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 1 ,059 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned electors respectfully showeth:
That compensation benefits payable to injured Australian Government employees and Defence Forces personnel under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees)Act 1971 should be increased as a matter of urgency in view of the financial plight of recipients, particularly those suffering long term incapacity and because of the significant increase in the cost of living which has occurred since compensation payments were last adjusted; and
That statutory provision should be made for the automatic adjustment of compensation benefits.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 12 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 the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country does not have the support of the people;
That the change is causing and will continue to cause, widespread, serious and costly problems;
That the compulsory tactics being used to force the change area violation of all democratic principles.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed to ensure that the people are free to utilize whichever system they prefer and so enable the return to imperial weights and measures wherever the people so desire;
That weather reporting be as it was prior to the passing of the Metric Conversion Act;
That the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional mile units to be restored to our highways;
That the Australian Government request the State Governments to procure that the imperial and metric systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 1,395 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned electors respectfully showeth:
That compensation benefits payable to injured Australian Government employees and Defence Forces personnel under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees ) Act 1 97 1 should be increased as a matter of urgency in view of the financial plight of recipients, particularly those suffering long term incapacity and because of the significant increase in the cost of living which has occurred since compensation payments were last adjusted and
That statutory provision should be made for the automatic adjustment of compensation benefits.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 1 ,234 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned electors respectfully showeth:
That Compensation benefits payable to injured Australian Government employees and Defence Forces personnel under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees ) Act 1 97 1 should be increased as a matter of urgency in view of the financial plight of recipients, particularly those suffering long term incapacity and because of the significant increase in the cost of living which has occurred since compensation payments were last adjusted; and
That statutory provision should be made for the automatic adjustment of compensation benefits.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
-On behalf of Senator McClelland I present the following petition from 1,598 citizens of Australia:
That Compensation benefits payable to injured Australian Government employees and Defence Forces personnel under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971 should be increased as a matter of urgency in view of the financial plight of recipients, particularly those suffering long term incapacity and because of the significant increase in the cost of living which has occurred since compensation payments were last adjusted; and
That statutory provision should be made for the automatic adjustment of compensation benefits.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country does not have the support of the people;
That the change is causing and will continue to cause, widespread, serious and costly problems;
That the compulsory tactics being used to force the change are a violation of all democratic principles.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed to ensure that the people are free to utilize whichever system they prefer and so enable the return to imperial weights and measures wherever the people so desire;
That weather reporting be as it was prior to the passing of the Metric Conversion Act;
That the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional mile units to be restored to our highways;
That the Australian Government request the State Governments to procure that the imperial and metric systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Button.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. What is the Government’s current expectation in respect of interest rates? Does the Prime Minister still believe that he can maintain the commitment he gave that interest rates will fall by 2 per cent this financial year?
-I do not think the Government would enter into speculation in any precise way about interest rates. The fact of the matter is that the Government indicated its goals of getting down both inflation and interest rates- interest rates being a component of inflation. To a very marked extent that journey has been achieved. There have been some set-backs, the most notable being that two countries with a profound effect upon Australia- America and Great Britain- have had a reversal in both their inflation and interest rates, significantly so in regard to interest rates. This must have some arresting effect in Australia. My understanding is that the Government believes that with the full co-operation of the States and the Australian people progress towards lower inflation and interest rates can be achieved.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport: Is it a fact that Qantas Airways Ltd, in its annual report to March 1979, showed a far higher figure than previously provided for doubtful debts? Does this mean that Qantas is planning to write off the debt of around $800,000 owed by AUS Student Travel Service Pty Ltd? Can the Minister confirm that Trans-Australia Airlines is also taking steps to write off the debt owed to it by AUS Student Travel Service Pty Ltd?
– Honourable senators will not be surprised when I say that I have not seen the report in the Australian Financial Review indicating that Qantas Airways Ltd, in its annual report to March of this year, showed a higher figure than previously provided for doubtful debts. I am advised that Qantas has not yet produced its annual report for 1978-79. Its accounting period ends on 31 March and as that was only last week it is perhaps not surprising that the report is not yet out.
– How does Senator Hamer know?
- Senator Hamer was quoting from the Australian Financial Review. He made that clear in his question.
– You accept that as gospel?
– I always enjoy Senator McAuliffe ‘s interjections but I do wish that he would listen. I started my answer by saying that I had not seen the report to which Senator Hamer referred. In any event what will be in the Qantas annual report for the period ending 3 1 March 1979 is not, at this stage, known to me. I can tell the honourable senator that Qantas, in its 1977-78 annual report, which was tabled in the Budget session last year, showed a provision for doubtful debts of $2.457m, compared with $ 1.090m for the previous year. There has been a considerable increase in the provision for doubtful debts. One can assume that Qantas took account of the AUS situation which was known at the time in making a provision for doubtful debts. But there is no indication in those accounts that action has been taken to write off the debt. It was shown simply as a doubtful debt. The report of Trans-Australia Airlines for 1977-78 is expected to be tabled in the next few weeks. Again, one would expect it to reflect the position with respect to AUS. I am not able to say precisely what is that position.
-Did the Minister for Social Security see the report in Neos Kosmos which alleged that Commonwealth Police had sent 1 ,000 letters to Sydney Greek people seeking confidential information which would implicate Greek migrants in the alleged pension fraud? In effect, the letter asked them to be police informers. I remind the Minister that I first asked her a question on this subject on 27 February. Has she yet obtained an answer to that question’?
– I recall the previous question being asked. As it involved a matter that related to the activities of the Commonwealth Police, I indicated at the time that it would require an answer from the Commonwealth Police. I will refer the question to the Minister concerned and see whether I can expedite an answer.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Education, refers to the many different types of scholarships, bursaries and awards that are available to young people in Australia from such diverse sources as governments- State and Federal- industries, private schools, trusts, foundations, lodges, the Returned Services League, service clubs and unions. Is the Minister aware of the difficulties which young people experience in finding out what is available? Is the Government prepared to publish a consolidated list of all such awards so that young people can more readily discover what is available for them these days?
- Senator Lewis has asked a significant question which certainly would be of interest to parents and students. There is an enormous interest by young people, such as those who are present in the public gallery today, in their future and future opportunities. As Senator Lewis has indicated, many awards are available from State and Federal governments, industry, private schools, and charitable and voluntary bodies. Quite a number of individual handbooks are available. I am bound to say that the idea of having a consolidated list appeals to me, not necessarily to reproduce what is in the individual handbooks but to indicate to the person consulting the list where he might go for information. It is a worthwhile proposition. I will put it to my Department to see how practical it is to carry out the idea.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. In view of the increasing demand on Commonwealth Employment Service offices and the many public relations campaigns being conducted by all sections of the media on behalf of the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs, will the Government consider introducing a common CES office telephone number for all telephone areas outside the metropolitan area in each State?
– The positive suggestion from Senator McAuliffe is a somewhat refreshing note to be introduced at Question Time by the Opposition. I will have much pleasure in passing on the suggestion to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs to see whether it can be done.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, by congratulating the airport security forces for their efficient handling of the attempted hijacking yesterday, though I am sure that it gives them no more comfort than it does me that a person had to die to prove the efficiency of those forces. I ask the Minister: Will the Government give serious consideration to imposing security checks on people entering airports in Australia in addition to the security checks carried out in airport lounges?
-I think that the question raised by Senator Bonner is one of significance. Yesterday’s attempted hijacking and its tragic consequences, and the averting of even more tragic consequences, point up how vulnerable not only overseas countries but also Australia are to acts of terrorism of a wide ranging kind. I join with Senator Bonner in acknowledging the very efficient work done by both Commonwealth and State police and by airport authorities. Indeed I also acknowledge the courage of those who risked their lives to prevent a wider and more devastating tragedy.
Let me simply say that since terrorism has become a pattern world wide, the Commonwealth Government has been looking towards and has been taking active steps towards laying down security measures which, by their very nature, must remain confidential. I can assure Senator Bonner that security measures are available throughout the whole of the area that encompasses the airport, not only in airport lounges. Senator Bonner would understand that it would not be appropriate for me to specify these areas in detail; but necessarily, each incident, including that of yesterday must cause us to take stock to see whether what we have, however efficient it may have been yesterday, is good enough. I will refer the question to the Minister concerned.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, coincidentally follows from the question asked by Senator Bonner. 1 have a reply to a question on notice- Question No. 1427- revealing that the approved Commonwealth Police security force at Sydney airport is seriously below establishment. The figures, as supplied to me by the previous Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Chaney, are that for plain clothes members the approved establishment is 29 while the actual occupancy is 18; and for uniformed members approved establishment is 55 while actual occupancy is 42. So in effect, 60 people are doing the work that 84 people should be doing at that place. The Australian Democrats take it that the Prime Minister was sincere in his statement yesterday that he wants an urgent review of airport security. The Leader of the Government in the Senate has confirmed that here today. Will the Government urgently ensure that security staff at all Australian airports are brought up to approved establishment?
– I think that the dreadful events of yesterday do show that effective measures can be mounted in the face of the unexpected, and already there has been a good deal of public comment about that. Senator Mason has raised the particular question of the establishment at airports. I can only say that I will refer the matter to both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Administrative Services and get some further response for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Has the Australian National Line evaluated in detail the provision of alternative vessels, such as Gordon Barton’s proposed Tiger Line ships, to ply the Bass Strait run with the intention of containing or preferably reducing the substantially escalating freight costs? Further, is not the Government concerned at the prodigious growth in the freight equalisation costs which have now passed the $50m mark?
– I have little doubt that the Government would be concerned at the figure that Senator Watson has mentioned. It is a large amount of money. I do not have information on the particular matter of ships raised by the honourable senator, but I will refer both the information and the question to the Minister for Transport and seek a detailed response for the honourable senator.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security whether her attention has been drawn to articles published in the Age newspaper yesterday and today, containing comments by Professor Henderson and Mr Dixon about a secret report on emergency relief which the Age claims to have unearthed. Is there such a report? If so, what relationship does it have to the important report on emergency relief which the Minister tabled in this House last week, which we debated, and which the Age chose to ignore?
– In the last two days I have seen reports in the Melbourne Age referring to a confidential report. From the content of the articles, it seems that they refer to the joint study on emergency relief carried out by the Department of Social Security and the Australian Council of Social Service. Honourable senators will recall that this report was tabled in the Senate on 29 March 1979 and that Senator Grimes responded on behalf of the Opposition. The day after the report was tabled I issued a Press release which indicated the new procedures which the Department of Social Security had adopted to reduce the burdens on State governments, welfare agencies and charitable institutions which provide emergency relief as described in the report. I also made comments publicly about the report.
On the day following the tabling of the report the State Ministers met me. They welcomed and discussed the measures that the Commonwealth Government outlined with regard to facilitating early payment of benefits to minimise the emergency relief requirements in every way. Following that meeting a Press statement was issued. I am unable to understand why Senator Grimes needs to refer to a confidential report that is described in the Age.
– Not Senator Grimes; the Age referred to it. It is really on the ball!
– The Age has overlooked completely the fact that the report was tabled, there was public debate on it and it was commented upon in more then one Press release. I am unable to find out why the Age should deal with it in this way or why it should ignore the comments made when the report was tabled.
Some comments on the report are inaccurate. Some of the quotations in relation to Professor Henderson overlook the nature of the study that was done and the accountability of State governments and the Federal Government in providing emergency aid. On page 3 1 of the report there is a table which shows the information that is required by agencies before they give emergency aid. In Victoria, even the name and address of the people who are assisted by some agencies are not required. A study by the Age writer who refers consistently to this confidential report would enable more objective discussion of the report. It is a very important report and shows the difficulties that many people in the Australian community surfer. It shows the way in which voluntary agencies have assisted greatly. I draw to the attention of everyone the efforts that my Department is making to overcome difficulties by issuing early cheques or partial payments or by making special arrangements for people who are entitled to benefits under the social security system. This report is not confidential; in fact I would like to see it widely discussed.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The Ayers Rock or Uluru National Park Aboriginal land claim, which includes surrounding areas, came before the Northern Territory Land Commissioner yesterday in Alice Springs. Since then there appears to have been considerable confusion as to the exact position, with misinformation and misunderstanding adding to the situation. Is the Minister in a position to make a statement to the Senate on the matter?
– I am very pleased to be asked this question. I have just come across some newspaper clippings that indicate that the Canberra Times and the Sydney Morning Herald have reports which are headed respectively: Whites “stole” title to Ayers Rock’ and Government accused of stealing NT Land’. I understand that those reports are based on statements made following the decision by Mr Justice Toohey to exclude Ayers Rock-
– I raise a point of order. If the Minister is to make a statement on the matter, would it be possible for him to make it after Question Time so that it may be debated?
– The point of order is not valid. The Minister is beginning to reply to a question. I ask him to continue.
– I will try not to make this reply terribly lengthy. I appreciate the chance to give an answer. Apparently the reports are based on complaints following Mr Justice Toohey ‘s decision that Ayers Rock is alienated Crown land and hence not available to claim. The complaints are that there has been some sort of action by the Commonwealth Government to prevent the claim from being made. The Senate should know that as long ago as January 1 95 8 Ayers Rock was declared a national park by the Commonwealth Government under the applicable Northern Territory ordinance. The park was managed by the Northern Territory Reserves Board from 14 March 1958 under the National Parks and Gardens Ordinance.
In the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 7 December 1976 a notice of intention was issued seeking public comment on the proposal to declare the Ayers Rock-Mount Olga area a national park under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975. This notice also appeared in major newspapers around Australia. The Central Land Council at that time did not oppose the establishment of a national park. In fact, there were direct dealings with the Central Land Council with respect to this matter.
I am advised that on 10 January 1977 a meeting was held between the Central Land Council, traditional Aboriginal owners, the Northern Territory Reserves Board, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service to discuss the establishment of a national park. At that meeting the Central Land Council and traditional owners agreed with the concept of the establishment of a national park under the Federal Act. They indicated that they would be laying claim to areas adjacent to the park. This is most significant. The areas to which they indicated they would be laying claim- I understand they are known as the Sedimentaries- were not included in the national park although originally it had been proposed that they would be included. The view that was put forward as to the land which would be under claim was respected. The park was declared a national park on 24 May 1977 under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. The area declared is the same area as has been a park since 1958.
There have been complaints that this action was in breach of the land freeze. A land freeze was initiated by Mr Viner on 2 November 1976.
It followed that initiated by the previous Government. In a statement to the House of Representatives on 2 November 1976 Mr Viner said that all those claims of which notice had been given or those claims which had been lodged would be protected in the sense that there would be no alienation prior to determination of those claims. He said that all that the two land councils needed to do was give notice of intention to make claims in respect of areas of vacant Crown land. There has been no action in breach of the land freeze instituted in 1976 to hold further alienation of Crown land pending preparation of Aboriginal land claims in the Northern Territory under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. The area prior to the land freeze was a park. It is still a park.
Following the proclamation of the park the Central Land Council has been consulted in the preparation of plans for the management of the park. It has indicated approval in principle to the draft plan of management. I advise the Senate that the ‘traditional’ claim was not lodged until January of this year, which is a considerable period after the proclamation of the park, after there had been a great deal of discussion with the Aboriginals in which what was happening was made quite clear. The Aboriginals appeared to have assented to what happened up to that point.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources seen a statement from the chairman of a company called Expo of World Wines Pty Ltd in which he said that trading difficulties caused by strained diplomatic relations with South East Asian nations had contributed to the liquidation of his Melbourne company, Expo of World Wines Pty Ltd, and that the company’s difficulties had been magnified by the international air fares dispute. Can the Minister confirm or deny the claim? If the statement is correct, will further Australian companies be placed in difficulties while the air fares dispute continues?
– I have not seen a report of the claim mentioned by Senator Sibraa. I will refer the question to the Minister for Trade and Resources.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Defence able to tell the Senate how many Royal Australian Air Force personnel will be trained to fly the VIP Boeing 707 aircraft? Will that training be done in Australia? Further, as it is difficult to uncover the actual cost of operating VIP aircraft, will the Minister ask the Minister for Defence to separate the accounts relating to VIP aircraft, detailing such things as running, maintenance, training and in-flight catering costs, from the rest of the RAAF’s accounts so that the taxpayers can know exactly how much the VIP aircraft are costing them?
– I will bring that question to the attention of the Minister for Defence and seek his comments.
– Has the Attorney-General seen the speech of his colleague, Mr Ellicott, to the International Year of the Child Conference in Canberra on 17 March in which Mr Ellicott drew attention to the desirable protections to the legal rights of children which would be accomplished if the Criminal Investigation Bill were to be enacted? Is the Minister embarrassed by these continued laudatory public references by Mr Ellicott to this Bill, which was, of course, introduced by Mr Ellicott two years ago and which has since, like the Human Rights Commission Bill and so much else, disappeared subsequently completely from sight? When will the Criminal Investigation Bill and the Human Rights Commission Bill be reintroduced into this Parliament?
– I have not seen the remarks of my colleague the Minister for Home Affairs and my predecessor in office, Mr Ellicott, but I would not be surprised if he made some laudatory remarks about the Criminal Investigation Bill which he introduced into the Parliament and which I also consider has some very meritorious provisions. As to whether I am embarrassed, since I have not seen the remarks I suppose I cannot answer that question literally. Nevertheless, I certainly would not be embarrassed if the remarks were in the general terms described by Senator Evans.
In answering a question the other day in relation to the Criminal Investigation Bill I said that the Government had the matter under consideration, that we had decided to review the Bill very closely with other departments involved as a result of comments that had been made upon it, and that we did not propose to make a final decision in relation to it until the new Federal Police Force was established and in a position to provide its comments on the legislation. No doubt the Bill will be amended in many ways, but I can assure Senator Evans that the principle of it has not been set aside.
As far as the human rights legislation is concerned, I am surprised that Senator Evans has raised this matter again because I have said over and over again in answers to questions and statements that it was set aside to enable me to have discussions with the States, that those discussions had taken place over 12 months or more and that finally the States decided that they would not join in a national commission, as a result of which the Commonwealth will be proceeding with legislation confined to Commonwealth Acts and practices.
-Does the Minister for Science and the Environment recall my question in May of last year concerning the high level of infestation in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia of the Portuguese millipede, which invades houses, cupboards, linen closets and so on in huge numbers during the autumn and spring periods of the year? Is he aware that infestations have now appeared in Port Lincoln and Mount Gambier in South Australia? Have the Minister or his agencies undertaken discussions with the South Australian Government authorities to determine joint action to devise biological or other methods of controlling this very troublesome pest? If so, can he report upon the status of such discussions and advise whether agreement on a program has been achieved or is soon to be achieved?
– I recall the earlier question by Senator Messner on this matter. Apparently the subject is of some concern in South Australia. I understand that the report by the Entomology Committee of the Standing Committee on Agriculture in January of this year, included an information item on this subject, so Senator Messner had some effect from his earlier question. The Entomology Committee indicated the view that there was a need for work on biological control of millipedes but did not state any attitude about funding arrangements- which we all understand are very important. If this control were to be undertaken it would require joint Commonwealth-State funding. I advised Mr Chatterton, the Minister in South Australia, of that fact as long ago as October 1978.
Neither the Standing Committee on Agricul’ture nor the Australian Agricultural Council has had any discussion on the matter so far as I am aware, and therefore nothing further has happened. I believe the matter would be in the hands of the State Minister, Mr Chatterton, to reactivate some agreement perhaps with Victoria so that the matter could be brought to the attention again of those various committees and some funding offered. Certainly it is within the capacity of my research organisation to do such biological control investigation.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It follows other questions and debates in this place, as the Minister will recall, concerning shipbuilding capacity in Australia. Has the Minister had any opportunity to consider reports from Japan and Germany that their governments are supporting more heavily the construction of ships within those countries, and also this week’s statement by Lloyds of London which cautioned the Western shipbuilders to reactivate their shipyards in view of the predominance of the shipping of the Eastern countries? I ask the Minister whether renewed consideration may be given to this aspect, and, in particular, to the request by Australian shipyards, especially at Whyalla and Newcastle, to see to what extent some extra assistance could be given in that direction.
– I assume that the question is asking whether Mr Nixon has had a chance to consider these reports. Certainly 1 have not. The matters which Senator Bishop has raised are substantial and important ones. I will ask Mr Nixon to give a reply.
– I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health to the reported recommendation of Federal energy officials that the lead content of petrol be increased as part of an overall plan to reduce Australia’s total oil consumption. Is the Minister aware of claims made by English specialist Professor Derek Bryce-Smith at the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science Conference in Auckland earlier this year that petrol lead released in exhaust fumes may be seriously damaging brain development in young children? In view of the professor’s claims, would the Minister agree that any attempts to use lead to raise the octane rating of petrol should be discouraged until such time as more conclusive evidence is available on the effects it has on the mental functioning of adults as well as children? What investigation is the Government conducting at present into the potential dangers of lead poisoning, and will the Minister assure the Senate that requests to boost the lead level of petrol will be denied until such time as the results of thorough investigations are known?
– I am not able to answer the several questions of Senator Missen. I will have them referred to the Minister for Health and seek an early answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the so-called Muldergate scandal in South Africa and to an article appearing in today’s Australian from the World Cable Service in London which states:
The South African Government has secretly spent about $500,000 to discredit or destroy the World Council of Churches.
The article continues:
The money was spent on an organisation called the Christian League of Southern Africa which for years has conducted a campaign against the World Council of Churches.
I ask the Minister: As the Christian League of Southern Africa, which was set up to conduct this campaign, plans to open offices in the United States and Britain, has our Government any knowledge of plans to extend this campaign or to open an office in Australia?
– I personally have no such knowledge, and I believe that the Government has no such knowledge either. I will refer the question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and seek any further comment.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Education, follows from one I asked earlier this year relating to postsecondary education for nurses in Tasmania. The answer the Minister gave then was that the Government’s decision would be taken after advice from the Tertiary Education Commission. Given the deprivation experienced by nurses in Tasmania due to lack of access to further education, I ask the Minister whether an external studies course could be made available as an immediate interim measure until the Government’s decision on post-secondary nursing education is finalised.
– There is considerable interest throughout Australia in the Sax Committee of Inquiry into Nurse Education and Training. Senator Walters will know that that Committee submitted its report to the Tertiary Education Commission on 31 August last year and that it was tabled by me in this Parliament on 24 October. The Government’s decisions on the report’s recommendations must await advice from the Commission and from Commonwealth and State authorities in the fields of health and education. It is unlikely that that advice will be forthcoming from the Commission before the end of April of this year. I appreciate the special difficulties faced by nursing students in Tasmania. I note the suggestion by Senator Walters for an external studies course, and I will ask the Tertiary Education Commission to give consideration to that.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether the Aboriginal Legal Service at Alice Springs has had to refuse essential work because of lack of funds. If that is a fact, is the Department likely to provide supplementary funding prior to the next Federal Budget allocation of funds for the Aboriginal Legal Service generally?
-The Aboriginal Legal Service centred at Alice Springs is one of a number of legal services which have made representations to me seeking additional funds. My recollection is that some additional funds have been made available. However, I would have to check that and let the honourable senator know, because there are a number of these cases. I think that in regard to the Alice Springs Aboriginal Legal Service there was an unexpected case of considerable magnitude which threw its budget out.
– Coming up this year?
– I think it may be on now. I will seek the details and give the honourable senator a reply, rather than guess at it.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, concerns the interface between the taxation system and the payment of pensions by the Department of Social Security. Is it true that the rate of withdrawal of pension and the application of the standard rate of income tax in cases where a pensioner’s own income exceeds about $25 a week have the combined effect that the pensioner retains less than one-third of each marginal dollar earned? This is an effective tax rate greater than 66c in the dollar and applies to thousands of pensioners. Does the Government acknowledge that this is an anomalous situation and that it was not intended by the Government? Will the Government give direct attention to adjusting the means test on the pension and adjusting the lowest tax threshold so as to remove the burden of this anomaly from pensioners?
– The question asked by Senator Teague touches upon the responsibilities of the Treasurer with regard to the income tax system and upon my responsibilities with regard to the social security system. I will analyse the comments that have been made by Senator Teague. Of course, matters of this description are matters that are properly discussed in the Budget context.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development whether he recalls a question that I asked last week concerning the $4 a barrel surcharge on Saudi Arabian light crude oil. I also asked how this would affect the Government’s import parity pricing arrangements. Is the Minister able to enlighten the Senate now about the Government’s position?
-The Leader of the Opposition in another place asked the Minister for National Development a similar question in relation to this amount of $4. I think Senator Wriedt referred to it as a surcharge but it is also regarded as a premium to be added to the price of light crude oil over and above the 9. 1 per cent increase of 1 April. The Minister for National Development has stated that the Government w.ill not consider the premium in its general consideration of the increase of 9. 1 per cent. The Minister has stated that the Government will be making a decision in relation to import parity pricing arrangements by 1 July this year. As I said, it will not be taking into account the $4 surcharge or premium.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing both the Minister for Trade and Resources and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is the Minister aware that the South Australian Minister of Transport today blamed the Federal Government for the road transport strike, stating that such a strike would not have taken place if the Federal Government had introduced a fuel tax? Would not a fuel tax increase fuel prices? If so, how does Mr Virgo’s statement align itself with the Australian Labor Party which has said consistently that fuel prices in Australia are too high already?
– That is a very good question indeed from Senator Young. Obviously the imposition of a fuel tax would raise fuel prices. That is inconsistent with the stand that seems to be taken by the Australian Labor Party generally. It is an intriguing proposition from the South Australian Minister of Transport who suggested that the Commonwealth Government is to blame in this matter. The road maintenance taxes are imposed by the States. They have a choice as to whether-
– And abolished by some.
– As Senator Young said, some States have decided now to abolish the tax, or are considering abolishing it. Of course, the States can make their own arrangements- they can save money in other directions and avoid taxes to provide for their contributions to road maintenance funds. It is a matter which is entirely for the States. As I have said, some States have been able to solve the problem. Apparently the South Australian Government has not been able to do so and has resorted to the old tactic of blaming the Federal Government.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs whether he is aware of the death of Martin Ainly, found by the New South Wales City Coroner on 3 April 1979 to have been caused by inhaling a cooking spray aerosol? Has the Minister taken any steps to examine the availability of potentially lethal aerosols on the open market? If so, what is the availability of such aerosols? What dangers are involved? What steps does the Government consider can be taken to- protect consumers, particularly young people, from these dangers?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. While acknowledging that the Government is planning to increase certain drug penalties, can the Minister indicate whether there is any truth in widespread newspaper reports that the Government is proposing anywhere to introduce mandatory life sentences for any drug-related offences?
– Amendments to the Customs Act to provide for tighter penalties in the case of special commercial trafficking in drugs are the subject of legislation which has been introduced by my colleague in another place, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. The legislation provides for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment in this particular case. It does not provide for a mandatory life sentence. The provision of a life sentence leaves the courts with a discretion whether to impose that sentence or a lesser one.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Adminstrative Services relates to the administration of Australia House. It might be called a further saga in the case of Flynn of the Gold Coast. I ask: When this gentleman skipped from Australia in possession of a forged passport, with massive debts behind him, and ultimately surfaced in the United Kingdom, did Australia House provide any special facilities for him prior to his involvement in semi-seditious operations in the United Kingdom?
– I am not aware of any special facilities provided for the gentleman in whom Senator Mulvihill has an interest. While I am on my feet might I say two things in that regard? Senator Mulvihill, on 3 April, asked me whether Mr W. J. Flynn ‘s passport had been cancelled. I am advised that the passport used by Mr Flynn is at present held by the United Kingdom police as a court exhibit. The Australian High Commission in London has been asked to forward the passport to Australia for cancellation when it is returned by the police.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Government giving or will it give consideration to the appointment of a special ambassador to the Association of South East Asian Nations in addition to our ambassadors and high commissioners appointed to individual member countries of that Association?
– All honourable senators will know that the Australian Government is strongly committed to the development and maintenance of close and substantial relations with ASEAN. Close relations are maintained with ASEAN governments through Australian representation in the individual ASEAN capitals and with an ASEAN secretariat in Jakarta. In addition, ASEAN has designated Malaysia as the country responsible for co-ordinating relations with Australia. At this stage these channels of communication are considered, by both ASEAN and Australia, to be fully satisfactory for the development of the relationship. I also add that the form in which countries or organisations undertake their relations is a matter for mutual agreement. At this stage we have no indication that ASEAN, as a group, is promoting the idea that diplomatic or other formal links with it are being sought. Should it become apparent that the development in ASEAN ‘s approach to such an issue requires us to look further at the issue, we will, of course, do so.
-I ask the Minister for Education: Does the Government accept that there are advantages in a longer term appointment to the position of Chairman of the Academic Salaries Tribunal for a period of up to five years as allowed by the legislation? I also ask: What are the reasons for Mr Justice Ludeke ‘s one-year appointment as chairman of the Academic Salaries Tribunal?
– It is desirable to have continuity in office of a chairman of such a tribunal. Indeed, had Mr Justice Campbell not become Chancellor of the Queensland University, and therefore disqualified himself, there would have been continuity in that regard. Mr Justice Ludeke is a very senior member of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and it was felt that one could not commit him for long periods. Let me simply say that I hope that the situation will so work out that there will be continuity. He brings very special qualities to his appointment.
-Has the AttorneyGeneral had any investigations carried out as to the authenticity of balance sheet figures of government land instrumentalities and public companies engaged in the marketing and development of land for housing and commercial purposes, particularly in view of the massive writedown by the New South Wales Land Commission and losses by companies such as Associated Securities Ltd? Can the public at large be assured that land assets quoted by both public and private sector investors are in accordance with current value, irrespective of the dates of purchase or the prices paid? Will the AttorneyGeneral emphasise the need for correct accounting of land assets and the responsibilities of those administering public accounts?
– This question relates to matters within the responsibility of either State governments or my colleague, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I will refer the question to him.
-Does the Minister representing the Prime Minister see any conflict in Queensland’s receipt of an average of just over $20m each year for the past three years from the Commonwealth Grants Commission when it forgoes such traditional revenues as death duties and road maintenance tax? Does the statement of the Premier of Queensland in today’s Australian Financial Review that ‘we are a rapidly growing State and our revenue is increasing’ suggest that the time has come for Queensland to stop crying poor and to cease to be a claimant State?
-Before begging to disagree with Senator Colston, I wish him a happy birthday. I am sure that we would all wish to do so. Having acknowledged the good news, let me say that the Government does not see any conflict in the matter that Senator Colston has brought forward. The Commonwealth Grants Commission is an instrumentality which has existed in Australia for some 45 years or more and which is recognised by all members of the Parliament as being an expert and bipartisan body. It is charged with the responsibility of determining whether or not a particular State ought to be a claimant State. The actions of a State in its general expenditures or its relief of taxation are taken into account. As the honourable senator will know, the test is made as to the kinds of services that are rendered in States such as Victoria and New South Wales. I can only commend the initiative of the Queensland Government in being a leader in major and significant tax reform in Australia. If it is able, consistent with its being a claimant State, to abolish probate and death duties, God bless it. That is a sentiment which I think all Australians will echo. If, as I understand happened yesterday, Queensland finds it possible within the financial framework that it now has to make further tax reductions, again that does it credit. It will be the Grants Commission, and it alone, which will make the recommendation as to whether or not Queensland will remain a claimant State.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. I ask the Minister whether it is likely that the abolition of the road maintenance tax will mean that this amount will be deducted from any future grant provided to the Queensland Government under the provisions of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
– This will be a matter for review and calculation by the Commonwealth Grants Commission itself in its overview. I cannot comment on what is a statutory body with an independent activity.
-The Attorney-General will recall that previously I mentioned my concern about the spread of activities in Australia of the Unification Church otherwise known as the Moonies’ and that my question arose from allegations made recently in an Adelaide newspaper concerning practices pursued by the ‘Moonies’. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a speech by Mr Paul Rose, M.P., in a debate in the House of Commons on the activities of this socalled church in the United Kingdom? Is the Minister aware that Mr Rose drew attention to the sworn testimony of ex-members of this cult and cited the case of a girl whose father was conned into giving away to the organisation an £800,000 estate in Stanton Fitzwarren? In view of this and other evidence of extortion in the United Kingdom, will the Minister initiate an investigation of the activities of this sect in Australia?
– I am not aware of any further information in relation to the activities of this church since Senator Jessop asked me a question on this matter several weeks ago. He now draws my attention to a speech of a member of the House of Commons. I will ask my Department to have that speech examined and will give the honourable senator’s question further consideration.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, follows from a television program concerning X-rays which, I understand, was screened some three or four weeks ago and which appears to be causing some concern in the community. I ask the Minister. Is slow speed dental X-ray film in use in Australia and in particular, is it being used in school dental programs? Is the Minister aware that dental film of sensitivity lower than speed Group D is no longer being manufactured in or imported for use into the United States or other countries for use because of the established high level of patient exposure and the subsequent risk to patients’ health? Will the Minister seek a report on slow speed dental film and the extent of its use in Australia, particularly with regard to its use on children, who might be considered to be at greater risk in the community?
– I will refer the question to the Minister for Health and seek an early answer for Senator Coleman. I note particularly that she mentioned the school dental scheme and other matters and I will see that the Minister’s attention is drawn to those matters.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence seen reports in the Press this week alleging that consideration of the purchase of the Mirage 2000 for the Tactical Fighter Force project is linked to France’s opening up the European Economic Community restrictions on the entry of Australian agricultural products? Will the Minister confirm or deny these allegations? Would the Minister not agree that, whilst the entry of Australian agricultural products to Europe is of great importance, national security is more important and that the selection of the new TFF should be based on technical reasons relevant to Australia’s particular needs, together with the usual offset requirements? Would the Minister also agree that if France co-operates with this barter allegation Australia may be compromised into accepting a design which is not yet proved and which may well be considerably inferior to its competitors?
– The decision as to the replacement fighters, when it is finally made, will be made first of all on the expert and objective advice of our defence advisers, that is, our Service advisers, of course including the Chief of Air Staff who will have one overall consideration: To gain for Australia the best possible hardware that can be achieved. Consistent with that, Cabinet will then have to make a number of considerations in terms of price and, as Senator MacGibbon so wisely pointed out, in terms of offsets. No doubt very considerable discussions will take place with regard to offsets in Australia. Senator MacGibbon will recall that the original Mirages were very largely manufactured in Australia under licence and no doubt there will be moves for such arrangements again. 1 am not aware of any consideration with regard to bargaining to open up the European Economic Community to further Australian trade. That is going on all the time because the EEC has been over-protective in that regard. I can assure the honourable senator that nothing would be done in that respect to prejudice the judgment in securing the best possible aircraft for Australia.
-I ask the Minister for Education whether his Department is introducing pre-apprenticeship courses in the Australian Capital Territory during 1979? Are the courses opposed by the Confederation of ACT Industry and the Australian Capital Territory Apprenticeship Board? Was the concept of the courses earlier opposed by a committee which consisted of representatives of the Department of Education, the Apprenticeship Board, the Trades and Labour Council, employer groups, unions, the Canberra and Bruce technical and further education colleges and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations? From which source is the money allocated to support these courses? Above all, where is it envisaged that the graduates of these courses will find employment?
– It is true that in the Australian Capital Territory the Department of Education has initiated a number of preapprenticeship courses as pilot courses. It is also true that there was opposition to such a move from the areas indicated by the honourable senator. At this moment no one can claim that there is any one inviolable method of training apprentices in Australia. The change of the whole work face, particularly in regard to subcontracting as distinct from working through major firms, has altered the thrust of apprenticeship training. Therefore my Department, the Government and I consider that pilot schemes are vital in this regard. I have no doubt in the world that employers, if offered people who have superior ability through pre-training, will take up that offer. I hope that everyone will give at least sympathetic support to the test and hope for its success.
– I did ask: From which source is the money allocated to support these courses, and where is it envisaged that the graduates of the courses will find employment?
– I did answer the second part of that question. As far as I know, these courses are funded through the ordinary allocation and through the TAFE funding in the ACT.
-Senator Mulvihill has asked a series of questions dating back to 24 October 1978 concerning interpreters and translators in the Commonwealth Bank. I have forwarded to him a letter from the Treasurer, but as the matter would interest all honourable senators I seek leave to incorporate the reply in Hansard.
The reply read as follows-
– On 24 October 1978 (Hansard, page 1512), Senator Mulvihill directed to me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice referring to Notice of Motion No 6 that appeared in his name on the Senate Notice Paper of that day. The Notice of Motion and the honourable Senator’s question concerned the possible use of section 96 of the Commonwealth Banks Act to give security of employment to a number of interpreters and translators employed by the Commonweath Banking Corporation. The Treasurer has provided the following information in answer to the honourable Senator’s question:-
I have had your question referred to the Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. On the assumption that it refers to the terms and conditions of employment of Migrant Liaison Officers in Corporation branches and Interpreters (including translators) in the Corporation’s Migrant Information Service, and in particular to their “temporary “status, the Managing Director has provided me with the following information:
That section of the Act permits appointments to be made to the permanent staff of the Corporation without applicants qualifying in order of merit at an examination for entry to the permanent Service of the Corporation, provided ‘the Managing Director or the Deputy Managing Director certifies that, in his opinion, there is no officer available who is as capable of filling the position to which it is proposed that the appointment shall be made’. (A copy of each such certificate must be laid before each House of the Parliament within 1 S sitting days of that House after the appointment is made.)
In the knowledge that there are a large number of Corporation officers, other than Interpreters and Migrant Liaison Officers, capable of reading, writing and speaking at least one “ foreign ‘ ‘ language, the Managing Director of the Corporation is of opinion that it would not be within either the scope or the intention of section 96 of the Commonwealth Banks Act to endeavour to put in motion the machinery necessary to gain permanent status for Interpreters and Migrant Liaison Officers by this means.
Recently, however, the Corporation caried out a further full review of the employment status afforded its Interpreters and Migrant Liaison Officers- who have always been assured of the continuity of their employment- and the Managing Director has now suggested an alternative course of action involving an amendment to Commonwealth Banking Corporation Service Regulations that could enable those Interpreters and Migrant Liaison Officers who meet the other requirements of the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959 to be appointed as “officers” of the Corporation ‘s Service.
The alternative course which would involve an amendment of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Service Regulations is acceptable to me. Accordingly, I will be proposing an amendment of the Regulations to give effect to the Managing Director’s suggestion.
– Earlier today Senator Keeffe asked me about the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Service. I am now able to confirm that it is proposed to make additional funds available to that Service this financial year. This is dependent on the Senate and the House of Representatives considering Additional Estimates, but I do not consider that it will be a problem. I do not expect that the additional funds will provide all that has been requested by that Service, but supplementary funds of about $20,000 will be made available.
-On 29 March 1979 Senator Baume asked me about articles which appeared in the Sun-Herald and which related to the use of marihuana. He asked whether the Government would relate the appearance of such articles to the responsibilities of a group such as the Fairfax group which is a licensee in the electronic communications media. I was advised by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications that, so far as the Broadcasting and Television Act is concerned, there is no nexus between publishing and broadcasting. The Broadcasting and Television Act and the program standards are the basis for the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal’s consideration of broadcasting licensees’ responsibilities.
– Did he give you an answer to my question?
-One should ask the Holy Ghost to do that.
– It is important.
– I will seek an answer.
-Yesterday Senator MacGibbon asked me a question about quarantine measures against the screw worm fly. I add to the answer I gave yesterday that the screw worm fly is recognised as a most serious threat to Australian livestock. It is estimated that costs could approach $150m per annum if the pest entered Australia. The pest is established in South East Asia and Papua New Guinea but has not been detected in any of the Torres Strait islands. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation over recent years has undertaken extensive research into the pest in Papua New Guinea and this research will continue.
In response to the threat, quarantine surveillance and monitoring on Torres Strait islands have been enhanced. Monitoring of all types of fly strike in north Queensland has been increased. Animals or animal products likely to carry the pest are either prohibited entry into Australia or are quarantined or treated on arrival. The frequency of quarantine officers’ visits to the islands has been increased substantially to supplement reports on animal movements, deaths, illness and behaviour on the islands from island councillors, school teachers and others.
The recently introduced coastal surveillance program has substantially improved communications and the quarantine presence in the Torres Strait. Commonwealth and State authorities are co-operating in developing and reviewing strategies and contingency plans for eradication or control. This is being undertaken in the light of the findings and recommendations of an American expert, Dr Floyd Smith, recently brought to Australia for this purpose. The sterile insect relief method of eradication and control is under specific consideration. The plan is to trial this technique which has proved successful in North America and Papua New Guinea. If this trial succeeds, this method will be the major quarantine weapon against the introduction and establishment of the pest on the Australian mainland.
-Yesterday Senator Elstob asked a question relating to the production of SIROTEM instruments. I add to that answer that the first production run of 10 SIROTEM instruments manufactured under licence to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation by the Australian company, Geoex Pty Ltd of Adelaide, have now all been sold. The instruments, used in mineral surveys, are priced at $ 1 9,600 and were the result of research and development by CSIRO ‘s Division of Mineral Physics, Geoex Pty Ltd and the Australian mining industry through individual companies and the Australian Mining Industries Research Association. Two instruments have been bought by the Mineral Exploration Division of Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd and another two have been bought by Geoex Pty Ltd for its own contract geophysical survey work. SIROTEM instruments have also been purchased by the Western Mining Corporation, the Geo Peko company and by CSIRO and the Bureau of Mineral Resources jointly.
Overseas, instruments have been bought by the Institute of Geological Sciences in the United
Kingdom; by a geophysical survey contracting company in Finland; and by the Lulea University in Sweden. An order for a SIROTEM instrument has been placed by the United States Geological Survey and there are strong prospects of sales to other countries and to other Australian mining exploration companies.
In answer to Senator Elstob ‘s request for a definition of how successful the instrument has been, I can only say that the field performance of SIROTEM has been extremely satisfactory and followed field tests which showed it to have superior abilities in locating ore bodies. The instrument is used as a tool by geophysicists to locate ore bodies prior to test drilling and as such has been widely used in Australia and overseas. However, because of the confidential nature of exploration by mining companies, it is not possible for me to list deposits or locations related to the use of SIROTEM as an exploration tool.
-On 6 March and 3 April, Senator Rocher and Senator Young asked questions of me as the Minister representing the Treasurer concerning the income tax provisions relating to charitable deductions. It was suggested that the minimum amount that might be claimed as a gift should be increased from the present $2 to $50. It was also suggested that income tax deductions should be allowed in respect of gifts to approved institutions active in the areas of the arts, amateur sport and overseas aid. The Treasurer has provided the following information:
As I understand it, the purpose of increasing the $2 minimum to $50 would be to lead donors to increase the size of their gifts, possibly substantially. I am not in favour of such a change to the gift provisions. Whether it would lead to greater or smaller giving is uncertain, but one thing is obvious; such an 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.
As to the question of allowing income tax deductions in respect of gifts to institutions active in the areas of the arts, amateur sport and overseas aid, I would point out that several institutions active in the arts are already covered by the income tax gift provisions. Consideration has been given on a number of occasions to the possibility of extending the gift provisions to include gifts to other artistic bodies and to organisations in the areas of sport and overseas aid. On each occasion it has been concluded, however, that the provisions should not be so extended.
In this context, it is relevant that the amount of revenue forgone through the allowance of gifts is quite outside the Government’s determination; it depends wholly on the generosity of donors and their individual marginal rates of tax. It could thus come about that in cases where a modest direct contribution from public funds might be considered as warranted, a substantially larger amount of revenue was forgone through the allowance of gifts. That is not a very efficient way of providing assistance out of the public purse. Direct financial grants are a much more precise method of assistance. The Commonwealth Government does of course provide such direct grant assistance in all the areas referred to by the honourable senators.
– by leave- I raise once again the matter that was raised in this place a week ago by Senator Georges, that is, the nature of some answers to questions. Today Senator Chaney gave a substantial answer to a question about Ayers Rock. Much of that material was new. I believe that much of it also was debatable. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick), in consultation with his ministerial colleagues, to consider whether the material that is being provided to the Senate in the form of answers ought not to be provided in the form of statements. I realise that it is a matter of judgment for an individual Minister to make and that very often it would be difficult to do so but, in respect of material which legitimately should be before the Senate for debate, I would ask the Government seriously to consider changing the forms that are being used. I must, of course, leave it in the hands of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I do not propose to move any motion in respect of it because it is something which is a matter of judgment for Senator Carrick in particular but I would ask him to consider it in the future.
– by leave- I agree that it is important that answers should be short and that information which is really appropriate to a statement should be given in that form. In the instant case I would simply say to the Senate that it was a matter that came up at very short notice, which I thought would give rise to some questions and which, under the rules that normally apply to statements, I do not think could have been provided in the Senate by way of a statement today with adequate notice being given to the Opposition. I simply say that by way of explanation.
-by leave-I want to support what the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) has said and to make a plea to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) to bring back the paper on the Uluru claim for a general debate. I believe that under Standing Orders it can be managed. Even if we do not get it back today we should be able to get it back when the Parliament resumes after the Easter break. I make the plea and hope that the Minister takes note of it.
Senator CHANEY (Western AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs)- by leave- In the light of what I see as the importance of the matter, I propose to issue a Press statement later today. I am perfectly happy to bring that statement into the Senate and to produce it. At that stage somebody can move that the Senate take note of it. I do not seek to avoid the Senate’s having a chance to consider the matter. I do want to put before the public what I regard as the facts.
– I must say that it is within the competency of any honourable senator to seek leave to take note. If leave is granted, okay. That opening is there.
– Can I move now that we take note of both the Press statement when it comes in and the reply to the question?
– No- if it is in the form of a statement. I am sorry, you cannot have a question as such.
– When the statement comes in I will seek leave to have that debated.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following letter dated 4 April 1 979 from Senator Walsh:
Dear Mr President.
Pursuant to Standing Order 64, I give notice that tomorrow I shall move ‘That in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
The Government’s failure to adhere to a coherent interest rate and money supply policy, particularly it procrastination over funding wheat growers’ first advance payments and over its own borrowing program. ‘
Is the motion supported?
More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– I move:
In the 1 977 election campaign, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) gave a number of unequivocal guarantees. He guaranteed that unemployment would fall continuously from February 1978; in fact it has gone up by 50,000. He guaranteed that within a year inflation would be running at between 6 per cent and 8 per cent. For the calendar year 1978 the Prime Minister just managed to break that upper limit. The consumer price index went up by 7.9 per cent. Everyone now knows that inflation is rising and many informed observers expect it to be 10 per cent this calendar year. He also guaranteed that interest rates would fall by 2 per cent within a year. His exact words were:
It is a target that can and will be achieved.
Recently, with the objectivity of a Stalinist, in a television interview with Capital Communication Services News, he, like a Stalinist, qualified and re-wrote his words. He re-wrote history.
– On a point of order, I take objection to the phrase imputing to the Prime Minister of this country ‘the objectivity of a Stalinist’. I find it offensive.
– On the point of order, the expression ‘Stalinist’ denotes a cast of mind, a manner of dealing with a subject. It is not necessarily a pejorative expression at all. I think Senator Walsh is using the expression in a way which could not possibly be described as offensive by another politician. Stalin himself was a successful politician. I do not think there is any point of order.
– I draw the attention of the Senate to previous rulings by Presidents in which the word ‘communist’, to which the argument used by Senator Button could be applied with equal force, has been ruled to be unparliamentary. The word ‘fascist’ has been ruled to be unparliamentary and I believe that this word falls into the same category.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I believe that the word ‘Stalinist’ in the Australian context is an unfortunate word to use. I would appreciate your withdrawing it, Senator Walsh.
– To overcome the problem, I will withdraw the reference, Mr Deputy President. However, I did refer to the objectivity of a
Stalinist. Stalinists are not noted for their objectivity; that is the point. They are noted for rewriting history in a way that is convenient to them for propaganda purposes. That is the meaning of the term ‘objectivity of a Stalinist’. People can draw their own conclusions from this.
– I raise a point of order. Senator Walsh is trying deliberately to subvert your ruling, Mr Deputy President, because he is still intending to apply offensive words to the Prime Minister. I ask that you enforce the withdrawal.
– Speaking to the point of order-
– On a point of order. Should not honourable senators speak from their places, Mr Deputy President?
– I am the acting Whip today.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Mcintosh is sitting in the Whip’s place and today he is the acting Whip. Perhaps he will speak from his own seat.
– It appears that Government senators are very touchy indeed. When Senator Walsh explained what he meant by Stalinist’, without necessarily referring to the Prime Minister, offence was still taken. It appears that they really are touchy, in view of the fact that Senator Walsh explained his interpretation of the word he used.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Walsh, I believe that you are retaining the inference you first made, and I would appreciate your making a complete withdrawal.
– I withdraw, Mr Deputy President. I will just let the facts speak for themselves. Some 15 months ago the Prime Minister gave an unequivocal guarantee that interest rates would fall by 2 per cent within a year. ‘It is a target that can and will be achieved ‘, he said. On 9 February this year he said:
What I said was: there could be reductions of up to 2 per cent . . . It was not an absolute statement.
It is a target that can and will be achieved’, he said. That sounds to me like an absolute statement. On the question of interest rates, Mr Fraser could be said to be the last of the school men, that is, the mediaeval moralists who believed that interest rates were immoral, were evil, and were usury, and tried to ban them. Mr Fraser appears to believe that interest rates can be fixed by government fiat at any desired level without affecting any other important economic variable. Perhaps a more distant historical metaphor would be more appropriate. He could be called the Canute of finance.
By a combination of bluff and hectoring, aided by some very peculiar manipulations of the bond market by the Reserve Bank of Australia and false expectations of capital gains on government securities by investors, most interest rates did, in fact, fall by between one-half of one per cent and one per cent during 1978. The illusion that interest reductions were sustainable was temporarily maintained. In November 1 978, in spite of a weakening balance of payments, rising inflation in Australia, rising interest rates abroad and a Budget deficit out of control for the second year in succession, the Government actually cut the long term bond rate from 9 per cent to 8.8 per cent. That policy marked the high summer of money management by magic. It did not last. When it failed, the Prime Minister, as is his custom, blamed the bureaucrats for giving him bad advice; but the simple truth is that the policy could not last unless the money supply was allowed to run wild and it nearly did run wild.
The annual growth rate of M3 in February of this year was 12 per cent, and it may well go higher. That is the record of a Friedmanite government which believes that the future rate of inflation can be determined precisely by subtracting the real gross domestic product rate from the money supply growth rate. By February the mutual exclusiveness of his interest policy and money supply control was becoming apparent, even to the Prime Minister. The outcome of that awakening was a weak compromise- no February loan but a conversion loan with the bond rate going up from 8.8 per cent to 9 per cent. Superimposed on the Government’s mismanagement in this period was an additional problem- the monetary implications of funding the Australian Wheat Board ‘s overdraft to make first advance payments to wheat growers. The Government responded to this problem with a mixture of procrastination and sly attempts to coerce the Wheat Board- attempts which have compromised both the Board and the Government.
At the end of November the Government announced, after its usual procrastination while the Liberal and Country parties sorted out their intra-Cabinet squabbles, that the first advance would be $75 a tonne less growers’ freight. When the matter was first put before Cabinet, that is some time early in November, it was believed that the wheat deliveries would be about 12 million tonnes. Arrangements were made to provide $800m to the rural credit department of the Reserve Bank to make the required first advance payment to growers. When the $75 a tonne announcement was made finally it was known that the harvest would exceed those earlier estimates. As the harvest progressed estimates were revised upwards progressively. In mid-January it was known that deliveries could reach 17 million tonnes, a figure which ultimately was exceeded. Reserve Bank funding of wheat growers’ advances has exactly the same effect on the money supply, at least in the short term, as printing currency. The wheat harvest ultimately added 3 per cent to M3, which was a full one per cent more than the Government had anticipated in November when it made the $75 a tonne announcement.
The Government certainly was aware of this problem by mid-January, if not earlier. The proper response, as the Syntec newsletter of 5 March scathingly observed, would have been to come clean with the public and instruct the Wheat Board to draw commercial bills for part of the money but the Government chose not to do this. What it did do is not entirely clear but we know that the Board ran out of money on or about 23 January and stopped making payments on growers’ delivery warrants. Payments were resumed about a fortnight later after the Reserve Bank had increased the Board ‘s overdraft limit, thereby enabling the Board to make the first advance payments on all warrants tendered. Payment delays of a couple of weeks are not unusual so not very many wheat growers noticed that anything was wrong or that payments had been suspended for a period. However, a few letters of complaint have appeared in the agricultural Press. The prima facie case is that the Government, instead of openly stating its difficulty, as Syntec and others told it it should have, and instructing the Board, simply refused to allow the Board any more money. It believed it could secretly coerce the Board into drawing bills on the commercial market to fund all advances in excess of $800m. When the Board refused to comply, the Government, after a bluff period of about two weeks, allowed the Board sufficient funds to pay a $75 advance on all wheat deliveries.
If the Genera] Manager of the Wheat Board was reported accurately in the Australian Financial Review editorial of 28 February he lied when questioned on the matter. The Board, contrary to his statement, did suspend payments. The Board and its Manager were placed in an untenable position by the Government’s sleazy manoeuvring, about which it still refuses to come clean. The Government will answer no questions on this matter. Senator McLaren first raised a question on 21 February and got an irrelevant answer. I asked a question last Tuesday and was told to put it on notice. Many more questions were evaded between those dates. We know that the Board suspended payment on or about 20 January because it could not get more money from the Reserve Bank. What we want to know is who issued the instruction to the Bank not to fund fully the first advance as it always had done previously. Was the scheme to coerce the Board conceived by John Stone? Did he sell the idea privately to the Prime Minister? If it was not conceived and implemented in that way, how was it conceived and who implemented it? Who gave the instruction that the Reserve Bank was not to lend more than $800m to the Board? Who later rescinded that instruction, on 3 February or thereabouts, and allowed the Board to increase its overdraft? The public, the Opposition and the wheat growers are entitled to know these things. I gather from the notes that he is making that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) will reply. We will probably hear another lengthy monologue about the alleged sins of the Whitlam Government, inflation and money supply control, unemployment and so on.
– You can be sure of that.
– But let Senator Carrick address himself to these questions for once. Let him be relevant for once. Who issued the instruction to the Reserve Bank that it was not to allow the Wheat Board an overdraft of more than $800m. Was it John Stone in collaboration with the Prime Minister? Was it the Reserve Bank in collaboration with the Prime Minister? If not, who was it, and who in the bureaucracy or the Government subsequently reversed that decision, on or about 3 February, and allowed the Reserve Bank to provide the Board with sufficient funds to meet its full obligation?
Ater payments were resumed early in February the Government’s duplicity and procrastination continued. Having failed to make the Board ‘volunteer’ to go to the commercial market and after allowing it to resume payment, the Government then leaned on the Board to transfer portion of its $ 1,200m debt to the trading banks. The Press was leaking that fact through most of February. Questions in Parliament were evaded consistently by the Government. Finally, the day after the first parliamentary session closed- that was on 9 March- Mr Fraser announced to the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, of all places, that between $150m and $450m of the Wheat Board’s debt to the Reserve Bank would be transferred to the trading banks. I understand that $155m has now been transferred. The Government has said that it will pay the interest differential of about 2 per cent on whatever amount is transferred. My question yesterday on how the payment was to be made ran into the usual stone wall: ‘Put the question on notice ‘.
The whole Wheat Board charade is a measure of the Government’s innate dishonesty and incompetence, or perhaps of the Liberal Party’s chronic incapacity to discipline the economic hillbillies with whom it is in coalition- shades of 1971 and the cowardly decision not to revalue the dollar. If the Government had come clean in January it could have avoided all the destabilising speculation which has followed this manoeuvre. It could have avoided compromising the Wheat Board by putting its General Manager in the position where he felt it was obligatory to lie to the financial Press. The Syntec newsletter of 5 March states that this is a prime example of poor government management. I should like to quote a few extracts from that report. It is not exactly a left wing publication. In part, it states:
The Government must have known several months ago that the new wheat crop had been vastly underestimated . . .
Yet it proceeded with a first advance payment to growers of $75 per tonne, thus creating some $500m in unscheduled new money.
I repeat that that has exactly the same effect on the money supply as printing bank notes. It continues:
Once this was done, the Government should have acted quickly to counter the new money creation.
The Wheat Board should have been instructed months ago to draw commercial bills for part of the first advance money.
Then the Syntec newsletter concludes on this note:
If it becomes apparent abroad that the Fraser Government is much less competent in internal monetary management than its boasts in the US would imply, then there is danger that run-out on private sector capital account will offset the significant improvement now occurring on trade account.
What does this sordid, sorry charade do to the Government’s attempt to persuade the world that it is on top of the job of money control and general economic management? Leaving aside this bizarre episode, the Government, in a broader field, continues to flounder in the economic morass of its own making. It has been forced to make some concessions to reality. Local government borrowing rates went up from 9.4 per cent to 9.7 per cent this week but the Government still fails to admit that the interest rate and money supply policies it proclaimed and propped up throughout 1978 are mutually exclusive. It is still stuck with the Prime Minister’s election boast that a 2 per cent interest reduction is a target that can and will be achieved. That is an absolute statement. The more rustic version of the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) on the same theme is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of 26 November 1977, where he said: ‘Interest rates will come down by 2 per cent in the next 12 months or I will eat my hat.’ May he suffer severe indigestion. The
Treasurer (Mr Howard), at least for the present, is more prudent. Yesterday, in answer to a question from Mr Hayden he stated:
What he did not say was that the Government will not admit what are the actual interest rates. The Government has lost control of the money supply. It clings to the fiction that the bond rate is 9 per cent when last week the Reserve Bank of Australia could sell only 35 per cent of its issue at an interest rate of 9.46 per cent and when for weeks the market rate for long term government securities has been between 9.3 per cent and 9.5 per cent. Kenneth Davidson, the economic writer for the Melbourne Age- this is only a sample of what the financial Press and writers have been saying this week- on Tuesday, 3 April, stated:
Unless yesterday’s test run did not fairly reflect the market, it would suggest that a market rate for long-term Government securities is higher than 9.S percent.
That is what the real rate of interest is now, not only because Kenneth Davidson says so but also because the market performance has proved it. Kenneth Davidson’s opinion or his assessment of the situation has been endorsed in general by the financial Press. The Government now seeks to obscure reality with its tap and tender system which is to become operative but, as usual, we do not know when. If the Government knows, it has not told us. The indications are that it will become operative sometime towards the end of 1979. What happens in the meantime? Will the normal May loan be floated? Will there be an August loan? If not, what does the Government propose to do about its record deficit shooting $500m or more above its estimate? The Melbourne Age put the matter succinctly in yesterday’s editorial. After noting that inflation was going up and that 12 per cent money supply growth could accommodate higher inflation in the next 1 2 months the Age stated:
The only way to deal with this problem is for the Government to sell more securities to the public, and this means a lift in official interest rates now. Mr Fraser may be hesitating because of the Victorian State election next month. This would be foolish as well as irresponsible.
I am not sure whether the Melbourne Age was suggesting that Mr Fraser would behave responsibly if he knew what the responsible part was, but of course Mr Fraser knows very well- as do most of his back benchers- that his back benchers are going to depose him as leader before the end of the year if the Hamer Government loses the Victorian election. When the question of self-preservation, reponsibility, selfinterest or national interest arises, Mr Fraser typically opts for self-interest.
– Order ! That is a reflection on the Prime Minister. The honourable senator will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw, Mr President. He makes no arrangements. The Government has no policy on how it will fund its ballooning deficit. An announcement will not even be made until after the Victorian election, at the very least. In the meantime speculation grows and the situation becomes more and more unstable. More and more potential investors overseas are becoming aware of the fact that the Fraser Government has lost control of the money supply, that it has been pursuing policies which are mutually exclusive, untenable, indefensible and which in fact are crumbling and in decay. The Government’s only response at this stage is to fund its ballooning deficit with short-term Treasury notes. All that that does is transfer the deficit problem- the money supply management problem- from this financial year into next financial year. I dare say that the Prime Minister’s time horizon does not extend beyond 5 May because he knows that his survival as leader of the Liberal Party depends on whether the Victorian Government is defeated in the coming election.
– Such a vacuous outburst does not merit or deserve a considered reply. I will take up Senator Walsh’s invitation to be relevant. Senator Walsh has come to the Senate today to occupy the valuable time of the Parliament, by discussing matters such as interest rates, money supply, unemployment and inflation. I will be relevant. The Whitlam Labor Party Government- Senator Walsh is a member of that Party- came to office in 1972 when inflation was 4 per cent, and it left office with inflation at 18 per cent and rising to the 20s. The Australian Labor Party came to office with Australia’s interest rates among the lowest in the free world. The Labor Government left office with interest rates soaring to the highest. It came to office with no unemployment and left with soaring unemployment. One now notices the strong attempt by Senator Walsh to deride any attempt to lower interest rates. The Labor Party sees virtue in high interest rates. I hope that every ordinary family in Australia which is seeking to buy a home understands the effect of the Australian Labor Party trying, for its own selfinterest, to destroy government policy, by forcing up interest rates. What it is doing for mean and narrow self-interests is trying to rob the pockets of the ordinary people of Australia, as was done so disastrously between 1972 and 1975.
We are invited to see whether the interest rate, monetary, and inflation policies of this Government are sound or in tatters as has been alleged by Senator Walsh. Senator Walsh in his argument says, on the one hand, that the money supply is out of control and then, on the other hand, he attacks the policy of the Government in financing wheat advances which in itself brings down the volume of money supply. There could not be a more incoherent approach. In order that I do not overlook the matter may I say that if Senator Walsh wants to accuse people, who are not protected by this Parliament- such as the General Manager of the Wheat Board- of being a liar, I invite him to go outside and say so.
– I have done it.
-Well, Mr President, I believe that the General Manager of the Wheat Board is a very honourable man. He does not deserve the kind of extravagance which is the normal pattern of Senator Walsh. The economic policies of this Government are being recognised day by day by virtually every commercial and industrial indicator and by authoritative economists as moving towards the success that the goals delineated. Today, the goals of the Australian Government have been to obtain a restoration of real growth in Australia consistent with the decline in inflation so that we can once again trade from the shores of this country to other nations and therefore provide the income that will employ our people and pay the benefits that we need.
I remind Senator Walsh, who hates being reminded of it, that his party, in its three years in government, destroyed the ability of this country to trade with other countries. We are now in a position, once again, to trade with others. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that Senator Walsh is so interested in the so-called urgency motion that he has initiated that he is no longer with us. Indeed, his arguments were not with us from the moment he started. It is evidence of the utter humbug and hypocrisy of the Labor Party that one of its spokesmen puts forward a false case and then runs away because he cannot bear to hear the logic of the argument against him.
– Do you deny that you will gag the debate?
– Let other Labor Party senators call out. The oldest trick in the book is to try by noise to put aside an argument. In 1975 the rate of inflation was running in the vicinity of 18 per cent; it is now running below 8 per cent.
The consumer price index for the year ending December 1978 was the lowest since 1972.
– But it is now rising again.
– In other words, we have managed to wipe out the three evil years of the Labor Government of which Senator Gietzelt was a member. He tries, by noise, to dampen down that fact. Let me give some indication of what has happened to interest rates.
– Why don’t you reduce interest rates?
– What about crook estate agents? What about rip-off estate agents?
– I do not mind in the least if honourable senators opposite catcall to their heart’s content. Let me give some examples of what has happened to interest rates. At the end of August 1977 the figure for two-year government securities was 9.86 per cent and at the end of February 1 979 it was 8.65 per cent- a drop of 1.21 per cent. The figure for five-year government securities at the end of August 1977 was 10.2 per cent and at the end of February 1979 it was 8.98 per cent- a drop of 1.22 per cent. The figure for 10-year government securities dropped from 10.4 per cent to 9 per cent- a reduction of 1 .4 per cent. The figure for government securities over a 20-year period fell from 10.49 per cent to 9 per cent- a drop of 1.49 per cent. That is not a bad situation when we consider that this means that we are strengthening the savings that were destroyed by the Labor Party and that we are helping to ease the debt burden of all those paying off their homes.
What is the strength of this motion? Senator Walsh talks about unemployment- a phenomenon created uniquely in the post-war years by the Labor Party. By two acts in 1 974- by lifting the roof off wage control and by cutting tariffs across the board- the Labor Government reduced the number of employees in the manufacturing industry by 1 10,000. To show the complete illogicality of the Labor Party, Senator Walsh, who is not here but whose ghost is here, like the ghost of Banquo argued that control of the monetary supply is lacking. But who is advocating above award wages? Who is arguing strongly against the Government’s case before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? It is the Labor Party. Who talked up wages by 70 per cent in three years and 37 per cent in 18 months, destroying the building industry in the process, as Senator Rocher will know? It was the party whose members have the gall to talk here about lack of control of the money supply. The Government appears to have been conservative in its prediction in the Budget Papers that the growth of the gross domestic products would be about 4 per cent. It looks as though this financial year it will be somewhere beyond 5 per cent. That is very good news for everybody. Of course some setbacks will occur from time to time along the journey towards our goals. At Question Time today I reminded honourable senators that the Government was proceeding with its interest rate policies, whereas the governments of the United States of America and Great Britain had policies which had resulted in significant increases in interest rates. There is no way in the world that the Government can waterproof Australia totally from the effects of off-shore inflation and offshore interest rates, but it is significant that the general trend of inflation in Australia is, happily, downwards. The success is measured by the indicators themselves.
Extraordinarily, Senator Walsh sought to make the bulk of his speech on the question of financing advance payments for wheat growers. Let me put this matter in context. Senator Walsh has moved that in the opinion of the Senate the following is a matter of urgency:
The Government’s failure to adhere to a coherent interest rate and money supply policy, particularly its procrastination over funding wheatgrowers’ first advance payments and over its own borrowing program.
The action taken by the Government in funding advances to wheat growers was aimed at reducing the money supply.
– Two months late.
-I take it that the Labor Party is opposed to this action.
- Senator Walsh is back.
– It makes no difference whether the ghost or the corporation is here; the effect is nugatory.
– Tell us who instructed the Reserve Bank?
-I shall allow the brain fever birds to chatter away as they do. That is their only substitute for rational argument. The Government welcomes the effects which the unusually large wheat harvest will have on grower incomes and,, as wheat is exported and paid for, on the balance of payments situation. It is heartening to see the strengthening in that regard. In the normal course, first advance payments are financed through rural credit advances. In respect of the 1978-79 harvest, the Government determined a first advance of $75 per tonne in the expectation that deliveries to the Australian Wheat Board would be in the vicinity of 13 million tonnes. Incidentally, nobody challenged that at the time. It was accepted at that time that a rural credits drawing limit of $ 1 . 1 billion would be required by the Board to meet first advance payments and for expenses. Estimates of deliveries later increased to 1 7.9 million tonnes, involving an additional financing requirement for 1978-79 of $3 10m.
If all those additional funds had been made available through rural credits advances, there would have been an unacceptable addition to the monetary aggregates. The Government was not prepared to contemplate a further addition of that magnitude to the money supply. It therefore asked the Wheat Board to raise $ 1 55m of the additional funds through the issue of commercial bills in the market place. The Government, for its part, recognised that the costs of commercial financing would exceed the costs of rural credits advances and decided to provide a subsidy equivalent to the additional costs of the commercial financing so that wheat growers would not be disadvantaged by having their access to rural credits restricted in respect of portion of the 1978-79 harvest. The Government’s decision is an expression of its determination to restrict increases in the monetary aggregates to ensure that the substantial progress that has been made in reining back inflation is not undermined.
Consideration of alternative methods of financing some of the additional funds required for the first advance payments raised complex questions. It was also necessary to carry out market explorations to test the feasibility of and the most appropriate form of a bills issue, to ensure that the cost of the subsidy to the Commonwealth was minimised. These processes took time. The Wheat Board has now completed the issue of $155m of bills and the market has absorbed them without difficulty; that is, the exercise has been concluded on a very satisfactory basis, making a useful contribution to money supply control and financing the advances without hardship to the wheat growers themselves. Therefore it defies belief that an honourable senator would come into this place and use the cheap pretext of an urgency motion while at the same time debasing the idea of an urgency motion.
Let me just draw these threads together. What do we have? We have a Labor Party which increased inflation from 4 per cent to 1 8 per cent and a government which reduced inflation to below 8 per cent, with this figure happily moving downwards. We have a Labor Party which took Australian interest rates, some of the lowest in the world, and raised them to the highest as such and a government which is steadily moving interest rates downward. We have a Labor Party which let the money supply soar to the heavens and a government which has the money supply under control. We have a Labor Party which took full employment and turned it into gross unemployment and a government which is steadily working to achieve conditions, all the indicators of which show that progress is being made. So that is the situation. The Labor Party spent three years quarrelling with the primary producers and getting into the most bitter conflict with them whereas this Government welcomes the success of the primary producers and aids them. Yet this urgency motion is brought forward. The Government hopes that the Labor Party will continue to bring forward such nonsensical ideas so that it can demonstrate quite clearly the successes of government policies and the total failure of Labor Party policies.
I repeat that I was saddened today to hear amongst the many extravagances of Senator Walsh the inference that high interest rates were not bad. He sneered at the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who he said thought high interest rates were usury. The Prime Minister has a responsibility for the little people of Australia, the farmers carrying the biggest burden of debt that they have carried in decades, heavily piled upon them by the inflationary policies of the Labor Government. Yet Senator Walsh sneers, as if the talking up of interest rates were not a destructive and a white-anting thing. Mr President, with the absolute contempt that this motion deserves, I move:
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
– I present the Fourth Report of the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. The report informs Parliament about the brief which will be supplied to competitors in stage 1 of the design competition for the new building, and explains the Committee’s role in its preparation. This brief, or competition document, describes the Parliament’s requirements in broad terms so that competitors will have sufficient information to undertake their tasks without being confined in developing their concepts. The Committee is satisfied that the document accurately reflects the Parliament’s requirements. On completion of printing at the end of this month, the competition document will be presented to Parliament.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present a report from the Industries Assistance Commission on the sugar industry. Although only a limited number of copies of the report are available, in view of the interest of honourable senators- particularly Senator McAuliffe- I thought that the report should be presented today. Copies of the report will be sent to all honourable members and honourable senators as soon as printing is completed, which I hope will be within the next week.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) by leave- The 62nd report of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances deals with two main topics: Undertakings, still outstanding, given by Ministers to amend provisions in regulations or ordinances which were unacceptable to the Senate Committee; and whether the scope of Senate Standing Order 36a should be extended to cover other instruments subject to parliamentary disallowance in addition to regulations and ordinances. In the report there are seven cases where undertakings are alleged not to have been carried out. In two of those casesthe Physiotherapists Registration Ordinance and the Federal Court of Australia Regulationsamending provisions have been made since the report was tabled. The Committee has looked at the seven matters and I shall deal with the remaining five.
Prosecution procedures in relation to Motor Traffic Offences
The Committee raises questions to Motor Traffic Ordinance (No. 6) of 1974, which is administered by the Minister for the Capital Territory. The Committee’s concern was that the statutory defences to the offences concerning priority vehicle lanes amounted to a reversal of the onus of proof. Mr Enderby, who was then the Attorney-General, on the suggestion of the Standing Committee, undertook that the pleas by post provisions of the Court of Petty Sessions Ordinance could be amended to permit a defendant who had been served with a summons to provide the prosecution with a statement, on oath, of the grounds of his defence. This would then enable the prosecution to decide whether or not to proceed.
In my opinion, there are substantial objections to this proposal. These are: The making of the statement by the defendant without proper advice could be prejudicial to him; the question whether proceedings already instituted should proceed or not is a matter on which the court may wish to express a view; if the prosecution simply offered no evidence an order for costs could be made against the Crown; the undertaking given by Mr Enderby could be rendered ineffective by the prosecution not using the plea by post procedure; the undertaking did not satisfy one of the criteria insisted on by the Committee, namely, that the defendant should be given an opportunity to state his defence before proceedings were instituted.
I so advised the Committee by letter of 4 October 1977 and added that other means of tackling the problem were being discussed by officers of my Department and the Department of the Capital Territory. As a result of those discussions I considered a number of other alternative methods of meeting the Committee’s objections and found them all to be significantly unsatisfactory. I wrote to the Committee on 10 October 1978 setting out the alternatives and objections to them. Further correspondence and submissions involving matters of law have passed between myself and the Committee since that time, but as yet a satisfactory conclusion has not been reached. At the moment I am considering the latest response by the Committee which I received only last Thursday, 29 March.
As members of the Committee are aware, in accordance with the undertaking given by the then Minister for Post and Telecommunications, amendments to the regulations to which objection was taken by the Standing Committee were prepared. In correspondence between the Minister and the Committee it was agreed that action to make those amendments should be deferred pending the outcome of considerations on the subject by the Law Reform Commission. It was also thought desirable to await recommendations in that regard which may emerge from the Royal Commission on Drugs. Reports of the two commissions have been longer in coming than might have been initially hoped for. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) has been in touch with Senator Missen, the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, to advise him that, in view of the delay, he now proposes to make the amendments without waiting for the outcome of the two inquiries.
Regulations under the Customs Act
In relation to this matter the question was wider than the disallowance of particular regulations before the Standing Committee. The question was raised whether some right of appeal should be given in relation to administrative decisions authorised under various provisions of regulations made under the Customs Act. The then Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs undertook to seek the advice of the Administrative Review Council on the matter. That undertaking was honoured but the Minister has not yet had the benefit of the advice of the
Administrative Review Council and, in that regard, the Committee has been in contact with the Council.
ACT Consumer Affairs Ordinance
This Ordinance is administered by my colleague the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott). The Committee objected to provisions in the Ordinance which it was alleged required a person to produce information or documents which may tend to incriminate him, on the ground that the provision violated the right of a person not to be a witness against himself. Attempts made to comply with the undertaking given by the Minister themselves raised some difficult questions of law. However provisions have now been drafted and I understand that a draft of amendments to be made to the Ordinance is at present being examined in the Department of the Capital Territory as a prelude to its being submitted for consideration by the Committee.
ACT Sale of Motor Vehicles Ordinance
This Ordinance is also administered by the Minister for the Capital Territory. The Committee ‘s objections were to provisions of the ordinance which vested in the Registrar of Motor Vehicles power to determine disputes between purchasers and dealers. As Senator Missen mentioned in his speech last month, those provisions are not being used, pending amendment of the Ordinance. I am informed that instructions for amending provisions have recently been given to the legislative draftsman.
In May last year, I gave an undertaking that the Federal Court of Australia Regulations would be amended to provide a right of appeal from a decision of a registrar on the remission of fees payable by a person granted legal aid or upon whom payment of the fee would impose hardship. Amendments to the Federal Court of Australia Regulations to permit an appeal from such a decision of a registrar have now been made. The amending regulations were notified in the Gazette on 21 March 1979 and came into operation on that day.
Senate Standing Order 36A
The second of the two main topics raised in the Committee’s report- the question of the scope of Senate Standing Order 36a- is essentially one relating to the manner in which the Senate conducts its business and is therefore a matter for resolution by the Senate itself. On 28 September 1978, the Senate agreed to this motion:
That the amendment of Standing Order 36a proposed in the 62nd report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances be referred to the Standing Orders Committee.
I regret that it has taken so long to present to the Senate a statement on the matters raised by the Committee. As will be apparent from what I have said, the Government has given careful consideration to the matters mentioned in the Committee ‘s report. The Government is fully appreciative of the Committee’s work in scrutinising subordinate legislation and drawing attention to provisions which it considers do not meet the standards laid down in successive reports of the Committee. I present the following paper:
The 62nd Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances- Ministerial Statement, S April 1979.
-by leave-I withdraw General Business, Order of the Day No. 71, relating to the 62nd report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. I move:
The motion which I have moved, by arrangement with the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), is the same in substance as the Order of the Day which I have withdrawn. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee has had the opportunity of considering the substance of the Attorney-General’s statement and considers that it is justified in asking the Senate to pass the motion which I have just moved in the light of the Attorney-General ‘s statement. The AttorneyGeneral ‘s statement deals with each of the matters listed in the Committee’s report, and I propose to do likewise. This statement has been made nearly six months after the report of the Committee was put down complaining about these matters but we are glad to see this statement now before the Senate.
The first matter is in relation to provisions reversing the onus of proof in the Motor Traffic Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory. As I advised the Senate in my previous remarks upon the report, the Committee wrote to the then Attorney-General in February 1976 to ask him whether he would carry out the undertaking given by the Attorney-General in the previous Government. In spite of repeated reminders the Committee did not receive a substantive reply until October 1977. That reply merely indicated that the Attorney-General was further considering the matter, and it was not until 10 October 1978 that the Attorney-General finally gave the Committee the benefit of his consideration. It is up to that time that the inordinate delay in dealing with this matter occurred. I would like to stress that the Committee has no complaint about the time which has elapsed since 10 October 1978 during which the Committee has been considering the submissions made to it by the Attorney-General. It was in the period before October 1978 that the inordinate delay occurred.
With regard to the regulations under the Postal Services Act in relation to the opening of mail, the Attorney-General has rightly pointed out that the responsible Minister agreed recently to go ahead with the amendments which were promised to the Committee in 1975 and confirmed by the new government early in 1976. These dates reveal that there has been a delay of three years in carrying out this undertaking, and in the meantime the mail of citizens of the country has been opened in accordance with regulations which the Committee and the Minister agreed in 1976 conferred excessive powers upon officers.
I do not propose to say anything about the regulations under the Customs Act. The Committee made clear in its report that it accepted that the responsible Minister had taken appropriate action to carry out his undertaking to bring the matter before the Administrative Review Council, and the delay has been in the Council’s consideration of the matter. With regard to the Australian Capital Territory Consumer Affairs Ordinance, the Committee received an undertaking on 17 August 1977 to amend provisions which seriously trespass on individual rights and liberties and the fact that those amendments have not yet been made reveals an inordinate delay. I may say in passing that the AttorneyGeneral ‘s summary of this matter refers to only one of several points raised by the Committee. The same comment of inordinate delay applies to the Australian Capital Territory Sale of Motor Vehicles Ordinance. The undertaking in relation to this Ordinance was received on 20 October 1977. The Committee did note, however, in its report, that it had also received undertakings that the objectionable provisions in the ordinance were not being used.
The Attorney-General has correctly pointed out that the promised amendments of the Federal Court of Australia Regulations have recently been made, but the fact that the undertaking was received on 10 May 1978 reveals an inordinate delay of some 1 1 months, considering that the amendment in question was a relatively simple one. Following the debate on the Committee’s motion on 22 February of this year I wrote to the Government requesting that the statement which was to be made on this matter refer also to a number of undertakings which have been given to the Committee since the presentation of the report and which have not been carried out. The Attorney-General, in his statement, has not responded to that request. I should point out to the Senate that one of the undertakings, relating to the Historic Shipwrecks Regulations, concerned provisions which the Committee considers carry with them a substantial risk of injustice being done to individuals. The undertaking in relation to this matter was given on 15 November 1978. There are other undertakings going back to early November 1978.
The Committee believes that the report which it tabled in September last year and the matters to which I drew attention on 22 February this year and again today reveal that there have been unjustified delays in carrying out undertakings given to the Committee by Ministers. As I stressed in my comments on 22 February, the great majority of undertakings have been carried out, and no Minister has ever repudiated an undertaking given by himself or his predecessor. The Committee’s complaint is concerned only with the question of inordinate delays. Ministers and departments simply have not taken sufficiently seriously their dealings with the Committee. As I also said on 22 February, if such delays continue the Committee will be forced to decline to accept ministerial undertakings which cannot be carried out before the time for disallowance has passed. This will cause great inconvenience to Ministers and departments. I invite the Senate to pass the motion to express its concern at the delays, which have occurred.
– It being more than two hours after the meeting of the Senate, and in accordance with Standing Order 127, this debate is now interrupted.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That Standing Order 1 2 7 bc suspended Tor this day.
– I second Senator Missen ‘s motion and urge the Senate to take very seriously the substance of the Committee’s report and the points that Senator Missen has made. Despite the various explanations that have been given by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) in the statement he has put down today, two solemn ministerial undertakings have been outstanding since 1975, one such undertaking has been outstanding since 1976, and two such undertakings have been outstanding since 1977. Two undertakings are four years old, one is three years old and a further two are two years old. In respect of the longest outstanding of them all- the Australian Capital Territory Motor Traffic Ordinance- it is true that a discussion of the legal problems in relation to that Ordinance has taken a new turn in the last few months and the Committee no longer is pressing for its originally suggested amendments. However, it took fully3½ years, from April 1975 to October 1978, to get even a coherent answer from the Attorney-General’s Department as to why the originally accepted amendments were now unacceptable. I suggest that to treat the Committee and the Parliament in this fashion is to treat them with nothing short of contempt.
In respect of the other four outstanding matters, no plausible justification has been advanced by the Minister for these amendments taking so long to plod their weary way into effect. It is understandable, the Committee readily acknowledges, that technical or drafting difficulties may arise in the implementation of an undertaking which may have the effect of delaying the implementation, perhaps for a matter of some months. But we are not talking about delays of some months; we are talking about undertakings which have not been implemented for years. The Opposition is concerned about the failure of various Ministers and departments to implement their undertakings. It believes that the Senate as a whole ought to be equally concerned.
I reiterate the warning given in very deliberate terms by Senator Missen on behalf of the Committee. If delays of this order continue, the Committee will have no alternative but to decline to accept ministerial undertakings which are unable to be carried out before the time for disallowance has passed. To take this step would be to take a drastic step, one that undoubtedly would cause the Executive a great deal of inconvenience, but such a step is inevitable unless Ministers and departments take seriously the warning which I hope the Senate will administer by passing this motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
1 ) That, in accordance with the provisions of section 8 of the Parliament House Construction Authority Act 1979, the Senate:
declares the conducting of a Design Competition to be a declared stage in the design of Parliament House; and
b) authorizes commencement of work on that stage.
That a Message be sent to the House of Representatives acquainting it of the Resolution agreed to by the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 1 May 1979 at half past two p.m. unless otherwise called together by the President or, in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to provide the legislative framework within which the Commonwealth will meet its 1 977 election policy commitment to a joint Commonwealth-State program for upgrading State railways which are part of the mainline network. Under this Bill, the Commonwealth will be empowered to provide up to $70m to the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia over the five years 1978-79 to 1982-83.I should make it clear at the outset that the non-metropolitan railway in South Australia and the Tasmanian railway system will not participate in this program as they are now the direct responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. I should add that as far as Western Australia is concerned there have been separate arrangements agreed through the Loan Council to cover the $65 m program for the State to upgrade the mainline railway between Kwinana and Koolyanobbing.
Before turning to the provisions of the Bill I would like to provide the Senate with a brief comment on our approach to this program. The Government’s initiative was based on the fact that studies conducted by the Bureau of Transport Economics and the States showed that the efficiency, capacity and frequency of mainline railways could be improved by strategic investment in critical sectors of the network. The Minister for Transport has tabled a number of reports on these studies in the Parliament over recent years; for example the Melbourne to Sydney rail link, and the Melbourne to Serviceton rail link. The concept and composition of the program and the arrangements to be used have been extensively discussed with the States at officer level. Final details, of course, remain to be settled by the governments concerned. However, on the basis of the recent discussion of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) with State Ministers on this matter, he does not anticipate any problems in formalising arrangements.
I should make particular mention of one arrangement which although outside the legislation is a very important development. At the recent Australian Transport Advisory Council meeting it was agreed that the Board of the Australian Railway Research and Development Organisation, which includes the railway commissioners from the participating States, would provide complementary advice to State Transport Ministers and the Commonwealth Minister for Transport on such matters as priorities for scheduling projects. I regard this as an important joint step in furthering a national approach to national issues. Because assistance is to be provided as interest bearing repayable section 96 grants it will be necessary to conclude agreements in respect of the financial assistance to be provided. On the question of loans I should point out to the Senate that the State governments have traditionally regarded their railways as business undertakings and have themselves provided capital from State sources on an interest bearing basis.
Turning to the provisions of the Bill, clause 3 provides definition of terms regularly used in the Bill. What that clause contemplates as a ‘main railway line ‘ is a line in the network linking the capital cities of the participating States- for example, Sydney to Melbourne and Sydney to Brisbane. The machinery for declaring a railway line to be a main railway line for the purposes of the Act is contained in clause 4 ( 1 ). In addition, recognising that considerations of national interest may warrant the provision of assistance to other than inter-capital lines, provision is made in clause 4 (2) of the Bill for the Minister for Transport to declare other railway lines as main railway lines for the purposes of the Act. Naturally, in exercising authority under this clause, the Minister for Transport would be guided by proposals put forward by his State colleagues. Under clause 5 of the Bill the Commonwealth Minister for Transport is empowered to conclude agreements with the States for the provision of financial assistance for approved projects. It is intended that finance provided under this program will be on the same terms and conditions as normal semi-government borrowings. Clause 6 simply states that the financial assistance will be provided to the States in the way set out in the agreements, and clause 7 requires that copies of all agreements be tabled in each House of the Parliament.
As a principle the implementation of approved projects will be a matter for the States. It will be necessary for the Minister for Transport to inform this Parliament, in the usual way, of progress on this program and the expenditure of funds. The agreements will therefore involve the usual clauses relating to accounting for expenditure and reporting on project implementation. Clause 8 of the Bill provides that a total amount of $70m will be provided to the States under this five-year program. However, honourable senators will note that $3m has already been appropriated for 1978-79 in Appropriation Bill (No. 2). Allocations in subsequent years will of course need to be determined by the Government as agreements are concluded and in the light of program schedules and the overall budgetary situation. Thus, like other Budget items, program allocations will come under the scrutiny of the Parliament. Clause 9 provides that payments will be made by the Minister for Finance. Clauses 10 and 1 1 contain the usual conditions applicable to financial assistance programs. This program represents a recognition of the concern which this Government has to work with the States to ensure that the railways are upgraded in order to adequately respond to the national transportation task. I am sure we will see significant national benefits flow from this program. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1979
Consideration resumed from 4 April 1 979 .
-When the consideration of this clause was interrupted yesterday I was dealing with the third amendment to clause 5, that is, the one relating to subclause ( 1 ) (c). I do not think I need to reiterate what I said then. The Government has moved an amendment which, by implication, accepts the validity of the proposed amendment which the Opposition has circulated. The Government seeks to substitute for the word ‘hostility’, which we sought to have deleted, the word ‘hatred’, which apparently the Government feels is stronger and therefore makes more sense in subclause ( 1 ) (c). We say that the real purpose of the sub-clause and the proper purpose of the sub-clause is ‘activities directed to promoting violence’ and the words ‘hostility’ or ‘hatred’ add nothing but vagueness and confusion to the provisions of that sub-clause when one relates the activities to the result of endangering the peace, order or good government of the Commonwealth. Accordingly, the Opposition opposes the Government’s amendment. Subject to the fate of the Government’s amendment, I will have more to say about the Opposition’s proposed amendment.
-I support the proposed amendment that has been circulated by Senator Button on behalf of the Opposition and oppose the amendment that has been moved by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). It is our view that this clause should contain no reference to hostility or hatred being promoted between different groups in the Australian community as being one of the criteria of subversion, this enabling the various powers contained in this legislation to be exercised. The reason again is simply that this kind of language is dangerously wide. It opens up the definition of subversion in such a way that it can be directed against groups and individuals in the community who, in our view anyway, should not be characterised as subversive. Let me again give some illustrations of the kind of situations which could well be caught up by this clause. Again I ask the Attorney-General- I feel rather forlornly in the light of his previous track record on these sorts of questions- to comment on the hypothetical or real situations which I have mentioned and to indicate whether they would be caught up by the definition.
In asking him so to indicate I am not asking him to give a legal opinion in the way that is usually relied upon in this chamber as a ground for not answering questions. I am not asking him to give a legal opinion in the sense of anticipating what the courts might be tempted to do if they were confronted with this problem because the reality of the matter is that the courts are highly unlikely ever to be confronted with having to apply these definitions. The person who will be applying these definitions is primarily none other than the Attorney-General himself in the exercise of his powers, in conjunction with the Director-General, under this legislation- in particular, his powers to issue warrants for electronic surveillance, search and seizure and so on of people who can be characterised as subversive according to these definitions. Under those circumstances, as with the other matter raised by Senator Sibraa last night, it seems to me and to the Opposition that it is highly pertinent to demand, to put it impolitely, or to request, to put it more politely, the Attorney-General to give us a response about these sorts of situations.
Let me instance just three or four sorts of situations which in my view and in the view of the Opposition could well be caught up by this clause in the way in which it is drafted at the moment. I take for a start the kind of political illustration that must be all too familiar to us all. I refer to the attitude of hostility and bitterness which was at its height in the immediate aftermath of 1 1 November 1975 and which, of course, has continued to some extent ever since but which was particularly conspicuous as a phenomenon in the Australian political scene at that time, so much so that the then Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott, went so far as to say in this Parliament that he believed that things that Mr Whitlam had said on the steps of Parliament House in the emotional atmosphere of 1 1 November were indeed such as to amount to seditious libel. Given those sorts of passions, given those sorts of tensions and given the speeches and statements by all sorts of people right across the political spectrum that could surely be described as going to promote hatred or bitterness of a deep and intense kind between different political groups in the Australian community, is not that an illustration of the kind of thing which could be characterised as subversion? Would it not be outrageous if that were in fact to be the case and prominent members of political parties were to be subject to telephone tapping and surveillance simply for the reason that they were engaged in political dialogue, of that deep and intense kind.
The second illustration that must be a familiar one to us all is in the area of racial hatred. I am second to no one in my detestation of racial propaganda of the kind that has been all too familiar even in current times in the Northern Territory and various outback areas of Australia and which is incapable of being characterised other than as directed to inciting hatred- not merely hostility- between different classes or racial groups in the Australian community. I am second to no one in my detestation of that practice and would wish the inciting of such hostility to be treated as a crime and subject to penal sanctions. But I would not wish- and I would be very grateful to get the views of the AttorneyGeneral on this-that kind of contribution to public dialogue, however unattractive it may be to be treated as subversive and such as to bring into operation all the procedures provided for in this Act.
The third illustration would have to be again very obviously in the industrial arena where actions and language such as to continue the class warfare- if one can put it in those termsare part and parcel of the ordinary, ongoing character of industrial disputation, irrespective of whether we like it or regret it. Senator Harradine, in the course of his remarks which were generally fairly unenthusiastic so far as the Opposition’s amendments were concerned in this area, acknowledge that the language of this subsection (c) was such at to raise very grave questions as to its application in the industrial area. Again, I ask the Attorney-General whether it would not be a reasonable, not a stretched or strained application of this language in subclause (c) as it reads at the moment, to have it applicable to the industrial arena so as to expose the industrial disputants in question- of whom there is always a litter on the scene at any given time- to characterisation as subversive and thus being within the operation of this Act.
Finally, a current and familiar example that should be all too regrettably familiar to us is the kind of hatred arguably that has been generated in the community through the broadcasting media, in particular by the extravagant programming, which I would readily concede to be extravagantly unattractive in many respects, of the Melbourne radio station 3CR. That language has very often gone beyond what one may think are the ordinary, reasonable boundaries of political dialogue and has been such as to promote within the language of the sub-section hostility, or even hatred, to use the stronger word that the Attorney-General now wants us to put in there, between different groups of people within the Australian community, namely, the supporters respectively of the positions of the Israelis and the Palestinians. To the Opposition and to me they seem to raise quite serious examples of the kind of potential application that this clause could have. It is true that the promotion of hatred or hostility that has to be engendered in each case has to be such, as the section now reads: . . as to endanger the peace, order or good government of the Commonwealth’.
It may be suggested by the Attorney-General that that particular rider at the end of the section is such as to create a quite significant barrier to the too loose and cavalier application of the section. But in respect of that kind of argument I remind the Attorney-General that the expression peace, order and good government’ is one that appears in the Constitution; it is a familiar expression and has no particular substantive content at all. We talk about the Commonwealth powers to make laws in respect of peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth in relation to lighthouses, shipping buoys or meteorological observations. It is simply a phrase which I submit has no substantive content of a kind which would confine the operation of this section in any very extensive way.
For all those reasons the Opposition pursues most strenuously this particular objection to the reference to hostility or hatred in this section. We do not contest the propriety of a section which enables the Act to operate in respect of activities directed to promoting violence between different groups of the community. We concede that that is proper within the general concept of subversion, that it is proper to be here as part of that definition. However, the Opposition does not concede for one moment that the width of the definition is such as to extend to anything that can be construed as promoting hatred between different groups in the Australian community the proper characterisation of subversion. We ask that the Government accept the Opposition’s amendment accordingly.
– I think it is undesirable and quite wrong for me to give opinions on situations unless all the facts are known. The application of any of these sections would be related to the facts of any particular situation. Therefore, I do not intend to be drawn into argument here on hypothetical cases because, as I have said throughout the debate, the question of the application of the section would have to relate to the facts of a situation and, as I said last night, I would expect it to be applied in a commonsense way. We are not here creating offences but simply giving powers to a security organisation to be exercised in certain circumstances, one of them being in this area of domestic subversion.
In relation to Senator Evans’s examples, I would be prepared to go so far as to say that I can imagine there could be certain situations in the political arena or in the industrial arena where, if there were deliberate campaigns which were themselves not directed to promoting a point of view for the debate but directly aimed at inciting hatred between classes in sections of the community in such a way as to endanger the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth, they may well come within the ambit of the section. However, I would not dream of making any judgment except in relation to particular circumstances. It cannot be done except in that way. Although Senator Evans wants my views, he has very clear views of his own on this section and very considerable legal talents in order to apply them. He has quite clearly pointed out the fact that it is not simply the promotion of hatred but it has to have the purpose or end result of endangering the peace, order or good government, and great weight must be given to those words in the section.
It is important to have some words in addition to ‘violence’. We have selected ‘hatred’. I know that any word can be the subject of argument as to its appropriateness, but we selected what I think is the strongest word that could be adopted. ‘Enmity’ and ‘animosity’ are possible candidates, but I think ‘hatred ‘ is the strongest of the candidates. I wanted to make it as strong as possible. The feeling that the Government, the Director-General and I have is that there could be in particular circumstances such a campaign that the result of it would in the end be violence, but which itself is not directed to violence. That is the reason why the Government believes there should be some word here to give a charter to the Organization in these circumstances. I would guess that the circumstances that are most likely to attract this clause are inciting racial feelings or playing on existing racial feelings. They are probably -
– Isn’t that better dealt with by the racial discrimination legislation?
-The Racial Discrimination Act certainly will render some acts in this area unlawful, but it does not go so far as to render the incitement itself unlawful. However, I think that the racial covenant does. That emphasises the very real concern in relation to questions of racial prejudice that there can be such inflammatory actions, words and so on as to create a situation -
– That is a police matter; it is not an ASIO matter. Beef up the Act, by all means; but keep it a police matter.
– It is rather strange that Senator Evans should mention beefing up the Act, because what he is saying is that this ought to be made unlawful. All that the Government is saying here is that an eye should be kept on this sort of thing. The Government is not going as far as making it unlawful; the Government is simply saying that it is a matter which should be the subject of some attention by a security organisation.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 7A.
– I move:
The amendment I have just moved provides for the insertion after clause 7 of a new clause 7A. There are a number of provisions in that proposed clause and I will refer to them briefly. The first proposed sub-clause provides for the Leader of the Opposition to be advised or kept informed about security matters by the DirectorGeneral regularly consulting with him. Proposed sub-clause (2) provides for the Minister to notify the Leader of the Opposition without delay in relation to the issue of warrants under Division 2 of Part III. The third proposed sub-clause provides that the Leader of the Opposition may request information from the Director-General in relation to files kept by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation but not, of course, in relation to the contents of files. The fourth proposal relates to the furnishing to the Leader of the Opposition of the report referred to in section 92 as soon as practicable after the receipt by the Minister of the report from the Director-General.
In this proposed clause we have sought to deal with all the basic matters which relate to the Opposition, and more particularly the Leader of the Opposition, being informed about the activities of the Organisation. When we discussed this matter in the second reading stage of this debate some reference was made to the Report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security and to the comments made by Mr Justice Hope on the question of a bipartisan approach to security matters. I refer the Senate again to what Mr Justice Hope had to say on this specific matter. At page 219 of the fourth report, Volume 1, paragraph 46 1 , His Honour said:
If there is to be a bipartisan approach, it is necessary that the opposition party or parties should be informed about security matters, and the appropriate way to do this is by consultation between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and by reports by the Director-General of Security to the Leader of the Opposition. This practice is regarded as basic in various parts of the democratic world and should be regarded as basic in Australia. With a truly bipartisan approach I think that supervision by the executive and, where appropriate, by a review tribunal, will protect both the interests of the nation and the interests of citizens.
That was the approach of Mr Justice Hope to this question. As I have said, he emphasised in more detail in that report the desirability, in his view, of a bipartisan approach to an organisation of this kind.
The purpose of that suggestion by Mr Justice Hope is clearly that, if we feel that we have to have an organisation such as ASIO, then in the interests of the community it is desirable that it be accepted and respected as much as possible by as broad a spectrum of community opinion as possible. If that happened, we would not get a situation such as that which developed in America with the Central Intelligence Agency and at times with the Federal Bureau of Investigation; we would not get the sort of situation which occurred in West Germany and at times in French politics with the French security organisation; we would not get the situation that we had in Australia in the mid-1950s and early 1960s when a number of people in this community felt- with some degree of substantial reason, I think- that ASIO was not above reproach, could not be accepted in a bipartisan spirit, and could not be accepted as an organisation which was working in the national interest exclusively and at no stage in the interests of a particular political point of view.
It is for that reason that we are concerned about the contents of this amendment. We like to think that the Government has moved a couple of amendments in response to our initiatives in this matter. Government amendment No. 3 is very close in its terminology to the wording of proposed new clause 7A ( 1 ). The Government has suggested that that amendment be inserted as new clause 20A in a later portion of the Bill. There does not seem to be any logic or reason for its insertion there rather than here, but it is a difficult decision to make. We too had difficulty in deciding where our amendment should be placed.
– Ours is broader, also.
– Yes. Government amendment No. 8 inserts a provision that is broadly similar to the provision contained in subclause (4) of proposed new clause 7A relating to the furnishing to the Leader of the Opposition of the report of the Director-General. I do not propose to deal in detail with the Government amendments at this stage. It is sufficient to say that in the context of this Bill we commend to the Government the notion that these matters which embrace questions of bipartisanship and consultation with the Opposition should be dealt with in one hit, as it were, in one clause of the Bill, in the way the Opposition has suggested. We commend the response of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) to the initiative contained in the Opposition’s amendment which deals with consultation with the Leader of the Opposition by the Director-General and, of course, in relation to the furnishing of the report. We think that agreement on these things is a prerequisite to any degree of broad community acceptance of the charter and function of an organisation such as this.
One could offer some specific criticisms of the terminology of the Government’s proposed amendment, particularly the second amendment which relates to the furnishing of the report, but it is not my purpose to do that now. My purpose is to say that these matters are of fundamental importance to the structure of this Bill. They are of fundamental importance to the philosophical concept which underlies it and they, in our view, should be included together in the manner which we have suggested by the insertion of this proposed new clause. In relation to this question of the issue of warrants, the Government seems to feel reluctant to agree that any information can be supplied about it. I am referring to subclause (2) of proposed new clause 7a. When Mr Justice Murphy was the Attorney-General he did not feel any great inhibition about answering a question in this Senate about the number of times- I do not think warrants were involvedASIO was allowed to make telephonic interceptions and how many interceptions of that kind were carried out in each of a number of years. For the life of me I cannot see why the Parliament of Australia should not have that sort of information. We do not necessarily have to know whose telephone was intercepted and we do not need to know the details of the interception. It is an interesting matter and it would be a very good way of monitoring the activities of an organisation such as this if we could ascertain the progression of the number of telephone interceptions and so on in various years. I remember that in the five years in respect of which AttorneyGeneral Murphy answered such a question there had been a very slow progression in the number of telephone interceptions each year. I think that in the last year, which was 1973 or 1974 the number of telephone interceptions reached the figure of 107. Any member of the public can look at those sorts of figures and say: ‘This sort of thing about which we were so concerned when the ASIO Bill was in the Parliament clearly has not got out of hand. Just look at the figures. They are not intercepting many more telephone conversations than they were in days gone by’. Perhaps they could draw the other conclusion if it was clear that a whole lot of telephone interceptions were taking place.
I mention that point here because of the Government’s general reluctance to grapple conceptually with that sort of thing. It is largely a conservative attitude which is dictated by too much reading of John Le Carre or someone like him late at night. I commend the writings of John Le Carre to the Minister. We have often had discussions about books one should read. I commend his books to the Attorney-General, but not in order that he might develop the approach that it is absolutely necessary that none of this information be made available to the Parliament or to the people. I think it is important that this information is available. Of course, in the terms of this amendment, it is important that that son of information is available to the Leader of the Opposition in the context of what I put earlier. That sort of material is referred to in sub-clauses (2) and (3) of proposed new clause 7a.
In summary, we think this is a very crucial and important point from the public point of view of this legislation. We think that the points embraced in proposed new clause 7a are properly matters dealt with together so that a member of the public concerned about what rights the Opposition has, or persons other than the Minister and the Director-General have, in relation to this legislation can see it in one clause of the Bill. For those reasons, I commend to the Senate the insertion in the Bill of proposed new clause 7A.
– I would like to make a few obervations on the comments made by the honourable senator. I will resist the temptation to say the honourable schoolboy on this particular occasion. The four sub-clauses contained in proposed new clause 7A, moved by the Opposition, provide for four different areas in respect of which the Leader of the Opposition should be informed about matters of security. As Senator Button has said, the first of those is dealt with already in proposed new clause 20a which has been circulated in the name of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack). I think that entirely picks up that point. Similarly, sub-clause (4) of proposed new clause 7A is picked up by the proposed amendment to clause 92 (2). Again, that is contained in the list of amendments circulated by the Attorney-General. But there is one substantial difference- that is, whereas the Opposition’s amendment in proposed new clause 7A (4) simply says that the report referred to shall be furnished to the Leader of the Opposition, I think the Attorney’s amendment goes a little further by adding the stipulation that it is the duty of the Leader of the Opposition to treat it as secret.
– That is quite silly, isn’t it? What does that mean?
-I would have thought that one of the problems that arises throughout the whole of the proposition advanced in the Opposition ‘s proposed new clause 7A is that there are obligations imposed upon Executive Councillors and Ministers of the Crown in dealing with matters of security which do not lie equally with the Leader of the Opposition when he is dealing with matters of security. I would have thought that the proposal of the AttorneyGeneral therefore is one which is more conducive to a belief, not only within the Parliament and not only within the general run of people who have some concern, that there should be a proper treatment of security matters. It also is one which I would have thought would make any Director-General- not just the current Director-General- more likely to provide the Leader of the Opposition frankly and fully with the sort of information that the Opposition’s amendment is seeking to provide him with.
– Where is a Minister told by this legislation to keep his information secret? Can you help me?
-I would have thought that the whole concept of Ministers being members of the Executive Council and the whole of the way in which- I am sure the honourable senator knows this- the Westminster system of Cabinet government operates would have been sufficient to have provided for that point. As far as sub-clause (2) of the Opposition’s proposed new clause 7a is concerned, I note that Senator Button not only spoke about providing the Leader of the Opposition with information about warrants being issued but also referred to a practice of a former Attorney-General to make details available of the number of warrants that had been issued during any particular period of time. I know that the Attorney-General also has received representations on this matter from the Privacy Committee in New South Wales. That body has suggested, among a number of suggestions that it has made and released by way of public statements, that this particular undertaking to make public the details of the number of warrants issued- indeed, the Privacy Committee talks about the specific details of the number of postal articles, the number of telegrams, the breakup by States, the number of telephone conversations and the number of telephone services- should be the subject of some degree of monitoring.
I believe that a reasonable case has been put that these are the sorts of details which, if provided to a responsible Minister, allow the Minister, the Government and any Cabinet subcommittee on intelligence matters, which is oversighting this legislation, to maintain a fairly comprehensive and accurate watch on precisely what is going on. There is one point throughout the whole of this security legislation on which judgment must be made. There is certainly no objective way of measuring it. In every State it is a subjective judgment. It relates to the extent to which the release of information makes the effective operation of the organisation somehow less effective. It is a point on which honourable senators will find themselves naturally in disagreement. Some people will believe that an annual report, or the details of the number of warrants issued, can be put forward without comment as a simple, raw, statistical figure, and that that will have no impact upon the way in which the organisation will operate, the way in which it is perceived to be operating and its effectiveness for future operation. Equally other honourable senators will feel that that is too much information. The point that arises quite simply is that there is no objective test to say that this much information can be released into the public domain without having any impact upon the operation of the Organisation. One cannot say: This much information is the point at which that impact starts to become of concern to us.
– But who is to make that judgment?
– I will come to that. It is quite clear that if there is no objective way of establishing that measurement then one has to decide who will be charged with making the decision about the amount of information to be released. I believe that under those circumstances, because of the principle upon which our system of government is based one has to expect, one has to be prepared to demand, and one has to be prepared to take, to a large extent on trust, a high degree of integrity from an Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. I am obviously not worried about the integrity of the present AttorneyGeneral. If I were concerned, however, that an Attorney-General, likely to be produced by an Australian Labor Party Government, were likely to be a person without integrity then undoubtedly I would be supporting as wide an application of this clause as possible. I believe that the way in which the democratic system of the Parliament operates means that, by and large, there should be a presumption about the integrity of the first law officer of the Crown. I am perfectly prepared to extend that presumption to Attorneys-General in any future administration, whether it be an administration formed by the parties on this side of the chamber, or formed by the party on the other side of the chamber. It may well be that that judgment is not made by Australian Labor Party senators in relation to the reverse case. But it is one that I make and one that I am happy to leave to the discretion of the Attorney-General. Sub-clause (3) of proposed new clause 7a states:
Again this goes very largely to the point I made about the amount of information that can reasonably be released without any damage being done to the effective operation of a security service. I am concerned to a large extent that the number of persons able to obtain that sort of information from the Director-General should be as restricted as possible. It will always be a temptation on the part of any Leader of the Opposition- as indeed it will always be a temptation on the part of any Attorney-General- to go on the occasional fishing expedition to find out whether there is in existence any file, dossier or record. The very fact that a file, dossier or record is in existence may well indicate something about the way in which the Director-General and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation are operating. We should question the extent to which that information should be freely available to anybody who wishes to ask for it.
As I said in the speech I made during the second reading debate on this legislation, it is important to build as many areas of effective consultation between the Leader of the Opposition and the Government on matters of security. In the proposed amendments of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) there are at least four of these areas. There is the consultation on the appointment of the Director-General; the consultation proposed in the Attorney-General’s amendment on the appointment of the acting director-general; the requirement for regular briefing between the Director-General and the Leader of the Opposition; and access by the Leader of the Opposition to annual reports in terms of proposed new clause 92(2). I understand, similarly, that the Leader of the Opposition was provided with details of Mr Justice Hope’s inquiry, which were not otherwise made available to members of parliament. I think that that is also an important aspect. I hope that if there were to be any judicial audit, or any similar provision as far as continuing supervision of the work of ASIO is concerned, then the full results of those matters would equally be provided not only to the responsible Minister and the Prime Minister but also to the Leader of the Opposition.
I hope that honourable senators opposite will take this as a judgment made in good faith. The provisions contained in sub-clauses 2 and 3 of proposed new clause 7a go further, in my subjective judgment, than they ought to go. I appreciate that this is a matter of debate, but I believe that the proposals which the Attorney-General has put forward in the various amendments circulated in his name provide the degree of consultation which is proper. The Opposition amendments provide a degree of consultation of information which I think goes too far. For those reasons I would not be inclined to support those Opposition amendments.
– What a peculiar speech we have just heard. I gather that Senator Puplick who has just resumed his seat, claims that sub-clauses ( 1 ) and (4) of Senator Button’s suggested amendment will be covered by the amendments suggested by the Government. The honourable senator does not agree that the Leader of the Opposition should have the information as provided in subclauses (2) or (3). He does agree that the Leader of the Opposition should have the information as set out in sub-clauses ( 1 ) or (4). But the honourable senator prefers the amendment of the Government to that of the Opposition. I find this hard to understand. I would think that subclause (1), which is the first amendment proposed by the Opposition, covers the matter. The only difference in the Opposition’s amendment is that it provides that the Leader of the Opposition should be kept informed about security matters. In the Government amendment, the Government is to be kept informed of matters relating to security. I do not know what the distinction is, but there is a distinction which relates to security matters. The honourable senator agrees with the second amendment but he would like a provision that it is the duty of the Leader of the Opposition to treat the annual report as secret.
The honourable senator, in replying to an interjection: ‘What about a Minister’, acknowledged the Westminster system. Members of the Executive Council have some responsibility and take some oath. But I believe there is an oath of secrecy which does not apply to the Minister. The only person who cannot be trusted, to Senator Puplick ‘s mind, is the Leader of the Opposition. Anyone else can be trusted. No Act can lay down the duty of anyone. If the Leader of the Opposition did not carry out what was considered to be his duty no penalty would result. He could be criticised for breaching his obligation or responsibility. That criticism could be directed at all of us if we betrayed a trust or confidence.
I think that we can accept whoever leads an Opposition as a responsible person and a person who will act responsibly in this regard without anything being set down as a duty. A leader of an Opposition would not desire a penalty to be laid down for a breach of an obligation. One would expect him to treat the information he obtains in the annual report with responsibility. In the interests of the nation it may be necessary to disclose something which appears in the annual report. Mr Fraser has always said that a responsibility could rest with a public servant, although he is under a strict oath of secrecy, to disclose information to the Press or do something like that if he considers the nation is being ruined. Everything must be judged on the responsibility of the individual.
I turn now to the two issues with which Senator Puplick does not agree but which he admits are open to debate. If warrants are issued willy-nilly or for political purposes, should not some restraint be placed upon the Minister issuing the warrant? In the absence of a public inquiry, is not the best restraint to require his opposite number in the Parliament to know to whom the Minister is issuing warrants?
– It does not give him any further right, does it? It just gives him a name.
-No. I say that it is placing a restraint upon the Minister; it is not placing an obligation upon the Opposition.
– That is something he has to think about before he does it.
– At present a Minister could issue a warrant for a listening device or some other apparatus in respect of every member of the Labor Party and no one but the Minister and the security people would know. But if the Minister has to account to someone, if the Leader of the Opposition has to be supplied with information on the warrants, any abuse of power by the Minister would become obvious. This restraint upon the Minister would prevent him from abusing that power. I think that it is a necessary restraint. There may not be any abuse of power.
Senator Puplick talked about the actions of some of the Labor Attorneys-General. I suspect that some holders of ministerial positions during my time in this Parliament have abused their powers for political advantage. I am not referring to anyone in the present Government but I suspect that that has happened. I am not confident that all holders of ministerial positions have been above suspicion in this regard. Subclause (3 ) of proposed new clause 7A provides:
The Leader of the Opposition may request the DirectorGeneral to inform him as to whether there is in existence any file, dossier or record concerning a particular person and the
Director-General shall comply with that request but nothing in this section entities the Leader of the Opposition to access to any file, dossier or record concerning a particular individual.
Whilst the Director-General or members of security may have looked into something, the Leader of the Opposition would not know why. The Leader of the Opposition should know whether unjust action is being taken. The Special Branch in South Australia had files on church leaders. It also had files on a Supreme Court judge and other members of the judiciary. One could only come to the conclusion that the Special Branch was abusing the power it had. Of course, a public check cannot be made on abuses but there must be some method of checking. There is no better method of checking than giving the information to the Leader of the Opposition as well as to the Government. Such information, as one would expect, would be dealt with responsibly.
– I think that it ought to be appreciated that the object of the Opposition’s amendment to this clause and its foreshadowed amendment to clause 33 in respect of giving the Leader of the Opposition access to reports concerning the effect of the issue of a warrant is to put for all practical purposes the Leader of the Opposition in the same position, in so far as his knowledge of what is going on is concerned, as the responsible Minister- the Attorney-General. It is intended that for all practical purposes he should have the same degree of knowledge and the same degree of responsibility to maintain confidentiality in respect of that knowledge. We regard it as appropriate that the position of the Leader of the Opposition should be different from that of the Minister of the day only in respect of the actual ability to exercise executive power, to make decisions, in particular about the issue of warrants, and to give directions to the Director-General. As to knowledge on the one hand and responsibility to maintain confidentiality on the other, we see the two positions as being identical, and properly so.
We say that because of the importance we attach to the conclusions of Mr Justice Hope on the desirability of a bipartisan approach being adopted to the whole business of security. It is a fact or which Mr Justice Hope- rightly so in our view- emphasised throughout his report. What Mr Justice Hope did not say- one rather wishes he had- is that the practice of adopting a nonbipartisan approach, the practice of not briefing the Leader of the Opposition on security matters, is one that regrettably was instituted by Mr Menzies in 1 950. That situation was maintained for a generation thereafter. It was a product, of course, of Menzies’ paranoid obsession about the security risk constituted by the Labor Party and all its works. It is not surprising that, confessedly, a degree of paranoia has been exhibited in turn by the Labor Party over the whole of that generation about the security service and all its works.
The Opposition is trying to get beyond that regrettable situation which obtained in the 1950s and 1960s. It wants to take the bipartisan character a good deal further than, regrettably, it appears the Government is willing to take it. We are duly grateful for the amendments that the Government has foreshadowed and for the fact that the Leader -of the Opposition will be consulted not only on the appointment of the Director-General but also on the appointment of any acting Director-General. We are grateful that the Leader of the Opposition is to be briefed regularly by the Director-General for the purpose of keeping him informed on matters relating to security. We are grateful that he is to have access to the report. However, in passing, we note the rather erratic and indeed insulting character of at least one of those proposed amendments, the one that has been the subject of some discussion already today, namely, that proposed to clause 92 of the Bill in respect of the annual report. That clause states that the Leader of the Opposition could get access to that report to the Minister, but that he has an obligation, a duty, to keep it secret. Of course it is conceded that he has that duty, that responsibility, but is it necessary to spell that out? If the Government spells that out here, why on earth is it not proposing to spell it out in relation to its proposed new clause 20a in which it is going to be said that:
The Director-General shall consult regularly with the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives for the purpose of keeping him informed on matters relating to security.
Is it intended that in respect of those consultations there be no obligation of security? Is it intended that the Director-General communicate nothing to the Leader of the Opposition which has to be kept secret or is the Government going to be tempted to put another rider in there? It is not necessary, any more than it is necessary to make specific obligations of confidentiality upon the Minister himself throughout the course of this legislation.
Finally, it is not intended- and this has been made perfectly clear by speakers from the Opposition side- that the access of the Leader of the Opposition to this knowledge, to this information, should be in order to enable the Leader of the Opposition to make political capital out of what he has learned. It is not intended that in these circumstances it should be within the ability of the Leader of the Opposition to publicise, to spread abroad, what he hears. That is not the concept which lies behind this amendment and it is a misrepresentation for people like Senator Puplick to suggest, as I understood him, that this was the flavour of the Opposition’s amendment. That is not our intention and that is not the way in which the amendment is drawn. The real significance of giving the Leader of the Opposition this degree of knowledge, this access to the working of the system, is of course as Senator Cavanagh pointed out, because of the very fact that the knowledge of the Leader of the Opposition of these things will act as a disincentive, as an obvious deterrent, to any latent tendency which there may be on the part of the Attorney-General of the day to use his position, to use his powers for party political purposes. It is the deterrent character, the disincentive character, that is so important and that we regard as crucial in this area.
It is not the notion of the Leader of the Opposition coming along after the event like a white knight and publicising the peccadilloes, misdemeanours and misbehaviour of the AttorneyGeneral of the day. That is not the way in which we anticipate that the Leader of the Opposition would exercise the authority that we want him to have. To the extent that there is any cleaning up after the event to be done where misbehaviour is an issue, we see that essentially being the responsibility and the role of the judicial audit which we will seek to introduce into this Bill by way of a later foreshadowed amendment. It is that kind of thing that will preserve that role. The really crucial thing is to ensure that there is a deterrent quality so far as political misuse is concerned and, to repeat, a genuine bipartisan attitude towards the operation of the Organization. If the Attorney-General and the Government are really serious, as they say they are, about going along this bipartisan route and genuinely want to remove the atmosphere of bitterness, recrimination and paranoia to the extent that such has existed in this area over the last few decades; I urge them and the Opposition urges them most strenuously to go just a little bit further along the route that it is mapped out in its proposed amendments and to give the Leader of the Opposition the kind of detailed knowledge and detailed access to information which is sought by these amendments.
– The Government will of course oppose this amendment even though it does accept the principles of proposed new clauses 7a ( 1) and 7a (4). But this is obviously a package amendment and as we cannot accept proposed new sub-clauses 7a (2) and 7a (3) we will oppose the whole clause and move at a later time, in accordance with the amendments which I foreshadowed, replacement for clauses 7a ( 1 ) and 7a (4). I can appreciate, particularly in relation to proposed new clause 7a ( 1 ), that there would be some doubt as to where would be the most suitable place to insert that new clause. I suppose that it could well be inserted after clause 7, but our draftsman believes that the more appropriate place to put it would be after proposed new clause 20a. I do not think that we need to get into a debate about that. As Senator Cavanagh has pointed out, there is very little difference in the wording. I think, if anything, the proposed new clause 20a is a bit wider than the Opposition’s amendment, but that could also be a question of debate. However, I think that in substance there is no difference between us on proposed new clause 7a ( 1 ). As to proposed new clause 7a (4) there is some difference. Apparently the Opposition is concerned about the rider in the Government amendment about the duty to keep the report secret. Perhaps we will debate that later rather than at this point.
I think the essential thing for me to say in relation to these amendments is that we believe they go too far. We have been persuaded by the Opposition that there ought to be statutory provision given to two important recommendations of the Hope report, namely, that the Leader of the Opposition should be briefed regularly by the Director-General about the operations of the Organization and that the Leader of the Opposition ought to be given a copy of the report. The Government has accepted those recommendations as matters of conventional practice, but, as I said, the Government has been persuaded that it would be appropriate that they should be given statutory force, thereby binding the Government, even in situations where there may be some political problems of the day which might influence the Government’s attitude. Because of the statutory provisions it will not be allowed to deny the Opposition this information and we think that that is an important affirmation of the bipartisan principle which we hope will be maintained in relation to the Organisation. But we cannot accept these amendments which really do bring the Leader of the Opposition virtually into government by giving him details of the warrants and by giving him the right to ask whether there is a file on a particular person. These are governmental matters and they are not appropriate for a Leader of the Opposition. I think that the Opposition has to accept the fact that in this area it is not in government and it cannot be in government.
There are also problems of a practical nature with proposed new clause 7a(2) in that just informing the Leader of the Opposition of the persons against whom a warrant has been issued would not be very meaningful or helpful because the Leader of the Opposition would want to know the grounds on which the warrant was issued. He really would have to see all the papers in relation to the matter. I cannot really imagine how the Leader of the Opposition, with all his other responsiblities and activities, would be able to digest these matters. Inevitably, the matter would be delegated to someone else to deal with and the whole area of secrecy in relation to these matters would be imperilled. I think that this amendment goes too far and could lead to very serious problems.
In relation to the proposal that the Leader of the Opposition be informed about files on individuals, I mentioned in my reply to the second reading debate that there seems to be a misconception that the existence of a file on an individual suggests something derogatory about that person. That is certainly not the case. To be told that there is a file on a person could be misleading, without seeing the contents of the file. This is a very delicate area. We will be discussing the ministerial powers in relation to this matter at a later stage; but I do not think that, by and large, it is suitable for the Minister to insist on information of this kind being provided. We believe that there are dangers of political misuse of information of this kind. That is one of the reasons why we have considerably limited the powers of a Minister in relation to individuals. Although I appreciate that the amendment proposed by the Opposition is designed to prevent details of a file from being made available to the Leader of the Opposition, it would be of little value and could be dangerous to know that a file existed, without knowing why.
My major objection to the second and third parts of the amendment is that they seek to make the Leader of the Opposition in some way part of the Government in relation to the Organization. In the nature of things, he could not exercise that type of responsibility. Through his regular briefings by the Director-General he will learn in a general way about the policy in relation to issuing warrants and probably the number of warrants. This is a matter for the Director-General and the Leader of the Opposition to discuss. But I do not think there is any need for the Leader of the Opposition to know any more than that. If the reports are made available, this will enable the Opposition to have detailed knowledge of the Organization. The combination of the briefings and the report, as far as the Government is concerned, should enable the Leader of the Opposition to be well acquainted with the running of the Organization and to express concern, if necessary, about any aspects about which he learns. He may express concern to the Prime Minister. In that way there will be not only an element of bipartisanship but also added accountability on the part of the Organization.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Clause 8 (Control of Organization).
– I seek leave to move on behalf of the Opposition amendments No. 5 and 6 together, as they both relate to the substance of this clause.
– I move:
In a moment I will explain the substance of the additions and deletions involved in the amendments. The most important thing to appreciate about these amendments and the clause to which they are directed is the nature and extent of ministerial responsibility for the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. The Opposition is persuaded that there is a need for such an explicit clause as clause 8 in the Bill. The weakness in the existing Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act is that there are no explicit provisions governing the relationship between the Attorney-General and the Director-General of Security. It was because of the absence of an explicit provision along these lines from the Act that the extraordinary allegations were made in 1973 about Senator Murphy’s visit to the ASIO offices in Melbourne. That was the issue that brought the matter of the significance of ministerial responsibility starkly to the attention of the public.
Because this is crucial to our understanding of the operation of the clause I will briefly canvass the competing views that have existed about the existing relationship between the Minister and the Director-General, the existing nature and extent of ministerial responsibility. The most extreme view, which in my opinion was quite ill founded, was peddled about from an anonymous Melbourne Queen’s Counsel after the Murphy visit in 1973, namely, that the Attorney-General had no jurisdiction over the Organization at all; he had no power to demand files or to gain entry to premises of the Organization. That silk went so far as to suggest that Senator Murphy, in visiting the Organization in the way in which he did, had been guilty of not merely illegal but criminal conduct. This view was not swallowed by the Liberal-National Country Party Opposition in 1973- to give it some credit- although it did little publicly to counteract this view, as it was politically palatable. At the other end of the scale was the view which I hold- I believe that most lawyers hold this view- regarding the nature of the relationship; that is, that the traditional principles of ministerial responsibility and control apply in relation to the present Act.
In the absence of anything specific to the contrary in the text of that Act, those principles operate in such a way that the Minister is fully entitled to assert his authority over the persons and premises of the Organization in the way that the then Senator Murphy did in 1973. That view was reinforced in the terms and conditions of appointment of the then Director-General. Those terms and conditions were drafted while Mr Gorton was Prime Minister and Mr Tom Hughes was Attorney-General. Those terms explicitly said that the Director-General was subject to the direction of the Attorney-General of the day.
I will not canvass in detail questions about the legality or illegality, propriety or otherwise, of what happened in 1973. 1 mention these matters because of the challenge that was thrown out to the Opposition by Senator Carrick in the second reading debate to justify what Senator Murphy did on that occasion. There were innumerable practical justifications for what he did, in terms of the competing intelligence about Croatian terrorism available to him from the Commonwealth Police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. Evidence was available that led the then Senator Murphy to the reasonable belief that ASIO was withholding vital information from him. Quite apart from those considerations, the main point I stress is that there was impeccable legal backing for the then Senator Murphy doing what he did. in terms of the traditional and accepted notion of ministerial responsibility, which was not undermined by anything explicit in the Act. In paragraph 365 of the first volume of Mr Justice Hope’s fourth report- we will see in a moment that he had a couple of shillings each way on this particular controversy- he said:
I think that I should add that at the time or the so-called raid’ by the Attorney-General in 1973, the view which was then accepted and had been acted on Tor a number of years was that the Director-General was subject in all respects to ministerial direction and control.
As I have said, an extreme view was peddled by the Melbourne Queen’s Counsel that the Attorney-General had no authority at all. On the other hand, as Mr Justice Hope acknowledges, there was the accepted view that he had complete authority, powers of direction and access to records and premises. A third view is now on the record and for the sake of completeness it ought to be mentioned. It is the intermediate view of ministerial responsibility in this respect advanced by Mr Justice Hope in his report. Rather uniquely, in terms of legal commentators, he perceived a distinction created in section 5 of the present Act, which concerns the functions of the Organization, which has the effect of saying that in certain areas a discretion is reserved to the Director-General. Mr Justice Hope summarised the position as he saw it. He said that there is a general power of direction in the AttorneyGeneral except with respect to certain matters, namely the communication of intelligence, where the discretion rests with the Director-General.
There has been a controversy over what the present law is which has not assisted in any way the proper control or exercise of responsibility over the Organization. It has generated far more heat than light. It is for that reason that we are very happy to see a clause such as clause 8 in this Bill. It attempts to come to grips with the very difficult problem of ministerial responsibility and to identify precisely its boundaries. However, that is not to say that we are happy with the language of clause 8 as it presently stands. We are happy with it to the extent that it seems to embody the general principle that the power of the Minister should be maximised and that the independent, restraint-free power of the Director-General should be minimised to the greatest possible extent. That is a sound principle and one which we applaud. It is important that the power of the Minister be maximised as against the power of the Director-General for the simple reason that it is only the AttorneyGeneral of those two people who is answerable to Parliament and the people. The DirectorGeneral is not. If democracy means anything we have to maximise the power and responsibility of the elected official at the expense of the unelected.
However, in stating that principle one has to recognise that in the security area there is a gap between the theory and the practice. It is very difficult to make the Minister genuinely accountable and responsible when he can answer questions put to him or attacks made on him in the Parliament simply by saying ‘no comment’, as has traditionally been the practice in this area. That is why the Opposition has been concerned to approach the question of accountability in a number of different ways at once. We should not only talk about ministerial responsibility and accountability; we should also provide various back-ups and safeguards involving the knowledge of the Leader of the Opposition, which we have just been debating, reports to Parliament, financial’ accountability and so on. Most specifically of all, we should provide for judicial auditing. All these are necessary back-ups because of the weakness in practice of the notion of ministerial responsibility.
That is the general background, as we see it, to clause 8. It is why we argue, firstly, for a clarification of the situation and, secondly, for the power of the Minister to be maximised. However, although we say that the power of the Minister should be maximised we do not say that his power and responsibility should be complete. We acknowledge the legitimacy of certain specific restrictions on the power of the Minister to exercise complete authority over the DirectorGeneral. We have no quarrel with the language of clause 8 (2) (a) and (b), both of which have the effect of limiting the specific power of the Minister to give directions on questions relating to the collection and dissemination of intelligence about particular individuals. We regard it as appropriate that there be a limitation on the ability of the Minister to give specific directions and exercise specific authority in this area. This is a theme and a principle which we pick up in our proposed new sub-clauses (3) and (4), to which I will refer in a moment.
We oppose clause 8 (2) (c) in its present form. It is a curious provision which in turn limits the power of the Minister to give specific directions concerning the nature of the advice that should be given by the Organization, to a Minister, Department or authority of the Commonwealth’. We see this as an unnecessary limitation on the general power, authority and responsibility of the Minister. Moreover, it has dangerous connotations. The dangerous aspect is that paragraph (c) as it is drafted at the moment would extend to the Attorney-General himself. It refers to the nature of the advice that should be given by the Organisation to a Minister. In other words, it limits the ability of the Organization to communicate specific intelligence not just to other Ministers but to the Attorney-General himself. He is one of the Ministers who is subsumed in the description of the word ‘Minister’ as it appears in this clause. This is a roundabout way of enabling the Director-General to withhold specific information, not just about particular individuals, because paragraph (c) is much more general in its terms, that might be sought by the responsible Minister- the Attorney-General himself. That is the dangerous aspect of the clause.
The other, more curious and unnecessary aspect of the clause is that it imposes a limitation of a wider kind on the Minister in respect of communications to other departments or authorities, not merely as to the detailed substance of such advice but as to whether any advice can be given to other departments. This is a complex clause. It is a little difficult to explain simply. The difficulty is that it imposes limitations on the authority of the Attorney-General to direct the DirectorGeneral as to the kind of intelligence he communicates. There are no such limitations on the ability of the Attorney-General to make such directions with regard to the communication of intelligence to overseas recipients, State agencies and so on. That is subject to ministerial direction. However, this clause contains a restriction in respect to the communication of intelligence to other Ministers or Commonwealth authorities which we see as inappropriate. There is not a sufficiently strong reason to limit the general power, authority and responsibility of the Attorney-General in this area. We would argue that it should come out. I see that my time has almost expired. I have something more to say about the justification for adding sub-clause (3) and sub-clause (4) but perhaps I can come back to that after other speakers have contributed.
– I rise to return the compliment to Senator Evans and to indicate that I should like to hear the rest of his argument.
-I thank the Attorney-General. That is the rather twisted tale insofar as clause 8(2)(c) is concerned. I would be happy to expand upon it further in later argument if any further clarification is needed. The further amendment that the Opposition seeks to make is to add sub-clauses (3 ) and (4) in the terms that have been circulated, namely:
We regard that as just spelling out in more detail the kind of principle which has already been accepted by the Government in clause 8 (2) and with which we agree, namely, that there should be some limitation on the ability of the Minister of the day to poke about and pry within the area of individual files. The existing clause 8 (2) sets a limitation on the ability of the Minister to give directions to the Director-General insofar as the collection or dissemination of information about individuals is concerned. We see a necessity, although it is possibly subsumed at the moment within that clause, to spell it out in a bit more detail insofar as this very vexed question of access is concerned. We say, insofar as access is concerned, that the Minister should be entitled to have knowledge of the existence of particular files or material on an individual but he should not have the power to get access to the actual content of those files.
The reason why we want to say something about access as well as just leave it in the realm of the ability to give directions is that the question of access has been the single most controversial aspect of this whole point of ministerial power. We regard it as desirable, as a matter of general legislative principle, that legislation should be clear and open on its face and capable of being interpreted and understood not just by lawyers but also by laymen. The sensitive question of access should not be concealed within the language of clause 8 (2), which is just about powers of direction, although obviously a direction could be given to give access to material and it could be argued that access is subsumed within clause 8 (2). We would regard it as desirable to have an explicit clause setting out, in language which no one can misunderstand, the powers of the Attorney-General and the limitations on the Attorney-General’s powers insofar as access to files is concerned. This question of access was a controversial matter in 1 973 and it might well go on being a controversial matter in the future unless this legislation is a bit more explicit on this subject than it is at the moment. That is why we want specific clauses dealing with access.
As to the precise subject matter of those clauses, the argument in favour of giving knowledge of existence but not access to content insofar as individual files are concerned is essentially, as I have already mentioned, an argument which it appears the Government itself has accepted in relation to the substance of clause 8(2). I appreciate that this is not a matter without controversy. There are many people who would say that the principle of ministerial power and responsibility ought to extend to full ministerial access to everything including the content of individual files and data about particular individuals. However, we of the Opposition would say that this is one of those areas where, on balance, it is appropriate that ministerial responsibility should be limited because of the dangers of political misuse of information about individuals by Ministers who are incapable of understanding the proprieties in these areas. We know that there were such Ministers and officials in the United States in the Johnson-Nixon era. Regrettably there is some evidence that this has happened in the past in Australia. The dissemination by Senator Greenwood, when he was AttorneyGeneral, of information about the security record of Mrs Michaelis has already been canvassed in the course of the second reading debate. We would say that that was a pretty clear misuse for political purposes of particular information from an individual file. That opportunity ought not to be vested in the Minister. Thus we would limit the power of access to individual files in the way which we have suggested and in the way which, as I keep saying, 1 think is quite consistent with the principles embodied in paragraphs ( a ) and ( b ) of the existing clause 8(2).
We acknowledge that it is only one part of the job to choke off the capacity for misuse of these files by the Minister of the day. The Government also has to be concerned about how the DirectorGeneral himself might be tempted to use such information, not given the character and antecedents of the present Director-General but certainly given what we have been inclined to fear about Directors-General in the past and what we know about the track record of people such as Hoover in the United States. We offer no specific answer to that in this clause but we do point to the fact that we have already moved amendments and we will be moving further amendments which provide for accountability in other back-up ways. In particular, we see the real disincentive for any tendency on the part of a Director-General to misuse his powers- and he is the one who will have access to these individual files- as being the notion of the judicial audit, the process of another spring cleaning job from Mr Justice Hope or, in the case of South Australia, Mr Justice White or somebody else every three years or so. We see that as being a sufficient and quite effective disincentive to any tendency to misuse the content of those individual files by a Director-General.
That is the overall situation. It is a complicated interlocking series of amendments to what is essentially a fairly complicated clause although it is not a long one. We of the Opposition regard it as important that the Government should go further than it has already gone in this area and accept these amendments because it is only by accepting these amendments and spelling them out in the way we have suggested that we believe that the proper balance between ministerial responsibility and limitations on ministerial power can be achieved.
– We of the Australian Democrats do not agree entirely with the view expressed by Senator Evans on behalf of the Labor Party about clause 8, especially sub-clause (2) of clause 8. This clause concerns the important and crucial area of the responsibilities of the Director-General.
– Do you want to retain that clause?
– I will suggest some alterations to it as I proceed. We now have a good Director-General. I wonder whether the Government has been unduly influenced by the present situation. It is the possibility of a bad situation arising in the future- and this is most important- for which we should be legislating. The Government might feel that if a bad situation arises in the future or there is some change in events or accent it could then introduce amendments which would cope with the situation, but this might not necessarily be the case. It seems to me that semantically even clause 8 (2) is too soft. It says that the Director-General is subject to the general directions of the Minister. As a matter of semantics and inference, I suggest that that means that the Director-General is not subject to the specific direction of the Minister. I would be interested in any other interpretation of that. We feel that that is far too loose and diffuse, that it throws on the DirectorGeneral a heavier responsibility than he should bear and that in fact there is too light a responsibility on the Minister who is, after all- I suggest that we cannot avoid this- the channel of accountability. Senator Evans mentioned this point but, with respect to him, I think he has dismissed it too lightly. The Australian Democrats suggest to the Government that it can strengthen this Bill by amending it to read that ‘the DirectorGeneral is subject to the direction of the Minister’, which seems to us to be a reasonable point of view. One cannot consider that section without looking at 8 (a) and (b), which raise points concerning the treatment of particular individuals and the collection and communication of intelligence concerning them.
– That is contradictory.
– Excuse me, Senator, are you helping me with that point?
– I say that that is contradictory. If the Minister has exclusive direction then you cannot put qualifications where you exempt him from it.
– No, just the direction. I would not agree with you there. I think you can say that a person can be subject to the direction of another person but that there are certain limitations to it and in that way you are making the limitations specific. The Australian Democrats’ argument is that if you leave it the way it is you are making it non-specific. By saying ‘subject to the direction of the Minister’, then indicating in (a) and (b), you can indicate precisely what you mean. I feel you then have a situation which is controllable. Do you think I have met your point, Senator Cavanagh?
– Yes, but I do not agree with you.
– That is another matter. We can understand why the Government has phrased (8) (2) (a) and (b) the way it has. It has been influenced, and properly, by the consideration of the threat that may be posed by a particular individual, unspecified, but obviously a dangerous, ruthless individual who is definitely aiming at damage to our society. We believe that the Government may also consider additionally that it has a duty to protect individuals of our society; that is an obligation of any government, or should be so.
This whole question of the regrettable but real vulnerability of individuals in this society to police measures was referred to and is on the record of the second reading debate on this Bill by Senator Chipp wherein he gave certain examples. The Australian Democrats, to whom such things are brought, have many cases on our records where people have felt- perhaps wrongly, perhaps unjustifiably- that they have not pursued their rights adequately because they felt they were unhappy about it, that they could be pressured and that somehow they must not run foul of the police. Therefore, I think it is desirable in some sense- and I share Senator Evans’ problem- I think there should be some sort of mitigation or limitation of the absolute power of the Director-General in this regard.
Presumably this clause is here because we think a Minister may act in a political way or a government may act in a political way, but somehow the Director-General, no matter who he is, is going to be immune from this or any other pressures. When I say ‘any other pressures’, I reiterate that I think the Government is placing a very grave responsibility on any single individual as Director-General in the way this is phrased. Unfair, intolerable pressures can be brought to bear on any individual in our society, perhaps through his family- anything can happen. I suggest that the Government is placing an intolerable burden on this person.
As far as we have thought it through now, there may well be a possibility where the Minister could raise these matters or perhaps question the opinion of the Director-General- not himself- but perhaps in a situation where he may be in consultation with or have the concurrence of the Cabinet; or indeed if you are going to have a judicial audit, as the Labor Party suggests that somehow that could be brought through there. The Australian Democrats ask that the Government consider this very human situation where it is legislating for one man to have tremendous responsibility and authority and not providing any safeguards whatsoever.
– I do not want to say very much on this matter. Unfortunately I did not hear Senator Evans and it may well be that he has covered all my points. However, I wish to mention my disagreement with Senator Mason. The three points that we do not concede are in (a) (b) and (c) where the Minister cannot override the opinion of the Director-General. The aim of paragraphs (a) (b) and (c) is to ensure that security does not become a political issue. The Director-General with his responsibility for security should not be directed to investigate security issues simply because of the whim of a political party having a particular allegiance. The Opposition believes that (c) contains such damaging consequences that the Minister should seriously consider its deletion.
Commissioner Salisbury in South Australia lost his position as Commissioner of Police because he decided he would not give some information to the Minister. He thought his duties and responsibilities lay in giving part information to the Premier of South Australia. However, as the Premier of South Australia said, and as a royal commission established, Mr Salisbury misled the Government by not giving all of the information. The Premier misinformed the House because he was not given all the information available.
This measure seeks to do the same thing in federal politics by allowing the Director-General to withhold some information or to act without the Minister’s consent. The Minister would not be informed of all the queries that come to him from time to time. The additions which the Government is seeking to include are to keep the Minister informed of all records. Here we see repeated what was in the previous two provisions where the Leader of the Opposition is to be informed of what dossiers are kept but is not allowed to see the dossiers; I believe this is reasonable. I believe Senator Evans has covered all other points.
– I wish to direct a few remarks to clause 8 (2). In the speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) in closing the second reading debate, he mentioned that if he had omitted answering any other points made by any other senators during the second reading debate he would pick them up in the Committee stage. I have risen to afford him the opportunity of doing so in respect of the matter I raised at the second reading stage where I dealt with the very points that are at issue in clause 8 (2). The preamble to that clause reflects the recommendations made by Mr Justice Hope on page 1 73 in paragraph 352 where he said:
It seems to me that, in general terms, the Director-General must be subject to proper directions by the Minister . . .
I have no real quarrel with the preamble within clause 8 (2) because my approach to this legislation is that in general terms it is based on the recommendations of Mr Justice Hope who, having investigated the situation, was in the best position to make such recommendations.
Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of clause 8(2) presumably are an attempt to pick up the recommendations made by Mr Justice Hope in paragraph 353 on page 173. 1 think it is as well, since we are dealing with this matter, to read Mr Justice Hope’s recommendation:
The matters in respect of which the Director-General should not be subject to ministerial direction are:
Whether any particular intelligence or matter is or might be relevant to security for the purpose of the Act.
Whether, to whom, and in what manner any intelligence held by ASIO should be communicated.
Having been requested by a minister or directed by the Minister to give advice to a minister in respect of a matter relevant to security, what advice should be given to that minister.
Clearly, paragraphs (b) and (c) in the Bill pick up almost directly paragraphs (b) and (c) of the recommendation, but paragraph (a) in the Bill does not pick up paragraph (a) of the recommendation. I repeat that Mr Justice Hope’s recommendation in paragraph 353 states:
The matters in respect of which the Director-General should not be subject to ministerial direction are:
Whether any particular intelligence or matter is or might be relevant to security for the purpose of the Act.
Clause 8 (2 ) of the Bill states in part:
. but the Minister is not empowered to override the opinion of the Director-General:
I should like to know what reason the Minister has for taking up the recommendations in paragraphs 352 and 353 and directly incorporating them in the legislation with the exception of (a) in paragraph 353.
– In response to the point Senator Harradine has just raised, let me say that the Opposition has indeed noted and applauded the distinction between the text of the Bill and the recommendations of Mr Justice Hope. This is one of the few instances, as we see it, in which the Government has departed from Mr Justice Hope’s recommendations in a more liberal rather than illiberal direction. We saw Mr Justice Hope’s recommendations as allowing too much room for limitation of the scope of ministerial power and responsibility, allowing too much residual authority to the Director-General. We regard the Government as having seized upon the correct principle in identifying those areas which should be left to the DirectorGeneral and not subjected to detailed ministerial direction by reference to security information relating to particular individuals. It was that aspect, of course, which I stressed earlier when explaining sub-clauses (3) and (4) of the Opposition’s proposed new clause 7A, in which we sought to take that principle a stage further and introduce new provisions which related specifically to the question of access. But, lest it be thought by our silence that there is any support for the point raised by Senator Harradine, I want to put it clearly on record that the Opposition has noted and applauded this divergence from the Hope recommendations.
– Since I merely asked the question and since the Opposition has obviously noted and applauded the distinction between the text of the Bill and the recommendations of Mr Justice Hope, let me be as specific as I was in my speech during the second reading debate. In respect of an organisation, for example, under the proposed legislation, as distinct from the recommendation, it would appear that a Minister could direct the Director-General that collection of information on an organisation should not proceed. I think we ought to have a good look at that, particularly in regard to the example I gave in my speech in the second reading debate relating to a member of the Ananda Marga sect. It would seem to me that, if the Ananda Marga was regarded as being of concern to security, surely the collection of intelligence on the activities of that organisation, its philosophy, et cetera, would be justified by reason of relevance to security. I pose another question: Could an Attorney-General direct that knowledge of the objects and philosophical background of, say, the Socialist Party of Australia- the Moscow-line Communist Party- is a matter about which intelligence or information should not be collected? I raise that because Mr Justice Hope himself indicated that such an organisation was one about which there should be intelligent information, and I stress that. I hope that the Attorney-General will be able to respond.
– Clause 8 is the very pivot of the Bill. I do not think that any other clause in the Bill occasioned more concern to the Government in its deliberations on the Hope report and on the preparation of this Bill. Certainly, speaking for myself, I am sure that this clause has been the subject of more thought, more drafts, the consideration of more alternatives and so on, than any other. I am not surprised at all that there should be so much interest in the clause, although I am encouraged by the fact that there does seem to be a fairly substantial measure of agreement about the result. That gives me some satisfaction. In view of all the possibilities as to how it might go, it does seem that now we have hit upon something on which there is a pretty solid measure of agreement.
I think I should deal first with Senator Harradine ‘s point because he raised one of the major alternatives to the way in which clause 8 now reads. I think that in his speech in the second reading debate he raised the question whether the Government had given consideration to the fact that this clause differs from the Hope recommendation. I can assure him that we certainly did consider that, as he would appreciate from what I have already said. In addition to the fact that I was already over time in my reply, I thought that it was better to leave it until now for discussion. I apologise for not mentioning earlier the point Senator Harradine raised. First of all, let me go back and read to the Committee what was said about the relationship between the Minister and the Organization when the first Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister of the day, Mr Menzies. He said:
It is clearly impossible, and in any event undesirable, for a Minister to exercise in this field the same degree of supervision and authority that he exercises in his own department. The proper course, in the Government’s view, is to make the Director-General responsible for the due control of his service and to allow the measure of authority of the responsible Minister to be worked out, as in the past, by convention and in the light of the circumstances of the time.
Dr Evatt, then Leader of the Opposition, said:
I do not believe that the people of Australia would approve of an organization like this unless it were perfectly clear that there was, at any rate, a political officer responsible for it, in a general way, to the Parliament and the people. By that, I do not mean responsible for the detailed working out of all the problems of the organization, or anything of that kind.
We want ministerial responsibility in a general sense. I think that the existing legislation fails to spell that out. The object of this exercise is to try to spell that out in a way which is practical and which meets the general concerns of the day. Mr Justice Hope obviously felt that there ought to be a very wide measure of independence by the Director-General in relation to his professional opinion, if I can put it in that broad sense. That is why he made the recommendation that Senator Harradine quoted. He said that the DirectorGeneral should not be subject to any ministerial direction about particular intelligence which is or might be relevant to security or to whom intelligence would be communicated. The Government felt that that was going too far in the qualification of ministerial responsibility. We felt that the community was concerned that there should be proper accountability to the Government by the Organization and that the Minister, in order to discharge that responsibility, should take a fairly active interest in what is going on in the Organization. On the other hand, we do not want to go so far as perhaps Senator Mason would suggest and that is that the Minister give particular directions to the Director-General about how he is to run the show.
The Minister, though, should have the power to give directions, as was said by Mr Menzies and Dr Evatt on another occasion in another place. The Minister should be able to give general directions and be able to obtain information from the Director-General about the way in which the Organization is run and about the intelligence that is collected. It is true that the change in the wording of the Bill from that contained in the recommendations of Mr Justice Hope would mean that the Minister, on behalf of the government of the day, could direct the DirectorGeneral either not to collect intelligence about a particular organisation or to collect intelligence about an organisation. Although one may feel dubious as to whether the Minister should override the opinion of the Director-General about whether the Organization should collect intelligence about a particular organisation, the corollary of that is- if one accepts the recommendations of Mr Justice Hope- that the Government could not give a direction to the Organization that it should collect intelligence about a particular organisation.
Having responsibility in the community for law and order, security, defence and so on, the Government felt that if a dispute arose between the Director-General and the Government as to whether a particular organisation should be the subject of surveillance, the Government’s will and opinion should prevail over the DirectorGeneral’s opinion. I think it is clear that more of a need exists for a direction to positively collect intelligence- this is the point about which Senator Harradine was concerned- than a direction to positively not collect intelligence. This is a very difficult relationship. It is one which has to be worked out by trust between the DirectorGeneral and the Minister to whom he is responsible. It has got to be worked out by practice. I think that is what Mr Menzies, as he was then, had in mind when he specifically spelt out in his speech that this relationship has to be ‘worked out, as in the past, by convention and in the light of the circumstances of the time ‘.
On the other hand, the Government felt that there was real concern because of the history of this Organization. The inherent problem in this relationship is that a Minister may seek to obtain information about a particular individual and that that information may be used for a political purpose. That is why we put one major qualification on this power of direction. It appears in subclauses (2) (a) and (2)(b) of clause 8. These paragraphs will protect the individual against misuse of ministerial power. The point which mainly concerns the Opposition is contained in paragraph (c) of clause 8 (2). The Opposition seems to feel that that clause limits in some way the power that the Minister may have to obtain information about the way the Organization operates and that therefore it is an undesirable restriction. The Government feels that all that this is designed to do- we believe it does it- is to restate the obvious. The Government sets up an organisation to perform a professional job and it relies on that organisation to give professional advice about a particular situation, a particular individual or a particular organisation. If the Minister, without having the professional expertise and the proper knowledge, were to substitute his opinion and to override the advice of the professional man, in this case the Director-General, there would be a ludicrous situation. As I see it, clause 8 (2) (c) states the obvious- that is, that the Minister should not override the professional opinion of the Director-General and thereby, the nature of the advice that the Director-General gives to Ministers, departments and authorities. I think that that paragraph should be looked at in conjunction with clause 17, which defines the functions of the Organization. They are set out quite clearly. Clause 1 7 states:
I ) The functions of the Organization are:
In our opinion clause 8 (2) (c) is simply there to emphasise that point and to prevent a Minister seeking to substitute his opinion for a professional opinion. Clause 8 (2) (c) does not have the effect of limiting the information that the Director-General is obliged to supply to the Minister about the operations of the Organization. The only limitation on that is as provided in subclauses (a) and (b) of clause 8, and that is that the Minister cannot override the opinion of the Director-General as to whether the collection of intelligence about a particular individual is relevant to security, or whether the communication of intelligence concerning the particular individual should be made.
Apart from those limitations- which are supported by the Senate- we see clause 8, as drafted, as enabling the Minister to exercise the full power of investigation of the Organization and to obtain all the information that he would need in order to exercise his responsibility. We think, therefore, that the Opposition’s additions to clause 8(2)- that is proposed new clause 8 (3)- are in one sense not necessary. I have already commented on sub-clause (4) in my second reading speech and in relation to other amendments. We believe it would be undesirable to insist on being told whether there was information about a particular individual, in the same way as it would be wrong to insist on seeing his file. There is nothing to stop the Minister from developing a relationship with the DirectorGeneral and the Director-General may well see it appropriate to give the Minister that advice. But we believe it should not be something which he can demand.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 1 3- by leave- taken together.
-May I have the opportunity to ask the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) a question in connection with clause 9? Clause 9 provides that the period of office of a Director-General shall not exceed seven years as is specified in his instrument of appointment. As I understand it the present period is five years. In my speech on the second reading debate I referred to the fact that the recommendation in the fourth report of Mr Justice Hope was that there should be a stated period. I think he had five years in mind. I wonder whether the Attorney-General can indicate why this particular recommendation was not followed? It seems to me that there is considerable advantage in a Director-General having security of tenure. One can imagine a situation where the period may be fixed. It may be a short period. It may be that there is not the security in which a Director-General can make decisions and exercise the powers which he has under clause 8 and other clauses of which I strongly approve. It seems to me that it is not sound that this period should be left open-ended and that the period of reappointment might be fixed perhaps for only one year.
With these matters in mind, and bearing in mind that in any event there is an age limit of 65, I do not think that there would be any problem of tenure at that end. A Director-General should surely have security. Of course he has that security from the instrument of appointment. Bearing in mind that in future short appointments might be made, and as 1 think that that is somewhat undesirable, I ask the Attorney-General why this particular recommendation by Mr Justice Hope has been departed from?
– It is not true to say that we have not accepted in principle the motion that the Director-General should be given an appropriate security of tenure. This clause is in the usual form. It is in this form for practical reasons. It may be a matter of negotiation with a Director-General as to what term he wants. It is a very difficult task to get a Director-General suitable for this purpose. It may be necessary to negotiate with him. If we fixed a term of five years, he might not want to commit himself for that time. He may be a man who would be reaching retirement so we cannot make it a fixed term. It is really just these considerations which have led the Government to draft the clause in this way, as indeed, I am instructed, it is drafted in other statutes.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 14 (Acting Director-General).
– I think that I am ahead of the Opposition’s amendment in relation to this clause. The amendments are almost exactly the same. The only difference is that my amendment puts a qualification on the consultation between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in relation to the appointment of an acting director-general, unless it is impracticable to do so. That has been inserted purely on the advice of Parliamentary Counsel. In relation to an acting director-general it may be necessary to appoint him in an emergency and it may be that in certain circumstances the Leader of the Opposition is not available. He may be overseas or something of that kind. Indeed, I am told that there may be no Leader of the Opposition because after the Parliament is dissolved and until the election there may not be someone who, in actual statutory terms, is a Leader of the Opposition or he may have died and his successor may not have been appointed. There could be a number of very unusual circumstances. Because of the nature of an acting appointment, as distinct from a permanent appointment, it may have to be done in an emergency and so the Parliamentary Counsel advised the addition of those words. As far as I can see, on the principle, and almost literally on the wording, this amendment is comparable with the amendment to clause 14 as proposed by the Opposition. I move:
Page S, clause 14, after sub-clause ( 1 ) insert the following sub-clause: (Ia) Before a recommendation is made to the Governor-General for the appointment of a person, under sub-section (I), to act as Director-General, the Prime Minister shall consult with the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, unless it is impracticable to do so. ‘.
-As the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has pointed out there is a mild difference between the amendment which stands in the name of the Opposition and the amendment moved by the Attorney-General. Once again I might say that we appreciate the Government’s amendment in regard to this clause. It seems to us to be a perfectly logical amendment having regard to other provisions of the Bill. Logic dictates that it should be in the Bill. I find this abundance of caution about it being impractical to accept the wording of our amendment really quite extraordinary. I do not know what was in the draftsman’s head at the time. That provision could be inserted in almost any clause of any Bill passed by this Parliament if we accept the basis of the argument which the Attorney-General has put to the Senate in the last few minutes. It may be that somebody has died or is not an officer of the Parliament at the precise time that the DirectorGeneral retires. We just do not see the words as being particularly necessary. It may provide an opportunity for a person who adopts a degree of arrogance or fails to adopt a degree of bipartisanship which we hope would arise from the passing of this legislation to say: ‘It was not practicable for me to consult with the Leader of the Opposition about this aspect’, and that would be the end of it. It is just another thin end of the wedge argument on the whole question of the bipartisan approach to the legislation. We just do not see the words as being necessary. I must say in all seriousness that when I first saw the Government’s amendment I looked at some of my colleagues and we nodded at each other indicating that we might as well accept it, but for the first time in my life the more I talk the more I am persuading myself- I do not know whether I have persuaded anybody else- that the Government’s amendment is wrong and that ours is preferable.
– It will make a big difference to the outcome.
-Yes. I take it no further than that.
– I take the matter no further at this stage than to ask the Attorney-General a question. Under what circumstances are acting directors-general appointed? Is an acting director-general appointed whenever the Director-General is, outside the country, ill, or indisposed for some period? Does the concept of acting directorgeneral come into play only on the death, retirement or dismissal of the actual DirectorGeneral? The answer might colour the
Opposition’s attitude to this amendment to some small extent.
– Our impression is that we would not appoint an acting directorgeneral because the Director-General happened to be away for a short period. I cannot recall having done so. I think that the Director-General simply appoints somebody to act while he is away. There is no formality about it, as is provided for in this legislation. I must concede the point that it sounds pedantic but the fact of the matter is that there is always a Minister but there is not always a Leader of the Opposition, lt is as simple as that. Government is conducted and has to be conducted in such a way that there is a Minister. There has literally to be a Minister or somebody acting for him every minute of the day or night, otherwise government would not be able to be carried on. There is a distinction there. That is why the provision is included. It is not included for any ulterior motive whatsoever.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 17- by leave- taken together.
– I have some doubts about whether the people who have been reported to their employer or prospective employer by the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization or its agents have rights under this Bill to appeal. Clause 17 of the Bill sets out the general functions of ASIO. Clause 17(l)(b) enables the communication of intelligence relevant to security to such persons and in such a manner as is appropriate for the functioning of security. Clause 18(3) extends the functions to enable certain information to be given to police, Customs officers, the Office of National Assessments or a Minister or department. The Bill appears to contain no provision to prevent the giving to an employer or prospective employer by the Director-General of ASIO of information on the political opinions of a person. If the withholding of information is to be done in the name of security, as set out in clause 17 ( 1 ) (b), no appeal would be permitted where the employer was not the Commonwealth, a Commonwealth authority or a Commonwealth contractor. The giving of such information would not necessarily relate to a security assessment as defined in this Bill and therefore there would be no obligation to notify a person who was the subject of a report.
This brings to mind the difficulty that Senator Cavanagh experienced many years ago when he tried to get access to Woomera. He was refused access. He was a trade union official who was doing his job. I realise that clause 34 takes some cognisance of this aspect. Union officials who represent people working in places where military work is being done, such as Garden Island or the government aircraft factories, would want access to those places. I doubt very much that it would be granted. There could then be difficulties. What would happen if a union official wished to change his employment and the Director-General of ASIO then reported to his prospective employer? I believe that there would be no chance of appeal by that person. Instances involving the waterfront where I worked come to mind. People on the waterfront handle military supplies and incoming and outgoing goods. The Director-General of ASIO could say to any of the people who handle the weapons or munitions that he intended to make a statement to the employer. Those employees would then be at a disadvantage. As I see it, there is just no provision under this Bill for appeal if the report was not a security assessment and if the person concerned was not an employee of the Commonwealth, a Commonwealth authority or a Commonwealth contractor.
I believe that the trade union movement has experienced a great deal of anxiety in the past because of ASIO. Some terrible things have been said in the past about people and they simply have not been able to appeal about them. I believe that the provisions of this Bill should go further and provide for appeals by people who are working for an employer other than the Commonwealth, a Commonwealth authority or a Commonwealth contractor. I have grave misgivings that all people in the community have not been given this right. I would like to hear the Attorney-General comment on that.
– The question of appeals against security assessments is contained in clause 34 and those following clauses in Part IV of the Bill. 1 think that when we are discussing those clauses would be a more appropriate time to debate this matter.
– I do not think so, Mr Chairman. Senator Elstob was saying that in accordance with Part IV of the Bill a person may appeal against a security assessment and therefore such an action would be correct. Senator Elstob was making the point that an approved defence project Act provides that no prescribed person can enter an approved defence project. Clause 17(2) states:
It is not a function of the Organization to carry out or enforce measures for security within an authority of the Commonwealth.
But who tells the person looking after an approved defence project that someone is a proscribed person? There may not have been a security assessment. Does security supply the information? Is an assessment made? If a security assessment is made, there is a right of appeal. But if someone says to an employer, ‘Oh, no, we made no assessment but I would have some doubt about employing that person’, and wrong information is given about the person, that person has no right of appeal if the information comes from security.
– I still think that the particular question as to who should be entitled to an appeal is based on the question of who should be given notice of a security assessment. In accordance with clause 17(1) (b), part of the functions of the Organization is to communicate intelligence for purposes relevant to security. Mr Justice Hope, in his report, found that outside the areas of Commonwealth employment, immigration cases and Commonwealth contracts there was very little communication of intelligence relating to security, and that is why he advised that the appeal system should be confined to those cases. The Director-General advises me that only on very rare occasions would he be making any security assessments outside those areas. Indeed, as I said in my second reading speech, in relation to the Opposition amendment extending the rights of appeal to assessments given to a State authority, the Director-General is proposing that in future in the rare cases where he may give a security assessment to a State about a State official, such an assessment should be given through a Commonwealth agency so as to preserve the right of appeal. So I think that the answer is that although it is true that there is no right of appeal outside the specific areas provided for in Part IV which we will be debating at a later stage, the Director-General will be very unlikely to give any security assessments about people outside that area. It is believed that this is an area where, once the system is in force, it may be practical to extend the right of appeal to other areas. At this stage it does not appear that the problem will arise.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 18 (Communication of intelligence, et cetera).
-I know that it is proposed to move an amendment to this clause but perhaps I can ask the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) a question on this clause before the amendment is moved. This clause is the first of a number of clauses in this Bill about which I raised a question in my speech in the second reading debate. I queried the extent to which they are secrecy provisions which, I take it, should the Freedom of Information Bill be passed by the Senate in its present form, or anything like it, would be proscribed. I endeavoured to obtain from the Attorney-General some indication as to whether, if and when freedom of information legislation is enacted, he proposes to reconsider these secrecy clauses in the light of any changed circumstances that might arise from that legislation.
Clause 1 8 is a fairly intimidatory provision. It goes beyond the provisions of section 70 of the Crimes Act. Clause 18 (2) imposes a very wide prohibition on people disclosing information, not only if they are officers or employees, but also if they have some contract, agreement or arrangement with the Organisation. This clause prevents them from making any disclosure of information. Whereas under the Crimes Act they are forbidden from making disclosure, but only where it is their duty not to disclose’ any information, there is no such restriction in this legislation. It goes further. It imposes a complete prohibition on people disclosing information. People may well consider that they have a duty to disclose such information but according to this clause such people would have no defence. So the first thing I would ask is whether the Parliament could have some assurance that there will be a reconsideration of this clause and other clauses. So that I do not have to repeat this matter later, on the clauses in question, I will mention them now. I refer to clause 57 which deals with disclosure to and by the Tribunal; clause 79, which deals with the secrecy provisions imposed on members or officers of the Tribunal; and clause 90 which deals with the publication of the identity of an officer of the Organisation. I ask whether these clauses will be seriously reconsidered by the Government in the light of the freedom of information legislation, if it becomes law. I trust we will not then be met by a fait accompli whereby, having passed this Bill this time, such clauses will not be looked at again in any real sense.
The second matter I wish to raise with the Minister concerns sub-clause (3) of clause 18. Whereas in clause 1 7 there is a very wide use of the communication of intelligence, a much wider use is provided for in clause 18 (3). It provides for disclosures to police, to Customs officials or to the Office of National Assessments. I suppose that a substantial amount of information relating to security matters could flow from those sources and in some cases could even flow overseas. I wonder why it is thought necessary to go so far, to disclose information in this way, and take it outside the area of security to make use of information that may be obtained. I realise that the clauses that entitle an officer of the Organisation to disclose information are fairly substantial because such offences are punishable by imprisonment for life or for a maximum period, of not less than three years. I realise that significant crimes- also Customs matters- must be involved. I wonder why there is this wide extension? How does the Attorney-General see this provision and the other provisions in relation to a future Freedom of Information Act?
– I seek leave on behalf of the Opposition to move together amendments Nos. 8 and 9, which both relate to the substance of clause 1 8.
– I move:
I will explain the effect of both the above amendments in a moment. I am glad to notice that in the last few minutes there has been a 400 per cent increase in the population of the Press Gallery.
– More than 400 per cent, when one considers the quality.
– Yes, indeed. I am glad to see that four more people have come flocking in to hear the Opposition draw attention to some of the difficulties about this clause, which is and should be of great interest to the Press. The clause penalises communications about intelligence and security made by officers or former officers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. It is a corollary of the creation of an offence of this kind that those who solicit or receive such information are likely to be guilty, on first principles, of aiding and abetting the commission of such an offence.
– Do you mean that we might be able to gaol some of them? That would be a good thing.
- Senator Wheeldon would be quite encouraged at that prospect, after his remarks yesterday. As Senator Missen said, the statute book is littered with provisions guaranteeing secrecy and prohibiting the communication of information by public servants.
The most far-reaching and notorious of those provisions is section 70 of the Crimes Act, which provides a jail term of two years for any Commonwealth officer who publishes or communicates any fact or document which comes to his knowledge or into his possession by virtue of his office and which it is his duty not to disclose. That is a catch-all and draconian provision which has been the subject of a great deal of criticism over the years. There are provisions such as Public Service Regulation 34A which operates as a disciplinary restraint on the communication of any information. Regulation 34B, which prohibited Public Service comment, of course was repealed by the Whitlam Government during its term of office. Such provisions, by and large, as Senator Missen said, are incompatible with the freedom of information principle. I hope that the freedom of information legislation that ultimately emerges from the deliberative processes of Parliament will embody some substantial reduction in the scope and operation of the secrecy clauses, including in particular section 70 of the Crimes Act.
If there have to be secrecy provisions in Commonwealth legislation- the Opposition readily acknowledges that this may be so in particular situations- we take the view and acknowledge that the preferable way of providing for guarantees of secrecy and prohibitions on communication is to tackle the problem with individually tailored provisions appropriately drafted to suit particular departmental situations. We further acknowledge that there is an obvious necessity to maintain a significant prohibition on the communication of information with respect to ASIO. For both those reasons we have no basic objection to the existence of a clause such as clause 1 8. Our objection is to the scope of that clause as it presently stands. It is too wide and catch all and it goes too far.
There are many aspects of the administration of the Organization as distinct from its field operations, if I might use that terminology, which could be revealed, and arguably should be revealed, without any significant risk to the effective operation of the Organization as a whole. That is the primary reason why the first of these two amendments has been moved, the effect of which is to reduce the scope of sub-clause (2) so that the prohibition relates only to persons communicating information by or on behalf of the Organization in connection with its functions. Omitted from the scope of the clause would be communication of information which ‘relates to the performance by the Organization of its functions ‘.
It might be thought that that distinction is somewhat Jesuitical, but it has appealed to the Opposition as having some significance. The Opposition wants to narrow the scope of the prohibited information so that the only information that is to be prohibited is that prepared or acquired on behalf of the Organization in connection with its functions. We want to delete the wider reference to information relating to ‘the performance by the Organization of its functions’. Senator Missen ‘s face is screwed up in puzzlement about this.
– What I put to you is: Have you achieved anything? The first few words- ‘in connection with its functions’- are so wide that removal of these words would not actually remove anything.
– I understand that. It is arguable that we would achieve no more than giving a certain new flavour to the clause. I readily acknowledge that this amendment may not make any significant diffierence to the substance of the clause.
The functions of the Organization are defined in clause 1 7 as the collection of security and so on. It is legitimate in respect of information on such functions to impose a significant secrecy barrier. But talking about the performance of those functions has a flavour of administrative efficiency about it. We say that matters related to the administrative structure and efficiency of the Organization- at least where it can be demonstrated that the effectiveness of the Organization will not be put at risk by such disclosure- prima facie ought to be able to be communicated. That is the point that we make. Some people would say that the communication of any information at all about ASIO, relating to the size of its staff, the location of its offices, the nature of its budgeting, the manner of its financial administrationanything at all related to the efficiency or quality of the Organization and its performance- must be kept secret; that it is unconscionable or unimaginable that such information should ever be disclosed to anyone.
There are those- including, I imagine, the Director-General of the Organization, from what he has put on public record- who would say that nothing at all should be disclosed. I have always taken the perhaps slightly cynical view that that kind of position rather overstates the case. I say cynical’ because it seems to me that there are only two kinds of threats, speaking generically, to the security of this nation. One threat comes from the relatively sophisticated foreign espionage area which might effectively be able to use such administrative information; but sophisticated foreign intelligence operations are almost certain to have such information anyway. The other kind of threat is the unsophisticated domestic one. Domestic organisations are unlikely to have this kind of detailed administrative information but, on the whole, they would be unlikely to be able to use it even if they had it. It is possible to argue credibly that the case for preserving from the public gaze any detailed information about the administrative operations of the agency is an overstated one.
I move to the second amendment which, in many ways, is more important and significant. The communication of information of any kind about the agency and its operations should be penalised only when that communication can be demonstrated to be prejudicial to the nation’s security. Unless it can be so demonstrated, the communication should not be penalised under this savage clause. Accordingly, this is a criterion which ought to be incorporated in the text of this clause to become, as it were, an element of the offence. That is why we would add in sub-clause (2) the words ‘and such a communication would seriously prejudice security’. .In other words, a person would be guilty of an offence only if the communication he made could be demonstrated to prejudice security seriously. If necessary this could be done in an in camera court hearing if it were thought that any analysis of the question by the court would be inappropriate for security reasons to be exposed to the public gaze.
I repeat that such a condition ought to be an additional element of this offence. The communication by itself should not be subject to these penalties. It might be argued that it would place an impracticable or impossible burden on the intelligence organisation to have to produce evidence in court- even a closed court- about the prejudicial character of the information in question. But if the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) is tempted to make that sort of reply, I remind him that in order to make a prosecution under clause 18 stick, the prosecution already has to prove a number of things about the Organization. It has to prove the existence of and identify the information in question. It has to prove to the satisfaction of the court that it came into the knowledge of the person by reason of his having been an officer or employee of the Organization. It has to show to the court that the information was acquired or prepared by or on behalf of the Organization in connection with its functions or related to the purpose of the Organization’s functions. If it has to do all those things in order to put this offence together, it seems to the Opposition that it would not be an excessively great additional burden and that it would not thrust the security of the nation into grave peril for it to go a step further and prove that the communication was prejudicial to security. I repeat that we would see no objection to an in camera hearing of evidence in support of that part of the case.
To sum up, the Hope report demonstrated all too clearly and vividly the long and sorry record of maladministration which has been part and parcel of ASIO ‘s operations for almost the whole of its history. We suggest that one of the factors that undoubtedly has contributed to that history of maladministration is the secrecy which has prevailed with respect to every aspect of the organisation’s operation, its financial accountability and its administrative operations. The open government principle- I heartily endorse what Senator Missen said- is a very important one. It should apply so far as is humanly possible right across the governmental spectrum. There is nothing magically different about security services. Certainly legislation of this kind imposing draconic penalties for the communication of information of all kinds, not only operational but also administrative information, should not be allowed to go on the statute book in its present form. It should be substantially narrowed in scope in the way the Opposition suggests.
- Senator Missen has raised a question in relation to clause 18. He is also concerned about clauses 57 and 79, and perhaps others. He sees those clauses as being related to freedom of information matters. I find it easier to identify an immediate relationship with freedom of information in clause 57 rather than clause 18. Nevertheless, clause 18 obviously has connections with freedom of information. The relationship between the Australian Security Intelligence Organization and any freedom of information legislation which ultimately may be enacted has not yet been resolved. Any relationship between this legislation and freedom of information legislation is one to which the Government will give further consideration. However, clause 1 8 deals specifically with the preservation of the secrets of a security organisation. I think it is generally conceded that any freedom of information legislation would preserve secrets relating to defence, security and so on. Therefore, it is not the principle of clause 1 8 which is up for debate but rather the wording of it.
The problem I have with the amendments to clause 18 which Senator Evans proposed is to find words that make a clear distinction between information the Organization has which relates to security and that which may be said to relate purely to administration. I think that that is the point of the amendments. I cannot accept the first amendment. If the words proposed to be left out were left out it probably would not have any effect. I was encouraged at one point to think that I could accept the amendment on the basis that the words were ineffective. I am sure that Senator Evans would not have wanted me to do that. If one could think of words which would make that distinction quite clear, my attitude might be different. It seems to me that if the words were omitted it would leave open the communication of much information which could well relate to security matters which would be of interest to an enemy and which should not get into the public arena. I concede that some matters about the organisation would perhaps do no harm to security if they emerged. I do not think that there are many of them but it is difficult to make a meaningful distinction about them.
As to the amendment which suggests that the offence should be limited only to those cases which seriously prejudice security, I think any information which prejudices security should not be disclosed at all. Such a qualification may encourage some people to chance their arm in revealing information because they feel that they can get away with it under a defence of that sort. They may even honestly believe that what they were communicating did not prejudice security whereas in fact that view was based on ignorance and it did prejudice security. I think the answer to these problems is probably to be found in the way in which the proposed section is administered not only in relation to the commencing of proceedings but also in relation to the penalties that may be imposed. Clause 18 (4) provides for summary proceedings under which a fine up to $1,000 can be imposed. In a case which is of a very technical kind and there was no breach of security, no doubt only a nominal fine would be imposed. I think that the matters that concern Senator Evans and, no doubt, Senator Missen should be dealt with in that way rather than by acceding to this amendment, which, as I have said, could have some fairly major consequences for the security of the Organization.
-The Attorney-General’s response does not come as altogether a surprise to the Opposition. I wonder whether he would be prepared to throw the Opposition a bone of the kind he has anticipated and foreshadowed as an appropriate amendment to clause 90, which is a similar provision. It relates to the communication of information as to the possible identity of an ASIO employee or agent. The Opposition will be moving an amendment which provides that that clause should only apply and that such a prosecution should be brought only with the consent of the AttorneyGeneral, which consent will be given only when the Attorney-General is persuaded either that the safety of the individual officer is endangered or that there would be a serious prejudice to security. That is the substance of the amendment which the Opposition proposes to move to clause 90. I note in respect of that clause that the Attorney-General has foreshadowed an amendment in the following terms:
A prosecution Tor an offence against sub-section ( 1 ) shall be instituted only by or with the consent of the Attorney-General.
We of the Opposition do not think that is very much by way of a safeguard but at least it is better than nothing in ensuring that some serious ministerial attention will be devoted, presumably among other things, to the security implications of the communication in question. I ask the Attorney-General to indicate whether he is prepared to give consideration to accepting an amendment of that kind to clause 1 8.
– I will certainly consider it. I am inclined to the view that that suggestion should be taken up. I do not like drafting such things here and now. I think that the amendment that is drafted could be inserted in this clause but I would rather recommit this clause or postpone consideration of it until a subsequent occasion. We will not conclude our consideration of this legislation today so I will take up that point and get a suitable amendment drafted.
– The Opposition appreciates that assurance and in the meantime it will draft its own amendment.
– I would probably prefer one of my own drafting.
Consideration of clause 1 8 postponed.
Clause 19 (Co-operation with other authorities).
-The Opposition is in the same position as it was in respect of the previous clause. It seeks to make an insertion into the Bill after clause 19.
Clause agreed to.
Proposed new clause 1 9a.
– On behalf of Senator Button. I move:
I think that this amendment is very close to what Senator Elstob and I were trying to emphasise before. Under Part IV, if an adverse assessment is made and if security would be at risk in making it known why that assessment has been made, notification of the assessment is given to the person in respect of whom the assessment is made and he has a right of appeal to the Security Appeals Tribunal. By the same token, provision is made in clause 19 of the Bill for the Australian Security Intelligence Organization to co-operate with State agencies by passing on to a State agency such information as would permit that agency to make its own assessment on an individual within that State. It may be that within the State there are no appeal rights against an adverse assessment. Although there is a right of appeal against an assessment made by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization for the Commonwealth, if it supplies the information to a State and the State makes its assessment on that information there is no right of appeal. The amendment seeks to provide some protection in relation to a right of appeal. I do not know what States have right of appeal provisions in their legislation but it should be one of the qualifications that the Attorney-General insists on before information is given to a State to make its assessment on the question of security. Accordingly, I have moved the amendment on behalf of the Opposition.
– I support the comments made by Senator Cavanagh. The ramifications of the absence from the Bill of any provision like the Opposition’s amendment are quite extraordinary because we, as a Commonwealth Parliament, are taking steps to ensure as far as we can- and this has been the spirit of the discussion in this chamber- that the rights of individuals are protected as much as possible by this legislation. We have a difference of opinion about how far we have to go in order to protect the rights of individuals. That is the substance of the difference between the Government and the Opposition. But unless there is a provision like this in the legislation- as Senator Cavanagh pointed out- information affecting individuals quite vitally in their careers can be passed to State authorities. If the information can be passed to State authorities, and although the legislation does not provide this, you can imagine that in extreme circumstances legislation could be given to governments which have quite contrary views from this Parliament- from either side of this Parliament- about the nature of legislation of this kind and the important aspect of its protection of civil liberties as far as possible.
It may involve the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) in some onerous decision making from time to time but undoubtedly that would be a good exercise for him to indulge in. I am sure he would be happy to make a judgment about those matters if this clause was adopted in the Bill. The Opposition feels strongly about this matter because in essence it relates to past experience as well as future desirabilities. Past experience on the relationship between the Australian Security Intelligence Organization and State special branches, for example, was a matter of very adverse comment by Mr Justice Hope. That past experience suggests only one thing, that you cannot be too careful about this matter. We should have the highest standards in this legislation upon which we, as two opposed sides, can agree. It is because of that that the Opposition moves and supports these amendments.
– This amendment of the Opposition raises a matter of some real concern. It is one to which the Government has given a good deal of consideration. The difficulty with the amendment as I see it is that it involves the establishment of a security appeals system within the State itself. I have looked at ways in which we could perhaps bring it within the security appeals system which the Government intends to establish in this legislation. It is no easy task to do so. The objection to having a State system is, firstly, that it raises problems of relationship with the States. They would see it as an interference with their rights in these matters; it would be seen as the Commonwealth bearing down.
– What rights do they have to receive information?
– I am mentioning the types of problems that arise once you approach it in this way. The other question is as to the nature of the Security Appeals Tribunal, a State instrumentality over which the Commonwealth would not have any control. It would then be opening up this security information to a tribunal of that character and extending the area in which security information is passed. In this Bill the Government has very elaborate precautions about the security of the Appeals Tribunal to ensure it does not become some conduit through which a lot of security information may flow in directions beyond those which are desirable. Therefore, the Goverment does not feel at all happy about approaching a problem in this way by the establishment of a State tribunal- which the Government cannot do, anyway.
A tribunal could be established in some States and not in others. The Attorney-General would be happy to approve in some States and not in others. Generally speaking, it is not an approach which I favor. The approach which the Government has adopted I have indicated in my reply to the second reading debate and I have mentioned it earlier in the debate today. The DirectorGeneral has advised me that in future vetting information on a State officer- which is very rare for a start, but in cases where it may be required- may be given. The vetting information on a State officer would be supplied only in the form of an assessment to a Commonwealth Department for transmission to the State body in such a way as to ensure that the State officer had appeal rights under the existing Bill. The Government will make sure that the provisions, which we will not be getting on to this afternoon, will be adequate to ensure that in those cases, if it is done in that way, appeal rights will be preserved. Although I cannot accept this amendment in these terms, the Government is conscious of the problems and the Director-General has authorised me to give the assurance that that is the way he will proceed. The Government will look at the provisions of the Bill to make sure it can be done in that way. It may be that in order to make assurance doubly sure some further amendment is required that such vetting information to a State is given in that way so as to provide for a right of appeal.
– I am not quite clear from what the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) said whether the Government will make alterations to the Bill to ensure that it will be done in the way in which he described.
– No, he takes an assurance from the Director-General.
– That is the way I understood it. Already we have had lengthy discussions about the fact that we cannot build legislation around a particular Director-General. All senators have spoken very favourably about the present Director-General but the fact is he is not immortal- not to my knowledge, anywayand at some stage he may be replaced. What the Opposition would like from the AttorneyGeneral is some undertaking that the Bill will be amended to see that that course is followed. The Attorney-General referred earlier to the desire of the Government to ensure that by the Security Appeals Tribunal arrangement there is not a conduit through which information about people can flow, but this is a great hole in any conduit in this legislation because it can be used in a most undesirable way.
The Opposition appreciates the AttorneyGeneral’s concern about the point we have raised. It may be that there can be a better way to solve the problem than the one which the Opposition has suggested. However, we would appreciate some undertaking that it would be in legislative form; otherwise we can go right through this Bill and receive letters from Mr Justice Woodward telling us what a good fellow he is going to be, but it is not much help to any member of the public reading the legislation afterwards.
– I am encouraged by what the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has said. The amendment which the Opposition moved seemed to be plausible, but it is certainly a great way of provoking further dissension between States, some of which have been vetted and found all right and others found wanting. The proposal which the Attorney-General has said he would make is one that would require amendment to the Bill. When I look at the definitions of ‘prescribed administrative action’ with regard to security assessment, they relate to three things. In clause 34 it relates to action where it is affecting access to a place being broadly matters under the Migration Act 1958 and Australian Citizenship Act 1948. Where it is a matter of supplying information to another State, even though it is done indirectly through a Commonwealth Department, I would not have thought that it would come within the powers of the Director-General unless that clause were changed. Certainly I would like to see the clause changed so that that could be done. I think that that is a practical way to do it. Even though the Director-General is given this power, it should not be left there. It should be seen as something that will be done as a matter of course where information is supplied to State security services.
We have had the experience in South Australia and New South Wales, where some alarming situations have occurred in relation to the collection and use of security files, and no doubt that has happened in other States. I hope that this matter can be put into the legislation so that it becomes a regular practice. There is a power of appeal, and the appeal provision is a very important one. I have made criticism of it because I do not think that it goes as far as it should. However, if this is the way in which information is to be supplied to the State authorities, then it ought to be made perfectly clear in the legislation that this is within the powers of the Director-General and that there will be the opportunity for people to appeal in these circumstances.
– I am interested not only in the machinery by which this undertaking is to be implemented- I also hope for an undertaking that it will be part of the Bill itself- but also in the nature and extent of the undertaking in question. The Attorney-General referred to vetting information with respect to State officers as being the class of information that would be transmitted through Commonwealth agancies and thus subject to appeal in the manner that he suggested. But is that not merely the tip of the iceberg in respect of the problem the Opposition amendment is addressing? I remind the Attorney-General that clause 19 of the Bill empowers the Organization to co-operate with departments, police forces and authorities of the States. Surely co-operation implies for the future, as it has implied in the past, a fairly liberal flow of general information to and from the Australian Security Intelligence Organization and, among others, the State special branches. Clause 17(1) (b), which has also been the subject of discussion, states:
The functions of the Organization are- . . (b) to communicate any such intelligence to such persons, and in such manner, as are appropriate to those purposes;
So the Organization and its Director-General have an open-ended mandate, as the legislation is now drafted, to communicate information directly to the State authorities, and in particular to State special branches, which as we all know have been the major recipients of ASIO information in the past.
What is to be the situation with respect to this class of information which is transmitted from ASIO to the State special branches, either pursuant to some standing arrangement or perhaps on request in relation to some particular individual, which is put in its files by that State special branch or State police agency, and which then at some future stage, when a question as to a security assessment for State government purposes arises, is derived from those files? It is not a fantastic scenario that I am postulating. As I understand it, that is the way the organisations have operated in the past; and that is the way they will continue to operate in the future. It does not seem to me that that kind of information exchange- information that is put into files, and subsequently used for security assessment purposes at the State level- has been addressed at all in the remarks the Attorney-General made, reassuring as they may have been in the limited context of vetting information specifically sought in relation to a State officer. Can we have the Attorney-General’s comments on that?
– I think that there is hope here. I was very impressed with the Attorney-General’s first words, namely, that this matter had caused him real concern. He knows that there is some justification for that concern. Of course, he finds difficulty in relation to setting up appeals tribunals within the States and imposing those tribunals on State authorities. He is afraid of the effect of that on Commonwealth-State relations. If the Opposition has put forward an amendment to solve a matter of real concern but that amendment has sufficient problems to prevent the Attorney-General from accepting it, then let us look for an alternative solution. It is apparent that we agree that it is wrong to give to the States information which allows them to make an assessment of a person when there is no right of appeal. Of course, in effect the Attorney-General has said: ‘I have done my best. I have an assurance from the Director-General’. Senator Button’s reply to that statement was that we do not form legislation around individuals; we have to consider who might be holding the positions of Director-General and Attorney-General during the life of this Act, and it may have a long life. I point out that clause 20 states, in part:
The Director-General shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that-
the work of the Organization is limited to what is necessary for the purposes of the discharge of its functions;
Therefore the Organization cannot do as it wishes. It has to find its functions within the Act that Parliament gave to it. Clause 19 states, in part that, so far as is necessary for, or conducive to, the performance of its functions, the Organization may- it does not have to; it may- subject to any arrangements made or directions given by the Minister, co-operate with authorities of the State. The Minister is in the position now where he should make some arrangement with the States before the Organisation gives any information to the States. The arrangement should be made with the States. After making the arrangement the Organization may- it still does not have to- give information to the States. There is no compulsion on the Organization to give information to the States, and it will give that information only if arrangements have been made or directions have been given by the Minister. Therefore the Minister can impose directions. The Opposition is now seeking to write into the legislation the matters upon which the Minister shall insist for the purpose of performing this function.
The thing to remember is that, while there is an option to give information to the States if we so desire, it is a benefit we are giving to them. If we want to make our own assessment of anyone, we can do so. This gives the person involved the right of appeal, whether or not he is living in a State or a State authority is concerned. It gives such a person the right of appeal to the appeals tribunal that will be established under this legislation. The amendment deals with information that is given to the State agencies. On that information the State agencies can establish an assessment file on an individual, and because it is a State assessment file there may be no right of appeal. Under this amendment, the State will not be assisted by us in making its assessment unless it gives the same right of appeal as we, as a fair and democratic parliament, are prepared to give. In view of the fact that the Attorney-General now must make some arrangements, I believe that we should write into the legislation something similar to what has been suggested in the amendment. Because the Minister thinks that this is a matter of great concern- far be it from him to desire the passage of this Bill when there is great concern that protection is not provided for- perhaps he should consider postponing this clause for reconsideration together with clause 18.
– We will have to report progress on this matter shortly. Before I move accordingly, I want to make one point perfectly clear: I am grateful to Senator Evans for raising an important question. As I understand the Opposition’s amendment it is concerned with the sort of material which is contained in a security assessment. It is equivalent to the sort of material that is given for prescribed administrative action and it is the subject of part IV of this legislation. What he is concerned about is that any information of that sort- any security assessment or what is called ‘vetting information’ in the organisation- which may be given to a State in respect of a State officer should attract the same rights as the same type of security assessment given to a Commonwealth department, a Commonwealth contractor or an employee of a Commonwealth contractor. That is all I thought we were concerned about. It seems though that the Opposition has a much wider purpose in its amendment to insert proposed new clause 1 9A.
– You could say: ‘Or could be used ‘.
– I want to make it clear that I am not making any promise. I am not giving any undertakings except to indicate that I will look at the matter further to see whether some legislative force could be given to the assurance which the Director-General has given me. But so far as the passage of information to State police forces by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization and the relationship between those bodies are concerned, these things will be the subject of agreements which are being investigated by Mr Justice Hope as part of the inquiry that he has been undertaking for some time. The passage of information between ASIO and police forces will be dealt with under those agreements and in a different way. All I am -
– Ordinary police matters?
– Yes, ordinary police matters. All I am talking about, and all I thought we were talking about, is security assessments given in relation to a particular State officer, similar to the security assessments which are governed by Part IV of the Bill and about which there are rights of appeal. As I have said, during the parliamentary break I will ascertain whether any amendments could be made to give some further assurance to what the Director-General has indicated to me.
– by leave- This statement is a lengthy one and I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
I inform the Senate that the Prime Minister has announced Executive Council approval of the proclamation of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. The Park is to be declared under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. Establishment of the Park will be a major step in giving effect to the protective measures which the Government announced would be established in the Alligator Rivers Region before permitting mining of uranium to commence. The whole area recommended for a national park by the Ranger inquiry will ultimately be included. The first stage, to which this declaration applies, covers an area of some 6,000 square kilometres. The area for Stage II will as soon as possible be declared a conservation zone under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act to ensure that Park values are protected prior to its formal inclusion. The establishment of a large national park in the Alligator Rivers Region was first proposed in 1965. Several subsequent proposals have been made, each emphasising the national and international significance of the region for national park purposes.
The report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry provided a land use strategy plan to show how its recommendations could be implemented compatibly with other interests such as Aboriginal ownership, use and occupation; mining and mineral exploration; a mining township; tourism and scientific study. The report also emphasised the need for the plan of management of the Park to provide for the preservation of Aboriginal sites and the participation of Aboriginals in such programs. A land use strategy plan involving the granting of Aboriginal land rights to substantial areas, which the Aborigines themselves had indicated they would then lease to be managed as a national park for the nation, was seen as central to the inquiry’s report. The plan provided detailed environmental conditions which should be observed if uranium was mined. It also recommended that the areas of any mining operations be excluded from the National Park but any mining leases issued should require land occupied to be rehabilitated after mining ceases so that it is suitable for inclusion in the park. Implementation of the land use strategy was recommended to be achieved through the mechanism of a formal plan of management as provided for in the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act on the basis that this provides flexibility, co-ordinated management and consequently efficient use of human and natural resources.
On 25 August 1977 the Government announced its acceptance of the major recommendations of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry and in 1978 the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act was amended to give effect to the decisions. The Park area is dominated by a rugged sandstone formation rising to 250 metres above the adjoining lowlands and with a very steep escarpment about 100 kilometres long. The plateau is deeply dissected by scenic narrow gorges. All the major streams of the region rise in the plateau and generally run north-west across a gently undulating plain with occasional rocky ridges. During the wet season, from about November to March, the streams spread widely over the extensive flood plains. These plains merge along the estuaries and northern coastline with saline tidal flats which are often flooded. The area is largely undeveloped and its major resources are scenery, wildlife, ancient culture and mineral deposits. The magnificent wilderness scenery is dominated by the massive sandstone formation estimated to be nearly 2,000 million years old and which provides panoramic views over the countryside. The intensity of summer rainfall combined with steep cliffs results in large numbers of spectacular waterfalls. Sandstone outliers on the lowlands provide a transition between the escarpment and the extensive flood plains and tidal flats. The vast expanses of water and the lush vegetation growth in the wet season contrast markedly with the arid landscape of the dry season. Preliminary botanical surveys have recorded more than 950 plant species and probably many more remain to be discovered. Plant species in the less accessible parts, particularly the plateau and permanently wet areas, have not been thoroughly assessed. Small areas of rainforest and semi-deciduous forests near the coast are relics of a once more extensive forest cover and their protection is a matter of prime concern.
The fauna of the region is rich and diverse. During fauna surveys in 1973 large numbers of animal species were identified including 50 native animals, 273 birds, 75 reptiles and 22 frogs. Some species are rare and many are found only in Northern Australia. The 43 native fish species found represent a quarter of all Australian freshwater fish. As yet little is known of their biology. Birds are the most conspicuous feature of the native fauna, especially waterfowl such as geese and ducks which occur in vast numbers. Towards the end of the dry seasons, large numbers of waterbirds gather around the remaining areas of freshwater. Aquatic reptiles in the area include the two species of crocodile native to Australia- the freshwater and saltwater crocodiles. Both species have been severely depleted in numbers through overharvesting and hunting but with complete protection there are prospects that numbers will increase. Feral pigs and water buffalo introduced from Asia are causing considerable damage. Buffalo have brought about major changes in the vegetation and caused soil erosion by trampling and wallowing in and around swamps and billabongs and control measures will be introduced.
The region is important with respect to wildlife conservation because of obligations and responsibilities arising from international conservation agreements. These include the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Japan for the Protection of Migratory Birds, Birds in Danger of Extinction and their Environment, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, and the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Aboriginals have occupied the area for at least 25,000 years. The several hundred rock painting galleries in the area are recognised to be the most varied and amongst the best preserved rock paintings in Australia. They are considered to rival in importance the prehistoric painted caves in France and Spain and surpass them in number.
The establishment of Kakadu National Park was seen by the Ranger inquiry as essential to the overall strategy for minimising adverse social and environmental impacts which might occur with the onset of mining in the region. Mr Justice Woodward in the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission report of 1974 indicated that he could see no reason why areas should not be both owned as Aboriginal land and declared as national park. Later, a proposal along these lines was presented to the Ranger inquiry by the Aboriginals of the area. The inquiry subsequently recommended that an agreement should be reached with the Northern Land Council and any other relevant Aboriginal group, regarding the basis on which Aboriginal land could become part of the National Park. The Government accepted the recommendation. The leases and associated agreement with the Aboriginal people were signed on 3 November 1978. In summary the leases provide that the land concerned will be leased for a period of 100 years on the condition that it is administered, managed and controlled as a national park in accordance with the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, the associated regulations and the plan of management.
The agreement with the NLC requires the Kakadu Land Trust to enter into these leases with the Director, Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, subject to a series of conditions. One of the major aims of these conditions is to involve Aboriginals closely in the planning and management of Kakadu. To this end, the Director has undertaken that, when preparing the Park’s plan of management, he will consult with the NLC, which is to ascertain the wishes of the traditional owners. The plan of management, which requires parliamentary approval, will demand that management practices are employed which take into account the interests of the traditional owners. Training programs are to be implemented to enable Aboriginals to assist in the management and control of the Park and measures taken to utilise the traditional skills of Aboriginals living in the park. The agreement with the NLC also contains a special provision to allow traditional Aboriginal owners of the land to enter and move freely throughout the Park. The Director, through the agreement, has undertaken to promote among the non-Aboriginal residents of the region an understanding and respect for the traditions, languages and culture of the Aboriginal people, and to arrange for instruction in local customs, flora and fauna and geography of the region. He is also required to assist the NLC in the identification and recording of Aboriginal sacred sites within the Park and to provide equipment and facilities to undertake this work.
The Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service has already made considerable progress in developing Aboriginal training programs. I am pleased to report that the first intake of six Aboriginal trainees has commenced and that they are displaying enthusiasm and aptitude for what will be a most important task. The proposal by the NLC to provide their land to the nation for park purposes represents a historic and unique development which will both present challenges and opportunities for new developments in the National Park. The Fox inquiry attached great importance to a plan of management which is required to be prepared in any national park proclaimed under the Act. It was seen as a means of controlling activities associated with mining, regulating tourism, protecting Aboriginal sites and safeguarding other Aboriginal interests, controlling commercial fishing and buffaloes and ensuring the town is so planned and managed as to be attractive to live in. To assist in obtaining the views of those likely to be affected by the establishment of the park, six working groups were established to cover mining, tourism, buffaloes, wildlife, park values and fishing. Representatives of the NLC and the Northern Territory Government were involved in the work of these groups.
As part of the negotiations with the NLC for the inclusion of Aboriginal land in the park the Service was required to prepare a draft of the prescriptive section of the plan. While the draft prepared is still subject to the normal processes required under the Act, it embodies the aims of park management in the area. The draft was agreed by the NLC and formed part of the agreement with representatives of the Aboriginal owners for the lease of their land which was signed on 3 November 1978. To give effect to Government decisions on the establishment of the park, major amendments were made to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act during 1978. The most significant amendments relate to Aboriginal land and its use as a national park. The NLC in evidence to the Ranger inquiry suggested that land in the region which became Aboriginal land should be leased to the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and be declared a national park. The Act ensures that the traditional Aboriginal land owners are fully consulted in the development and implementation of the plan of management for the Park. The plan of management prepared by the Director and approved by Parliament is intended to ensure environmental protection, and that appropriate management practices are employed, taking into account the interests of the traditional Aboriginal owners. Aboriginals, with their long involvement with and concern for the natural environment are seen as having a key role to play in Park management. Opportunities for their employment in the Park will increase as training programs and other measures for Aboriginal advancement develop. The Director’s powers of delegation were amended to allow delegation of appropriate functions to persons, including Aboriginals or groups of Aboriginals, who would not previously have been eligible. This will facilitate the involvement of Aboriginals in the practical management and protection of the Park to be established on their land. The Act also provides for the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission to be involved in development and management of the park. The Commission will participate in the development of plans of management for the area and will also have a role in day to day management of the area. I would like to acknowledge the role of authorities and people in the Northern Territory and elsewhere who early recognised the great qualities of the area for conservation. As far back as 1965 the Northern Territory Reserves Board recognised the national significance of the area and proposed the creation of a park. Subsequently a sanctuary was established over part of the area by the Department of Northern Territory. I would hope that the full interest and support of the Northern Territory would be available to the Commonwealth in its stewardship of the Kakadu National Park. Clearly effective management of this most significant region must depend upon co-operative working relationships between the Commonwealth which has responsibility for the Park and the Northern Territory Government and directly-involved authorities.
The Ranger inquiry saw the plan of management for the Park as being the principal means of co-ordinating management of the area to ensure that Park development proceeds rationally. Within the National Park, activities such as those of the supervising scientist will operate in accord with the plan of management. The Government accepted the inquiry’s recommendations that a town to service mining companies in the region should be established in the Park, should be a closed town of high amenity and should have a population not exceeding 3,500. The site is not included in the Aboriginal land grant.
The Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, with the advice of the Department of Northern Territory, initiated work to update earlier planning in the light of the changed circumstances and an advanced design study as a basis for the town plan has been prepared. Following publication of the studies a workshop was held in Darwin on 13 December 1978 attended by companies and involved Territory and Commonwealth authorities. The area of the town is to be leased by the Director, National Parks and Wildlife to a Northern Territory statutory body, the Jabiru Town Development Authority, which will be responsible for development. Legislation to establish the authority passed the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in November 1 978 and the members of the authority have now been appointed. Initial design work is proceeding. The town is to be developed in accord with the plan of management for the park and special measures will be adopted to protect Aboriginal and environmental concerns.
Widespread interest has already been displayed in the area both by tourists and tour operators within the Northern Territory, Australia and abroad. Its scenic attractions, the unique involvement of Aboriginals in management and the leasing of their land to the nation for the Park should all contribute to Kakadu becoming a major tourist destination. Projections from Northern Territory tourist authorities have estimated that visitation to Kakadu within three years could reach 1 50,000 a year. It is expected that a significant proportion would be overseas visitors. In order to cater for the visitor needs, facilities will need to be constructed within the Park over the next five years. Substantial interpretation and education activity will be initiated by the Park service both for visitors to the Park and also for the substantial number of people who will be resident there.
Social problems arising from the influx of new people into the region and the desire of some Aboriginals to follow traditional lifestyles will need sensitive understanding. The preservation of Aboriginal paintings, the control of introduced animals such as the buffalo and the protection of endangered species will require detailed research. The integration of different uses such as conservation, scientific research, education, fishing, tourism and mining will be a complex but rewarding task. Skilled and innovative persons sensitive to the special requirements of the Aboriginal people and sensitive to the unique nature of the environment in the Alligator Rivers Region will be needed to ensure the success of the Government’s intentions in this field. New Principles of management will have to be established and new standards set. I hope the new Kakadu National Park will be one of the world ‘s great national parks. It will extend over some 120 kilometres and harmonise the conservation of the environment with the traditional interests of Aboriginals while permitting development to take place. It will enable preservation of an area unique to Australia and the world for future generations.
– I move:
– Last night there was unanimity on both sides of this chamber when the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) made a statement in relation to the protection of whales. That matter was clear-cut. Australia established a 200-mile off-shore fishing zone and indicated that the environment should not be interfered with in that zone. Senator Webster has presented a ministerial statement concerning the
Kakadu National Park and a lot of formalities are associated with it. We certainly welcome this statement but I am worried about something contained in it. I refer the Minister to page 1 of his statement in which he indicated that a plan to provide detailed environmental conditions which should be observed if uranium was mined was taken into account. I am concerned about the word ‘if. I have harped on this subject, along with many of my colleagues in the Senate, on many occasions. The Kakadu National Park represents a vast amount of land. Surely we should have emulated similar legislation in the United States which provided that about 40 per cent of Alaska is off limits forever-more to any prospecting whatsoever. My views are fortified by the present United States Secretary of the Interior. Although the United States is faced with fuel problems, he pointed out that even though they thought natural gas existed in that area it would not be exploited. He said that the United States would have to be at the end of its tether, resources-wise, before it would rescind that legislation. That is my main criticism of this statement. To support my view I refer to a document presented to Senate Estimates Committee E last year. It is from the then Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development and the file number is 78-2360. The document contained answers to questions asked at hearings of that Estimates Committee. When referring to a question which had been asked concerning future mineral exploration in the Kakadu National Park, it stated:
In Stage I of the national park there will be no exploration for the time being.
That is a qualification. It is not similar to our policy on whales in the off-shore fishing zone. On behalf of the Opposition, I say that we certainly feel that this is a continuation of a vision splendid first visualised, I think, in 1968 when I first asked a question of the Minister then responsible for national parks, the then Senator John Grey Gorton. We have argued in this place on many occasions about this matter. Senator Walsh might be disgusted with me for what I am about to say. Sir Charles Court indicated in recent days that he may be prepared to allow the extraction of uranium in the West in a desolate area. Leaving aside the environmental aspects of this question, if I were forced into a corner I would agree to the proposition to mine uranium in Western Australia if I could be guaranteed that the whole of the Kakadu National Park would be declared off limits forever.
This statement does not contain an unqualified pledge that in future this Kadadu National Park will not be mined. The Kakadu National Park is a vast area. If the Government has to reach a compromise or has to form a partnership with any organisation I do not see why it cannot adopt the views of John Grey Gorton and myself. I think we both wanted to leave Kakadu unsullied from mining. Our dream was that no mining take place in the Kakadu National Park and it was a dream of the Whitlam Government. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) is nodding his head and I know that Dr Patterson and others held these views on unqualified conservation. I simply say to Senator Webster that we welcome this announcement in principle but we hold grave reservations about it. I think we could do much better. I think the Senate should exercise its powers and direct the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment, Senator Jessop, to police this matter rigidly. The way the statement is worded, if Cabinet, led by the bloc from the senior National Country Party Ministers, find reason to go into and mine the Alligator Rivers Region the area will be raped. I do not want to see that happen.
– The Government wishes to introduce some material before 6 p.m.
– That is the very point I wanted to raise. I happen to be the Opposition spokesman on environmental matters and on Aboriginal affairs. Obviously there has been some mishap or breakdown in communications because, as shadow Minister, I was not informed that this matter would be coming on. I am pleased that Senator Mulvihill was able to comment. I just wonder why the Government has not followed the usual courtesies and made available a document which deals not only with the environment, but also which, on looking through it quickly, I see deals with Aboriginal affairs.
– Before moving the adjournment can I say to Senator Gietzelt that I will undertake to look into this matter and report back as to what is going on. It is the intention of the Government that material will be made available appropriately to the proper person. If there is an error I am happy to take responsibility. Can I come back to him after I find out what happened on this occasion?
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table the particulars of proposed additional expenditure for the service of the year ending 30 June 1979 and the particulars of certain proposed additional expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1979. I seek leave to move a motion relating to Estimates Committees.
Mr President, I inform the Senate that, to enable Estimates Committees to meet on Tuesday, 1 May 1979, I propose to move on that day that the sitting of the Senate be suspended from 4 p.m. till 10 p.m. Estimates Committee A will meet in the Senate Chamber, Committee B in Committee Room 1 and Committee C in Committee Room 5. For the information of honourable senators I have had circulated copies of the proposed timetable of sittings of Estimates Committees. Copies of those departmental explanatory notes which have been received have been distributed and arrangements have been made for outstanding explanations to be sent to honourable senators as soon as they are received.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- Having made a statement concerning the Kakadu National Park document I am now in a position to inform the Senate that the documents were made available to the offices of the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition Whip. I cannot understand it. Whatever happened was not our error.
-by leave-I was not aware of this situation myself but the fault was on our side. The document was made available to my office but it was a science and environment matter and, as a result, it was referred to Senator Ryan. She could not be here so she in turn asked Senator Mulvihill to take the debate. That is the explanation. There is no great problem.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m.
Report on Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders
Debate resumed from 22 March 1979, on motion by Senator Missen:
Thai the Senate take note ofthe Report.
Upon which Senator Cavanagh had moved by way of an amendment:
At 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’.
– I commence my remarks by taking the Senate back to the substance of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs entitled ‘Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders on Queensland Reserves’. I want to identify the three principal things which are dealt with in this report in terms of the discussion of the matter which was referred to the Committee. I think it is proper to consider that the Committee was asked to examine a particular piece of legislation, namely, the provisions of the legislation empowering Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders who live on reserves in Queensland to manage and control their own affairs and, in particular, a number of specific matters arising under the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-management) Act 1978.
The report started out by doing three things. The first thing it did was to make a detailed analysis of section 5 1 (xxvi) of the Constitution, which relates to the Commonwealth’s powers to make laws in respect of people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws. That is a provision which came within the ambit of Commonwealth powers following the 1 967 Aboriginal powers referendum. The second thing which the Committee did was to make a detailed analysis of the scope and operation of section 51 (xxxi) of the Constitution and, in particular, the guaranteeing of just terms for the compulsory acquisition of property. The third thing the Committee did was to make a detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the piece of legislation to which I have just referred. I think it is important, because they have not been dealt with in any great detail, to turn specifically to the recommendations of the Senate Committee’s report, which are to be found in chapter 6. The first recommendation, which appears in paragraph 70, reads:
The Committee is of the view that the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-management) Act 1978 clearly falls within the scope of the power conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament by section 5 1 (xxvi) of the Act:
The Committee went on, in paragraph 71, to state:
The Committee considers that the constitutional conception underlying the principles and structure of the legislation are consistent with the proper responsibilities of the Commonwealth.
The Committee then stated:
The Committee takes the view that the Act is for practical purposes ineffective as a means of allowing Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland to manage and control their own affairs . . . Legislation in this form may possibly be effective in circumstances of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the relevant State Government, but events in Queensland have demonstrated that the legislation can be rendered inoperative by the State Government where co-operation is lacking.
I shall return later to the question of co-operation with the Queensland Government. Paragraph 73 of the report states:
The Committee considers that Commonwealth legislation falling short of acquisition of property has some scope for providing Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders to manage and control their own affairs.
I shall also come back to that later. In its final series of recommendations the Committee stated:
The Committee accordingly bases its recommendations regarding Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland on the assumption that co-operation between the Commonwealth and Queensland is not likely to provide a full and sufficient discharge of Commonwealth obligations to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland and that some unilateral action by the Commonwealth will therefore be likely to be necessary.
One can see again the presumption of a lack of co-operation between the Commonwealth and Queensland authorities. The Committee continued:
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.
It went on:
The Committee emphasises the very considerable flexibility enjoyed by the Commonwealth in devising schemes for management and control of their own affairs by Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders-
Quite clearly the Committee was making the point that its report at no stage stated that acquisition was the only option open to the Commonwealth. Paragraph 77 contains the final recommendation, which reads:
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.
It is important to understand the extent to which the Committee said, firstly, that acquisition was not the only means open to the Commonwealth in terms of dealing with this problem. It is important to understand that the Committee said that a great deal of flexibility existed in the undertakings which the Commonwealth could enter into in order to achieve its stated objectives. I believe that when one analyses the speeches made on this matter by members of the Opposition on Thursday, 22 March 1979 one finds a large number of inaccuracies- I propose to draw attention to them- that were made in order to try to give support to the proposition that was advanced in Senator Cavanagh ‘s amendment. The first of these with which I will deal appears at page 939 of Hansard of that day. Senator Cavanagh said:
That Government -
Referring to the Queensland Governmenttook 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.
That, quite clearly, was the intention of the Queensland Government when it took the action that it did over the Aurukun and Mornington Island areas. But that intention in fact was not translated into reality because control under the local government framework was in the hands of the shire councils. The communities to which Senator Cavanagh was referring were not under the operation of the Aboriginals Act of that State since the revocation of the reserves on 7 April 1978. The next inaccuracy is one that was advanced by Senator Keeffe in a rather intemperate speech about the activities of the Queensland
Government. In the same Hansard, at page 94 1 , Senator Keeffe said:
The Government -
Again referring to the Queensland 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.
He advanced that as a proposition demonstrating the way in which the Queensland authorities were overriding the decisions of the local community on a matter of some sensitivity. It is quite clear that no such decision was made. Indeed Mr Hinze and the Queensland authorities made it clear that whether there was to be a beer canteen at Aurukun was a matter solely for the community to decide. Senator Keeffe, on the following page, stated:
He was referring to those outstations relating to the two communities and yet the leases held by the shires in the local government situation provided complete security for the outstations which in fact continued as a flourishing part of the Aboriginal life in that area. Similarly, on page 943 of the Senate Hansard, Senator Keeffe is reported as saying:
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.
No evidence whatsoever for that has been presented and nobody has demonstrated at any stage that anybody in the Federal Government widely approved of Mr Pettit ‘s candidacy. Yet these are the sorts of accusations- in fact, as Senator Missen says, quite the contrary was the case- that were advanced in the debate which we heard in this place two weeks ago. I move the following amendment to Senator Cavanagh ‘s proposed amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘ and ‘, insert:
the Senate notes the continuing actions of the Commonwealth Government to ensure (i) effective selfmanagement for the Aurukun AND Mornington Island Aboriginal communities, pursuant to the agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments, of 11th April 1978; (ii) the subsequent Queensland local government legislation and the elections for the two shires; and (iii) the present negotiations between the two governments; and
in the event of such agreement, legislative action and negotiations failing to provide satisfactory means for self-management, the Senate requests the Commonwealth Government to give urgent consideration to (and advise the Parliament of its intentions in regard to) the amendment of the existing Commonwealth legislation or the introduction of new legislation to ensure effective self-mangement for the Aurukun and Mornington Island Aboriginal communities, and other Aboriginal communities, pursuant to the substantial powers of the Commonwealth as examined in the Senate Committee’s Report’.
The policy of the Liberal and National Country parties on Aboriginal affairs has been spelt out on a number of occasions. Perhaps the most definitive of these was the statement put out in November 1975 at the time of the general election. It will be seen in that statement of the coalition parties’ Aboriginal affairs policy that the concept of Aboriginal self-management plays an important part in that scheme of events. The policy says in part:
The Liberal and National Country parties recognise that if a policy of self-management is to be effective, Aborigines must play a leading role in their affairs. This will include Aborigines playing a significant role:
in setting the long term goals and objectives which the government should pursue and the programs it should adopt in such areas as Aboriginal education, housing, health, employment and legal aid;
in setting the priorities for expenditure on Aboriginal affairs within the context of overall budget allocations; and
in evaluating existing programs and formulating new ones.
That policy goes on at some considerable length to discuss various matters regarding the coalition parties’ Aboriginal affairs policy. But the central element in it is the recognition of the need for an effective scheme of Aboriginal self-management.
The former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, in his second reading speech on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-Management) Bill, quoted the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) with regard to the ongoing commitment of the coalition parties to the welfare of the Aboriginal people in that area. The Minister said:
The Government will watch the situation in these two reserves closely. If further action is necessary it will be taken. As the Prime Minister stated on Monday before the National Aboriginal Conference:
These communities have turned to us. We will not fail them.
I believe that that statement is one which encapsulates the essence of what it is the coalition parties are attempting to do, and attempting to do within a framework that eschews needless confrontation. Quite simply, the only beneficiaries of this sort of confrontation are the editorial writers of the major newspapers who can fill up space which they would not otherwise have been able to fill. The people who really suffer in any such confrontation are not the officers of the Federal Government and they are not the members of the Queensland Government. They are the Aboriginal people whom both governments state they are attempting to assist.
Yesterday, when the current Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chaney, put down a number of documents in the urgency debate that we had, one of those documents marked No. 1 1, which I believe was a statement released for circulation in the Northern Territory newspapers, again during the time when Mr Viner was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, was headed Self-Management- Direction for the Future’. The Minister said:
My Government sees self-management as the means by which the fundamental rights of Aboriginals can be encouraged.
He went on to say:
Self-management aims to allow Aboriginals to determine their own goals. Within these goals they may decide their own priorities in the allocation of finance and other resources, evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs and formulate new programs. Through this process, a state of self-sufficiency should gradually be achieved.
Speaking further in that debate yesterday, the current Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chaney, indicated the continuing commitment of the Government to this particular proposition and his own personal commitment, which I think is something not in doubt on either side of the chamber. He said in part:
I suggest to honourable senators opposite that if we wish to promote Aboriginal land rights further in this country we should deal with the matter as positively as possible and not simply say; ‘Look at the Government selling out land rights’. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I believe that the commitment which Senator Chaney has to the pursuit of the Government’s intentions with regard to the Aboriginal communities in that area is one which would be recognised by all honourable senators, and one for which they would have great admiration for the Minister.
I think it is important to indicate the fact that after the unfortunate events which occurred immediately after the promulgation of the selfmanagement legislation, the Commonwealth and Queensland governments have been at least attempting to move towards some constructive resolution of this problem. As honourable senators would know, on 1 1 April 1 978 a joint statement was issued by the Prime Minister and by the Premier of Queensland. The document bears the signatures of Mr Fraser, Mr BjelkePetersen, Mr Porter, Mr Nixon, Mr Viner, Mr Anthony and Mr Hinze. It commences with those words:
Recognising our mutual obligation with regard to the wishes and the welfare of the Aboriginal peoples at Aurukun and Mornington Island, the two Governments after long and earnest discussion, have reached the following agreement that in order to achieve self-management for Aurukun and Mornington Island communities . . .
Ii then goes on to set out particular propositions about the way in which local government will be conducted in that area and the nature of local government administration. But the important thing is that this was a statement, a declaration by both governments, of a mutual obligation to move towards a resolution of this particular dispute.
On 31 August 1978, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs issued a background paper entitled Aurukun and Mornington Island: The Position at the End of August’. I quote from that paper:
In the Commonwealth view, the Agreement and the legislation subsequently enacted by the Queensland Parliament (the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Act 1978) offer such clear advantages to the Aboriginal communities over the situation facing them in March of this year that they should not prematurely be regarded as inoperative. They are a suitable vehicle for self-management and security of tenure over the Aboriginal traditional land. They remove the previous threat to the outstation movement. This is why the Commonwealth looks at the situation from the point of view of the longer term prospects, and would not wish to invoke such an ultimate sanction as acquisition in the face of setbacks which may prove to be of a short-term character.
I emphasise those words:
Referring to legislation in Queensland- are a suitable vehicle for self-management and security of tenure over the Aboriginal traditional land.
In the background notes of January 1979, issued by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the following appears:
Despite the Queensland Government’s unilateral decision in August to dismiss both Councils and appoint an Administrator, reasonable progress has since been made in implementing the 1 1 April agreement:
Shire Clerks have been appointed with the agreement of the communities and will take up duty in both communities by mid-January 1979.
The Queensland Department of Local Government is providing funds for municipal services and the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs is providing increased grants for other community enterprises and for outstation development.
Details of the leases have been specified in the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Act Amendment Act 1978 and have been accepted by the communities. The formal granting of the leases is expected shortly.
The Administrator has been consulting with the former councils on all matters.
Electoral rolls have been updated in preparation for fresh Council elections on 3 1 March 1979.
The document goes on to say:
The communities have accepted with some reluctance, that the Queensland legislation should be given a chance to work, since it provides substantial benefits to the two communities- benefits not enjoyed by any other Aboriginals on reserves in Queensland- and represents a significant advance from the situation faced by them in March 1 978.
We know what happened at the elections which took place at the end of last month, as Senator Chaney informed the Senate yesterday. At Aurukun, where the council had previously been dismissed, four of the five previous councillors who ran for re-election were elected. At Mornington Island all five councillors ran for reelection. Two of these councillors appear to have been re-elected. The re-election of one, because of postal voting is still in doubt and two appear to have been defeated. The hideous prospect raised by Senator Keeffe regarding the entry of real estate agents, or whatever, from Toowoomba to take over the management of these communities- these terrible people who have been set up by the Queensland Government with the alleged approval of the Commonwealth Government- never materialised. Quite clearly, they were not the people whom the local communities regarded as proper or suitable. The local communities dealt with them in the proper fashion, through the mechanism of the ballot box.
We know that Senator Chaney is not present this evening to hear this debate because he is on his way to Aurukun and Mornington Island. In a Press release of today’s date he indicated that he was travelling to these areas. It reads:
The agreement between Commonwealth and State Governments ensured that the Aboriginal communities now had security of title to their land and the opportunity to administer and manage their own affairs.
The establishment of self-management for Aurukun and Mornington Island has been fraught with problems, but has come about eventually as the result of a co-operative approach by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments . . . lt is a system of local administration which will be watched closely by many Australian authorities and individuals- and particularly by other Aboriginal communities of Queensland.
I draw the attention of honourable senators to what the Minister said. He is quite clearly saying that there has been a degree of co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland authorities. I said at an earlier stage that one of the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs which dealt with acquisition was based upon the premise that this co-operation would not be forthcoming or would not be productive. The extent to which this co-operation has now been forthcoming and productive means that we should look back to the report to see what it said could be done and how it could be done to safeguard the interests of the Aborigines in the area without going through the process of complete acquisition. Senator Cavanagh ‘s amendment reads as follows: . . 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 leaders of the settlements.
The process of acquisition is no easy process. Senator Cavanagh two weeks ago drew attention to what he saw as a number of legal problems arising from various pieces of Commonwealth legislation regarding Aboriginals. For instance, he queried the validity of the enactment known as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act and he went on to speak in detail about the sorts of problems that were faced as far as acquisition is concerned. Obviously, there are considerable problems in the decision on what just terms may be with land compulsorily acquired from the State. If land is acquired in the face of State resistance and where the Commonwealth otherwise has no particular constitutional powersuch as it has in the Northern Territory- there are problems in providing basic services to that area. Where an enclave is created within an area it makes it very easy for a State government that is not well inclined to make conditions of living in that area all but impossible.
The amendment that I have moved seeks to do several things: Firstly, it notes that progress has been made in negotiations between the Commonwealth authorities and Queensland authorities since the agreement of 1 1 April. Secondly, it draws attention to the local government elections in Queensland and draws particular attention to the fact that the Aboriginal people of that area have re-elected councillors who previously were not regarded with great favour by the Queensland Government. Those councillors have had a substantial reaffirmation of their mandate by the people they have been elected to serve. Thirdly, it indicates that negotiations are still in progress between the Commonwealth and Queensland. We know that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and his officers have been in contact with the Queensland Premier, the Leader of the Liberal Party in Queensland and Queensland Ministers. Discussions have continued at an official level towards a resolution of this matter. The amendment goes on to state that, in the event of such agreement, legislative action and negotiations failing to provide satisfactory means for self-management, the Commonwealth should then state to this Parliament what its intentions are in regard to action which has to be undertaken in order to bring about the self-management to which it has committed itself. The acquisition in some ways is a last resort, a desperate ploy in certain circumstances. The Senate Committee recognises this fact. Paragraph 73 of the Committee’s report states:
The Committee considers that Commonwealth legislation falling short of acquisition of property has some scope for providing for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders to manage and control their own affairs:
The Committee refers readers of the report back to paragraphs 56 and 57 of the body of the report under the heading ‘Control without Acquisition ‘. Paragraph 56 states:
The Committee accepts the view of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department that, in order to avoid an ‘acquisition of property’, Commonwealth legislation to allow selfmanagement and control of their affairs by Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland must not confer any right to occupy and use particular land: . . . The Committee notes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act 1975 as an example of significant Commonwealth legislation operating in a negative way; that is, by overriding provisions of Queensland legislation which the Commonwealth Parliament finds objectionable.
The Committee also notes the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976 as an example of Commonwealth legislation operating in a positive way short of conferring proprietary rights; in this case, by making institutional mechanisms available to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders for use in the management of their affairs. The Committee is in no doubt that the Commonwealth Parliament has considerable scope for effective action, both negative and positive, within this realm.
Paragraph 57 reads:
Nevertheless, where the facts of a particular case demonstrate that the right to occupy and use specific land forms a basic requirement of the management and control of the affairs of Aboriginals or Torres Strait Islanders, the Commonwealth has but two alternatives: Acquisition by the Commonwealth itself or (as urged by the Western Australian Government submission) relying on the State Government in question to achieve the desired object by means of appropriate action undertaken at the State level. The options available to the Commonwealth in respect of acquisition are discussed in the following section. As to State Government co-operation the Committee has not regarded it as within its terms of reference to address itself to the possibility of desired objectives being achieved, either in the short or long term, by co-operative State action. We proceed for present purposes on the assumption (which may in practice prove unfounded from time to time) that such co-operation will not be forthcoming and that the Commonwealth will accordingly need to undertake unilateral action to accomplish its objectives.
That was quite clearly predicated, as I said, upon a presumption of no co-operation- a presumption which I believe does not hold in the way it held at the time we were writing this report which was presented to the Senate in November 1978. 1 think it is known that I have not been a great apologist for the Queensland Government. On occasions the Premier of that State has had some singularly unflattering things to say about me. But the important thing is that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Senator Chaney, is involved in a series of negotiations with the Queensland Government. There are two alternatives. We could try to bind Senator Chaney and the Government to a position of zero flexibility and expect that, given the circumstances in Queensland, he is still able to make any sort of progress or any substantial achievement; or we can clearly place on notice our recognition of the fact that these discussions are under way under the direction of Senator Chaney but that we have a particular fall-back position in the event of their being unable to achieve anything. As the Senate Committee report has identified very clearly, we have the ultimate weapon in acquisition but I do not think that we ought to be prepared to use it until all other remedies have been exhausted.
All too often in debates about Aboriginal affairs in this place the one thing which is lost sight of is the way in which the Aboriginal communities can be assisted. Too often debates on Aboriginal affairs have become tools for beating State or Commonwealth governments about the head for their alleged shortcomings. There is no doubt that the shortcomings have been substantial. There is no doubt that the shortcomings in Queensland have been considerably more marked than anywhere else. I remember the first occasion on which I had any connection with legislative activity in relation to Aboriginal affairs. It was at the time I was working on the staff of Bill Wentworth during the period in which he was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Although a great deal of progress has been made since then, by both State and Commonwealth authorities, obviously there is still a long way to go to bring about a situation that one could regard as equitable, just or even morally defensible. But there are ways of achieving what we want to do in this area.
I believe that the way in which Senator Chaney is conducting Government policy at the moment is the correct and proper way. It does not rely upon bluster and bluff. It does not rely upon threat and intimidation. It does not rely upon debates in this place in order to give honourable senators a chance to grizzle about the activities of policemen in Queensland and make unfounded charges about individuals, policemen and people in the community, so that the interests of the people whom it is believed we are intending to serve disappear from sight. That is what happens on the Opposition side on almost every occasion during these debates. The venom and spleen that is reserved for the
Queensland Government, in peculiar and particular measure, on the other side of the chamber is vented. Opposition senators have every right to vent it but not at the expense of making the Aboriginal communities of that State the meat in the sandwich for their political preoccupations. I believe that the amendment which I have moved is a responsible and rational way of attempting to meet the real desires and requests of the Aboriginal people.
– It is a sell out.
– I am not in the least deflected by the stupid and inane statements about sell outs, or attempts to reflect on my motives or anything else in this debate. I know full well the way in which the debate has been conducted. The people who have shown themselves to be the responsible defenders and supporters of the Aboriginal cause have been on this side of the chamber. They have been exemplified by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in this place who is entitled to the full support of the Senate for the activities he is undertaking at the moment. For those reasons I commend the amendment to the Senate.
– I wish to speak to the amendment moved by Senator Puplick which is subsequent to the amendment which I moved. I believe that the amendment I moved will be put first. I proposed not to delete any words but to add the following words: 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.
– That is not in conformity, is it?
– I think it is. I do not accept Senator Sheil as an authority. I accept his sincerity more so than that of the mealy mouthed small ‘1’ Liberal politicians who mouth platitudes and yet on every occasion sell out the depressed people of Australia to the vested interests oof the Government. I acknowledge Senator Sheil ‘s sincerity in the matter.
– Oh, knock it off.
– I know that it is embarrassing. Last week the Government was going to do something for Aboriginals. Now there is an opportunity for the Senate to do no more than make a request to the Government.
– The Aboriginals said you were a disaster when you were Minister.
-I may have been a disaster to the Aboriginals who mix with members of the honourable senator’s party. Nevertheless I was not the disaster that he is in selling out his own people. We hear many platitudes from Senator Bonner about ‘my people’. Everyone has admitted, including Senator Bonner, that there is only one solution for the Aboriginals at Aurukun and Mornington Island and that is to acquire the land and give it to them. Last week Senator Bonner told us about the wonderful election in which Aboriginals could elect their own delegates. The Aboriginal and Islanders Department in Queensland decided who would be on the roll and who would have a vote.
– Charlie Perkins said you were a disaster as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
-I will not contradict. He is a more enlightened man than I am.
– Much more enlightened than you.
-Senator Bonner does not offend me. If he performs as he did last week after a session in the tea hour I do not think that we will get too far in this debate. On 1 1 August 1978 Mr Bjelke-Peterson went to Aurukun and addressed the Council. He talked about the Federal Government in Canberra. He said:
It’s bloody cold down there and it won’t be long before they are cold on you.
He said: ‘Mr Viner will forget us?’. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs now is not Mr Viner, it is Senator Chaney, and the Aboriginals are forgotten.
– He is a much warmer person.
-Mr President, I seek your protection from these inane interjections by a man whose sobriety is under question. I do not think that I should be subjected to the stupid interjections coming from Senator Bonner. If he does not think more of his people than to appear in a more responsible condition, knowing that this debate was coming on, I do not think that it says much for Senator Chaney and this chamber- nor for himself as a representative of his people. The amendment moved by Senator Publick to my amendment seeks to insert these words:
What is this effective self-management that we are told about? What is the continuing action of the Commonwealth Government to ensure it? All the Press releases say that the agreement is a failure. The State Government took the Aboriginal people out of the familiar environment of a settlement and put them in the foreign environment of municipal councils under which they had self-management but were denied any of the protection which the Queensland legislation gave to Aboriginals on settlements. The amendment moved by Senator Puplick continues:
Who will decide whether those matters have failed to provide satisfactory means for selfmanagement? Senator Puplick did not cite one instance of approval being expressed about what happened there. The National Aboriginal Conference met in Canberra today and I joined its members for lunch. The representative of the area we are discussing was strong in his condemnation of the system of self management. He said that the agreement is not working. There is strong evidence today that it is not working.
– The election was only on 31 March. They have not had a chance.
– The agreement was signed on 1 1 April 1978 and it is not working. What this Government is saying is that the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement made a mistake in rigging the poll, as it did- and I cite no greater authority than Senator Bonner- on the island in Queensland where it rigged the poll. If a person did not vote in a certain way he did not vote at all. But some of the Aboriginals deceived the Queensland Government. As a result four out of eight of their choice were elected on one occasion- four of the retiring five- and on another occasion they were successful with two others. There is evidence today that the agreement is not working, as Senator Chaney will find out when he visits the area. Senator Puplick ‘s amendment continues: . . the Senate requests the Commonwealth Government to give urgent consideration to (and advise the Parliament of its intentions in regard to) the amendment ofthe existing Commonwealth legislation or the introduction of new legislation to ensure effective self-management for the Aurukun and Mornington Island Aboriginal communities, and other Aboriginal communities, pursuant to the substantial powers ofthe Commonwealth as examined in the Senate Committee’s Report.
If one thing is clear in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs it is that Acts of this Parliament concerning the acquisition of land can be effective only if there is complete co-operation between the State and Federal governments, as I think has been the case in a number of States. The Committee is very definite on this. Paragraph 72 of the report, as Senator Puplick told us, says:
The Committee takes the view that the Act is for practical purposes ineffective as a means of allowing Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland to manage and control their own affairs.
The Committee admits that the Act is of no benefit. We have to rely on it but it does not work. That is what the Committee found. The Committee also found:
Legislation in this form may possibly be effective in circumstances of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the relevant State government, but events in Queensland have demonstrated that the legislation can be rendered inoperative by the State government where cooperation is lacking.
The Committee is saying that the Queensland Government did the very thing that I told this Parliament it would do, as recorded in Hansard, when we discussed this matter, that is, it declared that the areas were no longer Aboriginal reserves. The Committee has found that the legislation of the Commonwealth Parliament to give the Aboriginals of Mornington Island and Aurukun self-government cannot be effective unless there is co-operation between it and the Queensland Government. This Parliament is being told that there has been no co-operation. The federal Act is useless without such cooperation. Paragraph 74 of the report reads:
The Committee notes that, since the amendment of the Constitution in 1967 to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to make laws with respect to Aboriginals, most attempts have failed to achieve any co-operative arrangement with the Queensland Government regarding management and control of the affairs . . .
The Committee has pointed to the hopelessness of the position. It has recognised that the management and control of their affairs can be successful only if we acquired the land and give it to the Aboriginal people. Senator Puplick mentioned that I had some doubts about whether we can acquire the land. I did have real doubts. I am a layman and the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee is comprised mostly of lawyers of some standing in our community.
– Only three out of six.
– All right, three out of six of the members are lawyers. It was a unanimous decision. Those three lawyers of not small repute decided that I was wrong. Who am I to challenge a legal opinion of those three men? Obviously I was wrong. But it is quite an easy matter. The only thing that we have to decide on is acquiring the land on just terms. We will then solve all of our problems. The Committee says that the problem is to determine just terms for acquiring the land so that we can give it to the Aboriginals. Paragraph 75 of the report reads:
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 acquisitions of property must form pan of the legislative scheme.
That is a recommendation of the Committee. It says that some acquisition of property must form part of the legislative scheme. I think the Committee also pointed out that we cannot control or make laws about property in Queensland that we do not own. We cannot make laws about land which belongs to Queensland. Therefore the Act failed. Our legislation failed because it made no provision for the acquisition of property. Here we have a definite decision of the Committee. How can we achieve anything? How can we get over the problem if we are not prepared to take the plunge and acquire property? The amendment which I have moved is not for the purpose of acquiring the land. It is to express an opinion of this Senate. Government senators felt embarrassed over the amendment because they did not want to reject it and to say they were not interested.
– Don’t speak for me. I was not.
– I accept you were not. You would never acquire it. However, those Government senators who claim they are progressive and spell their liberalism with a small ‘1’ were embarrassed. They had to find a way not to give anything to the Aboriginals. It was necessary for them to keep the unsuccessful scheme going and to find a let-out for the Government. I am very pleased that Senator Archer would not be party to such dishonourable conduct. I accept his assurance that he would not be party to such conduct. Government senators found themselves in the position of having to move an amendment, but making sure it contained no mention of acquiring the land. Senator Chaney- what a great job he has done! I think that Mr Viner possibly did some things in Aboriginal Affairs but I am still waiting for Senator Chaney to make a progressive move for the Aboriginals. He has employed Queen’s Counsel to go to Alice Springs to say that the Aboriginal Lands Commissioner could not hear the case. He has cut down on all the legal and medical services throughout Australia and yet we have been asked to leave it all to Senator Chaney who has now gone to Aurukun. I do feel guilty having vented my spleen on the Queensland Government. However, the Committee has reinforced my viewpoint that the Queensland Government is not co-operative when dealing with Aboriginals. When this Government lacks the cooperation ofthe Queensland Government then it has to acquire and control the land by Federal legislation. My amendment to the effect that we should acquire the land will be defeated tonight by those senators who claim that they want to do something for the Aboriginals but who are in fact looking for a way to sell out the Aboriginals whom they claim to represent.
– I wish to make it clear that Senator Chaney, the Minsiter for Aboriginal Affairs, is on his way on the visit which was mentioned, to Aurukun and Mornington Island. He has asked me to enter this debate to make clear his views and to support the amendment moved by Senator Puplick to the proposed amendment by Senator Cavanagh. Senator Cavanagh ‘s amendment fails to recognise, as do many of the statements made by honourable senators opposite, what has been gained for the Aboriginal communities of Aurukun and Mornington Island through negotiation and agreement with the Queensland Government in the past year. Let me remind honourable senators that the agreement reached with the Queensland Government on 1 1 April 1 978 provided for the latter to legislate both for self-management under Queensland laws and for security of tenure over Aboriginal land. I put it to you that the prospects for self-management under the Queensland Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Act are promising. Elections were held in both communities last Saturday, 3 1 March.
– That is what Senator Puplick told us.
– There was a large turnout of voters, Senator Cavanagh. According to advice reaching the Department of Aboriginal Affairs the percentage of those on the electoral role who voted was over 90. By normal standards of voting in local government elections, this is a significantly high figure. Arrangements were made at Aurukun for residents at the outstations to vote and at least one member of the new Council represents Aboriginals living at outstations. The new councils will assume their responsibilities in the next few days. My colleague, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and the Queensland Minister for Local Government will be visiting Aurukun and Mornington Island at the weekend and have been invited to attend the inaugural meetings ot the two councils where the elected councillors will decide upon their chairmen. The Administrator will then cease to function as such and, as announced by the Queensland Minister for Local Government, will become his representative on the Co-ordinating and Advisory Committee on which the Commonwealth also has a representative. Each shire already has a well qualified shire clerk chosen out of a number of applicants by the former councillors themselves.
On the question of secure tenure of traditional land, the 50-year leases have been approved. The Queensland legislation provides that the Governor-in-Council may grant a further lease if the terms of the existing lease have been satisfactorily complied with. The Aurukun community has received a clear indication that they could expect another 50-year extension and further extensions after that. The prospects on secure tenure are therefore good. Naturally, there are problems yet to be resolved, but the outlook is promising and when one compares the situation now with that which existed over a year ago, then the wisdom of the Commonwealth Government in choosing to consult rather than confront must be acknowledged in terms of the direct gains to the Aboriginal communities.
This account of developments in Aurukun and Mornington Island is a necessary background to consideration of the Senate Committee report. The Government is grateful to that committee for its report and its conclusions. It accepts that, as has been apparent from the beginning, the Commonwealth Self-Management Act could be frustrated by the Queensland Government revoking Aboriginal reserves. But a revocation of the reserves has also the effect, as it did in the case of Aurukun and Mornington Island, of removing those reserves from the jurisdiction of the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island legislation. It was to the restrictive terms of that legislation that the Commonwealth had expressed serious objection. The Commonwealth now has before it an express request from a newly elected Council at Yarrabah reserve for the application of the terms of the SelfManagement Act. It has also been requested by the Yarrabah Council to negotiate secure tenure of land on the same basis as that provided under the Commonwealth Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. The Government believes that the appropriate course with Yarrabah and the other councils who have submitted applications under the Commonwealth legislation is for us to seek a mutually agreed solution in consultation with the Queensland Government. It has so informed the Yarrabah Council and the Minister will be in the course of his visit to north Queensland exchanging views with that council and others which have submitted applications.
The consultations with the Queensland Government have already begun. There have been initial discussions between the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on the one hand and the Queensland Premier and the Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Affairs on the other. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has also spoken with the Deputy Premier of Queensland. One immediate outcome of the ministerial discussions has been a series of official discussions between representatives of Queensland and Commonwealth departments concerned. These discussions continued in Brisbane yesterday and today. They will be the prelude to further discussions at ministerial level.
Pending the conclusion of these discussions, I would not wish to comment on their substance other than to say that the interests and aspirations of the Aboriginal communities should not be thought of as requiring the same solution in all cases. While special legislation proved suitable for Aurukun and Mornington Island, it may well be that the objectives of the 1 1 April agreement can be achieved in the case of Yarrabah and other communities by other means.
There are some who have sincerely believed that the appropriate course for the Commonwealth should have been compulsory acquisition of land in Queensland. This is obviously Senator Cavanagh ‘s view. The Commonwealth attitude is that its essential objectives can be achieved through negotiation and discussion. The Government is confident that this policy will succeed in the case of other communities as it appears to have succeeded in the case of Aurukun and Mornington Island. The amendment moved by Senator Puplick obliges the Commonwealth Government in the event of failure of the present negotiations to give urgent consideration to amendment of existing Commonwealth legislation or the introduction of new legislation. The Commonwealth accepts this obligation. On behalf of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I thank the Committee and its Chairman for their report and I commend Senator Puplick ‘s amendment to the Senate.
– I enter this debate tonight on the very firm ground of support for the original amendment. In order to put each amendment in proper perspective I propose to read both amendments and to make comments. I believe this report to be an excellent one. I was privileged to be one of the people associated with all of the research and discussion that went into the compilation of the report. Quite frankly, I believe that if the Government were prepared to take note of that report it would take some positive action. I was appalled today when I listened to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) in another place commenting on a motion moved there by the Deputy Leader of my Party. I was amazed at the tenor of his speech, in which he made about 17 apologies to the Leader of the Government in Queensland.
At page 30 1 1 of the Senate Notice Paper the amendment moved by Senator Cavanagh a fortnight ago is set out. It states quite clearly:
At the end of the motion, add ‘and, in conformity with the Committee’s findings, this Senate requests the Government to take the action necessary to acquire the (and 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 ‘.
In the period since then I have talked to many people associated with the land rights organisation of Queensland, including representatives of both the communities referred to in the amendment. They were adamant that anything less than the action set out in the amendment would be a sell-out of their aspirations, their ambitions, of all the things that they want for themselves. The story is a very long one, going back to the time when the Opposition in this place tried to move an amendment to make this Government’s legislation retrospective to a certain date. That amendment was rejected by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), who has just sat down. She said that it had no relevance to the situation. I will never forget that afternoon when we walked out of this place to discover that neither of these reserves any longer existed because they had become Crown land under legislation carried in the Queensland Parliament. That battle has gone on and on over the intervening period; but I will not go back over all the things that I said on the night that Senator Cavanagh moved the amendment which I seconded.
Let me deal with the amendment that has been introduced by the Government. I will comment on various aspects of the amendment as I read it. It states:
Commonwealth and Queensland Governments of 1 1th April 1978; (ii) the subsequent Queensland local government legislation and the elections for the two shires; and (iii) the present negotiations between the two governments; . . .
Let me pause there for a moment. I take the liberty of commenting on what Mr Viner said today in another place when he virtually heaped tons of praise on the Queensland Government for its enlightened attitude to Aborigines in that State. He said that it is not going to be 50 years, it is going to be 100 years. I say now, with great sincerity, that if things go wrong on either of those settlements the leases will be abandoned, tomorrow if necessary, but certainly in a year or two, with the help of Mr Hinze, with the help of Mr Porter, with the help of the permanent head of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, Mr Killoran, and certainly with the blessing of the Premier of Queensland. In relation to the councils that were elected last Saturday, we have not had all the details; things have been filtering through. However, it does appear that the elections did not go quite the way that was expected. I hope that the Minister willmake a public statement within the next 24 hours, giving us the details of those elections.
– I will give them to you tonight.
– If Senator Bonner has them, I hope that when he speaks in this debate he will give them to us.
– I am surprised that you are not having anything incorporated in Hansard tonight.
– I am not incorporating anything tonight. If Senator Bonner can incorporate tonight the correct results of those two elections I will be delighted. There has been a suppression of the information coming out of those two elections. The results should have been available on Sunday, but they were not available then. Apparently they were suppressed because some people were elected whom the hierarchy did not want elected. The amendment continues:
I say now quite unequivocally, and I think without fear of political contradiction, that that last part will never be introduced by this Government because the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) and most other members of the Government parties live in fear of the Premier of Queensland. They live in fear of what he might do.
– Do they? Blimey!
– I look upon Senator Missen as a small ‘1’ liberal. I do not know whether he had anything to do with the drafting of this amendment. He moved the original motion in the chamber. I look to the left wing of the Liberal Party for some sort of enlightened attitude to the things that are happening in Queensland; and, if those people are not prepared to use that enlightened attitude in relation to those things, then they will finish up like Joh’s little helpers- useless, hopeless, and unable to do a thing in the face of the great giant who stands over them from time to time. While this sort of thing goes on within the conservative parties nobody suffers, except the Aboriginal people of this country. Nobody is suffering more than the Aboriginal people on Mornington Island and Aurukun.
If any Government senators are associated with the Friends of Aurukun Committee they will know that it speaks with real feeling on behalf of the people of Mornington Island and Aurukun in public statements, in minutes of meetings and in the study papers that are issued from time to time. I come now to the last four lines of the amendment:
– You do not disagree with that, do you?
– I am not disagreeing with that. I simply think that it is so damned low key we would not be able to find the key. It ought to be much more forceful than it is. It does not even spell out the spirit of the Committee ‘s report. The Committee set out quite clearly that there were not concurrent powers. In fact, the Committee spelt out quite clearly that as a result of the 1967 referendum, which was carried in this country by an overwhelming majority there is a very great responsibility on every Australian to see that the spirit of the 1 967 referendum is implemented.
The amendment does not represent the spirit ofthe 1967 referendum and it does not represent the spirit of the recommendations in the report; and that is what I am ashamed of. I am ashamed to think that the members of the Committee who drafted the amendment did not spell out the real support of the recommendations. We have to remember that it was a unanimous report from three members of the Labor Party and three members of the Liberal Party, and at no stage did the Chairman of that Committee have to exercise a casting vote. I know that at a very early meeting he threatened that, and I said that I would withdraw. I think that that was at the first meeting at which we discussed this reference. That is not telling tales out of school, because I heard it in the corridors the next morning. I did not spread the story. The report showed a spirit of unanimity, with the Labor Party members of the Committee and the Liberal Party members of the Committee all trying to do the right thing on behalf of the Aborigines. I feel ashamed that the Government now wants to bring to a wishywashy, watered-down amendment to the amendment moved by Senator Cavanagh and me, which really portrays the spirit of that report. I would like to refer to a couple of things I said when I seconded the Opposition’s amendment in this chamber a fortnight ago. I said:
I believe that the wording or 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.
I then reminded this chamber that on 3 April 1978 the Prime Minister, when addressing the National Aboriginal Conference, 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.
We now find that an amendment like the one before us is moved, an amendment which denies the things that the Prime Minister spelt out. The Government is backing down. We thought that our amendment was low key but that it expressed the wishes and the aspirations of the Aboriginal people all over Queensland, but particularly those in these two communities. The Government’s amendment, in part, states:
The people of Yarrabah have requested this Government for their own land, for their right to self-management and for the right to manage their own lives. They have received a tremendous response from this Government! They have had an acknowledgment of their letter and have been told that their request is under consideration. I do not think it is official yet but I note that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will make an inspection of the Gorge outside Mossman on, I think, 9 April. I have spoken in this place on previous occasions about the shocking things happening at the Gorge. Back in the days when this country had a Labor Government we endeavoured to improve the housing standards of the people at the Gorge.
Perhaps I should go a little further than that and point out that a mission existed at the Gorge in the 1 930s. That particular area was only part of the people’s land. The rest of it was on the banks of the Daintree River. Large areas belonged to that particular tribe. Because the mission decided at that time to sell that land to a cane farmer the Aborigines had to go. When the moon went down one night the Aborigines were put into trucks and taken to the Gorge, an area riddled with hookworm. Most of the old people died prematurely because they did not have the resistance to stand up to the depredations of hookworm.
The former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in another place today shouted at the top of his voice: ‘We are buying land on the banks of the Daintree River. That land should never have left the control of the Aborigines. We are now going to buy it back’. I am delighted that the Government is going to buy it back. He talked about buying leases in the Cardwell area. Everybody knows that the Premier of Queensland does not transfer leases to anyone who is black. Unless a new deal has been made with Holy Joe I would be amazed to find that leasehold area in Cardwell is to be handed back to the Aborigines. If the Government had made a deal then perhaps Dr Norman Scott- Young was right. Maybe the Premier’s mental processes are starting to slide down the scale and he has changed his mind. He did not allow a transfer of land in that area. He did not allow the transfer of two stations, Glenore and Archer River. He did not allow a transfer of even a small parcel of land at Ayr so that Aborigines could set up a caravan park. I do not know what sort of problems that would have caused the local community. I hope that when the Minister goes to the Gorge he will try to do the right thing by the people. It is not a terribly big community. It has been whittled down over the years by the white people.
When the Labor Government was in power, as I said a few moments ago, we tried to set up a housing association at the Gorge so that people could live on their own 60 acres of land. Many people in the white community want those 60 acres of land for the development of a tourist project. During the time Senator Cavanagh was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs we tried to buy 10 acres of land besides that property but the owner of the farm happened to be a member of the National Party. Pressure was put on him by the Premier of Queensland not to sell the land. Not many months ago in this chamber I produced a letter from the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal Affairs- that is what he likes to be called even though his Department is known as the Aboriginal and Islander Advancement Department- in which he said that the community was being phased out and that the black people were being assimilated into the town of Mossman. Some people who have been ‘assimilated’ into the town of Mossman do not want to live there. They want to return to live on their ancestral ground. The Mossman shire council- that is not the correct name; I think it is known as the Douglas shire council- is prepared to co-operate -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy President. Senator Keeffe is not confining his remarks to the motion before the Senate. He is talking about Mossman and a few other places. They have no relation whatsoever to Aurukun and Mornington Island, the subject of the motion.
The DEPUTY PRESDIENT (Senator Scott)- I do not uphold the point of order, but I am sure that Senator Keeffe will return to the motion to which he should be addressing himself.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I had to mention those things because the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in another place today mentioned a number of these issues. I do not know whether Senator Bonner listened to that speech or whether he will read the Hansard record of it. The former Minister made a very wide-ranging speech. The Gorge is one place that he mentioned as a prime example of what is occurring. I feel that on behalf of the Aborigines of the Gorge, on behalf of Duncan Missionary, the Chairman of the committee from that area, on behalf of those who helped him and on behalf of the local housing association I have to tell their side of the story because the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs did not do that in the other place. On behalf of his Government he put down his view on the state of Aboriginal affairs but he does not care about what happens to the Aborigines.
Honourable senators on this side of the House believed that when Senator Chaney was appointed Minister for Aboriginal Affairs we would see a whole new area of development so far as Aborigines were concerned. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber decided that we would give him two or three months to settle in. We have now found out that he is even weaker than his predecessor. He has not done the things that Opposition senators hoped he would do. He has not done the things that the Aborigines of this country hoped he would do. When we see a very sick, weak little amendment like this introduced we get extremely worried about it. We ask: ‘Where are we going?’ Of course, the other day when I asked the Minister about cutbacks in health -
– That was a very weak speech.
– It was a bit like that day you tried to find out how many goldfish were coming into this country, how many were going to be stopped from coming into this country and how many tropical fish were coming into this country. Senator Teague broke all the Standing Orders and tried to cheat on the President. The President ended up telling him to eat his own fish. I hope that from here on Senator Teague will remain quiet. Until such time as he learns the Standing Orders of this chamber I suggest that he keeps quiet. His local press gives him good coverage for other than political matters. I say good luck to him. The other day when he came into this argument- I am sorry to intrude in this subject Mr Deputy President- this man who is now giving cheek in this chamber tried to stop all the ex-servicemen of this country from getting cheap interest repatriation loans. He tried to take away from his father, his older brothers and people like that, benefits to which they are entitled.
– I raise a further point of order, Mr Deputy President. Would you be kind enough to ask Senator Keeffe to refer to the motion? He is talking about repatriation and a whole host of other things which have no relevance whatsoever to the motion before the Chair.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Keeffe, I have been reasonably generous. I ask you to return to the amendment.
– I notice that the honourable senator is now leaving the chamber in a state of embarrassment. I do not mind. I will not proceed to do him over. When honourable senator’s introduce extraneous matter they cannot really blame a speaker on this side of the Senate if he decides to answer those honourable senators in their own type of language. As far as I am concerned this amendment is extremely weak. It is an apology to the Queensland Government because a very strong report was produced by this particular committee. I think it is a tragedy that Government senators are not prepared to stand up and be counted. The things that the Aboriginal people in these two communities have asked for over a long time are again being denied to them by this second amendment. The spirit of their wishes is expressed in the amendment moved by Senator Cavanagh and seconded by myself. It is supported by those Honourable senators on this side of the Senate.
I hope that the Government will have second thoughts. I hope that it is prepared to have another look at its amendment. I do not think that the area of Aboriginal affairs is the right of any section of the community except the Aboriginals. People in Parliament, particularly those of us who are white, ought to adopt a bipartisan attitude. We ought to be prepared to get together to discuss the problems. This is not happening. I had hoped that over the years, as a result of the 1967 referendum, Aboriginal affairs would not be a political football. It is still a political football. Because we have moved what appears to be a semi-radical amendment honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber decided that this matter ought not proceed. They have moved their own watered-down amendment. I hope that when and if a vote is taken on this subject, honourable senators responsible for that watered-down amendment will join those on this side of the chamber in supporting the original amendment.
– I second the amendment moved by my friend and colleague Senator Puplick. It is rather ironical that a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who, generally speaking, was regarded by Aboriginals as a disaster, should move such a motion today. I want to speak to the issue before the Senate this evening. I say quite categorically that I support the amendment that has been proposed by my friend and colleague Senator Puplick because I have had the opportunity of sitting with him, with another very close friend and colleague, Senator Missen, and with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney). We have discussed the issues which are before us this evening very extensively. I sat in this chamber yesterday for several hours and listened to a debate that was brought on by the Opposition concerning a matter in the Northern Territory. It is rather fascinating for an Aborigine to sit in this chamber and listen to a whole group of so-called white experts speak on Aborigines. It is really fascinating for an Aborigine to listen to nonAboriginal people talking about Aboriginal affairs with so-called knowledge and understanding. It is something that not only fascinates me but also gives me a sense of frustration.
– Tell us why you are selling them out.
– The honourable senator who is interjecting at the moment would know no more about Aborigines than the man in the moon because he is not an Aborigine. He has never lived as a Aborigine. He has never had the feelings of an Aborigine. Yet he stands up in this chamber and spouts off as if he knows everything about Aborigines. He looks at things through an entirely different set of values and understanding. He looks at the Aboriginal question through the eyes of a white man. How in the name of God can he stand up here and through a white man’s eyes view and understand the things that mean something to Aborigines? He cannot. There is not a hope in Hades that he can.
– You should not sell out your own people and that is what you are doing with this amendment.
- Senator Keeffe sits over there and spouts about Aboriginal affairs as though he were an Aborigine.
– Order! Senator Keeffe, that is a grave reflection on the honourable senator.
– I withdraw, Mr President.
-There we are. That is absolutely typical. There is a white man sitting over there denigrating an Aborigine whom he purports to support. He sits there and denigrates an Aborigine who stands here endeavouring to talk on behalf of Aborigines. It is beyond my comprehension. Surely it must be beyond the comprehension of Aborigines when a man like that, who purports to support Aborigines, endeavours to denigrate an Aborigine- if I might be as bold as to say- who is his equal or more than his equal, as a matter of fact. In Queensland I outpolled him in the 1975 Senate election. I held No. 1 position for the Liberal Party and I brought in six senators where he was able to bring in only four. It is ironical when a bloke like that stands up and tries to denigrate me, his equal, or more than his equal, in this chamber. My goodness gracious, where are we going? .
- Mr President, if I am upsetting Senator Bonner- I do not want to take a point of order or to embarrass him- I will allow him to continue his speech and I will leave the chamber.
-That is typical. When they are bested, they retreat. Senator Keeffe is retreating because he is bested by an Aborigine.
– Order! Senator Keeffe, you must not speak to folk in the gallery when you are on the floor of the Senate. You may go to the gallery.
– May I come back to the motion before the Senate. The amendment that is before the Senate, which was moved by Senator Cavanagh, I rejected out of hand because, as I said earlier, I am supporting the amendment that was moved by my friend and colleague Senator Puplick. There is no one in this chamber with the feelings -
An incident occurring in the gallery-
– Order! It is a rule of this chamber that there must not be any discussions in the gallery.
- Mr President, I am sure you will agree that there is not a person in this chamber who certainly would not want to see an Aborigine- regardless of whether he is at Aurukun, Mornington Island or any other area in the whole of this Commonwealth- having full title to the land that he claims. I do not think that anyone could deny that. I could not, being an Aborigine with Aboriginal feelings, attitudes and everything else. Everything that is within me is Aborigine. Whilst I admit my responsibilities to Queensland, as the senator representing that State, I have said time and time again in a number of areas and in this chamber that my responsibilities as a senator are to this Parliament.
I have set out my areas of responsibility. My first responsibility is to Almighty God. My second responsibility is to this nation as a whole. My third responsibility is to my State of Queensland. My fourth responsibility is to the party which endorsed me and gave me the opportunity to be a member of this chamber. But interwoven through the whole sequence is my love of my race and my burning desire to do whatever I can to advance the cause of the Aborigine people of this nation. I am- I deny it not- a member of the Aborigine race of this nation. I say that with a great deal of fierce pride. I have no need to be ashamed of what I am. Overall I want the Aboriginal people -
An incident occurring in the gallery-
– I respectfully point out to a person in the gallery that he must not make signs. I trust that he will respect the customs of the House.
– My feelings are something that I cannot help. They are something that I would not want to avoid even if I could. I am fiercely and proudly a member of the indigenous race of this country. I stand tonight with a great deal of pride in support of the amendment that has been moved by my colleague Senator Puplick. I do so because if we are ever to achieve the aspirations of the indigenous people of this country we have to proceed by negotiation.
– With Bjelke-Peterson?
– By negotiation. Confrontation will not take us one step along the road towards the things to which we aspire. We aspire to a number of things. We aspire to become part and parcel of the entire nation. We want to be respected and responsible citizens. But we can do so only if we are given the opportunity to make our own decisions and to determine what the future holds for us as Aborigines. We hope and pray that the non-Aboriginal section of this community, through its elected governments, State and Federal, will assist us to do so.
Debate has taken place in this chamber and in the other chamber over the last 12 or 15 months about Aurukun and Mornington Island. I am on record as stating that I did not agree with what the Queensland Government was doing. I did not support what it was endeavouring to do. Because of the intervention of the Prime Minister (Mr Fraser) and the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the proposal of the Queensland Government did not eventuate. There has been what might be termed a compromise- the setting up of local government bodies in the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities. I have made my thoughts on this matter quite clear not only in this chamber but also everywhere else. I did not think that local government could work in either of those two communities. But, following negotiation between the Federal and State governments, it transpired that local government bodies would be formed at Aurukun and Mornington Island.
We all watched and waited, some of us with bated breath, for the local government elections to be held. They were held on 3 1 March of this year. I will not go into all the rhetoric concerning leases, land rights and the whole box and dice. I do not think that this is the time and place to do so. My thoughts are well known. I would have preferred the Aboriginal people at both communities to receive land rights similar to those granted by the Federal Government in the Northern Territory, but because of State sovereignty and that type of thing this was not possible without the Commonwealth Government waving the big waddy, nulla nulla or whatever one like to call it, hitting the State Government over the head and saying that it would take over the land. The Federal Government, through the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Prime Minister,, decided that perhaps the best way to proceed would be, through negotiation, to give local government an opportunity to work in those two communities. I have made my thoughts known. I felt that such a scheme could not work in an Aboriginal community. I challenged the Federal Government to live up to its constitutional responsibilities by acquiring the two communities under the powers granted in the 1967 referendum which changed the Constitution.
Because I have been involved in politics over a number of years, I appreciate the political realities of life. I thought that perhaps I should go along with the idea. I was not happy with it but I was prepared to wait and see. On 3 1 March of this year local government elections were held in a number of areas in Queensland. Elections were held in my own city of Ipswich. The Liberal Party, my party, contested that election. At the moment two people are in what is known in political terms as a ‘cliff hanger’. I can appreciate, understand and be sympathetic with the traumas and anxieties of those two people. But it was a fair and square election and these people are waiting for the postal and absentee votes to be counted. The elections at Aurukun and Mornington Island were also held on 3 1 March. To some extent the same anxieties are present because the election result cannot be determined absolutely as there is a ‘cliff hanger’ situation there with the counting of votes. I have a document in my hand which I would like to incorporate in Hansard. It concerns the election results at Aurukun and Mornington Island.
– What are you seeking to do?
– I want to incorporate a document in Hansard. For the benefit of honourable senators on the other side of the chamber and perhaps those on this side who have not had the opportunity of seeing it, it is a ministerial briefing by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs on the council elections at Aurukun and Mornington Island.
The results of the elections at both communities still have to be declared but the figures so far are rather enlightening in view of the fact that some months ago the Queensland Government sacked the elected Aboriginal councils on both
Aurukun and Mornington Island. The figures are rather startling. Because the two communities have now been declared local government areas, there has been an increase in the number of councillors elected at both Aurukun and Mornington Island. There has been an increase from five, which was the figure in the days of the Aboriginal councils, to eight. But the most interesting part about it is that out of the eight councillors elected, five were members of the former Aboriginal council which was sacked by the Queensland Government under the direction of the Minister for Local Government, the Honourable, in inverted commas, Russ Hinze. That was on Mornington Island. On Aurukun, four of the previous Aboriginal councillors out of eight were re-elected. I think the names of those four councillors would be well known to honourable senators and to members of the House of Representatives because they have visited this place on a number of occasions.
As to Mornington Island, the names, Nelson Governor, Larry Lanley, Lawrence Dugong and Prince Escott should be known to honourable senators. Donald Painkinna of Aurukun was also re-elected. So there are five members of the Council out of a total number of eight who have been re-elected. But the point is that three additional councillors have been elected to local government so that when one looks at the election of four out of five of the previous councillors at Aurukun and five out of five of the previous councillors at Mornington Island who have been re-elected to the councils of both of these communities, it surely proves to us in this chamber that negotiations between the Commonwealth Government, through the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ian Viner, and the present Minister, Fred Chaney, have been successful. Fully elected shire councillors of both communities have been re-elected to those councils to run the affairs of the Aboriginal people of both of those communities. Knowing all those facts, I believe that the amendment to the motion moved by my friend and colleague, Senator Chris Puplick, is appropriate. It shows that through negotiation, proper negotiation, sitting around a table and talking these matters out, there can be a proper, full and sensible agreement between the two governments. For a long time I was doubtful that that would ever happen.
- Senator Bonner, you have not sought leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard.
– I am sorry, Mr President. I seek leave to have this document incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
DEPARTMENT OF ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS
Council Elections at Aurukun and Mornington Island
The results of the elections have still to be declared at both communities and the election of two candidates at Mornington Island still depends on the outcome of postal votes.
The current situation is:
– I thank the Senate. What I am saying is that anything can be achieved when people are prepared to sit down and talk. I had doubts as to whether this could be achieved with the Queensland Government. Over the years I have been very critical of the Queensland Government and its attitude and the attitude of its Minister for Local Government and Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs. But I feel that with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that we now have in this Senate and in this Commonwealth Parliament, and because of his attitude, many things can be achieved, not only in my own
State of Queensland but throughout this nation. This Minister for Aboriginal Affairs wants to solve the problems of the Aboriginal people by negotiation rather than confrontation.
– He is being reasonable.
– He is being very reasonable and he is getting a reasonable response. That is most important because whatever we endeavour to do in this place must surely be first and foremost in the interests of the people whom we are here to represent, whether they are Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal or from whatever section of the community. We are here as senators to represent people and to get the best possible deal for the people we represent, whether it is an ethnic group or some other group. Surely this must be our responsibility. I feel my responsibility is to get the best deal for the Aboriginal people, the indigenous people of this nation. I want to get the best deal for the Aborigines and the Torres Strait Islanders, while working very closely with a number of my colleagues on this side of the chamber, both National Country Party and Liberal Party senators. I can say quite categorically that I have had tremendous rapport with, tremendous communication with and tremendous support from my colleagues on this side of the chamber.
I say very strongly here tonight that I was very disappointed indeed with a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in a former Labor Government of this country. I can only say ‘Thank God ‘ that it was only for a short time that he was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He had the audacity to stand up in this chamber and say the things he said and move the motion that he moved. He was condemned by Aborigines as a disaster as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. One of the leading Aborigines in this country, one of theleading men of this country, Charles Perkins, said in no uncertain terms that Senator Cavanagh, during his regime as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, was nothing but a disaster. Yet Senator Cavanagh has the audacity, the gall, to stand up in this chamber tonight and move such a motion.
– Tell us what he said about you.
-The honourable senator’s Government did nothing for Aboriginal Affairs during its term of office. The Labor Government said that it was going to do all sons of things. It was going to take on the Premier of Queensland.
An incident occurring in the gallery-
The PRESI DENT- Order ! Please be seated.
-What did the Premier of Queensland do with the Labor Party regarding Aboriginal affairs? He wiped the floor with the Labor Party. He has not been able to do that with the present Government. He was prepared to sit around a table and negotiate. I do not support the Premier of Queensland in a number of areas, but I support what my friend and colleague, Senator Puplick, is endeavouring to do tonight and that it to bring some sanity and reason into a very complex issue. I support the amendment moved by Senator Puplick.
-As one of the Committee members most closely involved in the compilation of this report, I re-enter this debate to explain as briefly and as unemotionally as I can, just why it is I support Senator Cavanagh ‘s amendment as being more consistent with the spirit and letter of the Committee report than the amendment moved tonight by Senator Puplick. It is true that the report says that the acquisition of Aboriginal land and measures of that kind should be contingent in Aurukun and Mornington Island or anywhere else, on the failure, first of all, of co-operation with the State government concerned. It is true that the report says that, as Senator Puplick points out, and I readily acknowledge it.
However, the simple but fundamental difference between Senator Cavanagh ‘s amendment and Senator Puplick ‘s amendment is a difference of opinion as to whether that cooperative approach has in fact been successful. The Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, on behalf of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chaney, Senator Puplick and now Senator Bonner, have all said in effect that the bringing of the Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves under the Queensland Local Government Act and the elections which have just been held for the local council so established, represent some kind of triumph for cooperation; they represent a demonstration of how it is possible for Aboriginal aspirations, Federal Government responsibilities and Queensland Government obsessions to be welded together in a single satisfactory whole with which we can all, for the moment, be satisfied. That is the substance of what has been argued tonight on behalf of Senator Puplick ‘s amendment.
Senator Cavanagh and we who support him say that the history of Aurukun and Mornington Island has been a tragic one of sell-out after sellout. Those words are not too strong to describe the history of the two communities in recent years. The Federal Government has been outgunned, outmanoeuvred and made to look thoroughly foolish by a State government which has acted in contemptuous disregard of the 1967 referendum and of the Federal Government legislation which has since been passed. The Federal Government has been sold out by a State government which has not demonstrated the slightest sensitivity at any stage to the feelings and aspirations of Aboriginal people. Regardless of what Senator Bonner may say, the Aborigines in those communities have made it patently clear that they are unhappy with the Queensland Government and all its works. They are unhappy with their failure to get any guaranteed tenure over time of the land in question. They are thoroughtly unhappy with the complex Queensland Government controlled local government system which has now been forced upon them. If this be co-operation, so too is the acquiescence of a rape victim at knife point.
– I thought you said that you would not become emotional.
– That is the issue before us tonight. Any kind of objective analysis- Senator Puplick may not be capable of it- of the present situation in Queensland must lead one to the conclusion that there has not been the kind of operation to which the Committee was referring in its report as the pre-condition for no Federal Government intervention in land acquisition or more drastic measures of that kind. In the absence of that co-operation the only solution which we can adopt without shame and which is consistent with the Committee’s findings is the acquisition by the Commonwealth, on behalf of the Aboriginal people, of the land involved in these two communities.
– It appears as though the shouting and the tumult have died down and the captains and the kings have departed. It is time for me as an anti-climax to remind honourable senators that tonight we are debating a motion, which I moved some time ago, to take note of this report.
– A good safe motion.
– It is a fashionable and popular motion. It was a motion sought by all members of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, including Senator Evans, so that we would have an opportunity to bring forward ideas about what is in this report and to encourage honourable senators to read the report. The Government has agreed to respond to all reports within six months. Senator Cavanagh decided that it was smarter for him to move that we take up one particular aspect of the report, one ofthe options or possibilities- the acquisition of land- and in his own terms ‘demand that the Commonwealth Government -
– But it was a good one, wasn’t it?
– I will come to Senator Cavanagh; he should be patient. The honourable senator suggested that the Senate pass his motion requiring that option to be taken irrespective of the Government response to the report.
I turn to a description of what the report does. I take the words of an estimable senator best able to express in excellent language the purposes of this Committee. He said, referring to the report:
First of all, it gives a detailed analysis, Tor really the first time in the legal literature, of the nature, scope and extent of section 5 1 (xxvi) of the Constitution, which of course empowers the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws . . .
The second thing that the report does is to give a full account of the relevance and application of section S 1 (xxxi) of the Constitution, which sets out the power of the Commonwealth to acquire property on just terms. The third thing that the report does is to make a detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the present Commonwealth legislation in this area- the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities SelfManagement) Act 1978 . . . Fourthly what we do in the report is to list a series of alternative courses of legislative action in which the Commonwealth could constitutionally engage so as to secure effective self-management rights for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland.
Honourable senators will note the series of alternative courses. That succinct prose reflects the words of Senator Evans in describing this report. The report does not say that we must do one thing. We must give credit where credit is due and, in a few words, that is what the report does. Senator Cavanagh tried to inflict upon the Senate one course of action and to pre-empt the Government’s decisions on the report.
The report was designed to be eductional for the Senate and for the people. I say that in no superior way. We had considerable help from other people. The report did not contain all our own ideas. It did not contain only the ideas of Senators Evans and Tate or other legal or nonlegal members of the Committee. The Committee members had additional help from departments and we formed conclusions. We tried to set aside the fault that has developed in this country for years, namely, that we have doubted the powers ofthe Commonwealth. Those powers are not only considerable but also diverse. They need not be used in extreme degree but can be used without acquisition, with partial acquisition, in acquiring leasehold and other things of this sort. The Commonwealth has substantial power and, if necessary, it should use that power.
We are concerned with this in respect to Aurukun and Mornington Island. Senator Puplick ‘s amendment is a proper amendment. Once Senator Cavanagh had tried to inflict upon this chamber a particular prescription as to what should be done, it was necessary for something to be done such as Senator Puplick has done tonight. He moved an amendment which describes what has been going on and the continuing actions of the Government which had been affecting the situation before the report was delivered and also have affected it since. It refers to the elections that took place and the negotiations that are proceeding.
– You should have got Chaney to be honest enough to do it himself. You do not have to get boys to do it.
– Are you talking about Senator Chaney?
– Under a long-standing arrangement, he has gone to Aurukun and Mornington Island. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has been visiting the territories. This behaviour is different from that of a Minister such as our tired colleague, Senator Cavanagh. I give him credit. Tonight he acknowledged that he was a disaster as a Minister. That is a refreshing and desirable admission. He asked: What is effective self-management? After years in this chamber and periods as a Minister he asked: what is effective self-management? In his blundering way in his amendment he ignored self-management. It is a very difficult concept. The Commonwealth Government last year made an agreement with the State. Selfmanagement needs to be achieved. What is being tried is a delicate form of local government by agreement with- the State Government. An election has just been successfully held. How unhappy was Senator Cavanagh tonight at the fact that there seems to have been an effective election in both those communities giving the people the councillors that they wanted and, in some places, the councillors which they had previously.
– It is confirmation that something is working. It is confirmation that at least there has been some success. Nobody has gone overboard tonight- I say this for the benefit of Senator Evans- and said that there has been a triumphal co-operation. Nobody used that sort of expression. We know that negotiations are continuing. We know that the people at Yarrabah have said that they want to come under the Commonwealth Act. These are clearly delicate and difficult periods.
Those honourable senators opposite who have spoken tonight have said: ‘What do the people want?’ That was Senator Evans’s great contribution. What are the people of Aurukun saying? I went to Aurukun and Mornington Island with Senator Bonner and Mr Peter Falconer, the honourable member for Casey, in August last year. The people in both those communities were tired of being pushed around, backwards and forwards. To them there seemed to be no solution to their problem and no indication that they would get anywhere. They did not want to see more politicians. They did not want to have years of trouble and fighting. They hoped that something might work. They feared that the local government suggestions would not work. I will not prejudge them now and say that they will not work. We have at last reached the stage when councils have been elected and a form of self-government is working in those two communities. We must hope that they succeed. Unless honourable senators opposite want to see disaster, unless they really feel that there must be a confrontation which brings the most extreme measures, they should think of the people in those communities.
I remember them as I saw them. I realise that they want us. They trust us to do things. They trust us to continue to be interested in their concerns. That is what we must continue to do. Just because the councils have now been elected that is not the end of the Commonwealth’s task. Senator Chaney has a difficult and delicate area in which to work. We in this chamber must give him as much support as we can in the negotiations and the efforts he is presently making. It is not a case of trying to pluck out one of the solutions which our Committee said was available and suggesting that it is the only one which must be used. I trust that the report of the Committee will be useful to the people of Australia and to the Aboriginal race in Australia. It will clarify the Commonwealth powers. I am delighted with the amendment moved by Senator Puplick. I am sure that it will be added to the motion I moved. In part the amendment states:
Aurukun and Mornington Island Aboriginal communities, and other Aboriginal communities, pursuant to the substantial powers of the Commonwealth as examined in the Senate Committee’s Report.
This is no weak and spineless motion. It is a motion to which I am very happy to add my support. I believe that it shows in reality and in the proper balance what the Senate Committee report does. It shows that the Senate recognises that the Commonwealth has powers which ought to be kept in reserve and used when necessary. We should not come into this chamber and provocatively try to do things which will be harmful to the Aboriginal people in these communities. In summing up this debate I ask honourable senators to vote for the motion as well as the amendment moved by Senator Puplick. I think that these will satisfactorily show the Senate in a light in which it is considerate to these communities, is concerned, as it has been at all times, for the Aboriginal people and their aspirations and is determined to see that they are achieved.
– The question is that the words proposed to be left out by Senator Puplick ‘s amendment be left out.
– Should not my amendment be put first?
– No. There is an amendment to your amendment. Under Standing Order 148 that is the sequence in which the amendments should be taken.
– Do we decide whether to amend an amendment before we accept the amendment?
– I put the question that the words proposed to be left out of Senator Cavanagh ‘s amendment be left out.
– I raise a point of order. Surely you cannot accept the guidance of Standing Order 148 which states:
Amendments may be proposed to a proposed Amendment as if such proposed Amendment were an Original Question.
– In accordance with Standing Order 148 I shall put the question as I originally put it.
– I raise a point of order. I am not questioning your ruling, Mr President, but Standing Order 149 states:
When it is proposed to leave out words in the Original Question in order to insert or add others, no Amendment to the words proposed to be inserted or added can be entertained until the Question that the words proposed to be left out has been determined.
Is that the ruling you are using?
– No, I am using Standing Order 148. On that basis I am acting in the way that I am.
- Mr President, again I am not questioning your ruling but, if one reads literally or otherwise the wording of Standing Order 148, obviously Senator Cavanagh ‘s amendment must be put first.
– No. This is an amendment to a proposed amendment as though that amendment were the original question. As I did originally I put the question:
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Puplick’s amendment to Senator Cavanagh’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Puplick’s amendment to Senator Cavanagh’s amendment) be inserted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be added to the original motion (Senator Cavanagh’s amendment, as amended) be so added.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original motion, as amended, agreed to.
Debate resumed from 23 November 1978, on motion by Senator Missen:
That the Senate take note of the Report.
– First and foremost, the Joint Committee on Publications has decided not to dismantle the Australian Government Publishing Service. The AGPS is a good concept. That is covered adequately in the report tabled by Senator Missen. It was mainly in the administrative structure of the AGPS that the Committee saw some problems. The AGPS is a semi-commercial business operation. It buys and sells publications; yet it is tied to the Department of Administrative Services as a branch of that Department. Whilst its activities have continued to grow in recent years its staff numbers have fallen, due to the imposition of staff ceilings. That has caused various reductions in the services provided. In many cases there has been a deterioration in the services provided by the AGPS, for instance, mail order services. The size and staffing of bookshops require review, while printing procurement has been centralised to departments.
Economies of scale are possible through the operations of the AGPS but unfortunately these cannot be fully realised if the restrictions on its operations are to remain. By being tied to the Department of Administrative Services the AGPS is tied to too many Public Service procedures and restrictions. The AGPS itself has not helped this situation as to some extent it has developed in a bureaucratic manner, encouraging limited flexibility in its operations. My own experience in business is that if one is to succeed one must go out and sell. In the Committee’s opinion the AGPS has not done that to a satisfactory level with its client departments or through sales to the public. The Committee is aware of many of the reasons behind this failing and has recommended that the operations of the AGPS should become more commercially oriented. If the AGPS does not become more commercially oriented there is no doubt that justification for its retention will again come under question.
The Committee recommends that the AGPS should operate to a total trust account concept and that it should be permitted to operate in much the same way as any commercial publisher. If, by increasing staff, the AGPS can increase its real revenue, why can it not be permitted to put on more staff? Why should it not be able to react to market circumstances? If the AGPS is to survive as an entity and service agent it must be given some freedom from the restrictions imposed within the structure of the Public Service. The Committee has provided the Government with a blueprint as to how this can succeed in an efficient and responsible manner.
In essence, the AGPS should be able to sink or swim in its own success. Because of its guaranteed custom, the Committee is confident that the AGPS will improve and grow at considerable savings to the Government and benefit to the community. To achieve this flexibility and to enable AGPS to become more commercially orientated the Committee has recommended that it become an independent arm of the Department of Administrative Services with its controller directly responsible to the Secretary of that Department. It has also recommended that an outside commercial expert be appointed to the position of controller for a three year contract to assist in converting AGPS operations to be more on a commercial footing. If these structural changes are not made to the AGPS the Committee feels that its services will continue to decline or at best stagnate and not go on to achieve the considerable aims and benefits sought by the Government in its printing and publishing program.
I now turn to the operations of the Government Printing Office. The Commonwealth is fortunate indeed to have at its disposal a man of the calibre and experience of the present Government Printer, Mr John Thompson. This experience was of considerable assistance to the Committee during this inquiry. The Committee was disturbed by the discoveries it made in this area of AGPS operations. The Government Printer is responsible to AGPS for most administrative matters. He has little or no responsibility for the operations of his trust accounts, ADP personnel, purchases of stores and most importantly, input of work other than parliamentary material and some small general printing. Otherwise the Government Printer is dependent upon AGPS to provide him with sufficient work to keep his factory operating at an acceptable economic level. In recent years this has not occurred and as a result the Printing Office has made significant losses. The Committee has made recommendations designed to resolve this situation.
The Government Printer’s area of operation and responsibilities have never been laid down which I find to be an extraordinary matter. They have been established over the years by practice and ad hoc Cabinet decisions. Even his responsibilities to the Parliament are not clearly denned and while it can be assumed that he is directly responsible to the Presiding Officers for parliamentary work, administratively he is responsible to the Minister for Administrative Services through the public servant who is Secretary of that Department. The importance of the Government Printer’s need for independence of action was brought home to the Committee when the Government Printer suggested that the Government’s legislative program was threatened in recent times by his inability to appoint staff. Where the present arrangements have the potential to adversely affect the services which the Government Printer can supply to Parliament, the Committee feels that it is time for these arrangements to be seriously reconsidered.
It is quite extraordinary to find that this officer is responsible for the work but does not have the ability to get it done. To formalise the Printer’s responsibility so far as the Parliament is concerned, the Committee has recommended that at the commencement of each session of Parliament, a resolution be agreed to by both Houses of Parliament similar to the following:
That the Government Printer be responsible to the Presiding Officers for the printing of all parliamentary publications and be provided with the necessary resources to meet parliamentary printing requirements.
That, at all times, the Government Printer give priority to parliamentary work.
The Government Printer is managing a multimillion dollar operation and the Committee can see no reason why it should not be run in the same way as State Government Printing Offices and those of his equivalents overseas. To provide efficiency, restore a flagging morale situation and to ensure that adequate resources are available to the Government Printer, the Committee feels it essential for the Government Printer to have direct and total control over all administrative matters associated with the operation of the Government Printing Office. It is for this reason that the Committee has recommended that the Government Printer be independent of the AGPS. One other matter which although not having a bearing on this recommendation but nevertheless is important to the Committee is the salary paid to our Government Printer. It is the lowest in the Commonwealth by some many thousands of dollars. Even the salary of the Northern Territory Printer is higher. When one considers the Commonwealth Government Printer’s responsibilities one can only state that the situation is unacceptable and must be reviewed.
There are a number of other areas to which I wish to quickly refer. The first of these relates to the section concerning the growth of in-house printing facilities within departments and statutory authorities. The situation is best summarised by the following quote from paragraph 9. 1 of the report. It states:
Priming units in agencies have also increased considerably in number, size and capacity and are in some cases attempting to perform large and complex printing tasks which could be more economically done by skilled tradesmen on more suitable equipment. Greater use could be made of period and other special printing contracts developed by AGPS . . . The very existence of in-house printing equipment encourages its use (and thus generates proposals for more and better equipment) when there should be resort to the Government Printer or a commercial printer.
In an effort to rationalise this situation, the Committee has made what it feels are acceptable recommendations. I feel sure that a fuller investigation of this matter will surely reveal some most interesting information and, hopefully, some substantial economies as well. The Committee was also most concerned over the lack of established responsibilities between the AGPS, its clients and other printing and publishing agents. A rationalisation of this situation is overdue and the Committee has recommended what it feels ought to be the appropriate responsibilities of these agents.
Before I conclude, I would like to devote a small amount of time to the way in which the Government has dealt with previous reports of the committee. The first relates to the Committee ‘s Report on the delay in the Publication of Commonwealth Acts and Statutory Rules. I wish to commend the Government on its reponse in connection with this report. I and many other members of the Committee feel that the Committee’s recommendations were thoroughly examined by the Government. Whilst not all were supported by the Government, its reasons for not so doing were complete and understood by the Committee. Recently the Government put down its statement in response to the Report on the Parliamentary Papers Series to which the Presiding Officers some five months previously had made a response in those areas of their responsibility. This is a statement which, I might say, was very thorough and constructive. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same of the Government’s response. Generally speaking, I can only say that in many areas the response was uninformed, in others cut across the responsibility of the Presiding Officers and in others, to say the least was puzzling to myself and my fellow Committee members. Certainly the reasons for rejection of a number of recommendations were inadequate.
Mr President, I can only hope that the report which we are now debating receives a more thorough investigation than its predecessor. I conclude by saying that the Committee’s report has been prepared on the evidence which has been placed before it. The Committee had at its disposal information, comments and conclusions of a number of government initiated inquiries into the AGPS. These, together with the Committee’s experience in the field of publishing, has enabled the Committee to arrive at what it feels is an acceptable blueprint to remedy the many problems in providing efficient service to the public and the Public Service. Without appropriate action taking place, the Committee can only feel pessimistic about the future of AGPS and government publishing in general.
– I have read with a great deal of interest the report tendered to the Parliament tonight by the Joint Committee on Publications, ‘The Australian Government Publishing Service and its Role in Commonwealth Printing and Publishing 1964-1978.’ In the two and half years that I was the Minister for the Media in the Labor Government, I had the ministerial responsibility for the administration of the Australian Government Publishing Service.
– You brought in a lot of progressive innovations.
-As my colleague Senator Mulvihill said, we tried to do a great number of things which seem to be embodied in this report. One is the establishment of government bookshops in the metropolitan cities throughout Australia. Basically, I very much support in toto the recommendations that have been tendered to the Parliament by the Committee. I hope that the Government takes cognisance of the Committee and the recommendations that it has put forward. I note that the Committee tendered its report on 23 November 1978. I assume that, by the time we come back on 1 May, the Government will be able to give a response to the recommendations of the Committee. We look forward to seeing what attitude the Government adopts in regard to the recommendations.
Commonwealth Employment ServiceCommunity Youth Support Scheme
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I put formally the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– This evening I wish to raise briefly an issue which is of concern to some Cleveland residents and nearby residents of the Cleveland area. For those who are not aware of the geography of Queensland, I point out that Cleveland is a suburb on the coast towards the southern end of Moreton Bay. The only reason that I find it necessary to raise this matter tonight is that the Cleveland residents to whom I have referred have tried to obtain information in relation to the Commonwealth Employment Service office in Cleveland and have been unable to obtain the information they require. Recently, an office of the Commonwealth Employment Service was opened at Cleveland. I am informed that prior to its opening the Wynnum office of the Commonwealth Employment Service attended to those problems which needed attention in the Cleveland area. One area about which the people of Cleveland are concerned is that it took such a long time to open the Commonwealth Employment Service office. I am informed that accommodation was leased perhaps six months or more prior to the Commonwealth Employment Service office being opened at Cleveland. The people were concerned that a great number of unemployed young people in the Cleveland area perhaps were not receiving the same attention they would have received had there been a local Commonwealth Employment Service office. It was all right in some respects for them to be looked after by the Wynnum Commonwealth Employment Service office, but that office is some distance from Cleveland. The people of Cleveland thought that if there was a nearby office their young people would receive greater attention than if they had to be looked after from Wynnum.
It was also suggested to me by people in the area that some other office space is leased by the Commonwealth in the same building as the Commonwealth Employment Service office at Wynnum. There is no indication as to why this is leased or by what department it is to be used. The people who spoke to me about the establishment of the Commonwealth Employment Service office were concerned that a great deal of
Commonwealth funds had been paid out for six months or more before the CES office was opened at Cleveland, and they are concerned now that money is being paid out for other accommodation within the same building that is not being used by the Commonwealth. It is not being used by anybody. I imagine that this has nothing to do with the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner). I might be able to obtain some information from the Department of Administrative Services if it is paying for the accommodation that currently is not being used.
Also of concern in the Cleveland area is the closure of the Community Youth Support Scheme office. Local residents claim that the CYSS did not get the official support that it deserved in Cleveland. That is possible because, again, the Wynnum office had to look after it. The CYSS office closed down, and some Cleveland residents think that perhaps there was a lack of foresight on the part of the Commonwealth Employment Service in not fostering this while they were waiting for an office to be opened at Cleveland. They think that if the Cleveland office had opened earlier the CYSS might have continued to operate efficiently.
This evening I would like to pose some questions, and I am hopeful that the relevant department will be able to answer them in due course. I would not expect answers to be given in an adjournment debate. Perhaps the department could have a look at the questions and provide me with the answers. I would be able then to pass on the answers to the residents, who have a genuine concern. I ask: When were the premises that are currently being occupied by the CES at Cleveland first leased? What was the cost of the leased space while unoccupied? What is the cost of the other space being leased in the same building and for what will it be used? I realise here that it may be the Department of Administrative Services that will look at this particular question. A further question is: Why was there so much delay in establishing the Cleveland CES office when space was available? Finally, how much was spent on the CYSS in Cleveland and why was it disbanded?
– The questions Senator Colston has asked are obviously beyond my immediate knowledge, as he has indicated. I will certainly have them transmitted to the relevant Minister and seek answers for the honourable senator.
Mr President, may I convey to you and to all other honourable senators the hope for a pleasant and rewarding Easter recess.
– We warmly reciprocate those good wishes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.37 p.m. until Tuesday, 1 May 1979, at 2.30 p.m., unless otherwise called together in accordance with the resolution agreed to this day.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 16 November 1978:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Ministerial Meetings with Business Consultants (Question No. 1188)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Informal approaches to myself or to my staff have occasionally been made by representatives of some of the organisations listed in (1 ). These approaches have not been recorded. I am therefore not in a position to respond to the questions raised in ( 1 ), (2), (3) and (4).
Ministerial Meetings with Business Consultants (Question No. 1191)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
– The Minister for Finance has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Foreign Affairs: Departmental Approaches by Lobbyists (Question No. 1215)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
What procedures exist within the Minister’s Department to record approaches made to staff by lobbyists.
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answr to the honourable senator’s question:
No formal procedures exist for recording approaches by lobbyists to the Department of Foreign Affairs. However, it is normal practice for officers of the Department to record all approaches of substance- whether from lobbyists or from other persons or organisations- on the appropriate departmental file.
Finance: Departmental Approaches by Lobbyists (Question No. 1218)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1 979:
What procedures exist within the Minister’s Department to record approaches made to staff by lobbyists.
– The Minister for Finance has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The nature of my Department’s functions is such that approaches to the Department by groups that might be termed ‘lobbyists’ are rare. To the extent that such approaches are made the procedure is for file notes to be recorded and /or for other appropriate action to be taken.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The number of prosecutions launched under the Social Services Act 1947 by type of pension/benefit and the number of successful prosecutions in the years ending (i) 30 June 1976; (ii) 30 June 1977; and (iii) 30 June 1978, are shown in the tables below:
DETAILS OF PROSECUTIONS UNDER THE SOCIAL SERVICES ACT
Year ended 30 June 1976
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 22 February 1979:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There is no outstanding amount known to the Department of Administrative Services.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 27 February 1 979:
Under what departmental vote were the expenditures of $250,000 and $146,841 made as payments to State railways in respect of the fitting-out and running costs of the Royal Silver Jubilee Exhibition Train, referred to in the Minister’s answer to Senate Question No. 1 30 (Hansard, 26 September 1978, page 954).
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Payments in respect ofthe Royal Silver Jubilee Train were made from the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Programme Trust Account.
The Silver Jubilee Commemorative Programme Trust Account was established by the Treasurer’s approval under
Section 62a of the Audit Act in order to record all revenue received and expenditure incurred on the program of events arranged by the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Year.
Amounts of $75,000 under Division 130/3/29 in 1976-77 and $425,000 under Division 130/3/13 in 1977-78 were appropriated for payment to the credit of the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Programme Trust Account. Other revenue, e.g. from admission charges, sale of catalogues, et cetera, was credited to the trust account and direct costs of the program events were paid from the trust account. As at 26 February 1979, total revenue received (including the appropriation of $500,000) amounted to $1,598,004.40 and total expenditure amounted to $ 1 , 576,6 1 1.6 1
In answering Question No. 130 on 26 September 1978 it was stated that $ 146,84 1 had been paid to Queensland Railways, Victorian Railways, Australian National Railways and Western Australian Government Railways. Subsequent investigations have revealed that this amount was obtained by adding actual payments to Australian National Railways and Western Australian Government Railways and estimated payments to Queensland Railways and Victorian Railways. Actual payments to these railway organisations in fact amounted to $142,435. In addition to the previously mentioned amount of $250,000, other payments totalling $33,376 were made to the Public Transport Commission of New South Wales.
Total payments to State and National Railways systems in respect of the Silver Jubilee Exhibition Train amounted to $425,811.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 27 February 1979:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 27 February 1979:
Mr Miller’s residence, Centennial Park, NSW;
Mr Miller’s offices initially at Kings Gate and subsequently at Westfield Towers; and
Mr Miller’s residence, Manilla, NSW.
Telephone accounts submitted to the Department of Administrative Services by Mr Harry M. Miller in respect of the positions referred to are as follows:
For the period 1 June 1978 to 16 March 1979 as Special Adviser, Bureau of International Exhibitions and Special Adviser, Bicentenary Celebrations-$ 10,427.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 1 March 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 6 March 1979:
– The Minister for Housing and Construction has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Specialised design and workload exceeding the Department’s internal capacity is undertaken by commercial consultant architects. In the event of the Department’s entry being successful, the Department would require additional back-up of commercial consultant resources to execute the Government’s Capital Works Program because the architectural resources of the Department of Housing and Construction are limited.
Unemployment Benefit: Reference by Minister for Finance (Question No. 1418)
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 7 March 1979:
Has the Minister checked whether the Minister for Finance gave any information to the Department of Social Security about the unemployed persons to whom he referred in the February 1979 issue of the Australian Liberal, since her undertaking to do so in the answer to a question asked in the Senate on 1 March 1979 (see Hansard, 1 March 1979, page 401 ); if so, did the Minister for Finance give any such information to the Minister’s Department.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Livestock Development Project in Vietnam (Question No. 1435)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 20 March 1979:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
Equipment had been purchased for the project:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 20 March 1979:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
Livestock Development Project- $4.3m. Dairy Products Factory Project- $3.2m.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 20 March 1979:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions: ( 1 ), (2) and (3) The value of bilateral food aid to Vietnam in 1978-79 was anticipated to be $2,101,000. This included an emergency shipment of 500 tonnes of rice (valued at $194,500) which arrived in Vietnam in February 1979. An allocation of 9,300 tonnes of flour (valued at $1,906,500) had also been envisaged but negotiations in respect of that allocation had not been completed when the Government decided on 23 January to suspend aid to Vietnam. No flour orders for Vietnam had been placed as of that date and no flour shipments had commenced.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 20 March 1979:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 20 March 1979:
What were the times of take-off or landing, as appropriate, for the 26 cases mentioned in part (2) of the answer to Senate Question No. 1 141.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The times of arrival and departure were: 15 December- 11.01, 11.12, 11.32, 11.38, 11.56; 17 December- 11.39; 18 December-1 1.15, 12.05 a.m.; 19 December- 12.02 a.m., 1.06 a.m.; 20 December- 1 1.32, 11.33, 12.10 a.m.; 21 December- 1 1.03, 11.14, 11.24, 11.29; 22 December-1 1.01, 11.08, 11.12, 11.14, 11.16, 11.17,11.19,11.23.
There were only two in-curfew jet movements on night of 19 December, not three as shown in the reply to Question No. 1141.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 27 March 1979:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
-On 2 1 March 1979, Senator Tate asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following supplementary question following my answer to a question without notice:
The Minister did not direct his mind to the latter part of my question. I asked whether the Government could consider providing aid to voluntary agencies operating within Eritrea in disregard of national boundaries which seem to be as satisfying to modern African dictatorships as they were to the old European imperialist powers?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government has already contributed $A 160,000 to international relief organisations to assist in resettling Eritrean refugees who have fled to eastern Sudan. In addition, it is considering the provision of up to 2,000 tonnes of wheat (valued, including freight, at SA 132. 000) to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to assist Eritrean refugees in the Sudan.
The Government believes that the provision of humanitarian assistance through international bodies working in the Sudan is the most appropriate and efficient means of helping Eritreans who have become refugees as a result of the conflict in Eritrea. Any future Australian aid which Australia might give will be channelled in this manner through international relief organisations working in the Sudan.
Treaty between Israel and Egypt
– On 29 March 1979, Senator Wheeldon asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following question without notice:
Does the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs not agree that the treaty signed this week by the President of Egypt and the Prime Minister of Israel is one of the most encouraging events in international relations for the past 30 years and that any efforts taken by any powers or parties to destroy this settlement, however many problems may remain unresolved, ought to be resisted vigorously? Will the Australian Government not confine itself to issuing statements of a general nature, supporting the treaty that has been signed, but in fact engage in an energetic campaign with those countries and in those international forums in which it has some influence to see that other countries also are made aware of Australia ‘s strong support for the principles of the treaty? Does the Minister not agree that if countries such as Australia do not take strong action on this matter the fragile peace that has been achieved could be destroyed, thus involving considerable danger not only for the countries of the Middle East but also for other countries, including Australia?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Government has welcomed the Egyptian/Israel treaty as an historic event not only in itself, but in the stimulus it will provide to bring about peace in the Middle East as a whole. The Prime Minister has made this clear in statements to Parliament and in personal letters to Presidents Carter and Sadat and Prime Minister Begin. There is, however, a full awareness on all sides that many problems remain. Other Arab states, whose participation in the peace process will be necessary if there is to be a lasting Middle East settlement, have yet to be persuaded that it would be in their interests to join the present negotiations.
Government policy has always been that the exact form of a Middle East settlement is a matter for the parties directly involved to decide. Complex negotiations on some of the key issues have not yet begun and, in a highly charged atmosphere at the moment, it would perhaps not be wise for us to take our position any further in the international public debate. Australia will, of course, not vote for any resolutions in international forums that are condemnatory of the new treaty and it will continue to hope that a solution to the Middle East dispute, based on the principles of UN Resolution 242 and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, can be achieved.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 April 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790405_senate_31_s80/>.