31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 38 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition or the undersigned respectfully showeth: That the construction of a uranium enrichment plant in North Queensland and the mining of uranium in the Herveys Range area should not be proceeded with on the following grounds:
I ) No safe method has yet been devised for the disposal of nuclear waste.
The mining of uranium ore exposes workers to considerable danger from radon gases.
3 ) The danger of poisonous chemicals seeping into surface and underground water supplies as a result of uranium ore mining and refining of uranium ore could pose serious health hazards for persons living in the Townsville region.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should take all possible steps to abandon or postpone indefinitely the mining of uranium in the Herveys Range area, and the construction of an enrichment plant in the Townsville region.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 148 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 an 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.
Human Rights in the USSR
-On behalf of Senator Knight I present the following petition from 208 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition ofthe undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
In the Soviet-occupied Lithuania. Viktoras Petkus, a member of the group to monitor Soviet compliance with the Helsinki agreement, was sentenced to a severe punishment at the same time as other Soviet dissidents. Shcharansky and Ginzburg.
Since Viktoras Petkus, and the group he is a member of. conducted their activities openly, believing that the Soviet constitution granted them some rights not only in word but also in fact, this severe punishment is a blatant denial of human rights recognised even by the Soviet constitution.
We ask the Australian Government to make representations to the United Nations to adopt a resolution condemning Soviet violations of human rights, and to request the Soviet Government to release the unjustly incarcerated Viktoras Petkus.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members ofthe 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 ofthe people;
That the change is causing and will continue to cause, widespread, serious and costly problems; That the compulsory tactics being used to force the change are a violation of all democratic principles.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed to ensure that the people are free to utilise 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 Senators Hamer, Keeffe, Mason, Mulvihill, Primmer, Rae, Sheil and Watson.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the Fraser Government was elected in December 1975 after promising that pensions would be adjusted instantly and automatically in relation to quarterly Consumer Price Index Figures;
And whereas that Government subsequently announced that pension adjustments should properly bc made half yearly each May and November:
It is the current intention of the same Government to legislate for pensions to be adjusted only once a year, and this constitutes a serious breach of generally accepted ethics, of Democratic Government, and also deprives many needy pensioners of increases that are essential to their subsistence.
The foregoing facts impel the under-signed Petitioners to request the Australian Government to uphold the principle that trustworthiness of Governments should at all times be above question.
And to appeal to the Parliament to prevent the imposition of further economic hardship upon Australian Pensioners, by rejecting any Bill which has for its aim the introduction of annual adjustments of Pension rates.
And your Pensioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Ryan.
-I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
-I withdraw General Business, Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in my name relating to the Defence Service Homes Insurance scheme. I seek leave to make a statement relating to the withdrawal.
– I wish to explain why I withdrew this motion this morning. I am delighted that changed circumstances have allowed me to withdraw the motion. I remind honourable senators that the motion which I was to move read as follows:
That the Senate is of the opinion that the Government should take immediate steps to remove the discrimination directed at certain Queensland residents whose property is insured under the Defence Service Homes Insurance scheme.
This matter refers to a special loading which was placed on Defence Service Homes Insurance scheme premiums in Queensland. My argument has been that this loading was discriminatory and unfair. I remind honourable senators that I made two major speeches on this matter last year. On the second occasion the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) conceded that I had a good case. During my continual efforts to have this unfair loading removed I received excellent co-operation from Queensland branches of the Returned Services League. The sustained pressure from branches of the RSL has been invaluable. I have now been advised by the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs (Mr Adermann) that the additional loading on insurance premiums in Queensland will be removed. From 1 July 1979 a uniform rate will apply throughout Australia. This scheme will now operate fairly, just as it did before Queenslanders were penalised. Therefore the notice of motion is no longer necessary. That is the reason why I withdrew it this morning.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he has read the transcript of the statement by the Minister for Primary Industry in the House of Representatives last night which indicated that Mr Sinclair is a director of companies which have received misappropriated funds of over $500,000. Further, I ask the Minister whether he is aware that a provision of the New South Wales Companies Act states:
A director shall at all times act honestly and use reasonable diligence in the discharge of the duties of his office.
Does the Attorney-General intend to investigate whether Mr Sinclair has breached any provisions of that Act?
– I have not read the transcript of the statement made at a late hour last night in the House of Representatives by the Minister for Primary Industry. I heard the statement but I would not make any comment in relation to particulars about it simply on the basis of having heard it. I am aware of the general provisions of the companies legislation to which Senator Wriedt has drawn my attention, although I have not read the specific section of the New South Wales Companies Act. The administration of the New South Wales Companies Act is a matter not for my responsibility but for the New South Wales Attorney-General.
– I ask a supplementary question. Presumably the Attorney-General will have a chance to read the statement. I accept the fact that he has no direct responsibility for the administration of the State Act, but would he agree that the fact that the statement has now been made in the Federal Parliament gives him some obligation to ensure that a Minister of this Government is not in breach of a State Act?
– I will read the statement and consider the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. I draw attention to a statement made in an adjournment debate by Senator Coleman at 2.16 a.m. on Thursday, 31 May, in which she informed honourable senators that a Mr Alarico Fernandes the former Fretilin Minister for Information, was murdered by the Indonesians by being bound hand and foot, taken up in a helicopter and pushed out. I also refer to a report in today’s Canberra Times that a Mr Alarica Fernandes is alive and well. Do both reports refer to the same person? If so, which is true?
-My attention has been drawn to the claim made by Senator Coleman in the Parliament on 31 May that Mr Fernandes the former Fretilin Minister for Information, was recently killed by Indonesian forces when he was dropped from a helicopter. I know of nothing to substantiate this claim. The official Indonesian news agency, Antara carried a report on 2 June from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry that Mr Fernandes was sound and healthy and living in Dili, East Timor. A subsequent Antara report of 5 June quoted Fernandes as saying that he was in good condition and being well treated. Unfounded allegations of this sort can cause unnecessary irritation to Australia’s relations with Indonesia and demonstrate the need for them to be thoroughly checked before they are made.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and concerns the principle that he has just enunciated. Will he apply that principle in all cases of similar unfounded accusations and statements made in the media? I remind him of the inflammatory remarks that he made in this chamber only three or four days ago concerning a question from Senator Georges, to which I drew his attention. Will he observe that principle from here on in answering such questions?
– I presume that Senator Wriedt is referring to my reference to the wholesale execution and slaughter of people in Kampuchea.
– ‘Bloody murder’ was the term you used.
– The bloody murder. I think that there is world-wide evidence- I know that some leading members of the Australian Labor Party will support that evidence- that there have been some millions of people killed in Kampuchea. If Senator Wriedt does not believe that the killing of millions of people is bloody murder, then his priorities and judgments are not the priorities and judgments of this Government.
– I ask the Minister for Education whether the AM program of 6 June 1 979 included the following statement from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate:
Current expenditure for universities and government schools has been fixed at the same amount as it was for last year. Having regard to continuing inflation that means a reduction in the current expenditure on education.
Is that statement true or false?
– I have a copy of the transcript of the program to which Senator Baume referred. What the honourable senator read out is exactly what Senator Button said or is reported to have said. It is utterly false. There is no excuse for its falsity because the guidelines repeatedly say two things. They express all figures in real money terms and they make the clear statement that cost escalation in the recurrent situation will proceed as normally. It is quite wrong and utterly misleading to describe the situation as it has been described.
-I ask the Minister for Education: Which state school systems have now reached the Karmel resource use targets set in 1973? In respect of those systems, has the Minister satisfied himself that there are not individual schools which have not reached the targets? What information does the Minister have as to the proportion of schools in each State which have or have not reached the targets?
– As at the end of last year only two State systems- one at the primary level and the other at the secondary level; one in New South Wales and one in Queensland- had not reached the targets. The Schools Commission advice was that by this year all schools would have reached or surpassed the targets. I will locate the table showing the progress that has been made and at the end of Question Time seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard The Schools Commission has made it clear that the average progress of the state school systems is such that they now approximate Level 2 on the Schools Commission scale. That means that they are at the second highest level of advantage. I am delighted that this is the case with government schools. I only wish that we could say that of all schools and that we did not have in Level 6 on the scale- the area of gravest disadvantage- 90 per cent of primary school students and 65 per cent of high school students in the nongovernment sector.
-I ask the Minister the second part of the question, Mr President. Has he satisfied himself as to the proportions of schools which have or have not in each State reached the Karmel resource standards?
– Because I now have the figures before me I shall give them to the Senate before answering the second part of Senator Button’s question. As at 1977-78, on the Schools Commission scale, New South Wales had reached 100 at the primary level and 98 at the secondary level, giving an average of 99. To reach 100 is to reach the target. In order to understand this, I point out that primary schools were to reach their target by 1 980 and secondary schools by 1981. So it can be seen that primary schools in New South Wales have reached the target. In Victoria the figure is 1 1 5 for primary and 1 12 for secondary, giving an average of 1 13. Therefore two or three years before the target date that State has clearly reached the target. In Queensland the figure is 1 17 for primary and 95 for secondary, giving an average of 107; in South Australia the figure is 1 19 for primary and 1 13 for secondary, giving an average of 1 1 7; in Western Australia it is 108 primary and 1 13 secondary, with an average of 1 10; in Tasmania it is 120 primary and 1 14 secondary, giving an average of 117. For the six States the average is 1 1 0 primary and 105 secondary, the average of that being 107. Those figures verify my statement that by last year only two States- New South Wales at the primary level and Queensland at the secondary level- had not reached the target. The advice is that they will do so. If Senator Button seeks further details about individual schools in the individual States I will get that information and see whether I can let him have it by tomorrow. But the overall measurement of the resources is done according to the Schools Commission targets. I must make it clear that this measurement was the one endorsed by the Whitlam Labor Government. So, this is the measurement of the goals that were to be reached by 1980-81. Honourable senators on the Labor side can only commend the Government for having reached the goals some years ahead. If I can get further information at an early time I will let the honourable senator know.
– I call Senator Walters.
– My question was just asked by Senator Baume.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether he remembers Mr Sinclair on the radio program AM on 2 1 November 1977 saying:
Our standards arc very high indeed and the standards that 1 have set I believe maintain exactly that same standards as anyone would wish a person in high public office to set.
When can we expect the resignation of the Minister for Primary Industry?
-The honourable senator has asked me two questions. Firstly, he asked me whether I remembered a statement by Mr Sinclair on 21 November 1977. I do not recall that statement. He asked me, secondly, when the Minister for Primary Industry was likely to resign. The attitude of the honourable senator who asked the question has been very evident in this place since he entered it. I have recently taken the view that the movement of the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt, to another place, is being brought about by the challenge to Senator Wriedt ‘s position from Senator Peter Walsh. One ofthe things that will perhaps not bring that about is the very improper way in which Senator Walsh slanders and imputes improper motives to his colleagues here and in another place.
– You are imputing improper motives to me.
– I hear Senator Wriedt breaking in. I will say a few words about Senator Wriedt, too, if he likes. Here is a man interrupting, Mr President. You heard the manSenator Wriedt- being unruly. Here is a man who cannot stand the heat in this place.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. This is a disgraceful performance. We have a Minister, who is supposed to be answering a question, responding to an interjection and getting completely away from the question. Surely he is completely out of order. If that is the sort of behaviour in which he is going to engage today, we are in for an exciting day.
- Senator Webster, reply to the question.
-Mr President, you know it is an impossibility for me to answer a question or to attempt to answer a question in this place without having an interjection from Senator Georges. Regrettably, it is very easy for me to be taken away from the subject and to answer the interjections. I know I should not do that. If I were to deal with Senator Georges and his problems in Queensland I would present to you, Mr President, a picture of a dismal Opposition in this place. The man who asked the original question about the alleged unworthy motives of Mr Ian Sinclair, can only be branded for his actions- as Senator Walsh must be-as a despicable character.
– Order! Senator Webster, you cannot refer to an honourable senator as a despicable person.
-Mr President, I withdraw the remark.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I refer to an article in the West Australian of 6 June 1979 relating to a survey of stress on the earth ‘s upper crust that was carried out during 1976 by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The survey found high levels of compressive stress in several parts of the south-west of Western Australia. Can the Minister inform the Senate: firstly, what results the survey showed for the earthquake affected area; secondly, whether the Cadoux-Manning- Wongan Hills region of Western Australia has had a recent history of earthquake activity and whether that area has been designated zone 1 on a recently prepared earthquake risk map of Australia; thirdly, because of the importance and benefit of maintaining accurate records, whether the Government will consider giving top priority to ensuring that future surveys are undertaken throughout the earthquake risk area?
– I am informed by the Minister for National Development that the report in the West Australian newspaper on 6 June, to which the honourable senator referred, was based upon a news release by the Minister’s Department relating to the earthquake at Cadoux. I think the answer to the question is contained largely in the newspaper report and the slightly more detailed material in the news release. The news release is couched in what seems to me to be very technical language, most of which I find difficulty in understanding, not having technical knowledge of these matters. It also contains the usual acronyms and other abbreviations which I find it difficult even to pronounce, much less to understand what they mean. I think it might be helpful if the news release were incorporated in Hansard. I do not propose to read it. I seek leave for it to be incorporated.
The document read as follows-
The magnitude 6.5 earthquake which severely damaged the tiny town of Cadoux, 2 1 5 kilometres north-east of Perth in Western Australia on 2 June took place close to a site where high levels of crustal stress had been measured in 1976.
A survey of stress in the earth ‘s upper crust, which was carried out by the Bureau of Mineral Resources of the Department of National Development and CSIRO found high levels of compressive stress in several parts of the South West of Western Australia.
Between Cadoux and Wongan Hills a maximum stress (of 23 M Pa). equivalent to the pressure that would normally bc experienced within the earth at a depth of nearly one kilometre, was measured at a depth of only about 5 metres.
During the same survey a much lower value ( 5 MPa was observed close to the epicentre ofthe magnitude 6.8 Meckering earthquake of 1968 indicating that the stress there hud been relieved.
Remeasurements of the stress near Cadoux should help prove whether stress measurements can be used to indicate the risk of an earthquake.
The Cadoux-Manning-Wongan Hills region of Western Australia has had a recent history of earthquake activity and in the recently prepared earthquake risk map of Australia it has been designated zone I. This implies that damaging earthquakes can bc expected, on average, about once every 60 years.
For further information: P. J. Gregson Observer-in-charge Mundaring Geophysical Observatory Western Australia (09)951555
Canberra 5 June 1979.
– I will refer to the Minister for National Development the question whether the Government will give priority to future surveys in this area.
-The Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs will recall that on 8 May last 1 asked whether the Australian Government proposed to make any representations to the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany regarding the application of the statute of limitations to those persons who have been accused or may be accused of war crimes. The Minister expressed his personal wish that the statute should not apply, and undertook to inform the Senate as to what action the Government had taken or might take. I understand that the Minister is now in a position to give an answer to that question.
– 1 have an answer to what I think is a very important question. The current 30-year period imposed in the Federal Republic of Germany by the present statute of limitations on prosecution for murder, which covers war crimes, is due to expire on 31 December 1979. The period in which accused persons remain liable for prosecution has been extended twice in the past, in 1 965 and 1 969. A Bill which would abolish the statute of limitations on prosecution for murder is currently being debated in the Bundestag. The final vote on the Bill might occur before the Bundestag rises for its summer recess on 29 June. Although at present there is no indication of the likely outcome of that vote, the effect of abolition of the statute would be to make indefinite the period in which accused persons remain liable for prosecution.
Although many governments, including the Australian Government, have a deep and abiding interest in the application of the statute of limitations to war criminals, this question is essentially one lying within the domestic jurisdiction of the Federal Republic of Germany. Nevertheless, on 2 January 1 979 the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany was officially informed that Australia hoped that some means could be found to ensure that suspected war criminals were not able to escape prosecution simply because of the lapse of an arbitrary period.
– I ask a supplementary question. I thank the Minister for his answer. Although I appreciate that representation has already been made to the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, I would draw attention to one aspect of the answer- that this is a matter which lies essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of the Federal Republic of Germany. Would the Minister not agree that although this is the case according to the law of the Federal Republic, a number of the alleged crimes were committed outside the Federal Republic in countries such as Poland and elsewhere and that an international responsibility was accepted at the time of the Nuremberg war crimes trials for offences similar to those which are the subject of the question?
– Crimes against mankind.
– Crimes against humanity, as Senator Baume says. In view of the fact that quite a considerable number of Australian citizens either suffered from these crimes or had families who suffered from these crimes, would the Minister consider suggesting to the Minister for Foreign Affairs or to the Government that perhaps some further representations be made to the Government of the Federal Republic before the time of the debate in the Bundestag?
– My understanding is that the Government would agree with the general principle as established by Senator Wheeldon that the crimes were committed over a wide area internationally and against many different nationals and that clearly responsibility for them has an international connotation. I would acknowledge that the Nuremberg trials emphasised that situation. Therefore, I would acknowledge that Australia has a continuing responsibility to look towards these matters. I think that is inherent in the approach last January, but I will certainly take to the Foreign Minister the thought expressed by Senator Wheeldon that it might be desirable to re-emphasise the nature of Australia’s thoughts and responsibilities.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer to the Drug Intelligence Reporting Centre set up late last year with a reverse charge telephone service provided to encourage the public to report spontaneously and quickly to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics any suspicious activity which might be indicative of drug smuggling or trafficking. How successful has been the public’s response to this initiative?
– The service has been in operation for approximately seven months and has received some 630 calls. I am advised that approximately 50 per cent of the calls have required further inquiry but with limited results. A limited number of calls have resulted in seizures of drugs, although only in small quantities. Some have resulted in the confirmation of the identity of suspected drug pedlars and, of course, these have been pursued. Several calls have warranted further investigation by State police as to the location of cannabis plantations or premises being used for drug abuse. Very impressively, I think, there has been a low incidence of identifiable spiteful or vindictive calls. The number of calls received suggests the public is interested and is prepared to assist in combating illicit drug trafficking. The centre obviously provides a convenient point of contact in encouraging the public to become more aware of the problem and the need for community involvement.
– Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware that racial standards apparently are being adopted by the manager of the Melanka Hostel in the Northern Territory and that on 24 May 1979 Messrs Nipper Winmarti Bill Okai Mick Mitingirri Pompey Whistler and Tony Jacobs were refused service in the dining room at the Melanka? All are respected senior Aboriginal men and are claimants in the Ayers Rock land claim which at the time was being heard before Mr Justice Toohey. Is the Minister aware that the reason for not providing service was that some of the men were not wearing shoes and did not meet the manager’s standard of general tidiness? Is the Minister aware also that apparently similar standards of dress or tidiness were not applied to people of European descent who went into the dining room of the Melanka on the same date? Will the Minister take immediate and appropriate action to have this matter rectified?
– I am not familiar with the hostel, or whatever the establishment is, mentioned by the honourable senator, or of the incident to which he has referred. Mr Winmarti is one of the Ayers Rock claimants whom I met, in fact, in Melbourne some weeks ago. I am concerned not only on that account but also with the report which has been brought forward. I realise that in the Territory various places impose some dress standards; for example, in the hotel I was staying at a week ago people were required to wear shoes, socks and so on in certain areas. But what I understand the honourable senator was saying is that different standards were required of Aboriginals from those required of nonAboriginals. Of course, that would be quite offensive. It is a matter which I will have investigated to see whether there is substance in the complaint which has been made and, if so, what action can be taken to remedy the situation.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for National Development seen or heard reports that there will be great increases, millions of tonnes per annum, in the production of both aluminium and alumina with the development of five new refining plants in Australia? As this will increase the demand for caustic soda, which at present can be met only by imports from overseas, does this not give further weight to the proposal to establish a petrochemical plant producing caustic soda at Redcliff in South Australia? Will the Minister also pass this question on not only to the Minister for National Development but also to the Cabinet generally so as to give further weight to the argument for the development of such a petrochemical plant?
– I do not know about the particular reports to which Senator Young referred, but I am aware of considerable plans for the development in Australia of increased capacity for the processing of bauxite into alumina. They are plans which are welcomed by the Government. Investment in them will be of considerable benefit to the economy. I have not sufficient knowledge of the technical details of the matter raised in Senator Young’s question concerning the increased demand for caustic soda, but I accept his statement that it certainly will increase demand and that it might have a very salutary effect on the prospects of the Redcliff proposal in South Australia.
I remind the Senate that special additions to the loans program were announced as a result of discussions held between the Commonwealth and the States- I think it was in November last year- and the Redcliff proposal was one which was selected by South Australia and, of course, approved by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government has a great interest in the project, as do South Australians. I will refer the specific aspects of the question raised by Senator Young to the Minister for National Development. I can assure the honourable senator that the matter certainly will be given sympathetic consideration by the Government.
-I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment a question in relation to the anatomy of his Department. I refer to two important assignments which Professor Ovington, a highly dedicated officer, has assumed in his capacity as Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. He has to collaborate with Senator Kilgariff’s mate, the Chief Minister in the Northern Territory, on the proposed Jabiru mining town in the light of legislation which passed through this House a few nights ago and, at the same time, he is scheduled to attend the International Whaling Commission deliberations in London from 9 to 14 June. I ask for a pledge from the Minister that no major decision will be made at the instigation of the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory while Professor Ovington is overseas because, as good a man as he is, I cannot see how he can be expected to be a ruckman and a rover at the same time.
-The honourable senator’s question has some weight. He is concerned about the development of Jabiru. I acknowledge that within the last few days I appointed Professor Ovington to be Australia’s representative at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission, which I think is an excellent step for this country. The main thrust of the honourable senator’s question is as to whether any major decisions relating to the progress of the initial stages of the development of the Jabiru township will be made while Professor Ovington is away. If I may use the honourable senator’s words, the constitution of my Department is such that I am certain that progress will be able to be made in these areas even though Professor Ovington is away. The honourable senator may be suprised to hear, but he should not be, that I have every confidence in Mr Everingham of the Northern Territory as a most competent and responsible senior parliamentary representative. I have no doubt that any proposals that he or his Government puts forward will receive the thorough consideration of the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service or his representative while he is away.
– I ask a supplementary question. I do not have the legal expertise of one or two of my colleagues, but what I want to know, in simple terms, is: If Mr Everingham, aided by a particular senator from the Northern Territory, confronted the Minister between 9 and 14 June, would the Minister get on the hotline to London and talk to Professor Ovington? Could the Minister be swayed by those gentlemen from the Northern Territory to such an extent that Professor Ovington would find on his return to Australia that something had happened while he was away, that there was a fait accompli or something of that nature? That is what is worrying me.
– If the honourable senator is suggesting that his competence in legal matters is less than that of his colleagues, I can assure him that it is not. The second part of the honourable senator’s question concerned mainly whether I would be in touch with Professor Ovington if any matter arose. The honourable senator is quite correct in saying that Senator Kilgariff has great influence in this place. Indeed, on many occasions he is in touch with me on issues concerning the interests of the Northern Territory.
– Order ! I ask the Minister to answer the question and not to debate it.
-Mr President, it is very difficult to give a direct answer to the question that the honourable senator asked. I can assure Senator Mulvihill that the early stages of the development of the town following assent to the Bill that we have passed- I do not doubt that the House of Representatives will pass it today- and the influence that that development may have on the Kakadu National Park, which is the main concern of Senator Mulvihill, will be looked at very closely. I can assure the honourable senator that while Professor Ovington is away I will take particular interest on his account.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the announcement by the Prime Minister of a Government decision to form a National Australia Day Committee. Can the Minister say what progress has been made in setting up this Committee, what its role will be and what its method of operation will be? In particular, can he say what its relations will be with existing Australia Day councils in the States and Territories and the Federal Australia Day Council?
– The Prime Minister announced the establishment of the National Australia Day Committee on 27 March at the parliamentary luncheon for Prince Charles. The Committee will advise and co-ordinate efforts to foster national Australia Day activities. It will liaise with existing Australia Day councils in the States and Territories. It will also involve cultural, historical, ethnic, sporting, children’s and youth organisations. Because of the wide range of community interests involved, most careful consideration has been given to the selection of committee members. It is expected that an announcement of the membership of the Committee will be made in the near future.
– Is the
Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that in many country areas, including areas covered by regional commercial television, great concern is being expressed by sports lovers that they will be denied what to date has been their right- namely, to watch all-day telecasts of test cricket matchesbecause some of the regional commercial television stations have not yet made up their minds whether they will take, on relay, any part of the telecasts from the Channel 9 network? As I understand it, because of that fact no offer has yet been made by the Channel 9 network to the Australian Broadcasting Commission as to picking up the cricket. Because of the great concern being expressed about the matter in country areas, and especially those of New South Wales, will the Minister ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to consider calling during the forthcoming parliamentary recess a conference of executives of the Channel 9 network, the Federation of Commercial Television Stations, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and the ABC in an endeavour to sort out the problem and to ensure adequate telecasts of the test cricket matches next summer?
– I am aware of the interest and concern in the community about precisely what effect the Channel 9 arrangements with the Australian Cricket Board will have on the overall coverage of cricket in Australia. Therefore, the short answer to the honourable senator’s question is yes, and that I will let him know the response of the Minister to his suggestion. I think it will be generally agreed in the Senate and in the community that there is a widespread wish for the sort of sporting coverage that, in the past, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been able to provide.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I believe that part of it could also be directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Whilst landing facilities at the Royal Australian Air Force Darwin airport are of a high standard, the present civil airport facilities are well below the standards required for international and interstate traffic. Can the Minister advise whether a positive plan for future action is being developed? If so, is the present terminal site to be upgraded, or are alternative sites being considered? Does the Government intend to carry out in the interim period short term improvements to the existing buildings and parking area to cope with the chaotic situation that develops daily in the passenger terminal and car park area and, I might add, in the Customs area when an overseas aircraft arrives with a considerable number of passengers?
– I have had recent experience of the facilities that have been mentioned by Senator Kilgariff and I would have to agree that they fall a long way short of the ideal. As the honourable senator knows, the problem is complicated by the close proximity of the RAAF facilities to the civilian facilities on what is a single airport. At the moment discussions are under way between the Department of Defence and the Department of Transport to determine the best way in which civilian facilities can be upgraded without interfering with the plans of the Department of Defence for the further development of the airport. Pending those discussions being held, it is a little hard to make interim arrangements, but I will certainly pass on to the Minister for Transport the sense of urgency that is implied in Senator Kilgariff’s question. I will try to ensure that the discussions are expedited so that some improvements can be made.
– I ask the Attorney-General a question concerning the investigation, into charges of corruption in the Federal Narcotics Bureau, by representatives of the Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Commonwealth police forces. Although totally supporting the Government in ordering an investigation, I ask the Attorney-General to provide the Government’s reasons for placing that investigation in the hands of police officers whose antagonism towards the Federal Narcotics Bureau is well known and who, in the case of the three State police forces, have had several allegations of corruption in the narcotics area levelled against them in the last few months. Will not such an investigation expose the sensitive data presently held in the Narcotics Bureau’s files to police officers who could conceivably be guilty of cor ruption themselves? Would not an inquiry by a judge be more appropriate in the circumstances?
– The allegations that have been made against the officer in the Narcotics Bureau involve serious criminal offences against the law of the Commonwealth. The Government took the view that it was proper for those allegations to be investigated by officers who were not members of the Federal Narcotics Bureau and in a way that would permit criminal proceedings to be taken if, after investigation, the evidence established a prima facie case against any person. The only proper course therefore was an investigation by police officers. I might add that the form of this inquiry was recommended by Sir Robert Mark who happened to be in Australia at the time and who was consulted in relation to this matter by the Minister for Administrative Services, who is responsible for the Commonwealth Police. I did r ot have discussions with Sir Robert because I am not responsible for the police.
Furthermore, the investigation involves inquiries in three States and will need to have regard to the material that may be already in the possession of police forces in those States. I think, in the circumstances, it is also valuable to have an investigation conducted by a team comprising a senior officer of each of those State police forces and of the Commonwealth Police. The investigating team will report the results of its investigations to me. I will then arrange for my Department to evaluate the evidence. In the end the final determination as to whether criminal proceedings will be taken will be made by me. The National Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs which is headed by Mr Justice Williams will be kept informed, but this is a police investigation of alleged criminal offences and the final decision in relation to those proceedings is made by the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth.
I think it is a misunderstanding of the nature of the proceedings following the making of charges of this kind to suggest that there should be a royal commission or a judicial inquiry. They have their place in certain circumstances, but where a charge is made against a specific person it is my view and the Government’s view that this is the proper way of going about it. I think it is most unfortunate that Senator Chipp should make general allegations concerning the integrity of police officers, as he has in his question. For a start, the names of these officers have not yet been announced. The Minister for Administrative Services informs me that very shortly he will be naming the officers who will conduct the inquiry. If Senator Chipp or anyone else has any allegations or any evidence of improper practices in regard to any such people, there are proper ways and means of handling that situation.
- Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. As I paid the AttorneyGeneral the courtesy of giving him the text of my question, I am surprised that he suggests that I am making allegations against the police officers who are to be appointed. I make it perfectly clear that I am not making allegations against those officers. Without reflecting on those officers, I ask: Will the sensitive data in the data bank of the Federal Narcotics Bureau be available only to those four police officers from the four police forces who will be appointed or will people in those police forces who are junior to them also have access to that sensitive data?
– The inquiry is being conducted by these officers as part of a special police squad formed for the purpose of this investigation. They are investigating the matter at the request of the Minister for Administrative Services. They are not investigating it specifically as members of the police forces of which they are members. As to the actual details of the way the investigation will be conducted. I do not have the information and I would not propose to give it if I did.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, is prompted by the editorial in the Mercury of yesterday, which is headed ‘Meat in the Sandwich’. Is the Minister aware that the proposed increase from $ 1 3.70 to $ 1 7 in the flag fall component of domestic air fares will effectively mean that Tasmanians flying to Melbourne, particularly on the shorter routes, will be subsidising passengers flying from Melbourne to Perth because the actual fare per passenger kilometre will be greater across Bass Strait than across the Nullarbor? As Tasmanians are so dependent on air travel, will the Minister take up with the Department of Transport and the domestic operators the possibility of applying a lower flag fall in relation to Tasmania than will apply in relation to the rest of Australia?
– Honourable senators would be aware that Senator Townley has a deal of expertise in this area- in fact, a degree of expertise that I would not claim- but I do believe that he may have stood the facts on their head in the question he asked. I think the truth of the matter is that passengers who have been travelling on the longer air routes in Australia have been subsidising those who have been flying on the shorter routes. This matter is one on which I should get a more definitive reply because honourable senators may suspect that the fact that I come from Western Australia influences my view on this matter. I would like to make it very clear that it does. My constituents in Western Australia feel justifiably aggrieved at the system which has applied to date. They are concerned that a proper weighting should be given to distance as against flag fall. I am pleased to say that the Government has also been concerned to find the appropriate balance.
My understanding was put before the Senate in answer to a question from Senator Wriedt, I think earlier this week or perhaps last week. That answer was fundamentally correct. There has been an imbalance in favour of the short haul routes. Not as much weight has been given to the fact that longer distance flights cost less per kilometre than short distance flights. A process of adjustment is going on. However, I fear that the process of adjustment will never satisfy those who come from the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland, and that process of adjustment will also irritate those who fly on short haul routes. I believe that we are moving towards a situation which will be fairer, on the facts, to all air travellers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, and is in response to the answer he has just given. Can he advise this Parliament in what other forms of public transport in Australia the principle of altering the flag fall along the lines recommended in the report to which reference has been made is adopted?
-The only other area of public transport in which I have any knowledge of a flag fall existing is the taxi industry. The flag fall is imposed in that situation to take account of the fact that certain fixed costs are involved in each trip. That is much more applicable in the airline business than in the taxi business. The airline is providing extensive capital facilities which are there for each passenger, whether he is travelling for 100 kilometres or 15,000 kilometres. That is a factor which applies equally to each passenger who uses a facility. On the other hand, on a short route an aeroplane is involved in its take-off for perhaps 30 minutes- using a large amount of fuel- and in landing, for 30 minutes. Other phases of flights are maintained at a constant level for perhaps two hours. There are different costs involved. These are matters which have to be taken into account when determining the proper fare. It has certainly been a fact- this is a matter simply of observation- that from time to time taxi proprietors apply for an increase in flag fall, presumably for the same sort of reasons as one applies a flag fall cost at the beginning, namely, that there are fixed costs arising and costs which have no relationship to the distance travelled by a passenger.
-Can the Minister for Education inform the Senate about the current speculation that fees for tertiary education courses might be reintroduced in 1 980?
– At a Press conference on Tuesday night I informed the media- and through them the people of Australia- that the Government had decided that its policy which it had stated in the past would be continued, that is, that there would be no reintroduction of fees at any level of tertiary education. I repeat that. I am saddened to think that subsequently- even though that was published in the Press- some people have sought to pervert that statement. For example, in yesterday afternoon’s Press the
Minister for Education in New South Wales put it forward as speculation that the contrary would occur. He also sought to put fear into people’s minds regarding the future construction of certain institutions. There is no basis or ground for his fear, any more than there is a basis for the attempt to put fear into people’s minds by the Minister for Education in Tasmania who said that Commonwealth funding reductions would result in the sacking of teachers. There is no cut in recurrent funding. There is no ground for any sacking of any teacher in Australia. I repeat that our policies have been stated and are clear. The answer to the honourable senator’s question is that there will be no reintroduction of tertiary fees.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, deals with the summit meeting in Tokyo of the industrialised nations- the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Canada and Italy- which is to take place at the end of this month. Is the Minister aware of a statement by the Japanese Prime Minister that energy would be the most urgent problem to be tackled at the Tokyo economic summit in late June? Would the Minister agree that Australia has a unique role in this field, not only in this region but world wide? Is the Minister aware that Japan has lobbied amongst the other summit participants, without success, to have Australia invited to the summit? What steps has the Prime Minister or the Minister for Foreign Affairs taken with those countries to ensure our attendance, and with what result?
-Whilst I have not seen the report regarding the statement by the Japanese Prime Minister as indicated by Senator Harradine, I would have been utterly surprised if he had not made that statement. The simple truth is that worldwide today the energy crisis is the significant economic crisis and due to a number of factors is one that may well continue. I stress that point. I certainly agree with the second premise put forward by Senator Harradine, namely, that Australia has a unique role to play in the region and worldwide. We have a role to undertake by way of further exploration. We are blessed with energy sources, particularly coal, in very substantial supply. There is the possibility of extraction of chemicals and fuels from coal. We also have uranium and the ability, by way of exploration, to find more and more oil. So, we have a major role to play in the world, not only in the supply of energy but also in the long term conservation of energy. Whilst we have supplies it is important that we do not burn them out overall. I believe I have read that Japan has sought to have Australia present at the meeting. I am not aware of what steps Australia has taken. I will seek that information and let Senator Harradine have it.
– I ask a supplementary question. Would that information be available to the Parliament prior to its rising tomorrow?
-If I can get it, yes, certainly.
-Has the Minister for Education noticed statements by the Managing Director of Renault (Australia) Pty Ltd, Mr Vernoux that his company is missing out on $30m worth of new car sales because it has been unable to fill vacancies for qualified personnel to assemble Renault and Peugeot vehicles? Is this continuing evidence of the increasing need for more rapid change in priorities in tertiary and skilled areas of education, which the Government already has well under way, as announced by the Minister on Tuesday?
– The statement mentioned by Senator Messner is only one of a wide series of statements made by industrialists on their dilemma that although there remains significant juvenile unemployment in Australia there is a serious shortage of skilled personnel, particularly in the manual arts and crafts. That scarcity has occurred over the years because the community has seen higher education in terms of colleges and universities as being preferable to education in technical and further education institutions. As has been proven, that is a wrong judgment. The fact is that the Commonwealth Government, in order to give priorities, brought technical and further education inside the Tertiary Education Commission on equal terms with universities and colleges. That is a fundamental recognition. It has also put forward special policies to fund wider and wider development of technical and further education. It has set up working parties with the Australian Education Council to consider the transition from school to work. We knew that inevitably the Williams Committee would produce a volume of evidence on this matter, which it has done. It focused upon the whole question of the transition from school to work, upon training and retraining, particularly in technical and further education institutions. Sadly, the ship cannot be turned around in a hurry, but we are busy trying to turn it around as fast as we can.
-I refer the Minister representing the Prime Minister to the Prime Minister’s Press statement in August of last year when the former Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers, was dismissed. In that statement he said:
The community rightly demands a high standard from the Ministers of the Government. The judgments on Ministers are more exacting and sometimes more harsh than the judgments which might be passed on those outside the sphere of public life. If these high standards were not upheld, the people’s confidence in government- a confidence which is fundamental to Australian democracy- would be undermined.
In view of that and similar statements on ministerial propriety and in view of clear evidence that the Minister for Primary Industry has not been able to show that he did not derive financial gain from the massive misappropriations of half a million dollars to his companies, should not the Prime Minister now suspend the activities of that Minister until these questions are resolved by the investigation by the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission?
– Be it now clearly on record that Senator Wriedt and his party have reversed the onus of proof. Clearly, what we are seeing here today is a kind of Moscow trial. What I am requested to do is to ask the Prime Minister to take certain action because a particular person has not been able to show that he has not done something. Let me say that in all democracies that is the corruption of justice. I never believed that I would see any person rise in this place and seek, in terms of British justice, to reverse the onus of proof. I reject that out of hand.
– I ask a supplementary question. In view of the fact that the standards to which I referred were laid down by the Prime Minister, I ask: Is the Minister now accusing the Prime Minister of being corrupt in his concept of justice? Will he answer the question? Is the Government prepared to be consistent or, as was said earlier, is it that the Prime Minister does not have the fortitude to dismiss a National Country Party Minister?
- Mr President, you would appreciate, as would all honourable senators, that Senator Wriedt did not ask a supplementary question. He asked an entirely new question. I did not say that the Prime Minister was corrupt in his thinking. I said that the Labor Party’s principle in reversing the onus of proof was corrupt. I repeat that anybody who seeks to reverse the onus of proof has no understanding whatsoever of the principles of British justice.
– In Question No. 953 of 24 October, Senator Robertson asked whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission had been offered television rights by a commercial channel for coverage of certain rugby league test matches. A reply was printed in the Senate Hansard of 4 June. Senator Robertson queried the reply on 5 June and sought further assurances as to the accuracy of the answer to paragraph (2) of the question. I indicated that I would check the answer. I have made inquiries of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and my information is that the answer I gave is accurate. That is the information I have received through the ABC. If the honourable senator has some further query about this matter, he is free to raise it with me either in the Senate or outside.
-On 28 May, Senator Tate referred to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts entitled Children and Television’ and sought information on the Government’s reaction to the report. I am advised by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications that he is well aware of the widespread community concern over the possible detrimental effects of television upon children. Indeed, he has publicly called upon stations and program makers for marked improvements in children’s programming. The level of concern has, of course, been fully documented in the Committee’s report and, most recently, by public submissions and comment to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal during its recent round of television licence renewal hearings. Senator Tate and all honourable senators will be aware of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal ‘s recent moves in this area and its adoption of stricter guidelines. This matter is of fundamental importance so far as the Government is concerned and accordingly the Committee’s report and other evidence is currently receiving the fullest consideration. The Minister expects to be in a position to indicate the extent of the Government ‘s response soon, but I do not think we will be able to meet Senator Tate’s request that it be before we rise this week.
-On 29 May, Senator Davidson sought advice on the Government’s response to the recommendations set out in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts on the employment of musicians by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I am assured by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications that the apparent lack of any Government response to this report should not be regarded as indicating any lack of interest by the Government to these important recommendations. The implications of the recommendations for the ABC are significant and therefore have been the subject of extensive consultations with the ABC. Because of his obvious interest in these matters, the Minister for Home Affairs has been kept informed. Whilst consultations with the ABC are continuing, the Minister expects to put recommendations to the Government in the near future.
-On 4 June, Senator Mulvihill asked me, as Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, about the status of legislation regarding the issue of passports. I should like to refer the honourable senator to my second reading speech on the Passports Amendment Bill 1 979, as reported in Hansard of 3 April at pages 1217 to 1220, which sets out the general thrust of the new legislation. It is expected that the debate on this Bill will be resumed in the Budget session of Parliament. Under this new legislation tougher measures are proposed for offences relating to the making of false statements in relation to passports. The. computerised passport system the Department of Foreign Affairs is at present implementing will enhance the Department’s control of passport issues. These new initiatives discourage, but cannot wholly prevent unscrupulous persons who are prepared to provide false documentation and false statements from obtaining passports.
-On 30 May Senator Walsh asked me, as the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, a question relating to income equalisation deposits. The Minister for Primary Industry has informed me that he is aware of the fact that under certain circumstances a farmer who invests in IEDs can, as a result, pay more tax. The Minister points out, however, that by no means all farmers investing in IEDs will pay more tax and it is responsible to encourage their use by those who can benefit from them.
One class of producer who can normally look to IEDs as a useful form of investment, and one in which he can anticipate a reduction in tax liability in addition to a resonable rate of return, is the group which experiences wide fluctuations in annual incomes. This is an important group and it was principally with these people in mind that the IED scheme was introduced. Although there are circumstances in which some tax benefit can be derived through using IEDs to even out income flows the Minister sees the main purpose of IEDs as not being to even out tax liabilities but to encourage farmers in years of good income to set aside provision for the inevitable lean years which occur for primary producers. The Government has made separate provision in the tax averaging arrangements to seek tax equity for primary producers subject to fluctuating incomes.
Although some farmers would pay more tax by using IEDs, others can benefit and even some who pay more tax may still find IEDs preferable to other forms of investment. Investment in IEDs, in addition to providing a deferral of tax liability also yields a rate of effective return according to the tax payer’s circumstances of up to 12 per cent. What the Minister has done is seek to encourage those who can benefit to look to IEDs as a desirable way of putting aside their surplus funds in years of unusually high incomes. The practical course for any farmer contemplating investment- and the procedure recommended in the article to which Senator Walsh has referred me- is to assess carefully his tax liabilities with and without IEDs. He has sufficient confidence in the commonsense and business efficiency of potential investors in the farming community to believe, unlike Senator Walsh, that they are well able to make these decisions rationally in their own interests.
-I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented. In an enthusiastic burst from Government senators at Question Time today Senator Baume asked a question of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and Senator Walters sought to ask a question on the same subject. The question related to the AM program yesterday morning on which I was quoted as saying:
Current expenditure for universities and government schools has been fixed at the same amount as it was for last year. Having regard to continuing inflation that means a reduction in the current expenditure on education.
When the Minister was asked whether that statement made by me was correct he said that it was totally incorrect. With respect to the Minister, I point out that the statement which he brought down recently indicated that the amounts fixed in real terms were the same and that in connection with any possible inflation in the relevant year the cost supplementation programs would be maintained as previously.
The cost supplementation programs were not explained by the Minister in his statement. I want to make it quite clear that my current understanding- and indeed the understanding of the Schools Commission and the education departments in New South Wales and South Australia, for example- is as follows. The cost supplementation program applies only to wage increases or salary increases for existing staff. So if new staff are engaged by education departments, those new appointments are not covered, nor are increases in other costs, such as increases relating to equipment, travel costs for staff and the cost of relocating teachers. Of course, it is conceded that salaries are the major element in recurrent costs. That is not disputed. I make the point also that there is no cost supplementation in respect of capital programs. Any increases there are borne by the States.
The information I have is also to the effect that, if salary increases constitute more than 65 per cent of the total cost bill of recurrent expenditure, any staff increases above 65 per cent would not be covered in that expenditure. If what I have outlined is correct- I believe it to be so and it is certainly the view of the bodies to which I referred that it is so- then the statement that inflation will affect the amounts is correct, certainly in part. I agree with the substance of the Minister’s answer which relates to the major item of expenditure in cost supplementation, which is salaries. But other items are concerned and if inflation continues at a high rate I think it is true to say that effectively there has been a reduction in recurrent expenditure.
– by leave- First of all, let me put this matter into perspective. Senator Button used the term ‘current expenditure’. That term has only one meaning, namely, recurrent expenditure and not capital expenditure. So there is no question of what he said relating to capital expenditure. His statement is in regard to recurrent expenditure for universities and government schools. The statement I made always used the phrase ‘in real money terms’ and then went on to refer to cost supplementation. In other words, the moneys would be raised to the 1979 meaning and values and then the escalation would occur during 1980. Senator Button looks puzzled. The figures were expressed in 1978 years, so they have to be raised to the end of 1979 as step number one to be real and then have cost escalation.
The cost escalation relates to the recurrent expenditures, which are salaries and expenses in the nature of salaries. I believe that that is an umbrella term. It is true that a very minor fraction relates to other expenses, but they are so minor as not to alter the principle. The principle of the matter is that what we are doing is giving to all institutions- universities, colleges, technical and further education institutions and schoolsthe ability to have the same recurrent expenditure, in real money terms, for 1979, even though in the case of government schools there will be some decline in enrolments.
Senator BUTTON (Victoria)-by leave-As I recall, when the question was asked by Senator Baume at Question Time this morning, the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) said in answer that what I had said on the AM program was totally untrue. With the greatest respect, even from the comment which the Minister has made here this morning- I might be quibbling and I do not want to quibble with the Minister- it is quite clear that what I said was not totally untrue. But in the context of the statement put down by the Minister the other night, and even in the context of what he said this morning, the cost supplementation situation is explained quite clearly in the Schools Commission report. I shall read from the report for August 1977, in which the supplementation program is laid down. It states:
The guidelines state that ‘Supplementation of the 1978 program for cost increases during that year will be limited to increases in respect of the wages and salaries components of recurrent expenditure for both general and special purpose programs’. In other words, additional funds will be made available for the recurrent expenditure which goes on wages and salaries but increases during the year in other costs will have to be absorbed.
The essence of the statement put down by the Minister for Education in the Senate the other night is that the supplementation programs which have existed in the past will be carried forward. I do not want to quibble on this issue ad infinitum. But it does seem to me, at least insofar as those other items of expenditure to which the Schools Commission referred are concerned, the statement which I made is correct and cannot be described, as it was this morning at Question Time, as totally untrue. It is in respect of that that I claim to have been misrepresented.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the States Grants (Schools) Act 1 972 I present the report of the Schools Commission on financial assistance granted to each State during the year ended 30 June 1 978.
-by leave -I move:
I take this opportunity to repeat some comments which were made last year concerning the presentation of reports at such a late stage of the session. When I raised this matter on 24 November 1978 there was general agreement across the chamber that reports of this sort should not be presented at this late stage. It is proposed to present a considerable number of reports today, some of which are very important. For instance, it is proposed to present the report of the Law Reform Commission on Unfair Publications: Defamation and Privacy. This report and a number of other reports which are listed for presentation today ought to be commented on when they come before the Senate. It is not sufficient for the Press to take up the reports the day after they are presented and that we should have available to us only the critique of the correspondent who has noted and written about them.
I take this opportunity to say that there was general agreement last year when this matter was raised that the program of the Senate should not be increased by the presentation of a whole host of important reports. However, again this year, on the second last day of the session, a great number of reports are to be presented. In fact, the comments made in the Senate the last time this occurred have been ignored. I will not go too much further into this matter I just want to give a warning that the next time important reports are presented on the second last day or the last day of a session I will move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent me from moving a motion to postpone the presentation of such papers until after consideration of Government Business. This is the only way in which we will get departments to understand that they ought not to complicate our program in the last two or three days of a session by having their reports presented at that stage.
Over the next two days members of the Opposition will truncate their speaking time- as they have done over the past day or so- in order to allow the program to be met. Surely the Senate would not accept that departments should be allowed to present important reports at a time when comment or debate cannot take place on them.
– I believe it is proper to respond to the comments made by Senator Georges. Honourable senators recall that last year Senator Georges expressed the same sentiments when very many reports were brought in at the end of the session. In general there is no disagreement with the point which Senator Georges sought to make. We have no disagreement at all with that point. It is highly undesirable for practices to occur which could in any way limit the capacity of Parliament to debate or examine reports.
It is worth noting that last year the list was very much longer and that steps have been taken to try to cut down the number of reports that come forward in this way. I believe, in fact, that we have made some progress in that direction. It is quite clear that although the lists have been reduced and the number of reports being presented is not as great as it was last year, the situation is still not ideal. I hope that we can examine the matter further and take on board the points that the honourable senator makes.
– That is why I did not seek leave to continue my remarks later.
– I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian Delegation to the Thirty-third Session of the United Nations General Assembly 1978.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australia-China Council Working Group. The report was listed yesterday but not tabled.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 37 of the Law Reform Commission Act 1 973 I present a report of the Law Reform Commission on Unfair Publication: Defamation and Privacy and I seek leave to make a short statement relating to the report.
– The report from the Law Reform Commission is in response to reference on defamation made to the Commission in June 1976. It also covers part of the reference on privacy made in April of that year. The report is the result of a very detailed examinaton of the subjects of defamation and privacy. They are issues about which strong views are held by many people in the community.
The Law Reform Commission should be commended for the way it went about its reference. It has sought out the views not only of those involved in the legal aspects, but through seminars and public hearings has sought to involve as many people from the community as possible. Several of the recommendations made by the Commission might be considered controversial. The recommendations include:
New laws dealing with the publication of sensitive private facts concerning an individual; a new remedy called a correction order which will give the courts power to order a defendant to correct a false statement defamatory of the plaintiff; a new action for appropriation of a person ‘s name, identity or likeness; and abolition of exemplary or punitive damages.
In its terms of reverence, the Law Reform Commission was asked to take into account the need for uniformity in these matters. The Commission has examined the uniformity question in some detail and has reported upon how this may be best achieved. I intend to send a copy of the report to each of the State Attorneys today and I will place it before the next meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorney-General. I hope that those who are interested in the subject will study the report and its recommendations. I shall welcome views and comments on it. Those views and comments will help the Government when it comes to consider the report and what action should be taken to implement it.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present a report on Employment Prospects by Industry and Occupation- A Labour Market Analysis.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the edited version of Australian Weapons Research Establishment report number 0-16/68 of January 1968 on residual radioactive contamination at Maralinga, South Australia.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) on the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure relating to the Northern Territory forestry program.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 26 of the Tobacco Marketing Board Act 1965, I present the annual report of the Australian Tobacco Board for the year ended 31 December 1978.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 90 of the Wool Industry Act 1972, 1 present the final annual report of the Australian Wool Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1 978. An interim report for that year was presented to the
Parliament on 19 October 1978 with unaudited financial statements. The final report is similar in text but contains audited financial statements and the Auditor-General ‘s certificate.
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the report. 1 seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the investigation report of the Department of Transport Air Safety Branch on the accident to a Portenovia aircraft operated by Speedair Proprietary Limited, near Essendon Airport on 10 July 1978. I present this report in accordance with an undertaking given by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) last year, but I should indicate that only a limited number of copies are available, and they have been placed in the Parliamentary Library for the information of honourable senators. The Department of Transport will be sending individual copies to all senators within the next two weeks.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a document entitled ‘Collisions with Utility Poles- Summary Report’ prepared under contract by Fox, Good and Joubert of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Melbourne University, for the Office of Road Safety within the Department of Transport.
– Would you give us a hint of what utility poles are?
– Poles which carry utilities such as electricity and telephone wires.
– This will be of particular interest to the Opposition. For the information of honourable senators I present three reports which now complete the second stage of the evaluation of the Australian Assistance Plan. The reports are: ‘From Vague Ideas to Unfeasible Roles’ by Dr L. J. Tierney, Department of Social Studies, University of Melbourne- I think the Opposition would expect that to be about the Whitlam Government; ‘Australian Assistance Plan Evaluation Report Number 2’, by Dr A. Graycer, School of Social Sciences, the Flinders University of South Australia; and ‘The Australian Assistance Plan in Tasmania: Report of The Second Evaluation’, by Mr J. W. Ife, Department of Social Work, Tasmanian College of Advanced Education.
The reports cover specific aspects of the implementation of the Australian Assistance Plan in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia as well as general issues of interest to people and groups involved in community development and social welfare programs.
-byleave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Was that not an error? Should the first report not be entitled ‘From Vague Ideas to Unfeasible Conclusions’ and should it not refer to the Government rather than to the Opposition?
– I do not mind the Opposition taking over my old benches but I do mind it taking over my jokes.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a paper entitled ‘Multiculturalism and its Implications for Immigration Policy’ prepared jointly by the Australian Population and Immigration Council and the Australian Ethnic Affairs Council, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs relating to the paper.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-I present the official report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Romania, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Hungary, 1-24 July 1978.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
1 ) That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Friday, 8 June 1979, at 10.30 a.m.
That the Sessional Order relating to the adjournment of the Senate have effect at 1 1 p.m. on that day.
– I move:
I should like to explain briefly the reasons for moving this motion. As the Senate will recall, when presenting Volume One of the Committee’s Report, entitled ‘Through a Glass Darkly’, I foreshadowed the presentation of a companion volume containing seven important papers commissioned by the committee during its inquiry. These papers contain aspects of evaluation not adequately dealt with in submissions presented to the Committee. The printing of Volume Two has not been completed. The Committee is of the view that if it is received from the Printer during the recess it should be made available immediately for use in association with Volume One of the Report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion ( by Senator Rae) proposed:
That consideration of General Business, Notice of Motion No. 8 be postponed for 24 hours.
-Mr President, we have agreed in the past, and are likely to agree tomorrow when Senator Rae moves his motion, to the tabling of reports when the Senate is not sitting. However, I have one or two queries as to the status of those reports. Perhaps we should receive some advice as to the status of reports tabled during the recess. I think it would be wise to do so for a variety of reasons relating to privilege and other considerations. It is also necessary to establish whether or not this is a procedure that ought to be encouraged.
– in reply- It is my understanding that this practice has been developed with the consent of the whole of the Senate. It is my understanding that after consideration of a number of aspects, including those raised by Senator Georges, the advice is that the procedure adopted provides privilege in a similar way to which privilege would apply if the report were presented during a sitting of the Senate. I believe that it is an important practice for us to pursue. It means that the Senate committees will not be held up in getting their reports out in the way in which they have been at times. When a report is available it can be dealt with in this way and people can have an opportunity to consider it. It can be tabled as soon as the Senate resumes and any debate which people wish to have can then take place. It is a practice which I believe is highly desirable. I hope that we can continue it.
– by leave- I am concerned to some degree about the publication of these reports before they are tabled in the Parliament. One thing really concerns me. A report- it was not a Senate reportentitled ‘Human Relationships’ was published following an inquiry, which was set up by the Whitlam Government, headed by Elizabeth Evatt. That report was published just prior to the last Federal election. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) saw fit to quote a certain extract from that report in order to embarrass the Labor Party. He quoted out of context. Members of Parliament did not have a copy of the report when he made the statement. When we were able to examine the report we found that what we were being criticised for was in fact an amendment moved by the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Fraser. He used that report to embarrass his opponents. I am not saying that this could happen with these reports. I recall another report that seemed to hit the public deck while Parliament was in recess and some adverse comments were made about it. I think that was a welfare report from Senator Baume. He was able to make statements to the Press before it came into this Parliament. I hope that no statements emanate from these reports before they are made public to every member of parliament who has to answer for them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 6 June, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Button had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to incorporate-
specific reasoning for termination of employment: and
a comprehensive appeal system relating to termination of employment and redeployment.
-One of the supposed objectives of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill is to make efficient and economical use of the services of persons employed in the Commonwealth Public Service. A second objective is to effect the redeployment of those persons whose services are inconsistent with the first objective. The Bill enables a person to be redeployed if he is included in a class of employees comprising a greater number of employees than is necessary for the efficient and economical working of a department or authority. In speaking to the Bill, I want to highlight the problems that women in the Commonwealth Public Service will face if the Bill is passed. I am moved to raise the matter because this Government, in varying ways, seems to me to have already decided that women in the work force are a liability. Members of the Cabinet have already said that women caused inflation because of their insistence on equal pay and because of the equal pay decision.
There has already been a deal of criticism of the maternity leave provision. It has been declared that women have been causing wastage through the use of this provision. Under this Bill, the Government will be able either to cut out maternity leave and therefore make it impossible for married women to have a career in the Public Service and at the same time have children or to redeploy or retire women because of their need for maternity leave or because they may need maternity leave, in much the same way as Ansett Airlines of Australia refused a woman the right to train as a pilot, even though she had all the qualifications, because she may need leave to have a baby and she may have a baby. It was evident from the time that maternity leave was introduced that heads of departments and senior public servants disapproved of it. They probably disapprove of women in the Public Service, except perhaps to make the tea. It seems to me that because of their training and age they are much more likely to show their prejudices in the areas they choose for redeployment and retirement. I wish to quote from the June 1 972 report of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity in Victoria. The report says:
Of the many employment practices relating to discrimination that have become apparent, two are particularly worth recording because of their frequency and wide felt repercussions. The first of these is the policy which many organisations adopt of dismissing women when they become pregnant. The second is that of dismissing women who are married in the event of staff layoff.
I cannot see any evidence to show that those in a position to redeploy and retire workers in the Commonwealth Public Service would take any different attitude to that. When the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission ruled on maternity leave it must have given hope and incentive to a lot of women who want a career other than the career of being a wife, homemaker and mother. Some of them want a career in the Public Service. The provision of maternity leave allowed them to marry, to have babies and to carry on their career- to take time off for the production ofthe next generation of workers and not be sent back to square one when they wanted to take up their careers again. It seems to me that the provisions of this Bill will stop that sort of thing happening. They will be found to be excess workers in many areas. The Government’s whole attitude to women and women workers is a worry. Already there have been statements by Ministers, including Cabinet members, to the effect that women have taken over jobs that men and young people should have. For example, an article in the Australian of March this year states:
The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, Mr Viner, gave the National Economic forum a detailed description of the effect women have had on Australia’s workforce since the early ’60s.
Between 1964 and the late ’70s, while the number of men working rose by 25 per cent, the number of women in the workforce increased by about 70 percent.
The percentage of women in the workforce rose from 23 per cent in 1 964 to 36 per cent in recent years.
Mr Viner said the increased number of married women working must have ‘weakened the imperative for the traditional bread winner to remain in, or take to employment’.
In a broadcast on a radio station in Melbourne this year, Mr Eric Robinson was quoted as suggesting that married women were responsible for much unemployment among males. When asked a question about that in the House of Representatives, Mr Robinson said:
The report in the newspaper of what I was supposed to have said was utterly inaccurate. I did not say what is reported. I did say that there were now in the work force many more women than there had been some years ago and that the structure of the work force had changed completely. I went on to say that some jobs which normally would have been available to males were now occupied by women in the work force.
Of course, Mr Hunt hit really dizzying heights in the debate on abortion when he claimed that women having abortions were causing unemployment because they were reducing the number of consumers we produce, thus depressing the manufacturing industry. I think it is indicative of the approach that this Government, particularly, its Ministers, is taking to women in the work force. It is indicative of how they will use this Bill once it is passed through the Parliament. The 1 978 report of the Equal Opportunity Board in Victoria listed some of the comments and reactions to equal opportunity legislation and to the idea of equal opportunity. The Board listed the following as some of the reactions that it received:
We can evade the Act because you can’t prove we have favoured males or females in selection for employment’; What are you going to do about it if the employee (or employer) organisations resist the employment provisions of the Act?’; ‘Married men deserve preference because they are the breadwinner’; ‘Deserted wives deserve preference over single people or young people’; ‘People will lose their jobs by victimisation, so cannot be expected to lodge a complaint’; ‘You are telling women to work and this causes marriage breakdown’; ‘Training costs so much, men should get preference because women leave the workforce to get married’; ‘We can’t promote women because they are not dedicated like men’; ‘Men are not as sensitive as women. Women add a human face to business’.
All of those remarks can be developed into areas that would give women in the Public Service cause for great alarm as to where their futures lie. I cannot really believe that heads of departments in the Commonwealth Public Service are very different from the people who made some of those remarks. I can see heads of departments saying: ‘It cannot be proved that we favoured males or females in the selection we made of the people who should be retired or deployed ‘. I can see people giving married men preference, and I can see the situation arising where deserted wives have preference over single women. As a result of this Bill one can certainly see arising the problem of people losing their jobs by victimisation. Such people will be unable or unwilling to lodge complaints because they feel that their complaints will only result in further victimisation.
In some areas this Government has not shown any sense of fair play or understanding of the concept of equal opportunity. I refer to the Defence services. A complaint was made recently in South Australia about bias in the Air Force. When it was suggested to a spokesman in the Air Force that a complaint should be made because of job advertisements which had been placed in newspapers he replied that the advertisements said that no female vacancies were available. To my way of thinking this proves that they have no idea of what we mean by sex bias or equal opportunity. As the Government has not made its position very clear it is not to be wondered that the Air Force also has not been able to make its position clear or to understand what the position is.
The Bill expressly allows for the retrenchment of qualified, efficient, permanent officers in a class of employees in the Department or by the authority which comprises a greater number of employees than is necessary for the efficient and economical working of the Department or the authority. With the increased use of up to date technology in the white collar area of employment it has become increasingly obvious to most people that female employees will be in the greatest danger of being retrenched. Perhaps a bolder word to use is ‘sacked ‘.
Last month’s unemployment figures showed the unemployment rate to be 5.2 per cent for the male work force and 9.4 per cent for the female work force. The unemployment rates for adolescents were 15.7 per cent for males and 23.5 per cent for females. The higher rate of unemployment for females directly relates to their concentration in but a few occupations. Almost twothirds of all unemployed women are in clerical service or in sales occupations. The Federal Government, in introducing $30m worth of word processors in the next three years, will eliminate employment for about 10,000 female typists. The Government has put forward no job creating plans to replace these jobs and thus to give these women jobs in the work force.
No retraining plans have been put forward by this Government at all. If a decision is made to retrench excess personnel in certain areas, under the provisions of this Bill it will mean that an increasing number of women will be put on to the unemployment list. It seems to me that redeploying married women in the Public Service can cause insurmountable problems for their families and for them in relation to their personal relationships. How can a woman be redeployed to another State or city and be expected to leave her husband or her children in the State or city in which she is employed at the moment? She must decide whether to keep her job and to move to another area- thus breaking up her family and perhaps her relationship with her husband- or whether the husband has to give up his job and find another job in the area to which his wife has been redeployed. These are problems which people will find very difficult to solve. If they refuse to accept redeployment they will go on the unemployment list.
It seems to me that all these chickens will come home to roost with this Government: There will be an increase in the use of the social welfare system; an increase in the incidence of breakdown in the health of people employed in the work force, and an increase in health costs because of these breakdowns. Perhaps the worst feature of this Bill is the fact that if a person is declared ‘in excess’ his only appeal provision is to name a workmate as an alternative person to be sacked. It is in relation to that aspect that women are in an extraordinarily vulnerable situation. If a male in a particular area of the work force is named to be redeployed or retrenched, who is most at risk? I suggest that the females in those areas are most at risk when a man is declared ‘in excess’. I do not altogether blame the males. People are put in an invidious position.
I give the example of a man who has a wife and children to keep and who is declared ‘in excess’ and therefore is to be redeployed or, at worst, retrenched; and of a woman in the same department whose husband has a good job. What else is the man to do but to declare that that woman is the alternative person to be sacked? If a man working in a department is declared ‘in excess’ and there is a woman in the same department who has a husband who might not be in much of a job, or who might not have a job at all, he may decide that she has somebody who can look after her and so declare that she is the alternative person to be sacked. It may be the case that a woman is working in a department. A male who has a wife and children to keep at home and who is desperate to keep his job may declare that woman as the alternative person to be sacked.
Taking into account the prejudices that people have in those areas and the fact that a man’s wages have to keep a wife, children and himself, I think that sort of proposition would be accepted by those who have to make the decision. While that decision is being made there is no way for them to know what responsibilities the woman has, what her domestic situation is, what the joint responsibilities of the married couple are, or how the woman will live or want to live. She will be seen as the fall guy in the situation.
I think it is invidious and vicious to turn people on each other in that way. It is irresponsible to increase the rate of unemployment in this way. It is irresponsible and shortsighted not to promote a proper system of retraining when there are excess numbers of personnel in various areas of the Public Service. If we are to go ahead with the technological changes that this Government envisages we most certainly will have excess staff in certain areas. With no proper retraining these people will be thrown on the scrap heap. I can see women in the Public Service taking the brunt of the provisions of this Bill. It could wipe out women as employees of the Commonwealth Public Service. For those reasons, I condemn the Bill.
– The Senate is debating the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill 1979 which was introduced by the Government with the claim that its aim was to increase efficiency and to reduce costs in the Public Service. In the view of the Opposition, the Public Service unions and associations, as well as the Returned Services League, it is a Bill designed to provide the Government with machinery to offload thousands and thousands of persons employed in the Commonwealth Public Service in order to reduce its deficit. The Bill expresses the Government’s ideological prejudice against people who work in the public sector. In the course of the debate last evening Opposition speakers outlined in great detail the many objections we have to this Bill. They outlined also the many objections of people who will be affected by the Bill, namely, the Commonwealth employees. I do not intend- and I see that Senator Chaney is pleased that I do not intend- to go over all those objections in detail. Suffice it to say that while we welcome the provision for voluntary retirement at 55 years of age with reduced benefit, we oppose virtually all the other measures in the Bill. The Bill is a deliberate undermining of the independence of the Australian Public Service. It places in jeopardy all those public servants who in good faith give advice or information which is contrary to government policy.
The legislation affects not only the Commonwealth Public Service but also all Australians. I say that because I think we realise that all citizens benefit from an independent Public Service. Such a service operates in the interests of all citizens and not specifically in the interests of the government of the day. We believe that redeployment in itself is a good thing. We do not oppose the concept of redeployment. We approve of measures which would provide a more efficient and economical service to the public, but we reject this Government’s claims that this Bill is intended to provide a more economical or efficient service. The Government is not concerned with service to the public. It is clear from its record that service to the public is the last thing on the collective mind of the Government. This Government’s inflexible staff ceilings policy in the Public Service has produced a situation whereby the Public Service is unable to provide essential services to the public. The Public Service Board in its annual report of 1 978 states that the standard of service to the public has plummeted and will continue to plummet because there are not enough staff to do the job and because there is reduced mobility between departments so that the available skills within the Public Service cannot be used to the best advantage possible.
For over three years this Government has deliberately eroded the efficiency of the Public Service. How can anyone believe now that the Bill is intended primarily to improve efficiency? For example, take the Government’s responsibilities to help find jobs for the unemployed people it has so casually written off as a sacrifice to its obsessive but losing battle with inflation. At the end of March the New South Wales Commonwealth Employment Service offices needed an extra 279 people- only 279 extra staff so that the offices could be fully operational. That was an extra three staff per office. But the Government has not been concerned to improve the efficiency of the CES offices. Those extra staff were not provided, so why should we believe at this stage that service to the public is the purpose of the Bill before us? In assessing the motives behind this Bill I think we should look at how seriously the Government takes its responsibility as an employer and provider of employment. In the last year of the Labor Government 3,226 people were recruited into the Public Service- 1.4 per cent of school leavers in that year. In the first year under the Fraser Government only 1,430 people- 0.6 per cent of school leavers- found jobs in the Public Service. As the Government abrogated its responsibility to school leavers job opportunities in the private sector declined month by month. There is absolutely no doubt that the Commonwealth Public Service could be improved and managed more efficiently. The Opposition- the Federal Labor Party- supports such objectives. The Coombs Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration which carried out its work during the period of the Whitlam Government, recommended a manpower budgeting system which could gear staffing levels to work requirements and standards of service. It recommended the abolition of arbitrary staff ceilings because a staff ceiling policy cannot possibly achieve increased efficiency or more rational use of resources. This Government’s policy has proved that arbitrary staff ceilings result in inefficiency, reduced levels of service and low morale. Why did the Fraser Government not adopt the recommendations of the Coombs Commission? I suggest it was because the Fraser Government is blind to the interests of the Australian public and is determined to create a sycophantic and ideologically rigid Public Service which will serve the Government ‘s own interests.
– What is that word?
– I would have thought that Senator Archer would be very familiar with the word ‘sycophantic ‘.
– It was the one after it that I was asking about.
– I would have thought that ideological rigidity is a concept which would also be most familiar to Senator Archer and to many of his colleagues. We have always had a Public Service which makes every effort to operate on a merit system, because only on such a system can we be assured that the Public Service is free from political interference, neopotism and outside manipulation. It seems to be necessary at this stage of the debate to reassert the importance of a Commonwealth Public Service to the proper operations of our country. There seems to be deep-seated ideological prejudice on the other side of the chamber that somehow the bureaucracy just is not necessary, and that somehow public servants are lazy parasites on the free enterprise system. I remind honourable senators who are victims of this ideological inflexibility and rigidity, that an efficient, progressive and adaptable Public Service is one of the marks of a progressive democratic system. If we look at countries whose systems we abhor, such as the countries of Eastern Europe, totalitarian states and so on, we find that inefficient over-heavy stagnant bureaucracies are one of the characteristics of them. The Opposition’s argument for a better bureaucracy, a better Public Service, is an argument for a better and more progressive democratic system. That principle seems to have eluded Senator Archer who has finally seen the point and is nodding his head. The two basic principles of a merit system are, firstly, employees must be protected from arbitrary action, personal favouritism or political coercion and, secondly, employees must be protected from reprisals for lawful disclosures of information. I suggest that this Bill jettisons the merit principle and will leave Public Service employees without the necessary protection. Sections 20, 67 and 87 of the existing Public Service Act already contains provisions whereby excess permanent staff may be retrenched, persons who have reached the minimum retirement age may be retired and persons who are inefficient may be retired. The Government already had the means to increase the efficiency of the Public Service. All it needed to do was to modify the existing provisions in the Act in order to develop an appeal and review system and it would have had a workable framework.
-This Bill does that.
- Senator Archer’s intervention is wrong. This Bill does not do that. Instead of making those simple modifications to improve the Act so that it could operate in the interests of the public without intruding on the rights of public employees, the Government has chosen to draft legislation which will spell the end of a critical, creative Public Service. Clauses 7, 8, 9 and 15 of this Bill will turn the Australian Public Service into an extension of the LiberalNational Country Party propaganda machine. We will proceed with our objections to those four clauses in more detail at the Committee stage. Clause 7(1) (b) (III) of the Bill provides that Public Service employees may find themselves defined as being in a class of employees excess to the needs of the Public Service. The determination of ‘excess’ can be made on the basis of any prescribed reason. But the Bill does not define what a prescribed reason can be. I fail to see how the Government can sustain the view that this is a just provision.
I fail to see how this Government can argue against our view that by the inclusion of this clause it is giving itself the machinery whereby it can offload thousands and thousands of publicservants for any reason whatsoever, including party political reasons- reasons of political harassment. The reason can be prescribed and that matter does not have to come before the Parliament. That is the situation. The Government can get rid of whole departments as, indeed, it got rid of most of the staff of the original Medibank scheme without any scrutiny by the Parliament of that act. The Bill further provides that if an excess public servant or class of persons cannot be redeployed then he or she may, under this legislation, be retired, that is sacked. If that employee is under 55 years of age there will be no provision of benefits in relation to that retrenchment. I repeat that point, because a lot of the propaganda of the Government has suggested that anyone who finally does find himself retrenched- that is sacked- as a result of the Bill, will receive some form of compensation by way of superannuation payments or whatever. Such special provision relates only to people who are sacked after they turn 55 years. There is no provision at all for the employee under 55 years who finds himself or herself sacked. That destroys absolutely the character of the Public Service as we have known it up till now. The Minister has said that there is a right of appeal, but that right of appeal requires that the employee under threat must specify a colleague who should be retrenched in his or her place, someone who is in excess to needs. All of my colleagues who have spoken on this debate have pointed out and described very effectively the injustice of that particular proposal. I merely say that 1 endorse their remarks.
If an appeal succeeds and a scapegoat is found, that scapegoat is then retrenched without right of appeal. This is totally injust The Minister has declared that the employee who is identified as excess by a colleague in an appeal shall have no right of appeal, otherwise there would be too many appeals. So it is quite clear from the Minister’s comments that the appeals procedure introduced in this Bill is mere window-dressing and will not inhibit the Government to any serious extent in its determination to rid itself of or to offload public servants it does not want to employ any more. Nowhere is there provision for an appeal against the original decision that there is an excess of staff. So in order to retain one’s job, one must challenge a work mate’s position. In addition, anyone who appeals against redeployment is in danger of retrenchment, simply as a result of appealing. Clause 1 4 of the Bill provides that the Public Service Board will issue certificates for redeployment only if the employee waives the right of appeal, the declaration is upheld, or the appeal is withdrawn. So, while the appeal is being heard, vacancies elsewhere are being filled. If the appeal is unsuccessful the appellant may be retrenched because there are no vacancies left. So people under threat are unlikely to appeal against the declaration and give up a position on the redeployment list.
I draw the attention of the Senate to another possible outcome of the Bill which has been drawn to our attention during the course of the debate. It concerns people who will be retired because of invalidity. The present rate of pension for invalidity retirement is 70 per cent of salary, plus a refund of supplementary contributions. The Public Service Board is concerned about the existing fairly high rate of invalidity retirement on these terms. Under the Bill before us, there will be an opportunity for the Government, the Board, or the permanent head ofthe department to retire an officer on the grounds of incapacity. If the officer is retired on these grounds before he reaches 36 years he will receive no pension. If he is retired after that age he will receive up to 45 per cent of his salary at age 60.
This is obviously a very different proposition from the present terms in relation to invalidity retirement, which provide for payment of 70 per cent of salary on retirement due to ill health.
Whilst it is appreciated that the taxpayer should not have to support a number of people who are manipulating invalidity retirement provisions, the fact remains that there will be genuine cases of ill health. After, perhaps, 30 years service people will be retired on something like 40 per cent of salary rather than 70 per cent as provided under present terms and conditions. I would appreciate the comment of the Minister on the point that I have just raised.
The Bill is the result of successful opposition to an earlier but very similar Bill which lapsed in 1977 because it provided for redeployment and redundancy without any right of appeal, and because it gave such wide opportunity for possible discrimination within the Public Service. The Government claims to have discussed this legislation with the Public Service Board and the relevant unions. But the legislation before us is hardly less objectionable than the first attempt. We on this side of the chamber grow tired of hearing the words ‘consultation’ and ‘liaison’. There may have been consultation of a sort with the Public Service unions and associations, but the result of that consultation clearly is totally unacceptable to those very unions and associations. Once again I would suggest that any consultation that the Government likes to claim in this regard is simply a matter of tokenism and window-dressing. Most of the provisions in this Bill are not the result of consultation. They are the result of the Government’s determination to harass certain people within the Public Service and to offload certain people in Commonwealth employment, in order to deal with its own deficit problems and so on.
I also draw attention to the absence of any Government commitment to retrain employees who are declared excess to needs. I would suggest that this is in keeping with the Government’s absolute indifference to rising unemployment. When one looks at the increasing use of technology in the Commonwealth Public Service, the motives of the Government become even clearer. In the Third Division of the Public Service 6,784 people are employed, and 57,589 people are employed in the Fourth Division. All these employees come under the provisions of the Public Service Act, and all will be affected by this legislation. Many of those people, and I would point out that the majority of them are women, will be de-skilled by new technology which the Government is introducing into the Public Service. For example, people with typing skills will be replaced by word processing equipment, as will clerical workers.
Telephonists, technicians and allied clerical staff in Telecom, are being replaced by computerised equipment at an alarming rate. How many of these people will be redeployed when their skills are no longer required by the Government? Certainly this Government manifests absolutely no concern for their future. By putting this Bill before us in its present terms the Government reveals itself not only as devious but also as callous. The Government is determined to cut the size of the Public Service. It is prepared to spend the taxpayers’ money on technological equipment, but not on employing people. In order to rid itself of the workers it has made redundant the Government wants to make a law which absolves it of any responsibility to compensate the employees it retrenches.
As indicated, the Opposition will move that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted, in order to provide for the giving of specific reasons for termination of employment, and in order to provide for a comprehensive appeals system relating to termination of employment and redeployment. I urge the Senate to support the amendment moved by the Opposition.
– I would like to take the limited time available to answer some of the criticisms of this legislation which have been made by the Opposition and by others outside this place. I want to respond immediately to some points made by Senator Ryan. She suggested that this legislation is part of an attack on the Public Service by the present Government based on the Government’s ideological views. I would point out to Senator Ryan that Liberal governments built the PublicService in this country very substantially over more than two decades. The Government is firmly dedicated to building an efficient and effective Public Service, and recognises its essential role in the community. The sort of criticisms the honourable senator made are irrelevant, particularly to this legislation. I would also make the point that the honourable senator ought to look inside her own party ranks, at those who attack the Public Service consistently. I would ask her also to recall the Labor Government’s proposals to transfer public servants away from Canberra, for example. If the honourable senator is interested in her constituents and mine, I suggest that she should recall the fact that the Labor Government was quite prepared to transfer people arbitrarily from this city to other growth centres, and not to take their views into account. I would also ask the honourable senator to recall the criticisms of the Public Service by many of her colleagues. It is not simply a matter of one party taking an ideological approach to the Public Service. I think the honourable senator ought at least to recall some of those events. As far as I am aware the Labor Party has not in any way retracted from its proposal to transfer people to regional growth centres, and presumably, should it ever regain Government benches, it will propose to do so again. Senator Ryan raised the question as to whether there was any action or any proposal by the Labor Government to introduce compulsory retirement. But of course as the honourable senator pointed out, there was no need for the Labor Government to do that because there were provisions in the Public Service Act for it. So the honourable senator accepts that principle, that there should be managementinitiated retirement. The Opposition accepts it, as Mr Munro, Federal Secretary of the ACOA, apparently accepts it. In a letter dated 24 April, Mr Munro wrote:
The present provisions of the Public Service Act, Sections 20 and 67, provide a precise and legally enforceable mechanism for the efficient management of public sector employment and with the additions of adequate and equitable appeals provisions would accord with the framework which the Coombs Commission unanimously endorsed.
Statements such as those clearly accept the principle of management-initiated retirement. Yet Senator Ryan and others, constantly attack the very concept of management-initiated retirement.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Mr President, before the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the inconsistent position which seems to have been adopted by many honourable senators in this debate, not least by speakers from the Opposition. I referred to a letter from the Secretary of ACOA in which it was clearly indicated that sections 20 and 67 of the existing Public Service Act are accepted. Of course, they provide for management initiated retirement. On 28 May I received a letter from the Federal Secretary of CAGEO that makes the point that at CAGEO ‘s biannual conference the membership ‘unanimously rejected the concept of management initiated retirement’. Further on the letter referred to CAGEO ‘s total opposition to the very concept of management initiated retirement.
On 24 April the Federal Secretary of ACOA suggested that with appeals provisions, sections 20 and 67 of the existing Public Service Act would be acceptable. That clearly indicates to me, as Senator Ryan put quite clearly, that the principle of management initiated retirement is accepted. If we look at section 20 of the existing
Public Service Act we find that it makes very interesting reading. I quote:
If at any time the Board - that is the Public Service Board- finds that a greater number of officers of a particular classification is employed in any Department or Branch of a Department than is necessary for the efficient working of that Department or Branch, any officer whom the Board finds is in excess may be transferred to such other office of equal classification and salary in the Service as the officer is competent to fill, and if no such office is available the officer may be transferred to an office of lower classification and salary but if no office is available for the officer the Board may retire him from the Service.
There are no appeals under that legislation. It is quite draconian. Under that legislation there is no facility for an officer to appeal against a decision. Yet we find that the Federal Secretary of CAGEO says that management initiated retirement is not acceptable. On the other hand, we are told that section 20, with appeals procedures is acceptable. Senator Ryan indicated that the concept of section 20 is acceptable. I make those points because I believe it has to be understood that these provisions have existed for many years in Public Service legislation. But there have been no appeals procedures. The legislation before the Parliament tries to rectify those problems and provides appeals procedures.
I would like to address myself to two further issues raised by Senator Ryan. The first is the suggestion that there can be no scrutiny by the Parliament of’other prescribed reasons’ referred to in clause 7 of the legislation before the Senate. The point is that ‘prescribed reasons’ would be dealt with under regulations, which would then be subject to the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act and, therefore, subject to the scrutiny of this Parliament. Senator Hamer has indicated that he will ensure that any such regulations are subject to the scrutiny of this Parliament. Under the Acts Interpretation Act such regulations are able to be scrutinised by this parliament and can be disallowed. I suggest that the statement that such regulations would not be subject to parliamentary scrutiny is quite clearly incorrect.
I refer to another point made by Senator Ryan which I must say I found difficult to follow. She seemed to be saying that people who might be retired for reasons of invalidity would be disadvantaged under this legislation. That simply is not so. The legislation makes clear provision for invalidity retirement. People retired on grounds of invalidity would be subject to the full provisions of the Superannuation Act 1976. Therefore there is no change in that provision. I think that ought to be made clear because it seems to me characteristic of the campaign that has been waged against this legislation that people have exaggerated or distorted its potential effect in a way that I know has given great concern to many people. To suggest to people that they may be disadvantaged if they are retired on the grounds of invalidity, to my mind, is improper.
I would like to refer to what Senator Button said when discussing this matter in the Senate yesterday. He referred to a letter dated 25 November 1977 from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in which the Prime Minister pointed out that it has been the Government’s express policy to avoid retrenchment and that this will continue’, to use the Prime Minister’s words. What Senator Button did not point out is that that letter referred previously to the question of staff ceilings which had been raised by Public Service unions. That quotation has been used by Public Service unions in the campaign against this legislation. There is a clear distinction between the Government’s undertaking not to retrench people in the effort to reach staff ceilings and the application of this legislation and of sections 20 and 67 of the Public Service Act. The Prime Minister has given a commitment, which has been maintained, that retrenchments will not be used simply to reach staff ceilings. As he said in that letter, this will continue. The retirement provisions of the Public Service Act and of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill are a quite different issue. The Prime Minister was not referring to either of those pieces of legislation. Senator Button would have done himself and the chamber more credit had he been more precise in using that quotation. I believe that in using it in an advertisement, ACOA might have done itself more credit had it referred to the broader context in which the statement was made.
Senator Button said also; and Senator Ryan reiterated- that this legislation would have a drastic effect on the concept of career service. Yet they and others consistently concede that provision for management initiated retirement has existed in the Public Service and that the principle has been accepted. Its application would have been so draconian, particularly in the absence of appeals procedures, that it has not been effective. The fact that it is there does not affect the concept of the career service in the Public Service because it has been an accepted principle in the Australian Public Service for many years. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) has pointed out that the concept of a Public Service with security of tenure for career officials has been subject always to the provisions in the Public Service Act relating to termination of employment of surplus officers, retirement on the grounds of invalidity, inefficiency or incompetence and dismissal on disciplinary grounds. This Bill does not affect the disciplinary provisions of the Public Service Act and modifies the other provisions, which in the past have been described as being too summary, by providing a range of appeal rights available to staff affected and by setting out more clearly the framework within which such decisions are taken. I quote the Minister’s words:
I suggest that what the Minister says is precisely correct, that if the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill were in force now and we were trying to introduce provisions such as sections 20 and 67 of the Public Service Act and to take away appeal provisions that this Bill provides, there quite rightly would be an outcry.
Senator Button suggested, as I understood him; and it was not entirely easy at times to follow just what he was saying- that there would not be parliamentary scrutiny of ‘any other prescribed reasons’ referred to in clause 7 of the Bill. As I have pointed out, that is not the case; there is the opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny. Senator Hamer has illustrated well enough how that can be done in future.
Senator Button suggested also that this legislation totally ignores the recommendations of the Coombs report. I remind him that the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration- the Coombs royal commissionrecommended that voluntary retirement at the age of 55 years should be introduced. It made a number of other recommendations related to compulsory retirement and appeals provisions, which in many ways are given effect in this legislation. Every recommendation of that royal commission is not implemented in detail in this legislation. I am sure that not many people would expect that the recommendations of a royal commission on such a complex matter necessarily would be implemented in every detail. But the principles involved in many of the measures recommended are given effect in this legislation.
I shall refer in particular to two requirements outlined in the amendment moved by the Opposition. The Opposition referred to the need for specific reasoning for termination of employment. Let us take a look at the legislation. I suggest that in fact the Bill before the Senate contains a number of provisions relating to employees being given reasons for action being taken under the legislation. Clause 10 of the Bill contains the following provisions:
Clause 1 1 (7) states:
A certificate under paragraph (6) (b) in respect of an employee shall state the reason for which the employee was declared to be eligible for redeployment.
Clause 14 provides that the Public Service Board shall: . . issue to the Permanent Head or prescribed Commonwealth authority concerned a certificate, in writing, certifying that it is satisfied that the employee should, for the reason so referred to, be retired from his employment.
I stress that the employee shall ‘for the reason so referred to, be retired from his employment’. Sub-clause (2) of that section states:
Where the Public Service Board issues a certificate under sub-section ( 1 ) in respect of an employee, the Board shall furnish a copy ofthe certificate to the employee.
A copy of that certificate is given directly to the person concerned. With respect to the Commonwealth Employees Redeployment and Retirement Appeals Tribunal, the role of which is outlined in clause 15 of the Bill, clause 10 provides that the Tribunal shall give reasons in writing for its decision on an appeal under section 15 of the Bill. I appreciate that concern might be felt about whether the information provided under the terms I have quoted is adequate. But it has been pointed out already that negotiations are to proceed and the matter of the provision of reasons for such decisions being taken is to be considered further. I simply emphasise that it is wrong to say that the Bill makes no provision for an explanation to be given to employees of what is happening and why. A reading of the Bill indicates that there are occasions on which reasons for redeployment or retirement in fact will be made known.
I refer now to the second part of the amendment moved by the Opposition, which refers to the need for a comprehensive appeals system related to the termination of employment and redeployment. I only point out that under the terms of the Bill the Appeals Tribunal which will be set up will hear appeals against redeployment and retirement, should that become necessary. But I emphasise that under this legislation it will be essential that the authorities concerned try to redeploy employees before any decision on retirement is made. But should that decision be made, provision is made for appeal. The report of the Coombs royal commission referred to the need for appeals machinery.
There has been a lot of criticism ofthe fact that some people may be joined to an appeal and subsequently may find themselves in the situation ofthe original appellants. 1 ask honourable senators to consider a similar situation. I agree that it is not a precisely parallel situation, but 1 think it is worth considering. This is something which seems to me to have been overlooked by Australian Labor Party spokesmen and by Senator Mason last night. In the Public Service, if someone is promoted, through the promotions appeal system it is open for a colleague, indeed for the promoted person’s friends, to appeal against that promotion. An individual can lose his promotion to another person, who has said, in effect: ‘I am a better person for the promotion’. I was a Public Service employee for many years and was then, and am now, a member of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association.
I have been involved in promotions appeals. There are no inhibitions about promotions appeals. It can mean that one’s friend loses a promotion because of one’s appeal, or it can mean that one loses a promotion because of an appeal by a colleague. I simply ask honourable senators to look at the royal commission report and in particular at the principles applied in the promotions appeals system. I suggest that the provision in this Bill would be workable and therefore effective. Mr Munro himself suggested that sections 20 and 67 of the Public Service Act are appropriate if appeals machinery is provided. That appeals machinery must be effective appeals machinery. There is no point in a government’s introducing what clearly would be unworkable appeals machinery. Obviously that would be absurd.
I shall refer to just two other matters. The first is the statement made recently by the Returned Services League in Canberra that this Bill poses a threat to many of its members. A number of factors were involved in a statement made here in Canberra, I think last weekend, and in a resolution passed at a meeting the RSL held here. There was a suggestion that, as a new Act, this legislation would supersede previous Acts under which the Commonwealth employs its staff. That is not entirely correct. For example, this legislation will not change the Superannuation Act or the relevant repatriation legislation. It will, however, substitute new provisions for the existing provisions under sections 20 and 67 of the Public Service Act.
It was suggested that under the Bill ‘s invalidity provisions an employee could receive a lower rate of superannuation pension. As I have indicated before, particularly in response to what Senator Ryan said, that simply is not the case. If someone is retired under this legislation, as under existing legislation, on the ground of invalidity, that person is eligible for full superannuation rights as set out in the Superannuation Act of 1976. That person is entitled to an invalid pension. There was a suggestion that there is a possibility that any war pension received may be deducted from another pension. Again, that is not the case. The Bill does not allow war pensions to be taken into account in determining superannuation pensions. So I suggest that the concerns held with respect to returned service personnel will not be affected by this legislation. It is wrong, and I believe it is irresponsible, to suggest to people that they will be severely disadvantaged when in fact that is not the case.
I make one other point. I know that there are areas of concern about this legislation. Recently industrial action was taken in the Australian Capital Territory. Not a large proportion of public servants participated. But I recognise that many people who did not participate in the industrial action are concerned about some aspects of this legislation. For example, they are concerned about how the appeals procedures will work. I agree that that will have to be watched. If when those procedures are in operation it is clear that they do not work in a just fashion, I will be the first among those who will seek to have the procedures amended. Concern is expressed also about other aspects of appeals. I reiterate a point I have made before, that is, that the Government should consider the appointment of a Commonwealth employees’ ombudsman so that there will be a clear source of final appeal and objective appeal for public servants who might disagree with decisions taken with respect to their positions within the Public Service. Such a measure was recommended by the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration in its 1976 report.
In conclusion, I would simply say that not only are many of the arguments of the Opposition shot through with inconsistency- that applies also to the arguments put by the executives of some of the Public Service organisations- but also they have been irresponsible in the sense that they have clearly distorted the provisions of this legislation and in some respects have worried people unnecessarily. I refer, for example, to the statements made about the effect on people who may be retired on grounds of invalidity. I do not believe that that can be considered responsible.
I would also suggest that the taking of industrial action while this Bill was being dealt with by the Parliament was inappropriate. Those of us who may have sought reconsideration at this stage of some measures have been placed in an impossible position by that industrial action. I hope that those responsible will understand the impact of their action. If there are faults in this legislation then, of course, it or aspects of it ought to be re-examined at any time, but, in the circumstances, I support the legislation.
-I wish to speak briefly to this Bill. It was my intention to raise some issues about clause 15 during the Committee stage but for some personal reasons I have to make my comments now. I was surprised at some of the remarks made by Senator Knight. After listening to him speak this afternoon, I wondered why industrial action was taken at all. To listen to Senator Knight one would think that everything is all right for the employees. I ask Senator Knight to state why he thinks these people went out on strike.
– Not many of them did- that is the point.
– If one looks at the historicsituation and considers the fact that these people have never been on strike in over 60 years, I think one must agree that for in excess of 4,000 people to go out on strike was a very good effort.
– What percentage was it?
– I do not know what the percentage was. I repeat that it was the first strike to take place in this section of the community for 65 years. I think it was remarkable effort to get 4,000 people to go out considering that many of them will be discriminated against for their actions.
– What sort of discrimination?
– I will speak about that in a minute. There is still discontent in the Public Service. This morning I received a telephone call from people in Wollongong who told me that a stop work meeting was being held there today. They would not hold a stop work meeting if they did not think anything was wrong, if they did not think they were threatened or if they were not worried.
Despite the claims by Senator Walters and the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) that the appeals provisions in the legislation are adequate, let us look at the make-up of the appeals tribunal. The Chairman is to be appointed by the Government. That is one against the employee. One is to be appointed from the management of the department- that is, a representative of the body who decided to sack the employee in the first place- and one is to come from a nominated employee organisation. That is a stacked deck. It is two to one against the employee before he starts. Public servants cannot appeal on the grounds that their jobs should not be eliminated. They must make out their case in such a fashion that one of their colleagues will face the sack instead of themselves. In other words, this provision turns government employees against one another. It is true that both State and Federal public servants are continuously appealing against promotions- that has been the case for many years- but these provisions for appeal against sacking add a whole new element of undesirable competition whereby in order to save their careers and the incomes of their families, public servants will be trying to ‘put-in’ their work mates. Is that the sort of thing that we want?
These provisions will turn one employee against another and in certain areas will create an air of continuous suspicion and make it difficult to maintain any kind of co-operative spirit in an office situation.
Let us take the case of 20 employees in a section who are to be sacked under this legislation. They cannot take a collective action. Even if they could they would have to prove that another 20 people deserve the sack more than they. The grounds for appeal have nothing to do with the validity of the task performed, and in practice would create an intolerable situation of continuous ‘ back-biting ‘ and insecurity in sectors of public employment. It goes without saying that this would decrease efficiency of any sector affected. Another matter that is of concern to me is the potential for victimisation of honorary trade union officials. Already I have heard of a number of cases of union activists being discriminated against or given unfair treatment by management in terms of promotion simply because they were doing their job as union delegates in the interests of their work colleagues. In general, these cases have not been severe but they are, of course, always difficult to establish. However, the potential for getting rid of unwanted union activists by management is there if this legislation is passed unamended.
I have had instances of that drawn to my attention. I used to work in the white collar section of a municipal employees union. One of the union’s big problems, especially in sections where there were a lot of women- exactly the same sort of problem exists in the Public Service- was to get people to act as honorary trade union officials. Time and time again I would get someone who worked in a library, a tourist bureau or in the general office capacity of a council to act as an honorary union official. However, when the time came for promotions or an examination of whether these people should be regarded, it was amazing how many of the people who had taken on an honorary union position found that they were discriminated against.
– They are in the role of an industrial commando. They are more vulnerable, are they not, to being casualties?
– That is right. But I am not worried just about union officials. At a more general level, anyone who is creative or innovative in his job but who is considered a potential rival or simply someone who may rock the boat by producing original ideas or approaches to his work may be singled out for treatment by senior management. There is, of course, the perennial problem of the potential for personal discrimination on the grounds of religion or race or simply a personality conflict where a more senior officer does not like a particular employee.
The Bill as it stands will reduce the career orientation of Commonwealth employment. If we are honest we will admit to ourselves that many jobs in the Public Service are boring and repetitive. Some people remain in these types of jobs for the greater part of their careers. Others gain promotion to more interesting areas or more interesting levels of Commonwealth employment. In spite of these drawbacks, many talented people are attracted to the Public Service because of the security involved in the work, because of some of the benefits available and because there are areas in the Public Service where their personal interests or talents can be utilised for the good of the community. Historically, many of these people could have earned more money in private employment but they have not moved to private employment because of the security involved and the opportunity to use their particular talents and to offer community service do not always exist in the private sector. If the provisions for management-initiated retirement are used at all, never mind how frequently, neither of these attractions will remain for the brighter people attracted to the Public Service.
This will lead to less efficiency and to a less imaginative and creative Public Service.
This Bill is a bad piece of legislation. It is bad because it is sufficiently ambiguous to allow the victimisation of individual public servants on political, industrial or even personal grounds. To this end it will decrease the potential for job satisfaction within the Public Service and will lead to a less creative, less innovative Public Service. It is foolish because it will further decrease the efficiency of the Public Service and add to the present diseconomies that result from staff ceilings. It is dishonest because along with desirable features- that is, the provision for voluntary retirement at 55- the Bill contains clauses which allow for the wholesale sacking of public servants. It is hypocritical because it directly contradicts the Government’s stated policy on industrial relations in general and on employee participation in particular. Most importantly of all, this Bill compounds the mess that the Government has made of public administration and the economy by its over-emphasis on staff ceilings and its obsession with reducing the size of the public sector for its own sake.
– I want to add a few brief words before the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) replies. I want to say principally that the Opposition has been forced to curtail the number of speakers it had listed to speak to this Bill, although many of us have had substantial representations made to us about it, in view of the difficulties that exist with the timetable. I want it to be noted in the record that the reason the Opposition is not marshalling its full resources is that the Government has set a tight timetable for the legislative program.
I want to add a few words to what has been said by Senator Sibraa, and particularly to take up the point made by Senator Knight who seems to adopt the view that there are probably deficiencies in the Bill and in the processes and procedures by which the Government’s economic objectives will be realised. Let us fact the fact the basic strategy of the legislation is to realise the Government’s overall philosophical objective of attacking the public sector and reducing its size and effectiveness. In the process of reaching that objective the Government has not appreciated, as is evident by the contribution of Government supporters to the debate, the degree of confusion and uncertainty that will now be a marked feature of the Public Service. It is all right for Senator Knight to say in this chamber that if certain deficiencies are proven to exist in the legislation he will come back to the Parliament with certain amendments. That is like trying to protect the horse after the stable door has been opened and it has already bolted: It is a bit too late when the problem has already been created.
The approach of the Opposition to this Bill, as evidenced by its proposed amendments, has been designed to strengthen the measure and to take into consideration the views of the vast majority of those who are employed in the PublicService. I direct attention to the response from the employees, who hitherto have not been in that group of the work force that could be described as active unionists, namely, people involved in the day to day struggles that are synonymous with the blue collar work force of this country. The members of the Public Service have been reasonably passive, one might even say disinterested, in their approach to industrial issues and job opportunities. As Senator Ryan correctly points out, there has been a recognition of this and an appeals process which has given them the opportunity, particularly as related to promotions and other disputes, to have those disputes dealt with according to due processes of consultation.
The fact that there has been a widespread reaction, a degree of concern and ultimately some industrial action taken only highlights the fact that it is not sufficient for the Government to say that it will rectify problems after they have been detected. The employees, and those whom they elect to represent them- to protect their economic and social interests- the members of the various associations and unions, have seen fit to employ their own research organisation on the Bill and its ramifications. In the process they have attended, in numbers, meetings at which they have heard reports from their elected officials and have subsequently taken certain action. There can be no question but that for the first time in the industrial history of this country there exists in the Commonwealth Public Service a degree of apprehension, fear, concern and perhaps militancy. It has been expressed for the first time as a result of this Government’s proposals and was even reflected in decisions that were made at the conference of the Returned Services League last weekend.
There are four main faults in the legislation, as the Opposition sees it. Firstly, efficient and capable officers can be sacked merely because a change in the priorities of the Government of the day has occured. We have seen some evidence of this. Secondly, management-initiated early retirement can become the parameter upon which the legislation will operate. It can only be described as a trendy term for retrenchment. It takes away, with one fell blow, the whole security aspect of employment which has been synonymous with the Commonwealth PublicService.
The Bill ‘s only appeal provision forces an employee to name his or her workmate as an alternative person to be sacked, and introduces into the Public Service an entirely new feature. The Government could avoid all of this conflict by legislating for voluntary early retirement. The Opposition does not oppose that principle, if that be the wish of those who consider themselves to be in a career position.
Finally, although the Government denies that its concern is to turn the screws on the Public Service, that has indeed been synonymous with its approach since it came to office in 1975. It is no wonder that there is concern and apprehension in the ranks of the Public Service, particularly when, as the Coombs report says:
Substantial evidence exists that the vast majority of Cabinet Ministers are completely unaware of the impact of ceilings upon their departments and hence have paid them only lip service.
Of course, that is what is happening in respect of that application of government policy concerning the Public Service. The imposition of an overall cut, without an appreciation that it has been in areas where cuts ought not to have been applied, has created so many of the difficulties that exist in public administration. I find it incomprehensible that Senator Knight, who himself is a public servant and who represents, or claims to represent, the public servants in this city, the national capital of Australia, should adopt such an attitude. In fact, I would have thought that he would have adopted a much more critical and appreciative understanding of the views of those whom he claims to represent, those who were once his workmates in public service organisations. The report states further:
Ceilings have assumed too much ofthe aura of a euphemistic political ploy. They have produced breakdowns in various parts of the government administration in the long term, and they have proved incapable of handling shortterm crises. They have proved incompatible with public sector planning. Although exerting some controlling influence over numerical movements in staff, they have produced minimal influence upon efficiency and resource allocation in departments.
I quote that section of the Coombs report as just one piece of evidence of the failure of Senator Knight and other government spokesmen to understand how government policy has affected the morale and efficiency of the very important areas of responsibility that fall upon the Commonwealth Public Service. The Senate will be failing in its duty if it does not consider very seriously the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition.
– The importance of the Public Service in the life of this country can be gauged, I believe, by the extensive debate that has been devoted to this particular measure. It is a measure which, in concept was introduced as long ago as 1976. It has been the subject of lengthy discussion and debate in both chambers of this Parliament. 1 am pleased to see that there is a degree of broad agreement on both sides of both Houses of the Parliament with respect to certain aspects of the legislation.
To start with the most motherhood type of proposition it seems that all honourable senators and members of the House of Representatives are in favour of efficiency and economy. I am sure that our constituents, of whatever political colour, will be relieved to note that we see fit to be in favour of both those things. However, it appears that, if one looks at the amendment that has been moved in the Senate, the Opposition is in favour of some of the other more specific proportions that are contained in the legislation.
If one examines the amendment moved to the motion ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’ one finds that the Opposition is not opposing the concept of this Bill, namely, the idea of management-initiated retirement. An honourable senator became very upset about that term being introduced into the legislation but, in fact, I do not think it appears. The Opposition does not appear to be against that concept because it is seeking the withdrawal of the Bill, not so that it will not be continued with, but simply so that it can be redrafted.
Opposition senators want it to incorporate specific reasoning- for which I read ‘reasons’for termination of employment. I take it that that is the Opposition’s complaint about section 7(1). Secondly, the Opposition seeks a comprehensive appeal system relating to termination of employment and redeployment. I hope that the audience to which this debate is largely addressed understands that there is political unanimity on the point that sensibly to have economy and efficiency there may need to be situations where people do not have a permanent guarantee of employment. In other words, when a person passes a Public Service examination and enters the Public Service that does not give him a lifetime guarantee. That employment is subject to the needs of the Australian people as conveived by the elected Australian Government.
I am concerned at the suggestions which have been made in this debate that in some way this Bill is an attempt to undermine the independence of the Public Service. I think that would be a very serious charge if it were made out. I do not suggest for a moment that it has been made out. If we look at the Bill we find that this system of ascertaining where there are excess employees, of trying to redeploy them, and of ending anyone’s employment, only after a lengthy procedure is not in the hands of politicians. It is in the hands of the heads of departments and of the Public Service Board. I would have thought that it was quite in line with the views of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration, which have been expressed and quoted ad nauseam in the debate in the Senate and elsewhere.
I think that some of the matters which have been raised are very properly raised and aired in the Senate. I shall focus on some particular points which were made initially by Senator Button, who led for the Opposition in the debate and which were then embellished in various ways by subsequent speakers. Senator Button said that there were two major areas. Those areas concerned points which were made in the amendment to which I have already referred. I was a little surprised that Senator Button was a little looser in his criticisms of this Bill than I think is his wont in this chamber. He complained on a number of occasions about the provisions of clause 7. He said that those provisions excluded the Parliament. He made that comment in a number of ways. Referring to clause 7 ( I ) (b) (iii), he suggested that the Government is saying: ‘You can really leave all those questions of what are prescribed reasons for disemployment of people in what has formerly been a career service to the Executive of this country’. I suggest that that is a very exaggerated and inadequate description of what is provided in clause 7. There are three reasons why that is so.
Firstly, as has been stated in the debate on a number of occasions, the regulations made under that clause will be subject to disallowance by this Parliament, as are other regulations. I think that is a matter which governments must take seriously, if not because of the existence of the House of Representatives then because of the existence of this chamber. Secondly, the scope of the regulations which can be made is limited by the objects of the Bill in clause 7. Thirdly, consultations required by the Bill in clause 7 (2) have been queried. The Government intends that those consultations should be real and Mr Viner has advised Mr Munro, the Federal Secretary of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association that that is the case. I simply put on record that that is the Government’s undertaking. I understand that today the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), in response to a question asked yesterday by Mr Keith Johnson, also made it clear that the Government intends that there should be frank and comprehensive consultation and that that is also the intention of the Public Service Board.
I do no wish to delay the Senate, but I must touch very briefly on the criticism of the extensive use of regulations. That matter has been raised by various speakers in this debate. Because it is a matter of importance and a matter which is very much the sort of thing that concerns the Senate, I have consulted with the Minister to get some reassurance. I am advised by the Minister that although the Bill leaves a number of aspects to be covered by the regulations of procedures and criteria statements, during the Committee stages of the debate in the House of Representatives, Mr Viner, referred to some of these, such as the date of effect of a declaration under clause 9 (1) (b) (ii) and the need to notify the employee, who is declared, of the rights and methods of appeal and the reasons for issue of the declaration. The nature and extent of the provision to be made and whether a particular aspect should be included in the procedures and criteria statements or in regulations or both, is still under consideration. Mr Viner indicated that these are among the matters which will be subject to further discussions with staff associations. As necessary, the Government will consider the proposals in the light of the views of the Board and of staff associations.
The last matter on which I want to touch is the other major matter which was raised by Senator Button by way of objection to the legislation. That is what he described as the lack of comprehensive appeal arrangements. In relation to the Government, Mr Viner in the House of Representatives stated: . . does not consider it appropriate Tor its decisions of policy matters and on the priorities it gives to certain functions that affect staffing resources to bc the subject of appeal . . . The Bill provides the necessary means to enable departments, authorities and the Public Service Board to adjust their staffing resources to meet changes in policy or priorities that the Government might make from time to time. Ministers and the Government are continuously accountable to Parliament for their conduct of public affairs and arc ultimately answerable to the electorate.
From my recent discussions with ACOA I understand that it does not want an appeal right against the management decision per se. Rather, it wants identification ofthe class in which the redundancy occurs to be appealable as to whether the class arises from the cause; that is, whether the redundancy arose from the Government’s decision. In other words, the Government takes the view that the decisions, which are properly decisions of management as to what jobs are required, should not be subject to appeal. The decisions which relate to the individual ‘s place in the decided scheme of things are matters which should be subject to appeal. I commend the Bill to the Senate. I urge honourable senators to reject the amendments which have been moved and which are proposed.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Button’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Proposed Reference to Standing Committee
– Pursuant to Standing Order 1 96A I move:
During the second reading debate a number of honourable senators referred to concerns that they have about clauses of this Bill. The expressions of concern were not confined to this side of the House; they were also expressed on the other side of the House. I recall Senator Hamer’s speech, in which he said that if the Bill passed into law he would move in this House for disallowance of regulations made under one particular clause of the Bill. Senator Knight also expressed some concern about the regulatory powers provided under the Bill. Both honourable senators believe that they should support the legislation now. They put down as their reasons- certainly Senator Hamer put down as one of his reasons- the fiasco of the on-off industrial stoppage on Tuesday of last week.
Incidentally, I make it perfectly clear to other honourable senators who have referred to that matter that I do not in any shape or form blame the general membership of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association for that fiasco. My remarks were directed particularly at the Australian Capital Territory branch leadership. When union officials talk big and act weak, we call them ‘bar room militants’, although in this case I think one might refer to them as ‘white wine whingers’ or ‘Volvo socialists’. I appeal to Government senators to put that matter out of their minds and to realise that there are a number of regulatory provisions in this Bill which should not be allowed to pass this Senate without further scrutiny.
Mr President, I put it to you that if this Senate has any respect for its standing committees it should refer the whole of the legislation to one of them. I also put it to you that if senators jealously guard the rights of the Parliament against the intrusion of the Executive Government, then they must thoroughly examine the provisions of this Bill- in particular, clause 28. It was very significant that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), in responding to the second reading debate, did not advert to the matters that were raised specifically relating to clause 28 of the Bill. I charge the Minister that he has ignored that. I believe that if he were consistent in the principles that he has held to during his terms in this Senate, he would not allow clause 28 to go through in its present form.
Clause 28 is a classic ‘Henry VIII’ clause. It provides to the Executive Government the ability to make regulations to substitute any of its own provisions for the provisions in this Bill with respect to redeployment and retirement of a prescribed Commonwealth authority- or the departments of the Parliament including the Senate. Surely, any red-blooded senator would not be prepared to allow that to go by without a whimper. What does it say? It says that so far as the Department of the Senate, the Department of the House of Representatives, the Department of the Parliamentary Library, the Department of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff and the Joint House Department are concerned the Government will have the power to make regulations in respect of the particular matters to which this Bill is related. Mr President, I put it to you that you have a responsibility to protect the rights of Parliament in this matter. As enshrined in the Public Service Act the presiding officers are responsible in this area. This piece of legislation is attempting to take that responsibility, Mr President, through you out of our hands and place it into the hands of the Executive Government. So far as the Parliament is concerned I believe that that is not on and should not be on so far as the Senate is concerned.
What about the honourable senators who crow about the work that standing committees do? Where are they going to be when this amendment is passed? For example, where will Senator Rae be? I am sorry that he is not in the chamber at the moment. Where will honourable senators be who are on the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances? They are Senator Missen, who is overseas, Senator Bonner, Senator Cavanagh, Senator Evans, Senator Georges, Senator Hamer, and Senator Lewis. What did they have to say about these Henry VIII’ clauses? In the sixty-fifth report dated November last year they said:
The Committee expresses the opinion that the Senate should closely scrutinise such provisions in Bills -
That refers to the regulatory provisions- to ensure that they are granted to Governments only where there are good reasons Tor doing so.
In its report on the scrutiny of Bills the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs has drawn attention to the need for the Parliament to ensure that its authority is not unduly delegated. Honourable senators ought to read again what this Standing Committee has said; it has said that such regulatory provisions should not be in respect of important matters. Is this an important matter or is it not? The Minister in reply to the second reading debate said that it is a very important matter because the Public Service is important to all of us. I put it to you, Mr President, in particular, and to other honourable senators that we should refer this Bill to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs for examination and report. If the whole of the Bill is not referred to that Committee at least clause 28 should be referred for report prior to 3 1 August 1 979.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the motion.
– Out of respect to Senator Harradine and the Senate I think I should respond to his comments. The Government opposes the reference of the Bill to the Committee because it has been made clear in the debate that it wishes to have this legislation passed in this session. With respect to the honourable senator’s specific concerns about the operation of section 28-1 did not pick that up in my response to the second reading debate- while I understand the point of principle he made, if ever there was a case where one need not worry about that principle it is this one. My reason for saying that is that section 28 specifically gives the Governor-General power to make regulations declaring that the Act shall apply in relation to employees of the department subject to specified modifications and adaptations. In other words it gives power to vary the Act in its application to parliamentary Departments. 1 would have thought that there was no area in which the Parliament would be more likely to take an active interest in the regulations which would give them the same extensive perusal as would be given to any statute. I think that all honourable senators know that there is a strong parliamentary feeling among members of the Senate in particular and the House of Representatives. I have little doubt that if the Government proposed to make changes by regulation to the operation of the Act as it applied to Parliament in a way that was unsatisfactory to the parliament, that would be reflected in appropriate parliamentary action. For these reasons the Government proposes to oppose the amendment.
-The Minister in his reply demonstrates a regrettable lack of familiarity with the terms of the legislation with which he is dealing. Also I suspect a failure to listen to the substance of the point Senator Harradine was making which was not limited simply to parliamentary departments but also related to prescribed Commonwealth authorities. If the Minister would direct his attention to subsection (2) of clause 28 he would appreciate that this capacity to modify the effect of the Act is by no means confined to parliamentary departments. It extends to the whole range of prescribed Commonwealth authorities. As that expression is denned in the early part of the Act it is apparent that the Act is capable of modification in this way across the whole range of departments and statutory authorities. On that basis it is a very significant point indeed that Senator Harradine is raising. Indeed, it is one which the Opposition intended to raise at the Committee stage. We are at least as worried about it as Senator Harradine and at least as anxious as Senator Harradine is to have this matter referred to a parliamentary committee.
Senator CHANEY (Western AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs)- by leave- The comments I made related to Senator Harradine ‘s points insofar as they relate to the Parliament. I have nothing further to add.
That the motion (Senator Harradine’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke )
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 1 to 6- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 7 (Objects of Part).
-Clause 7 is the first clause in Part II of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill 1979 and it deals with the redeployment of employees. I move:
The point of that amendment is to make specific something which, in the view of the Opposition, ought to be specific. We are not necessarily suggesting that the specification we have suggested is the most ideal but it does at least make specific a clause which should be specific in a provision dealing with employment and disemployment. I will illustrate that by making a general comment about the way in which this sort of thing has been dealt with in the past. Under the provisions of this clause the employees ofthe Commonwealth or a Commonwealth authority ‘may be redeployed’, in the words of the clause, for a variety of reasons which are set out in subparagraphs (i) and (ii) of paragraph (b). As is normal, those matters are specified in legislation of this kind.
Normally, and historically, legislation of this kind would provide the two provisions covered by sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii) in relation to disemployment. Sub-paragraph (iii) would historically and normally provide for circumstances of, for example, misconduct. The point about a provision such as misconduct in legislation is that it is normally understood, in terms ofthe law, as to what that means. The common law has very clear definitions of the meaning of misconduct and it is a concept which is understood. Instead of having any specification in sub-paragraph (iii) the Government has used the expression ‘for any other prescribed reason’. Of course, there are a number of things which could fall within prescribed reason’. Some of them have been suggested- things such as limited efficiency, persistent failures to meet deadlines, frequent absences and unsatisfactory level of performance. They would normally go to the definition of something such as misconduct. In any regulations which are drawn up these things are the sorts of things which we understand the Government has in mind.
With the greatest respect, it is quite unsatisfactory to leave a statute in this form in relation to a subject matter which is so important. For that reason, we say that there should be a clear specification of the circumstances in which this clause comes into operation, and that those clear circumstances should be spelt out in subparagraph (iii) in lieu of the words ‘for any other prescribed reason’. It is not only a matter of the nature of a statute and the providing of a definition of a particular subject matter and it is not only a matter of the historical legal notions regarding these matters, but it is also a matter of importance in determining, in the context of dealing with this Bill, where the Australian Public Service is going in relation to this vitally important question. If I might put it in crude political terms of expediency from the point of view of the Government, it is important for the relief of anxiety, which no Government should encourage in any section of the community if it can possibly avoid it, and certainly not amongst its own public servants. It is for those reasons that the Opposition seeks specification of the circumstances in sub-paragraph (iii).
– This area has been cavassed extensively in debate at the second reading stage and J addressed myself to it in response. For the reasons I indicated then, the Government does not accept this amendment. The general nature of the existing clause 7 ( 1 ) (b) (iii), which is the concern of the Opposition, is limited in the three ways which I have mentioned. One is the power to disallow. Another is the fact that it is qualified by what proceeds it as to what can be prescribed. I am sorry, the third matter escapes me at the moment.
– I am not sure where the qualification on the second matter emerges either?
– In other words, one cannot under the existing sub-paragraph (iii) make regulations which are as broad as they might appear to be at first reading. The existing words are ‘for any other prescribed reason’, but the prescribed reasons would have to relate to the earlier part of the clause, to achieve the first object of Part II of the Bill and that is the efficient and economical use of the services of the persons employed, so that if the regulations were things which were not related to the efficient and economical use of people, the regulations could be subject to challenge. The third point–
– Are you saying that subparagraph (iii) relates to sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii), apart from anything else?
– Yes, and it relates to subclauses 1 (a) and 1 (b). It is not ‘at large’. One cannot prescribe for example, that all people of a certain height, religion and so on could be excluded. The third point is that sub-clause (2) of clause 7 requires consultations by the Public Service Board with the organisations.
– Perhaps the Minister could inform us why paragraph (iii) of clause 7(1) (b) is couched in terms of ‘for any other prescribed reason’ when certain quite definite reasons are set out in, for example, paragraph (i) and (ii) of clause 7 ( I) (b).
-That is to enable the Government to prescribe by regulation other reasons which may arise with respect to the efficient and economical use of the services of the persons employed by the Department. I think some examples have already been given of that in the sense, for example, that somebody may not have an appropriate licence. That is the sort of thing which is picked up by the Opposition ‘s specific amendment. At this stage the Government does not wish to limit itself to the sort of particulars which are contained in the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Approved criteria and procedures).
– The Australian Democrats oppose this clause. If clause 7 can be described as the gun which shoots, clause 8 is the aiming mechanism or direction finder that points the gun in a certain direction. I would refer the Government and the Minister to the concern of the Australian Government Lawyers Association, which is expressed in these terms:
As clause 8 stands, it would give the P.S.B. wide power to single out employees by names or description. The situation is rendered even worse by the operation of clause 6 which would allow particular employees to be exempted- thus opening the way for an otherwise general set of redeployment criteria to be aimed at particular persons or groups.
My reading of the Bill would lead me to agree with that opinion. I must say, and this is something that I do not often say in this chamber or out of it, that I just cannot follow or accept the answer that the Minister has just given Senator Button in relation to clause 7 ( 1 ) (b) (iii). I find it almost incomprehensible that he would say that obviously clause 7 ( 1 ) (b) (iii) cannot be looked at on its own, and that it has to be related to clause 7 ( 1 ) (b) (i) and clause 7 ( 1 ) (b) (ii). For that reason, we would oppose clause 8 as strongly as we oppose clause 7.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) to direct his attention specifically to clause 8 (3) (c) and to explain for the benefit of the Senate precisely why this clause is in this Bill in those terms, particularly when so much effort has been devoted by the Minister and the Government in defending this Bill to saying that the real responsibility for making specific eligibility for redeployment decisions is vested in the permanent head of the department concerned rather than the Public Service Board. The Minister has said that the philosophy of recommendation No. 178 of the Coombs Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration has been embodied in the Bill. That recommendation of the Coombs Royal Commission was, of course, that which says:
We recommend that the power to diagnose any excess of staff and to identify and take action regarding particular redundant officers under section 20 -
The reference there is to the Public Service Act- be delegated to departmental management.
When one looks by contrast at clause 8 (3) (c) one will notice that a procedure is there set out whereby the Public Service Board itself can have the power to direct in effect that particular employees or particular classes of employees be declared eligible for redeployment and retirement. The way this works, as clause 8(3)(c) stands, is that in the procedures which the Public Service Board itself writes there may be contained a provision which enables the Public Service Board itself to give a notice in writing to the permanent head of the department ‘to direct that effect be given to the procedures in relation to a specified employee or a specified class of employees’. So we have a situation here where the Public Service Board, with all the might, majesty and remoteness from the battlefield that that Board might be thought to have, given the way its role has been described by the Minister and the Government in defending this legislation, is given by this provision the power to descend very specifically to the battlefield and to single out particular individual employees as eligible for redeployment and retirement under this Act. This would appear to be a provision which is at odds with both the recommendation of the Coombs Royal Commission and the stated philosophy of the Government in introducing this legislation and in defending its terms.
- Senator Chipp has indicated his continuing concern about the clause which has just passed. If I can just quickly address myself to that clause, I point out that the provisions of clause 7 ( 1 ) (b) (iii) to which our attention was directed and which uses the words ‘for any other prescribed reason’ has to be read subject to sub-clause (a), which states that the objects of this Part are:
A regulation which was outside those bounds could be declared ultra vires. I was concerned about the operation of that sub-clause and I sought legal advice. I am assured that the situation is that the prescribed reasons must relate to the efficient and economical use of the services of the persons concerned. I am sure that Senator Chipp is familiar with the general concept of regulations being ultra vires an Act. The point I was making was that one would examine those regulations against clause 7 ( 1 ) (a).
I am advised with respect to the question raised by Senator Evans and by Senator Chipp that clause 8(3)(c) provides only for the initiation of procedures and does not forecast the outcome of the procedures. An example of the circumstances in which a permanent head could be required to apply the procedures is when the functions of departments are changed following changes to administrative arrangements. In those circumstances he would be directed to give effect to the procedures without the actual outcome being determined by that direction.
-With respect, that is all very well. But what does it mean to give effect to procedures with respect to a particular individual? I can imagine the reply of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) being in the terms he stated if one is talking about the application of the procedures to a particular department or to a particular group of employees. But if it is a matter of giving effect to the procedures in relation to a particular individual employee, I am afraid I cannot give that any other meaning than that this is a situation where the Public Service Board is empowered to single out a particular employee as being eligible for a redeployment declaration within the terms of the Act. I really think that the Minister has to address himself to that question if he is to give any satisfaction in his answer on this point.
– I am advised that this provision would apply in the sort of case where there might be an invalidity situation in which the individual concerned appealed against a decision that he should be invalided out and the Public Service Board was of a view that there was some doubt about the matter. The permanent head could be directed to subject that employee, that individual, to the procedures of the Act. Those are the sorts of circumstances which I am advised would be applied.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 (Efficient and economical use of staff).
-by leave -I move:
These amendments together have the primary effect of creating a springboard from which an appeal can be launched if clause 1 5 is amended subsequently in the way that we propose. There is a conceptual link between these proposed amendments to clause 9 and the further amendments to clause 15 which I foreshadow at this stage. The Opposition’s concern in these amendments which I have moved is to ensure not only that there is a right of appeal possible with respect to the decision to identify a particular employee as being an appropriate candidate for redeployment in an excess situation, but also that there is a possibility of an appeal against the decision that there is an excess within a particular department or within a particular area of government. As the Bill stands at the moment there is no such right of appeal vested in the individual who might be subject to the effect of any such decision. The most that any individual can do is wait until he is singled out as being a candidate for redeployment. He is not in the position of being able to appeal against what in many ways is the more crucial prior decision that an overmanning or an over-staffing situation exists in a particular department in accordance with the application of the procedures or the criteria which have been laid down by the Board. Accordingly, to return specifically to these proposed amendments to clause 9, which are addressed successively to -
– Without wishing to interrupt you, I wonder whether we could deal with the amendments to clause 15 at the same time, because they are interlocking.
– There is a difficulty about that to the extent that we propose to move to clause 9 a further amendment which deals with a different point altogether. Senator Ryan proposes to move that amendment. It deals with the notice requirements under that clause. It may be as well if I were to seek leave to canvass now the proposed amendments to clause 15 and to deal in debate with those proposed amendments to clause 15 at the same time as I deal with these amendments to clause 9. We can postpone the actual vote on the clause 15 amendments until we get to them, if that course is satisfactory.
– Is it the wish of the Committee that we operate in that way?
– As there is no objection, it is so ordered.
– I am indebted to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) and to you, Mr Chairman, for enabling this course to be followed. I will run through in sequence the amendments by which the Opposition proposes to give effect to this desire to enable an appeal against this initial finding. The first thing that we seek to do, by adding a new sub-paragraph (ia) to clause 9 ( 1 ) (b) and a new sub-paragraph (ia) in similar terms to the statutory authority provisions in clause 9 (2) (b)- the amendments being in identical terms in each case- is to create a responsibility or a power in specific statutory terms in the permanent head of a department to: make such findings as may be necessary to apply the procedures set out in a notice in force under sub-section 8(1) (including any directions given by the Public Service Board under those procedures) insofar as they are relevant to the operation of the Department, to the Department:
This proposed new sub-paragraph seeks to create a specific power or responsibility in the permanent head to make findings about the application of the procedures to a particular departmental area. As clause 9 stands at the moment, such a power is at best implicit in the way in which the clause is structured. Clause 9(1)(b)(i) vests in the permanent head the power to give such directions as are necessary to give effect to the procedures laid down by the Public Service Board in the administration of a department. Sub-paragraph (ii) vests in the permanent head a specific power to identify a particular employee as being excess to requirements and to declare such an employee eligible for redeployment.
What is sought to be accomplished by this new sub-paragraph ( 1) (a) is to write in between, as it were, those two existing powers vested in the permanent head, a further explicit power in the permanent head actually to make the finding that there is an excess, a surplus, an overmanning in that department by reference to the criteria or the procedures which have been laid down by the Board. So far it might be thought that to do as much as that is to do something which, in a sense, is unnecessary because manifestly the terms of this clause, clause 9, envisage that that will be one step in the decision making process which the permanent head will have to go through. First of all, he will have to apply the procedures generally to give effect to those procedures in the administration of his department. Then he will have to make a decision as to whether those procedures in fact have produced the conclusion that there is an excess in that department. Then he will have to make a further decision that an individual employee or more than one such employee in fact is an appropriate candidate for redeployment.
So far then, it appears that the proposed amendment is redundant. However, its real significance becomes clear when we turn to clause 1 5 of the Bill and to the Opposition ‘s proposed amendment to clause 1 5. It is in two parts, but for the moment let us concentrate on proposed new sub-paragraph 15 (2) (b) (i) (ab), which seeks to give a right of appeal to an individual against: the making of a finding under sub-paragraph 9 ( I ) (b) (ia) or 9 (2) (b) (ia) in relation to the employee or a specified class of employees of which the employee is a member.
What is sought in that proposed addition to clause 1 5 is to use the specific power which hopefully, by the time we consider that clause in the Committee, will have been written into clause 9 as the foundation on which to launch an appeal under clause 15. It is a technically rather circumlocutory way of accomplishing the end which is sought, but I hope that by now the substance of the exercise is clear. What the Opposition is endeavouring to create is a situation whereby an individual employee can appeal against the threshold decision that there is an excess or a surplus within a particular department. On the merits of that right of appeal it might be said, as indeed it has been said by the Government, that to give such a right of appeal to an individual at that level of the decision-making process is quite inappropriate; that what are involved are, after all- I think the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, Mr Viner, used these words at some stage in the second reading debate or the debate at the Committee stage in the House of Representatives- policy considerations and not questions which really go to the rights or obligations of particular individuals.
It seems to me and to the Opposition that an answer in those terms is not really good enough. In a sense, if an answer in those terms is advanced by the Government the Government really will be hoist with its own petard in its defence of this legislation. I say that for these reasons: What is involved here either is or is not a matter of policy; either the decision that there is an excess to requirements is a matter of policy or it is not a matter of policy. If it is a matter of policy and, as such, inappropriate for determination by an arbitral tribunal because it is something that is properly within the prerogative of executive government and the political heads of government, it seems to me that the Government is in real difficulty with its claim, which Senator Chaney repeated here today, that this is not a piece of legislation which in any way is subject to the vagaries of the whims of the political heads of government. This is not an area of politics but rather an area of administration.
If that is the sort of answer which is given in respect of the general flavour of this legislation, it means that the Government is not really in a position of being able to claim that what are involved here are policy considerations which are, for that reason, inappropriate to be the subject matter of an appeal. On the other hand, if the Government retreats to the other horn of the dilemma and concedes that that kind of decision does not involve policy considerations but is just another stage in the administrative decisionmaking process, it seems to me that there can be no reason whatsoever for denying an individual the right of appeal against that particular stage of the decision-making process rather than confining him, as is the case at the moment under this legislation, to making an appeal at the end of that process when he is singled out.
Of course, it is the case that employees and Public Service unions are most anxious that there should be a right of appeal at that threshold stage of the decision-making process in order that the actual key consideration of whether there is an over-manning or over-staffing situation within a particular department might be able to be made the subject of argument and the subject of determination by the Commonwealth Employees Redeployment and Retirement Appeals Tribunal. The unions and employees likely to be affected by this legislation take the point that, if their appeal rights are confined simply to the question of whether a particular employee is a riper candidate than some other employee for getting his marching orders once an excess in staff decision has been made, then that right of appeal is likely to be rather empty indeed. That is the general rationale behind the sequence of amendments proposed by the Opposition.
Perhaps a couple of other points need to be made about other aspects of the proposed amendments. The first is that, going back to the proposed amendments to clause 9, another justification for those amendments, apart from their utility as a springboard for the clause 1 5 appeal procedure, is that they make clear the point that a genuine and serious decision-making role is vested in the permanent head of a department rather than the Public Service Board. It is a reinforcement of a point which I and other speakers have made earlier in this debate that it is appropriate that, as much as possible, the decision-making process should be vested and be seen to be vested in the permanent head of a department, as distinct from the Public Service Board. That point was made clearly by the Opposition in arguing for the clause 9 amendments proposed by the Opposition in the lower House. That is a subsidiary rationale for the proposed amendments to clause 9, although the primary rationale is the one I have indicated already.
The remaining point to be made, turning back to clause 1 5 of the Bill, is that the Opposition proposes, by way of these amendments, to insert a further ground for appeal. I refer to proposed sub-paragraph (aa) to clause 15. We hope that that will have the effect of enabling an appeal to lie against the issue of a notice in writing under clause 8 (3) (c) in relation to an employee or a specified class of employees of which the employee is a member. That picks up the point which I was making in a question I directed to the Minister a few moments ago about the fact that clause 8(3)(c) does vest a very specific power in the Public Service Board to apply the redeployment procedures to particular employees or classes of employees. For that reason, there ought to be a right of appeal against an 8 ( 3 ) (c) notice as well as against the notices nd the determinations set out in clause 9.
- Senator Evans’s remarks canvassed areas which have been dealt with in debate. I think that the honourable senator has explained very clearly the linkage between the different amendments which are put forward. They are seeking the provision of a right to appeal against a finding that there is a surplus of a particular category of staff in a particular department. The clear view which has been expressed by the Government is that that is not a matter which should be subject to appeal. There are certain policy matters which are the prerogative of government as to what functions a department is to perform. Mr Viner said:
The Bill provides the necessary means to enable departments, authorities and the Public Service Board to adjust their staffing resources to meet changes in policy or priorities the Government might make from time to time.
It is arguable, as the honourable senator has argued, that the decision as to whether a department needs a specific number of a particular category of employ es is one which ought to be in the hands of an appeal tribunal. But in the view of the Government that is not the case.
– The Opposition has a further amendment to clause 9. 1 move:
At the end of the clause add the following sub-clause:
Where a redeployment declaration is made pursuant to sub-paragraph ( I ) (b) (ii) or (2) (b) (ii), such declaration shall include full details of-
the declaration made and the reasons for it;
the date from which the redeployment declaration is to be effective; and
the rights of and methods for appeal against the declaration.’.
I think the terms of the amendment are selfexplanatory. The Opposition seeks to add a subclause concerning the redeployment declaration. We want that declaration to include full details of the declaration made and the reasons for it, the date from which the redeployment declaration is to be effective and the rights of and method for appeal against the declaration.
During the course of the Committee stage debate in the other place I think the responsible Minister said that such matters as we are seeking to include would be a matter for regulation. However, that is unsatisfactory to the Opposition and it is unsatisfactory to the relevant unions. The Professional Officers Association, the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations have all urged that these additional conditions concerning the making of a declaration should be included in the proposed Act and should not be left to regulation. For this reason, in order to require the Government and those people administering this Act to act fairly and openly in respect of declarations, we submit that the Opposition’s amendment to clause 9 should be included.
– The Government’s attitude to this amendment has really been declared in the speech I made when I closed the second reading debate in which I indicated certain views that had been given to me by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner). The Government opposes the amendment. The Minister said:
The Bill leaves a number of aspects to be covered by the regulations and procedures and criteria statements.
During the Committee stage of the debate in the House of Representatives the Minister referred to some of these; for instance, the date of effect of a declaration under section 9, the need to notify the employee who is declared of the rights and methods of appeal and the reasons for issue of a declaration which, of course, is the subject of this amendment. The nature and extent of the provision to be made and whether a particular aspect should be included in the procedures and criteria statements or in regulations or in both is still under consideration. As Mr Viner indicated, these are among the matters which will be subject to further discussions with staff associations. As necessary the Government will consider the proposals in light of the views of the Public Service Board and staff associations. But it is not proposed that this amendment should be accepted.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 14- by leave-taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 15 (Appeals).
– I move:
I do not, of course, seek to canvass again the arguments in support of that amendment which I put in respect of clause 9. But I ask the Minster for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) specifically to respond in respect of proposed new paragraph (aa) to which he did not address himself in reply to my previous amendment. I ask him to indicate whether the Government will or will not accept that it is proper that a right of appeal be given in respect to a notice in writing given by the Public Service Board in accordance with clause 8 (3) (c). I understand that the Minister did acknowledge in his earlier remarks on clause 8 (3) (c) that that particular provision might indeed have an application to a particular employee, for example in an incapacity or invalidity situation. I would ask the Minister whether in those circumstances it is not appropriate that such an individual, who might be clearly prejudiced in such a way by such a specific Public Service Board direction or notice in writing, should not have a right of appeal against such a determination.
– The provision which has been suggested by the Opposition would allow the right of appeal to the initiation of the process, and that is not accepted by the Government. An individual who is subjected to that would still have the other rights of appeal which are given to him under the legislation. That includes the right of appeal against actual redeployment and against the identification or any retirement action. So appeal procedures would apply to him, but not against the reference under clause 8 (3) (c).
– by leave -I move:
These are the amendments which are directed at removing the notorious ‘dobbing in one’s mates’ provisions of the Bill, the inequity of which was the subject of extensive comment during the second reading debate. Consequently I do not think they need to be further explored now. The only point that the Opposition wishes to make in further defence of its attitude and the attitude of the Public Service unions on this clause is in answer to the numerous assertions by various Government senators that there is really no difference between these procedures and the procedures which presently apply in relation to promotion appeals. The Opposition makes the point, and makes the point very strenuously, that there is a fundamental and very obvious distinction between knocking off one’s mate, as it were, in a promotion competition situation and in knocking off one’s mate in a situation where what is in issue is retrenchment and the very survival of one’s employment position. I do not think the amendments need to be further expounded upon by the Opposition. We urge very strenuously the acceptance of these amendments.
- Senator Evans correctly indicated that these matters have been extensively debated. The purpose of these provisions is simply to ensure consistency and expedition in appeals where a number of staff members are involved in an excess staff situation. Without those provisions one would have a quite unmanageable situation. The Government does not accept the amendments.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
-There are two questions on which the Opposition would seek enlightenment from the Minister in relation to the remaining clauses of the Bill. The first concerns clause 23, which makes provision for regulations prescribing certain special benefits. It is perhaps not unfair to say that something of a saga of confusion and uncertainty has surrounded the potential application of clause 23. As it stands, on its face clause 23 is really rather general in its application and makes possible the payment of special benefits in respect to a person declared eligible for redeployment for either a reason referred to in clause 7(1) (b) (i), the excess-to-requirements sub-section or one referred to in clause 7 ( 1 ) (b) (iii), the notoriously uncertain provision which enables the prescription of any other reason that the Government may choose to think of as a ground for redeployment.
Clause 23 then, on its face, does enable the payment of special benefits in an excesstorequirements, or surplus, situation, as well as for a special reason under clause 7 ( 1) (b) (iii). However, in the second reading speech of the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick) it was made clear, as indeed it has been in subsequent statements that he has made, that the proposed special benefits that are to be provided under this particular clause are to be confined in operation to persons in an ‘any other prescribed reason’ category, as described by paragraph (iii) of clause 7(1) (b); that such benefits are not to be extended to persons in the excesstorequirements category. Moreover, it has become apparent that the benefits are only, in any event, intended to be made payable to persons over the age of 55.
Given all that, my question to the Minister is: If it is the intention of the Government to circumscribe in this way the benefits that are payable under the regulations which will be prescribed under clause 23, why on earth was clause 23 written in such misleadingly wide terms? Can we anticipate that some governmental largesse will in fact be made available at a later stage to persons declared eligible for redeployment for excess-to-requirements reasons, or is there some other reason why clause 23 has been so drafted?
The other question on which the Opposition would require a further and better answer from the Minister than it has had the benefit of so far is in relation to clause 28. The Minister may have been able to avoid giving a straight answer on that clause previously by taking the debating point that Senator Harradine, who raised the question initially, had concentrated only on the application of the clause to the parliamentary departments. However, I now specifically ask the Minister to endeavour to recapture some of the fading credibility that he might be thought to have as a result of his previous evasion of this issue by giving a straight answer to the Senate, to this Parliament and to the Australian people on the question: Why is it that clause 28 contains in sub-section (2) this full-scale Henry VIII clause which on its face makes it possible for the Executive Government, without coming back to this Parliament except by resort to the regulation disallowance procedure, to denude this legislation of any significant application to the whole range of departments and authorities that come within the statutory description of prescribed Commonwealth authorities?
-In furtherance of what Senator Evans has said, I wonder whether, since I understand that the
Government is intent on getting the legislation through, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), who is at the table, would consider this clause being referred to a committee. That could take place after the Bill had been passed and would not affect its operation in the meantime. I ask him to give consideration to my suggestion.
– The first matter raised by Senator Evans was why section 23 had been drafted in terms that were wider than was indicated by the Leader ofthe Government (Senator Carrick) in his second reading speech and it was intended that the regulations should operate. I suppose it would have been possible to legislate in section 23 precisely in the terms indicated by the Minister in his second reading speech concerning the way in which the payments were intended to be made. I am advised that there will be discussions with the staff associations about special benefits in the excess numbers situation. At the moment it is proposed that it should be applied only to clause 7 ( 1 ) (b) (iii) situations. It may be that there will be an extension to the excess numbers situation. This has yet to be determined. The clause has been drafted in that way to allow flexibility with respect to the circumstances in which payments will be made.
– I will believe it when I see the new regulations.
-Presumably the new regulations will reflect the position laid down in the second reading speech. That does not preclude subsequent regulations from being issued. In any event, that is the reason why clause 28 has been drafted in that way. I have dealt with the first part of the matters raised by Senator Harradine but, with respect to sub-section (2) I would note that employment arrangements vary from authority to authority. In other words, the Act could be applied to a variety of employment situations in different authorities. For that reason, the Government believes that it is necessary to have flexibility in regard to the way in which the Act can be applied to various authorities.
The question whether a particular clause should be referred to a committee is in the hands of the Senate rather than those of the Government. Normally, it is also influenced by the attitude of the committee itself. If Senator Harradine wishes to seek a post-passage reference to a committee, he should perhaps consult the appropriate committee chairman to ascertain whether the committee would be interested in receiving such a reference, and then bring the matter up in the Senate.
-Is not the definition of ‘prescribed Commonwealth authority’ in fact sufficiently wide to encompass, in addition to statutory authorities and other nondepartmental agencies, departments themselves? I appreciate that there is a definition of departments in clause 3, but it might well be arguable that the width of the various descriptions encompassed under the heading ‘prescribed Commonwealth authority’ is such that departments of State would also be capable of being prescribed authorities within the meaning of the definition and, accordingly, within the meaning of clause 28.
– From a quick look at the definitions of ‘department’ and prescribed Commonwealth authority’ I do not feel able to give a definitive legal opinion on the matter raised by Senator Evans. However, I think it is the intention of the Government that the legislation should be read as indicating that the departments stand separate from prescribed Commonwealth authorities.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all it stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 now before the Senate proposes amendments to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. The Bill introduces tariff changes, foreshadowed by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in his speech in the House of Representatives on 24 May 1979, in relation to the imposition of an ad valorem revenue customs duty of 2 per cent on most goods currently imported free of customs duty, including those under Customs By-laws items 19 and 25. The 2 per cent revenue customs duty, which will operate on and from 1 July 1979, is estimated to yield about $73m revenue in 1979-80. Most duty free imports not covered by the following exceptions will be subject to the revenue duty. These exceptions are being made because of international trade commitments and other trade reasons. Exceptions will include goods of New Zealand, Papua New Guinea or developing country origin and goods covered by rates bound under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
Educational, scientific and cultural material being goods covered by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation convention commonly known as the ‘Florence Agreement’ will not be subject to the revenue duty. While Australia is not a signatory to the Florence Agreement it has generally adhered to its general policy of not impeding, by the imposition of customs duties, the free flow of material covered by the Agreement. These include printed books, newspapers, journals, music, maps, plans, films, instruments, gramophone records, paintings, antiques, et cetera. Certain paper and cinematographic film currently imported duty free and which form inputs into these goods when produced in Australia will be exempt. Crude and enriched petroleum oil will be exempt as it is further manufactured into products which are then subject to excise duties.
Certain goods which enter duty free under Schedule 2 of the Customs Tariff also will be exempt. For example, motor vehicle components will continue to enter duty free without the imposition of the 2 per cent ad valorem revenue customs duty because of Government commitments in the context of the motor vehicle plans, and the need to avoid disruption to manufacturers’ arrangements under this Plan. Other ‘noncommercial’ goods which enter duty free under Schedule 2 such as outside packages, re-imports, Government purchases et cetera will also be exempt, along with teaching aids, goods used in research programs in tertiary institutions, samples and other goods where the administrative costs of collecting the revenue duty would probably outweigh the revenue collected. 1 commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 5 June, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr President, before proceeding with the second reading debate on this Bill 1 suggest that with the concurrence of honourable senators it would suit the convenience of the Senate to hold a cognate debate on this Bill and the National Health Amendment Bill 1979.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
- Mr President, in rising to oppose these Bills I foreshadow that on behalf of the Opposition I will be moving two amendments, one to each Bill. The amendments have not yet been circulated but I expect that they will be during the course of my remarks. We see in the two Bills before us changes to the health insurance system and the provision of health services that will take this country back to the 1 940s and 1 950s in terms of health care cover. That was a time when there was no universal health insurance. In attempts to hide the destruction the Government has wrought on Medibank and health insurance, its spokesmen now speak of the commitment to continue universal health protection. I suggest that confusion and costliness are all that are universal now in relation to health insurance. The Opposition opposes most of the changes in the legislation before us.
Before I proceed to discuss our reasons for opposing them, I make it clear at this stage that we welcome and support some measures contained in the Bills. We welcome the inclusion of measures that improve travel entitlements for people seeking health services outside their own area and we approve the inclusion of benefits that improve accommodation assistance for people who have to travel to obtain health services. We also support the inclusion of the extension of eligibility for domiciliary benefits that was announced by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in his second reading speech. I point out for the benefit of honourable senators that the extension of eligibility for domiciliary benefits is a measure for which the Australian Labor Party has been arguing for a long time. We are pleased to see it included. However, these minor measures which we support and welcome form a very small part of the legislation before us. As I said, the main purpose of the Bills is to destroy universal health insurance, to force people back, into private funds and to transfer much of the burden for providing health services from the public sector to the private sector.
The changes that we oppose are the major ones. Firstly, we oppose the abolition of the 40 per cent Commonwealth health benefit; secondly, we oppose the increases in hospital charges; and thirdly, we oppose very strongly the provision to reclassify long-term geriatric patients in hospitals as nursing home patients. We oppose the changes on several grounds. We oppose them on the ground of the cost that will be inflicted on individuals and families, particularly on low income earners such as the elderly and unemployed. We oppose the changes on the ground of the inefficiencies inherent in them and on the ground that they lack real incentive to economise health resources and costs. We also believe that the changes may not in fact substantially reduce Commonwealth expenditure on health services despite this being the alleged basis for the Government’s actions.
On looking at the amendments being made to the Health Insurance Act to abolish the 40 per cent Commonwealth medical benefit- which was, incidentally, the universal benefit glowingly described in the last round of Medibank changes- it is necessary to state that withdrawal of this benefit will push the cost of private medical insurance up by more than 40 per cent. As many people will find it too expensive to continue insuring themselves and their families, they will take risks in the hope that they will stay healthy and will not need insurance. That will leave the less healthy, privately insured persons subsequently paying higher health insurance premiums. Medical and hospital insurance contributions could rise by up to $3 or $4 a week. That is the prediction of the Government. I believe that the rise will be even greater. The Government has been wrong in all of its other estimates of contribution increases and we believe that it will be wrong in this one too. Families will face payments of up to $ 1 2 to $ 1 3 a week in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, and only slightly less in other States. This is only the first rise. Doctors’ fees will be increased later in the year- up to 15 per cent has been predicted- and medical contributions will have to rise again as a result.
Many people will find that they just cannot afford to pay this much a week for health insurance. Of course, the people who find themselves in this position will be those who are already struggling on low incomes. The 1 979 survey by the Bureau of Statistics has already shown that the highest proportion of medically uninsured people are low income earners. I understand that prior to the introduction of these changes 20 per cent of the population was uninsured. This preponderance of low income earners amongst the uninsured is a fact that has been recognised by most commentators on the legislation before us. As the Sydney Morning Herald has pointed out:
The real hardship will be felt by those who are neither pensioner nor clased by their doctor as ‘socially disadvantaged ‘ but are on low incomes.
The people who are forced, through cost, to drop private health insurance will have to think twice about seeing a doctor when ill. I quote again from the Sydney Morning Herald:
It is desirable to discourage unnecessary and frivolous calls on doctors. The new system should have that effect. The risk is that it will as also discourage people from seeking early treatment of complaints which may prove to be serious illnesses.
I might add that they would be costly illnesses. A trip to the doctor is cheaper on the public purse than long-term hospitalisation or expensive surgery. I allege that the effect of the abolition of insurance cover for primary health care will be to increase the overall cost to the taxpayer of the provision of health services. Of course, there is the ludicrous situation, which has already been exposed in the Press and I think, in the other place, that it will be cheaper for an individual to have a lung removed than to have a lung infection treated. What sort of health reimbursement system do we have if it leads to that situation? Undoubtedly, the number of surgical operations carried out will increase because there is cover for them. The number of primary health care or preventive health care visits to general practitioners will decrease. It is a totally unbalanced and ludicrous scheme.
Government members and senators have argued that the socially disadvantaged category will be extended by doctors to people who cannot afford either to be insured or to pay the full cost. That may or may not happen. Let us examine the possibility put forward by Government spokesmen that it will happen. It is argued that if more people drop out of health insurance because of its cost the doctors at the primary care level will be faced with the prospect of seeing fewer patients or, alternatively, more people who will ask to be put in the socially disadvantaged category. Even if the patient does not ask to be put in the socially disadvantaged category, a doctor may decide to award it in order to retain the patient and be paid for the treatment. After all, 75 per cent of the scheduled fee, whilst not 100 per cent, is better than no fee at all. The point is that this 75 per cent will be met entirely by the Government, with no patient or fund contributions. So, if there is a big increase in the number of claims under the socially disadvantaged category, it will be the public purse that will bear the cost, and the funds will make no contribution at all.
Can the Minister assure honourable senators that arbitrary figures will not be set on the number of disadvantaged patients that doctors may see and treat? As usual, Senator Walters is finding difficulty in following the point. The point is that if doctors, as suggested by Government senators, decide to increase the number of people they treat as disadvantaged there will be an increase in the charge to the public purse. On the other hand, the Government argues that it wants to reduce the charge to the public purse. If doctors do increase the number of people they bulk bill will we find, after a few months, guidelines or restrictions being placed on the number of patients a doctor may categorise as disadvantaged? Can the Minister assure honourable senators that checks will not be made on the financial circumstances of persons defined by their doctors as socially disadvantaged? Can the Minister assure honourable senators that guidelines will not be introduced further to define, refine or restrict the persons who may be classified as socially disadvantaged? Finally, what amount of money is to be set aside for this category of persons and what is the estimated number of medical visits per head per year for this category of persons? I hope to get an answer to those questions during the course of this debate.
In seeking to understand the present operation of the disadvantaged category and the bulk billing, I discovered that 3 per cent of all claims up to the present have been under the category of socially disadvantaged- that is, about 200,000 people per month. When I sought to find out how this figure measured up with what the Government’s expectation had been, I discovered that the Government has available to it no data at all on which to predict the use by the socially disadvantaged category and the Government has no way of knowing whether that 3 per cent of patients categorised as socially disadvantaged is too many or too few, whether people are missing out or whether people are abusing the system. There is absolutely no data.
This is just another ad hoc measure of the Government. It is a bit of window dressing that is designed to defuse some of the hostility expressed by the community to this measure by enabling the Government to say: ‘We are introducing this to cover low income earners’. The Government cannot tell us how many low income earners are being covered by this measure. Opposition senators and members, from their experience in electorates, suspect that it is much too low. We know that many people who are not categorised by their doctors as socially disadvantaged nonetheless could not afford under the previous scheme to pay the full cost of either health insurance or doctors fees. Of course, now that the 40 per cent benefit is to be removed entirely and there is to be no primary health care cover, the Opposition believes that the number must increase drastically. The fact that no proper data base was available to predict the effectiveness or otherwise of the socially disadvantaged category is just another example of the fact that the Government constantly tampers with the health insurance system for reasons of ideological prejudice that have nothing to do with the efficient or proper provision of health services or health insurance cover.
One thing of which honourable senators can be sure as a result of these most recent changes is that there will be massive confusion throughout the community as, yet again, people have to decide what level of health insurance they can afford or need. It is to be hoped the usual period of grace will be extended to enable them to take the necessary steps with a health fund if their decision is to take private insurance. Fund contributions will be wasted yet again on pamphlets explaining the changes and listing new rates. Of course, these changes will have to be printed for 1 September and then reprinted when the doctors fees are increased shortly afterwards. That is just a further example of the waste and inefficiency that flows from all these destructive changes to the health insurance system. This exercise demonstrates yet another broken promise. The President of the Victorian Health Benefits Council, Mr Derek Shaw, was reported in the Age as saying:
The Government has broken an undertaking we have reached with the Minister for Health that we were to make the necessary rate adjustments just once a year, from November 1.
Now they will have to make that adjustment twice. Undoubtedly the health insurance choices will be accompanied by a variety of information which will confuse and mislead many. For example the National Times has already given its readers the message, which is that they should drop health insurance. Whilst this message is in line with the overall concern of the National Times for minimising taxation so that consumers will have more money to spend on wine and travel, people could miscalculate their health needs and expenses, to their financial detriment. It is the Government’s version of Russian roulette, except that people’s health is at stake. In one sense it would be a relief if we could be assured that these latest changes mark the end of the health insurance revisions, to use a Government euphemism, but it appears that the continual changes of direction that create more confusion, cost, insecurity and probably sickness are to be a permanent feature of the administration of health services under Fraser and Hunt. Already, one noted expert on health costsProfessor George Palmer from the School of Health Administration of the University of New South Wales- has forecast that the Commonwealth may next decide to re-impose a means test on admission to hospital public wards to stem a likely increase in demand for free public hospital treatment. I agree with this gloomy prediction, for it has already been foreshadowed in the report about rationalisation of hospital facilities and services and proposed new charges which was tabled recently. Paragraph 36 of the report states:
This would place health insurance in Australia right back to the early 1950s when another Liberal-Country Party government with a Country Party Minister for Health did precisely that. By withholding Commonwealth funds for hospitals, it forced States to re-impose means tests for free hospital treatment. The amount of money withheld was equivalent to the revenue forgone by not charging fees. All States except Queensland capitulated, and Queensland was financially penalised until the original Medibank hospital cost sharing arrangement was initiated in 1975. Another area where means testing may have to be re-introduced to cut or forestall rising costs is in public outpatient treatment. These services have been traditionally used as primary health care by low income earners, even though it is an expensive and medically inappropriate way of providing primary health care. I fear that low income earners may be forced back into outpatient and casualty queues. If they are, we may well see charges for these services re-introduced.
I ask the Minister to indicate how accurately these sorts of variables, including the possibility of increased bulk billing to which I have referred, have been costed. In addition, I would like to know the impact that rising health insurance contributions will have on the consumer price index and, from there, into the wages and social security benefit areas. I wish to comment briefly on another aspect of the health package proposed by the Government. I refer to the area of hospital expenditure and the Government’s plans to cut costs in that area. This area featured most prominently in the mini-Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and obviously great savings are expected in this area at the States ‘ expense. However, it is true, as noted by the Treasurer, that hospitals take up 60 per cent of the Commonwealth’s total health services budget. Most of this expenditure is on wages and salaries of the staff required in hospitals. So any major reduction in hospital expenditure will affect hospital employment. The Treasurer made no mention of this aspect, however. He seems to regard hospital staff as expendable.
The Treasurer and Minister for Health have fastened on to excessive numbers of hospital beds as the reason for excessive costs. It is true that Australia has a higher number of hospital beds per thousand of population than comparable countries. However, one must look at the distribution of those beds. Figures vary between States in rough correlation with population spread and many of the so-called ‘excess’ beds are in country areas and in inner city areas where the previous population initially warranted the beds but where now only the adjacent specialist consulting rooms serve as reason for the beds to remain.
The sad thing about these and most of the other facts relating to hospitals and expenditure in Australia is that they are not new. Health planners have known these facts for year and there have been a multitude of reports on the subject. The Australian Labor Party asks: Why is there a need for yet another report with all the inherent expense and delay? In 1974 the Hospital and Health Services Commission- it was abolished by the Government as a measure of its commitment to health planning- produced a report entitled ‘Hospitals in Australia’ which gave us a wealth of statistical information gathered in cooperation with the States and with a series of concrete proposals aimed at better utilisation of existing facilities, regionalisation and rationalisation of services and a generally better use of resources.
The present Government has ignored that report but used some of its authors, notably Dr Sax, Dr Hennessy and Mr Matt Carroll from the Department of Health to produce a report on the rationalisation of hospital facilities and services to which I referred earlier. Now it appears ready to drop this report as well and to set up a royal commission which presumably will also call on Dr Sax, Dr Hennessy and Mr Carroll and which will produce the same sort of advice. Need I remind honourable senators that royal commissions do not have a good track record for this Government? It is also amazing that a government which places so much emphasis on its good relationship with the States can simultaneously outrage New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland on the question of an inquiry into hospitals. This hostility has, it appears, been caused largely by the lack of information that the Government is prepared to give the States in relation to the inquiry’s terms of reference.
The States have every right to be worried if past government performance is any guide. The last time that the Government looked at the Commonwealth-State hospital cost-sharing agreements it discovered them to be illegal, declared them inoperative and forced the States to accept more restrictive arrangements. The report on the rationalisation of hospital facilities mentions certain cutbacks which should be made in the area of hospital expenditure over a three year period. The Government has announced that these savings must be made in one year. So again, understandably, the States are worried. But perhaps the main reason for the States not being able to obtain information on the inquiry’s terms of reference is that they have not been written. The inquiry has all the hallmarks of a rushed, botched job concocted by the Treasury while the Minister and Director-General of Health were overseas. I am surprised that the Minister has agreed yet again to carry the can for another unpopular government health measure taken without his approval.
On the radio program AM last week the Minister stated- I think I paraphrase him correctlythat the low income earner had to realise that he had to pay for his health costs in some way, either directly as contributions or as increased taxation. Has the Minister forgotten yet another report he commissioned- ‘Paying for Health Care’- which discussed the relative equity of fiat-based contributions, as he is now proposing, versus progressively based tax payments? The new proposals in the legislation before us are not related to the capacity to pay. They are regressive and inequitable. This Government clearly favours health policies which advantage the rich and disadvantage the low and middle income earner. The Labor Party opposes this principle and will continue to press for an equitable and universal system of health care protection. This legislation does not further such aims and principles and, with the exceptions I have already stated, we do not support it. I now take the opportunity to move on behalf of the Opposition amendments to the two Bills.
– You can move one and foreshadow the other.
– Yes. I now take the opportunity to move my amendment to the Health Insurance Amendment Bill 1979 and foreshadow my amendment to the National Health Bill 1 979. I move as an amendment to the motion ‘That the Bill be now read a second time ‘:
Leave out all words after ‘That ‘, insert the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to exclude-
the re-classification of public hospital patients as nursing-home type patients; and
the abolition of the 40 per cent Commonwealth medical benefit presently payable for professional services, where the specified fee is $20 or less’.
I foreshadow that I will move at the appropriate stage the following amendment to the motion for the second reading of the National Health Amendment Bill 1979:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert:
The Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted so that registered funds will continue to pay the current appropriate benefit to eligible contributors for the full period of their stay in hospital ‘.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Senator Ryan, is your amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment.
– We have heard a lot of emotive criticism of the two Bills before the chamber. The Minister for Health in my own State of Tasmania has made outlandish statements such as: At least 500 jobs will go by the board; we are going to have massive cuts in the number of hospital beds; hospitals will be closed; and Tasmania will have to do without $9m as a result of the Government’s freezing hospital costs to the States. These are most incredible statements. Perhaps if I refer to some figures I will be able to allay people’s fears regarding these emotive statements. Let us look at the annual report of the Director-General of
Health which was compiled by the various States. The report shows the number of available beds per 1,000 population. I will not mention all the States but I will pick out for comment Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. The available beds per 1,000 population in Victoria are 3.76 compared with the Tasmanian figure of 5.47. So Tasmania has nearly double the number of beds per 1,000 population as Victoria.
– You are an unhealthier population.
– We have nearly double the number of beds, Senator Cavanagh.
– That is why you need them.
– I refer to further figures related to staff per occupied bed. We have more staff per occupied bed in Tasmania. No doubt Senator Cavanagh would say that that is accounted for by the fact that we are a healthier population. Our daily net operating costs in Tasmania are $145.31. In Victoria they are $130.14. The bed occupancy rate is an extremely interesting figure. At any one time we have only 57. 1 per cent of our beds occupied whereas Victoria has 74.9 per cent of its beds occupied. As honourable senators can see we have more beds, we have more staff, the beds cost more, yet we have fewer beds occupied per head of population. Yet the surveys prove that the health of Victorians is certainly no worse than the health of Tasmanians. I want to back the Minister for Health in his request for an investigation. Senator Ryan referred to a royal commission. Well, she is not quite up to date. No longer is it to be a royal commission because some of the States did not agree. So, it is to be an investigation.
– What do you think you are going to find?
-Mr Barnard has objected to even an investigation, as have other States. They are objecting to an investigation into the running of hospitals. We have just heard from Senator Ryan that the Labor Party says that there should not be another investigation into hospitals. If we look at what turned up in the Auditor-General’s report in South Australia just recently, perhaps the Opposition may change its mind. The cost per hospital bed in South Australia is $ 1 33.6 1 which is far less than the cost in Tasmania. The South Australian occupancy rate is far higher than Tasmania’s occupancy rate. South Australia’s occupancy rate is nearly 68 per cent- 67.9 per cent- yet the AuditorGeneral found that in that State there was poor financial management in the hospitals and that there was a need for upgrading. In South Australia the staffing had increased even though the patient numbers had dropped, but in Tasmania we have the same number of staff per bed and yet our occupancy rate is 57 per cent, while South Australia’s is nearly 68 per cent. Imagine what an investigation would find in Tasmania.
It was also found that there was large scale food pilfering from hospitals and the associated cost to the taxpayer was enormous. But the Opposition has said: ‘Do not let us investigate the position. Let us just shut our eyes’. This is what South Australia is finding. But the Labor Party and Senator Ryan have said: ‘Do not let us have an investigation. It will be only a waste of money’. Also there was a failure by management to institute cost saving recommendations, which would run into millions of dollars. But the Labor Party has said: ‘Do not let us investigate the matter. Let it continue. After all, if we do investigate, we might find things going on in the States that we would not like to look at’. Senator Ryan has blandly said that families will pay $ 12 a week for their health care. If she had any compassion at all she would not have said that. It may suit her politically to make those statements, but to blandly say that families will have to pay $12 a week for their health care shows that she has no human compassion at all. She worries the people outside. As I say, it may help her politically but it is not humane to do so.
Let me deal with the disadvantaged and the pensioners, about whom we have heard so much criticism from the Opposition. I refer to the three months November and December 1978 and January 1979. Nearly 4.5 million bulk billed services have been rendered for pensioners and disadvantaged people in that time. So, over a year that would be 18 million services rendered in that area alone. Obviously, that area of health care is working. The pensioners and the disadvantaged are being treated and are being bulk billed. Those figures prove it. But let us refer to the families whom Senator Ryan said will have to pay $12 a week for health care. That statement is a distortion and, as I have said, it is one that shows no compassion to the people outside who are wondering what is in this Bill. When debating in this place we should be truthful. What we say goes on record and the people have got to gather their knowledge from what we say.
Let me simply explain the basic health care provisions. People who want to insure against their health care will receive 75 per cent of the medical schedule fee and they do not pay any more than $10. That is the maximum they would have to pay. At the moment a single person will pay $1 or $1.20 depending with which organisation he registers and a family will pay $2 or $2.20. That is the payment for the basic health table. Over that there is free hospitalisation. All public hospitals are completely free. So, a family which wishes to have the basic health care does not have to pay $12. It will have to pay more than the original figure suggested because, as we know, the amount will go up. But the family will pay about- we do not know the amount yet-$1.50 to $3.00 for health care. That amount will not take the contribution to anywhere within cooee of $ 12. Senator Ryan has deliberately tried to mislead the public. I do not think that does her any credit.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, i raise a point of order. I have just been accused of deliberately misleading the public. I ask that the honourable senator withdraw that remark immediately.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Senator Walters, I think you might refrain -
-May I speak to that point, Mr Acting Deputy President? I believe that Senator Ryan has deliberately misled the public in her statement that families will have to pay $12.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Walters, I think you are arguing a point of view which Senator Ryan has put. I think you might find other terms which would make your point.
– I will withdraw the remark, hoping that Senator Ryan will explain that she did not mean what she said, that it was a figment of my imagination and that she will be able to rectify my impression later.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, that is not a withdrawal. I ask for a proper withdrawal of the accusation that I was deliberately misleading.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I would not think that we had the time to get into an argument of this kind. I am sure that, with a little bit of understanding, Senator Walters could press her point with as much vigour by using other terms. Senator Walters, may I suggest that you find other terms in which to present your argument with equal force?
-Yes. What Senator Ryan said certainly misled the Senate. I hope her remark does not mislead people outside.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I am sorry but I must take a point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Walters, you have used the phrase that Senator Ryan misled the Senate. I have gone along with this situation for a while in trying to find a solution. I must ask you to withdraw those words without reservation.
– I withdraw the words deliberately misled ‘. I still maintain that Senator Ryan has misled Government senators. I have withdrawn the words ‘deliberately misled’, but I have substituted the words ‘misled Government senators’. I would like to touch on two other areas. One relates to the isolated patients travel and accommodation assistance. It has been extended to off-shore islands which particularly helps my State of Tasmania. There have been occasions, although not many, where specialist treatment has not been available in Tasmania. At great expense patients have had to travel interstate. Of course, this expense will now be overcome by what I believe is a very generous provision that the Government has brought down. Up to now a 14-year-old patient has been able to have someone go along with him but that age limit has been extended to 17 years. The extension of eligibility for domiciliary nursing care benefit is of great joy to me and is the second area. The age limit has been reduced from 65 years to 16 years. This is a great credit to the Government. It wishes to allow people to look after patients in their own home.
I will leave my colleague, Senator Baume, to deal with nursing home patients as time is fairly short this evening. I am sure that he will deal with that. The only thing left for me to say is that costs of health care are going up in leaps and bounds. It has been recognised by the community as a whole, and certainly by both State and Commonwealth governments, that this cannot go on; that the Federal Government must do something about it. I would like it to refer to the three big spending areas- health, education and welfare. We could introduce the most expensive and the best health care, with all the technology that is available. We could have it for every single Australian. We could bring in the best education. We could have a pupil-teacher ratio which would be an example to the rest of the world. We could bring in the best teaching facilities, the best buildings, the best hospitals, the best technology and the best welfare of any country in the world. But are the people prepared to pay for it? At what cost could we bring this in?
– If you consolidated all the funds you would reduce the operating costs. You could put all the operating costs into one general fund.
– I think Senator Mulvihill would agree with me that in the recent debate on the tax surcharge, the Opposition spent the whole night berating the Government for not taking the surcharge off. The Australian people wanted us to do that. Many of them- I believe by far the majority of them who are thinking and responsible Australians- realised that because of all the money the Government is handing out at the moment it could not possibly take that surcharge off. But if the Government introduced the best health care system available- with the best technology- the best education system and the best social welfare system, our taxes would go up tremendously. The Australian people have said, and the Opposition has said, that they do not want that. The Government has interpreted the attitude of the Australian people to be that they do not want high taxation. The Government is being forced into the position of having to rationalise and make cuts in health care costs.
Mr Barnard made an extraordinary statement which, I believe, indicates something about Mr Barnard. He was being very critical of the Commonwealth’s freezing of hospital costs. In the Mercury of 26 May, Mr Barnard is reported as follows:
If there is no way the Commonwealth can be persuaded to change its mind, then it is inevitable in this State and every other State that there will have to be some rationalisation in the services we provide. ‘
I do not know whether Mr Barnard has a clue as to what the word ‘rationalisation’ means -
– Which Mr Barnard said that?
-They are both Labor. This Mr Barnard is the Minister for Health in my State. If he does not know what the word ‘rationalisation ‘ means perhaps he can be forgiven for making that statement. But if he does know what the word ‘rationalisation’ means, he has made a statement with which I concur completely. Rationalisation means the more efficient use of the moneys available, and with that I would certainly agree.
-One can only say that with the carriage of these two Bills, the final nails have been driven into the coffin of Medibank. The coffin has been lowered; the mourners have left the scene. We on this side of the chamber believe that Medibank will be resurrected as it was on another memorable occasion. It may take a little more than three days, but it will be resurrected. That is our pledge to the people of Australia.
It is not my intention to deal with all of the proposed changes in the two Bills but purely and simply to deal with a rather small section of one of the Bills, namely, the National Health Amendment Bill 1979, in relation to the Isolated Patients’ Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme. I think that if we have ever seen a scheme that has been drawn up in haste it must surely have been this scheme. Despite the fact that people in rural areas have been clamouring for assistance of this type over many years, the introduction of the scheme was belated. Although, as I said, it was urgently needed it was badly drawn up. I do not quite know where to lay the blame. As I have said before, this is a recurring theme in country areas. I know that many public servants in this city will say that they live in a somewhat isolated area when compared with other areas throughout Australia. It appears to me that the architects of this scheme have lived in isolation from the rest of Australia. When they drew up the rules for this scheme they were not aware of what they were doing. It is human to err. I am not blaming anybody, but I think the Department of Health or whoever is responsible for these sorts of schemes should look deeper into these sorts of schemes before they start drawing boundaries on maps.
The original legislation covering the Isolated Patients’ Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme provided that people residing in a municipality in which 50 per cent of the population were more than 200 kilometres from a capital city or a city with a population of 100,000 would be eligible for assistance under this scheme. As I said earlier, it may well be that public servants in Canberra are isolated. They presume that because Canberra has all sorts of grandiose health services, which are very necessary, every other city with a population in excess of 100,000 would also have similar health facilities and personnel. Of course, that is not the case. I would like to quote from a letter that I wrote earlier this year to the Minster for Health (Mr Hunt). It states in part:
In the explanatory notes pertaining to the scheme (page 3) -
That is the scheme to which I have referred-
I refer to appliance and splint centres, neuro surgeons, amputee clinic, spinal bifida cases, cancer, leukemia and congenital complaints. It is also reported to myself that orthopaedic services are insufficient in Geelong in public hospitals.
On the information provided it does seem that most children in the area, and I guess throughout Victoria, are referred to specialists in Melbourne operating out of the Children’s and other hospitals.
I therefore submit that most families in this area are precluded from benefit under this scheme because of the Geelong link or tieup and ask that consideration be given to an amendment to allow the physical and actual situation as it appears, to be the criteria, rather than non factual criteria.
In the specific case of the Borough of Koroit, 1 believe they have a case even under the present guidelines, that is the 200 kilometres and SO per cent of population. The distance from the Koroit Post Office to Geelong, according to my knowledge, is 210 kilometres, and that being the case, the total population of the Borough would reside within the guidelines.
I find it very hard to understand how any person drawing up guidelines or boundaries under such a scheme could leave outside the scheme an area that was actually within the parameters or the guidelines set out. Three weeks later I received a letter for the Minister in which he stated, in part:
My Department has recently completed a review of the Scheme following its first few months of operation and one of the recommendations which are currently under consideration by the Government is that the prescribed ‘nonisolated’ areas should be reduced so as to encompass only the metropolitan areas of the mainland capital cities (excluding Darwin and Canberra) . . . The exclusion of Koroit Borough from the Scheme was done inadvertently and action will be taken to amend the Regulations.
I find that somewhat hard to accept. One or two other matters in relation to the same scheme will be ironed out or amended by the Bill that is being debated at the moment. The scheme can be only improved by those means.
Another minor anomaly in the scheme based on municipal boundaries existed because of the fact that municipal boundaries are rather like the proverbial dog’s hind leg. In my part of the State, where I know the municipal boundaries rather intimately, patients living in areas further away from Melbourne could have been excluded from the scheme over and above those who are closer to Melbourne and/or Geelong. This was due to the fact that municipal boundaries dart hither and thither, follow roads, creeks and fences and go willy-nilly across paddocks because the old parish boundaries were drawn up 120, 130 or 140 years ago. It appears to me from my interpretation of this Bill that these problems will be overcome by the amendments it contains which will allow any patient residing more than 200 kilometres from the Melbourne General
Post Office to come within the ambit of this scheme.
As a result of reports coming to me I wish to refer to the previous requirement that departmental approval be given before a patient can undertake travel. This has created hardships, particularly for young mothers and fathers with small kiddies and particularly in the context of a rushed trip to Melbourne and/or Geelong in an emergency. As I understand it, to obtain departmental approval a patient had to go to his local general practitioner and receive the okay. As far as I know, the situation that prevailed in Victoria in relation to the Children’s Hospital- which is where the large specialist centres are- was that once a patient was referred by his local general practitioner to the specialist, the line of communication precluded the general practitioner. It was on a person-to-person basis between the specialist and the patient or the parents of the patient so that in many cases there was no requirement for the patient ever to go back to the general practitioner. As I said, that requirement of having to go back to the general practitioner was somewhat onerous and hard to achieve in emergency cases.
– I am not going to say a great deal, but I want the Government to listen very carefully to what I say and to take it back to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and to the Cabinet. The legislation that is before us is a further blow to families, particularly to the single low income family. These families and families as a whole have been reeling from the lack of attention given to them and from the failure of the Government to restore the value of family allowances which, as a result of cost increases, have been eroded by 32 per cent since they were introduced in 1976. The Prime Minister at that stage said, in his memory, those allowances were the greatest policy initiatives ever taken on behalf of families. But when they were analysed subsequently it was seen that they really meant nothing. There was no advancement because of the abolition of the rebate scheme. Still the allowances have not been restored to their original value and still they have not been indexed. The spouse’s rebate stands still at $597, which is about what a farmer can claim for two sheepdogs, I think. Amongst other things, the high cost of housing for families is continuing. But this Bill scraps the 40 per cent Commonwealth subsidy on doctors’ fees and implements moves which will increase bed charges in public hospitals by 25 per cent. Of course medical and hospital insurance fees will skyrocket, and this will be a further blow to families.
I want to say this: There will possibly come a time when my vote in this chamber may affect the continued existence of a particular government. Unless the Government takes urgent action to do what it said it would do, that is, support the family, I certainly will be viewing my position. Many Government statements have been made. Cabinet leaks have indicated that there will be income splitting for the purposes of taxation and that possible action will be taken to help families. All these things have raised expectations amongst the families of Australia. I know because I get the feedback very strongly. The Government would be well advised to heed these cries from the families who are being disaffected and take remedial action.
-The Senate is dealing with the Health Insurance Amendment Bill 1979 and the National Health Amendment Bill 1979. Both these measures have been discussed and debated in detail in another place as well as having been debated for some little time here. I listened carefully to the last speaker, Senator Harradine, and I assure him that many of his colleagues in the Senate understand and share his concern for the family, for its place, and for the stresses under which families are operating more and more in Australia. I say no more than that. A number of people are anxious to examine issues of horizontal equity, and I will come back to that later in another sense. Those issues of horizontal equity include the capacity of families to enjoy the same standard of living as that enjoyed by single income earners with no responsibilities. We are aware of the problems. A number of us are working in that area.
My colleague Senator Walters has dealt with some of the details ofthe Bills as they affect personal health costs. She dealt particularly with some of the measures brought down by the Government. It is important to bear in mind, however, that these Bills were brought in by the Government as part of a mini-Budget. The Bills are revenue measures and at the same time give new benefits in certain areas. The details of the Bills have been discussed adequately here and in another place. They must be seen as part of an economic statement by a Government anxious to proceed responsibly in its primary task of financial management for a nation.
I wish to refer particularly to a couple of matters related to the Bill. Senator Walters indicated that there is a need to discuss the new nursing home provisions. There are many kinds of inequity in society. There are issues of vertical inequity- the kinds of issues where people have the same needs but different resources and therefore certain people cannot satisfy their needs adequately. But equally there are issues of horizontal equity between people who have the same income but whose needs might be different. Different kinds of issues in the nursing home area have been particularly galling over a period. There are pressures on our time but I was surprised that Senator Ryan did not point out the fact that the proposition in this Bill to introduce a system of asking nursing home patients, wherever they are being nursed, to make payment for those services is a perfectly equitable measure.
– We are opposed to it.
-Senator Ryan says that the Australian Labor Party is opposed to that measure. She might be interested, if I remind her of it, in what her colleague in another place, the honourable member for Prospect, Dr Klugman, said when speaking in the debate on this legislation in that House. He is recorded at page 2845 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 4 June as having said:
I realise . . . that it is a question of equity, that there are similar people in nursing homes who have to contribute $50.75 a week or $7.25 a day towards their upkeep and why should not people in public hospitals make a similar contribution? There is that point to the argument and I accept it.
I think that Dr Klugman ‘s point is one from which we cannot get away. We have had in this country a system under which we have said to people: ‘There is a provision for nursing home care on a contributory basis’- the contribution is argued and fixed in the Federal Parliament from time to time- ‘but you will pay only if you are in what is called a nursing home; you will not pay if you are in what is called a public hospital ‘. This has brought about some distortions of its own in the whole system of institutional care.
Senator Walters talked about the number of hospital beds in excess of requirements. Some of them are not hospital beds at all; in fact, some of the so called hospital beds around this country are nursing home beds which incorrectly are called hospital beds. They are operated at a level of luxury and staffing as if they were hospital beds. That is not necessary. They divert resources unnecessarily from other areas.
Patients, allegedly hospital patients, are sitting in those hospital beds. They are in fact in need of aged persons’ care because they are frail. Their need is real enough and the beds are there, often in small country towns. That they should be used is fair enough. But why is it wrong, if they are nursing home patients as we understand the term, that they should be properly classified in that way? Their sisters and brothers in nursing homes already make a contribution. Is the Labor Party seriously suggesting that it is all right for a contribution to be made by a nursing home patient in a nursing home but it is not proper for such a contribution to be made by a nursing home patient who happens to be in a spare bed in a public hospital? That argument defies any kind of logic. The Bill at least will pick that up. To the extent that it will free some resources to help other people in need in the health area, I think it is something which we should promote. It should also help in getting a more realistic measure of the number of hospital beds which are really being used as hospital beds in the different States and we might be able to plan our health services with some greater degree of reality. Rather than trying to close down whole institutions, we might come to realise that in some of the small towns in my State the institutions have to be kept because they are valuable. But we should come to regard them for what they are- as valuable places for long-term residential care of the aged who do not want to leave their district.
Once again, in all these types of debates we see confusion between health care, on the one hand, and health financing on the other. The financing in the health system is no guarantee of any kind of outcome at all. You can have the best finance system with the worst outcomes. What matters is the kind of care and the structure within which it takes place. The financing issue- and I am speaking from my place- is in fact a question of who pays what from which sector of the economy. So if $6 billion is being paid, which sector it comes from is really a secondary question, though an important question. A lot of the changes about which people become so passionate are questions of intersectoral transfers of cash. There is nothing in these measures likely to increase total health costs. There is something in these measures which hopefully can lead to a decrease in costs.
I particularly welcome the proposed hospital inquiry. This inquiry provides the possibility for more effective and more appropriate use of” our resources and especially of our hospital resources into which so much of” our effort and where so much of the money goes. Less acute hospital beds would bring us back into line with other countries. How is it that the Canadians can get by with 3.1 acute hospital beds per thousand in Ontario and we in Australia seem to need 6.5 per 1,000 people. We are over-bedded in terms of hospitals in this country. Until we start to identify this problem and work towards some proper bed-population ratio, we will never come to grips with the health care problem. When I listen to some of the arguments put up in this debate in both Houses by Opposition members and senators, I ask myself: Are they responsible and are they in pursuit of some social goal. I cannot determine what social goal is being pursued. I see the debates as a stunt because in every case with every measure we put up here what we get from the Labor Party Opposition is that it opposes every tax measure and every attempt to raise income. It opposes every measure that does not increase outgoings. It wants more services in health, more in welfare and less taxes, if you please! A simple rule of public finance is that if that is done to the system, it cannot be paid for. It is not credible and it is not responsible.
The amendments which have been moved by the Opposition are identical to the amendments which it moved in another place. The amendments to each of these Bills have the effect of negating the Bills and their goals. They have the effect of negating the purposes of the legislation. For that reason, the Government is unable to accept or agree with either of the amendments and we will vote against both of them.
– I realise that my name is not on the speakers list but I cannot let this occasion pass without answering some of the comments that have been made by Senator Baume. Senator Baume has accused the Labor Party of opposing every measure brought into this Parliament. In his concluding remarks he said that we opposed increased in taxes and that by doing that we were preventing people from being provided with the services to which they were entitled. But Senator Baume must realise that a solemn promise made by his Government was that it would not increase taxes and that it would, in fact, lower them. So he cannot use that as an excuse to try to blame the Labor Party for opposing this Government ‘s tax measures.
He also must remember that the Government made a solemn promise in 1975 that it would not interfere with Medibank. It was a solemn promise made to the electors and it has been broken. As Senator Primmer has pointed out, we are now witnessing the final burial of Medibank. Yet, Senator Baume gets up and tries to make excuses for it and tries to blame the Labor Party, by saying that the Opposition opposes any tax increases but cries out for better health services for the people of this nation. In his speech he also mentioned some of the small country towns in his area where he thought there should be better facilities for elderly people. But he did not go on to answer my interjection why the Government cut down on the $4 for $1 subsidy for elderly people’s homes. That scheme was in operation when this Government came to office. The necessary facilities for elderly and sick people in country areas and in the major towns and the cities cannot be provided because the Government has cut back from a $4 to $ 1 subsidy to $ 1 to $ 1 subsidy. People are at their wit’s end trying to raise money to build these facilities to house the elderly people of this community.
I agree with Senator Baume, and Dick Klugman agrees, that there should not be the discrepancy whereby people in nursing homes have to pay to occupy beds and people in geriatric wards in public hospitals get away free. I know of cases of people putting their parents in public wards and using their pension for their own benefit. They are paying off their homes or buying motor cars with this money. I agree with Senator Baume that the burden ought to be shared, but I do not agree with his use of this health legislation as a platform to attack the Labor Party. The Labor Government endeavoured to bring about justice for the people in need of health and medical care. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said during the 1975 election campaign that he would not interfere with Medibank, that his party realised we had to look after the ill, the sick and the needy. No sooner was his party in government than it set about dismantling the very thing which was set up by the Labor Government and which it supported. Of course, Senator Baume did not say today that the then Opposition opposed the Medibank levy when the Labor Government’s legislation on that was before this chamber. The then Opposition hoped that by defeating that measure Medibank would then go out the window but it did not. The Labor Government agreed with the then Opposition’s suggestion that there should not be a levy and in doing so kept Medibank in vogue. However, as soon as the present Government took office, what did it do? It imposed a levy, the very thing which we had in our legislation and which it knocked out in this chamber. So there again the Government is guilty of double standards.
No doubt honourable senators would have seen a cartoon in the Press the other day in which the Prime Minister was shown looking at himself in a mirror and seeing that he had a forked tongue. This is what we get from honourable senators opposite. Every time a Bill is debated in this place honourable senators opposite have to try to get themselves out of the troubles of their own making by accusing the Labor Party of opposing the Government’s legislation. We would not be doing justice to the people who put us in this place if we did not oppose a lot of the measures which the Government introduces. As I said earlier when we debated the income tax legislation, the Government deliberately broke its promise in regard to the surcharge. We are at present debating legislation which is the result of another broken promise. The Government said it would not interfere with Medibank.
We want to be on record as saying that we are opposed to the legislation. That is all we can do in this place because we do not have the numbers to do otherwise. However, we can remind the people what the Government has done. Many people, of course, will not need to be reminded, particularly those who have to pay through their pockets. Many parents will not be able to get medical care for their young children who need it because they cannot afford to pay doctors ‘ fees of up to $20. Children will suffer because their parents cannot afford to take them to doctors. Senator Baume says that we have a surplus of hospital beds. I forecast that in another five or six years we will not have enough hospital beds to take care of the sick children whose parents will not be able to seek medical care for them because of the legislation that the Government is putting through the Parliament tonight.
– I thank Government senators for the support that they have given to this Bill and also for the fact that they have take up many of the points made in this debate by the Opposition, which means that I do not need to reply in detail. I thank Senator Baume for his strong remarks. I must say that his chiding of the Opposition remind me of a recent occasion which I chided my children and said to them: ‘I really wish you would stop behaving like children’. After all, oppositions always behave like oppositions and oppose increases in taxation and argue in favour of every benefit.
Senator Ryan raised a couple of specific matters to which she sought a response. I do not think she has been given that response. The honourable senator stated that many people would incur significant expenses for services below $20, which is where the majority of services occur. It is a fact that under the new medical insurance arrangements that will apply from 1 September uninsured patients could incur a large expense in relation to individual medical services costing less than $20. That is the reason, or one of the main reasons, why in announcing the new measures the Minister for Health (Mr
Hunt) advised persons who are not insured to weigh up their personal circumstances carefully and decide whether it would be in their best interests to remain uninsured or to take out insurance with a fund.
It needs to be stressed that the protection that is given to uninsured patients who are genuinely disadvantaged still applies provided the services in respect of those patients are bulk billed and the patients are recognised by their doctors, or other professionals dealing with them as the case may be, as being disadvantaged. Benefits will be paid at a flat rate of 75 per cent of the schedule fee and these patients will not have to make any contribution towards their medical expenses. The new arrangements were made in an attempt to reduce the total national health cost which is around $8 billion for the current financial year. This level was unacceptable at the time when the nation faced a continuing situation of economic difficulties, and so the necessity to reduce the level of government subsidy to individuals who were able to pay for medical costs while at the same time the Government shows concern for pensioners and other disadvantaged persons in the community. In another point raised by Senator Ryan she questioned the Government’s intention in the arrangements for disadvantaged persons. The question of whether a person is to be regarded as disadvantaged is a matter between the doctor and the patient. This principle was stated frequently when the legislation was originally introduced and subsequently, and it will be maintained by the Government. I commend the Bills to the Senate. The Government of course opposes the amendments.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Ryan’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 5 June, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move as an amendment to the motion That the Bill be now read a second time ‘:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert: the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted so that registered funds will continue to pay the current appropriate benefit to eligible contributors for the full period of their stay in hospital ‘.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment. Question put:
The the words proposed to be left out (Senator Ryan’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to speak to the Bill. I thought that if I were not quick enough the question would be put before I could get to my feet. I wish to say a few words about clause 10 of the Bill. I did not enter into the second reading debate because I thought it would be sufficient for me to speak during the Committee stage. On the last two occasions we have debated this matter I have argued this clause and the right of Parliament over ministerial action. I think I made a sufficient impression because someone on the Opposition side was so interested in parliamentary control and democracy that he took up the matter. Surprisingly, the Minister was not opposed to giving power to the Parliament. He readily agreed to it. After I raised the matter in October last year some amendments were made to the legislation in November. But for some reason those amendments did not satisfy me. They did not satisfy Senator Walters, who went out of her way to try to obtain an amendment and apparently they did not satisfy the Minister. He has now partly rectified the position- I do not think anyone can complain- and the matter is under the control of Parliament.
But he has not corrected the main part of the situation. If my interpretation is wrong, by his original direction we have no control. But if my interpretation is correct, some more remedial action has yet to be taken to provide for complete parliamentary control. There is a prescription that when the Minister makes a declaration of revocation of a notice for disallowance he must place it before the Parliament and the Parliament has 1 5 days in which to disagree with it. If the matter is not called on for debate the direction or revocation will automatically not come into effect. There is a responsibility on the Government to bring on such a matter if there is a ministerial direction and if someone moves a motion upon notice. The Minister tried to justify originally the omission of this matter by saying that apparently the draftsmen took that part from Aboriginal land legislation.
In many Acts of Parliament there is a right of disallowance but there always seems to be different wording in order to obtain the same purpose. Why there is not uniformity in this matter I do not know. The only section which I can find which is out of step because it does not give the right of disallowance if Parliament will not discuss the matter is in relation to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Act. It is appropriate that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) should be in the chamber at present. I ask him why that Act is contrary to all the other prescriptions of the Government which provide for consideration by parliament of a disallowance of a proclamation in the national interest. I drew attention to the time when advisers to the Department agreed that that should not be the position. Because the prescription was unusual the advisers thought that the draftsman must have had some reason for putting it in in that way. However, as the. draftsman was away on holidays they could do nothing about the matter until the time of the next amendment, during which period they would find out the reason for the drafting. A committee had some correspondence from the Attorney-Genral (Senator Durack) and he seemed to think that the reason for the different prescription is to suit the desires of a particular department or Minister. Therefore, we find this variation.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was in the middle of an address that would have rocked the nation and brought down the Government! During the dinner break, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chanev), officers of the Department of
Health and Senator Walters took up a valuable half hour of my drinking time and convinced me that they saw my point. They were all earnest and sincere in trying to rectify the position. After further consideration and discussion of my complaint about the deficiency in the Bill it was decided that if it is possible it would be desirable to rectify problems on a future occasion. I was trying to correct an injustice to the Aboriginal community. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs took note of that point and promised to look into the matter. I remind him that a Bill to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act which is before the House permits him to amend any section of the Principal Act. The Opposition will be reluctant to accept excuses if the Government does not accept the argument that I advance on this occasion. As a result of that conference that took place during dinner, I will have to remain a backbencher of the Opposition party and not a statesman! We will have to put up with the Liberal-National Country Party Government a bit longer. I will take the argument no further.
– I acknowledge the fact that Senator Cavanagh gave up some of the two hours for quite work that he normally has between 6 and 8 p.m. while the rest of us are eating and drinking to explain to me and the officers of the Department of Health the problem that he has raised. I undertake to obtain some response from the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) on the point he has raised in relation to the Bill. Senator Cavanagh raised a matter relating to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, which is outside the confines of this debate. I have to admit, and I am prepared to admit it in public, that the matter which Senator Cavanagh has raised is news to me. I will certainly examine it during the recess and either discuss it with the honourable senator or write to him about it.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 May, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– Before I outline the subject about which I will speak this evening, I mention that we are speaking on the first reading of a money BUI. On the first reading of a money Bill in the Senate we are permitted to speak on matters which are relevant or not relevant to that BUI. I suppose that in some respects my remarks could be relevant to Supply BUI (No. 1) but I shall speak on matters that, in the main, are not relevant to the BUI. The matter that I mention this evening will not take long to traverse. To some honourable senators it may seem to be a very small matter and one perhaps not worthy of bringing to the attention of the Senate. I do think it is worthy of bringing to the attention of the Senate because even although it is a small matter, it is a very large matter for one person, who wrote to me about it. I imagine that there are other people in the community who find this to be a large matter in their lives. I will outline what I wish to speak about by reading the text of a letter which was written to me by a person in Queensland. The person is an aged pensioner who said how hard she was finding it to keep up with paying her rates. The letter states:
Would you be able to help the plight of the aged pensioners’ in regard to their town council rates. In Roma, a very ordinary house is rated app. $230 per year, we receive $25 concession allowance off this plus a discount if paid within a certain time. This still leaves over $200 for the pensioner to pay. Most of the aged pensioners have owned their homes for many years, and are now finding it very hard to meet the high rates levied in Roma. These old people like to live in their own homes as long as possible. We consider that we should be entitled to a concession of 50 per cent on our rates, which would help to ease the strain of trying to make our existence a bit happier . . . Trusting you could help us in our campaign to get a 50 per cent concession for aged pensioners, with lower council house and land rates.
There are probably many people in the community who find themselves in this position. It is perhaps pertinent for honourable senators to look at the factors that this Government could take into account in relation to the matters raised by this type of letter. Looking firstly at local authorities, it is not always possible for local authorities to grant concessions to pensioners. As I travel throughout Queensland I find that there is a great disparity from council to council and from shire to shire in the amount that they allow to pensioners as a concession on their rates. This is understandable because in some areas the shires and councils do not have the same income as others. In some areas there is a high pensioner population and if large discounts were allowed on rates it would be beyond the local authority to assist to any extent. Despite the fact that the local councils are perhaps the arm of government closest to the people, unfortunately the councils do not have the income that they would like to have to be able to give these sorts of concessions to people such as pensioners.
When senators receive letters such as this they should look not only at the direct plight so much but also the plight of local authorities throughout Australia- the plight in which they find themselves with little income to do the things that they would like to do and, if possible, to grant concessions to people like the woman who wrote to me. In other words, the Federal Government should look favourably towards local government. I realise that, at the moment, some money is flowing from the Federal Government to local governments, but perhaps it is not enough because these are the governments which are closest to the people and which provide the services that people need on a day-to-day basis. There are some constitutional problems in granting moneys direct to local governments but these can be overcome, and I believe have been overcome by previous governments.
Perhaps there is a better way of solving the problem about which this person wrote to me, the problem of having to pay high rates and not being able to receive adequate concessions. I think the better way of solving this problem is to set pensions at a sufficient level so that pensioners do not need concessions. If pensioners had a level of pension whereby this type of bill did not worry them, they would have a great amount of dignity within the community, would be able to pay the same as others in the community and would not be looking for concessions on rates and all of the other concessions which pensioners have to receive. It seems a pity to me that the pensions that we do pay are not sufficient for pensioners to pay their accounts as other people do throughout the community and do not, therefore, have to look for concessions like this.
I would just ask the Government to give consideration to the cases I have mentioned when it is having further Budget discussions. Six monthly pensions indexation has been widely mentioned in this place and outside. I again suggest that this should be given consideration so that people like the person who wrote to me find it much easier to pay the accounts that all people in the community have to pay.
It is quite easy for us in the Senate to forget what it is like for the pensioners outside. It is quite easy if we do not go and speak to the pensioners or if we do not receive letters from them. It is for that reason that I brought the attention of the Senate to this letter tonight so that the Senate can understand the plight of some pensioners. If we keep this in mind I am sure that the pensioners of Australia, the people who really depend upon us for a happy and contented retirement will be much better off and will have that retirement that they are looking forward to.
– I want to use the opportunity of the first reading of Supply Bill (No. 1 ) 1 979-80 to put before the Senate in a brief form a matter that is of concern to a large number of people in New South Wales who are shareholders in the New South Wales State Superannuation Board. On 27 January 1 978 Mr Francis Walker Stewart retired rather than face dismissal from the position of chairman of the State Superannuation Board of New South Wales. He retired on a superannuation pension that could be about $642 a fortnight.
The New South Wales fund has assets of about $ 1,200m and some 1 17,000 members. On 7 November 1978 the Auditor-General of New South Wales, Mr William Henry, on page 203 of his 1977-78 report, disclosed that the State Superannuation Board expected to lose about $363,850 on an investment of $910,000 in Rushcutters Court Pty Ltd and a further $382,959 as the result of an investment of $ 1.05m in Arcos Products Pty Ltd. The two companies are linked by common ownership. Thus the State Superannuation Board has suffered losses of some $747,000 in lost principal and accrued interest. On 7 February 1979 the responsible State Minister, Mr Ron Mulock, told the State Parliament:
I should inform the House that no actual loss of funds has been suffered by the State Superannuation Board as a result of Mr Stewart’s failure to fulfill his fiduciary duties to the State Superannuation Board and its contributions.
The facts accord with the statement made by the New South Wales Auditor-General. They do not accord with the statements of Mr Mulock. In 1960 the then Auditor-General of New South Wales investigated Mr F. W. Stewart’s performance regarding the sale of certain blocks of land in Clontarf. As a result, that sale was rescinded and it was recommended that Mr Stewart be demoted. However, by 1 972 Mr Stewart was chairman of the State Superannuation Board. Mr Stewart was the principal of Ardnalia Investments, a company which was registered on 30 November 1973. There is a group of companies known as the Arcos Group, controlled by a Mr Eisner, operating in New South Wales. The principal companies in that group are Rushcutters Court Pty Ltd, Green Valley Shopping Centre Pty Ltd and the Whitehall Hotel. Prior to 1968 the Eisner companies sought at least $ 1 m from the State Superannuation Board but were continually refused.
In the period 1969 to 1973 the Eisnercontrolled Arcos group received loans from the Board totalling some $3. 5m, several of which, as a Board memorandum of November 1973 clearly shows, were made on Mr Stewart’s decision against the advice of his professional advisers and when the companies were known to be in financial difficulty. These companies consistently defaulted on interest payments and yet received continuing further advances from the State Superannuation Board, which even permitted some Arcos companies to pay other debts before meeting their obligations to the State Superannuation Board. However, at the same time Ardnalia, Mr Stewart’s own company, advanced some $43,000 to one of these self same companies, Rushcutters Court.
By 1 May 1975 three Arcos companies owed $ 1 4 1 ,456 in interest arears. Yet on 7 May, on Mr Stewart’s own advice, a further $40,000 was loaned to Rushcutters Court and on the following day, 8 May, Rushcutters Court repaid $3,500 to Ardnalia, the chairman’s personal company. Further, Stewart, without the Board’s knowledge, actively assisted the same mortgagor company, which conducted a hotel, to tender successfully for the provision of accommodation for a Board residential seminar and had gone so far as to draft its tender for it. Finally, Stewart made an apparently false statutory declaration in connection with an application for a loan from a building society. Facts pertinent to this matter were presented to the Under Secretary of the Premier’s Department in a confidential letter dated 2 December 1977 from the New South Wales Auditor-General, a copy of which I have. It commences:
I refer to your letter of 28 November 1977 requesting on behalf of the Premier, that I pursue investigations into the actions of the President of the State Superannuation Board .
There are other details of transactions in this report, and I seek leave to table it for examination, which reveal the extent of these unsavoury transactions. I now say that when Mr Mulock made his statement that the State Superannuation Board had not lost any contributors’ funds, he was in error, perhaps unaware of the AuditorGeneral’s report, perhaps for other reasons. 1 assert that my contitutents have lost $747,000. I now call upon the New South Wales State Government to make a full and frank disclosure of all the facts relevant to this case and to respond to the call from the New South Wales Teachers Federation and others to give us the full story in regard to this matter. The State Government’s continuing silence over the loss of $747,000 belonging to their employees and to my constituents can no longer be tolerated. I seek leave to table the document from which I previously quoted, being a report from the AuditorGeneral to the Under Secretary of the Premier’s Department in New South Wales.
-I thank the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
With the concurrence of the Opposition, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill, together with the companion Bill, Supply Bill (No. 2) 1979-80, seeks interim appropriations for the services of the Government for the period 1 July 1979 to 30 November 1979, by which date it is expected that the Appropriation Bills forming part of the 1979-80 Budget will have been enacted. Supply Bill (No. 1 ) seeks appropriations totalling some $4,061m for the ordinary annual services of the Government. This is $2 17m, or 5.7 per cent, greater than the amounts provided in the Supply Act (No. 1) 1978-79.
I wish to emphasise that the Supply Bills are not to be interpreted as in any way anticipating what amounts might be included for any particular service in the 1979-80 Budget. The provisions made by this Bill have no regard to policy decisions to be taken in the context of the Budget. This Bill includes $ 100m for the advance to the Minister for Finance, which is the same amount as the provision in the Supply Act (No. 1) 1978-79. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
-I wish to speak to the motion for the second reading of Supply Bill (No. 1) 1979-80, and I want to raise two matters. The first relates to a question I asked in the Senate and comes under the provisions for the Department of the Capital Territory in the Supply Bill. I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) about hen quotas in the Australian Capital Territory and whether he recalled the letter he had written sometime ago on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to Mr Don Foster, one of our leading poultry farmers and Chairman of the Federal Council of the Poultry Farmers Association of Australia. I asked Senator Carrick the following question:
I now ask the Minister whether he is aware that hen numbers in the Australian Capital Territory are now reported to be 20,000 in excess of the figure set by the Australian Agricultural Council and that these birds are reported to be housed on the property of Parkwood Eggs Pty Ltd. Will the Minister request the Prime Minister to honour his promise, as set out in his letter of 6 December 1977 to the Australian egg industry, to the effect that he would strictly enforce hen quotas in the Australian Capital Territory?
In reply Senator Carrick said that he would look at the matter. My question and the Minister’s answer were reported in the Canberra Times of Tuesday 29 May. I asked the question on Monday 28 May. An article appeared in the Canberra Times on Wednesday 30 May headed ‘Quota means “stale and dear” eggs: Parkwood’. It stated:
Canberra people would have to pay dearly for stale interstate eggs if the Government enforced hen quotas set by the Australian Agricultural Council, the general manager of Parkwood Eggs Pty Ltd, Mr Jan Voestermans, said yesterday.
He was commenting on a statement made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, on Monday that the Government would look at reports that Parkwood Eggs was running 20,000 hens above its quota.
Mr Voestermans confirmed that the figure was correct but defended the farm by alleging anomalies in the quotas set by the agricultural council.
The States had quotas of about one hen per person.
The ACT has 0.7,’ he said. ‘We’ve been refused any increase in our quota for the last four years. We have got overquota hens to supply the demand. That is flexible.
If we have to cut down to the quota number there will be serious shortages of locally produced eggs.
This will result in surplus, stale eggs from Victoria coming into Canberra. And when that happens Parkwood will have to sack at least 10 people’.
The only result could be Canberra housewives paying more for eggs than anywhere else. At present Canberra eggs were the cheapest and freshest in Australia.
I sent a copy of that news article to Mr Foster and asked him for some comments. Mr Foster has sent me a copy of a letter which he sent to the Canberra Times in reply to that article. I have not noticed that the letter has been printed yet in the Canberra Times so I take the opportunity of quoting it. It is dated 1 June and is headed ‘Parkwood ‘s ‘ ‘ Quality in Question “. ‘ It states:
On behalf of the Australian egg producers, I would like to correct the misleading information supplied by the General Manager of Parkwood Eggs Pty Ltd under the heading Quota means ‘stale and dear’ eggs: Parkwood.
The facts are that Victorian eggs are selling below the price of local eggs in Canberra, thus keeping the price down. Interstate eggs are the reason why Canberra has cheaper eggs. Obviously the rapid sales of these interstate eggs indicate the eggs are of a high quality. It may be of interest to your readers to know that these interstate eggs are coming from the country towns in the north east of Victoria.
Parkwood ‘s General Manager’s statement, that eggs from interstate would be stale, is an insult to the intelligence of Canberra residents who would know that the bulk of their food supplies come from ‘interstate ‘.
The owners of Parkwood Eggs Pty Ltd send a very large number of eggs from their Griffith NSW farm to Victorian cities and town markets. One must assume from the General Manager of Parkwood Eggs remarks that these eggs having travelled interstate must also be stale.
Parkwood Eggs Pty Ltd have always claimed to be an efficient egg producing business, which makes the claims that they will have to sack 10 people if Parkwood Eggs return to their legal quota level, an interesting proposition. It is well known in the egg industry that one person should be able to manage a minimum of 5,000 hens, however, if Parkwood return their 20,000 hens over quota, then they will be forced to sack 10 people, a very poor rate of management- 2,000 hens per person.
Finally, in relation to the State quota allocation and the ACT quota, may I advise your readers that egg producers in all States have accepted a reduction in their farm bird numbers varying from 15 per cent to 30 per cent whilst the ACT received an increase in their quota during the same period.
J. FOSTER President
I do not think that I need to repeat the remarks I made in this chamber when I spoke to the legislation introduced by the Government in February this year which increased the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia levy from $1 to $2. I told the Senate, chapter and verse, how Parkwood Eggs Pty Ltd was selling eggs over the border into Victoria under section 92 of the Constitution and so white anting the Victorian Egg and Egg Pulp Marketing Board. But when the Victorian Egg Marketing Board brings eggs into the Australian Capital Territory the Parkwood company is very uptight about it. As Mr Foster has pointed out, every commercial poultry farmer in Australia has been prepared to accept a reduction of 1 5 per cent to 30 per cent in quota, whereas Parkwood was given an increase. It is not satisfied with that. We have talked about Parkwood having 20,000 hens over the quota, but the figures I have- I will not quote them tonight as Parkwood has admitted that it has 20,000 hens over the quota- but I know it has far in excess of that figure.
I know that correspondence has gone between Mr Ellicott and members of his own party on this matter. I am not going to divulge that correspondence, although I am aware of it. All I want to do is put on the record that the residents of Canberra are not getting stale eggs because the Victorian Egg Marketing Board is marketing eggs here. Mr Foster has clearly pointed out that the argument will not stand up when it is known that the proprietors of Parkwood Eggs, who have a farm at Griffith in New South Wales, are marketing eggs in Victoria. If they can rightly claim that stale eggs are coming into Canberra from Victoria, we can rightly claim that stale eggs are going into Victoria from Parkwood ‘s farm at Griffith. I leave the subject at that because I believe that the Prime Minister and Mr Ellicott will honour the promise that was made. I know that court cases are pending. Perhaps one of them has been decided, but there are quite a few more pending. If the matter is not rectified, I will have more to say about it in the Budget session.
The other matter that I raise is a matter that I have mentioned quite consistently in this Parliament since 22 February this year. I asked Senator Carrick a question which is recorded on page 169 of the Senate Hansard of that date in these terms:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the former Governor-General of Australia . . . provided with a free telephone service between his now country of residence, England, and Australia. If the answer is yes, will the Minister provide the Senate with the cost . . . during the writing and compilation of his book Matters for Judgment?
Senator Carrick told me to put the question on notice, which I duly did. I again raised the matter during the debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1 978-79 when Senator Guilfoyle was handling it in this Chamber. I was told by her that the answer was that the Department of Administrative Services was not responsible for that cost. I accepted that response. Yesterday, 6 June, I again asked Senator Carrick a similar question. I will repeat it:
My question, which is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is not asked without notice. He will recall that on 22 February of this year, approximately 15 weeks ago, I asked whether the immediate past Governor-General had a free telephone service between his present residence in England and Australia. I asked further, if that was so, what was the cost of telephone calls, particularly during the writing and the compilation of his book? As telephone accounts are rendered each six months, and the last one would have been submitted for payment by 3 1 January of this year, I again ask the Leader of the Government why I cannot get an answer to that question when a similar Question on Notice- concerning the telephone accounts of Harry M. Miller- has been answered. The answer given was that Mr Miller’s telephone charges had cost the Australian taxpayer in excess of $30,000 over a period of 12 months.
In answer to an interjection from Senator Primmer, I again said that the amount was $30,000. 1 went on to say:
Honourable senators will recall that Harry M. Miller was the entrepreneur who launched Mr Kerr’s book. Again I ask the Minister: Can I, before the House adjourns for the winter recess, be given a reply whether a free telephone service is provided to the former Governor-General and, if so, what has been the cost of telephone calls involved?
To my astonishment, the Minister said:
I will bring the question of the honourable senator to the attention of the Minister concerned.
As I said yesterday in my question, it is exactly 1 5 weeks ago that I put the question to the Minister. A moment ago somebody from the other side of the chamber interjected when I was quoting my question to ask whether it was a Dorothy Dixer? Well, it was not a Dorothy Dixer. It was a question without notice to Senator Carrick. He asked me to put my original question on notice, which I duly did. I am still waiting for an answer to it. If the Senate sits according to schedule, it will rise tomorrow night. What I am wanting to know is whether the previous Governor-General has a free telephone service. The fact that my question has been on notice for 1 5 weeks and I still do not have an answer leads me to believe that I would be right in suspecting that he does have a free telephone service. I am sure that if he did not have a free telephone service, the Government would have come back very quickly and said that the answer was no. It may well be that the telephone account is so enormous that it is taking the Department a long time to find out what is the actual cost.
Once again I ask whether I can have an answer to that question before the Parliament rises tomorrow. If I do not look like getting it I am afraid that I will have to speak again on this matter at the first opportunity tomorrow, whether it be on the first reading of a money Bill, or in the adjournment debate tomorrow night or in the early hours of Saturday morning, because I think I am entitled to an answer. I may even be mistaken in assuming that the previous GovernorGeneral does have a free telephone service, but surely, after having a question on notice for 15 weeks, I am entitled to an answer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 28 May, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I take this opportunity of saying a few words on this Supply Bill. In doing so, I remind the Government of what it did some years ago in blocking Supply and bringing down the elected government of the people. Apparently Senator Archer needs to be reminded because he is looking at me with some amazement. I remind him that that is exactly what happened. I would not like these Supply Bills to go through without some reference to that occasion and without saying that we were strongly opposed to the Senate rejecting Supply on that occasion and we are still strongly opposed to the Senate rejecting Supply. The matters to which I refer are now historic. I do not wish to enlarge upon them, but I thought I should remind the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster), who is sitting here so complacently as this Bill is going through so rapidly, that Supply did not go through so rapidly in the latter months of 1975. 1 hope that he accepts some responsibility for that. I hope he is embarrassed by it. If he is not, then he ought to be.
- Senator Georges has raised a very important question. He talked about the refusal of the then Opposition to allow the Supply Bills to go through in 1975. I think it should also be remembered that in 1974 the government ofthe day was under threat that if it did not go to an election the then Opposition would not grant us Supply. We were blackmailed into going to an election in 1974, and of course we won that election. The same senators in this place tried the same tack in 1975 by going on strike. I am always annoyed when I hear Government senators severely criticising trade unionists for going on strike to get some justice, as the very same senators who are so vocal and critical of the trade union movement were quite happy to go on strike in the Parliament and hold up a duly elected government, a government that had been elected twice within three years. Often they will stand up in this place and say that we did not do what we promised. I think the people ought to be reminded that, during the Labor Government’s three years in office, it had to face two elections because the people who sit in government now went on strike in this Parliament. First they blackmailed the Whitlam Government by indicating that if it did not go to the people they would refuse supply. When Labor won that election it had to face the same thing again in relation to its Budget Supply Papers in 1975.
– in reply- I thank honourable senators for their comments in relation to Supply Bill (No. 2). The Bill seeks funds for the period 1 July 1 979 to 30 November 1979. I acknowledge that it is the same class of Bill as that which- I do not know that the words Senator Georges used are quite accurate, but to use similar words- brought on a crisis in earlier years. When Senator Georges looked back to those earlier years, as a Victorian I thought he was going to take the Senate back to the time when the Australian Labor Party rejected Supply in the Victorian Parliament. For a moment I thought we were going to find out in actual fact how Labor did that at that time. However, I have noted over the last couple of days that Opposition senators have said that they would love to have the opportunity to find themselves with a majority in the Senate to see whether they could do the same thing. I think that too would be an interesting exercise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I bring up the tenth report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
-Mr President, earlier this day I gave notice of motion to enable the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment to be lodged with you during the recess. Copies of the report are now available. Therefore, I now bring up the progress report from the Committee on the continuing scrutiny of pollution relating to the River Murray.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to withdraw my notice of motion and to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
-I withdraw the notice of motion in my name relating to the presentation of the report, and move:
That the Senate take note of the report.
The report is on a very important subject which is of interest to many senators. I hope that during the winter recess senators will have an opportunity to study its contents, and I seek the Government’s co-operation in ensuring that early in the Budget session an opportunity is made available for a full-scale debate. I therefore seek leave to continue my remarks on the resumption of the debate.
– I move:
In reply to the comments which have been made by Senator Jessop, I assure the honourable senator that, as the Minister responsible for the subject matter dealt with in the report, I will do all in my power to ensure that the Government takes up the suggestion and makes available time for debate at the earliest opportunity in the Budget session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 5 April, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Australian Labor Party supports the provision of financial assistance to the States for the upgrading of the mainline railway network. The Opposition sees the provision of this assistance as a matter of considerable importance, and to this extent there is a common approach to the central aim of this Bill- the National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Bill. Naturally, the Opposition will not be opposing the legislation. However, whilst the aim of this Bill is commendable, the paltry sum of money that is made available in the Bill makes a mockery of that aim. Over the total five-year period which the Bill covers a maximum sum of $70m is to be made available to four States, namely, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. I will make some reference later to the fact that South Australia and Tasmania are not included in the proposed allocation. If the money is distributed equally, an amount of only $14m will be provided to four States in any year. In the 1 978-79 Budget an amount of only $3m for each State has already been provided to assist the States in the upgrading of mainline operations. Generally, and in particular during this financial year, the sum provided is tiny in comparison with that which is needed to provide an adequate rail system in Australia.
I do not think anyone would disagree that society today requires a modern public transport system which, of course, includes a modern railway system. If the living standards of our consumer society are to be maintained it is obvious that a good deal needs to be done to improve our facilities for conveying goods from one part of the country to another. If we were to look back in time we would realise that the impetus for the great industrial development in this country took place following the provision of railway systems which were constructed in the last century principally by the States. The Commonwealth Government subsequently accepted responsibility for the establishment of a national railway network. Unfortunately, we now see that our railway systems have declined very considerably because of the problems associated with backing financially our public rail systems.
As a result of post-war development we have seen the emergence of a new phenomena in Australia and that is, of course, the private transport system competing with, and offen running side by side as well as complementing the public railway system. We have seen the development of major private sector operators. Whilst there are many small companies it must be said that three or four companies stand out. They are IPEC, Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd, Brambles Holdings Ltd and Mayne Nickless Ltd. Those companies appeared on the scene in the post-war years, and they are companies which have been very profitable in the transport area. This indicates that the private sector has perhaps been more aware of the profitability of and the need for an efficient transport system than perhaps has the Government in the postwar years.
To illustrate the extent of the Labor Party’s commitment to public transport one has only to refer to the fact that in the brief three-year period of the Whitlam Labor Government energetic steps were taken by that Government to accept its responsibililties in respect of public transport. Not only did we spend great sums on urban public transport, but also we very generously offered to accept the financial liability of the States’ railway systems. South Australia took up the offer with respect to its railway system outside the metropolitan area, and of course that has been a great boon to the State’s finances. Similarly, the Tasmanian Government accepted the offer of the Commonwealth when the Whitlam Government was in office. That State’s railways are now the Commonwealth’s responsibility. I do not think there is any question that through the years and, indeed, in the recent period when it was in government nationally, the Labor Party has accepted the important principle that the Commonwealth should be responsible for funding the upgrading of our main line railway systems.
According to the Bureau of Transport Economics, the Sydney-Brisbane route, one of the most congested main lines in Australia, requires upgrading at an estimated cost of $2 1 m in 1 976 and $26.8m in 1978. Bureau of Transport Economics’ estimates can be found for other vitally needed services. In 1979 dollars they amount to something like $12m for the extension of crossing loops on the Adelaide line between Melbourne and Serviceton and $7.8m for upgrading the Sydney-Melbourne line. The estimates for the three projects amount to something like $46m. These figures include only the cost of constructing the necessary crossing loops and some other extensions on the lines. They omit completely the cost of the necessary replacement of old wooden bridges- which necessitate in this day and age special speed restrictions, considerably delaying main passenger train journeys and other vital aspects of line upgrading.
By comparison, the Public Transport Commission in my State of New South Wales has committed $200m to upgrading its many lines, particularly the main lines. In its first year of operation it spent $43m, of which $7.6m was spent on the purchasing of mechanised track machines alone. Thus, even for the few projects mentioned above the true cost of proper upgrading, together with the purchasing of modern rolling stock, may well exceed the $70m allocated by this Government for the upgrading of all main lines in the four nominated States. Of course, no mention is made of the other States. The legislation, in particular section 42 of the principal Act, is so broad as to allow the Minister for Transport to pick and choose just how he wishes the paltry sums that are provided on a yearly basis to be allocated to different projects. The legislation allows an open field for the Minister to allocate this money- not in the national interest. We have heard some concern that this decision should not be left open to the degree that the legislation allows. The money may then be spent in the interest of attracting votes, a situation not without precedent for the present coalition Government. Even if the money is deployed in the national interest it still is not enough. For example, no funds are provided towards the creation of the much needed high speed rail link between Canberra and Sydney. Even with the existing service, demand often exceeds supply.
Our inquiries show that the cost of a high speed train link which would cut the travel time from five to three hours would cost about $35 m, plus rolling stock. Where are the funds to come from for this? Obviously they can come only from the Federal revenue. We have seen this Government continuing its obsession with deficit budgeting, a feature which from time to time has been exposed by members of conservative governments. I refer particularly to W. C.
Wentworth, a former Liberal member from New South Wales, and Sir William McMahon, who have pointed out that the provision of this sort of public facility by which public assets are created which are of lasting benefit to the community should not be seen in the context of deficit funding.
The presentation of this Bill has occurred in a way that fails to examine the national transport problem of Australia. There is no indication, for example, that this money is to be co-ordinated with spending on the whole spectrum of national transport services, but it is vitally necessary that such co-ordination should take place. Nor is there any indication that ancillary funds will be provided to improve the services at the terminals of the upgraded main lines. Without such funds, the bottleneck simply will move from one point to another. Nor is there any indication of the role that the Australian National Railways is to play in the new scheme or what funding it is to receive for new projects. Clearly this Government plan does not appreciate the vital role which the Opposition suggested it should appreciate that railways should and will have to play in Australia’s future.
What, then, is the Government’s motivation for the Bill? The overall transport strategy that this Government follows is revealed in a series of reports recently put out by the Australian Railways Union National Office Research Project into Railways and Transport in Australia. These reports cogently show that the Fraser Government has been working to encourage and accelerate a fundamental restructure of Australian transport. The final objective of this transport reconstruction is to use national standard gauge interstate main lines as a backbone for a new concept- a national inland transport system. Coupled with this national standard gauge network will be a few well developed intrastate lines for the collection of mineral and rural products. In this scheme, the rail ‘s only other role would be urban passenger operations in the capital cities. The rest of inland transport in Australia would be serviced by road transport without rail. This seems to be the Government’s plan. In this conservative Government’s plan, Australian inland transport is to be handed over to the major freight forwarding companies, Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd, Mayne Nickless Ltd and Brambles Holdings Ltd. The next few years will see the large scale closure of rail lines and services at a level far beyond what the Government is prepared to discuss in the second reading speech orin debates in the Parliament.
The restructuring which has and which is intended to occur is based on the naive economist considerations of the British Beeching and Victorian Bland reports. Let us look at the case of Victoria to give but one example. Sir Henry Bland proposed that the railway protection measures, operative since the early 1930s through the Transport Regulation Board, be scrapped by the end of the 1970s. In his own simplistic and narrow way he believed that cutthroat free enterprise competition would cause the most economically efficient transport system to evolve. Of course that belief has seen the development of a private network system of transport operators which has proved to be highly profitable for those involved. Free competition has not brought the desired economic results. If we recognise today that in modern society transport costs have become a significant factor in the whole cost of production and distribution of goods, the simplistic notion of Sir Henry Bland has not been borne out in practice.
The now announced phasing-out of the TRB in Victoria is to coincide with the upgrading of the Sydney-Melbourne main line. The upgrading of this line will increase traffic capacity by 90 per cent and freight tonnage by around 100 per cent. The National Freight Forwarders Association dominated by TNT, Mayne Nickless and Brambles, has already guaranteed that it will direct freight to absorb this new rail capacity as soon as it becomes available. Thus the road haulage capacity controlled by the big freight forwarders and capable of moving 1.5 million tonnes per annum between Sydney and Melbourne will become surplus. When the Melbourne-Serviceton upgrading is completed, the road haulage surplus will be compounded even further.
All indications point to TNT, Mayne Nickless and Brambles deploying that surplus road capacity into the Victorian intrastate transport system. They intend to couple their access to freight at its point of origin with computer systems of freight co-ordination which they are now developing. They intend to operate a network of depots throughout the Victorian countryside. Those big freight forwarders are poised to take on the Victorian Railways Department. By providing the big trucks with flexible, looping itineraries and connecting them with wellequipped depots for rapid loading and unloading of completely palletised or containerised cargo, the big freight forwarders can destroy the isolated and vulnerable Vicrail freight branch and can wipe out a large number of new freight centres. That is what is on the drawing boards already.
Since the end of the War Victoria has had more than double the miles of railway per unit of area than any other State of Australia. The key to post-War transport development in that State above all others could and should have been the railways. That, of course, indicates the correctness of the Government’s action in making funds available, but it is doing so for the wrong reasons. Under the influence of the car lobbies and the road lobbies and under the rule of conservative governments, the opposite course has been adopted. The golden opportunity which was ours in the immediate post-War years has been squandered. By 1971 Victoria had over 60 per cent more bitumen or concrete road per mile of railway line than any other mainland State. The policies of this Government underlying this apparently pro-railway Bill are to continue and to accelerate the trend, not just in Victoria but throughout Australia. That policy is based on the narrow economic premises of the Beeching and Bland reports. It ignores the manifest and varied social benefits of providing an efficient railway network across Australia. The Government is chronically short-sighted in those objectives.
According to an article in the Australian of 26 July 1978, Esso Aust Ltd claimed that even if new oil had been discovered in Australia at that time the time required to develop new Australian fields would have been too long for us to escape the need to increase imports. According to Esso, an additional $6,000m on the import bill is likely. That will result in severe balance of paymerits problems. Esso has already called for reductions in Australian usage of commercial aircraft, electrification of railway lines and the development of alternatives to road transport. So here we have one of the major petroleum companies in Australia putting a different point of emphasis to the Australian Government. A $7,000m oil import Bill inescapably will mean further drastic contraction of Australian manufacturing and rural industry, skyrocketing structural unemployment and accelerating foreign takeover of Australia’s natural resources.
In the interests of the Australian people, we suggest that the orientation of the current program of transport sector restructuring should be reversed. It must be reversed. At a time when oil prices are rising inexorably and Australians are becoming increasingly aware of a looming shortage of liquid fuels, the extraordinary energy advantage of rail transport must be capitalised. I give an example of that advantage. A passenger car travelling between Canberra and Sydney incurs an energy cost of about 45 litres of fuel. Based on British experience, a high speed train will travel the same distance at an energy cost of about 4 litres a passenger. The pollution produced and the urban congestion caused by cars- and the energy consumption of cars- are many times what equivalent rail facilities cause.
Over 60 per cent of our primary oil usage is for transport. By 1 985 half our oil supplies will be imported. Trains, which are eminently capable of being electrified and of being highly energy efficient, can tap our vast resources of coal and remove us from the constant threat and pressure of oil energy shortages. Trains should be regarded by any government worth its salt as the transport ofthe future. The Government, with its reluctance to give incentives, its failure to provide co-ordination, the meagreness of its financial contributions and, I believe, its inability to understand its anti-social objectives, appears to have its priorities firmly rooted in the past.
I refer honourable senators to two important articles which have appeared in newspapers over the last month, one on 9 May and one on 10 May. The first one on 9 May quotes Sir Peter Abeles the Managing Director of TNT warning the Government of the fuel cost spiral and urging major government rail investments. He said: we are hopeful that government- both Federal and State- will, in the national interest and in the interest of preserving hydrocarbons, make major investments in railways over the next decade.
Of course, he is saying that because he wants the rail system to be subsidiary to the private transport operators. That is part of his strategy, but he is correct in suggesting that the Australian Government should accept some responsibility in terms of public investment in the railway system. There was a similar article written for a different purpose and written in another newspaper by Ken Thomas who now, of course, is well known as a transport authority, a person who, I think, was involved very heavily in the development of TNT enterprises until it was sold, but a person who now is involved as a transport consultant. He, of course, has pointed out the need for the railway system to become the primary source of transportation of goods and passengers in Australia. I think there is abundant evidence from those who have been engaged in the private sector activities, there is abundant evidence from those involved in the transport industry and there is abundant evidence from those associated with the Bureau of Transport Economics, to show that whilst the Government is paying some lip service to the principles of improving our national railway mainline services, in fact, the Government’s overall strategy is, as it is in all other aspects of its economic policies for this country, astray and going in the wrong direction.
Just as the Government has been unable to comprehend the social and economic forces that are operating nationally and internationally, just as it has been unable to comprehend that the private sector is never going to be able to take up the challenge of creating jobs and employment and development of our country, as it has singularly failed to do during the last decade or so, and just as this is part of a worldwide trend, so does this Government fail to understand the focal point of an efficient public transport system as being an essential requirement for any modern society.
Having said that in what, I would suggest, is a constructive critical point of view in respect of this legislation, the Opposition nevertheless supports the Bill because it does at least make some token step in the direction of providing some additional funds for the upgrading of our mainline railway system in Australia. It is too little too late, but it is better to have it than not to have it. We support the legislation.
– We are now debating the National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Bill. I am sure, sir, that you, as an ex-railwayman along with myself, would agree it is very seldom we get a chance to extol the virtues of the railway system and the role it can play in our transport. The Bill does provide for the upgrading of the major networks. It provides for the introduction of centralised traffic control and for the extension of the crossing loops on the Sydney-Brisbane section. Centralised traffic control, as well as helping with the handling of trains, also means that in a lot of cases we have not got to place men in isolated situations working around the clock. The trains are quite well handled by one man who sits beside a computerised console in civilisation. It does preclude the railways having to put men in these isolated conditions. The trains are handled far more efficiently and far more economically. The extension of the crossing loops, of course, means that far longer trains can be handled.
I understand that the physical condition of the Kalgoorlie to Perth section of the railway network is deteriorating rapidly and the money will rehabilitate and upgrade the line to the 66 kilogram per metre standard. There is to be an increase in the all up weight of trains from 800 tonnes-900 tonnes to 1,100 tonnes on the Mel, bourne to Sydney section of the line. Also there will be an increase from 1,000 tonnes to 1,400 tonnes on the Melbourne to Serviceton section as well as the implementation of centralised traffic control. The Adelaide to Serviceton section will also be provided with centralised traffic control and extension of the crossing loops.
I note that very little will be done to assist Queensland in the initial stage of this legislation. I guess this is because the national network stops at Brisbane. However, in reality Queensland has a railway system of its own which consists of approximately 30,000 kilometres of rail. Clause 4 (2) of the Bill states:
The Minister may, by notice published in the Gazette, declare a railway line (other than a railway line referred to in sub-section ( 1 ) that he considers to be of national importance to be a main railway line for the purposes of this Act.
My inquiries indicate that this provision covers the Queensland situation where vast amounts of freight are handled by rail and where export industries use the Queensland railway network. In many instances meat from as far north as Townsville is sent in containers through to Sydney for shipment overseas. I think Queensland can take comfort in the fact that its peculiar situation is covered and that the legislation will not apply only to the railway line into Brisbane from the south.
The movement of freight, and I suppose passengers, by rail is one of the most efficient means of transport in terms of fuel usage. I think everyone is becoming more conscious of the use of fuel in this day and age. I would like to quote a scale, which unfortunately is not in kilojoules, which is the modern term, but in British thermal units to show how fuel efficient railways are. The scale shows the amount of energy needed to carry one tone of freight one mile. An aircraft needs 42,000 BTUs, a truck 2,800 BTUs, a waterway 680 BTUs a railroad 670 BTUs and a pipeline 450 BTUs. So we can see that railways are the most fuel efficient method of moving heavy freight, and are not far behind in respect of passenger traffic. I must say that diesel electric locomotives are very efficient although, of course, we must question the wanton use of distillate when we consider the large amounts of coal that are available in Australia. I do not mean that we should go back to the old steam engine, as much as a few purists like me might like to do an occasional trip on an old steam engine. I must say that in my condition now I would not like to do such a trip too often.
It must be said that the old steam engine with the reciprocating rods on the side was a most inefficient method of rail transport and fuel usage, but I do look to coal as a means of generating electricity for use by trains. I think that Australia with its vast supplies of coal must look more to this source of energy. Electrical energy is not the most efficient method because it is necessary to convert heat energy to mechanical energy to electrical energy, transmit it and then convert electrical energy back to mechanical energy. Under such a process there is energy loss all along the line. However, much more must be done in regard to the use of electric trains in Australia bearing in mind the fact that coal can be used for the generation of electricity.
Senator Gietzelt dwelt at length basically on the road versus rail argument. I think it must be said, irrespective of the amount of traffic that is carried by trucks today- and I go back to what I said- that the railway is still the most fuel efficient method. It must be recognised that even though trucks may be in quite many cases quicker and more efficient in terms of handling small units of freight, we will get to the stage where because of fuel considerations railways will be preferred. The ideal situation is when large transport operators such as Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd and Mayne Nickless Ltd operate in conjunction with the railways. They act as the consigners and distribute at the other end but the railways cart the freight from point A to point B. This is happening now in Queensland, and I understand that it is happening with increasing intensity between Melbourne and Sydney. Another way of moving freight is by the piggy-back system, where the trucks drive on to flat cars and are carried to their destination by the railways.
– Like the Nullarbor.
-Yes, like the Nullarbor. That is a good example. We have to look very seriously at all of our modes of transport in terms of the most efficient use of fuel. At best, Australia could supply only 80 per cent of its fuel requirements. We will have to look at importing increasing amounts of fuel from overseas in the future. It is essential that we look at the most fuel-efficient methods of transport. There is no reason in the world why the railways cannot operate in conjunction with private enterprise and do it most efficiently. The railways have proved that they can carry freight efficiently from point A to point B and that they provide by far the best method of carrying bulk cargoes. I instance the carriage of iron ore in Western Australia; the carriage of the products from Mount Isa Mines Ltd; the carriage of coal to the power stations and to ports for our large export industry. Far from accepting the attitude of some of the prophets of doom in regard to the railways, I see a great future for them. They have a tremendous future. They have a lot going for them, but that does not mean that they can just go along in the old manner. Of course they have to update their methods, and this Bill goes some way towards doing that. I have instanced centralised traffic control, with more radio communication between trains and control, the computerised handling of freight, and the making and breaking of trains in shunting yards. All these things are in the future. We are going to need them and need them desperately.
In Queensland the railways have come in for some serious criticism because recently they have had to handle large numbers of stock. Unfortunately, as in every instance like this, stock die along the track. Nobody likes it, it is just a fact of life. What most people do not realise is that some stock die when they are being walked to the rail head. Some stock die when they are being transported by road. But for some unknown reason the Press seems to have fastened on to the fact that a few cattle die in train shipments that may carry 400, 500, 600 head of cattle. It is unfortunate that it happens, but that is certainly no reason to knock the railways. When large numbers of stock are being moved to markets, as is happening at present, there is no way in the world that any other form of transport could handle the numbers. The knockers ought to take a good look at the position. Instead of knocking the railways, they should give them all the support they can. Railways are the means of transport of the future. I support the Bill and commend it to honourable senators.
– The purpose of the Bill has already been outlined by the two previous speakers. It is to authorise the Minister to conclude agreements with the States of New South Wales, Queensland Victoria and Western Australia and to provide $70m up to 1 982-83 financial year. We have noted that $3m has already been supplied. Mr Charles Jones in the other place, who is an exMinister for Transport, noted that the Bill is unnecessary because since this money is a loan, it could have been supplied through the Loan Council. He went on further to say that the Bill is another example of the broken promises of the present Government. In 1 977 the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stated in a supplementary statement to his policy speech:
Interstate railways. A contribution of about $70m over five years beginning 78/9, will be made to a joint commonwealth-state program for upgrading state railways which are part ofthe national mainline system.
Mr Jones makes the valid point that anyone who read the statement would believe that this was a grant. There is no suggestion that it will be a loan; rather, it will be a grant. That is quite clear from the phrase ‘a joint Commonwealth-State program’. Mr Jones also compared the record of Labor in its three years of office with that of this Government. In two years the former Labor Government contributed $138m of a total program of $209m. That contribution was a grant. There was no suggestion that it would be a loan. It was not, as is this money, repayable.
If we go back to the 1 977 election campaign we see that both of the major parties promised support for the upgrading of State main lines. What are main lines? The Bill, in clause 4(1), defines a main line as a principal line connecting capitals in adjoining States. As Senator Collard has commented, it goes on, in clause 4 (2) to say that the Minister might declare as a main line a line of national importance. I will come back to that later.
It is unfortunate that neither the Bill nor the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), in his second reading speech, indicated the future role of the Australian National Railway commissioners. I do not think there is any doubt that there is a clear need to co-ordinate the various modes of transport within Australia. This point has been made strongly at all the Transport Ministers’ meetings. It has been made in other places as well. It has been recognised outside of the Parliament. In fact, the Australian Chamber of Shipping recognised it when it said:
There is ample evidence to suggest an urgent need to extend into some major ports the Australian standard gauge rail system. The Chamber considers that the provision of standard gauge railway services is a question of major national concern bearing in mind the need to ensure that port and trading facilities are: ( 1 ) flexible and able to use local and interstate rail vehicles;
easily accessible from the point of view of a national rail linkage in the light of future defence considerations.
I will come back to that because I want to draw attention to the need for linkage with a port, but that statement from the Australian Chamber of Shipping does draw attention to the need to coordinate the various modes. The role of the Australian National Railways itself is not clarified. Senator Gietzelt, my colleague, drew attention to that. Australia is ideally suited to a rail system. On the Nationwide program of 8 May the following comment was made:
Australia is ideally suited to an efficient economic railway system. We have a flat country with centres of population hundreds or thousands of kilometres apart. If we make railways do what they’re good at, in other words long distance freight haul, they should become highly profitable.
But towards the end of the program the following caution was offered:
ANR is in an ideal situation, lt controls all transcontinental traffic and traffic between Adelaide and Sydney and Adelaide and Melbourne. They also run the Indian Pacific, the Ghan, the Trans Australian and the Overlander. In 1975 they were set up as the framework for a modern national efficient railway system. In their charter they’re obliged to make a profit ultimately but their problems are enormous. In fact they’ve got to tackle over 100 years of rather unfortunate political history . . . it ‘s been a legacy of indecision and petty squabbling and perhaps nothing shows that up more than the different gauges.
The need for the railway network has also been covered by Senator Gietzelt and I shall not go over it again. But I would make the point that Thomas, the founder of Thomas Nationwide Transport, who is now a transport consultant, came up with a proposition for an overall rail system that I think is well worth repeating. The following is a quotation from a newspaper article:
My suggestion is for a scheme whereby at least a major sector of the railways can be run at a profit. I propose that an interstate rail authority, to be known as Austrail, be established on four principles:
It would handle freight only and would be required to run at a profit without subsidy.
In stage one it would handle over one-tonne lots only between the five mainland State capitals.
It would give a door-to-door service in active competition with the forwarding agents.
It would vastly reduce road maintenance, road facilities and energy consumption because, given fair competition, it would on its merits run most of the juggernaut interstate semi-trailers out of business.
Austrail would be a statutory authority, like the Australian National Line or Qantas or T.A.A. It would have a board of three commissioners, the chairman to be fulltime, appointed for the three years and then dismissed if they fail to reach the profit objective.
Austrail would progressively take over from the State railways and from the Australian National Railways the necessary rolling stock and other capital equipment at a reasonable price.
When you look at the railways, shown in schematic form on the map -
The map was included with the article: . . you realise that all that is needed to connect these five capitals with a standard-gauge (4 ft 8’A in) line is to supplement the existing inland track with a dual track from Brisbane to Wallangarra, a distance of only 240 kilometres.
The only criticism that I have is that it does not make any reference to connecting with the Northern Territory. I will come back to that again at a later stage.
Let me turn to the situation in the Northern Territory. I have already spoken of the bipartisan approach in 1977 to support the upgrading of mainland lines. At the present time in the Northern Territory and, I believe, in the rest of
Australia, there is this same bipartisan approach. Last week in the Senate, Senator Kilgariff presented a number of petitions which have been organised by the Liberal-Country Party in the Northern Territory calling for the building of the rail link between Alice Springs and Darwin. Of course, it is part of the Australian Labor Party policy in the Northern Territory, and has been for many years. It was also the aim of the Australian Labor Party when it was in government.
I would like here to refer to some statements made by Mr Charles Jones, the then Minister for Transport, when he was opening the construction work on the Tarcoola to Alice Springs rail link. Mr Charles Jones had this to say:
But the form of this ceremony is of little importance compared with what it represents, lt is a recognition of the important contribution that inland Australia has made to the development of Australia’s communications.
It also evidences a commitment on the part of the Australian Government to create an improved transport system for Central and Northern Australia and so improve the quality of life of those Australians who live in Australia ‘s ‘ Dead Heart ‘ and in its ‘Top End ‘.
Later in the same speech, he said:
Inland Australia’s transport achievements are still continuing. In the 1950s and 1960s we have seen the development of beef roads and the evolution of the road train. Commonwealth Railways has been associated with the latter development through its co-ordinated road-rail service which operates through Central, North and North- Western Australia. Today we are witnessing the commencement of a railway which itself represents a further step toward overthrowing ‘the tyranny of distance’ which has so long been a feature of Central Australia.
The Tarcoola to Alice Springs line is evidence of the Australian Government’s determination to provide an improved transport system for Northern and Central Australia. The narrow-gauge Central Australian Railway was built as a pioneer railway intended to serve an extremely small and sparse population. Little thought was given to the strategic importance that the line would assume in the event of an attack upon Australia (as in fact was the case in World War II ), or the vital role the railway would play in the development of inland Australia’s cattle mining and tourist industries.
A little later on, as late as May 1978, there was a report in the Northern Territory News which stated:
Mr Vern Dyason the General Manager of Commonwealth Railways has indicated that the Australian Railways Commission will recommend to Federal Transport Authorities that the Adelaide-Darwin railway link be completed. On the other hand there are indications that the Department of Transport does not believe that the amount of traffic would warrant a Darwin-Alice Springs link at the present time.
I sound that note of caution only because it comes from the report of the Commission. I will have something further to say about that at a later stage. I quoted at length what Mr Charles Jones had to say because he covered the whole approach to the Northern Territory including the need for the link with Alice Springs and the need for the further link from Alice Springs to Darwin. He touched on the major reasons including defence, tourism, the development of the mining industry, the cattle industry and so on.
Let us have a look at the situation in the Northern Territory at the present time. The situation that I have to describe is no great credit to the present Government. There was an original line gauge line from Darwin to Larrimah. In 1967-78 the Commonwealth Railways relaid the Frances Creek to Darwin section. This 145-mile section of the 3 1 1-mile line was put down with a heavier 80 lbs gauge. From then until the closing of the line there was a lot of track improvement. If time permitted I would go through the list of achievements of the North Australia Railway at that time. We saw houses being developed at Parap and amenities such as the hall which has been established as an institute of men. A wonderful workshop was built at Parap as part of the railway structure. There was continual upgrading and laying of ballast along the road. I will not bore the Senate with the details other than to say that during that time the whole of the line was upgraded.
In 1976 the government of the day- the present Government- decided to close the line. Actually, what it decided to do was to withdraw services and to maintain the line on a minimum care and maintenance basis. But what it actually did, of course, was to close the line. There was a terrific outcry. Mr Ryan, the man who had responsibility for the line in the Northern Territory Government- they were not called Ministers in those days- said that the line would be closed over my dead body’. Such was the strength of his feeling. He is not dead; he was defeated in an election. Nevertheless he had a terrifically strong feeling about the closing of the line, as did all the parties in the Northern Territory. Party members and public citizens came out and spoke about the matter. But the line was not maintained. The rails were dug up. They are loaded on the flat tops in the railway yard. The bridges have fallen into disrepair. The electrical systems have long since been unserviceable. The workshop which I mentioned- an excellent workshop- has been given away. The houses have passed to the State Housing Commission and the workmen have scattered. That was a shocking waste of resources. We had a good line that could have been used. There is no reason why we could not be using the line at present just as a commuter service. There is quite a number of new settlements in the area formerly serviced by the line. In one suburb- if I might call it that- there are 8,000 people. If that area had been serviced by a commuter service it would have meant that the rest of the line could be used later if necessary.
Let me give an indication of just one minor effect of stopping the rail service. Let us look at the transport costs from Alice Springs to Darwin at the time of the closing of the line in 1976. The cost of transporting a tonne of beer was $4 1 .5 1 at the old rate. The new rate is $58.83 per tonne. The old rate for insulwool and mattresses was $267.46. The new rate is $537.66. The rate for general cargo has jumped from $97.56 to $119.66. The rate for furniture has risen from $242.56 to $283.91. These are the short term effects of simply cutting out that brief section- 300 miles- of rail. One could imagine, without going into detail how cheap it would be to transport goods the full distance by rail. Of course, there have been many more long term effects. They are fairly obvious and I am sure that there is no need fo me to elaborate on them.
The pity of the matter is that it need not have happened. The decision which was taken- it was taken at the time of the Lynch mini-Budget- was apparently based on operating costs. That was most unreasonable because at that time- 1976- the major portion of the loss had been brought about as a result of Cyclone Tracy. For example, the iron ore from Frances Creek could not be transported to Darwin for shipment because the loading facilities had blown away and the wharf had been damaged. The railway property and equipment was not insured. The reclamation and rebuilding of that property and equipment had to be debited to working capital. Of course, after cyclone Tracy, there was naturally a fall-off in the amount of goods traffic. So I do not think that closure of the line was really needed. A case could have been put, as we put at the time, for the line to continue and to form the basis for later development.
What is the Federal Government’s responsibility in this matter? Section 14 of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910-73 imposes a duty on the Government to construct the line from Port Darwin to the South Australian border. Clause 21 of the Railway Standardisation (South Australia) Agreement Act 1949 requires the Commonwealth, firstly, to convert to standard gauge the Port Augusta to Alice Springs link. This was rescinded, as honourable senators would know, by clause 6 of the Tarcoola to Alice Springs Railway Act 1 974. Secondly, it requires the Commonwealth to construct a standard gauge from Alice Springs to Darwin and, thirdly, to convert the Birdum to Darwin line to standard gauge Here is a clear indication that the Federal Government has a legislative responsibility. Of course, it is not the only responsibility of the Government, as was indicated before when I quoted Mr Jones. The Government has responsibility for development, mining, tourism and the cattle industry which are all developing and which all need energy efficient and energy economic transport. I refer to the comments made by Senator Collard on this point. We need to develop a transport system that is not heavily dependent on oil. The Government has a responsibility for defence. Certainly, there is no need to elaborate on that. It has been mentioned by Mr Jones and I do not think I need to go beyond those remarks. It is interesting to note that in the statement by Mr Thomas, to which I referred, he talked about the financing of his scheme of Austrail and related it to defence in this way. He stated:
How to finance the upgrading of this existing inland track to a modern 80-knot standard? No problems. Call it defence.
As a start, put 1 ,000 unemployed men and women on to it, pay them the $300m we would save by cancelling one of the three already obsolete patrol frigates we are about to order from uncle sam for $900m (with planes) and let us enjoy a superb hot-shot inter-capital service while we are awaiting the next war.
Remember that, if war should come again, ‘greendog’-
I interpellate here and say that ‘greendog’ is the name of one of the truckies who were involved in the industrial trouble at that time- and his fellow-travellers will be grounded by distillate rationing. Remember the mighty part played by our railways in the last war. Remember that a peacetime infrastructure geared to war is every bit as important to defence as conventional armaments which rapidly obsolesce in any case.
Therefore, there is a responsibility for a national railway network to link all the capitals. There is a responsibility to develop trade, to use Darwin as the entrepot for Asia and to assist with the development of our empty north. Let us hope that the next Bill that comes into this place will have included in it a component for building the Alice Springs to Darwin line. Let us hope that this line will not be built on loan but on grant. The arithmetic has been done and the figures are quite realistic. It is ideal to start building soon because we would then stimulate the economy and, of course, we would provide employment for those who are unemployed. In conclusion, let me simply recap. The Government has a legislative responsibility. It has a responsibility to conserve fuel and energy. Railways are ideally suited for this. The Government has a responsibility for defence. The Government has a responsibility for development. The world swing is back to railways. Let Australia be part of this swing, with well planned networks, utilising our energy resources, and develop our country. I support the Bill.
– It gives me much pleasure to support this Bill for an Act to grant financial assistance to certain States in relation to main railway lines. The purpose of the BDI, as has been indicated, is to enable the Minister for Transport to make agreements with those States operating main line railways whereby section 96 interest bearing repayable grants would be provided for main line railway improvements. As has been said, $70m is to be provided over the five years 1978-79 to 1982-83 inclusive. An amount of $3m has already been appropriated for this program in 1978-79 and future years allocation will be determined by Cabinet. I think the Federal Government is to be commended for the attitude that it is taking now to main line railways in Australia. It is most obvious now that, with the development of Australia and with the fuel shortages that are being anticipated, the most economic way for the future carrying of freight throughout Australia will be by developing the railway main line system. There are many matters about which I wish to speak tonight but, as my time is limited, I will make brief reference to just one or two points. The first point I wish to make is in relation to probably one of the biggest- if it’s not the biggest- railway projects for at least the last two or three decades. I refer to the construction of the Tarcoola line, on the eastwest railway, to Alice Springs. I ask that a report entitled ‘Tarcoola-Alice Springs Railway’ be incorporated in Hansard, as I do not have time to discuss it.
The document read as follows-
TARCOOLA-ALICE SPRINGS RAILWAY
Construction of the 83 1 km Tarcoola-Alice Springs Railway is the largest single railway project to be undertaken in Australia since the completion of the Trans-Australian Railway 60 years ago.
It has the added distinction of being the first major publicworks project in Australia to be planned and designed in metric measurements. Survey and design commenced in 1970-71 using metric units anticipating the change from the old Imperial system.
The new standard gauge line is being built northwards from Tarcoola on the Trans-Australian Railway on a route generally ISO km west of the narrow gauge Marree- Alice Springs section of the Central Australia Railway, and generally outside or near the edge of the Lake Eyre drainage basin. It will by-pass much of the region that rendered the old line prone to flooding and washaways.
Construction of the original narrow gauge railway northwards from Port Augusta commenced in 1 878 as part of a project by the South Australian Government to build a north-south trans-continental railway between Port Augusta and Darwin. It was completed to Marree in 1884 and to Oodnadatta in 1891.
Forty and SO lb rails were used on unballasted timber sleepers and bridges were of wrought iron, designed to carry 8-ton axle loads. the Oodnadatta Railway was transferred to Federal control on 1 January 1911, under the terms of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910. The extension from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs was constructed from 1 926 to 1 929.
The section of narrow gauge line between Port Augusta and Marree was abandoned following the construction of the standard gauge Stirling North-Marree Railway which was completed in I9S7. Since that date Marree has been the transfer point for interchange of loading between standard and narrow gauge trains.
Alternative RoutesDeficiencies in the existing narrow gauge railway location became apparent early in its life and several proposals for alternative routes have been considered in past years.
In 1913 a trial survey was made from Kingoonya, on the Trans-Australian Railway, to near Boorthanna, some 250 km north of Marree. Again in 1925 extensive survey work was done on a direct route from Kingoonya to Alice Springs.
Neither of these routes would have been far enough to the west to avoid the multitude of creeks and rivers of the Lake Eyre Basin which cause so much trouble on the old railway, and which would require enormous expenditure on bridges and waterways to bring the railway to a reasonably reliable all-weather’ standard.
A principal factor which applied in those days was the need for a railway to be located where ample water supplies for steam locomotives could be obtained. This constraint disappeared with the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives in the 1950’s.
Following the heavy demands of the war years and the increasing tonnages since, it became necessary for the then Commonwealth Railways system to embark on a major upgrading of the Trans-Australian Railway and to give serious consideration to the future of the Central Australia Railway. Upgrading of the Trans-Australian Railway had first priority, because of the proposed standardisation works which were to make it part of the trans-continental SydneyPerth standard gauge connection. A 10-year programme of rehabilitation and upgrading commenced in 1 963.
At the same time, the possible relocation of the Central Australia Railway on a new route from Tarcoola to Alice Springs was envisaged and, in 1967, a detailed review of possible options was submitted to the Federal Government with the recommendation that the new Tarcoola-Alice Springs line be constructed to replace the old narrow gauge railway.
The three possibilities investigated were:
Upgrading of the existing narrow gauge Marree-Alice Springs Railways.
Construction of a standard gauge railway on the Marree-Alice Springs route.
Construction of a standard guage railway from Tarcoola to Alice Springs.
Financial and economic comparison of these alternatives clearly showed the advantage of the Tarcoola-Alice Springs proposal. Upgrading of the narrow guage line would have been at higher capital cost while still more vulnerable to flood damage and disruption, and still necessitating the less economic narrow guage operation with change of guage at Marree.
A standard guage Marree-Alice Springs railway would have been 50 per cent more costly than the Tarcoola-Alice Springs line, largely because of the great number of additional bridges that would be needed.
The proposal was examined, in conjunction with other aspects of land transport to Alice Springs, by an Interdepartmental Committee, which endorsed the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner’s recommendation and, in 1 970, approval in principle was given for the project.
New Railway Route-
The Tarcoola-Alice Springs route follows the shortest practicable which could connect Alice Springs to the TransAustralian Railway. At 83 1 km length, it is 40 km shorter than the old Marree-Alice Springs line.
For the first 450 km northwards from Tarcoola to Chandler, it follows high and mainly level ground between the Lake Eyre Basin and the Great Victoria Desert, diverging a little to the west of a direct Tarcoola to Alice Springs une to by-pass the rough and broken country of the eastern part of the Everard Ranges.
From Chandler to Alice Springs the route again lies with the major drainage systems of Lake Eyre and the Finke River, but crosses only three principal streams- the Alberga, Finke and Hugh Rivers- all at sites suitable for high level bridges.
Much of the line passes through mulga woodlands on sandly and red earth plains, interspersed by sections of undulating tablelands with their characteristic mantle of surface stones (‘gibbers’), and by a few tracts of sandridge country associated with the Great Victoria and Simpson Deserts.
The general elevation rises progressively along the route from about 150m above sea level at Tarcoola to 600m at Alice Springs. The terrain permits long sections of straight track with easy grades and curves of large radius. The ruling grade of 1 in 125 (0.8 per cent) was necessary over only a few comparatively short sections.
The general minimum radius of curve is 1,200m, but there are two curves of 1,000m radius. Curves with small total deflection angles have radii up to 4,000m. Half of the 1 10 curves on the route have total deflection angles of 10 degrees or less.
All of the survey work was undertaken by the SurveyorGeneral for Australia, under the engineering direction ofthe Australian National Railways (then Commonwealth Railways). Trial survey northwards from Tarcoola commenced in November 1970.
Extensive use was made of aerial photography and photogrammetric plotting for the survey work, and of” automatic data processing for the compilation of plans. The surveyors’ field notes were processed by the CSIRO computer in Canberra which produced tape from which, in turn, the Surveyor-General’s data plotter produced natural surface profile plans.
Australian National Railways engineering staff then supplied input data for earthworks design and the profile plans were re-processed to produce finished working drawings, including complete details of all vertical curves, heights of embankments and depth of cut, and earthworks quantities.
At 1.5 km per sheet, the longitudinal section required the plotting of over 5S0 sheets of drawings, each taking only a few minutes of actual plotting time on the automatic data plotter.
The new Tarcoola-Alice Springs Railway is being designed and built to provide a reliable ‘all-weather’ service on a standard gauge track featuring continuously welded rails and prestressed concrete sleepers for minimal maintenance.
It will be capable of carrying the 20-tonne axle load traffic of the Australian inter-capital rail network.
Construction began on April 12, 1975, when the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, performed a ‘turning of the sod’ ceremony at Tarcoola. In the ceremony he used the same wheelbarrow used for a similar purpose at Port Augusta in 1878 for the commencement of construction of the Port Augusta to Government Gums (Farina) Railway, which was eventually extended to form the existing narrow gauge Central Australia Railway to Alice Springs.
The construction of the new railway is now well advanced with earthworks, bridges and culverts being completed for more than 200 km, and track laid for some 160 km. The first 200 km section from Tarcoola to Manguri is expected to begin commercial operation later this year, and the line is scheduled for completion to Alice Springs during 1981.
July, 1977 Australian Transport
– The Commonwealth Railways initiated this scheme a few years ago. The railway, with a length of 83 1 kilometres, was to be completed in 1 98 1 . As the Federal Government has accelerated its spending on that project in the last few months, the line will now be completed in 1980. This rail track between Tarcoola and Alice Springs is to be an all-weather one and will replace the old narrow gauge line. As honourable senators have indicated tonight, over many years there has been the promise that this railway line would be extended through from the north to the south. There is a very real interest by people in the outback Australia, the Top End, Darwin and so on, in the completion of this line. Because the 83 1 kilometres of new standard gauge railway line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs will be completed in October next year, I believe the time has come for the Federal Government and the Northern Territory Government to consider whether the construction of this line should be continued on to Darwin.
As I have said, the Government has increased the priority of funds for the line to Alice Springs, which will enable the line to be completed a year earlier than expected. It is estimated that the line from Alice Springs to Darwin, if it were built now, would cost $224m. That is probably a very conservative estimate. The line, which is 1,530 kilometres long, would actually cost somewhere around $300m. This may seem a large sum of money. However, when one considers the benefits of an all-weather rail link on which people and goods can cross the continent in, say, some 36 hours and which will increase development in the north, one can see that it would be money well spent. Our ability to defend the northern coastline would be greatly improved and it would provide a quicker and possibly cheaper way of bringing in freight than would be the case by sea, which in the past has been proved to be unreliable, costly and subject to strikes-all of which factors threaten to retard the growth of Darwin and of the Northern Territory.
As the world is now entering a period of fuel shortages and more costly fuel, it is interesting to make a comparison between freight rates. It is estimated that to bring a tonne of goods from Sydney to Darwin by road would expend 105 litres of fuel. To carry the same volume of goods by sea would expend some 65 litres, and to carry them by rail from Alice Springs to Darwin 16 litres would be used. If one wants to extend that distance to the southern areas, one would probably be looking at the use of approximately 30 litres of fuel per tonne by rail. With shortages of fuel being imminent, if we are to bring about economies, it is obvious that for the future the Government must look to rail transport. An authority on transport in Australia, Sir Peter Abels, in an off-the-cuff address to a meeting of the Security Institute in Melbourne on Wednesday, 16 May 1979, said that he agreed that the development of our national railway systems has to be encouraged in the future. The people of the North are very aware of the necessity for this line. As Senator Robertson has indicated in the last two weeks, I have presented a series of petitions. These petitions have been signed by people throughout the Northern Territory- from Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and other places. The petition reads:
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 an 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 -
This petition is a plea from the people of the North to the Government that when this line to Alice Springs is completed, it should be constructed right through to Darwin. Admittedly, it will cost a great deal of money- some $200m to $300m. But I suggest that for the future development and defence of the North this would be money well spent. I wish to speak about the legal situation and the promise of the Federal Government in its agreement with South Australia. I have a document here entitled, ‘Railway Standardization (South Australia) Agreement Act 1949’ which outlines the present situation and a summary of the obligation to construct railways still in force under the Northern Territory Acceptance Act. I seek leave to have this document incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Railway Standardization (South Australia) Agreement Act 1949
Clause 2 1 of the agreement approved by this Act required the Commonwealth to-
convert to standard guage the line between Port Augusta and Alice Springs
b ) construct a standard guage line from Alice Springs to Birdum
convert to standard guage the line from Birdum to Darwin.
Paragraph (a) was rescinded by clause 6 (c) of the agreement approved by the Tarcoola to Alice Springs Railway Act 1974.
The only obligation to construct railways still in force under the Northern Territory Acceptance Act is that set out in paragraph 14(b) which is to construct a line from Port Darwin to the South Australian border.
As the Railways (South Australia) Agreement Act 1926 was repealed in 1 974 the obligation on the Commonwealth to construct a railway under that Act is no longer a Commonwealth obligation.
Under the 1974 Act the Commonwealth is obliged to construct a railway from Tarcoola to Alice Springs.
To the extent that they have not been already performed, the Commonwealth has obligations under the Railway Standardization (South Australia) Agreement Act 1949 to construct a line from Alice Springs to Birdum and to convert to standard guage the line between Birdum and Darwin.
– I also have a news release dated 8 May from the Treasurer and Minister for Lands and Housing of the Northern Territory Government. It relates to the Northern Territory’s grant submission to the Commonwealth Grant Commission. It includes a case for a freight equalisation scheme estimated to cost around $ 1 5m a year. It provides an illustration of transport costs to be incurred by the Federal Government and the Northern Territory Government over the years. I suggest that this would support the case for the continuation of the construction of the railway line from Alice Springs to Darwin. I seek leave to have this document incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows- 8 May 1979 Treasurer and Minister for Lands and Housing, Darwin
News Release April 24, 1979
The Territory Government’s submission to the Commonwealth Grants Commission includes a case for a freight equalisation scheme estimated to cost $ 1 5m a year.
The N.T. Government says it should have the financial capacity to subsidise transportation because of the high cost of internal and external freight.
In its submission, the Government says the Commonwealth operates a freight equalisation scheme for Tasmania to help overcome the higher cost of sea and air freight compared with road and rail services available on the mainland.
The Northern Territory was similarly isolated.
There is no railway service to Darwin, the shipping service is irregular and so uneconomic that it is threatened with closure and during the Wet Season road transport is subject to costly delays.
The N.T. Government says it should be granted the financial capacity to provide a freight cost equalisation subsidy.
The Government’s case to the Grants Commission suggests that such a subsidy be related to a percentage ton/kilometre per capita equivalent.
This was because there was greater movement of interstate freight per head of population in the Territory, distances were greater, there were diseconomies of scale in moving small volumes of freight and frequent delays could only be avoided by using expensive air freight.
The Government’s case to the Grants Commission said the very high cost of external and internal freight was a significant disability affecting the Territory.
– As I said earlier, many discussions have taken place over the past few years in regard to this matter. Perhaps I should now come back to some of the criticisms that have been levelled at the present Government in relation to the closing down of the line from Darwin to Larrimah. Many reasons have been given for the closure of this line. The Coombs report to the previous Whitlam Government contained many recommendations on how much Government expenditure at that time was to be curtailed. Dr Coombs recommended to the Government at the time that the fuel equalisation scheme should cease. This scheme was introduced by the coalition government prior to 1972. The fuel equalisation scheme was then removed and the immediate result was that the fuel bill for the diesel locomotives on the Darwin-Larrimah line increased immensely. At that rime Frances Creek was the main customer. Because of the fuel increase, freight rate charges to carry iron ore from Frances Creek to Darwin were increased. Because freight rates increased the Frances Creek mining operation became uneconomic. It was unable to pay the railway freight charges. That rebounded on the North Australia Railway because in closing down Frances Creek it also became uneconomic. At this time, when Mr Jones was Minister for Transport, he initiated an economy survey on the line. I think his action was reasonable because it enabled the Government to see what was happening. The result was that as the fuel equalisation scheme was removed the price of fuel to the Territory increased. This made the North Australia Railway uneconomic, thus causing the line to close down.
I believe the time has come where it is Australia’s responsibility and the Federal Government’s responsibility to continue the construction of the standard gauge line. With the line almost completed to Alice Springs I believe the time has come for work such as surveying to be carried out. This will ensure that the traffic corridor is safeguarded. The economics of the line should also be looked at. I suggest to the Federal and Northern Territory governments that in line with the development that has taken place in the Northern Territory these surveys should be carried out.
As a matter of interest I point out that since Cyclone Tracy the growth in Darwin has been 10 per cent. In relation to population this is probably the biggest growth in Australia. Population growth in the Northern Territory is probably between 4 per cent and 5 per cent. I suggest that the North is developing. It is going ahead in leaps and bounds. The mining industry will be such that it will bring in immense revenue. The pastoral and tourism industries are also of considerable value. Overall there must be cohesion between the north and south. I believe that cohesion between the north and south, and the development of the north can be brought about by this national line. It will also assist with the defence of Australia. As I have said I commend the Government for its attitude. Obviously it sees a future for railways in Australia, particularly with the cost of fuel and the shortage that can be anticipated in the next few years. This railway will be a means of containing the cost of goods and leading to the development of the north of Australia.
– It seems that every time honourable senators on the Government side speak they level criticism at the Labor Government which was in office three and a half years ago. They use any action taken by that Government or any recommendations made to that Government as some excuse for their inactivity. The National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Bill 1979 would have progressed quickly if Senator Kilgariff had not tried to blame the Whitlam Labor Government for all the transport problems that now exist in the Northern Territory. I remind Senator Kilgariff, who gave evidence to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the
Northern Territory, that if he reads the evidence he will see that I repeatedly criticised the Liberal governments of this country for not carrying out the 1910-1 1 Northern Territory Acceptance Act under which the Federal Government was obliged to construct a railway line from north to south, that is from Port Augusta to Darwin. It did not do so. Now, of course, when I rise to rebut the arguments put forward by Senator Kilgariff it appears as though he is about to leave the chamber.
– He tabled the Act tonight.
– That is very good. Before he goes I would like to remind him that whilst he tells us about the problems being experienced in the Northern Territory because of the high cost of transport and the further problems we will experience because of the high cost of fuel, it was his Government which shortly after it came to power in 1975, took action to close the Larrimah-Darwin link. It is no good his referring to the Coombs Report and some recommendation that might have been made to close that line or claiming.as he has done previously, that Charlie Jones set up an inquiry. I have talked to Charlie Jones. He told me that he did not set up any such inquiry.
We continually hear members of the National Country Party- Senator Kilgariff is no longer a member of the National Country Party; he is a member of the Liberal Party- trying to blame the previous Labor Government for the problems in the Northern Territory As I said, the very first action the Government took was to close the railway that existed in the Northern Territory. Senator Kilgariff talks about presenting to Parliament petitions from people in the Northern Territory asking that this Government continue the construction of the Tarcoola-Alice Springs link to Darwin. Why did the Government not do something about that many years ago? It did nothing. It was dormant. As a political ploy, it now says that it will do something about constructing a railway. It does the same in relation to Laurie Wallis ‘s electorate of Grey. It uses a political ploy about the Stuart Highway. When government supporters had the opportunity to support a motion moved by Senator Bishop proposing that the Government set aside a special fund, Senator Kilgariff and Senator Jessop walked out of the chamber and would not vote. The other night Senator Jessop had the hide to say that he was supporting us by walking out of the chamber because he was reducing the number of Liberals voting against Senator Bishop’s motion. If ever a weak excuse was put forward by any member of Parliament, that was one.
What did the present Government do in its first Budget? It cut funding for national railways by $60m. Even now we are battling to try to get it to employ apprentices in the Australian National Railways. It will not take any on. The skilled work force in the ANR is starting to run down because of the Government’s penny-pinching methods. It has reduced staff. Petition after petition with thousands of signatures has been presented to the Parliament because the Government is closing down country rail services in South Australia. The petitioners are asking the Government to keep the services open. Government supporters say in this place that we should be constructing railways because we are to have a serious fuel shortage. At the very time that they are voicing these remarks, the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, is closing down country rail services in South Australia. The Government has a very weak argument.
I do not think that I need to say much more. All we need to do is look at the record. I am sure that the people in the Northern Territory know the record. The people in South Australia certainly know it. The Crystal Brook standard gauge line has not yet been constructed because of the methods the Government is using to cut funding for the ANR. I attended big meetings at Tailem Bend last year which Mr Nixon would not attend. When he is put under pressure by business people, farmers and trade unionists who make these facilities work, he does not front up to stand up to questioning..
Senator Kilgariff again criticised the work force and used its actions as a reason why we need a railway in the Northern Territory. He criticised the wharf labourers in Darwin because of strikes. I hope that as soon as the Parliament rises he will see fit to go to the wharf at Darwin, talk to some of the wharf people, level at them eyeball to eyeball the criticism which he makes in the Parliament- I am sure that he would not be game to do it- and accuse them of holding people in the Northern Territory to ransom by going on strike. When if any working man goes on strike he does so for a very good cause- to get justice. I spoke about that earlier tonight. It seems to be the old catch cry all the time to blame the workers for going on strike, it is an excuse for not doing things. It does not hold water. I am proud to say that I support the members of the work force of this country. All they are asking is justice. They are not asking for anything to which they are not entitled. I hope that the people in the Northern Territory will read history and see who is responsible for closing down the only railway line they had. It was none other than Mr Nixon, the Minister for Transport. When he did that, Senator Kilgariff, who was a member of his party, must have agreed with the action taken. It is no good Senator Kilgariff coming in here tonight and trying to blame the Coombs report, Charlie Jones and the Whitlam Labor Government for all the problems that the Northern Territory is now experiencing including the high cost that the people there have to pay for road transport.
– in reply- I thank the Senate for its support of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 6 June, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
The Opposition is not opposed to the fundamental purpose of this Bill. We are however firmly opposed to several major parts of it. Primarily we are concerned with what is left out of the Bill. The omissions open up the whole functioning and administration of the Australian Federal Police to confuse and abuse. The step contemplated by the Government is very important- the amalgamation of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force with the Commonwealth Police Force and the redefining of the duty of that new Australian Federal Police. We believe that in this era of increasingly complex criminal activities, and the emergence of crimes of international as well as national scope and significance, there is a need for a rationalisation of the operation of the various non-State law enforcement agencies.
In 1975 the Labor Government introduced a Bill to amalgamate the Commonwealth and the Australian Capital Territory Police in order to strengthen their operation. Why did we do that? In 1973, the Whitlam Labor Government established an inquiry into the functions of our law enforcement agencies. The inquiry was to examine problems such as drug abuse and the extension of that criminal activity in our country, which were beginning to manifest themselves at that stage. We became aware of the vast increase and movement on a global scale of international crime. We became aware of criminals becoming more sophisticated in their operations. We became aware of the development of a new phenomenon in crime, that is, white collar corporate crime, about which a lot has been written in the last half a dozen years or so.
It was in light of these developments that in 1973 the Labor Government established an inquiry which culminated in the decision of the Labor Government in 1975 to take steps to amalgamate the Commonwealth Police Force with the Australian Capital Territory Police Force, but importantly, to transfer to that organisation the responsibility for drug detection in this country. The amalgamation was advocated for a number of reasons. There was already evidence of a lack of co-ordination of enforcement in areas of common interest; there was a duplication of effort by officers from the various agencies; there was wastefulness and inefficiency arising from the maintenance of separate information and intelligence systems; there were varying standards of training and recruitment; there was a lack of highly trained capacity to deal with white collar crime and there was a need to refer the investigation of some federal offences to State police agencies. We believed that in this era of increasingly complex criminal activities, there was a need for a new effort to be made at the national level.
What was the response of the conservative parties? Subsequent to the attempts by the Labor Government to introduce this legislation in 1975, two members of the then Opposition went before the Commonwealth Police Officers Association and, in an hysterical outpouring about socialist policies being applied to Commonwealth police activities, gave a commitment to the Commonwealth Police Officers Association to oppose the moves that were inherent in the Labor Government ‘s propositions. They expressed their opposition strongly and vehemently, in the Parliament, in the media and in discussions with the Commonwealth Police Officers Association.
What happened 4’A years later, on the basis of a report of an inquiry by Sir Robert Mark, the terms of reference of which were provided by Mr P. J. Lawler? On 1 March 1978, Sir Robert Mark was given his terms of reference to report to the then Minister for Administrative Services on the organisation of police resources in the Commonwealth area and other related matters. On 13 April 1978, some six weeks later, this report was published. On the basis of that report, this Government has acted, ignoring the earlier reports that were made available and ignoring the important conclusions that had been reached in 1975 to bring about a co-ordination of our law enforcement agencies. As I said, the amalgamation proposed in 1975 would have ensured greater co-ordination of enforcement in certain areas, it would have eliminated some of the duplication and waste of resources and it would have provided for a more highly trained and sophisticated federal police force. However, there are several very serious shortcomings in the Bill now before us. Firstly, there is the question of the structure of the new force. The Bill provides for the division of the new force into two separate components, with a general police services component staffed by police officers and a protective service component staffed by protective service officers. So we have a decision to amalgamate and simultaneously a decision to dismember. Instead of co-ordination, we will have duplication, confusion and fragmentation. We will have a second-class police force instead of a first-class police force to deal with the development of modern sophisticated crime.
This division of the force into two component parts is totally inconsistent with the intention of amalgamation. The protective service officers are to be related to guard duty. Rather than an upgrading, which was the basis of the original proposition, there will be a downgrading. There is no mention in Sir Robert Mark’s report of a two-grade police force, a first and second class police force. He makes no such recommendation. We are now confronted with a situation which the Opposition believes will weaken the effectiveness of the Commonwealth police, or the Federal police, and will result inevitably in a downgrading of the effectiveness of the police force. The protective services component of the force will develop into a stagnant second-rate force. It will result inevitably in the downgrading of the skills of the officers assigned to it. Already there are signs of a drop in the morale of those persons who have hitherto borne the responsibility of developing and maintaining an effective law enforcement agency at the national level. It stands to reason that in a period of specialisation by criminals, this Parliament should be asked to underwrite steps taken by the Government which would have the effect of dividing the force into two and putting one group of people into an area where they will operate for the sole purpose of carrying out a protective services role.
The justification for Sir Robert Mark’s appointment and his subsequent report to this Government, was the strengthening of the antiterrorist role of the law enforcement agencies in Australia so that we could learn from the experience of the Hilton bombing some 18 months ago. Yet the very people who are to be placed in that section, which will look after Commonwealth properties and will operate in the consulate areas, at Lucas Heights, in Commonwealth hostels, in Commonwealth buildings and even at airports, will be placed in a position where their role will be secondary and less skilled, being part of a protective force. Some honourable senators might imagine that the protective services division will be concerned with counter-terrorist activities. But this will be true only on the front line, as it were, where terrorist attacks are actually occurring. One assumes that the real counter-terrorist work will be carried out by the other component. How are we going to get coordination in that area? The experience of the man who was brought to Australia to provide a report has been in the area of anti-terrorism. In effect, this division would diminish the counterterrorist capacity of the Federal Police as a whole. These points indicate the inadequacy upon which this Bill is based. This division will create two classes of police officers and the officers will be known by different names. Their spheres of operation will differ and the protective services office will unequivocally assume an inferior status. Already that is the way that those who are currently carrying out their responsibilities view the situation.
If the Government had chosen to consult the Commonwealth Police Officers Association it would have had a better understanding. I find it unbelievable that in the debate in the other place members ofthe Government parties berated the
Opposition by saying that what Opposition supporters were expressing did not represent the views of the Commonwealth Police Officers Association. Members of that Association have seen me on at least six occasions in the last two months. I have met with officers of the Commonwealth Police division in New South Wales and my colleagues have met with State branch representatives of the Commonwealth Police Officers Association.
In every case, without exception, they adjured us to oppose the basic principles underlying the two-component characteristic of this legislation. Little courtesy was extended to the Association by this Government. It took it six months to get an interview with the Minister for Administrative Services, Mr McLeay, so as to present its point of view. Now the police officers are fighting a rearguard action to preserve the viability of the very force that they are a part of. There is no doubt that this division will weaken the morale of Federal police. What sort of a basis is this when setting out to construct a strong new federal police force with the objectives that have been laid down in the report from Sir Robert Mark and the intent that is inherent in this Bill?
That is not the only division of the force that will lower morale. There is a second serious anomaly in this Bill, its industrial aspects. The conditions of employment of officers are contrary to the accepted rules governing employment of all other public servants. New features, new procedures, have been established for this new force. These features and procedures do not apply to any other police or law enforcement agency in Australia or to any public service instrumentality in Australia. These processes and procedures are not acceptable to the Association or any other public service group. The Commissioner is given exclusive and unchallengeable power to make decisions covering transfers, appointments, promotions, disciplinary action, demotions, retirements and dismissals. Fancy giving to a new Commissioner the sole right to make decisions which will affect the futures and careers of men who have given many years of their life in pursuit of their careers. Their task is a most thankless one, as we well know. As the New South Wales Police Association has said in a recent submission to the Government, it is a section of the Australian work force that is not highly regarded by most members of the Australian community but its members perform duties which cannot be described as being very pleasant.
This legislation provides an opportunity to recognise that men who have joined the Commonwealth police have made many sacrifices and have decided to make it their career. Yet it delegates authority to one man- the Commissioner. Specifically left out of the legislation are provisions which safeguard certain rights and obligations of members of the police force to complain about any change in their status, whether it be up or down. The 1 975 legislation of the Labor Government provided for appeals to a promotions appeals board by officers who felt that they were treated unfairly. That is not included in this legislation. In this Bill no appeals structure is established. There is reference only to a possible regulation which ‘may’ provide for appeals. This is a principle of sufficient importance to be explicitly incorporated in the Bill. That is why we have included it in our amendment. The proposed Federal Police Arbitral Tribunal, which will be established under clause 42, is excluded expressly from consideration of matters relating to transfers, appointments, promotions, dismissals et cetera. This exclusion is contained in clause 46 (3).
The Commonwealth Police Officers Association has expressed fears about this denial of officers’ rights. Grave concern is expressed in relation to the capabilities of the Commissioner to retire, transfer or demote a member without that member’s having the protection of a right of appeal against such a decision. Clause 39 provides the basis upon which the Commissioner can retrench a member. Natural justice can be denied any member under this clause, and we say that it requires a complete rewrite. The Government’s proposed regulations would be used to compel early retirement. This takes up another of the issues on which we challenged the Government in legislation passed by this Senate earlier today. If this is the Government’s intention, such a provision should be incorporated in this Bill for all to see.
Similarly, the rights of police officers are under attack. Under clause 39, which gives the Commissioner power to transfer officers to a lower rank or to retire them on the grounds of overstaffing, no appeals are allowed. New principles are being introduced. A perfectly competent and dedicated officer can be dismissed summarily at the whim of the Commissioner and there is nothing that he or she can do about it.
This Bill is open to a third serious objection. It relates to the absence of any satisfactory mechanism for dealing with complaints against the police. The second reading speech of the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr McLeay) foreshadowed legislation to establish complaints procedures following reports by the Law Reform Commission. Internal investigations by the force are inadequate and would do nothing to gain public confidence in the new force. This public confidence is essential to its efficient and effective operation. The new chief of the proposed force, Sir Colin Woods, specially imported from England duty free, is in favour of internal investigations and his public utterances have hamstrung the Government.
The 1975 Bill incorporated the complaints procedure recommended in the first report on this matter by the Law Reform Commission. In addition to an internal investigative unit, the Commission considered it vital to establish two other bodies to ensure independence and impartiality in the investigation of complaints. In particular, the Ombudsman would play an important part. There also would be a police tribunal presided over by a judge. The Commission’s recommendations are the most favoured method of striking a balance in maintaining public confidence and police morale. The Bill fails also to specify clearly the responsibilities of the force. For example, it is essential there be greater coordination with the Narcotics Bureau. It is an absurd proposition to have a special section of the Commonwealth Police dealing with narcotics intelligence and then to have the Narcotics Bureau operating in the Customs area. Nothing in this Bill will bring about the essential merger of those forces, which was part of the strategy of the 1 975 legislation.
Unlike the legislation relating to State police forces, this Bill contains no clear definition of areas of responsibility. This will lead only to confusion and disputation. In particular we should look at the areas of Customs- international airports, immigration, drugs and quarantineand the connection with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and international crime. There is a great deal about which the Opposition has misgivings and about which we find ourselves in conflict with the views expressed in Sir Robert Mark’s report. The report shows clearly that his concept is unacceptable to the Australian people. I refer particularly to paragraph 38 on page 19 of the report in which he talks about special branch activities. The approach of Sir Robert Mark was adopted in South Australia by Mr Salisbury, who believed that he was accountable not to a Minister but to some intangible authority called the Crown.
We believe that the Minister should be empowered to give specific directions to the Commissioner subject to the requirement that any direction be tabled in Parliament and gazetted. This would make the democratically elected Minister accountable for police actions. This is as it should be. We fought for that principle in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation legislation. We received some recognition by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) that there should be greater public accountability to the Parliament, yet such a principle is ignored in this legislation. Because of these serious objections and because of many other less serious faults in the Bill we believe that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted.
We have had a multifarious law enforcement operation in this country for many years. We have had not only six State police forces but also the Australian Capital Territory Police, the Commonwealth Police, ASIO, intelligence agencies in various government departments and, of course, the Federal Narcotics Bureau. If these organisations had been brought under one umbrella, which would have been done if the 1975 legislation had been adopted by the Parliament and not sat on for four years by this Government, perhaps the sort of problems that we have had with Harvey Bates and the crime that has flowed from the inability properly to control drug abuse in this country could have been avoided.
Nothing in this legislation encourages us to believe that this Government is really setting about creating the sort of police force that would carry out its responsibility in a modern industrial society. The Government imported a Colonel Blimp to give us a report on what we should do with our police forces, which he did in six weeks, and then the Government did not carry out the recommendations. But it did invite one of his mates from the British old boys club that operates at Scotland Yard in London- Sir Colin Woods- to come in and operate the service. There is reason for many people in Australia to believe that the Government is not fair-dinkum about law enforcement at a national level. The Government is doing the very opposite to what it should be setting out to do. It should be creating a more highly skilled, competent and efficient police agency. It will not do that by splitting the police force into two and dividing the role of police officers into two separate component parts. That principle is repugnant to any police organisation in this country. It has no precedent anywhere in the Western world.
In a period when terrorism and crime are on the up this Government is taking steps to downgrade our federal police. To that extent we seek support for the amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I indicate to the
Senate that the Opposition has some 50 or 60 amendments for the Committee stage of the Bill. The Opposition hopes that the Senate will look at this legislation clearly and properly in its review role and not just blindly pass in the dying hours of this session important legislation that ought to have received a lot more consideration by the House of Representatives.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Scott)- Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I rise briefly to direct the attention of the Senate to one narrow area. Before doing so I acknowledge the various submissions that I have received from members of the Commonwealth Police Force. I thank them for their help in informing me more of the operation of the force and congratulate them on the way in which they have put forward their submissions. Several of those issues have been discussed between the force and the unions concerned and also the Minister for Administrative Service (Mr McLeay) in previous days. I understand that to a large extent some of the objections which were raised previously have been satisfied. I rise to speak in particular on sub-clause (2) of clause 13 of the Australian Federal Police Bill and to draw the attention of honourable senators to the situation which pertains in regard to the dissemination of information which is collected by the special branches of State police forces, in particular to where the experience of some of those State police forces might pertain to the administration and the future operation of the Federal Police.
Let us consider in particular the function of the Parliament and the operations of the Minister and the Commissioner in regard to the Federal Police. It seems to me of fundamental importance, with the Westminster style of government which we have in Australia, that the separation of powers is the best safeguard of the individual’s liberty; that is, the more we can devolve power throughout the administrative structure within our country and the executive arm of government, the more likely it is that the interests and the liberties of individual Australians will be safeguarded. Accordingly, it seems to me that in these days, with the very considerable arsenal of information collecting procedures which are available to police forces, there is indeed a great need for us to consider how information which is so collected should be disseminated by police forces. In years to come, at the press of a button, we will be able to obtain much detailed information, some of which will be highly irrelevant to particular cases which are being pursued by the police at a particular time, but which could be brought forward during later discussions or when cases are being conducted by, say, the Narcotics Bureau of Customs or, perhaps, to assist with the operations of State police forces, in such a way as to put a final piece to a jigsaw which will bring about the conviction of a wrongdoer.
It seems to me that it is important that we have a facility to disseminate that information. I believe that in the interests of the individual’s liberty, it is of the highest importance that the dissemination of that information should be authorised specifically by this Parliament. I believe that it is of fundamental importance that the Parliament should decide who should be the recipients of that information and that the Minister should not have a specific power of direction in respect of that information which would enable it to be misused for political purposes. That sort of political control through a police force seems to me to be a matter of fundamental concern. I believe that if we have a police force which virtually is at the beck and call of the political masters within the Westminster style of government, the liberties of individual Australians will be placed at very real risk.
– The Constitution makes it mandatory for the Minister to be responsible.
– I am trying to truncate the argument as much as possible in order to save time, but I acknowledge the point made by Senator O’Byrne. However, the Parliament has a more specific duty to be in a position to authorise the supply of information to specific recipients. I feel that that point ought to be covered by legislation of this type. Hence, my remarks are focused on clause 13 (2) of the Bill. I note that the Minister for Administrative Services, in the debate on this Bill in the House of Representatives last night when replying to speeches made during the debate, drew particular attention to that issue. He took the opportunity to inform the House of Representatives that he proposed ‘to give a written direction with respect to the general policy to be pursued by the Commissioner in relation to the dissemination of information by the Australian Federal Police’. The Minister went on to say:
The direction will safeguard the rights to privacy of individuals. I propose to table the direction and it will be revised in due course in the light of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Report on privacy.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Scott) -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.
Question resolved in the negative.
-I was observing that the Minister, in his reply last night in the House of Representatives, made the point that he will be giving a written instruction to the Commissioner as to who will be the recipients of information disseminated by the Commissioner and that those instructions will be tabled in the Houses of Parliament. I regard that as an interim measure but an important one to safeguard the situation where a Minister, of whatever political persuasion, could be in a position to use his influence over the Commissioner of Police in order to ensure that information is unduly used against individuals in the Australian community.
I note particularly, that those remarks were also directed towards the report of the Law Reform Commission which coincidentally presented in this House of Parliament today a report on this very matter of defamation and privacy. I wish to read from paragraph 244 of page 1 3 1 , of the report which was tabled today. I intend to make the point that this matter which I have just been outlining to the Senate has been well covered in this report. The report states:
It will remain necessary to consider specific restrictions upon the use of information obtained in particular ways, for example by eavesdropping or submission to compulsory process. It will also remain necessary to consider specific requirements of information systems to ensure proper protection of informational privacy’. By their specificity, such rules, if enacted will circumscribe the freedom to publish which will remain after the operation of general legislation on unfair publication as qualified by its general defences.
It has occurred, of course, in many different pieces of legislation passed by this Parliament in other times, that such specific legislation has been set down quite clearly in such a way as to ensure that information is disseminated only in accordance with the will of this Parliament, and not in accordance with the will of a particular Minister who may or may not have political considerations in mind. As an example of that matter I refer to section 16 of the Income Tax Assessment Act which specifically limits the powers of the Commissioner of Taxation to directing that information which comes into his hands can be directed only to certain bodies as set out specifically in that legislation. A few of these bodies which may be authorised recipients of that information under section 16 (4) ofthe Act are the Repatriation Commissioner, the Director-General of Social Services, the Director-General of Health, and so on. Specifically the dissemination of information is required to be established clearly under this law. It is that action which I urge the Government to look at in its consideration of the Law Reform Commission’s report on privacy. Specifically, in the light of the Minister’s comments in his reply in the House of Representatives last night I urge the Government to ensure that specific legislation is, in the future, brought down in an amendment to this clause of the Bill to ensure that specifics are outlined. Having due regard to that matter and the fact that we are running out of time, I would like to indicate my general support for the Bill.
-One does not have to be very long in politics to learn that one can never underestimate the degree of cynicism to which politicians as a class are prone. It is, I suppose, an occupational hazard. But I never cease to be amazed at the degree of cynicism and hyprocrisy to which this LiberalNational Country Party Government is pronejust how much cynicism it is capable of. This Bill is another classic demonstration of that phenomenon as becomes very clear when one considers the history of this legislation and the quite extraordinary way in which Liberal-National Country Party attitudes to it have varied and changed depending on whether they were out of government or occupying the treasury benches.
The first proposal to amalgamate the various police forces operating under the Commonwealth’s general jurisdiction was made, of course, by the Whitlam Labor Government early in its term of office. The proposal emerged to amalgamate into a single national Australia police force the Commonwealth Police, the Australian Capital Territory Police, the Northern Territory Police and the Federal Narcotics Bureau operating within the then Department of Customs and Excise. This was a rational response to problems of policing and of law enforcement which had been very long evident to observers of the Australian scene. It was a course which would have enabled the combination and co-ordination of operational resources of the various forces, of training facilities, of forensic science facilities and so on. In particular, it would have enabled the creation of a force of sufficient size and scale and with sufficient opportunites for specialisation, movement and promotion within it to enable the development of a highly professional corps of carrier officers.
I mention also that this proposal was to my mind particularly desirable in the context of the Northern Territory Police which, if I can say so without too much disrespect to that force, was then and is now, a ragtag and bobtail outfit reminding me of nothing so much as a combination of Dad’s Army and the wild west. The Australian Labor Party proposal which was ultimately embodied in the Australia Police Bill introduced in 1975 did create, however rational it might have appeared to impartial, objective observers, a quite extraordinary response and reaction. In the first place there was a reaction of that kind from the Australian Capital Territory Police Force which mounted what can only be described as a major political campaign of which Senator Knight, who is at present leering from his seat, undoubtedly was a beneficiary. The motives of that campaign can really only be described as somewhat discreditable. My colleague, Mr James, is not someone whose attitudes to the police force in general can be described as anything other than loving, was moved in the other place to describe the attitude of the Australian Capital Territory Police in 1 975 as one based upon a view which was held by the top echelon of that force that they could see slipping through their fingers the possibility of achieving the rank they were striving to attain before retirement in order to make their pension more healthy. He went on to say that it was that sort of attitude which percolated down through the ranks and created the kind of reaction -
– That is a nice slur.
– We will be interested to hear Senator Knight’s response. I understand that the Government has put up only one speaker on this Bill. This is a measure of how seriously the Government takes this legislation. If what I say is a slur- the honourable senator is playing to Australian Capital Territory Police officers who are in the gallery- I would be only too delighted to hear him articulate and enunciate just how it does constitute such a slur and how it is inaccurate.
More important than the attitude of the Australian Capital Territory police was the attitude of the Liberal-Country Party Opposition of the day. It made the claim, far and wide within the nation that the Labor Government was creating some kind of Australian Federal Bureau of Investigation which represented some kind of incredible, dangerous threat to the civil liberties of the Australian nation. I have seen some contemptible and scurrilous propaganda emanating from the Government side of this chamber and from the other political party in this nation on many previous occasions, but never I think in the history of Australian political propagandaperhaps with very few exceptions- has there been such contemptible and scurrilous propaganda as was mounted in a reaction against the Australian Labor Party proposal to create a national amalgamated police force.
As I have indicated, much of the criticism was directed at the supposed implications for civil liberties in Australia with the creation of a new, sophisticated force of the kind that was envisaged by the then Labor Government. Especially, concerns were expressed about the powers that this force might exercise and, in particular, there was reference to the sorts of things Senator Messner was talking about in his contribution. There were worries about information, storage, retrieval and matters of that kind. The Australian Labor Party Government, to its credit, did not ignore those criticisms but reacted to them- as one would expect- sensitively by undertaking when introducing that legislation, the incorporation of provisions relating to the creation of a proper, independent system of the resolution of complaints against police. It further undertook to legislate so as to produce and provide a proper code of conduct setting out in detail, and on a carefully reconsidered basis, what the powers and duties should be of the various members of the new police force.
The Australian Law Reform Commission was given the task of producing appropriate draft legislation. The Commission, which had been established very recently before this, did that task in very short order and produced the first two reports on complaints against police and criminal investigation respectively. I was a member of the Commission at that time and indeed had particular responsibility for the co-ordination and production of the report on criminal investigation, so I can hardly be claimed to lack bias in my assessment of the worth of that particular report. Nonetheless, I think it would not be inaccurate or unfair to say that that report was warmly received very widely both within Australia and overseas, within the profession and outside it, and regarded as essentially a sound and balanced contribution to law reform in this area and one which did produce sane, balanced and acceptable solutions to those very difficult problems relating to powers of arrest, interrogation, search and seizure, electronic surveillance, questioning, custodial investigation and so on.
Legislation was introduced accordingly to embody the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission with respect to complaints against police. Those particular provisions were incorporated in the 1975 Australia Police Bill. Moreover, further legislation was foreshadowed very shortly thereafter in the form of a criminal investigation Bill embodying the subject matter of the second Law Reform Commission report. It must be said that the fate of the Australia Police Bill was rendered very uncertain indeed by the expressed altitude to which I have already referred, of the then Liberal-Country Party Opposition which of course was then in a position to control this chamber. Nonetheless, whatever the outcome of the legislation may have been, the reality of course was that the tenure of the Labor Government was rudely interrupted by the events of November 1975 and the Australia Police Bill lapsed. With the change of government and the emergence to power of the Fraser Government, the whole concept of an amalgamated national Australia police force was explicitly abandoned and with it of course the legislation which the Labor Government had introduced.
There were subsequent desultory attempts made by this Government to implementnotwithstanding the criminal investigation recommendations of the Law Reform Commission insofar as they might of course still continue to be applicable to the individual police forces which remained in existence- a very emasculated version of the Bill. It was introduced into this Parliament in 1 977 by the then Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott, as the Criminal Investigation Bill of that year. I have often been highly critical of that Bill but I do accept it as being better than nothing.
But, again, that legislation lapsed with the 1977 dissolution and it appears now that the momentum in favour, and in support, of it has, with a change of Attorneys-General if nothing else, now entirely disappeared. It appears that this Bill, despite its considerable relevance, on its face, to the Opposition amendment that we are now moving, and indeed to the whole treatment of the Australia Police proposal that this should be so, is buried in some process of endless, internal departmental review and we have no idea whatsoever when it might be likely to be reintroduced.
As for the complaints against police segment of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s recommendations- again based on very widespread consultation, not only within police forces but within the community at large- those recommendations were in January 1977, again referred to the Australian Law Reform Commission with the instruction that the Commission rethink those recommendations and rewrite them so as to make them applicable to the individual police forces that continued to exist as separate entities. This the Australian Law Reform Commission duly did, recommending in its ninth report of June 1978 a slightly modified version of its original proposals, but nonetheless one which retained very clearly and centrally the concept of a detailed complaint review procedure which did embody to an important extent the notion of independence from the police investigations themselves.
That was where the history of this matter lay early last year. For all practical purposes, the concept of amalgamation, which had been roundly condemned by the Liberal-National Country Parties while in Opposition, was dead and buried. The matters of a code of conduct and behaviour, and of the powers and duties of the police force, as well as procedures for the investigation of complaints against police officers, were not entirely dead and buried. Lip service continued to be paid to them but for all practical purposes, with the progress that was being made in their implementation, they might as well have been.
Now, just a year later, we have had this extraordinary turnaround in the Government’s attitude, this brand new emergence of evangelical enthusiasm for the concept of an amalgamated police force. In the aftermath of the Hilton bombing affair and the criticism which, of course, the Government quite rightly attracted because of its extraordinary overreaction in the circumstances of that particular affair, the Government appointed in March 1978 Sir Robert Mark to report upon the organisation of police resources in the Commonwealth area; which obligation Sir Robert Mark duly and briskly carried out in the production of the report, tabled in April 1978, which has been referred to as the foundation for this legislation. The proposals for an amalgamated, or a partially-amalgamated national police force, which now appear before us are the result of that Mark report.
Sir Robert’s recommendations, and the justifications for this limited amalgamation of the Commonwealth Police and the Australian Capital Territory Police- leaving out the otherswhich the Government now advances, are based on the following notions; firstly, that it is desirable that there should be such an amalgamation in order, first of all, to overcome the jurisdictional boundaries between the different forces which inhibit their operational effectiveness; secondly, to provide for more effective and economically co-ordinated resources in terms of the way the forces do in fact now operate; and thirdly, so as to provide a basis for more effective co-operation with the States in law enforcement matters.
We agree with those general grounds of justification which have been articulated by Sir Robert Mark, and now the Government, in support of the amalgamated Australian Capital Territory and Commonwealth Police Forces that we now find contemplated in this legislation. About that, in general terms, I make only two observations. The particular criteria or justifications which are now advanced are equally applicable to the situation as it prevailed in 1975. There is just no significant difference in terms of any one of those rationales that Sir Robert and the Government have articulated, as between the situation now, in 1979, and the situation in 1975.
The further point I make in passing is that this kind of reasoning is, of course, equally applicable to an expanded amalgamation beyond that simply of the Australian Capital Territory and the Commonwealth Police Forces- an amalgamation which would cover the Northern Territory and the Narcotics Bureau forces as well, namely the concept that was very much part of the original Labor proposal. It need not be excessively repeated, of course, that the recent revelations about the actions of the Federal Narcotics Bureau, and equally the revelations as to the extraordinarily irrational division of responsibilities which has been shown to exist between the Narcotics Bureau and the Commonwealth Police, make the case for incorporating the Narcotics Bureau- not to mention the Northern Territory Police- in this new, expanded force, a very strong one indeed.
Sir Robert Mark ‘s report is what might be described, as so many pieces of inquiry of this kind can be, as a curate’s egg; good at best in parts. The basic good sense of the central recommendations of the report, those recommendations which I have already mentioned in favour of an amalgamation, are rather marred however by the total indifference Sir Robert Mark demonstrates towards those constraints which I would readily concede are regrettable constraints which are imposed by the Australian Constitution. The report is also marred by the quite extraordinarily tendentious remarks which pepper the report about the deficiencies of character and intelligence of civil libertarians in general, and in particular those who would dare to question the activities or operations of special branches. But just as Sir Robert Mark’s report is a mixture of the erratic and the sound, so too is this Bill before us now. It is very much a curate ‘s egg.
As we made clear, both in the other place and in the speech of Senator Gietzelt tonight, we do support the basic concept of the legislation as a partial implementation of Labor’s own previous proposal. But what we are worried about is a number of specific aspects of this legislation, errors of both commission and omission, which it demonstrates on its very face and which worries, of course, are articulated in the amendment which Senator Gietzelt moved and which I support. Let me mention in broad terms, and as swiftly as I can, the three basic areas of concern that we do have about this legislation. The first such area of concern is the absence of any serious recognition by the Government of the necessity to do something about this problem of the definition of police powers and duties as a necessary corollary of the creation of the new and more sophisticated police force; the kind of recognition which the Labor Government in 1975 so amply demonstrated; and the result of which concern was so well embodied in the report of the Australian Law Reform Commission on criminal investigation.
The Minister, in his second reading speech in the other place, did refer to the criminal investigation legislation, but that reference was as vague as it possibly could be. At the end of his speech his sole reference to it was that the Government was currently reviewing the 1977 draft criminal investigation legislation, and that it would take some time for that review to be completed. I might add that constant questioning of the Attorney-General by me and others in this place has equally constantly failed to ellicit any articulation by the Attorney-General as to when that review might be completed. Indeed, it has failed to articulate any kind of guarantee that that legislation, in any form, however emasculated, will ultimately be presented to this Parliament. I suggest that it is crucially important, if this Government is to maintain confidence in the integrity of the new force that it is creating in a climate, nationwide, where the integrity of all police forces is regrettably very much in issue, it must demonstrate its bona fides by addressing itself to this admittedly difficult but very important question of the enactment of criminal investigation legislation setting out a proper, balanced code of police powers and duties.
The second matter which gives me concern about the way this legislation has been presented is, again a matter of omission. There is a complete absence in this legislation of any provisions- let alone any systematic provisionsrelating to the investigation of complaints against police. This, as I have said, was an integral part of the 1975 legislation. Indeed, perhaps even more than the matter of criminal investigation Bills or those sorts of powers, the enactment of provisions of this kind is crucial to the public acceptance of this new legislation and the new force that it will create. We have been told again by the Minister in the other place, who made a reference to this question, that the Government anticipated being able to introduce complaints legislation later in the year. But goodness knows when that legislation will appear and what it will look like when it does.
I am led to understand that an interdepartmental committee has been moleing away, undermining the Australian Law Reform Commission’s recommendation in this respect. Those recommendations are the product of an extraordinarily lengthy and wide ranging consultation with all interested sections of the community. That IDC- God help us if it turns out to be like the Freedom of Information IDC- has been moleing away at the legislation and the one major result of its labours, so far as I am aware, is that it has recommended the complete emasculation of the role of the Ombudsman in the particular investigation of complaints scenario which the Australian Law Reform Commission so thoughtfully recommended. Moreoverperhaps this is an even more important point by the Government’s own lights- the failure to introduce or to incorporate complaints resolution procedures in this legislation represents, quite apart from anything else, a blatant disregard of a quite explicit recommendation of Sir Robert Mark himself. At page 20 of the Mark report it is stated:
It is not just a matter of creating complaints resolution machinery at some later stage in the future. It is not just something which is desirable ultimately or in due course. It is something which is appropriate and, indeed, necessary as part of the initial administration of the new force. I will be very interested indeed- fascinated in fact- to hear from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) in his reply to the second reading debate, if he gives us the benefit of one tonight, just how it is that the Government feels able to justify this particular omission from the legislation.
Finally, I draw attention to a further very serious set of deficiencies in this legislation. There is a series of matters which relate to the structure and procedures of the new force and which are quite unacceptable in their present form in this Bill. In the first place the Bill creates a two-class force, not just the usual hierarchy of officers and other ranks, but a force which is clearly to be comprised of brahmans on the one hand and untouchables on the other hand. It will be comprised of general police members on the one hand and the protective security people on the other.
The implications for the morale of the force and for its general operation and effectiveness, which as has been stated earlier in this debate, were barely touched upon by Sir Robert Mark in his report, should be apparent to the most untutored observer of these new arrangements at the most cursory glance. Secondly, there is a failure in this legislation- a manifest failure, on its face- to create proper rights of appeal with respect to transfers, promotions and demotions, retirements and dismissals and, indeed, disciplinary procedures generally. Thirdly, there has been a failure to provide for the proper political accountability of the new force, subject of course to necessary and proper safeguards to ensure that the political accountability does not slide into a situation of possible political abuse. The matters to which I am referring involve questions as to the ability ofthe Minister to give directions to the Commissioner as well as questions which arise as to the relationship of the force to the Crown, as personified by the Governor-General. These are questions which it would not need an Einstein to appreciate are very graphically raised by recent events in Australian history, most obviously in South Australia. All these matters can and will be dealt with by the Opposition in more detail at the Committee stage of the debate.
The point I make to wrap this up is that the Government had the opportunity in this legislation to create at last the statutory basis for a national police force of which we could all be genuinely proud, a talented, professional, well trained and equipped force, one that is free of corruption and abuse of power, both in reality and in appearance; in short, the kind of police force which all too regrettably and all too conspicuously has been absent in the Australian experience. The Government has had that opportunity but it has blown it. For all those reasons, in the view of the Opposition the Bill should be not just cobbled together during the course of a parliamentary debate at this very late stage in the session but withdrawn and completely redrafted. A new Bill establishing this new amalgamated force on a proper basis, should be introduced at the beginning of the next session. Accordingly, I support the amendment moved by Senator Gietzelt to the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
– I enter this debate largely on the basis of the experience I had with the very illustrious Senate Select Committee on Civil Rights of Migrant Australians which was chaired by Senator Townley. The Committee looked at certain tensions which arose at the time Senator Murphy was the Attorney-General. We had evidence from a variety of witnesses, including officers from the New South Wales and Victorian State police forces, the Australian Capital Territory police and the Commonwealth police, and also the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. With that line-up of witnesses, I think we were in a position to come to definite conclusions. One matter that stuck out very vividly was that in the situation of a VIP visit and the possibility of an attempted assassination, time was the essence of the whole operation. Leaving aside the role of ASIO, in those days there were certain delays in the effective meshing-in of State and Federal police forces. One of the things that intrigued me was that the Victorian police assumed the role of receiver of Interpol briefings. In recent times I admit that communications have improved, but in relation to the fight against white collar crime, or treason for that matter, I could never see why I the national capital should be the hub of all operations. If it did nothing else, the Committee’s conclusion certainly prompted the Whitlam Government to put forward the idea of a refined, consolidated national police force, and in a limited way this Government and public opinion have finally adopted that idea.
However, there is another danger. The Opposition will be moving the amendments that have been foreshadowed by Senator Evans and Senator Gietzelt. However, while I think the consolidation will be effective, I believe we have to look beyond that. If there is one country that has overdone the establishment security forces it is the United States. Jockeying for positions goes on between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the T-men of the Treasury, and the narcotics people. As Senator Hamer would know, the various United States defence services have their own security. I am not knocking defence intelligence as such but, like the trade union movement, the more you have the more friction occurs about who will get the limelight. It is for that prime reason that I believe this consolidation has a lot of pluses.
On the other hand, I do not envy the role of a policeman in the modern state. We are proud of our democratic rights but the line between licence and liberty is very fine indeed. I only regret, in a way- with all due respect to Senator Chaney- that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) is not here. He well knows the unpleasant job I had on the Townley committee which investigated the civil rights of migrant Australians. An obscure, headline-hunting solicitor named Bilinsky, from Sydney, had the temerity to bring a lot of people before that committee. I know Senator Durack ‘s private opinion was that if it were a royal commission or something higher than a Senate committee- far be it for me to denigrate the Townley committee- a few people might have been up on perjury charges. I realise the difficulties with these liars, particularly this obscure solicitor Bilinsky from Sydney, who 1 had to take apart before a Senate committee. It is significant that now he is only living on little briefs. He is not capable of anything else. He tried to falsify a charge of assault against me when I was abused and threatened by a couple of potential witnesses. In fairness to both the Commonwealth Police and the State police I make the point that in the democracy in which we live there are these agents provocateur who will do anything. They might be from all walks of life, including the legal profession, as is Mr Bilinsky. He will never get out of the gutter as a lawyer in Sydney and I am very pleased. Senators, including myself, cut him down to size. I have got that off my chest and I am feeling very good about it. I hope our proceedings are being broadcast tonight and that he has been listening.
– Yes, they are.
– That is good. It is people like him who abuse the democracy to which we are supposed to give more than lip service. In the overall situation, the Opposition’s amendments do endeavour to get the best of the two worlds. The Opposition knows that to overcome white collar crime we have to cope with much more efficient people. It is like the offside rule in some codes of football; it can be abused if people are not pulled up with a jerk. I promised that I would only have a five minute oration, but I repeat that I believe that this consolidation must pay dividends. My five Senate colleagues and I had long discussions with Mr Barbour, the former Australian Security Intelligence Organisation chieftain. Being senators we accept and obey the Constitution. Any information I got I relayed to the inquiry of Mr Justice Hope. Parliament is not yet finished with the ASIO legislation but with this constant refining and milling process I think we will get a more effective, consolidated police force. Honourable senators have learned things from the ASIO Bill. I repeat that this legislation does need parliamentary scrutiny. I would hope that the work of successive Estimates Committees will enable us to get a fairly close look at the situation. I do not want to see the mistakes that have occurred in the United States where there are security service rivalries. They are bad; they militate against efficient forces.
The only other point I wish to make involves the division of powers between the elected government and the monarch of the day. I say respectfully that whoever the Government may appoint as the new Commissioner, even if it is somebody from overseas, it has to be pointed out to him that Australia has the Statute of Westminster. We are no longer a colony and if he takes the oath he should be loyal to the Minister of the day. Ministers can come and go. If he does not like the Minister he must realise that that Minister and his colleagues face the ballot box every three years. I say that because of certain happenings in Adelaide when it seemed that we had gone back a century to when Australia was a colony or, to use an outmoded term, part of the British Empire. Those days are gone. I do not think it is a question of complete republicanism at this time but whoever the new Commissioner of this new national force may be he has to remember his loyalty is to the Government of the day, no matter what its political complexion, and not necessarily to someone 14,000 miles away.
– I thank honourable senators for their contribution to this debate. I acknowledge that a degree of restraint has been shown by many honourable senators who would have wished to speak on this important measure. Because of the tightness of the Government’s program at the moment, some honourable senators also spoke for a shorter period than they might otherwise have done. I thank them for that. There were a number of very positive points made in the brief contribution by Senator Mulvihill. I think it would be fair to say that I detected a note of optimism when he said that from the Australian Federal Police Bill 1 979 we would be building a more effective police force. I do think that that was a very appropriate note on which the second reading stage of the debate ended. Many of the concerns which were expressed by other honourable senators opposite were concerns in terms of wishing that perhaps larger steps had been taken to create a more substantial force along the lines of what was envisaged in 1 975.
This Bill will ensure the amalgamation of the two police forces which are now the responsibility of the Commonwealth. That in itself will do something to reduce the problems of rivalry which Senator Mulvihill addressed himself to. I believe that the provisions of the Bill will enable the Commissioner of the new force to make more satisfactory arrangements with State forces than might have existed in the past. So I think that there are two areas where there will be significant improvement in the area of concern mentioned by Senator Mulvihill. I will briefly remind the Senate that the Government, in bringing in this Bill, indicated that the creation of the new single federal police force had three objectives. The first objective is to overcome the problems that are associated with the distinctions of jurisdictional boundaries for the functions of police organisations, not only throughout Australia but in the Australian Capital Territory. That, of course, is very squarely in Senator Mulvihill ‘s area. The second objective is to provide a firm basis for more effective co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in the law enforcement area. The third objective is to co-ordinate more effectively and economically police resources in the Commonwealth area. The Government is confident that those objectives will be achieved with this legislation.
The Government was asked by the Opposition to accept an amendment that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted. I think all honourable senators opposite would understand that the Government would not agree with that proposition. A good deal of effort has gone into preparing the Bill which the Government believes will achieve its objectives. The Government does not believe it should start again. There were some complaints made in the speech of Senator Gietzelt about the lack of consultation on this Bill. To my knowledge- I speak from my experience during the brief period when I served as Minister for Administrative Services- that is not the case. In fact, the associations for both of the police forces concerned were involved in the process which has led to the putting together of this Bill.
If I can quickly turn to at least a part of that process both associations- that is, the Commonwealth Police Officers Association and the Australian Capital Territory Police Associationtook part as members of the consultative working groups for the task force in August and September of last year. I, as the then Minister, had talks with both associations in October of last year. The task force which was established to work on this Bill and the Secretary ofthe Department of Administrative Services had talks with both associations in November. In addition, the task force and the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr McLeay) had talks with them in January of this year. Also the Minister and other Ministers concerned, the Government Members Law and Government Committee and the Administrative Services Committee all had talks with the associations over the period January to May of this year. 1 noted also that there were extensive consultations with the Opposition, as one would expect under our system of government. I do believe that every opportunity has been given for those serving officers of the current forces to contribute to the thinking which has gone into the preparation of this Bill.
Mr President, if you look at the reasons which are listed for the Opposition wishing the Bill to be withdrawn and redrafted, it becomes quite evident why we would not wish to go along with that course of action. Mr McLeay responded in the other place on the question of the single component force and the Government has made a clear policy decision in coming forward with the two-component force. I refer honourable senators to the arguments put down by Mr McLeay at page 3035 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 6 June 1 979. 1 wish, however, specifically to draw to the Senate’s attention something which I think is fundamental to this proposal; that is, that the Government has been concerned in respect of the police affected by this proposal and has provided in clauses 25 and 26 of the Bill, together with clause 73, for general mobility between the components, subject to the usual principles of competence and qualifications, as well as a preferential opportunity for mobility between components for the present police as against new recruits. That and the training opportunities which are to be available to existing serving officers will, I believe, ensure that all existing serving officers have their present career prospects protected.
With respect to the second point made in the Opposition’s amendment, the rights of appeal available to officers under the new legislation are the equivalent of those available to them under the present legislation. There is no diminution of appeal rights under this legislation. Essentially the Opposition is putting forward the proposition that the existing appeal right should be extended rather than that there is any change brought about by this Bill.
The third point concerns the use of the expression ‘Governor-General’ instead of Governor-General-in-Council’. I think the Opposition is starting at shadows. The term Governor-General’ is the only term used throughout this Bill. There is no use of the term Governor-General-in-Council’ in one part and Governor-General another.
– You cannot blame us for being a bit sensitive on the subject.
- Senator Evans acknowledged his own sensitivity in his speech. After all, he was professionally involved in a consultative capacity in some of the lead up during the days of the Labor Government. I remember consulting with him on some of the other legislation on which he worked. But he has a certain professional pride in what was brought forward by the government at that time and a certain strength of feeling about the events of November 1975. He makes no attempt to hide either of those facts. There is no reason why he should. I suggest that the rest of the members of the Opposition might feel a little more relaxed if they look at section 16A of the Acts Interpretation Act, which makes it clear that a reference to Governor-General, unless there is some contrary intention indicated, is a reference to the Governor-General-in-Council. I think that is the actual position. The point raised by the Opposition therefore is not one of substance.
– Unless the contrary intention appears from the Bill.
– Yes, that is right. The fourth point is that the Opposition is concerned to confer on the Minister more extensive powers of direction of the Commissioner. The Government has given this matter- as in all of these questions- careful consideration and in ensuring that the Commissioner has the operational control of the force I think we are complying with the concept of the general public and the electorate of how a police force ought to operate. It ought not to operate subject to specific political direction in operational matters. Certainly it ought to be subject to governmental control in terms of broad policy. That distinction is one which the Government defends and which I think meets the needs of Australia. The fifth point mentioned relates to a system for independent determination of complaints against police in accordance with the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission. This is a matter that is regarded as serious by the Government. The Government has it under consideration. I think that some further information will be available to the Senate very shortly on that point.
Senator Evans was concerned about the ability of politicians to do a Vicar of Bray and support a proposition on one occasion and not on another. There are significant distinctions between what is proposed by the Government in this Bill and what was proposed in the 1975 Bill. This Bill does not propose an extension of police powers in any way whereas police powers were extended in the 1975 legislation.
– They were extended by the addition of the Customs powers which would have been involved in the formation of that force. That would have been an additional element. The Australia Police Bill was brought in with the usual sensitivity of the then Government with respect to the feelings of the Australian Federation. The title alone was provocative to the States. It aimed at bringing together more than the two police forces brought together under this Bill. It brought together those two forces as well as the Northern Territory police and the Narcotics Bureau. There are quite clear differences in the two Bills. In bringing forward this Bill, the Government is responding to the very real need to produce the most efficient and effective police force possible to carry out the functions which are at present split between two forces and, at the same time, to improve the ability of the Federal Police to liaise and work with the other police forces which will continue to be responsible for normal police functions throughout the States and the Northern Territory. I commend the Bill to the Senate. We oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Gietzelt’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question put:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Senate adjourned at 11.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 27 February 1979:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I draw the honourable senator’s attention to the Prime Minister’s reply to Question No. 1335, Senate Hansard 2 May 1979, page 1608.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 1 March 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Joint Study Group on Raw Materials Processing (Question No. 1492)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 28 March 1979:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Mr G. Rose, Assistant Under Secretary (Technical), Department of Mineral Resources and Development.
Mr J. Savage, Acting Director, Development Division, Department of Mineral Resources and Development.
Mr D. Easson Industrial Development Unit, Premier’s Department.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 27 March 1979:
– The Minister for Home Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 5 April 1979:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 23 May 1979:
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On 27 February 1979 Senator Mcintosh asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for National Development, the following question, without notice:
Has any attempt been made to develop a plan that would ensure that the misuse and wastage of oil and its products are cut to a minimum. If the answer to my first question is yes, will the Minister make the details available to the Senate? If the answer to my first question is no, will the Minister explain to the House what his Government intends to do in regard to the problem of getting the electorate to adapt to the conditions that will prevail when the full force of the oil shortage becomes apparent?
The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
See the statement of the Minister for National Development, incorporated in Hansard on I May 1979 (pages 1472-81).
Radiation Safety Standards
– On 9 May 1979 (Hansard, pages 1730-1 ), Senator Coleman asked the Minister for Science and the Environment a question without notice concerning a newspaper report released by the United States National Academy of Scientists which concluded that there was no known threshold below which radiation ceased to have adverse effects on human beings. The Minister subsequently referred the question to the Minister for Health, who has provided the following information:
It has been widely accepted for many years that for most biological effects no radiation threshold is likely to exist. It is also well established that the risk of radiation effects is less for a smaller dose than for a larger dose. This decline of risk with reducing dose is believed to continue to zero dose for many radiation effects including the induction of cancer and undesirable genetic consequences. However, there are clear benefits arising from the uses of radiation in our society and these must be weighed against the radiation risks associated with these uses.
The principal source of radiation in Australia, as elsewhere, is the natural background radiation of about 100 mrem per year. An additional radiation exposure to our population arises from medical use of X-rays and this is by far the greatest contributor to all radiation above natural background.
In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council, (N.H. and M.R.C.) is conducting through the Australian Radiation Laboratory (ARL) of my Department, a national survey of radiation exposure due to medical uses of radiation. The results of this survey are expected next year and it can be anticipated that the average exposure to the Australian population from this use of radiation will be of similar magnitude to that observed in other countries with similar medical traditions. In general, in developed countries this increase is equal to about half of the natural background and gives rise to cases of radiation-induced diseases the number of which is very small compared with the natural incidence of the diseases in society. On the other hand, it is very clear that the benefit associated with diagnostic use of X-rays is very great.
This risk/benefit or sometimes cost/benefit philosophy is very apparent in the thinking that has gone into the development of the most recent international radiation protection standards. Radiation protection standards are set by trying to determine how far radiation exposure may be reduced before important information is lost or the cost of alternatives becomes too high.
In fact, the maximum permitted exposure levels recommended by the International Committee on Radiological Protection are such that the maximum risks to workers who use radiation are comparable to those in other industries. In addition, there is a principle which has been accepted that radiation doses should be kept as low as reasonably achievable and, in practice, the doses actually received by radiation workers are generally very much below the maximum permitted levels.
-On 10 May 1979 (Hansard, page 1791) Senator Bishop asked the Minister representing the Minister for Productivity a question without notice concerning the part taken by the Government in monitoring and preparing statistics on asbestos-caused diseases so as to ensure there will be as much public awareness as possible of the health hazards of asbestos, and in producing whatever remedies are available after proper monitoring. The Minister for Productivity subsequently referred the question to the Minister for Health, who has provided the following information:
The prevention and control of the asbestos hazard and health provisions relating to asbestos-caused diseases are primarily matters for the States. Consequently the States are the appropriate authorities for monitoring and collecting statistics. However, the Commonwealth has been active in introducing preventive and control measures mainly through the States. The legislation that exists in the States, or is soon to be brought about has been influenced by model regulations developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH & MRC) which acts in an advisory capacity to all Governments in Australia on public health matters.
In addition to the model regulations, the NH & MRC has produced and distributed widely the following publications:
Code of Practice for Handling Consignments of Asbestos Fibre in Australian Ports and Container Terminals.
Code for the Handling of Asbestos by Small Users.
Membrane Filter Method for Estimating Airborne Asbestos Dust.
Occupational Health Guide- Asbestos.
The NH & MRC has examined and reported on the health risks associated with exposure to asbestos on a number of previous occasions. However, in view of considerable recent publicity on diseases alleged to have been caused by exposure to asbestos, and as I announced in March, a Subcommittee of the NH & MRC has been set up to enquire into and report to the Public Health Advisory Committee of the NH & MRC on risks to health caused by exposure to asbestos or products containing asbestos to: people at work; members of the public exposed to asbestos from work activity; and members of the public exposed to asbestos from consumer products and asbestos waste.
The Sub-committee will make recommendations on hygienic standards for occupational and environmental exposure to asbestos.
The Sub-committee comprises Commonwealth and State health officials and representatives from the trade unions and relevant areas of industry. It has recently publicly invited written submissions from interested persons and organisations to assist it in its work, and will examine all relevant information provided to it.
The Sub-committee will progressively report through the Public Health Advisory Committee of NH & MRC, so that appropriate recommendations can be endorsed by Council and widely publicised. Any action resulting from Council’s recommendations will, of course, be a matter for consideration by States.
Health: Narcotic Drugs
-On 24 May 1979 (Hansard, pages 2086-7), Senator Walters asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question without notice regarding the resolutions recommended by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in February this year and their implications for the Tasmanian poppy industry. The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
The United Nations Commission’s resolutions favour the traditional supply countries to the exclusion of others. As the United States of America does not consider Australia to be a traditional supplier, this has effectively cut off a potential market for Australia and has presented very serious problems for producers of concentrate of poppy straw and other opium alkaloids in this country.
As a result of representations by the Australian Government and other concerned parties, the United States Government authorities are currently reviewing their policy in relation to the importation of opium alkaloids. The Australian Government is making all efforts through diplomatic channels at the highest possible level to influence the United States authorities to allow Australia reasonable access to the United States market.
I understand that the review process may include a series of hearings by the Drug Enforcement Agency before a decision is reached in the near future. The United States authorities have assured all parties that they will have ample opportunity to make their views known and that these will be taken into account in reaching a final determination.
The Government is taking all possible steps to ensure that the interests of the poppy growers and the associated opiate manufacturing industry in Australia are protected.
-On 30 May 1979 Senator Puplick asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following question without notice:
Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs been drawn to recent reports by various groups of jurists in the United States about the number of persons alleged to have disappeared, been tortured or imprisoned by the fascist regime in Argentina? Has his attention been drawn to Press reports today indicating that, in preparation for the visit of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, to Poland, the communist government of that country is involved in the systematic rounding up of alleged dissidents and people who might wish to make contact with His Holiness, and confining them to psychiatric institutions? What action does the Australian Government intend to take on these two matters to bring them to the attention of some appropriate international forum such as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, of which Australia is a member?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government is aware ofthe reports referred to by the honourable senator. It has been aware for some time of cases of serious human rights violations in Argentina and on various occasions the Argentine authorities have been informed at a senior level of Australia’s concern with fundamental human freedoms. The Government will continue to make representations to the Argentine authorities as appropriate opportunities arise. As a member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Australia participated in consideration under confidential procedures of the question of disappeared persons in Argentina at the 35th Session ofthe Commission held in Geneva February-March 1979. This question will again be considered by the Commission in 1 980.
The visit of the Pope to Poland is an event of major significance, with important implications for the course of relations between the Vatican and East Europe, and requires stringent security arrangements. The Polish authorities and the Catholic Church in Poland have been co-operating closely in this regard.
Under Polish law persons may be detained without charge for up to 48 hours. I have seen reports that a small number of human rights activists and dissidents have been detained (and released ) under these provisions in recent weeks.
The Government has no information to confirm or deny reports of dissidents or other persons being confined to mental institutions, but I am advised that such action would bc contrary to the Polish Government ‘s usual approach to dissidents, and thus especially unlikely to commend itself to the Polish authorities at a time when international attention is focussed on Poland.
The Government is not in a position to state whether some persons wishing to meet the Pope have been or will be denied the opportunity to do so. It seems likely, however, that direct contact with the Pope will be carefully controlled by the Church on the basis of understandings reached by Church and State. That there is extensive opportunity for the public to see the Pope during his visit to Poland has already been strikingly demonstrated by media reports.
The Government is not considering bringing this second matter before the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 June 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790607_senate_31_s81/>.