31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a communication from His Excellency the Governor-General conveying the following message from Her Majesty the Queen in reply to the address agreed to by the Senate on 28 August:
I send my warm thanks to the President and members of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia for their kind message of sympathy on the tragic death of Lord Mountbatten.
– I inform the Senate that on 17 May 1979 the Speaker of the House of Representatives and I attended the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory and, on behalf of the Commonwealth Parliament, a Mace was presented to the Assembly. I have now received a letter from the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory transmitting the following resolution:
We, the members of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory of Australia, express our sincere thanks to the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth Parliament for the Mace which, by direction of Her Majesty the Queen, was presented to this Assembly. We accept this generous gift from the Parliament which conferred self-government upon the Northern Territory as a tangible link with all the other legislatures throughout the world which adhere to the traditions of parliamentary government symbolised by the Mace.
– I inform the Senate that, consequent upon the appointment of Mr Roy Edward Bullock, O.B.E., as Clerk of the Senate, officers will occupy positions of attendance in the Senate chamber as follows:
Mr K. O. Bradshaw has been promoted to Deputy-Clerk of the Senate;
Mr A. R. Cumming;Thom is now First ClerkAssistant;
Mr H. C. Nicholls is Clerk Assistant;
Mr H. G. Smith is Principal Parliamentary Officer; and
Mr T. H. G. Wharton is Usher of the Black Rod.
– I present the following petition from 90 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Northern Territory of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the natural resources of Australia and in particular the uranium deposits of the Northern Territory should be exploited by companies which have substantial Australian interests so that the benefits accrue to all Australians.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable Members should:
In the event of a decision to sell the interest of the Australian Government in the Ranger Uranium Mining project, ensure that the sale of such interest be only to Australian buyers.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 32 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of 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:
1 ) 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.
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.
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 of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian Women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representatives without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Sheil.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia residing in the Electorate of Wannon respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Guilfoyle.
To the Honourable The President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned electors respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions ) Act 1 977 should immediately be repealed because:
It provides unfettered power to Ministers to suspend, stand-down and dismiss Commonwealth Government employees and places them in a markedly disadvantageous position as compared with all other Australian workers.
Its use places Commonwealth Government employees in direct conflict with the Government as it circumvents the arbitration tribunals and denies appeal rights.
Its use will exacerbate industrial disputes and inflame industrial relations in the Commonwealth area of employment.
The International Labour Organisation has condemned the Provisions of the Act as being incompatible with the rights of organised labor in a free society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Rocher.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1 978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senators Durack, Harradine and Rae.
-I ask the Leader of the
Government, who represents the Prime Minister, whether it is a fact that the Prime Minister is unhappy with the information which has been provided to the Parliament and to the public concerning supplies of diesel fuel and avgas and, as a result, had the matter raised in Cabinet yesterday. As a result of those discussions, can the Minister now assure the Senate that the Government has complete confidence in the information available to it from the Minister for National Development and the oil companies?
– What happened in Cabinet yesterday, or at any other time, will remain confidential, as it ought to do under all governments. I will refer the technical side of the question to the Minister concerned and seek the necessary information.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the great mass of information referred to in the Federal Budget, which at present follows no recognisable sequence, will the Treasurer give consideration to providing a comprehensive index to the Budget?
– I will refer the question to the Treasurer for comment.
-I refer the Minister representing the Minister for National Development to the Minister’s statement on 30 August 1979 in which he said:
Because of problems in Iran, the outlook for further supplies of avgas from Abadan in the remainder of 1979 is very uncertain.
What is the information in the possession of the Government which is the basis for that statement and how uncertain are the supplies of avgas from Iran?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for National Development and ask him for an early reply.
– I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment: Is it a fact, as alleged in the article entitled ‘The Great Goldfish Battle’ published in the Weekend Australian of 1 1 and 12 August 1979, that he is introducing plans to ban imports of goldfish and some tropical fish which could wipe out the decorative aquarium industry?
– The honourable senator has raised an important matter affecting a substantial industry throughout Australia, that is, the importation and supply of aquarium fish. The honourable senator will be aware of the great pleasure accorded many families which have built up a stock of such fish over many years. The article in the Weekend Australian of 1 1 and 12 August has been drawn to my attention. I think that it is useful in that it draws attention to the polarisation of attitudes on the importation of aquarium fish and some of the difficulties involved in reaching a solution satisfactory to all concerned. That article is erroneous in some respects. I think that this is the point that the honourable senator has brought forward.
I have not introduced any Federal Government plan to ban imports of goldfish and some tropical fish. Originally the matter arose when the Australian Fisheries Council, which is composed of State and Commonwealth Ministers who are responsible for fisheries, recommended that the number of species of fresh water aquarium fish allowed to be imported into Australia should be reduced from the 680 varieties of fish, if my memory serves me correctly, that are presently imported to about 100 varieties. This recommendation has created some discussion amongst people who are concerned with the importation of aquarium fish. The Minister for Primary Industry, as Chairman of the Australian Fisheries Council, tabled in the Parliament on 22 February 1979 the resolutions of the Council. He referred those resolutions to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, to the Minister for Health who, of course, is associated with the health aspects, and to me. I have since arranged to meet members of the Australian Aquarium Fish Importers and Traders Association to gain an understanding of their position. I have assured them that their views will be taken fully into account before any decision is made to restrict imports.
An interdepartmental committee has looked into this matter. Basically, its representatives are from the departments I have mentioned that are associated with and interested in this matter. The committee examined the issues involved in the importation and quarantining of aquarium fish. It will be advising on the best way in which to meet this situation, taking into account the Association ‘s view on the matter. There are widely differing views on this industry. It is an industry that I understand may generate business amounting to $200m a year. So it can be seen that this is an important matter. There is general agreement that health and environmental risks have been taken in the past with the number of varieties of fish that have been introduced. I assure the honourable senator that with proper management a satisfactory result will be achieved for all concerned in the near future.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, follows a question asked by Senator Sibraa. Is it not a fact that on 26 August 1979- that is, four days before the Minister’s statement to which Senator Sibraa referred- the national Iranian oil company advised the Department of Foreign Affairs that there would be no further exports of avgas from Iran during the remainder of 1979 and that no assurances could be given about the position in 1980? Is the Minister aware of that communication? Does he accept the gravity of that warning from Iran? Is he prepared to let the Australian public know of the gravity of the position?
-Senator Wriedt has directed a question to me in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for National Development and has asked whether I am aware of a statement made by an Iranian official or body in relation to supply from that country. I personally am not aware of it. I do not know whether the Minister for National Development is aware of it, but I will refer the question to him and ask him to provide an answer. As to the rest of Senator Wriedt ‘s question, I will refer that also to the Minister.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. As the amount of distillate actually delivered to all the oil companies in Cairns over the past few months was considerably less than the assessed requirements for the area and less than the amount used last year, will the Minister agree that the problem is not one of excessive stockpiling by farmers, as the oil companies allege, but is the result of a breakdown in distribution by some of these companies? Because the situation is still critical, particularly in the outback, and will not be resolved by the amounts scheduled to arrive by the end of November, will the Minister as a matter of urgency request the oil companies to secure immediately for Cairns an additional shipment of distillate from seas, preferably from those areas which supply New Guinea, Weipa, the Torres Strait and Darwin?
-On behalf of the Minister for National Development I have been asked to answer a number of questions relating to the supply of distillate in Queensland. The Minister is aware that the situation is a tight one, although, as I have said, imports are scheduled. I have been informed that one by Amoco Australia Pty Ltd is scheduled to arrive in Queensland at the end of September and one by Shell Co. of Australia Ltd in October.
– If the Minister is aware, why doesn’t he tell the country the whole story that all of you know about and none of you will say anything about?
– I thought the honourable senator was interested in hearing what information I have from the Minister.
– Yes, but we want some facts.
– The honourable senator obviously has his own views and does not want to be told anything. That is fairly common. The fact is that in several States, including Queensland, the demand situation is running at unprecedented levels. Against that background, Senator Maunsell has asked whether an additional shipment could be obtained. I will refer the question to the Minister for his urgent attention.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development and closely follows the previous question. I refer to the fact that various statements about shortages of distillate have been made by the Government which have created not only some confusion but also some concern. Has the Government given any consideration to the need to increase the output of distillate from Australian refineries? If there is any reason why an increase in output has not taken place in Australia, why has the Government not sought to stimulate an increase in production in Australian refineries?
– I will refer the question to the Minister for National Development.
-Can the Minister for Education say whether Senator Button or the Australian Labor Party organised for last Friday, 7 September, at the Caulfield Institute of Technology a very well-publicised meeting about this Government’s education policy and the Budget? Did Senator Button, as the Labor Party’s shadow Minister for Education, arrange to be the principal speaker at that meeting? Was it arranged for newspapers, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and commercial television and radio stations to cover the event to ensure national publicity?
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. Is this matter covered by the Minister’s portfolio? Can the Minister provide information relating to Senator Button? The Standing Orders provide that the honourable senator may ask the question of Senator Button and get the information from him. For the purpose of propaganda, Senator Lewis is seeking information from a man who cannot possibly know the answer.
– Questions directed to Ministers must be within the responsibilities of their portfolios. I am listening to the question. I call Senator Lewis.
– The question is about a meeting which took place at the Caulfield Institute of Technology last Friday. Can the Minister tell the Senate whether it is true that not one member of the student body attended that meeting? Can the Minister let us know whether this was because the students expressed their desire to approve the Government’s education policy, or was it simply because the speaker was Senator Button? Did Senator Button then arrange for his speech to appear in today ‘s Age”?
– I call on the Minister to reply in areas in which he feels that he can do so within his own responsibilities, and no more than that.
– I can certainly respond on the fact that the Opposition has failed to attract crowds to its rallying points against the Government’s education policies. If those who wish to do so would look at the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial of Friday, 7 September, they will be interested to read an article which says: Crowds stayed away’. In terms of the very famous advocate, whilst they will be none the wiser, they will be so much the better informed. The article itself goes on-
– How about your own meetings?
- Mr President, I find the interjections highly interesting because we have no difficulty in getting both good and interested people commending the Government’s education policies. If the Sun News-Pictorial article is accurate, and I believe it to be, the fact is that nobody of the student movement saw fit to come to hear Senator Button. I cannot say whether that is true.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development: Has the Government considered a report of officials on government to government purchases of oil, thus by-passing the major oil companies? Is it a fact that the report indicated that supplies of oil from the Middle East were conditional upon concessions relating to certain political matters and various trade issues? Is it further a fact that the report also indicated that Middle East countries would require the establishment of an Australian Government corporation through which they would do business? When will the Government inform the Parliament of its decisions on this crucial report?
– I think a question involving detail of that kind should be put on notice. I suggest that that be done.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and refer to my question of 4 April 1978 when I sought information regarding the Government’s intention to ensure that there was a full parliamentary debate on the report of the Royal Commission into Human Relationships. In reply, the then Leader of the Government in the Senate referred to the Prime Minister’s statement that:
At an appropriate time it would be proper and necessary Tor a significant debate of the report to be held in this Parliament.
I ask the Minister Does he believe that there has been sufficient public debate on this significant report? Does he also believe that it is now an appropriate time for the recommendations of the royal commission to be considered in this Parliament, and in particular in the Senate?
-I am grateful to Senator Missen for reminding me of the details of this matter. They were not before me. I will have a look at the matter and see what the circumstances are and whether it is possible to have such a debate.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Have problems occurred in obtaining sufficient supplies of automotive distillate not only in Queensland, which has already been mentioned but also in southern Queensland, northern New South Wales and Tasmania? Does the Minister agree that the 4 per cent increase in crop area planted this year, coupled with the fact that agriculture uses less than 25 per cent of total automotive distillate, account for less than one per cent of the 12.6 per cent increase in sales in 1979? If so, how does the Government account for the 12.6 per cent increase in sales? How does it propose to overcome shortages in the areas I have mentioned?
– As I said earlier today, a number of questions have been directed to me in relation to the supply of distillate particularly in Queensland but also in other States. The Government is aware of the problem and regards the supply situation as tight. The Minister for National Development has been taking a close interest in the question. As I have indicated in answers here, the import and shipment of distillate have been scheduled over the coming months and the details have been given. As I have also said, the Government is conscious of the fact that there is an increase in demand this year which in some cases is quite high. There may be a number of reasons for that. I will refer the statistics cited by Senator Walsh in his question to the Minister and ask him to provide an early answer.
-Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister outline the effects that would flow to Australian industry and its competitiveness and to industrial harmony from any implementation of the Australian Labor Party’s Adelaide decision to repeal all penalties for strikes against arbitral decisions of the Commission or a conciliation committee and the prohibition of action by the Commission to insert or register clauses in awards or agreements excluding the rights of workers to resort to industrial action’? Can the Minister also indicate whether such action by the Labor Party would mean one rule for the unions and another for the rest of the community?
-A1I Australians should pay particular attention to the wording, implications and meaning of those decisions of the Australian Labor Party made at the Adelaide Conference. The fact is that they would be an invitation to industrial anarchy itself and an invitation so to weaken the arbitration system in Australia as to make it seriously defective in its ability to function. Australia has had a reputation in arbitration matters envied by the world. It is true that the Labor Party is seeking to provide immunities for unionists which would not be enjoyed by the rest of the public. Justice itself ought to be uniform for all. I invite the whole of the Australian community to look to a policy of the Labor Party which must be aimed to create the kind of industrial chaos that, in fact, Mr Young of the Labor Party foreshadowed for the 1980s. Strangely enough, he did not tell Mr Wran, who saw the 1980s to be a very prosperous period.
-I refer the Minister for Education to a report in yesterday’s Brisbane Courier-Mail about the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education in which it was stated that the Queensland Minister for Education, Mr Bird, wants difficulties at the Institute ‘cleared up before an already wary Canberra reacts’. I also refer to a report in today’s Courier-Mail which states that Mr Bird has dropped his proposal for a judicial inquiry into the Institute. I ask the Minister whether he is aware that rumours are circulating in Queensland colleges of advanced education to the effect that there has been financial and managerial mismanagement at the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education and that certain influential persons are attempting to have this mismanagement covered up. Can the Minister inform the Senate what is going on at this Institute of Advanced Education and whether he is satisfied that Commonwealth funds are being responsibly used at Darling Downs?
– I have not seen either report in the Courier-Mail. I certainly will look to those reports. I would want to do nothing here or elsewhere to generate or to enlarge rumours. On the other hand, as Senator Colston has raised the matter, I will bring his question to the attention of both the Chairman of the Tertiary Education Commission, Professor Karmel, and the Chairman of the Advanced Education Council, Dr Houston. I will see whether it is possible to obtain a detailed response on the matters which Senator Colston has raised.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I do so following the criticisms which are being levelled by the Australian Labor Party concerning inflation in Australia at the present time. How did the inflation rate in Australia compare with the inflation rates of many other countries in the preWhitlam era and during the Whitlam era? How does it compare at the present time?
– During the two decades of the 1950s and the 1960s, the pre- Whitlam era, under Liberal-Country Party governments at the Federal level, Australia had the lowest sustained inflation rate in the world.
– That’s a lie.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. I suggest that Senator Walsh should retract that statement. He is implying that the Leader of the Government in the Senate is lying. He called the Leader of the Government a liar.
– At all times one has to be very careful to differentiate between what is political comment and what is personal reflection or abuse. It is not parliamentary to state ‘It is a lie’. I ask you to desist from such usage, Senator Walsh.
- Mr President, whenever Australian Labor Party senators do not want the facts to be known to the public they seek by way of interjection and by stimulating points of order to destroy the facts. I continue: The fact of the matter -
– It is about the only thing that will stimulate some of you people.
– The noise honourable senators opposite now generate will be some measure of their obstruction. Let me repeat that in the 1950s and 1960s Australia was able to say that it had the lowest sustained inflation rate in the free world, the best record of full employment in the free world and the highest rate of home ownership in the free world. When the Whitlam Government came to power the inflation rate was about 4 per cent; when it left power the inflation rate was running between 1 8 and 20 percent.
– That is another lie.
– Order, please. Senator Walsh, I have told you not to use that word in that way. It is unparliamentary to do so.
– When the Whitlam Government left office Australia was unenviably costed out of world markets and was among the quarter of member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which had the highest rate of inflation- the top inflation countries. I am happy to say that today we are among the quarter of” OECD countries with the lowest rate of inflation. As some question has been raised on this matter, for the 12 months to June 1979 the average inflation rate of all the OECD countries was 9.4 per cent. The inflation rate of the United States of America was 10.9 per cent; France, 10.2 per cent; the United Kingdom, 11.4 per cent; Italy, 13.7 per cent; New Zealand, 12.4 percent; and Australia, 8.8 per cent. Those were the OECD figures. That is not a bad situation. I remind the Senate that prior to the Whitlam Government coming to office Australia was able to trade freely at competitive prices throughout the world. We were costed out of world markets. In fact in one year under the Whitlam Government 1,100 people were costed out of the manufacturing industry. Now we have been able to bring Australia back into competition in the free world.
-I ask the Minister for Education whether he has seen an article in the Melbourne Age which states:
Carrick is a socialist ‘, declared one ‘ Ugly ‘ -
He is a member of the New South Wales Liberal Party- who preferred not to be named. ‘He has been for a very long time. He’s been told by the socialists to get involved in the Liberal Party machine as an undercover agent’.
When will the Minister come clean and admit that he is a plant in the Liberal Party? Will he also tell me whether it is correct that under the Fraser Government the prices of manufactured goods rose by 15.9 per cent for the 12 months ended July this year? Does the large rise represent the Government’s success in fighting inflation first? If so, what are its expectations for changes in the prices of manufactured goods for the next 1 2 months?
– In respect of the factual information sought, I call the Minister to reply.
-I take it from the first part of Senator Wriedt’s question that he accepts the claim that I am a socialist and, therefore, that I would be acceptable as a member of the Australian Labor Party. Let me simply say that every day and every hour for four consecutive years I have been proud to differ from Senator Wriedt on each of the value judgments he has held. So much for where we stand. Whenever an extremist, anonymous or otherwise and including those sitting opposite, calls me rude names, I am quite proud. Nearly three decades of association with Federal and State Liberal governments has created no need for me to disclaim my Liberal philosophy. I find this the kind of trivia that only Senator Wriedt can dredge up at Question Time. What he is not game to do is to tell us the substance of that article, which states that it is recognised that I, along with others, have fought extremism over the decades wherever it has occurred in politics. That is why, as the article says, these people are trying to put tags on me. This is the kind of selective situation that Senator Wriedt seeks to raise. I am not aware of the statistics contained in the remainder of his question. I will look them up and give him an answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science and the Environment. In June this year the Prime Minister announced the Government ‘s preliminary assessment of the inhumane and environmentally damaging aspects of the seal hunt in Canada, Norway and the Soviet Union and he proposed a total ban on all seal products imported into Australia, as well as a ban on the products of all other endangered species. This ban was referred to the Minister for Science and the Environment for investigation. I ask the Minister: Has he completed that investigation? Has the present ban on the importation of seal products been confirmed? Will the full assessment of the investigation soon be published?
-The matter is of concern to environmentalists. The question that the honourable senator has asked has two parts. The first is in relation to trade in seal products and the harvesting of seals that takes place in some countries, particularly the harvesting of the harp seal in Canada. The other aspect of his question is the trade in endangered species, which is a matter that the Prime Minister brought to my attention on 6 June this year. On 14 June my Department, along with other departments which were concerned, commenced an investigation so that we could look at the possible banning of the importation of hides, skins and furs of species which were included in appendix 2 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which is known as CITES. It is correct that I have presented a report to the Prime Minister on the recommendations that have been arrived at in this matter. At present the matter is being considered by both the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, who is responsible in regard to the trade aspect, and the Attorney-General, who is concerned with the amendment of existing regulations. Eventually the submission will be taken to Cabinet by me.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and refers to recent offers by Mr Hawke, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, to confer with the Government about the economy, wages and jobs. The Minister will know that during the pre-Budget talks Mr Hawke offered to participate in such conferences. Also, yesterday at the ACTU conference he expressed his position even more directly when he said that the ACTU and its officers were available to discuss with the Government matters of importance to the economy, including unemployment and jobs, in the hope that some of the issues which confront Australia today might be solved. I ask: Does the Government intend to reject such an offer? Will it, before it introduces its promised restrictions to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, discuss such matters with the ACTU? Also, does it intend again not to accept the offer from Mr Hawke in respect of the more important matters affecting the economy?
– The matter is one for response by the Prime Minister directly as it concerns government policy. I will refer the question to the Prime Minister.
– I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs: Can he advise the present situation in regard to the stand taken by traditional owners in the Oenpelli area of the Northern Territory, who have objected to vehicles proceeding through that area to service Nabarlek, the Queensland Mines Ltd uranium deposit? In what way is the Northern Land Council involved? What legal moves, if any, have been taken by either of the three parties, that is Queensland Mines Ltd, the traditional owners, and the Northern Land Council? What has been the outcome of any such moves?
– A number of Aboriginal people, including those who claim to be the owners of the area through which Cahill ‘s Crossing road passes, have alleged that they were not consulted about the use of the road and that the Northern Land Council had no authority to agree to its use. The traditional owners have formally advised the company that all permits to use the road have been revoked. Under Northern Territory legislation the traditional owners of land can revoke permits which authorise entry to their land. The Northern Land Council and Queensland Mines Ltd on 22 March 1979 signed an agreement in which the terms and conditions of mining on Aboriginal land at Nabarlek were set down. One of the conditions was that permits authorising entry to Aboriginal land would be required by Queensland Mines Ltd employees and its agents and that these permits would be issued by the Northern Land Council and not unreasonably delayed or withheld.
I am advised that eight Aboriginals have now issued a writ against Queensland Mines Ltd in respect of the road running from Cahill ‘s Crossing on the East Alligator River to the Nabarlek site, which is south-east of Oenpelli. In that action they seek an injunction to restrain Queensland Mines Ltd and its agents from using the road and damages against the company for such use. I understand that a date for the hearing of that matter in the Northern Territory Supreme Court is to be set- perhaps today. I do not have notice of the actual date of the hearing.
-Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of reports that a significant percentage of refugees in Thailand have given famine as the main reason for their flight? In the circumstances, will the Government reconsider its refusal to provide humanitarian relief to Kampuchea and Vietnam? The Minister will recall that in 1960 the absence of diplomatic relations with China was not allowed to hinder the development of trade relations.
– I have not seen the report to which the honourable senator refers. Perhaps he can direct my attention to its source. I am aware and everybody who meets and discusses this with the boat people must be aware of the variety of reasons that the people are fleeing from Vietnam and Kampuchea. The fact of the matter is that there is a very serious situation there. The Government had decided to terminate its aid to the area on one very good basis. The
Vietnamese were sustaining a very severe military action. Therefore, the contribution to the economy of the Vietnamese was bolstering their capacity to sustain militarism and to sustain the kind of wars that they were waging against the Kampucheans in particular. I think that the Australian public would accept that. I would be happy if Senator Mcintosh could direct my attention to the source of his information.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs able to confirm reports that guerrillas infiltrating Zimbabwe have been issued with medical kits provided by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund? Did last year’s UNICEF report disclose that it had provided aid to the Patriotic Front, the South West African People’s Organisation, the Pan-Africanist Congress and the African National Congress? If so, what form did that aid take? What is the Government’s attitude to assistance and funding of alleged African guerrilla and terrorist organisations by the United Nations or its affiliates?
-Senator Rocher has asked a series of four or more questions. I have seen the reports to which he refers. I am not able to confirm specifically the contents of the reports at this stage, but I have some briefing on the matter in general. As I understand it, under resolution 33/41 of the General Assembly passed on 13 December 1978, all specialised agencies of the United Nations-that is, including the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund- were called on to increase their assistance to national liberation movements recognised by the Organisation of African Unity. Each specialised agency is also required to report to the Economic and Social Council for Asia and the Pacific on its implementation of that resolution. Australia abstained on the resolution, along with such countries as Canada, France and the United States.
In the last report by UNICEF to the Economic and Social Council, reference is made to assistance to children and mothers cared for by liberation movements. This assistance was extended to refugee mothers and children under the auspices of the liberation movements in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia. This form of assistance, which is of a humanitarian and relief nature, forms only a tiny proportion of the total outlays of the specialised agencies concerned. In the case of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, for example, the contribution in 1979-80 to educational, training and cultural assistance to national liberation movements will be only 0.69 per cent of UNESCO’s total budget.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications not agree that it is a strange situation when an Australian made television series, which has either been sold or is in the process of being sold to over 20 countries, is ignored by television companies in Australia? I refer to the film, a five part series, entitled ‘The Human Face of China’, which has been called the most comprehensive human interest film ever attempted inside China. Would the Minister institute an inquiry and supply me with an answer stating why the Australian Broadcasting Commission in particular and the commercial television stations in general have boycotted this film which has received world acclaim?
– I will refer that inquiry to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Mr Staley, and ask him to reply direct to the honourable senator.
– I refer the Minister for Education to reports, including one in the Canberra Times today, that language programs in Italian, Greek, Indonesian and Spanish at four Canberra schools are facing problems. Can the Minister say whether he will consider action to ensure that those important programs continue?
-I am aware of the difficulties relating to the future of bilingual education in Australian Capital Territory schools, which I think are commented on today in an article in the Canberra Times. The Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority has presented me with proposals relating to the future operation of these programs. I hope to deal with those proposals in the near future. I regard these bilingual programs as important in the Canberra educational scene. They are very much in line with the Government’s general thrust to improve all facets of multi-cultural education flowing from the Galbally report. I know that these programs have generated considerable support and enthusiasm. I am aware of Senator Knight’s personal interest in this matter and I will try to expedite consideration of it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs at the behest of several Latin- American groups in Sydney which assert that, because of the dilemma that the Government faces following the heavy intake of Vietnamese political refugees, when they front up for employment, having paid their own fares, they are met with a sort of sweetheart agreement between the Commonwealth Employment Service and the Government. By that they mean that X number of Vietnamese are slotted in at the expense of the Latin-Americans, particularly the Chileans, Equadorians and Peruvians. To illustrate my claim, I refer to the circumstances in which employees are recruited at the plant of Standard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd in Botany.
– The Commonwealth Employment Service has a policy of not discriminating on the basis of race or, indeed, on any other basis. It would reject vacancies which specified applicants of a particular background. The facts concerning refugees in the Sydney area do not substantiate what has been reported to Senator Mulvihill. The STC plant at Botany recruits many of its staff by using ‘gate-callers’. Apparently, out of a total work force of 2,000, it has recruited only 20 refugees in the last 12 months. I gather that that figure refers to Vietnamese refugees. The firm does lodge some vacancies with the Commonwealth Employment Service but does not ask for any bulk referals. Vietnamese refugees, like other migrants and locally bom citizens, are competing equally on the labour market. Generally it would appear that employers are showing satisfaction with them as workers and are developing a readiness to accept further refugees. There is no reason to believe that South American migrants or refugees are not equally well motivated. Although the question has been considered in the light of the information received, it is not felt that there is any evidence to substantiate the claim.
-Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that the Sydney Stock Exchange index yesterday was very close to the record height of January 1970, being at 662.89 points for the all ordinaries index, only 0.59 of a point under the record of 663.48 points? Is the Minister aware that the mining index, which is at 3,616.41 points, has reached a nineyear peak? Is there an inverse relationship between high inflation rates, and the expectation of high inflation rates, and stock prices? In other words, do stock market indices tend to fall, not rise, when inflation rises?
– I have read in the Press the levels of trading on the Sydney Stock Exchange. They are as stated by Senator MacGibbon. I also saw reference to the rising mining index. It is true that when inflation rises, stock exchange and mining indices fall, for the very simple reason that those who seek to invest in commerce and industry in any country know that inflation, when rising, destroys profitability and the capacity of industry and commerce to function. Equally, as Senator MacGibbon says, the inverse applies. When inflation is falling and interest rates are under control or when the inflation rate in a country is low compared with inflation rates in the rest of the world- that is important at this moment- the stock exchange indices and the mining indices will reflect a rise indicating that the country is regarded, not only by its people but also by people throughout the world, as being one of the healthiest countries for investment and for the development of commerce and industry. In fact, that is what is happening in Australia today.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science and the Environment. I remind him that last week I spoke in the Senate about the pollution of Georges River and Botany Bay by certain Federal instrumentalities and suggested that more positive action should be taken by the Federal Government. I also remind him that my colleague Senator Mulvihill has made reference to this matter from time to time. Is the Minister aware that yesterday there was a spillage of oil into Botany Bay by a tanker and that about 20,000 litres of oil was discharged? Is he aware that this spillage is having a deleterious effect on the local environment and also could seriously affect the purification processes that the New South Wales Government has put into play in respect of the protection of the oyster industry in the area, which is an export industry? What action has the Government taken to date to assist in cleaning up the spillage? What discussions, if any, have taken place between the Department of Science and the Environment and officers of the Department of Transport to see that all precautions are taken to prevent spillage in advance of any tanker entering Botany Bay and discharging its cargo at Kurnell?
– I well remember the honourable senator speaking on this matter recently in the Senate. I have noted that a small oil spillage, as I understood the headline in a newspaper, occurred in New South Wales yesterday. Basically, I am not aware of the effect that it is having. I imagine that the New South Wales Government is talcing every precaution possible. At present the matter is not one for my Department but certainly it should be involved in the effect it is having insofar as the environment is concerned. I believe that the Minister for Transport is the appropriate Minister to respond to any question about what is being done to clean up of this spill. I will refer the question to that Minister.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction: What information does the Federal Department of Housing and Construction have on the number of dwellings built by States with funds available under Commonwealth-State arrangements and what details does it have of the sales by State housing authorities of dwellings which were built under Commonwealth-State funding arrangements? What is the source of that information?
-As I understand the matter, the Federal Department of Housing and Construction receives a half-yearly return from each State and that return includes a statement of the number of dwellings completed by the States using Commonwealth welfare housing funds, State funds, public housing funds and the revolving funds to which the honourable senator referred in this place on a previous occasion. Of course, they arise from previous investments in welfare housing. I believe that the return also includes details of sales of public rental dwellings. I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister whom I represent. If further information is required I will seek it for him.
-My question is directed to the Attorney-General. In June of this year did two Commonwealth Police officers visit the United States of America and make inquiries in reference to the disposal of two Royal Australian Air Force Hercules aircraft? Did the officers question a Mr John Wood of Love Field, Texas? What was the purpose of the inquiry by Commonwealth Police and the nature of the questioning of Mr Wood?
– I am not responsible for the Commonwealth Police. That area is within the ministerial responsibility of my colleague the
Minister for Administrative Services, and I will refer the question to him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources or, alternatively, the Minister representing the Minister for Special Trade Representations. As that is the same person in this chamber, I invite an answer in either capacity. What progress has been made towards the establishment of a trade office in Taiwan on a similar basis to that used by the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and many other major trading nations? I ask this question particularly in the light of our growing trade with that rapidly developing nation and the unnecessary impediment and inconvenience which the absence of a trade office constitutes for those wishing to engage in such trade.
-I will get an up-to-date reply for Senator Rae on the situation in relation to that matter.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and refer to his answer to my question on notice of 5 April concerning Aboriginal broadcasting. Has the survey on needs and training of Aboriginal broadcasters been completed and will the survey be made public? What steps have been taken by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Postal and Telecommunications Department to facilitate the issue of C class licences to the Aboriginal communities at Bathurst Island and Milingimbi? Will the Minister agree that the granting of public broadcasting licences is the appropriate way to meet the broadcasting needs of such Aboriginal communities?
– The honourable senator has asked three questions. I think the answer to the first one is yes, but I will need to check that. I have seen recently a report on that subject, but whether it was the precise report to which the honourable senator referred I am not quite sure. I do not think any action has been taken with respect to C class licences for the places mentioned by her. I have no concluded view with respect to the third point as to whether that is the most appropriate way to advance Aboriginal broadcasting. I do see broadcasting as being of positive value to a number of Aboriginal groups, but at the moment I am waiting on a further briefing which I have sought from my Department on the physical numbers of people in particular language groups who might be served by licences and so on. Until I have further examined the matter I do not think I can give any definitive reply.
– Can the Minister for Education inform the Senate whether any Commonwealth money has been used in the production of the resources folder Equal Chance? The folder is published by the curriculum centre of the Tasmanian Education Department.
– I am not aware of the specific publication mentioned by Senator Walters, but if she cares to bring it to my attention I will be pleased to invite the Schools Commission to comment on it. I am advised that in 1977 and 1978 the Schools Commission, through its special projects program, provided a sum of $27,000 as a contribution towards the Tasmanian Education Department’s efforts in the area of non-sexist education. Funds have not been provided to this activity since January 1979. The Schools Commission did not make a specific contribution towards this particular publication, but could have contributed indirectly through general support of a program. If the honourable senator will bring the publication to my attention I will see whether I can get her any further information.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I refer to reports of a recently promulgated Soviet law, operative from 1 July 1979, which declares as Soviet citizens all persons born in territories now forming part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, as well as their children. It is reported that this law also makes the renouncing of Soviet citizenship a punishable offence. I ask: Are these reports correct? If so, is it the view of the Government that, as has been reported, the aim of this law is to discourage Russian emigrants from visiting their countries of origin, particularly during the Moscow Olympic Games? Has the Australian Government made any representations to the USSR regarding the implications of this law?
– I ask the honourable senator to place the question on notice.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Does Great Britain’s membership of the European Economic Community require it to offer medical registration to doctors from all EEC countries? In the event that not all these doctors normally would be able to obtain automatic registration in Australia, what provisions exist to cover the registration in this country of doctors registered in Great Britain by virtue of that country’s membership of the EEC?
– I am not able to advise Senator Baume of the current arrangement for registration in the United Kingdom of doctors from other EEC countries. Details could be obtained from the General Medical Council in London. However, as far as Australia is concerned, registration in the United Kingdom is of little consequence as the medical registration boards of the States and Territories are concerned only with the countries in which the basic medical qualifications of applicants for registration were obtained. The boards are not concerned with the countries in which the doctors are registered. I am informed that all State and Territory medical registration boards have agreed that in Australia the only overseas medical qualifications which will attract automatic registration are those obtained in the United Kingdom, in Ireland and in New Zealand. Doctors with qualifications obtained in other countries, whether in the EEC or elsewhere, are to be required satisfactorily to complete the examination of the Australian Medical Examining Council before being eligible for registration in this country. Legislation to give effect to this agreement is in force in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, and is currently being formulated in the other States and Territories. If Senator Baume would like that information, it could be obtained from the General Medical Council in London.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: What plans, if any, does the Government have to promote United Nations Disarmament Week commencing on 24 October? If it has none, will it consider setting up and funding a widely representative committee to sponsor activity in Australia during this important week?
– I will direct the question to the attention of the responsible Minister.
-I seek leave to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented during Question Time.
-During Question Time today Senator Carrick answered a question from Senator Lewis which Senator Carrick was about as unqualified to answer as he is on most questions which are directed to him. That question involved a meeting at the Caulfield Institute of Technology last week. The question which was asked by Senator Lewis implied, firstly, that I organised a meeting at the Caulfield Institute of Technology; secondly, that I arranged the attendance of newspaper reporters; thirdly, that nobody attended; and fourthly, that when nobody attended I then arranged for an article to be published in today’s issue of the Melbourne Age relating to what I was going to say if the meeting had taken place.
The personal explanation which I wish to make is, firstly, I did not organise any meeting at the Caulfield Institute of Technology; secondly, I did not arrange for the Press to attend; thirdly, 1 did not subsequently seek to have published in the Melbourne Age an article relating to what I was going to say at the Caulfield Institute of Technology; and fourthly, I would say that the meeting was billed and I was invited to take part in a debate with Mr Roger Shipton, the Liberal member for Higgins. Mr Shipton did not front, in spite of four invitations being extended to him. If I may say so, I understand that to be a tribute to Mr Shipton ‘s perspicacity. He is an astute man and it was only common sense for him not to turn up.
I have been invited to take part in a further debate with Mr Shipton at the Caulfield Institute of Technology. I will attend, and I hope that the Minister will prevail on Mr Shipton to attend also. Might I say further that the only meeting of students which I have addressed relating to the matters which were referred to in the question and the answer was at the Armidale University. This meeting took place in the street and 700 students attended.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
National Health Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
High Court Justices (Long Leave Payments) Bill 1979.
Judges ( Long Leave Payments) Bill 1 979.
Northern Territory Supreme Court ( Repeal ) Bill 1 979.
Judiciary Amendment Bill 1979.
Federal Court of Australia Amendment Bill 1979.
Judges ‘ Pensions Amendment Bill 1979.
– I lay on the table explanatory notes relating to the estimates of proposed expenditure 1979-80 of the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Primary Industry, together with explanation pages for inclusion with the explanatory notes of the Department of Trade and Resources.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Department of Education for 1978.
DECLINE IN VALUE OF POST-GRADUATE AWARDS
Movements in the CPI (Sydney)
Quarter ending December 1976-222.8
Quarter ending June 1979-274.3
Quarter ending December 1 980*-3 1 2. 1
- assumes an inflation rate of 9 per cent p.a. from now until December 1980.
Value of Award
From January 1977-$4,000
From January 1978-$4,200
Taxed from 1 November, 1978
Not increased for 1 979 or 1 980
Value of Award at January 1 977- $4,000 tax free.
To maintain this value, in December 1980 prices, this would need to be 312.1x4000 222.8 which in dollar terms is $5,600.
In order to get $5,600 after tax in December 1980 prices, the award would need to be valued at $6,4 10. (Using 32 per cent tax rate, because December 1980 is after the lifting of the surcharge, and assuming the surcharge is not reapplied, and using $3,893 tax threshold,)
The relationship is:
Taxable income = taxed income + (taxable incomethreshold )x tax rate.
But at the moment, the award is $4,200. The tax on this is $98 at the 32 per cent rate. Therefore, the money value at December 1 980 is $4, 102.
Thus, in January 1 977 terms, the award is worth: 4,102 x 100
= 64 per cent in real, buying power terms, after paying tax. (That is, to have the same buying power in December 1980, as it had in January 1977, and pay tax, the award would need to be $6,410 per year).
The report of the Department of Education deals also with one or two other matters which are of vital concern, to students particularly but also to people involved in education generally. I refer in particular to the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme, which has not received any benefit from the recent Budget except for a slight raising of the means test cut off point. No changes have been made to its basic premises. The basic premises of the scheme are that it is an allowance payable to students in respect of which some supplementary income or support will be provided by parents. That is, I think, a bizarre notion in social terms in this period of the twentieth century, but that is another argument.
The Government has ignored a number of matters of concern about the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme. I refer first of all to the rates provided under the scheme and, secondly, to the possibility of indexing tertiary allowances. The Government applies the principle of indexation to other pensions and allowances but it has seen fit not to apply it to student allowances. The reason is perfectly obvious: It is because there is no political clout in the student vote; ninety per cent of students vote Labor anyway.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 1 8 of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1 966-67 I present the annual report of the National Debt Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 979.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on gearboxes, gears and shaft couplings- temporary assistance; and tanned and finished leather; dressed fur- short term assistance.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report entitled ‘Promoting Health- Prospects for Better Health throughout Australia’. This report was distributed to honourable senators during the adjournment.
– Pursuant to section 34 of the Services Trust Funds Act 1947 I present the annual report by the trustees of the Services Canteens Trust Fund for the year ended 31 December 1978, together with the report of the Auditor-General required under section 25 of the above Act.
– Pursuant to section 1 8 of the Wheat Research Act 19571 present the annual report on the operations of that Act during the year ended 3 1 December 1 978.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Chicken Meat Resarch Act 1969 I present the report of the Chicken Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1979.
– The distribution commissioners for Western Australia published their preliminary redistribution proposals on 27 August 1979. In accordance with the procedure outlined to this House on 3 April 1 979, on behalf of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator
Chaney), I present for the information of honourable senators a paper prepared by the Australian Electoral Office which reconstructs the results of the 1974, 1975 and 1977 House of Representatives elections in terms of the commissioners’ preliminary proposals.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– On behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare I present volume II of the report of the Committee’s reference on the evaluation of Australian health and welfare services. I presented volume I of the report, together with the official Hansard transcript of the evidence, on 3 May 1979.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to make a brief statement on the report.
-On 2 June 1976 the Senate referred to its Standing Commitee on Social Welfare the matter of the evaluation of the adequacy of Australian health and welfare services. On 3 May 1979 I presented the first of two companion volumes of the ensuing report entitled Through a Glass, Darkly. I am pleased to note that volume I attracted widespread interest and that, of the 2,400 copies originally printed, few remain. As a result of this public demand for the report, a second printing has been ordered. Might I observe in passing that the National Times for the week ending 8 September 1979 contained an article headed, ‘Examining whether “good works” work’, under the by-line Adele Horin, which stated:
The Fraser Government established the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare under Senator Peter Baume in 1976, to report on evaluation . . .
Clearly, no Government establishes a Senate committee. This Committee is the servant of the Senate. It is now my honour to present to the Senate the second volume of this report. The volume consists of seven specially commissioned papers. Some were written by academics with Australian and overseas expertise and others by professional people who have been active in programs and services in health and welfare. The papers were commissioned when it became clear to the Committee that there were important areas that were not adequately covered in the submissions or in published material. We believe that the papers are valuable additions to the body of knowledge available and we hope that this volume will help to improve the understanding of evaluation in the Australian health and welfare context. This is the first time that any Senate committee has produced a volume of commissioned papers such as this and the Committee will be looking with interest at the way in which it is received.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank the authors of these papers who generously gave their time and energy to assist this Committee. Dr Lois Bryson wrote a paper on the views of clients, What People Think of Welfare Services. The Rev. John Davoren, contributed a paper on The Evaluation of Health and Welfare Services in Australia, With Particular Reference to Agencies. Frances Donovan wrote a paper on Evaluation in Relation to Standards of Performance. Paul Gross contributed a paper on Recent Evaluation Activity in Australia. Professor Rosemary Sarri wrote two papers, one on the history and development of evaluation in the human services- a view from the United States- and the other on methods of evaluating effectiveness of human services. Also, a paper was written jointly by Anne Stevenson and Wendy Chew on need and demand in the making of planning decisions in the evaluation of health and welfare services. The Committee is extremely grateful to these people and I am sure that their work will assist all people interested in evaluation theory and practice to understand this very difficult and complex field. I commend the report to the Senate.
– In accordance with the resolution of the Senate of 23 August 1979, 1 inform the Senate that Government statements on certain Committee reports have not been presented within six months of the tabling of such reports. A list of the reports to the current session of Parliament, to which the Government has not responded within the prescribed time, has been circulated to honourable senators.
-by leave- I move:
This is an important paper which, I believe, resulted from a promise that was given at a time when we were discussing the Standing Orders. I had endeavoured to impress upon the Senate the necessity to have in the Standing Orders a provision which compelled the Government to indicate its attitude to reports that had been presented. I was then told that the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had promised that the Government’s attitude to recommendations in reports would be indicated to the Parliament within six months of their being tabled. I accepted your assurance, Mr President, that you would report when the Government failed in its duty. 1 note that you have done this and I thank you for it. I think it was Senator Missen who made a statement that he felt confident in the Government. I do not know where anyone could get that confidence in the Government. However, the Senate was persuaded that we should have confidence in the Government. Your report, Mr President, shows that there are 22 reports in respect of which six months have elapsed since their tabling. We have had no response of the Government’s attitude regarding 22 reports. They are important reports and one of them dates back to May of last year.
The Government has not yet made up its mind, for the purpose of honouring a promise which it gave, that it would report to Parliament on its attitude to the decisions of committees presenting reports. One of the first reports which comes to my mind is one of the most important reports that ever came into this Parliament. The Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs recommended that the Government should take the bull by the horns and do something other than supply lip service to Aboriginals in Queensland. One has been in anticipation of the Government’s response to that report, but we have had no indication. I would again ask that the Government should consider, because of the reasons that we discussed previously, why we should not put in the Standing Orders that the Government should report, or at least the Leader of this House, whom we can somewhat control, should report on the Government’s attitude and whether the Government has considered the recommendations.
We find that the promise of the Prime Minister has not been fulfilled. We want something more positive on the question. I make those remarks to show the importance of this question. I think there is now a responsibility on the Leader of the Government in the Senate to give some indication why the Government’s attitude to reports has not been presented to the Senate, and to give an assurance that this matter will receive more prompt attention in the future.
-I would like to speak briefly on this very important report. I am surprised at the number of reports that fall within the category. Certainly there are more than we had anticipated when we knew that you, Mr President, were going to take this action. It does indicate a surprising breakdown of the undertaking; we should have expected more prompt attention to reports. Of course, they are reports only of Senate committees. We do not know what the situation is in regard to other reports that have been presented in the Parliament from the House of Representatives committees. J imagine that the greater number are Senate reports. I hope that this matter will be brought closely to the attention of the Government. One often gets the feeling that in this Parliament we are not separated by Kings Hall, but separated by an ocean from the House of Representatives. I hope that the tabling of this report is brought immediately to the attention of the Government so that something can be done to repair the omissions where clearly the Government’s undertakings have not yet been carried out.
I hope that that will be done. I hope that we will receive some response very soon. I do not know whether it is for you, Mr President, to draw it to the attention of the Government. I hope that at least the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) will draw it to the attention of the Government. Of course, I have not caught his eye, but I do hope that the Government will have brought to its knowledge the extent of the failure to comply with that undertaking which is evident in this report so that something can be done very quickly to overcome this situation. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
– Leave is not granted.
-Senator Missen refers to this situation as constituting a surprising breakdown of the Government’s undertaking. That is something of an understatement. I would regard it as one of the most deplorable demonstrations of default that we have seen so far in the life of this Government and this Parliament. There have been many competitors for that honour, but this particular paper which has been put before us today demonstrates a state of affairs which takes the cake. Let me remind the Senate of the undertaking that was given by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 25 May 1978 and was repeated the next day in this chamber by the then Leader of the Government in the Senate. It was in the following terms: . . within six months of the tabling of a committee report, the responsible Minister will make a statement in the Parliament outlining the action the Government proposes to take in relation to the report. If the six month period expires during a parliamentary recess, the ministerial statement will be made at the earliest opportunity at the next parliamentary sittings.
This document which has been tabled today, as was said, lists something over 22 reports in respect to which no such statement has been forthcoming although we are more than six months down the tracks since they were tabled. In the statement that has been tabled today, we have one of the most deplorable pieces of promise-breaking that I think we have experienced in the life of this Parliament. I am not quite sure whether the extent of the default has yet been appreciated even in the light of what Senator Missen and Senator Cavanagh have said. Let me demonstrate it to the Senate by putting the matter in another way. Let us consider the record of the reports of the legislative and general purpose standing committees of this chamber, the eight major committees which are supposed to be the Senate’s pride and joy and which are supposed to justify more than anything else our existence as legislators in this place.
My brief calculation from the notice paper done during the last minutes of Question Time reveals that 21 reports have been tabled more than six months ago during the life of this Parliament. In other words, there are 2 1 reports which should have been the subject of a ministerial statement by now. There are a number of other reports which have been tabled within the last six months and for which a statement is not yet due. I do not take these into account. I take into account the 2 1 reports, some of them going back to a table in May 1978, which are eligible for a statement. What is the record in respect of those 2 1 reports? The paper in front of us shows that 1 6 out of those 2 1 reports have not been the subject of a ministerial statement. It is not just a matter of an isolated default for understandable reasons. A systematic pattern has emerged, and is demonstrated in this paper, of this Senate and this Parliament being treated with complete contempt by the Executive.
Let me go through the various committees. First, five reports of the Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs have been tabled, nearly all of them important reports. Only one of them has been the subject of report or response by a Minister to this Parliament. That was the least significant of the Senate reports. It was a report simply on annual departmental reports. The other substantive ones- to at least one of which
Senator Cavanagh has referred; have not been the subject of any response at all. Secondly, the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts has one major report eligible for a ministerial response. No response is forthcoming. That is a very important report on the Impact of Television on Development and Learning Behaviour of Children. Thirdly, six reports of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations are eligible for ministerial response as they were put down more than six months ago. Only one of them, a relatively minor report on the Australian Housing Corporation, has been the subject of a ministerial response. Five others, several of them very important ones, were not the subject of any response at all.
– Two are dated 16 March 1978.
– Two of those, as Senator Cavanagh has said, are nearly 18 months old. Regarding the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, there were two very important reports on Australia and the South Pacific and Australian representation overseas, one of them going back to February 1978, neither of which has been the subject of a ministerial statement. The Committee on National Resources has the best track record. One report was put down and one response was made on the matter of water resources. The Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment has put down two reports, neither of which has resulted in a ministerial response in the relevant period. The Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare has put down three reports, and none of them has produced a ministerial response. The Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce has put down one report, in respect of which no response has been forthcoming. That is the record; it is a very sorry record, indeed. I have referred only to the major committee reports; I have left out domestic committees such as the Publications Committee and I have left out references to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, which might be thought to be a special case.
– The report of the Publications Committee was a major report.
– I acknowledge the force of what Senator Missen says. A number of matters which have not been the subject of any governmental response in that area have been brought forward by that Committee. I have confined myself simply to those committees which are supposed to be the jewels in this Senate ‘s crown and, indeed, jewels in the nation’s parliamentary crown. The record that is demonstrated by this paper is one that fills me with disgust. It is one that ought to fill similarly with disgust those people left in Australia who seriously take the Senate as an institution. It makes nonsense of the continuing work of these committees. Here we are, slaving away; and I suppose some honourable senators are still a little naive about the value of the work we are doing and actually think that to produce a major report on matters of intense social concern might contribute something to the life of this nation.
For example, the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs recently tabled a report on reforming the law and the procedures which should govern the implementation of reports of the Australian Law Reform Commission. One of the central features that the Committee recommended in the scheme set out in that report relied heavily on what the Committee understood to be the convention that ministerial responses would be made within six months. A central feature of the report on reforming the law was built upon the assumption of the performance by this Government and by its Ministers of their obligation, so precisely stated by the Prime Minister in May last year. It is a disgraceful and disreputable record and it is one about which the Government ought to feel no pride whatsoever. I suggest that this whole matter is one which ought to be the subject of a full and early debate in this chamber.
– From Senator Evans’ remarks, that he is disgusted and outraged, one must assume that when his Labor Government was in power in this Senate it had a 6-month rule and observed that rule. No doubt that assumption must be so, otherwise he would have no reason for disgust and dismay. I want to get this matter into perspective because the honourable senator was strong on rhetoric but even more weak than normal on logic. The fact of the matter is that this Government, quite distinct from the previous Government, took as an initiative the idea that it would report, allow a debate and put a time on it. This was something new. Presumably in the 1972 to 1975 era the then Mr Evans, wandering around Australia, was disgusted and outraged about the Whitlam Government. I could understand why he would be but, as usual, his logic is a little dented. The fact is that my Government has undertaken the principle that it will put a time limit on reports, bring them down and have them debated.
Mr President, I regret that some of these reports have exceeded the time limit. I regret that very much indeed. Nevertheless, there is no need for the kind of rhetoric that has occurred in this Senate. As the Leader of the Government here, I will endeavour to expedite the flow of Senate reports to this chamber. I will endeavour to see that the Senate can get some orderly debate. But the matter ought to be put into perspective. There should not be expressions of disgust and dismay. This Government has taken a new and vital initiative. It has not been able to keep to its time table as yet but it is acting in good faith. I will undertake to stimulate the situation.
Debate (on motion by Senator Carrick) adjourned.
– In view of the motion moved in respect of my statement, I now formally table the list of reports to which I referred, copies of which have been circulated to honourable senators.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
Estimates Committee A
Prime Minister and Cabinet*
Estimates Committee B
Trade and Resources*
Employment and Youth Affairs*
Special Trade Representative
Estimates Committee C Social Security*
Immigration and Ethnic Affairs*
Estimates Committee D
Science and the Environment*
Housing and Construction
Estimates Committee E
Industry and Commerce
Estimates Committee F
Business and Consumer Affairs*
Postal and Telecommunications.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senators McLaren and Thomas be granted leave of absence for one month, on account of absence overseas on parliamentary business.
Consideration resumed from 28 August.
Clause 8. (Interpretation.) ( Quorum formed).
-The Committee is considering clause 8 of the Customs Amendment Bill 1979. Senator Button has moved amendment No. 1 as shown in the circulated list of proposed amendments.
– I will recapitulate briefly on this matter. I make the point that in the course of the debate on the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill an amendment was moved by the Opposition to a provision in that Bill which is similar to the one we are presently debating. In the course of the debate on that amendment some Government senators, notably Senator Puplick, said that the amendment was not satisfactory to them and that it could be improved. The Opposition, being ever diligent in these matters and seeing as it does, from time to time at least, the Senate as a House of review, felt that it was its task as an Opposition to move an amendment in the course of this debate which was clearly acceptable to Senator Puplick. In fact, in the course of the previous debate, the honourable senator told us how to amend the Bill. It was very benign of him to do so. We have now moved an amendment which is acceptable, one assumes, to Senator Puplick in the spirit in which this House reviews legislation.
I do not need to go into the details of the amendment now except to say that we believe that it should accommodate the wishes of the Committee. Accordingly, I have moved the amendment in the form in which it appears in the list of the amendments circulated by the Opposition.
– We had a short debate on this amendment when we last met in the Committee of the Whole. In the course of the debate, I misunderstood the nature of the amendment and accused Senator Button of doing so also. I was assured that this was not the case. Of course, the debate today has made clear what this amendment is about and what is the reason for it. The purpose of the amendment is to exclude from the operation of the powers under this legislation the installation of listening devices under warrants issued by judges for narcotic offences involving less than a trafficable quantity of cannabis or cannabis resin. It also seeks to accommodate some views that were expressed in a debate on the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill, which contains similar powers in respect of the interception of telephone calls.
In the debate on that Bill and, I think, in the debate when this amendment was moved on 28 August I indicated the Government’s view that there should not be any restriction of powers in the way proposed. The Government opposed the amendment moved by the Opposition in the case of the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill. I stated that we opposed it for practical reasons, namely, that law enforcement officers may wish to intercept telephone conversations taking place in various situations and their investigation would be restricted if they could not even seek such powers unless they were able to establish that a trafficable quantity of a drug was involved. I indicated also that it may assist their investigation in the pursuit of a commercial operator- a trafficker- if they had access to a drug user. However, the main purpose of these powers is to help in the investigation of offences committed by the big commercial operators and the resources of the Narcotics Bureau are not likely to be diverted simply to investigating the smaller offences or smaller offenders.
I point out that to make the distinction that the amendment seeks to make in the case of cannabis or cannabis resin does not meet the objections the Government had. It may meet the objections expressed by Senator Puplick. The same reason exists for pursuing the major commercial operators who trade illegally in cannabis and cannabis resin as exists in the case of those who trade in heroin, morphine or whatever the drug concerned may be. The reasons which I expressed in an earlier debate for opposing this amendment still apply. The Government is opposed to this amendment for these reasons. Despite the changes made by the Opposition, the amendment is not one which has been moved to meet the Government’s objections but one which has been moved to meet the views expressed in a previous debate by a particular senator.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Button’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator D. B. Scott)
Question so resolved in the negative.
This matter was discussed in the Committee debate on the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill. The purpose of the amendment is twofold: Firstly, that the officer concerned should go to sufficient trouble to put his mind to the question of what he is alleging and to put on paper what he is alleging; secondly, that there should be documents of record relating to the circumstances in which a judge is prepared to make an order under the provisions of the proposed new section. Those are both matters which relate to the protection of the subject, the protection of the potentially involved citizen. In their own way, they provide checks and safeguards against hasty and ill-considered administrative action by the officer concerned. They provide the circumstances in which the judge shall act and they provide documents which show what has happened and they can be referred to as documents of record. For those reasons I have moved the amendment. As I have said, they are matters which go to the question of civil liberties in relation to this legislation.
– Could the Committee deal with amendment No. 5 at the same time? Inevitably, what I have to say in relation to this amendment I will say in relation to amendment No. 5. We have been through this before.
– Is it the wish of the Committee to deal with amendment No. 5 at the same time? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-In the interests of brevity in what the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has to say, perhaps it would help if I moved amendment No. 5 in conjunction with this amendment and spoke briefly to it. I move:
Amendment No. 5 is directed to ensuring that a judge of the Supreme Court of a State or of one of the Territories should be able to issue a warrant authorising the use of a listening device only within his jurisdiction as a judge. It will be recalled that the proposed new section provides that a judge of the Federal Court can issue a warrant in respect of the whole of Australia. The Opposition believes that that is appropriate but that a judge of a State or Territory should not be able to issue a warrant in respect of areas outside his jurisdiction. The reason for that is obvious. It does not seem to us to be appropriate that that should be done. We do not want to have a Supreme Court judge elevated to the status of a person who, as we put it in the other debate, may have an obsessional interest in issuing warrants throughout the Commonwealth, as he can at present. It is for that reason that I have moved amendment No. 5 in conjunction with amendment No. 2.
– I am beginning to wonder whether I have an up-to-date list of amendments in front of me, in the light of the remarks Senator Button has just made. I thought that the proposed amendment which requires that the Customs officer must include certain material in the affidavit and that the judge must be satisfied in relation to certain matters was linked with this amendment.
– That is dealt with in amendments Nos 3 and 6.
– I now have the document before me. It is really amendment No. 3 which I was suggesting we should deal with. The proposal being made in the amendments that we are discussing, whatever are their numbers and whatever are the sheets of paper which should be before us, was the subject of debate in this place in relation to the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill when it was debated in Committee a couple of weeks ago. The Bill before the Committee simply provides that an application may be made to a judge by an officer of Customs for the issue of a warrant for a listening device and the judge shall be satisfied by information on oath. It is now proposed that that should be on affidavit, that certain material must be provided in that affidavit and that the judge must be satisfied of a number of matters.
The Government’s position is as stated in the previous debate on similar amendments to the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill. The method of application for warrants under the Crimes Act is simply stated as being by information on oath. These applications are now being made to judges of the Federal Court and of the Supreme Courts of the States. The Government does not consider that there is any need to specify any further than the phrase ‘information on oath’ as to the way in which the judge should deal with an application of this kind. He may require- and probably will- that the information be provided in the form of an affidavit, and probably Customs officers in most cases will provide the information in that form. But as I have said, the Government does not believe that that should necessarily be specified.
We can rely on the good sense and experience of senior members of the judiciary, who are the only people who can issue a warrant in these matters. The Customs officers only apply for a warrant. The primary safeguard is the need to apply to a judge of either the Federal Court or the Supreme Court of a State. In the Government’s view, those will be adequate safeguards and there is no need to spell out in the way in which these amendments do the particular manner of the application to the judge. The Bill itself does provide that whatever information is provided to the judge must be on oath.
Senator BUTTON (Victoria-4.43)-I have formally moved amendment No. 2 to clause 8. For the purpose of attempting to straighten out the matter, and subject to the agreement of the Attorney-General, I now formally move amendment No. 3 which the Attorney-General has already discussed. I move:
I think I can also appropriately move amendment No. 4. 1 therefore move:
Page 7, clause 8, sub-section (6) of proposed new section 2 1 9b, line 26, after ‘Judge ‘, insert ‘of the Federal Court ‘.
Amendment No. 4 is consequential upon the amendment, which we have already discussedamendment No. 5- and which again goes to the issue of the jurisdiction of a judge of a Territory or State Supreme Court.
I formally move amendment No. 6:
Page 8, clause 8, after sub-section (7) of proposed new section 2 1 9B, add the following new sub-section: (7a) A Judge shall not issue a warrant under subsection (7) in relation to an affidavit of an officer of Customs unless-
the affidavit of the officer of Customs under subsection (7) specifies the facts and other grounds on which the issue of the warrant is sought;
the officer of Customs has given to the Judge, either orally, or by further affidavit, such further information as the Judge requires concerning the grounds on which the issue of a warrant Ls being sought;
the Judge is satisfied as to the matters specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section (7);
the Judge is satisfied that other methods of investigation have been tried without success, or would be unlikely to be successful, or would be impracticable; and
the Judge is satisfied that, given the seriousness of the suspected offence, or suspected likely offence, the issue of a warrant would be in the public interest. ‘.
Amendment No. 6 again goes to the issue of the contents of the affidavit by an officer of Customs in making application to a judge for the issue of a warrant. I think it is sufficient to move those amendments together. There are further amendments to clause 8.
– Is it the wish of the Committee that we take together amendments Nos 2 to 6 inclusive? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– I have spoken already to amendment No. 2. Amendment No. 3 requires the insertion of a new sub-section (5). As I have indicated that sets out the circumstances in which a judge may issue a warrant. It requires again that the information of the officer of Customs must be in affidavit form and must set out the facts in relation to which the issue of a warrant is sought. It refers to the fact that the judge may require further information, that that information is to be supplied, and that the judge also is required to be satisfied that other methods of investigation have been tried without success or are likely to be impractical. There is also a requirement that the judge be satisfied in relation to the seriousness of the suspected offence. All these matters are designed to place limitations on over-hasty and ill-considered administrative action by officers of the Department of Customs. Experience has shown that that is a risk, and it is a risk that the Opposition does not feel should be allowed to be perpetuated in this legislation. It is because of that that we move these particular amendments. We have already discussed the contents of amendments Nos 4 and 5. I come then to amendment No. 6. The argument in respect of amendment No. 3 applies also to amendment No. 6.
– The debate has now, I think, very sensibly been widened to include the whole question of the application for warrants for listening devices and the amendments to the provisions dealing with that matter. I have already indicated the Government’s objection to the amendments requiring the applications to be on affidavit and to contain certain details specified in the amendments. On behalf of the Opposition Senator Button has now moved some further amendments to provide for applications to be made to limit the jurisdiction of judges of the Supreme Court in dealing with the applications so that they cannot authorise the use of listening devices except in their own State or Territory. As the Bill provides, Federal Court judges could issue the warrants in respect of any part of Australia, or for persons in any part of Australia.
The Government sees no reason why such a distinction need be drawn between Federal and State judges. We are here conferring powers on judges of a particular status in the judicial system, namely, judges of the highest courts. I do not really see why such a distinction should be drawn between judges of Federal courts and judges of State courts. We know that there are jurisdictional distinctions between them in the exercise of their ordinary judicial powers, but in this cass we are selecting them for the purpose of issuing warrants without regard to their jurisdictional limits, which are entrenched in our constitutional Federal system and historical reasons, which many people think ought to be changed. I think that some members of the Opposition, probably of this chamber, supported a resolution at the last Constitutional Convention which was designed to obtain a uniform system of courts in Australia. It seems rather strange to me that this distinction is being drawn in this matter. The powers that are being given here do not arise from respective jurisdictions. It is simply that we are selecting these judges on whom to confer a power. We are selecting them because we desire that power to be exercised only by judges of high standing and experience. For that reason, the Government will oppose these amendments.
-by leave- I move:
Both amendments involve issues which already have been discussed. I merely formally move the amendments and rely on the reasons previously advanced by the Opposition in support of them.
– For the reasons I have already indicated, the Government is opposed to these amendments.
The amendment, in a sense, speaks for itself, but again I wish to reiterate, as I did in the course of the debate on the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill, that the time for which a warrant should run in relation to electronic surveillance is a matter which the Opposition regards seriously and considers should be limited as far as possible. In the course of the debate on the previous legislation we pointed to the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission on this issue and to the fact that the Commission had described electronic surveillance as being exploratory, unselective and words of that kind.
-And indiscriminate in its operations. Let me illustrate this in another way. It catches all sorts of conversations and communications between people which might otherwise be regarded as totally private. It involves all sorts of people other than the target person in recording conversations and as such it represents a potential invasion of privacy of many people other than the particular person to whom the warrant may in fact be directed. It is for that reason that we put this as a sort of thin end of the wedge invasion of privacy. Perhaps it is a slightly thicker thin edge, if there is such a thing, than one might otherwise imagine. Electronic surveillance is a matter of concern and a matter which I hope the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) will take a little more seriously than the Government has tended to do to date.
– A similar amendment was proposed in regard to the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill seeking to limit warrants, in the case of narcotics investigations, for interception of telephones in particular to 30 days. On behalf of the Government in that debate I indicated that it was the view of the Government that a longer period may well be necessary in regard to an investigation. As I have said frequently in regard to these debates, the purpose of these powers being conferred is to assist in investigations against the larger commercial operators in the drug trade. These investigations may, in fact, be lengthy ones. If too short a period is prescribed for the validity of a warrant, applications may well have to be made again for an extended warrant. This simply adds to everybody’s burdens.
There may be differences between the method of operations of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and that of the Narcotics Bureau. Experience has already shown, as I said in debates in relation to ASIO, that ASIO in many cases needs warrants for longer periods than this amendment proposes. We are moving in to a new area as far as narcotics are concerned, but it is assumed that periods longer than 30 days will be required in many cases. The Bill does not require that the warrant should be issued for any particular period; it simply specifies an upper limit, namely, six months. I am sure that judges will take into account the sorts of problems that Senator Button has quite rightly emphasised in the amendment. It may be that in many of these cases warrants would not be wanted for the lengthy period of six months, which is the maximum; in many cases they would be needed for shorter periods of time. The Government’s view is that these matters should be raised, discussed and decided by the judge in hearing the application and that it would be unduly restrictive and burdensome on all concerned to restrict the maximum period in the way that this amendment proposes.
-The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) used an interesting expression in discussing this amendment. He said that the Government was concerned not to put an undue burden on people. I rise to speak to that expression because I hope that we are not talking, with respect, about a vast army of Customs officers who will be concerned. On the basis of previous experience, we are concerned about a relatively limited number of applications for warrants for electronic surveillance. What we are talking about in the context of this debate is the balance of burdens. We do not see it as being particularly onerous, particularly when we consider the nature of electronic surveillance and the points which we have tried to make about its totally indiscriminate nature and the fact that it catches everybody from the grocer taking a weekly order to a lover, or something like that.
The point I am trying to make is that electronic surveillance catches a whole range of private conversations. To claim, as the Government claims, that that sort of warrant should run on and on and on represents, we think, a really irresponsible approach to the real issues. We are not here to prop up a collection of Customs officers who on past performances have not been too good in relation to that sort of thing; we are here to discuss issues relating to the citizens of Australia and the subjects concerning Australia as a whole. It is sheer nonsense to talk about the measure placing a great burden on Customs officers. It would not need to do that at all. The principle which we advance has not been grappled with by the Attorney-General, but I guess he persists.
– I do.
This proposed amendment is consequential upon the defeat of the previous proposed amendment. It requires that a warrant under sub-section (7) shall specify the period for which it is to remain in force, being a period not exceeding 30 days.
– I think the issue raised in the proposed amendment is the same as that which we have debated already. I understand that one proposed amendment related to persons and another to premises. The same arguments apply in each case. The Government’s view in relation to this proposed amendment is the same as it was in relation to the previous proposed amendment.
– I move:
The proposed amendment provides that some new sub-sections should be added after subsection (2) in proposed section 2 19k. In essence, the purpose of those proposed sub-sections is to provide that each year the Minister shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a report which shall be a compilation of the reports made to the Minister by the Comptroller-General during the preceding year. The Government is always very nervous about the suggestion of accountability to Parliament or public disclosure of any of these snoopy activities. The proposed amendment is designed to indicate much more clearly to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) than perhaps has been indicated on previous occasions the matters which we feel should be excluded from such a report. I refer to such matters as would reveal secrets, as it were- legitimate secrets- in relation to breaches of the law and matters which might prejudice the fair trial of a person, disclose the identity of an agent or a confidential source, disclose the methodology of the Comptroller-General and his crew, endanger people’s lives, unreasonably disclose information and so on.
The rest of the proposed amendment is designed to ensure that where information of that kind is withheld- we would say properly withheld- the details of the information withheld, in skeleton form, should be disclosed to the Parliament also. I do not mean that the facts of a matter should be disclosed, but that the fact that information has been withheld should be disclosed. I really cannot follow the Government’s objection to a provision of that kind. It is most important to have such a provision if this legislation is to be used, in the way envisaged in the ringing tones of the second reading speech, to stamp out crime in relation to narcotics and if it is to have the far-reaching effect which the Government hopes it will have. Many honourable senators- on both sides of the chamber, incidentally- doubt whether it is the right hammer to crack that nut, if I may put it in those terms. We say that in that situation it is proper that a report on what is going on should be made to the Parliament.
We do not want to embarrass anybody. We do not want to embarrass any Customs officers, the Comptroller-General, or the Government; we want to assert the primacy of Parliament in relation to having a general picture of the extent to which this legislation is being used and to which the proposals of the Government are being developed. As I said, we do not want to disclose any secrets or for the Government to have to disclose any secrets in a report of that kind; we want to assert a principle, namely, that Parliament has supremacy in relation to these matters. If we escape from that principle in relation to Customs officers, in our view the Parliament will be making a mistake.
– This proposed amendment, in company with a number of similar proposed amendments to this package of legislation in relation to both the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and narcotics investigations, raises a matter of very great principle and very great concern. I assure the Committee that it is a matter to which the Government has given a great deal of thought and to which it continues to give thought. The matter is the subject of a continuing debate in which views similar to those expressed by Senator Button are being expressed. The view which the Government has come to in regard to the matter has been expressed by me on other occasions, but I do not hesitate to repeat it. I do not think that it is necessary to pass an amendment in the terms of the proposed amendment in order to assert the supremacy of Parliament in such matters. The supremacy of Parliament in regard to the Executive is established clearly enough.
– Oh, come on! You do not believe that for a moment.
– I thought that on a famous day a few years ago in this chamber we gave a fairly clear indication of the supremacy of Parliament over the Executive, to which honourable senators opposite strongly objected at the time. I would not have thought that there was any question about the supremacy of Parliament over the Executive. That really is not the issue in question; the issue is how one can reconcile the need for and the desirability of public accountability by the Executive to Parliament and the people with the requirements of organisations concerned with security and law enforcement. I think it must be accepted that there are limits to the detail which can be provided publicly by the Executive in regard to these matters. There is no point in having security organisations which are open to public inspection. There is no point in having law enforcement agencies whose methods are readily available to those whom they are investigating and pursuing.
Therefore, what we are concerned with here is the striking of a balance. The balance that has been struck in these cases is that there should be the fullest accountability of these organisations to the Minister. Let us not forget that really the issue of accountability to a Minister has been challenged at times. Mr Justice Hope’s recommendations with regard to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation did not favour such a full accountability to a Minister as the ASIO legislation provided. The Government is well aware of the need to require full accountability to the Minister, and that is provided for in proposed new section 219k (2), which states in part:
The Comptroller shall furnish to the Minister, in respect of each warrant … a report in writing on the extent to which action taken under the warrant has assisted officers of Customs in narcotics inquiries that have been made by them.
The legislation was amended in the other place to provide for reporting to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives on operations dealing with these investigations with regard to narcotics offences. That is now in proposed section 273G, which states:
The Minister shall, from time to time, and not less frequently than once a year, arrange for the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives to be briefed on matters relating to contraventions of this Act in respect of narcotic substances.
I would imagine that the powers that are being given here to install listening devices, and to provide some reporting in regard to the way in which they operate, the results they have and so on would be matters under this proposed section on which the Leader of the Opposition would clearly want and be entitled to receive advice. The Government believes that that is really about as far as one can go in making available information about the operations of a law enforcement agency such as the one we are concerned with here. In proposing the amendment the Opposition clearly recognises these limitations. In the amendment it has set out a great many of the matters -
– If you have read them you would not have made the comments you made at the start of your speech. You are arguing two different cases.
– I am getting to the point. If we have regard to all these matters there would be virtually nothing to report.
– It is a bit like your friend the Freedom of Information Bill.
– We are facing reality at last, Senator Evans.
– Your freedom of information Bill.
– The Opposition is facing reality now. These are the sorts of considerations that are set out in great detail as to why the Government is opposed to reports of these matters being made in the way in which the amendment requires. I think that the clearest example of what I am saying is in paragraph (d), which would not require the disclosure of information which would be reasonably likely to disclose methods or procedures for preventing, detecting, investigating or dealing with matters arising out of breaches of the law in this area. The next paragraph deals with endangering lives in connection with the operation.
I think the whole point is that, apart from all the other considerations of prejudicing people, if the information is worth reporting a public report of these matters inevitably will disclose information about the methods of operation of the law enforcement agency. I think that would be an inevitable result. For those reasons the Government is opposed to this amendment. We oppose it not because we disagree in any way with the principle that Senator Button wants to assert. Our disagreement really is as to the way in which that assertion can be made. As a method of acknowledging it we have clearly chosen, firstly, the need for ministerial responsibility and, furthermore, a provision that the Leader of the Opposition be aquainted with the sort of information in these very sensitive areas that the Opposition thinks should be made available to the public in the way in which this amendment proposes. Let us not forget that the primary constitutional principle to be upheld is the one of ministerial responsibility to the Parliament. If the Minister does not discharge that responsibility properly he will certainly be accountable both to the Parliament and to the electorate.
-Might I tell the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) how we think he can do it, because he is obviously concerned about this matter. With respect, one has to see this amendment in the context of the legislation as a whole. The Attorney-General says, first of all, that it would be undesirable to disclose this information because it would prejudice the method of operation of the Customs officers concerned in unveiling- or whatever the expression is- narcotics offences. Then he goes on to say that in any event none of this information could be disclosed and there would be no point in disclosing it because, under the Opposition’s amendment, it would not be worth having. With the greatest of respect, I would be assisted as a member of this parliament who is concerned about the narcotics industry, if I can tell it that- and many honourable senators indicated their concern in the course of the debate- even by a report to this Parliament which stated: ‘We are happy to report to you that, in the last 12 months, as a result of this legislation being passed by the Senate, all the drug ring operators in Australia have got scared to death and have gone overseas. Fewer warrants have been issued for electronic surveillance than were issued last year. We have not had to rely on the provisions of the Act nearly as much as we expected. We are a very clever Government and we have stopped the whole business ‘. Such a report would be very encouraging and helpful to me as a member of parliament.
On the other hand, a report which stated that because of the proliferation of the drug traffic in Australia increased steps had to be taken under this legislation to enlarge the staff of the Comptroller-General of Customs and to authorise an increased number of telephone taps or electronic surveillance methods and which indicated whether these things are working or are not working would be helpful to me as a citizen and as a member of parliament. As I said earlier, we are not interested in disclosing matters which would reveal the names of agents and that sort of thing. We do not want that information and in our amendment we specify that that is not what we want. Instead of settling on that notion of a report to the Parliament, the Minister says: ‘Ultimately, it all boils down to ministerial responsibility’. We know perfectly well that if we asked him a question about his ministerial responsibility in relation to this legislation- I say this with the greatest respectbased on his previous form we would not get an answer. He will just say: ‘Having regard to the provisions of the Customs Act, it is clearly not a matter that Parliament is intended to know anything about. The Act provides for ministerial responsibility and for reporting to the Minister. It does not provide for reporting to Parliament, or for my answering to Parliament about what is going on. I therefore decline to answer’.
We have had that sort of response from Senator Durack before in relation to Australian Security Intelligence Organisation matters and, of course, we would get them in relation to this matter also. With respect, I appreciate that the Minister has been given his instructions; that he has attended a Cabinet meeting at which a certain decision has been reached. I am merely saying that that decision is a bit thick. I know that the Minister must argue it here in the way in which he has, but I emphasise that to do so really does not grapple with the issue. I say that now because I want it recorded in Hansard.
-The difficulty about the statement of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) that it is not necessary to reassert the supremacy of the Parliament over the Executive is that, as we all know, in practice the Parliament has a chance of getting regular information from the Executive in such matters as this only when there is upon the Executive a statutory obligation to provide it- if Parliament asserts what it wants in that particular way. If we have to wait, either in the Parliament or out of it, upon the pleasure of the Executive to report to us on these matters, we will have to wait an awfully long time, as indeed was demonstrated in a debate in the Senate earlier today.
As the Attorney-General has said, there are obvious limits to the detail that can be required in this area. The Opposition, in an amendment that it moved to an earlier, associated piece of legislation, perhaps did not pay sufficient regard to that fact. I refer to the amendment, moved in very general terms, to one of the telecommunications Bills, to the effect that information should be supplied to the Parliament as to the general operation of the clauses in question. That was perhaps rightly criticised by the AttorneyGeneral as making insufficient statutory allowance for the necessary qualifications and exceptions. Accordingly, the Opposition has drafted an amendment which lists a very large number of qualifications and exceptions. Once again, we took seriously the response that had been made by the Attorney-General. Now he tells us that we have gone too far; that in fact there is a derisory universalism about these particular exceptions and qualifications because, if the Executive followed them literally, it would not need to give to the Parliament any information at all.
Might I say that that would be so only if the Executive demonstrated to the Parliament an attitude which, I might suggest, would be incompatible with my, and I hope the Minister’s, understanding of the Westminster system. If the amendment were carried in such terms there would be plenty of room for the Executive to give to the Parliament very informative reports indeed which, nonetheless, would not prejudice the operations of law enforcement in this field in the way in which the Attorney-General, quite rightly, suggests that they ought not to do. Finally, if the Attorney-General believes that the proposed clause is badly drafted because it approaches the matter in the wrong way in saying that Parliament is to have everything except the matters specifically excepted, what would be his reaction to an amendment drawn in yet another way, one which has been the subject of some discussion in this place. I refer to an amendment drawn in the terms suggested to his Government by the New South Wales Privacy Committee, which made a specific recommendation that the statute incorporate an obligation to report on particular identified matters and on those matters only. I remind the Minister that these matters considered appropriate for report were the number of warrants issued, requested and refused; the number of conversations listened into by each type of device; and each of those figures broken down wherever possible by State. There may be other specific matters that could usefully be added, but I ask if the Attorney-General is unsatisfied- as he indicated in his earlier remarks- with the language of the Opposition’s proposed amendment, whether he would be prepared to accept one which casts the obligation the other way around, in limited, positive terms of the kind that I have described?
– I am sorry if I have given Senator Button and Senator Evans the impression that I am criticising the actual drafting of the proposed amendment. I had hoped to convey the fact that the terms of the amendment, incorporating as it did the exceptions that must be made to reporting of this kind, were in themselves a clear indication that it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, on the one hand to provide for an obligation to report publicly on these matters and, on the other hand, to have regard to all of the considerations of secrecy that are involved in these difficult areas of security and law enforcement. In effect, I was really praising the Opposition’s proposed amendment, because it seemed to recognise clearly all the difficulties.
Senator Button said that he would be very happy with a report from the Minister in more general terms, and indicated the sort that he would like to see. I am sure that the Government and my colleague in another place, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife), would be delighted to be able to report in accordance with one of the honourable senator’s suggestions, namely, that these powers had been used so successfully that the whole problem had gone away. But that is not what the amendment requires. It requires the tabling of a report compiling in full the reports made to the Minister by the Comptroller under proposed new section 219K, sub-section (2), which I have read and which requires that the Comptroller report on the extent to which action taken under the warrant has assisted Customs officers in their inquiries. Moreover, such reports to the Minister must be very detailed indeed.
As I have said, this is a new area and I cannot speak from experience of it except in regard to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation legislation and the long standing telephone interception legislation. That legislation requires that an application be made to the Attorney-General for a warrant to intercept telephone communications and that a report be made to him. As I believe I have said in the Senate in relation to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation legislation, a great deal of detail is provided in these applications and reports. I would imagine that the same sort of detail would be provided to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, or to the Minister responsible for this legislation from time to time, as has been provided in the one and only area in which we have had experience. Any relevant information will be incorporated in the reports and virtually all of it will, in the nature of things, be of a sensitive nature and, as such, it would not be possible to carry out the obligation sought in the proposed amendment of compiling in full all detail in these reports.
I think Senator Button was saying that he wants- maybe the New South Wales Privacy Committee is going a little bit more into detailsome reporting to Parliament in general terms by a ministerial statement in regard to these matters. I have already indicated that I favour that in principle. I understand that the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs has provided annual reports and will continue to do so. The Minister may make ministerial statements in regard to some of these matters. I just cannot conceive- certainly it is not my experience in this Parliament- that there is not a great deal of pressure on Ministers to make available as much information as they possibly can to Parliament by the processes of the parliamentary system itself, not only at Question Time, but on the many other occasions that arise in Parliament.
There are many other moves and procedures that can be initiated in Parliament which do bring pressure on Ministers to make statements of one kind or another. The Government believes that the parliamentary process itself is vigorous enough- that has been clearly demonstrated time and time again- to ensure that the sort of general information which Senator Button says is what he wants to achieve by this amendment will be provided from time to time to the Parliament by the Minister concerned.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 1 1- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 12- Penalties for offences in relation to narcotic goods.
-Up until now there has been perhaps a certain ritual, indeed an almost liturgical quality to this debate. The truth of the matter is that many of the issues that we have canvassed so far have been canvassed in various forms in other recent debates on associated Bills. However, coming now to the series of Opposition amendments, of which I will move the first, No. 12, we are in an area which is unique to this particular piece of legislation and is really quite disturbing. The amendment No. 12, which I will move, seeks to leave outthe proposed sub-paragraph 235 (2) (c) (ii). This is the sub-paragraph which provides for life imprisonment for two successive convictions; indeed- as I will explain in a moment- not even convictions for the possession of trafficable amounts of drugs. The way the section can operate is that a person can go to gaol for life for possessing only enough heroin for a two-day fix, if he happened to be a heavy heroin addict, or a person can go to gaol for life for having possessed enough cannabis to keep him going as an individual for just three and a half weeks. They are hardly, one would have thought, heinous offences on any scale of legal or moral values. This result follows from the way the section in issue is drafted. Let me read section 235 (2) (c) (ii) into the record:
. where the Court is satisfied-
The provision appears in an earlier article and deals with conviction on possession of a quantity of narcotic substance of a trafficable quantity or more. Perhaps 1 should read the section. It continues:
What the section is designed to do is to impose not only the kind of penalties which are here provided in this legislation for the possession or other dealing with commercial quantities, socalled, of narcotic substances, but also to apply a specific deterrent or sanction against the possession or other criminal dealing with much less than commercial quantities of drugs. This really reaches quite absurd heights or depths when one considers the amounts of various drugs which can constitute trafficable quantities. Under the 1 977 amendments to the Customs Act, which are retained in the present legislation, a trafficable quantity of heroin is 2 grams. On conviction now of the possession of 2 grams, which is just one day’s dose or fix for a heavy addict, combined with a conviction on an earlier occasion or, failing a conviction, even just a finding of guilt unaccompanied by the formal recording of a conviction, those two findings by a court can now result under this legislation in a person going to gaol not just for two, 10 or 20 years, but for life. That is what the provision says.
Similarly, in respect of cannabis, the trafficable quantity of cannabis provided for in 1977 and not amended by this legislation is just 100 grams or3½ oz of cannabis. Before 1977 the trafficable quantity of cannabis was just 25 grams or 1 oz. We are talking here about very small amounts indeed; not amounts of the kind that one would expect cold-blooded commercial dealers to have but simply the kinds of amounts that ordinary drug users without commercial motivation or involvement do tend to have in or about their possession. The reality for cannabis is that two convictions, one of which might be less than a conviction, for possessing the grand amount of 7oz of the drug can send a person to gaol for life. If one of those convictions or findings of guilt was dated before 1977, then the possession over that period on two occasions of a grand total of4½ oz of cannabis can send a person to gaol for life.
The Opposition suggests that this provision ought to come out of the Bill entirely. This is one occasion when we will need a darned good explanation from the Attorney-General (Senator
Durack) to be satisfied that our opposition here is astray, ill-founded or whatever. The reality surely is that the trafficable quantity penalties themselves provided for in this legislation are already extraordinarily high. Surely one would have thought that they were high enough, providing as they do for the possession of heroin or other hard drugs, up to 25 years in gaol or fines of $100,000 or, in the case of cannabis, 10 years gaol or a fine of $4,000. It would seem wildly inappropriate, given the really enormous scale of the available penalties to be adding extra penalties of life imprisonment such as are provided for in this section. It is no answer to say, as no doubt the Attorney will, that the courts just will not use these penalties in this way, that they will use their discretion to impose lesser penalties. If legislation is not to be brought into disrepute in the community at large and particularly in that section of the community which is concerned with drug legislation, we must have penalties which are meaningful and which bear some rational relationship to the scale of the offence. It is what I would describe as this lunatic inability to distinguish between what is genuinely socially harmful behaviour of a very serious kind and that which is not which has brought so much of the law relating to drugs into disrepute. This particular provision in this Bill, far from contributing in any way to a rational solution to the very vexed problem of drug abuse in the community, only goes an extra step towards drawing it into still further disrepute. Accordingly, I move:
- Senator Evans probably has anticipated the answer that he will be given. I will not disappoint him. The Government’s view in relation to this sub-paragraph of the Bill is that it wishes the Parliament to assert its greatest concern about the problem of drug trafficking. It approved increased penalties in 1977 but the Government believes that those penalties, in two particular situations, were not really a sufficient indication of the deep concern of the Parliament and the community about trafficking in drugs. Therefore, the Government has proposed these amendments in two cases, one of which is commercial trafficking. I appreciate that this proposed amendment does not seek to change the penalty for commercial trafficking. The Government also believes that those who are convicted of more than one offence of possessing or importing trafficable quantities in most cases are those who are engaged in commercial dealings in drugs. Therefore, the Government wishes the Parliament- it is not for the Government, but for the Parliament as it is a proposal made to the Parliament- to express by the nature of the penalty, imprisonment for life, its strongest feelings about conduct of this kind.
Senator Evans has raised a question at the other extreme; namely, a person subject to a maximum of life imprisonment because he happens to have been convicted on two occasions of having the minimum trafficable quantity. Even if a scale were drawn up, from trafficable quantities up to commercial quantities, debate would be possible about a person just on the wrong side of that scale. The Parliament has taken a very serious view of the possession of trafficable quantities of drugs. There may be room for debate about the detail of these matters and as to whether the trafficable quantity specified in respect of one drug or another is too great or too small, but that is another question. The principle that the Government is seeking to ensure is that multiple trading in trafficable quantities is just as serious a matter as the concept of commercial trading, which is also incorporated in this legislation.
The best way of coping with the sort of problem that Senator Evans has raised rests in the discretion that resides in the courts of this land to determine the actual penalty that is to be imposed. I do not think that adopting schedules, fixed mandatory sentences and proposals of that kind, is the solution to the problem. I know the amendment does not propose that but the Government believes that penalties must fit the particular circumstances of each crime and each offender who is convicted. It has full faith in the courts being able to accommodate the sort of problem that Senator Evans has raised. I do not suppose that that will satisfy the honourable senator, from some remarks he made -
– It is a question of what is a suitable penalty.
– The Government is saying- and 1 have just been trying to say -
– Why don’t you impose life imprisonment for all criminal offences and leave it to the courts?
– We are dealing with drug offenders, about whom the Government, the Parliament and, I think, the community have the greatest concern. I hope the Parliament will express that concern by providing the maximum penalty that can be imposed in this day and age; namely life imprisonment. That, as is well known, is the maximum penalty in criminal law. It is provided for the most heinous offences. It is the Government’s view that trafficking in drugs can be included in the category of the most heinous offences that can be committed in this community. That is what the Government is saying by providing the maximum penalty of life imprisonment. We all know- probably lawyers know better than others- that the provision of life imprisonment does not mean that offenders will be sent to prison for life. That occurs rarely rather than commonly. But this gives a clear indication to the courts of the seriousness with which the Parliament considers these offences. It is placing those offences in the same category as the most heinous offences which attract the same maximum term of imprisonment. As I have said, the problems raised by Senator Evans clearly can be accommodated by the judiciary in the imposition of the sentences in the particular case.
-by leave- I move:
The effect of these amendments is to create a new tier within the category of trafficable quantities of the drugs in question. As has emerged from earlier stages of this debate, at the moment it is apparent that the quantity of a drug which will satisfy the description of being trafficable under this legislation varies enormously. In the case of heroin, it is from two grams right up to 1.5 kilograms. That is the threshold for the top category of commercial quantities of the drug. Similarly, for cannabis, the range encompassed within the description of trafficable quantities is all the way from 100 grams of cannabis through to 100 kilos of cannabis, that being the commercial quantity.
We accept the point made by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) that it is very difficult in this kind of legislation to have detailed scales of penalties which endeavour to grade the heinousness of the offences all the way up by reference to particular varying amounts. But we believe that some attempt ought to be made nonetheless to alleviate the full harshness of the penalties in this Bill in respect of relatively small quantities within the trafficable range. Accordingly, what these amendments to clause 12 of the Bill seek to do is to add a new category of trafficable amounts being the existing minimum trafficable quantity multiplied by five and to create a new lesser range of penalties in relation to that low group or that lower category of trafficable amounts.
For example, under the Opposition ‘s scheme, the possession of between 2 and 10 grams of heroin would attract a lesser penalty than the present penalty of 25 years in gaol or a $ 100,000 fine. It would attract a penalty of 10 years in gaol or up to a $40,000 fine. Similarly, the possession of the lesser amount of cannabis- between 100 grams and 500 grams- would incur not the existing full trafficable offence penalty of 10 years in gaol or a $4,000 fine, but the proposed lesser penalty of four years in gaol or a $2,000 fine. The object of the exercise is to modify the obvious harshness of the potential operation of this penalty scale as it applies at the moment.
The Opposition acknowledges that there will be inevitably some crudeness at the margins, whatever new scales of penalties one seeks to incorporate in this area. All we can say is that the new scales are a darn sight less crude than the enormously wide bands of categories of penalty that exist under the present legislation. This is an improvement which ought to be acceptable enough in principle to the Government, given what it has been saying about these things. We hope, accordingly, although not with much faith, that the amendments will be accepted.
– I have indicated the Government’s attitude to penalties in this area. I said in my remarks on the earlier amendment that any particular schedule or tariff of penalties inevitably means that some people will be on the wrong side of the line and may suffer an injustice. In fact, in some cases they may benefit unduly because of other features of the offence, their previous record and so on. As I expounded in my previous remarks, the view of the Government is that these matters can be best left to the discretion of the judge fixing the penalty. I may have omitted to say this in my previous remarks but honourable senators should bear in mind that these penalties can be reviewed on appeal. A wide range of facilities is available for offenders to appeal against a judge’s decision. To my knowledge offenders are making considerable use of those rights. Courts of criminal appeal round Australia are constantly dealing with appeals in regard to penalties. In broad terms the Government believes that justice will be better done in this judicial fashion than by adopting amendments such as the ones proposed here. ( Quorum formed).
-by leave- I move:
The effect of these amendments is to clear up what surely must be an anomaly in the drafting of clause 12 of the Bill and in particular the penalty provision in relation to trafficable quantities contained therein. As the clause is drafted at the moment, it draws quite sensibly a distinction between cannabis and other drugs, providing a substantially lesser maximum penalty for cannabis than it does for the other drugs that are set out in the schedule. The point that the Opposition makes is simply this: We believe that the logic of that distinction is quite impeccable. Indeed, it is a distinction which has been accepted and articulated on numerous occasions by Senator Pulpick, whom I am delighted to see back in this chamber to vote on this issue. We urge that the logic of that distincion simply be extended to cannabis resin as well as the basic substance, cannabis itself. Throughout the other sections of the Customs legislation cannabis resin is treated essentially in the same way as cannabis. The amounts in each category- trafficable, commercial and so on- are obviously less for resin than for cannabis itself because of the differing nature of the form of the substance and the different density of its potent qualities. That is already built into the schedule. Why on earth is cannabis resin for this purpose- that is, for the difference in penalties provided for trafficable quantities- not treated in the same way as cannabis? We believe that it ought to be. These amendments are designed simply to produce that result.
- Senator Evans has suggested that there may be a drafting error. I do not think that is the case. However, I would like to check that matter before I respond.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
-The Committee is dealing with amendments which seek to include cannabis resin with cannabis, the purpose of which is to attract a lower penalty for offences relating to cannabis resin. (Quorum formed). As I have said, the object of the amendments is to deal with cannabis resin in the same way as cannabis as far as penalties are concerned. Senator Evans has suggested that there is a drafting mistake. I can assure the Committee that it is not a drafting mistake; it is a clear policy intention that cannabis should be dealt with separately from cannabis resin. The reason for that is that cannabis resin is a more highly refined form of cannabis, and a further refining process has been developed which may make it an even more potent form of cannabis. Without going into the technicalities, I point out that 285 kilograms of cannabis leaf produces one kilogram of cannabis resin. Because of this increase in potency the resin is marketed at a greatly inflated price. The Government feels that if cannabis resin were placed in the same category as cannabis leaf, traffickers would almost certainly smuggle in and distribute the more highly potent form. This would reduce the bulk, make it easier to ship, and reduce the risk of detection. Traffickers would be able to increase profits substantially, knowing that they would not suffer any greater penalty. That policy is not provided for in this legislation. It has been the policy for some time that cannabis resin should be treated more seriously than cannabis, and the penalties reflect that distinction. It is the Government’s view that that distinction ought to be maintained, and the amendments are opposed.
Clause agreed to.
– I move:
This amendment goes to that part of clause 13 which would insert a new section 243D into the Customs Act, and the Opposition’s amendment seeks to delete proposed new section 243D. We are dealing now with the new Division relating to pecuniary penalties proposed to be inserted into the Act. That is a euphemistic expression which is employed in the Act to refer to the outcome of civil, not criminal, proceedings which may be brought against suspected drug dealers and possessors and which can result in the imposition of open-ended penalties in the nature of fines, although they are not so described, and which also attract subsidiary procedures, including an entitlement in the Government, if such a proceeding is pursued successfully, to freeze the assets of a suspected drug offender. Proposed new section 243D relates quite accurately, as the marginal note has it, to the creation of a presumption of illegality of importation of narcotic substances.
The clause we are seeking to delete is cast in terms which throw the onus of establishing the innocence of the person in relation to such narcotic substances, so far as their importation in contravention of the Act is concerned, squarely on the defendant. All that the prosecution has to do is claim that the goods in question are reasonably suspected of having been imported into Australia in contravention of the Act. Once such a claim has been made, the onus then shifts, by virtue of this clause, to the defendant to satisfy the court that the goods in question have not been imported in contravention of the Act. The Opposition takes the view, and always has, that any clause in any legislation anywhere which reverses onuses of proof is highly suspect and should be treated with a great deal of circumspection by this legislature, particularly in the context of criminal proceedings. We are not technically in the realm of criminal proceedings here, but they are proceedings which must on any realistic analysis be described as quasicriminal. Certainly the amounts of the penalties in issue can be very large indeed. Opprobrium would attach to any person who was on the receiving end of a successful proceedng by the Crown in this matter and he would for all practical purposes be regarded as having committed a criminal offence. Indeed, it is a criminal issue with which we are now dealing, namely, the question of whether the drugs the subject of this proceeding have been criminally imported.
In these circumstances, we treat the reversal of the onus as being a very serious matter. We do not see that this is one of those perhaps handful of cases where some argument in principle can be made that the reversal of the onus, the reversal of the burden of proof, is in fact on any view justified. Accordingly, we move for the deletion of this provision, which would have the result not of undermining or emasculating the whole effect of the pecuniary penalty division that it is proposed to insert in the Act but would simply make it incumbent upon the Crown in bringing such proceedings to establish all the necessary ingredients of the proceeding rather than, as here, putting the onus upon the defendant.
– Proposed section 243D relates to civil proceedings, which are provided for in this section, for the recovery of penalties equal to the profits obtained from prescribed narcotics dealings. This expression occurs earlier in the clause in relation to a person who sells or otherwise deals in, or agrees to sell or otherwise deal in, narcotic goods imported into Australia in contravention of the Act, or imports or agrees to import narcotic goods into Australia. This provision, and a number of other provisions that I do not propose to read out, has been modelled on the provisions in the existing Act in relation to criminal offences of a similar kind. The so-called reversal of the onus of proof there to establish that the goods were not imported into Australia, or not imported in contravention of the Act, is a reversal of the onus which does exist in relation to similar types of criminal offences. This is not a new provision in the Customs Act. It is a long-standing provision in the Act, and indeed in relation to criminal proceedings.
As Senator Evans points out, these are not criminal proceedings but civil proceedings. Admittedly they are proceedings of a rather special character, but the argument in relation to their character I think is probably more appropriately discussed with the next amendment. The short answer to the present amendment is that the Government is here simply importing into thse proceedings provisions similar to evidentiary provisions which already apply in criminal proceedings under the existing Act, and have applied for some time.
Amendment negatived. (Quorum formed).
Page 17, clause 13, after proposed new section 243D, insert the following new section: 243DA. In a proceeding under this division, the degree to which the Court must be satisfied in respect of a matter shall be-
As the Attorney-General foreshadowed a moment ago this amendment relates to another evidentiary aspect of the pecuniary penalties division of this Act. It relates not to the burden of proof but to the particular standard of proof which is required to be satisfied from various elements for this proceeding to be made out. The
Opposition amendment is to insert in the legislation a two-part provision which says, in effect, that if the matter in issue involves a question as to whether criminal behaviour has occurred, namely, whether a person has engaged in a particular prescribed narcotics dealing, then the satisfaction of the court on this matter has to be pursuant to the criminal standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt. It is only in respect of any matter other than such a threshold question of criminality that the second part of the provision applies, and that is that the standard of proof there should be the ordinary civil one of proof on the balance of probabilities.
The Opposition takes the view that where an ingredient or an element of the proceeding is a matter involving the satisfaction of the court as to the commission of a criminal offence, that court should apply a criminal standard in determining whether it is satisfied. The AttorneyGeneral really cannot have it both ways. He said a moment ago in relation to the Opposition’s previous amendment that our worries about the incorporation of a particular burden of proof provision which does appear elsewhere in the Act was inappropriate because this was, although not technically criminal, in the nature of a criminal proceeding like the rest of the Act, and accordingly it is appropriate that the kind of evidentiary provision which prevailed there should apply here. I remind the AttorneyGeneral that in relation to those criminal proceedings elsewhere in the Act- not in this pecuniary penalties part- the particular standard of proof which applies is of course the criminal standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt. But now the Attorney-General is no doubt going to say that in this particular context, which is technically not a criminal but a civil proceeding, it is inappropriate for that criminal standard to apply, and that we should retreat to some kind of civil standard of proof on the balance of probabilities. Because, let the Senate be in no doubt, that is the effect of the Bill as it stands at the moment. A civil standard will undoubtedly be applied in this area in the absence of any explicit statutory direction to the contrary.
When the Bill was first brought into the other place, there was indeed an explicit clause, then a proposed new section 243E, which put the matter beyond doubt in stating, as it then did:
In a proceeding under this Division, it is not necessary for the Court to be satisfied concerning any matter beyond reasonable doubt, but it shall, in all cases, be sufficient if the Court is satisfied concerning the matter on the balance of probabilities.
However, in the proceedings in the other place, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife), in response to various criticisms of this particular clause which had been mounted by a number of members, including some on his own side in the legislation committee, in fact removed that particular provision entirely, but not in order to substitute any explicit provision of the kind that the Opposition is now urging upon the Government. Rather, the statute was left silent. The Minister, Mr Fife, in explaining this, said in the other place that the result of doing so would be to:
Let there be no doubt but that this is technically a civil proceeding, as the Attorney-General has said, although it has all sorts of flavour of criminality about it, as I think we have both agreed. I would be interested to hear the AttorneyGeneral on this, but I think he would have no doubt that any court, in construing and applying this division of the proposed new Act, would in fact apply a civil standard. So the Government has tried to have it both ways. It has tried to meet the arguments of its critics by taking out a clause which expressly set a civil standard but has not substituted a criminal standard and is leaving it to happen, as it knows will happen, that the court will apply a civil standard.
Using the language of the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) in another place, this is a massive con job. The Government is trying to faze the Parliament and the people into believing that it is being a little less extreme than in fact is the case. I suggest to the Attorney that there is a very strong case in principle which he ought to acknowledge for accepting the tenor and substance of the Opposition amendment. Surely he would accept that even if the onus is to be on the defendant, as is the case as a result of the treatment of the previous Opposition amendment, at least the standard applied by the tribunal in determining that issue ought to be a criminal standard- one of beyond reasonable doubt. As a result he ought to be prepared to accept the substance and the letter of the Opposition’s amendment which puts that beyond doubt, which makes any threshold question of criminality which has to be established as an element in these proceedings one that has to be established by reference to a criminal standard and only then leaves to civil standards of proof the other subsidiary matters of a civil character that remain then to be determined.
I urge the Attorney not to treat this amendment in his usual derisory fashion but to appreciate the point of principle that is being made, to appreciate the effect of what has been done in the other place, to acknowledge with as much fortitude as he can muster that a mistake has been made and to accept the Opposition’s amendment accordingly.
– I am sorry if I have given Senator Evans the impression that I am treating his amendments in a derisory fashion.
– Don’t take any notice of him. He is not serious.
-I think he is. The thing that worries me a little about Senator Evans is that he cannot accept the fact that arguments contrary to his own are serious. He thinks arguments that do not agree with his must be frivolous. I think that is one of his problems. This is not any mistake, I can assure Senator Evans. It is a matter to which a great deal of attention has been given. I would have thought that Senator Evans’s account of proceedings in another place in fact indicates that a great deal of thought has been given to this matter, that a lot of debate already has taken place and that the Government is very clear and firm in its view as to the reasons that the Bill is in its present form.
The amendment is designed to import a criminal standard of proof into proceedings for the recovery of penalties for person engaging in proscribed narcotics dealings. This Bill contains a new provision for Customs legislation. It is a new weapon which the Government believes could be of immense significance in tackling the traders in narcotics and in drugs generally. It is based on the view- I think very wisely- that if the profits that can be obtained from these illegal transactions can be taken away from the trafficker and the dealer, the attraction of the whole trade will very rapidly disappear. Even though there are high penalties for the criminal offences that are committed by these acts, nevertheless it is felt that if we can succeed in depriving these people of their profits we will have an even more potent weapon. This is certainly a new proceeding; it is not a criminal proceeding. Let me hasten to assure Senator Evans that I agree that it is a civil proceeding. The courts will, on their past form, treat it as a civil proceeding. The Government intends that it ought to be a civil proceeding. Therefore, it would be contradictory to import into it standards of proof which are required for criminal proceedings.
A lot of the value of this new weapon would be lost if it was to require standards of proof which were necessary to establish criminal guilt. That is not to say that the courts will not require very substantial proof of the facts necessary to constitute this new cause of action. It is in legal form though probably not strictly in lawyer’s terms a cause of action. It is a creation of a right to recover a penalty equal to the profits that can be proved to have been made by the dealer.
There is already quite a lot of law on the subject of standard of proof in these matters. I refer Senator Evans and any other senators who may be interested in pursuing the legal niceties of this subject to some very valuable dicta by Mr Justice Fullagar, in Jackson v. Butterworth 1946, which is contained in the Victoria Law Reports at page 332. Although Senator Evans and I could have an interesting discussion on this aspect, I am sure the Committee does not want me to detain it any longer than is absolutely necessary, so I will not quote the full passage. Mr Justice Fullagar was talking about the standard of proof in recovery of penalties under taxation proceedings. He was talking about the sort of proceedings, and so on. He quoted some very well known dicta of Mr Justice Dixon, as he then was, in Briginshaw v. Briginshaw on this subject. I would like to refer to what Mr Justice Dixon said because it is apposite to the point that Senator Evans has made. Mr Justice Dixon said that a court in deciding on the standard of proof in these matters will have regard to the seriousness of the allegation made and the gravity of the consequences flowing from a particular finding. He said that the court requires proof to its reasonable satisfaction. He added:
In such matters ‘reasonable satisfaction’ should not be produced by inexact proofs, indefinite testimony, or indirect inferences.’
I think lawyers would agree that in these types of cases- albeit a civil standard of proof, not a criminal standard, is required- rather special attention is given to proof of these matters. It is not simply confined to this area; it relates to other areas such as fraud, where serious allegations are made. Although there is the civil standard, the attention of the courts is given to the seriousness of the allegations made, and they have to be reasonably satisfied of the facts before they can make any findings. It was because of these considerations that the Government felt it was better not to make a specific reference, as the original Bill did, to a civil standard of proof because it may have been thought that we were trying to confine the court in some way and to water down some of these well-known views to which I have referred that had been expressed by judges of the High Court. The Government felt that, in all the circumstances and in the light of that well known area of the law, it was better simply to leave that for the courts to determine, no doubt feeling that they would follow the views which have been expressed by High Court judges in other cases. (Quorum formed).
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
– I have received the following message from the House of Representatives:
The House of Representatives transmits to the Senate the following Resolution which was agreed to by the House of Representatives this day and requests the concurrence of the Senate therein:
That paragraph ( 12) of the resolution of appointment of the Joint Committee on the Family Law Act be omitted and that the following paragraph be substituted:
That the Committee report by 31 May 1980 and any member of the Committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report. (Sgd) B. M. SNEDDEN Speaker
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That consideration of the message be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Debate resumed from 29 August, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Senate take note of the papers.
– The Budget presented by the Treasurer, Mr Howard, on 22 August this year was a last-ditch attempt by a sinking Government to surface for one more gulp of air. The Fraser Government has found itself in a beleaguered position. Lately, any move it has made has rebounded against it. Prior to the presentation of the Budget the Government’s stocks had gone lower and lower. If it had gone to the polls mid-term it would have been decimated. Ironically, the parties which form this Government forced the Whitlam Government to the polls mid-term on two occasions. In 1975 they achieved that with the help of a stacked Senate and dubious outside assistance. Is this Government now willing to undertake voluntarily what it forced the Whitlam Government to undertake, a mid-term election? I do not think that that is likely. It can detect the odour of potential defeat and will do anything to try to retain power or to bolster its flagging image.
It is against that background- a background of a fearful government- that the Budget was presented by Mr Howard. The Budget was presented by a government which has been characterised by a penchant for ad hoc decisionsdecisions which have given the Australian people a succession of different health insurance programs which have never really been fully understood before being superseded, decisions which have taken from the pensioners conditions for which they fought for years. The Budget followed the horror of a package of tough financial measures introduced earlier this year. The Government has really come to the end of the road. It is painfully aware of one thing, however, and that is that it is absolutely essential to give its backbenchers and its sympathisers outside this Parliament some glimmer of hope for the next general election, whether that election is held this year or whether the Government clings to its sinking ship until the end of next year.
So Mr Howard rose in the House of Representatives and longed that a glimmer of hope would dawn as he ploughed through his dull, tough Budget Speech. What he presented was a bitter pill. Granted, that bitter pill was sugar coated. To many Australians who listened to the Budget Speech that night the sugar coating would have given the Budget some degree of attractiveness, but soon the bitter nature of the Budget became evident. It became clear that it is not a package which will win support for the failing Fraser Government. It is a package which increasingly will become a liability for the Government as the date of the next general election becomes closer. For a short time, as Mr Howard presented his Budget, there was just that small glimmer of hope for which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his Government longed. But it was nothing but a piccaninny dawn. As what this 1979-80 Budget was really all about was realised, darkness suddenly descended once again.
It is essential that we remember that the Fraser Government has been in power for over V/i years. When it was elected it regarded itself as the saviour of the Australian people. It was to turn on the lights, provide jobs, restore prosperity and deliver us into an era of which we would be proud. After Vh years the lights are out, jobs are harder to obtain, there is no hint of prosperity and the Government has found it necessary to advertise on television to boost our national pride. How long will it take the Government to deliver the goods promised in 1975 and 1977? To put the question in a different way, and perhaps to be more pertinent, how long can Australia continue to afford the Fraser Government?
My leader in this place, when speaking earlier about this Budget, mentioned the disastrous level of unemployment in Australia. I can well remember how Mr Fraser promised in his 1 975 policy speech to rid Australia of unemployment. His policy speech asserted that anyone without a job after the parties he led came to power would be someone who did not want to work. Mr Fraser proclaimed during the election campaign of 1 975 that a Government he led would provide jobs for all who wanted to work. Many people believed him. Nowadays many people regret that they did believe him. The level of unemployment has risen consistently since Mr Fraser came to power. There has been no respite. Young people at school realise that they face a lottery when they leave school and seek a job. In their attempt to tip the scales in their favour, they must be under tremendous pressure at school. Each year since Mr Fraser and his Government were elected to office in 1975 more and more people have been out of work.
There has been, of course, the usual claim over the last three years that an increase in employment prospects is just around the corner. I remember well sitting in the Senate chamber in 1976 listening to the first Budget Speech that had been presented since I had become a member of parliament. The Treasurer then was Mr Lynch. Towards the end of his speech he attempted to project hope for those who were looking for work. How well I remember what he said. In referring to unemployment he said that he did not expect any great reduction in unemployment in the remainder of 1976. 1 quote his exact words:
But 1977, all going well, should see the start of a more concerted fall.
Of course, all did not go well. Taking into account seasonal movements, the unemployment level crept upwards throughout the entire year. Undeterred by his failure to cope with the problem of unemployment Mr Fraser in his 1977 policy speech again predicted a lowering of unemployment. He postured then as a statesman who had unemployment under control. I quote what he said:
We all know what the real answer to unemployment is: it’s generating growth and development; it’s industry providing new jobs; it’s training people to fill new jobs- and keep them.
Later he predicted:
Mr Fraser based his prediction on the alleged growth and development his policies had made possible. Again those who were prepared to give him a second chance were disappointed. Mr Fraser’s promises and his Government’s subsequent performance are separated too often by a gigantic chasm.
What are the real facts about the Government’s performance? I shall refer to the number of persons registered as unemployed with the Commonwealth Employment Service and use the January figures for 1976 to 1979. Any other month would show a similar pattern. I have chosen the first month of the year simply for convenience. In January 1976 there were, in round figures, 344,000 people registered as unemployed. In the following year, 1977- the year which Mr Lynch said would see a concerted fall in unemployment- the number of registered unemployed increased by 10,000. The percentage of the labour force unemployed increased from 5.62 per cent to 5.83 per cent. Mr Lynch ‘s hopes for 1977 did not materialise then. Nor did they materialise in later years. By January 1978 there had been a massive leap to 445,000 unemployed, or 6.5 per cent of the work force. This was the year that Mr Fraser predicted would be characterised by a fall in unemployment for February, and then from February onwards. Needless to say, the seasonal fall that did occur as the year passed was not sufficient to present a fall over the number of unemployed in the previous year. By January of this year, 1979, a record 493,000 people were registered as unemployed. This corresponded to 7.5 per cent of the work force.
So the position is clear. Since Mr Fraser came to power unemployment has increased. Year by year the position has become worse. Perhaps the real figures are even worse than the statistics from the Commonwealth Employment Service suggest. Many people have opted out of the work force. This is evident from the statistics, which indicate a declining participation rate in the Australian population. It was interesting to note that Mr Howard mentioned in his Budget Speech this declining participation rate and said that it was partly because of this that the unemployment figures had been kept to the present level.
However, whatever be the exact figure of the number of unemployed, it is plain that unemployment is a major problem in Australia. It is a problem which one would have expected the Government to tackle in the Budget. But what has happened? The main reference to unemployment in this Budget is to a reduction- yes, a reduction- of $27m in the expenditure on manpower and training programs. It is incredible that when unemployment is such a problem there is a decrease in real terms of 24 per cent in the amount allocated to manpower and training programs. If we look at a particular program in isolation- that is, the Special Youth Employment Training Program- we find that there has been an actual cut of 54.6 per cent in the program’s allocated funds. The Treasurer certainly knows how to cure unemployment! After all, in answer to a question asked during Budget week by Mr West, the honourable member for Cunningham, Mr Howard said that one of the most effective responses to unemployment in this country is to have more jobs. I think that those people out in the community who are looking for work could have told Mr Howard that. But did nobody tell the Treasurer that unemployment is particularly severe amongst the young? Why slash at programs which are designed to help the young unemployed?
I am compelled to refer to the income tax measures which were announced by Mr Howard in his Budget. He claimed with pride that he would remove the income tax surcharge from 1 December this year. But did he remind the people of Australia that it was his Government which imposed the surcharge a year ago? Did he remind the people of Australia of his Government’s promise that this surcharge would end two months ago? No, he did neither. The Government simply hoped that, having hit the Australian taxpayer on the head, it would be thanked when it stopped hitting. Let us not forget- and let us not allow the Australian public to forget- that it was this Government that imposed the tax surcharge in the first place. Let us not allow the Australian public to forget that once the tax surcharge was imposed this Government could not resist the temptation to continue to slug the taxpayer. Only because it had to produce some goods in the Budget did it lift the surcharge. It would be more precise to say that it agreed to lift it, because the surcharge will not actually go until later this year.
In the meantime, while we are waiting for that surcharge to go, medical fees and health insurance will increase. The cost of living will rise and the gain from an as-yet-to-be-received tax concession will be completely lost. In addition, it is pertinent to question what happened to the tax indexation which the Prime Minister championed so strongly during election campaigns. It was not reintroduced, we were told, because the public did not understand what it was all about. Unfortunately for the Fraser Government the public fully understood what tax indexation was after the Prime Minister’s disastrous session on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s program AM on 22 August. Australian citizens then fully realised what this Government was doing- taking by stealth increased tax from the pay packets of workers.
In addition to this massive income tax slug or, as my leader Senator Wriedt termed it, ‘tax harvesting’, the Australian people now find that they are paying increasing tax each time they step into their cars. The Fraser petrol tax is squeezing the motorist, and the truth is all too clear in the statement that every petrol pump is a tax office. I would like to read to the Senate an article which was printed in the journal The Road Ahead. For those who do not know Queensland very well 77te? Road Ahead is the official journal of the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland. The editorial in the AugustSeptember edition, under the heading ‘Petrol . . a tax measure’, The Road Ahead reads as follows:
The price of petrol has soared to 30.S cents per litre ( higher in some areas) and more rises are on the way.
Why? A primary reason is that the Federal Government is using its petrol tax rake-off to help balance its budget.
Motorists can understand that some increases in petrol price are inevitable because of the policies of OPEC.
What concerns them is that most of the price rise caused by raising the price of our locally produced crude oil to world parity goes directly into Federal Government revenue- and is used to help balance the Federal budget. lt is not being used to boost Australia’s search for oil. It is not being used to finance major research into alternatives for crude oil. lt certainly is not being used to improve our roads, even though better roads would reduce petrol consumption.
When motorists are forced to pay more and more tax on their petrol they have a right to expect that tax to be used positively, -to ensure for Australia a sound, properly planned energy future.
Unless this is done, the whole community will question the propriety, and even the honesty, of a petrol tax that becomes just another easy way to collect tax on the community and inflates the cost of all goods and services.
The community also looks to the Federal Government for action or control measures to ensure that oil companies do not use the present confused situation to make excessive profits at Australia ‘s expense.
That is the comment made by the official journal of a motorists’ body in Queensland. The Road Ahead is a well-respected publication. Obviously, the organisation is not at all satisfied with what is happening with regard to petrol tax and the petrol price rises that we are having throughout Australia. Many aspects of this Budget are worthy of comment but I shall dwell on just one other aspect. Doubtless many of the detailed weaknesses of the 1979-80 Budget will be well canvassed by my colleagues on this side of the chamber, but I could not conclude my comments without mentioning the subject of social security. The Treasurer the course of his Budget Speech, stated:
I remember how Government members cheered when that statement was read in this chamber by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick). But surely they should have hung their heads in shame that such a statement should be necessary. Why was indexation removed in the first place? The Budget was merely restoring a benefit that had been wrongly removed 12 months before. Last year a spurious argument was used in an attempt to justify the removal of the six-monthly indexation of pensions. The Government told us that inflationary pressures had dropped, therefore indexation of pensions on a six-monthly basis would no longer be required. Many honourable senators pointed out then how illogical that argument was. I will not traverse those arguments again but it is worthy of note that they were well accepted by the pensioners of Australia, who would have no part of the broken promise on the indexation of their pensions. Throughout the nation they rallied and expressed their disgust at the way in which they had been treated. They voiced thenopinion to the members of the Parliament and to the public at large. Not only the pensioners, but also many members of the public, were incensed. It was not because of economic conditions that the Government decided to reintroduce the twice-yearly indexation of pensions. It was due simply to the fact that the Government could discern the deep odium which had descended upon it because of the thoughtless decision that it had made in 1 978. The Government knew that it had no possible hope of survival if it did not reintroduce indexation this year.
– What rubbish.
-But the Government is not yet out of the woods in relation to pensions. Two facts are indelibly imprinted on the minds of pensioners. The first is that the pensioners are still losing money. They had indexation due to them in May, but it was taken away by last year’s legislation.
– Don ‘t talk nonsense.
-It is amazing that every time we mention pensions an honourable senator on the Government side of the chamber- I was going to say gentleman but I am not permitted to do so- decries the fact that Labor is trying to do the best that it possibly can for the pensioners.
– Compare the figures.
– The honourable senator always comes into the Senate and speaks of what a good job the Government has been doinghow good it was to take away the indexation of pensions. When we say that it was good to restore it, he says such things as: ‘What rubbish’. That is the sort of thing that we always hear from the honourable senator on the other side of the chamber. The pensioners had indexation due to them in May, but it was taken away by last year’s legislation. They will continue to lose money until November of this year. The Fraser Government, and Senator Archer, should understand that the pensioners are not gullible. They are well aware that they are still being fleeced. They know that the cost to the Government during this financial year will be minimal because it will not be until May 1980 that the new indexation increase will apply.
The second fact is that the pensioners are wary about ever again trusting the Fraser Government. Its promises on indexation of pensions were deliberately and callously broken. When will they next be broken, may well be the question that pensioners will pose when they ponder how they will cast their vote at the next election.
Also, it should not be forgotten that many benefits in the Budget were not indexed at all. Unemployed persons without dependants will not receive a cost of living adjustment. Their benefits will be held constant. Their unemployment benefit will be held at $51.45 a week and from November the rate for an unemployed person with dependants will rise to $57.90. In addition certain other payments will be made for dependants. The young unemployed under 18 are to receive no increased benefit, which has remained at $36 a week since April 1975. Over that time it has lost about 60 per cent of its purchasing power.
Family allowances, allowances for the children of pensioners and supplementary allowances have not been indexed. These payments are especially important to the poorer sections of the community. Let us not forget that many people in Australia find it extremely difficult to make ends meet. To support the argument that I make, that the allowances which have not been indexed are especially important to certain sections of the community and that many find it difficult to make ends meet, I shall read from a letter that I received from a constituent. It is typical, but shows how hard it is for this person to survive. The letter refers in the opening paragraph to a rally that was held in the Brisbane City Hall and it reads:
Dear Senator Colston,
It was not possible for me to attend the meeting in the City Hall on Monday 16th, as I did not have my bus fare to the city. I am divorced and receive a widow’s pension for myself and two boys. I could just manage 18 months ago but the cost of living has risen to such extremes that wc are on the down and out. My income is $148 per fortnight; my lad 16 years has just received his first unemployment money. He has been looking for work since last October.
I went into the Housing Commission and told them on Wednesday. On Friday I received a letter to say my rent had gone up $7 a week of the $ 148 per fortnight. I pay $60 rent per fortnight; $25 per fortnight budget account; $ 1 5 per fortnight baker and milk account; $5 per fortnight school bus fare for lad, total $ 105 per fortnight so that left us with $43 for two weeks. Every time we buy an item at the shop it has gone up, not just 2 or 3 cents like before but 20c or 30c and it just isn’t funny. The increase in the pension doesn’t even cover one month of rising prices let alone a year- kerosene went up 38c in 3 days when the threat of the power strike was on. We had no power so it cost me the overcharge also. The electricity rates have risen so high- where do we find the extra to pay them?
On Monday and Tuesday nights we had bread and chips- 40c worth- sitting with two small lanterns and one small spirit stove, as larger lighting is just too dear. Also I have sold most of the furniture at times so we could eat. Maybe we would have been better off with the beltings and abuse from a hopeless drunk. But why should I suffer? I did not put the Fraser Government in . . . Maybe we’ll get a better deal next year. One certainly hopes so. I am not a whinger but a very disheartened Aussie wanting a better deal for my family.
That is the sort of person that we must make sure we are looking after when we bring down Budgets in this place. If we are not going to index family allowances, if we are not going to index allowances for children of pensioners, if supplementary allowances are not going to be indexed, it is people like this, people who find it very hard to get by who are going to be the ones to suffer; people who tell us that they have two kiddies- both of secondary school age, by the look of it- and they sat down on Monday and Tuesday nights to have their dinner of 40c worth of bread and chips. Let the people on the other side who decry the fact that we are trying to do the best we can for pensioners, that we are trying to look after their interests, argue against those sorts of facts; the facts that there are such people in the community. This Budget is not one which looks after the under-privileged in the community. It is far from being one which will save the Fraser Government. It is a Budget which spells the Fraser Government’s doom and it heralds the incoming of a Hayden Government at the time of the next election, whenever that might be.
– I take this opportunity afforded by the Budget debate to address myself to an issue which has tremendous implications for Australia. It is the issue of trade and industry development. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has on recent occasions addressed himself to this problem at international forums, at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and at Lusaka. I applaud his advocacy of trade liberalisation and his attacks upon trends and growing trends towards protectionism amongst the industrialised countries of the world of which Australia is one. I believe that trade can be safely said to be a, if not the, major determinant in our political relations, particularly within our own region where so many of the Third World countries belong. It is, of course, a major issue in the north-south dialogue. The problems of economic management which Budgets tend to focus on, such as the balance between revenue and expenditure, are essentially short-term problems. The overall health of the economy depends both on our response to these issues and our management of longer-term issues, such as trade and industry development. The two sets of issues do, in fact, interact. The sustained health of the economy depends on enlightened and mutually compatible responses by governments to both.
The difficulties now being experienced by developed economies and the trends in international trade since the onset of the world-wide recession in 1974 suggest that Australia’s economic well-being in the future depends increasingly on how governments respond to the medium and longer-term challenges, especially those posed by world trade and industry developments. Those elements of economic management concerned with generating long-term growth as distinct from how the benefits of growth are distributed will, I suggest, become more and more crucial to our future well-being. That is the matter which I am concerned with tonight. Our future is increasingly and inextricably linked with developments in the Asian region. It is a region which contains the largest concentration of population in the world, and has the potential to develop into the world ‘s largest trading bloc and market by the end of the century. Indeed many people speak of the next century as being the Pacific century.
The rapid industrialisation now occurring in the Asian region is underscored by high rates of growth in both population and labour force, 2 to 3 per cent a year for most Asian countries since 1950. The abundance of cheap but unskilled labour gives these countries in the early stages of industrialisation a clear comparative advantage in areas of manufacturing which are labour intensive, which employ readily available standard technologies and which require labour with little or no skills or formal training. The developing countries in the region have exploited this comparative advantage by basing the initial thrust of their industrial development on export oriented, labour intensive manufacturing activities. Clothing, textiles, footwear and standard technology white goods are the main examples. These developments have been facilitated by the relative ease with which standard technology and capital can be transferred internationally including transfers by multi-national corporations seeking quite legitimately to tap the benefits of a cheap labour supply and by the relatively modest capital outlay required to establish such industries.
These developments suggest that the future emphasis in our relations with Asian countries will be increasingly on questions of economic development and trade rather than ideological and political issues. In fact, there is evidence in the last two or three years of increasing concern about economic issues, particularly trade in Australia’s relations with Asian countries. For Australia these developments present both problems and opportunities. As the process of industrialisation now under way in Asian countries increases in pace and diversity, as it surely must in the next decade, pressures will mount on our high cost, labour intensive industries, such as the manufacture of clothing, textiles, footwear and the standard technology white goods to which I have already referred. These pressures will make even more urgent the need for Australia to adjust its international structure to changes in the world trading environment, an adjustment process which is now widely recognised as having been inhibited by past protection policies which have tended to shield highly protected import competing industries from the uncomfortable truths emerging from changes in international trade.
The problems of adjustment in our domestic economy, whilst not insignificant, must be weighed against the benefits that would result from our participation in the expansion of trade within the Asian region. Rising incomes and living standards in developing Asian countries which result from the industrialisation now taking place there will generate new export markets in basic materials, intermediate goods and final consumption goods. Because of our geographic situation, natural resources and technological skills, Australia is uniquely placed to capture a significant share of these new and growing Asian markets. The potential benefits to Australia that would flow from closer integration with developments in the Australian region include a surge in economic growth, improved living standards and sustained prosperity.
Like most vast Western economies, Australia has reached a post-industrial stage of development. A recent study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has demonstrated that trade-induced growth in Western countries depends increasingly on expanding their exports to developing Third World countries, but Australia cannot expect to expand its exports to Asian countries indefinitely unless it also accepts imports from those countries. Whether or not Australia benefits from the opportunity to participate in the fruits of ecomnomic growth associated with industrialisation in the Asian region will depend on our willingness to harmonise our industrial development and trade with that of the region as a whole. This implies a need for quite profound changes in the thrust of Australia’s trade and industrial policies. In particular, it highlights a need to better harmonise Australia’s protection, trade and foreign policies.
Recent studies by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade organisation have shown that since the onset of the world-wide recession in 1974 a substantial and increasing part of the growth that has occurred in international trade has been between developed and developing countries. As a result, there is continuing to emerge a greater interdependence between the economies of developed and developing nations. The implications of trade and protection issues for Australia’s relations with developing Asia, and what these imply for Australia’s future policy options, need to be considered in the context of this increasing interdependence and trade between developing and developed countries.
Within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the Kennedy Round and associated international meetings led to significant general reductions in barriers to international trade. The important national initiative in this context was the introduction by advanced countries, including Australia, of a system of preferential tariffs under which imports from developing countries are admitted at a preferential, or lower, tariff rate. That was reflected in the general rate imposed by the importing, developed countries. This is commonly referred to as the developing countries preference scheme. However, international accord on this issue was heavily qualified from the outset by an agreement on special exceptions in the case of socalled sensitive items- to which I have previously referred- which, by arrangement between affected countries, were to be subject to voluntary restraints on imports.
The response by many developed countries, including Australia, to increasing import competition associated with this trend in world trade has been to increase further the barriers to trade in sensitive products- such as clothing, footwear and textiles, to which I have referred- by placing quota restrictions on imports of these products from developing countries and progressively to extend these restrictions to other goods which hitherto have been subject to developing country preference. Because these restraints in trade have been directed mainly at the labour intensive, low technology products which generally have provided the initial impetus for industrialisation in developing countries, the efforts of these countries to improve economic growth and living standards have been frustrated. I draw the attention of the Senate to a report, published in the Australian of 23 August, headed ‘IMF hits out at Australia’. Although it might not do our souls good, it is useful occasionally to see ourselves as others see us, even if the facts are uncomfortable. The article states:
The International Monetary Fund has cited more than 20 examples of how Australia has acted against foreign imports in the past year.
In an annual report on exchange arrangements, the IMF warns that protectionism is stifling world economic growth and it notes in detail Australia ‘s trade record.
The report demonstrates how the Australian Government in the past 12 months has initiated and extended duties, tariffs and controls on products ranging from galvanised steel to double-edged safety razor blades.
In its assessment of the 134 member countries, only the U.S., India, Pakistan and Columbia made more adjustments and instituted more rules on Trade than Australia in the period under review.
In the cases of Pakistan and India, many of these changes were due to a liberalisation in trade policy. The US figure reflected the rising sentiment for protectionism in the country.
The IMF says of changes it attributed by name to the US, EEC and Canada, and, by implication, Australia: ‘The widening application by many developed countries of the various forms of import restraint mentioned is a matter for serious concern’.
The report, titled: ‘Annual report: exchange arrangements and exchange restrictions 1979’, makes mention particularly of Australia’s move in the middle of last year to impose quantitative restrictions on imports of sheets and plates of steel and specified iron and steel products as well as on worsted yarns ‘.
The only favourable mention that Australia receives in this context is for its lifting of restrictions on non-resident investment in fixed-interest securities. The article continues:
Under the heading ‘Changes during 1978’, the IMF lists nearly two full pages of detail on Australia’s shifting trade policies.
Of the 37 measures detailed, only four or five could positively be identified as being aimed not at limiting imports, but to increasing access to local markets . . .
These responses to trade pressures originating from developing countries have had adverse political and economic consequences for developed countries, including Australia. Firstly, understandably, they have tended to sour relations with the developing countries. For instance, consider the widely publicised complaints of countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations in recent years about restrictions imposed by Australia on their exports of footwear, clothing, textiles and white goods. These countries can take little comfort from statements made on behalf of developed countries about improved trading opportunities and economic co-operation when such measures as the developing countries preference scheme are abrogated whenever the cold winds of competition are felt by our high cost, labour intensive industries. Such responses begin to question the credibility- I suggest also the sincerity- of Australia’s internationally stated concern to improve reciprocal trade relations with developing Asian countries and invite retaliation against its exports. Indeed, I have stated publicly on a number of occasions recently that rhetoric in support of trade liberalisation not matched by performance can now be positively harmful to Australia’s interests. Australia has now to put its money where its mouth is.
I express my disappointment at the Government’s decision not to proceed to implement the more forward-looking recommendations of the Crawford report. The unfortunate decision to defer the implementation of these recommendations will be interpreted in an adverse way by developing countries and will affect Australia’s credibility, especially in its own region. It will lend support to the reported comment by Herman Kahn, the American futurologist, that no country talks more about the need to restructure industry than Australia and does so little about it.
Secondly, as demonstrated in a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study, which I recommend to honourable senators, dealing with the impact of newly industrialised countries on world trade, barriers to traditional exports of developing countries result in a more rapid diversification of the industrial base of these countries. The study has shown that manufactured exports from developing countries to advanced industrial countries have grown substantially despite increased trade barriers against sensitive products. The study attributes this overall growth in manufactured exports by Third World countries to their ability to diversify their industrial base and thus the range of their manufactured exports to non-traditional products which are subject to no or fewer trade restrictions by advanced industrial countries. It was concluded in paragraph 21 on page 11 of the report:
The impressive overall export performance of several newly industrialised countries resulted from a combination of strong comparative advantage and of export promotion policies aimed at exploiting the openings offered by trade liberalisation while overcoming or by-passing continuing or newly created trade barriers.
The selective erection and expansion of trade barriers against traditional manufacturers, that is, low technology, labour intensive products from developing countries- has potentially serious implications for industry policy in advanced countries, including Australia, at a time when it is recognised that structural adjustment pressures are already creating serious difficulties for domestic economic management. By encouraging developing countries to diversify more quickly- I stress the words ‘more quickly’- the range of their manufactured exports in the less traditional and as yet less protected areas and so by-pass these barriers trade pressures are being exerted over a wide range of the manufacturing base in advanced industrial countries more quickly than would normally occur. In effect, the sequence of industrialisation in the Third World and the resulting changes and patterns of world trade seem to be running ahead of what normally would have occurred under conditions of fewer trade barriers where the patterns of exports and imports would have more closely approximated the naturally involved patterns of comparative advantage. As a result, the less heavily protected areas of Australian manufacturing have had transferred to them the trade pressures that would normally have been limited to the more highly protected labour intensive industries which are less suited to Australia.
These developments have occurred at a time when the Asian countries are in a dynamic stage of development, are still exploiting their comparative advantage in world production and trade and are capitalising on whatever new opportunities for entry into world market trade become available to them. The barriers being erected against their traditional exports are hastening and influencing the normal processes of industrial development in those countries. Our choice about whether to integrate our trade and industry policies with developments in the region as a whole is therefore becoming one of increasing urgency for our less highly protected, more internationally competitive manufacturing industries. The longer our decision is delayed the more our manufacturing industries will be disadvantaged by the distortions now being built into our trade with the region. I refer to a recent speech by Mr Robert McNamara, President of the World Bank, in his address to the fifth United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Manila in May of this year. In relation to the costs of protection, he said:
The resort to protectionism may be a politically attractive choice- particularly in the face of difficult structural problems- but it is almost always a poor choice.
The motivation of a developed nation in extending protection is, of course, to save specific industries or sectors or regions from incurring detrimental economic and human costs. But what is often overlooked is that this does not protect the society from incurring equally real and larger costs in the long run.
On this point it is worth noting the comments of the Industries Assistance Commission in the recently released draft report on textiles, clothing and footwear. The IAC estimates that the costs to the consumer of maintaining each employee in the industries under reference are as follows: $2,900 for the textile industry; $7,000 for the clothing industry and about $5,000 for the footwear industry. The cost to consumers, calculated using ex-factory prices for domestic production and landed duty free prices for imports in 1976-77, is estimated to be $2 10m for textiles, $730m for clothing and $ 125m for footwear. The total annual cost to consumers has been estimated at just over $925m or $200 per household.
– What about the cost of the loss of wages?
– If the honourable senator reads the report he will see that what I am talking about is not a loss to the cost of wages. If the honourable senator wants to continue protecting highly inefficient and high cost industries, he had better start calculating the cost to Australia in the long term. On the supposed benefits of protectionist measures to workers, it is worth turning again to Mr McNamara ‘s comments. He says:
What advocates of protectionism neglect to say is that the present jobs of these workers may not be saved even under protection. The fact is that protection is often utilised- to the ultimate disappointment of the trade unions that ask for it- as a means of allowing industry to “adjust’ by automating low skilled jobs out of existence, using the assured higher prices to pay for labour-displacing machinery.
There is evidence of this phenomenon occurring in Australia, despite continuing high levels of protection. The IAC’s draft report on textiles, clothing and footwear states:
Employment in the industries, including sections of the textile industry not under reference, declined by 11,600 males and 29,000 females from June 1 974 to June 1 978. This is a total reduction of 26 per cent on the 1974 employment level.
That answers Senator Watson’s question. On the cost of protectionism, Mr McNamara said:
The real choice offered by the protectionists is for society to pay higher prices and transfer income from its more productive citizens, probably on a permanent basis, while at the same time hurting their own consumers, tying up resources in low priority uses, and adversely affecting exporting industries, as well as those industries depending on cheap imports.
In fact, what we are doing with protectionist policies is adding to the cost burdens of our exporting industries, including farming and other primary production, making Australian producers less competitive in overseas markets. Commenting on the rationale behind protection, Mr McNamara made the following observation:
Despite the heavy costs of growing protectionism to the industrial countries, the political battle against protectionist pressures is often very difficult. It is difficult because the temporary losers from trade liberalisation are visible and vocal -
How we know that-
Whereas those who gain are generally dispersed and disorganised. Thousands of housewives spread over a whole country often have less voice than a textile worker with a job at stake. But in the long run what is really at stake is not just cheaper shoes, clothes, and bedspreads, but the jobs and living standards of the whole population.
I will not comment further on the report to which I have referred, but I suggest that the statement by Mr McNamara ought to be listened to, if not heeded. We have simultaneously given developing Asian countries preferred access to our market for manufactures generally, as I have said, but limited their access to our markets for low technology labour-intensive products. As a result, both Australia and its trading partners in the region, but especially Australia, have been disadvantaged in terms of trade and economic growth. By increasing protection for industries that are unsuited to Australia we have denied Australian consumers access to cheaper basic consumer goods while developing countries in general have received preferred access to our market for manufactures. This has occurred in a way which has limited greatly their ability to exploit their comparative advantage in labourintensive low technology production. There has therefore been a loss to both trading partners. In addition, those manufacturing industries in Australia which are more suited to our resource endowments have been subject to greater structural pressures as a result of the conflict in our response to trade with developing Asian countries.
It is now a widely accepted principle of sound industrial policy, espoused not only by economists but by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the Australian Government in its White Paper, that industry policy should respond more to the changes occurring in international trade and rely less on government intervention and support. The Australian Government’s White Paper embraces the principle that industries which require high levels of support from taxpayers through subsidies and bounties or from consumers through tariffs should not be encouraged. Yet the practised response of successive Australian governments where high cost labour-intensive industries such as clothing, footwear and textiles face increased import competition has been to raise trade barriers and thus close out external competition. This is a contradiction and sits uncomfortably with the general principles embraced by the White Paper. The implications of that contradiction have not been lost on our Association of South East Asian Nations neighbours.
It must be obvious to them, as it is to informed policy analysts in GATT, the OECD and in Australia, that these high cost industries can be sustained in developed economies only with ever-increasing levels of protection and everincreasing costs to the community. From an Asian viewpoint, our policy towards such industries is seen to be mutually detrimental. It thwarts their opportunities to promote industrial growth, based on exports of labour-intensive products, and denies Australians access to less costly products, thus reducing in real terms the income available for Australians to spend on other forms of consumption, to save or to invest.
– We will finish up with an Asian standard of living.
– That is what we are going to finish up with. The honourable senator should wait until 1 finish. If we wish to develop an industry structure consistent with the national interest and in harmony with economic developments elsewhere in our region, we cannot continue to pursue industry policies which, no matter how appropriate they might have been in the 1950s, are not appropriate to the circumstances that will be facing Australia in the 1980s. The circumstances of the 1980s will involve -
– They are appropriate for the -
– The honourable senator can either forget about the 1950s in the 1980s or he can stay where he is. The circumstances of the 1980s will involve the further growth of exportbased labour-intensive manufacturing industries in developing countries, particularly in the Asian region. They constitute a change in our trading environment with which Australian industry must learn to live in the years ahead. This change is not unique to Australia, of course. Other developing countries are also finding their labour-intensive industries exposed to increasing competition from low cost developing countries. This world-wide trend confirms that low-skill labour-intensive import-competing industries are unsuited to high income industrially advanced countries. While our experience is similar to that of other industrially advanced countries, the implications are more important in Australia’s case. The erection of trade barriers against imports from ASEAN nations is not only inimical to our own economic welfare, but also it highlights to those nations the conflict between our trade and foreign policies. For instance, in the first half of 1977 the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd indicated that it had in prospect a decision to reduce by 2,000 its labour force at Port Kembla because of the poor demand for iron and steel in both domestic and export markets. At the same time, the Philippines Government through its central bank had taken action which effectively halved imports of Australian steel in retaliation against Australia’s imposition of import quotas on textiles and knitwear of Philippines origin. This example of beggar my neighbour policies demonstrates the relationship between jobs in the textile and clothing industries and jobs in the steel industry. Jobs in one industry are protected at the expense of creating unemployment in another, and there are many recent examples of this. Given the potential size of the markets which developing Asian countries constitute, the scope for generating Australian employment for exports to those markets must exceed by very many times the Australian jobs that might be put at risk in our low technology labour-intensive industries which, as I have indicated from the IAC report, are in any case rapidly declining in the labour population force.
– There simply has to be more rationalising in these sectors of manufacturing.
– Come on! The honourable senator should wake up to himself. As a result of fostering a future exchange of trade between Australia and developing Asian countries, based on each trading partner concentrating on what it produces best, what it does best, and importing from the others what they do best, some idea of the scope which exists for a mutual increase in trade between Australia and the ASEAN countries and the Asian-Pacific region in general, is provided by the fact that in 1975 Australia supplied less than 4 per cent of total ASEAN imports, and 75 per cent of those were manufactured imports, or exports from Australia. In the same year, the ASEAN countries supplied 3.8 per cent of total Australian imports.
The policy of fostering industries which are unsuited to the Australian environment is not only inimical to the development of such a trading relationship but is also exposing a widening credibility gap between our trade and foreign policies. It is detrimental to the development of a co-operative relationship with other countries in our region, which is essential if we are to have a meaning and identity in the Asian region. I conclude by quoting the last two paragraphs of an editorial in the Australian Financial Review of 17 July 1979. After being critical, I suspect, of a decision to defer consideration of the Crawford recommendations- this is what I have been saying- the editorial went on:
At the same time, it will encourage the newly developing countries to take a path which offers a really serious threat to us, namely the by-passing of the labour-intensive, relatively low technology industries which we are so attached to in favour of the high technology, more capital-intensive industries.
By the time the Australian Government gets around to taking a serious look at trade liberalisation, which it so lightly proposes to postpone to the mid-80s, it could well be too late. We could be locked into a downward spiral of declining productivity, increasing disadvantage with respect to the industries in which we should be efficient, and declining relative living standards.
Indeed, the ‘poor white trash ‘ of the region.
– The debate, as is usual at this time of the year, centres on the Budget and its strategy. What we are dealing with is the fourth Budget of the Fraser Government, plus two mini-Budgets which it has seen fit to introduce, with the aim of fulfilling the statements, promises and objectives that it set itself when it brought down the Whitlam Government in 1975. A Budget is not the be-all and end-all of an economic system, whatever its classical description might be. It is only one of the means by which a climate is created, or conditions are influenced, in order to realise particular economic objectives. I think we have tended to see Budgets as being the most important economic instrument, in some respects the only economic instrument, to enable us to have a healthy economy. I think, particularly after listening to what Senator Sim and other speakers have said on a variety of economic issues over the last few years, we should appreciate that there are other factors besides Budgets which operate to determine the fate of policies, whether they be pursued in the public or private sectors. I am one of those who subscribe to the view that a Budget has only a limited influence on the course of action that is to be taken. It certainly sets itself the objective of creating an economic climate for growth and development, for business confidence, for consumer spending, for well-being, for increased living standards, and generally for raising some degree of expectation within the community. That is what characterises the fine and flowery words that are so often part of Budget speeches by the Treasurers of the day.
I think we are entitled to analyse whether those Budget speeches realised their objectives and expectations, or whether they are just rhetoric, words which sound good but which are meaningless in terms of having a healthy economy. One only needs to go back to the first Budget presented by the Fraser Government on 17 August 1976. Before dealing with specific comments in relation to this particular Budget I should like to make some brief quotations, as well as commenting on what Senator Sim had to say. Mr Lynch said:
The private sector is growing again and confidence is gradually returning.
This Budget will aid that recovery and rebuild confidence further.
It will do so in part by putting an end to permissiveness in government spending and turning back the recent trend towards bigger and bigger government.
At the same time it will build further on the social reforms of 20 May so as to assist the most needy in our community.
The reference to 20 May was to the first miniBudget. The same sort of statements were repeated in the next Budget by Mr Lynch and in the succeeding Budgets by the present Treasurer, Mr Howard. If we turn to further statements of the first Treasurer of the Fraser Administration, we find the comment that the economic recovery would take a full three-year term. That full threeyear term has come and gone, and the statements by Mr Howard do not give us much confidence that the Government is in command of the Australian economy.
What Senator Sim had to say to some extent underlines this, that it is one of the fallacies, one of the falsehoods, one of the misnomers that governments in fact are the principal factor in economic affairs. The real decisions that have to be made are made in the board rooms of the major companies. They are the ones who decide whether profitability is such as to encourage investment decisions which will create new industries or new job opportunities, or whether in fact there will be investments in this State or that State. Here I refer more particularly perhaps to overseas capital, where we have the rather odious spectacle of Premiers hawking their States around the world trying to get foreign investment in the belief- in my opinion the false belief- that this will lead to investment decisions which will create a more healthy economy, ignoring the fact that there are other important decision-making processes which will even cut across those particular investment decisions. It is all in the area of trying to build within the Australian community a feeling that they must spend, a feeling that they must have confidence, a feeling in the business sector that it must expand, grow and develop, find new markets, and have confidence in the future. That was the principal strategy of the first Fraser Budget. It was to be a consumer-led recovery. But at the end of that Budget year that consumer-led recovery had not taken place.
There were sufficient inducements, as we thought, in the second Budget of the Fraser Administration. It was to be an investment-led recovery and special steps were to be taken to encourage the private sector of our economy to invest in new machines, to increase productivity, and generally to create a great concept. The last two Budgets have emphasised the need for diversification, to which Senator Sim referred, and the need for an export-led recovery. I would say that that strategy or that objective will fail as surely as the investment-led recovery and the consumer-led recovery failed in the years 1976-77 and 1977-78. 1 submit that it has failed and that it is failing, that consumer spending is not increasing, and that business confidence is not taking place of the order that will create the sort of job opportunities that will employ an increasing number of people who are now out of work and the increasing number of younger people coming on to the labour market. This is so because of numerous factors. One of those factors which Senator Sim touched upon- a factor which I suggest would be a disastrous course of action for Australia to follow- would be to follow in the trend of the international influences, to put ourselves in a position where we knowingly became part of the redistribution of capital, resources and labour that is taking place on the world scene. That, of course, is what we have seen in the last decade or so- a massive redistribution of capital and a massive redistribution of resources and labour. It has been suggested that if puny little Australia with a population of about 14 million were somehow to change its protection policies and open its doors and adopt the principles of free trade all the other things would fall into place and in fact we would live in a healthy, regenerative and developing Australian economy. Those simplistic processes, I submit, do not require a great deal of imaginative thinking because they have no particular relevance to the sorts of problems that beset our country; they are more fundamental than that.
I think we have a crisis of confidence in our country. Our business sector lacks confidence in itself, in the Government and in the economic system. Our consumers- who, of course, are citizens- lack confidence in the Government, in the private sector and in the economic system. 1 do not suggest in any way that they understand the ramifications of modern economics, but when there are downturns in the economy, whenever there is unemployment, uncertainty and inflation, historical statistics show that savings bank deposits continue to rise year by year. That is exactly what is happening. It is not happening in a conscious way. It is not happening because people think that the system has certain deficiencies and is not working and operating to their satisfaction and therefore they will do this and that. Instinctively they fear for the future. These people are ordinary citizens and therefore they save. That is a natural, understandable and proper attitude to adopt. Similarly, in our private sector which, after all, employs a big proportion of our work force there is a lack of confidence in the ability of governments and itself to make the sorts of decisions and to create the sort of atmosphere and climate that would enable it to be convinced that its investment decisions would be suitable to the funds to be so invested.
The latest Budget to emanate from this Government continues the basic direction of the Government’s economic policies. The essence of this economic strategy, I submit, is a sustained attack upon the living standards and quality of life of the great mass of the ordinary Australian people. We know that living standards have declined over the last four years, that wages have slipped behind the rate of inflation and, in fact, that unemployment has continued to increase even though there has been some measurable improvement in the rate of inflation. The people who suffer most from the policies of the Fraser
Government are the poor, the unemployed and the pensioner- those in the community who are the weakest, the least able to defend themselves and the first in line to be affected by government policies and by those who refuse to invest and refuse to have confidence in their own capacities to develop the economy. This Government’s policy has been to perpetuate that situation, and can therefore be described only as a cowardly attack on those least able to defend themselves.
Who are the beneficiaries of the Government’s policies? We have to read only the financial columns of our newspapers to see that it is the major corporations that are benefiting by this Government’s policies, the corporate rich, the multinational mining companies, the giant oil companies, the companies that have so diversified their activities in the Australian economy, the companies that have gone off-shore in order to develop a higher rate of profitability overseas. This Budget therefore to the limited extent that it can influence economic growth and issues in this country has to be described not only as it has been described by others as a contractionary Budget but also as a Budget for the privileged and the wealthy. This of course would be no surprise to anyone who looks at it objectively. We know who the Fraser Government listens to. The ear of the Government is always tuned to the arguments of capital; capital is the predominant force. It has its influence in the media, in the conservative economic sections of our country, in the Treasury, in universities and in the traditions. Of course, it is able to put forward its view almost without contrary argument.
The argument of capital and its representatives has been the same during the period of the Labor Government, during the period of the first Fraser Budget and in the subsequent years that this Government has been in office. They have said: ‘Give us concessions or we will not invest. Profits must grow, wages must fall; reduce inflation. It must be the wage earner, not the profiteers who must pay’. That underlying philosophy has been taken up by the Government in the false belief, in the benign belief perhaps, that by listening to that view it will encourage the private sector to take the necessary steps to rationalise itself, to increase its productivity, to modernise its production processes, to develop new industries and to diversify; yet that has not happened. There has been no satisfactory response from the private sector.
This Government in its latest Budget has resorted to trickery and subterfuge in its endeavours to try to fool the Australian people and perhaps even the business sector. The Treasurer announced in the Budget the abolition of the 2.5 per cent income tax surcharge which the Government levied on incomes last December. He had said that it was to be taken off in the early part of this year. He went on to talk about an increase in take home pay that would result. We all know that within a day this shoddy gesture had been torn apart. Even the Treasurer’s own figures revealed that income tax collections in 1 979-80 were expected to increase by 1 8.2 per cent, twice the expected inflation rate. Let us look at page 56 of the Government’s Budget Paper No. 1. The section headed ‘Expenditures’ reads:
With the rises in consumer prices that are already in the system and the large increase in personal income tax collections, together with the level-pegging assumed in respect of farm incomes, aggregate real household disposable income could even be a little lower in 1979-80 as a whole than in 1978-79.
The Government in its own documents admits that taxes will be higher; it admits that disposable household income will be less in the next financial year than in the past. I agree that Mr Risstrom did a tremendous job to debunk the theory that Mr Malcolm Fraser and Mr Howard were attempting to put over that this Budget in fact would be beneficial to the Australian people. In their own document they admit that taxes will be higher and that consumer spending, ipso facto, will be reduced in the coming financial year. That is hypocrisy, indeed, coming from a government which has constantly attacked the Australian Labor Party and claimed that it is a high-tax party; it is hypocrisy coming from a government which came to office on a promise to cut taxes.
Mr Acting Deputy President, I would like to have incorporated in Hansard a document which I had prepared by the Statistics Group of the Legislative Research Service at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. It is an official document from the Library. Before seeking leave to do so, I wish to make one or two brief references to it. For example, the document shows that total Commonwealth taxation revenue in 1965-66 was $4,209m and that at that stage payasyouearn taxation represented 27.6 per cent of total Commonwealth Government taxation revenue. That went up steadily by one or two per cent every year, reaching 43. 1 per cent in the second Budget of the Whitlam Government. Where does that percentage stand today? It is estimated at 44. 1 per cent in the 1 979-80 Budget. Where did it stand in the past three Budgets of the
Fraser Government? In 1977-78 PA YE tax represented 45.2 per cent of total Commonwealth taxation revenue. In 1978-79 it represented 44.6 per cent and in 1979-80 it is estimated that it will represent 44. 1 per cent. Mr
Acting Deputy President, I seek leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
– But none of us should be surprised at that because we have come to learn that people in the lower strata of wage earners are the people most severely affected by the Fraser Government’s devious taxation policies. Time and time again in the Senate and in the House of Representatives we have heard that this Government has reduced the rate of taxation. The figures which I have cited indicate that an even higher rate of tax is being paid when one considers that the level of unemployment has almost doubled in the period in which the Fraser Government has been in office. When one takes that into account it shows that a higher proportion of tax is being paid by the average wage earner. As we know, when we look at the tax scales we see that the great bulk of PA YE taxation in this country comes from people in the lower and middle income groups. The devious taxation policies of the Government do nothing more than to continue the process of the systematic redistribution of income away from the poorer sections of our community and into the pockets of the wealthy.
Let us consider another set of figures to prove the point I am trying to make. In the four
Budgets of the Fraser administration PAYE taxation has increased by 70 per cent. Customs duty has increased by 70 per cent and, as my colleague Senator Colston has indicated, revenue collected in excise as a result of the increases in petrol prices has increased seven times since the last Labor Budget of 1975-76. What we are saying is that the Government for four years has undertaken a systematic policy of reducing living standards. By increasing the level of unemployment the Government has simultaneously tried to weaken the ability of working people to resist. This Government has successfully achieved creating the highest rate of unemployment since the Great Depression.
At the same time as its policies threw hundreds of thousands of workers into dole queues, members of the Fraser Government began a campaign, unfortunately aided and abetted by other people in the community who ought to have known better, to denigrate, demoralise and, in many cases, destroy unemployed people in Australia. In a most ruthless and vicious campaign the Government and the mass media combined to brand unemployed people as dole bludgers, as if in the space of a year or two 400,000 workers had decided that subsistence on $5 1 a week was preferable to working. The dole bludger campaign has been the most shameful and callous propaganda exercise this country has ever witnessed. It is to our everlasting shame that we have not laid that campaign to dust. It has created tremendous problems in the minds of people who genuinely seek work.
The young unemployed have been bombarded with the idea that their jobless state is their own fault, the result of some God-given and irreversible incapacity. It is no wonder that they increasingly turn to alcohol and other drugs, to crime and even to suicide. Yet instead of these people being shown compassion, they are stigmatised and criticised and, in many cases, even driven from the homes of their families because they are unable to find work. This is so, despite the fact that for every job available, about 27 people are looking for work. Having thrown people out of work, the system and the Government have systematically denied many of the unemployed people their right to receive the unemployment benefit. Of course, it is this Government which has stiffened up the work test. This has become a game which the Government plays, the aim of which is to deprive the jobless of their means of subsistence. We all know the degree to which many young people have been affected by the work test changes.
The Fraser Government has broadened its attack on the weak throughout the community. As an example, let us look at what has happened to allocations for Aboriginal programs. Since 1975-76, spending on Aboriginal programs has declined by 30.7 per cent in real terms. The spending ability of pensioners has declined substantially due to a failure to index pensions. Whilst it is true that in this Budget the Government responded to the campaign of pensioners for restoration of one of the benefits introduced by a Labor government, nevertheless pensioners’ living standards have been affected considerably by that year’s delay in the indexation of pensions. Family allowances, which benefit the poor most, are declining in real terms without adequate compensation being made for inflation. In 1979-80 government housing outlays will be less than one-third of 1974-75 levels. Of course, government assistance to the sick continues to decline. We are all aware of the confusion and the concern of the Australian people, and their disgust with this Government, as a result of the many changes which have been wrought to destroy the universality of Medibank.
The Fraser Government is not content with the social misery it has already caused. The latest
Budget continues the contractionary policies. One professor, I think it was Professor John Nevile, described it as ‘the most contractionary Budget of the last 30 years’. In the name of fiscal responsibility the domestic deficit has been slashed from $2,220m to $875m in the 1979-80 Budget. There is no chance that government spending will alleviate the unemployment situation. Let us consider the Government’s Budget documents. I refer honourable senators to Budget Paper No. 10, headed ‘National Accounting- Estimates of Receipts and Outlays of Commonwealth Government Authorities’. A lot of rather obscure journals, containing all sorts of crackpot accounting theories about how the country can be got back on its feet, are now being distributed and it is interesting to see the emphasis placed on deficits. But it is interesting also to note that the total of the deficits for three years under a Fraser government is $3,000m higher than the total of the deficits for three years under the Whitlam government. The three Whitlam Government deficits came to $6, 445m. I am referring to page 6, table 1, of the current documents. In a similar three-year period the deficits of the Fraser Administration came to $9,5 5 1 m.
Under the guise of fighting inflation first the Government has deliberately set about cutting back on public sector spending in the belief that the private sector will take up the challenge. Yet is has not done so. There is no evidence that it has done so. In fact, we all know that in excess of 250,000 jobs have disappeared in Australia over the last two years, principally because of the decline in the private sector of the Australian economy. Instead of providing some selective stimulation in the public sector to take up the slack, the Government has set out to reduce the deficit and to follow the advice of the monetarists. The Treasurer himself has admitted to being an adherent to such policies. Under this guise of fighting inflation first the Government has to be seen as deliberately multiplying the number of unemployed. The Government is determined to reduce inflation by reducing real wages, but we have seen that this does not work. The alternative- limiting the profits of corporations or having an excess profits tax or a resource tax- is abhorrent to this businessman’s government. But cutting back on the powers and funding of the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Trade Practices Commission, unrestrained profitmaking becomes the order of the day. If we talk to businessmen who have some social attitudes they will tell us how distrubed they are about the increases in the cost of raw materials which are now a feature of our manufacturing industry.
Do greater profits mean more jobs? Clearly the answer is no. We are not at the head of the queue for higher profits, but we are in a fairly prominent place in the queue and we can see from what we are witnessing in the United States of America, in West Germany and in Japancountries where profit levels are at an all time high- that that does not solve the problems of inflation or create jobs. It is more likely that increased profits will be used to buy more capital equipment, which puts more people out of work. The investment allowance which this Government placed in its 1977-78 Budget actually encourages this type of investment decision. The Treasury’s conservative estimate is that unemployment will rise by one per cent in 1979-80. This is indeed conservative. No recovery will take place without a sustained increase in consumer spending, and that will not take place. Even the apologists of the Treasury- those who wrote the Budget documents- agree that real household disposable income could be a little lower in 1979-80 as a whole than in 1978-79. So both the Government and the Treasury expect real wages to fall. What they say in the Budget documents is that real disposable income will fall by a greater amount because of the Government ‘s taxation policies.
The Government’s final hope is that consumers will save less and spend more of their diminishing incomes, but that has not been the pattern. That is not what has been happening. There is no reason to believe that suddenly, out of the blue, when confidence in this Government is at an all time low, consumers will take their money out of the bank and spend it. The main influences on the savings ratio are unemployment and inflation. The uncertainty associated with high unemployment discourages savings. Inflation in 1 979-80 is predicted to be 1 0 per cent and could easily be higher. This will encourage even more savings. Certainly there will be no consumer-led recovery and the dismal prospect is for greater unemployment- unemployment of this Government’s own doing.
Let us look at the redistribution of income that is taking place. This Government’s past policy has been one of cutting real wages, boosting profits and making sure that any taxes are as regressive as possible. The current Budget carries on that policy with unremitting ferocity. After cutting real wages by 2.5 per cent last year the Government says that it will cut them by a further one per cent this year. In fact in the national wage case the Government put submissions before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for no real increase in wages. In view of the increase of 40 per cent in the cost of inputs to manufacturing in the March quarter of this year and the likelihood of further oil price rises, the cut in living standards is likely to be even greater than that for last year. The greatest redistribution of income is from the unemployed. The Budget Papers predict a 6.3 per cent rise in the number of unemployment benefit recipients in the 1979-80 period. This is what a contractionary policy means. This unemployment is being created deliberately to force workers to accept cuts in living standards. To the credit of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress which is taking place at the moment, the working people of this country and their representatives are determined to resist such a cut in living standards.
Let it be made clear that the cuts that this Government has in mind are deliberate and brutal. It is because of the recognition of this that the decisions of the ACTU Congress have been so strong and deliberate. Of course, I am not raising the question of the beef and oil price rises which are in the pipeline. By the Treasury’s own admission inflation will be 3 per cent higher because of these factors. Changes in health care which have disadvantaged thousands of people will also increase inflation- all to the benefit of a profession which now accounts for 47 per cent of all income earners who earn over $50,000 per annum. At the same time those who must go to arbitration will see their incomes lag behind the consumer price index due to half-yearly indexation. Thus next year will see inflation up, unemployment up and real wages down.
Let us turn to the Government’s policies on profits. This Government has sought to hold down wages as much as possible and to let prices rise. It is obvious that the aim of this has been to boost company profits. In 1978-79 the gross operating surplus rose by 3.6 per cent. As the Treasury papers admit, this is probably a gross underestimate. What effect is this boost to company profits having? It has led to record investment in plant and equipment- the so-called investment-led recovery. What is really happening is that thanks to the Budget’s investment allowance people are being replaced by machines. To top it all off a lot of this new machinery is coming from overseas, a fact that even this Government is proud of. To ensure that nothing stops companies making excessive profits the Trade Practices Commission and the Prices Justification Tribunal have been emasculated. The allotment for salaries in real terms has been cut by 14 per cent for the PJT and by 3.4 per cent for the Trade Practices Commission. Thus the Government has removed even the slightest impediment to its policies of boosting profits at the expense of living standards.
To look at only wages and profits gives only half the story, The whole picture is given by the vicious changes to the tax system and the massive handouts to business. If we could be sure that businesses would respond to these handouts the Government could perhaps be justified, but as the figures indicate and as the economy shows the private sector is not responding. Receipts from income tax on individuals will increase in this Budget by 18 per cent, and this is a massive rise. Net PA YE collections, as I have indicated in the table, now account for 44. 1 per cent of total taxation revenue. Thus the average wage earner thanks to the retention of the surcharge for most of the year, the scrapping of indexation and inequitable tax scales, is still subsidising the rich. As usual, the proportion of revenues coming from companies declined to an all-time low. But income tax is only part of this dismal story. On average, indirect taxes rose 23 per cent. Indirect taxes, as we all know, hit hardest those who are on the lowest incomes. The largest increase of all, 67 per cent, was in the crude oil levy. As is well known, lower income people need, and use, their cars more than do many other groups. So this measure, which is really a sales tax, will hit them particularly hard.
On the other hand, Esso-BHP in 1 980-8 1 may gain $400m which is a clear and unambiguous rip-ofT of the Australian worker. This massive tax slug will raise gross receipts by 15.4 per cent, whereas outlays will rise by only 9 per cent. The Government now has a tax collector at every petrol pump- the capitalists’ modern-day answer to Robin Hood. Millionaire Malcolm Fraser rides around in his VIP 707 aircraft, taking from the poor and giving to the rich. To meet the convenience of the Senate, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I wish to inform honourable senators that Mr Joseph McKnight, who was until recently Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter, retired from that position on 31 August 1979, after serving the Commonwealth Parliament on the Hansard staff for nearly 25 years. Mr McKnight began his career in the Queensland Public Service in 1934, during the war years he served as a lieutenant in the Australian Intelligence Service, and thereafter as a court reporter in Queensland until 1954. He came to the Commonwealth Parliament as a Hansard reporter in 1955. I have no doubt honourable senators warmly agree when I say that Joe McKnight served the Parliament and the Senate faithfully and well throughout his splendid record of service. I wish him long life and happiness in his retirement. Mr McKnight is succeeded as Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter by Mr J. W. Roberts.
- Mr President, on behalf of honourable senators I wish to endorse the remarks that you have made concerning the retirement of Mr McKnight. He was a member of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff who was certainly well known to honourable senators as a very devoted and outstanding servant of the Parliament. Many honourable senators have had the benefit of the excellent work that Joe McKnight performed for them individually. I wish him well. May I say, too, that I certainly believe that the assumption by Mr Roberts of the office of Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter will be of great advantage to the Senate.
- Mr President, as a former court reporter and as a member of the Australian Journalists Association, I wish to pay a personal tribute to the work and service that Mr Joe McKnight has given to the Australian community- for about 20 years in the service of the Queensland Government as a court reporter, and for a period of about 24 years as a Hansard reporter in the Commonwealth Parliament. He has been in Canberra since about 1955, a period of nearly a quarter of a century. I dare say that when Mr McKnight first came to Canberra the salary and working conditions served as quite an attraction to him and to those others who came from Queensland and elsewhere to the Hansard staff. However, in the 25 years that have elapsed, the pressures of Federal Hansard reporters have increased because of the number of committees that they have to report. Because of this and because of the growth in the salaries of reporters in Queensland when compared with those paid to reporters in the Australian Parliament, I dare say that today the attraction would be for Federal Hansard reporters to go to Queensland.
As I have said, Mr McKnight has been known to all of us for a long time. He has been around this place for a quarter of a century and he has sat at the Senate table on quite a number of occasions. We will all miss him and I wish him a long, healthy and enjoyable retirement. He certainly, in the time that he was here, fulfilled his duties with dignity and distinction. Also, I take advantage of this opportunity to congratulate my good friend Mr Roberts, who is now the Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter. Mr Roberts and I worked together in New South Wales in the early 1950s. I suppose that it would be fair to say that I could tell a lot of stories about him, but I know that he could also tell a lot of stories about me, so I will merely leave it at that and say that I offer him my congratulations and wish him well in his new and challenging role.
Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I am concerned and indeed alarmed, at the way in which this Government, and particularly the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), has agreed to water down the curfew provisions that for years have existed at Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith Airport. On behalf of those who live near, or within the vicinity, of that airport, or whose homes lie under the flight paths of aircraft using that airport, I appeal to the Minister to review his recent decision to ease the existing curfew provisions. The fact that he made the decision but apparently made no public announcement concerning it, also gives rise for concern. A curfew has been in existence at Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith Airport for a number of years. It has prohibited jet aircraft, other than with the approval of the Minister, or under emergency circumstances, from using the airport between the hours of 1 1 p.m. and 6 a.m. Indeed, some 1 1 or 12 years ago such concern was expressed in the Parliament about the growing problem of aircraft noise that the House of Representatives appointed a select committee to consider the problem and to make recommendations in regard to it. That committee presented three reports. Its first, in 1969, indicated that it had had insufficient time within which to make recommendations. In June 1970 it presented an interim report and, in respect of the curfew regulations at the Sydney airport at page 25 had this to say:
Curfew’ regulations restrict jet aircraft movements between the hours of 1 1.00 p.m. and 6.00 a.m. at most major Australian airports. The restriction allows for approval of special or essential jet movements in curfew hours by the
Minister or local Airport Manager. The Committee is concerned at the frequency of such approvals and it is recommended that such movements at Sydney be confined to operations over Botany Bay except in cases of emergeny.
I emphasise those last words: it is recommended that such movements at Sydney be confined to operations over Botany Bay except in cases of emergency.
At page 26 the Committee went on to say:
The Committee further recommends more stringent application of the criteria authorising jet movements in curfew hours to ensure the preservation of the original intention of the regulation.
That was an interim report tendered to the Parliament in June 1970. The Committee continued its work and brought in its final report to the Parliament in October 1 970. Without labouring all of the recommendations of the Committee, I merely point out that recommendation No. 1 1 said: at Sydney during the hours of curfew (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.) movements be confined to operations over Botany Bay except in cases of emergency.
Recommendation 12 was: criteria authorising jet movements in curfew hours be applied more stringently to ensure the preservation of the original intention of the regulation.
Those two recommendations are a repeat of the Committee’s recommendations in June 1970. Recommendation No. 28 was: proceedings of Airport Noise Abatement Committees should not be on a confidential basis, and the Committees should remain relatively small in composition. On matters concerning airport development the Committees can serve in a useful consultative capacity.
When this Parliament resumed on 21 August I directed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, Senator Fred Chaney. I might mention by way of interpolation that I advised Senator Chaney’s office this evening that I would be raising this matter. I asked Senator Chaney- it is recorded at page 13 of the Senate Hansard of 21 August:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Has the Minister for Transport given permission for the operation of executive-type jet aircraft in the 1 1 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew period at Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport? If so, was this decision taken without any consultation with the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport Noise Abatement Committee? Has the Minister also given his permission for the provisions of the curfew to be changed to permit certain international jets to land until midnight?
Senator Chaney said that he would refer the question to the Minister for Transport for a reply. Today I received a reply from the Minister. It is dated 10 September. Because my question is on the public record, I believe that I should put the Minister’s reply on the public record. He wrote:
Dear Senator McClelland,
I refer to your recent Question Without Notice concerning the operation of jet aircraft during the curfew period at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
Five types of small general aviation jet aircraft have been approved to operate between the hours of 1 1 p.m. and 6 a.m. at Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. They are classified as low noise aircraft and have substantially lower noise levels than the airline propeller-driven F27 (Friendship) and L188 (Electra) aircraft which are not subject to the curfew restriction. For example, the Learjet 33 is 8 to 9 decibels lower at comparative measuring points than the LI 88 and would therefore be perceived by the human ear as being only half as noisy. Furthermore, each operation by these low noise aircraft is subject to special noise abatement operational procedures directed towards avoiding the noise sensitive areas around the airport to the maximum extent commensurate with safety.
The decision to formalise the approval for the movements of these low noise aircraft was made with due regard to the role and activities of the Sydney Airport Noise Abatement Committee and in the light of more than two years of experience with their operations at many Australian airports, with individual approval in each instance, without any noise complaint being received. Such flights as took place in Sydney over this period were included in the list of jet aircraft operations in the curfew period which is made available periodically to the Committee. The Committee was fully informed of the basis of conditions of the formalised approval at the first meeting after the decision was taken.
So, there we have a situation where the Minister has decided that the curfew can be eased between 1 1 p.m. and 6 a.m. in respect of Leariet operations. It is all very well for him to say that these aircraft have a lower decibel rate than the Electra or the F27, the Friendship aircraft, but I point out to the Minister that there is a problem involved in connection with the continuity of noise. It is quite obvious that the Minister made that determination without any consultation with the Sydney Noise Abatement Committee, because he said that the Committee was fully informed of the basis of the conditions of the formalised approval at the first meeting after the decision was taken. My last question asked whether the Minister has also given his permission for the provisions of the curfew to be changed to permit certain international jets to land at midnight. The letter continues:
The curfew policy has not been changed to permit certain international jet aircraft to land until midnight. Aircraft that have been unavoidably delayed en-route have always been able to land after 1 1 p.m. subject to obtaining my specific approval. What I have stated is that, provided the aircraft is a scheduled international flight that has been delayed en-route and is an aircraft that is noise-certificated to the internationally accepted standards -
And that relates to the jumbo-jets and the DC 10s: it may land at Sydney no later than midnight without my specific approval being sought.
I would have thought that that surely meant that the Minister has given his permission for the provisions of the curfew to be eased to permit certain international jets to land until midnight. The letter goes on:
This approval is conditional upon the aircraft being able to land to the north from over Botany Bay without the use of reverse thrust after landing. Those restrictions ensure that there will be no noticeable noise impact from the relatively few such landings that will be made under these conditions.
If the aforementioned conditions cannot be met on the aircraft’s arrival at Sydney, then the delayed international flight is required to divert to an airport without a curfew. The above arrangements are on a six months trial basis. You will be interested to learn that, in the two months since the trial commenced, there has not been a single case where an international aircraft has landed between 1 1 p.m. and midnight under the provisions of this approval.
The letter ends:
Yours sincerely, P. J. Nixon.
In short, what I am saying is that the Minister for Transport has given permission for the operation of executive type aircraft in the 1 1 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew period at the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. That decision was taken without any consultation with the Sydney Airport Noise Abatement Committee. The Minister has admitted that he has given his permission for the provisions of the curfew to be changed to permit certain international jets to land at Sydney until midnight. I assure the Minister and the Government that this is regarded as a very grave matter so far as the residents of the western, eastern and southern suburbs of Sydney are concerned. They have put up with this problem for years. For years all governments have agreed to a rigid curfew being imposed. Only in rare circumstances, and with the approval of the Minister concerned, could the curfew be broken. Now, because certain types of aircraft are operating, the Minister has agreed to an easing of the curfew. I assure him that this matter is of such concern that all of the municipal and local government authorities adjacent to or near to the airport are up in arms about the matter. I know that one of them- it is not a council of my political persuasion- intends to circularise information to all its ratepayers about the Government ‘s decision on this matter.
In the interests of people who live adjacent to, near or within the vicinity of the airport, or who live under the flight paths of aircraft coming into Sydney at a late hour of night, I appeal to the Minister to review the decision that he has made and to stick rigidly to the curfew hours of 1 1 p.m. to 6 a.m.
-I wish to raise a matter briefly in the adjournment debate to seek some clarification from the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and the Government concerning the position of many thousands of pensioners and single parent beneficiaries in the community. I do so in the light of a recent incident in Hobart concerning the very difficult problem of what is or is not, in the words of the social services legislation, a bona fide domestic relationship between two people.
The matter concerns a Hobart divorcee, a Mrs Dorothy Clarke, who is the mother of seven children. I wish to make it clear that to my knowledge I have not met Mrs Clarke and I have not had any communication with her; nor to my knowledge has anyone else on this side of the chamber had any communication with Mrs Clarke. 1 say that by way of preface because there is an unfortunate tendency in this community to believe that anyone who takes actions to defend their rights must be doing so for political reasons. In another case involving the Department of Social Security and the High Court in which the plaintiff was known to me, when the matter reached the public arena the person involved was telephoned- one can only say harassed- by conservative members of the lower House and accused of taking political action. I make it clear that I have no personal knowledge of Mrs Clarke.
Mrs Clarke was previously on a widows pension but in October 1977 it was cancelled. She appealed against this cancellation and reviews were sought. Reviews by Mr Wraith, then State Director of the Department in Tasmania, and Mr Lanigan, the Director-General of Social Security, decided in December 1977 that Mrs Clarke was not eligible for the widows pension because she was living in what was called a de facto relationship with a male in the house. Mrs Clarke, who is obviously a courageous woman, sought assistance this year from the Australian Legal Aid Office and, as a result, took out a High Court writ against the two officers of the Department and the decision they had made. It was reported in the Hobart Mercury of 3 April this year that the writ alleged that her pension was cancelled in October, 1977, and that this cancellation was upheld in reviews by Messrs Wraith and Lanigan; that in December 1977 she reapplied for a pension, but again this was refused by Mr Wraith and Mr Lanigan; that the reviews were contrary to the principles of natural justice’; that she was not informed of the grounds for cancellation of the pension; and that she was not given the proper opportunity to advance argument and make submissions about why the pension should not be cancelled and why it should not be refused.
From the time that the pension had been cancelled, the State Department of Social Welfare in fact had paid Mrs Clarke a pension to support herself and her children. This was done under the special urgency benefit provisions of the Tasmanian legislation. Mrs Clarke denied that she was living in any such relationship and that was the reason for her taking the High Court action. On 3 August this year the Hobart Mercury again reported on this case. It reported:
Faced with a High Court challenge, the department backed down, and has agreed to resume paying her $203.40 a fortnight pension, as well as a lump sum to make up for the 2 1 months since the pension was cancelled.
According to the Mercury, Mrs Clarke commented:
I hope this will encourage other people who haven’t got any education to go to a lawyer and find out what their rights are.
The Department backed down and agreed to resume payment of the pension and to make back payments of $9,752.30 to cover the period from October 1977. Mrs Clarke received only $795.85. The other $8,900-odd was paid to the State department which had taken up the responsibility of her pension in the time that the Federal department had refused to do so. The case did not get to court. In view of the writ the Government or the Department backed down. On 2 1 August this year I asked the Minister about this case. I will quote from page 13 of the Hansard of that day which, by coincidence, is the same page from which Senator McClelland quoted. I asked this question:
I refer the Minister for Social Security to a case of a very courageous mother of seven from Hobart who recently had her widows pension restored and was paid some $10,000 after taking out a High Court writ against officers of the Minister’s Department. Was the money paid to this lady in replacement of the pension that she had previously been refused? What action has been taken against those officers who refused her this pension in October 1977 and then allowed the situation to go on until a High Court writ was necessary? Have the guidelines pertaining to bona fide domestic relationships, which were an issue in this case, been changed as a result of the case? If so, how will this affect the thousands of other women in this country who have been refused pensions for similar reasons?
The Minister replied:
The first part of the question raised by Senator G rimes referred to the money paid to the person concerned in replacement of the pension. If I recall correctly, part of the money was paid to ner. The other part of it, 1 think, may have been reimbursed to the State department . . .
As far as I am aware, there was no requirement for action to be taken against the officers concerned. This matter concerns the determination of eligibility for a pension: and on grounds which were reasonable to the officers concerned a determination was made. 1 am not aware whether the Director-General has altered the guidelines with regard to pensions as a result of this case. I think that the manual states the terms of eligibility required in the Department’s work with regard to all pensions and benefits. 1 am not aware of any need to change these as a result of the particular case that has been referred to by Senator Grimes.
I then asked whether it was because of the writ that the pension was paid and the Minister denied that. 1 merely asked the Minister to supply to this Parliament the reasons why $10,000 of public money was paid to Mrs Clarke without her having to go to court when she merely took out a High Court writ thereby threatening the Department with action. I ask the Minister again for an explanation of why Messrs Wraith and Lanigan and officers of the Department continued to refuse Mrs Clarke her pension from October 1977 until August 1979 and why they suddenly reversed that decision in view of the High Court writ. One can only assume, as Senator Cavanagh assumed a moment ago by interjection, that this was done because they knew they would lose and that the implications of the loss of such a case would be considerable.
Every year hundreds or thousands of women in the community have their pensions taken away from them on the assertion of officers of the Department of Social Security that they are living in a de facto relationship with a man. The Minister says that there is no need, despite this case, to change the guidelines regarding bona fide domestic relationships. I believe that the Minister is in fact saying that women who feel that they have been unjustly deprived of a pension under these circumstances will have to do what Mrs Clarke did, that is, take out a High Court writ, obtain legal aid if they are eligible to do so and threaten the Department in this regard in order to have such a decision changed- if the guidelines are to stay the same. I suggest that it is a sorry state of affairs if people in this country have to do that sort of thing to receive their rights under the social services legislation. It is not an inconsiderable thing for anyone to do to take out a High Court writ, even with legal aid, and face the possibility of having to appear in the High Court of Australia. People in these circumstances are dependent on government funds for their sole income and are naturally reluctant to take on the government departments which provide their source of income. They frequently have no knowledge of how to do so and how they can approach the Australian Legal Aid Office in order to receive their rights under the social service legislation. Either the legislation and the guidelines need changing or the officers who deprived this woman of her pension for two years need at least reprimanding or to justify their decision in this case. The only other alternative is for the hundreds or thousands of women in this community who are deprived of their pensions in these circumstances to take out High Court writs to get justice. The situation is a ludricrous one. The Minister’s answer is quite unsatisfactory. It is important that this very difficult area- I admit that is is a difficult area- be cleared up so that justice can be done and be seen to be done for the many women involved.
– in reply- I have heard the comments made by Senator Grimes and I will see that they are conveyed to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). I am not familiar with the case mentioned, but undoubtedly the Minister will be listening to the debate and will have that information available. I turn to the points made by Senator Douglas McClelland. I have taken the place in the Senate chamber of the Minister whom he informed that he would be speaking on this subject this evening. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has simply given me a copy of the letter which he delivered to Senator Douglas McClelland today. It appears to contain a reasonable explanation of the situation. However, I noted the points that were brought forward by Senator Douglas McClelland. Firstly, he suggested that the Minister did not have a discussion with the Sydney Noise Abatement Committee and, secondly, he indicated that he is taking some steps to alert councils in the area to take action. I am sure that the Minister will be interested in the comments made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 17 November 1978:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (I), (2) and (3) The Department of National Development receives details of crude oil imports on a confidential basis as part of the information on the international oil market gathered for the International Energy Agency.
The prices paid by importers are taken into account by the PJT in determining appropriate product prices.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 24 November 1 978:
What powers within the Minister’s jurisdiction have been transferred to the States since December 1975.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: f refer the honourable senator to the answer provided by the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs to Question on Notice 1074 (see Hansard, 21 August 1979, page 48).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 23 November 1978:
What powers within the Minister’s jurisdiction have been transferred to the States since December I97S.
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs’ answer to Question No. 1074.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Special Trade Representations, upon notice, on 24 November 1978:
What powers within the Minister’s jurisdiction have been transferred to the States since December 1 975.
– The Minister for Special Trade Representations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer provided by the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs to Senate Question No. 1074 (Senate Hansard, 21 August 1979, page 48).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 May 1979:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I ) and (2 ) The local authorities have not raised anything with me or my Department that would suggest they are experiencing unreasonable difficulties.
The relative economics of operating various aircraft tpes would also need to be considered. More frequent services using smaller aircraft could result in higher costs per passenger kilometre than at present, and might require that fares be increased to recover the additional costs. This would possibly attract stronger criticism than has been levelled at the existing services.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 23 May 1979:
Has the Government reviewed the position of the North West Liquefied Natural Gas project; if so, does the Government intend to support the project.
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government’s position on this very important proposed project was set out in detail in a statement made by Mr Anthony as Minister for National Resources on 24 August 1977 (House of Representatives Hansard, pages 574 to 580). There has been no change in this policy and it is hoped the companies will be able to finalise decisions before the end of this year.
Technology and the Work Force (Question No. 1674)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 5 June 1979:
Does the Commonwealth Government, through any of its Departments, collect statistics which:
identify sectors within the economy in which there are shortages and oversupplies of human skills;
record the introduction of computers and modern electronics industry products into the economy; or
record, on an enterprise or sector basis, the impact of the computer and modern electronics industry on employment levels: if so, what arc the details for the period from 1 970 to 1978.
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 5 June 1979:
What was the staff level of Film Australia:
– The Minister for Home Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It should be mentioned that in the reference to the reductions in staff to be achieved by 1 98 1 , at page 1 6 of the Annual Report of the Australian Film Commission for 1977-78, the staffing level figures for 30 June 1977 should read for 30 June 1978.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Demonstrations are held to test the efficiency of the evacuation systems and also the particular airline evacuation procedures and cabin attendant training. In order to do this, it is necessary for such demonstrations to be conducted under realistic conditions but not under conditions where the risk of injury to persons involved in the demonstration is greatly increased.
You may not be aware that one of the requirements for an evacuation demonstration is that the persons involved be representative of a normal complement of passengers. Therefore, 10 per cent have to be over 50 years of age, 30 per cent have to be over 40, 30 per cent must be female and more than 5 but noi more than 10 per cent must be children under 1 2 years of age.
The demonstrations are conducted in the dark and there have been numerous cases of serious injuries occurring during demonstration evacuations. Luckily, only minor injuries have occurred in demonstrations in Australia, although there has been a case of a pilot being seriously injured during evacuation training. In the United States, 49 serious injuries occurred in crew training in the period January 1976 to February 1979.
The Airlines are required to establish that any furnishing materials, other than those supplied by the aircraft manufacturer, meet the Departmental standards of flame resistance. Any necessary testing is carried out by the Airlines or by approved laboratories including, for imported materials, overseas laboratories.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 2 1 August 1979:
When will the Federal Government, in liaison with the Northern Territory Government (a) make an evaluation of the proposed North-South railway from Alice Springs to Darwin, to determine its social, defence and economic implications; and (b) survey the intended route so that a transport service corridor may be reserved for future construction, particularly in view of the number of petitions on the subject presented in the Senate between 22 May and 21 August 1979.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 2 1 August 1979:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator ‘s question:
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 22 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I ) All States engaged in commercial harvesting of kangaroos participate in and implement a nationally co-ordinated conservation management program to safeguard the various kangaroo species whilst permitting controlled culling.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 22 August 1 979:
What was the final outcome of the deportation proceedings against Ivan Ceskovic.
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
On 27 March 1979 His Honour, Mr Justice Davies, a Presidential member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, affirmed my decision to deport Ivan Ceskovic
On 23 April 1979 Mr Ceskovic ‘s solicitors lodged an appeal to the Federal Court of Australia against the decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The appeal has not as yet been heard.
Oil from Coal: CSIRO Activities (Question No. 1771)
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 22 August 1979:
To what extent in terms of dollars allocated, if any, are the activities of the scientists and officers of CSIRO concerned with developing a process to extract oil from coal.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Research within CSIRO concerned with the conversion of coal into oil covers a wide range of activities in the Institutes of Earth Resources, Industrial Technology and Physical Sciences. These activities include: characterising coal types to assess their suitability for liquefaction; designing and demonstrating various processes for producing oil from coal with particular emphasis on flash pyrolysis whereby pulverised coal is heated rapidly to very high temperatures in the absence of air to produce gas, char and a liquid tar (subsequently hydrogenated to liquid fuel); and applying catalytic processes to the production of liquid fuels from coal. The total expenditure in 1978-79 on these activities is estimated to have been $ 1 ,863,000.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 August 1 979:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
the average cargo carried by each is estimated at 30,000 tonnes.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 22 August 1979:
Why does Rule 5(b) (vi) of the Rules for Guidance of Persons Flying the Australian National Flag, contained in the departmental publication ‘The Australian National Flag’, create an exception to the general principle that, where the Australian flag is flown in Australia with flags of other nations, it should occupy the position of honour- the most central position.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Rule 5(b) (vi) of the Rules for Guidance of Persons Flying the Australian National Flag contained in the publication ‘The Australian National Flag’, refers to occasions when the National Flag is displayed in a line of flags which includes flags other than those of sovereign nations. In this case the position of honour is on the left of an observer facing the flags. Rule 5 (b) (v) is also consistent with this.
However when the Australian National Flag is displayed with flags of other sovereign nations only, the position of honour is the central position as illustrated in Rule 5(b) (iii) of the Rules for Guidance.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 August 1979:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In the long term, further work on tidal analysis, storm surge and tidal currents will be undertaken. This will result in a comprehensive range of equipment being operational in three to four years time.
Department of Social Security Office at Belmore: Translation of Leaflet (Question No. 1757)
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 22 August 1 979:
Were there considerable mistakes in the grammar, writing and translation of a leaflet explaining the functions of the Department of Social Security in Arabic, as stated in a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 1979, of the opening of the new multi-cultural office at Belmore, New South Wales; if so, what is the explanation for these errors.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The publication referred to in the Sydney Morning Herald article of 9 June 1979 was a leaflet dealing with Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service activities in New South Wales. As a result of the Sydney Morning Herald article, the leaflet was referred to three recognised experts in the Arabic language. The experts found that the translation was generally clear and concise. The article stated that the heading on the leaflet was ‘Commonwealth Corrective Service’. This is not correct. The word ‘rehabilitation’ in Arabic is defined as to reform; to return to; to correct’. The experts agreed that the word used was technically correct and certainly not misleading, being readily understood by Australia’s Arabic speaking community. The only actual error in the leaflet was the reversal of the Department’s telephone number.
Discussion is continuing with various Arabic language experts on the best way to translate the word ‘rehabilitation’. When this has been resolved, the leaflet will be reprinted.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 23 August 1979:
How many single persons in receipt of unemployment benefit, and without dependants, are aged: (a) under 18 years; (b) from 18 to 20 years; (c) from 21 to 24 years; (d) from 25 to 44 years; (e) from 45 to 54 years; and (f) 55 years and over.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The precise information sought by the honourable senator is not available. However, shown below is an age distribution of unemployment benefit recipients paid at ‘single rate ‘ obtained from the quarterly surveys of unemployment benefit recipients conducted by my Department. It should be noted that the proportion of beneficiaries in the various age groups is subject to seasonal variations.
Approximately 99 per cent of the beneficiaries paid at single rate are without dependants.
Information and Graphic Systems Pty Ltd
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Productivity a question without notice concerning Information and Graphic Systems Pty Ltd (Hansard, 30 August 1979, page 425).
– The Minister for Productivity has provided the following information in response to the honourable senator’s question:
The Company trading as Information and Graphic Systems has received an initial payment of $382,100 out of a total project grant of $ 1 .2m to carry out research and development in the field of computer systems.
The answers to the senator’s specific questions are as follows:
. No to each of the three parts of the first question. The Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board (AIR and DIB) in assessing the capacity of a company to undertake research and development has no means of knowing what legal proceedings may be taking place or threatened. However, subsequent to the approval of the grant it was brought to my attention that legal action has been taken and threatened in respect of this Company. My advice was
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 23 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
that this action relates to activities of the Company separate from its research and development project.
I am informed that when the initial payment from the AIR and DIB was received by the Company part was paid out on accounts owing on the project. The remaining funds were deposited with the investment group referred to above which then continued to pay the Company’s development costs as it had in the past. So far not all of the initial payment received by the Company has been paid out in this way. The major reason for this is that the investment group has experienced some temporary difficulty in continuing to supply funds for the project in accordance with assurances asked for and received in writing by the AIR and DIB prior to the awarding of the grant. Accordingly, the AIR and DIB advised the Company on 15 August
1979 that further payments would not be made until the Company can ensure that continuing funds can be provided from its own resources to the extent required in the agreement with the AIR and DIB in order to complete the project. Since then the group’s liquidity position has improved and it is expected that the balance of the initial payment will be paid out on existing commitment incurred by the company on the project. Further, the investment group and the company are currently seeking additional equity and loan participants to provide a broader financial base for the project.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 September 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19790911_senate_31_s82/>.