31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 295 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth: That in order to: - facilitate the development of the North of Australia - provide un all-weather rapid land transport system from north to south and vice versa - facilitate better defence of Northern Australia - provide improved transport for primary and mining products to southern markets - boost tourism
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Urge that the Federal Government give favourable consideration to proceeding forthwith with the completion of the construction of the North/South railway from Alice Springs to Darwin as a matter of priority.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-On behalf of Senator Melzer I present the following petition from 150 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twice-yearly pension adjustments in the Autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent t of average weekly earnings.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-On behalf of Senator Hamer I present the following petition from 147 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate’ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twice-yearly pension adjustments in the Autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 137 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twice-yearly pension adjustments in the Autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 149 citizens of Australia:
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments “that the lower level of inflation made twiceyearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Onceayear payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twiceyearly pension adjustments in the Autumn session.
Raise pensions and unemployed benefits above the poverty level to 30 per cent of average weekly earnings.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray.
– On behalf of Senator Missen I present two petitions from 22 1 and 15 1 citizens of Australia, respectively 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:
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twiceyearly payments inappropriate’ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Onceayear payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
Restore twiceyearly pension adjustments in the Autumn session.
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 arc 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 Young.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to repeal the Northern Territory Supreme Court Act 1 96 1 , and to provide for related matters.
Notice of Motion
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Judiciary Act 1903.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976.
– And you want the Senate to rise this week!
Notice of Motion
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Judges ‘Pensions Act 1968.
In response to the comments I heard, I assure the Senate that the Government does not intend to press for the passage in the current sittings of the legislation of which I have given notice today.
– I call the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt.
Government senators- Hear, hear!
– I detect a note of agitation on the Government side, Mr President. My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday in which he announced the Commonwealth Government’s intention to continue a moratorium on oil drilling in the Great Barrier Reef region until the results of long and short term research into the effects of oil drilling in the area are known. So that the people of Australia can be assured of the Government’s good intentions in this matter, will the Leader of the Government assure the Senate that in relation to negotiations presently going on between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government over control of territorial waters and submerged lands, until the results of the research to be undertaken by the Government are known, no decisions will be made that will give power to the Queensland Government or that will set up an authority by which the Queensland Government would be able to enforce its will to drill in the Great Barrier Reef region below the low water mark?
– I take this opportunity of welcoming back, however temporarily, the Leader of the Opposition and I note his migratory tendencies. The replies to Senator Wriedt ‘s questions lie totally and explicitly within the Prime Minister’s statement. His statement is quite clear. It is quite clear that the Government will not allow any drilling on the reef or in the vicinity of the reef, or any mining that will in any way affect the ecology of the reef. That goes without qualification. It applies to any action which the Federal Government will take.
– I ask the Minister a supplementary question. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister said that discussions with the Queensland Government were at an advanced stage, can he tell the Senate how the Government will enforce its decison if it transfers control of the territorial seas to that State?
-I will not deal with hypothetical questions at all. The Government has given an unconditional guarantee on the matter of the reef. As I understand it, the Prime Minister yesterday indicated that discussions on the Capricornia section- the first section to be dealt with- were at an advanced stage and that it was likely to be declared a marine national park in the near future. That will be done without qualification.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs by informing him that I received a telegram yesterday from the Aboriginal Community Council at Yarrabah, complaining that the Minister had ignored its request for certain information. If the claim is true, will the Minister give urgent attention to answering the questions raised by the Yarrabah Community Council?
– I also received a telegram yesterday in those terms from the Yarrabah Community Council. A member of the Press Gallery advised me this morning that a Press release in similar terms was issued by the Yarrabah Community Council either yesterday or today. I regret that the letter I sent to the Yarrabah Community Council on 31 May apparently had not reached the Council by 4 June when the telegrams were dispatched. The Yarrabah Community Council made a number of requests to me, including a request that I should have discussions with it before any decisions were taken with the Queensland Government on the matters which were raised with the Commonwealth Government as long ago as January. In my letter I indicated that I was seeking further talks with the Council and with Queensland Ministers and that I hoped we would be able to hold those talks with a view to taking to the next stage the discussions I am having with the Queensland Government at present.
Reference was made in the telegram to the employment of a project officer, a matter that I had discussed with the Council. My letter dealt with this matter and expressed my sympathy for the idea that the Council should employ such an officer and suggested that it should be dealt with in the same discussion. In fairness to the Yarrabah Community Council, I must say that I can understand its impatience. It addressed a request to me on behalf of the Commonwealth Government in January. That request raises major questions of policy between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. As a result it has been necessary to have extensive talks with the Queensland Government. I emphasise that one of the specific requests of the Yarrabah people was that we should have discussions with the Queensland Government. So, to that extent, we are carrying out the request. I am hopeful that the results of these discussions will be beneficial to all concerned- the Yarrabah people and the Commonwealth and Queensland governments.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday to the effect that the Commonwealth Government has decided that there will be no further exploration for petroleum in the Great Barrier Reef region until the results of both short and long term research are known. Will the Minister give an assurance that the region as now defined under the present Act will not be reduced or altered as a result of any negotiations with the Queensland Government or for any other reason?
– Yesterday’s statement was quite clear and quite unequivocal. Senator Button raises a question regarding the definition of the size of the Great Barrier Reef. I have no expert or particular knowledge on this matter. I certainly know of no intention by anyone to alter the definition of the size of the Reef but because there may be some particularities of expertise of which I do not know, I ask Senator Button to put the question on the Notice Paper and I will get an answer.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is there at present crippling dislocation of public transport in the State of New South Wales with trains not running, with a threat of a stoppage by Government bus employees and with the threat of yet another strike at the Caltex refinery, which endangers all road transport in New South Wales? With whom does responsibility for these services rest? If it is a State responsibility, can the Minister assure the Senate that the Commonwealth Government will monitor closely the mounting dislocation to community life in the State of New South Wales and that the Government will offer such assistance as it can to the Wran Government to help it to restore normal community functions?
– Leave the AWU State registration alone.
– You are exacerbating the situation.
– When something occurs in a Labor State it is surprising how there is great uproar to try to prevent the answer being given whereas in the case of a non-Labor State there is a decent silence. In fact, Mr President, the epitaph for New South Wales is: The rest is silence. The fact is, as Senator Baume says, that there is at this moment major dislocation on the industrial level in New South Wales. Some most serious hold-ups of public transport have occurred. Ministers and the Premier have been pleading, saying that they see no answer in the gloom, and offering no hope by way of practical action to relieve the gloom. They are completely devoid of policy in that regard.
– I raise a point of order. Both the disputes in question are subject to arbitration proceedings. It has been the custom in this Parliament, and in the Senate, to consider arbitration proceedings aimed at settling disputes in the same light as any other court action. I suggest that the answer of the Leader of the Government might be framed accordingly. These matters will be settled by conciliation and not by any attack in the Parliament.
-The fact of the matter is that there is a duty upon government to intervene in industrial matters in a variety of ways. The Government is not muted to silence when there is some conciliation or arbitration process functioning.
– I want to supplement the point of order raised by Senator Bishop. The Minister suggests that there are ways to intervene. If he or the Government proposes to intervene, that ought to be done at the official level, not as a debating point in this Senate. Mr President, I draw your attention to rulings that have been made in this regard in the past.
– The Minister has concluded his answer.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. After listening to the answer given by Senator Carrick to Senator Button, does the Attorney-General recall his leader, Senator Carrick, saying: ‘I know of no one who has any intention to alter the area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park’? Does the Attorney-General know of anybody who has that intention and, if so, who is it?
– I think that perhaps there is some confusion as to what we are talking about, as there always is here. Are we talking about the region as a whole, or not? There has been reference to both areas and regions. I have already indicated in answer to questions that there have been discussions with Queensland
Ministers in relation to the respective jurisdictions that would be exercised between Queensland and the Commonwealth Government in the light of the general discussions that have taken place with the States as to the exercise of State powers in the territorial seas. Those discussions are continuing. There will be further discussions with Queensland and, of course, there will be discussions at the Premiers Conference in relation to this matter. I take this opportunity to make clear- I hoped that I had made it clear in the debate in the Senate some time ago- that whatever relationship is settled upon between the States and the Commonwealth- and this includes marine parks generally and the activities of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in relation to the territorial sea of Queensland- as to the respective exercise of jurisdiction, the Commonwealth Parliament will at all times retain the full constitutional power, legal power, to exercise its ultimate will and control in relation to the matter of marine parks or, indeed, anything else.
The Senate must be familar with the fact that, under the Constitution, in most cases there are concurrent powers between the Commonwealth and the States. In other words, the States can exercise powers even though the Commonwealth Parliament has powers in those areas. But once the Commonwealth Parliament exercises a power, even though a State may have a power in the same area, by virtue of section 109 of the Constitution the Commonwealth’s power prevails. That is the position -
– That is not the question I asked.
– I am explaining the situation because Senator Wriedt has asked questions today that ] was afraid were based on a misunderstanding of what is the Commonwealth’s power and what will be the result of these discussions.
– I ask a supplementary question. I am sorry that there was some confusion on Senator Durack ‘s part in regard to my question. I was not talking about powers. I was asking him whether he has any knowledge of anyone who has any intention of altering the area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as defined under the relevant Act. I reminded him that his leader had said that he had no such knowledge. I am asking Senator Durack whether he has any knowledge of alterations to it and, if so, who are the people concerned.
-I take it that Senator Wriedt is asking me whether I have any knowledge of this matter, not whether Senator Carrick has any knowledge or ought to have any knowledge of it.
– In the discussions with Queensland there have been discussions in relation to this question. Senator Wriedt asked me several weeks ago what jurisdiction Queensland was wanting in this area. I said then and I say now that I am not prepared to disclose what discussions have taken place while those discussions are continuing. The discussions have taken place between Ministers. The result of those discussions has been reported back to the respective governments. The Commonwealth Government has decided what attitude it will take, but further discussions have to take place. Ultimately, the matter will be resolved at the Premiers Conference on 28 and 29 June. I ask Senator Wriedt and the Senate to wait until the Premiers Conference. After that conference these matters obviously will be the subject of public announcement.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. I refer to the large number of one person private motor vehicles which congest Canberra roads, particularly at peak periods. As the Government is concerned at the depleting oil reserves and the need for a strenuous national conservation program, will the Government consider encouraging motorists to use public transport by either providing free bus transport in the Australian Capital Territory or considerably reducing fares? Such a scheme ought to be contemplated for six months in order to make an assessment of this proposal as a useful conservation measure. Does the Minister agree that this would be a useful pilot scheme which could be emulated by the State governments should it demonstrate a significant saving of fuel?
-The honourable senator asks an important question in relation to the Australian Capital Territory. He may have been a participant at a number of Estimates committee meetings over the past years, where the matter of transport in Canberra, particularly the bus service in Canberra, has been the subject of argument. Members of Estimates Committees E and D, I think, will recall even Senator Wright’s putting a proposition of the exact nature that the honourable senator has proposed, namely, that some action should be taken to reduce fares, to establish a free bus service, or some concession in relation to public transport in Canberra. This is not a matter upon which I can comment accurately. I will direct the question to the Minister for the Capital Territory. I can see that it could be a very sound scheme. Were the public transport system in Canberra to be structured differently, it could assist greatly in the conservation of energy as well as assisting the transport system itself.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science and the Environment. Is it a fact that the University of Sydney intends to sell its ocean-going research vessel because it can no longer meet the running costs of the vessel? Did the University appeal to the Government for help in April of this year? In view of Australia’s new 200-mile marine economic zone, and the urgent need for research, when will a decision be made on this matter?
-My recollection of this matter is that the facts put forward by the honourable senator are correct. I received a letter, I think in April of this year, from Professor Harry Messel in which he offered the sale of a vessel which is at present, as I understand it, in one of the rivers in the Northern Territory; I think it is the Alligator River. The Sydney University is anxious to dispose of that vessel. My recollection is that the vessel is in as good as new condition, but the University of Sydney has found it impossible to meet the running costs of such as vessel. I think the honourable senator will agree that when capital expenditure is made by a university and a program is outlined by the university, it must be within the province of that university to conduct that work. That it is incapable of doing that at the moment is really the University’s own responsibility.
The honourable senator asks whether the Federal Government will consider purchasing this vessel for what may be called oceanographic or marine scientific research to be undertaken by the Commonwealth. My recollection of the specifications of the vessel is that it is for estuarine research. In fact it would not suit the general oceanographic or off-shore type of research that is needed. However, because of the type of work in which my Department is involved, with its responsibilities for the environment, particularly in the Northern Territory, under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act a vessel of similar type- but perhaps not as expensive to run as is this one- would be very useful for conducting research on fresh water crocodiles and other aspects of river estuaries. My understanding is that to the present time I have not received any advice from my Department as to whether it is capable of assisting the University of Sydney.
- Mr President, I direct my question to you. You may recall that on previous occasions I have suggested the striking of a parliamentary badge for senators and members of the House of Representatives, for both identification and security reasons, as is the practice in many parliaments overseas. Having taken up this matter, have you any further information that you can give to the Senate?
The PRESIDEN T- This matter has been the subject of investigation by Mr Speaker and me. At this point we have come to no firm decision on the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In the light of the reported disappointment being expressed by Third World countries at the lack of any substantial progress being made at the recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development meetings in Manila, will the Government be putting down a statement spelling out the results of the UNCTAD gathering as seen from the Australian point of view?
– I will refer that question to the Prime Minister and /or the Minister for Foreign Affairs and seek an answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that the Australian Wool Board, the Australian Wheat Board and the Australian Dairy Corporation have arranged jointly what they call a media meeting in Melbourne from 4 to 6 June 1 979? Is it also a fact that some nine interstate journalists, together with quite a large cross-section of Melbourne journalists were invited to attend the meeting? Is it a fact that the three statutory authorities have undertaken to pay all the costs, including the cost of two nights’ accommodation, air fares and other travel, a cocktail party and a special dinner for the journalists attending the meeting? If the foregoing is factual, what is the real purpose behind the media meeting? Has the Minister been consulted or informed in relation to this exercise in what appears to be an attempt to obligate the particular journalists? Is this action by three statutory authorities, which habitually neglect their accountability responsibilities to the Parliament by the late presentation of their annual reports, a reason to examine further their handling of public funds?
– On behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry I take the question on notice. I am not personally aware of the situation of these three statutory authorities and what they may be attempting in relation to any meeting with journalists. From the outline given by the honourable senator it appears that it will be an extremely expensive meeting, but it is not unusual these days for all types of bodies to think it wise that journalists should be given a proper briefing of the situation relating to a particular matter. I am unaware whether this event occurred or is to occur from 4 to 6 June- we are very close to that date- but I will refer the question to the Minister I represent and attempt to get a prompt answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Will the Minister give to the Senate as full and as wide a statement as possible on the establishment of a police inquiry into allegations that drug traffickers have had access to Narcotics Bureau computer printouts; the resignation and reinstatement of Mr Harvey Bates; and why the establishment of a police inquiry was not notified to the head of the Narcotics Bureau?
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, of course, has made several statements over the past few days with regard to most of the matters that Senator Cavanagh has raised. I think it should be noted that there is now to be a police inquiry into very serious allegations involving criminal offences concerning an unnamed officer in the Bureau. In those circumstances, it would not be desirable for any public statements to be made in relation to that particular type of inquiry. The reason for its being a police inquiry has been stated already. I saw that yesterday the Minister made a statement about the resignation and reinstatement of Mr Bates. However, I will refer the question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs to see whether there are any aspects of it which he has not covered already.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources seen a statement by the Saskatchewan Minister for Mineral Resources, in which he advocated the rapid development of the newly discovered uranium deposits in that province, saying: ‘If we don’t provide it you’re going to get some banana-State government supplying it that doesn’t have a non-proliferation agreement’? What effect will that development have on sales of Australian uranium in future years? Have the uranium producers in Australia sufficient long term contracts to safeguard our export situation, or have we, through procrastination and the actions of the knockers, lost for this country millions of dollars of export income?
-The Minister for Trade and Resources is aware of the uranium potential of Saskatchewan. Large discoveries of uranium have been made in that province of Canada. Canada, like Australia, has a strict safeguards policy and is vitally interested in the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, as we are in Australia. In recent years no contracts have been made for the export of Australian uranium. Exports are taking place, but they are being made pursuant to contracts entered into some years ago. The potential of the Saskatchewan deposits poses strong competition for future Australian supplies. Nevertheless, there remains a strong interest in Australian uranium as customer countries are anxious to diversify away from existing sources of supply. Despite recent incidents overseas, many countries remain dependent on nuclear energy and will become even more so.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I realise that the Minister may not have the information that I request, but if that is the case I ask that the information be made available before the parliamentary recess. I ask: Have visas been issued to Japanese entertainers to perform at the launching of the Yeppoon Iwasaki resort this month? Have visas been issued to any other Japanese citizens who will be employed at the Yeppoon launching? If so, how many visas have been issued, what are the conditions associated with those visas and was comment invited from the relevant trade unions before the visas were issued?
– It is extremely presumptuous for the senator from Queensland to think that I would not have information of that sort readily available to me! But on this occasion he is correct and I will have to seek the information from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I will try to get it this week.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, refers to methods of valuing assets, particularly land, by some finance companies in liquidity difficultiessuch as the recent case of Associated Securities Ltd- whereby interest rates and taxes are accumulated and added to the cost price of the land, thereby inflating that price to unreal levels which may not be recoverable. Is an accounting standard aimed at upgrading reporting procedures as to the balance sheet values of company assets to be discussed at a meeting of the Interstate Corporate Affairs Commission in Sydney tomorrow? Will decisions taken be binding on the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory corporate affairs commissions so that non-avoidable common accounting practices will be established in all parts of Australia?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
-Does the Minister for Science and the Environment recall advising me, in response to a question I placed on the Notice Paper, that between 1975 and 1977, of the 558 tests on final effluent being discharged into the Georges River from Commonwealth establishments in Sydney some 79 samples failed to comply with the bacterial and chemical standards of the New South Wales Clean Waters Act; and that a report will be forthcoming from the Department of Housing and Construction, to the Department of Transport on the environmental survey investigations being carried out at Bankstown aerodrome? Will the Minister direct his Department over the ensuing parliamentary recess to take a close and continuing interest in this matter to ensure that all steps are taken in the meantime to minimise the amount of effluent and waste discharge going into the Georges River from Commonwealth establishments?
-The answer to the honourable senator’s question in general is yes. I do recall his raising previously the matter of the discharge of polluted water into the Georges River. The core of the honourable senator’s question is that I should ask my Department over the parliamentary recess to look closely at the matter of the discharge of polluted water from Commonwealth establishments. I am quite surprised at the attitude of the honourable senator. I suppose I will have to check the facts at the conclusion of Question Time. My understanding is that the State of New South Wales has a quite reasonable pollution control board. I do not know whether it is called a board; at least I think New South Wales has regulations, or is it that that State works only on a policy?
– Make up your mind.
-That is the trouble; I am not too sure. But I am anxious to encourage the honourable senator because he obviously believes that New South Wales is incapable of doing just this. I would think that, if there were pollution in one of the rivers in New South Wales or if there happened to be pollution in any river in Australia, at this time the various State governments would be alert to that fact and would probably call on my Department at least to evaluate or analyse the water to find out what the polluting constituents were. I will establish that during the parliamentary recess.
I really think the core of the honourable senator’s question is whether anything can be done if pollution is coming from Commonwealth establishments. He is saying that if these establishments are polluting rivers in New South Wales they should be alerted to the fact and should take steps to see that that pollution is abated. I will take the honourable senator’s question on notice and look at it.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Bearing in mind the recent airline disaster and the resultant inspections and recognising that DC 10 aircraft are currently operating with two different power plants, namely, the General Electric CF6 and the Pratt and Whitney JT9D, has recent inspection shown any commonality in corrosion and fatigue cracks on engine pods, pylons and wing attachments per se, or just on those in use on one engine type? Have inspections shown any corrosion or fatigue cracking on other aircraft using underslung engines and /or the alternative Rolls Royce RB2 1 1 power plant or on engine pods, pylons or wing attachments supplied by any other manufacturer?
– 1 have some information on the matters raised by the honourable senator. The Minister for Transport advises me that airworthiness directives issued by the United States department concerned do not make any differentiation on the basis raised by the honourable senator in his question. In other words, they do not differentiate between the two engine types used on the aircraft. The inspections were concerned with the pylon to wing structure rather than the engine attachment to the pylon. Information is not available on the detailed findings in the inspections but there is no reason to believe that engine type would make any significant difference.
As to the second part of the question asked by the honourable senator, the Boeing 747 aircraft uses underslung engines but there are considerable differences between the mounting structure of that aircraft and that of the DC 1 0 aircraft. The airworthiness branch of the Department of Transport is closely monitoring further safety information being released as the investigation of the DC 10 Chicago crash proceeds. If any information becomes available the Department will ensure that, should any possibility arise that other types of aircraft are involved, any necessary action will be taken immediately.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, relates to proposed increases in air fares, of which we have had some reports. Is it correct that the Department of Transport is seeking an increase in the flag-fall component of the fare which, in fact, would mean a greater increase in respect of short hauls and a smaller increase in respect of long hauls? Does the Minister appreciate that, if this is established as a principle for fare increases in the future, centres around the country that are serviced by what are described as short haul routes will, over a period, be disadvantaged? I ask the Minister to consider particularly the impact that that could have on the Tasmanian tourist industry, especially that of the southern half of the State.
– I find it hard to believe that the sorts of adjustments that are contemplated would make any difference to the tourist traffic in Tasmania. The attractions of that State are so considerable that they even appear to be drawing Senator Wriedt back into State politics. That is a very adequate reflection of the beauties of the State of Tasmania. My understanding of the position is that in Australia less emphasis has been given to the distance component in assessing fares than to the flag-fall component. As a result, the fares over long haul routes, which usually should be cheaper, have been proportionately higher than in comparable countries. Indeed, I understand that in future further emphasis will be given to the flag fall component as against the mileage component in order to redress what has been an historical imbalance. I will have to seek a definitive reply from the Minister for Transport but it is certainly my understanding that, as Senator Wriedt has said, the balance between the two factors, flag fall and distance, is in future to be changed in favour of the long haul routes, which to date have been disadvantaged.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he recalls that Sir Robert Menzies refused to attend the 1966 Lagos Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference because he believed that its purpose was belligerence rather than peaceful cooperation. Does the Minister see any parallel between that situation and the coming conference in Lusaka, to be attended by the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser? Further, under what conditions will the Government now recognise the new regime in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia?
– I have but the vaguest of memories of the incident that the honourable senator asserted with regard to Sir Robert Menzies and therefore would not be able to comment upon it at this distance in time. However, I see no parallel, in terms of belligerence, between that meeting and the coming conference. As to the third part of his question, concerning the conditions of recognition, I think I should seek information upon them from my colleague in another place, and I will do so.
– My question is directed to the Ministers representing the Minister for Industrial Relations and the Minister for Transport. It is based on information which I have just received and whose accuracy I regret I have not yet been able to check. Because of the urgency involved, I ask that one of those two Ministers here communicate the information to both relevant Ministers in the House of Representatives. As I understand it, a new trade union, called the Airways Employees Association, has been formed in the airline industry, essentially as a breakaway of people employed in the airlines who formerly belonged to the Federated Clerks Union. It is small at the moment, with 1,500 members, and has not yet applied for or been granted registration, but the information I have received is that in the last two days up to 12 members, who are airline clerical staff, have been sacked by Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia without being given any reason. The only common denominator in the sackings appears to have been that the persons sacked have belonged to the new trade union. Further, persons who have been sacked have been told by officials of the Federated Clerks Union: ‘That will teach you a lesson not to form a breakaway trade union’. As I understand that there is already disputation and that strikes are either taking place or being threatened on this matter, will either Minister convey that information to both Ministers in the House of Representatives and ascertain whether there is any truth in it and, if so, whether appropriate action might be taken to prevent any further sackings for that alleged reason?
– I received a similar question yesterday from Senator Evans and I undertook to refer the matter to the Minister for Industrial Relations. As Senator Chipp has asked that it be conveyed also to the Minister for Transport, I will do that, too.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Bearing in mind that aviation fuel is becoming increasingly in short supply and that there are already in the outback instances of fuel not being available to aircraft, what action is being taken by the Government to ensure that Avgas- the lifeblood of reconnaissance and surveillance activities, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, aerial health facilities, and the daily supply of various commodities to isolated communities, including Aboriginal settlements, mining fields, homesteads, contractors, tourist organisations, et cetera- is kept in regular supply for these most necessary outback services and communities?
– Similar questions have been asked in the Senate in recent weeks. I really do not know that much more can be added to answers which I, and probably other Ministers, have given. In view of the importance of the matter, perhaps I should reiterate that the Minister for National Development is well aware of the problems. They are a direct consequence of the revolution in Iran and the partial closure of the Abadan refinery. The refinery of Mobil Oil Australia Ltd at Altona, which produces 40 per cent of Australia’s requirements, is working at full capacity. In addition, Mobil, BP Australia Ltd and the Shell Co. of Australia Ltd are endeavouring to find imports but, with the world supply being well below demand, cargoes are very difficult to find and the prices of the ones that can be found reflect the shortage. The Department of National Development is keeping a close watch on the situation and has endorsed the oil companies’ allocation systems to try to stretch stocks until a more normal supply situation can be established. However, to try to interfere with the oil industry’s distribution arrangements would merely lead to other inefficiencies. All I can add is that the Minister is taking a very close interest in the matter and will continue to do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, lt refers to the death in Melbourne recently of a 32-year-old Telecom technician whose death was diagnosed by a United States agency as being due to legionnaires disease. I ask: Is it a fact that both Federal and State authorities investigating this complaint received an opinion from the United States agency that the disease was due in part to the air conditioning system in one of the Telecom exchanges in Australia spreading bacteria? If so, what action is being taken by the Australian Government in respect of the matter and what precautions are being taken in respect of any other air conditioning system which might present the same hazard as that featured by the United States agency’s expert opinion?
– I have some information on the matter raised by the honourable senator but I do not think that it answers his question completely. I am advised that legionnaires disease is attributed to a bacterium- legionella pneumophilia- which is apparently acquired from environmental sources, such as dust or water. This infection was first recognised in the United States of America in an outbreak of severe respiratory infection in a group of legionnaires attending a conference in Philadelphia in July 1976. Since then, infections have been recognised in many countries and retrospective serological surveys have shown that it has been with us for a long time. The first Australian case was recorded in Sydney in 1978 and, since then, two other cases have been found. Limited serological studies have detected three other cases that have occurred in the past in Australia. It appears therefore that this is not related to the matters which the honourable senator has raised. However, it is a matter beyond my technical competence. I will refer the question to the Minister for Health for a more authoritative and definitive reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. On 4 June 1 976 the then Attorney-General in referring to the Ombudsman Act said:
A Deputy Ombudsman is to be designated to act in relation to . . . the Australian Capital Territory . . .
I asked about this matter in August last year and was informed that it was being examined. Is the Minister aware that recently Estimates Committee A found that the Capital Territory, primarily because it has no local or State government, has by far the highest relative rate of requests put to the Ombudsman as compared with the States? In view of this, can the Minister say whether action has now been taken to appoint a deputy ombudsman with specific responsibilities for the Capital Territory?
-I understand that the Minister responsible undertook to arrange for the Government to examine the existing arrangement of the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office with a view to determining whether it was appropriate at that stage for one of the two deputies to be designated as a deputy ombudsman for the Australian Capital Territory. Also, the Government indicated that consideration of the appointment of a deputy ombudsman comprehended questions of demand and resources and that therefore the advice of the Administrative Review Council would be sought. I inform the honourable senator that following the asking of questions similar to his the Prime Minister asked the Attorney-General to request the Administrative Review Council to provide its views on the designation of a deputy ombudsman for the Australian Capital Territory. I am advised that the Administrative Review Council ‘s recommendation on this matter is expected shortly.
– I wish to ask the Minister a supplementary question, Mr President. He referred to the question of demands and resources. In view of the fact that in the year 1978-79 the Australian Capital Territory had as many requests placed with the Ombudsman as did
Queensland and Western Australia, far more than South Australia, 15 times as many as Tasmania and proportionately far more than New South Wales and Victoria, can the Minister give an undertaking that the Administrative Review Council inquiry will be treated as a matter of urgency and that the Government will make an early decision with respect to a deputy ombudsman specifically for the Australian Capital Territory?
-I will bring those viewpoints and the request to the attention of the relevant Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Did the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs several years ago cut corners in accelerating citizenship acquisition to several members of an Australian national soccer team competing in South East Asia? As a consequence did it inform Sir Arthur George, the Australian Soccer Federation President, and other senior officers of the basic provisions of the Migration Act and the Australian Citizenship Act in order to avoid a repetition of this situation? Does the potential membership of the Australian national soccer team include a number of people who do not have Australian citizenship? Was the ambit of sportsmen’s visas explained to the Australian Soccer Federation? What is the present position? Is consultation occurring between the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Australian Soccer Federation?
- Senator Mulvihill asks a series of questions, some of which are very specific and which I am not able to answer in detail. However, I have available a fair amount of general information in this area, some of which I can give him as it is relevant to the matter which he has raised. I am advised that the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has, whenever possible in the past, taken action to assist the processing of applications for Australian citizenship, including those from sportsmen. Every assistance will be given in the future to people who qualify to apply for Australian citizenship. Two of the basic requirements to be met at present for the grant of Australian citizenship are that applicants have the status of resident of Australia and have resided here for three years. Provision has recently been made for the granting of resident status where applicants are outstanding sportsmen here as temporary residents whose continued stay in Australia will contribute to the advancement of their sport in this country and who generally meet the standards applicable to migrant entry.
The Australian Citizenship Act allows the Minister discretion to exempt people from the normal 3-year residence requirement only if they are under 2 1 years of age, are married to or are the widow or widower of an Australian citizen, or were formerly Australians. People who were legally admitted to Australia on a temporary basis and who later became residents may count the entire period of their time spent in Australia towards the residence requirement for citizenship. Applications may be lodged by permanent residents after they have been in Australia for V/i years. The Department is not aware of any approach in recent times from the Australian Soccer Federation concerning Australian citizenship. I cannot say whether, at the earlier time mentioned by Senator Mulvihill, the particular approach that he mentioned was made.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. The dilemma of the Australian Soccer Federation was featured in most capital city newspapers on Friday and over the weekend. Am I to understand that neither the Minister, senior officers nor anybody else has had any consultation with Sir Arthur George or that he has not telephoned the Department to admit that apparently he has not done his sums properly?
– I can only say what I said a moment ago, and that is that the information I have is that the Department is not aware of any approach in recent times from the Australian Soccer Federation. That note may have been overtaken by events in the last few hours but that is comparatively recent information. I will certainly seek a response on the specific matters raised by the honourable senator and let him have a reply as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education. In view of the fact that the report of the Williams Committee on Education, Training and Employment is likely to be widely used for reference for some years to come, will the Minister consider directing that an index be prepared and published to accompany the three existing volumes of the report?
-I think that this is a valuable suggestion. As the honourable senator knows, the report consists of some 1,500 pages. There are many needs for cross references. I will bring the matter to the attention of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the responsible people to see what can be done.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, deals with a matter which I have raised at Question Time and which has been the subject matter of voluminous correspondence. When will the Government honour its election undertaking to extend Service pensions and repatriation benefits to eligible Allied ex-servicemen? The personnel the Government had in mind were those who are eligible for British campaign medals- particularly Polish ex-servicemen?
– I will have to take that question on notice and seek a reply from the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, relates to the excise on brandy and other Australian spirits. Will the Government be in a position before the end of this month to announce changes anticipated by wine and brandy growers and by many senators- the first concerning a reduction in the absolute level of excise, given the acknowledgment by the Treasurer of the severe shortfall in the effects of the amendment brought about in the last Budget, and the second concerning the differential in favour of Australian spirits being applied to the post-excise comparison of spirit prices so that the differential is very substantial rather than being the few cents to which the present application would lead?
– I appreciate the interest of Senator Teague, as a South Australian, in the brandy grape growers and their problems. The two questions he asked appear to me, upon reflection, to relate to budgetary policy matters. Therefore, I cannot comment on them. I will bring them to the Treasurer’s attention and seek any response that he may be able to make at this time.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to the answer to Question No. 953 which I put on notice on 24 October 1 978. 1 remind the Minister that in part the question read:
Did this channel offer the series to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for televising in areas not covered by the commercial channel.
I was referring to channel 9 and the rugby league telecasts. The answer given was no. I ask the Minister to check to see whether that is correct, because 1 have it on authority that the series was offered free of charge to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If it was offered free of charge, will he look into the possibility of making arrangements for rugby league and test cricket matches to be televised to people in areas not covered by the commercial channel?
– I will certainly examine that matter with all possible speed.
– I hope you haven’t misled the Senate.
– I certainly hope that I have not misled the Senate, too. I have a distinct tight feeling around the collar. But in any event I will very quickly obtain a reply for Senator Robertson.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In answer to a question on 8 May I was told that the Tasrail consortium has been advised that because of Federal and State legislation a sale cannot be negotiated. I ask the Minister not to close the issue at this point but to open discussions to ascertain whether it is possible to produce a proposition that would improve employment possibilities, increase the service and show some improvement in the current financial affairs of the railway; and then to decide whether that proposition is possible and whether new legislation may be desirable.
– 1 am sure that the Government would be interested in any proposition that would improve employment possibilities, increase the service and show improvement in the current financial affairs of the Tasmanian railways. In that respect the question is very reasonable. My advice is that there is an offer to take over from the Australian National Railways the provision of railway services in Tasmania. It was received by the Government at the end of last month. It is currently being examined by the Department of Transport. At this stage the matter cannot be taken any further.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Perhaps more properly it should be directed to the Minister for Science and the Environment. Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether it is a fact that a facility receiving signals from Omega bases in Norway, Liberia, Hawaii, Dakota, La Reunion, Argentina, Trinidad and Japan, has been operating on an island off the coast of Queensland for approximately 12 years? Is that facility equal to the Omega base to be established at Darriman in Victoria and will the Queensland base be phased out when the Victorian base commences operation? Has the Queensland facility been used to contact American nuclear bombers or polaris submarines? Why was the existence of the Queensland base hidden from the Australian public? Is the Queensland facility monitored by representatives of the defence Services or the Department of Science and the Environment? Who pays the salaries of Professor Whitehead, Mr William From and Dr Jim Crouchley, who I understand are associated with the facility? Does the base have any reason for existence apart from receiving Omega messages? Does the base transmit messages? Finally, is a guard maintained on the base? If the answer is in the affirmative, who provides the guard?
-Of course, all those who know what the Omega system is- including all members of this Parliament’s Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and all those who read its report- would know that the whole of Senator Keeffe ‘s question is based on a completely fundamental error. Omega stations do not send messages and, indeed, they cannot contact nuclear submarines or any other kind of submarine. The fact of the matter is that there are Omega stations in eight places around the world so that at any one point a vehicle, be it a ship or an aircraft, can get a triangulation. Time phase signals from three of these stations can be received at any time by a computer on the vehicle and the location of that vehicle, whether it be a ship or an aircraft, can be determined by the simplest triangulation method. There is no sending of messages by Omega stations. There is no link between Omega stations and intercontinental ballistic missile submarines, as the report of the Joint Committee indicated. The suggestion is a fallacy in itself. Any operating station can turn itself off at any time. As anyone who knows anything about defence matters would know, it would be silly to rely on Omega signals for defence, because an ordinary electrical storm can alter the signal and a nuclear flare can alter the signal. It is clear that all scientists say that Omega has no defence significance at all. I know of no station of any kind at all on any island off Queensland. I certainly do not know of any Omega station there. As I understand it, and as Senator Primmer might understand it from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, it would be completely wrongly based in that area, because the Australian station had to be placed as far south as reasonably possible to get the correct triangulation. I will refer the remainder of the question to the Minister concerned and seek his reply.
– I have a supplementary question. I am delighted to know that the Minister is an expert on Omega, but could I just ask him to reply to that section of my question in which I referred to the existence of this base? Is there a secret base operating on an island off the Queensland coast? Is it a fact that it does receive Omega messages?
– I have no knowledge at all of any such base. I could not imagine what use it would be to anybody to receive Omega signals. After all, they are simply time phase signals. I will seek the information.
– by leave- Very recently my attention was drawn to an article on the leader page of the Sydney Morning Herald of 2 June 1979. It is headed ‘Reef decision takes the pressure off Webster’ and carries the by-line of Paul Ellercamp, Canberra Parliamentary Reporter. I make no comment on the great body of the report, but I do wish to read these paragraphs:
The confrontations in the Senate were often acrimonious, and in a confidential remark across the table of the Senate two weeks ago. the Senate Opposition Leader, Senator Wriedt, told Senator Carrick that if the Government sacked Senator Webster, then it would allow all Government legislation through the Senate without undue delay.
Otherwise the Opposition would stall as much as possible, especially when Senator Webster was Minister on duty in the chamber.
According to Opposition sources. Senator Carrick laughed at Senator Wriedt ‘s proposal.
I say without qualification that there is absolutely no truth at all in that piece of writing. No such conversation ever occurred. Nothing in the nature of that conversation ever occurred at all. No such suggestion has ever been made to me. The only truth is that I sometimes laugh, and there is of course the fact that had that suggestion been made to me I would have laughed most heartily.
– by leave- I wish to concur with every word that Senator Carrick has said. I saw the article myself, after having had my attention drawn to it, but because of other matters on my mind of recent days I had forgotten about it. I am glad he has raised it. There is absolutely no truth in it. Obviously leaders must at times confer across the table on procedural matters and make fairly quick decisions as to how the business of the chamber is to be conducted. But in relation to the matters mentioned in that article, I am sure that I would never be a party to that sort of discussion across the table, and I am sure that neither would Senator Carrick.
– I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in my gallery of Sir Robin Vanderfelt, who is the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, London. He is accompanied by Mr James Brown, M.P., who is the Australian Regional Representative of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. We tender to you honourable gentlemen a very warm welcome to our chamber.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
-At Question Time yesterday Senator Wheeldon asked me a question about seismic activity and the earthquake in Western Australia. Though in comparison with neighbouring countries Australia is not a land of high seismicity, the distribution and frequency of seismic events is carefully monitored by the Bureau of Mineral Resources in collaboration with a number of other operating agencies- notably universities and State Government authorities. Altogether there are about 45 seismograph stations throughout Australia, eight of them being in Western Australia. These are all continuous recording stations using a variety of instruments to measure the various components which make up each seismic event. The stations in Western Australia are well distributed, being sited at Kununurra, Marble Bar, Meekatharra, Warburton Mission, Kalgoorlie, Narrogin and Mundaring. The records- -seismograms- from all these stations are interpreted at BMR’s Geophysical Observatory at Mundaring near Perth.
Patterns which emerge from these observations have been used to compile an earthquake risk map of Australia which zones the country on the basis of the probable frequency of damaging earthquakes. The CadouxManmanning Wongan Hills region of Western Australia lies in Zone 1 which implies an expectation of a damaging earthquake once, on average, in sixty years. Such a map is not intended for use in forecasting the likely imminence of a damaging earthquake. Its value lies in indicating the areas where degrees of earthquake resistance need to be included in building design and, almost equally important economically, those areas where a high level of protection is not needed.
Recently a technique which measures stress in the upper crust of the earth has been applied by BMR in collaboration with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in parts of Australia, including both the Cadoux and Meckering areas. In 1976 the stress measured in rocks about five metres below the surface near Cadoux was equivalent to that normally found at a depth of nearly one kilometre 23 MPa. By contrast the stress near Meckering was only five MPa, which suggests that stress had been relieved by the 1 968 earthquake which occurred therere-measurement of the stress near Cadoux may help to prove whether stress measurements can be used to indicate the risk of an earthquake. Earthquake prediction has nowhere been perfected but BMR examines all reports of experiments in this direction.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1978-79.
Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1978-79.
Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill ( No. 2 ) 1 979.
Income Tax ( Mining Withholding Tax ) Bill 1 979.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 97 of the Legal Aid Ordinance 1977 I present the annual report of the Legal Aid Commission, Australian Capital Territory, for the period 1 1 July 1977 to 30 June 1978.I remind the Senate that I tabled an interim report in virtually the same terms on 4 April 1 979.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the
Trade Practices Consultative Committee on the operation of the Trade Practices Act in relation to primary production in Australia.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note or the report.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on acetyl products; oxo alcohols, butyl acetates, etc.; and vices.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the text of a statement on World Environment Day 1 979 and what it means for Australia.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the report of the Domestic Air Transport Policy Review. Honourable senators will recall that in October last year the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) presented parts 1 and 2 of the Review to the Parliament. Part 1 covered trunk route services and the twoairline policy and Part 2 covered regional and local commuter air services. Those parts have now been consolidated into Volume I and the appendices to the Review’s report have been consolidated into Volume II.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 41 of the Australian National Railways Act 1917,I present the annual reports of the Australian National Railways Commission for the years ended 30 June 1976 and 30 June 1977, together with a copy of a covering letter from the
Chairman of the Commission. The reports contain an explanation as to why their presentation was delayed. Essentially, that was because of problems associated with amalgamating the accounts of the former Commonwealth railways system and the two transferred State rail systems. A further delay resulted from publication difficulties, as explained in the Chairman’s letter.
Motion (by Senator Rae)- by leave- agreed to:
That the reports of the Australian National Railways Commission for 1975-76 and 1976-77, together with a copy of a covering letter from the Chairman of the Commission, bc referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations for investigation and report as to the delay in the presentation.
– With considerable pleasure and for the information of honourable senators, I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) on a reduction in certain categories of telephone call charges across Australia.
-by leave- I move:
The Opposition welcomes the reductions in telephone call rates which have just been announced, which will affect people in rural areas and outlying areas of our major cities. The past charging structure of the Australian Telecommunications Commission for those areas has been a matter of concern to the Opposition. The Opposition is aware that the high cost of calling a local centre at trunk rates in thinly populated regions of rural Australia has compounded the disadvantages suffered by country dwellers. In metropolitan regions, people living in the new outer suburbs and satellite towns have been penalised by having to pay trunk rates for calls to the metropolitan centre.
We welcome the fact that Telecom belatedly has recognised those shifts in population and has accepted that many people living in outer metropolitan zones make the majority of their telephone calls, whether for business or social purposes, to numbers in the metropolitan zone. That recognition is welcome. But the 9c timed call from outer zones to the metropolitan zone may have dangers which should be noted. It is rather contradictory that calls from those outer zones are recognised as local calls and charged at 9c and are then timed to three minutes. Local calls for 9c within the metropolitan centre are not timed. I ask: Is this timing of the 9c call to be the beginning of the introduction of timing for all local calls? If that is the case, Telecom and the Government ought to state their policy clearly.
Also, the new charging structure for rural areas recognises an economic fact of life, namely, that high charges have been a positive disincentive to greater use of the telephone network. As with the reduction in the cost of off-peak trunk calls announced by Telecom last year, we may well see a significant increase in marginal revenue without an increase in average costs to Telecom. If that is so, it is a rational policy for a public utility to pursue, namely, that the fullest use of the publicly-funded telephone network should be encouraged by imposing the lowest possible charges on the telephone user. As the sole common carrier of telephone and telecommunications traffic in Australia, Telecom is well able to pursue such pricing policies.
The Opposition trusts that Telecom will be allowed by this Government to pursue policies of lower charges to the telephone user whether in rural or metropolitan areas. But that ability is seriously prejudiced by the proposal now before this Government to bring a domestic satellite into the Australian network and to have that satellite owned by a separate statutory authority. Such an ownership arrangement would broach Telecom ‘s monopoly and allow a satellite authority to ‘cream skim’ traffic from Telecom in the lucrative growth areas of data, telex and fas.cimile transmission. Without those growth areas average costs would rise and the telephone users, rural or metropolitan, would be left to bear higher- not lower- charges.
If the Government is committed to ending the tyranny of distance’ within Australia it should ensure that the telecommunications network remains wholly publicly owned under the statutory authority best able to manage it- that is, Telecom. We might then be able to see further reductions in charges and a more equitable distribution of Telecom’s vast surplus- last year it was $ 180m- amongst the Australian community. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-I seek leave to table further additional information received by Senate Estimates Committee A.
– I table the additional information and seek leave for it to be incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered. Standing Order 68 be suspended for the remainder of this period of sittings.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That Government Business, Order of the Day No. I (Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill 1979) bc postponed till after the consideration of Government Business, Order of the Day No. 2 (National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill 1979).
– This is the first time I have had any indication of this change in the order of business, and I oppose it.
– It is on the business list.
– lt is on the Notice Paper as No. 2.
– It is on the document entitled ‘Order of Business ‘ as No. 1 ; it is on the red as No. 1.
– I am sorry. When I gave a report to the party this morning I saw that the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill was slotted No. 2. Obviously the order has been changed. One of our problems, of course, is that the matter has not been determined in our party room. For that reason we have called an urgent meeting of the relevant committee to determine our approach to this legislation and to make our arrangements for the debate. I am sorry that I have allowed myself to be misled- which is a polite way of putting it in accepting the blame- but in the interim Notice Paper that I saw this morning that Bill followed the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill 1979. As honourable senators will realise, substantial debate on that Bill will give us sufficient time to make our arrangements.
– by leave- On the understanding that the Opposition will assist the Government to achieve the disposal of its business today, and on what has been indicated by Senator Georges, I would be willing to move that the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill 1979 take precedence, so that the Australian Labor Party can hold its meetings. However, I indicate that the
Government intends today to get through the business that is on the business sheet. It is necessary that the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill go to the House of Representatives and be passed there this week. Under such circumstances, I seek an assurance that the business set down for today will be completed.
Senator GEORGES ( Queensland )-by leave- The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) has extended the proposition. I do not know whether we can accept that all of the business on the business sheet can be completed today. We can give an assurance that, for the reasons given, we will expedite the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill. We understand that it is necessary, since the Bill originates here, that it go to the House of Representatives this week. That is accepted. But if part of the arrangement is that the whole of the business on the business sheet be completed today then we cannot give that assurance unless we are expected to sit until about 3 or 4 o ‘clock tomorrow morning.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)- by leave- I regret that any misunderstanding has occurred. What I am saying is purely this: I want to facilitate the opportunity for the Australian Labor Party to take the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill to its Caucus. Equally, I want to get that Bill through today so that it can go to the House of Representatives. I want by tonight at least to have placed before the Senate the income tax Bill and the national park Bill, and I would hope to make substantial progress in relation to the other matters. With that understanding, I seek leave to withdraw my previous motion.
Motion- by leave- withdrawn.
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 have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Customs Act 1901 to provide a better statutory framework within which to attack the organisers of the illicit drug trade in Australia.
Mr President, many of the measures contained in the Bill are severe, but the Government makes no apology for their severity. The Government has taken the decision to enact these measures only after careful consideration of all possible alternatives. They are justified because drug trafficking is a major social problem in Australia at the present time and the menace which they are designed to tackle is of the greatest concern to all Australians. The drug trade is organised in a totally immoral fashion. Profit is the only consideration to the participants and the end always justifies the means. To fight this trade and fight it within a democratic framework and within the rule of the law the Government needs special powers; powers that are not normally granted to law enforcement generally. I am sure that most of the honourable senators present here today have, at one time or another, had to concern themselves with some pathetic cases of human deprivation brought about by the abuse of narcotic drugs. Tragically, more often than not, these cases involve the younger members of our community.
The measures contained in this Bill are not directed against the victims of the drug traffic, for whom I am sure we all have the greatest sympathy and concern. They are directed against the real problem- the unscrupulous people who organise and profit from illicit trafficking in narcotics. There can be no sympathy for the organisers and distributors of illegal drugs. These persons commonly maintain a distance between themselves and the users of drugs and amass vast fortunes from this miserable trade. The Bill contains provisions that will enable officers of customs investigating drug offences to obtain, in specified circumstances, a warrant for the use of a listening device to overhear personal conversations. These warrants are to be authorised by the judiciary and safeguards have been included in the Bill to ensure that they will only be requested when there is objective evidence or reason to believe that conversations being overheard are related to persons involved in, or places being used for, narcotics offences. The use of listening devices will be directed particularly against the organisers of the drug trade. Until now, the backroom nature of the involvement of the organisers has made investigation, and subsequent proof in the courts, virtually impossible. These organisers have hitherto been substantially untouched by the law. The Government believes that by careful use of a power to authorise listening devices, investigators will be able to break down the walls currently protecting this inner circle. It is also one of the best methods available to safeguard the lives of officers engaged in the hazardous task of penetrating drug trafficking groups through undercover operations. I am sure that honourable senators will appreciate that the lives of these men are always at risk.
The authorisation of listening devices by this Bill is not new to Australian law. At the present time five States of Australia authorise the use of listening devices by warrant in major criminal investigations. Commonwealth narcotics investigators can presently be authorised to use listening devices in four of these States in relation to the investigation of drug offences. From time to time they have been granted such warrants with devastating effects.
In addition, on 29 May 1979 leave was granted to introduce legislation into the Senate which will authorise, in carefully defined circumstances, the issue of a warrant for the interception of telephonic communications being used in connection with the commission of drug offences. It is a matter of fact that officers of Customs investigating particular narcotic offences have time and again been aware of telephone conversations by drug couriers with unidentified persons to whom these couriers report. The Government considers that its investigative resources would be much more penetrating if they could more easily identify those presently-unidentified persons.
As I earlier stated, the only consideration of drug traffickers is profit. The trade will continue to flourish while the law protects the property rights of traffickers derived from these profits. In 1977 the Government commenced to attack these profits. In that year this Parliament enacted a law providing for the forfeiture and seizure of certain limited categories of money and goods acquired from drug trafficking. This law has been helpful. In the past year drug enforcement officers have seized moneys and goods involved in drug trafficking exceeding many millions of dollars in value. But sadly, by comparison, this is mere pocket money for these people who are highly sophisticated businessmen with the best possible legal advice. The profits from the dealings in illicit drugs are normally dispersed into land, stocks and shares, options and negotiable instruments- in short, into all the instruments of modern commerce. Mr President, I have already mentioned that the provisions enacted in 1977 have had a significant impact. However they have proved to be inadequate to deal with the sophisticated asset accumulations. The measures I now introduce provide for a scheme designed to deal with sophisticated methods of disposing of- what is often called ‘washing’- the profits of illegal drug trafficking. These provisions will, with the support of the Senate, enact a new division into Part XIII of the Customs Act- entitled Recovery of Pecuniary Penalties for Dealing in Narcotic Goods’. The essential objective of this extremely complex proposed law is, through proper civil court proceedings, to empower the Federal Court of Australia to order against a person a pecuniary penalty equivalent to the benefit derived from dealings in illicit drugs. During the legal proceedings for a pecuniary penalty, it is apparent that there would be many opportunities for a defendant to dispose of any or all of his assets. Clearly, if the Government’s intention to deprive persons of these assets is not to be thwarted, there must be laws preventing the dissipation of assets for the duration of the proceedings. Accordingly, the Bill contains provisions designed to ‘ freeze ‘ the assets of persons until the substantive proceedings are completed before the court. These measures providing for a pecuniary penalty are in the forefront of similar developments overseas. However other countries are moving in this direction- in some cases following the precedent of this Bill.
But the Government has not only been concerned with law enforcement powers. It has equally been concerned with deterrents. In 1977 penalties applicable to drug offences were substantially increased. That amendment increased the penalties for offences involving drugs other than Cannabis leaf to a maximum fine of $100,000 and-or 25 years imprisonment. The penalty for offences involving Cannabis leaf remained at a maximum fine of $4,000 and-or 10 years imprisonment. However, since these penalties were enacted in 1977 a new phenomenon has emerged. Illegal drug importations in vast quantities, hitherto unknown on the Australian drug scene, have been detected. During 1978 several such importations were intercepted. Drugs valued at many millions of dollars- in one case approximately $70m- were involved. In the light of this development the Government considers that it must again, and urgently, review the scale of penalties for drug offences.
This Bill introduces an additional penalty to deal with such large-scale drug importations. It provides for a penalty relating to ‘commercial’ quantities of all types of drugs- that is, a quantity of approximately one thousand times the amounts specified in the 1977 legislation as a traffickable quantity. Mr President, in the very exhaustive consideration given to the Bill in the other place, there was a large measure of consensus in relation to it. There were a number of amendments which the Government supported. However there were some which the Government could not accept.
For the benefit of honourable senators I will now mention three issues which were of concern to certain honourable members in the other place. One issue was the possible use of a listening device to overhear conversations that, under certain conditions, may be considered to be privileged. In this regard I will repeat the comments made in the other place by my colleague, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife):
The ability to obtain a warrant to overhear a lawyer-client conversation depends entirely upon the judge issuing the warrant. Clearly a judge will not authorize a listening device to be used in relation to a lawyer or his premises unless either his relationship with a particular person or the use of his premises is an integral part of the illegal behaviour itself.
It would be inconceivable that the Crown would seek, or that a judge would issue, a warrant to overhear conversations relevant to a lawyer acting solely in his professional capacity for a person suspected of a narcotics offence. As to the question of whether a privilege exists to protect a conversation between lawyer and client, I am advised that that privilege merely extends to enable the lawyer to refuse to give evidence about the conversation. The privilege docs not attach to any third person giving evidence of those matters and accordingly the question does not arise in relation to the Bill before the House. An officer of Customs giving evidence of a communication between a lawyer and client is not under any restraint now with respect to that evidence, nor docs this Bill change the law in that respect.
However, with a view to clarifying this position the Government successfully moved an amendment to the Bill in the other place to make it quite clear to a court that it may refuse to permit information gained through the use of a listening device to be given in evidence when to do so would be unfair to the defendant.
A second matter related to the use of information obtained, as a result of the use of a listening device, in evidence in a proceeding in a prosecution involving an offence- other than a narcotics offence- against the law of the Commonwealth or of a State or territory punishable by imprisonment for life or for a period or maximum period of not less than 3 years. The Government felt that it would be acting totally irresponsibly if in the course of the lawful use of a listening device, a fact relevant to the commission of a serious offence- such as murder or an act of terrorism- is overheard, it did not pass that fact on to the relevant authorities and, where appropriate, use it in a prosecution. I note that this chamber was of the same mind when it passed similar measures in relation to the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization Bill 1979.
Thirdly, concern was raised in connection with the proposed evidentiary provision (proposed section 243D) relating to the recovery of a pecuniary penalty. It is the view of the Government that this is an area in which the law must be practical and provide some presumption of fact rebuttable by persons who have been innocently associated with drugs. The whole process relating to actions for the order of a pecuniary penalty is under the control of the Federal Court of Australia and contains provisions for persons to address the court on any relevant matter. To accept the propositions put forward in the other place would have the effect of deleting the elements of the reverse onus of proof, which is not uncommon in many examples of existing criminal law.
Finally, the Bil! seeks to tidy up several important technical matters that are now pressing. First, it amends the present provisions of the Customs Act dealing with personal body searches, to ensure that when an internal search is necessary, the responsibility for that search is placed solely in the hands of qualified medical practitioners. Second, the Bill provides for a specific offence of conspiracy in relation to drug offences. In addition to completing the natural armoury of offences in this area, the inclusion of this particular offence will significantly improve the investigatory powers relating to narcotics offences.
Mr President, the Government considers the measures in this Bill to be a very important tool in the fight against illegal drug trafficking into Australia. I state again that no apology is made for their severity. Because drug trafficking in Australia has developed in such a bullish manner the Government believes that it has no option but to face the menace head on, armed with a law enforcement capacity superior to the threat posed.
I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
That the Poker Machine Control (Amendment) Ordinance 1979, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 7 of 1 979, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 19 10, be disallowed.
I do this for a number of reasons. Firstly, it represents a dramatic change from the present arrangement, for which 63 per cent of the voters in the Australian Capital Territory voted last November. As honourable senators will recall, at that time a referendum was held on the question of self-government. One of the options that was put to the voters of the Australian Capital Territory was that of retaining the present arrangements. The present arrangements included a provision whereby 10 per cent of the profits from poker machines in Australian Capital Territory clubs were to be allocated to local charitable, welfare and community organisations by the Legislative Assembly, the elected body of the Australian Capital Territory. That was quite clearly and unambiguously a part of the arrangements which prevailed last November at the time of the referendum on self-government. It was for those very same arrangements, including the arrangements whereby the Legislative Assembly disbursed the poker machine profits, that 63 per cent of voters in the Australian Capital Territory voted.
It is a very serious dereliction of duty on the part of the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) to ignore the express wishes of 63 per cent of voters in the Australian Capital Territory. He put to them a number of propositions. They have voted for one of them and now, retrospectively, he has changed the arrangements for which they voted. That is the first, and perhaps the most significant reason why I have moved for the disallowance of this ordinance.
I would point out too that the method by which the Minister chose to introduce the ordinance was extremely suspect and improper. The Minister decided to withdraw this power from the Legislative Assembly, without consulting it or giving it, as the elected body of the Australian Capital Territory, any notice of his intentions in the matter. As a consequence, a very lengthy and heated debate took place in the local Assembly. The result was a unanimous call by the Assembly for disallowance of the ordinance. That is another reason I have moved for its disallowance today. Unlike the Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Ellicott, unlike Government members and senators generally in this place, I do not disregard a call from the locally elected body. In particular, I do not disregard a call from the locally elected body when it is unanimous and so clearly based injustice and right. The Legislative Assembly opposed unanimously the ordinance that is before us and called upon all honourable senators to vote for its disallowance. As a senator representing the Australian Capital Territory, I am prepared to heed its call and so I have moved this motion today.
A third and very serious reason for my opposition to this ordinance is that it is undemocratic and arbitrary in nature. We do have elected local representatives of the Australian Capital Territory. In fact, it will not have escaped the notice of honourable senators that we have now a newly elected body of people representing the Australian Capital Territory, of which the majorityprobably the vast majority- will be Labor Party members. I just say in passing that it is quite clear that it is the Australian Labor Party- not Government Minister, members or senatorswhich in the Australian Capital Territory has the confidence of the local electors.
The fact remains that we have a locally elected body which ought to be able to express the wishes of the people who elected it in matters such as the disbursement of poker machine funds. It is a retrograde step, in what is supposed to be a democratic system, that the rights of a properly and democratically elected body to make decisions with regard to local community organisations should have been taken away arbitrarily and placed in the hands of the Minister himself. Even though he is not elected by the people of the Australian Capital Territory he will now make all the decisions about the disbursement of poker machine funds to local charities and organisations. He has, I suggest, no genuine, ongoing interest in what happens to the various community and welfare organisations in this Territory. Despite this undemocratic situation, he has decided simply to take the money in question- we are talking about a substantial amount of approximately $2m a year- unto himself and allocate it as he chooses, in absolute opposition to the wishes of the locally elected body. So his action was undemocratic and arbitrary and for those reasons the ordinance also ought to be opposed.
Another serious economic problem will emerge from this arbitrary decision by the Minister for the Capital Territory. His decision will reduce by $2m the net benefit of funds accruing to the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory. Up until now the $2m from poker machine profits would have been extra money over and above whatever the Government decided to allocate in its particularly punitive and tight-fisted way to the Australian Capital Territory. Over and above the Government appropriation would have been this extra $2m from the poker machines. This money has been generated by activities of local citizens and should properly go back to the local community. But now it appears that this $2m will be taken by the Minister and brought into the normal spending framework of the Department of the Capital Territory. I am convinced that the amount allocated to the Australian Capital Territory by the Government will now be reduced by a figure approximating $2m. So instead of the poker machines generating some extra money for community and welfare organisations in the Territory, that $2m net gain to the citizens of the Territory will be lost by this arbitrary decision of the Minister.
I point out that we are discussing this disallowance motion at a time when there are extreme problems in the Australian Capital Territory. Here in the nation’s capital, as a result of the Fraser Government’s policies, is the highest level of youth unemployment and unemployment generally in Australia. Consequent upon this disastrous management of the Australian Capital Territory by the Fraser Government we have more calls on local charitable and community organisations than ever before. Welfare and other community organisations simply cannot meet the needs that have been generated in this Territory by the hostile policies of the Fraser Government. But instead of making a genuine attempt to meet the welfare needs of the Australian Capital Territory through proper appropriations, the Government is merely using this ploy of taking the poker machine funds to give to the Minister as an excuse for proper welfare funding.
This matter was debated in the House of Representatives yesterday. I read very carefully the remarks made by the Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Ellicott. His reason for introducing this ordinance is totally unsatisfactory. The only reason that he appeared to have was that he was critical of particular decisions taken by the Assembly in respect of disbursement of poker machine funds. I, and any honourable senator or member, may be critical of those decisions. The debate is not about particular decisions taken by a body of the Legislative Assembly at a particular time; it is about whether we are to follow the democratic principle of locally elected members making decisions or whether we are to be subject to the extremely arbitrary decisions taken by the
Minister for the Capital Territory. For the Minister to suggest that he has had to take this step because he personally disagrees with particular decisions of the Assembly is totally unconvincing. This debate is not about particular decisions in respect of poker machine funds; it is about who should make those decisions. I submit that those decisions should be made, as they were made properly and legally prior to the introduction of this ordinance, by the locally elected body.
As I said, the reason why there has been controversy over some of the decisions of the Legislative Assembly is that there are too many competing demands for the poker machine funds. There are demands from welfare bodies, sporting bodies and other community organisations. All these demands are competing and, of course, the Federal Government is not providing anything like adequate funds to meet the needs which are articulated by these bodies. The competing demands have led to controversy and criticisms of individual decisions. But instead of responding to these demands from and genuine needs of community organisations, the Minister is simply grabbing the poker machine funds and, 1 suspect, using them in the long run to reduce the funds allocated by the Government to the Australian Capital Territory. I moved for disallowance of this ordinance because it represents another serious breach of promise to the Australian Capital Territory electors. It is another arrogant, undemocratic act by a Minister in the Fraser Government and it represents yet another attempt by the Fraser Government to evade its responsibilities in the area of welfare and community services in the Australian Capital Territory.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Townley)- Is the motion seconded?
– 1 second the motion.
– I leave aside the empty rhetoric of Senator Ryan and prefer to address the substance of the matter before the Senate. Senator Ryan sugested that the action the Government has taken represents a dramatic change on the part of the Government. That of course, is not so. There has been no change. She seems to forget that by the most democratic procedure possible the future constitutional arrangements in this Territory were put to the people of the Territory last November. As she herself pointed out, the people indicated that they did not want selfgovernment and did not want an Assembly with executive powers. It is quite appropriate that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) should act in the interests of the expressed will of the people- that that Assembly should not exercise executive power. As Senator Ryan said, the people spoke quite decisively on this issue. Sixtythree per cent of them did not want the Assembly to exercise executive power. They decided quite clearly that the Assembly should be an advisory body. It is because of that decision that the Minister has acted to amend this ordinance.
Under the ordinance the Assembly was to distribute funds to bodies, organisations and individuals for particular community projects. When the Legislative Assembly first decided that this money should be used for a major sporting and recreational complex, as I understand it, it was found to be invalid. Questions were raised as to the actual sums to be paid, as to the bodies, organisations or individuals to be paid and as to the community project or projects for which the money was to be used. That matter was not resolved before the Minister took action. I simply stres the point that the action taken by the Assembly to provide millions of dollars from the trust fund for a single purpose- an indoor sporting and recreation complex- was considered to be invalid.
I pointed out that the people of this Territory have clearly expressed the view that the Assembly should not exercise executive powers. It is to me, and I think to most others who are involved, a mystery why the Assembly was given this power. In the House of Representatives yesterday- Senator Ryan said that she read the record of that debate- the then Minister did not clarify the matter. We can only presume that the granting of this power was included in the legislation when it was enacted because at that time it was expected that the Assembly might at some time in the future have executive powers. But, as I have said, the present Government put the question to the people of the Territory by the most democratic means possible and they rejected that proposal. As a result, the Assembly remains an advisory body. The provision in this ordinance was quite anomalous, setting aside the nature of the decision that the Assembly made and its validity or otherwise. The Minister has therefore acted to correct that anomaly, to ensure that the Assembly remains as the people of the Territory want it to remain- as an advisory body.
As I understand it, there is now about $2m in the trust fund. The proposal which the Assembly originally adopted would have cost in the vicinity of $3m or more. It would have absorbed funds from this year, next year and probably future years. Many elements of cost were not taken into account in that decision. For that reason I believe that the decision by the Assembly was not only inappropriate, but also ill-considered. The Assembly subsequently proposed that some of these funds should go to welfare and other similar organisations. But it did that only in retrospect. Having realised because of community reaction that it made a mistake in the allocation of the funds, and being aware of action that might be taken, it decided that it ought to allocate them to community organisations. Senator Ryan has referred to some of the organisations in the Territory that require assistance. They do require assistance. It seems to me most appropriate that some of the money that citizens of this Territory put through poker machines and some of the profits from poker machines should go to welfare organisations in the Territory which are now in need and always will be in need in one way or another. There are always more services that organisations want to provide.
As a result of a directive from the Minister the Assembly reconsidered the matter and readily came up with a list of organisations that could be assisted to the extent of $ 1 50,000. 1 think that the list speaks for itself. Included are St Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army, the Smith Family, Red Cross, Jobless Action, the Indo-China Refugee Association, the Tuggeranong Community Service, Tuggeranong Family Action and the Woden Community Service. The list goes on. These organisations are in need of assistance. Subsequently the Legislative Assembly agreed to assist them from the fund. Senator Ryan made the point that these funds must go to the community. Of course they must. But we have to ask: To whom in the community should they go? What are the priorities? Surely the organisations which the Assembly has now seen fit to suggest ought to be assisted are the most appropriate organisations, given the very points that Senator Ryan made as to needs in the community. lt is also worth noting that Mr Ellicott, while speaking in the House of Representatives yesterday- Senator Ryan has no doubt read what he said- pointed out that he would like to draw all of these moneys together in a single fund to assist welfare and other community organisations in the Territory. A lot of funds are available from various avenues within the Territory- not just from poker machines but also, for example, from the Totalisator Agency Board- which might all be drawn together into a fund so that the priorities can be properly allocated. No doubt the Minister for the Capital Territory wants the advice of the House of Assembly, as the properly and democratically elected voice of the people in the Territory.
These people have said that they wanted that body to be advisory and not to make executive decisions. The Assembly can and will advise the Minister, but the Minister is responsible given what the people of the Territory have said. He is also responsible to this Parliament.
Senator Ryan also suggested that the Minister, in amending the Ordinance in this way, is acting arbitrarily. As I have just pointed out, that is simply not the case. The Minister has a clear responsibility, a responsibility which was placed upon him by the people of this Territory. They made it clear that they wanted their locally elected representatives to advise the Minister and not to make executive decisions. That Minister is responsible to this Parliament. Given the result of the referendum, it is clear that there is no reason why what is now called the House of Assembly should have executive powers. It is clear that the people of the Territory do not wish it to have executive powers. It is an advisory body; the people of this Territory decided that in the most democratic way. The Minister has acted in accord with the wishes of the people of the Territory and in a way which I believe is appropriate to ensure that the funds available do not go to a project which will commit those funds for years but will go to groups in the community which are in need now and which will always be in need. There are always additional services that we would wish to provide to certain individuals and groups within the community.
I conclude with one comment regarding the disallowance of ordinances. As 1 have pointed out on another occasion in the Senate, we have to ask ourselves about the role of the Senate and the Parliament. Senator Ryan might well ask herself that question. One wonders whether, every time the House of Assembly disagrees with the action of the Minister in regard to an ordinance, the Senate or the House of Representatives will be asked to disallow that ordinance. If that is to be the case the Senate and the House of Representatives will be preoccupied for long periods with matters relating directly to domestic affairs of the Capital Territory. Such matters should be left to the Minister to decide. The people of the Territory have clearly said that their Assembly should be an advisory body and that executive decisionmaking should be left to the Minister, with the Minister being responsible to this Parliament. We must ask to what extent the Parliament takes this process of disallowance of ordinances in the Australian Capital Territory. In this situation it is clear that the Minister, given his responsibility, has acted not only properly but also in accord with the wishes of the people of this Territory and with the wishes expressed so clearly in the referendum in 1978 and appropriately in terms of the powers of the House of Assembly. Therefore I oppose this motion for disallowance.
– The Opposition has moved for the disallowance of the Poker Machine Control (Amendment) Ordinance of 1979. That Ordinance makes 10 per cent of the gross revenue from poker machines available for community projects. A licensed club must place 10 per cent of the gross revenue from poker machines into a special account at the end of every month and pay the money to the Poker Machine Licensing Board by the 15th day of the next month. The Board must pay all moneys from clubs into a special trust account. Section 43 of the principal Ordinance required, prior to this amendment, the Board to pay money from the trust account to such bodies, organisations or persons and for such community projects as the Legislative Assembly determined and forbade any other application of trust moneys.
The Poker Machine Control (Amendment) Ordinance 1979 repeals section 43 and substitutes provisions which this Parliament believes to be correct. These provisions will enable the Minister to direct the Board to pay trust moneys in designated amounts for specified community projects. They will require the Board to comply with a direction and will forbid any other payments from the special trust account. They will give the Minister discretion to ask the advice of the House of Assembly on what community projects should benefit from the fund. If the Minister seeks advice, he is required not to give a direction until he has either received advice from the House of Assembly or three months have passed since he asked for that advice. Further, the principal Ordinance enabled payments to bodies, organisations or persons for community projects. The amending Ordinance enables payment for community projects. The change was made on the draftsman’s advice that the initial wording was vague and the reference to persons was unnecessary.
When this Ordinance was introduced in 1975 it was unknown why the executive power was originally given to the Assembly. At the time the Minister responsible, Mr Bryant, thought it appropriate to do so because it was believed that the Assembly would gradually be given greater legislative and executive power. On 18 September 1978 the Assembly resolved- by Assembly Message No. 89- to commit poker machine trust moneys for construction of an indoor recreation complex in Civic. It purported to commit funds for further study of the project and to commit future trust moneys for the project. On 22 September 1978 the President of the Assembly, Mr Pead, who is a member of the Poker Machine Licensing Board, asked the Registrar of Poker Machines to reserve $ 14,000 travelling expenses for Assembly members Mr Pead, Mr Leedman and Mr Whalen who had apparently examined various Australian recreation centres. On 5 October last year the Attorney-General’s Department advised that that resolution was invalid, that future funds could not be earmarked and that the Ordinance did not authorise the payment of travelling expenses. A copy of the advice from the Attorney-General ‘s Department was referred to the Legislative Assembly on 10 October last year.
The Senate has heard from the lead speaker for the Opposition, Senator Ryan, and it has heard from Senator Knight. The comments made by Senator Knight represent substantially the attitude of the Government. The referendum of November 1978 has been seen by the Government as indicating that electors do not want the Assembly to have executive powers. The poker machine ordinance was amended accordingly to give control over the money to the Minister who is responsible in this Parliament. The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) can seek the advice of the Assembly, and he has done so recently with respect to $150,000 for welfare agencies. The Assembly has identified a number of organisations and I am told that the Minister is considering those recommendations. On the other hand, the Assembly originally wanted to spend the money on a large indoor recreation complex.
Poker machine money is dealt with in a variety of ways in different States. It is dealt with differently in the Australian Capital Territory. It is worth noting that in the State of New South Wales the vast majority of poker machine money apparently goes directly into consolidated revenue. I give the assurance on behalf of this Government that that is not proposed for the Australian Capital Territory. The Department of the Capital Territory is studying the rationalisation of welfare moneys which come from poker machine funds, the Totalisator Agency Board and by way of grants so that they can be better used for community development. This would include social welfare, sporting and cultural activities, and other broad community purposes. These things need to be rationalised so that the moneys can be effectively administered. The House of Assembly will play a very definite role in assisting in the allocation of these funds. The Government opposes the motion moved by the spokesman for the Opposition.
That the motion (Senator Ryan’s) bc agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke )
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 3 1 May, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition opposes the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill 1979. For our purposes it is sufficient to draw attention to the fact that the Bill breaks three quite specific promises previously made by the Fraser Government. It is not anything new for us to be able to point that out to Government senators, although it may be unpalatable to some of them to realise that that is the position. The first promise which has been broken is the promise made last year when the surcharge on income tax was introduced. The second promise which has been broken is the Government’s unqualified promise to introduce income tax indexation. The third promise which has been broken is the Government’s promise in 1976 to implement the stock valuation adjustment in full over the course of three years. Another purpose of this legislation is to fiddle with the consumer price index in the event of the Government introducing tax indexation for any part of the next financial year.
I shall now refer in a little more detail to the three promises which I say have been broken. Firstly, I remind the Senate that in the policy speech put down by Mr Fraser on 2 1 November 1 977 for the 1 977 election he had this to say:
This Government has brought in the largest and the fairest reforms ever made to Australia’s tax system. Tax indexation saves every taxpayer more money each year.
From February 1st further tax cuts will come in for every Australian wage earner. This year alone, the person on average earnings will be saving $6 a week from these two reforms. From February 1st, more than 225,000 low income earners will cease to pay any tax at all.
The Australian people will not accept a return to high taxes. The Government will bring taxes down further- not increase them.
– Who said that?
-That was said by the honourable member for Wannon, the Prime Minister of Australia. Honourable senators will recall that those statements were accompanied by advertisements on television showing people brandishing fistfuls of counterfeit dollars in front of the Australian people. We were told in those advertisements that those fistfuls of phoney dollars were the savings that would be made by the average Australian taxpayer if the Fraser Government were returned to power.
– It was electorally immoral.
-I tend to agree with that view. Senator Mulvihill has put that view in his normal succinct manner. I probably would not put it in such harch terms, but I tend to agree. The Senate will also recall that in the course of that election campaign electors were invited to dial you tax cuts’, that is, they were invited to telephone the Liberal Party of Australia, which would tell them what it would do for the Australian taxpayer in terms of taxation.
– And then you could dial a prayer.
– Perhaps it is more appropriate now for the Australia taxpayer to dial a prayer. The ‘dial your tax cuts’ service was one which, honourable senators will recall- perhaps Government senators will not recall it because they cannot bear to think about these things any longer- was designed so that people could telephone the Liberal Party and be told what the Fraser Government would bring to them in taxation benefits. I wonder whether Government senators are now offering the same facility in their electorates.
– It was over and above what Whitlam offered.
-Perhaps the people of Tasmania should dial Senator Shirley Walters and find out what their tax rates are to be. I hope she will offer that facility to the people of Tasmania in the next few weeks. We will then see how she gets on in the next election. That advertising campaign was accompanied by a number of other comments from the Prime Minister. On 9 August 1978 a very astute and courageous Liberal who understood that these programs were completely phoney- Mr Dunstan, a Minister in the Hamer Victorian Government- had certain things to say about the attitude of the Prime Minister to the economy. An article in the Age of that date reads:
Mr Dunstan also accused Mr Fraser of ruining the economy and the building industry.
According to the article, Mr Dunstan then used a colloquial expression to describe what Mr Fraser had done to the economy. The article went on to say:
Mr Dunstan said unemployment was rising and Mr Fraser did not care.
Mr Dunstan had a better gift of prophesy than any Government senator. As reported by the Age, Mr Dunstan went on to say:
Fraser will cause a greater calamity in the next 12 months in the building industry than Gallagher has caused in the past live years.
Over the next 12 months there’ll be more Mainlines caused by Fraser’s fiscal madness than in the whole period of the Whitlam Government.
There we have a genuine voice of prophesy from a distinguished Liberal State politician. I now refer specifically to the income tax surcharge. It was introduced in November of last year at a rate of 2.5 per cent from 1 November 1978 to 30 June 1979, to effect a rate of 1.5 per cent for the full financial year. That surcharge is to be continued by this Bill into next financial year at an effective rate of 2.5 per cent. When the surcharge was introduced Senator Chaney, who is now a Minister but who was then a hard-working and diligent back bench member, childed the Opposition for its scepticism about how long the surcharge would last. I want very briefly to quote from what Senator Chaney had to say when the surcharge was introduced. I have not yet researched Senator Baume ‘s comments about it, but I am sure that he said something similar at that time. As reported in Hansard of 1 1 October 1 978, Senator Chaney said:
The surcharge is in fact a proof of the virtue of indexation that was promised by this Government. In other words the Government has had to go before the Australian people and say: ‘On this occasion we need additional revenue. Therefore it is necessary for us to increase tax rates ‘.
I emphasise the words ‘on this occasion’. He went on to say:
There has been a degree of scepticism expressed on the other side of the chamber about the period for which the surcharge or increase will apply. I can only point out to the Opposition and to the chamber that the legislation itself specifically provides that it should apply only for this year.
That was said by Senator Fred Chaney. I tell honourable senators that the search for the mythical Blind Freddy is at an end. Blind Freddy is in this chamber. On that occasion he accused honourable senators on this side of the chamber of being sceptical. He said we were quite wrong in what we prophesied about the surcharge. This Bill extends the surcharge, just as Senator Chaney promised it would not be extended and just as we believed it would be. Possibly Senator Chaney is so blind about the man who leads his party and the promises made by that man that Senator Chaney also believes the statement made by the Prime Minister to the Parliament on 22 February 1 979 when he said:
I believe that 1979 is the year in which the fruits of our policies will become clearly apparent, a year in which the economy will take a further step on the road to recovery.
That is a very definitive statement of the Prime Minister. Possibly Senator Chaney also believes that statement. Nobody on this side of the House believes it, nobody in the electorate believes it. That is the difficulty which Government senators have in respect of the present Prime Minister and the sort of promises which have been dishonoured by this Bill.
The tax being levied by this Bill is being levied at a flat rate rather than as a percentage. Let us look at the effect of that. An income earner whose income is between $3,900 and $16,000 a year has a base rate marginal tax of 32c in the dollar. This surcharge will raise his tax to 34.7c in the dollar, that is, a rise of eight per cent in personal income tax for a low income earner. On the other hand, a person whose taxable income is in the order of that earned by some members of this place- that is, $33,000 per annum- has a base marginal rate of 60c in the dollar, which this Bill will raise to 62.57c in the dollar. The increase for that sort of an income- in the order of $33,000 a year- is 4.3 per cent. For the low income earner it is 8 per cent; for the high income earner it is 4.3 per cent. In his policy speech on 2 1 November 1 977 the Prime Minister had this to say:
This Government has brought in the largest and fairest reforms ever made to Australia’s tax system. Tax indexation saves every taxpayer more money each year.
Are Government senators going to tell that to low income earners, following the passing of this Bill by the Senate? Are Government senators going to talk on the hustings about the discrepancy between the increase in tax for the low income earner and the increase in tax for the high income earner? Are these matters going to be the subject of advice from Senators Walters to the electors of Tasmania when she tells them about the tax benefits this Government has brought them? I think not.
Senators Walters- I will tell the pensioners who do not have to pay tax about -
– The honourable senator would tell the pensioners anything, but the fact of the matter is that they have to be told the truth. The second point dealt with by this legislation is the question of the suspension of tax indexation. On 27 November 1975 the Prime Minister said:
We will fully index personal income tax for inflation over three years.
In adopting the view that not to have income tax indexation was taxation by stealth- and we remember all the fuss that was made about thatthe Fraser Government promised to implement the recommendations of the Mathews Committee of Inquiry into Inflation and Taxation. This report was commissioned by the Labor Government. It was a report in relation to which Fraser seized on talking about the need to keep governments honest. I do not entirely dispute the integrity of the Prime Minister’s argument about that. But I do dispute that this Bill introduces a further deferral of that promise in relation to tax indexation. In so saying, of course, I dispute the integrity of the Prime Minister in relation to anything that he says to the people of this country.
The third point to which I wish to refer is that this Bill excludes from the consumer price index for the purposes of indexation of income tax, if the Government ever introduces it, the cost to the consumer of the Government’s decision to allow local producers of crude oil to price an increasing percentage of their production at import parity. I understand that this is a matter which my colleagues, Senator Walsh, will be dealing with in great detail at a later stage of this debate. It is merely a matter to which I wish to refer at this stage.
The Bill also introduces an exclusion different in kind from the exclusions introduced in the Income Tax (Rates) Act which were, firstly, an exclusion of all rises in the CPI due to all indirect tax and, secondly, the 3 per cent rise in the CPI in the December 1976 quarter due to changes in Medibank. The net result of the Government’s fiddling with the CPI for the purposes of tax indexation, if ever it is introduced, means that the CPI will be reduced from 7.9 per cent to 6.5 per cent. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a document entitled ‘Cost to Taxpayers of the Government’s Broken Promises ‘.
The document read as follows-
– That document speaks for itself, but I wanted it recorded in Hansard for the benefit of people who wish to make a detailed study of this matter. The fourth point relates to the changes to the stock valuation adjustment. On 27 November 1975, the Prime Minister said:
In the next Budget we will make the first move towards adoption of the stock valuation provisions of the Mathews Report. We will introduce the report in full over three years.
That is another abandoned promise- another promise that has gone down the spout. Fraser -I cannot use the word I have in mindprevaricated -
-Is ‘fibbed’ too strong a word to use, Mr Acting Deputy President?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Townley)- I think that word can be allowed.
– Over a long period of time. The Government has not maintained that promise. This legislation is clear evidence that the Government has not maintained that promise. The Government really never did carry out that promise in full. The Government introduced the adjustment only to the extent of 50 per cent and ignored the Mathews Committee recommendations. With the introduction of this legislation it has abandoned the promise altogether.
I conclude on one final note, because the details of this legislation no doubt will be dealt with further in debate. I remind the Senate that the Prime Minister, in his address to the nation on 17 November 1975, had this to say about the Labor Government:
The last three years have hurt many people. Those who arc worse 011 are:
The weak and unorganised
The poor, the retired
The small businessman and the farmer
The school leaver
The family man who is paying more of his wages in tax than ever before in our history.
Those were the words of the putative Prime Minister on 17 November 1975. They could be the words of any Australian citizen after three years of Fraser government. This Bill is evidence of that fact. The Opposition opposes the Bill most strongly. This sort of legislation has become par for the course. It is legislation which evidences the chronic inability of this Government to maintain its integrity and repute, to maintain its promises, and to proceed with the economic management of this country. Its management of the economy can be described only as incompetent. As I say, this Bill provides very keen and clear evidence of that. We oppose the Bill in the terms in which I have expressed particular remarks in relation to its various clauses.
– I think it is necessary in regard to this legislation that is before us, namely, the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill 1979, to have regard to the proper perspective of events, both economic and in regard to taxation.(Quorum formed). In rising to speak to this Bill, I draw attention firstly to the broad framework of the economic network within Australia, in order to establish the proper background against which the decisions taken on 24 May were made. It is clear, of course, without reiterating and putting too fine a point on it, that the economic ills generated in the years of the Whitlam Labor Government still exist in many ways in the Australian economy. It is those matters which, through the mechanism of wage indexation, are still generating inflation within the economy.
We have the situation, therefore, where in the last three years of the Fraser Government we have seen a substantial improvement in the rate of inflation. It has been brought down from a peak of approximately 1 7 per cent to about 8 per cent in this financial year. Of course, we have seen substantial changes in the taxation structure which have been of benefit to the taxpayers of
Australia generally. On the whole the average taxpayer in Australia now is paying less in real terms than he paid in any of the last 20 years. Consequently, we can see a period ahead when there will be substantial pressure again for reduced taxation, after the Government deals with some temporary factors which are before us at present.
Let us look at the events of the last 12 months which lead to the decision of 24 May. It is clear that during the last 12-month period beginning on 1 July, the money supply has been growing at a substantially increased rate compared with that of previous years. Whereas the Budget indicated a money supply increase of about 6 per cent to 8 per cent, it looks as though it will pan out at something like 10 per cent for the 12-month period. The reasons for this have been fairly obvious. There has been substantial growth in the capital inflow into Australia in recent months. We have seen also an improvement in the success of our rural industries in that more money has been generated into the banking system through the success of our grain producers in particular. We have seen also improved rural prices which are generating more funds in that sector. Apart from those reasons, there has been a tendency for increased inflation rates to emerge in economies overseas. Honourable senators opposite may well argue that that is not relevant to rates of inflation applicable to Australia, but it would be recognised perhaps by the more enlightened honourable senators on that side that in 1 979 with regard to imported inputs into the Australian economy the situation is significantly different from the situation in 1973.
– It is fairly simple. In 1 973 we had a vastly more valuable dollar which was buying more imported goods at cheaper prices and which represented smaller manufacturing inputs than it represents today. The reduced value of the dollar compared with its then value has been brought about by economic decisions made by the Whitlam Government. That sort of factor would not be accepted by people such as Senator Walsh because they argue in political terms rather than on the facts of live. Nevertheless, if we have a situation in which inflation is expanding overseas, with rising manufacturing inputs reflected in prices in Australia as a result, together with the inevitable effect of overseas oil price increases, we must have regard to the possibility of inflationary impacts emerging in the coming months and years. It would be a very imprudent government which decided to allow the money supply to increase more and more rapidly in the Australian economy while it would be possible that those impacts would have an effect on the Australian economy in the months ahead.
Consequently, it was necessary- which necessity was well judged by the Fraser Government- to take action at the time it saw fit to do so, namely 24 May, to introduce measures which would restrict the growth in the money supply and apply some restraint on the growth of expenditures by the Federal Government to ensure that inflation did not increase at rates that might jeopardise the future health of the Australian economy. Accordingly, it would have been irresponsible for the Government, by allowing full tax indexation and the removal of the tax surcharge on 1 July, to have pumped $ 1,600m into the economy from 1 July over the next 12-month period. Against the background that I have just sketched that would have been an irresponsible action and, consequently, it was proper that the Government delay a final decision with regard to those two matters along the lines that have been outlined in the speech made by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to ensure that the impact on the Australian economy will not be inflationary.
If we look at some of the impacts of the decisions on individuals in that regard, we see that naturally some concern has been expressed in the Press. Nevertheless, most of it has been illinformed. For instance, there has been a great deal of misrepresentation about the supposed increase in tax that people will be paying on 1 July. Of course, it is true that there will be no increase in taxation on 1 July. The taxation scales will continue exactly as they were prior to 30 June. There will be no further tax to pay. Such scaremongering is well known amongst members of the Opposition and it is good to know that the average Australian will not buy such nonsense as comes from honourable senators opposite.
The trading stock valuation adjustment was a substantial reform in taxation when it was introduced in 1976. Whilst it has been a measure of real impact in favour of profitability for companies which have been battling against the ravages of inflation, it is obvious that the time has come to reconsider the use of such a method. Naturally enough, that particular operation was designed to offset the effects of inflation, thereby artificially inflating taxpayers’ incomes in any one tax year. The effects of removing that at this stage wil take account of the fact that inflation has reduced significantly in recent years. The impact upon taxpayers’ incomes in the way that was envisaged previously is not so great and, consequently, it makes sense that such an issue ought to be resolved in the way that it has been resolved as a result of the Government’s statement and this Bill.
Nevertheless, it would be my hope that in years to come the Government would consider the general principle of taking account of accounting adjustments as distinct from taxation adjustments in calculating taxpayers’ incomes. I refer particularly to such matters as provisions for long service leave, holiday pay, deferred maintenance and leasehold improvements and payments of that type, which should be taken into account as proper costs and allowed as tax deductions against the incomes of businesses. That would be a substantial recognition of the need for the measurement of taxable income to be equalised with actual accounting income to retain and maintain the liquidity of businesses. Nevertheless, 1 support the Bill and wish it a speedy passage.
-l rise to speak in this debate to accuse the Government of having set out deliberately to polarise this community. The Government, since coming to power, has taken measure after measure to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. It has admitted to such action. I quote the words of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) when he said:
Real wages are still too high and this remains a major cause of unemployment. The company profit share is still too low.
So, this Government has set out to see that ordinary men and women have less wages, less food, less education, less health and, in the long run, of course, less security. When the mini-Budget containing the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill was presented, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer admitted that they could give no assurance that it would have any improving effect on inflation; in fact, they admitted that there were indications that the inflation rate would increase. The Treasurer, when he introduced the Bill, admitted that it would have no effect on unemployment and that, in all probability, the level of unemployment would be higher next February than it was this February. It is now predicted that the level of unemployment will be 550,000 in February next year. That is an horrific number for a country as rich as Australia- a country that should provide for its people as well as Australia should. That number of 550,000 does not include the people who have given up trying to find jobs- the people who, in many ways, have given up trying to live in our community and our society. It does not include the people who would like to work and who need to work but who cannot find jobs.
But of course this Government is not all that dismayed by a large pool of unemployed people because it believes that a large pool of unemployed people keeps the work force on its toes. We can pass Bill after Bill through this Parliament, but they will not keep the working people of this country in subjection as much as will a line of unemployed people at the factory gate. People think twice about improving their wages, getting their rightful wage and getting decent conditions of employment when a long line of people is waiting at the gate to take any jobs and when they have wives and children at home to feed.
While the Treasurer and the Prime Minister were pointing out that things were not going to improve, including the unemployment situation, the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) was saying that the position was improving every day. But then, we have grown used to the fact that one does not quite know which Minister in this Government to believe and to follow. We accept that one Minister does not know what the other Minister is doing. For instance, we had the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Mr Lynch, saying that the unemployment benefit could be too high and could be encouraging people to live off the dole. All I can say is that it must be a long time since Mr Lynch tried to live off the dole if he thinks that anybody would try to support a wife and bring up a family on the sort of money unemployed people are paid these days, with the costs they have to face. Of course, the Prime Minister denied that his Government believed that the unemployment benefit was too high. But again, who are we supposed to believe and to follow? One expects a Minister in a government to have some feel for what government policy is- to know where his government is going.
Then again, if the number of promises which have been broken by the Government leaves us in a difficult position to know what the real policy of the Government is, it leaves the people who are busy struggling to keep their heads above water in an even more difficult position to know where they are going. This Government not only wants to reduce the real wages of the working people; it also has set out to reduce the social wage of the people of Australia. It has set out to reduce pensions, the dole, health insurance cover and family allowances. They are all areas which enable governments to distribute income more evenly, to make sure that people live a decent life. The Government’s actions have increased the number of unemployed people, the number of people who cannot get jobs, the number of people who will never work again and the number of youngsters who will never have jobs. Yet the Federal Government is prepared to make it harder for people to receive the unemployment benefit, lt is going to tighten the regulations governing the work test. That will place increased onus on unemployed people to prove that they are making sincere and reasonable efforts to find jobs. That is like reversing the onus of proof. No longer are those people innocent until proven guilty. Now it is not the system, or the Government, or the employers of this country who are at fault because there are not enough jobs to go around; it is the ordinary people of Australia who are at fault because they have not used enough reasonable and sincere effort to find jobs. This Government wants the profits of the twentieth century whilst it has the morals of the seventeenth century when it comes to dealing with ordinary people in the work force. A newspaper article states:
The Federal Government has ordered a crackdown on people receiving unemployment benefits.
People who arc eligible Tor unemployment benefits have nothing to Tear from visits by departmental field officers’, the Minister for Social Security, Senator Margaret Guilfoyle, said.
She said today that resources within her department were being re-allocated to ensure that the validity of unemployment benefit claims were tested about once every three months.
This Government is unreal when it comes to understanding how ordinary people live. Ordinary people never have money to put by. They use up every cent of their income. They live from week to week or from salary cheque to salary cheque. They are made unemployed or redundant by the actions of this Government and its supporters. Yet the Government is going to use every means it can to grind those people even further down into the mud. Of course, the true Liberal philosophy was shown by the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) recently when he maintained that the under-25- year-olds should not get the dole. That is the true Liberal philosophy: The strong will flourish and the weak will go to the wall- nature’s law. Mr Haslem was reported to have said:
There ‘s too many soft options in society today.
Being able to sleep in a warm bed, eating three meals a day, having one’s children educated and going to the doctor when one is ill are the sort of soft options with which this Government is doing away. Of course, the other area of the work force which the Government blames for the position we are in is that of married women. They should get out of the work force and go home to the kitchen sink and the bedroom. That also is true Liberal philosophy. I suppose that that sort of philosophy was brought into play in the report presented this week on the forgotten work force- the migrant women who are slaving away in garages and workshops. Where is the Government ‘s policy for those sorts of women? Why has government action not been taken to make sure that people work under decent conditions for decent pay? We are told that if married women get out of the work force there will be jobs for kids. What absolute nonsense!
We still have a government which has told the people who are unemployed and cannot get jobs that they should go out and spend. Malcolm Fraser told us that we should have faith in the economy and we should go out and spend to keep the economy going. How can we have any recovery when there is no money to spend and to buy goods? How can we keep the economy turning over? When Mr Lynch made his comments about the unemployed people being able to survive on a lower unemployment benefit, the Australian Council of Social Services pointed out that the real hardship of people was being ignored. This Government and people such as Mr Lynch should look at some of the price rises. In Victoria in the past six months meat prices have risen by 400 per cent. Rents are rising. Transport costs are rising. Petrol prices are rising. While all those costs are going up, this Government wants to reduce wages- real wages and the social wage.
The mini-Budget attacked the health system. Whilst this Government states that it is still concerned that there should be adequate health care and cover for people, it does not look at the vast numbers of low income people who are uninsured for health care costs. These people are not classed as disadvantaged but they do not have the money to pay for health insurance and to pay doctors’ bills. They stay away from the doctor until serious illness develops, unless they can find the money to pay the doctor’s fee. Twenty-four per cent of families in Australia are living near or below the poverty line and some of them already are paying for health cover that they cannot afford. They are now to be hit with increased insurance payments. In the preliminary Budget it was made evident that the first lift in costs will be from 1 September, when the Federal Government’s new health measures will take effect. One newspaper reported:
The president of the Health Benefits Council of Victoria and general manager of HBA . . . warned last night that the Budget would force funds to make costly and hasty changes to contribution tables.
The Government has broken an undertaking we had reached with the Minister for Health that we were to make necessary rate change adjustments just once a year, from November 1’, he said . . .
Now wc might have to change the rates on 1 September and change them again from I November to allow for any cost factors such as State government changes to hospital bed costs.’
The Minister for Health himself has said that there will be increases of between $1.50 and $2.50 a week for families, that it is inevitable. People are confused, people are frightened, people do not know what to do and they are now back to the stage of being terrified that they or their families will become ill. Even the Australian Medical Association was reported as saying that people should keep on private health insurance because large families could face crippling costs is a result of having to pay the whole $20. Doctor Repin should come down to earth too because so many families will face crippling costs if they try to keep on private health insurance. Families in some areas are faced with paying $12 a week more or over $600 a year more than they have been paying for basic health insurance.
One hesitates to ask what will happen when the Government reintroduces charges for hospital outpatient services. The final link with any sort of health care will be cut off. The Government says: ‘We are still concerned, we still have universal health care and we will assist through calling people disadvantaged ‘. Last year I asked the Minister for Health for a definition of ‘disadvantaged ‘. I asked:
Can the Minister advise the criteria to be used by doctors in identifying such people? Can the Minister spell out the steps to be taken to preserve people ‘s privacy in such cases?
The Minister asked that the question be put on notice. In September last year I received the following answer: lt is not intended to set out any such criteria in the legislation covering the new health insurance arrangements, it is considered preferable to leave the identification of persons who would fall into the disadvantaged category in the medical profession’s hands. This accords with the concept that doctors have traditionally made judgments as to when the overall circumstances of a patient require some alleviation from the normal fee structure and that doctors are in the best situation to make such a judgment.
A doctor will be able to make a decision based on the knowledge he already has of the patient’s circumstances. Where unfamiliar with the patient, a doctor is in a position to establish a rapport enabling an adequate assessment of the patient’s situation. I believe this is a preferable arrangement to one which labels particular groups of people as disadvantaged or under which people will be subject to a means test. It also enables on the spot decisions to be made between the parties most closely concerned, namely, the patient and the doctor and is capable of immediate adaption to changes in patient’s circumstances.
In this way, flexibility of operation will be achieved and it will not bc necessary to take any special measures to preserve the privacy of such persons as this will be covered by the normal confidential doctor-patient relationship.
I would add that I have discussed this concept with the Australian Medical Association and have the Association’s support for the proposed arrangement.
It is a pity he did not take the trouble also to discuss the matter with patients who are going to be concerned. It is all very well for the Minister and the AMA to talk about confidential relationships but the confidential relationship that he speaks of is breached by the very fact that the doctor judges the patient and his circumstances. Since when and by what right does a doctor’s treatment of one ‘s appendix give him the right to investigate one’s private business and one’s bank account?
We do not like the situation in which people are labelled, but we do not mind labelling pensioners, single mums and unemployed kids. Under the original Medibank system patients had some dignity. They did not have to go along and show a pensioner medical card. They were persons in the community and were dealt with as such. Now they go along and ask the doctor to declare them disadvantaged so that they can afford to pay his bill. Dare I say that doctors now have a vested interest in not declaring people disadvantaged because once they do so they immediately disadvantage their own- that is the doctors ‘-income? What about people ‘s ordinary decent pride? They should be able to go along to a doctor as persons in their own right and not have to ask the doctor to declare them some sort of disadvantaged person, to label them in some way, so that they can afford to pay for health care.
The Government complains that Australia’s social welfare bill has risen over the last 17 months. Last year over 1 million applications were made for unemployed benefit; the number of invalid pensioners increased by 254,000; and the number of people in receipt of the supporting parents benefit increased by 59,000. These people are unemployed as a result of the Government’s own bungling. It knew the numbers would rise when it set the Budget last year. So who was fooling whom?
Pensioners, people who have worked and contributed to this country, are being cheated by this Government which promised that pensions would be automatically adjusted. They are now also being cheated in the health care area. Because of Government action unemployment will increase. Invalid pensioners, who are not responsible for the position in which they find themselves, are to be disadvantaged. Single parents and their kids have to be provided for. Yet this Government turns its back on these people. We are now to have increases in personal tax, increases in health costs, rigorous pruning in the field of education, no benefit to those not genuinely seeking work irrespective of whether the work is there to seek or not, less money for housing and less money for public transport. Whilst all those areas are cut back, whilst people are disadvantaged and whilst all these people are tipped into a heap by this Government which sees them only as some sort of work force to be turned on or turned off, the taxpayers of this country have paid millions of dollars to multinationals to take our minerals away. The taxpayers of this country have paid millions of dollars to develop our minerals so that multinationals can take the profits away. Why do we allow our resources to be ripped off and our profits to be taken away? For instance, the Utah Development Company makes millions of dollars out of our coal resources to send out of this country. Why does this happen while countries much smaller than we are have some common sense and some decency when it comes to resources? A tiny country like Jamaica gets $17 a tonne bauxite royalty while a big clever country like Australia gets $ 1 a tonne.
– What was that again?
– I said that Jamaica gets $17 a tonne bauxite royalty while we get $1 a tonne. It is no wonder that we cannot afford benefits. It is no wonder that we cannot afford the unemployment benefit, health care, care of the aged and decent education for all children in Australia. In terms of ownership of minerals, royalties, tax and marketing of our energy and mineral resources we are one of the worst countries in the world. We cannot even negotiate a decent deal to keep our people in the state which we would expect. We have no resource tax. We are a big rich country that cannot use its resources to make a good life for its people. We have a government that cannot keep one promise it makes, that cannot look after the least fortunate among us.
The Liberal Party of Australia Federal Secretariat put out a speech entitled ‘Giving Reality to our Vision ‘ which was delivered by Malcolm Fraser. In that speech he said:
Non-democratic leaders do not need to be highly responsive to popular demands. Consequently they are capable of rapid policy changes to take advantage of emerging opportunities, they are not constrained to a similar degree by compelling considerations of public morality.
I think Malcolm Fraser and this Government should take those words to heart and look to themselves and their motives. This Government stands condemned by its breaking of promises, by its ignoring of the need of the people of Australia and by its governing for only one section of the community, namely, that section which makes enormous immoral profits from this country ‘s resources.
– Following Senator Melzer is quite an experience. (Quorum formed). I do not think I will dignify the speech of Senator Melzer by debating it, or attempting to deal with each of the untruths in it. We have been told that the taxpayers paid for the minerals, the proceeds from the mining of which have been sent out of Australia; that the Government does nothing but make the rich richer and the poor poorer; and that people will have to pay at least $12 a week for their health insurance and so on.
The truth of the matter is that at the moment a single person pays $ 1 a week and a family $2 a week for cover of 75 per cent of the schedule fee and free public hospital service. Yet Senator Melzer told us that the cost of that will be up to $12. 1 sincerely hope that the people of Australia will remember that figure and will later do a little checking. During the last two speeches from the Opposition, those of Senator Button and Senator Melzer, we heard of nothing but broken promises. Anyone would think that the Australian Labor Party had never broken a promise. Let us examine a few of the promises that it made to Tasmania alone. The former Labor Government promised to provide an Antarctic base. Of course, it did not. It also said that it would give Tasmania freight assistance. It did not.
– Who did that, Senator?
– Of course, the succeeding Liberal-National Country Party Government kept both promises. We did get the Antarctic base. It is under construction at the moment. Moreover, our freight equalisation system is the envy of every other State. We were also told by the former Labor Government that it would close all of the tax avoidance loopholes. It did a pretty good job of that- it did not even touch them.
The basic promise that this Government made to every Australian when it came to office was that it would remedy the tremendous shemozzle into which the Australian Labor Party had got the economy. We are in the process of doing that. We have more than halved inflation. We have brought inflation to less than half of what it was when we came to office, and we are continuing to fulfil that promise. If, along the way, we have made promises about the surcharge and these have to be abandoned in order to maintain our original and most important promise, I am quite willing to back the Government in so doing. After the presentation of the min-Budget, when all of the shouting and screaming about broken promises had died down, an editorial in the Australian Financial Review said:
At lust the Budget we were promised. This is the first honest Budget the Fraser Government has brought down.
That publication acknowledged that the miniBudget was necessary. The Australian described it as:
Getting Australia out of the red.
It too recognised that ours is a responsible government; that it is at least endeavouring to get Australia out of the red. The news of the mini-Budget found its way to England and on the following Wednesday the sharemarket went up. For industrial stocks the number of rises was double that of falls. For oil stocks the number of rises was double that of falls. The same was true for mining stocks also. The confidence that has been aroused overseas is understandable. The Fraser Government is seen as a responsible Government which is sticking to its original, most important commitment to the Australian people- to right the economy. That is where its main impetus is directed. These people realise that a responsible approach is necessary. We have heard from the Opposition nothing about curtailing spending. We have heard only requests for more, more and more still. We heard Senator Melzer say today that more should be spent here, and given out there. There was no suggestion that a few cuts might also be made. Australia is in debt to the extent of $3, 500m, which is not as much as the former Labor Government had the country in debt.
– What do you mean by debt’?
-This country is in debt, in deficit. I do not think that Senator Walsh would know the meaning of the word. To hand over to our children a country with such a deficit as that would be completely irresponsible. It must be paid off and it is time the community realises that fact. Not only has the taxation surcharge had to be kept on. In the next Budget the Government will impose cuts in spending, cuts that I am quite sure will produce screams from the supporters of the Australian Labor Party.
Let is examine what the former Labor Government did in regard to taxation over the three years it was in office. In 1971-72 Australians paid $3, 764m in income tax. In the following year, which was the first full financial year of the Labor Government, the figure had leapt to $5,485m. In the next year, which was the year of the Hayden horror Budget, it leapt to $9,2 12m. Thus, in two years, it leapt from $3,764m to $9,2 12m. If the present Government had not been elected the figure would have continued to multiply in that fashion. As it was, this Government took certain action. That action relieved 200,000 pensioners of the necessity to pay tax. Senator Melzer said that this Government was only on about making the rich richer and the poor poorer but, in fact, it altered the taxation scales so that 200,000 pensioners could be relieved in that way. In point of fact, $3,000m less was gathered in taxation than would have been gathered if the schedule drawn up by the former Labor Government had been followed.
– You are referring to the 1977 cuts?
– Yes. Senator Button said that perhaps people could phone my office and I could explain to them the cuts that have been made. That would be a very good idea. I could explain to those 200,000 pensioners that, purely because of the action taken by our Government subsequent to the presentation of the Hayden horror Budget, they no longer had to pay taxation. I could also explain that $3,000m more than has been gathered by this Government would have been collected by a Labor government. At present a person receiving average weekly earnings pays $9 less a week than he would have paid under the Hayden Budget. Let us look at indexation. The Labor Government set up the Mathews Committee of Inquiry into Inflation and Taxation. The Mathews Committee brought down a recommendation that indexation ought to be implemented. But the Labor Government decided to ignore that recommendation. Why should it have implemented it? Look at all the lovely money it was getting! As I have said, its revenue from taxation increased from $3, 764m to $9,2 12m, so why should it have bothered to implement that recommendation of the Mathews Committee?
It would be a good idea to remind the Australian people of just what taxation was imposed in the last year of office of the Labor Government. There was a seven-step scale. The rate of taxation was 20c in the dollar for incomes up to $2,000 per annum; 27c in the dollar for incomes from $2,000 to $5,000; 35c in the dollar for incomes from $5,000 to $10,000; 45c in the dollar for incomes from $10,000 to $15,000; 55c in the dollar for incomes from $15,000 to $20,000; 60c in the dollar for incomes from $20,000 to $25,000; and 65c in the dollar for incomes over $25,000. That is a considerable amount. In the last year of office of the Labor Government the dependent spouse’s rebate was only $400. It is now $597. The general rebate was $540. It went up to $6 1 0 the following year.
Having seen just how horrendous the taxation was under the Hayden Budget, let us look at what indexation has achieved. On 1 July 1976 this Government brought in full indexation at the rate of 13 per cent. The introduction of full indexation took the dependent spouse’s rebate from $400 to $500. (Quorum formed). The Australian Taxpayers Association says that this Government has not made enough of tax indexation. We have not been given credit for the benefit that tax indexation has given to the community. I shall explain that.
On 1 July 1976 full indexation was introduced at 13 per cent. That brought the dependent spouse’s rebate from $400 to $500, which was an increase of $100. The general rebate rose from $540 to $610. The single threshold went from $2,519 to $2,846. The threshold for a married man with a dependent spouse rose from $4,000 to $4,698. Full indexation also altered the tax levels. The lowest level rose from $2,000 under the Labor Government to a minimum of $2,260. Comparable alterations took place in the other levels. The maximum rate of 65c in the dollar was applied to a salary of $28,250 instead of $25,000. On 1 July 1977 full indexation was again implemented. At that time the rate was 10.9 per cent. The dependent spouse’s rebate rose by $ 1 55 to $555. The general rebate rose to $676, the single tax theshold rose to $3,153 and the threshold for a married man with a dependent spouse rose to $5,209. The tax levels also went up. The original $2,000 rose to $2,506. The final level in that seven-step scale was no longer $25,000 but $3 1,329.
On 1 February 1978 a much simpler method of taxation was introduced. We changed from a seven-step system to a three-step system. The three-step system enabled the single threshold to rise to $3,750. Taxation was charged at 32c in the dollar for salaries from $3,750 to $16,000 per annum. A man who was previously taxed at 35c in the dollar for a salary up to $12,532 per annum was able to increase his earnings to $ 1 6,000 before having to pay tax at a higher rate than 32c in the dollar. The rate of 45c in the dollar was paid for salaries from $ 1 6,000 to $32,000 and the rate was 60c in the dollar for a salary of $32,000 or more. 1 think that has proved above all else that this Government has been responsible about its taxation. We have simplified taxation. We applied tax indexation at a full rate for two years. On 1 July 1978 we applied half indexation. The tax rates were indexed at half the indexation at 3.8 per cent. However, the dependent spouse’s rebate received a full rebate of 7.6 per cent. It rose further to $597, which is the present rebate. The single threshold became $3,893 and the threshold for a married man with a dependent spouse rose to $5,758. They are a far cry from the original thresholds under the Labor Government of $4,000 and $2,519 respectively.
If tax indexation had not been brought in this Government would have been deluged with money. We would have had more money to spend, as the Labor Government had with its great increases. But no responsibility was taken by that Government. There was tremendous unemployment. It caused unemployment even though it had all the money in the world. It caused unemployment with its irresponsible action of making across-the-board tariff cuts even though the advice it received at that time was that that would cause tremendous unemployment. The Labor Government’s comment was: ‘It does not matter. We have full employment at the moment. We have overemployment’. They are the words used by a Minister of the day. He said: ‘We have overemployment’. By introducing across-the-board tariff cuts the Labor Government started the tremendous decline in employment opportunities that has resulted in the unemployment figures we have at the moment. It gives me great pleasure to support the Bill.
-I am surprised that Senator Walters spent so much time eulogising tax indexation since the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill 1979 which is before us abolishes it. The day after last year’s Budget was brought down the Treasurer (Mr Howard) appeared before the National Press Club. He was asked a question by Brett Bailey of the Adelaide Advertiser- so I hope that Senator Messner is listening. Mr Bailey asked:
Mr Treasurer, can you give us a guarantee that the tax surcharge will be abolished on 30 June 1979? If you can give us such a guarantee, can you give us any reason why anyone should believe you?
He did give the guarantee that the surcharge would be abolished, but now nobody can give any reasons why anybody should believe anything that the Fraser Government says or why anybody should take any of its promises seriously.
This Bill, which was the central component of the horror Budget announced on 24 May 1 979, repudiates three taxation promises of the Fraser Government. I refer to the promises concerning indexation of the personal income tax schedule, the stock valuation adjustment and the abolition of the tax surcharge. It is interesting to note the Government’s claim that the reason that the measure will apply only until the end of November is that it is not possible at this stage to forecast accurately the fiscal magnitudes for 1978- 79 and that, given that imprecise factual knowledge which the Government has, it cannot at this stage make a decision regarding the levels of personal and other taxation throughout the 1979- 80 fiscal year. That is what the Government says.
However, it is interesting to note that the Government did not suffer from that sort of constraint Vh years ago when Minister after Minister was able to assure us that the Budget deficit for the 1975-76 year would have finished up at $4,500 billion if no changes had been made to government expenditure policies. Three and a half years ago Minister after Minister told us that they could forecast the final budgetary outcome seven months in advance. Now they cannot forecast it five weeks in advance. I suggest that anyone who believes that would have to be as gullible as anyone who believes that Mr Newman, the Minister for National Development, misheard a question last Thursday. The real reason why the Government has introduced this interim measure and not made a final decision on levels of personal taxation for the whole fiscal year is that it has not yet settled the squabbles within its ranks about what it is going to do.
On Tuesday, 29 May 1979 the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) spoke about this matter in the House of Representatives. The Prime Minister- this purveyor of myths- said, amongst other things:
The vision that brought this Government to office has not been dulled . . . That vision keeps us on our path and gives us the courage to respond to reality effectively and in the interests of Australia.
The task of this Government has been to rebuild the strength and independence of this nation, to reassert the fundamental principle that governments can establish the circumstances, the opportunities for people to achieve and create and that ultimately it is only an independent, self-reliant society that can develop Australia. We have been working to establish the circumstances in which Commonwealth and State governments live within their means and the circumstances in which Australian industries will once again be independent, excel in the Australian market, move out into export markets and employ more people. We have been working to establish the circumstances in which people can be self-reliant . . . We have been working to strengthen the life, the vitality and the vigour of the Australian people . . . We have a vision of a liberal society of free, independent people with a pride in being able to do things for themselves- an Australia of growing strength, unequalled as a place to bring up a family, unequalled in freedom and unequalled in opportunity; a nation creating our own distinctive culture, our own identity out of the culture and history that so many people have brought to us from so many different lands.
The speech went on and on. All that David Barnett neglected to mention when he wrote that speech for the Prime Minister was the attribution to the book Atlas Shrugged. So much for the myths, the visions and the hallucinations.
What are the realities of what has happened in Australia in the Vh years that the Fraser Government has been in power? Firstly, unemployment has doubled, Secondly, the Fraser Government presides over the highest levels of taxation that we have ever seen outside wartime. Thirdly, it is true that inflation has been reduced from 1 3 per cent to a little over 8 per cent but it is now rising and nobody seriously doubts that it will hit 10 percent within the next 12 months. Interest rates are rising. The money supply is out of control. The aggregate deficit for the three Fraser Budgets is $9.5 billion. It was $6.5 billion for the three Budgets of the Labor Government. The deficit under this Government is a higher proportion of gross domestic product that it was in the three fiscal years that Labor was in power.
If Senator Walters would like the exact figures, I point out that the average deficit for the Fraser Budgets was 3.5 per cent of GDP and for the three Labor Budgets it was 3.3 per cent of GDP. That was the result after the Government had finished fiddling the figures. The entire public authority deficit for Australia in the three fiscal years of the present Government is 5.7 per cent of GDP as against 4.3 per cent in the preceding 3 years. This Government has borrowed more than $4 billion overseas in the last 2 years for the sterile purpose of propping up the Australian dollar. But even then it has been devalued by more than 20 per cent. Our overseas borrowings exceed our overseas reserves by nearly $ 1 billion.
If one applied to these matters the simplistic rules that Malcolm Fraser applied a few years ago, one would be entitled to say that the nation is internationally bankrupt and about to go into international receivership. The Prime Minister is a failure. His government has failed. He has dishonoured all his solemn promises. I will refer to just a few of them. The list is not exhaustive. He said that we do not want a tourist as a Prime Minister and promised that we would not get one if he became Prime Minister. He promised jobs for all. He promised to maintain Medibank. He promised to support wage indexation. He promised twice yearly indexation of pensions. He promised personal tax indexation. He promised stock valuation adjustment indexation. He promised to abolish last year’s 2(Ac in the dollar income tax surcharge. Above all he promised integrity and propriety in government.
Eight Ministers have been sacked or forced to resign; and there are three more resignations in the pipeline. As his failures, and his flaws become too obvious, four identifiable reactions emerge. Firstly, he rewrites history. He now claims that his promise in November 1977 to bring down interest rates by 2 per cent was an objective to which the Government was striving. His exact words were: lt is a target that can and will be achieved.
He makes a virtue of expediency. The whole thrust of the Prime Minister’s apologia for the measures we are debating today and the measures associated with it in the horror Budget was that the Government had to break its promises to maintain its credibility. He stands truth on its head. Friedmanism was the economic doctrine which this Government preached. The central tenet of Friedmanism is about the rate of inflation is a function of changes in the money supply. Two months ago no less a person than the Treasurer told us that the reason the money supply was growing at a faster rate than the Government had anticipated was that inflation was running at a faster rate than the Government had anticipated. So, the Government turned the central tenet of its own economic doctrine on its head. The Prime Minister blames others for his failures. In the same speech to which I referred earlier, that is on Tuesday of last week, as part of his apologia for this string of broken promises which the Senate is debating in this Bill, he said:
At the same time–
This was earlier this year- inflation in a number of countries is running much higher. In the 6 months to March 1 979 inflation is running at an annual rate of 10. 1 percent in the United States, 10.7 percent in the United Kingdom, 10.5 per cent in Canada, 15.4 per cent in Italy, 10. 1 per cent in New Zealand and even in Germany, which has a very good anti-inflationary record, the inflation rate has about doubled during this year.
As a result of these changes inflationary pressures increase and there is a clear need for Government action to maintain control over the economy, particularly so since the 5 per cent inflation forecast in Budget statement No. 2 will not bc obtained.
In other words, he is pleading that external influences beyond his control have forced the Government into this massive repudiation of all its solemn electoral promises. What a turn around this is. What a turn around for the fearless statesman who addressed the conference of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science on 22 January 1 975. He stated:
National leaders look to parallels, they search for excuses when they should look simply to their own failures- failure to adapt, to perceive, to understand. I do not believe that men and women are governed by inexorable events beyond their control. When political leaders say the present situation cannot be helped, it is part of a world situation, they arc expressing the futility of their own leadership when, if they were men of real stature, they would be saying ‘we can overcome’.
So much for the fearless statesman of 1975 who now pleads failure on the grounds that external events beyond his control have forced his massive repudiation of solemn electoral pledges. Let him abide by his own standards- let him resign. In no area is this man’s failure so absolute as in the area of taxation. In his policy speech on 2 1 November 1977, during the last election campaign, the Prime Minister stated:
It is quite clear that the Labor Party would abolish what is called tax indexation.
He said that the Labor Party would abolish tax indexation but the Senate is now debating a Bill to do just that. The measure was introduced by his Government. He continued:
In other words, they would, if they were in office, greatly increase the personal income tax the public must pay. They would not do this in an open way, through legislation, but by stealth- that is, as your income increased through inflation (which their spending policies would encourage) they would take a higher proportion of it in tax.
I shall say more about that shortly. Also during the election campaign, in a statement made on 7 December, he said:
We have broken the back of inflation. We have halved Labor’s big spending deficit.
On the Government’s own admission, that deficit is shooting up to $3,500 billion. He continued:
We are getting Australia on the move with $6 billion of new development ready to go. That means jobs. We have ended the Labor tax rip-off. Indexation, again, has reduced everyones personal taxes already. They will be cut again from 1 February. That will mean jobs, lt will be worth working overtime again. We will boost demand and jobs, with another $26m a week going into the economy. We are getting interest rates down. In the next 12 months that will save young couples buying a home $ 10 a week on repayments.
Then, on 25 November, as we got even closer to the polling day, he said:
The differences between the two parties on taxation, reveal the fundamental contrast between the philosophies of the Government and the Whitlam Labor Party. We have taken the view that a reduction in the personal tax burden is essential to economic recovery and to boosting job opportunities. Taxes which are too high encourage people to seek higher wages to compensate . . .
That is a reasonable paraphrase of what the Prime Minister and other Ministers in this Government have been saying for 31/2 years. Those who said that taxes were sapping incentives and destroying the economy now preside over the highest tax government in Australia’s history. The Government tries to hide the fact by referring to what would have happened if a taxation schedule which applied 4 years ago were still in operation. It would be able to produce an even more dramatic result if it plucked the tax schedule from 1950 and applied it to today’s incomes. The Government has been exposed effectively in that piece of duplicity and deception not only by the Labor Party but also by Mr Risstrom, of the Australian Taxpayers Association. Even in the relatively penitent mood which prevails today, the Government continues to misrepresent the truth. Mr Fraser says that nobody’s tax will go up. In fact, there will be a double barrelled increase in personal taxation as a direct consequence of these Bills which the Senate is debating. I have drawn up a table which shows the tax payable by a single adult male on average weekly earnings, comparing the September quarter of 1978 with the September quarter of 1979. The estimate for that average weekly earnings assumes an 8 per cent increase in average weekly earnings over that 12 month period.
– That is your estimate?
– It is my estimate. I do not think it will be seriously disputed and it will not make any difference to the conclusion even if it is slightly in error. Incomes will rise by $ 1 7.50 per week and taxation will go up by $9 per week. A person on average weekly earnings will be paying $9 more in taxation from 1 July 1979 than he did on 1 July 1978. The tax take on the increased income for average weekly earners is a staggering 5 1.5 per cent. Subject to the approval of the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster), I seek leave to have that document incorporated in Hansard.
– Nobody will pay more tax, indeed! Average weekly earners will be paying $9 a week more in tax in July of this year than they paid in July of last year. That is not the wealthy, high income earner paying $9 a week more, it is the ordinary, average weekly income recipient. Of course, if one likes to look at total public authority receipts as a share of gross domestic product, it can be seen that the average for the 3 years of the Fraser Government is 25.8 per cent, although since then that has been slightly reduced to 25.7 per cent by the estimated short fall in avenue, compared with 24.5 per cent for the 3 years of the Whitlam Government. The total public authority receipts, expressed as a percentage of gross domestic product are running 1.2 per cent higher than during the three Labor fiscal years.
Singled out for special punishment under the Fraser Government’s record tax ripoff is the wage and salary earner, the person who pays payasyouearn taxation. I have another table which shows the PAYE tax contribution from the fiscal years 1973-74 to 1978-79, expressed as a percentage of GDP. This accounts for changes in money values and so on. Those figures show that during the three fiscal years when Labor was in government PAYE taxpayers contributed an amount equal to 9.39 per cent of GDP. It is estimated that after three LiberalNational Country Party Budgets PAYE taxpayers ordinary wage and salary earners will have contributed the equivalent of 10.35 per cent of GDP during the preceding three fiscal years. That is a full one per cent increase under this Government. Because of the Bills we are now debating, the tax take next year will be an even higher percentage of GDP.
The obverse of the record tax rip off from wage earners which is demonstrated by the table to which I have referred, is the favoured treatment given to the wealthy and the tax dodgers who are currently estimated to be defrauding Government revenue of $2 billion each year.
Given the composition of this Government it is not surprising that no serious action has been taken against them. Most of the senior Ministers operate schemes which are euphemistically called tax minimisation schemes. Probably most of the back benchers do that as well, but we do not know so much about them. Of the wealthy democratic countries in the world only Australia does not tax capital. The Government has taken only token action against tax dodgers. We have heard from the Treasurer (Mr Howard) that section 260 of the Income Tax Assessment Act is about to be rewritten. The only way for the Government to deal with section 260 while people like Barwick are sitting on the bench of the High Court of Australia is for it to make a clear statement on the definition of taxable income.
– I raise a point of order.
– The point of order is not required. Senator Walsh, you must not speak disrespectfully of Her Majesty’s judges.
– Against what Standing Order am I offending, Mr President?
– You cannot canvass the President’s ruling.
– I am asking a question on the President’s ruling.
– lt is a practice which has been adopted in the past. It is an accepted and very desirable one.
– Conventions and traditions were ended in this place 3!6 years ago. While people like Barwick sit on the High Court there is no point in rewriting section 260 because he will emasculate it.
The PRES1 DENT- Order! Senator Walsh, I take it that you have withdrawn that to which I objected?
-No, I have not, Mr President. I will not unless I can be shown the Standing Order against which I have offended.
– There is no Standing Order as such, lt is an accepted procedure. It has been, and is, a presidential ruling.
-i -SH- I am in disagreement with your ruling, Mr President
– The practice has been established for a long, long while that honourable senators do not speak disrespectfully of a judge. I ask you to withdraw that remark.
- Mr President, in speaking to your ruling may I say that the situation may lead us into confrontation. I have mentioned on a number of occasions that we need to avoid that situation. It seems to me that we have become over sensitive. I listened carefully to what Senator Walsh said. It did not offend me. I doubt whether it would offend -
– You must have no discrimination at all if you can make that charge, Senator.
- Senator MacGibbon surprises me. Because I was not offended Senator MacGibbon launched an attack on my credibility and standards. I have been around for a while. Some heated debates have taken place in this place and some, shall we say, heated comments have been made. We have survived them all without proceeding to eject people from the chamber. I think that we are constricting our ability to express ourselves in this place, an ability which is not restricted elsewhere. I have heard remarks made in this place concerning another person on the bench of the High Court of Australia. We did not question those remarks. Remarks were made in this place about a more recent appointment than Sir Garfield Barwick. The imputations and inferences were such that we allowed them to pass because we believed that the person’s standing in his own right would be sufficient defence against the statements and the claims. In this case I imagine that Sir Garfield Barwick can stand upon his own two feet and upon his own reputation. What is the purpose of having such a presidential ruling? If there is to be a presidential ruling of this sort, I take it that presidential rulings would change as presidents change.
– I thank you for your contribution, Senator Georges. I do not object to political comment. As you must all know, Senator Walsh cannot say ‘Barwick’, he must give him his title of Chief Justice. That will meet the situation.
-While the present Chief Justice sits on the–
– Thank you, Senator Walsh.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– On behalf of Senator Walsh, I seek leave for him to continue his remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- I am very pleased to announce that the newly elected Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Right Honourable Margaret Thatcher, M.P., has accepted an invitation to visit Australia and will be here on 30 June and 1 July. The visit is particularly welcome, coming as it does so soon after Mrs Thatcher’s assumption of office. Mrs Thatcher’s association with Australia is a longstanding one, which is appreciated by all of us. She visited Australia in 1972 and again in 1976, and her visit on this occasion as Prime Minister will serve to emphasise the close consultation that has been such a feature of relations between Australia and Britain over the years. Both governments value their close association, which reflects the very real interests and traditional ties between our two countries. As well as providing an opportunity for a broad review of AustraliaUnited Kingdom relations, the visit will permit both Prime Ministers to discuss other important matters, including the results of the Tokyo Summit, the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Lusaka in August, and international developments generally. All Australians will give Mrs Thatcher a very warm welcome during her visit.
– by leave- In accordance with the practice of recent years, the Government is issuing guidelines to the Tertiary Education Commission and the Schools Commission as a basis for their recommendations on forthcoming programs. The guidelines I am about to announce cover financial allocations that the Government has determined for the calendar year 1 980 and the commissions are asked to include recommendations on detailed allocations in reports to be submitted for Government consideration by the middle of August 1979. As indicated by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in his recent statement on the Budget, there has been a most careful assessment of the education commissions’ programs, in the context of the Government’s commitment to exercising stringency in its own expenditures as a contribution to containing the size of the Budget deficit. The guidelines reflect this assessment. The Government, in turn, looks to the States and to education authorities and institutions to review their own expenditure and priorities so as to ensure the most efficient use of available resources.
Within the total allocations we have maintained the level of Commonwealth support for the delivery of services in each sector of education. The recurrent grants for universities and colleges of advanced education will be the same in 1980 as in 1979 in accordance with last year’s decisions for the triennium 1 979-8 1 . Here 1 interpose that we are dealing in real money terms and they will therefore be adjusted for purchasing power.
For technical and further education we have provided a small increase in recurrent grants. In the schools area, the Commonwealth will make the same total contribution towards running costs in government schools and will maintain the percentage link between recurrent grants for non-government schools and government school costs. There will also be a small additional amount for level 6 non-government schoolsthose with the least resources. However, as a contribution to achieving the Government’s overall budgetary limits, there will be a reduction of 2. 1 per cent in real terms in the allocations for the total programs of the two commissions for 1980 as compared with 1979. The necessary reductions will be applied to capital and equipment grants in universities and colleges, to capital grants for both government and non-government schools and to some of the joint programs for all schools.
The total allocations for tertiary education will be marginally less- by 0.2 per cent. Within this total, grants for capital and equipment in universities and colleges will be reduced by 15.5 per cent overall. Grants to the States for technical and further education will be increased by 10.7 per cent, including a substantial increase in capital expenditure- a further demonstration of the Government’s high priority to TAFE. There will be a reduction of 5.7 per cent in the allocations for schools in 1980, again mainly in capital funding which will be reduced by 29.6 per cent overall for government and non-government schools. In reaching these decisions on the capital programs of the commissions, the Government has had regard to the fact that enrolments in universities and colleges are now stabilising and that total enrolments in schools are beginning to decline.
The following table shows the total guideline allocations for each sector for 1980 in comparison with 1979.
These allocations exclude Commonwealth specific purpose funding of education in the Northern Territory which will be determined later.
The funds allocated for universities and colleges of advanced education, which are fully supported by the Commonwealth, will enable institutions to maintain existing levels of intake. The Government is concerned that the Tertiary Education Commission should continue to monitor carefully the use and allocation of resources, particularly in the area of pre-service teacher education to ensure as far as possible that the supply of manpower is in reasonable relationship to demand. The Government is in the process of examining the recommendations of the Williams Report on Education and Training. Consistent with the views of the Williams Committee, which assume a larger and more significant role for technical and further education in the postschool education and training system, the policy of increased fundin g for the TAFE sector is being maintained. Substantially greater capital resources as well as some increase in recurrent support are provided in 1980. The level of recurrent support for TAFE in 1981 will be taken up in the context of decisions on the Williams Report.
Recurrent grants, other than equipment grants, for universities and colleges of advanced education for 1980 and 1981 have already been determined under the fixed triennial funding arrangements which were reintroduced by this Government from 1979. Under the new arrangements, funds for capital projects and equipment for tertiary education are provided in firm amounts on an annual basis, on the assumption that the Commission will continue to plan building programs for some years in advance. I turn now to the details of the guidelines for the Tertiary Education Commission for 1980.
The total funds allocated for tertiary education include provision for the Australian National University, the Canberra College of Advanced Education, the Australian Maritime College, approved non-government teachers colleges and technical and further education in the States. All figures for tertiary education in this statement are expressed in estimated December 1978 price levels; the cost supplementation arrangements to apply in 1 980 will be the same as for 1979.
For 1980, the Government has allocated $89.6m as the total level of funds for capital grants and equipment grants. From this amount, the Government intends that the Commission should meet commitments to on-going capital projects and also make provision for a small number of new projects of the highest priority, including the Australian Maritime College so that teaching on its Newnham site can begin in 1981.
An increase of 10.7 per cent, in real terms, over 1 979 will be made in the total allocation for technical and further education in the States. Included in the 1980 capital allocation of $80.3m will be $ 16.3m, representing a second instalment of the additional $50m that the Government undertook to provide for capital works in the TAFE sector over the period 1979-82. For the base capital program, including minor works and equipment, grants totalling $64m will be provided. Funds amounting to $54.6m will be provided for general and specific purpose recurrent programs in 1 980.
In co-operation with the States, the Commission is asked to recommend the distribution of resources between States having regard to their degrees of need and on the understanding that the States will at least maintain fully their own efforts in this area. A provision of $0.4m has also been made for evaluative studies in all tertiary areas in 1980. The Government will provide the following base level of funds for tertiary education for 1980 as compared with 1979: “Including evaluative studies.
For the year 1980 the Commission is asked to make detailed recommendations on the allocations of capital grants and equipment grants between universities and colleges of advanced education and for technical and further education in the States. The Commission is asked to submit its report by 15 August 1979 to permit time for consideration of its recommendations and passage of the necessary legislation during the Budget sittings of the Parliament.
Within the limit of total funds available, it has been necessary to make reductions in capital and joint programs for both government and nongovernment schools, while the existing levels of funds for disadvantaged groups have been preserved, in real terms. In reaching this decision, the Government has noted that since 1 978 total enrolments in government schools have been falling in most States. The reduced capital allocation for non-government schools will be sufficient to meet commitments to 1980 projects approved in advance. The year 1980 will be the second year of the migrant and multicultural education program of the Galbally Committee. Under this program, the Government will provide, through the Schools Commission, increases comprising $2.1m for the teaching of English language in schools and $0.9m for the support of activities specifically related to education for a multicultural society. These increases will permit some further restructuring to overcome disparities in the existing distribution amongst systems of the English language section of the program.
In considering the total level of funding to be provided for government schools in the States, the Government took into account that, by the end of 1979, all States should have at least reached the resource use targets, established by the Karmel Committee and reaffirmed by the Schools Commission as minimum desirable levels of resource use. For 1 980, the Government has decided to provide the same real level of general recurrent grants for government schools as in 1979. In this way, the Commonwealth is maintaining its level of support for the staffing and other recurrent resource standards already achieved by government school systems overall.
In recognition of the Commission’s assessment that the Level 6 lowest resource non-government schools continue to be very substantially below government school resource standards, the Government will provide increases in grants to these schools in 1980 so as to bring subsidies in respect of primary and secondary pupils from 33.5 per cent to 34 per cent and from 31.5 per cent to 32 per cent, respectively, of standard per pupil running costs in government schoolsrepresenting increases of about $5 per primary pupil and about $9 per secondary pupil, in addition to the increases from the automatic linkage with government school costs. Within the budgetary limitations, the Government has had to defer making a further step, in 1980, in raising the minimum per capita grant for all nongovernment schools to 20 per cent of per pupil running costs in government schools. The automatic linking of recurrent grants to all nongovernment schools to average per pupil expenditure in government schools will nevertheless be continued.
The Government will provide grants totalling $63 1. 8m as the base level of the programs of the Schools Commission in the States in 1 980. This program, comprising $1 19.4m capital and $5 12.4m recurrent, represents a reduction of 5.7 per cent in real terms on the base level program for 1979. As in the past, the precise level of grants may be varied in accordance with the actual level of enrolments in non-government schools. All figures for schools in this statement are expressed in estimated December 1978 price levels; the cost supplementation arrangements to apply in 1 980 will be the same as for 1 979.
The Government will provide $338m in total for government school programs in 1980. The combined amount provided for the general recurrent and capital programs of $285. 7m is $44m less than in 1979. The Government envisages the recurrent program being held at the 1979 level and the adjustment being made to the capital program. However, in the consultations the Schools Commission will have with them, the States will be able to request transfers of marginal amounts between these programs. The Commission is asked to make recommendations about the distribution of general recurrent grants between States, including in particular the question of whether a needs element should continue to be a factor in the distribution of these funds. The allocations for disadvantaged schools and special education will be at the same real levels as in 1 979. There will be a net increase of $ 1 .4m in the migrant and multicultural education program.
Non-government Schools Programs
The Government will provide $270.6m as the base level of programs for non-government schools in 1980, including $0.7m additional Galbally funding for migrant and multicultural education, and continuing the provisions for disadvantaged schools, emergency assistance and special education in non-government schools at the same real levels as in 1979. The funds provide for:
The additional cost over 1979 of these policies will be an estimated $8. 8m.
The total level of funds for joint programs will be $4.2m less in 1980 than in 1979. Within these total funds, the Government wishes to maintain the existing levels of funds for the programs for country areas and children in institutions and to provide an increased allocation of $1.4m for multicultural education. The Commission is asked to advise on the distribution of the remaining $15. 6m between the other joint programs for services and development, education centres and special projects. The Commission is asked to submit its report by 15 August 1979 to permit time for consideration of its recommendations and passage of the necessary legislation during the Budget sittings of the Parliament. The Government will provide base level funds for schools in the States for 1980 as compared with 1979 in accordance with a table which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the Senate.
Expenditure in 1981 and 1982
For planning purposes, the base program for 1981 will be determined by adjusting fully the base amount for 1980 in respect of cost increases during that year. The amount thus determined will be maintained to provide the same real resources in 1981, subject to the normal cost supplementation arrangements. For planning purposes, the same funding level and arrangements will apply in respect of 1 982. 1 move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
-On Thursday night of last week the Treasurer (Mr Howard) brought down a statement which has been glorified with the description of ‘miniBudget’, and in which he stated that education programs had been more rigorously pruned than on any previous occasion. Yesterday, in the course of a debate on education matters in the Senate, I had incorporated in Hansard a table which showed Australian government outlays on education in current and constant 1970-71 dollars from the financial year 1 970-7 1 to the financial year 1978-79. In the course of my commenting on that table and having it incorporated in Hansard, I had a brief exchange with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Chaney, which I think in fairness I should record now. Senator Chaney interjected:
It is not a good table. It has some errors in it.
Perhaps they can be drawn to my attention at a later stage.
I must say that at this stage I am still waiting for that to happen. No doubt that opportunity will be availed of at a later point in time. The point I sought to make from the table was that, in constant dollar terms, there had been a decline in total education expenditure in the last two years. The last year shown in the table was the financial year 1 978-79. The expenditure and the cuts now announced by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) relate to the calendar year 1 980 and clearly will represent a further decline in that table if it is brought forward to include that year.
The statement just made by the Minister for Education reveals the following simple and bald facts in relation to education expenditure: In the 1979 guidelines, expenditure on schools in Australia was up by one per cent, as indicated by the Minister at the time that that statement was brought down, after a great deal of discussion, negotiation and speculation about the level of school funding for the 1979 guidelines. In the present guidelines, expenditure on schools is down or minus 5.7 per cent. In the 1979 guidelines, expenditure on technical and further education was increased by 19 per cent and in the present guidelines it is being increased by 10.7 per cent. In relation to the colleges of advanced education and universities, expenditure in 1979 was down by 0.5 per cent and in 1980 it will be reduced by 1.35 percent.
From those figures, it is clear that 1 980 will be a vintage year in the slide of real expenditure on education by the Fraser Government. Of course, that brings forward quite graphically the fact that, in addition to other areas of government expenditure and activity, such as health services, education is now to be a sufferer as a result of this Government’s economic mismanagement. Education is now to suffer from a two-pronged squeeze: Firstly in the light of specific cuts made by the Government, as outlined in this statement, and, secondly, in relation to general purpose grants made to the States and matters which will become the subject of debate in education circles after the forthcoming Premiers Conference is held, when in our anticipation it will be made quite clear that the money available to the States for education purposes will be less than it has been in the past. We expect that there will be a quite dramatic reduction insofar as the States are concerned.
Those matters are of importance not only because, as I said, 1980 will be a vintage year in relation to education expenditure but also because of consistent statements made by the Minister in particular over a long period as he- I say this with the greatest respect- has battled to preserve his empire in the face of overall economic mismanagement by the Government. I refer to the fact that in 1 977, in the course of the education debate, the Minister was saying things like this when speaking of the Fraser Government:
We’re the people who give more, let us make that clear . . .
. we are giving back $ 1,050m to all the community in tax indexation. We’ve brought about family allowances. We’ve cut inflation virtually in half. We’re starting to reduce interest rates and we’re starting to restore an economy that was destroyed. And they’re facts.
The statement accompanying the ministerial statement which the Minister has just put down has some grandiose title. I forget precisely what it is. It is called ‘The Facts of the Matter’ or something of that kind. It sounds rather like the title of a book written by Sir John Kerr or E. G. Whitlam; it has an equally pompous title. But those are facts for 1 980, compared with the facts to which the Minister was happy to refer in 1977. Again, in 1976 the Minister was saying:
Education has been given top priority in Fraser Government planning. That priority will be maintained.
It was given top priority in the mini-Budget of last Thursday. There is no doubt about that. It was given top priority in the Fraser Government’s planning last week and it has been singled out for special attention. The sort of special attention it has received is the sort of special attention to which I referred a minute ago when I drew attention to the order of the cuts which are now being made. The sort of top priority which the Fraser Government was giving to education in 1976 has now been totally inverted and stood on its head. The top priority which eduation is now being given is a top priority in this Government’s rush to cut government expenditure programs generally. As I said, education ranks high among those expenditure cuts. Then again, in a similar discussion in 1 976, in the course of the guidelines debate, the Minister had this to say:
In conclusion. 1 point out to honourable senators that within the context of the rigorous action it has now taken to restrain public expenditure–
This was in 1976, if you please; it was not the 1979 show- thc Government has honoured its election promise to mainlain spending on essential education programs.
The words ‘essential education programs’ beg a large number of questions. In the context of the present statement, it is very interesting to see what are now regarded as essential education programs and what were regarded as essential education programs in 1 976. Further, the Minister in 1 977 had this to say in the Senate about the attitude of the Government and the priority it gave to education. He said:
Those who claim here or elsewhere that we have made cuts in Federal education expenditure are deliberately misrepresenting the situation. We have expanded education in every field.
I suppose that the Minister cannot be held too much to blame for that statement. Perhaps it represented a little error of judgment and assessment in 1977. But what does he say about it now? Has the Government expanded education in every field? Are those people who accused it of reducing drastically expenditure in education misrepresenting the situation? The Minister went on to say:
The simple Tact is that in terms or the quantity of funds provided in every direction, in the quality of delivery and in an understanding of the goals of education, an understanding that wc ought to get back to the basics of education, to make sure that we look at the basic skills- numeracy and literacy as well as innovation- this Government is setting a lead. It is a lead that is recognised throughout Australia.
If the Minister could claim in 1977 that it was a lead forward, it is in 1979 a lead backward. In the course of giving specifics in this statement the Minister made a number of observations which make that position quite clear.
I wish to make one general observation about the nature of the education debate which has taken place since this Government came to power. This observation is reflected very much in the Minister’s statement which I just quoted. The
Minister spoke about the quantity of funds provided in every direction. In 1 977 he spoke like a man with no arms who throws away money. But he more importantly went on, as he has done ever since, to talk about the quality of delivery. He said that this Government gives a lead in an understanding of the goals and the basics of education. A most extraordinary, glib smoke screen has been laid across the education debate ever since the Fraser Government came to office because there have been no new initiatives in education by the Fraser Government. The best that can be said for the Fraser Government is that in a parsimonious way it has continued programs which were introduced by the Labor Government of 1972 to 1975, that it has slowly rather than rapidly cut back on these programs.
What has the Government done in respect of qualitative considerations in education. Whenever it gets a whiff of a breeze which it suspects suggests a qualitative change in community thinking about priorities in education all it does is to set up a committee of inquiry to investigate that matter. We have had more committees of inquiry than hot breakfasts since the Fraser Government came to power. Particularly in the field of education it has been apparent again and again on important occasions that that is the solution to any qualitative consideration in the education debate which has concerned this Government in any way.
When one looks at the question of literacy and numeracy, which the Minister detects as something which the employer community and certain other people in the community are concerned about, one sees that a bundle of Dorothy Dix questions can be asked by Government senators, such as: ‘Are you concerned, Minister, about numeracy and literacy in Australia?’ He says: ‘Yes, of course we are concerned and we are setting up a committee into teacher training’, Of course we are concerned; We are going to have a look at what the Williams Committee is going to say about that’. ‘Of course we are concerned about all those issues. ‘ But there has been little progress in relation to solving any of these problems in the years since the Fraser Government took office.
I shall make some general comments about the nature of the statement which the Minister has presented. First of all, let me point out that no Tertiary Education Commission report and no Australian Schools Commission report was available this year prior to the guidelines being presented to the Parliament. In last years guidelines the Minister had this to say:
In April I tabled volume I of the Tertiary Education Commission “s report and the report of the Schools Commission for the 1979-81 rolling triennium. At the suggestion of the commissions the Government agreed to the preparation of the reports to assist it in framing firm guidelines for 1979 and indicative planning guidelines for 1980 and 1981 under the rolling triennial procedures.
I do not know whether or not the commissions suggested this year that they present reports before the guidelines were prepared. In any event, one suspects it would be a waste of time for the commissions to present reports before the guidelines were prepared because the Government in the past has not shown much sign of taking much notice of them. But at least in 1978 the Government was saying that those reports were prepared by the commissions to assist it in determining the guidelines for 1979. As 1 say, perhaps this year the commissions decided that it was not worth doing so. The lack of reports from the commissions has meant that the public and this Parliament have been cut off from an important source of information from expert commissions which are concerned about educational issues which are the subject of this statement. In commenting on the guidelines we are forced to rely on figures which are now a year out of date. In one respect it might be said that this shows the Government’s contempt for this Parliament. We were given a copy of the statement two hours in advance of the Minister delivering it. We were not given the benefit of advice from the expert commissions on the questions with which the guidelines purport to deal.
Secondly, by way of general observation about the statement, I want to refer to the report of the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training. The Prime Minister has said on numerous occasions that the Williams report would provide a blueprint for the future in education. Yet here we are in the middle of 1 979, the Williams Committee having been set up nearly three years ago in October 1976, and we are looking at a statement of guidelines for 1980-4 years after the Williams report was commissioned. The statement of guidelines for 1980 apparently bears no relationship at all to anything which has been said in the Williams report. One would be tempted to ask whether the Government or the inter-departmental committee has finished its consideration of the Williams report. The answer, one suspects, is no. But on 9 June last year the Minister said:
For TAFE, the base programs Tor 1980 and 1981, will be determined by the Government alter consideration of the report of the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training.
There is no evidence to support that contention in this statement of guidelines which has now been presented. This is another undertaking which in a sense has been dishonoured in this statement. It was said last year quite explicitly that the basis of TAFE programs would be determined in the light of the Williams Committee of Inquiry report. One might genuinely ask: To what extent did the funding decisions represent in any way a consideration of the Williams Committee report, or was that time and money wasted? How long does this Government take to deliberate on these issues about which these much vaunted inquiries have been set up?
There are, of course, funding implications in the Williams Committee report, particularly in relation to TAFE, to training skilled tradesmen for today’s jobs and to matters such as computer education which are vastly important in the context of a modern technological society which I suppose we aspire to be. Therefore I make those general observations about the circumstances in which this statement has been brought into the Senate. I have made my observations on the basis of a steady decline in levels of funding, a proliferation of inquiries on various matters, no innovations introduced, no new programs and no new initiatives announced by this Government in the area of education.
I turn now to some specific matters which are dealt with in the statement. In relation to universities and colleges of advanced education, recurrent expenditure remains static at the figure of $ 1,103.8m for this year. The interesting argument has been floated that somehow reductions in recurrent expenditure are justified by estimates of student population at universities and colleges of advanced education in the coming year. The estimates that were made last year were not quite accurate. The student population was marginally higher than was estimated prior to the commencement of the academic year.
– How much higher?
– Marginally higher, by about one per cent. I make no serious political point about it, I merely make the point that although there is talk of estimating student population the estimates are not necessarily entirely accurate. However the level of funding for recurrent expenditure has to be influenced by one important factor. It is estimated that in 1980 the number of pupils in secondary schools, who complete the higher school certificate, or Level 12, will represent a 13.5 per cent increase on the number of Level 12 students recorded in 1975. That is a substantial increase which bears on the amount of recurrent expenditure that is available to universities and colleges of advanced education. The important question is: What will happen to those students? Will they go on to tertiary education or not, and if they do, what sort of facilities will be available to them? I said earlier that in estimating the needs and requirements of all educational institutions we had to reply on figures a year old that had been prepared by the commissions. The Tertiary Education Commission had this to say at page 23 of Volume 2 of its 1979-81 triennium report in regard to recurrent expenditure for universities and colleges of advanced education:
Recurrent expenditure. The annual percentage increases in recurrent grants Tor the university and advanced education sectors combined, expressed in December quarter 1977 prices, have been and, in accordance with the new guidelines, will bc as follows: . . .
The increases were shown as ranging from 10 per cent in 1 975 to 0 per cent in 1981. The Commission said further:
Over the period 1975 to 1979 recurrent grants have not quite kept pace with increases in student numbers: the effects of this have been exacerbated by the need to direct funds into a number of expensive major developments which were committed before 1975 … As a result of this, together with the need for institutions to meet unavoidable cost increases not covered by supplementation (for example, movement of staff . . . institutions have been under a steady pressure to economise in the use of their funds … By the end of the coming triennium institutions will have been obliged to economise to the extent of some 5 to 6 per cent compared with the standard of operations obtaining in 1 976.
In another passage of the same report, the Commission has this to say:
The Commission was therefore concerned by the Government’s decision in the guidelines to reduce by $12 million the amounts proposed in Volume I for recurrent expenditure for universities and colleges in 1979; moreover, in 1980 and 1981 recurrent grants will be held at the 1979 level. In the Commission’s view, the cumulative effects of this continuing tightening of recurrent funds will not only erode the quality of the work in both the universities and colleges but will inhibit innovation and the capacity of institutions to adjust to changing community needs; these effects are already becoming evident. In this context one particular area of concern to the Commission is the impact of these funding restrictions on research activities in universities. Both the Commission and the Universities Council have previously emphasised the importance of research and research training and the Commission believes the level of activity in these areas to bc particularly vulnerable to continuing restraints on recurrent funding.
I do not know whether, out of some sort of Fraserian Pandora’s Box this Government will suddenly grab an extra fistful of dollars, as it did in explaining its tax cuts in 1977, wave them around and devote them to university research. But unless it does, as the Tertiary Education Commission pointed out, the level of activity in research areas will continue to decline. That is not just a comment that has come from the Commission. It has come also from the Australian Science and Technology Council and, more importantly, from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development examiners who visited Australia. The importance of all that is that it shows, with respect, the total lack of imagination and initiative that this Government has shown concerning important areas of education expenditure. If the Government’s policies were not so completely spastic- if the kneebone could perhaps occasionally connect to the thighbone- then the importance of research in tertiary institutions and indeed in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation would be recognised. Although the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) is an imaginative Minister and is obsessed-
– An imaginary Minister?
– I am sorry if I have done him a grave injustice. I meant an imaginative Minister. While he is properly concerned with the level of research activity, with its application to industrial policy and the need for this country to develop as a technologically based society, the other arm, that is the education arm, is flapping around in the breeze. No imagination is exhibited about any of these things. Nor is there apparently any real capacity to select the areas in education expenditure which are of most vital importance to the future of this country. It is quite clear, in the context of the level of recurrent expenditure that is suggested here, that there is cold comfort for research in universities and colleges of advanced education- more importantly in universities- in the foreseeable future. I make one point about this. In an article in the Canberra Times of 18 May it is claimed by the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations that the amount allocated to each research worker in Australia dropped by 50 per cent between 1 966 and 1976. The article states:
The present shortage of funds was the result of a fouryear, $400m cost-cutting exercise by the Federal Government. The number of Commonwealth post graduate awards had dropped by some 200 each year in the past 10 years although the number of post graduate students had increased by about 1 5 per cent.
The article goes on to state that several independent bodies have supported these claims. They refer to the OECD, the Australian Science and Technology Council and, more recently, the Williams Report on Education, Training and Employment to which one can also add, of course, the Tertiary Education Commission. When one turns to the area of capital funding for universities and colleges of advanced education, again one is forced to rely greatly on the views of the Commission, expressed over a year ago. However, the Commission’s report for 1979-81 had this to say at page 24:
As indicated by the Universities Council and the Advanced Education Council . . . there are still substantial gaps in the capital facilities of both sectors: these will be capable of being overcome only very slowly within annual levels of funding equivalent to those available for 1979. While the Commission supports the impetus being given to capital expenditure in the TAFE sector … it would not wish to see the capital needs of the other two sectors neglected. Unless a policy of balanced development is pursued, inevitably there will be an accumulation of capital needs in the university and college sectors to a point where large capital investments will be required, analogous to the situation which was allowed to develop in the TAFE sector and which only now is being corrected.
The fact is that if one looks at the decline in expenditure of a capital nature in relation to universities and colleges one sees that it is dramatic and significant. It is a classic example, in terms of the TEC report for 1979-8 1 of sweeping under the carpet, as it were, the problems of today in the sure knowledge that at some time in the future some government will have to lift up the carpet and find all that mess underneath it. It is a short sighted policy which, as the TEC puts it, is not based on balanced development and will inevitably lead to an accumulation of needs in the university and college of advanced education sector.
I turn to the question of expenditure on technical and further education. Little specific information is given in the Minister’s statement regarding this matter but it is welcomed by the Opposition that recurrent expenditure has been increased, however slightly. One would have hoped that it would have been increased a little more than it has been, but nonetheless, in the context of the overall statement it is a step in the right direction, a step against the wind in favour of TAFE. So far as capital is concerned, the Government has also increased the appropriation for capital and equipment. Even on the tired figures of the past that is a most necessary and desirable item of expenditure. Again, we welcome it. Of course, we will have to wait until 1980 to understand what the Government’s intentions are in relation to the TAFE sector when the thrust of the Williams Committee report, which is very much directed towards the TAFE sector, is finally deliberated on and conclusions are reached by the Government on the basis of that report.
I wish to speak briefly on the area of schools. There has been a lot of discussion and many statements have been made by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in this place about Karmel resource standards and the fact that the
Schools Commission commented that it was likely that Karmel resource standards for schools would be reached by 1979 or 1980. The justification usually given for a decline in recurrent expenditure in relation to schools- in the context of this statement, particularly government schools- is that there is a decline in schools populations. This is seemingly very insignificant. There is a decline of 1.2 per cent in primary schools and one per cent in secondary schools. With regard to the Karmel resource standards, I think it is important to stress that they are only average standards. Whilst the majority of schools may have reached that standard, and we welcome that fact and think it desirable that that is so, there are many schools throughout Australia- probably particularly in New South Wales and Queensland- which have not reached that standard. To use that statement again and again as a justification for limiting expenditure on schools is, with respect, of the most doubtful validity.
In relation to government schools I repeat the observation which I have just made and say that it is a source of great regret that recurrent expenditure on government school programs and expenditure in the area of disadvantaged school programs- imaginative and important programs in the quest to create a greater degree of equality of opportunity in the Australian educational system- have remained static. That is a source of bitter regret. The limited and quite insignificant increase to the migrant education program in the context of needs also is a source of regret and concern. The more important question, of course, is the significant- I hesitate to use such words as savage’ because they become cliches of politics- or savage cuts which have been made in relation to government school capital programs.
I refer to the last Schools Commission report in relation to this matter of capital and school building needs. The report states that the gap between existing stock of capital facilities and what State education authorities feel they need is very large- well beyond the capacity of the nation to fund in a short term. We appreciate that. It is not easy to fund the capital needs of Australian schools in a short term, but by putting off the orderly development of school facilities now we again are exacerbating the problems for the future. There will be a pent up demand to raise standards in schools and school buildings and equipment when the mirage-like day of the recovery of the Australian economy at last comes about.
– What about student numbers?
-1 said before that the decline in school populations, which is used as a basis for reduction in expenditure, is really only marginally significant. The government sector is just too big, with respect, for us to look at this matter across the board. There are areas of high population growth- new suburbs- where capital expenditure is required by the government school sector and the catholic sector. I hope that not much aid from this Government or any other government is given to the wealthier private schools which may want to expand into those areas. The fact of the matter is that demographic changes are taking place which make demands on capital expenditure, even in the context of a static school population.
Prior to the Schools Commission report of April 1978, the State governments were asked to make realistic assessments of what school buildings could be built ‘in the current financial climate’. Honourable senators will recall that the financial climate of 1978, admittedly was marginally better than the financial climate of 1979. The sum total of the estimates of the States for all capital requirements over a period of four years was $2,575 billion- an average of $644m each year. The Schools Commission gave these figures in tables published in the report in April 1978. The amounts varied, of course, but the average figure was $644m.
In spite of the matters which have been referred to by the Minister and the matter of school populations, which was the subject of discussion by Senator Teague and me a minute ago, the Commission estimated that a substantial amount of the requirement for new buildings is due to new enrolments. Without being specific, I think that such enrolments occur very largely in new suburbs or developing areas. That, of course, is because of uneven growth in population and internal migration, from one place to another. The Commission went on to point out that primary enrolment will decrease by about 1.2 per cent during the triennium and secondary enrolment will decease by about one per cent- they are the figures which Senator Teague asked me about- but that Queensland enrolment will increase by 3.6 per cent during the decade. Likewise, migrations within States will cause demands. These matters were all dealt with in the Schools Commission report. Certain areas in New South Wales- for example, GosfordWyong were singled out as areas of rapid population increase. The Commission mentioned a 28. 1 per cent increase in that area compared with the overall level for the State which is in the order of 2 per cent. Similar analysis is given in respect of Victoria. So, the problems of internal migration of population, including students, affect very much the capital requirements of a schools system. Of course, population movements can be accommodated by sticking up portable classrooms all over the place and trundling them around from suburb to suburb. That is not a standard which either teachers or parents in Australian society are prepared to accept in 1979.
I turn briefly to the allocations suggested in the guidelines for the non-government schools sector. General recurrent expenditure in this area will increase by some $14m. In the absence of any assistance from the statement it is very difficult to break up that figure and understand precisely what it means. I think it is fair to say firstly that approximately $10m relates to the linkage between the non-government sector and government school costs. Government school costs have risen in real terms. Non-government schools benefit from the fact that the States have put more into government schools. So about $ 10m of that increase will go across the board to non-government schools based on that linkage factor which was dealt with in detail in the guidelines published for 1979 last year. lt is regrettable that in times of economic stringency- which this statement tells us we now have- some of that money will go still to Level 1 and 2 schools in terms of the linkage. It is a sad little piece of Fraser Government symbolism that that is so in the context of the need to raise standards in poorer schools in this country to try to provide the greatest level of equality of opportunity for all children wherever they live and from whatever socio-economic circumstances and backgrounds they come. At page 9 of the statement the Minister, dealing with that issue, said:
Within the budgetary limitations, the Government has had to defer making a further step, in 1980, in raising the minimum per capita grant for all non-government schools to 20 per cent of per pupil running costs in government schools. The automatic linking of recurrent grants to all nongovernment schools to average per pupil expenditure in government schools will nevertheless be continued.
I suppose that it would be impertinent of me to congratulate the Minister on that part of his statement. I have absolute confidence that it is based on suggestions made to him by Opposition spokesmen in the course of the discussion of last year’s guidelines. We congratulate the Government on that deferral and hope that it will be maintained while there are still massive needs in Australian Government schools and poorer schools within the non-government sector. It seems, without any break-up of the figures being available in the statement, that of the $ 1 4m some $4m will go to Level 6 schools. We applaud very much that decision by the Government insofar as we recognise those schools, particularly Catholic parochial schools, as being schools that are in the area of greatest educational need. Of course, we regard the amount as inadequate having regard to the needs of those schools. It should also be said that in the context of the overall statement and the cuts which are made in expenditure on government schools we cannot properly expect more money in this area at this time. Insofar as money is made available to the non-government sector, we welcome the fact that on this occasion the Government has made a specific direction about the Level 6 schools.
A number of items appear under the heading of ‘joint programs’. I will refer briefly to them. The suggested sum in respect of multicultural education has been significantly increased. We welcome that overall increase. The sum in respect of disadvantaged country areas has not been increased. I do not have the specific Schools Commission report before me. My recollection is that in 1977 the Schools Commission drew attention to a number of problems of chronic disadvantage in Australian rural schools. Those disadvantages were specified and itemised in terms of cultural deprivation and turnover of teachers, inability to retain teachers in towns, the relationship of teachers with the school community and things of that kind. My recollection is that the Schools Commission recommended an emergency expenditure of some $30m-odd to deal with those particular problems and to try to overcome the difficulties of significant disadvantage in Australian rural schools. We strongly support this proposal. It is a source of regret that the Government has made such a limited and parsimonious response to that suggestion of the Schools Commission which is again reflected here in these static figures.
A number of other items have been reduced. They are bracketed together in the last item on page 13. They are very important programs which have been of significance in Australian education since the innovations following the Karmel Committee report. They fall into the area of service and development programs dealt with at page 89 of the Schools Commission report for the 1979-81 triennium. One program concerns teacher librarians and remedial and special education teachers. The programs are described as moderately long. The service and development section also refers to the program supporting a schools travel and exchange scheme between States and systems which funds 32 education centres initiated and controlled by teachers and community members.
– The abolition of those is not mentioned specifically in the Minister’s statement.
-No, it is not, Senator. One really does not get much enlightenment from the statement as far as I can see as to what those cuts mean. The statement refers to this aspecct in particular on pages 1 1 and 12. It says that ‘the Commission is asked to advise’ about some of those expenditures. Significant cuts are made.
An important point about this statementquite apart from the comments which I have made about the overall impact of the Fraser Government’s economic mismanagement on education- is not so much that cuts have followed in the education area from this mismanagement, not so much that in terms of recurrent programs both at school and tertiary level Australian students of one age or another will suffer as a consequence of these cuts, not so much that a backlog of demands for new buildings and capital equipment will be built into the system, as it is that it is quite silent on a number of other important issues. In the tertiary sector it is silent- as I said- on the level of research funding in Australian universities. This is a very important matter. In the schools section the statement is silent on what is to happen about disadvantaged rural schools, for example. It is silent or is confusing on a number of questions, such as the special projects to which I refer.
In the context of the overall thrust of this statement, one must be very concerned about a number of important educational issues, about the absence of new initiatives and about the absence of any sense of direction of the education system. The education system might be encouraged towards directions which have much more relevance to the national interests of this country in the remaining years of this decade. None of those things really seem to be taken into account by this Government at any stage. It is those absences from this statement which also give very cold comfort to, for example, students who are concerned about the levels of student allowances, academics who are concerned about the levels of research and their competence to compete in the international academic community, and parents throughout this country who are properly concerned about standards in schools and the sort of educational qualifications their children will have in a society which makes increasing demands on them in terms of certification when obtaining apprenticeships and things of that kind, lt gets much harder every year for the ordinary product of Australian schools to get an apprenticeship because the standards become higher and higher and the demands on children become greater and greater.
In a society which will depend very much for its future and its success on the level of knowledge and skill which this community and country demands, if we are to be competitive in an international sense, the response of this Government is, again, totally inadequate. If Australia is to make the grade in the international rat race it will depend very much on our capacity to be a skilled, talented and educated society, particularly so in the region of the world in which we happen to live. They are the inadequate matters in this statement. Of course, they are the inadequacies in every statement which this Government has made about education and, for that matter, about anything else. Perhaps those issues will wait for further debate in the Senate on another day.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I want to briefly address myself to- (Quorum formed). I was saying that I intend to make some remarks about a number of areas within this statement in which there have been positive increases in education funding. Secondly, I wish to draw attention to the large number of what must be very disappointed would-be Jeremiahs around the place who, in the course of the last week, were making hay with predictions of how many people were to be sacked, how many institutions were to have fees reimposed and how $120m was to be cut here, there and everywhere. Thirdly, I will draw attention to the trends in some of the education sectors that were mentioned this evening in the statement of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick).
Despite the fact that Senator Button attempted to describe the whole package as a backward step, he at least conceded, as I am sure all honourable senators would, that the increases provided in the technical and further education sector are increases which are in line with educational policy as it has been identified by this Government and by the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training. The five per cent increase in recurrent education grants for TAFE, from $52m to $54.6m, and the 14.9 per cent increase in the capital funding for TAFE, from $69.9m to $80.3m, are welcome increases in an increasingly important sector of education. Secondly, I am sure that everybody will be prepared to concede that the additional assistance provided to Level 6 non-government schools at both primary and secondary levels is to be welcomed. The additional $5 for Level 6 primary and the additional $9 for Level 6 secondary are part of an increasing policy on the part of this Government to focus limited resources towards the areas clearly identified as being in greatest need. Given what I had to say last night about the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill, I think equally that the increase of $2. 108m for migrant education and the increase of $854,000 for multi-cultural education, although going only a small way towards dealing with the problem, are important areas of increased expenditure.
However, there was one area about which I particularly wanted to take issue with the comment made by Senator Button. I refer to the cuts in capital funding for government schools. It is true that in the vicinity of $40m is to be cut from Federal Government funding of the capital costs of government schools. But, two things have to be borne in mind. Firstly, government schools receive approximately one-third of their capital assistance from the Federal Government and approximately two-thirds from State Government. To that extent, the cuts fall more heavily on nongovernment schools’ capital funding because they rely entirely upon Federal Government assistance. That $40m is an interesting figure. It represents approximately the same amount of money that State Governments have saved or have declined to spend in the last couple of years by withdrawing State Government scholarships for students at secondary schools and by transferring their teacher trainees from their own financial resources of support onto the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowances. The sum of $40m is approximately the same amount that the State Governments over recent years have put back into their State Treasuries by transferring these student scholarships, and teacher scholarships, in particular, to Federal Government programs. Therefore, the ability of State Governments to make up a considerable amount of this leeway ought to be recognised.
I want to take up a couple of points made prior to this evening’s announcement which will indicate just how much rumour-mongering and fearmongering there has been over this matter. An article in today’s Sydney Daily Telegraph refers to Mr Bedford, the New South Wales Education Minister, and it states:
The State Government may be forced to reintroduce fees for technical college students . . .
The article goes on to say that the New South Wales Minister expects a package of about $ 120m worth of cuts and that he thinks that perhaps members of the teaching profession could no longer be employed because the recurrent grants provided to the State Governments from the Federal Government were going to be cut. It is quite clear that there will be no cuts in recurrent expenditure. As a result there can be no way in which any State authority can claim that it will be forced to lay off teaching staff. For instance, the same point was made by the Tasmanian Minister for Education, Mr Holgate, in the Hobart Mercury of Saturday, 2 June 1979, when he said:
The State Government may be forced to in reallocate Schools Commission funding to save the existing jobs of teachers.
He went on to make comments about ‘massive cuts that were to be made’. Again, it has been demonstrated this evening that that was a lot of scare tactics and rumour-mongering.
– They are going to be very upset in Tasmania that they cannot have an election on this issue.
-Undoubtedly many State governments will be upset that the responsibilities which they so constantly claim are State responsibilities for education are being clearly identified as being just that. For instance, a VicePresident of the Australian Union of Students was reported in the Hobart Mercury of 4 June as having said that education would suffer an $80m cut and that all these matters would have an enormous impact upon students. Today’s Australian says that today is the day when people will know whether tertiary fees are to be reimposed. It states:
The Opposition, teacher groups and student associations all believe that the reintroduction of university fees is a strong possibility.
The Opposition spokesman on education. Senator John Button, said yesterday university fees would prevent many enthusiastic and talented students from low-income families from taking courses.
Senator Gietzelt is making noises about fees. He is unaware that the Minister for Education said in his Press conference this evening that there will be no reimposition of tertiary fees.
– Was he talking about the Budget?
-I am saying that the Minister for Education has made it clear that there is to be no reimposition of tertiary fees. All the rumour-mongering that goes on about that will not amount to anything. In the Australian Financial Review of yesterday it was reported:
But the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme is likely to suffer stringent cuts. A means test on TEAS has been widely predicted.
The article went on to say that the innovations program is expected to be cut back, if not abolished. Once again that is absolute nonsense as far as this matter is concerned. Even on this evening’s broadcast of PM there was continual peddling of the rumour that TEAS and university fees were in for the hatchet tonight. As I have said, in such areas as the TAFE and migrant and multicultural education areas there have been considerable and valuable increases. It is all very well for Senator Gietzelt and other Australian Labor Party senators to complain about this matter in terms of cutbacks, but where were they in 1976 when the last of the Whitlam Budgets cut $105m out of the education system? Where were they when the greatest single cutback in education of $ 105m was made by the Government that they trumpet around the country as the greatest thing ever to happen to the education system? Where were they in the period when assistance to government schools was cut back from $399.5m to $343.3m? Where were they when, in relation to expenditure on schools, the Labor Government was looking at an immediate and real reduction of $44m in that Budget? Where were they when $ 105m was being pruned out of the whole of the education sector?
– They speak with a forked tongue.
-Exactly. As Senator Martin said, they speak with a forked tongue on this matter. As far as the table that Senator Button had incorporated in Hansard yesterday is concerned, as I pointed out yesterday the figures purported to be put forward in that table deliberately seek to ignore the whole business of tertiary offsets that took place in the period in which Senator Button was trying to make out that there were enormous increases. When one looks at the constant price record over those years one sees that for 1976 there was a reduction in constant price terms of 7 per cent. That was due to the Labor Government’s famous $105m hatchet job. For 1977 there was an increase of 3.2 per cent and for 1978 there was an increase of 0.6 per cent. For 1979 there was maintenance of these things in real terms. The Minister’s statement contains a number of valuable forward steps as far as areas such as TAFE and migrant and multicultural education are concerned. The position of the maintenance of everybody’s recurrent funding has been made clear. As far as the cutbacks in capital expenditure are concerned, I have discussed the position of the States and the way in which they have been salting away money by transferring their secondary school students and teacher trainees to Federal Government programs. As to Jeremiahs such as the New South Wales Minister for Education, the Tasmanian Minister for Education, the Opposition spokesman on education, the Australian Union of Students and just about anybody else who could get himself into the newspapers or onto the radio, they have all been proven to be manifestly false in their statements. It is about time it was recognised that this sector has been treated extraordinarily well by this Government. It has been treated particularly well considering the sort of record that the Labor Party had in government, particularly its hatchet job towards education. I think it needs to be understood that the statement presented this evening is a balanced and constructive statement in a large number of areas. I have mentioned the matter of fees. I have also mentioned that State governments and Opposition spokesmen have been living off alleged cutbacks for the last week but will be unable to live off them for very much longer. When this statement is analysed it will be seen clearly that the progress which this Government has continued to make in the education field will be continued throughout the course of this year and indeed for the rest of the triennium and that the funding which has been provided to tertiary institutions and the programs which have been developed, supported and brought to fruition by this Government have made a valuable contribution to the education sector in this country.
– I say without an air of patronage and more in sorrow than in anger that I was very sad to hear the speech by Senator Puplick. I marvelled at how different it was from the maiden speech he made here not so long ago, which I paid him the compliment of saying was one of the most magnificent maiden speeches that I had heard. I recall to mind a section of his original speech. He said: ‘Let us not get down to party politicking or point scoring’. We have just heard 1 5 minutes of nothing else. That is sad in itself. I wondered about his naivety concerning the kites which have been flown this week in regard to the reintroduction of university fees, application of a means test for the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme and whatever. I point out to Senator Puplick that if he had been here a bit longer he would have noticed that in latter years there has been a despicable practice in this building for leaks of that sort to come not from harmless students, trade unionists or whatever but from Ministers ‘offices.
– Which Minister?
-I would refer Senator Teague, who is another young, naive honourable senator, to my speech last week on the miniBudget. I and several people on this side of the chamber highlighted the fact that almost all of the numerous leaks that were front-page news in the newspapers for a period of about a week were entirely accurate. They were not the meanderings of some harmless students or some trade union leader. They were deliberate leaks from Ministers’ offices. I said that this Cabinet is leaking like a sieve. That is a despicable practice and one that would not have been tolerated by Sir Robert Menzies. The attitude adopted by the Government is to let a kite fly that it is about to reintroduce university fees, apply a means test to TEAS allowances or do something horrific. Then when something is brought in that is not good, people say: ‘It was not as bad as we thought it would be’. That is precisely the sort of comment I am going to make tonight. I am going to compliment the Government on certain aspects of this statement- I believe in giving credit where credit is due- but there are other features of the statement which I will attack, and attack fairly vigorously. I wish I could be as sanguine as Senator Puplick in his belief that this is the end of the proposal to reintroduce university fees or a means test on the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowances. I wish I could be as confident as he is, because although the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) gave that assurance tonight- I did not see it but I accept his wordthere is still the Budget to be brought down and possibly another statement will be made before the end of the year. I would not put that prospect aside. I hope we can accept Senator Puplick ‘s assurance, having heard the Minister give that guarantee.
But let me look at the good parts of the statement. If we accept that we are in times of economic stringency, if we admit that there is an absolute necessity to reduce massively the deficit, which I do not accept, as I said last week- in fact I think the Government’s economic policies are going in the wrong direction- there are certain things in this statement for which we should be grateful and to which we should pay due credit. I refer, for example, to the significant increase in the Technical and Further Education allowance. That is good and commendable. It is a move in exactly the right direction. I mention, without trying to detract from that praise, that from memory the Government funds only 10 per cent of the TAFE allowance, and that 90 per cent is funded by the States.
– It is an important lead by the Commonwealth.
– Exactly. I have already said that. It is very generous in the circumstances. I will concede that. But unless that lead is matched by an equally generous attitude at the next Premiers Conference in relation to general purpose funding, the significance of that lead will be seriously diminished.
We welcome, too, the increase in real terms in Level 6 spending. That is a departure from the philosophical thrust of last year’s statement which tended to give more money to the richer schools. We welcome this increase, even though it is marginal and even though it is small. We commend it and praise the Government for it. We also strongly commend the Government for its initiative- I think Senator Button overlooked this in relation to the evaluative program that has been introduced or increased in this particular statement. The Australian Democrats are extremely keen about this move. We believe that there is too much overlap in this area and that there is a great need for more of an evaluation concept. But we do not think the statement goes far enough. We think that the Minister ought to instruct the Schools Commission to bring down by 15 August, which I think is the date he mentioned in the paper, some concrete plan as to how that overlap and wastage might be remedied.
We praise the Government for the continuation for the second year of the Galbally Review of Post-arrival Programs and Services to Migrants. We commend the Government for doing that. We certainly believe that it is not nearly enough. Let us consider the sorts of schools in the poorer areas of Melbourne to which I know you frequently go, Madam Acting Deputy President. Those schools have an ethnic population of some 90 per cent. To quote my own daughter who is a primary school teacher, of 43 pupils in a class in a lower socioeconomic suburb, only 5 can speak English. But I do not detract from my commendation of the Government on that section of the statement.
The existing level of funding for disadvantaged groups is to be preserved in real terms. We commend the Government again for that. We commend the Government for its activities in the area of pre-service teacher education. The Minister has instructed the Schools Commission to look at the waste in resources because there are too many teachers. That is a welcome announcement. It runs directly opposite to an answer which the Minister gave to me in the Senate on 2 May. I asked him whether the Australian Education Council working party estimated the number of fully trained teachers in Australia who were either unemployed or working in positions other than teacher as being between 9,750 and 14,700, constituting a waste to taxpayers of between $195m and $3 billion. The Minister hedged the answer and said it was not as simple as that. For that reason alone I am delighted to know that now there is to be a virtual instruction to the Commission to ensure that resources, particularly in relation to pre-teacher training, are put to the best use.
I turn to the crux of the matter in relation to which we would like to be critical of the statement. Firstly, there is no real growth allowed in the area of universities and colleges of advanced education. In the Minister’s own words, there is a 0.2 per cent overall decrease. That is his figure; I have not had time to check it. Since 1975, universities and colleges of advanced education have not been encouraged to take on new staff. This is something that cannot be measured in terms of cost, which means almost the entrenchment of outdated courses. Almost every principal of a college of advanced education or the vicechancellor of a university wants to unload certain courses which have outdated themselves because of the advancement in technology or sociological trends, and so on. That is the situation when new demands for new courses are made in those institutions. Let me give just a couple of examples, because I do not have much time. Let us take for instance leisure studies. One of the greatest problems we have in Australia is in relation to leisure. Most Ocker Australians would be very critical of me for saying this, but one of the few things that we cannot do well- in fact we do it appalling badly- is enjoy our leisure. It is at weekends or long weekends, Christmas, Easter or whatever, when the numbers of suicides, wife bashings, pack rapes, murders and the road toll soar.
Here is a whole area which has already been embraced by tertiary institutions overseas, but because there has been no real increase in funding over the last 5 years, the outdated courses continue and the new innovative courses are not introduced. I refer to such things as programs for the aging, the hospitality industry; one could go on. We say that in the statement made by the Minister there should have been a financial incentive given to those institutions to enable them to retire early outdated teachers and lecturers. By that means they could review the curriculum of outdated courses and replace it with new courses. But there is no increase in the funding for this purpose; in fact, there is a decrease. The Minister rather glossed over that aspect and said that not much harm will be done.
But when one looks at the costs of teritary institutions, one finds that between 80 per cent and 85 per cent of their costs go in academic salaries. That is obviously necessary because the massive recurring costs must be salaries. What is the situation if the grant remains the same? The overall figure, 1 am informed, for salary increments- and there is a technical term for it in the business- is 5 per cent per annum. In that circumstances there must be a 5 per cent increase each year, even to stand still in terms of development. When there is a 0.2 per cent decrease in funding, the situation is not standing still but in fact is going backwards. That puts an unseen, secret pressure on tertiary institutions to reduce further their activities.
One of the most serious omissions from the Minister’s statement concerns the serious decrease in the funding for government and nongovernment schools- a decrease of $29.6m for schools and $ 15.5m for tertiary education in the area of capital equipment and works. There has been no significant building carried out for 5 years. Although I agree with Senator Puplick and the Minister that secondary schools particularly and primary schools in new areas are a credit to the Commonwealth Government and to the respective State governments, appalling conditions still exist in an inordinate number of schools in the lower socio-economic areas and particularly in some of our tertiary institutions, although not universities to my knowledge. But let Senator Puplick, with great respect, visit the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. (Quorum formed). 1 do not thank Senator Keeffe for giving me a quorum. I am quite happy to speak to a half-empty Senate. I would have thought that when an honourable senator calls for a quorum, at least he would pay the senator on his feet the courtesy of asking whether he wants a quorum. I did not.
– Come on!
– If the honourable senator wants to play political games while members of his party are speaking, then let him play them. But he should, at least pay the courtesy of first asking somebody who is trying to address himself seriously to a subject whether he wants a quorum. We find relatively misleading that part of the statement in which the Minister said:
Whilst one may say that statistically one could produce figures to prove that, I think that an underlying reason would make those statistics lie. In universities of course they are stabilising because so many students who have done the popular courses in Arts now find that after a three-year course they cannot get jobs. In a survey that is the reason I have seen given why people are not going to universities. But with respect to colleges of advanced education I think there is another and more important story. These colleges have a far better record than universities in having their trained people placed in employment. I could cite a college in Melbourne where 98.4 per cent of those who graduated last year actually got jobs in the fields for which they were trained. If we compare that sort of record with the records of some universities, particularly in Arts, we would find that the universities could not match it. In one faculty of that same institution 2,000 applications for admission were received for 60 vacancies. The level of students at that college is stable. It is stable because the college cannot afford to take on any new lecturers. The ceiling is put down by the Government. The college has only a certain number of places. I think that that is an unanswerable case as to why the population of that college would continue to be stable.
Of course, that sort of thing is leading to youth unemployment. I am not suggesting for one moment that we ought to extend tertiary education to cure the unemployment problem. I do not want any Government senator to think that I am suggesting that, because I am not doing so for one moment. But do not let us be led into the view that it is good economics to cut back on places in tertiary education to save the deficit. The figures that I have show that in a college of advanced education, as distinct from a university, it costs $40 a week to maintain a student, whereas the unemployment benefit now is well above $50. 1 think it is false economy to think in those terms.
Another point that we would like to make is that the annual funding of capital works must revert to triennial funding. We think that it is insanity for the Government to say to the various institutions around the country: ‘You will get your funding for capital works and equipment only yearly ‘. How is the name of fortune can they plan ahead? This year the rather massive cuts in that respect must have cost millions of dollars nationwide because of the inefficiency and lack of indicative planning in this area. We criticise that part of the statement concerning nongovernment schools because we believe that it is a breach of an undertaking given, I understand, as far back as the time when Sir William McMahon was Prime Minister. He said that the minimum per capita grant for all nongovernment schools would be 20 per cent per pupil running costs of students in government schools. The statement delivered tonight says that the Government has had to defer making that further step in 1 980. We believe that that is a breach of trust to thousands of people, particularly those with children at Catholic parish schools- not in the Level 6 variety- who are paying just as much tax as anybody else but who are paying an inordinate amount of their own incomes to subsidise the education of their children. We see little or no justice in that.
The final point on which we criticise the statement is that it contains absolutely no incentive to the States for rationalisation. We believe that there is a great deal of duplication between TAFE and colleges of advanced education. All over the country one can see examples of a college of advanced education almost a stone’s throw from a TAFE institution, both institutions having libraries, computers and offering the same courses. We believe that some instruction ought to be given to the Tertiary Education Commission to report on how that situation might be rationalised by the time the Minister considers this matter in the context of the Budget. In summary, we can see some good points in the statement. We do not believe- for reasons I described in my speech last week- that the massive cuts are necessary because of the economic situation. But we condemn most of the things that I mentioned in the latter part of my speech.
-I rise to speak rather briefly to a rather small section of the statement that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) put down this evening. I refer to the second paragraph on page 8 wherein the Minister said:
The year 1980 will be the second year of the migrant and multicultural education program of the Galbally Committee. Under this program, the Government will provide through the Schools Commission, increases comprising $2. 1 m for the teaching of English language in schools and $0.9m for the support of activities specifically related to education for a multicultural society. These increases will permit some further restructuring to overcome disparities in the existing distribution among systems of the English language section of the program.
I think that every Australian realises that there are problems in this area and that there is a need for funds. I suggest that the $0.9m is a rather Scrooge-like amount for any activity in this area. Despite the merits of that program, I believe that in the totality of Australia ‘s situation in the world of today it can be considered only as a rather introverted program. It would seem to me at present that if this Government wants to make job opportunities available in our society and to open up new areas and new vistas, there are areas within the educational system where this could be carried out.
I am no expert on education. I left school too long ago, at the end of about a four foot length of leather strap, to be an expert on education. But I do know that at the present time, as an example, the Victorian Department of Education is relying on non-professional volunteers in the area of remedial reading. Despite the valiant and I think excellent efforts of those sorts of nonprofessional volunteers in that area, it seems to me that there is a requirement for trained and qualified staff. It seems to me that, if our society is to overcome the problems with literacy and numeracy governments have a golden opportunity in this day and age to provide funds for properly qualified professional staff to work in that area, rather than our relying, as I said, on non-professional volunteers, as is the case in Victoria at the present time.
There is another area in which I feel that the Government has been remiss. It is another area which I believe could provide job opportunities. Rather than the Government winding down an education system because it believes that school populations are declining, it seems to me that now is the time for the Government to look at our education system to see in what areas it might be remiss. I suggest that one area into which the Government could move is that’ of foreign languages. It seems to me that, rather than the Government cutting back on funding at the present time, that is an area in which funding could be expanded and, as a result, as I said before, new vistas for employment and learning in our society could be opened up.
My experience in the Middle East at this time last year proved to me that Australians live in terrible isolation. I speak of Australians in the broad spectrum. To go to a developing country, as I did last year when I visited the Middle East, and to find out that pupils on finishing primary school were fluent not only in their own language, Arabic, but also in English; and to find that their parents were able to speak French, Italian, German and numerous other languages pertaining to the Mediterranean region, was an eye opener to me. It made me aware of the paucity of my education. Back in 1976, in a report on Australia and the refugee problem, the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence had this to say at page 98, paragraph 7.40:
In order to avoid the confusion, misinterpretation and lack of comprehension which results from word of mouth communication with refugees, the Committee recommends that their own language be used in individual communication with them as well as in the preparation of documents and information sheets which are of concern to them. In the Committee’s view the use of the refugee’s native language for both oral and written communication is of fundamental importance if practical application is to be given to the basic principle that refugees (and migrants) be assured of full access to statutory services and forms of support and assistance to which they arc entitled. 1 would expect that, as that report was presented in the hey-day of Vietnamese refugees coming to this country, at the moment we would have a full complement of Vietnamese interpreters in this country. Certainly it is not the fault of the Vietnamese refugees if that is not so. Senator Sim, who sits opposite, will remember very well our visit to Wacol camp back in 1975 or 1976-1 think it was early 1976- when we came across that very problem in relation to languages. We were obliged to take our own interpreter with us to be sure that we got the correct story. The same Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, in its report on Australian representation overseas, had this to say at page 20, under the heading ‘Language training’, when referring to the Department of Foreign Affairs:
In 1973 the Department established a Language Training Agency. The Agency is staffed by two clerical officers and one clerical assistant from the Department. In 1976 a language laboratory was installed and at the present time the Agency is able to cope with existing needs.
The Department’s needs. The report continued:
However the Department is anxious to implement a longterm language training program which is aimed at increasing the level of officers’ language proficiency and this will require further augmentation of equipment and staff. The Language Training Agency services not only Foreign Affairs, but also other departments, with advice on courses it is conducting, language tests and loans of cassettes.
I was rather intrigued to read in the Canberra Times of 2 1 May this year an article in relation to the Australian problem of our being largely unable to speak a language other than our own. The article is entitled ‘Australians: imprisoned within the four walls of our monolingualism’, and starts off by stating:
There can bc few countries in the Western world so unaware of language problems and so crippled by this lack of awareness as Australia.
The article went on to point out several areas in which that lack of awareness was evident. As I read the article I realised that those areas were basically concerned only with making a quid. The article was not concerned with people’s ability to speak another language for recreational purposes or to relate to people in circumstances other than those related to the cold hard facts of trade. I am sure that members of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence will agree with that section of the article which states:
Australian diplomats, for example, often do not speak the language of the country where they are posted. This makes it virtually impossible for them to fully understand and accurately report on the country of their posting or to promote fruitful relations between that country and Australia.
As I said, that has come out time and time again in hearings of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, of which I have been a member for some six or seven years now. The article went on to state–
– Where is that article, senator?
– It is in the Canberra Times of 2 1 May. The article continued:
Australian businessmen and foreign trade officials often do not speak foreign languages either. At a time when it is universally accepted that for political, economic and social reasons of enlightened self-interest, Australia should be developing its trading links with the emerging growth area of the ASEAN nations, Asian language studies at our schools and universities are declining- less dramatically than studies of most European languages, but equally alarmingly.
The Working Party on Languages and Linguistics in Australian Universities, which published its report in 1975. found that ‘the period 1967-1974 had witnessed a dramaticdecline in the study of languages at matriculation level. In absolute terms total language sittings in all language subjects fell from 22, 144 in 1967 to 14,719in 1974.
On a quick summing up, that represents a drop of some 33 per cent in that period. The article continued:
As a proportion of total students sitting for matriculation examinations this represented a drop from 40 per cent in 1967 to 1 6 per cent in 1974.
The article went on to state further:
As a former Australian ambassador said recently. ‘Decisions are now being taken in Tokyo and Peking, in Hanoi and in the capitals of ASEAN which will have both direct and indirect bearing on Australia and its future, but schools arc taking a “soft” approach and promoting “exposure to Asian culture” instead of teaching languages. This represents, he said, “ a surrender to the great Australian commitment to laziness and mediocrity”.’
At a time when other countries are studying intensively the possibilities of expanding sales abroad by policies aimed at increased knowledge and use of foreign languages (cf, for example, the ‘Does-Britain-need linguists’ conference which took place in London in May 1978) Australia slumbers on in its lazy, lethargic monolingualism
Reports of official government committees on relations with our most important trading partner, Japan, appear without reference to a single Japanese language source. Business firms show little or no interest in graduates from Japanese departments.
And yet. as the Australian Ambassador to Japan, Mr John Menadue, said recently, language is the most frustrating and the most limiting thing in our relations with Japan at a working level.
You can’t understand a society except through its own language’, he urged. ‘Australia has to face up in the long term to where it is going in language training, in both government and the private sector’.
Among embassy officials the most effective by a mile are those who have got the language’.
Among the businessmen, those who have got the language arc streets ahead of those who don’t’.
Sir John Crawford, the chancellor of the Australian National University and a member of the Australia/Japan Foundation, has frequently stressed the imperative need for Australians to increase the emphasis on languages in all levels of education, not excluding the primary schools.
The article goes on to cover other areas of industry in Australia. It states:
The potential tourist market in Australia is very largely wasted because of the lack of multilingual hostesses, guides and reception staff. As the chairman of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism, Mr Jull, said recently, ‘The lack of multilingualist tourist staff in Australia is already an inhibiting factor in promoting Australia overseas ‘.
The article refers to the Australian film industry. It states:
The Australian film industry is alienated from the international film world. Australian critics, producers and directors- even when they go to film festivals overseas- are isolated from the international community of film-makers.
As the well-known film critic Paddy McGuinness said recently, ‘One of the problems of the Australian contingent at Cannes is that few of them arc equipped to speak or read French, and for the most part they talk to each other, or to the English critics. They do not talk to or know the thinking of the French and the Italians who exercise a much greater influence and have a better idea of what is going on’.
I recall some years ago before I entered this place talking to a group of students. From memory, I spoke to them on one Anzac Day. In my endeavours to try to find some subjects about which to talk other than the carnage of war I thought I should look into the future and address them on where this country was going and the sorts of problems they might face which my generation did not face. I recall very clearly speaking to these students about this very problem in our society. I said to them that it seemed to me when I went to school that those students who went to the high school rather than the technical school, which I attended, were deemed to be somewhat ahead of us because they learned French. I said that I often wondered whether they learned French because England was 22 miles from France rather than for any other reason. 1 suggested to them that as Indonesia was only a couple of hundred miles from Australia, and if the same basis for learning a language applied, it was about time that Australian schools started to teach the Indonesian language or languages as well as the languages of Asia. I believe that such an undertaking has been attempted although I am not competent to say with what results. However, it seems to me, as I pointed out earlier in my address, that we are so far behind dozens of other nations in this respect that it is no longer funny.
Australians can be considered only as Ockers when they travel overseas. I particularly put myself in that category. I know that I am one of thousands of Australians who have never had the opportunity to learn a second language. I firmly believe that if a second language is to be grasped it should be taught at a very tender age and that follow-up programs should be provided. Young Australians are able to travel overseas just as young people from overseas can come to this country. Because of tourism it is much easier to retain a foreign language in this modern day and age than it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. It seems to me that this Government has missed a golden opportunity in this area by declining to open up what I termed that vista for Australian students in our education system today.
-Far be it from me to damn Senator Primmer’s speech with faint praise, but it seems to me we just heard the right speech on the wrong subject. Tonight we are engaging in what one hopes is a reasonably short debate on a statement by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) basically on funding guidelines for education in the next year. We have had a couple of interesting contributions. I cannot make much comment on the last speech because it was largely irrelevant to the subject under consideration.
I would like to make a brief comment on Senator Chipp ‘s speech and compliment him in return for what I think was a useful contribution to the education debate in the Senate. In the last few years we have had an interesting and a useful debate, in parliamentary terms, on the subject of education in this chamber and we welcome another thoughtful contribution, particularly on this vexed subject of the level of funding and the role of the Commonwealth Government in the funding of education.
I naturally welcome the fact that Senator Chipp gave due credit to the Government in two very important areas of this statement, namely, increased funding in the technical and further education area and the action the Government is taking on the Galbally report. We have had debates in this chamber in the past on the subject of migrant education and multicultural education. I think all of us who are interested in education have been well aware that these are areas of significant need. That perhaps sums up the main thrust of this statement; that is, while there is a stabilising in demand in certain areas of education, nevertheless the Government has firmed its commitment to areas which are clearly areas of need.
– Do you think that stabilisation is real?
-! will come back to stabilisation, senator. I wish to refer to the areas of migrant education, multicultural education, nongovernment schools where we have known for a long time that the average standards are well below those in the State area, and disadvantaged schools. These are all areas where those of us who support an active Commonwealth Government role in education, particularly in the school area of education, would welcome funding. An interjection was made a moment ago on the subject of stability. I think we have to be careful in using this term that we do not confuse stability with rigidity. There are certain areas of debate in education where the word ‘stability’ is used in a favourable sort of way; at other times the same word is used to mean something quite different. The fact is that our school population has basically stabilised. The stabilisation of population in the tertiary areas has been an enforced thing. The demand for education in the tertiary area has certainly grown and it has been necessary for governments- (Quorum formed). I welcome the fact that the education debate has heightened Senator Keeffe ‘s sensitivity to the subject of numeracy but I lament the fact that it has not broadened his tolerance at all. I was making some comments on stability in education populations and the increased demand in some areas. 1 was trying to draw a contrast between stability and rigidity, which I think is particularly relevant in view of some of the comments that Senator Chipp made in respect of the tertiary area. Certainly, there has been an expanding demand for tertiary education. All of us who are interested in education, and have been for many years, would welcome that increased demand and interest in the tertiary area. Nevertheless, I have no truck with those who have prospered from the tertiary area and who now, in their empire building, attempt to preserve what was good in the past because it is now good for them although it may not be realistic in the future.
Senator Chipp made some reference to the fact that tertiary education institutions, notably universities and colleges, have not significantly expanded their staffs since 1 975. That is something that we would all acknowledge. We have now reached the stage in the education debate where expansion for its own sake is no longer considered desirable. We have had debates as to what constituted the sacred cow of education and I think that in the last couple of years at least the education debate has focused more realistically on what ought to remain and what ought to change. Unfortunately, the tertiary sectors are notoriously unreliable in examining their own area. Senator Chipp refers to new demands and no one would quibble with that. However, we would ask that tertiary institutions respond to new demands and examine old ones at the same time. Getting rid of out-dated courses is much more difficult than bringing in new courses. Senator Chipp made some reference to that. Tertiary institutions ought to be urged to examine these carefully. It is one thing to say that they ought to examine them carefully. It is another altogether to get them to do it. There has been enormous reluctance to act on the part of those who run universities, who are of course the people who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo in their own area, if not expanding their horizons.
There is a weakness in the debate in that sense in that internal priorities are set by those who benefit from the priorities. People do not argue with that because there is a question of academic freedom and that ought to be preserved. But those tertiary institutions must understand that while they keep voicing demands for increased funding they must at the same time provide some justification for what they are doing with the funds that they have. We all know of cases in tertiary institutions, I think notably universities, where courses which previously attracted a very large number of students now attract very few. Nevertheless, the department certainly will not voluntarily reduce the level of its staff. Staff is kept at the same level until there is some natural decline through transfers, people getting new jobs or resigning from old age. That is not good enough.
There are certain departments of languages, for example, a subject to which Senator Primmer referred, in some of our tertiary institutions where previously there was a very heavy demand as a result, for example, of a language other than English being made compulsory for an arts degree, a demand which has declined recently. Whereas they were top departments in terms of enrolments, and therefore staff, some 15 or 20 years ago, they are now very minor departments in terms of enrolment, but the decline in staff has not kept pace. I cannot understand really how people who train in the tertiary area consider that that entitles them as of right to some basic sort of guarantee of a job. For example, Senator Chipp referred to arts graduates. Back when I was a student, which was quite a few years ago, an arts degree was not thought to be a golden meal ticket.
– It was only a couple of years ago, Senator.
- Senator Sim is too kind. There is no secret on that score. I have never believed, when I was a student or since, that because I undertook a course I was entitled to a job at high remuneration. I do not believe that those who take courses now, even in the post-graduate area, have a right to demand employment. If we were to accept that sort of argument we could have a perpetuating, ridiculous system whereby people could be trained in all sorts of occupations, and because they were then turned out into the ‘job market’ with qualifications that were quite irrelevant to demand governments would be supposed to be under some sort of obligation to employ them. That is an area that we have seen particularly strongly debated in recent years in the case of teachers. Students entered institutions, trained as teachers, graduated and the jobs just were not available. That has not been a function of increased class size. On the contrary, the demand for teachers in those terms has expanded, but the actual opportunity for employment has declined.
Perhaps we ought to say that we should be even more restrictive in our intake for tertiary institutions than we are at present. That is a restriction which everybody seems to lament when they get around to talking about university quotas. Perhaps the institutions ought to be more restrictive, but that is a debate that they must enter in those terms. To say ‘Keep everything that we have as it is on the same basis, without any external justification’, and then point to the new areas that Senator Chipp was highlighting tonight and say: ‘Because they are new areas we must have more funds than previously’ is not good enough.
– I did not say that.
– I was not saying that you did, Senator. I was just indicating that you had pointed out some of” those courses in respect of which there may well be a justification. I accept that there could well be a justification. I say that the institutions have to justify the continuation of the courses that they have at present and cannot just argue the aspect of new demand that they sometimes present.
Earlier the subject of research was raised and I would like just to touch on it. We certainly support the fact that universities, in particular, have a very strong research function in this country and that we need much from them. Again, I would not always be persuaded that the research that is undertaken in those institutions is undertaken with the sort of high-minded idealism that is exhibited when they argue for more research funds. Those of us who know about some of the internal workings of universities are well aware that in some areas of research the consideration is an eye to the main chance, the area from which funds may be most easily extracted, usually from private bodies. What that means in terms of research students, technical assistance and so on is part of the empire building structure. I am not saying that that is 50 per cent true, or generally true, of the research area in universities. I am just saying again that universities must enter more meaningfully into that debate and examine their own areas. In a time when there is pressure in regard to funding throughout our society- funding for all sorts of things- those who receive such massive funds ought to be quite sure that they can defend publicly the case that they put.
I am not particularly impressed by a case that comes from the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations on this subject. It is aware of my opinion on this. I went to a seminar that the Federation held in Sydney early this year where much play was made of the effect on research programs of government policies and funding. In fact, on closer examination of the point of view that FAUSA put, it came down to saying in bald terms that it considered itself to be a trade union and therefore not required to justify advanced cases of a more academic or objective nature when challenged to do so. When it takes that line it opts out of the education debate as far as I am concerned. I would not suggest that all members or sections of FAUSA adhere to that point of view but that is what its spokesmen say, and if it is to take that line as a justification in matters such as its concentration on study leave, and claim to be a trade union-type of organisation, it cannot claim to be arbiter on the subject of a general academic view. If it casts itself in terms of advocate of a special interest it cannot claim to be arbiter on a subject of more general purpose and import than the question of working conditions.
As I said earlier, I do not understand why graduates think that they have a golden meal ticket when they graduate if others think that they are unemployable. I do not understand why academics think that once having been employed by a university that is their golden meal ticket for the rest of their lives. It does not apply in other sections of our community. Certainly, it does not apply to members of Parliament. Therefore, I do not see how, under the hallowed mantle of education, they can claim that unto themselves.
I think that all of us who are interested in education welcome the fact that in a time of considerable economic stringency, in a time when this country must examine very carefully its competing national priorities and demands, when it has had to move away from the cargo cult mentality of funding, the universities and colleges have come out of the whole funding situation since 1975 very well indeed. In view of the debates on education that we have had in the Senate on many occasions, I know that Opposition senators would join with me quite heartily in welcoming the fact that there is to be a significant increase in expenditure in the technical and further education sector.
The subject of the funding of government versus non-government schools has been debated already this evening and I am sure that it will be debated many times in the future. I believe that the case put by the Minister is a strong one. Certainly, the States must look to their own resources but the figures are clear and simple on the subject of capital funding there and the role of Commonwealth funding versus State funding and relative responsibilities. As I said at the beginning of my speech, we must all welcome the increased expenditure on migrant and multicultural education. We must also welcome the fact that the Government has been able to hold its line on disadvantaged schools, special education, disadvantaged country areas and children in institutions.
Resource targets have been the subject of much debate and questions many times in the Senate. I think the Australian public is well aware of the fact that since 1975 this Government has faced its responsibilities on the question of education funding. It has been faced with some difficult choices on occasions but the very high priority that we give to education must be absolutely beyond dispute and must remain beyond dispute in view of the Minister’s remarks this evening. The time of the Senate is pressing and we have many other subjects to debate this evening. I am sure that many of us would like to say much more on this subject. We will have the opportunity to do so at some time in the future.
On that note I conclude for this evening my remarks on this statement. I seek leave to continue my remarks later. (Quorum formed).
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting.
-! rise to speak to the motion. I do so because we now find ourselves in the position of having time constraints forced upon us in an unreasonable way.
– We have all night.
-Senator Knight interjects: ‘We have all night’. There is no reason for us to go all night. The Government must understand that we will not get through the legislative program this week by trying to thrust it down the throats of members of the Opposition, which is what the Government intends to do. It is unreasonable to demand that we get through the whole of today’s program tonight and at the same time truncate this important debate on education. If we are to be consistent, let us argue it out. Let us not postpone the debate. Accepting that Senator Martin wants to continue her remarks, let us bring in the legislation that is coming to the Senate from the other place and then return to this debate. If the Government wants to stay here all night we will do so. But let me put a reasonable proposition to the Government. I refer to the one which was discussed over the table earlier today when there was an exchange about the program. I think it was generally accepted in that exchange that we should complete the debate on the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill 1979. The Senate will notice that in order to complete the debate on that Bill the list of speakers has been shortened. People have been taken off that list. In effect, the Opposition has only two further speakers on that Bill.
– A Government speaker was taken off it.
– A Government speaker was taken off the list, yes, but three Opposition speakers were taken off it. Those three Opposition speakers could be put back on the list. We have taken those speakers off the list to enable the Senate to get through the debate on the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill. Because it was regarded as important for us to send the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill to the House of Representatives today it was generally agreed across the table that that should be done. My understanding- it might have been quite incorrect- was that that would be sufficient business for us to complete because that would take us to 1 1.30 p.m., 12 o’clock or perhaps beyond. Having reached that point- having dealt with those two Bills- surely it is unreasonable to expect us to go on to the remainder of the program for today, namely, the first reading debate on wine Bills and the second reading debate on wine Bills and then the debate on the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill. I think there is another Bill on the set program and on other days we will achieve more than what is on the program. As we get towards the end of the week that will be the case. Does the Government know what will happen if it thrusts today’s program on the Senate tonight? We will seek quorums and refuse to incorporate second reading speeches.
– Who was responsible for that?
– Does Senator Maunsell want to stay? We can refuse to incorporate second reading speeches. We can refuse to debate Bills cognately. The Government can force us to debate Bills cognately by having divisions but it cannot force us to debate them as a whole in Committee. What I am saying is that we can get through the program by co-operation but the Government cannot achieve this end by trying to thrust the program down our throats.
– It takes two to co-operate.
– I know that it does. That is exactly right. It takes two to co-operate. We are prepared to co-operate if we are given reasonable time. It seems to me that the only way we can resolve this problem is by doing exactly as the forms of the House permit. That will force the Government into the position of having to apply the gag and guillotine if it wants to complete its program this week.
– No, we won’t. That is what you want.
– If I remember correctly, we have avoided using the gag and the guillotine on past occasions. As we have come towards the end of the legislative program we have done our utmost to get honourable senators away. We have succeeded in doing that on previous occasions. I return to the motion which is before the House, that is, the motion that this debate be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting. I can speak to that motion at length because I believe that the statement on education which is before the House is an important one. We could continue to express our point of view on this statement if we were allowed to do so. We could impress upon the Government the importance of the statement and the fact that we oppose the adjournment of the debate on the statement. We have been victims of the usual confidence trick on the part of the Government. It is now the Government’s ploy to make pre-announcements about what it intends to do. The horrific things that the Government says it will do put the whole of the nation in a state of tension and expectation. Suddenly, when a statement is produced, it is found that things are not as bad as the Government originally pronounced. The analogy is hitting a man on the head with a hammer, patching him up with a band-aid and then telling him that you are sorry.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– We agreed to the suspension of Standing Order 68 because we thought that that course was acceptable. We did not debate the motion today because we thought that the suspension of that Standing Order would enable Bills which were in their latter stages of debate to be passed towards the end of the week with the co-operation of the Opposition. It was not intended by the Opposition to agree to the suspension of Standing Order 68 to allow honourable senators to debate the program through to the early hours of the morning.
For some reason the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) has taken it upon himself to impose upon us a program which we cannot complete without sitting until the early hours of the morning. Sooner or later the Senate will have to decide whether it will sit till I o’clock, 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the morning because that is what this program indicates. Not only do we have to complete the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill 1979 but also we have to debate the first readings of the Wine Grapes Levy Bill 1979 and associated Bills. Honourable senators have waited for some time to speak in the debate on the first readings of those Bills. They are entitled to say what they wish to say. They did not expect to have to do so at 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock in the morning, but that is what the Leader of the Government is thrusting upon us.
Again I suggest to the Leader of the Government that a reasonable program would be to debate and to pass the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill 1979 and the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill 1979. In spite of his assertions to the contrary, I do not doubt that he will put a case that the agreement was that the Government was to get its legislation through. I think the understanding of honourable senators on this side of the chamber was that we should pass those 2 Bills, especially the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill 1979. A considerable number of honourable senators on this side of the House would like to speak to that Bill, and this would take us into the early hours of the morning. I repeat that it would be reasonable to accept that program and to allow us to go home at a reasonable hour. A refusal to accept that program means that the Government wants to run this place on its terms without having any consideration for the Opposition. I know that the Government Whip is shaking his head. Today we have not had a chance- because of party meetings- to consult on the program. For that reason we may have got into some difficulty, but that disadvantage may be overcome tomorrow. If the Government is to do that to the Opposition tonight, then of course tomorrow it will see a whole series of procedures that will make of this place a place -
– That will be up to you.
-Senator Knight is saying it will be up to us. He is taking the holierthanthou, righteous attitude that if the program breaks down it is the Opposition ‘s fault.
– If that is what you do -
-Is the honourable senator saying that it is our fault? The Government wants to do something unreasonable and because the Opposition does not accept it, then we are unreasonable. What sort of chopped logic is that?
– How much legislation have you got?
-The Government will get its legislation today.
– You tell us that now.
– Let us proceed the way the Government wants to proceed. Let us say that all the understandings of the past few weeks and perhaps of the past couple of sessions, have gone out the window. The motion to which I should be speaking is that the resumption of the debate be made on Order of the Day for the next day of sitting. I am not certain whether that is after 1 2 midnight or whether it is after the Senate reconvenes tomorrow. That is an academic exercise. All I am saying is that if one considers it important for honourable senators to debate into the early hours of the morning then the education statement is also important and the Senate should continue to debate it right now.
– in reply- Mr President, so that there can be no doubt–
– Does this close the debate?
– It does.
- Mr President, so that there can be no doubt -
- Mr President, I take a point of order. I am sorry about this. 1 listed myself as a speaker. I think I rose at approximately the same time as the Minister for Education and he is now closing the debate. I object to that because I think it is a negation of democracy and I have a right to be heard.
– There is no point of order. You indicated to me that you wished to speak. The Minister rose and I must give him the call.
- Mr President, I rose at the same time and I am going to move dissent from your ruling because I think it is unfair. If you are running this place like a dictatorship, then run it like a dictatorship. I listed my name as a speaker and now you are ruling me out of order because you are subservient to the Minister. I move dissent from your ruling.
– I called the Minister. He rose and I gave him the call. I call the Minister.
– He cannot close the debate. At least let us have a fair go on the matter.
- Senator Georges asked what was planned for today. I am reading from the Hansard roughs.
– Have you got my roughs? You haven’t got mine, have you?
– You are a bigger dictator than Fraser, that is what you are. You are a standover merchant.
– I have no objection at all if this kind of abuse is to go on. The people of Australia will know what the obstructive tactics are. Mr President, I take it that the Opposition does not want to know what is in the text of Hansard for today and what was the understanding. The Opposition Whip having indicated that he had difficulties with his Caucus and I, seeking to accommodate him, said:
On the understanding that the Opposition -
– You are nothing but a liar. You never said that at all. You are just being a liar.
– I beg your pardon?
– The Minister is lying, Sir.
– You said he was a liar. I heard you say ‘a liar’- withdraw. That is something you cannot get away with.
– I do not propose to withdraw. I was refused the call after I had complied with the forms of this chamber. I have done everything correctly. The chamber is tense because of the manner in which the Standing Orders have been misused. I do not propose to withdraw because the Minister made a totally untruthful statement.
- Mr President, I wish to raise a point of order. The chamber is tense and everyone is emotional, tired and irritable.
Honourable senators interjecting-
– Order! We will hear Senator Cavanagh in silence.
- Mr President, I could not hear what you said.
- Senator Cavanagh, we will hear you in silence.
– Thank you, Mr President. I appreciate your assistance. Possibly it is unfortunate to call another person a liar before we hear the lie that that person is going to tell. I think Senator Keeffe will withdraw in order to hear what the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) is going to say. What has irritated honourable senators on the opposition side is that it was felt that if the Senate got through the first two items, including the education statement, and made inroads into the other items, the Senate would then rise. Perhaps the Minister could indicate what time he thinks the Senate should get up, and so try to overcome the emotion that has been established.
– Who is running the place? Give us an idea.
– At present, I am. When I have finished, the honourable senator can have his turn. I make an appeal to the Minister for Education for reasonable sense. If the Senate lacks this co-operation, we will get nowhere. I suggest that the offending word be withdrawn until the Minister has made a statement giving honourable senators an indication of how long the Senate will sit. If Senator Keeffe wants to pursue the matter, he can repeat the unparliamentary word.
– I call Senator Keeffe.
- Mr President, I do not feel disposed to withdraw anything. But I take this opportunity to say that when I listed my name on the speakers’ list, I expected to be called. I have never seen this situation occur in this chamber before. I thought that I had the right to support Senator Georges in his objections. I believe that I should have been heard. I was probably as quick on my feet as the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). There are only about two days between our ages, so we are fairly sharp on our feet. I thought that I ought to have been given that right. If the Minister is offended, I shall withdraw the word in order to fight another day. Mr President, I hope that you also might be a little lenient and give me the call to say the things that I want to say, and then maybe the Minister can speak.
-Mr President, to understand what is happening in the Senate now it must be understood that at regular intervalsevery few days- during the past few weeks I have presented to the chamber the program of legislation necessary to be dealt with if the Senate is to get up in an orderly fashion and if both sides of the Senate are to have adequate time for debate, lt was generally agreed that the program could be carried out. The Government has tried to do that but on no day have we managed to get through the program. A lot is said about the fact that it costs money to work late at night. It costs infinitely more money to keep Parliament going day by day when it is unnecessary. The fact is that the records will show that this Government has brought forward the programs day by day and has presented them as being a reasonable workload while not denying the Opposition any of its ordinary rights in performance in this chamber. Indeed, Mr President, when the overload comes the Senate is extending the hours. That is precisely what is being done tonight. As to the passage from Hansard that is before me- it may well be that there is an additional section from Hansard and I make that perfectly clear- it may well be that if we had it all we would get complete clarity. I will simply read what I have.
– Don ‘t read it if you haven’t got the complete story.
– I do not have the complete copy here, but I shall read what I have. It states:
Senator CARRICK (New South Wales-Leader of the Government in the Senate)- by leave- On the understanding that the Opposition will assist the Government to achieve the disposal of its business today, and on what has been indicated by Senator Georges, I would bc willing to move that the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill 1979 take precedence, so that the Australian Labor Party can hold its meetings. However, I indicate that the Government intends today to get through the business that is on the business sheet, lt is necessary that the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill go to the House of Representatives and be passed there this week. Under such circumstances, I seek an assurance that the business set down for today will be completed.
I make it perfectly clear that I have no copy of the remainder. It may very well be that in good faith on both sides there is a complete misunderstanding of what was the exchange across the chamber. Let me say that as such. That is all I have. I simply say that it is only in good faith that I achieved that understanding. If there is a misunderstanding let us proceed on the primary basis that we deal with the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill and the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill and then take stock of where we are at that stage.
It is not for governments to respond to any kind of threats. The Opposition has available to it whatever tactical weapons it seeks to use. I do not respond to those kind of things. It is for the Opposition to use them if it sees fit. It is for the Government to assess them. I simply say that the Government has intended over the past month, and has demonstrated its intention, to give the Opposition every fair go to get through the business paper. We will not have our legislation concertinaed into a corner so that in a completely spurious way it can be said that we are legislating by exhaustion. That will not happen at all. We will provide the extra hours for debate one way or another. We will do that now. I am perfectly willing to proceed in an orderly fashion to deal with the tax Bill and the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill and to assess the position after we have done that. If in the sweet reasonable course of events we can get up and get through the business tomorrow I would be completely willing to do that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator GEORGES (Queensland)-by leave- I have been misrepresented slightly and I think the situation ought to be cleared up. This morning I said that before I went to the Caucus meeting I took with me an interim program. Because of party meetings the Whips were not able to meet. On that interim program the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill was in second position, not first. I have a copy of that interim program. That is only a minor point. At the Caucus meeting we decided to refer that Bill to a committee. The understanding was that we should reverse the order of dealing with the Bills. The Government agreed to put the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill first and the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill next. Then we had an exchange which led to an understanding that we would deal with those two Bills tonight. I know that the Leader of the Government in the Senate said what is reported in Hansard. But what the Minister quoted is not a complete record of the discussion which took place because I got up and made a further statement. In that further statement the position was clarified.
– I have acknowledged that that may be so. It is quite possible.
-There was a further statement. We clarified the position that we would deal with the tax Bill and the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill and at that stage we would consider a day’s work well done. That was the position. That is where we are at now. That was the understanding before we flared into a position of expectation that the Government would try to proceed to deal with the whole of today’s program. That is impossible and we would endeavour to frustrate it. If the Leader of the Government is back to the understanding that we deal with the tax Bill and the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill then we ought to proceed with that-
– And we assess it then.
- Senator Carrick says that we are to assess the position then. In the meantime he would have taken away from us any weapons we have to prevent him from carrying out that program. He has to say to us: ‘Yes, that is sufficient’.
– I conceded the rearrangement of the program to the Opposition today in a completely gentlemanly way. We rely on our behaviour to do what we are doing. We will assess the position when we have dealt with the Bill. I am not going to have a situation in which the Opposition can drag out proceedings overnight and say that that is the end of it. If the Opposition behaves in the normal way we will as well.
– What the Leader of the Government is doing is putting us on good behaviour. That is not on.
– Order! Please speak to the subject of your misrepresentation.
-The Leader of the Government has said to us: ‘You do that and then we will consider it when we are finished’. That is not an appropriate arrangement as far as I am concerned. He cannot put us on good behaviour. All I am suggesting to the Leader of the Government is that he accept the proposition which I believe to have been the understanding earlier in the day. We will then proceed with the debate, deal with these two Bills and then go home.
– by leave- After Senator Carrick put down his statement this morning as I walked out of the chamber I said to Senator Georges: ‘It is not suitable that we commit ourselves to complete the whole of this program today because it would be physically impossible for us to do so’. That was obvious. To come to the present position, I do not think that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) can say to us that he will look at the position after we have completed the Income Tax (Rates and Assessments) Amendment Bill and expect us to accept that. I understand that there are two speakers still to come on that Bill. There are to be three speakers on the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill. We will be here until probably half past twelve finishing that off. To suggest that we will then look at the position has an implication that we will go on to deal with further legislation.
I do not think that we can work on that basis. By half past twelve every one of us will be just about ready to make a real shambles of this place. We have been through all that sort of thing before and that is where we are heading tonight. I suggest to Senator Carrick that it is not worth it. For goodness sake, the present arrangement is what was agreed this morning. As I understand it it was agreed that that would be the arrangement. Surely we should be satisfied with that for one day.
-by leave- It seems to me that it is not a very satisfactory arrangement to air arguments about procedures in the Senate in the way we are doing it at present. I suggest to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) and to my party that a suitable arrangement would be to proceed to deal with the Income Tax ( Rates and Assessments) Amendment Bill while the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) meet with the Whips to resolve this argument about an arrangement made earlier in the day. If that is not done we will talk all night to try to resolve what seem to be irreconcilable arrangements. I suggest that course to the Leader of the Government. The leaders should meet with the Whips to make sure that we reach a reasonable arrangement for the evening.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)- by leave- I now have the other part of the Hansard record. Nevertheless, what I have said before, I will adhere to. I said:
What I am saying is purely this: I want to facilitate the opportunity for the Australian Labor Party to take the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill to its Caucus. Equally, I want to get that Bill through today so that it can go to the House of Representatives. I want by tonight at least to have placed before the Senate the Income Tax Bill and the National Park Bill, and I would hope to make substantial progress in relation to the other matters. With that understanding, I seek leave to withdraw my previous motion.
I am willing to concede that Senator Georges may have misunderstood this.
– I made a further statement.
– At that moment the motion was withdrawn. Hansard reads: Motion- by leave- withdrawn. ‘ That is the clear situation. Let us be perfectly reasonable. There is only one way to run this place and that is by reason. It is quite clear that what I said was that we would deal with those two Bills and make further progress with the others. In the past we have worked together with good understanding. What I have said today is that we should go ahead and deal with those two Bills we want and assess the situation after that. If it is a fair thing we will then adjourn. I will not be forced into a situation simply by a manoeuvre. Let us play the game according to the way it ought to be played. Even though I need not have done so, I have conceded that Senator Georges may have misunderstood what happened.
Senator BISHOP (South Australia)-by leave- I do not know whether the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) heard me make the suggestion which seemed to me to be very reasonable- that we proceed with the Income Tax (Rates and Assessments) Amendment Bill while he, Senator Wriedt and the two Whips consider whether the argument about the arrangement is valid. If he then takes the same stand, we have to battle out the situation. We should not be faced with this sort of nonsense in this Senate at this time of the night. Why cannot the leaders get together sensibly and make the arrangements, and finally report to the Senate? I again report to the Leader of the Opposition, and ask him to consider what I put forward whilst he was discussing across the chamber. Let us start the business of the Senate. In the meantime, let the leaders get together and work out what ought to be a reasonable solution. I hope that my request will be acceded to.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave for the text of the second reading speech to be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– We will grant leave on the Government’s understanding that refusal to do so is one of the devices we will use if the Government endeavours to force its program upon us.
– Leave is granted?
– The Bill proposes that long-term patients -
-Is leave granted?
- Mr President, leave is either granted unconditionally or not granted.
– That is so. Is leave granted?
– No, it is not granted, that being the attitude of the Leader of the Government. I am sorry I had to make that remark, but that is one of the things which must be observed.
– I just want to say that I have conceded very greatly tonight, as Hansard has shown. 1 hope that that kind of concession and that kind of arrangement will not be abused. I have no desire in this world to play the game except according to the way it ought to be played in this place. I turn now to the second reading speech on the Bill.
The Bill proposes that long term patients accommodated in hospitals who no longer require hospital treatment are to be reclassified as nursing-home type patients and required to contribute part of their pension to their care and accommodation in the same way as patients in nursing homes. There is general agreement in principle between State health ministers and the Commonwealth Minister for Health that action should be taken to reclassify long term patients in public hospitals whose situation is similar to nursing home patients. Discussions have been held with the National Standing Committee of Private Hospitals and the Australian Medical Association has also be consulted. The proposals contained in the legislation before the House are based on those discussions.
The Bill, in paragraph (b) of clause 3, defines a ‘nursing-home type patient’ as, briefly, an inpatient whose hospitalisation exceeds 60 days, unless a certificate has been issued in accordance with new section 3B, inserted by clause 4 of the Bill. (Quorum formed) The certificate may be issued at any time by a medical practitioner who certifies that the patient is in need of acute care; professional attention for an acute phase of the patient’s condition; active rehabilitation; or continued management, for medical reasons, as a hospital patient. I would emphasise that pensioners, or any other patients, who are required to enter hospital for an acute phase of illness will not be affected by the provisions of this Bill. These patients will be treated as normal hospital patients and will be entitled to receive hospital treatment as long as they are accommodated and require hospital treatment. They will not be required to contribute part of their pension towards their care and accommodation while such acute phase continues.
The Bill deals with the fees to be charged nursing-home type patients in recognised hospitals covered under a hospital cost-sharing agreement between the Commonwealth and a State. The matter of the levels of hospital benefits payable by health insurance organisations in respect of nursing-home type patients is included in complementary provisions which amend the National Health Act 1953. 1 will deal with those proposals when introducing that legislation.
The proposal in relation to recognised hospitals, is that the agreement between the Commonwealth and a State is to be varied to provide for charges to be made in respect of nursing-home type patients in recognised hospitals which will be equal to: Firstly: Where the patient is not a hospital insured person- the patient contribution paid by nursing-home patients in State Government homes in the relevant State; and secondly, where the patient is a hospital insured personthe total of the patient contribution and the Commonwealth nursing home benefit payable in the relevant State. These levels of benefit vary from State to State, and presently range from $11.75 a day in Western Australia to $20.40 a day in Victoria. An additional benefit of $6 per day is payable for extensive care patients which will be reflected in the fees charged.
Honourable senators will note that the term patient contribution’, for the purposes of the new arrangements, is defined in paragraph (c) of clause 3 of the Bill. Further, the amendment made by clause 10, varying the Heads of Agreement in Schedule 2 to the Health Insurance Act 1973, enables the appropriate patient contribution to be levied on patients who are not hospital insured.
The final amendment in the Bill relating to this matter is contained in clause 8. Certain private hospitals, conducted by religious and charitable organisations, have beds approved for the purposes of the payment of a supplementary daily bed payment, in addition to the private hospital bed day subsidy of $16 payable under section 33 of the Act. This supplementary payment relates to patients to whom care and treatment is provided without charge. They are in an identical position to hospital patients in recognised hospitals who are treated free. The amendment in clause 8 places these patients, in respect of whom an approval is in force under section 34 of the Act, on the same basis as similar patients in recognised hospitals as regards the payment of a patient contribution’, in the event they are classified as nursing-home type patients.
In a statement made in another place by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) on 24 May, advising details of the revised health insurance arrangements to operate from 1 September 1979, it was stated that a key element would be the introduction of a universal medical guarantee for doctors ‘ fees over $20 for each schedule service. The proposal will be that Commonwealth medical benefit will be payable only for medical benefits schedule fees above $20 except in the case of pensioners with pensioner health benefit entitlement cards and patients classified by their doctors as disadvantaged. The new rate of Commonwealth medical benefit will equal the amount by which the schedule fee exceeds $20. The amendments contained in clause 5 of the Bill give effect to this government initiative. Clauses 6 and 7 are consequential amendments to the amendment made by clause 5. I would emphasise to honourable senators that the provisions governing the payment of Commonwealth medical benefits for eligible pensioners and disadvantaged persons remain unchanged.
A further matter dealt with in the Bill is contained in clause 9. This provision enables Commonwealth medical benefits payments under the Health Insurance Act 1 973 to be paid out of the National Welfare Fund, as are similar type Commonwealth benefits, such as pharmaceutical benefits, and covers unforeseen circumstances such as large scale epidemics. The amendment, together with those in Part III of the Bill, has the further effect of permitting the Department of Health to pay medical benefits which become payable in respect of services rendered before 1 November 1978, the date the current medical benefit arrangements came into effect. Presently, these payments are made by the Health Insurance Commission on behalf of the Commonwealth. The amendments in clause 9 and Part III of the Bill will commence operation on 1 July 1979. The amendment made by paragraph (a) of clause 3 of the Bill, together with the transitional provision in clause 15, provide for the Northern Territory to be an approved pathology practitioner for the purposes of the pathology benefits arrangements. The amendment is operative from 1 January 1 979 and is necessitated by the granting of self-government to the Territory from that date. The remaining provisions in the Bill, clauses 13 and 14, are transitional provisions relating to the proposals for nursinghome type patients. Mr President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. ( Quorum formed).
The Bill before the Senate contains provisions relating to three principal matters: Firstly, benefits payable under revised arrangements; secondly, amendment to procedures relating to the tabling of ministerial directions and revocations under the National Health Act; and, thirdly, improvements to the isolated patients travel and accommodation assistance scheme.
The first group of provisions relating to health insurance benefits concerns the revised medical benefits arrangements to operate from 1 September 1979. The details of these arrangements were contained in a statement made by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in another place on 24 May 1979. Honourable senators will recall that at that time it was advised that, under the Government’s revised medical benefits arrangements to operate from 1 September 1979, registered medical benefits organisations would continue to be required to pay, out of the basic medical benefits table, medical benefits of 75 per cent of the schedule fee with a maximum payment by the patient of $ 10 for each service where the schedule fee is charged.
The amendments contained in paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of clause 3, which amend the definitions of ‘basic medical benefits table’ and guaranteed medical benefit’ and insert a new definition of ‘prescribed professional service’, ensure that the appropriate medical benefit is paid by registered medical benefits organisations. As the Minister for Health further mentioned in his statement of 24 May 1 979, a period of two months from 1 September 1979 will be allowed during which persons who enrol with registered medical benefits organisations for benefits from a basic or optional medical benefits table, will receive immediate entitlement to such benefits without any waiting period being applied. The condition of registration specified in clause 1 5 provides accordingly.
The second group of provisions relating to health insurance benefits concerns the level of hospital benefits to be paid by registered hospital benefits organisations for nursing-home type patients. These provisions are complementary to provisions contained in the Health Insurance Amendment Bill 1979. 1 will not speak in detail on the provisions in that Bill, but I draw the attention of honourable senators to the terms nursing-home type patients’ and ‘patient contribution’ which are defined in the Health Insurance Amendment Bill 1979 and which were explained in my second reading speech on that legislation. These terms will have the same meaning for the purpose of the amendments made by the Bill now before the Senate. As I further mentioned in my second reading speech on the Health Insurance Amendment Bill 1979, the proposals in relation to nursing-home type patients envisage fees being charged, under Commonwealth-State hospital agreements, in recognised hospitals, related to these types of patients. For uninsured persons, this will be a fee equivalent to the patient contribution paid by nursing home patients in State government nursing homes in the relevant State. For hospitalinsured persons, the fees charged nursing-home type patients will again be subject to Commonwealth-State hospital agreements. These fees will be set at the level of the aggregate of the defined patient contribution and the Commonwealth nursing home benefit payable in the relevant State. This benefit is specified in section 47 of the National Health Act and ranges from $11.75 a day in Western Australia to $20.40 a day in Victoria. A further nursing home benefit of $6 a day is payable in respect of extensive care patients and this benefit will also be reflected in the fees charged such nursing-home type patients. Presently nursing home benefits payable under the National Health Act by registered hospital benefits organisations are specified in basic and optional hospital benefits tables operated by these organisations.
The Bill, in clause 3, amends the definition of basic hospital benefits table’ by specifying the hospital benefits payable for nursing-home type patients in recognised and private hospitals in a state where provision for such patients is made in the Commonwealth-State Hospital Agreement. In brief, the benefit for insured nursing-home type patients in recognised hospitals will be an amount equal to the fees payable by the patient, less the patient contribution, as defined in the Health Insurance Amendment Bill 1979. The principle will be similar in private hospitals. However, the level of hospital benefits payable in private hospitals from the basic table will not exceed, at any time, the fees charged for sharedward accommodation in recognised hospitals, at present $40 a day. The benefit level could be reduced below that level having regard to the amount of the fee payable by the patient. The amendment made by paragraphs (a) and (b) of clause 1 1 of the Bill enables benefits for nursinghome type patients to be paid out of the optional hospital benefits tables operated by registered organisations. Registered hospital benefits organisations will not be permitted to offer benefits from their basic or optional hospital benefits tables to cover the amount of the patient contribution. The condition of registration contained in clause 14 of the Bill ensures that the patient contribution, as defined in the Health Insurance Amendment Bill 1979, will also be payable by nursing-home type patients who insure for hospital benefits above the level payable under a basic or optional hospital benefits table. The concept of the patient being required to pay a personal contribution is consistent with the principle applying in nursing homes.
I now draw the attention of honourable senators to clause 9, which extends the eligibility for the domiciliary nursing care benefit. This benefit was introduced early in 1973 to provide a viable alternative to nursing home care to those people who choose to care for patients in the comfort and familiar surroundings of their own homes. The benefit was designed to help to meet the additional costs involved in maintaining nursing-home-type patients at home and charges for services were raised. The rate of benefit is $2 a day and is presently restricted to people caring for patients aged 65 years or more. The Bill, in clause 9, reduces the age limit from 65 years to 16 years. In implementing this measure, the Government now recognises the significant contribution made by the people concerned towards the welfare of younger patients requiring similar long-term nursing care to those patients presently covered by the domiciliary nursing care benefit arrangements.
The second matter covered by the Bill before the House concerns the procedures involved in relation to ministerial directions and revocations. Section 73BE (2) of the National Health Act provides for the Minister to give a direction in relation to matters of discrimination and the level of medical and hospital benefits payable. Section 73E enables the Minister to revoke a declaration in relation to an optional table which satisfies guidelines determined by the Minister. The ministerial directions and revocations which I have just mentioned are presently subject to review by Parliament. Sections 73BE and 73E provide for the Minister to place a copy of any direction or instrument of revocation before each House of Parliament. The direction or revocation does not take effect until the period of 15 sitting days specified for disallowance has passed. These provisions were based on a precedent contained in section 42 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.
During the debate in the Senate in November last year on the National Health Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1978, which inserted the relevant provisions into the National Health Act, it was pointed out that, although a motion upon notice for disallowance of the direction or instrument of revocation might be tabled, there is no obligation that such a motion be dealt with. In the event that the motion was not considered within the period of disallowance, the direction or revocation would automatically come into effect at the cessation of that period. At the time the provisions were inserted in the legislation, it was intended that an effective review procedure would be provided. The Minister for Health has taken cognisance of the points made during the debate in the Senate on the National Health Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1978 and accepted that the procedure provided for was not suitable for the circumstances specified under the National Health Act. Accordingly, the Bill, in clauses 10 and 11, provides that a ministerial direction, under section 73BE, and an instrument of revocation, under section 73E, having been tabled in both Houses of Parliament in accordance with those provisions, will not come into effect until any motion upon notice has been withdrawn or properly dealt with.
I turn now to the isolated patients travel and accommodation assistance scheme. This scheme, which commenced on 1 October 1978, provides financial assistance to help to meet the travel and accommodation expenses incurred when people living in isolated areas need to travel long distances to receive specialist medical attention. Both sides of the Parliament welcomed the scheme, as have the residents of isolated areas, who previously could have been faced with considerable expenses should they require specialist medical attention. However, experience has shown that there are certain anomalies in the scheme. Clauses 4 to 8 of this Bill, and regulations that are proposed to be made, will give effect to the changes to the scheme that were foreshadowed by the Minister for Health on 24 May 1979. The Bill will permit the exemption of residents of certain off-shore islands from the requirement that applicants live more than 200 kilometres from the specialist to whom they are referred. Some residents of these islands have been excluded from the scheme because they live within 200 kilometres of the places of specialist treatment. However, the difficulties they ordinarily face in travelling to receive treatment are such that the Government considers that they should be eligible for assistance. The islands concerned are Kangaroo Island in South Australia; Groote Eylandt, Melville Island, Bathurst Island, Elcho Island in the Northern Territory; Three Hummock Island, King Island and the Furneaux Group in Tasmania. Regulations being proposed would extend the scheme to these islands.
The Bill will also remove the requirement for patients to obtain departmental approval prior to their commencing the journey for treatment. This has not been always practicable and has resulted in some otherwise eligible persons having been unable to receive benefits. It has therefore been decided to delete the necessity for prior approval. However, patients will be required to lodge their applications within six months of the date of referral. The Act presently provides that financial assistance will be automatically approved for an adult person to accompany patients under the age of 14 years. In view of the obvious difficulties which can be experienced by young people travelling alone to capital cities, this Bill will raise this age limit from 14 years to 17 years.
The Government also proposes to make the scheme available to a greater number of people living outside metropolitan areas. The existing isolated areas are those local government areas having 50 per cent or more of their population at least 200 kilometres from the general post offices in the capital cities or the central post office of cities with a population of over 100,000. This has caused some difficulty where the required specialist treatment is available only in certain capital cities. For example, some patients with particular difficulties, such as spina bifida, who lived within 200 kilometres of cities with a population of over 100,000 were not eligible even though the required medical specialty was not available in those cities. It is proposed that nonisolated areas will be restricted to the metropolitan areas of the mainland capital cities, other than Darwin and Canberra. This also means that the residents of Tasmania will be eligible where the specialty is not available in Hobart and they need to travel to Melbourne. The requirement that applicants travel at least 200 kilometres for treatment, with the exception of residents of certain off-shore islands as previously mentioned, will remain.
The Government believes that the proposed changes will enhance an already excellent scheme which has been of considerable help to persons living in isolated areas. The remaining provisions of the Bill are technical amendments which enable committees established under section 136 of the National Health Act to consider matters relevant to the Health Insurance Act, and an amendment consequential upon the amendment made in clause 10 to section 73BE. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on behalf of the Commonwealth, to guarantee borrowings raised by Qantas Airways Limited to finance the pu -chase of its eighteenth and nineteenth Boeing 747 series aircraft. The aircraft are scheduled for delivery in November 1979. The Boeing 747 series aircraft was introduced into the Qantas fleet in 1971- thereby beginning Qantas ‘s fleet rationalisation process, which has just been completed with the disposal of the remaining 707s early this year. The Boeing 747 aircraft has proved to be well suited to Qantas ‘s major pattern of operations. The use of this type of aircraft made it possible for Qantas to pioneer low fares on the Australia-Europe routes in 1972 and for the introduction of the new low fares to the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Europe which the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has recently announced. Qantas had indicated that the Boeing 747 aircraft will continue to be the main unit in its fleet for many years to come as a replacement aircraft is not yet on the drawing boards.
Aircraft 18 will be in the combi configuration which allows a combination of passengers and cargo and it is intended that this aircraft be used on the Australia-Frankfurt service, enabling Qantas to offer an improved air cargo service between Germany and Australia. The aircraft will also be used between Australia and the United States of America. Aircraft 19 is to be in the normal passenger configuration and is required to cope with the anticipated peak summer traffic to the United Kingdom-Europe and the United States of America expected to occur in 1980-81.
Both these aircraft are to be fitted with Rolls Royce RB 2 1 1 engines which have been chosen by Qantas after careful evaluation because of the increased fuel efficiency associated with the new generation of large jet engines which will enable more efficient operations in the 1980s as petroleum-based fuels become scarcer. Qantas also plans to increase the number of saleable seats by 455 across its present fleet of Boeing 747 aircraft by the modification of the in-flight galleys to enable more seats to be fitted in each aircraft and by modifying the existing engines to give more thrust to cope with the extra pay load. Qantas expects to achieve additional capacity slightly greater than one extra B747 with this project with a capital outlay less than the cost of half of a new aircraft and with only a small increase in operating costs. As in the past, the provision of a guarantee would be limited to 80 per cent of the total purchase price of the aircraft, spare parts and associated equipment. This represents $US94m or its equivalent in other currencies. The provision of a guarantee would not involve the Government in any cash outlay but does create a contingent liability for the Commonwealth. The arrangements for the loan are to be subject to the Treasurer’s approval and adequate security will be provided to the Commonwealth while any amounts of principal or interest remain unpaid. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) adjourned.
– We now get back to the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill which we were debating at 6 p.m. when the Senate suspended for dinner. At 8 p.m. the Government saw fit to introduce an education statement which took up 2Vi hours of the Senate’s time. It has taken until 1 1.30 p.m. for us to get back to this income tax legislation.
– And then blame the Opposition.
– Of course the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) blamed the Opposition. The Government Leader ought to be reminded that Senator Button, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and Senator Primmer from our side spoke to the statement on education. We find that Senator Puplick and Senator Martin and also Senator Chipp spoke from the other side. Therefore the Government cannot blame the Opposition for delaying the Senate tonight.
– Don ‘t put Chipp on our side.
– He is not on our side; that is for sure. He used to be a member of the honourable senator’s party, so he is not on our side. As far as the official Opposition is concerned only two Opposition senators spoke to the statement put down by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) tonight. Some Government senators seem to have worked themselves into a frenzy over this matter.
The Minister for Education has just read only half of his second reading speech on the Qantas Airways Ltd (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1979. I do not know what will appear in Hansard tomorrow. The Minister read only the first page of his two-page second reading speech. He broke ofT midway through his speech. Therefore if anyone is excited here tonight it is the Leader of the Government. I hope that Hansard takes note of the fact that the Minister read i~nly half his second reading speech and I trust that the full speech is not recorded in Hansard tomorrow. As I said, the Minister read only half of his second reading speech.
Government senators may think that, because the Senate is sitting so late because of the way in which they have handled the business of the Senate today, members of the Opposition will curtail what they wanted to say on this income tax legislation. So Far as I am concerned I am going to say what 1. would have said had I been given the opportunity to make my speech earlier tonight. As the President said to me the other night in respect of other matters, it is no skin off my nose if 1 have to stay here and take my full hour to say what I want to say. 1 think the first thing we have to realise is that the income tax legislation we are considering is futher conclusive proof of more broken promises by the Government, and particularly by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I want to back up my contention that the credibility of the Government is now in tatters. I refer to what an ex-Liberal senator had to say. In the course of speaking about Government policies on a talkback radio program on 7 March 1977- that is more than two years ago- Senator Wood was asked:
Do you think it’s an integrity gap or a credibility gap we are talking about?
Senator Wood replied:
Well, I think definitely it’s a credibility gap and the way the Government is going on it will be hard to get anybody to believe what they say . . .
He said that two years ago. Of course, as time has gone on the people in the electorate have realised more and more how true those words are. No longer do they believe in anything that honourable senators opposite say. In particular they do not believe anything that their Prime Minister has uttered. I think that is borne out in the results of last Saturday’s election in the Australian Capital Territory where there was a 20 per cent swing to the Labor Party candidates and a similar swing against the Liberal Party candidates. The people of Australia have at last woken up to all of the promises that have been altered or broken. I want to refer to a few of them tonight. I know that what I am saying makes honourable senators opposite uneasy because they have to back up their Prime Minister. No doubt many of them do not agree with what he is doing now. However, they did agree with him when he made these promises.
I would like to refer to an article in the Bulletin of 13 November 1976 entitled ‘Fraser’s first year’. I will quote a few small extracts from the article to remind honourable senators opposite of the sort of person they sit behind. Talking about the popularity of the Prime Minister the Bulletin said:
Personal approval figures for Fraser have fluctuated rather more, but are often remarkably high. The latest percentage of the electorate approving the way the PM is doing his job is 47 per cent down from his momentary high of 54 per cent in April but still at a good level and much above that achieved by any previous Prime Minister for a sustained period.
Let us have a look at the gallup poll figures -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Townley)- Order! Senator, I presume you will be relating this to the Income Tax Bill.
– Yes, 1 am.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You have not said anything so far.
– I am relating it to the Bill insofar as all the promises that were made by this Government in respect of income tax have been broken, not once but twice. We are dealing with the Bill tonight which proves to us that this is the second time the promises on income tax have been broken. To bolster my argument I have cited gallup poll figures on the popularity of Mr Fraser in April 1976. 1 am now going to quote gallup poll figures which were published in the Adelaide Advertiser on Thursday, 24 May. That is the very day that Mr Howard put down his paper, both in the other place and in this place, reneging on his income tax promises. It would be realised that these figures having been published- (Quorum formed). I was about to quote the gallup poll figures on the popularity of the Prime Minister which were published on the same day that Mr Howard put down his statement on his reversal of promises on income tax. The gallup poll results were published in the Adelaide Advertiser on 24 May this year. The article was headed: ‘Poll puts Labor ahead of coalition’. It reads:
The Federal ALP has a 3 per cent lead over the LiberalNCP coalition in the May Gallup Poll.
Forty-six per cent of Australian electors would vote for that ALP and 43 per cent for the coalition if a Federal election were held this month, according to the poll.
The poll was taken on the first two weekends of this month, immediately following the Victorian State election.
The poll shows that support for the ALP has increased by 1 per cent since April and support for the Government parties has decreased by 1 per cent over the same period.
In view of the fact that the results of that poll, which was taken a couple of weekends before, reveal that the Government’s stocks were so low it will be very interesting to see what the next poll shows about how low the Government’s stocks are, taking into consideration the 20 per cent swing against the Government in the Australian Capital Territory last Saturday when the people in the Territory had the opportunity to go to the poll to express an opinion. We of the Opposition when in government had to suffer for three years being challenged to go to the people. We challenge honourable senators who sit opposite to go to the people as quickly as they can and let them judge their efforts. I want to refer to the policy speech of the Prime Minister of 22 November 1 977. Talking about jobs, he said:
Because of our job assistance strategy, because of the growth and development our policies have . . . made possible unemployment will Tall from February and keep falling.
Of course, that statement was thrown out to the electors of Australia to fool them into thinking that there was a job for every person who wanted one. It was the same as he told the electors in 1975. That is one broken promise of which we know for sure. On page 5 of the policy speech, the Prime Minister said:
At one blow. Labor would increase Australians’ personal tax burden by $ 1,700m.
We have only to look at the Treasurer’s statement of last Thursday and at the Bill that we have before us now to see again how this Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, was misleading the electors in telling them what would happen to them by way of taxation if a Labor Government were elected. We all know now that he was throwing out a red herring. He went on to say:
We would all pay higher taxes for Labor’s extravaganceand we would pay in higher interest rates, higher inflation, higher unemployment.
We already know that we are on the eve of interest rates going up under this Government. That is the next subject concerning which a statement will be brought into this Parliament during the Budget session. It will indicate that interest rates are to be increased. In regard to high inflation, we know from the admission made the Other night by both the Treasurer and Mr Fraser, upon being interviewed, that inflation has now got away from them and could shortly be into double figures. Let us look at the unemployment situation. The Prime Minister said that if Labor were elected to office high unemployment would be created. The record speaks for itself. Under this Government unemployment has doubled. Let us look at what the Prime Minister had to say about taxation reform, as expressed on page 7 of the policy speech of 1977. I shall use the actual words of the Prime Minister. In speaking of his own Government under the heading ‘Taxation Reform’ he stated:
This Government has brought in the largest and fairest reforms ever made to Australia’s tax system. Tax indexation saves every Australian taxpayer more money each year.
The Bill before us throws tax indexation right out the window. The Prime Minister went on:
From February 1st, further tax cuts will come in for every Australian wage and salary earner. This year alone, the person on average earnings will be saving $6 a week from these two reforms. From February 1st, more than 225,000 low income earners will cease to pay any tax at all. And because we have reduced the marginal rate of tax- it’s now worth working overtime again.
It was all right to put that in the policy speech. It was all right to put that in the big full-page advertisement that the Government had in the newspapers. But what did it do immediately it got into office? In its first Budget after being elected it imposed a 1 V4 per cent tax surcharge. The Prime Minister said, on page 19 of his speech on the Budget for the year 1978-79, under the heading ‘Income Tax Standard Rate’:
As foreshadowed earlier, the Government has decided that as a temporary measure for 1 978-79 only, the standard rate of personal income tax will be increased by I ‘/> per cent, from 32 to 33 Vi per cent; there will be corresponding increases to 47 Vi per cent and 6 1 ‘A per cent, at higher levels of income. The relevant legislation will be expressed to terminate at the end of the current financial year.
That was a solemn promise, made in the Budget document. It was to terminate at the end of the financial year, which would be the 30th of this month. Yet here we are tonight, just a fortnight before the end of the month, debating a Bill which retains the 1 lA per cent surcharge. There we see the credibility of the people who sit opposite.
- Senator Messner throws up his arms. I say to Senator Messner that when his party makes deliberately untruthful statements to the electors it ought to be downright ashamed of itself for doing so. When electors all over Australia next get the opportunity to go to the ballot box they will not forget the statements that the Government made. Mr Acting Deputy President, I have shown you two taxation schedules and have sought your agreement to have them incorporated in Hansard. They set out factually how much worse off the taxpayers are under this Government because of its broken promises. Further, they prove that in terms of pay-as-you-earn taxation collected, as a proportion of gross domestic product expressed in billions of dollars, how much better off people were under the Labor Government. Before I seek leave to incorporate the schedules I say that the average for the three Labor Budgets was 9.39 per cent, and for the three Liberal-National Country Party Budgets it was 10.35 per cent, so the people are paying more. I seek leave to have those two tables incorporated in Hansard.
– I would like to know the source of that information.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Townley)- Senator McLaren, can you source that information?
– If we are going to have an argument about it, I draw the Acting Deputy President’s attention to the state of the House. ( Quorum formed).
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator McLaren has asked leave to have two documents which I have seen incorporated in Hansard. Is leave granted?
– No source has been indicated at this stage. I would be interested to know what this information is.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator McLaren, can you help the Senate by advising -
– I seek leave to make a statement.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDEN T - N o , I am not giving the honourable senator leave.
– I seek leave to speak.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator McLaren is speaking at the moment.
– Who is speaking?
The ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER-Senator McLaren is speaking. Senator McLaren, can you advise the Senate of the source of those documents?
– It is quite obvious that Senator Messner has not the faintest idea of the Standing Orders. When he rose to seek the source of my tables a quorum was called. I had no opportunity under Standing Orders to give the source, until you, Mr Acting Deputy President, said that a quorum was present. Then Senator Messner rose to his feet again and said that I could not provide the source.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator McLaren, can you source those documents?
Sentor McLAREN- If Senator Messner will contain himself for just 10 seconds I will give him the source of the documents. Mr Acting Deputy President, the source of the first document I showed to you and wanted incorporated in Hansard is the shadow Treasurer, Mr Willis. It is already incorporated in the House of Representatives Hansard. It was incorporated in the Senate Hansard earlier today when Senator Button sought leave and had it incorporated in Hansard. The source of the second table, from which I was quoting- the PAYE one- is Senator Walsh. I seek leave to incorporate these tables in Hansard.
The tables read as follows-
– I take a point of order. We reached a gentleman’s agreement many months ago that when approval was granted for the incorporation of documents in Hansard under the normal formula there would be no argument about it.
– You did not give it to me two nights ago.
– I did not have to give it to you because the Minister and the Acting Deputy President approved of it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Townley)- There is no substance in the point of order. I call Senator McLaren.
– There are shouts of derision from honourable senators opposite who doubt the authenticity of the first table compiled by Mr Willis and the second table compiled by Senator Walsh. The very fact that leave has been granted to have the tables incorporated in Hansard allows a fiscal expert such as Senator Messner to examine them at his leisure. I expect him before the Parliament rises this week to tell the Senate whether they are correct or incorrect. I throw out that challenge to Senator Messner. He has questioned the correctness of those tables. I am now giving him the opportunity, under challenge, to have a look at them and to prove that they are incorrect in the Parliament. That is what he is implying.
– Did you say that we are getting up this week?
– I said: ‘before the end of the week’. I do not care if we are here for a month.
– I will write you a letter about it.
- Senator Messner says that he will write me a letter. Senator Messner wrote me a letter sometime ago about a document that I had published. He wrote the letter about four months after I had published the document. Pour months has not elapsed since he wrote the letter. I will take the same time to answer him that he took to send the question to me. I have the answer for him and he will get it, but he will get if four months to the day after I received his letter.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I ask Senator McLaren to return to the subject of his speech.
– I return to the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill which is before the Senate. I shall quote again from the Prime Minister’s speech. This will not make the people opposite laugh. It is stated on page 7 of his policy speech of 1977:
The Australian people will not accept a return to high taxes. The Government will bring taxes down further not increase them.
What is proposed in the Bill which is before us tonight? What was proposed in the Appropriation Bill when the Budget was handed down? It imposed a taxation surcharge of 1.5 cents in the dollar. The Bill before us tonight again repudiates that promise and shows us that we cannot trust any statement that the Prime Minister may make in or out of the Parliament.
– You have driven Senator Messner out of the chamber.
– I know. He left because he cannot substantiate what he was trying to say. The point is that after the Budget was brought down, South Australian Labor senators saw fit to put out a publication. In view of the fact that Senator Messner has been very derisive. (Quorum formed). While the quorum was being formed Senator Sim asked me not to speak so loudly. Of course, if his colleagues on his side would tone down their interjections, Senator Sim would be able to sleep in peace. Maybe his snoring would not interfere and I would not have to talk so loudly to be heard over him. We cannot show it in Hansard or take a photograph of him, but since 8 o’clock he has been lying on the seat over there nearly asleep. I am sorry if I am disturbing his rest. Honourable senators opposite do not like being reminded of the promises which have been broken by Mr Fraser. They have to live with them. While I am in this Parliament and while he remains their leader I will continue to remind them of his broken promises and they will have to put up with it. Let us look at the contents of the statement made by Mr Howard last Thursday night, 24 May. At page 14 of his statement it is stated:
He was referring to the legislation which provided that the l.S cents in the dollar surcharge would come to an end on 30 June this year. He said that economic responsibility dictates that it cannot. Who is responsible for that? Nobody else but this Government, which has mismanaged the economy ever since it came to office on 13 December 1975. Where was the economic responsibility when Fraser made his election promise in 1975 and 1977? Just where was the economic responsibility? The very documents that are brought into this Parliament prove that the Government has never had any economic responsibility. All Government senators wanted to do was to fool the electors into believing that they had; that they were better managers of business than the members of the Labor Party. We now have the conclusive proof that the Government is not a better business manager. Mr Howard went on to say:
If the present terms of legislation regarding the surcharge and tax indexation were to take effect on I July 1979, personal tax collections in 1979-80 would have been reduced by more than $1.10Om
That is the whole crux of the matter. The Government has let the economy of this country get so far out of hand that it has to tax the worker, whom it always despises and ridicules, to try to bring its Budget deficit down. As the Treasurer said in his statement, by continuing the surcharge the Government will reduce it by $ 1 , 100m. There is the proof. It is all very well to laugh about what I am saying but I am quoting verbatim the very words of the Treasurer. (Quorum formed). I will now show honourable senators opposite some proof of the false promises the Government has made and broken if it has not already sunk in to their thick skulls. Let us look at an advertisement which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser an 8 December 1977. It is headed: ‘Join us in doing the job’. The Government has certainly done a job on the working class of this country.
– On a point of order, the honourable senator is not. speaking to the motion which is before the Chair. He is making a campaign speech.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Townley)- There is no point of order. Senator McLaren will please stick to the subject of the Bill before the Chair.
– If Senator MacGibbon had waited another five seconds he would have realised that I am going to talk about taxation, the very thing that the Government promised and about which I have been talking all night. I quote again from the big advertisement showing a photograph of Mr Fraser. The heading reads: Join us in doing the job.’ What did he promise the people? He promised lower income taxes. The very Bill we are debating tonight increases income taxes. It gives effect to another one of the broken promises.
– That was in 1977. You will not be paying any more tax.
– Of course people will pay more tax because the Government put on a 1 .5 per cent surcharge in the last Budget. I have just read out, for Senator MacGibbon ‘s information, that the Treasurer said it was to apply only until 30 June of this year. Now we are debating the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill to keep that measure in operation. That is the very thing I am talking about. This is one of the broken promises which is emphasised by the advertisement in the Adelaide Advertiser. Some of these promises were lower income taxes, sound management, continued economic recovery, more jobs, lower interest rates, youth employment programs and a new confidence in Australia’s future. The Government has broken every one of these promises. It has broken everything it promised the people. We are very concerned about income tax. What does the Murdoch Press, the very newspaper group which helped to put this Government into office in 1975, have to say in a full page advertisement which appeared on 3 August before the Government bought down the Budget? It states:
The tax revolt is really on, Mr Fraser. If you don’t believe so, could it be that you ‘re asking the wrong people? Please Mr Fraser, remember the people who voted you in.
That advertisement appeared in the Murdoch Press. The people associated with the Murdoch Press who helped put the Government into office in 1975 have deserted it. They, like many of the electors, have realised that the Government has led them up the garden path.
– You said this before 1977.
– I am talking about the Government’s election promises in 1977. Senator Walters should wake up. If she has another dose of superphosphate she might awaken. I am reminded of the Kruschen Salts advertisement. I told Senator Walters once before about a little drop of Kruschen Salts on a threepenny bit before breakfast, but she does not have Kruschens; she will have superphosphate. Let us look at the editorial of 16 August in the Sydney Daily Mirror. What did it say about the Government’s Budget and its taxation imposition? It said that they were ‘a bloody disgrace’.
The same day the newspaper published a cartoon. lt depicted the Budget of 1978 as the last straw rolling over the economy of this country. A camel is shown crushed to death. That is what the Daily Mirror thought of the people opposite.
Let us look again at the Australian of 16 August 1978. It describes the Government’s Budget as revolting. What does the newspaper say about the statement of last week? 1 hope that honourable senators read the Weekend Australian and saw the Cabinet that it suggests. The Australian has not even included the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). lt has abolished Senator Carrick altogether. He cannot be trusted. Let us have a look at a real Liberal supporter, one of the strongest supporters that the Government has ever had in South Australia. I refer to Stewart Cockburn and to an article he wrote in the Adelaide Advertiser of 23 August 1978. He was so incensed with the Budget that the Government brought down that he published in his article on page 5 a photograph of the Prime Minister and reproduced one of the election advertisements. What did it say underneath the photograph? The advertisement carried Mr Fraser’s signature. It reads:
We will lend Australia to prosperity, creating jobs and opportunities. We will protect those in need of help.
He then mentioned Medibank. Later in the week we will be debating what the Government has done to Medibank. Of course we all know what Senator Chipp said the other night about Medibank. He said that it was his party’s policy prior to 1975 to abolish it. He admitted that. He was a Minister. His remarks are recorded in Hansard.
Wednesday, 6 June 1979
– I raise a point of order. Mr President, I draw your attention to the irrelevance of the matter being submitted by Senator McLaren. It has nothing to do with the Bill before the House. I suggest that he be directed to relate his remarks to the Bill itself.
- Senator McLaren, this is a taxation Bill and you will relate your remarks more directly to it.
- Mr President, tomorrow Hansard will show that I have continually referred to taxation. I have referred in the last few moments to the Budget, taxation and to what the Australian said. I have said throughout my speech that this income tax Bill is the test of the Government’s credibility. The Government has reneged on a promise. Senator Jessop as usual jumps up very quickly. He did not wait until I had finished.
- Mr President, I redirect my suggestion to you that the honourable senator is deliberately wasting the time of the Senate by introducing irrelevancies. I suggest that he be asked to redirect his attention to the Bill or to cease talking.
– I am listening to Senator McLaren. There is a connection between what he says and the Bill, but a more specific reference to taxation matters would be appreciated.
– I know that it annoys Senator Jessop when he is reminded of all the broken promises to which he is a party.
– I raise a point of order. I believe that Senator McLaren is defying your rule, Mr President.
– On a point of order–
– No point of order is required. I am listening to the speech. Senator Jessop has alerted me as to the relevance of what Senator McLaren is saying. I am watching it closely. I ask Senator McLaren to continue his speech.
– I have confined my remarks tonight to the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill 1979. I have confined my remarks consistently to the Bill. I have endeavoured to show the Senate and members opposite they are pretty thick in the skull; it does not get through to them, but the electors will remind them- that the Government has broken its promises on income tax. Only a few moments ago I quoted from an election advertisement where the Prime Minister said that if electors voted for the Liberals on election day in 1977 they would get lower income taxes. I have said repeatedly tonight that this Bill will increase income taxes, the very reverse of what the Government promised the people.
I quoted from newspapers to show how people whom the Liberals thought were their friendsthe capitalistic Press of this country- were most critical of them. Senator Jessop can try all night to stifle my bringing forward these matters. I still have 25 minutes in which to speak. If Senator Jessop had not foolishly interfered I might have finished in another five minutes. However, I refer to the broken promises of this Government. I have here a reproduction of a photograph of the Prime Minister which is featured in an article Point of View’ by Stewart Cockburn in the Advertiser o( 23 August 1978. Under Mr Fraser’s photograph there is this election advertisement:
We will lead Australia to prosperity, creating jobs and opportunities. We will protect those in need of help. Medibank, pensions, education and social welfare will all be strengthened by honest, responsible government.
That paragraph appears above the signature of Malcolm Fraser. I think the record proves that this Government is not honest and is not responsible. Every election promise has been broken. Yet Senator Jessop has the hide tonight to try to stifle my speech. What I am saying is actual fact. If senators opposite would be a little bit quiet I could finish. They interject, but I think my voice is strong enough to talk over the top of them. They have tried it before. I have been a senator for eight years and they have tried to shout me down. None of them has succeeded. None will. I refer to the National Times for the week ending 26 August 1978. That edition has an article entitled ‘How the tax changes will affect you’. I shall refer to the income tax surcharge. It relates to the Bill we are debating tonight. It is the same matter. What does the article say? It states:
This flat-rate increase of 1. 5 per cent on all tax rates will Tall heaviest on the least well-off. It shows no concern for equity and is a simple and efficient revenue raiser.
The Treasurer, in his statement of last Thursday, said it is a revenue raiser. It is going to raise another $ 1,100m out of the pockets of the workers of this country. The article continues:
Professor John Neville, Professor of Economics at the University of New South Wales, estimates that the average increase in income tax payments by the community will be around 5 percent–
– I take a point of order. I ask whether Senator McLaren can vouch for the authenticity of the article from which he is quoting.
-There is no point of order.
– If Senator Jessop likes, I will table the newspaper. I think I gave the heading of the article, but he is so excited about having to face up to broken promises, untruths and that sort of thing that have been uttered by members of the Government and himself during the election, that he cannot take it. I will repeat that quote:
Professor John Neville, Professor of Economics at the University of New South Wales, estimates that the average increase in income tax payments by the community will be around S per cent over the full tax year. As the tax will not be deducted until November, pay-as-you-earn taxpayers (most wage and salary earners) will pay on average 7.5 per cent more in tax from November to June 30.
I am talking about this income tax surcharge. I refer to a Sydney afternoon newspaper which shows that the scale drawn up by the Government deducted more tax from the pockets of the workers than the Government was entitled to deduct. It shows that most workers will receive in the vicinity of $30 to $100 when they receive their income tax refund. It is a deliberate fraud of the taxpayer. One of the Sydney afternoon papers today points out how this Government, in trying to reduce its deficit, extracted that money, not from the wealthy section of the community but from the wage earners who could ill afford to lose it. There is no interest payable to them. If many of those wage earners had received their rightful deduction during that income period, they would have had the money in their savings account and received interest on it.
But no, this penny pinching government had to extract more from them than it was entitled to and no interest is payable. Every taxpayer who gets a refund ought to apply to the Treasurer for reimbursement to the extent of the interest he could have received from putting that money in his savings account, whether it be 5 per cent interest or, in the case of a special purpose account, 916 per cent. The Government ought to pay the interest that he otherwise would have received. To cite a better informed person- I doubt whether Senator Jessop will query the authenticity of this- I quote from the Sunday Telegraph of 5 November 1978. It verifies the figure of 7.5 per cent to which Professor John Nevile referred. There is an article in that paper which refers to Mr Eric Risstrom, the Secretary of the Australian Taxpayers Association. Do honourable senators find Senator Jessop disputing what Mr Risstrom said? The article states:
The average Australian wage earner was now $7.50 a week worse off than he was at the end of 1 975, the Australian Taxpayers Association said yesterday.
Mr President, I remind honourable senators opposite, particularly those who were very derisive about the two charts that I had incorporated in Hansard, to look at those charts and see how they compare with what Mr Eric Risstrom and Professor John Nevile, professor of Economics at the University of New South Wales, have said. I think both of” those documents that I incorporated will bear out what these two people, particularly Mr Risstrom, have said. When I talk about taxpayers, I am talking about the people who can ill afford to pay increases in tax; that is, the workers and the small business people, not the wealthy section represented by honourable senators opposite. The article states:
The association secretary, Mr Eric Risstrom, said the claim by the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, that the average earner was paying $9 a week less in tax was ‘poppycock’.
Mr Risstrom said Mr Fraser’s claim did not take account on inflation
Mr Risstrom was commenting on the new tax rates which look effect from Wednesday.
That is, Wednesday of last week. Mr President, I have had many interruptions tonight. I think I have proved to the Senate again that the people who sit opposite handle the truth very carelessly when it comes to election promises. That is particularly true of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. They have proved that in their Budget documents and in the Bill the Senate has before it tonight. That is the very reason why the Opposition is opposed to this measure that is before the Senate tonight.
– The Senate earlier made arrangements to truncate this debate and certain speakers were withdrawn. However, I enter it to take the place of Senator Wriedt. I am speaking of the Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill 1979. This Bill is an example in legislative form of one of the major broken promises of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on the question of taxation. Honourable senators have spoken about this on several occasions but it is necessary to reiterate that the legislation before the Senate indeed represents a broken promise. I feel that even at this late hour- or early hour, whichever way one likes to put it- that point needs to be reemphasised. Every member of this Parliament and every elector will remember the words which were used in last year’s Budget Speech. I am not speaking slowly deliberately; it just happens that, like many other honourable senators, I am feeling rather tired.
– You are not reading your speech, are you?
– I am not. If the honourable senator wants to check whether or not I am reading my speech he can have the notes to which I am referring on the table, and then he can check the Hansard to see whether the speech conforms with the notes that I have before me. The honourable senator is not suggesting that I am reading somebody else’s speech? I am capable of making my own speech in my own way. On an occasion when we have to replace a speaker, of course I must reflect his thoughts and his opinions, which by coincidence happen to be my own. May I be permitted to quote from last year’s Budget Speech? It reads:
As foreshadowed earlier, the Government has decided that as a temporary measure for 1978-79 only, a standard rate of personal income tax will be increased by Vh per cent . . .
I emphasise these words:
At the time the surcharge was announced it drew considerable criticism from the Press, from the taxpayers’ organisations and from the general public because it- was an abrogation of the Government’s earlier promises that it was a party of lower taxation. The Liberal and National Country parties have said time and time again that they are parties of lower taxation.
– They are a party of high taxation.
– No, in essence they are correct. They are parties of lower taxation for the rich, but in order to balance it out they are parties of higher taxation for the poor and the underprivileged. They have endeavoured to balance their books by imposing a higher rate of taxation by surcharge, which they promised to withdraw but which they have not withdrawn.
-What about the 200,000 pensioners who no longer pay tax?
-Senator Walters, their pensions have been reduced by the Government’s failure to index the pension at half-yearly stages. Perhaps we ought to be indexing their pensions at quarterly stages to enable them to maintain value. Admittedly, the Government does not tax pensions because those people are well below the poverty line, as has been shown by a recent survey, and they are not in the taxable area. There are several ways of taxing pensioners. One way is to lift the prices of goods which they have to purchase. Another way is to fail to index their pensions to meet the increased cost of those goods. It seems to me that I have satisfied Senator Walters because she is now starting to take a short rest. I do not mind if she does rest because I am not one who has any fancy ideas about the penetration of my argument. She may be able to accept it as not being of any worth at all.
– That would not surprise you, would it?
– No, it does not surprise me. Then, of course, we have to assess the value of the person’s criteria and perhaps I could say that-
– Explain yourself.
– Explain myself at this late hour?
– You cannot explain yourself at any time.
– I have great difficulty because I very seldom get an opportunity to speak in this place on a subject about which I know something. We will be looking at Hansard later today and wondering what the devil was going on at 12.20 a.m. We have now been told that the surcharge will remain from 1 July 1979 until at least the end of November. On the basis of the performance that we have seen to date, it is hard to believe that the promise will be kept. That is a reasonable assumption to make when one realises the number of promises that have been made in this place by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). He said that interest rates would go down by 2 per cent this year, but of course we find that they did not go down. He said that the deficit would be reduced. The deficit has not been reduced. Over the last six months we have seen limited recovery in parts of the Australian economy. Motor vehicle sales have risen, exports have increased and the output for sections of the manufacturing industry have improved marginally. However, in contrast we have noted that the level of borrowings overseas has increased substantially.
The Fraser Government has now borrowed in excess of $4,000m overseas. That is the amount which I recall brought the Labor Government into, shall we say, an area of questioning by the Opposition of the day. Of course, the Labor Government’s fault was to seek to borrow the $4,000m not from the traditional areas of Theadneedle Street and Wall Street and pay the substantial interest rates that those areas demanded, but from where there was a surplus of money- the Middle East area- and to do that sort of borrowing direct. What is happening now is that we are getting the same sort of money but it has been laundered through the United States of America or the United Kingdom. Borrowing $4,000m overseas was considered at that time to be reprehensible and to be a justification for the Senate to go on strike and to refuse Supply.
Since we are continually reminded of the errors of the Labor Government, let me remind Government senators of the errors of the Opposition at that time. The refusal to allow Supply to pass through this place brought the economy to a halt. Cash flows were stopped in a way that was dramatically revealed in the business community of Canberra itself. I think our economic problems commenced at about that time. The economy of the country was rendered uncertain by the rather vicious desire of the Opposition at that time to gain the treasury bench. Of course, it is history now that that Opposition succeeded. But it succeeded on the basis that it would handle the economy better than the Labor Government. It succeeded on the basis that it was wrong for the Labor Government to borrow $4,000m. But here we find that the Government has borrowed overseas exactly the sum of $4,000m. One of these days we may get the answer to these questions: What is the cost of that borrowing? Under what terms was the borrowing made? For what period was it made? Has the coalition government placed Australia into hock? That accusation was made against the Labor Government. The present Government must accept that accusation in return.
In addition, we have seen the rate of inflation turn around and start to increase. There is no prospect of the Budget commitment of the level of inflation being as low as five or six per cent by 30 June being achieved. If I am permitted, I will refer to notes. We have also noted that beyond the Government’s control is the price of oil from the Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries, which has increased substantially. A warning has emanated from OPEC that the price increases will continue’. Today’s news indicates that the increases will continue. We now have a structural problem that this Government has failed to appreciate and failed to solve. It is useless to place upon the organised workers of this country the responsibility for inflation. Inflation has been forced upon us by subtantial increases in a basic commodity. That basic commodity has risen in price from 67c a gallon to well over $ 1 in the capital cities and much above that in the rural areas. This is the cost -
– If you are reading your Leader’s speech, it is appalling.
– I did not say I was reading the Leader’s speech. I am not reading any speech.
– You said that you were representing him.
-Perhaps I am merely representing him in the time slot available. That is all. I simply rose on my feet instead of him. I hope honourable senators accept what I am saying as what my Leader would say. He would say exactly what I am saying but in different terms. He may have different emphases. He may be more gentle about the matter than I am being. In any case, I am rather gentle at this time of night. I could imagine all sorts of unfair things that I could say about the Government side of the chamber. The Government has adopted an oil pricing policy which ensures that the increased price for Australian oil will continue to rise. In addition, the price of foodstuffs, especially fresh meat, is responding to international shortages. There will be continued pressure on demand. If it is not obvious to the Government that this debate, which is an important one, could continue for some time- it has not been obvious up to this point- surely it must become obvious within a minute or so.
– We are not complaining.
– I notice that the honourable senator is not complaining. But I am wondering whether we should return to that little cross discussion that we had earlier tonight, that is, that the Opposition should be able to expect a reasonable program. The Opposition does not mind the Government placing some program on the Notice Paper which it hopes to achieve, but surely it should accept the reality of the situation and say: ‘Well, we have made sufficient progress; we may have to make more tomorrow’. Perhaps tomorrow or today would be a better day to do so.
– We are prepared to stay here as long as you are.
– I trust that that is correct. I had the impression that the reason why we are sitting so late tonight is the intense desire of the Government to get through its program as quickly as possible, even if it has to sit until three o’clock or four o’clock in the morning. If members on the Government side of the chamber are prepared to sit until three o’clock or four o’clock in the morning, including Friday and Saturday mornings, by all means they should do so. But it is a silly way to achieve a program. We will drive Ministers to sleep in the early hours of the morning. Senator Webster is completely out to it now. It seems that Senator Chaney is of better stamina; he is still awake. Apparently Senator Webster has had a hard day and I do not blame him for taking a nap at this time because it has been a long day for us all.
– You are taking a nap, too, are you not?
– I take one from time to time. But enough of general conversation; let us return to the Bill before us. If honourable senators recall, I was saying that, in addition, the price of foodstuffs, especially fresh meat, is responding to international shortages and that there will be continued pressure on demand. I do not think that any honourable senator present would deny to the rural producers, especially the beef producers of this country, access to a reasonable market and to reasonable prices, which have been denied to them for so long. However, one has to consider that, as they achieve some sort of satisfaction for their efforts, the price of the commodities which they produce increases under these international pressures to which the Government now admits but to which it would not admit when the Australian Labor Party Government was in power. When the Labor Government was in power, all the faults, all the increases and the level of inflation were due to the errors of the Government and were not in any way due to any external pressure or demand. Now we can start to talk about international pressures again. What was not good enough for the Labor Government to accept as a reason for inflation is good enough for the present Government to accept. It should say: There are some things which are beyond our control’. We said it. We admit that there are some things which are beyond the control of the Government today.
Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that the community at large will see that the real purchasing power of their wages is seriously eroded. It is only to be expected that pressures for higher money wages will continue to increase. The trade union movement generally has adhered to wage indexation guidelines, in spite of what the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) have been trying to say from time to time. Contrary to the rantings of the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues, there has been very little abuse of the wage indexation guidelines. The Government has apparently insulated itself against the cost pressures because of the decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to have wage hearings every six months instead of quarterly. However, what we must observe is that, contrary to the Government’s request, sections of industry are agreeing to make over-award payments. 1 might add that this includes sections of industry which have criticised the Government in relation to its policies, and the increases in prices will give those pressures increased impetus. Under these circumstances, even if the tax rate had remained at 32 per cent for the lower income range, the absolute tax take would continue to increase substantially.
It is therefore apparent that this Government has failed seriously in its budgetary, fiscal and taxation policies. Apart from failing to reduce expenditure as promised, apart from failing to rein in inflation, and apart from failing to rectify our overseas borrowing situation, it has also failed to instil real confidence into the economy for greater investment by industry. Although some of the figures are attractive, the new investment projects which have been announced are selective, and in most cases they are in areas where the Government provides heavy protection.
The Labor Party sees the provisions of this Bill as being a breach of promise and a disincentive to economic recovery. We see them as a belated indication that the Government’s policies have failed. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) has indicated that the Budget deficit this year is likely to be in excess of $3, 300m. The figure that I indicated at another time was $4,000m. There is no real prospect that the 1.5 per cent surcharge will be lifted after November. It would not surprise me if the Government was forced to increase the rate of the surcharge. The Treasurer has already foreshadowed that this is possible by his announcement last week that he believed that the concept of the August Budget as the main weapon of economic policy was ill conceived, and that it would be preferable to have a series of major economic statements delivered during the year. What this is really saying is that the Government will tax as heavily as is required, as often as is required, and one cannot rest on the assumption that what the Government announced in August will apply for a 12-month period.
As if the decisions about personal tax were not bad enough, the Government has also reneged on its promises about the implementation of the report of the Mathews Committee of Inquiry into Inflation and Taxation. The Prime Minister and a number of other Ministers indicated following their election in 1975 that full tax indexation would be introduced, and that it would apply not only to personal income tax but also in industry. The half indexation of the trading stock valuation adjustment was introduced, and industry was told that this was a move towards full indexation. We now find that the Government is unable to keep this promise, and those industries which planned on investment based on receiving the full value of trading stock will be greatly disappointed. This will not do anything to help confidence in the business sector.
We also find that the Government has reneged on its promise for the introduction of full tax indexation. I suppose I am amused, because in the documents which were presented to the National Conference of the Liberal Party in Perth, we find that one of the achievements listed is full indexation. The Liberal Party, certainly at a machine level, seems to be under a misconception that full indexation is operating in this country. As the Treasurer has revealed in his speech on this Bill, this is not the case.
This Bill provides, in effect, for a monkeying around with figures. When Mr Lynch was Treasurer, we learned that rubbery figures were the order of the day. The present Treasurer appears to go one step further. Not only are his figures rubbery, but also they are extremely elastic and, if at any time the result does not suit him, he alters the figures accordingly. The Opposition is absolutely amazed that the Government should attempt to juggle the indexation factor which is used for tax indexation by reducing the impact of the increase of oil prices. The oil pricing policy is a deliberate action on the part of the Australian Government. The impact of those increases is widespread and virtually every working man is affected by them. As the oil prices increase and retail petrol prices increase accordingly, the Government takes a greater and greater share in the form of excise duty. It is estimated that the measures which will be introduced in supplementary legislation will result in increased revenue in a full financial year of up to $300m. The Government seems intent on reducing the real value of wages by downgrading the impact of the oil price increases. This means that consumers are only partly compensated for price increases through the tax indexation mechanism.
After the debate last week in which the front page of the Illawarra Mercury was displayed prominently to the disadvantage of Senator McLaren- I am not allowed to use the word which was stated, but I am allowed to use the word ‘untruthful’ to describe what the Government has said and done- we are aware that the way in which the indexation factor is manipulated means that the statement in the Liberal Party document presented in Perth is untruthful. It does not explain to the Australian electorate, and particularly to members of the Liberal Party, that they are not enjoying full tax indexation. The three measures in this Bill are a complete abrogation of the Government’s promises. Whilst the Press is not to be regarded as the absolute critic of any government’s performance, the editorials, the articles and the letters to the editor over the last two weeks must at least illustrate to the Government that it has gained no credibility at all for the breach of promises which it used to induce electoral support in 1975 and 1977.
The newspapers have indicated that the Prime Minister no longer holds the confidence of this country. He has shown himself to be a man who uses words very loosely. He is prepared to offer what might be called bribes to the electorate in order to gain short term support. What he has failed to say is that in spite of promising small government, in spite of promising the transfer of functions to the States and in spite of promising lower taxation, he has done none of these things. We face the real prospect of the States having to levy State income tax under stage 2 of the new federalism. We have seen the Federal Government with a Ministry the same size as the Whitlam Ministry. As the Prime Minister has failed to answer my question on notice dealing with the transfer of functions to the States, it becomes clearer and clearer that this Government, in spite of its protestations of support for States’ rights, is possessed with the desire to hold onto the powers it has. I am thankful for the noninterruption by honourable senators because it might slow me up to move away from my notes.
The point has been reached in Australian politics where the electorate now sees that the Fraser Government is not to be trusted, that its promises are of little value and that it is prepared to milk the community for all that it can get in order to cover up for its economic incompetence. It probably hurts the Government to look back at its dismal record because, in 1975, the now deposed Treasurer, Mr Lynch, and other Ministers made great play of the fact that a Liberal-Country Party Government would be better economic managers. In fact, the contrary has proved to be the case. This Bill is one of many that we will receive over the next few days which attempts to put into operation the Government’s wishywashy economic policies. If there was any courage amongst the Fraser Ministry they would go to the polls immediately and see what judgment the electorate delivers. I notice that it startles everyone that a suggestion should be made that it should go to the people. The Australian Labor Party does not have the numbers to do exactly to the Liberal Party as it did to us. I often wonder, if we ever reached that situation, whether we would move away from the principle that we have that the Senate should not frustrate the House of Representatives or whether in a moment of retaliation we might do exactly that. If that does happen, the Government would deserve it. I suggest that this Government should be thrown out by the ears. For that reason the Opposition opposes this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
- Mr President, I seek leave to rectify an error on my part when presenting the second reading speech on the Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill. By accident I did not realise that the speech was printed on both sides of the piece of paper, and there is one half of the speech still to be given. With the leave of the Senate I shall now read the remainder of the speech and seek leave for it to be added to the part already delivered.
The full text of Senator Carrick’s speech is accordingly printed after his motion that the Bill be now read a second time.
Debate resumed from 4 June, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– We are debating the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill 1979 and I shall do my part this evening by keeping my remarks fairly brief. At this stage of the debate it should not be necessary to reiterate the Australian Labor Party’s opposition to the mining of uranium. The arguments of the ALP have been put forward many times and have been heard in this chamber and outside it. No doubt my senior colleague, Senator Mulvihill, will mention them also in his contribution to this debate. His opposition to the mining of uranium on environmental grounds is well known. Of course, we are not reassured that there are no dangers to the miners who will be mining the uranium. We are not reassured that there is no danger to the environment. Those of us who have seen Rum Jungle recently know that things can happen when mining takes place in that sort of country.
Recently Senator McLaren asked a question which elicited the response that at present a lot of money is being spent on the rehabilitation of Rum Jungle. We are not reassured that there is no danger in waste disposal. We are convinced that no satisfactory method has been found yet for disposing of the tailings. We are not reassured that there are no attendant dangers in the use of uranium. But that is not the subject of this debate. Not in doubt also, I think, is who is to control the National Park. This has been clearly settled by legislation. It is not accepted necessarily by the Northern Territory Government, but it has been clarified by legislation in the Federal Parliament.
The question of who is to establish and develop Jabiru is the matter to which we have to direct our attention in our consideration of this Bill. I have discussed the matter with my colleagues in the Northern Territory. The views that they have put in the Northern Territory House of Assembly are basically those which I will be putting tonight. What 1 am saying in the Senate will be the same as the contributions they made at the local level.
Let us look back at the need for this legislation. Basically, the present legislation is not clear, lt does no great credit to the Government to put forward legislation which gives no clear indications to the Director of the Kakadu National Park about, for example, responsibility and powers he has. More importantly, the attitude of the Northern Territory Government has been the reason why this legislation has been brought down and pushed through in the closing days of this session. Basically there has been a breakdown in communication between the Northern Territory Government and the Federal Government. This is the same sort of problem Senator Chaney has faced since taking office as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The same sort of problems he has faced in trying to get some resolution to the problem in the Aboriginal Affairs area has been found in the environmental area. It is interesting that members of the present Northern Territory Government put as one of the planks of their platform the fact that they would be able to get on with their colleagues in the Federal scene. It is disturbing to have to report that that Government has a sorry record to date. It has culminated, of course, with the breaking of ties between the Country-Liberal Parties in the Northern Territory and the Liberal and National Country Parties in Canberra. These parties are no longer affiliated. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the Chief Minister in the Northern Territory is a Queenslander by birth. Perhaps he does not like the people in Canberra. The public first became aware of the problems when on 14 May an article appeared on the front page of the Northern Territory News headed ‘New Fight on Uranium Town’. I will read some extracts from it. It stated:
The NT Government is heading for a major showdown with the Federal Government over who runs the uranium mining town at Jabiru.
Chief Minister, Mr Everingham, is angry that Commonwealth national parks laws will override Northern Territory laws within the township.
Mr Everingham is against wider powers being given to the Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Professor Derek Ovington.
If the director makes the laws, he will have to enforce them himself, Mr Everingham said yesterday.
It is believed Mr Everingham wants the national park to exclude the town from its boundaries.
He is worried that any more delays in Commonwealth administration will further hold up the mining of uranium.
Territory Opposition spokesman on mining, Mr Bob Collins, said today the ‘whole mess was a national scandal ‘.
There are two matters to which I will refer later but I draw attention to them at this stage. One is the comment made by Mr Everingham that if the Director makes the laws he will have to enforce them himself. This is some sort of threat that the police force of the Northern Territory and the normal forces in the Territory will not be available to the Director. The other matter concerns the town boundaries. The present Chief Minister has quite a reputation on the extension of town boundaries, to which I have drawn attention in this place. I commented recently on the fact that the boundaries of Darwin, Katherine, Borroloola and Alice Springs have been extended fantastically. The Darwin boundaries are much larger than the greater City of London. On 15 May a front page article in the same newspaper stated:
The NT Government ‘had been aware for a long time’ that Commonwealth laws would apply to the Kakadu National Park, parks Director, Prof Derek Ovington, said today.
Prof Ovington denied the Commonwealth was intruding on Territory laws as claimed by the Chief Minister, Mr Everingham.
The Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service also denied the service was delaying the development of uranium mining.
Prof Ovington said the service had ‘bent over backwards’ to allow development of the uranium mining town at Jabiru . . .
Due to other delays, the park was not formally proclaimed until April 3, this year’, he said.
Within days we had a request from the Jabiru Town Authority to authorise major work to begin.
I had no authority under the Act to permit large construction work so we have to have the Act changed’.
The park plan of management, which is currently open to public submissions, could take several months before it is finally approved by Federal Parliament.
The article stated further:
The current amendments being sought are to essentially give me power to implement what the Territory administration wants’, Professor Ovington said.
I was stuck in a legal position where I simply could not authorise approval for the Jabiru Town Authority.
Every national park has to have its regulations, and we already have regulations for the park which the NT Government has approved ‘, he said.
Prof Ovington said he had invited the NT Government to make a submission on the park plan of management, but so far the Government have not made a submission.
The final quotes which I want to take from the Northern Territory News come from its edition of 22 May, in which, under the heading ‘Jabiru Battle Goes to House’, again on the front page it states:
The battle between the NT and Commonwealth Governments over control ofthe Jabiru uranium town spilled over in the Legislative Assembly today when a ‘political’ bill passed all stages.
I point out that the word ‘political’ appears in inverted commas in the article. The article continued:
The Opposition blasted the Government bill requiring the Jabiru Town Authority to give preference to directions of the NT Minister, as a complete exercise in futility.
But the Chief Minister. Mr Everingham, pledged he would continue his light so that the issues ofthe town and Kakadu National Park should ‘not be bungled by a blundering bureaucrat in Canberra.’
Mr Collins (ALP Arnhem) said that the context of the amending Jabiru Town Development Bill involved the ‘embarrassing antics’ of the Chief Minister in his public castigation of the director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. Dr Ovington.
The bill reversed orders of responsibilities, placing the directions of the NT Minister at Jabiru over provisions in the Federal National Parks Act.
However in law, this could change nothing because Federal law was paramount.
The article stated further:
Mr Collins said there was nothing new about requirements, and the director must control such matters as liquor and traffic movements in a town in a national park.
Mr Collins said it had always been the situation that Jabiru and uranium was subject to Kakadu park management, and the Opposition believed it always should be.
The Opposition Leader. Mr Isaacs, said whatever Government was in power in Canberra it should have responsibilities for national parks as national resources.
The final reference to the Chief Minister which I shall quote appeared towards the end of the article and is as follows:
He would continue to fight to have national parks in the NT administered by the NT, Mr Everingham said.
I have read those sections of the article because I believe that they give a background to what we are looking at at the present time. It is clear that the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory does not accept the situation that the Federal Government has responsibility. It appears that the original discussions which were held with him on the matter- they have been noted before- did not lead to clear guidelines being set. 1 mentioned earlier that the Chief Minister had threatened to withhold services of the police force, with the comment that if Professor Ovington makes the rules he must enforce them. It is obvious that Northern Territory laws must prevail at Jabiru, as they do in every other part of the Northern Territory. The education laws, the liquor laws, the traffic laws and so on must apply. That has been made clear by Professor Ovington in his public statements. The police must be available at Jabiru, as they are at every other centre -
- Mr Everingham is much more meek when he wants money from Canberra.
-We will see that when he goes to the conference next year. The police must be available at Jabiru, as other public servants are available. They must be prepared to do the job for which they are paid. I am quite sure they would want to do that job. Professor Ovington obviously cannot make laws. It is not his function to do so. He is there to do something completely different. But he must work within the framework of Northern Territory laws and Federal laws. That point has been made very clear. I think it is only fair to Professor Ovington to say that in his public comments, he has made it clear that he intends to do that. It is of no credit to the Chief Minister that he acts in that petulant way.
The national park is the responsibility of the national Government. Uranium mining is the responsibility of the national Government. Legislation has been enacted in this place to make sure that that is so. It follows quite logically that the establishment and development of Jabiru must also be under national control. I want to make it clear that I am not attacking the Northern Territory Government; I am not letting down my side. I think that the comments I have made in this place have been quite clear and suggest that I have supported the Northern Territory. But I believe that on this issue the Northern Territory Government is wrong. The Opposition in the Northern Territory believes that the Northern Territory Government is wrong. It has nothing to do with the colour of the politics in either place. The sorts of comments which have been made would have been made regardless of which colour of politics was in power in Darwin and in Canberra.
It is interesting that the Aboriginal people look to the national Government for control in this area as in most other areas. Discussions I have had with them on a number of issues, ranging from land rights, which we have talked about in this place before, right through to a number of other areas, suggest that they do not want control of the situation to be in Northern Territory Government hands. I cannot say whether the situation would be any different if we had a different government in the Northern Territory.
But Aboriginal people do not trust the present Northern Territory Government. There are a number of reasons for this, and I am not going to suggest that we debate them here because it would not be appropriate.
The Labor Party does not oppose the legislation. However, there are a number of matters that ought to be raised. Firstly, there is a need for clear consultation between all the people involved- regular discussions with all the people involved, lt is quite clear that the situation that has developed in this area, as in a number of other areas- I have mentioned aboriginal affairs, but I could mention some others as well- has developed because communication has broken down. This situation must be overcome. It seems quite clear that Professor Ovington, as he has claimed in the newspaper article, has bent over backwards to meet the Northern Territory Government’s demands. I trust that this cooperation will continue. It ought to continue, and it ought to continue with all the people involved. That is one of the roles that Professor Ovington ought to have- to make sure that he represents all the views and to try to build those views into the framework of his administration of the park. So let me stress once again the need for close consultation with all peoples involved.
The second point that I think needs to be made is the need for clarification of responsibility. I think the broad areas of responsibility have been outlined. They are clear, but the finer points need filling out. I am concerned, for example, at an answer given to a question raised yesterday by my colleague, Senator Kilgariff. As recorded at page 25 15 of the Senate Hansard of 4 June, he said:
My question is directed to the Minister for Science and the Environment. Mention was made on AM this morning that a report from the Department of Science and the Environment indicates that radioactivity levels at Nabarlek uranium mine in the Northern Territory are higher than was previously indicated, and that the health of workers there may be endangered. Can the Minister advise the Senate whether the report is correct? If so. are sufficient safeguards being carried out, and what is the present overall situation?
That is an excellent question and one which needs to be answered because of the terrific importance it has for the workers in the Northern Territory. Part of the answer from Senator Webster- I just extract those words relevant to the argument- reads as follows:
In accord with normal practice in the administration of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, the Department’s report was referred to Mr Anthony, Mr Howard and Senator Chancy, the three Ministers with direct responsibility for Commonwealth decisions relation to Nabarlek.
An extract from the second paragraph of the Minister’s answer reads:
The Department’s report recommends that appropriate environmental protection measures be taken in order to safeguard the health of workers. I believe that the point of the honourable senator’s question is met by the fact that these measures have been incorporated as conditions of the approval to mine, and that they are being implemented by the company in respect of its operations, which commenced recently. The honourable senator knows, of course, that responsibility for ensuring compliance with these conditions rests with the Northern Territory Government.
Whilst those remarks relate to Nabarlek, I think it appropriate that I use them as an example of what should apply at Jabiru. I ask the Minister: Is it so that the responsibility for ensuring compliance rests with the Northern Territory Government? If it is so, does the Northern Territory know this? These are the sorts of areas that I think need to be clarified. I suggest there is a need for frequent conferences to set clear guidelines on these finer points, to clarify the respective responsibilities to avoid duplication but, more importantly, to avoid misunderstanding.
The third point that I think needs to be looked at very carefully is the need to retain men of the calibre of Professor Ovington as Director. The Director has a great deal of responsibility. He has a great deal of authority. When Profesor Ovington was appointed, we were given in this place a very full outline of his ability and there was recognition on both sides of the chamber of the calibre pf the man. But I make the point that whilst Professor Ovington has a lot of authorityand this amending Act gives him more authority- he needs commensurate responsibility in the full sense of the word. The Labor Party does not object to the legislation, but our non-opposition is based on the assumption that the position will never become political; that the Director will always place the interests of the Park before all other interests, including vested interests. We do not oppose the legislation but reiterate that much needs to be done if the project is to proceed. There is a need for a fair measure of the sort of goodwill that Senator Chaney speaks about. I call for a strong position to be taken by the Government in relation with the Northern Territory Government. We do not want a repeat performance of the Queensland situation.
I repeat that I do not want this to be seen in any way as if I am letting down the Northern Territory Government. The simple fact is that decisions have been made, agreements have been reached and these must be honoured. If the Chief Minister feels that the Northern Territory should have control, as he has said in statements in the Press, and supports his suggestion with a proposition that other States feel they ought also to have control, he can work through the proper channels to achieve this end. But until the law is changed, until amending legislation is introduced, we expect him not to break the law but to co-operate with goodwill.
We would rather Jabiru was not being built, as it is, to be part of uranium mining. There is no doubt about that. We would rather not see mining proceed in the area. But decisions have been made and it is obvious that we have to accept them. If it is to be built the proper authority should be responsible and the project should proceed along proper lines and the proper lines are set out in this Bill. Therefore we do not oppose the legislation.
– I shall also be brief as was Senator Robertson. The Kakadu National Park, which certainly is one of the most extraordinary national parks anywhere in the world, was proclaimed on 5 April 1 979. The park comprises some 6,000 square kilometres and contains within it the township site of Jabiru as recommended in the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry report. Although the site of Jabiru is not quite that proposed on page 223 of the second volume of the Fox report, nevertheless Jabiru is being developed largely in line with the recommendations. The recommendation which I think initially is important is drawn from page 2 19 of the second report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. The recommendation in part reads as follows:
Our view is that the size of the town, in terms of population, should at the outset bc strictly limited. The maximum ultimate population should Tor the present be set at 3,500, the number considered essential to serve the Ranger and Jabiluka mines.
That therefore gives us two areas with which we are somewhat concerned. Kakadu National Park is Aboriginal land leased to the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and Jabiru township of some 69 square kilometres is Crown land vested in the Director. Work in developing the Jabiru town site will take place not only within that 69 square kilometres but will also take place within the larger parameter of the Kakadu National Park itself. In fact proposed new section 8D (2) indicates that. In part it states: . . the Director may grant written licences to the Authority authorizing it to do such things within the Park as are specified in the licences . . .
So the concern is not only for the development of the township itself but also for the work that will take place within the park in order to facilitate the growth of the township. Jabiru is to be developed as what the second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) describes as ‘a closed town with a limited population’. This in turn is to be eventually in accord with a plan of management which is to be brought down for the area, although it is to be noted from the legislation that the licences granted at this stage will have the effect of overriding a subsequent plan of management if in any way the two are in some contradiction.
The development of the township was placed in the hands of the Jabiru Town Development Authority under Northern Territory legislation. As I understand it, within some 13 days of the proclamation of the Kakadu National Park on 18 April 1979 the Chairman ofthe Authority, Mr E. J. Simpson, sought approval from the Director for major programs of works to start as of about 5 May. However, it was found on advice from the Attorney-General’s Department that the Director was not in a position to grant the licences at this stage. It is that deficiency that has brought us to the enactment of the present legislation in order to provide the Director with that necessary authority.
The important things to note, I think, are as follows: Firstly, the legislation, as I said, is designed to allow the Director to grant licences for work which is necessary for the development of the Jabiru township. Secondly, the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act ceases to have any significant effect when the plan of management comes into force, because the plan will then be the guiding document for future development although, as I said, licences issued prior to the presentation of the plan of management will remain in force and to the extent necessary override the terms of the plan of management.
The legislation before us imposes upon the Director in proposed new section 8D (3) a requirement that he shall undertake wide consultation before the granting of licences. It prohibits him from granting a licence unless he has had contact with the Town Development Authority and the Authority has advised him that other bodies established under the law of the Northern Territory, including the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission, which has responsibility for parks and wildlife in the Territory, are satisfied that the work is appropriate and that they have agreed to the issue of the licence. In short, it means that the Authority has to ascertain from the Territory Wildlife Commission and from other relevant Territory authorities that they are in favour of the issue of the licence and the Authority has to inform the Director that it has no objection to the issue of the licence. Further, it is made incumbent upon the Director to have consultation with the Aboriginal people concerned. ( Quorum formed).
The proposed new section provides: . . where, under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, an Aboriginal Land Council has, or Aboriginal Land Councils have, been established Tor any area or areas wholly or partly within the Park- the Director has consulted with, and had regard to the views of, the Chairman of that Council or of each of those Councils, as the case may be. in relation to the issue of the licence.
It also ought to be stressed, I think, that under the principal Act, the National Parks and Wildlife and Conservation Act 1975, the Director remains at all times under the control of the Minister. Section 16 (2) of that Act provides:
Except as otherwise provided by this Act, the Director shall perform his functions and exercise his powers in accordance with any directions given by the Minister.
So the important thing to note is that although the Director has substantial power as far as the issue of licences is concerned, his decisions may be overriden by the Minister and he has a responsibility to act on the determination that a Minister may make from time to time.
– A directive.
-A directive. Equally, the Director is further obligated under the legislation before us, as set out in proposed new section 8d (4), as follows:
In granting a licence under sub-section (2), the Director shall impose such conditions as he thinks fit providing for such of the objects set out in sub-section II (8) as arc applicable.
If one looks at section 1 1 (8) of the principal Act one sees that it imposes on the Director the responsibility in the preparation of the plan of management to have regard to certain important matters, lt states:
Responsibility for protection of the physical and spiritual features of the Park are again imposed upon the Director.
I believe, having read a great deal of the material that has been produced, and a number of comments that have been made in the Press of the Northern Territory, that certain allegations have been made against Professor Ovington in his capacity as the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The majority of those criticisms have been ill founded and, personally directed, they are not sustainable. I think that during this debate an appreciation of the record of the Director ought to be placed in the publicrecord. He has been the subject of a great deal of adverse and unfortunate criticism. When one examines, for instance, the report of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service for the period 1 July 1977 to 30 June 1978, in the section dealing with Kakadu National Park one reads that the declaration of the Park ‘will be the culmination of more than 1 3 years of debate over land use in the region’. (Quorum formed). I repeat, if one looks at that report of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, one sees the enthusiasm and dedication that all officers of the Service, the Director and all of his subordinates, have put into the eventual declaration and management of the Kakadu National Park, which is potentially affected by this legislation but which I believe will be sufficiently safeguarded.
In conclusion I would say, firstly, that this legislation provides sufficient guarantees for the protection of the Park, for consultation with Northern Territory authorities and for consultation with the Aboriginals. Further, it provides sufficient guarantees in the overriding power of the Minister, in terms of these matters, for those who are genuinely concerned with the conservation issues to feel quite secure that no damage will be done to such a valuable national asset as the Kakadu National Park. I say, secondly, that the procedures adopted for the development of the Jabiru township before the plan of management comes into effect are the most satisfactory that could be made in the circumstances. I say, thirdly, that I have a great deal of faith in the ability of the Director, who will have considerable authority under this legislation, to carry out all of his responsibilities in a completely proper fashion.
Fourthly, I would like to indicate that, in terms of the issue of conservation in general, the Fraser Government has a particularly fine record. Decisions have been taken in relation to matters such as Fraser Island, the whaling inquiry, the proclamation of the Kakadu National Park and the declaration of intention as far as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is concerned. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has shown a- willingness to meet with a number of people who are particularly concerned about conservation issues. He is meeting tomorrow with representatives who are here from London and from Australia to talk to him about the harp seal problem. He was particularly instrumental many years ago in developing the policy which led to the prohibition of the export of Australian birds. All those matters indicate that this Government has taken very seriously indeed its responsiblities in the field of conservation. It is within that framework that this legislation, which was made necessary because of technical difficulties in the existing legislation exposed by the AttorneyGeneral ‘s Department, is to be commended. One can rest assured that not only the interests of the development of the Jabiru township but also the interests of the presevation of the park and of conservation in general will be adequately provided for.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Melzer)- I call Senator Mulvihill.
– On a point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President, before Senator Mulvihill starts could you find any way to stop the snoring coming from the sleeping Government senators so that we can hear the honourable senator when he speaks?
– That is absolute rubbish and the honourable senator knows it.
– I raise the question as to whether it is orderly conduct for honourable senators to go to sleep here when they cannot be roused on the ringing of the division bells. I call your attention to the state of the House, Madam Acting Deputy President, and hope that the bells will ring sufficiently loudly to wake up two Government senators who could not be roused by previous bells. (Quorum formed).
– I raise a point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President. I draw your attention to Standing Order 418, in view of the comments that have been made by Senator Cavanagh and Senator Keeffe on a number of occasions. It is evident to everybody that there are very few Labor senators left in the Senate. Standing Order 4 1 8 states: . . all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly’.
I believe that the personal reflections being made consistently by Senator Cavanagh ought to be considered highly disorderly and treated by you as such.
– On the point of order, if offensive words are used against a senator, the senator himself has to object. Perhaps we could wake Senator MacGibbon and ask him whether he objects to the words used.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I find that there is no point of order.
– If either Senator MacGibbon or Senator Lewis asks me to withdraw and apologise, I will do so.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
There is no point of order. Offensive remarks may have been made by both sides of the House. I call Senator Mulvihill.
– I do not share completely the optimism of the last speaker. The real crux of the legislation and its effectiveness will become apparent when the Jabiru Town Development Authority suddenly decides that it can pressure the Minister of the day to get some dilution of this legislation. Senator Puplick referred to what he regards as the commencement of the creation of the Kakadu National Park. I point out to him that in order to ascertain why some of us have been sceptical he would have to go back to Hansard of 1966 or 1967 when I first asked a question of a great Australian in the person of Senator John Grey Gorton. There has been a long struggle to get to the present situation. I have fears about the mining companies, which, like Oliver Twist, are always asking for more. I say that very deliberately. History shows that certain cases of despoliation in Australia- for example, the Finniss River in the Northern Territory and the Molonglo River in the Australian Capital Territory- were caused by mining excesses but no restitution has been made by the offenders. I will take that point a little further. I have drawn to the attention of the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) extracts I have taken from the London Economist and Time magazine of parallel debates dealing with the current debate in the United States Congress on the allocation of land in Alaska. To prove my point that eternal vigilance is needed, I seek leave to have those two documents incorporated in Hansard.
The documents read as follows-
CARIBOU 1, OIL-DRILLERS 0
President Carter’s congressional lobbyists earned their keep for once last week. The house of representatives agreed by a margin of more than 100 votes to an administration plan to conserve vast stretches of Alaska, a state which is one-sixth the size of the rest of the country. The bill, which shuts off development in the oil-bearing Arctic wildlife range, was carried, in part, because the oil industry opposed it.
Amid widespread petrol shortages, with new domestic sources of oil at a premium, the vote was expected to be mush closer. Conservationists, who strongly supported the bill, feared it might even lose. But the current of popular opinion against the oil companies is strong, and much of the house closely reflects it. For this very reason, many of the same representatives who supported the president on Alaska arc now opposing him on decontrolling the price of crude oil. As a warning shot, house Democrats on Tuesday voted among themselves by almost two to one to block the president’s plan to begin lifting price controls at the end of this month.
The Alaska Lands Bill, which now goes to a wary senate, settles boundaries and permissible uses for more than 120m acres of federal land in the state, lt designates 67m acres of that land “wilderness”, closed to all development. This wilderness area includes the Arctic range, which lies east along the coast from the huge Prudhoe Bay oilfield, and rich cimberlands in the south-cast coastal region. The oil companies, limber interests and hunting lobby all fiercely resisted these provisions. So did most Alaskans, who are concerned about a federal stranglehold on the state’s future development.
The environmental lobby has been losing ground in congress recently, lt came fully prepared for what was called “the environmental vote of the decade”. Wild life societies across the country raised the alarm to save the caribou herd whose calving grounds are in the oil region. The interior secretary, Mr Cecil Andrus, who carries a no-nonsense conservationist reputation from his days as governor of Idaho, painted the industry lobby as the “rape, ruin and run boys”.
Many members sided with the president to put at least one solid environmental vote on their record. Besides the Democrats, 66 Republicans supported the bill with the moderate Illinois congressman, Mr John Anderson, at their head.
Voting with the president was not so difficult for these Republicans. Alaska is too distant to bc a major issue for the average voter and the bill docs leave other areas of the state open for development, including the old naval petroleum reserve to the west of Prudhoe Bay. Any new oil found in Alaska, besides, will take at least 10 years to bring to market, which made the matter easier to dissociate from the current oil shortage.
A final consideration was President Carter’s threat to veto any plan which opened the Arctic range. This could not bc taken lightly. Last December the president ruled that 56m acres in Alaska should be temporarily protected from development. He invoked an obscure statute intended to designate historical sites as “monuments”. Until legislation is adopted and signed by Mr Carter, the designations will stand together with temporary interior department rules on other areas.
The president took this action, which was deeply resented in Alaska, after Alaska’s Democrat in the upper chamber. Senator Mike Gravel, killed a last-minute compromise on the land issue in the previous congress. Now Senator Gravel and his Republican colleague. Senator Ted Stevens, will try to undo the presidential action either by legislation or by a court challenge.
BACKLASH AGAINST BIG OIL
Anger at the industry helps an Alaska conservation bill ‘
Tip O’Neill stood in his Speaker’s office and waved a big hand toward the floor of the House. ‘The oil industry is in rough shape out there’, he declared. ‘The members think they ‘re voting against another rape by Big Oil ‘.
Big Oil clearly was in trouble. By a vote of 268 to 157, the House had just approved a proposal that the industry thought it could defeat: legislation that would set aside 126 million acres of Alaska ‘s most spectacular wilderness. The bill would place stringent limits on how the land could be developed by oil companies looking for new sources of petroleum, as well as by lumber and mining interests. The most sweeping land conservation legisation in U.S. history, the bill would preserve an area slightly larger than California. It would also protect the great caribou herds in the ArcticWildlife Range, the spawning beds of the Pacific salmon in the Misty Fjords along the states ‘southeast coast, the nesting grounds of the dwindling numbers of American bald eagles on Admiralty Island and the habitat of the whistling swan in the southwest.
Before the vote. Congressman Mo Udall, one of the bill’s sponsors, had feared the gasoline shortage would give industry lobbyists a powerful argument for approval of an opposing measure that would have opened 63 million acres of Alaska’s wildlife refuges to oil exploration and hard-rock mining. With long lines forming outside California gas stations, Udall warned, ‘This is the worst time to bring this bill up’.
But O’Neill sensed a different sentiment on the floor. He knew that members of the House had been blistered by their constituents for turning down President Carter’s plan for stand-by gasoline rationing. The Speaker also realized that the voters were fed up with the oil companies. ‘ I ‘ve never seen the public so mad’, O’Neill told reporters. ‘You take away gasoline and you destroy the family. That’s the way they feel’. Indiana Democrat John Brademas saw another reason for the vote, urged along by persuasive conservationist lobbying: ‘There is a feeling of protecting the great natural legacy of Alaska. It’s a triumph for the environmental ethic’.
The bill was itself a compromise between the views of the developers and the strict conservationists. A total of 67 million acres would be designated as wilderness areas, in which little commercial activity is permitted. Still, the bill would permit oil companies to develop new sources of petroleum in 95 per cent of the state’s total area. The bill would also give concessions to certain established developers and open 22.5 million acres in the North Slope area west of Prudhoe Bay as a ‘national petroleum reserve’ in which private companies could seek and produce oil.
Republican Don Young, the State’s lone Congressman, called the bill ‘illegal and immoral’ and ‘a terrible thing for the people of Alaska’. Udall sharply disagreed, noting that the federal lands left untouched by the bill are ‘twice the size of California and can be used as they please by the 400.000 people of Alaska’. Referring to the region covered by the bill, Udall added: ‘The 220 million people of America are entitled to the preservation of the last great areas of wild beauty in the U.S.’
By threatening a filibuster, Alaska’s Senator Mike Gravel was able to kill a less extensive proposal last year. Another fight looms: Gravel and Ted Stevens, Alaska’s other Senator, oppose the House bill. At best, the Senate will not bc voting for several months, by which dme it could just be filibuster season again.
-It will be seen from those documents that there are areas which are completely off limit for any mining whatsoever. I challenge Government senators from the Minister down to give me an assurance that a majority decision of the Cabinet at any given time could not override the legislation and the Government could not introduce amending legislation that seeks to create further mining enclaves. That is not happening in Alaska and it should not happen here. I am sure that Senator Kilgariff, who is to speak after me will have something to say about my aspersions concerning the mining moguls, but I have noted that the United States Secretary of the Interior has called them ‘those that rape and run’. That is what those people want to do. I want to see the Kakadu National Park established in accordance with the full concept, as does Senator Puplick, but I have distinct reservations about whether we will get all that we want, despite the best intentions of Professor Ovington. We have been told by the Government that an early start is wanted with the excavations for the township in order to avoid the wet season. If the mining companies swore on a pack of bibles that they would follow environmental safeguard procedures I would not believe them. Their operations have to be policed 24 hours a day; there is no other way of handling them. I will come back to that. Everybody knows that the Australian Conservation Foundation has asked as evidence of good faith on the part of the Government that the two pastoral leases held by Sir William Gunn- I think they are Goodparla and Gimbat- be gazetted and added immediately to the contemplated Kakadu National Park region. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) was conspicuously silent on this point in his second reading speech. What is happening in relation to that matter? That is the litmus test in relation to the Government’s credibility,
I turn to the other point I wish to make. It concerns Senator Kilgariff, who, as I have said, will speak after me. The Northern Territory, which he represents in this chamber, has as an emblem on its coat of arms the wedgetail eagle. I am wondering whether he and the famour leader in the Northern Territory, Mr Everingham, can give the Senate an assurance that none of the 2,500 people in the proposed town will have any firearms. I have before me another document which I will not seek to have incorporated in Hansard but I know the officers assisting the Minister are aware of it. It indicates that when I asked about protection of the wedgetail eagle on the escarpment in the region I was told that it would be all right. If we put 2,500 people into a mining town, I doubt very much whether we will curb any indiscriminate shooting. If Senator Kilgariff is a good man for the Northern Territory and respects his coat of arms, he will say to me: ‘We will gaol everybody who breaches any ordinance’. I am waiting to see the first people go into the clink. I know the local manoeuvres that will be carried out to spring these people out of gaol. One man shot about 10 kangaroos in the forests and he has not yet paid his fine. Senator Kilgariff cannot tell me that the authorities in the Northern Territory are going to be as tough as they should be. These are genuine fears that I have. If Senator Kilgariff can assure me that justice will be done, I will say very good. Even with the dedication attached to Senator Webster’s portfolio and of the officers of his Department as well as the dedication of the Chief Scientist, Dr Fry, I still believe that continual agitation by the mining companies to expand their activities will mean that we will have to be vigilant.
– On a point of order, I draw your attention, Mr President, to Standing Order 397. It is not the Opposition’s fault that this Senate remains in session until the early hours of this morning. It is the Government’s intention that we shall debate these Bills even if we stay here until daylight. Standing Order 397 is the relevant Standing Order. We have had government senators sleeping for most of the night in their places. This is a pretty disgusting state of affairs when we consider their responsibilities to their electors. These senators have no interest in what is going on. The bells ringing to summon a quorum at no stage have awakened them. I think that this conduct is slight on the dignity of the Senate. I think the stage has been reached when if the Government wants to pursue these Bills Government senators ought to be in a state of health where they are able to sit up, listen to the debate and participate in the debate. I ask you to rule on Standing Order 397.
– There is no point of order whatsoever. It is not relevant.
– I conclude my observations on the Bill with an appeal to the Government. It was the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution that exposed the ports which led to the pollution of the Finniss River. I know that there will be repeated amendments to this legislation in response to mining company agitation in the Northern Territory. The only way that this will be combated is for the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment to be given a charter to look into these matters. The Chairman, Senator Jessop, Senator Melzer and I, and even Senator MacGibbon, agree that we have a role to play. With Senator Mason and Senator Townley there will be six parliamentary watchdogs to keep all these people such as Mr Everingham on their toes. When Senator Kilgariff goes back to Darwin he can tell Mr Everingham from me that if he came before that Senate Standing Committee and gave evidence on oath he would not be able to hide as he does in his coward’s castle and attack senior public servants as he has attacked Professor Ovington. If he comes before that Committee we will see whether he is as good at taking it as he is at giving it. That is the message I want Senator Kilgariff to take back to Darwin. I can assure him that while this Senate Standing Committee continues to function we will get him before us one day and then we will see how brave he is.
- Senator Mulvihill claimed that the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment will drag the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory before it and give him ‘what ho’.
– He would not have the guts. You know the sort of man he is- a loud mouthed coward.
– There is one thing I have always believed in–
– On a point of order, I ask the honourable senator to withdraw those remarks about the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory.
- Senator, you ought to back your officers and have a bit of guts yourself. I am sick of this sort of thing. You have a job to be loyal to your officers, not to this clown up there.
– Order! At this time of the morning I will ask every honourable senator to observe those matters which we know are to be observed. Senators cannot reflect on another member of Parliament and we do extend this beyond our own members.
– I take exception to the remark that the Chief Minister is a clown. I ask Senator Mulvihill to withdraw that remark, because that is offensive.
– There are times when I believe that the Senate should not be so insistent on remarks being withdrawn. In the normal course of events that is quite in order. But I appeal to honourable senators to let the Parliament function.
– I have adopted a personal rule over the years during which I have been a member of the Senate or a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I was always prepared, if I made a remark in the Senate or the Legislative Assembly, to make that same remark outside. I do not think that some of the people who have made remarks in the Senate tonight would have the courage or the guts to make those remarks outside. The Chief Minister in the Northern Territory is an honourable person who is doing a fine job in co-operation with the Federal Government. He is being maligned in the Senate. I say that the people who have maligned him have not got the guts or the courage to make their remarks outside.
Let me refer to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill. Its purpose is to amend the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 to facilitate the development of a township at Jabiru which is located in the Kakadu National Park. It is my understanding that the necessity for this legislation stems back to a Federal Act which was passed in 1978 and which endeavoured to give authority for the works to be carried out at Jabiru. I understand that a legal opinion given by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) stated that there was insufficient authority within the Act for work to be carried out at Jabiru. I understand that this legislation corrects that situation.
Before dealing further with the Bill I would like to talk about one or two general matters. As I have said before, it always amazes me that people single out for criticism uranium development in the Northern Territory. While little mining development has taken place in the Northern Territory, mining scars can be seen in the States from mining which has taken place probably over the last 100 years or more. Yet the people who criticise such things are prepared to single out only one place- Rum Jungle- when in their own backyard, in the Australian States, mining practices over the years have disfigured the country. Let us look at Rum Jungle. 1 make no excuse for the way in which Rum Jungle was mined for uranium some 25 years ago. In those days mining, whether for uranium or any thing else, was not subject to environmental control, nor did people take the interest in their country which they do now. It is quite true that when the Australian Atomic Energy Commission mined uranium some 25 years ago it did not engage in the safeguards and the environmental controls that are engaged in today.
Many people harp on whether uranium should be developed. This interests me when I think of the uranium mining that has taken place at Rum Jungle and Moline in the Northern Territory. Last Sunday in Darwin I talked to Mr Joe Fisher who was the manager of the mine at Moline which contained a rich pocket of uranium. It was one of the first uranium mines in the Territory. This was before all this fuss and bother came about. The mine was in operation some 20 years ago. It is amazing that the 20-odd people who worked in that pitch blend, this rich pocket, are as healthy today as the day on which they started mining in this area. There have to be safeguards but many of the attacks made on the development of uranium have been overdone. Yesterday I asked a question concerning the problem of radioactivity levels at the Narbalek uranium mine indicated in a report from the Department of Science and the Environment. However the information given in AM was only half the answer. That is why I asked the question because it gives the complete answer. The most important part of that answer given by Senator Webster states:
I believe that the point of the honourable senator’s question is met by the fact that these measures have been incorporated as conditions of the approval to mine, and that they arc being implemented by the company in respect of its operations, which commenced recently. The honouarble senator knows, of course, that responsibility Tor ensuring compliance with these conditions rests with the Northern Territory Government.
That is quite true, too. On that particular matter–
– I rise on a point of order. I refer to Standing Order 402 which states:
Every Senator, when he comes into the Chamber, shall take his place, and shall not at any time stand in any of the passages or gangways.
There is one Government senator who is taking more than one place. He has rectified the position.
– That is not relevant to the point of order.
– I rise on a point of order. I refer to Standing Order 418 and these unwarranted reflections that have been made consistently this evening by Opposition senators whose colleagues do not bother to be present in the chamber. I believe these unwarranted reflections ought to be considered under the terms of Standing Order 418 which states that all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly. The behaviour of Senator Colston a moment ago, and other Opposition senators earlier, is clearly highly disorderly under Standing Order 4 1 8 and I believe ought to be treated as such.
– I indicated to the honourable senator who raised the point of order that it was not in accord with my interpretation of Standing Order 402. A person who is in his bench, as was the honourable senator to whom he referred, is not a subject for a point of order. In my estimation it is rather puerile that those points should be raised.
– One good thing about points of order and the debates that take place concerning them is that they are recorded in Hansard for public information. I refer to the Northern Territory’s responsibility. An honourable senator made the remark a little earlier that perhaps the Northern Territory people did not know their responsibilities. In that regard the honourable senator is completely out of touch. If he could see the co-operation taking place now between Northern Territory public servants and their Commonwealth counterparts in the development of the uranium fields, and so on, he would see that these matters which worry him are just a dream, a figment of his imagination, or just plain mischievous. The Commonwealth has entrusted to the Northern Territory regulations concerning the mining, milling and transport of uranium, et cetera. The matter is well in hand. Further to Senator Webster’s answer to my question in Hansard of 4 June, I understand that there is further information relating to this matter. It comes from the supervising scientist, a Dr Fry. Whilst the information has not yet been introduced into the Senate, I understand that it is in the hands of the Minister. I hope that when time permits and when the right time comes up he will also bring in this information which I think will refute the charges once and for all.
I refer to the mischievous charges which continue to be made. Mr Collins, M.L.A., the member for Arnhem, is known for his attacks on the industry in that area. I wonder why. I can only say that they are mischievous attacks. I asked a question some weeks ago about his charges that the lagoon at Jabiru- at the Ranger project- was being polluted by the activities of the Peko-EZ company, the Ranger project in that area. Of course, the matter was blown up throughout Australia as if something was terribly wrong. I think Mr Uren also joined in the issue. When the situation was looked at one found that a road was being made, there was a gutter some 3 feet wide and during a heavy downpour of rain some muddy water from this 3-foot ditch ran into the lagoon and coloured the water for a few feet into the lagoon. That is what all the fuss was about. The answer indicated that it was a rather mischievous action.
There have been attacks on, and very derogatory remarks made about, the Chief Minister. One must appreciate that he is having a difficult time. There has been a considerable transfer of power during the last year in which most Statelike responsibilities- about which I have spoken in the Senate- have been passed to him and to his Ministers. A few years ago it was suggested that there should be an inquiry into uranium development and mining. Of course, this was after Mr Whitlam and his three Ministers had signed an agreement with the Peko-EZ company for the mining of uranium. Nevertheless, this inquiry was carried out by Mr Justice Fox. It was a complete inquiry into the area of the Kakadu National Park and the mining of uranium. While this inquiry into the development and preparation for the orderly control and development of mining of uranium was taking place, there were constitutional changes being planned in the Northern Territory which involved the giving of powers to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. For some reason or other, Mr Justice Fox did not at any stage touch on the constitutional changes that were developing side by side with the proposal to mine uranium.
It is an unusual situation and I can only assume that if the attention of Mr Justice Fox had been drawn to the constitutional changes taking place in the Territory, there would have been some reference in the report which came from the inquiry. Perhaps that may have avoided some of the pitfalls and contentious situations that exist today. With the transfer of powers and the development of the National Park, honourable senators can well imagine that many people in the Territory are interested in seeing that they have a say in their own National Park. When the package of uranium Bills came before the House of Representatives and the Senate, the people of the Northern Territory had absolutely no say in relation to these Bills which related to the Kakadu National Park and the development of uranium.
I can certainly imagine as a Territorian how the people took objection to this situation. Legislation has been passed in the Federal Parliament for the development of this mining town of Jabiru in a particular area of the National Park. It is an area of land that was not in the Aboriginal land claim. It was never passed over to the Aboriginal people. It was included in the National Park and a certain area was leased for the town. There is a great deal of feeling in the Territory- it is a political feeling- about this closed town of some 3,500 people on the Arnhem Highway, lt is not far away from Darwin. It will attract many tourists and there is the feeling that if the town is closed tourism will not be feasible. One expects and hopes that at some time in the future this town will become an ordinary town in the Northern Territory. I do not think that this is too much to ask.
– How would you define an ordinary town?
– An ordinary town is a town such as the one in which the honourable senator lives. It is restricted in no way. It belongs to the State in which one lives and the people of that State have a say in the running of it.
– So they can shoot anything on sight with rifles?
– There might be a few guns in the honourable senator’s town also. The size of this town will be restricted to three and a half thousand people. I think we will find that, with the development of uranium and the various mines of Pancontinental, Queensland Mines at Nabarlek, and Peko-EZ at Jabiru, that there will be sufficient people including the people who will service the various businesses in the town. This does not include the large number of public servants who will be living in the town. They will be very hard pressed to keep the town’s population at the limit of three and a half thousand people. (Quorum formed). An Act was passed this year by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly by agreement with the Federal Government which resulted in the setting up of the Jabiru Development Commission. This Commission has the responsibility of running the town. As Senator Puplick has indicated I think it is quite true that work in this area has been held up and this is what this legislation corrects.
It is to ensure that certain works can be carried out in this dry season which is just commencing. I have a list of the works which is quite substantial. The total commitment of expenditure, which may be even higher, is presently $4,7 1 6,000. The works relate to civil roads, drainage, services for a construction camp and caravan park, purchase and refurbishment of a temporary sewerage treatment plant, plant hire for initial access tracks, temporary construction of a 50 man camp, a catering and security contract, another construction camp and so on. It is essential that if Peko- EZ is to get cracking with the Ranger project in the near future this work has to be carried out. This legislation will go a certain way towards achieving this. The people in the Northern Territory believe that this situation requires more than just their being consulted. The consultative provisions agreed to by Parliament last year have not been particularly effective and have not given the people of the Northern Territory much say in these matters. I think that in fairness to the people they should be more than consulted. Proposed new section 8D (2) reads in part: “(2) At any time before a plan of management relating to the Park comes into force, the Director may grant written licences to the Authority-
That is the Jabiru Town Authority- authorizing it to do such things within the Park as are specified the licences, being things that he considers necessary or convenient to be commenced, before the plan of management comes into force, for and in relation to the establishment and development of a township at or near a place in the Region known as Jabiru. “(3) The Director shall not grant a licence under subsection (2) unless-
Senator Puplick referred to this before; that the Territory Commission, and each other Authority or body established by or under a law of the Northern Territory which the Authority has considered it appropriate to consult in relation to the issue of the licence, have agreed to the issue of the licence;
That provision goes further than requiring consultation. The Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service shall agree to the Authority being granted a licence. Proposed new section 8D (5) reads:
A licence may be varied at any time by the Director with the consent of the Authority.
That provision goes a long way. This provision applies until the plan of management comes into force. I ask that the regulations for the National Park should not apply to the town of Jabiru. I believe that it is an impossible situation for regulations for a park to apply to a town. Of necessity, various things that go on in a town do not match the requirements of a national park. I refer to such things as traffic and the supply and use of liquor. I understand, that there already have been problems with rules which have been drafted. Problems have been pointed out in relation to the types of household-
– You are not suggesting that there will be sly grog in the town?
– There is no suggestion of sly grog. Within the town a person should be able invite his friend into his house to have a drink. Of course, the use of certain household and garden sprays in the town will be restricted if the regulations relating to the Park are extended to the town as well.
Proposed new section 8D (3) (b) states: where, under the Aboriginal Land Rights ( Northern Territory) Act 1976, an Aboriginal Land Council has, or Aboriginal Land Councils have, been established for any area or areas wholly or partly within the Park- the Director has consulted with, and had regard to the views of, the Chairman of that Council or of each of those Councils, as the case may bc, in relation to the issue of the licence.
I must admit that I am not quite sure what that proposed new section means. I ask the Minister to clarify the matter. On the plan of the National Park the area that is reserved for the town of Jabiru is described as an area in fee simple within the National Park and outside the area in relation to which the Aborigines were granted land rights. So it is not Aboriginal land. I ask the Minister whether this proposed new section actually relates to the proposed town of Jabiru.
Over the last few years I have seen absolutely no problems arising over consultation with the Aboriginal people. They have been consulted. Aboriginal people are members of various boards on which they can advise, consult and so on. However, I am concerned about the town of Jabiru. Indeed, my concern goes past the town of Jabiru. I am concerned about the various laws that have been introduced in the Federal Parliament and in the Northern Legislative Assembly. I believe that the maze of administrative action required for the development of Jabiru, the National Park and mining is retarding development of the town.’ I think the red tape is being overdone. I hope that continual additions will not be made to the laws relating to the control and running of Jabiru. They will only further restrict its workings and development. My concern is that each additional person to be consulted is another cog in the wheel of development, and that the whole process will grind more and more slowly. That is my only genuine concern about the matter.
I have outlined the situation as I see it. I deplore the attacks that have been made on the Chief Minister.
– What did he do to Federal officers? Who started it? We did not start it. He attacked senior Federal officers.
– I do not know to what the honourable senator is referring. In this place tonight sly attacks have been made on the Chief Minister and newspaper reports have been referred to. All I can say is that the Minister is a most honourable, hard working person who is working in co-operation with the Federal Government. Between him and the Federal Government we will see uranium developed for the benefit of not only the Northern Territory but also Australia as a whole.
-I want to make a contribution to this debate. I did not intend speaking until I heard the provocative statements that were made by Senator Kilgariff. Mr Acting Deputy President, I want to draw your attention to the fact that it is now 2 a.m. We are debating a very important Bill. I again refer to the fact that a percentage of the Government members have spent most of the night sleeping on their benches, even though Senator Colston and I drew the attention of the President to the fact that they were breaking Standing Orders.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bonner)- Order!
– I rise on a point of order. The statement that has just been made by Senator Keeffe is totally untrue. There have not been sleeping senators on the Government side. Whether there have been on the Opposition side I am not aware.
– You must be blind.
– I ask the honourable senator to withdraw the remark. It is untrue.
– I will not withdraw the remark and I will name the two senators. They are Senator MacGibbon and Senator Lewis. They both slept there tonight for the best part of an hour.
– That statement is untrue.
– I should like to make a personal explanation. I closed my eyes because I was tired of looking at the people on the other side of the chamber.
Order! The expressions used by you, Senator Keeffe, are highly disorderly. I would ask you to withdraw them.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, everybody saw it. The gallery saw it. The gallery was laughing at one stage because Government members were asleep. I do not propose to withdraw my remarks.
Order! Senator Keeffe, would you resume your seat?
– No, I will not.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Keeffe, I have asked you to resume your seat.
– I have resumed my seat.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The comments you made about Government members were highly disorderly and quite untrue. I would ask you to withdraw those remarks.
– No, I will not.
– May I speak to the point of order?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes, you may.
– Our worthy President, I think, was extremely liberal to all concerned during an altercation between Senator Kilgariff and me. I hope that that spirit will prevail, and that the ship can sail on.
– I am not going to be called a liar. They were asleep.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Keeffe, I ask you again to withdraw those remarks.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, you are now calling me a liar. Fifty witnesses here saw those two honourable senators asleep. They were asleep, and I will not withdraw the remark.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! There will be no debate. I have asked you to withdraw those remarks. There is no point of order. Senator Keeffe, I again ask you to withdraw those remarks. There will be no debate on the question. Senator Keeffe, I again ask you to withdraw those remarks. If you do not withdraw those remarks, I have no alternative but to name you.
– You will be delighted to suspend me, so suspend me. I am happy. I will just walk out.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Keeffe, I ask you again to withdraw those remarks. If you do not desire to do so, I have no alternative but to name you. Senator Keeffe, I name you.
– In terms of Standing Order 440, I ask Senator Keeffe to stand in his place and make an explanation or an apology, as he may think fit.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I made a truthful statement. I am distressed by it. It is not the Opposition’s desire that we sit into these ungodly hours of the day, carrying out legislation by exhaustion. I think I have the right to make an explanation. We are now debating a very important Bill. Statements have been made, and I very much wanted to defend Mr Bob Collins and other people who have been attacked by a Government senator. I believe that if the Government wants to carry out this sort of legislation, it ought to be done within ordinary debating hours. I was under the impression that when we suspended the use of Standing Order 68, the relevant standing order, it was for the purpose of getting rid of some urgent legislation which would normally be debated perhaps until 12 midnight, but not to this hour. If this debate goes on we will be here until at least 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. I know that there is a desire to remove me from this chamber.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Keeffe -
– Would you allow me to explain myself?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Keeffe, would you resume your seat for a moment? I would ask you to confine your remarks to an explanation as to why you were disorderly in your remarks against Government members.
– Against whom in particular? I seek leave to speak to your statement.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Keeffe has the call.
– You just made a statement. Can I seek leave to speak?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Leave is not granted.
– While it is a case of mirth on the Government benches, it is very hard to continue with my explanation. When I made that statement I named two senators who have been sleeping for a lengthy period in the chamber tonight. I do not care if somebody wants to sleep. Senators have couches in their offices in which to sleep. There are other facilities around the place. There are club rooms in which they may sleep. I think it is disgraceful state of affairs when the legislators come into this chamber and sleep. I suppose most people in this place, because of the fault of air conditioning and what have you, have a tendency to nod off or doze. It is a disgraceful state of affairs when people can lie prone and sleep for a lengthly period when we are supposed to be debating very urgent legislation.
With very deep regret, I must say that I spoke the truth. If I withdrew words of truth then I would be less than honest. I would have to turn myself into a liar by saying that I am sorry and I did not believe what I saw. I saw it happen. People in the gallery saw it, attendants saw it, Government members saw it and members of the Opposition saw it. I cannot withdraw what I have said. I am sorry about it and I am apologetic, but I cannot withdraw and turn myself into a liar.
– In terms of Standing Order 440 there is no recourse available but to move:
That Senator Keeffe be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.
– I do not ask for a division. I shall just walk out. Carry it on the voices. I will go-
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Keeffe thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
- Senator Keeffe is suspended from the service of the Senate for one week.
Suspension of Standing Orders
– I move:
I have moved this motion because I think that it is urgent for us to debate this matter at this moment. I think that an injustice has been done to a member of the Senate because he told the truth. The truth that he spoke was that two honourable senators, rightly or wrongly, were asleep. I have no question about that. Many people fall asleep in this place. At this late hour it is excusable. Both those honourable senators-
– Order ! Please be seated. I must inform you, Senator Georges, that you cannot canvass the determination that has been made. You cannot speak in respect of this matter now.
– May I respectfully take up the ruling.
– If you wish to move for the suspension of Standing OrdersSenator GEORGES- It is a new situation now. It is I-
– The matter has been determined. You cannot refer to it.
– I have moved for the suspension of Standing Orders so that Senator Lewis and Senator MacGibbon can explain to the Senate, and declare to the Senate -
– That they were not asleep.
– Well, they can say that they were not asleep. I believe that if we suspend
Standing Orders to allow both Senator MacGibbon and Senator Lewis to make an explanation we would find that they were asleep. That admission although it would reflect upon the decision made by the Senate, would enable the Senate to reverse that decision. Because of certain behaviour, shall we say, on the part of two honourable senators, another honourable senator has been seriously disadvantaged for a week. We will come to the point when another senator–
-Please be seated, Senator Georges. The facts of the situation are that a determination has been made and there is no comeback. The matter has been determined.
– I wonder whether it would be in order to move under Standing Order 44 1 that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the suspension of Senator Keeffe being for the remainder of this sitting only. I am well aware, Mr President, that you have made it for a week.
– I have not made it for a week.
– I know that the Standing Orders have made it so but I would be willing to move, despite Standing Order 441 which compels your ruling, that we suspend Standing Orders so that the suspension of Senator Keeffe be for the remainder of the sitting, which would be as though it were a first offence within the Session. If I am so permitted, I shall so move. I move:
– May I ask a question? Irrespective of the way this motion is dealt with, do I take it that the suspension of Senator Keeffe has been dealt with and that that is the end of it? Irrespective of the term, have you decided that Senator Keeffe be suspended on the grounds that were put to Senator Bonner or to yourself? Is it understood that the reason for the suspension is that he simply made reference to the fact that two people were asleep in the chamber?
– The ruling was made. I must advise the Senate that I left the Chamber to attend to a very urgent matter. I did not leave it to attend to a frivolous matter but to do something which I thought it was necessary to do this evening. This occurred during the time that I was away. That has been determined. It is finished.
But the Leader of the Government in the Senate has moved that the suspension be for the remainder of this sitting only. That is the question now before the Senate.
– I wish to ask a question, Mr President. You have said that the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick) has moved that Senator Keeffe be suspended for the remainder of this sitting. I would like some clarification as to when that sitting expires. Is it when the Parliament rises or when the Senate adjourns this morning?
– It is this day.
– This day was not mentioned.
– It is the end of this day’s sitting. When the Senate rises the sitting is completed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
After detailed examination of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry recommendations, the Government announced its decisions with regard to Jabiru town. The Government agreed on the site for the town and approved the recommendations of the inquiry that the town should have a maximum population of 3,500, be a closed town and be included in Kakadu National Park. The design, construction and management of the town are seen as being primarily the responsibility of the Jabiru Town Development Authority, a statutory body established by the Northern Territory Government. However, the town will be subject to the plan of management prepared by the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife service and will be built according to principles and standards agreed with the Director.
The intention is that by including the town in the National Park it will be planned and managed in harmony with the Park, and the impact of the town, both on the environment and Aboriginals, will be minimised. The town site is to be leased to the Jabiru Town Development Authority by the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Recreational facilities for the town people will be provided in the National Park. Exclusion of the town from the grant of Aboriginal land is in accord with the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry, but by including the town in the National Park the Government sought to ensure that Aboriginals are involved in its planning.
The Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and Jabiru Town Development Authority, working closely together, have prepared a draft town plan which has the support in principle of the Northern Land Council. The amendments before us are designed to permit the Director to approve preliminary construction work by instrument in writing prior to the plan of management being finalised. In granting licences for work to proceed, the Director will specify any environmental conditions necessary to ensure that park values are not adversely affected and will have regard to the views of the Chairman of the Northern Land Council in relation to specific projects. The Jabiru Town Development Authority is responsible for obtaining the agreement of all relevant Northern Territory authorities to the projects for which a licence is sought.
The control of alcohol and the area of the town site were subjects of consideration in the agreement negotiated between the Northern Land Council and the Government. In view of the particular concern about alcohol expressed by Aboriginals, regulations will be introduced to restrict the sale and consumption of alcohol at the town site during the construction phase. The regulations will operate in conjuction with the Northern Territory laws. It is intended that the major construction work in the town will take place within the framework of the plan of management. In response to the public notice inviting representations, the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service has received 40 submissions from interested groups and individuals. In this way the Director is able to take into account different viewpoints. As required under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, further public input to the plan of management will be sought once a draft plan is completed.
I believe that the proposed amendments will enable an early start to be made on the town and advantage to be taken of the current dry season. At the same time, appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that the town is properly developed having regard to its location in a national park of international standing and the need for the town to be pleasant to live in. Kakadu National Park is important not only because of its biological richness and magnificent scenery but also because of its cultural significance to Aboriginals. The Aboriginal rock art is without parallel and records the history of the Aboriginal people to the present time. The Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service will be developing the facilities in consultation with the traditional landowners. I expect that the number of visitors to the Park will increase over the next decade. The proper development of the Park and the construction of accommodation for different kinds of visitors will contribute greatly to tourism in the Northern Territory. Mr President, I thank those honourable senators from both sides of the House who have spoken on this Bill this evening. I thank them for restricting the remarks they wished to make on such an important subject.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I ask just one question of the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster). If mining ceases at the end of X years, will the mining town be demolished? What will its future be?
– I think it is fair to say that once the town of Jabiru is developed it will remain a part of the structure upon which the Kakadu National Park is developed. Interested visitors to the Park probably will stay there.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Webster) read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 2.24 a.m. (Wednesday)
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 26 October 1978:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Sydney- Mr Oswin, Mr Moremon, Mr Dwyer and the Tribunal Secretary ( Mr Connolly)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 27 February 1979:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The calculation of the instalments payable in the schedule is based on the assumption of a 2 1 5-working-day year which allows for leave, statutory holidays and idle time due to travelling, wet weather etc. The schedule is suitable for varying periods of employment and applies in respect of the number of days actually worked during a pay period, with any days not worked being disregarded in determining the rates of instalments payable. The amounts shown in the schedule are the instalments appropriate to the shearer’s average weekly earnings and average daily earnings for pay periods ranging from I to 10 days. The schedule also covers periods in excess of 10 days and applies to earnings of both ‘found’ and ‘not found ‘ employees. The rates of weekly instalments are lower than those that apply to other employees with equivalent earnings. For employees engaged in the shearing industry full-time, the yearly total of instalments deducted in accordance with the schedule, should be broadly equivalent to the end of the year tax liabilities of the employees concerned.
The inclusion of allowances in shearers ‘ earnings for the purpose of calculating their tax instalment deductions’ is in accordance with the PA YE provisions of the income tax law which provide that, for employees generally, salary or wages includes salary, wages commission, bonuses and allowances.
asked’ the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 8 March 1979:
– The Minister for Trade and Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(a) and (b) The total production of pineapples by agricultural producers was 102,935 tonnes in 1975-76, 111,497 tonnes in 1976-77 and 98,632 tonnes in 1977-78. Details are not available for this production separated between the fresh fruit market and the processed fruit market. The recorded secondary production of processed pineapple (canned or bottled excluding pulp) was 28,304 tonnes in 1975-76. Information on production of this item is confidential for later years and therefore not available for release.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 June 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790605_senate_31_s81/>.