and the year before are deducted from compensation entitlements, but sickness benefits have risen regularly over those years. Should they be deducted from compensation payments which have been stationary for those three years? If they are to be deducted, would it not be fair to deduct the 1 976 rate rather than the 1 979 rate when compensation payments, by deliberate Government action, have not been increased over that time.
Many cases were brought forward at this meeting. They demonstrated, as the Commissioner for Employees Compensation demonstrated, that widely different practices are followed by departments. It seems that a thorough review is needed of the administration of the Commonwealth employees compensation legislation. It is clear that some departments have good welfare officers. Because as large departments they deal with many cases, they have fairly good compensation sections. But in other departments the welfare officers are never seen and the compensation section is practically nonexistent. This is because these departments are small and usually the personnel section deals with compensation matters when it is finished with everything else. The Commissioner in his annual report, which was tabled in Parliament only two weeks ago, pointed to the poor service that he was receiving from many departments that did not provide his office with accident statistics, incapacity rates, et cetera. There is no excuse for this, but it is not only the Commissioner who is receiving poor service. The unfortunate employees who are entitled to compensation are receiving poor service also. Service, I believe, should be good and should be automatic both to the employees and to the Commissioner so that he knows what is going on and can make sure that justice is done. If departments can treat senior or junior public servants in such a slack and offhand way it is no surprise that they treat the victims of illnesses and injuries in such a way. It is no wonder that some sections in some departments treat the general public in such an offhand way.
The difficulty referred to by the Commissioner in his report, by CAGEO and by the meeting of compensation recipients cries out, I believe, for attention by the Government and the Minister. It seems that the area has been neglected. It is an area that should not be neglected. In the long run we believe that what should happen in this country is what has happened in other countries. A national compensation scheme of some type should be introduced. Such a scheme would benefit not only the recipients of compensation but also the employers, who are rapidly becoming crippled by the very high premiums they have to pay for their workers compensation schemes and who, I find, are now looking seriously at the proposition of a national compensation scheme which would share the burden around the community in a more equitable way and ensure that a greater percentage of the compensation dollar actually went to the victims rather than to the legal profession, the medical profession and the bureaucracy. It is only when we have a national scheme that compensation victims will be treated without inequity and without neglect. Only then will rates go up regularly in Une with inflation and with the cost of living rather than going up just before elections and going down after elections in a misguided attempt by governments to restrict government spending. Government spending in this case is restricted by depriving injured and sick workers of benefits they deserve and sufficient benefits to live on. At the same time the Government is able to find, for instance, $250,000 to upgrade the runways of airports to take the VIP aircraft of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
Only when we get a national compensation scheme will it not matter whether a man falls from a tree or a building in Wodonga or in Albury. At present a man is hundreds of dollars worse off if he falls in Wodonga rather than in Albury across the river. At present a government employed construction worker injured on the job in the Australian Capital Territory is worse off than a man working for a private contractor. We cannot, of course, introduce legislation for a national scheme in the present parliamentary session, nor are we likely to see it in the near future because of the ideological blinkers which the present Government is wearing and because of the hysterical opposition from some of the vested interests in the insurance industry. What we can have and should have is legislation which will raise the 1976 level of payments to the 84 per cent of the minimum wage which it should be now. We can raise payments and make them retrospective, as was done in 1954 by a humane but conservative government.
The Minister, I believe, should not wait until the Budget to do this. She should have an immediate review of the situation. She should have an immediate and quick review of the administration of the legislation in her own Department and in every other Government department with a view to making the administration of the compensation scheme more efficient and more humane. The present payments are a disgrace even to this Government. The present deficiencies in administration as demonstrated by the Commissioner for Employees Compensation are a disgrace to this Government and to all of us. The matter is urgent. The matter has been urgent for some time now, as Mr Wallis in another place and I have been pointing out at regular intervals. The victims cannot wait any longer. The Budget should be the absolute latest time at which these payments are increased. They can and should be increased now. They should be made retrospective. I hope the Government takes seriously the call by CAGEO and the victims. It is not a large sum of money; it is $100,000. It would take $250,000 to make it retrospective. It is not a lot of money; it would not affect inflation. It would bring justice to a lot of people.
I call on the Government and the Minister to look seriously at the problem again. I am pleased that in answer to Senator Bishop today Senator Guilfoyle demonstrated that she recognises the problem, but recognition is only pan of the way. What we must see now is action.
– I take the opportunity this afternoon on the first reading of a money Bill to place before the Senate some observations on a matter which I think has some degree of importance. I am referring to the matter of taxation deductions as related to gifts to charities. It is not the first time that this matter has been raised in the Senate, nor indeed is it the first time it has been raised in any public forum. But I suggest that it is overdue for attention by governments and by taxation authorities. It is also overdue for thought and review by the general public, especially the taxpaying public. I think it needs special consideration by those charities which look to the generosity of the public for their growth and maintenance.
I think the matter needs serious thought by all people because all people must make up their minds at some stage or other whether they want all charities, all community services, all educational and cultural activities, all social welfare agencies, religious facilities and others to be provided by governments whoever they are or whether governments whoever they are should provide an incentive and opportunity for people to donate freely and generously. It is these donations given freely and generously that will enable establishments to provide the services expected of them, so that the various establishments can enjoy a community sharing both in contribution and in the important field of management.
On 17 November last year I directed a question relating to this matter to Senator Carrick, the Minister representing the Treasurer (Mr Howard). I referred to the basic figure of $2 for gifts to charity which are allowable as tax deductions. I asked the Minister if he would give consideration to this matter, bearing in mind the value of $2 now compared to its value in 1936 when the figure was first set. I asked for a review of the matter and if a review was undertaken whether the Government would also give attention to the policy relating to eligible organisations, taking into account the passage of time and new community trends. On that occasion I sought from the Minister some undertaking that the Government would look at the matter of providing an incentive for people who gave money to organisations in a wider sphere than at present. I maintained then, as I do now, that this would help these organisations to depend less on government grants for financial development.
In reply on that occasion, Senator Carrick indicated that he understood the argument about the value of money. He also indicated that he understood the interests of charity organisations in that if the matter of the level of deductibility were raised this might attract to charity a higher base level of donations. The Minister expressed his sympathy with the voluntary organisations which, as he said, do so much with so little, and which depend upon charity. He added:
It may well be that the present level of deductibility of $2 is too low.
In response to a supplementary question on that occasion the Minister went on to say:
One of the real difficulties of Treasurers, Treasuries and, indeed, Cabinets, is to make decisions as to what organisations should be admitted to the tax deductibility list and what organisations should be omitted. It is a very difficult decision and a very expensive one also for revenue.
This is a government problem and we recognise that in the administration of government and of all the community organisations that are related to government, and as far as the whole field of society is concerned, there is a government problem. But it is not a problem that is beyond the capacity of governments and their advisers to deal with and to come up with appropriate formulas to remedy the situation. When Senator Carrick was replying to my question he indicated he would refer the matter to the Treasurer, ask him to peruse it and in due course to make a comment.
In due course the perusal took place and the comment arrived. There is an entry in Hansard which indicates that the matter has been referred to the Treasurer and the Treasurer has made some information available. In that information the Treasurer indicated that he understood the purpose of my question relating to the $2 minimum and that it would put donors in a position where they could not claim an income tax deduction unless they increased the size of their gifts, possibly substantially. He pointed out that he was not in favour of any such change to the gift provisions. He questioned whether it would lead to greater or smaller giving. He could not give an opinion on this without a great deal more research, but in his view one thing was fairly obvious, namely, that any increase in the minimum would quite unfairly penalise the donor whose gift has to be small because that is all he or she can afford.
The Treasurer however was attracted to the idea of a review of the coverage of the gift provisions which may no longer be altogether appropriate to present community needs or funding patterns. He proffered the view that in this matter there could be losers as well as gainers and added that, from his recent experience, there was the possibility of losers emerging from such a review, which could generate some fairly strong feelings. In this extended reply the Treasurer indicated that in this matter of deductibility there were not only economic and social consequences but also some political consequences; this we understand and recognise. One appreciates the response of the Treasurer, but there are one or two observations that may be made.
I do not think anyone wants to put anyone else in a position where he cannot claim an income tax deduction unless he increases a gift substantially. But I suggest that the Treasurer should have taken, and should take, a more positive approach to this matter and find the formula. It is not beyond the capacity of the Treasury and its officials to find the formula so that people who can afford to increase their donation and make a larger gift are provided not only with the opportunity but also with the incentive so to do. I believe it is quite ridiculous to equate a basic donation fixed in 1936, which I would remind the Senate was 43 years ago- well nigh on half a century- with the position which applies today. The whole value of the amount has changed and the whole attitude to the amount and its relationship to totals required in charity work today has completely changed.
Whilst the Treasurer may express his concern that any increase in the minimum would unfairly penalise a donor whose gift is small, it is also very pertinent to ask in what other areas does the Treasurer apply his concern for people and base his standards on figures which applied 43 years ago. In my view there are no other areas in which the Treasurer or the Treasury apply this comparison of standards. I am afraid I am forced to the view that one gets an impression that the Government and indeed governments do want public involvement in the whole range of voluntary organisations but prefer them to be provided by governments so that they can exercise a total control not only on the organisations but also on the community surrounding them.
The next part of the Treasurer’s reply is of some interest. He said:
I am more attracted to the idea of a review of the coverage . . . which . . . may no longer be altogether appropriate to present community needs . . .
A study of the Income Tax Assessment Act is a long and complex study and I refer to it only briefly. It refers to deductions for certain gifts. Section 78 ( 1 ) (a) provides for a deduction from assessable income of certain gifts excluding testamentary gifts made by individuals or companies. The donor need not be a resident of Australia but the donee must be an institution, fund or authority within Australia. There are other conditions imposed in respect of deductible gifts. They include: The gift must be of the value of $2 and upwards; it must be made by the taxpayer in the year of income and it must be either of money or certain kinds of property. The allowance is in respect of gifts made by a taxpayer in the year of income to any one of a number of funds in Australia. It is not possible to go through them or even take the time of the Senate in listing them, but let me refer to them very briefly. The first one is described as a public hospital. The next is a public benevolent institution. The next is a public fund relating to hospitals or institutions specified in other areas of the section. The next is a public authority engaged in research. It is followed by a public university or a public fund. Other styles of public institutions are set out in the section. Then follow a whole range of institutions of which I am sure honourable senators who have had some experience in these things will be aware.
All these are areas in which the State is totally involved today, much more so than when the standards were set some 43 years ago. All these are areas in which the State is not only involved but, on present indications, government will continue to be involved totally and completely. In short, the Government already is providing most or all of these services and services that flow from the institutions that are set out in the Act. The number of government institutions which provide total community services and which are funded by our income tax funds grows daily. Service organisations in our community and voluntary organisations in our community which have a tradition of providing and assisting in the provision of community ventures are forced to a situation in which they are now looking for something to do. Therefore the purpose of tax deductibility for charitable and related organisations is a matter to which the Government or somebody in this country should give very serious consideration and concern.
Back in 1936-43 years ago- when the Australian Parliament decided that charitable donations of what was then one pound and over would be allowable deductions for income tax, there were a couple of areas in which it seems the Act of the day and indeed the authorities of the day were interested. Firstly, they were concerned that there should be some encouragement to taxpayers to give larger charitable donations than they would normally make. At the time this was a very significant step because in those days one pound was more than one-third of the basic wage, which meant that a donation of that size had a very significant impact not only on the organisation to which it was given but also on the average Australian citizen. It represented a considerable contribution. It represented a considerable donation and therefore something to which the taxpayers of the day had given thorough consideration. Secondly, it seems to me that in those days it was designed to promote the philosophy that if the people could be encouraged to give significantly to institutions- charitable, cultural and community institutions- it would lessen government responsibility to provide total finance for those institutions and this would be done to the extent that the reduction in government revenue caused by any deductions would be offset by a lessening of government contributions and the necessity for government contributions to the charitable field.
It is my feeling that inherent in all of this was the idea that it is important for the average citizen to be involved closely in community projects, not only in terms of money given but also in terms of personal oversighting from day to day in management, administration and personal concern, rather than to leave all the responsibility for the funding and all the management to the government of the day. To me it is vital that the philosophy behind that deduction concept be reviewed and, indeed, be perpetuated today. Equally clear is the philosophy at the current minimum deduction of $2 in those days. To perpetuate it today makes a mockery of the intention of the legislators of 1936 or 43 years ago. Obviously inflation has made the whole concept absolutely meaningless. The concept that we have today neither encourages people to give large donations nor, if I may say so, fosters the vital concept that people should be involved personally in the welfare of their fellows to the fullest possible extent. When they are, they are creating a healthy community attitude as well as adding meaning to the life of every individual.
I am not impressed by the view that a charitable donation as small as $2 will make any significant alteration to a person’s taxation. The amount of work that is necessary in providing individual tax receipts and all the other book work that is involved with every $2-donation certainly is a costly imposition on charities and also on the country. The government’s costs in handling taxation returns which list all these tiny donations eventually costs the taxpayers far more than the tax that they save individually. It is sometimes pointed out- and let me be perfectly frank and recognise the problem- that a change in the legislation may very well deny certain people in our community the chances of obtaining a taxation deduction. I recognise that in my own argument there is that situation, but the fact that the people who can only afford- I emphasise this fact- to give $2 to a charity may not be in an income tax paying bracket anyway and therefore it could be argued that the tax deduction is irrelevant. This is a matter which I think needs investigation so that those people who are able to afford a donation only of that amount will not be penalised as a result of any change. However, even more significant is the fact that there are very few people today who can afford to give a minimum of only $2. 1 ask honourable senators to consider the millions of dollars spent every week in Australia on a whole range of facilities, including expenditure on tobacco, alcohol and gambling.
I personally do not subscribe to the view that people will stop giving to charity if the basic amount allowable for a tax deduction is increased. Thousands of people put in far in excess of $2 to support a whole range of institutions and organisations in Australia today. I have had a long association with church-oriented organisations. Donations to these organisations are not allowable as tax deductions. People who give to them never give a thought to getting a tax deduction for the contributions they make. Pensioners are valuable and generous supporters of a whole range of organisations. They never receive a tax deduction for their donations, nor does it cross their minds that a deduction may be allowable. It is inevitable that charities and community organisations will be able to design simple ways of encouraging people to give money in small amounts so that over a period of time those amounts will become an allowable deduction if that is the aim of those charities in obtaining income for their work.
Another area in which I have an interest is worthy of some examination, that is, donations to approved overseas charities. This raises other problems and questions because of the Government’s relationship with overseas organisations. In Australia, donations to overseas charities are with rare exceptions not deductible. However, there is a very strong argument to be made out for the encouragement of those donations because the end in view is humanitarian and there is just as great a need for aid to organisations abroad as there is in this country. Statements and debates in the Senate relating to overseas aid have indicated that the need is extremely great because of the vast numbers of people in poverty and misery. If I may be excused for saying so on the grounds of what I would call enlightened self-interest, Australian governments should encourage individual citizens to extend their aid to developing countries. That would not only help us to win friends abroad and improve foreign relations, but also increase incomes in developing countries. More particularly, it would take from the government of the day the particularly heavy burden which the community seems to be calling on it to bear. The tax deductibility of such donations would encourage a greater private effort which would save the government money by reducing the need for direct government aid.
Other countries have given attention to this matter. New Zealand, for example, has a list of approved overseas organisations which include volunteer services, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, the Red Cross, the Freedom from Hunger Campaign, an organisation known as World Vision and others. Canada also allows deductibility for donations to charities outside Canada to which its own Federal Government has donated in the previous two years. On reading the United States 1979 Master Tax Guide, the situation which apparently exists in the United States seems to be somewhat different from the Australian position. In the United States a citizen can contribute any amount, large or small, to a charitable institution within the United States and can claim it as a tax deduction provided that in any one income year the cumulative contribution does not exceed 50 per cent of what is described as his ‘adjusted gross income’. Those which do cannot be included as deductions. This would appear to be rather more generous than the situation in this country. It illustrates that other countries deal with this matter in different ways and according to existing conditions. It is time that we in this country started looking at ways of dealing with the old $2 rule which has certainly outlived its usefulness.
New Zealand operates on a rebate system for donations to home charities with a $2 base. However, the taxpayer can claim the lesser of two amounts, a sum equal to half the charitable donation or $125. The arrangement in Canada is similar to that in the United States. A taxpayer cannot claim more than 20 per cent of income for charitable donations but he has an option to apply for a standard deduction of $100 which, of course, can cover a wide range of medical and charitable donations. An increase in the amount which is deductible is necessary in my view because it would remove some of the malpractices that occur under the present arrangement. Many people include their purchases of raffle tickets and admission tickets to charity dinners as claims for tax deductions. My reading of the legislation is that neither of these is tax deductible. Such claims could be described as illegal.
Statistics indicate that the average charitable donation for which a tax deduction is claimed in Australia at the moment is a little over $21. This further proves the point I have been making that the $2 deduction is now irrelevant. Only 20 per cent of taxpayers currently claim donations to charity as tax deductions. As most of those donations are far more than $2 it is high time the matter was reviewed. The original legislation of 1 936 has never been amended with regard to the type of institution which qualifies for tax deductibility status except that from time to time the names of various charities which have achieved a special status or required a special relevancy have been added because of circumstances which have arisen. Therefore, the Act now contains a conglomeration of names of charitable institutions, some of which have even ceased to exist and some of which were allowed tax deductibility status for only one year. Even so, their names remain on the list. Changes are needed urgently simply because the social structure has changed dramatically since 1 936.
The situation calls for the intervention of the Government. It is a complex matter. As the Treasurer has said, it is one that calls for considerable research. It occurs to me that the matter might even be referred to one of the Senate standing committees. Our whole relationship to an understanding of the voluntary and government systems of maintaining institutions in our community is very important. Therefore, it needs review in the light of changed circumstances.
In conclusion, I refer to a report of the Wolfenden Committee in the United Kingdom entitled The Future of Voluntary Organisations’. It pointed out that the informal and statutory systemsthat means government systems- taken together constitute the principal means of meeting social needs in our society. Although the voluntary system was once the chief form of collective action outside government institutions, it can now be best seen in terms of the ways in which it complements, supplements, extends and influences both the informal and statutory systems.
Beyond the contribution of the voluntary system in these ways, the Committee believes that it should be evaluated in its role as one of the institutions in a pluralistic system of government and social structure. The Committee added that in its view the voluntary system has three kinds of contribution to make to society: Firstly, it extends the scope of existing provisions. Secondly, it improves the standards of government statutory provisions. Thirdly, it can offer services where little or nothing is available through the States. The voluntary or non-government sector can extend in a number of ways the services provided by the state. Traditionally, the voluntary organisation has always provided the setting for innovation. Another way in which government services can be extended by the voluntary sector is in the provision of alternatives to government services. These extend not only the quantity of provisions but also the choices available to users of the various services.
Voluntary organisations can extend the absolute amount of resources available to social services by attracting people, ideas and material resources that would not have been attracted if this had been left to governments. People are more willing to give time, energy and money to voluntary bodies devoted to specific causes than to statutory agencies. I do not pretend to have all the answers or to have undertaken an examination of all the related factors. This is a complex matter which concerns many areas in our society today. I make only two major points: Firstly, the whole matter is long overdue for attention. Secondly, if it does not receive attention, our society is in grave danger of having all its facilities provided by government, regardless of the type of government it may be. When that happens, all incentive goes, all concern lapses, all public interest disappears, and we are at the mercy of governments which will decide what we shall have or what we shall do.
– I rise to speak in the first reading debate on the Poultry Industry Levy Amendment Bill, to draw attention to a matter which I think is of some urgency and importance. I refer to the armament provided on the Fremantle class patrol boats which are being built for the Royal Australian Navy, their lack of missile capability and the apparent complete lack of any naval planning for this class of fast attack craft or patrol boats. A good deal has been said in the Parliament recently about defence- the Australian Democrats feel, for good reason. Perhaps we have a much less certain international climate ahead of us than we might have supposed even two or three years ago. I remember predictions being made with great confidence at that time to the effect that there was no possibility that Australia could become involved in a regional war. We were told that we could have no possible enemy. I suggest that the world is not that kind of world any more. We have a difficult decade ahead of us, with the possibility of a great deal of regional conflict. Of course, we in Australia are part of that world. We are far away from our natural allies and far away from what we have regarded in the past as being our normal areas of support.
It is not the Australian Democrat view that Australia should indulge in foreign adventurism or that we should involve ourselves extensively in a network of alliances that might attract unfavourable attention to us in time of war; but it is certainly the Australian Democrat view, and I suggest the view of the citizens of this country, that we should be in a position to defend ourselves. We have been reinforced in this view by the recent comments of Admiral Zumwalt, the former chief of naval operations for the United States Government. He has warned us that we cannot necessarily rely on the sort of automatic support from our powerful allies which we might feel we have a right to expect. It is not a matter of lack of goodwill, lack of concern, or lack of good intent on the part of our allies. In a confused world scene we could become involved in a relatively small sideshow operation in which, at least for some time, our powerful friends might not be in a position to help us. It is during that time that we must be in a position, and soon, to help ourselves.
It is worth clarifying our defence thinking from a fairly primal point of view. I assert, firstly, that we cannot fight back against nuclear weapons; nor can we, in the foreseeable future, ever hope to do so in a major sense. Also, I do not believe that, in the foreseeable future, we can repulse a naval and air attack by a major nation. We are simply not in that sort of ball game. I cannot see how the imposition of taxation or loans on our society could put us in that position. Unfortunately, at present Australia could not withstand that kind of attack from many similar middle power countries. In fact, our defence preparedness compared with that of other middle power countries is lamentably poor, especially when we consider that Israel, with only 3lA million people- in spite of the wars in which that nation has been involved- has a tremendous capability not only to defend itself but also to manufacture weapons on its own soil.
This is the context in which I would like to see an urgent reassessment by the Government of the arming of at least some of our 15 Fremantle class patrol boats. It seems that this is the right time to raise the matter because most of the ships have not yet started building. Only the first of the 1 5 ships, HMAS Fremantle, has been launched; construction of another is under way; and they will be delivered progressively until 1985. Therefore, I should have thought that, even if design work had been done, the actual difficulty or additional expense involved in amending the plans of some of the later built boats would not be an insuperable problem for this country.
If we are to equip ourselves effectively to deal with possible adventurism against our shores, we should bear in mind the point I made a little earlier, that is, that the adventurism could be associated with a preoccupation elsewhere by our allies. This could be a danger time for us. I remind honourable senators, without seeking to make any positive analogy, that the aggression by Indonesia against East Timor came at a time of” political confusion both in Portugal and in Australia. This is the kind of danger period to which I refer, when perhaps a more serious conflict might engage our allies. They just might not be able to help us. The opportunity would then be presented for that kind of adventurism.
If it is not possible to change the Fremantle class ship- I believe, as I will mention later, that there are good reasons why that should be done- at least we should consider a missile capability for a new class of vessel preferably to be built in this country. I am aware that the new Fremantle class patrol boats were designed originally as a replacement for the present Attack class boats which, I understand, have deplorable sea-keeping qualities. In answer to a question I asked on 20 February- some weeks agoSenator Carrick stated:
I am advised that no missile capacity is intended for the particular patrol boats mentioned! My understanding is that they were designed to augment and later to replace the Attack class patrol boats as a general purpose low contingency surveillance vessel with good sea-keeping and endurance capabilities. I am advised that the fitting of missiles entails complex fire control systems, radars and a number of additional features such as the desirability for higher speed, all of which would change the concept of the vessels’ intended operations.
I wish to comment briefly on that reply, which in itself, based on present naval plans, is an eminently reasonable one. Nevertheless, the facts are that these 15 new patrol boats are equipped with advanced radar, echo sounders, gyro compasses and the latest ultra high frequency radio equipment. They also have a highly sophisticated satellite link navigation system. These are some of the reasons why these boats are costing more than $10m each. I suggest to honourable senators that this is an exceedingly high price to be paying for vessels whose function is to push around a few Japanese or Taiwanese fishing boats. I should have thought that it would have been possible for boats capable of doing that sort of minor surveillance work to be constructed, preferably in Australian shipyards, at much lower cost than that. The amount, over $ 10m, is a great deal of money.
In the Senate I later raised the question of whether the cost might not be even higher than that. I note in passing that I have not yet had a reply to that question. I will be interested to read it when I do. All the indications from the expert observers to whom I have had access are that the cost will be much higher and that the total cost of building these 15 boats might be somewhere near $205m of the Australian taxpayers’ money. I was astounded- as were many Australians who have contacted me- to read announcements that these fast, large and very expensive patrol craft were to be armed with small arms, machine guns and one small close-range gun. Even the nature of that gun has not been decided on. It is possible that modifications may even have to be made to HMAS Fremantle because that decision has never been taken. It is a fact that these boats are basically Brooke Marine designed FPB45s which are in use elsewhere in the world as armed missile patrol boats.
I go back more than a decade to the sinking of the Israeli destroyer Eilate by missile fire. The Eilate was a very well equipped destroyer. It was an old ship but well armed, with a crew of high morale and high efficiency of training. It was in a war situation. It was sunk by patterns of four missiles fired from a harbour. It was not able to retaliate effectively against the firing vessels, which were all small patrol boats. It was not able to defend itself. It was on fire by the time the third missile was fired, and the fourth sunk it. That was a major turning point for many countries, especially small and middle powers like Australia, towards the thought that they should arm themselves with a naval capacity of missile armed patrol boats or fast attack craft as a basic and important aspect of naval strength. One would hope that governments and navies would learn the lessons of experience and that we should not have to learn that kind of bitter lesson for ourselves.
The 48 countries which now have fast patrol boats or attack craft are mostly middle powers like Australia- not all of them but most of them. I was seeking a guide as to why we have not really considered this type of vessel to be an important part of our naval establishment. I think there may be a clue in the fact that the Royal
Navy does not have such craft. If the Royal Navy does not have them presumably automatically the Australian Navy does not have them. Yet our needs are far different. It is true that until recently the United States Navy did not depend on this type of craft although the United States Navy is now developing a class of 340-tonne hydrofoils, each of which will carry eight Harpoon ship-to-ship missiles. Not only are the 48 nations now maintaining 613 fast patrol boats in service, but also another 134 are on order. A number of countries, including Sweden and Indonesia, are working hard towards the ability to manufacture such patrol boats in large numbers inside? their shores and to provide them with the necessary missiles with which they will be equipped. Unlike Australia’s boats, not one of those 613 boats is not equipped with missiles. Every one of them carries a missile capability. Of those boats, 121 belong to the United Soviet Socialist Republic. China has 140 such boats and has perhaps 50.. more on order.
At this stage I turn to our closer neighbours. Although we have a friendly relationship with our closer neighbours one of the facts of life is that it is necessary for us to examine their military capability and with all prudence to see that ours is at least comparable in important respects. Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore each operate missile armed fast patrol boats. In the early 1960s 12 Russian Komar class fast patrol boats were acquired by Indonesia. These vessels have a standard displacement of only 71 tonnes. They are much smaller than our 220-tonne patrol boats which we regard as mere surveillance vessels. The Komar class vessels carry only two Styx missiles, which were very effective weapons in their time. The point is that it was the Russian built Styx missiles that sank the Eilate. While Indonesia has these smaller craft still in service it is not leaving the matter at that. It has now ordered four fast patrol boats of American design from yards in South Korea where they are now being built. The latest information I have is that the Indonesians also plan to have another 12 built in Indonesia and that it will have a continued building program of that sort of ship.
These ships displace 256 tonnes and Australia’s displace 220 tonnes. They are cornparable. The Indonesian ships will be armed each with four Harpoon ship-to-ship missiles. Since 1 973 the Malaysian Navy has operated six fast patrol boats of the French La Combattante design. These vessels are interesting because they carry Exocet missiles of French design to which I will refer more in a few minutes. The Malaysian Navy is also ordering four more Swedish
Spica-M class boats which will also be armed with four Exocet missiles each. Similar to our own ships, based again on the FPB45 which was evaluated by the Royal Australian Navy, are the Singapore Navy’s fast patrol boats. These 48-metre long vessels displace 234 tonnes and carry an armament of five Gabriel surfacetosurface missiles.
Is it a fact that the boats we are designing and plan to build are too small, too slow or otherwise unsuitable for missile service? It is true that there are indeed faster attack boats in the world, but in general the comparisons I have been able to make show that the Fremantle class boats, at 42 metres long, 220 tonnes and with a speed of 30 knots, are very much in company with most of the fast patrol boats in other world navies, except for that one vital consideration: They will not have a missile capability.
I am very deeply concerned, as I think many Australians must be, to realise that not only will they not have, on present plans, a missile capability but also that we have publicly in advance telegraphed to anybody who might be tempted to adventurism on our shores that the boats will not have such a capability. In other words our 15 fast patrol boats, a major part of our naval building program, from now on will be known to be in the mere popgun class, incapable of defending themselves. In fact, if as a flotilla they were exposed even to the attack of a few of the patrol boats which our neighbouring countries possess now, they would be destroyed without any possibility of their being able to fight back. Even the old-fashioned small Komars that Indonesia now has could destroy a Fremantle class patrol boat without ever coming into range of the close range popgun with which our Navy seems to be so enamoured.
But perhaps it is unfair of me to criticise the Navy. I am criticising the Government because the whole question of defence policy is a mess. We do not seem to know quite what we are defending ourselves against or how we are going to do it. All we are saying is that there is a big something- maybe a big aircraft carrier or a big fast frigate with one propeller- and we will buy those. We have not thought how we are going to use them, as far as I can see. When this is examined carefully by the media, by people who have tried to make themselves expert in these areas, it is seen that we are placing our naval men in a most unpleasant, unfortunate situation. At some future time they are likely to be in a position where they will be sacrificed to the general muddle-headedness of planning which has been perpetuated in ships which are not fish, fowl or good red herring.
– You would not expect a ship to be a fish or a fowl.
– No, indeed not, but I would like it to be a bit better than a red herring. Much smaller boats are equipped with missiles. I mentioned the 71 -tonne Komar class, which is Russian designed. The German Navy operates boats similar to the Fremantle class. These carry four Exocet missiles. In this regard I would like to draw attention to an article on regional maritime forces by A. W. Grazebrook in the March edition of the Pacific Defence Reporter. The article has a certain relevance because it is the statement of a commentator who is something of a specialist in this field. He discusses the naval building program in Indonesia and points out what is being built now and what further orders might be placed. He comments:
Whether or not more such orders are placed, Australia must plan on Indonesia being quite capable of denying passage through the Indonesian Archipelago to Australian merchant and war ships. Indonesia will also have the ability to cause severe disruption to trade in Australian waters and mount raids against coastal facilities.
At this point I would like to make a comment which may be worth the Government’s consideration. Certainly I am no expert in this field, but once again I am quoting an expert article out of the same publication which mentions that: . . today the emphasis is to (it ships with low altitude, inertial guided missiles, with ranges between 5 and 50 nautical miles.
This weapon cannot in fact be countered by electronic counter measures or by most kinds of electronic warfare devices. This is why I have stressed in regard to the ships that I have mentioned that they carry the French Exocet missile which has an effective range in excess of 30 nautical miles. It flies at between two and three metres only above the surface of the water at a speed of 600 knots. Again in the March 1978 edition of the Pacific Defence Reporter, the writer commented:
The only counter measure to this type of threat is to destroy it with medium-range conventional or guided weapons.
Hence fast patrol boats equipped with this type of missile are an even better weapon than and a considerable development on the Styx equipped patrol boats which were able quite successfully and without any retaliation to destroy a much larger ship, in fact the Israeli destroyer that I have already mentioned.
I hope that the Australian Democrats have made a case for a least some consideration of missile capability in this class of ship. It will be some years before the last of the ships is built. I am not persuaded by arguments that it would cost more to lit them with missile capability. I think it would be better if we had fewer ships but at least had them equipped with missile capability. I am not persuaded by the argument that other middle powers in the world can afford this kind of thing but we cannot. I can see every reason for there being a large number of small, highly mobile, fast ships with missile capability which have been proved in the past and which are known to be able to attack much larger vessels and sink them quite successfully. I think if we had that sort of capability, we would have a much better defended Australia.
But again, I worry about our naval men, the people who man our ships. Looking to the future I see with great fear the development of a situation such as occurred in Darwin after Japan came into the war. At that time our servicemen will be expected to go out to die in a navy of small ships armed with pop guns, just as the men who flew at Darwin were expected to fly biplanes against Zeros. It is a fact that if there were an emergency a Government would feel compelled to say: ‘This is all we have got. Put them up there and let them have a go’. It would be absolute murder. The charge of the Light Brigade would have nothing on it. That is the sort of situation that the Government is legislating for unless it steps in now and insists that some of these ships be re-equipped.
I can sympathise with people in certain areas of the Navy who want a good, big, comfortable ship for northern surveillance work. That is fine. But I would have thought that we needed fighting ships. It is the purpose of the Navy to provide fighting ships and to man those fighting ships. If it does not do that, we might as well not have a navy at all. Why have a navy if it is not capable of doing that work effectively? That should be its first pre-requisite and government planning should make it the first pre-requisite.
There is another aspect to this matter. The remaining 14 Fremantle class boats will all be built in Australia. We in the Australian Democrats applaud this. We have been spying for years: ‘Why don’t we build a class of naval ship that will be small, fast, mobile and missile-equipped, that can be built in our own shipyards; even if the cost appears to be higher, at least it will be money that is being spent in our own country. At least we will have the capability to defend ourselves’. When one sees Sweden and even Indonesia and other countries such as Egypt planning shipyards in which they can build these vessels for themselves, one would think that our own defence people would consider doing the same thing.
Finally, the Australian Democrats ask seriously that the Government at least consider adapting five of these Fremantle class vessels to a ship-to-ship missile capability, be they Exocet or Harpoon. I know that we are using Harpoon on some of our other ships and I suppose that there is a value in uniformity. But whatever the Government does, could it then consider in the not-too-distant future a consistent building program of fast attack craft with missile capability and of the type and versatility to use ordinary port facilities around our coast, with as many as possible of these craft being built in Australia ‘s own yards.
– During the first reading debate on this money Bill I want to make reference to the safety of tyres used on motor vehicles in this country. I suppose this could be called a two-party approach because a member of an opposing political party has raised this matter in the Queensland State Parliament, but, I might add, without a great deal of success. It has been raised by a number of tyre retreaders in particular and some tyre retailers, but for a considerable time governments in particular have overlooked the problem and apparently have not been prepared to take the action that should be taken to improve road safety. Later in my contribution to this debate I will read out some figures that I think are more than circumstantial evidence as to where the fault lies. They indicate fairly clearly that a large number of road accidents are caused by faulty tyres.
– Especially the imported tyres.
-Yes, they are the ones I am going to talk about. I will name them all. My own experience some two or three years ago when I bought a full set of tyres- a full shoeingwhich cost me something over $230 is a firstclass example of what can happen. One of those tyres blew out, not at a very high speed but when the car was fully loaded. If I had not been on a fairly level area of the road, undoubtedly the car would have rolled and probably caused loss of life. Certainly the car would have been wrecked. But of those four tyres, one had a life of not quite 4,000 miles before the whole side of it blew out. Two of them covered about 6,000 miles before they suffered the same fate and only one went to about 14,000 miles. Over the years I have used steel belted radial tyres and the normal practice is to get 30,000 to 40,000 miles out of a good set of tyres, provided one does not abuse the tyres, they are rotated regularly and are looked after. I replaced the first of these tyres with one manufactured by Esso which the retailer told me was a first-class tyre out of which I would get no less than 30,000 miles. After 4,000 miles I had to remove the tyre from my vehicle because great cracks had developed in the rubber, both on the side and across the tread. Obviously the tyre was unsafe to use, even as a spare. A lot of these tyres are supposed to be under guarantee. If one has an occupation like mine and travels extensive distances, when a tyre goes it is probably 2,000 miles from the point of purchase and obviously one cannot be bothered carrying around three or four tyres in an already loaded vehicle.
The worst tyres come from Europe and Asia but Australia must also take some blame. Nearly all Australian tyres suffer from what is known as radial and lateral run-out. In other words, they either wobble up and down or they wobble sideways. This is not to say that a radial and lateral run-out makes the tyre completely unsafe at that point. The Australian tyres are, in fact, fairly good tyres but they do not come up to the standard of some of the imported brands. Therefore, if the Australian tyre industry is really to make a name for itself it must do two things. First, manufacturing must be first class and, secondly, the Government must take some action to prevent the importation of highly dangerous tyres. Apparently there is a standard for retreaded tyres but none for new tyres that are sold in this country. Anyone can import and sell all kinds of junk.
I wish to refer to one or two other points before giving some of the more technical details. It is extremely doubtful whether any of the cheaper imported tyres, with the exception of two or three brands that I will name later could withstand either an S or H endurance test. If a tyre is to pass an S endurance test it must be able to travel at 180 kilometres an hour for a period of 24 hours. Some retailers have told me that, if some of these tyres were subjected to the S test, they would probably last about two hours. If they were to undergo what is known as the H endurance test- at a speed of 2 10 kilometres an hour for up to 24 hours- if would be extremely unlikely that they would survive. I am told that the life of some of these tyres might be about 30 minutes. So these technical points involve very serious matters indeed. Of course, importers can cheat, and they do. Import prices can be made artifically high.
– Does that surprise you, Senator?
– No, it does not surprise me at all, because it applies to other areas of importing also. I repeat, import prices can be raised artificially by an elaborate system of invoicing which can mean that a tyre manufactured in one country, can be shipped to another, and can be finally re-invoiced and brought into Australia. Therefore, some of the discount sales that one sees as one drives along the highway are not quite worth the signboards on which they are written. One Australian company imported thousands of tyres branded ‘remould quality’, which in Europe means that they can be used for agricultural purposes only.
The closure last year in Brisbane of the Olympic Tyre factory was brought about partly by the great problems that have been caused by the inroads made by low quality imports. I wrote to Mr Fife on that occasion and asked what he could do about it. I shall quote only one paragraph of his reply to me of 6 November 1978 as follows:
I have noted your comments on the quality of steel-belted radial tyres. There have been a number of complaints recently on the safety of motor vehicle tyres and the need for appropriate safety standards. Proposals for safety and information consumer product standards under the Trade Practices Act are considered by the Commonwealth-State Consumer Products Advisory Committee which then makes recommendations to me as to whether such a standard is considered necessary. The Committee is currently examining safety standards for both new and replacement tyres and discussions are proceeding with authorities in the States and Territories as well as with the Office of Road Safety in Melbourne.
I am disturbed because apparently the Government is about to increase the duty rebates on imported tyres- in other words, make it easier for some of these low quality tyres to be imported. Such importation has also had a serious effect on companies, both small and large, that carry out high quality retreading. In the last 8 years something like 200 retreading businesses, which also conduct a fair bit of tyre retailing, have closed down.
Complaints against steel radials generally include steel belt separation, speed blow-out and what is known as out-of-round- which is related to the wobbling of which I spoke earlier. Complaints against second grade cross-ply relate to their being undersized and giving poor mileage. When fitted beside a correctly sized tyre on the front, the steering geometry is upset and the car sways, needing continual correction. This, of course, leads to tyre wear. That old fable concerning the Oopi Doop, the short and longlegged man who walked around the mountain, applies to tyres that come within this category. It means that a tyre which is inflated similarly to another brand of tyre, or poor quality tyre, on the other side suffers undue wear.
The pressure recommendation for steel radials, as given by motor vehicle manufacturer’s handbooks shows in most cases a minimum pressure which does not allow the tyre to run on the specified loaded radius and also does not allow additional pressure for weight transfer, front to rear and rear to front, during high speed driving and braking. The loaded radius is the distance from the centre of the axle to the road surface. I quote these technical details because anyone who reads the statements that I am making will want to know what causes some of these problems. This measurement is given by all manufacturers in order to arrive at a correct air pressure for the load on their tyre.
As far as I know, as I mentioned a moment ago, there is no standard for tyres or for steel wheels. A standard for both wheels and tyres, size by size, for both run-out and size should be introduced. Such a standard would eliminate under-size tyres, out-of-round tyres and outofround steel wheels. There is a standard for aluminium wheels but apparently none for steel wheels.
According to the Passenger Motor Vehicle Safety Report of a survey by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety, doubts are cast on the safety of some aluminium wheels. The tolerance should be very close, probably not more than 30 thousandths of an inch, with a maximum and a minimum size allowing half an inch in the running circumference in tyres marked in that size. If these sorts of standards were applied, obviously there would be an opportunity to attempt to correct some of the faults that are now present. Honourable senators will recall the extract that I read earlier from Mr Fife’s letter. In that regard, a press report of 10 December last reads:
The Federal Government will investigate alleged defects in certain steel-belted radial tyres.
The check was initiated by reports to the Queensland Government of serious faults in some new tyres.
These are said to include blow-outs, tread separation and inconsistent wear caused by ‘out-of-round ‘ tyres.
Apparently the Government of New South Wales is to go it alone because, on 1 1 February 1979, the following statement appeared in the Sunday Mail:
A full scale Government inquiry into the safety of steelbelted radial tyres has begun in New South Wales to determine whether they may be associated with the State ‘s rising road accident rate.
The New South Wales Transport Minister (Mr Cox) ordered the inquiry following reports that some of the tyres had serious safety problems.
A spokesman for the Minister said last week Mr Cox considered the allegations serious enough to refer the matter to the New South Wales Traffic Accident Research Unit for investigation.
He said investigations had already begun and would cover all types of steel-belted radial tyres used in New South Wales.
Those two points would indicate that need is felt at the State level and, hopefully, at the Federal level, for some type of investigation in an attempt to eliminate the faulty brands that are now being imported without restriction.
Another point that has been raised with me by a number of people who are associated with the retreading industry is that there ought to be an apprenticeship scheme- this also relates to safety standards- for youngsters in the industry. At the moment there is none. It has not been initiated by either trade unions or employer organisations, but reputable tyre retreaders and retailers have told me consistently that there is a tremendous opportunity for the introduction of an apprenticeship scheme so that the people who work in the industry will also be well trained and will be more readily able to detect both faulty tyres and faulty methods of retreading.
Let us now look at the position in regard to tyres. The three brands, which are generally looked upon as being highly satisfactory, are Michelin. Bridgestone and Ohtsu. Those three brands are apparently almost without blemish. There are another three brands on the list of improved and respectable tyres. One has only recently joined the list. It is Yokohama. The other two are Toyo, which is made in Japan and distributed by Toyo Distributors, and Nitto, also made in Japan and distributed by Nitto (Australia).
I now propose to list the brand name, the country of origin and the Australian agent, where it is known, of the bad tyres in the field. They are:
I might add that there are quite a few of Avon tyres around. There are not many Phoenix tyres in Queensland, but there are quite a few around the southern States. Some of the tyres are highly dangerous. Others are most unsatisfactory in terms of wear. They are the types of tyres that should not be imported into this country unless the manufacturers are prepared to upgrade their standards in order to ensure reasonable wear. It is possible that some of these tyres are being imported by agents without their undergoing proper checks. When the retailer advertises them widely as being good tyres this is done with tongue-in-cheek in order to make a quick buck. This ought to be looked into. If they are doing it out of ignorance they should not be in the tyre game.
Cross-ply tyres present a problem. These tyres are up to 3 lb lighter and up to 13 inches less in circumference. In other words, whatever the standard of the particular tyre that the purchaser thinks he is paying for, he is not getting value for his money. This situation ought to be improved as well. The following is a list of the cross-ply tyres:
I understand that there are not too many Han Kook tyres around Australia. These cross-ply tyres can be equally dangerous. If they blow out, customers are being hoodwinked because they are not getting value for their money.
The Passenger Motor Vehicle Safety report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety made a number of pertinent remarks. I propose to refer only to a couple of paragraphs. Mr Acting Deputy President, I have sought your permission and the permission of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) to have certain paragraphs incorporated. This report relates to tyres and wheels. It reads as follows:
The Committee obtained evidence from Dr Hoffman that United States and English studies on the relationship; between tyre failure and accidents do not show a consistent pattern. United States data suggested that not more than 2.42 per cent of all accidents were contributed to by tyre disablements.
Incidentally hundreds of brands of tyres are sold in the Untied States of America. The report continues:
An English study based on a sample of accidents however, indicated a figure in excess of 10 per cent and further concluded that 32 per cent of single vehicle accidents were due to tyre failure resulting in loss of control.
I would suggest that in Australia the amount of tyre failure resulting in a loss, or partial loss, of control of the vehicle would probably be higher. The manufacturers of motor vehicles are not without fault. They do not always put high quality tyres on new cars. I refer to paragraph 334 at page 127 of the report which states:
The Committee was advised by both Ford and GMH that they do not test the performance of retreaded tyres in relation to their vehicles, and Chrysler indicated that it would not recommend the use of retreaded tyres on its vehicles. The particular problem of retreaded tyres appears to be the absence of performance requirements, equivalent to say ADR 23.
Those standards are set out in other paragraphs of this report. The report continues:
There is therefore considerable variation in quality between retreaders and from tyre to tyre.
There was a time when retreaders cut into the cases to create what they called a new retread. As far as I know, that practice has now been banned unless there is still the odd shady retreader doing it. Generally speaking, the retreaded tyres are of a reasonably high standard. Many of them are very good indeed, provided that the case is sound. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard several paragraphs from the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety.
The document read as follows- 324. The Committee was informed that brakes which are automatically actuated when there is danger of a collision, sometimes called radar brakes, have been the subject of extensive research for a number of years. The complex control systems appear to be the primary development problem. Although there is evidence of significant development such systems do not presently appear suitable for safety legislation.
Tyres and Wheels 325. The Committee obtained evidence from Dr Hoffman that United States and English studies on the relationship between tyre failure and accidents do not show a consistent pattern. United States data suggested that not more than 2.42 per cent of all accidents were contributed to by tyre disablements. An English study based on a sample of accidents however, indicated a figure in excess of 10 per cent and further concluded that 32 per cent of single vehicle accidents were due to tyre failure resulting in loss of control.*
Radial Ply Tyres 332. Although both vehicle manufacturers and other witnesses referred to advantages of radial ply tyres over cross ply tyres, no information was presented which would enable the safety benefits to be expressed in anything but the most general terms such as ‘ better roadholding ‘, or ‘ more suitable for high speeds’. No quantitative means of identifying the benefits appear to be available, and both tyre manufacturers and vehicle manufacturers evidently rely on subjective assessment by road tests with trained drivers in deciding the suitability of a tyre in relation to the vehicle. 333. The Committee makes no recommendation on the mandatory fitment of radial ply tyres, but considers that the development of more comprehensive design rules for tyres including traction and side force requirements for both wet and dry conditions, will provide for the general use of tyres which have superior characteristics rather than the less satisfactory of the tyres now available.
Retreaded Tyres 334. The Committee was advised by both Ford and GMH that they do not test the performance of retreaded tyres in relation to their vehicles, and Chrysler indicated that it would not recommend the use of retreaded tyres on its vehicles. The particular problem of retreaded tyres appears to be the absence of performance requirements, equivalent to say ADR 23. There is therefore considerable variation in quality between retreaders and from tyre to tyre. A number of witnesses, including AAA and SAA, were concerned for the need of minimum standards, inspection and testing and associated penalties with regard to some practices in the retreading industry with a view to sorting out legitimate manufacturers from ‘backyard” operators. The Committee was informed that an SAA standard was being formulated but as already stated above, SAA standards are not always adhered to and may not be the best way to remedy an unsatisfactory situation. The ACVP informed the Committee that the question of banning certain retreads was under active consideration but was unable to indicate any significant progress on the question. 335. The Committee was informed that retreaded tyres were not generally suitable for higher speeds, and that once retreaded, a tyre is not suitable for a vehicle with a top speed exceeding 1 10 km/h (70 mph), although for original equipment the tyre speed capacity should be equal to the vehicle ‘s maximum speed. 336. The Committee recognises that the use of properly manufactured retreaded tyres is an accepted and economical method of obtaining the maximum utilisation of resources which go into the motor vehicle. Nevertheless, it is significant that the retreaded tyre is evidently inferior to some degree in respect of its reliability at higher speeds than new tyres. The Committee believes that if a retreaded tyre cannot be shown to meet all the requirements for a new tyre it should at least be clearly labelled to indicate its deficiencies in this regard. 337. The Committee does not recommend at this time that the fitting of retreaded tyres be restricted in any way, but believes that the ACVP should pursue the question of retread regulations with considerably more vigour with a view to establishing desirable objectives, lt is recommended that the Bureau of Road Safety should investigate the appropriate labelling of retreaded tyres (including tread depth indicators) and maximum recommended vehicle speed when fitted with retreaded tyres.
Wheels 338. In respect of wheels the Committee was informed of certain problems with the strength and durability of aluminium alloy wheels (sometimes called ‘Mag’ wheels). No indication of the frequency of accidents due to faulty wheels was produced but the evidence shows considerable implications for safety. Since the problem wheels are apparently those sold in the replacement market, rather than those supplied as original equipment, the Sub-committee recommends that the Bureau of Road Safety provide a facility for approved marking of replacement wheels shown to comply with appropriate strength and durability standards.
– I would like to wind up my contribution to the debate by saying that I hope that the Government will take cognisance of what I have said this afternoon and what other people have been saying in various parts of Australia. The areas where we have the most trouble with tyres are probably those parts of the States and Territories where roads are below the standard expected by people who live in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane and where we have unformed roads and roads which require the use of good tyres at all times if one hopes to get from point A to point B safely and without two or three blow-outs.
Tyres are subject to all sorts of pressures. They are subject to penetration by foreign objects; they are subject to wear if careless owners do not keep them inflated in order to carry the vehicle load. I heard someone say that unattended, selfservice stations are one of the biggest problems. One would go in to get a couple of gallons of petrol and would probably keep on doing that over a period of two or three months without bothering to check whether the tyres are under-inflated or over-inflated or to inflate the tyres if necessary.
There are a whole lot of problems involved. When the position is compounded by poor quality, almost criminally poor quality, tyres flooding this country then it is a serious position and the Government can no longer remain aloof to the problem. There is a moral obligation on the Government to initiate the necessary inquiry to ban those types of tyres from this country. If an Australian manufacturer is manufacturing a poor quality product in the tyre field and if it is not safe and will not stand up to road safety tests, the sale of that product should also be banned. The average person driving a car has no idea whether a tyre is out-of-round when he or she buys it; whether it has got the wobbles that I referred to earlier; whether it will stand up to the load under the S or H endurance test; or whether the tyre was even manufactured in Australia, Timbucktoo, Korea or somewhere else. Motorists have got to be protected. After ones home the most valuable possession one has is one’s motor car. I think the people who drive must also be protected from themselves. This is where the responsibility again rests on governments. If we are going to have shonky importers distributing bad and low quality tyres then they too have got to be looked at. I hope that the remarks I have made this afternoon will be taken into consideration and that something will be done about the problem. This will be a long campaign. I and many others will not give up until we have achieved some success.
– I take part in this debate on the motion for the first reading of the Poultry Industry Levy Amendment Bill to deal with two matters, both of which relate directly to energy. The first matter which I consider to be of extreme importance, is the emission controls on motor vehicles. Already, stage 2 of Australian Design Rule 27A is operating and it has been estimated that this is costing Australian motorists between $200m and $ 100m per annum. It is very hard to work out what the figure is because of the various sizes of motor vehicles, the new vehicles coming on to the road and the fact that motorists living in certain areas are making sure that the emission controls on their vehicles do not work as well as they are supposed to.
I am concerned not only about the introduction of stage 2 which already is costing the motorist some 8 per cent loss of efficiency but also about the discussions which took place a few weeks ago on the introduction of stage 3 of the Australian Design Rule. If stage 3 were introduced, another 5 per cent inefficiency loading would be placed on the Australian motorist. This represents purely the fuel running costs. It would mean the escalation of fuel consumption at a time when we are talking about energy and fuel conservation in this country. Fortunately, only two States- New South Wales and South Australia- want to go ahead with stage 3. The other States are quite happy, and wisely so, to defer stage 3. One can appreciate the pollution problem in Sydney and the need for New South Wales to give serious consideration to that pollution problem; but, on the grounds of conservation and fairness to other motorists throughout Australia, I question why the other States should be forced to move into line and go along with the wishes of New South Wales because of Sydney’s pollution problem. I cannot see why all Australian motorists should have to pay the penalty for Sydney’s pollution and I hope that New South Wales and South Australia will fall into line at the next meeting of the States and agree to the request of the other States to defer the introduction of stage 3 of the ADR.
I have mentioned the cost in dollars and cents to the motorist caused by higher fuel consumption, but there are other hidden costs which will come in with stage 3. Stage 3 will result in a leaner burn and many other things in the combustion process. From what I can gather from various discussions, the motorist will be loaded with further costs because stage 3 will have an effect on the efficiency of the motor itself and will result in such things as crystallisation of the engine head and valve distortion and warping. It will have many other effects. So I suggest that, if New South Wales and South Australia are not prepared to go along with the other States and want to press ahead with stage 3, the other States along with the motor industry should agree that the parts required for stage 3 of emission controls be supplied in those two States as optional extras. This would alleviate any added costs to the other States through the purchase of such parts and the costs which result from the inefficiency which will be brought about by stage 3. I hope that serious consideration will be given to this suggestion. I know that it could create problems because New South Wales might say: ‘OK; we will not allow cars over the border unless they are fitted with stage 3 emission controls’. No doubt these problems can be overcome because such things as interstate trade would then come into it.
I think also that the hip pocket nerve of the motorists in New South Wales and South Australia might soon change the mind of the governments in those States and that those governments might then see the wisdom of and the need for conservation and the deferment of stage 3 and agree to look at it again in one or two years time. Another suggestion is that because of the pollution problem in Sydney the New South Wales Government could push ahead more rapidly with the indroduction of the use of liquid pertroleum gas in motor vehicles. This is a pollution-free fuel. It is also extremely efficient. It is cheaper than petrol; but, of course, there is the cost of the component parts required to adapt a motor to run on LPG. I hasten to add that, even though a motor car is adapted to run on LPG, all one has to do is throw a tap and one can go back to running on petrol. It is not a case of running out of LPG and having to walk home or take fittings off to convert back to petrol use. This is another alternative for NSW, and particularly the Sydney area. If their vehicles operated on LPG the little extra pollution that would be caused by cars coming in from the country areas of New South Wales would not add very much to the pollution level of Sydney. It is really the Sydney motor cars that create the pollution problem in the city of Sydney.
I hope that the New South Wales Government will give serious consideration to giving some assistance to motorists to convert to LPG as a pollution control measure. I would like to see the Federal Government give further encouragement to the introduction of LPG from a fuel conservation point of view and encourage motorists to convert their motor vehicles by making the component parts free of sales tax. This would be some incentive to the motorist who wishes to convert to LPG. I understand that it costs about $400 or $500 for the parts to convert a motor car engine. No doubt, as more cars are converted the cost of conversion will become cheaper. Nevertheless, I would like to see further incentives given by the Federal Government to motorists to convert to LPG. I hope that New South Wales and South Australia will give serious consideration to deferring stages 3 and will fall into line with the wishes of the other States. I do not see why the motorists of Australia should be penalised by the pollution problem in only one city in this Commonwealth.
– Is that the gas which BHP is exporting to Japan?
– Liquid petroleum gas is being exported, but there would still be enough available if we were able to overcome the problems of distribution so that more LPG could be used in Australia, particularly in the cities of Melbourne and Sydney. Honourable senators will be aware that the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) has already made a statement on that matter, to encourage more distribution points in Melbourne and Sydney. He introduced a pricing policy late last year to encourage the further use of LPG and I commend the Minister and the Government on their moves in this direction.
– Are we not supposed to be conserving our energy? Yet we are exporting this gas.
– In the past there has been no market in Australia for surplus LPG. This was one of the reasons why it had to be used elsewhere. It is impossible to go on storing it. One could develop this argument in relation to Redcliff and the Cooper Basin, but I shall keep that for another debate.
I turn now to crude oil pricing and the introduction of import parity prices. The other night an honourable senator from South Australia saw fit not only to criticise the Government but also to condemn the Government for introducing the policy of import parity. I commend the Government for introducing such a policy because- and I will repeat some of the figures that I have already given in this chamber- it is estimated that by 1985, at current fuel consumption levels and if we do not find any more crude oil, our reserves of indigenous crude oil will be down to 35 per cent of our requirements.
But of course it is only common logic that every barrel used has to be replaced by either imported or indigenous crude oil. We cannot use more indigenous crude unless we find more. Naturally we will pay a higher price for imported crude. So it is far better for the Government to encourage exploration than just to sit back and import crude oil at a much dearer price, with a consequent adverse effect on our balance of payments.
It has been estimated that if the Government’s import parity policy had not led to the discovery of more crude oil reserves our import bill could have been as high as $4,000m per annum by 1985. But the Government has introduced import parity for six million barrels a field or 20 per cent of the production of a field, whichever is the greater. Of course, the proportion that may be sold at import parity prices will be adjusted up to 50 per cent by 1980. The import price too is adjusted every six months.
The import parity policy made the Australian motorist and the Australian public generally conscious of the need for conservation of a rapidly depleting resource in this country. In the past Australia had cheap petrol. In fact we were one of the cheapest countries in the world. I will give just a few figures. A couple of years ago Australian petrol was about 2 1 .6c a litre. The price in the United States was 1 5c a litre, in Sweden 30c, in Spain 32c, in West Germany 34c, in Austria 35c, in Switzerland 36c, in Denmark 37c, in the Netherlands 38.9c, in France 40c and in Italy 48c. The latest figures I have been able to obtain, which relate to prices as at August 1978, are very similar to those I have given. Australian motorists were lucky in some ways to have had very cheap petrol. But Australia was unlucky in other ways. Firstly, previous crude oil policies did not encourage conservation of a very scarce and depleting resource. Secondly, they did not encourage exploration. It is interesting to note that our petrol consumption stands at something like 8.7 million gallons a day. Because of high consumption Australia’s Bass Strait reserves were depleted to one-third.
The import parity policy also led to the discovery of more Australian crude oil reserves. In fact, it has been estimated that reserves have increased sufficiently to supply demand for a further two years. On previous prices many pools of oil were too small to exploit but with the increase in price they became commercial propositions and can now be regarded as part of our total reserves. The costs of producing oil are very great. One could not expect oil companies to lose millions of dollars in the search for oil. The increased price for crude oil has made more fields commercial. This has had a beneficial effect on our reserves.
Since the introduction of the import parity policy more oil has been found in Bass Strait. The companies have had the incentive to search further and they have found more fields, some of which would not have been commercial at the old price. The increased price for crude oil has encouraged companies to explore and has made more pools commercial. Reserves in the Bass Strait have increased by some 600 million barrels. Instead of an import bill of $4,000m by 1985 we will have a bill of something like $2,000m at current prices. We all know what is happening to overseas prices at present. They are heading frighteningly in the wrong direction.
It is interesting to note that this year has brought a great increase in exploration. In 1 972 there were some 101 completed oil wells in Australia. In 1973 there were 69; in 1974, 54; in 1975, 23; in 1976, 21; and in 1977, 21. For honourable senators opposite, who are critical of the import parity pricing, I repeat that from 1972, when the Whitlam Government came to power, some 101 wells had been completed. In 1975, the year it went out of office, 23 were completed. That lag carried on for a couple of years. In 1 976 and 1977 only 2 1 were completed. There was then a change in policy and 1978 saw 52 wells completed. It is estimated that this year between 83 and 1 40 wells could be drilled.
– And the price has gone up 400 per cent.
- Senator O’Byrne says the price has gone up 400 per cent. I remind him that if we had not found oil in the first place we would be importing all our oil and paying what the overseas countries want us to pay for it. If the Australian Labor Party had continued in Government with its attitude there would have been an end to exploration in this country because the Labor Government drove exploration companies out of the country. We would have been down to 25 per cent or 30 per cent selfsufficiency. We would have been importing the rest, and paying higher prices to overseas countries. So let us get away from this garbage about multinationals that Opposition senators have been talking about. The tragedy is that the previous Government drove exploration interests out of this country. It is a tragedy because exploration does not produce oil overnight. If a driller is lucky enough to find oil overnight there is a lead time of as much as five or six years before such oil can be put on stream. This country could not afford to wait for five or six years, but the Labor Party drove exploration companies out of the country.
It is very interesting to note that on the North West Shelf, on the plateau of the north-west of Western Australia, no drilling was taking place. In fact, a drilling rig built in Western Australia sat in Fremantle idle although not rusting for two years because it could not be operated. Companies were not prepared to explore in the off-shore regions. Today that rig is in operation but today also companies are moving out to the North West Plateau and are breaking into new fields there. They are drilling to 2,000 feet and deeper. This was not technologically possible three years ago.
– You were blaming the Labor Government.
-A lot of drilling has been done on the North West Shelf. I am referring to the North West Plateau. The exploration companies have now come back to Australia. They are prepared to get out on this plateau 200 kilometres off-shore. There are 10 deep drilling off-shore rigs in the world. Three of those rigs will be on the North West Plateau on the Australian Continental Shelf. I give credit to the Government for giving encouragement and incentive to the companies to get out and explore, and credit to the companies for taking that risk. It is estimated that between now and 1 983 some 90 wells will be drilled with a minimum expenditure of $400m. It is estimated that on the plateau alone drilling costs could be as high as $ 1 Om for each well, wet or dry.
In Australia the average rate of success has been in the ratio of one find for every 30 holes drilled. This is not as good as overseas. The area where these companies will be drilling has not been explored in the past and so it is an expensive risk venture. One can only commend the companies for being prepared to do this drilling. It is estimated that Australia will need to find one billion barrels of oil in the next five years. If we are fortunate enough to find oil it will be because the oil companies have been prepared to risk their capital and look for the oil. There will be a long lead time before oil can come on stream and this could cost as much as $3 billion. I am talking big money. If these companies are lucky enough to find crude oil after risking so much capital not only in exploration but also in development where there are great commercial risks, oil which will be a great asset to Australia, I trust that the Opposition will not have the temerity to stand up in the Senate and condemn these companies for showing a profit. The Opposition should not look only at the oil companies’ gross profits but should look also at the lead times before there is any profit.
A company may spend years in exploration and if it finds oil the on-stream lead time and break even point could be many years. There could be a lead time of 10 or 12 years from the beginning of exploration to the break even point. If this is related to the interest factor, the companies deserve to show some profit; but if we were to adopt the Labor Party’s past and present philosophy, companies would not risk their capital endeavouring to find what we hope will be a great asset for Australia.
I refer to comparative costs between Australia and the United States and note that, probably because of the remoteness of the areas in which drilling has taken place in Australia- which adds to the costs and risks- compared with the United States, on-shore in Australia in 1975 the cost of drilling per metre was some $609 whereas in America the cost per metre was $274. In 1975 the off-shore drilling figure per metre in Australia was $1015 whereas in America the figure was $305. Companies have been drilling recently in north west Australia. Because drilling in that area is so expensive, that figure of $1015 will escalate greatly. I mention those figures because profit is a dirty word to the Opposition. I hope that success comes to the exploration companies which the Opposition condemns.
It is necessary for Australia to search for crude oil. To encourage this it was necessary for the Government to introduce a crude oil parity price because we have no certainty of supplies for this country.
We know what has happened in Iran over the last few months and we have heard of the present Iranian Government’s attitude to oil where oil production has virtually stopped. Iran is unable to meet its stated production figure and it will be sometime before it can do so. Consequently there will be a shortage of crude oil. Because of this Japan has been buying on the spot market and has been paying a 50 per cent premium to get crude oil supplies. Even though there will be this gap in supplies of crude oil for a long time, the Iranian Government has said that it will put its oil on the auction market at a reserve price of approximately $20 per barrel. The current overseas price for crude oil is approximately $13.40 per barrel. This is a great rise, especially when one realises that Iran was exporting something like 10 per cent of the world’s supply of crude oil. This must have an effect on the gap that I mentioned and a price effect upon crude oil generally as no doubt there will be a flow-on effect to some of the countries within the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries with possible increases in the price of oil. Because of this there is a great need for Australia to find oil, for security by achieving independence, to ensure supplies and to assist with our balance of payments problems.
The only choice for the Government was to encourage exploration and to increase the value of crude oil so that finds which at present are not commercially viable could become profitable and, through exploration, Australia could increase its reserves of indigenous oil. This option has meant that petrol has become dearer. The idea behind the Government’s incentive to oil companies to find crude oil was to reduce the gap between the depletion of our crude oil supplies, thus forcing us to import oil and to be at the mercy of overseas suppliers, and the time when new discoveries would come on-stream. The Government’s choice was far wiser in that we reap the benefits rather than remain at the mercy of other countries through having to obtain a majority of our supplies from overseas, with the consequent problems with our balance of payments in paying for that imported crude oil.
-In reply to Senator Young’s statement relating to the great generosity of the oil companies in extending their oil exploration in Australia, I remind him that Australia is exporting considerable quantities of gas at a time when everyone is being asked to become aware of the high price of both oil and energy and to conserve them. I refer to the Business and Society Review of 19 November 1976 which listed 68 companies that disclosed information to the American Securities and Exchange Commission about questionable foreign payments they had made. I see listed Exxon, one of the major oil companies, which spent $59m in this way between 1963 and 1975, the period to which Senator Young referred. Gulf Oil spent $6,548,000 in questionable foreign payments. The previous Government was held in an unfavourable light by the oil companies operating around Australia. They purposely sabotaged this country inasmuch- as they held the licences to explore and exploit the oil areas both on-shore and off-shore and through a deliberate policy they took surveys and were able to obtain information which at the present time is standing them in good stead. But the decline in drilling that Senator Young referred to was part of a policy far beyond that which Senator Young was prepared to tell the Senate. One of these days perhaps we will see in its proper perspective the enormous power that the oil companies exercise in international politics, in the world economy, in the making and breaking of governments, in sustaining and bringing down shahs, principalities and the like.
But that is not the reason why I have entered this debate. I wish to refer to a matter that I raised firstly in the Senate on 21 November when I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, whether he could give me some information relating to the Hospital Corporation of America and its plan to establish an $ 18m private hospital in Melbourne through a wholly-owned Australian subsidiary. I was struck by the fact that the company was claiming that its investment in this hospital would return a profit of between 17 per cent and 20 per cent. But the Minister could not give me the information that I sought. He did reply to me on 29 December by letter in which he said:
My consideration of the matter has not yet reached a point where I am in a position to offer a firm view on this matter.
Then on 21 March- yesterday- I again raised this matter and in reply Senator Carrick said:
I have no first-hand knowledge on any of these matters. The best that I can do is to indicate that I will seek out the information from the relevant Minister and provide it . . .
For the information of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, and any other honourable senator who may wish to learn about this matter, I place on record some of the background of the Hospital Corporation of America. The company was incorporated in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1960 as the Parkview Hospital Inc. In 1968 it adopted its present name- the Hospital Corporation of America known as HCA. It was founded by a Mr Jack Massey and two Dr Frists- Dr Thomas Frist senior and Dr Thomas Frist junior. Dr Thomas Frist junior is now the President and chief operating officer. The business brains behind this company which runs a multi-million dollar chain of hospitals for profit throughout the United States and throughout the world was a Mr Massey who built the Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation empire into the world ‘s largest commercial prepared food organisation.
Perhaps it is appropriate that I should in speaking on the first reading debate of the Poultry Industry Levy Amendment Bill tie it in with the fact that Mr Massey is the founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken organisation. As one newspaper heading has said:
What do selling fried chicken and running hospitals have in common? Jack Massey- the entrepeneur who has made each an industry.
Previously I referred to the Business and Society Review of 19 November 1976 and, amongst other observations, it says:
For several years there has been a steady barrage of news about improper, illegal, or questionable payments by major American corporations both at home and abroad. These payoffs have gone to public officials, private buyers, political parties and to at least one reigning prince. Yet information about these payoffs remains scattered and incomplete.
There are many reasons why complete and reliable listings are not available. Although it is the SEC-
That is, the Securities and Exchange Commission of the United States: . . which has largely inspired the disclosures, much of the information is made available to the press far in advance of its reaching the SEC and the press is often inaccurate and inconsistent in reporting and interpreting the companies’ data. In addition, some companies do not include dollar amounts or other specific data on their payments, nor are there any clear guidelines for determing what constitutes a questionable ‘ payment.
The article goes on to say:
Listed below are 135 companies which have disclosed, in sworn statements . . . that they have made questionable payments.
Further on in the journal, there is a list of 53 companies which have made disclosures to the SEC indicating that they either have made foreign payments or are investigating to determine whether they did, but they have released no dollar amounts or other data. Amongst the list is the Hospital Corporation of America.
As I mentioned, the business brains behind this Corporation is Mr Massey. He decided that HCA could dispense health care as profitably as the Kentucky Fried Chicken organisation. In Australia historically, except in the nursing home field, we have been accustomed to publiclyowned hospitals and church or doctor-controlled non-profit making hospitals. The question that I am raising is: Do we want operations to be performed by hospitals run as a business investment? Whatever type of medical and hospital benefit scheme the Government will come up with next, we will still have a large element of taxpayer support. No individual, except the really wealthy, can pay the real costs of today’s health bill. The Government has been trying to persuade the States to rationalise their hospital networks. There have been reports of large scale reductions in staff and hospital fees are expected to rise from 1 July next. It is anticipated that there will be an increase of 25 per cent in charges and that the Commonwealth wants the States with the highest costs, namely New South Wales and Western Australia, to put their charges above the other States. The new rates in New South Wales could be as high as $60 a day for a shared ward and $90 a day for a private ward. Obviously health insurance premiums would go up and would be reflected in the cost of living index- the consumer price index.
I pose this question: Does the Government look with complacency on the entry into Australia and into the hospital scene in this country of a multi-national outfit concerned with high profits? How much harder it will surely be to contain the escalating health bill. Apart from this aspect- that is, the Government’s financial involvement- surely, there is a moral aspect. Do we want overseas owned and controlled firms to run our hospitals? The Hospital Corporation of America has set up a wholly owned subsidiary called Hospital Corporation of Australia. The Australian Financial Review of 15 August last year gave its article on the announcement of the HCA plans for a chain of hospitals in Australia the obvious heading ‘Business moves in as Government quits hospital beds’. An article at page 3 of the Sydney Morning Herald of 9 March 1979 stated:
Two private hospitals in Newcastle and one at Wentworthville will soon become part of a multi-million dollar chain run by an American-based company.
Mr Carl George, a director of Hospital Corporation of Australia, said yesterday that negotiations for the sale of the Woodlands and Lingard hospitals in Newcastle were in the hands of solicitors and the sale should be completed within six weeks.
A further reference appears in the Age of 21 November 1978. The article is headed ‘US cash in big new hospital’. It states:
The Australian subsidiary of the world’s biggest private hospital organisation will operate an $ 1 8m private hospital to be built next year in Doncaster.
The 208-bed St Luke’s hospital and Medical Centre will be one of the biggest private hospitals in Australia.
It is the first Victorian project of the Hospital Corporation of America’s wholly-owned Australian subsidiary, which expects to have 10 hospitals with a total of 1,400 beds by 1981 . . . Fees at the hospital, which should open in July 1980, have been set to return a profit of 17 per cent on the investment rising to 2 1 per cent as it develops.
The only condition imposed on HCA by the Foreign Investment Review Board was that it should eventually allow a 20 per cent Australian equity. This is to be put into operation by providing equity in each separate hospital through subsidiary companies rather than allowing any Australian equity in the Hospital Corporation of Australia. Does this mean that Australian doctors will be encouraged to invest in specific hospitals and thus further boost medical and hospital costs to the taxpayer as they seek to improve returns on their investments? Further, will those hospitals provide the traditional inhospital training and modern standards of medical care that we expect from our leading public hospitals? What study has the Federal-State coordinating committee for private hospital accommodation made of the impact of this company on the Australian hospital scene? Has it had placed before it an article- in fact, the cover story- of the August 1978 edition of Modern Health Care”! The article is headed ‘Hospital Corp. eyes foreign markets; expects to double its size in 5 years’. It states:
HCA’s $45m hospital acquisition and development project in Australia is pan of the company’s plan to develop foreign markets in case the US and state governments apply controls which severely limit the profitability of domestic hospital operations -
That is in the United States. I made it clear in my question yesterday that the head of HCA said that if these controls were applied he would go down the line and invest overseas. This is the story that is unfolding in Australia. In the article to which I have referred the president of HCA, Dr Thomas Frist Jnr is quoted as saying:
Say if the goverment limits our return to less than our current 1 5 per cent to 16 per cent. One of the reasons we ‘re setting ourselves up in contract management area and international market is that if our return is decreased on our company-owned base, we could offset these decreasing profit margins with other areas of support.
As I quoted in my question yesterday, he also said:
If down the road, a moratorium were put on building hospitals in this country -
That is the United States- we could shift the commitment of our money, cash flow and reinvestment from the United States to other areas. If we were not already in an international position, it might take us three to four years to develop that market.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 1 March on motion by Senator Davidson:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– I continue my remarks on the report presented by the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. I will restate briefly some of the matters that I discussed on the last occasion on which the report was debated in the Senate, which was on 1 March. I drew attention, in the first instance, to the all-pervasive nature of television in Australia. I also drew attention to the fact that Australia ranks only second behind the United States of America in terms of the number of television sets per 100 people in the population. I drew particular attention to some of the findings of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts which attempted, very successfully I believe, to bring into perspective the role of television in the process of learning, socialisation and the shaping of attitudes, behaviour and beliefs of children in Australia.
Tonight I want to relate my remarks specifically not only to that report but also to some of the material that has been presented at the current somewhat controversial hearing of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal in Sydney. I take as my starting point a remark about children’s television which was made in the report of the 1953 Royal Commission on Television. The Royal Commission stated:
We think that it is one of the obligations to the public of all commercial stations to provide a suitable children’s program, but we do not consider that this should be laid down as a legal obligation, in the case where there is a national station operating, but should rather be a matter to be considered when the question of the general standard of the service is examined at the time a licence needs renewal.
I will pass on from the strictures of the Royal Commission and the fact that it then did not believe that this should be a matter of legislation. Perhaps it ought to be a matter of legislation today. It is useful to consider some of the remarks made by the Australian Broadcasting Control
Board and the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, as it was known later, in relation to children’s programs. The 28th annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board- that for the year ended 30 June 1976- was critical of television stations, particularly in respect of kindergarten programs. The Board stated in paragraph 6 1 6 of that report:
A decline in the use by stations of kindergarten material, which formerly was one of the prominent features of the commercial service has, in the Board’s view, been regrettable.
The report went on to state that a table on a subsequent page: . . shows clearly this decline from a high point in 1 970-7 1 when each metropolitan station presented an average of 328 hours of this material to 1 37 hours last year.
That phenomenon has continued, and the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal for the period ending 30 June 1977 noted that there had been a further decline in some ways in the amount of children’s television. In fact, it had declined from 7 per cent to 6.2 per cent of the transmission time of metropolitan commercial stations. The report went on to indicate the Tribunal’s ciriticism of some of the commercial stations. It stated in paragraph 1 83:
During 1976 five metropolitan stations did not televise any kindergarten material and, overall, stations averaged less than 30 minutes per day.
It went on to state:
The situation improved in 1 977, with all but one metropolitan station televising at least 30 minutes per weekday of kindergarten programs, but a large number of country stations continued to completely ignore the programming needs of young children.
Given the disadvantage that already exists for children in isolated areas, it is to be very much regretted that the commercial television stations which have at least a penetration into those areas were not prepared to pick up part of their responsibility in this matter. It is equally regrettable that the 46th annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission- that for the period 1 July 1977 to 30 June 1978-contained only a very scant reference to children’s television. Only a couple of paragraphs on page 48 of the report indicated the extent to which children’s television programs have been provided. The report certainly indicated that the new programs called Wayzgoose and Living Daylights had contributed something new to the production of Australian television for children; but it is disturbing to find that some programs now continue into the nineteenth year of performance. After 19 years there may be some ground for saying that the Commission should be looking to a little more experimental and innovative work.
The problem of providing a balance of programs for children is dealt with in a most interesting Media Information publication entitled ‘Media and the Child’. It is a special issue this month to mark the International Year of the Child. It deals exclusively with the media and children. An article by Julie Bailey which is entitled ‘Regulatory Bodies and Children’s Television Committees’ makes this observation:
The history of children’s television committees within regulatory bodies would indicate the influence which they can have is not great.
She concludes her article with the following remarks, which I support completely:
The inescapable conclusion is that unless the Tribunal is prepared to either act on a majority opinion or to delegate to the Committee its power of regulation in this field of programming, we shall yet again be faced with a continuing saga of frustration identical in both its terms and its tone to those expressed by the Australian Teachers Association in 1 944 and witnesses to the Royal Commission on television in 19S3, the Senate Select Committee on The Encouragement of Australian Production for Television (the Vincent Committee)) in 1963, the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts looking at Broadcasting in 1972-74, the Broadcasting Tribunal ‘s Self Regulation Inquiry in 1 977, the Senate Standing Committee looking into the impact of Television on Children in 1978, and a repeat performance of the two previous Children’s Advisory Committees.
Despite the overwhelming weight of evidence presented in all of those inquiries critical of the commercial television stations for their lack of attention to the problem of children’s television, we still have no responsible reaction from those stations. It seems to me to be quite clear, after considering the sort of material that has been put before the Tribunal hearings in Sydney, that this sort of attitude will persist.
When I spoke on 1 March I quoted from a comment by Mr R. Casey, the General Manager of Channel 7 in Melbourne. He told the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts:
Quite frankly, it would be reasonable to say that the industry was surprised at the great accent which emerged throughout Australia through the (ABT) hearings. There was so much discussion about children’s television. We thought there would be quite a lot of discussion about many things but there is no doubt that children’s television developed as the central issue of that inquiry.
In some ways children’s television is developing as the central issue of the inquiry that is currently under way in Sydney, despite the challenges to the power of the Tribunal and, indeed, to the personnel of the Tribunal. An article in the Australian of 16 March discussed the comment made by Ann Wesley Smith, a trained kindergarten teacher with 18 years’ experience in Australian and British television programing. She drew attention to what she called the Australian programs of ‘old tired formula’ quizzes and repeated programs such as Australia’s answer to the Mickey Mouse Club, Yellow House, and a number of other programs which are currently shown repeatedly on television.
I drew attention in my speech on 1 March to the extent to which evidence presented to the Senate Committee indicated that children made many of decisions about what was actually watched on television. I quoted from a United States report entitled ‘Television and Growing Up’ which stated:
Parents usually exert little influence over their children’s viewing. Our data indicate that in an overwhelming majority of families the children control the use of the television set through early evening.
I was therefore not surprised at the cover story of Time magazine of 12 March 1979 which dealt with the relative profits and policies pursued by the three mammoth United States commercial television stations. The report deals with the American Broadcasting Company, the American ABC, which is by far and away the most successful of the commercial broadcasting organisations in the United States. It had a profit of $ 1 85m last year. The magazine stated as follows:
These days that bigger and better brother is ABC. Its great discovery was that kids control the dial, and that the channel turned on by a ten-year old at 8 p.m. will often remain on through the 1 1 o ‘clock news. Hence, ABC hit upon a beginning line up for the kids: Happy Days; Welcome Back Kotter; Eight is Enough, and this season, Mork and Mindy.
Even Australian television executives appear to be waking up to the extent to which control over the dial is exercised by children. In the Sydney Morning Herald of 13 March 1979 an advertisement appeared for the third episode of a mini series called Aspen. The advertisement is headed Final Episode Tonight 8.30 ‘ and continues:
The story that has taken Sydney by storm comes to its thundering climax. Aspen, brought to you by the NSW Building Society.
At the bottom of the page follows this bold type heading:
Warning: Parental guidance is advised.
Here is a commercial television station indicating that something that is being broadcast at a time when children are likely to be watching television is the sort of thing over which parents should exercise some degree of control. People do not even accept that Australian parents exercise much control over their children’s viewing habits. A gallup poll report printed in the Sun newspaper of 8 March read as follows:
At the same time 79 per cent said parents did not exercise sufficient control over the amount of television and the types of program watched by their children.
I go on to discuss the next major area raised in the Senate Committee report that is, the control of programs advocating or portraying gross violence. In a recent issue of Time magazine one could read some more disturbing news about a new film called The Warriors which has been released by Paramount Pictures in the United States. The article states: . . Paramount . . . was chillingly effective, bringing into 670 theatres around the country thousands of youth keen to see The Warriors- and eager for trouble. Since the film opened on February 9 three young men have been killed in Warrior-inspired fights and other brawls have broken out at movie houses in several cities. More than half a dozen theatres have dropped the film entirely; others are hiring some muscle of their own, which Paramount will pay for.
I am interested to read that Mr Prowse, the Chief Commonwealth Film Censor, last week passed this film for distribution in Australia. It may well be that for mature audiences there is nothing wrong with that. I suppose that ultimately some television modified version of the The Warriors will end up on the screens of whichever commercial channel can afford to buy it fastest for the most. This will provide the sort of problem to which we ought to be addressing our minds in this debate.
The whole issue of violence on the television screen has been explored not only by the Senate Committee report but also in some considerable detail in a book entitled Children and Television edited by Ray Brown, which although dealing mainly with American findings at least correlates these to a number of international studies. It again highlights some information about the overall results. Brown, in his chapter ‘Television and Violence’, states:
The overall results indicated that children who were adjudged to be initially somewhat more aggressive became significantly more aggressive as a result of viewing the Batman and Superman cartoons. On the other hand, the children who viewed twelve episodes of -
A program interestingly called-
Misteroger’s Neighbourhood became significantly more cooperative, willing to share toys and to help other children.
This evidence is repeated in a considerable number of controlled experiments. Indeed, attention was drawn to it in the report of the United States Surgeon General. The book continues: . . the Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behaviour (1972) summarised its interpretation of this point as follows:
Thus, there is a convergence of the fairly substantial experimental evidence for short-run causation of aggression among some children by viewing violence on the screen and the much less certain evidence from field studies that extensive violence viewing precedes some long-run manifestations of aggressive behaviour.
The matter has also been studied in some depth by the eminent psychologist Hans Eysenck. In the book by Eysenck and Nias entitled Sex, Violence and the Media a great deal of statistical evidence was given about this matter. It states:
The evidence is fairly unanimous that aggressive acts new to the subject’s repertoire of responses -
We should bear that in mind when talking about children- as well as acts already established, can be evoked by the viewing of violent scenes portrayed on film, TV or in the theatre.
He goes on to make the plea:
Our first recommendation will not come as a surprise to anyone who has read thus far; it is to the effect that makers of film and TV programmes, producers of theatre plays and others concerned with the portrayal of violence should show more social responsibility than they have done so far.
Finally, rather than let it be said that my view on this subject is entirely one-eyed, I turn to the presentation of some contrary evidence which was adduced by Alasdair Clayre in the article printed in the British Broadcasting Corporation magazine the Listener on 28 December 1972. Clayre quoting Greenberg and others, put forward this proposition:
I think it’s quite possible that over a long-run period of exposure to aggression, either in television or any other medium or in real life, one builds up a tolerance for aggression.
I am not altogether sure what he means by tolerance for aggression but if he means accepting aggression as part of the normal routine -
– You will learn it in this place.
-I would not have thought that it is the normal routine even in this place- it is certainly something to be substantially avoided. It is interesting to see a very detailed study by a German psychologist by the name of Himmelweit in a book entitled Television and the Child in which she wrote:
There is undoubtedly unease among the public and among the informed public about the possible effect of a continuous diet of violence. Some of it is real and some of it is fictional. The real cannot be controlled, and I would argue that the violence of the real should be very clearly shown. I would even argue against what control exists at present.
They are the sorts of attitudes which have to be viewed sceptically when dealing with the regulation of children’s television in Australia. The article by Clayre goes on to deal with the responses of young children. It states:
I asked a six year old boy what he liked about Star Trek:
There’s all monsters in it. They destroy things and they’ve got powerful things on them. They break in people’s houses. Some of the monsters take people away and tie them up. I get my soldiers out. I’ve got two tanks which fire bullets, and I knock my soldiers down as monsters.
A six-year old Yorkshire boy:
I like soldiers better than cowboys and Indians in war films, where they bomb Germans up. I like where tanks come. I like it in Ireland, where they bomb ‘em up.
I suppose that these are responses that one might expect in this day and age. They are certainly not responses that one would want to encourage.
Television plays a vital role in the process of socialisation as far as young children are concerned. Norman Morris, in his book Television’s Child, puts the responsibility of the broadcasters in the following terms:
Television network and station officials should not allow on the air commercials to take advantage of children by deliberately confusing reality and fantasy. The dishonest selling strategem of sliding from program material into the commercial without delineation must be ended.
Historically, decision makers in children’s television have been programming officials who have had little understanding of the psychological and emotional needs of their young audiences. If children’s television is to emerge completely from the dark ages, its decision makers will have to be officials who understand and like children and executives who do not simply mouth the opinions of solely conscious rating programmers.
The views expressed by Morris are by no means his alone. I think that the survey printed in the book, Children in front of the small screen, by Grant Noble in which he deals with the reaction of groups of children whom he calls ‘conformist boys’, ‘rebel boys’ and ‘problem boys’, make an interesting comparison. Of the conformist boys he says:
These are boys who rest easy in the present and thus seek out programs which show them likely future social roles, programs which show successful young men and things they might do in the future.
When talking about the rebel boys, he says:
They recognise only one character and he is predictably the lone hero who represents urban man presenting himself on a variety of undefined social stages.
Rejection of parental standards leads to an equal rejection of family serials, but the strain experienced in managing such an identity results not only in a compulsion to view lone heroes, even though each episode is self-contained, but also in fairly frequent loss of identity when attending to a variety of media.
When talking about the problem boys he says:
When you read the questionnaires of problem boys, you immediately begin to feel sorry for them. These are boys who say they watch anything on the television when lonely and to make time pass. These are boys who cannot stand to miss programs and literally in some instances whose only friends and parents are television characters.
These are the sorts of problems to which greater attention has to be directed in this country. There are very useful roles for television to play in this regard.
I go back to another article in the Media Information Publication, Media and the Child. It was written by Grant and Elizabeth Noble and is entitled ‘A Study of Teenagers’ Uses and Gratifications of the Happy Days Show’, Happy Days being one of the more successful American domestic comedy situation programs on Australian television. Their final conclusions are very important. They say:
Finally, and most importantly , we found some fascinating results which demonstrate to us that migrants in Australia use the mass media in order to become socialised into Australian culture . . . even three years from now, we find migrants see that they will then be more like Ralph and Potsie -
Ralph and Potsie being a couple of the characters in Happy Days: . . than second and third generation Australians, even though they think by then they will be accepted by their peer groups. It was after all Park . . . when writing about the role of the mass media in helping waves of American immigrants to settle, who said the mass media offered to the immigrant ‘a window on the larger world outside the narrow courts of the immigrant community in which he has been compelled to live’. Even imported television shows, we believe perform precisely this function in Australia today.
Therefore the ability to use this tool either for great good or for great ill is presented very starkly to us. A commentator writing in an article entitled ‘TV for Kiddies. Truth, Goodness, Beauty- & a Little Bit of Brainwash’, made the following remarks relating to parents:
But it is our only ethical choice. Unless we teach our children wisely, our society is only 20 years from savagery. Perhaps we are the same distance- one generation- from a more civilised world. Television can help propel us in either direction.
I mentioned earlier the portrayal of unrealistic sex roles on television. On that particular section I would commend very strongly the comments made in Senator Davidson’s report.
In fact there are three specific recommendations in Senator Davidson’s report which I support very strongly and to which I wish to draw attention. On page 160 of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts this recommendation is put:
That there be no advertising of any form during the screening of programs designed for pre-school children.
When asked what his reaction to that sort of recommendation was, the General Manager of Channel 7 in Sydney, Mr Ted Thomas, when appearing before the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal said that he would ‘go round the twist’ if he had to eliminate various advertising categories in prime time viewing. Obviously the same applies to the control of television advertising during the period of children’s television. Yet in the gallup poll which I previously cited, 77 per cent of those polled said that commercials should be banned from programs designed for preschool children. I believe that the Tribunal now has a responsibility to act on that recommendation and to take cognisance of the fact that such a recommendation is supported.
Let me quote again from Grant Noble’s book. With regard to the advertising of products during children’s television time, he said:
I can think of few reasons why broadcasting should be regarded as a profit-making activity and not as a public service.
He may have considerable debate on that point. I do not necessarily accept that as a first premise. He goes on:
In modern industrial societies where individuals necessarily lead fragmented and discontinuous lives we need information about our fellow men as much as we need water. In the village that information was free and readily available; in industrial societies we must be prepared to spend our affluence on public service broadcasting so that we can once again understand the nature of the society in which we live. I, for one, am not prepared to cost the price of alienation.
I think that he is quite correct in drawing our attention to that point as far as children’s television is concerned. On page 158 of the Senate Standing Committee report appears this second recommendation:
That there be no transmission of programs between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. on weekdays during school terms and that the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal take the necessary action to implement this recommendation in accordance with its powers under the Act to determine the hours of transmission of all commercial television stations.
As far as public reaction to that is concerned, the same gallup poll indicated that most people want early morning television banned on school days. The figure given for those in favour of that proposal was 62 per cent. One of the witnesses appearing before the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, Patricia Edwards of the Epping Public School, wrote a letter which was included in the submission as follows:
Increasingly we become aware of how tired chilren are. It is common to see them yawning and heavy-eyed as early as 9 a.m.- once considered prime teaching time.
That is a second recommendation of this Senate Committee to which the Broadcasting Tribunal should very closely turn its attention.
The third matter that was indicated by the Senate Committee to which I make some reference occurs on pages 62 and 63 of that report in which the Committee recommends a very substantial increase in the amount of research to be undertaken in this field. Paragraph 6.48 reads in part:
The Committee therefore recommends that the legislation establishing the broadcasting information office should provide for the following:
It goes on to describe the son of work that ought to be taken up by that particular office.
There is present in Australia at the moment a most important, significant and valuable organisation called Media Information Australia. It is under the chairmanship and general direction of Professor Henry Mayer of the University of Sydney, a well known expert on the Australian media. That organisation publishes a number of compelling and interesting studies on the Australian media, its ownership, its control, its resources, the nature of programs and the effect of programs on children. As I have said, its special issue, which was published this month to mark the International Year of the Child, draws together most of the valuable Australian and overseas work done on children and television. I have said, similarly, that the article by Eysenck and Nias is of some relevance on this point. In a substantial comment about research they say:
The history of research in this field has left us entirely disenchanted with the activities of either governments and their nominees, or commercial undertakings and their representatives, in relation to television research. Neither group seems to be concerned with the facts, with truth, or with the possible consequences of coming to a wrong decision. Political and commercial expediency seems to take precedence over scientific requirements; we have amply documented these strictures in previous chapters, and will not do so again here.
They make this other important point, which is important especially in a chamber such as this:
A further recommendation, or perhaps we should call it a plea, is to cease le regard the battle between puritans and libertarians as one between political right and left.
It is vital that this Parliament, this community, develop an attitude towards the regulation of broadcasting and particularly broadcasting as it affects children, without any consideration involving party politics. A report entitled Television and Human Behaviour; the Research Horizon, Future and Present’ by Comstock and Lindsey indicates that the following should be areas of immediate concern for research officers and organisations connected with television: 1. Television and socialization of young persons;
Prosocial behaviour; Role socialization; Political socialization; Antisocial behaviour; Consumer socialization; Cognitive learning; Television and other agents of socialization; Television viewing patterns. it is incumbent upon us to follow up these significant and important recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee in regard to these matters. I believe that television has an enormous ability to educate and to influence. I refer to the Harry Butler type of program, to The Sullivans type of program, to the Bill Peach type of program, which bring to Australian children a better understanding of their own country, of their own social mores, and make important contributions to the development of a homogeneous Australian society. They play a role in establishing what I believe are proper community standards, proper information about this nation and, as I have said earlier, from the work of the Nobles, they play a particularly important role in helping migrant children to understand and to adapt.
I suppose, in conclusion, it is best to state what is one ‘s approach to children in this sense. I am delighted to be able to go back to a political and social philosopher for whom I have the highest regard, John Locke, who, in writing about children, said:
A child ‘s brain is a fire to be ignited not a pot to be filled.
That is the sort of attitude that is necessary that people with the responsibility to develop and broadcast programs for children should bear in mind. Unless the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal is prepared to exercise those statutory powers that it has to bring about an improvement in children’s television; unless it is prepared to look again at the recommendation of the 1953 royal commission that some form of legal compulsion for better and more adequate children’s television should be considered; I believe that the tribunal will have proved itself to be a waste of the time and effort of people who hoped that public participation in the shaping of broadcasting standards and attitudes would bring about a response such that legitimate commercial considerations would be married with the desires of the community and the right that the community has that the public airways should serve legitimate public needs.
The report of the Senate Standing Committee is most important. It deserves the closest attention of the Government and the most sympathetic consideration of those who are in a position to give effect to its substantial and highly praiseworthy recommendations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Reports on Scrutiny of Bills, and Delegation of Parliamentary Authority
Debate resumed from 1 March on motion by Senator Missen:
That the Senate take note of the reports.
-This matter was debated on 1 March, and the debate tonight is a continuation of what occurred then. However, let me repeat the nature of the report and the subject matter of the debate. The Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs produced what I regard as a generally important and good report which advocated, basically, that there was a need in relation to all legislation to ensure that civil liberties were preserved and protected; that there were no undue degrees of delegation of legislative power; and that the interests of the public were adequately protected by the Parliament. 1 believe that we would all find it very hard to disagree with those propositions. In fact, I support them totally.
An important function of the Parliament is to ensure that the Executive, in the exercise of Executive power, does not unduly interfere, or over-use the power to delegate; to ensure that civil liberties are protected. That is one of the major reasons for the existence of the Parliament. In my view the only question that arises for debate is how best it can be done. It is of some signficance to mention briefly that we do exist in a bicameral system. Some people in the community think that a bicameral system should not exist, that we should not have a Senate. Others believe that we should not have an effective Senate. I believe that we should have both a Senate and one that is effective; that one of the most important parts of an effective Senate, of an effective bicameral system, is the separateness of the Houses. Unless the Houses are separate, unless we can so far as possible ensure that the House of review, the second chamber, the chamber of second thoughts or whatever you like to call it, is as divorced as possible from the House of government and from the Executive the bicameral system will not be fully effective.
– Senate chauvinist.
– I regard that as an honourable comment, an accolade which, in fact, I will quite happily accept. Yes, I may well be called a Senate chauvinist. I believe that Australia has good reason to be grateful to those who have fought in the past, and in particular during the period of the constitutional debates of the 1890s, to ensure that the Senate would be able to exist as a separate and distinct House. Some 35 per cent of the total debates during the constitutional conventions of the 1890s was devoted to the question of what ought to be the Senate’s role and its powers. The net result has been that the Constitution has been designed on such a basis that we have the most powerful, the most independent, elected upper House, probably, in the world. That is something of which we should be proud and, to that extent, I accept happily the term Senate chauvinist. I am proud of the fact that we have been able to develop this system in Australia. Although it may at times have not worked as effectively as some of us would have liked, by and large it has worked effectively. Certainly, the opportunity is there for it to work even more effectively.
Perhaps the departure of Senator O ‘Byrne would allow it to reach almost perfection because he would not be sitting here muttering away and disturbing my train of thought while I am talking about matters of not inconsiderable importance.
– You were interested in the preservation of it on 1 1 Novvember 1975. It was its finest hour! It destroyed an elected government.
– If Senator O’Byrne would not mind, I would like to get on with talking about civil liberties, the scrutiny of Bills and the role of the Senate in relation to those matters. I make the point that within a bicameral system separateness is of the utmost importance. It is the justification for the continued existence of the bicameral system. When the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee was preparing its report it had some regard for what sort of committee should be designed for the scrutiny of legislation and said on page 15 of its report that it could be one of the eight legislative and general purpose standing committees of the Senate depending on subject matter, and existing standing committee- either the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee or the Regulations and Ordinances Committee- or a new committee specially established for the purposes- either a Senate committee or a joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament’.
Having reviewed some of the problems and questions, it came to the conclusion, which is the reason for my entering this debate, that it was most desirable that this function be carried out by a joint committee of both Houses. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee of the Senate has, I believe, functioned extremely well for some 46 years. That fact is referred to and acknowledged in the report of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee. I doubt whether there would be many who would not arguecertainly I believe that Senator Cavanagh would agree- that the Regulations and Ordinances Committee has fulfilled an important function.
– I mostly agree with you; it is only that you disagree with me.
– But only when the honourable senator uses examples which are not appropriate. That is what happened the last time we debated this matter. Getting back to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, most people would agree that it has done an extremely important job and done it well. In relation to delegated legislation it has looked after the very matters which the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee was concerned should be better scrutinised in legislation coming before these Houses of Parliament. One of the reasons- it seemed to me to be a major reason- that were given by that Committee for suggesting a joint committee was that there are two problems. One is that the committees of the Senate are already fully loaded with work.
– I am glad that you made that qualification.
– And, secondly, that the -
– You have lost your thread.
– I was about to quote when Senator Grimes interjected and said something about a thread. I was trying to find the place in the report from which I wish to quote. I thank Senator Grimes for his intention to help me and I would be happy if he joined in the debate. I am sure that he was only trying to be helpful. It seemed that there were two bases upon which the Committee suggested that there should be not a Senate committee but a joint committee to scrutinise legislation. One was that most legislation is introduced into the House of Representatives and not until a relatively late stage does it come before the Senate, having already been processed through the House of Representatives. The Committee said that it is desirable that questions in relation to amendments to protect civil liberties be considered by both Houses and that there be the opportunity to consider them at an early stage; therefore, we need a joint committee.
It so happens that the Senate in Canada- a not particularly powerful Senate and, unfortunately, a non-elected Senate- has taken to itself the role of scrutiny of legislation which is proposed in its lower House, the House of Commons. It has no problems there. As soon as legislation is introduced into the House of Commons it is referred to the Senate’s scrutiny committees. I believe that that situation could exist in our Senate. I see no reason why that should be an argument for us to have a joint committee. The second matter referred to by the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee was the one which Senator Grimes found of some interest- the load on the committees as they exist at the moment. In paragraph 4.7 of its report the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee said:
The common factor in our rejection of existing Senate committees as the appropriate scrutinising vehicle is that the new function would unduly derogate from existing functions or even overload those committees to such an extent that their existing work would be imperilled. For this reason we believe that a new committee should be established specially for the purpose.
I have no problem in agreeing that a new committee should be established especially for the purpose, but I can see no reason why it should be a joint committee or why we should not enlarge the Regulations and Ordinances Committee to make it a regulations, ordinances and legislative scrutiny committee with perhaps two divisionsthe delegated legislation division and the division dealing with Bills. I believe that that Committee has over its 46 years of existence built up a very considerable degree of expertise and experience in looking after questions related to civil liberties. I believe that it has the capacity to expand that role further and I see no reason why it should not be given the opportunity to do so. If the experience of time proves that for some reason a committee such as the one I suggest- an expanded Regulations and Ordinances Committee- cannot adequately carry out the function, perhaps at that stage we can give further consideration to the suggestion of a joint committee.
For all the reasons set out in the report of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System- Parliamentary Paper No. 128 of 1 976- and the interim report of that Committee- Parliamentary Paper No. 275 of 1975- there was a general view that joint committees are undesirable and unlikely to function satisfactorily. I do not think I need to spend a lot of time indicating why the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System came to that view. I think that its reasons are generally well known. They include the differences in the working times and operational times of the two Houses, the differences in geographical location, the differences of interest, the differences of function of the two Houses and the fact that experience has shown that perhaps the best joint committees and the only joint committees which we should have are those which are related to the domestic affairs and the organisation and operation of Parliament House itself and not related to the individual and separate responsibilities of the Houses of Parliament in their roles as the House of government and the House of review.
I commend the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee on its report on the need for there to be some scrutiny of Bills to ensure that civil liberties are adequately preserved. I commend most of the suggestions made by that
Committee and submit that the Senate would not be looking to the best interests and the continued operation of the bicameral system by advocating that this function be carried out by a joint committee on which the Senate would be swamped not only by the numbers of people from the House of Representatives but also by the Executive influence. Far from that, I would much prefer to see a situation where the Senate is as removed as it can be from direct contact with and the influence of the Executive so that the Senate can properly fulfil its House of review function. To enable it to do that I would like to see its committee system continue to develop as it has over the past eight or nine years- develop very substantially. I think this role could well be carried out by a Senate committee, and let whatever the House of Representatives may choose to do about the question be a matter for that separate and Executive dominated House.
-in reply- I wish to speak in reply in this debate. I find myself in agreement with all speakers on some major matters that are in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. I think it is very easy in reply perhaps to forget that what is accepted, as Senator Rae said in the end, is that there seems to be a fairly common agreement that there is a need for a committee such as has been recommended to undertake scrutiny. I will leave aside for the moment the question of whether it should be a joint committee or a committee of this House or, I suppose, the House of Representatives. The report not only sets out the need for scrutiny, which we believe exists but also points out also that at the moment things are not done and many Bills pass through both Houses of Parliament without effective scrutiny and with clauses that need to be amended.
In the rough and tumble of debate we tend to overlook the very important issues of civil liberties which are not central to the matter at issue between the major parties in the two Houses. Consequently, anyone who tries to concentrate on a debate on those aspects is swept aside in the general flurry of party debate. I must say that we have some agreement on the need for a committee and, I take it mainly from the silence, that we have some general agreement on the criteria which have been set down for such a committee. In its general operation it should have the services of counsel and appropriate facilities. It should be able to move in a speedy way so that it does not hold up legislation or the Government’s program, but at the same time achieves effective scrutiny.
In the debate a difference has developed between Senator Cavanagh and Senator Rae on the one side and Senator Evans and myself on the other. Senator Evans and I expressed the view that all members of the Senate Committee -it was unanimous in its recommendations -have put before the Parliament.
– Do you not bow to greater wisdom when you hear it?
– I am bowing and scraping all the time. I am searching everywhere for wisdom. I praised Senator Cavanagh yesterday. I am sorry I cannot do it two days in a row. I cannot support the view which has been expressed about the important separateness of the two Houses, the apartheid concept, of Parliament. I agree that the two Houses have separate functions, but in this parliamentary democracy they also have similar functions. Whereas Senator Rae happily accepts the name of ‘Senate chauvinist’ I for one will not do that. I do not believe the Senate is all powerful and has all wisdom. I believe that we are all elected as members of parliament. We are given some separate jobs. We have separate concentrations. But it does not mean that there are not areas where there is a very common interest. One area that is of particular common interest is the passage of legislation through the Parliament. It is just as much the responsibility of the House of Representatives to try to make the Bill as good a Bill as it can be before it leaves its doors as it is for us. It is not much satisfaction to me to find that nothing has been done, that there has been no Committee stage, in the House of Representatives and that it has not perhaps looked at a Bill in detail. We then have to set about creating some difference between the two Houses because we have to alter the Bill here and send it back. Of course there will always be those differences but they should not be sought or wanted. If in fact we can get a Bill in good shape while it is in the House of Representatives- most of the Bills start in the House of Representatives- then I think we have done something for the legislative process and improved it.
I would like to mention a couple of things that were mentioned in the course of the debate today. When Senator Cavanagh spoke on a previous occasion he said he was concerned primarily with the fact that a joint committee was suggested. He said:
I do not think such a committee would be suitable. The Senate, as a House of review, has the responsibility to pick out the defects in legislation.
This was his statement in the debate here on 1 March. I do not regard that as just the responsibility of the Senate. It is our responsibility to pick out and pick up defects and try to improve legislation where it is necessary. What I have in mind is that it ought to be done at an early stage in debate. That is, of course, the purpose of the joint committee and the working on the Bills when they enter the House of Representatives, before they are debated there before they are brought here and before we anticipate a debate here. Senator Cavanagh went on to say:
Therefore, if we had a committee which was advised by outside legal counsel who would point out the defects, we would be in a position to reject the legislation.
That is true but of course it is also true that one would expect that counsel employed in this way would have the primary purpose of trying to suggest improvements and trying to avoid the possibility of rejecting legislation where this is not necessary. He went on to say:
I do not know why it has been recommended that a joint committee be established.
With respect to Senator Cavanagh, if he read the two reports carefully, surely the reason must come forward. I know Senator Rae has said that there were only two problems that we were bringing forward as reasons for the joint committee. The first is that existing Senate committees would be fully loaded with work. That is a practical problem that was indeed one of the reasons that impressed itself upon the Committee. The second one was that most legislation originates in the House of Representatives and the Senate deals with it at a later stage. These points are far from being the only matters which were raised in these two Committee reports.
We have in mind, of course, that there will be a very quick consideration; that in fact there will be a committee that works quickly. Senator Cavanagh said that a joint committee would be bogged down because of size. Tonight Senator Rae said something similar. He said that a joint committee would be swamped by numbers and the influence of the House of Representatives. Both were overlooking the fact that in these reports we make the strong recommendation that it should be a small committee. It should not be a committee of size. We have suggested four members from each of the Houses. It could be that the House of Representatives would want more people but I do not know that that is necessary. In fact the view of the Committee was quite strong. It wanted a smallish committee and suggested that eight would be a suitable number. Those eight people would develop an expertise as members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee have in this Senate over the years. Service on committees would equip them to look for things in the legislation and they would be able to call upon the assistance and suggestions of their fellow members in both Houses at a time when these problems of civil liberties are being looked at.
We know that one of the problems of reports that come down in one House is that they are very often not looked at. They are not seen and they are not always distributed in the other House. If they are, in fact, presented to both Houses, if the committees making the reports consist of members from both Houses, then we may be sure that there is much more chance of their being looked at by both Houses, at an early stage without members having to wait. As honourable senators know, we wait until a Bill comes into this House and then we start to look at it and think about it. How often do honourable senators really give a great deal of consideration to Bills? Since Senator Wright retired from our ranks, there are few-Senator Cavanagh is perhaps one- who have the time and who do in fact get down to looking at the defects of a Bill when it is in the other House. It may well be amended and changed considerably in that House. People do not prepare amendments and consider these things. But if it is the job of that joint committee, and a new committee at that, then I believe it will achieve quite considerable results in improving legislation.
I have said and I repeat that there are reasons well set out in these reports why the existing committees of the Senate are not suitably placed to do this job. All the standing committees of the Senate taking on the appropriate Bills would have two effects. One is that there would be no real experience gained over the whole area. In fact some committees would only very occasionally have a Bill that comes to its attention. Others, for example the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee, would have a considerable number of Bills- perhaps in the Treasury areabut on the whole there would not be any even distribution of work between the Senate committees.
Suppose you chose to do it as was suggested by Senator Rae with the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, a committee which already is acting at high speed and which has had a great deal of work in a period when subordinate legislation has become very intense, where it is meeting sometimes more than once a week for the purpose of trying to deal with one area alone. If we were to give that Committee two roles, two jobs, and presumably two counsel to advise itbecause you could not expect the existing counsel to be able to handle both- I would suggest that that would be a quite inadequate way of overloading a committee which has a good reputation and may result in the committee failing to do its job effectively. The very nature of the job and the necessity for a committee like this to have contact with Ministers, most of whom are in the House of Representatives, and for members of the Ministry to send their representatives before the Committee to discuss the details at an early stage, are matters which naturally call for a joint committee. I do not believe that we should think in this place that we can always solve the problems of legislation. We cannot anticipate all that might happen. We cannot try to impose upon the House of Representatives, through a committee of the Senate, our suggestions for variations of their Bills. I think we will soon find that psychologically -
– Do you want a wishy-washy compromise? Would you rather have a joint committee? That is what it would be.
-I do not think there will be any wishy-washy compromise because of the differences. You might expect a wishy-washy compromise from the Regulations and Ordinances Committee because it has four Government members and three members from the Labor Party. You might expect that, but it does not work that way. It does not work on party lines, nor do I believe -
– We have robust compromises.
– We have robust compromises, that is true, and all kinds of minorities on occasions which have nothing to do with party political matters. At the same time you would find that a committee like this would not divide on House of Representatives and Senate lines. That has not been the experience of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. I do not believe it would be the experience of a small and expert joint committee such as is proposed.
What we are doing tonight, of course, is debating a motion to take note of the papers. We are not making any final decision on the matter. I trust that we will hear from the Government at a very early stage. I hope that the Government will not take the whole six months in which we have been promised a response on the reports generally. This surely is one matter which is of concern to the Parliament and one which should be considered at an early stage, bearing in mind that the point of dispute, even in this chamber, is on a narrow plain. It is in connection with the committee as a joint committee or a separate one, but does not concern other areas which have been raised in this report. I hope that this matter will soon come to the attention of the Government and receive a positive answer by the Government and by both Houses of Parliament so that we can do something to improve the legislation of this country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders
Debate resumed from 23 November 1978, on motion by Senator Missen:
That the Senate take note of the report.
-Although this report was certainly prompted by the continuing, unhappy course of events of Aurukun and Mornington Island- events on which my colleagues Senators Cavanagh and Keeffe will speak later in this debate with all the knowledge and feeling that they command on that subject- it ought to be appreciated that the report is much more wide-ranging in its scope and implications than just that. It has implications for the whole course of Commonwealth Government policy generally, throughout the nation and it certainly has implications for Commonwealth Government policy in the whole of Queensland- not just those two communities.
Before I conclude my remarks, which I do not want to prolong unduly because I commenced them on 23 November when the report was tabled, let me remind the Senate of just what the report contains and indicate what kind of responses to it we hope will be forthcoming from the Government. The first thing the report does is make a quite detailed analysis of section 5 1 (xxvi) of the Constitution, the Commonwealth’s power to make laws with respect to people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws, a provision which assumed that form as a result of the 1 967 Aboriginal powers referendum. The Committee concludes on this particular subject matter that the doubts which have been thrown up from time to time about the scope and effect of that Constitutional power are, by and large, without any real substance at all. Certainly there should be no thought of any legal inhibition on the Government taking any steps that it considers appropriate to secure genuine self-management for Aborigines and Torres
Strait Islanders in the Australian States and in particular, of course, Queensland. The second thing that the report does is to make a detailed analysis of the scope and operation of section 5 1 (xxxi) of the Constitution, the guarantee of just terms for compulsory acquisitions of property. Just what kind of obligation this represents is the subject of quite exhaustive commentary in our report. It has been a subject of much confusion, not only among laymen but, it must be conceded, among lawyers, and in our report we tried to unravel that confusion and indicate again that 51 (xxxi) need not amount to any great barrier to effective Commonwealth action in this area.
The third thing that the report does is to endeavour to make a thorough analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the particular legislation that was referred to us, namely, the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-Management) Act 1978. It should be apparent from a most cursory reading of our report that we believe the weaknesses in that Act far outstrip its strengths. These weaknesses were revealed most obviously in the way in which the Act was quite denuded of any effective operation with respect to Aurukun and Mornington Island by the Queensland Government taking the simple step of degazetting the status of those communities as reserves under the Queensland legislation. That is not to say that the Act is incapable of amendment to make it a useful - at least supplementary- tool in the Commonwealth armoury. We recommend the kind of amendments which we believe are appropriate. We would certainly be interested to know what the Government response is in respect to those initiatives and we hope that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) can bring himself to make a response to that before the conclusion of this debate.
The final thing that the report does is to make a number of recommendations as to the course of legislative action which we believe the Commonwealth could, and indeed should, now take to ensure that self-management becomes a reality for those communities in Queensland who want it. There should be no doubt that there are many Aboriginal and Island communities in Queensland who do want this, who do not believe that they are going to get it under the Queensland Government, whether it is under the Local Government Act or anything else. The Aurukun and Mornington Island communities have made their position absolutely clear over the last couple of years, as have the communities of Yarrabah, from whom many of us have recently received a petition from the governing council of that community, from Weipa, from Mosman George and from Kowanyama. We should hear their voices. The Government should hear their voices because it is all too clear that nobody in Queensland is listening. The approach which the Committee has suggested in this respect is summarised in the concluding paragraph 77 of our report. I will quote it in full because it articulates precisely what we believe should happen. The report reads as follows:
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Parliament legislate to ensure that Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland are free to manage and control their own affairs. The Committee does not consider that a single, general statute such as the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-Management) Act 1978, provides the best means of achieving this objective. Instead, the Committee recommends that Parliament enact specific statutes designed to deal with the conditions prevailing in different communities of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. The nature and form of any acquisition of property required to re-inforce the self-management scheme, and the type and extent of compensation payable in respect of such acquisition, should then be determined on a case-by-case basis according to the needs of different communities.
All the elements which are available in that kind of case-by-case approach are set out in the report. We suggest that there is no excuse for the kind of tentative, tiptoeing, deferential attitude which the Government has so far adopted toward what can only be described as the racist bigotry of the present Queensland Government. The Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders people of Queensland are crying out for dignity and respect. It is a dignity and respect which only the Commonwealth Parliament is going to be able to give them. It is only the Commonwealth Parliament upon which they can rely to give them that dignity and respect. I hope that the Minister has been listening.
– I wish to say a few words about this report now before the Senate. Following criticism of the Chairman of the Committee and myself after the previous report, I was very crestfallen and at the point of tendering my resignation. However, I hope I can rehabilitate myself by commending him on this very thorough report with which I agree entirely. The motion before the Chair is:
That the Senate take note of the report.
To that motion, I move the amendment which has been circulated and which is in these terms:
At the end of motion, add ‘and, in conformity with the Committee’s findings, this Senate requests the Government to take the action necessary to acquire the land known, at 1 March 1978, as the Aboriginal Settlements of Aurukun and Mornington Island and place it in perpetuity in Land Trusts appointed by the Aboriginal tribal elders of the settlements’.
When I last spoke on this question, I expressed considerable doubt whether the High Court would uphold the point that the Commonwealth had power to acquire land for the settlement of people of a particular race. I quoted relevant authorities on that point. Although the report is of the opinion that with just terms it can be done, I am not completely convinced.
Looking at the composition of the Committee, I see that we had the benefit of some of the best legal people in Parliament. Who am I to say that they are wrong in their conclusion. The legal evidence points to the fact that the Commonwealth has power, given to it in the 1967 referendum, to make laws for Aboriginals and to acquire property for the purpose of the enactment of those laws. A decision of the High Court has never been sought on the question and, therefore, no legal opinion can be beyond dispute because the final arbitor on what words actually mean must be the High Court. The report refers to the many questions that have to be decided and indicates what in the Committee’s belief would be the High Court’s attitude if a challenge came to legislation.
The Committee points to a number of questions which have to be decided. One is: What are the people of any race? With this question some significance is attached to the word ‘the’ meaning that it has an effect on Aboriginal people. The Committee next refers to the question of race and asks: Who are the people of a particular race? It asks whether they are part Aboriginal, quarter-cast Aboriginal and whether a person who has only one-eighth Aboriginal blood can be classed as being of a particular race. The Committee is not able to answer these questions and the answers will have to be determined by a court interpretation. In reaching its conclusions, the Committee used what legal opinion and case law were available to it but there has been no previous judgment on section 5 1 (xxvi) of the Constitution. The Committee questions whether the Constitution gives the Parliament power to make special laws but implies that in the absence of a power given to anyone else it must be accepted that Parliament has the power.
The Committee refers to Parliament’s powers under the definition of special laws and questions whether Parliament is restricted from making particular laws for one race of people which may be contrary to the rights given in law to another race of people. It points out possible restrictions on the special laws that Parliament makes. However, the conclusion of the Committee is that Parliament has the power to make special laws, whatever that may mean, for the people of the Aboriginal race and those laws need not be ones that we would normally make for the balance of the Australian community. Further, the Committee stated that under section 51 (xxxi), the Commonwealth has power to acquire property for the purpose of the laws that it makes. I believe that the Committee comes out strongly on the point that the acquiring of property would never be considered valid unless it was acquired justly. Parliament cannot make laws giving people power over property which is Crown property of one of the States. If it is our intention to empower people to control particular areas, we must acquire the land for that purpose by the use of just laws and with proper compensation.
My interpretation of the findings is that it is Parliament which decides what are the just terms for the acquiring of property. If the High Court’s decision disagrees with Parliament’s definition of ‘just terms’, the legislation is invalid. I believe that the Committee makes a suggestion in its report that the Commonwealth could acquire property, with the just terms to be decided by a court of review, and that legislation to that effect would be sufficient to accomplish that purpose.
The pertinent question about the legislation this Committee was asked to inquire into was whether it achieved the purpose of the Commonwealth Government or whether it should be amended. In the words of the Committee, that legislation which the Parliament passed was totally ineffective because of the Queensland Government’s power to remove from settlements the status of reserves. This is something which I said on the day we discussed and passed the Bill to give self-government to Aboriginals on the reserves at Aurukun and Mornington Island, but before that Bill could be proclaimed the reserves were declared not to be reserves. That legislation applied only to Aboriginal reserves under the Queensland Act.
In the previous debate I said that the Government should accept the Labor Party’s amendment to that legislation to define reserves as at 3 1 March 1978 so that we could determine the reserves before the Queensland Government could step in. The then Minister replied that this was courting a challenge in the courts and possibly we would be acting illegally because we were exercising rights over property which did not belong to us. The Committee says that such an amendment could be valid and would make the legislation somewhat effective if we acquired the land on just terms. From my recollection, there is no need to make a total purchase. It could merely be a matter of acquiring timber rights, mineral rights or something of that nature, or it could be an acquisition without mineral rights, but we must acquire the property and pay just terms for the amount of control that we acquire. In the opinion of the Committee such an amendment to the legislation would be legal. The Committee pointed out the legality of provisions in other Acts such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act of 1 975 and the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act which give some sort of power to Aboriginals without controlling or occupying the land.
I am very concerned about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act which was a law that I as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs introduced to stop discrimination against Aboriginals on settlements. Under that legislation it was an offence to pay an Aboriginal working on a settlement less than he would have received working off the settlement in the same occupation. At Yarragah it was found that despite this legislation men working on roads went on strike to get more than the settlement wage, that is, to get a decent wage for the work they were doing. I have described before the efforts I have made in taking action under federal jurisdiction for the recovery of wages to which obviously these workers were entitled under the law of this Parliament. I read a report in the National Times which said that such action had been taken and that the court had dismissed the charge because the Commonwealth had no power to impose laws upon settlements under State Government control.
Therefore I query whether the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act is a valid enactment, despite what the Committee says, or is of any benefit to Aboriginals in Queensland. Senator Evans has read out the final conclusions of the Committee. I draw the attention of the Senate to paragraph 75 which states:
In cases where the effective management and control of their own affairs by Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders requires the continued occupation of specific lands by those people, the Committee considers that some acquisition of property must form part of the legislative scheme.
That is the purpose of the amendment I have moved tonight because all our legislation giving Aboriginals self-government is ineffective in the opinion of the legal members of the committee- as I said, legal members of high repute- unless the acquisition of property forms some part of the legislative scheme. Therefore I repeat what Senator Evans read out, the final conclusion of the Committee. Paragraph 77 states:
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Parliament legislate to ensure that Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland are free to manage and control their own affairs. The Committee does not consider that a single, general statute such as the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-management) Act 1978, provides the best means of achieving this objective. Instead, the Committee recommends that Parliament enact specific statutes designed to deal with the conditions prevailing in different communities of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. The nature and form of any acquisition of property required to re-inforce the self-management scheme, and the type and extent of compensation payable in respect of such acquisition, should then be determined on a case-by-case basis according to the needs of different communities.
There is a motion that the Senate take note of the report. The Committee should be congratulated on the work and the study it has put into this report and on the recommendations it has made. In Queensland, whilst the conditions for Aboriginals are bad and in fact worse than they are in any State in the Commonwealth, the agitation has been in respect of Aurukun and Mornington Island because the Aboriginal people were struck a cruel blow when the Queensland Government stepped in and took control away from the church officers who had been looking after the two communities. That Government took the control away from the tribal elders in those areas which seemed to be prospering fairly well and placed it under the Queensland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Act with complete control going to the bureaucrats in Brisbane under the conditions which permeate throughout Queensland. There have been campaigns to try to get the Federal Government to do something about it.
Again the question of self-determination arises. This is what the Committee was looking at and has reported upon. On the basis of that agitation and the recommendation of the Committee on different proposals for the different settlements, I appeal to the Minister to accept that this motion will not provide for the acquisition of property but will add to the strength of the Committee’s recommendation that in the opinion of this Senate the Government acquire on just terms these properties for the Aboriginal people. I think that, like Senator Bonner’s resolution, it would be a recognition that the indigenous people of Australia had settled this country before the white man arrived. The resolution was an expression of opinion, and as such represented the opinion of the Senate that it would do the best it could for the Aboriginal people.
I am particularly concerned that, while we dilly-dally and do nothing, we do not know what will happen to Aborigines in Queensland. I am indebted to the Australian Council of Churches for sending this circular dated 27 February to all members of Parliament. It condemns the Queensland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Act, tells of the conditions at Aurukun and Mornington Island and points out the statistics on the infant mortality rate. The circular states:
One wonders how this statement on Health is related to the following figures for 1975-76 from the Queensland State Government itself.
The Aboriginal infant mortality rates are expressed in terms of deaths per 1,000 live births. On Palm Island, which is a government settlement, the infant mortality rate is 36.2 deaths for every 1,000 births. At Edward River, another government settlement, it is 34.2 deaths per 1,000 births. At the Aurukun settlement, which until quite recently was run by the Uniting Church in Australia, the infant mortality rate had dropped by half, to 15.6 deaths per 1,000 births. At the Mornington Island settlement, until recently also run by the Uniting Church, the mortality rate is 10.2 deaths per 1,000 births. At the Bloomfield River settlement, which is run by the Lutheran Church, there are 10.2 deaths per 1,000 births. At the settlements run by the church organisations the infant mortality rate is about 10 deaths per 1,000 births; but there are 34 to 36 deaths per 1,000 births at government settlements.
Mr Porter has been stating throughout Queensland that that State has the best laws for Aboriginals of any State in Australia. The Australian average infant mortality rate is 6.9 deaths per 1,000 births. Even in the best Aboriginal communities- the church communities- the infant mortality rate is nearly twice as high as that for the white population. In the Queensland Government run Aboriginal settlements, the infant mortality rate jumps up to nearly six times the rate for the white population. It is not just a question involving the satisfaction of the Aboriginal people. In the other place tonight, great arguments are being presented in a debate about destroying the foetus. In Queensland a government instrumentality does not care about killing babies who are born. We are seeing the destruction of infant life in Queensland. This Government must acknowledge that it is not doing enough- if indeed, it is doing anything- about the problem. It is time that it took some action in
Queensland. I hope that at least as an expression of the opinion of the Senate the amendment I propose will be carried.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment. I want to quote the reference which was given to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs to help to examine the problem to which my colleagues Senator Cavanagh and Senator Evans have referred. It is set out in the first paragraph of the Committee report. The report states:
The provisions of legislation empowering Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders who live on reserves in Queensland to manage and control their own affairs, and, in particular-
whether, in the opinion of the Committee, the sections of the legislation are constitutional, comprehensive, consistent and effective, or whether any amendments should be made to the legislation ‘.
That first paragraph sets out the substance of the Senate resolution which was considered by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. I do not want to deal with the findings of the Committee, which have been dealt with adequately by my colleague Senator Evans and by Senator Cavanagh who preceded me in the debate. The amendment seeks to add the following words:
In conformity with the Committee’s findings this Senate requests the Government to take the action necessary to acquire the land known at 1 March 1978 as the Aboriginal Settlements of Aurukun and Mornington Island and place it in perpetuity in Land Trusts appointed by the Aboriginal tribal elders of the settlements.
I believe that the wording of the amendment explicitly sets out the views of the people who live in both communities. Quite recently I visited all of the Cape York Aboriginal communities. In particular, I spent extra time at both Aurukun and Mornington Island. On 3 April 1978, when the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, addressed the National Aboriginal Conference, he said:
The denial of fundamental human rights to any group in a society diminishes that society. We must all be resolved that such discrimination and bigotry will never happen again . . .
The cultural identity and lifestyle of Aboriginal communities is inextricably bound up with their land . . .
The Commonwealth has a Constitutional obligation to Aboriginals. These communities (Aurukun and Mornington Island) have turned to us. We will not fail them.
That is the very essence of the amendment that we are moving tonight. We are moving in accordance with the wishes of the Prime Minister, as expressed in his speech at the National Aboriginal Conference on 3 April 1 978.
I wish to refer to a statement made by Mr Larry Lanley, Chairman and a member of the Council for Aboriginal Development, of Mornington Island on Australia Day 1979. He said:
The Aurukun and Mornington Island communities are continuing to struggle for land rights and self-management. Can you keep on fighting with us, for the people are still arguing and not settling? All they want is free title to land. They do not believe they can get self-management without it. In November 1978, all the Aboriginal community at Aurukun signed a petition calling on the Commonwealth Government to grant land rights and self-management by acquiring their tribal lands.
That is an appeal from the heart of the official spokesman of the people at Mornington Island. The appeal is from the people at Aurukun and is no less and no more than what they require, their land rights.
Let us look at some of the background aspects to this struggle. Aboriginal land has economic, social, religious and sacred importance to Aborigines. Aborigines have lost the best land, but the small areas of Aboriginal reserves that remain are still of major importance to Aborigines. In Queensland, Aboriginal and Islander reserves and special leases cover only 2 per cent of the State. In round figures under the imperial measurement system, that is about 7 million acres. The total area of both the Aurukun and Mornington Island special leases is 850,000 hectares and has been valued at 66c per hectare.
In 1 975 the Senate unanimously carried a resolution which called for compensatory legislation for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Government senators of the day and members of Parliament generally called for Commonwealth acquisition of Aurukun and Mornington Island, and they did this again in August 1978. I have just quoted the terms of reference of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. The Committee recommended unilaterial action by the Commonwealth Government to fulfil Commonwealth obligations to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. That is set out in paragraph 74. Paragraphs 57 and 75 recommend a Commonwealth acquisition. The report states that that acquisition must be on just terms. As my colleague Senator Cavanagh stated a few moments ago, the amount paid may be less than fair compensation, depending on the case. That is covered in paragraphs 32 to 35 of that report. I do not know who heard Mr Porter speaking on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program AM this morning when he died -
– When he what?
– He denied unequivocally that his Government had broken any promise. I am sorry, that was a slip of the tongue. He is still unfortunately very much alive. I am sorry for that diversion. Mr Porter denied unequivocally that Australia had broken any of the international conventions in relation to our treatment of Aborigines. This of course is a blatant untruth. Queensland in particular has broken every international convention there is with its apartheid laws. The international conventions demand certain things. I shall clarify the situation. We all have to take responsibility for Australia breaching international conventions because of what the Queensland Government is doing. It has breached conventions by dispossessing people of land which is a breach of the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 107. It has done it through gross inequality of employment. This is a breach of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Queensland Government has breached human rights against the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Senator Bonner once said:
Aborigines are the most imprisoned people in the world. In Queensland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders comprise two per cent of the total population but 35 per cent of the prison population.
Those are strong words, I know, and I regret that I had to use them in these circumstances. But unless these facts are spelt out quite clearly and without any frills many people in this country will never really understand the struggle of our indigenous minority ethnic group. I want to cite a couple of other facts associated with the laws under which these people now have to live, under which it is becoming increasingly difficult for them even to exist, let alone to live. I refer in particular to the Local Government Act which has been passed by the Queensland Government and which gives government officials extraordinary powers over Aborigines, partly because leases are vested in local authorities, which may be one non-Aboriginal person, as at present. That is the way the system is operating and probably will be the way it will operate even after the elections on 3 1 March of this year, on Saturday week.
The official has powers to authorise entry and residence and trusteeship of leases. Shire councils cannot levy rates. The Queensland Government has provided for a beer canteen at Aurukun even though the community has clearly stated that it does not want a canteen. The Queensland Government has said that the people on the reserves are the ones who, through their official spokespersons and the chairman of the council, will decide whether they will have beer canteens. The Government in this case has decreed- I think it was that rather colourful character, Mr Hinze, who made the final decision- that there will be a beer canteen at Aurukun. The local government legislation provides no security for outstations where Aboriginal clan and family groups have moved away from the government controlled settlements to establish a better economic base and greater independence. I refer to Watermin, the old outstation that used to be known as Peret. This is where a group of happy people are living without the restrictions that are government imposed. Their health is excellent. This is the sort of life they want to live and ought to be allowed to live.
I turn now to shire leases. Traditional rights of preservation of fishing and hunting grounds have not be secured. At both Aurukun and Mornington Island there are boundary disputes. Sweers Island was associated with the old Bentinck Island group. It is a traditional area. The people there have been denied this right because Sweers Island has been looked at as the sort of island which eventually will become of great tourist value. It has been put aside and saved so that the friends of the Queensland Government will be able to develop it as a tourist area at a later date. The Holroyd River area at Aurukun has also been excluded.
Rivers on the Aurukun Shire lease are being fished out by commercial fishing boats, particularly since 1977. The rivers are a major source of food for all people, particularly people living on outstations. Fred Holroyd, one of the Aurukun people, recently had his life threatened by commercial fishermen who produced a rifle and were prepared to shoot Fred Holroyd because he disagreed with them. Fred Holroyd said that it was his country and he should be allowed to fish there. The commercial fishermen said that it was their country and they were fishing there. The fishermen upheld their argument with the aid of a loaded rifle.
All roads within the leases are now dedicated to public use. This same sort of argument will develop shortly and in great depth in the Northern Territory because this is the attitude of the Chief Minister and the Government in the Northern Territory in relation to roads over Aboriginal lands. It is doubtful whether provisions prohibiting the entry of unauthorised persons on the lease can or will be policed. At Kowanyama this is one of the greatest complaints. Where tourists are able to get in by road they wreck the country and the Aboriginal sites and also wreck the Aboriginal fishing areas. The Aborigines are not allowed by those who stand over them- I am referring now to those people in the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement- to exercise authority over these areas. Provision has been made for excising large areas of the leases- 500 hectares at Aurukun and 100 hectares at Mornington Island. Even though the lease provisions are intolerably weak, there is no assurance of the leases being renewed after 50 years.
I turn now to mining at Aurukun. Incidentally, Aurukun Associates, the mining company, is owned by three foreign companies- Billiton, owned by Shell, Tipperary and Pechiney. They have a bauxite mining lease of 1,905 square kilometres over the Aurukun reserve, the total area of which is 7,503 square kilometres. Mining royalties are paid to the Director of the State Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement. The shire councils may become trustees over the land not leased by Aurukun Associates but the Governor-in-Council may even disallow this. Aboriginals therefore have no control over mining. I suppose it remains to be seen what will happen in the future, but I think this shows conclusively that the people in this area do not control the land to which they are traditionally entitled. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs early in January this year issued some background notes which are interesting but do not have much substance in them. The notes are dated 3 January 1979 and were received in my office on 12 January 1979 so it is probable that they were issued in the first week of January. I want to quote two or three of the paragraphs in relation to Aurukun and Mornington Island. The notes state:
The Commonwealth Government intervened at the request or the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities when in March 1978 the Queensland Government announced its intention that the State Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement should take over direct administration of the two reserves from the Uniting Church.
Commonwealth legislation was enacted providing for the self-management of the reserve communities but the Queensland Government revoked the two reserves.
When the Australian Government Bill dealing with this matter was being debated in this chamber the Opposition proposed a number of amendments, all of which were rejected by the Minister at that time acting on behalf of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in another place. In particular, we said that the legislation ought to be backdated to 3 1 March last year because that was the day on which this Bill could have been carried with some substance. That proposal was rejected by this Government. Five minutes after the chamber rose on that day the news announcement was made that the Queensland Government had revoked both reserves and that they were then Crown land.
– As we warned it would.
– We said that in the course of the debate. Joh Bjelke-Petersen as usual went laughing all the way back to his seat in the chamber while he took the Australian Government for a ride. He laughed at it all the way.
The agreement negotiated on 1 1 April between the Queensland and Commonwealth governments provided for the Queensland Government to legislate both for community self-management in the local government framework and to secure tenure of former reserves. Despite the Queensland Government’s unilateral decision in August to dismiss both councils and to appoint an administrator, reasonable progress has since been made in implementing the 1 1 April agreement.
If the matter were not so serious, if we were not dealing with 1,500 human lives, this would be the greatest political joke of all time. The Queensland Premier grabbed the Prime Minister of Australia by his ample nose, led him around a few swamps, pushed his face into the ground and then said: ‘Ha! you thought you had me, but I beat you anyway’. So this apologia for the Aboriginal affairs policies of this Government goes on.
Let us return to this heart-rending letter written by Lawrence Dugong dated 18 March 1979. The letter was written to Senator Chaney and states:
No one at Mornington Island Aboriginal Community wants any Europeans to stand for the Shire Council.
This includes Roger Pettit-
Roger Pettit, incidentally, was the only white candidate. He was lucky to get six nominations and he got them only after people had been stood over. I gather that that was widely approved by the Federal Government. But Roger Pettit, if he has not been publicly disowned by the Uniting Church in Australia, is certainly not one of its greatest sons. The letter continues:
This includes Roger Pettit who has been making trouble in the community. We think the only reason he is standing is so he can sell off our land for tourist developments.
Your Government keeps saying it is all for self management, but this cannot happen if whites are on the Council.
We have told Mr Viner many times and yourself since you have been the Minister that we do not want Queensland control or SO year lease.
The only thing we want is self management under the Federal Government as the Prime Minister has promised.
The Prime Minister also made a promise in the quote that I read out to the Senate a few moments ago. The letter continues:
We must own our land for proper self management. We ask you to take over the land for us immediately and before the shire election is held.
I say to the Minister that he has exactly 10 days to go, so he had better get his legislation moving fast.
Larry Lanley, who as far as I am concerned is chairman of the Mornington Island group, wrote to Reverend Dr John Brown of the Uniting Church on 26 January 1979. He said:
We do not feel too secure at the present moment. Both communities have got the same idea. There is a small friction between the community and the government.
That really is being very charitable:
It is a little one, that will become a big one later, when the new Council is elected. We do not see where we can get selfmanagement with this lease, that is where the argument is going to be. The lease is not fair enough. We should have freehold title.
The council is afraid that if it gives approval for Aboriginal people to go back to their own land and develop it, and build on it and self-manage, the Council will again be sacked.
The lease is not satisfactory. Whenever the Council is sacked, control of the lease goes back to the Government. They are already sneaking in little changes to it, by calling all our roads ‘ public roads ‘.
It is going back like in the old days under McCart at Mornington Island or like McKenzie at Aurukun. Except for our Company Gunanamanda people are not taking responsibility. There are all white people in the Local Government. It is European development, not Aboriginal development, our people are working hut only under them.
That is, the white people:
Can you write some strong words for the front of this report and keep on fighting for us, for the people are still arguing and not settling. All they want is free title to the land. They do not believe they can get self-management without it.
Even if members of the Government have hearts of stone, they ought to be able to understand the simple message that has been written by
Lawrence Dugong and Larry Lanley. I read from an account of today’s proceedings of the Queensland State Parliament. It concerns Mr Porter, that famous upholder of democracy, along with his friends, Bjelke-Petersen, better known as Holy Joe and Mr Hinze, better known as Ramu. The report states:
There was a ‘ massive and well-heeled ‘ attempt to organise a very dangerous activitist black power operation in Queensland . . .
He said it would come to its peak and involve nations outside Australia at the time of the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.
It probably will do so because Mr Petersen will probably send for Idi Amin if he is still alive so that they can fight a joint battle because they are of the same political persuasion. The report continues:
Mr Porter: ‘It is a very dangerous matter to contemplate but the fact that it is in train does seem to be without doubt.’
The Minister was answering a question without notice from Mrs Vicky Kippin (National Party, Mourilyan).
Vicky Kippin once addressed a north Queensland lands rights conference. She came in and made a very rabid speech. She said to the Aboriginal women present: ‘What you women ought to do is clean up your children. They need a good bath ‘. She then went away but came back and pursued the same line later. She then tried to take over a piece of Church of England land at Mission Beach. An article in one of the local newspapers said:
Mrs Vicky Kippin has got no more idea of what the Aborigines want than has the Premier, Mr Porter or Mr Hinze.
I return to the account of the Queensland State Parliament proceedings. It continues:
She had asked Mr Porter: ‘Is it a fact that the expenses of a north Queensland Aboriginal Land Council and payment of its spokesman, (Mr) Mick Miller, are financed from an account in a Swiss bank, and what is the significance of this?’
It is true that Mick Miller and his delegation went to Switzerland but it was not to take money out of the bank or to put money into the bank. They went to talk to people who stand up for democracy and to tell those people what is happening in this country. The account continues:
Mr Porter said: ‘I have heard of this from a number of sources but of course I don ‘t know it as a fact.
If it is true- I think there is a great deal of reason for believing it is true- the obvious significance is that this clandestine organisation which sows distrust, dissension and separatism amongst the indigenous people, is financed from various, dubious international sources.
My, my! The great Mr Porter, the clairvoyant, the globetrotter, the man who can look through mirrors comes to this great conclusion. But he has never named his sources. The report goes on:
A matter that is equally obvious and particularly grave is the massive and well-heeled attempt being made in this State- a drive as it were- to organise a very dangerous activist black power operation.
This will come to its peak and involve nations outside Australia at the time we are hosts to the Commonwealth Games.
So there we have the clairvoyant again. He is quite sure. The Commonwealth Games are three years away but he can see what is going to happen. At the age of 79 or 89 or whatever, he probably will not even be around. The report continues:
It is a very dangerous matter to contemplate- but the fact that it is in train does seem to be without doubt.
Mr Porter later rejected a call to the Federal Government by South Australian Premier, Mr Des Corcoran asking it to stop racial discrimination in Queensland.
That was also reported on AM this morning. I was very pleased that Senator Bonner backed Des Corcoran in his call for Federal intervention in Queensland. Tonight I saw Mr Porter on national television. I was shocked and surprised when, after somebody asked him what was happening, he said: ‘Hundreds of thousands of dollars are available to this group of Aborigines who wander around the remote areas of Queensland- Cape York and the Gulf of Carpentaria’. You can travel the whole of this area on the best charter flight for about $2,000 to $2,500. Why should people tell lies like that? Why should they misuse the truth in order to persuade the population outside Queensland that might is right and that everybody else outside the State does not know what is going on? I tell honourable senators that what Mr Porter said is just a sham, a lie and a blatant misuse of all the facts of the case.
It is like Mr Hinze and his ability to be able to borrow money from communist country banks. He is able to make deals in land development projects with which he is associated and, on the side, borrow half a million dollars just for his own family organisation. It is like Mr Camm, the Minister for Mines and Energy and Police who wants to be the next Premier of Queensland, provided that Mr Hinze does not run over him in the process- and Mr Hinze is about five stone heavier. But he has no possible chance of ever being the Premier because the Premier has found out that he has taken money on the side from big business which has been able to get into the gemfields in the Emerald-Anakie area. I understand that money that has been handed to him under the counter runs into tens of thousands of dollars. So Mr Camm’s chances of becoming Premier of Queensland are nil and Mr Porter’s chances of becoming Premier of Queensland are non-existent. Mr Hinze ‘s chances of being Premier of Queensland will be non-existent, in particular if the communist country banks decide to call up his money.
These are the sorts of things of which the nation ought to be aware. I have very great pleasure in seconding the amendment to the motion and would hope that honourable senators from both sides of the Senate would carry the motion unanimously.
– The Senate has, on many occasions in the last year or so, discussed the problems of the Aborigines at Aurukun and Mornington Island. We have expressed in a variety of ways our concern at the actions of the Queensland Government which have clearly been designed to circumvent the wish of the Australian people, as expressed some 12 years ago, that the Commonwealth Government should accept responsibility for our Aboriginal communities. I suppose it was in the light of those discussions, in which it was shown clearly that a sense of bipartisanship had developed in this place concerning areas of responsibility and obligations to the original owners of this vast continent called Australia and that there were members on both sides of the chamber with common attitudes and objectives, that 11 months ago the Senate established a committee of inquiry into all of the factors relating to the problems of the Aboriginal people at Aurukun and Mornington Island.
It seems to me that when one examines the terms of reference and the report which was, after all, presented to the Parliament several months ago one could expect that a government, and a Minister, who were concerned with the plight of these people would already have acted upon those recommendations which represented clearly the common view that I have said exists in the Senate about the aspirations of those who live in that part of north Queensland. One is prompted therefore to ask why, despite the debates and despite the assurances and the admissions in this place by members of the Government parties that they missed the boat when we were discussing this matter on the last day of March 1978 and that they should have supported the amendment then moved by the Opposition- one that would have circumvented the mischievous and blatant actions taken by that way-out Government in Queensland and would have protected the rights of the people at Aurukun and Mornington Island- the Government has not acted. We might have expected a government, in the light of its policy as expressed in its platform, upon which it fought the election, and as expressed in various statements relevant to this report that have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), would have acted upon the recommendations of the Committee. Yet here we are in the third week of March 1979, almost five months after this report has been presented to the Parliament, still concerning ourselves with the recommendations.
It is to the everlasting shame of the Government and of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) that we have not proceeded beyond the impasse that has been created for the national Government by the obtuse attitude of the Queensland Government. I repeat, the political indecision that the Commonwealth Government has shown because of its concern for the attitude of Mr Bjelke-Petersen and Mr Porterthey will go down in history as two people who should never have represented the people of Queensland, least of all of the Aboriginal people of that State- is something of which the Government should be ashamed.
Tonight, in listening to the debate in the other place, I noted the very determined and insolent attitude of the Treasurer of this country, Mr Howard, who threw down the gauntlet to the New South Wales Government because it dared to exercise its sovereign powers in respect of an industrial and economic matter that affected a section of its work force. This Government has the temerity and arrogance to threaten the New South Wales Government about its legitimate right to take action in respect of matters which affect the industrial welfare of a section of its work force; yet it refuses to act in respect of its obligations and responsibilities and its promises on many occasions concerning the Aborigines of Queensland. It refuses because it has not got the guts to take on the arrogant Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, who is the most way-out Premier in any part of the Western world. The Government has stood still and refused to act in accordance with its responsibilities and has refused to act in respect of the recommendations of a committee which was set up by this Senate to examine the very issues that we are debating this evening.
On the other hand, the Government is quite happy to take on a Labor Premier and a Labor government which exercises its responsibilities and obligations. Even if the Government disagrees with the Government of New South Wales, its actions have been hardly in the spirit of co-operative federalism. The use of this phrase has sickened me and my party since 1975 when the present Government came to office. The Government has made us almost vomit at the repetitive use of that phrase in this place. Yet when the New South Wales Labor Government takes action this Government issues threats and employs stand-over tactics, as witnessed in the House of Representatives this evening. When this Government is faced with its responsibilities and obligations to the Aborigines in Queensland, the pious talk and platitudes that have been synonymous with its approach to the treatment of Aborigines are forgotten. The Government is silent; it says not a word. Government senators failed to vote with Opposition senators on 31 March 1978, even though they admitted afterwards that perhaps they should have taken cognisance of” what I said on that day and protected the position of the Aboriginal communities of Aurukun and Mornington Island. Honourable senators opposite now offer all the reasons in the world for not having acted. We have yet to see whether they are prepared to get on their feet and speak to the issue. We have now heard three Opposition speakers in a row, but the Government has not offered a single speaker.
– You might wait just a moment.
– We are waiting for a Government speaker to defend the recommendations of the report, to which we are asking the Senate to give consideration. Are we to deal with this in a partisan way or in the way in which the Senate Committee has dealt with it, based on the facts and taking account of the arrogance and obtuseness that have been characteristics of the Queensland Government? Are we to deal with it with the objectivity with which Senator Missen and his colleagues have approached it?
– And continue to do so today.
– We do not know that. So far the Government has not been prepared to match the Opposition speaker for speaker. If I had to judge the attitude of the Government and of the Minister I would have to conclude that it would go to water in respect of Queensland and Aurukun and Mornington Island, and its responsibilities to Aborigines. That is what the Government has done during the last year or so that we have been debating this issue.
I give top marks to the members of the Committee. They have fulfilled their obligations to the Senate, their obligations to the black communities in Queensland and their obligations to the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities in particular. I make no criticism of those Government senators or of my own colleagues who sat on that Committee. One has only to look at the recommendations to see that they are in accord with the substantial opinion of this Senate which has been expressed on every occasion that we have debated these issues.
Nobody in this place has been prepared to get on his feet and say that what was being said by the Opposition and by those few courageous members of the Government parties about the problems of the black communities in Queensland deserving the support of the Senate. Yet, nobody on the Government side has challenged their remarks. What has been their response? Their response has been to sit on the sidelines and take no action on the matters which are within their area of responsibility and which form part of their parties’ policies, part of their own statements and part of their obligations, because they are not prepared to take on that awful maverick Bjelke-Petersen and the stooges who are his Ministers in the so-called Queensland Government.
It is small wonder that Dr Edwards, the Leader of the Liberal Party in Queensland, has seen fit to criticise the Premier and the attitudes that he has taken. Is it any wonder that the State member for Townsville, another Liberal member, has suggested that the Premier ought to have some medical treatment? Yet, in the face even of a revolt in their own quarters in Queensland and their recognition that they have running that State an extreme right wing government and a government that is completely out of touch with politics and public opinion in that State and elsewhere in Australia, and in spite of all the evidence that they know represents their backwardness in meeting their obligations, honourable senators opposite sit here and cop it, and cop it sweet. Not one of the Ministers in this Government is prepared to face up to the recommendations contained in this report which was placed before them in November 1978. What did the Minister’s own Department, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, say in its submission to this Committee? That submission obviously brought about unanimity in respect of the recommendations of the Committee. Have I to remind members of the Senate and have I to remind the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs of what his own Department said about Queenslandthat the policy and the practice of the Queensland Government differ markedly from the Commonwealth’s approach on this major point of policy?
The submission refers to protracted negotiations with the Queensland Government at ministerial and official levels since the passage of the referendum. When was the referendum? Heavens above, half the present members of the national Parliament were not even here when the referendum was carried. Here we have one State thumbing its nose and telling the Commonwealth Government to go jump in the lake. And what does this Government do about it? It threatens the New South Wales Government but licks the backside of the Queensland Government. It is not prepared to take on the Queensland Government because it has not the guts to accept its responsibilities and stand up to a man who is in anyone’s estimation a disgrace as the Premier of a State in this Commonwealth. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs in its submission stated that protracted negotiations with the Queensland Government at ministerial and official levels since the passage of the referendum- therefore, spanning the terms of several Commonwealth governments- have failed to achieve satisfactory changes in the legislation in Queensland. That legislation, says the Minister’s own Department, is in the Commonwealth Government’s view discriminatory and outdated, primarily because it gives government officials extraordinary powers to manage and direct the lives of Aborigines and Islanders on reserves, trusteeships on reserves and the right to negotiate on behalf of Aborigines and Islanders about land use and in particular exploration and mining on reserves. It also gives them the power to manage the property of Aborigines and Islanders.
We heard only two days ago, during the first reading debate on a money Bill, what was happening on Palm Island. We heard it from Senator Bonner whom the Premier of Queensland regards as some sort of red ragger, radical or odd person. Senator Bonner himself has referred to those descriptions of him by some of the way-out characters who call themselves Ministers in the Queensland Government. He pointed to the fact that people on Palm Island who were on the Commonwealth and State electoral rolls were, by the decision of the Queensland Government, taken off the Palm Island rolls because their votes may have brought about a result which was different from what the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs, Mr Porter, desired. He is that great individual who believes in democratic rights in al! parts of the world except his own State. As Senator Bonner pointed out, not only were a third of the people kept off the electoral roll but also people who have lived on the Island consistently were denied, by this undemocratic and discriminatory Minister and his Department, the right to nominate for election to office.
What has the Government said about this since Senator Bonner raised the matter two days ago? What has been done by the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs? What has been his attitude? What statement has he made? What action has he taken to remedy this situation? What are the legal remedies for those unfortunate people who have to live in the ‘deep north ‘, the State known as Queensland. What recourse do they have to some democratic process? Their only recourse is to get rid of the Queensland Government; but, as we know, there has been such a gerrymander in that State that the people of Queensland are not given the opportunity to act in this way. What have the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island said? They have adopted the simple strategem of appealing to this Government. They appealed to me more than a year ago. They appealed to Senator Bonner, to Senator Missen, to other members of the Government parties and to the Minister, who was then a back bencher. Since he was elevated to the more plush seats of the Ministry he has been contained, silenced and put down by the Government, which is not prepared to accept even minimal responsibilities and obligations in respect of these people.
We have talked about the rights of the people at Aurukun and Mornington Island and they have made pleas to us, presented petitions to us and made statements through their own representatives. Does anybody deny that they have done just that? Have not Senator Missen, Senator Martin, Senator Bonner and one or two other senators on the Government benches been to Aurukun and Mornington Island and seen for themselves what sort of treatment the people in that area have to suffer as a result of the unilateral action that was taken five minutes after we determined an attitude in this Senate on 31 March 1978.
Are we not now confronted with this latest blatant disregard of human rights, where a white man, a European, is being permitted by the Queensland Government to stand for a position of management over those who shall make up the shire council? We all know this to be a mere subterfuge. The shire council concept was thought up by the Queensland Government to overcome the views of this Parliament, of this Government and of the people at Aurukun and Mornington Island. This subterfuge opens the door to anybody to stand for public office. We now have a real estate agent from Toowoomba for God ‘s sake, running as a candidate and seeking to represent the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island. The Government sits silent. The Government says: ‘Oh, that is democratic. We must not intervene. We must not interfere because everybody has the right to stand for public office’. Despite the petitions, despite the statements and despite the experience of everybody who has been to Aurukun and Mornington Island, what does this Government do? Precisely nothing. It sits silent and allows the sort of intimidation and the sort of arrogance and overbearing attitude which have been characteristic of the way in which whites have dealt with blacks since 1788 to be the predominant factor. Even the more decent members of the Government have tried to justify running a Mr Pettit from Toowoomba for the shire council of Aurukun and Mornington Island.
On Palm Island, and in other areas the names of which are not particularly well known to meYarrabah for example- there has been the same sort of manipulation, and attitudes are adopted by the so-called Queensland Government that make a mockery of any sort of democratic processes and of any sort of protection of the rights of the people of the black communities in the 1 7 or 1 8 reserves that go to make up the areas of our particular responsibilities. We have said and said often that we accept that these are part of a national responsibility. Is it not about time that we raised ourselves above party politics? Is it not about time that we said to Queensland: ‘You are not going to defy the national position’? Is it not about time that those men and women of goodwill in the Government parties asserted themselves, if not successfully in the party room, for God ‘s sake then in this place and said to the Australian Government that the Senate is exercising some of its powers and responsibility as a States’ House which says what it is concerned about is people and not institutions? Is it not about time that we saw developing in this place the sort of atmosphere, attitudes and decisions that we are all on public record as saying are part of our responsibility as honourable members of the Senate who should rise above party politics and not be dominated by the party room.
– Will you do it, too?
– If the senator is concerned, I am the spokesman for my party in this place on this matter. I was not consulted in respect to this amendment because it represents, I would have thought, the consensus of the Senate and not just of the Labor Party that we would call upon the Australian Government to take the necessary action to acquire the land known as at 1 March 1978 as the Aboriginal settlements of Aurukun and Mornington Island and place it in perpetuity in land trusts set up by the Aboriginal tribal elders of the settlements. We spoke about this this morning in respect to areas of the Northern Territory. Let us apply it in the place where it means something, where the demand has been with us for a considerable period. Let us say it without fear or favour. Let us say it outside the party room. Let us say it in this place, this chamber of review. If we do that we will earn some respect for what we do and respect for what the Senate does.
– Honourable senators would realise that this amendment was offered to the Senate tonight and that Government senators would naturally want an opportunity to examine it and to examine it in their party room. I understand that the Orders of the Day list Senate committee reports first. Therefore this Senate committee report will remain high on the Notice Paper. I believe it will remain probably at the top of the Notice Paper for consideration as the next Order of the Day under General Business. I am sure the Senate will understand that the Government would want an opportunity to examine the amendment that has been raised. For that reason I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Chaney) proposed:
That the resumption of debate be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting.
– I realise the predicament we have put the Government in. The decision on the amendment was made tonight and I acknowledge that the Government has had no time to consider it. I think it should have time to consider it and I am hopeful of the Government’s support. Under General Business next Thursday night we will consider a motion of which notice has been given. We will then adjourn for two weeks. Even if this matter is put at the top of the Notice Paper it will not come on for debate for a month. I have tried to express to the Senate the urgency of this.
– We have two more weeks of sitting.
-We adjourn a fortnight from tonight then. I point out that whilst Government Business takes precedence of General Business other than on Thursday night this is not to say that General Business needs to be excluded. The Government can bring an item of General Business on at any time. As the debate in the Queensland Parliament would now be over I would ask the Government members whether they should consider bringing this matter on as a special item for decision on a normal day next week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Tax Avoidance- Family Trusts Motion (by Senator Chaney) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
-In the course of his remarks in the urgency debate today, Senator Carrick repeated a challenge made to me towards the end of the last session to define the difference between bona fide family trusts and those which I would regard as tax dodging arrangements. I am not one to shirk a challenge, least of all one coming from Senator Carrick. I am grateful to him for reminding me of it. Let me try to state the position as succinctly as I can and I invite him in turn to honour his own promise made to me on 10 October last year to provide information on the revenue loss that is associated with those trusts that can be more or less unequivocally characterised, whatever other incidental purpose they might serve, as tax avoidance arrangements.
One class of family trust with which I would have no quarrel is that of testamentary trusts, those which come into operation on a testator’s death and are designed simply as a convenient means of administering the estate, in particular and most commonly as a vehicle for the keeping of family property together for the lifetime of the surviving spouse while still allowing the possibility of ultimate and equitable distribution among the testator’s children or whoever else he wants to benefit. The kind of trusts that raise serious tax avoidance questions, and those to which I was essentially referring in the remarks which I made last October, are those which are genetically described as inter vivos trusts, in other words, where the trust is created and operates during the settlor ‘s lifetime.
There are innumerable functions which these trusts can perform and there are innumerable ways of identifying and classifying them, ways which are thoroughly familiar to lawyers, accountants and the Taxation Office. There are trading trusts, service trusts, unit trusts, fixed trusts, discretionary trusts and so on. The most popular way of setting up a trust these days, particularly in the family context, is to use the flexible discretionary trust. The great advantage here is that the parent employing this device, while still enjoying all the income splitting tax advantages that any trust arrangement givesand to which I will refer again in a momentretains more or less complete control over the trust property and the income which is derived from it.
No one denies that trust arrangements can serve, quite apart from their taxation implications, various legitimate, commercial and other purposes. For example, for private companies they can be quite essential for certain trading purposes, particularly outside Australia, and for meeting specialist requirements such as performance bonds. Again, unit trusts, it is acknowledged, can be a quite useful mechanism for accumulating capital from a number of small contributors for property investment purposes. I acknowledge that certain trust arrangements and certain circumstances, particularly simple fixed trusts, can be a means for public figures to dissociate themselves from family businesses, either for reasons of propriety or perhaps for reasons of a simple lack of time. The point about every single kind of inter vivos trust arrangement which is used today, and certainly every kind of family trust arrangement, is that, as the law now stands, they can operate and do operate in practice to confer very significant tax advantages on their users. First of all, and most obviously, they enable income splitting which enables high income earners to have their wives or children assessed on part of the primary earner’s income at much lower rates of tax. Traditionally they have estate planning and the avoidance of gift and death duties, although obviously this has ceased to be as relevant a consideration as it used to be with the progressive dismantling of taxes of this kind at State and Federal level. Indeed, the dismantling of these kinds of taxes destroys any real rationale that may be claimed for trusts in terms of keeping together family farms and businesses.
The third most obvious tax advantage of trust arrangements is in the case of the family business situation. It enables the avoidance of company tax. Just how significant these taxation advantages can be is graphically illustrated in the course of an article by Max Suich in the National Times in the issue of 19 August last year. The example was as follows: Assume a family of father, mother and three children, with the business having a net income of $40,000 before deducting the proprietor’s wages, and then consider the following changes which can be rung upon that scenario. If the business is owned wholly by the father that tax will be $16,080. If the business is owned by the father and mother in equal partnership the tax will be $1 1,520. If the business is owned by a company in which the shares are held on the following basis, the father one-third, the mother one-third and each child one-ninth, and assuming that wages are paid out of $20,000 for the father, and $6,000 for the mother, the tax goes down to $13,707. Lastly, if the business is owned by a discretionary trust and $3,750- to take an example- is distributed during the year to each child, or to a parent for each child, and if the balance is then allocated at the end of the year equally between the father and the mother the tax on that $40,000 net income will be only $6,800. So instead of over 40 per cent of the income being paid in tax as a first possible way of doing things, only 17 per cent is paid. There is a saving of almost $10,000. You would have to be a real mug- perhaps even a socialist mug- not to set up a family trust in those circumstances. It is undoubtedly for these reasons that trust arrangements have been proliferating almost exponentially in recent years- much faster than the number of partnerships and the number of taxable companies, as Taxation Office statistics show. There is no doubt at all that this has been causing quite huge concern to the taxation authorities, if not to the Government itself, as indicated by a memo from the Deputy Commissioner in Melbourne dated 7 January 1977, which recently came to light, one passage of which reads as follows:
The inability to deal with the problem of tax avoidance through the agency of trusts under the existing taxation laws is causing considerable concern in this office. The trust arrangements being entered into at an ever-increasing rate are considered to be a negation of the intention of the law and completely nullify any equity as between individual taxpayers, particularly in regard to businessmen and salary and wage earners.
There is a great deal more material of this kind, including such statistics as are presently available, which was put on record by the Opposition shadow Treasurer, Mr Ralph Willis, in another place in a major speech on tax questions on 1 March this year. What is not yet a matter of public record is any quantification of the loss to revenue associated with these inter vivos trusts.
It is this information which I am asking Senator Carrick to seek out and to communicate to me and to the Parliament. The Opposition’s argument is not against trusts or even family trusts as such. Rather it goes to the fact that they can be and are being used for tax minimisation, or to put it more bluntly tax avoidance purposes, in a way that is thoroughly inequitable to the great mass of Australian wage and salary earners. There are a number of ways around the problem. It is too late in the evening to canvass them in any detail. Many of them are set out in the Asprey report. Just to take two of the best known ways through this problem, first of all you could simply subject trusts of all kinds, perhaps with some exceptions which would need to be worked out, to straightforward company-type tax legislation. That is, tax the trust income at 46 per cent and then tax the distributions to the beneficiaries as income in their hands.
An alternative and quite different way that might be suggested- and was specifically suggested in the Asprey report in the specific context of family trusts- is to tax the income of the minor beneficiaries at a rate which takes account of the parents’ income. This could operate, as Asprey suggested, simply by adding the minor’s unearned income to that of whichever parent had the higher income, and applying the appropriate marginal tax rate. Those few members of the Labor Parliamentary Party who have for one reason or another in the past made use of trust arrangements- I should interpolate here that certainly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the other place (Mr Lionel Bowen) has openly acknowledged that he is one of them and set up a quite limited arrangement which he took the trouble and time to place in detail on the public record in the National Times issue of 17 March this year- readily accept that changes in the law of the kind that I have been mentioning are necessary and desirable. That is a very different approach, a very different attitude, from the attitude of the Government members in this Parliament who, as the National Times survey printed on 17 March showed, remain coy, almost to the last man and woman amongst them as to whether they have any such arrangement. They remain totally unwilling to concede that the law should be changed in any respect.
If family trusts are to be defended by the legitimate purposes they can perhaps serve in marginal cases, those who use them should be willing to go on doing so even if the tax advantages now associated with them are stripped away. When those tax advantages are stripped away, as will certainly happen under the next Labor Government, it will be fascinating to see just how many inter vivos trusts stay in existence, and even more fascinating I suggest to see how many new such trusts are then created. I suspect that it is then that the true extent of the humbug that is so often talked in defence of family trusts will be starkly revealed.
– I have noted the comments that were made by Senator Evans with regard to trusts. I have noted also his specific request for information with regard to loss to revenue resulting from inter vivos trusts. I will see that that request is drawn to the attention of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) through Senator Carrick who represents him in this place. I will see that whatever information is able to be given to Senator Evans is given as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.43 p.m. until Tuesday, next, at 3.30 p.m. or such other time as the President may take the chair.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
What action will be taken in the current more favourable climate to persuade the Australian Meat Industry Employees’ Union that export of live sheep is in the best interests of the industry in the long term.
– The Minister for Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Parties to the live sheep export dispute met under my chairmanship in Canberra on 1 9 April 1978. From that date exports proceeded subject to an agreement between the parties and pending the completion of two reports, one by Mr Geoff Miller, Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, into the employment implications of the live sheep export trade to the Middle East and the other by the tripartite mission which was undertaken to the Middle East with regard to exports of carcass meat.
A resumed Conference was held on 18 August 1978 in Sydney to discuss the two reports but the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) did not attend having already indicated its rejection of the report by Mr Miller and also its intention not to regard itself as bound by the agreement as from 3 1 August 1978. Representatives from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) did attend and they agreed to report on proceedings to the AMIEU.
One of the very significant findings in Mr Miller’s report was that the net effect of live sheep exports had been the generation of greater overall incomes and employment. Meat industry employees had suffered some loss in income as a result of the live sheep trade and a small number of jobs had been lost. However, Mr Miller’s study pointed out that the major employment problems in the industry were attributable to broader economic and seasonal factors. Mr Miller had also concluded that attempts to regulate live sheep exports by the observance of ratios of live sheep exported to carcass meat exported would soon be detrimental to the industry, including meat workers.
I announced at the resumed Conference that the Government was willing to set up an inquiry into the structural employment difficulties of meat workers. Such an inquiry would focus for the first time on the issues which appear to underlie the attitude of the AMIEU. I have written to the AMIEU repeating the offer but it has not been taken up.
The Government also recognises that there is a need to develop carcass exports to the expanding meat markets in Middle East countries. Accordingly, the Government considered the establishment of an Advisory Group under the auspices of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation (AMLC) to be concerned primarily with the identification of products which Australia could best supply and the promotional and other measures which might be undertaken to develop and service these markets.
This initiative was also announced at the Conference and the AMIEU was twice offered, by way of letter, representation without preconditions but, unfortunately, the officers of the Union declined to participate.
This explanation highlights that the Government has made considerable efforts to devise ways of approaching problems which the AMIEU has raised in connection with live sheep exports.
The honourable senator will be interested to know that exports of live sheep have been proceeding generally unhindered, with commensurate benefits to the rural community and the meat industry generally.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 15 November 1978:
Is any of the amount of $ 1 10m which Tasmania is to be allowed to raise as loans from overseas to be used on a power scheme on the Lower Gordon River; if so: (a) how much is to be spent on that scheme; and (b) has a proposal for the Lower Gordon scheme been presented to the Tasmanian Parliament.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
On 6 November 1978 the Loan Council approved for infrastructure financing purposes a special addition of $1 10m, spread over the 5 years 1978-79 to 1982-83, to Tasmania’s normal annual ‘semi-government’ borrowing programs. Of that amount, $75m is for assistance in the funding of peak capital expenditure in the further development of Tasmania’s hydro-electric power system. Two specific projects will be involved, namely the Pieman River Power Development and a new power development, the nature of which is yet to be determined. The Tasmanian Government has indicated that a coal-fired thermal power development and other forms of energy generation are under consideration as possible alternatives to further hydro-electric developments, such as the Lower Gordon Power Development. The allocation of the $75m as between the projects which it will assist in funding will be a matter for determination by the Tasmanian Government and the Tasmanian Parliament.
The question assumes that Tasmania has approval to borrow the total amount of $1 10m overseas. Loan Council, decided that applications for overseas borrowing in connection with approved projects will require separate Loan Council consideration in the light of particular requirements of the project concerned and economic and financial circumstances at the time.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1 979:
What were the ‘substantial practical problems ‘in transferring the functions of Repatriation Tribunals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, referred to in the Minister’s Press Release of 27 November 1978.
– The Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Detailed examination of the proposal to transfer Repatriation appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal demonstrated that those appeals could not be vested in the Tribunal without radical changes either in the way in which the appeals are dealt with or in the structure and procedures of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. It was also evident that there could be a problem of resources to deal with the anticipated number of appeals in view of the fact that, during the year ended 30 June 1978, 9,772 appeals were lodged with the existing Repatriation Appeals Tribunals.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
Did an article in the Sunday Mail, 24 December 1978, state that a winner of the Distinguished Conduct Medal had his service pension reduced because of a £10 payment he received with his award, if so, has the incident been investigated: if it has been investigated, what was the outcome of the investigation.
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
An article did appear in the Sunday Mail dated 24 December 1978 concerning a winner of the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
As no name was given in the newspaper report it was not possible to establish the identity of the individual concerned. Investigations have been carried out on recent grants of Decoration Allowance paid under the Repatriation Regulations in the Queensland Branch of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and these grants have been made in accordance with the legislative provisions.
A Decoration Allowance can be granted under the Repatriation Regulations but it is not payable until the amount of any gratuity previously paid, under other legislation, in respect of the decoration is recovered.
Under British legislation from which Australian legislation is derived, it is mandatory to the receipt of Decoration Allowance that previous gratuities paid be held against the Decoration Allowance until the initial gratuity is paid off. Because Australia and Britain are interlinked on these arrangements, it is not practicable for Australia to legislate to avoid this.
The Decoration Allowance serves the same purpose, on an ongoing basis, as the original gratuity. The amount of the gratuity is withheld from the Decoration Allowance; it is not deducted from Service or Disability Pension or from any other payment which a veteran may receive.
Departmental Approaches by Lobbyists (Question No. 1221)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
What procedures exist within the Minister’s Department to record approaches made to staff by lobbyists.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The normal practice adopted by my Department when approaches are made to staff by people representing outside interests is for the officers concerned to record details on the appropriate file and bring the matter to the attention of the relevant senior officer. In matters of sufficient importance, the Director-General and the Minister are informed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1 979:
– The Minister for Home Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am informed by my Department as follows:
1 ) 1976-77, tabled on 27 February 1979.
1975-76-51 films; 1976-77-79 films; 1977-78-54 films.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
How many widow’s pensions and supporting parent’s benefits were cancelled in each State in each year from 1976 to 1 978 on the grounds that the pensioner or beneficiary concerned was in a de facto relationship.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Statistics of cancellations of widow’s pensions and supporting parent’s benefits on the grounds of de facto relationship, for the years 1 976 to 1 978, are not available.
Pre-school Education (Question No. 1314)
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 21 February 1979:
What amount has been made available by the Commonwealth to the States or to regional bodies in each of the financial years from 1972-73 to 1978-79 for pre-school education within the children ‘s services program.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
As a result of this funding there has been a significant increase in the availability of children’s services and, in particular, pre-school education. It is estimated that since 1974 30,000 additional pre-school places have been established. Recent advice from State Premiers suggests that 150,000 4 and5-year-olds now attend sessional pre-schools in the States, with a lesser unknown number of younger children also attending. This is an indication of the success of the preschool program.
The State Governments have acknowledged that the development and support of pre-schools is a State responsibility. Having regard to this fact and to the position reached as a result of the funding provided under the Children ‘s Services Program the Government considers that at this stage a rearrangement of relative priorities within the Children’s Services Program is justified. The capital funding side of the pre-school program has therefore been discontinued and, as shown by the figures set out above, the amount contributed towards the recurrent costs of pre-school education reduced to $32.75m for 1978-79.
As the table above shows this has enabled more funds to be allocated to other components of the Children’s Services Program such as the provision of child care for children in special need and a new Family Support Services Scheme.
It should also be pointed out that these are not the only funds that the Commonwealth provides to the States that can be directed to their pre-school program. Under the federalism policy the States are assured of a significant share of personal income tax revenue to apply according to their own priorities. Each State determines the extent to which its general funds will be allocated to support pre-schools, beyond the level of assistance provided directly by the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment the following question, upon notice, on 6 March 1979:
– The answers to the honourable senator’s questions are as follows:
To determine which projects and investigators are most deserving of support, the Committee depends upon confidential reports from referees nominated by the applicant and from expert assessors selected by the Committee.
Furthermore, the Committee evaluates each research proposal finally, in the light of all the evidence available to it. The members would use their judgment as to whether any political bias suspected on the part of an assessor needed to be discounted.
Deportation of Mr L. M. O’Driscoll (Question No. 1422)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 8 March 1 979:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 March 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790322_senate_31_s80/>.