31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 23 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the metric system and request the Government to restore the imperial system.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 44 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.
Petition received and read.
Lead Concentrates in Motor Spirit
– I present the following petition from 20 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 lead content levels in Australian motor spirit have been proven to have detrimental health effects on our child population.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Take legislative action to reduce and ultimately remove lead concentrates from motor spirit in Australia.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Preservation of Parklands in the Australian Capital Territory
– I present the following petition from 883 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in the Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the National Capital Development Commission has plans at an advanced stage to auction off for medium density development Fisher Place Park (Section 3 1 ) Ainslie, a unique natural parkland bounded by Hassall, Duffy and Ebden Streets and Herbert Crescent, Ainslie in the Australian Capital Territory, contrary to the wishes of the residents and other Australian citizens.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in the Parliament assembled, should, being mindful of the recreational needs, health and well-being of present and future generations, including the Scout and Cub Groups whose hall is sited on Fisher Place Park, take measures to ensure that this parkland be preserved and gazetted a parkland.
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 humbly 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 Maunsell.
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 1977 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 labour in a free society.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Senator Jessop.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Homeless Persons Assistance Act 1974.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Has the Government recently received advice of problems in Iran which indicate increasing uncertainty in supplies of oil to Australia? If so, can the Minister indicate whether the Government has been able to evaluate the possible implications of this information and whether any plans have been drawn up to provide for any unexpected downturn in the supplies of oil to Australia from that country?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for National Development and possibly also to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It raises a very important matter and I think the Senate should have the benefit of any relevant information that may be in the hands of Ministers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer to the Minister’s statement of 13 September 1979 announcing the Commonwealth Government’s decision to abolish priority of Crown debts in liquidations and bankruptcies, with the exception of the major area of pay-as-you-earn and withholding tax claims. Was that decision not dependent on successful negotiations with the States to secure the abolition of State government priorities so that the benefit would accrue to ordinary creditors? Will the Minister confirm that the Victorian
Government has now written refusing to agree to the abolition of State priorities because of the Commonwealth Government’s retention of priorities for PA YE and withholding tax claims? Has the State therefore vetoed the inclusion of this reform in the proposed national companies legislation? In view of these circumstances and the fact that practically all the evidence before the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on this subject, with the striking exception of that of the Commissioner of Taxation and the Department of Finance, favoured total abolition of such priorities, will the Government now reconsider its position?
– The Government is not proposing to reconsider its decision in relation to the priority of Crown debts which has already been announced in a statement made in the Senate in relation to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. The Government has written to the States concerning this question. It would not be appropriate to reveal the initial reactions of individual States while negotiations are continuing and views are being exchanged. However, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has informed me that he has no knowledge of the attitude of the Victorian Government mentioned in the terms of Senator Missen’s question.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. The Minister may recall that on 29 August I asked him a question relating to alleged shortages of avgas at some Victorian and Tasmanian airports. I now ask: Is it a fact that one Victorian commuter airline has cancelled its services to the Tasmanian west coast due to the non-availability of avgas supplies in that region?
– As I have said on a number of occasions in this Senate in answer to similar questions about a specific problem with regard to the availability of avgas in a particular area or for a particular company or operation, I will refer the question to the Minister for National Development and ask him to investigate it, and advise the Senate.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer to a question asked yesterday by Mr Tom McVeigh in another place and alleging discrimination against Vietnamese workers by the Federated Storemen and Packers Union of Australia in Brisbane. Can the Minister inform the Senate of what steps he can take under the Racial Discrimination Act to protect these workers against such discrimination?
-I think that that question calls for a careful examination of the Act and some legal opinions. I would prefer to give it consideration and provide a detailed answer to Senator Bonner.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs: Is it a fact that spouses of American personnel based at Pine Gap near Alice Springs take employment in that town? If this is a fact, would it not seem inappropriate when there is such a high level of unemployment in the Northern Territory? Would the Minister consider taking steps to see that American nationals do not take positions which could be filled by Australians?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. Which Australian Capital Territory ordinance prohibits the sale of tobacco to children under the age of 16 years? Is it a current ordinance? Does it accurately identify the current limitation on sales of cigarettes to minors? Have there been any prosecutions or has there been any enforcement of the ordinance in the past two years?
-My understanding of this particular matter is not readily available.
– I raise a point of order. I do not think that that remark should be brushed off as lightly as that. It is quite obvious that the Minister has been asked a question which is not without notice. He is now looking for the prepared answer and cannot find it. This sort of behaviour on the part of Senator Webster has been going on in this chamber for some time. I ask you, Mr President, to rule the question out of order as it is not a question without notice.
– The point of order is not sustained.
-There is a regulation in the Australian Capital Territory which requires basically that the product to which Senator
Baume referred may not be sold to, I think, persons under 16 years of age. There is a penalty. If my memory serves me correctly, the penalty is $10.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. He will know that a State government recently requested a report on the activities of companies associated with a senior member of this Parliament. He will also know that a preliminary section of that report was tabled in the New South Wales Parliament. Although the report gave no proof of the serious allegations contained therein, it caused the resignation of a senior member of this Government. Because of the serious implications of such an action, highlighted recently by the New South Wales Bar Association, which said that it was of the opinion that proper administration of justice in that State required the cessation of this practice, will the Attorney-General make an objective statement to the Senate in relation to the principles involved so that the Senate can debate this serious matter in order to see whether sensible and helpful guidelines can be established for the future?
- Senator Chipp has raised a very important matter which is highly topical in view of the great concern that has been expressed about the Finnane report and the method in which it was tabled, with very serious consequences for a member of this Parliament. As well, the views of the New South Wales Bar Association are of great interest and importance in this matter. I can inform the Senate that, as a result of the tabling of this report and the problems that were revealed by that action, I have been giving consideration to the general question of the handling of the reports of quasi-judicial investigators and investigations to see whether any guidelines can be established to give proper protection to individuals’ rights and to see the impact such reports may have on a person in defending himself against allegations that are made in other proceedings which may or may not take place. I have not completed that investigation. Senator Chipp has asked me whether I will make a statement in the Senate. I will give consideration to whether I should make a statement in the Senate in relation to this matter.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that a single transmitter in the north of Tasmania is responsible for relaying Australian Broadcasting Commission radio broadcasts to 52.7 per cent of that State’s population and to areas as remote as King Island and Flinders Island? On the other hand, all capital cities have at least two main transmitters. Because certain areas, including parts of Launceston and Deloraine, have very poor reception, will the Minister consider placing a second transmitter along the north-west coast or alternatively resiting the present one?
– I must confess that I was not aware of the single transmitter situation which has been described by Senator Watson in his question. I must say that in a number of areas of Australia, particularly rural areas, I have come across complaints that people have access to only one Australian Broadcasting Commission channel. I think it is a great compliment to the ABC that there is a solid demand for a second channel where it does not exist at the moment. I will refer the honourable senator’s suggestion to Mr Staley and ask him to give it consideration or to refer it to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and Telecom Australia for consideration.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Will the Government consider supporting the proposal made recently by Prince Sihanouk that a new Geneva Conference on Kampuchea be constituted with a view to seeking, as a matter of urgency, a settlement of the present tragic situation that exists in that country?
-This is a policy matter. I will refer the question to the relevant Minister.
-I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment whether he has seen a report prepared for the Australian Science and Technology Council in June 1979 by Professor Ron Johnston which deals with science indicators and their role in Australian science policy. Does the Minister agree with the often made claim that there is a lack of up-to-date statistical data in Australia since Project SCORE- the Survey and Comparison of Research and Expenditure- was published, which allows changes in various aspects of science and technology to be measured and monitored? Will the Government give active support to a program to develop a comprehensive set of science indicators in Australia along the lines suggested by Professor Johnston?
– I have not recently had my attention directed to that report. I know that it went to the Australian Science and Technology Council. That Council may have reported upon it. The particular comments that Senator Puplick noted have relevance to scientific information in the community today. The Department of Science and the Environment has endeavoured, through Project SCORE, to bring together some of the facts. The honourable senator asked whether the Government will give consideration to supporting the development of science indicators so that they may direct the community more accurrs so ately than previously. I will take that question on notice and attempt to give the honourable senator an answer.
– I refer the AttorneyGeneral to my question yesterday concerning the letter which was written to the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Street, by Mr Justice Staples and which was referred for attention to the Attorney-General by Mr Street. I now ask my supplementary question: Why did the AttorneyGeneral not reject out of hand Mr Street’s overtures to him on this matter and recognise them for what they were- a blatant attempt to intimidate Mr Justice Staples and other members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission?
– The reason I did not reject out of hand the request from Mr Street is that I reject completely the suggestion that what Mr Street did was any attempt, blatant or otherwise, to intimidate Mr Justice Staples. I regard that suggestion as utter nonsense. As I said in answer to a question yesterday, Mr Street asked me to look at Mr Justice Staples’ letter to see whether there were any legal or constitutional implications arising out of it in regard to the proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which will be debated in the Senate later today. That was the basis on which Mr Street referred the letter to me. That was the basis of his request to me. It was a perfectly proper and sensible step for him to take to obtain legal advice, no doubt out of abundant caution. He was perfectly entitled to have my advice on it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. It concerns the fishing agreement which is being concluded today between the Australian Government and Japan and which gives Japanese fishing vessels access to waters within the 200-mile fishing zone. I understand that the agreement improves the monitoring and restraints that the fishermen will have in the future. I am aware of the Minister’s replies to questions put to him in the other place yesterday. I ask the Minister. What are the facts surrounding these proposals? Does the agreement give exclusive access to Japanese fishermen? How many other such agreements are being negotiated with other countries? In the Japanese agreement and in any other agreement is there provision for full access to these fishing areas by Australian fishermen?
-The matter of access to Australian declared 200-mile limit areas by overseas countries is basically one which we must face when Australia declares her 200-mile fishing limit on 1 November of this year. There is an obligation upon us to understand that other nations may wish to exploit the resources which this country is not utilising. As to Queensland, the honourable senator is correct in indicating that prior to this time the Japanese have fished in this area. I think they commenced in the early 1950s. The agreement that is being entered into- it is one which has been agreed between the State of Queensland and the Federal Government- now restricts, as I understand it, to some 80,000 square miles the area which the Japanese fishermen can enter. The fishing area is beyond the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef.
The honourable senator asked me how many agreements are being negotiated with other countries. I do know- I think it has been brought up in this place previously- that agreements are being negotiated with other countries. I will have to refer that question to the Minister for Primary Industry. He also asked whether the agreement gives exclusive rights to the negotiating countrythat is, Japan. I do not think it gives exclusive rights by any means to the Japanese. I think the Australian fishing community still has justification for going into those areas. As the honourable senator knows, the monitoring procedures which are being set up, basically through the Department of Science and the Environment and the Department of Primary Industry, call for six-day reports on the catches that are being taken, in an effort to get some permanent record of the living resources that are available in these waters. As the honourable senator knows, the agreement is up for renegotiation in 12 months. I think those people who have complained and who continue to complain about this matter have not taken into account the fact that any negotiating that is being done at present will result in a situation that basically is better than the existing situation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence and follows reports in the Australian Financial Review of both today and yesterday about Brigadier David McMillen, who was recently appointed as the Australian representative of Ford Aerospace, which is a joint front-runner to supply any prospective Australian satellite. As the brigadier was the Deputy Chief of Materiel for the Army until July and a member of the White Task Force, which recommended a domestic satellite, does the Minister see any potential for conflict of interest? Further, what basis is there for the briefing given by Government officials to the Australian Financial Review stating that Service officers do not have to comply with conduct guidelines set down for civilian public servants? Finally, is there a need for similar guidelines to be issued to senior Service officers?
-I will direct that question to the Minister for Defence and seek his answer.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce aware of the concern of South Australian vignerons that the Australian Bureau of Statistics is intending to eliminate its survey of vine plantings and grubbings- forgive the word- as well as grape variety acreages? Will he take up the matter with his colleague to ensure that statistics will continue to be collected and published in the future?
– I was not aware of the concern to which the honourable senator referred but I will transmit his question to the Minister and seek a reply on the action requested.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he or his departmental officers have at any time been asked to advise the Minister for Industrial Relations and his Department on the constitutional validity of the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act presently before the Parliament. If so, on what date did that occur?
– The giving of advice to the Department of Industrial Relations and the
Minister for Industrial Relations as to any constitutional questions that had arisen or might arise in relation to the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was done at about the time that instructions for the Bill were being first considered. I cannot say exactly when that was but I can certainly find out and let the Senate know.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. As the office of Defence Force Ombudsman is, I understand, currently vacant, when will legislation to establish a Defence Force Ombudsman be introduced? When is it expected that a person will be permanently appointed to this office which is of such importance to the Defence Force? Will the Minister confirm the Government’s continuing commitment to providing such an avenue of appeal for Australia’s Defence Force personnel?
– The background to this matter is that a Bill providing for the appointment of a Defence Force Ombudsman was passed in the House of Representatives in 1975. The Bill was introduced into the Senate but lapsed with the dissolution of the Parliament. Pending the legislation, Mr D. O. Hay was appointed under administrative arrangements as Defence Force Ombudsman-designate. In December 1976 Mr Hay was appointed Secretary to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Since 1976 the office of Defence Force Ombudsman has continued to operate under an executive director on the interim basis authorised by the Minister in 1975.
A Department of Defence proposal dealing with the establishment of a Defence Force Ombudsman is currently being examined by the Administrative Review Council, and the Council will report to the Attorney-General in due course. The Department of Defence proposal will progress further when the Administrative Review Council’s recommendations are known. In the meantime, the office of Defence Force Ombudsman will continue to operate on the interim basis authorised by the Minister for Defence. I acknowledge the importance of the question and the importance with which the matter is regarded by the Defence Force. Apart from the information I have supplied, I will bring Senator Knight ‘s question to the attention of the Minister and seek any further comment from him.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that there is great concern within the broadcasting and television industries about the failure of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to publish detailed reasons for its decisions to renew licences of broadcasting and television stations? Is it a fact that since the hearings in Adelaide earlier this year in connection with the Adelaide licences there have been some 40 additional instances where detailed reasons for the decisions are still awaiting publication and that not only the licensees, through their commercial organisations or associations, but also the responsible unions within the industry are expressing concern at the delay? Will the Minister ascertain the reasons for the untoward delay and request the Tribunal to advise the Parliament, before its estimates come before the Senate sitting as- the Committee of the Whole, when the detailed reasons will be published?
– I will seek the reasons for the delay referred to by the honourable senator and see whether the timetable he suggested can be met.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Does the Minister recall that earlier this year the Federal Government approved an infrastructure loan of about $ 175 m to the State Government of South Australia in order that the infrastructure associated with the Redcliff petrochemical works could be carried out? Does he also recall that almost immediately Dow Chemical (Australia) Ltd authorised a $3m engineering feasibility study of that project? Can the Minister say what progress has been made with respect to the Redcliff proposal, and when does he think the company will be in a position to make a decision on the matter?
– I do recall that South Australia, like other States, earlier this year obtained the ability to seek infrastructure loans to promote major new industries and that, following that decision, Dow Chemical announced that it would be undertaking a feasibility study. My understanding of the matter is that the company is expected to be able to take a decision on the project in the first quarter of next year; so that is still a little way off yet. If the decision is taken to go ahead with the project the total capital investment would be in the order of $900m, including $256m in infrastructure. It is a very significant project for South Australia although, in light of the other exciting developments in that State, perhaps it is not quite as critical as it appeared earlier this year.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Has the Minister seen the report in this morning’s Melbourne Age that Mr Rupert Murdoch is presently engaged in an attempt to acquire a controlling interest in ATV Channel 0 in Melbourne? Has the Minister also had drawn to his attention page 266 of the transcript of the Channel 10 licence hearing in Sydney on 26 July this year when, in answer to a question from me, representing the Australian Labor Party, Mr Murdoch explicitly denied that he had any intention at all to take over Channel 0 Melbourne? Will the Government allow Mr Murdoch to pursue his apparent ambitions with respect to Channel 0 by open market purchases with the same flagrant indifference to the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act as he had in the Channel 10 Sydney matter, or will the Government take action to ensure that the anti-monopoly provisions of that legislation are in this instance properly observed?
– I have not seen this morning’s Melbourne Age. I have not read the particular transcript referred to by the honourable senator. I hope he is not advertising in this chamber his excellent services as a barrister. I have no idea what the Government’s attitude would be on a matter on which I have no information. I will refer the question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications for consideration and reply if he thinks necessary.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Transport advise whether the statement made by Mr Philip Coleman, the Executive Director of the Australian Chamber of Shipping, to the effect that foreign shipping companies have been advised to keep clear of Australian ports on account of the worsening strikes record, has been made to the Minister? What effect is the position having on Australia ‘s export drive?
– The report, if true, can do nothing but harm to Australia’s export drive. I will refer the question to the Minister for Transport and seek a more detailed reply.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. As the true nature of the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea is now becoming apparent to all Australians, will the Minister explain the technical reasons why the Government continues to recognise this monstrous regime? Can the Minister explain why the Government does not adopt the policy of non-recognition of any of the various regimes in the country as has been adopted by the United States Government?
– Answers have been given here and in another place about the recognition of the credentials of the Pol Pot regime. The Government has indicated that the acknowledgment of credentials is no acknowledgment that we accept the nature of the regime or its behaviour. I do not know whether an attempt has been made before to answer the question about non-recognition. That is a matter for the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I will refer that aspect of the question to him.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that the fishing agreement with Japan to be signed this afternoon provides for Australian observers to be present on Japanese fishing vessels? Can these observers be present on all Japanese ships at all times when in the Australian fishing zone? Will the Government give an undertaking to provide an adequate number of qualified observers for this purpose? Will the Government give an unqualified assurance that it will evaluate thoroughly and thoughtfully all the evidence pertaining to fish stocks, particularly makauira indica, in the Great Barrier Reef area in relation to the take of Japanese long-liners, when the agreement is renegotiated in 12 months’ time?
– I am unaware whether Australian observers can be put on all Japanese ships while they are fishing, but I will put that matter to the Minister for Primary Industry. If I can get an answer from the Minister for Primary Industry quickly on the other questions raised in relation to the agreement I will do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science and the Environment. He does not have a copy of it. Is it a fact that an
Aboriginal outstation settlement has been established, with the support of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, at Cannon Hill in the Northern Territory? Is it true that this settlement is in the Magela Creek catchment, very close to the proposed Pancontinental Mining Ltd site? Is it also a fact that some members of this community have a diet largely consisting of bush tucker? If so, in view of the Ranger report findings that Aboriginals procuring food and water from the Magela catchment are likely to be exposed to high levels of ingested radioactive radium, around the maximum allowed by the recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, and considering that these findings do not take into account the even larger releases of radium from the Pancontinental mine, can the Minister say whether the health of Aboriginals at the Cannon Hill outstation will be jeopardised by mining at Ranger and Jabiluka?
-The honourable senator asks whether a number of things are factual. I would think that a number of things that the honourable senator discloses usually are not factual. I certainly know of no suggestion that the flow into Magela Creek from Pancontinental ‘s proposed mining is likely to contain any harmful substance. Indeed, very careful provisions in relation to uranium mining have been made by this Government. We know that the former Labor Government purchased a quite sizable interest in uranium mining in the Northern Territory and used public funds for that purpose. This Government is not of the same hue as that Government.
– Which you are now going to give away to overseas interests.
– I heard Senator Wriedt butting in. He was part of the Government that did that. Senator Wriedt will understand the reasons why his Government did that. However, this Government has set up very careful protective devices, including the Office of the Supervising Scientist and the provisions of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, which require Pancontinental and other mining companies to submit environmental impact statements which are subject to public review. So far as I am aware, any possible flow into Magela Creek can be taken to be quite satisfactory so far as anyone who lives in the area is concerned.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Education been drawn to a report in today’s Mercury newspaper which claims that the threatened dismantling of the Mount Nelson campus of the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education is the result of pressure coming from the Federal Government? Is this so? Is the claim factually based or is it a figment of somebody’s imagination?
– I have seen the newspaper report. It is an allegation, I think, by an individual person. I want to make it abundantly clear that it is utterly untrue. A minute ‘s reflection will indicate this. The Tasmanian Government set up the Cosgrove Committee to rationalise post-secondary institutions in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government is busy tidying up the results of that inquiry. Constitutionally this is a matter for the Tasmanian Government. There is no pressure whatsoever by the Commonwealth Government on the State of Tasmania in this regard. The matter is one for the Tasmanian Government to decide for itself. Subsequently, no doubt, it will have some discussions with the Tertiary Education Commission, but prior to that there is no pressure at all. It is a State matter.
– I direct a question to Senator Carrick as the sort of ball distributor to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It deals with the recent utterances of senior Ministers of the Thatcher Government in which they have accused overseas visitors of sponging and of being bludgers- a word which I do not use- in relation to the British health system and even employment rights, as though they are going to put the cleaners through everybody. As the concept of the British Commonwealth is used sometimes to allow Commonwealth nationals to get early voting rights and other things here, I wonder whether we could alert our High Commissioner to the need to have close consultations with the British Government to ensure that it realises that, whilst British citizens have rights, citizens of other Commonwealth countries also have them.
– I have not seen the reports to which the honourable senator refers. If he so desires, he might let me have a look at them. In the meantime I will invite the Minister for Foreign Affairs in another place to study the nature of the question and to respond in a particular fashion.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health: What legislative safeguards and penalties are provided to ensure that all organisations providing health insurance benefits and /or pre-paid health services have their operations registered under the National Health Act? Is the health maintenance organisation operated by the Geoffrey Edelsten Foundation in the western suburbs of Sydney registered as a benefit organisation under the National Health Act? If so, from what date was this registration effected?
– There are no legislative provisions or penalties which ensure that all organisations which provide health insurancetype benefits and /or pre-paid health services are registered under the National Health Act. The operations of registered organisations are closely monitored to ensure their financial viability and that they operate within the requirements of the Act and government policy. Commonwealth medical benefits are payable only by registered organisations. I understand that the Geoffrey Edelsten Foundation is not registered under the National Health Act.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General in his own right, and also as Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is he aware that during school holiday periods the main picture theatre chains allow the screening of cigarette advertisements with what are specifically children’s movies? What is the Government’s policy in regard to the regulation of the advertising of cigarettes? Does the Minister feel satisfied with the operation of that policy? Does the Government approve of the showing of major cigarette advertisements with G-rated films such as Sleeping Beauty and The Wiz, which is a modern version of The Wizard of OZ.
-I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: Are full time Army officers commanding medical units permitted to engage in private practice for remuneration at night or weekends and, if so, under what conditions?
– I have some information on this matter. I am advised that Army instructions permit any full time Army officer, including an Army medical officer, to accept employment of profit, including the practice of any profession, during off-duty hours with the written approval of his commanding officer, provided that a number of qualifications are met: Firstly, that the activity does not involve the use of official time, and the hours of duty are such that his efficiency as a member will not be impaired. Secondly, that the activity does not involve the use of information, other than ordinary skills, acquired in the course of official duties. Thirdly, that the activity will not bring the Army into disrepute. Fourthly, that Army uniform is not worn. Fifthly, that the member is not remunerated at a lower rate than that paid to a civilian-like employment. Sixthly, that the member does not replace, or receive, the remuneration of a civilian on strike. Finally, that the activity will not interfere with the full time employment of any civilian person.
An Army medical officer normally has a limited range of patients in peacetime, as Service personnel are generally fit and healthy and are of a restricted age group. This limits those medical officers in the practice of medicine, and it is not uncommon for such officers, particularly young medical officers, to seek to practise medicine in a local hospital or private practice.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether she recalls replying last Thursday to a question that I had asked on the previous Tuesday and giving figures of deaths from cancer in the various classifications of employment at Radium Hill, South Australia. As the Minister’s briefing notes included numbers and percentages and as she failed to read out the percentages for other than those who had worked underground for 12 months or longer, and consequently the percentage figures were not reported in Hansard, I now ask the Minister, in order to place the matter officially on record, whether she will provide the percentages for those in the various classifications who have died from cancer since Radium Hill was worked. To make the statistics complete, I also ask whether she will supply the statistics, as revealed in the report from which she was quoting, on the deaths of underground miners in Australia other than uranium miners from 1968 to 1975.
– I will be happy to seek from the Minister for Health any further information that can be provided on the question that was answered for Senator Cavanagh. I do recall providing information for him, I think last week. If there is available in my office further detailed information that can be given and if the Senate will bear with the reading of it, I will be happy to provide it at the end of Question Time. If not, I will provide it as soon as possible.
-Will the AttorneyGeneral tell the Senate whether he has received from Amnesty International, the United Nations Associations, civil liberties organisations and other bodies submissions in connection with the Human Rights Commission Bill and the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill which have not yet been debated in the Senate? If so, is he prepared to make those submissions available to members of the Senate so that they will be better informed about those matters before the debate resumes in the Senate?
– I cannot specifically answer the question. I have received comments and correspondence in relation to the Human Rights Commission Bill and I have no doubt that bodies such as Amnesty International and the United Nations Association will comment on the Bill if they have not already done so. I will take note of the question Senator Missen has asked and give consideration to it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. As light commercial aircraft, including those engaged in agriculture, give a valuable service to people in isolated areas and in view of the unpredictable supply of avgas and its high cost, will the Federal Government consider giving small airline operators financial backing or loan guarantees to purchase turbo-prop or pure jet aircraft so that the rural people can be assured of a continuing and much needed service?
- Senator Elstob has asked a question involving a matter of policy. I will refer his question to the Treasurer and seek his comment.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health: Do safety containers for medicines add to the difficulty many elderly or disabled people experience in keeping to their prescribed medication regime? What steps can be taken to ensure that all medication required by elderly or disabled people remains available to them in containers they can easily open- in other words, in foil or plastic bubble packs or in bottles with child-proof tops, all of which require a combination of strength and dexterity which not only children but also old people often do not possess?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Health for a response. It is interesting to note that I am frequently briefed with regard to the care that is taken to see that dangerous drugs are in child-proof containers. I can understand the reason why Senator Rocher asked the question in the way he did and the difficulties that may occur for older people in using some of these containers. However, I will see what the Minister for Health is able to provide by way of a response to the matter that was raised.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Has the Minister done anything about a letter received from the Glamorgan Municipality requesting assistance for the establishment of a permanent all-weather airstrip at Swansea on the east coast of Tasmania? Is the Minister aware of the difficulties that the current situation in that area often causes in urgent cases? For example, in that area there are vast logging, forestry and associated industries. It is also on one of the main tourist tracks. Is the Minister aware that the airstrip that is used currently is on a property, that it is in an area which is subject to bogging and that sometimes it is stocked, with consequent hazards? Has the Minister any information that he can give the Senate in respect of the request from the Glamorgan Municipality?
-The request to which the honourable senator refers in his question would no doubt be a request to the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon. That information no doubt is within the knowledge of Mr Nixon. I will seek a reply to those questions for the honourable senator.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Yesterday’s Senate debate on the States Grants (Roads) Amendment Bill brought to light some disturbing reflections on the ability of the Bureau of Transport Economics to apportion Commonwealth road funds reasonably as between the States. Will the Minister refer this matter to the Minister he represents with a view to the Government setting realistic guidelines for the Bureau?
– A number of points were made in the debate on the Bill yesterday which, whilst I would not have thought they reflected exactly on the Bureau’s ability to apportion funds reasonably, certainly threw into question some of the principles which were involved in the original legislation which was being amended. I have written to the Minister for Transport, drawing his attention to the various points made in that debate and asking him to give them consideration.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I remind the Minister that yesterday he said:
He was talking about egg marketing. He continued:
The legislation, I understand, will be designed to ensure that egg marketing can proceed on a fair and reasonable basis and that the local industry and the people working in it are given reasonable protection.
I ask the Minister whether this legislation, which he envisages will be introduced to protect the local industry, will also protect the person who has been continually in breach of the local marketing Act. I quote from a letter which I received from Mr Ellicott in answer to a question that I posed to Senator Carrick on 9 July. In part he said:
To date there have been seven successful prosecutions for breaches of hen quota. In addition there are three matters before the Court concerning alleged obstruction of inspectors in the carrying out of their duties under the Egg Industry Ordinance. The Egg Industry Officer has a further seven alleged breaches of the Ordinance under consideration.
Will the Minister, together with his colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, if he is the one who is introducing the legislation, and Mr Ellicott, give due consideration to this matter and ensure that the producer in the Australian Capital Territory, who has 98 per cent of the egg quota and whom, I understand, the legislation is designed to protect, will not be able to get out from under in relation to all the breaches he has been committing? Mr President, I seek leave to have the letter from Mr Ellicott incorporated in Hansard.
– You are putting a question. To seek to incorporate a document during Question Time is unusual.
– That is providing information.
– I can see that information is being given when a document like that is tabled. You are not explicitly putting a question to the Minister at this stage.
– But my question was whether the legislation envisaged and referred to by Senator Webster yesterday is legislation to protect the person who has been continually in breach of the Australian Capital Territory egg marketing and hen quota legislation? That is my question to him. I wanted Mr Ellicott ‘s letter incorporated in Hansard so that Senator Webster could look at it. The letter came from Mr Ellicott in answer to previous questions which I have raised in this Parliament about this very same point.
– I suggest that a question on notice, in which you can incorporate certain contents, would be more appropriate than incorporating the document in Hansard at Question Time.
– The precedent was set some days ago when I asked a question and had a letter incorporated in Hansard. However, I will pursue the matter tonight in the adjournment debate.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. It follows a question asked by Senator Bonner earlier this afternoon. Is the Minister aware that one of the other reasons that the Federated Storemen and Packers Union in Queensland will not enrol Vietnamese migrants into the union is that when the Vietnamese get a job they work? Is this ludicrous, selfish and bullying action by the union an infringement of the Trade Practices Act or any other Commonwealth Act?
– The honourable senator is asking for an opinion. Senator Durack, I turn the matter across to you.
– I am not familiar with the facts of the case referred to by Senator MacGibbon. I do not think that he is asking for a legal opinion on this matter. I will refer his question to the appropriate Minister, probably the Minister for Industrial Relations.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether he can find out and tell the Senate what criteria the Prime Minister specifies for the return to the Ministry of a former Minister sacked by the Prime Minister for impropriety? Does the Prime Minister stipulate that new facts exonerating the former Minister must be produced prior to ministerial rehabilitation?
– That is properly a question to be put on notice. My suggestion is that that course be taken.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Education to the report of the Australian Heavy Engineering Industry Advisory Council recently tabled in the Senate. Is he concerned that the report reveals that the number of students graduating with degrees in arts, the humanities, economics, commerce, government and education is some 54,000, compared with the number of such graduates already in the labour force of 50,000? Is he also concerned that people training to be tradesmen, of whom there is already a serious shortage, such as those studying in the electrical, motor, printing, metal, building, furniture, clothing, footwear and textile trades, number 98,000, compared with the number in the present labour force of 6 14,000? Because of this imbalance will he refer the matter to his Department for further comment?
– The question of the distribution of particular skills over the whole of the student population and ultimately the work force has been exercising the minds of people in my Department for some considerable time. It has been a major subject of the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training and is of course inherent in the Crawford Study Group on Structural Adjustment. I have no doubt at all that Professor Rupert Myers will be homing in on that in his report on technology. In response to Senator Messner I point out that there is a demonstrable and very real concern that over the years there has been a considerable imbalance favouring the humanities and, to a large extent, neglecting a wide range of the crafts and skills. Since productivity is, of course, the key to our competitive abilities we are very concerned about it. The relatively new Department of Employment and Youth Affairs has a vital responsibility in this matter. I am hopeful that over the months, and particularly as we evolve and resolve the Williams Committee report and other reports, we will be able to announce a series of actions that will be aimed at remedying this imbalance.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources aware of the report in the Soviet Union newspaper the Kommunist and reported in yesterday’s Age newspaper in which serious doubts about the scope, safety and environmental consequences of the various stages of the nuclear fuel cycle are expressed? Is the Minister aware of the significance of this admission, given the Soviet Union’s commitment to nuclear power and the fact that it has presently 10 large nuclear power plants under construction? In the light of this and other questions which have been raised since the Government produced its nuclear safeguards proposal, will there now be a reexamination to ensure that those safeguards are adequate for the health and welfare of people involved in the mining, processing and transportation of uranium or yellowcake and particularly the health and welfare of those people who are presently living in the vicinity of the nuclear installation at Lucas Heights?
– As I have indicated on a number of occasions, the Government has given and will continue to give very close attention to this question of safety in regard to nuclear developments in all forms. Senator Coleman referred to a report in an Australian newspaper about a report in a Soviet newspaper. I hardly think that that in itself would give rise to any change in the examination of these matters, which is kept under consideration by the Government or the agency of the Government responsible for these matters. I will refer the question to the Minister for National Development.
-Yesterday Senator McLaren asked me a question concerning a letter from Mr J. S. McLachlan, Executive Director of the Mentally Retarded Children’s Society of South Australia. A number of other honourable senators have brought the matter to my attention so I take this opportunity to answer. This relates to a request by the South Australian office of my Department to parents of some children residing in four hostels run by the Society for a refund of a portion of the payments made to them under the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme, known as AIC. The boarding allowances provided under this Scheme comprise a means-test-free basic allowance of $500 per annum, on average about $12 per week, and an additional allowance of up to a further $500 per annum, which is subject both to actual boarding costs and a means test on family income. The maximum of this additional boarding allowance is paid where the adjusted family income does not exceed $8,700 per annum. Very needy families may also qualify for a special supplementary allowance of up to $550 per annum, the maximum of which is payable at an adjusted family income level of $5,800 per annum.
The matter of the level of allowances that had been paid for the children in question first came to my Department’s attention as a result of an inquiry from the Auditor-General’s office in May of this year. That office was concerned that there might be a possible duplication between the AIC allowances and payment by the Department of Social Security of the handicapped children’s benefit of $5 per day, that is, $35 per week. This payment is made to institutions for the handicapped in respect of each child in their care. Provided that the effect of this payment to institutions is taken into account in determining parents’ actual boarding costs, the benefit is not regarded as a duplication.
The common practice among institutions, when making out their accounts, is to deduct the amount of handicapped children’s benefit which they know they will receive from the Department of Social Security, and then bill the parents for the difference between this and the advertised boarding fee. This was assumed to be the situation with the institutions involved. However, as my Department currently understands the situation, the practice of these institutions has been to charge parents the full amount and then give them a refund after the handicapped children’s benefit has been paid. In that case the net cost to the parents is not the advertised fee but the difference between it and the social security payment.
In the cases involved, parents had claimed their boarding costs to be $49 per week and had received the maximum additional boarding allowance. However, the Department’s inquiries arising out of the audit query led it to believe that, whilst $49 per week was the advertised fee, the net cost to parents was in fact only $14 per week. At this level of cost, the additional boarding allowance entitlement for a child would be reduced to the cost incurred plus a margin for incidentals. On the basis of this information, my Department sought refund from the parents of the apparent overpayments. These covered applications for both 1978 and 1979. My Department accepts that there was no deliberate attempt on the part of the applicants to mislead.
-Senator McAuliffe has asked me recently, as the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, several questions about the agreement between the Channel 9 network and the Australian Cricket Board for the exclusive licence to televise international cricket. In particular, Senator McAuliffe suggested that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs should intervene in applications to the Trades Practices Commission for authorisation of that agreement. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has advised me that the Trade Practices Act does not prescribe the circumstances in which the Government’s powers of intervention are to be exercised. The Government believes that they should be used only in very special circumstances where the Government perceives that a particular decision by the Trade Practices Commission may conflict with government policy. Of the two cases when the Minister intervened, only the newsagents case was similar to the Nine NetworkAustralian Cricket Board agreement in that it concerned authorisation and notification. In the newsagents case action was taken pursuant to a Cabinet decision.
The question of access to cricket telecasts by country viewers may not be directly relevant to the Commission’s decision. Because the proceedings in question are investigations of exclusive dealing conduct, before the Commission can disallow the notifications it must first find that there is a substantial lessening of competition in a relevant market. It is only when it has made such a finding that it proceeds to assess public benefit to see whether public benefits arising from the conduct would outweigh the detriment caused by the lessening of competition. In addition, disallowance by the Commission of the arrangements would not ensure access by country viewers to cricket telecasts. That would depend upon arrangements being made between the Australian Cricket Board and television stations, including the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In the circumstances, the Minister does not consider that it would be appropriate for the Government to intervene in these proceedings.
-On 10 October 1979 Senator Lajovic asked me a question concerning the possible effect of an aluminium smelter on wine growing areas of the Hunter Valley. I give the following response: The monitoring and enforcing of air emission standards for any trade, industry or process manufacturing aluminium from alumina at a smelter located within the Hunter Valley is a matter which falls within the responsibility of the New South Wales Government through the administration of the Clean Air Act and its regulations. In the aluminium production process fluoride is produced, the emission of which can have deleterious effects on the growth and yield of a number of plant species and can cause toxic effects in livestock which ingest forage in which fluoride has accumulated. Processes have been developed which minimise fluoride emissions from aluminium smelters arid the latest technology is proposed to be incorporated in the smelters which are presently planned for construction in Australia.
A proposal to establish and operate an aluminium smelter in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales would fall within the ambit of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act if a Commonwealth decision is required. In this event the likely effect of fluoride emissions on the vegetation and livestock of the adjacent areas, including grapevines in the wine producing areas, would be assessed. The control measures proposed would also be examined and abatement measures proposed if considered necessary. Included in such an assessment would be an examination of the possible alternative sites for the establishment of the smelter.
-On 26 September 1979 I was asked a question by Senator Townley relating to daylight saving in the Australian Capital Territory. The Minister for the Capital Territory has advised me that the Commonwealth has always taken the view that daylight saving arrangements in the Australian Capital Territory should coincide with those of the main eastern States. Any arrangement made in the Australian Capital Territory different from those in the eastern States would give rise to considerable inconvenience to commerce, transport and communication links to the Territory. As the States have decided not to extend the daylight saving period for the forthcoming summer, the Australian Capital Territory has followed the arrangement.
– Earlier in Question Time today Senator Baume asked me a question relating to the Australian Capital Territory ordinance on the sale of tobacco. The Tobacco Ordinance of 1927 provides that any person who sells tobacco, cigars or cigarettes to any person under the age of 16 years shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a penalty of $ 10. The Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare produced a report entitled ‘Drug Problems in Australia- An Intoxicated Society’. The report covers, inter alia, the problem of tobacco sales to minors. The Government is considering at present the recommendations of this Committee. The Minister for the Capital Territory is awaiting the Government’s decision on this issue before considering any changes to the law. There have been no prosecutions during the last two years under this legislation.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Albury-Wodonga Development Amendment Bill 1979. Loan Bill 1979.
-by leave- I table additional information received by Estimates Committee D and seek leave to have it incorporated in the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
-I seek leave to make a statement concerning Business of the Senate Notice of Motion No. I standing in my name for six sitting days hence.
– This notice of motion relates to the Australian Capital Territory Fuels Control Ordinance 1979, and was given as a result of the deliberations of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. The notice was given on the last available day so as to preserve the Committee’s position in case it should wish to recommend disallowance of the Ordinance. At that stage the Committee had not received a response from the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) to a number of matters which the Committee had raised. The Ordinance creates a Controller of Fuels, provides for the appointment of inspectors, and confers special powers on those officers to deal with shortages of fuel such as occurred last June. The Committee was concerned with provisions which allowed the Controller of Fuels to delegate his powers to any person without limitation as to the class of persons to whom the delegation could be made, the service of notices by publication in a newspaper instead of the usual method of personal service, and wide powers of entry and search of premises, even in the absence of a declaration under the Ordinance that an emergency exists in relation to fuel supplies. The Committee was also concerned that there was no provision to ensure that the compulsory gathering of information under the Ordinance would not be used for purposes other than purposes of the Ordinance.
The Committee has now received a very satisfactory response from the Minister for the Capital Territory in relation to the matters raised by it. This response was actually sent by the Minister before the time for giving notice had expired, but unfortunately I did not receive the Minister’s letter until after that time. The Minister has indicated that the Ordinance was made quickly in response to the serious fuel shortages in June and that there are defects in it which will be corrected. The Minister has agreed to restrict the delegation of the powers of the Controller of Fuels, to provide for personal service of notices, and to ensure that the powers of entry and search can be exercised only at reasonable hours during the period when a declaration of emergency is in force. The Minister has also agreed with the suggestion of the Committee that there be inserted in the ordinance a provision to the effect that information gained under the Ordinance may not be used in any prosecution except a prosecution under the Ordinance. The Committee considers that such a provision is highly desirable in all legislation which confers compulsory information-gathering powers upon specialist officers.
In view of the Minister’s undertakings, the Committee has agreed to take no further action in regard to this matter. The Minister has requested that the promised amendments of the Ordinance be postponed until the Australian Capital Territory House of Assembly and his Department have also had an opportunity of reviewing the Ordinance, and the Committee has agreed to this. On behalf of the Committee, I would like to thank the Minister for his very cooperative and helpful approach to this matter. Pursuant to notices of intention given yesterday, I now withdraw Business of the Senate Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in my name for six sitting days hence.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate to this Bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a first time.
– I move:
In light of the heavy debating schedule later in the day 1 seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill proposes certain changes to Part III of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973 which covers the Academic Salaries Tribunal. At present the Academic Salaries Tribunal can make determinations and reports on academic salaries only in the context of a general review of all categories of academic staff. Since the last general review was undertaken in 1976 a number of matters have developed which require the Tribunal’s attention. As the Act is presently constituted it is not possible to consider these matters without undertaking a general review. Such a review is not necessary at this time.
The purpose of this Bill is to allow the Tribunal to make determinations or reports on academic salaries for: Firstly, newly established Commonwealth tertiary institutions; secondly, new categories of academic staff; and thirdly, particular categories of staff in all States and Territories for either universities, colleges of advanced education or both without having to undertake a general review. By extending the Act to cover these three areas it will be possible to clear up the outstanding matters.
The Bill also corrects an ambiguity as to whether the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973 covers technical and further education institutions which resulted from the creation of the Tertiary Education Commission which encompasses these institutions. It was never intended that the Tribunal should cover these institutions and the effect of the Bill will be to exclude them. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gietzelt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16 October, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-My speech was almost completed when the Senate adjourned last night. I do not propose to emulate the example of ex-Senator Wood and repeat on air today the speech that I gave last night. The point that I was in the process of completing last night before the Senate adjourned was an important one, and I will take a few minutes to make it today. This seems to be a particularly inappropriate time for the Government to be reneging on its multiple past promises to maintain the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty at a higher level than it now proposes.
The sugar industry, which is the most important single user of nitrogenous fertilisers- even more than the wheat industry- is faced with a recession in the international sugar market. Something like three-quarters of Australian sugar is exported which is very important for Australian sugar producers. In addition, the sugar producers are being subjected to a two-way cost squeeze in regard to nitrogenous fertilisers. Nitrogenous fertiliser prices are escalating at a very rapid rate because of the Government’s import parity pricing for crude oil. The fact is that oil refineries provide the major raw material source for nitrogenous fertilisers. Compounding that squeeze, which is partly due to market forces but mainly due to Government policy decisions in other areas, is the Government’s further policy decision to reduce the bounty on this product.
The Opposition, in the Committee stage, will be voting against clause 4 of the Bill. The purpose for doing so is to maintain the bounty at its existing level of $40 per tonne. If clause 4 is deleted from the amending Bill section 10 of the Principal Act, which stipulates that the bounty should be payable at $40 per tonne of nitrogen content, will be maintained in its present wording. Although some sections of the public are probably becoming somewhat hardened and somewhat conditioned to repeated repudiation of guarantees of promises made by various Ministers and former Ministers in this Government, I think it ought to be stated again that apart from the guarantee the whole Government gave in 1977 to maintain the bounty at the recently reduced rate of $60 per tonne, this provision is a flagrant and complete repudiation of the unqualified assurance given by the former Deputy Leader of the Country Party and Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair. In an election campaign in the city of Mackay in Queensland- when speaking as a member of the Opposition, of course- he said:
I can give an unqualified assurance on behalf of the National Country Party, that in Government with the Liberal Party, we will restore the bounty on superphosphate and ensure that the Nitrogenous Fertilizer Bounty continues.
At that time the bounty was being paid at $80 a tonne. The Government now proposes to reduce it to $20 a tonne. I think it is very important that the citizens of the city of Mackay, where the statement was made in one of the major sugar growing areas of Queensland and, of course, of Australia, should be aware of the precise value of an unqualified assurance from a deputy leader of the National Country Party on behalf of the National Country and Liberal parties.
– I wish briefly to rebut some of the arguments that have been put by Senator Walsh. (Quorum formed) I thank Senator Georges for organising an audience for me.
– It is the only way you would get one.
-I notice that he did not do it for Senator Walsh. It may be that he did not think his speeches are worth listening to. I want to answer some of Senator Walsh’s statements. I think that we all know only too well that the Industries Assistance Commission was set up by Labor Government to pass the buck, so to speak, to pass its responsibilities to primary industry. Everyone knows that within a few months of the Labor Government’s coming into office, many of the advantages that had been given to primary industry were taken away. Those advantages were given for the purpose of -
– What were they? Name them.
– I can name plenty of them, including all the depreciation allowances, the uniform petrol price -
– You have not restored any of them.
– You doubled the price of petrol. Come off it.
– Order! I referred yesterday to the incessant interjecting. It is highly disorderly and I do not want to hear it today.
-I know that honourable senators opposite do not like to be told the history of what their Government did.
– On a point of order, I must now say that the honourable senator is being provocative, is calling for interjections and in fact is enticing us to respond.
– How can we resist? How can I resist your interjection? All I am saying is that by being provocative the honourable senator invites interjections and I think that your comments, Mr President, ought to be directed to him.
– There is always time and occasion to reply to statements which are made here. When an honourable senator is on his feet he should command the Senate. I call Senator Maunsell and I emphasise again that all interjections are disorderly.
-We all recall the statement of the former Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, when he came to office that the primary industries in this country had been featherbedded for long enough; that it was time that the urban areas were given a go. That is a statement that no one can refute. The fact is that all of these advantages had been given over the years to primary industry not as a subsidy or special grant but purely as compensation for the high cost of production, particularly for export industries, because of the heavy protection given to secondary industries and the Australian work force. It is interesting to note that the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on nitrogenous fertilisers provided for the bounty to be phased out over three years. The Opposition, as usual, accept the IAC report and expressed no opposition in those days to its being accepted or extended. Therefore, it is sheer hypocrisy at this stage to move such an amendment.
– What about Sinclair’s statement?
-That is Sinclair’s business. I am saying what happened on the part of the Government. My colleagues were able to persuade the Government to phase out the bounty over a longer period, one that would not be as severe as that recommended in the IAC report. On that occasion, no response was heard from the Opposition. Although I am disappointed that the Government has seen fit to reduce the bounty further, it is an element of the Budget and Government supporters can do nothing about it at this stage. However, in cooperation with the sugar industry, we have taken up the matter with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who has stated that in view of the rising costs of fuel and fertiliser he would be quite happy, before the next Budget is considered, to receive a deputation of industry leaders.
I must also mention that the Opposition was conspicuous by its silence when the sugar industry was seeking an interim, and later a full, increase in the domestic sugar price. There is no doubt that the Opposition was on the side of the consumer groups, who lobbied honourable members for weeks and months before those decisions were made. It is also interesting to note that the costs to the industry, including that of fertiliser, were taken into consideration when, first, the interim $30 was approved and, later, the full $80 was approved in forming the base home consumption price. Also, since then a new sugar agreement has been negotiated between the State of Queensland and the Commonwealth Government which, in respect of future increases in the domestic sugar price, will take into account the consumer price index and overseas sales. Let us face the fact that 75 per cent of the sugar industry’s products are sold overseas. The formula also takes into account cash costs including, of course, the fertiliser bounty. So at least those of us who have been working closely with the sugar industry to achieve justice for it on that basis have taken into account all of the reductions that have been made in the fertiliser bounty. It is sheer hypocrisy for the Opposition, in view of its history in regard to the sugar industry and the lack of support that it has given to the industry, to move during the committee stage of the Bill an amendment to retain the fertiliser bounty at the level which obtained prior to the presentation of the Budget.
– I feel a little sorry for Senator Maunsell, particularly in regard to the last note that he struck before sitting down. After all, it was a Labor government that, over a long period, put the Australian sugar industry on its feet. There is no hypocrisy in the fact that the Australian Labor Party, which is now in Opposition, has decided to move an amendment to the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy (Amendment) Bill. I want also to cover one or two other points that the previous speaker made. My colleague Senator Walsh, in speaking in the debate last night, pointed out certain facts, but I would like to draw to the attention of the Government the fact that while Dr Rex Patterson was the honourable member for Dawson he did a tremendous amount to build up the sugar industry in his State.
I wish to repeat the criticism made by Senator Walsh of the debates that occurred in another place and the participation therein of the current National Country Party, Country Party or National Party member for Dawson, Mr Braithwaite, and the Liberal Party member for Herbert, Mr Dean. Senator Maunsell began his speech with an attack on the Industries Assistance Commission and claimed that the former Labor Government had withdrawn subsidies. After all, 30 December 1975 is a long way from today. This is 17 October 1979. The petrol subsidy had not been restored by this Government. It is a big factor as far as the sugar industry is concerned. The big growers are able to build storage tanks to hold their distillate but the smaller growers are not in that category. Today they must pay five or six times more for petrol than they did on 11 November 1975. Honourable senators will recall also that the superphosphate bounty was immediately restored by the first Fraser Government, so the utterances of the National Country Party on this occasion are not quite what they are supposed to be. Senator Maunsell mentioned an alleged statement by the former Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, but apparently could not give its source. When the honourable senator gets around to reading Hansard, if he is not listening to this broadcast, he might note that at page 23 16 of Hansard of 2 1 October 1 975, Mr Anthony made the following statement when speaking on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) in another place. by his across-the-board tariff cut which put thousands of people out of work in this country -
At that time he was referring to the former Prime Minister. I will read the full paragraph so that perhaps it will sink in. In what was one of his more fiery speeches, Mr Anthony said:
I am glad that I am getting through to the consciences of some of the Labor men in this House because they will have to answer in the long run. They will have to answer for this man who has caused all the industrial trouble in factories by his three revaluations . . . This is the man who belittled his former Deputy Prime Minister -
Mr Anthony was making an attack on a number of people but at that time he condemned the 1973 tariff cuts. Now, apparently, we have a different story from those who were then in Opposition and who are now in government. Since we have lost some of our sense of direction in the debate this afternoon, I want to give the background history. I have one or two documents which refer to the International Sugar Agreement in some detail. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has examined them and later I will seek their incorporation in Hansard.
There are three popular types of nitrogenous fertilisers used in the sugar industry in Australia. The three fertilisers are urea, ammonium sulphate and ammonium nitrate. Ammonium sulphate or sulphate of ammonia as it is commonly known is the type of nitrogenous fertiliser that most of us use in our backyard gardens. It is a great aid to growing lettuce and sugar cane and all the crops that need to be grown fast. The Nitrogenous Fertilizer Subsidy Act 1966 provided for a subsidy at the rate of $80 per ton or $78.74 per tonne after we changed to metric measurement. It was payable pro rata on the nitrogen content of the particular material. For example, the subsidy at the rate of $80 per ton for fertiliser with a 46 per cent nitrogen content provide for a payment of $36.80 per ton on urea or, in metric measurement, a payment of $36.22 per tonne. The subsidy was $16.80 per ton or $16.54 per tonne on ammonium sulphate with a 2 1 per cent nitrogen content. The legislation provided for the subsidy to be payable from 17 August 1966 until 31 October 1969.
The Act was reviewed in 1969 to provide for an extension of the subsidy. It was payable for a further three years to 3 1 October 1972. The legislation also made provision for the payment of the subsidy on imported fertilisers under specific conditions. This was to encourage local fertiliser production. The rate of subsidy payable remained unchanged at $80 per ton of nitrogen content. The accusation that the Labor Government removed the subsidy is just not true. Dr Patterson, who was the Minister for Northern Australia, was looking after the sugar industry at the time and made sure that the subsidy was retained. In fact, the reduction in the subsidy did not take place until the first Fraser Administration was elected. The Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act 1 972 extended the subsidy until 3 1 October 1974 at the existing level which wan 3 1 $80 per ton. The basis on which certain imports of nitrogenous fertilisers became eligible for subsidy was also changed.
If we examine the 1 975 Industries Assistance Commission inquiry in its proper perspective we will see that, in fact, the Labor Government never, at any stage, introduced any sort of legislation to reduce the subsidy. But prior to the 1975 Industries Assistance Commission inquiry, nitrogenous fertilisers attracted a subsidy of $78.74 per tonne, as I mentioned a moment ago. As a result of the IAC inquiry, the Government decided to reduce the subsidy in steps. I will quote those reductions from a table. For the period 1966 to December 1976 the subsidy was $78.74 per tonne. From January 1977 to December 1978 it was $60 per tonne. That was the first reduction under this Government. From January 1979 to December 1979 it was $40 per tonne, but from January 1980 to December 1980 it will stand at only $20 per tonne. In that time this Government has reduced the subsidy on nitrogenous fertiliser by $50 plus per tonne. So much for the crocodile tears of members of the National Country Party who are trying to justify their stand in this regard.
When the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) presented her second reading speech in the Senate, I do not think that she used very honest wording. She was at pains in the first paragraph to point out:
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to extend the operation of the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy scheme for a further year until 3 1 December 1 980.
If one just read those first few words without reading on, one would think that this Government was being magnanimous in its approach to the rural community, particularly those who use nitrogenous fertilisers. This, of course, is not true. The Minister went on to state that the subsidy would be paid at the rate of $20 per tonne of nitrogen content. She also stated:
The current subsidy of $40 per tonne of nitrogen content will continue to be paid until 3 1 December 1979.
That is only a few weeks away. By taking away the subsidy totally the cost of the scheme to the Government during 1980 is expected to be only $5m. The Government has decided to put this $5m into the petty cash tin for the purpose, I suppose, of reducing the colossal inflation rate. The Government has adopted a cheeseparing attitude in relation to rural industry. Some of the farmers’ organisations were first to raise this after the last Budget. It is not much use the National Country Party shedding crocodile tears when we realise what was clearly said in a Press release on 8 May 1974 by the former Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair. I quote this passage again because it deserves repetition:
I can give an unqualified assurance on behalf of the National Country Party, that in Government with the Liberal Party, we will restore the bounty on superphosphate and ensure that the Nitrogenous Fertiliser Bounty continues.
That was an unequivocal statement made by an official spokesman on behalf of the Opposition of the day. It is a bit like the statement made by Mr Ellicott when he told the Aborigines they would be better off under a Liberal-National Country Party government. Of course, they are not. Many other spokesmen at that time used a similar sort of tack in the rush up to the election in the hope that they could win government. When the superphosphate subsidy was restored the owner of a Victorian country property known as Nareen- these days he is becoming more popularly known as the ayatollah of Nareen- was expected to receive -
– Order! Senator Keeffe, never speak disparagingly of a member of Parliament or make such inferences.
– I did not mean to speak disparagingly. A lot of newspaper columnists are using that expression. It is quite a common one.
No offence was meant. The anticipated subsidy to be paid to the owner of this property is $5,000 plus a year. Queensland uses 185,739 tonnes of nitrogenous fertilisers or 57 per cent of the total nitrogenous fertiliser used in Australia. The only State that comes close to the Queensland use is New South Wales which uses 1 6.6 per cent of the total. Victoria uses only 7.2 per cent, South Australia 2.7 per cent, Western Australia 15.9 per cent, Tasmania 6 per cent, Northern Territory 0.5 per cent and in the Australian Capital Territory the huge amount of 1 7 tonnes which is a bit hard to work out to a fraction of one per cent. Quite obviously it is only Queensland that is going to be affected by the withdrawal of the subsidy. I ask: Why does it always have to be Queensland that gets, as we say in our State, the rough end of the pineapple?
The marlin fishing agreement being signed in this city today gives a very great advantage to one foreign country. I do not know whether the Federal Government and our own State Government are aware of the situation. Two or three weeks ago the Premier of Queensland was not going to sign any agreement on the Japanese longline fishing in what is said to be a marlin breeding area. Today he is whooping with joy while he joins this Government in selling away probably the livelihood of many Queensland fishermen. I do not believe in using marlin as a sporting fish. Nevertheless, with some sort of control the marlin would have lasted a lot longer. I am not impressed with what the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) said yesterday. He said that if that breeding ground is wiped out there are plenty of others somewhere over near America.
On 7 October 1977, 76 countries attended the second session of the United Nations Sugar Conference and agreed on the terms of a new international sugar agreement. The agreement entered provisionally into force on 1 January 1978. It has now been operating for almost two years. It will enter into force definitely at such time as sufficient provisional members make valid their membership of the agreement. This relates to governments holding 55 per cent of the votes of exporting countries and 65 per cent of the votes of importing countries in accordance with the distribution of votes established in an annexure to the agreement. One of the countries that did not sign the agreement was the United States. I noted quite recently from a newspaper source that a spokesman on behalf of the Federal Government said that in no time at all the United States would be doing this. The United States still has not signed it. I quote from the International Sugar Agreement. It states in part:
The Agreement seeks to regulate the supply of sugar to the world free market with the objective of stabilising sugar prices within an agreed price range of 1 1 to 2 1 United States cents per lb by the implementation and regulation of quota and stockholding obligations.
Member exporters are allocated ‘export quotas’ . . .
It goes on to set out a series of percentages in which those quotas are allocated. There is serious dissatisfaction with the way in which this has been done. I will refer to some of that dissatisfaction in a few moments. In the meantime, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard an extract from the Queensland Cane Growers Annual Report 1979, and also an extract from the Australian Sugar Journal, December 1978. These are the two documents which were shown to you, Mr President, and the Minister last night.
The documents read as follows-
The International Sugar Agreement is almost one year old, and the world market price is now lower than it was in the beginning of 1978 when the Agreement came into operation. To this extent, and because failure of the U.S. to ratify the Agreement has prevented the implementation of the stock funding provisions, the Agreement may be considered by some not to have been successful.
On the other hand, the view is also taken by many exporters that the I.S.A. has kept prices up higher than they would have been in the absence of an agreement.
In the first half of December, the London Daily Price has been quoted within the narrow range of £99-£103 stg. per tonne (SA169 to $A178), compared with a range of £107-f 1 14 stg. (SA175 to SA193) for January 1978. (Variations in exchange rates during the year would have distorted the comparison a little.)
Another interesting point, and one which could have significance for the cane sugar sector of the industry, is that in mid-December the L.D.P. for white sugar dropped to 2 below the L.D.P. for raw sugar. Over the past six months, the white sugar price has generally been between S and 10 above the raw sugar price, with a peak of 14 above. This could indicate the pressure on the white sugar market arising from the E.E.C. large sugar surplus.
There are nevertheless encouraging signs which should help to improve the effectiveness of the Agreement in 1 979.
The U.S. has now decided to set a limit on its imports of sugar from non-members to a total of 1 50,544 short tons raw value for the two years 1 978 and 1 979. As it is generally considered this quantity has already entered the US during 1978, the US decision should prevent further imports from non-members until the end of 1979. The E.E.C. has been a substantial supplier of this sugar to the US.
Unfortunately, reports have also come to hand recently that E.E.C. sugar is finding its way into Central and Southern America, where it is replacing domestic sugar which is being then exported to the US. These sales to the US will not be affected by the US limitation on imports from non-members of the I.S.A., and the result is likely to be a widening of outlets for non-member sugar at the expense of the market opportunities for member exporters.
In spite of the damaging marketing policies of the E.E.C. in 1978, there seems to be growing hope that some method can be worked out whereby the E.E.C., while not becoming a member, might conduct its policies in future in such a way as to help promote the aims of the Agreement.
The achievement of this hope, together with the US moves to limit non-member imports, would bring psychological and practical benefits, encouraging additional membership of and compliance with the spirit and letter of the Agreement
The operation of the I.S.A can provide the climate for improvement in prices in 1979, but this can only take place if proper attention is paid to the real statistical position and if all I.S.A members adhere strictly to their obligations.
It is perhaps unfortunate that the current I.S.A. recognises two categories of ‘special arrangement’ exports- Cuba’s exports to USSR and other East European countries of the COMECON group, which are not charged against Cuba’s quota; and exports to the E.E.C. under the Lome Convention and associated arrangements (mostly from former members of the B.C.S.A.), which are not charged against the export quotas of the countries concerned.
In the case of Cuba, there is no effective limitation on its production, and a major expansion program is under way, with a target of 7.5 m. tons set for the 1 978-79 crop- and this at a time when other member exporters are so heavily curtailing their production. The extra Cuban production will be destined for the USSR and its associated countries, thereby limiting their calls for world market supplements.
Although the Stock Financing Fund is not yet in operation, one member country- the Philippines- has already secured a loan of $US45.8m from the International Monetary Fund. The loan corresponds roughly to the current world market value of that country’s entire special LSA stocks of 245,184 tons (which apparently has been set aside in one year instead of the permissible 3-year spread ).
Other countries may now be encouraged to follow the Philippines lead, and set aside stocks provided under the I.S.A., and some developing countries may have their doubts as to the benefits of membership removed.
With the decision of the International Sugar Council to set export entitlements for 1979 at the lowest level permitted under the Agreement (i.e., the maximum cuts in basic export tonnages), the supply-demand position in 1979 is expected to be more or less in balance. This factor, together with the other encouraging signs referred to earlier, strengthen the industry’s hopes that in 1979 prices will be lifted up into the range set by the Agreement.
The International Sugar Organisation has recently advised that, following allocations from the Hardship Fund and several other adjustments to quotas during the year, quotas in effect now stand at the following levels:
A number of countries overshipped their quotas in 1978 and these quantities are considered first charges on their 1979 quotas. In effect this means that their exportable tonnages are reduced by these amounts this year. The quantities involved are as follows: Argentina 72 tons, Australia 4,609 tons, Bolivia 4,466 tons, Brazil 9,341 tons, Cuba 9,929 tons, Dominican Republic 1,693 tons, Fiji 5,011 tons, Guatemala 889 tons, Mexico 3,711 tons, Nicaragua 1,776 tons, Panania 2,846 tons, Philippines 926 tons, South Africa 5,196 tons, Swaziland 1,868 tons and Thailand 8,675 tons.
-On 19 September Senator Maunsell asked a question of the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) relating to congressional approval for the United States to sign the International Sugar Agreement. 1 think I should read some sections of the reply because it is not consistent with some of the statements made earlier about how rosy the sugar industry is in Queensland. It is all very well for my colleague on the other side of the chamber to say that this Government would increase the domestic price of sugar in order to give a little stability to the industry. But this year up to two million tonnes of cane will be standing over in the fields because there is no market for it. The spokesman for the Proprietary Sugar Millers Association made a statement in relation to that matter which was published in the Townsville Daily Bulletin of 13 October this year, four days ago. I should like to quote a couple of paragraphs from that publication before winding up this debate. The question submitted to the Minister was this:
What is the present position in respect of the United States Congress ratifying the International Sugar Agreement?
The Minister replied:
I am advised that unfortunately efforts made to obtain congressional approval of legislation that would enable the United States to participate fully in the International Sugar Agreement have been proceeding for in excess of a year.
That is consistent with what I said a while ago about 76 countries attending the meeting on 7 October 1 977. So it is well in excess of a year. The Minister continued:
Although there appears to be no real opposition within the United States to the international legislation, it has become tied to other legislation for the implementation of a new domestic sugar policy. It has passed the committee stages and I am advised that it is now expected to be considered by Congress in the near future. The Minister for Trade and Resources has made representations to the United States Government at the highest level, pointing out the adverse effects which this delay is having on the operation of the International Sugar Agreement. A further disturbing factor is that the European Economic Community has indicated that it has no intention of joining in the Agreement until the United States has ratified it. For its part, the Australian sugar industry will again be limiting sugar production.
These days we are building larger storage sheds so that we may store our sugar in bulk because we just cannot sell it. in accordance with the stringent provisions of the agreement. As announced recently the 1979 season production has been set at 2.95 million tonnes. This makes allowance for the export of just under two million tonnes of sugar and the accumulation of a further 162,799 tonnes of the International Sugar Agreement special stocks.
I do not know what will happen to some of our special stock but if our market keeps on contracting instead of expanding and if we keep on storing sugar we will have to keep on increasing our storage space indefinitely. I might say that there is not much use criticising the European Economic Community or America at this stage, because most of these problems have been caused by Government inactivity. In the early 1960s when the EEC was having preliminary meetings- I think there would be quite extensive records in Liberal Party files on this matter- the present Minister for Trade and Resources, Mr Anthony, left this country to carry out some negotiations. In fact it was earlier than that. It was in the 1 950s. He did not turn up at the conferences although his counterpart in New Zealand was able to attend and to get a fairly good bargain in phasing out exports of meat and other primary products. Our Minister did not turn up until it was too late, and there were not even crumbs left. So it is a case of crocodile tears when members of this Government cry because they lost the sugar market, particularly in Britain and in other pans of Europe. The people who have gone into the EEC find it more economical, if I may use that word, to grow additional quantities of sugar beet.
I want to quote again from the Minister’s reply to the Country Party senator. He said:
I understand that the chairman of the Queensland Sugar Board, Mr Lloyd Harris, will be visiting Washington next week - that, of course, was some time ago now- -to have discussions with the Australian Embassy and the United States officials and congressmen. It is the Government’s hope-
No government can continue to live on hope- that the United States Congress will quickly pass the International Sugar Agreementlegislation in order to enable the full provisions of the agreement to become effective.
But the statement made by the spokesman on behalf of the Proprietary Sugar Millers Association reads as follows:
The standover cane of 2 million tonnes is a direct result of the International Sugar Agreement which, for the last two years had meant a surplus for the State ‘s cane growers.
However, he predicted there would be less standover cane during the 1980 season as canegrowers switched over to a new planting cycle within I.S.A. quota restrictions.
The surpluses recorded in 1978 and this year were as a direct result of growers planting in line with expectations before the I.S.A. was introduced.
But in the meantime, growers face the decision of destruction or standover to 1980 of cane surplus to market availability.
When one listens to Government representatives one would think that the sugar industry was going to thrive for the next 15-20 years. For the sake of saving an extra $5m this Bill is a little ridiculous. I do not think we ought to be criticised for moving an amendment to the Bill before this Parliament today. I think that most canegrowers would be inclined to say that the action taken by the Opposition is the only sensible course of action and the only way in which we should operate. (Quorum formed).
– The Senate has been debating a very short Bill, the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill 1979 which consists of one page. Its purpose is to amend the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act 1966. The Bill basically continues the payment of subsidy for nitrogenous fertilisers and follows a report by the Industries Assistance Commission which advised on this matter. The discussion that has ensued on this Bill is basically the outcome of a decision which was announced by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on 24 May 1979 in his statement to the House of Representatives on Government decisions on expenditure and taxation. The subsidy is quite a contribution by this Government to the continued use of nitrogenous fertilisers. In the 1980 year the cost to the Government will not be slight. Those who are utilising the fertiliser can be assured of support at $20 a tonne to the end of the 1 980 calendar year.
I shall mention the comments of various speakers. Senator Walsh is basically the leader for the Opposition in primary industry matters. I suppose that of course is subject to question by some, but that is the situation we find at present. In his contribution to the Bill he mainly concentrated his attack on the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and related that in some way to the use of fertiliser. I do not know how that came about, but it is a continuing operation by Senator Walsh in this matter. Senator Maunsell dealt quite correctly with the fact that this Government has encouraged primary industry in all its forms and has been responsible to some extent for the continued health of our various primary industries. I think that his comments were quite appropriate in relation to the fact that if two classes of political philosophy are to be seen in this place, the actions of a Labor socialist government cannot but be expected to see that the interests of the rural community are put second in any of its proposals.
– That is not correct.
-We again have the comments of the dear senator from South Australia. I happen to have a statement in front of me that was made by Mr Hayden at an address to the Australian Labor Party Rural Australia National Seminar, apparently, on 12 and 13 May this year. So that the honourable senator from South Australia can look it up, I point out that pages 14 and 1 5 of the report refer to what Mr Hayden said. Perhaps the honourable senator would agree with his leader. I do not know whether he would.
– Are you summing up or are you introducing new material?
– I can see that Senator Georges believes that what Mr Hayden said is totally immaterial. I do not think that what the Leader of the Australian Labor Party said is totally immaterial. I am sure that it is not. He made this point:
In view of the deterioration of Labor representation at each Federal election since 1972, there is some logic in putting all of the blame on the record of the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975.
To my mind, this is much too facile an explanation. I don ‘t dispute that in some ways the Labor Government was naive in its attitudes to rural policy and to country people.
It is completely wrong to attribute anything more serious than naivety.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. Surely what Senator Webster has said is irrelevant and will lead to further interjection and disorder- and further speakers- in this place. I suggest that he is not replying to or summing up the discussion on this Bill. If he wants to introduce irrelevancies and if he is permitted to do so then of course we will enter into a new debate. We could take the matter up during the committee stages and also during the debate on the motion for the third reading. I do not think that that is what the Minister intends to happen. In any case, his remarks are irrelevant and he ought to be brought to order.
– I do not uphold the point of order.
– I am always anxious to hear what Senator Georges has to say. It is generally irrelevant but one has to listen because he holds a position of some elevation within his Party. Mr President, I was trying desperately to address myself directly to the remarks that had been made by honourable senators. I think Senator Georges will acknowledge that my introductory remarks were directly related to the Bill and that I then attempted to take up some of the comments that had been made by the leading speakers on the Labor Party side. We heard from the leading speaker for the Labor Party on rural matters, Senator Walsh. In replying to the comments- I attempt to do this on every occasion- that Senator Walsh made in his address last evening on the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill I point out that it would be worth Senator Georges’ reading pages 1370 and 1371 of last night ’s Hansard -
– I was here.
-He was here and yet he has said that I have not addressed myself to the points raised in the discussion on the Bill. I make the comment that while we were supposedly addressing remarks to the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill, Senator Walsh said -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. Surely Senator Walsh’s irrelevancies last night were a matter for Government senators to complain about. It is certainly not now the right of the Minister for Science and the Environment to make irrelevant remarks. I raised a point of order against the Minister but no one raised a point of order against Senator Walsh. Whether they should have done so is another matter. That is for the Government senators to debate with Senator Walsh. The Minister should refrain from repeating last night’s remarks today. The Minister has diverted from the purpose for which he rose to his feet. I must admit that for the first few minutes he surprised me by keeping to the matter before the House, but for the last few minutes he has not. He ought to be brought back to order.
– I do not sustain the point of order.
– I acknowledge, as Senator Georges does, that the comments made by Senator Walsh were entirely irrelevant to the debate. That is one of the truest comments that Senator Georges has made. I was attempting to deal with some of the comments that had been made by the shadow Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Walsh. He is the expert on primary industry for the Labor Party. I had intended to go on and make a comment as to what Mr Day, the Minister in New South Wales, had said about Senator Walsh because I thought that that would not be irrelevant to the facts when we are debating primary industry matters. Mr President, you will recall that last night you called Senator Walsh to order and said to him:
You are imputing improper motives. Will you keep to the subject of the debate, which is the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill . . .
Of course, at that time Senator Walsh was directing his comments against the Prime Minister and other Ministers in the Government. I thought his comments were irrelevant. I had passed Senator Walsh’s comments until Senator Georges brought me back to them. I commented that Senator Maunsell raised some very important matters and had stressed the difference between the two political parties. We must congratulate this Government that by this Bill it will continue during the 1980 calendar year at $20 per tonne the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy, which has been applicable for a number of years. This decision will be of particular importance. I was going on to make some comments about Senator Keeffe, but I can see that members of the Australian Labor Party are a bit itchy about this matter. They do not retain a very good reputation on rural matters. Accordingly, I was anxious to quote from Mr Hayden ‘s address to that ALP national seminar. However, records of governments stand as they are. We as a Government of the Liberal Party and National Country Party are proud of the way that we have introduced measures eliminated by Labor while it was in government. We have introduced and continued them to the benefit of the rural community. I do not doubt that that is appreciated by all people, not only the people who are involved in rural production, but also those people in the country towns and cities who are producers of equipment and supplies that a healthy rural community requires. It is a great pleasure to see that this Bill will be passed in the Senate today.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 4 (Rate of subsidy).
-The Opposition will be opposing clause 4. We intend to divide on it. I will give a brief explanation as to the reasons. We could not oppose the entire Bill because, if we succeeded, the subsidy would cease entirely on 1 January 1 980. By opposing clause 4, and we hope to oppose it successfully, the rest of the amending Bill then standing, the subsidy would continue to be paid at a rate of $40 a tonne in the calendar year 1 980. The only other comment that I have to make is that this will be an excellent opportunity for the senators from Queensland to demonstrate their commitment to the welfare of Queensland ‘s primary industry. As I mentioned last night, Queensland used some 57 per cent in 1 976-77- which is the most recent year for which authoritative figures are available- of all the nitrogenous fertiliser used in Australia. In dividing on this clause, we are providing an opportunity for all of the senators from Queensland to demonstrate the depth of their commitment to Queensland agriculture by voting against the clause.
That the clause be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator D. B. Scott)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Webster) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– In speaking to the third reading of the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill, I wish to do the same as I did yesterday prior to the third reading of the Quarantine Amendment Bill (No. 2). Whenever Senator Webster replies to the second reading debate on legislation which he is in charge of he always seems to be able to introduce new matters. Mr President, when the Opposition Whip complained about that today, you ruled that his point of order was not valid. I think that the remarks I have to make will be in order, being in conformity with the legislation. In summing up, Senator Webster quoted extensively from statements made by Mr Hayden. We do not object to that. He went on to say that members of the Australian Labor Party do not have a very good reputation in country areas. I dispute that. I think that all members of the Labor Party have a very good reputation in country areas, particularly after what we were able to do for country people while we were in government. Senator Webster congratulated Senator Maunsell, who made one of the shortest speeches that he has made in this place. Had it not been for the interjections, he would just have risen in his place and then sat down. Senator Webster and Senator Maunsell said that the Labor Government took many benefits from country people.
-Hear, hear! They did, too.
- Senator Webster says Hear, hear!’ He ought to bear in mind that it was only during the Budget of last year that his Government increased the brandy excise by 83 per cent, which was a crippling blow to grape growers. It has doubled the price of petrol since taking office, which has had a severe effect on country people. It has also doubled unemployment and abolished Medibank. I could go on ad infinitum about the many things that the Government has done to the detrimental effect of country people. I would hope that in future whenever Senator Webster is in charge of legislation which affects country people he will refrain from trying to draw red herrings across the trail in support of the legislation by castigating members of the Labor Party.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
-Mr President I seek leave to move a motion. I am motivated by the fact that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is presently considering the proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which are before the Senate today. Although there has been partial consideration of the amendments by one of the judges of the Commission, in my opinion it is necessary for the Senate to postpone consideration of this matter to enable the report of the members of the Commission to come before the Senate. Because of those important considerations, I seek leave to move a motion.
I have put that proposition because more than ever before there is widespread resentment to the proposed amendments. The critics of those amendments include some most esteemed people who have been involved in industrial relations in the past. Included in that group is Sir Richard Kirby, a notable and distinguished Australian who was President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for many years. His criticisms of the amendments have been reported but perhaps they should be repeated briefly at this stage. Not only does he think that those amendments are bad for the purposes of the Act, but also he feels that constitutionally they mct, ay be invalid. Recently he said that the Government was trying to tell the Commission how to conduct its business and that he was quite certain that the new measures would lead to greater industrial trouble. Speaking in an Australian Broadcasting Commission radio program, he said that the amendments would have a bad effect on industrial relations. He stated:
Any legislation which requires the Commission to act in a particular way or prohibits it from acting in a particular way in the prevention or settlement of an industrial dispute is a very bad thing.
This is because the Commission is the Australian medium for dealing with these matters, not the Government. That’s the way the Constitution requires it and that’s the way it’s always worked.
He is a person who should be respected as an authority in these matters. Honourable senators also know that one of the judges has conveyed to the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street), by way of a report, his criticism of the amendments. I understand that that criticism is now supported by 24 other commissioners. The Senate has been told today that there is to be a meeting of the commissioners, judges and President to consider what are their views about this legislation. I do not know whether that meeting is to be a formal meeting of the Commission and can be accepted as such. It would be unfortunate indeed if the Senate were to consider and determine those matters without the expert views of the Commission. All honourable senators know that the commissioners have been appointed for their special abilities. We all know that the President of the Commission, whilst not being acceptable to some people in the community, is carrying out the objects of the Act. It would seem to the Opposition, and to many others, that the objects of the Act are not being preserved and that the Government is attempting to take away from the purposes of the Act that very important aspect of conciliation. I wish to read the pertinent section of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-76. Section 2 reads:
The chief objects of this Act are-
to promote goodwill in industry;
to encourage, and provide means for, conciliation with a view to amicable agreement, thereby preventing and settling industrial disputes;
to provide means for preventing and settling industrial disputes not resolved by amicable agreement, including threatened, impending and probable industrial disputes, with the maximum of expedition and the minimum of legal form and technicality;
to provide for the observance and enforcement of agreements and awards made for the prevention or settlement of industrial disputes;
to encourage the organization of representative bodies of employers and employees and their registration under this Act; and (0 to encourage the democratic control of organizations so registered and the full participation by members of such an organization in the affairs of the Organization.
It would seem from what has happened since the Fraser Government was elected that the advisers of the Government have decided that the laws relating to industrial relations ought to be tightened in respect to the trade union movement. There is no doubt that the proposals presently before the Senate are unprecedented. We had the occasion recently of the Government bringing before the Parliament and the Parliament passing, with opposition from the Labor Party, the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill whereby members of the Government’s own staff- the 300,000 workers in the Commonwealth Public Service- could be stood down. That is most unprecedented. We had the decision to amend the Trade Practices Act to enable it to be applied against the trade union movement in cases of boycott. Severe restrictions have been placed on boycotts.
There is no doubt that consideration was given to those matters in those cases and that they were opposed by the various groups affected. In respect of the proposals before the Senate today, there has been no expert advice. The Government has not asked the judges, commissioners or President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, or any other experts, what their views are about the legislation. It decided the matter in the National Labour Consultative Council at a time when the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations could not attend because they were then dealing with the other Bill to which I referred. In fact, no consideration has been given to the matter in the style of the previous Government. I remind the Senate that there has been a tradition in respect of industrial legislation in Australia for many years. I think back to the time of Prime Minister Holt, to Albert Monk, the President of the ACTU- I was a member of the ACTU in those days- and to Prime Ministers McMahon and Gorton, and always when important alterations to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act were contemplated there was consultation on a wide tripartite basis. Proposals such as these were always put before the parties for proper consideration. In the case of these proposed amendments there has been a very secretive arrangement. The people who have discussed it, including the back bench members of the Government parties, as far as I know have been bound to return copies of the proposals and no leaks of any consequence were made to people such as ourselves, who ought to be familiar with what is proposed. Nor did the Government wait until the ACTU and CAGEO were able to give consideration to these matters.
For those important reasons, which I have discussed in a preliminary way, I suggest that it would be wise, in everyone’s interest, for the Senate to adjourn this matter today. The Government has put its case, which is not agreed to by the Opposition or by those whom we call the experts in the field; nor is it agreed to by a number of commissioners, who have been specially selected by the Government, who take an oath of office, and who are bound by the procedures of the law about which I have just read. That is the law which is said to be challenged by the union movement. I wind up by saying that anybody can test what I am now going to say. I have said here a number of times that the major disputes affecting the Australian economy finally have been resolved by the ACTU and the ACTU President. That is the reason, of course, why Bob Hawke has such a popularity rating. Everybody sees him -
– He took his marbles home.
-Everybody, including some of the honourable senator’s Government Ministers, sees him as an important and necessary adjunct to the industrial scene. More often than not he is required to see what he can do to settle disputes, and he has done that. The vast resources and expertise and staff of the Government and the law often are unable to solve disputes, but the ACTU President, with his officers and in co-operation with employers and unions, is able to find solutions. How silly it is to think that at this stage that process can be changed, that we can set about allowing courts to be run along channelled lines, observing like robots, not being able to settle disputes on the basis of what the members know to be right but having to rely on a second person who knows nothing about a particular dispute and who does not know the industry, the panel or anything else. Mr President, in view of your courtesy in allowing me to move this motion, I trust that the Senate will give it due consideration. In the light of the economy and in the light of the issues before the Australian people and the union movement, it would be a good thing to adjourn this matter. The question of when the Senate again takes up the issue could be a matter for discussion between Senator Wriedt, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Attorney-General (Senator Durack).
-Is the motion seconded?
– Yes, I wish to second the motion. In seconding the motion so ably moved by Senator Bishop, I think we have to recognise that the Government is in somewhat of a predicament as a result of the proposals it has placed before the House of Representatives and for which it now seeks the endorsement of the Australian Senate. An unprecedented situation has developed since the Government contemplated its legislation. For the first time in Australia’s history, those associated with judicial inquiry into industrial affairs have seen fit to meet while the Parliament is considering this legislation. Never before have judges and Conciliation and Arbitration Commissioners decided to meet while the Parliament was giving consideration to this sort-of farreaching legislation. They have now taken this unique step of setting aside their somewhat judicial role in order to look at the legislation because they believe its far-reaching implications require their consideration before the Parliament finally assents to or amends the legislation. That step ought to be examined by the Government if it is concerned with looking at the legislation from the point of view of reviewing what it has proposed.
The Government is asking the Senate to approve this legislation while there is a meeting of those concerned with the administration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That Act has been in operation for many years and is in accordance with the Australian Constitution. This amending legislation will change the format and procedures of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and, as a consequence, it has aroused the interest, concern and deliberations of those who have been given the responsibility of adjudicating under the Act and implementing the decisions of the national Parliament. It is quite coincidental that some 50 years ago a conservative government and a conservative Prime Minister, Sir Stanley Bruce, sought to intervene and interfere in the processes of arbitration. We all know what happened as a result of this intervention. He was subsequently driven from public office because of his endeavours to interfere in the due processes of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
If the Senate has any regard for its review role it will consider very seriously the case that has been put so ably by my colleague Senator
Bishop. He has spent a lifetime of service not only in this place but also in the trade union movement. Senator Bishop has presented a sensible proposition to the Senate. Discussion is taking place in the conciliation and arbitration area, the judges and the conciliation commissioners are meeting, and we should bear in mind what has been said by Sir Richard Kirby, a former President of the Commission. The present President of the Commission, Sir John Moore, is involved in these discussions in Sydney today. Another judge has indicated his concern about the Government’s interference and intervention in this area, as have the commissioners of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, most of whom have been appointed by governments of the same political persuasion as the Government that is endeavouring to force this issue through the Senate. In a non-partisan way and, if one likes, in an all-party way, those men and women have decided that they should sit down in conference and examine this very farreaching piece of legislation, that they should have a formal meeting for this purpose for the first time in the history of industrial legislation in this country. That such steps should be taken indicates how important it is that the Senate ought to agree to the motion which has been moved by Senator Bishop.
There is no evidence of support for the farreaching legislation upon which we seek to adjourn debate. There is no evidence of support from either the employers’ organisations or even the media, as various editorial comments have indicated in recent times. There is no evidence of support from those who have been charged by the national Parliament through Executive Council- I refer to some 30 members of the judiciary- with the responsibility of putting into effect industrial relations aspects of national Parliament decisions. There is no evidence of support for the proposition within the Australian community. The Opposition asks the Senate not to proceed with the debate until it has received the views- may be the recommendations- of those persons who have been appointed by governments past and present for the purpose of carrying into effect the industrial relations aspects of the Australian Constitution. As such a thing has never happened before, and as there is no outstanding public demand for the legislation, we humbly submit to the Senate that the very simple process that we have suggested on this occasion be agreed to. The legislation should be set aside for a day or so for the purpose of considering the deliberations of those who have been charged with the responsibility of administering the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
- Senator Bishop has introduced a motion this afternoon to change the order of business of the Senate as it has been arranged on the Notice Paper.
– The Minister is not closing the debate, is he?
- Senator Bishop has done this by leave of the Senate and by leave of the Government, members of which are in the Senate and can refuse leave is they so desire. However, the Government has agreed to Senator Bishop’s moving his motion. The Government had listed the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act for consideration by the Senate yesterday, but owing to the illness of Senator Button who was scheduled to lead for the Opposition the Government agreed to the debate being postponed until today.
– That was only one minor consideration.
– Here we are today–
– Do not tell me that.
– If it were not due to that, let me say that the Government agreed to the postponement for whatever reasons there may have been.
– The reason was that we wanted it on today.
– The honourable senator says that the Opposition wanted the matter debated today. The Government has agreed to that. We have already agreed to a postponement of the consideration of this Bill for 24 hours. The Government has already indicated that it wishes the debate to proceed as soon as possible. The debate is listed for today and if it is not completed consideration will proceed tomorrow. The Government has indicated that it is anxious to have this debate as soon as possible and to have the matter fully considered by the Senate this week. It is in those circumstances that Senator Bishop has now moved to postpone the consideration of this measure by the Senate for what would be a completely indefinite period. The terms of his motion read:
That consideration of Government Business, Order of the Day No. 2, relating to the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1979, be postponed until the President, judges and commissioners of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission have reported upon the amendments and related matters in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
That proposal is based on the fact that the President of the Commission and some deputy presidents and commissioners- I do not know how many- have been meeting today on this matter at the request of some of the commissioners; I do not know how many deputy presidents made such a request. It is perfectly free for them to hold the meeting and to consider the Bill in the way they wish. They may or may not be reporting to the Government upon the amendments which are proposed in this Bill.
– But won’t their combined wisdom be of extreme value to you?
– As I have said, for one thing we do not know whether they will report on the amendments. We do not know when such a report will be made, if one is made, or what they propose to do with any report that they may draw up. I am simply saying that the motion by Senator Bishop is seeking an indefinite postponement of the consideration of this measure. No particular day is fixed under the terms of the motion as to when the Bill will be debated. There seems to be the gravest doubts, if the motion is passed, .when the Senate will proceed to the consideration of this measure.
The position is that the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which are listed on the Notice Paper for discussion in the Senate today as Government Business were introduced into another place on 20 September. Today, 17 October, we are about to discuss the matter in the Senate. There has been the most ample opportunity for members of this Parliament and for people concerned with this measure to express their views, and indeed, they have expressed their views as we are all well aware. The motion that Senator Bishop has proposed this afternoon is considered by the Government as only a delaying tactic in relation to this important measure which the Government wishes to see passed by the Parliament as soon as possible.
For those reasons, the Government is opposed to the motion that Senator Bishop has moved.
Senator Bishop has taken the opportunity, in speaking to his motion which is to delay consideration of this measure, to make a number of fairly broad statements about the Bill. He has made reference to the fact that the proposals are unprecedented and that the unions have not been consulted about them. The reason why the unions may not have expressed their views about these proposals is that they refused to attend the meeting of the National Labour Consultative Council at which it was foreshadowed these amendments would debated and considered.
These proposals were listed on the agenda for the meeting of the National Labour Consultative Council on 6 August this year. The Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Street, was advised that the unions would not attend that meeting. The Minister wrote to the unions on 26 July stressing the importance that the Government placed on the role of the Council and explaining the desirability of the unions attending this meeting. But the unions, for reasons of their own, decided not to attend. This body- the National Labour Consultative Council- which is representative of the Government, the peak union councils and the peak employer organisations, is set up for the express purpose of considering major changes to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act as well as other important industrial matters.
The Opposition is saying that it considers unprecedented changes are being made and that there ought to be consultation. When the Government provided the means and the opportunity- it gave a warning that these measures would be considered- at this meeting of the National Labour Consultative Council, the peak union councils did not attend. It is absurd for members of the Opposition to suggest that it is anybody’s fault except their own that an opportunity was not given to discuss these amendments with the Minister concerned. They have had plenty of other opportunities to make known their views, as have members of the Opposition.
This measure was first made public by the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Street, when he introduced it in another place on 20 September last. There has been a most ample opportunity for everyone concerned to study it and to express their views on it. As Senator Bishop made clear in his speech, plenty of views have been expressed on it. He referred to the views of Sir Richard Kirby which were expressed the day after, or at all events a short while after, the Bill was introduced. In the public arena we have had the views of Deputy President Staples and there have already been some Press reports of the views of the commissioners. Mr Street has received some comments from the commissioners on this legislation. As I said, the Government has had the benefit of a good deal of public debate and discussion about it. There has been a very full debate about it in the House of Representatives. The Government now wishes this debate to proceed in the Senate. It wished the debate to commence yesterday, but at the request of the Opposition it waited until today. The Government is most anxious that the Bill should be debated now and that that debate should commence forthwith. For that reason, I move:
– An undertaking was given that the Minister was not closing this debate. That is why I asked the question.
– When you inquired of me, Senator, I said that because the Minister would speak, he would not necessarily close the debate. That is what I thought you had asked me.
– What is the procedure now?
– I have before me the question ‘That the question be now put’. That must be put immediately.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Senator Bishop’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
- Mr President, I move:
That consideration of Government Business, Order of the Day No. 2, relating to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1979-
– Order! You must seek leave to move such a motion.
– I seek leave to move a motion.
-Is leave granted?
– I draw to the attention of the Attorney-General the fact that as yet Senator Harradine really has not had a chance to indicate what he wants to move. Surely, before refusing leave, the Attorney-General will at least ask Senator Harradine to explain his purpose in seeking it.
– Normal courtesy would require that Senator Harradine acquaint the Government with the terms of the motion he hopes to be granted leave to move. Senator Wriedt cannot possibly make that kind of assertion; it is up to Senator Harradine.
– I am happy to explain my purpose in seeking leave to move a particular motion. It was not possible for me to advise the Government of it because I voted for the previous proposal. I am moving it only to get out of the way the objections of the Government to the previous motion so that it can consider the proposition that I am about to put forward. The Government had two problems with the previous motion. The first was that there was no time for the matter to come on for debate. The second was that it focussed undue attention on a meeting of members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, presumably for the purpose of having private discussions with the Government. Therefore, I seek leave to move:
That consideration of Government Business, Order of the Day No. 2, relating to the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1 979, be postponed and be made an Order of the Day for Tuesday, 23 October 1 979.
That is the next sitting day but one. I seek leave to move that motion.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted. It is clearly the same proposal as that which we have already voted upon, and would not in any event be in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– Leave is not granted.
– May I move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Harradine from moving such motion?
– The honourable senator is at liberty to move that motion if he wishes.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Harradine moving:
That consideration of Government Business, Order of the Day No. 2, relating to the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1979, be postponed and be made an Order of the Day for Tuesday, 23 October 1979.
The general opinion is that there should be some adjournment.
– I rise to a point of order. Mr President, I seek your guidance. I draw your attention to Standing Order 133, which states that no question or amendment shall be proposed which is the same in substance as any question or amendment which, during the same session, has been resolved in the affirmative or negative. I submit that the motion to suspend Standing Orders is such a motion as would be in contravention of that Standing Order.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. My motion is that Standing Orders be suspended. When has that been moved already today? Where is the similarity? Any question that Senator Baume wishes to bring up will have to be resolved if we suspend the Standing Orders. I believe that I am legitimately acting in accordance with the provisions of Standing Orders in moving a motion that has not been moved in this House for some time, and certainly not on this question.
-The honourable senator is in order in moving the motion.
-Mr President, I congratulate you on making such a ruling. Indeed, I think that under the Standing Orders anyone who was impartial must so rule. I took it from the reply of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) that the Government wished to get this Bill through the Parliament and therefore sought assistance in its being given early consideration. Although the Government would perhaps be prepared to accommodate what the Senate would decide on Senator Bishop’s motion, as Senator Harradine said there were two considerations. The main consideration was that Senator Bishop’s motion contemplated an indefinite period. Perhaps it was with some justification; perhaps there was some reason for it. We were told of the effort that the Government would have to make to get this matter back on the Notice Paper so that the Senate could discuss it. Therefore, the Government did not accept the motion.
Senator Harradine has interpreted the Government’s reasons for opposing Senator Bishop’s proposition is the delay involved and is now moving a motion to overcome its objection. For such co-operation as he is offering the Government to be refused is not to be tolerated. He is endeavouring to help the Government, which itself could not find a solution to the dilemma in which Senator Bishop’s motion apparently placed it. There is today apparently no admiration for his talent, his co-operation and his capabilities. He should be given an opportunity to move his motion. If the Government then wants to shift ground and be hypocritical, it has a perfect right to do so. But that would be a matter for the future, after the Standing Orders are suspended.
– I second the motion. In the light of the fact that the Opposition, through Senator Bishop, has attempted to have the Senate suspend the consideration of the Bill to enable the commissioners of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to deliberate and report to this Parliament- the matter that prompted the motion in the first place- it is appropriate that Senator Cavanagh ‘s motion should be moved. If one recalls the discussion that took place on Senator Bishop’s motion, one will note that the Government was not prepared to debate that issue at all. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) simply got up, made a few comments and then gagged the debate. We were giving the Senate and the Parliament- indeed, the Government- the opportunity to await the report of the commissioners and let this issue cool a bit. Yet the Government slapped us down by the simple use of numbers. Senator Harradine- we support him- has endeavoured to rectify that position. I have just been given to understand from Senator Bishop that Mr Justice Moore is seeking consultation with the Government. That message exposes the confrontation nature of this Government. It almost certainly was known to the Government when Senator Bishop moved his original motion that Mr Justice Moore had conveyed that message to the Government. Despite that, the Government’s numbers were used in this chamber 10 minutes ago to crush any attempt to allow the commissioners to report to the Parliament. Senator Harradine ‘s request was also crushed and no doubt Senator Cavanagh ‘s motion will receive the same fate.
Just let the people of this country understand what the issue is. The issue is that this Government is determined to go ahead with legislation to confront the trade union movement. That is not simply an excuse or a whitewash of everything the trade union movement does. It is determined to bring on an issue at any opportunity it can get to smash any form of conciliation and arbitration in this country. When have we ever seen this position in the past? Every commissioner is saying this legislation is wrong? The Government is totalling ignoring everything the commissioners are saying unanimously. Here is an opportunity for the Government to talk calmly to those people and it is refusing to do so. It would rather force this legislation through the Parliament for the simple purpose of confronting the work force of this country. It is a disgraceful exhibition. I hope that if there is any sense of responsibility on the Government’s side in this chamber this afternoon, honourable senators opposite will support the motion moved by Senator
Cavanagh to enable Senator Harradine to bring on his motion.
Senator DURACK (Western Australia-
Attorney-General) (5.28)- This is just a further delaying tactic by the Opposition to prevent the debate in this Senate on the Government’s proposals to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. We have already debated the move to postpone consideration of it. This motion was moved by Senator Bishop and has been dealt with and voted upon. Senator Harradine has sought to reopen the same subject and Senator Cavanagh is now trying to assist him by moving for the suspension of Standing Orders to have the Senate repeat debate on a motion that has already been agreed to by the Senate only a few minutes ago this afternoon. It is a most patent ramp to delay completely the consideration of this measure. The Government wants the Senate to debate its proposals. It wanted the Senate to debate them yesterday but at the request of the Opposition it put off the debate until today. The Opposition is now trying to postpone the matter further. The Government wants the debate to proceed. I move:
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Cavanagh’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-I claim to have been misrepresented and I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-The Minister in charge of the House on two if not three occasions has said that the Opposition has endeavoured to avoid debate on this matter; that the Opposition sought to postpone the debate yesterday and that now it is obstructing the debate. Let us get the position clear. When the program was put down for this week, the Government put the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill down for debate -
– I take a point of order. I do not believe that this is a personal explanation.
– I will hear the honourable senator on my left.
– He is debating the issue.
– When the program for this week was put down the Government intended to debate the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill on Tuesday. Then, for some reason, it proposed to pass over Wednesday, broadcast day, and proceed to debate it again on Thursday. In fact what the Government was endeavouring to do, and the Opposition objected to it- at least I objected to it on behalf of the Opposition -
– This is the personal explanation you are making.
– Yes. It is a personal explanation by the Opposition Whip. The proposition that we put to the Government was that we would like the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to be debated without interruption, and we thought that the Bill was important enough to be debated on broadcast day. We did not want to avoid the debate on broadcast day, as would have happened under the program laid down. We also mentioned that Senator Button was ill. It was fairly clear before the end of the day that Senator Button would not be available for the whole of the week. Nevertheless the Government did take that into consideration and did announce it. We sought the postponement from yesterday because, firstly, the Bill should be debated throughout without interruption, and, secondly, it should be debated on broadcast day. It is no use the Minister saying in this place that we endeavoured, or are endeavouring, to avoid debate on this day.
Senator HARRADINE (Tasmania)Pursuant to Standing Order No. 408 I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– No doubt unintentionally and with the best will in the world, the Government Whip suggested that I had not observed the normal courtesy of showing to the Government a motion in respect of which it was necessary for the mover to seek leave. I wish to explain to the Senate that obviously I had no time to observe that normal courtesy because the debate on Senator Bishop’s motion had been concluded. The vote had just concluded when 1 had to seek that leave. So in fact there was not sufficient time for me to observe the normal courtesies.
Debate resumed from 1 1 October, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-There has been an extraordinary turn of events in the Senate this afternoon. While Senator Wriedt was talking we received information about the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission seeking consultations with the Government. I only hope that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack), the Minister who is sitting on the other side, did not know about that request from the Commission. If he did it would seem to me that he was concealing an important fact from the Senate one which would have great significance in determining whether we should adjourn or pass the legislation. He has not yet offered the information. I invite him to indicate to the Senate whether, when we were debating this matter, he knew exactly what is now the big news. I would suggest that there will be a sensation in the sphere of industrial relations when it is known that the Commission requested an invitation from the Government to discuss legislation when it had not been invited so to do.
When I spoke earlier on this matter I asked the Attorney-General whether he could tell us anything new about these things. I also asked: What is the urgency about this proposition? Was it, in the first place, because the Government expected to have an early Federal election and it thereby released the statement very secretly. We know now that it was a very secretive deal and that, honourable senators on the other side were not allowed to hold the copies of the amendments that were put before them and which they were asked to support. That situation was concealed. It is now public knowledge. Why is it that the Government at this late stage is turning away from all the recognised procedures that have been established over the years? I have previously referred to the procedure whereby the Government always consults with important bodies; in this case, the trade union movement, the employers and the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. We want to know why the Government has not done that in this case. Why is it that the statement from Mr Justice
Staples was so dealt with by Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Street. Why is it that he has been shilly-shallying with the information he has given to the Parliament. Will Senator Durack, the Attorney-General, do the same as the Minister did? We now know, because the information has been revealed, that the Minister had a copy of the submission from Mr Justice Staples. Yesterday, in answer to a question asked in the House of Representatives by Mr Lionel Bowen, Mr Street at page 20 10 of Hansard stated: . . I did not release the so-called Staples statement.
At 3.23 p.m. yesterday in the House of Representatives during the discussion of a matter of public importance Mr Street said:
I refer to a question asked of me at Question Time today by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) in which he asked whether any member of my staff made available copies of a statement by Mr Justice Staples dated 28 September 1979 concerning the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that were then before the House. I have ascertained that subsequent- I stress that word subsequent’- to that document being made a matter of public record, specifically on the ABC radio program PM on the evening of 1 1 October, a member of my staff made copies available to several members of the Press Gallery. I point out that this was some hours after the comments were made public. The initial release of this document was not made by my office but by persons unknown to me or to any person in my office.
The facts are that PM had sighted a document but it was not able to quote from it. The release of the document in that way was most unusual. One would have thought that the Minister for Industrial Relations, having had such an important document, would have instantly reported to the Parliament about it, criticised it, supported it or requested more consultations. Despite what Senator Durack has said, up till now there have not been any consultations. Of course, it is true that the views of important people have been put in the public arena and to the Government, but as to consultations, there have been none in the real sense of the word. It is a practice that of course has been observed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions which made it clear to the Government that at no time was it in fact invited to any consultations.
– That is not right.
– They were invited to a meeting of the National Labour Consultative Council. The Attorney-General and Senator Walters well know the reason for that. At that time the ACTU was developing a campaign against the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment) Bill which had been passed in this Parliament. The Government delayed with its proclamation. The ACTU decided- rightly so in my opinion- at that stage to withdraw from the
Council. If the Government believes in the procedure which has been carried on by every Liberal Prime Minister since the war why did it not get around the table with the ACTU and the bosses and ask the courts what to do. The Government is carrying on in a very secretive way. This raises the question: Why is it that Mr Street is dodging the issue? What is his purpose in leaking the information on Mr Justice Staples’ point of view? Would it not have been better in regard to industrial relations to have made some observations in the Parliament and in the public arena about the statement? We are confronted with extraordinary powers which are to be given to the Government. It is almost a conspiracy.
We know- I think we know- from the information we have that this report was produced without consultation and contrary to the advice of the Department of Industrial Relations. I understand that in the other place my colleagues said that they had full confidence that Mr Street would not put forward the statement. It has come in a very secretive way. In the House of Representatives the debate on this matter has been gagged twice. In this place the debate on the matter has been gagged. If Senator Durack ‘s argument against my proposition that we should await the report of the Commission was that he wanted more time, why did he not move that there should be a time limit placed upon an adjournment? Why did the Government not support Senator Harradine ‘s reasonable proposition? Members of the Labor Party are certainly concerned about this matter. I will refer to the expressed concern about Mr Street’s attitude by quoting a statement just issued by Mr Lionel Bowen, the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. It is headed: ‘Mr Street and the Staples Letter’. He said:
The Minister for Industrial Relations Mr Street has now misled the Parliament twice in two days over the circulation by his office staff to press gallery journalists of the Staples letter.
After persistent evasion, Mr Street was finally forced today to admit that he knew at 9.00 p.m. on Thursday 1 1 October that his office staff were making the Staples letter available selectively to journalists.
Yet he told the Parliament at Question Time yesterday: The first point that I make is that I did not release the socalled Staples statement ‘.
The release of the private letter was clearly designed as part of a move to discredit Mr Justice Staples because of his strong professional criticism of the Government’s latest industrial relations legislation.
The morning after he circulated the letter, both Mr Street and the Prime Minister passed derogatory remarks about Mr Justice Staples ‘ background.
Mr Street has sought to j justify the letter ‘s release by saying it was revealed first on the ABC radio program PM.
He said on PM last night and reiterated again in the Parliament today that he had received verification from someone connected with the program that they held Mr Justice Staples’ letter.
This claim is false. The Canberra reporter for the program was still trying to get a copy of the Staples’ letter from Mr Street ‘s own office late last Thursday night.
It is clear thai Mr Street decided to release a private letter from a senior member of the Arbitration Commission after the PM report in order to embarrass its author.
He went on with similar criticisms. I am concerned about the whole issue in this matter. I would have thought that in the circumstances of what has happened today the Attorney-General would have been up on his feet. I have a document in front of me which states:
Sydney, 17 October. The President of the Federal Arbitration Commission, Sir John Moore, will seek talks with Federal Industrial Relations Minister, Mr Tony Street, about the Government’s amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. 1 suggest that that is enough for Government senators to get up on their feet and adjourn this debate as a matter of urgency. After they have discussed the matter, which they can do quite easily this evening, they can take it up again tomorrow morning because, in addition to the trade union movement, the Labor Party and the experts to which 1 have referred, they should have the Commission ‘s submissions before them. The Government has taken action to turn the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission into just an arbitration court and a missile of the Government. I shall continue with the information I have about what happened this afternoon. The telex from Sydney continues:
Sir John discussed the amendments today with a number of senior presidential members of the Commission and the Executive of the Commissioners ‘ Association.
A statement released by Sir John late today described the talks as ‘an informal discussion ‘.
The statement said that as a result of these discussions it was agreed that the President should seek an opportunity to discuss the ‘consultative’ provisions of the legislation with the Minister.
– Oh, so it is not all there.
– Why does the honourable senator not ask to adjourn the debate? The message continues:
The amendments which came before the Senate today, have been condemned by a Commission Deputy President, Mr Justice James Staples, and criticised in telexes sent to the Government by all of the 25 Commissioners.
Opposition senators- All of them!
– All of them; not just one, the lot. Should not that be enough for this Government to ask that the debate be now adjourned? It would get the appreciation, not only of the Parliament, but also of the people outside concerned about the future of workers, about employment and the role of arbitration in the Australian economy. I am surprised by the actions of Mr Street in other directions. Honourable senators know that I quoted earlier the objectives of the Act. Most people know them now. They know that an important part of the Act is not just arbitration. It is a question of conciliation, to settle by amicable arrangements after hearing evidence. The person who hears the evidence is highly qualified to hear it. He has to decide whether the dispute is an important one and how it should be resolved. When he makes that determination, no other person should intervene unless there is an appeal against the decision. He is the expert. He is the one who knows all about it. These are the objectives of the Arbitration Commission which have stood with us since the Act started. We should be very mindful of those objectives before we start making any alterations to the Act. I will quote from what Mr Street said on PM on 16 October 1979. He was asked by Geoff Duncan:
Are you still going to persist with the legislation?
Mr Street said:
Yes we will because for four reasons really. There ‘s a need to get the greatest degree of consistency internally in the commission and its wages decisions and the requirement for commissioners to consult. It doesn’t take away their right to make an ultimate decision but is designed to get greater consistency. There’s a need for the president to be able to take over a dispute at any time or any of the parties or the Minister to seek a Full Bench. That need has been demonstrated in recent days. Not having it made a great deal of industrial disruption and there’s finally a need to protect the public interest where the safety health and welfare . . .
Look at the great blanket, the ambit of this proposition of the community’s involvement. He continued:
So yes we intend to go ahead with it for all those reasons.
Later Mr Street said:
Yes of course it can because the institutions which are set up by the Parliament and the legislation that they operate under, are required to operate in accordance with the law and that applies to the range of institutions including this one. So long as the constitutional requirements are met and our advice is that they have been.
We have not heard yet the answer from the Attorney-General, Senator Durack, as to the serious criticisms that were made by Sir Richard Kirby and Mr Justice Staples about whether the proposed amendments were constitutional. I suggest that he is required to answer those matters in the sense that the documents have now been made public. If there is something in the propositions which have been held by the Government, it should be told to the Senate. The Attorney-General is obliged to order that that should be done.
Before I close my remarks for the suspension of the sitting, may I talk about the National Labour Consultative Council. As I mentioned earlier- this was told to the Government- the Autralian Council of Trade Unions told the Government that it was not only prepared to talk about this Bill, but prior to the Budget Mr Hawke told the Government that it was prepared to discuss anything affecting the economy and that he would go along to the Government. The Government was told that not only this year but also in previous years. As far as the ACTU is concerned, it has always been a body which has believed in tripartite discussions. As I have already said, I was myself involved with some of the people concerned. I can assure honourable senators that the former Prime Minister of this country was only too anxious to get the views of the ACTU and of the trade union movement in important matters because that is the way the main issues of the day were resolved. I will continue my remarks later.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Before the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill resumes, I seek leave to make a short statement.
– He can make a long one if he likes.
– It will be a short statement. It is simply to inform the Senate that the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has confirmed that Sir John Moore, the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, approached him late this afternoon following a meeting that the President had with a number of senior presidential members of the Commission and the executive of the Commissioners’ Association. Sir John Moore sought a meeting with the Minister to discuss the consultative provisions contained within the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which the Senate is in the process of debating. Mr Street has arranged to meet Sir John Moore this evening, as requested.
In light of the fact that Sir John Moore has sought to discuss with Mr Street simply the consultative provisions of the Bill, which are one part of a number of amendments contained in this Bill, and that at this stage the Government has no knowledge of what proposals or questions relating to that will be discussed, it is the Government’s view that this debate should continue. The debate is on the second reading of the Bill; it is on the principles of the Bill. There will be ample time for any questions that may arise in discussion between Mr Street and Sir John Moore to be reported on or considered when the debate on the Bill proceeds tomorrow. As a number of honourable senators are interested in speaking to this Bill, it is quite obvious that the second reading debate will not be completed this evening. The debate will continue tomorrow. The Committee stages will then be dealt with. There will be no question of getting into the detail of the matter tonight. It is the Government’s view that the debate should continue.
– I now call Senator Bishop.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
– I also seek leave to make a statement.
– Order! I have already given the call for the resumption of the second reading debate.
– Before the resumption, I seek leave to make a statement.
– I have also sought leave to respond to the remarks of the Attorney-General. It would take up my speaking time if I were to do it in any other way. I am leading for the Opposition.
– Order ! I have given the call to Senator Bishop because he is in continuation with his speech.
- Mr President, the point we are putting to you is that a statement has been brought down by the Attorney-General and we are seeking leave to respond to that statement. That is what Senator Bishop is endeavouring to do. It ought not to intrude upon his debating time.
– I am quite prepared to give leave to Senator Bishop to make a statement in response to my statement.
Senator BISHOP (South Australia)-I wish to make a quick response to the remarks of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). What he has said seems to reinforce what the Opposition has been putting to the Government today. The members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission have now talked amongst themselves about the issues and decided to ask the Government to discuss the question of consultation, which is a fundamental matter of concern. It has to be interpreted in relation to the terms of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In the circumstances, I would have hoped that the Attorney-General would adjourn the debate, because this matter can be dealt with at other times. I regard what the Attorney-General has said as a partial retreat from the Government’s strong position and as an acknowledgement that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should have its views considered. I hope that as a result of that consideration the matter will be adjourned until tomorrow.
– I seek leave to make a statement on this question.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
- Mr President, I seek leave to move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Cavanagh, Senator Georges and Senator McLaren making statements on the matter.
– Order! This is a most unusual situation. All honourable senators will agree with that. The fact is that the AttorneyGeneral has made a statement in respect of certain events that have taken place this afternoon. He made that statement prior to my calling Senator Bishop, as I normally would have done. The time which Senator Bishop took to respond to the statement was not included in his normal speaking time. I now call on Senator Bishop to continue his speech without further interruption.
– I wish to take a point of order. I sought leave of the Senate to move that the Standing Orders be suspended. I now move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Cavanagh, Senator Georges and Senator McLaren making statements on the matter.
– I have consulted the Clerk in respect of this unusual situation. It is unusual in that under normal circumstances I would have called on Senator Bishop to continue his speech. The Attorney-General sought leave to make a brief statement, and did so with the concurrence of the Senate. That statement having been made, I then called Senator Bishop. The honourable senators who have been referred to in the matter of who should speak if Senator O ‘Byrne’s proposition were accepted will have an opportunity to speak in the debate which lies ahead. I feel that it is incumbent on me now to call on the speaker who was entitled to the. call but who was interrupted when leave was given for certain information to be made available for the assistance of honourable senators in their speeches tonight. The time taken for that has not been taken out of that which is allowed to Senator Bishop for his speech. I now call upon Senator Bishop to continue his speech.
- Mr President, as you may recall, the Opposition has stated that the changes proposed by the Government will tend to undermine the role and position of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and will impede its statutory function. In particular, the changes proposed by the legislation include a requirement for consultation by commissioners, which is the subject that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has stated is to be considered by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and the President of the Commission, I presume tomorrow. Of course, that is one of the fundamental issues in the amendments. The Bill also deals with the question of the jurisdiction of the Commission regarding strike pay; the manner of dealing with stand-down applications; the question of references of matters to a Full Bench; the withdrawal of matters from a single member of the Commission where the President so decides; and, more importantly, the issue of the deregistration of unions, about which we are very much concerned. In the short time I have available may I mention some of the matters which concern us and which have been mentioned in other places. The basic question relates to proposed new section 22a in clause 3 of the Bill, which states:
That is a fundamental weakness in the proposed amendment, as we see it. As I said earlier, the commissioners are people specially selected from the community, people with expertise who take an oath of office and who usually are skilled in the industry to which they are assigned. Any proposition such as the one now proposed would simply prevent the proper settlement of disputes.
I know from experience that in the settling of disputes or wages claims the parties usually want to know whether they can settle the matter in front of the commissioner to whom they are talking. If the commissioner or the person to whom the parties are talking had to go to somebody to relate these matters second hand, then in the opinion of the Opposition and, of course, of the ACTU that would be a bad thing. It would add to the difficulties and should be proposed.
The next important alternation which concerns the Opposition is proposed new section 25a in clause 4 of the Bill, which deals with the limitation of powers of the Commission. The proposed new section states:
The Commission is not empowered to make an award, certify a memorandum of agreement, make a recommendation or take any other action, whether by way of conciliation or arbitration, in respect of a claim for the making of a payment to employees in respect of a period during which those employees were engaged in industrial action.
This is a very serious matter. It may be argued that while the court may consider that certain action constitutes industrial action, it is often action which concerns a question of safety or something of that type. This legislation would impose some restriction on the Commission. As to a reference to the Full Bench, under section 34 it has been stated here and elsewhere that it would be unfair and, I think, inconsistent with the ideas of industrial relations if a presidential member could pick up a matter from a commissioner and refer it to a Full Bench simply because this section had been put into the Act. Such a practice would certainly be unsatisfactory and should not be permitted. In dealing with section 25a and the question of industrial action, may I mention situations which come to mind in the building industry and in the railways industry in particular. There are occasions in the railways industry when, because of heavy rain or because of construction, it may be inopportune for members of the shunting staff to work. They could not work in flooded yards. If they decided to put a ban on work performance’ and yet had to be available for other work, that could be action that would come under this section and they could be described as workers ‘engaged in industrial action’.
– It is the only recourse they have to get speedy action.
-Of course, and the honourable senator would know, being an exrailway employee. In the building industry and in the engineering and waterworks areas circumstances often arise where shuttering fails- that is the formwork keeping up walls where there are excavations- and the employees decide not to work in those conditions unless the boss makes some safety arrangements. These problems are usually caused by the employer not making adjustments, not taking reasonable safety precautions. However, in those circumstances it is possible that the workers would come under the general provisions of section 25a if they put a ban on the work and said: ‘We will not work under those unsafe conditions but we will work somewhere else’. That is a very dangerous position.
One of the worst sections is section 143A, under which it is possible for the Minister, when he thinks fit, to apply to the Commission and, if he succeeds, in fact to control the operations of the union members and of the organisations. Proposed new section 143a in clause 16 states:
Where, on application by the Minister, a Full Bench is satisfied that-
an organisation has been or is, or two or more members of an organization have been or are, engaged in industrial action; and
the industrial action has had, is having, or is likely to have, a substantial adverse effect on the safety, health or welfare of the community or of a part of the community, the Full Bench shall make a declaration that it is so satisfied and cause the declaration to be recorded in writing.
A Minister by his own action can march before the Full Bench, and the Full Bench obviously has to make the declaration if there is what is claimed to be a substantial adverse effect on the safety, health or welfare of the community, which could be anything. It could be isolated action in a rural area; it could be a Telecom strike; it could be a railway strike. As a result, there is overpowering control over the organisation, over the members of the organisation, and over the property and funds of the organisation. Proposed new section 143A (2) states:
Where a declaration is made under sub-section (1) . . . the Governor-General may-
at any time within the period of 6 months after the making of the declaration, by order in writing under his hand, direct the Registrar to cancel the registration of the organisation;
Perhaps that would not be difficult for the union because it may say: ‘We will go outside the arbitration machinery and set up our own organisation. ‘ But sub-paragraph ( b ) states: at any time, or from time to time, within the period of 6 months, by order in writing, exercise any one or more of the following powers:
This means that, as Mr Cameron in the other place has pointed out, a dispute which takes place in the north of Australia affecting a small group of people servicing a generator plant or something of that nature could well have a general effect on the whole of the membership of the union. In defence, it is argued by the Minister that there has to be a substantial adverse effect on the safety, health and welfare of the community. This is a very serious blanket provision which will result generally in overall control. In modern society no organisation will put up with that sort of control. In fact, as honourable senators will see, by vesting in the Minister the ability to apply immediately to a Full Bench, the Bill brings directly into the ambit of industrial relations action by the Executive, by the Minister, to do something to control a trade union. It will not only mean control of the trade union but also will make sure that the person involved can be inhibited from working, and their property and rights within the union controlled.
If this sort of action is sustained workers will combine, as they did in the early days, and I remind honourable Senators of how the trade union movement in Australia first grew. It grew by combinations. Combination Acts were passed by State legislatures and master and servant Acts were passed to protect those combinations. In the legislation before us tonight certain proposals are made. I hope, from what we now know about the intervention of the Commission itself, that these matters will be altered. It is obvious that the Commission considers that the position of consultation imperils the rights and the effectiveness of a commissioner. I am certain that in the days when Senator Cavanagh, Senator Mulvihill, Senator Gietzelt and I were union officials and we operated in the industrial area we would not have put up with talking to a commissioner or chairman of a conciliation board unless we knew that he had the powers to settle a dispute. If the provision is changed the whole basis of what has happened in Australia in the past will be altered. It is a backward step. 1 agree with Mr Justice Staples who said that the proposed amendments are not reforms of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has already agreed that a reform of the Act is needed. Some of the national newspapers have said that they think there is a need to consider changes to the Act. The ACTU would go along with that. But the changes have to be tested amongst people who work in the field. They have to be tested by experts. I suggest to the Government, in view of what has been said today and what has developed concerning the Commission, that it give very due and strong regard to having this matter adjourned some time tomorrow for a week or two until it is more clearly defined.
-The Senate is debating the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1 979. It appears that the main thrust of the Opposition’s objection to this legislation is based, firstly, on some objections taken by His Honour Mr Justice Staples to the legislation and, secondly, on some alleged objections taken by other members of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Let me deal with the second part first. It seems to me that the Opposition has done what the Press has done today. It has misquoted and taken out of context something said by the President of the Commission today. It has tried to draw wrong and wide conclusions about what was said. The summary of Newsvoice that was passed around the Senate late this afternoon in relation to this matter contained a news item that Sir John Moore intended to discuss the Federal Government’s proposed amendment to the country’s industrial laws- I emphasise the plural- with the Federal Government. In a later part of the Newsvoice summary was the actual quotation from Sir John Moore. It appears that he is not to discuss the country’s industrial laws at all. Let me read what Sir John apparently said. I quote from Newsvoice:
An informal discussion took place this afternoon about the consultative provisions of the proposed new legislation.
– Are they not the main portions of the legislation?
– It is quite clear that what Sir John intends to talk to the Government about is one of the seven amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. This Bill contains seven provisions to amend the Act. Sir John intends to talk about one of those provisions. We do not know what he wants to talk to the Government about in relation to the consultative provisions. It may be that he wants to discuss with the Government how they will work. We do not know what it is that he intends to talk to the Government about, but the Opposition has drawn a conclusion quite invalidly -
Opposition senators interjecting-
– Order! Honourable senators will have their opportunity to speak later. We have extended courtesies across the House today. This must continue. I call Senator
Lewis to continue his speech without interjections. Other honourable senators will have an opportunity to speak later.
– It is quite clear from Sir John Moore’s statement that we do not know what he wants to talk to the Government about other than that it is in relation to the consultative provisions. But the Opposition has drawn the conclusion that he wants to criticise those provisions.
– Of course he should.
– One wonders why the Opposition could possibly draw that conclusion.
– Why don’t you wait and see?
– I want to refer to those provisions.
– You may as well talk about the Japanese long-liners.
– Order! lt is essential in this place that decorum be maintained. Interjections are highly disorderly. Each honourable senator is entitled to be heard in silence. This decorum is respected by some honourable senators and not by others. We must ensure that honourable senators, when called, may speak in silence. Subsequent speakers can reply to what was said. I call Senator Lewis.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the ruling.
– It was not a ruling; it was an admonition.
– Thank you, Mr President. I was very interested to hear -
– Two of us cannot speak at the one time. I wish to speak to the ruling.
- Senator Georges, do you wish to raise a point of order?.
- Mr President, you have made a ruling. I wish to speak to it.
– Is this a point of order?
– Well, I seek leave to speak to the ruling which the President has just made.
– You cannot interrupt another speaker.
– Are you going to give me leave?
– Order! Senator Georges, are you raising a point of order?
– I sought leave to speak. Apparently honourable senators opposite are not going to grant it.
– When an honourable senator is speaking relevant points of order may be raised, but nothing else. I call Senator Lewis.
– In order to correct the situation may I say to you, Mr President, that I sought leave to make a statement upon the ruling which you gave?
– Points of order may be raised. There should be no other interruptions to the speech. I call Senator Lewis.
– Surely, Mr President–
– No. Surely I can seek leave to speak at any time. Is that not correct?
– You cannot.
– I cannot seek leave?
– You cannot seek leave to interrupt an honourable senator who is speaking. There should be no interruptions. Be seated please. I call Senator Lewis.
– It fascinates me to hear Senator Cavanagh claiming that the consultative provisions are the most important provisions of the Bill. I am glad to hear- I hope it is recorded for posterity- that he does not consider the deregistration provisions to be the most important provisions in the legislation.
– He is an idiot.
– The consultative provisions simply require–
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I distinctly heard a Government senator say that Senator Cavanagh was an idiot.
– I withdraw.
– I ask that the remark be withdrawn.
– That is an unparliamentary word and must be withdrawn.
– I have withdrawn.
– May I make a personal explanation, Mr President?
– No, you cannot interrupt the debate. The point of order has been ruled upon.
– It is wrong if someone calls you an idiot and you cannot confirm or deny it.
– No point of order is involved.
– The consultative provisions require a commissioner to consult with his deputy president before making or varying an award relating to wages and conditions. Those consultative provisions are simply an attempt to get some uniformity in the decisions being made by the Commission. It is generally known that commissioners do, in fact, consult among themselves and consult with deputy presidents. All that this legislation requires is that the commissioners should have those consultations before they come down with an award or a determination. The purpose of that is quite clear. It is an attempt to gain some uniformity in the decisions. Clearly, commissioners throughout Australia are making decisions on similar matters, and it is important that there be uniformity.
Mr Justice Staples apparently has indicated that he does not like the requirement. Mr Justice Staples states in his letter that the requirement is that a commissioner shall submit the case to the deputy president. The legislation does not provide that a commissioner shall submit a case to the deputy president; it provides that the commissioner shall consult with his deputy president before he brings down his award. A consultation is quite different from a submission to a deputy president. I think, quite frankly, that Mr Justice Staples has got the bull by the horns.
The Government’s role in this legislation is to represent the people in the community. The Government’s role is to establish in the society a framework in which people may, within reason, do their thing, lt necessarily follows that in protecting the community- the public that we are here to serve- from industrial disputes, the Government must set down some laws and a framework for industrial relations negotiations to carry on. We know that during Labor’s term of office many of the unions went crazy with their demands, and the industrial strife that occurred during Labor’s term of office was one of the reasons that Labor was thrown out of office. In December 1975 my Government was elected with a clear mandate to rectify this problem. Many people in the community thought that my Government would enter office with an attitude towards industrial relations of savagely wielding an axe. That was what was anticipated would happen. People kept talking about confrontation in industrial relations and alleging that this Government would involve itself in confrontation. That proved to be untrue.
This Government’s industrial relations policy was developed in a spirit of co-operation to promote understanding and a consensus in the interests of employers, employees and the community. Looking back over four years of government it is clear that this policy has contributed to the re-establishment in Australia of a sound framework for reasoned conduct of industrial relations. This Government will continue that policy. This Government has not forgotten its mandate in relation to this subject. How could it do so when so many people claim that it has not been acting sufficiently strongly.
What is happening today? Let us look at the most recent publication from the Australian Bureau of Statistics concerning industrial disputes for June 1979. That discloses that in June 1979 1,582,300 working days were lost by 1,199,400 workers involved in 2 13 disputes. The number of working days lost in June 1979 is the highest recorded for any month since July 1976. Clearly the Government cannot allow that situation to continue. The loss of wages for the six months ended June 1979 was estimated at $9 1.5m. This country, which is suffering the pangs of unemployment, cannot afford that loss of income. It is absolutely essential that the gross national product be maintained. For the six months ending June 1979 we lost nearly 2,500,000 working days. Who is paying for those lost working days? Clearly the community is bearing the burden. One part of the community which is bearing that responsibility is the unemployed. I drive that home to the Opposition- it is the unemployed who are suffering very much from these industrial disputes, which quite clearly members of the Opposition support. What is our Government doing about it? The first thing that it is doing about it is to introduce these amendments to this legislation.
Opposition senators interjecting-
– I refer honourable senators to Standing Order 438. If the persistent and wilful disregard of the authority of the Chair when I call for order continues, it will have to attract sanctions. I call Senator Lewis.
– This Bill does a number of things to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The first thing that it does, which apparently according to Senator Cavanagh is the most important thing, is to require commissioners to consult with deputy presidents before making or varying awards relating to wages or conditions. I have referred already to that provision. The commissioners are involved in dealing with a complex range of awards and the aim of this provision is to introduce consistency in their awards. I suggest to the Senate that it is not unreasonable to require the commissioners to talk to one another and to their deputy president before they bring down these important determinations.
The second provision is to prohibit the Commission from acting to make employers provide back pay when employees are involved in industrial action. I am sure that the community thoroughly approves of the provision that the Commission shall not require employers to provide back pay while employees are involved in industrial action. The third provision is to speed up the hearing of stand-down applications. Surely that is a matter of vital concern, especially for the small employers in Australia who perhaps have no work available and whose only alternative would be to dismiss their staff unless there is an urgent application to hear a stand-down matter. The next provision in the legislation is to extend the matters which may be referred to a Full Bench. This overcomes some difficulties which were evident in the telecommunications employees bans and limitations arrangements early this year. The next provision is to extend the powers of the President to take over matters which are before another member of the Commission. Finally, there is a provision to extend the deregistration provisions. I will come back to those provisions because in my view, notwithstanding what Senator Cavanagh says, they are by far the most important provisions in the legislation.
I draw the Senate ‘s attention to the lengthy list of things which this Bill does. Yet the only matter which Sir John Moore wishes to discuss with the Government is the consultative provisions. As I said previously, we do not know what he wants to talk to the Government about with regard to those consultative provisions. I suspect that it will simply be a question of discussing how the Government will implement those provisions. I put to the Senate that all of those provisions simply extend the Government’s industrial relations policy, so far carried out quite successfully, of protecting the public as much as it can from industrial disputes and at the same time promoting a framework for reasoned conduct of industrial relations. There are three parties to industrial relations negotiations. There are not just the employees, as the Opposition would have us believe. There are also the employers and- very much to the forefront in this place of debate- the public. Sir John Egerton has pointed out that only about 20 individuals in the trade union movement cause most of the trouble. This Bill provides measures which will enable them to be dealt with. I am sure that that will have the support of the whole of the community, including many members of trade union movements who voted for us at the last election. I will come back to those measures when I deal with the criticism -
Opposition senators interjecting-
- Mr President, on a point of order, I draw your attention to Standing Order 422.
-1 have referred to that Standing Order myself. I am watching matters closely. Please be seated. I call Senator Lewis.
- Senator MacGibbon was on his feet raising a point of order. I have heard no ruling on it. I could not even hear the point of order. What is he raising?
– There was no point of order. There was reference to a Standing Order to which I responded by saying that I had referred to it myself. I called on Senator Lewis to carry on his speech. I call Senator Lewis.
– I want to turn now to what the Labor Party is doing about this matter and its policy in relation to it. 1 would like to quote, strangely enough, from an editorial in the Canberra Times of Monday, 15 October. 1 say strangely enough’ because this newspaper is not noted for its support of this Government. I would like to quote from this editorial because I think it deals with this matter very succinctly.
Opposition senators interjecting-
– Order! Honourable senators will have the opportunity to speak in due time. One speaker at a time in this place is sufficient. I call Senator Lewis.
-The editorial states: the extent to which Labor spokesmen were prepared to go to defend the trade-union movement was unnerving.
That is a comment on the debate on this legislation which took place in the House of Representatives last week. The editorial continues:
Their defence of the unions was absolute: it permitted no qualification . . .
– Hear, hear!
– An honourable senator opposite said, ‘ hear, hear! ‘ The editorial continues:
Their defence of the unions was absolute: it permitted no qualification and no restraint on union behaviour. Anybody inclined to discount the extent to which a Labor Government would consider itself bound by that part of the platform that grants trade unions exemptions from the law and parliamentary control would be well advised to think again.
– That is sheer rubbish. Mr President, I appeal to you. Such provocative statements by Senator Lewis merely lead to disorder on this side of the House. It is useless for you to try to apply the Standing Orders if Senator Lewis, quoting from an editorial, is to make statements of that sort.
– Order! Senator Georges you are in breach of Standing Order 422 by interrupting an honourable senator when he is making a speech.
– How can I be when Senator Lewis makes such provocative statements.
– That is in itself not a point of order. I direct the honourable senator to be seated and call on Senator Lewis to continue his speech.
– I quote further from the editorial:
Some of the propositions that have come from senior Labor spokesmen during the past few weeks have been preposterous. The Deputy Leader, Mr Bowen, endorsed the political strike. Other spokesmen have said strikers should not be required to forfeit their wages. Others have said that the Government should be compelled to reimburse workers stood down as the indirect result of a strike.
Opposition senators-Hear, hear!
-I would like Hansard to record the hear, hears which are coming from the Opposition senators.
– What an idiot you are turning out to be.
– Order! Senator McAuliffe, you cannot call an honourable senator an idiot. I direct you to withdraw. It is not parliamentary language.
– But Senator Missen used it against Senator Cavanagh.
– He withdrew immediately.
– I will withdraw.
– He is an idiot for making such statements.
– Order! The honourable senator will withdraw.
– Yes, I will withdraw my calling Senator Lewis an idiot for the statements that he has been making. I will withdraw that comment.
– That editorial just about sums up Labor’s policy in regard to industrial relations. It has only one policy: That the unions may live outside of the law; that the public has no rights at all, that the unions are supreme and shall not be required to submit to any control. The people of Australia would be well advised to think very seriously about what a Labor government would do with the trade unions, about what would be the consequences for them of having a government composed of the people who are sitting opposite tonight.
Turning now to criticism of the legislation, I say that it seems that the public supports the Bill. The only criticism made of it is that which has come from Sir Richard Kirby, Mr Justice Staples and apparently some others who are adopting their policies. Again I turn to the editorial in the Canberra Times because it dealt with the matter very effectively. What it said about this matter was:
Sir Richard Kirby and Mr Justice Staples are opposed to the legislation because they believe it undermines the integrity and independence of the commission by introducing some procedures and prohibiting others. Three comments seem pertinent: the independence of a statutory body always is relative; an independence that enshrines bias or protects idiosyncratic behaviour is not obviously desirable; and it is arguable that the commission has, in the past, been too willing to pay a high premium on behalf of the Government and the community for industrial peace.
– I rise to a point of order. It is one which has been sustained in the Senate. It is that one cannot, by reading from any newspaper or article, say things which are derogatory of the judiciary. In this case Senator Lewis, by quoting this article, is making derogatory statements concerning the Commission and ought to be brought to order.
– I have quoted from the editorial. All that it has said so far is why Sir Richard Kirby and Mr Justice Staples are opposed to the legislation. In no way is it derogatory of what those justices have had to say. It goes on to talk about what the Commission has decided and states:
Some settlements have looked like ransom money.
– That is a direct reflection on the Commission. Mr President, you have ruled that quoting from a newspaper is no excuse for making such a statement. In other words, it has been accepted in the Senate that an honourable senator who quotes such a statement is himself responsible for making that statement.
– In that event, I will withdraw it. The honourable senator is just wasting my allotted time.
– Order. The honourable senator will be seated. I have given the call to Senator Georges.
– He is just wasting my time.
– Order! I will rule on the point of order.
– If anyone is wasting time you are, senator.
– Order! I direct Senator Georges to be seated. It is wrong to reflect in any way on the character or person of a member of the judiciary. That is the point that must be made. I call upon Senator Lewis to continue his speech.
– In the very short time remaining to me I wish to deal with proposed new section 143A of the Bill and perhaps, if I have time, to discuss some of the remarks made by Mr Justice Staples. Some time ago this Parliament amended section 143 of the principal Act and introduced some new provisions which I thought were excellent and in fact led the way in industrial relations negotiations. I refer to sub-sections 3 (da) and 3 (db) of section 143 of the principal Act, which gave the court power to suspend, to the extent specified in the order, any of the rights privileges or capacities of the organisation, or all or any of its members, and power to make provisions for restricting the use of the funds or property of the organisation, or a branch of the organisation, and for the control of those funds and all of that property for the purpose of ensuring observance of the restrictions.
– You say that that is good legislation, do you?
– Yes, that was excellent legislation, but unfortunately, although we waited for a long time, the court never got round to using it. My inquiries as to why it did not have produced an abundance of explanations, none of which convinces me, but perhaps that is a debate for another time. The only explanation that may carry some weight is that the proceedings are cumbersome and protracted. That may be so. It is perhaps not a bad idea in such proceedings as these anyway. As a result of industrial action by the transport workers earlier this year, there clearly became a need for new deregistration provisions.
The Government has introduced, under the Bill, proposed new section 143a. The provisions to which I have referred will remain, so the court will retain those powers but similar powers to act will be granted to the Executive after a Full Bench of the Commission has determined that industrial action by an organisation or a group of its members has had, is having or is likely to have, a substantially adverse effect on the safety, health and welfare of the community, or a part of the community. I remind the Senate that the adverse effect has to be substantial and that the right to initiate proceedings is restricted. Only the Minister may apply to do so. Also, the decision as to whether the test has been satisfied lies with the Full Bench of the Commission, not with the Executive, and cancellation of registration need not follow a declaration but there are a variety of matters which may follow as a result of that finding by the Full Bench of the Commission. Clearly the judges may not like this.
Lots of judges do not like laws which are passed in parliament. Quite often in reading judgments we find judges saying: ‘What was the parliament thinking about when it passed this legislation?’ It is not an infrequent happening for the judiciary to be critical of legislation passed by parliaments. But we are at the stage in this community when these sorts of compulsory penalties must be applied. They apply to drunk drivers who have their licences suspended. If they are convicted a second time, they are sentenced to a term of imprisonment for a number of years. The court has no discretion. That is the same sort of provision as this Bill imposes.
-When one walks into this national Parliament and finds on the order of business sheet a Bill relating to conciliation and arbitration, one at least expects to find a Bill which is constructive, which creates or modifies arbitration machinery and which will enable this nation to deal with the inevitable clashes between the organisations representing labour and those representing employers. Certainly, one expects to find a Bill which is in harmony with basic constitutional principles which respect the impartiality and integrity of the conciliation and arbitration process and which make it quite independent of the government. Instead honourable senators are confronted tonight with a Bill which is destructive of conciliation and arbitration machinery. That is the reason why Sir John Moore is here tonight.
The Bill is not only destructive of conciliation and arbitration machinery established over many years allowing to commissioners a certain independence and impartiality and giving them an effective ability to deal with a dispute; it is also destructive in a much deeper sense of the constitutionally enshrined arrangements for dealing with industrial disputes in this country. These were arrangements decided on by the founding fathers and which have given to our type of society and economy the resolution of disputes by a body outside the control and influence directly of government. Government, as we know, has to present a case to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the same way as any other party. So one is confronted with a Bill which is surprising in its destructive effects.
However, it is not surprising when one considers the genesis of the Bill. The creation of this Bill gives no grounds for confidence that it will provide a constructive answer to Australia’s industrial problems. None of the procedures leading up to the presentation of this Bill to the Parliament involved very necessary consultation with the trade union movement. The Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations and all the registered unions have been ignored in the process leading up to the presentation of this legislation to the Parliament. The National Labour Consultative Council was not available to the Government as an appropriate forum to carry out consultation with the trade union movement because it had quite properly decided at the time when the Government tried to put some initial proposals before it to boycott that body, given the fact that the Government- this is how hypocritical it is- had introduced, without any consultation with that body, the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Bill. It is indicative of the hypocritical attitude and confrontation attitude of this Government to industrial relations that it should bring before this Parliament legislation which bears none of the modifications, good sense and practical experience that would have been gained by a proper consultation with the union movement.
I do not dwell on that because I would not expect any of those remarks to cut any ice with Government supporters. After all, this legislation is simply part of a program to denigrate the union movement. What may perhaps cut through some of the ice, some of the frozen attitudes of honourable senators supporting the Government in this matter, is the sort of headline which one finds in the Australian Financial Review of Tuesday, 16 October, which reads: Fraser v. the Arbitration Bench’. I believe that editorialists, as they quite often have to, sum up in a few words the essence of the situation. What I want to put to honourable senators tonight is that in this very perceptive headline of the editorial which stated ‘Fraser v. the Arbitration Bench ‘, one has a summary of the effect of this Bill. It is destructive of the internal machinery of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and an attack on the integrity of the Commission as established by the Constitution.
To support that headline one has only to detail the sort of opposition that has been brought to the public’s notice over the last few days. The Government is insisting on the passage of this Bill. That is why we are dealing with it tonight. It is doing so, firstly, in the face of opposition by Sir Richard Kirby, a man who for 17 years was at the pinnacle of the conciliation and arbitration process in Australia, a most respected elder statesman of the conciliation and arbitration process, and a protector of its integrity. In the face of claims by Sir Richard that parts of this Bill are unconstitutional, particularly in their directions as to the parameters or bounds within which disputes are to be arbitrated, the Government insists this matter be dealt with tonight. In the face of claims by 25 commissioners- the unanimous voice of the arbitration commissioners of this country- that this Bill will intolerably interfere with their conduct of matters, the Government insists that the Bill be dealt with by the Senate tonight.
Who are these 25 commissioners? They are drawn from many diverse backgrounds in the community. Mainly they are senior representatives from the union movement, from government or from employer organisations. There are many differences in their backgrounds and their experience of industrial relations. They have been appointed by government because of that experience and they draw on that vast knowledge.
– By different governments.
– They are appointed by different governments. Drawing on that vast experience that they have of the necessary machinery to settle industrial disputes, they are saying to the Government unanimously and quite extraordinarily that this legislation will intolerably interfere with their dealing with the parties to a dispute by requiring them, as a matter of law, to consult with a presidential member of the Commission. It sounds alright on the surface and perhaps it ought to be part of the informal machinery workings of the Commission. The editorial of the Australian, not a newspaper overly sympathetic to the union movement or to the Australian Labor Party for that matter, stated on Tuesday, 16 October:
The Government has produced legislation which is unwieldly and altogether too rigid. This is the result of trying to legislate to make compulsory certain activities which, in the past, have been carried out informally.
Sir Richard Kirby and the arbitration commissioners have asked the Government to reconsider. It presses on.
Secondly, we have the well publicised objections of Mr Justice Staples which I may detail a little later. All I say now is that in the editorial of the Australian Financial Review Mr Justice Staples ‘s remarks are said to be devastating criticisms and contain some excellent points. One has there a recognition of the force and the truth of the criticisms which Mr Justice Staples had made of the Bill. I will speak in detail about one of these criticisms a little later on.
Finally, we have the Government pressing on with this legislation in the face of the request by Sir John Moore for full consultation on these particular clauses concerning consultation which are perceived by the commissioners as threatening their integrity, their independence and their effectiveness in settling disputes. Sir John Moore is a man who towers above all others in the field of industrial relations in Australia. He has called on the Government for consultation. The Government apparently has agreed with Sir John’s request. We were told this by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) before this debate recommenced tonight. But what does this mean for those of us participating in the debate? None of us is able to take into account what we may learn tomorrow about the views of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission forwarded by Sir John Moore to the Government. None of those on the Government side who will be put on the firing line to defend the indefensible will be able to retract from their statements strongly defending the legislation as drafted. The Government, by continuing with this legislation, is showing that, apart from engaging in a public relations exercise, a necessary extension of courtesy, and listening to Sir John Moore and the members of the Commission, it will do as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said it will do, that is, it will press ahead regardless. It will press ahead for one very simple reason. I think Government senators ought to realise this when considering whether to support this particular legislation. There can be no doubt that the Prime Minister himself has produced this legislation. It is not a product of the Department of Industrial Relations. The Department has expressed its qualms and its reservations about this legislation. It is a product of the industrial relations unit in the Prime Minister’s department.
This is simply a political exercise designed to antagonise and taunt the union movement into providing an electoral situation. Every Government senator who votes for this proposal ought to know and admit to himself that this Bill is simply tinder for electoral fire. But as with most fires, this already is proving to be not a controlled burn-off Sparks are flying everywhere. The eventual victim, the body to be burnt to ashes, will not be the union movement. It will be the conciliation and arbitration system, lt is its independence and its integrity which is threatened by this Bill. I will substantiate that statement in a moment.
We know that Mr Fraser has claimed that he has the blueprint for producing an Australian society in which industrial peace prevails. He has had four years to put that plan into effect. He made his promise in 1 974 when he was shadow Minister for industrial relations. He has had four years to bring about this climate of peace and harmony, but that was never an aim consistent with his methods which, I believe, have always been to create situations of confrontation for political and electoral advantage. This Bill is no exception to that methodology of the Prime Minister.
I will deal with the main provisions of the Bill since in this second reading debate that would seem to be appropriate. It is necessary in any case to meet some of the outrageous claims made by Senator Lewis. In clause 16, the deregistration proposal, as an alternative to the deregistration procedures available within the judicial processes whereby the industrial court, an impartial body, a judicial body, may make a decision to deregister a union, we now have a proposal that deregistration will be dependent upon the will of the Cabinet. It will be a purely political decision. The criteria used by the Cabinet will be political, necessarily, and may have nothing to do with the original dispute or any attempt to settle it. The situation under the Bill is that the Government will go to the Commission and seek a declaration that the industrial dispute is harming the welfare of part of the community. In a sense I have no objection to that. But once that declaration is granted, for the following six months and for any reason within that six months the Government may deregister the union. In that six months’ period the Government does not have to go before any independent tribunal and justify the deregistration. It may do so for reasons which are purely political, which may be full of vengeance or ill-will, and which may not be designed to settle an industrial situation. That is what is critically deficient in that particular proposal for deregistration. It does smack of the totalitarian system around the world, whether of the Left or the Right, where the existence of organised labour is dependent upon the will of the executive Government of the day. We should be doing everything in our power to ensure that if a union is to be deregistered, if the funds of a union are to come under the control of the Government, that should be done only upon direct instruction and following argument before an independent judicial tribunal. 1 believe that this particular piece of legislation brings about the very situation that the founding fathers feared most of all- that the settlement of industrial disputes between organised capital and labour would become a matter for the Government of the day rather than an independent conciliation and arbitration process.
– The irony of it is that the communists love that section.
– Exactly. As I say, the totalitarian regimes of the Left or the Right would find that provision entirely acceptable. I request Government senators to give this point their earnest consideration. I cannot believe that honourable senators opposite would acquiesce in that proposal if they understood its significance.
I want to turn to the -comments of Mr Justice Staples. Perhaps 1 might take up his most devastating criticism. That is how it is referred to by the editor of the Australian Financial Review. One of the proposals in the Bill is that the President may, if he is of the opinion that there are special reasons, remove a matter from the hands of a member of the Commission. The vice here is that there is no definition of special reasons. Mr Justice Staples commented in his letter:
Nothing is more calculated to strike at the independence and authority of any member of the Commission than that he be under threat of becoming disentitled to act if he does not please.
By what corridor of power may complainants hope to reach the ear of the President and induce him to defrock a colleague?
What pressures may we expect to be brought against a recalcitrant president if he fails to respond to insinuations, subtle or overt, against one judge in favour of another? How will the President satisfy himself that there are special reasons?
With whom is he to consult? With the parties severally, or together, or shall strangers be consulted? Or shall the President be left to act with all the appearance of caprice.
That includes the quotation. The editorialist continues:
But the wording which allows the President to act out of non-defined ‘special reasons’ is exceedingly loose. Justice Staples ‘s inference of back corridor pressure is a reasonable fear.
That is the conclusion of not only the editor of the Financial Review but also of any fair-minded person as he looks at that very loosely defined power put in the hands of the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by this Bill. That is why the Opposition is insisting on maintaining its opposition.
As to consultation, the provision, on the face of it, again sounds not unreasonable. The Bill says that a commissioner, in the settlement of a dispute, ought to consult with a presidential member of the Commission. What is wrong here is that the wording is so vague as to reflect an illconceived notion of how these matters are actually dealt with. Senator Lewis stated that consultation is something less than submission, but he could not really explain to the Senate whether it would be required of a commissioner that he phone a presidential member to let him know the state of the game. Is a commissioner required to go into a face to face conference with a presidential member? How is he to acquaint that presidential member- and this is the point so ably made by Senator Bishop- with the full argument that he himself has been adjudicating upon? Perhaps, more importantly, how is he to convey to the presidential member the whole process of the argument that has occured before him? The process of being involved in. an attempt to settle a dispute is as important as the elements of the dispute.
This will create an intolerable workload for the presidential member as he tries to grasp what may have gone on before a commissioner. Worse than that, it creates an unworkable situation for a commissioner because the parties before him know that they are not speaking to the person who can make the final decision. They know that somehow- though vaguely- the Bill requires some sort of approval to be given by a presidential member to a commissioner’s tentative resolution of the dispute. That perhaps involves something unconstitutional but certainly something which denies natural justice to the parties because somebody who will be involved in saying whether a decision should be certified has not listened to the arguments put forward by the parties. That is a grave denial of natural justice to the parties involved in an industrial dispute. Somebody second hand, somebody acquainted by a report of a commissioner, is to have, it appears, final approval of the decision by the commissioner.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this Bill to take on because of the public sentiment involved, and upon which the Government is playing, is the notion that the Commission is to be denied the power to order the payment of wages for time lost through industrial action. I take on this point because the Government propaganda on this clause of the Bill shows how out of touch and ignorant the Government and its supporters are of the actual operation of the arbitration system. The Government uses the slogan: ‘No work, no pay’. That sounds appealing on the surface. But what is the actual practice of the Arbitration
Commission? One finds that under present practice and law where claims have been granted by the Commission for payment of wages- strike pay- while an industrial dispute was in process, the Commission has awarded such strike pay only where it has found that the industrial action was necessitated by actions of the employer and that it would be unfair to expect employees to bear the loss of wages involved. In other words, it is not a common practice that covers all situations. The Arbitration Commission awards strike pay in situations where employers are judged to have been responsible in a very direct way for the withdrawal of labour by their employees. As Mr Justice Alley, in the Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees Union case very recently said:
There is no proper basis for the payment of time lost as a result of industrial action unless the actions of the employer were so extreme that the refusal to work was the only reasonable course open to the employee.
What this Government is doing is saying that that very reasonable practice of the Arbitration Commission- not some vague practice- may no longer occur because by law it will be prevented. That has two consequences. Firstly, it is very probably unconstitutional. That is what Sir Richard Kirby commented on in his statement on this matter. It places the Government in the situation of setting the parameters and the modus operandi for the settlement of industrial disputes whereas the Constitution places the settlement of industrial disputes in the hands of an independent conciliation and arbitration commission. According to our Constitution it is not for the government of the day to say what shall be the limits or methods by which the Arbitration Commission shall conciliate, settle and determine the resolution of industrial disputes. Secondly, of course, it simply means that the union or the group of employees concerned, who cannot recover wages lost because of an industrial dispute necessitated by the action of an employer, will move outside the arbitration system to get that strike pay. We should not think that this will be a seldom occurring matter.
According to Arbitration Commission practice it is true that such a matter occurs only in those cases where the employer is at fault. According to figures of the Australian Bureau of Statistics industrial disputes caused by managerial policy amount to some 25 per cent of working days lost. It is all very well for Senator Lewis to talk about millions of working days lost, et. cetera. The question is: Who caused the industrial dispute which lead to the withdrawal of labour? When one looks at the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures on the proportion of total working days lost in 1977 and 1978 one finds that the six categories of causes of disputes are: Wages, hours of work, leave and pensions, managerial policy, physical working conditions and trade unionism. Of those six categories the only category which increased in volume in the years 1977 and 1978 were those disputes caused by managerial policy defined in the very narrowest sense.
In fact, the number of working days lost due to industrial disputes caused by managerial policy- not disputes as to wages, hours of work, leave and pensions, physical working conditions and trade unionism- went from 23.8 per cent to 25.6 per cent. On those figures, over a quarter of the working days lost in Australia are lost because of what has been judged by the Arbitration Commission and recorded by the Bureau of Statistics to be managerial policy decisions. It is in those circumstances that employees, who have been denied strike pay during such disputes, will move outside the Arbitration Commission if this Bill goes through because their claims for pay in those situations are entirely reasonable. I do not think the fact that such employees will move outside the Arbitration system- despite all the protestations by this Government to the contrarywill unduly upset this Government. That action would justify the Government’s program of misrepresentation and its general propaganda offensive in portraying unions as irresponsible. In fact, it may very well be that the whole Bill is designed to provoke and antagonise the trade union movement in order to enable this propaganda offensive to succeed at a forthcoming election.
This Bill is simple propaganda that no reasonable senator or citizen could support in the face of condemnation by Sir Richard Kirby, the elder statesman of the conciliation and arbitration movement in Australia, in the face of published objections, supported by leading editorialists, of Mr Justice Staples; or in the face of the unanimous condemnation by the 25 commissioners of the arbitration system or in the face of the plea tonight by Sir John Moore for full consultation with the Government. No honourable senator on the Government benches in the face of those pleas for consultation and moderation- to say nothing about consultation with the trade union movement which is still offered- should accept this Bill. I recall that our spokesman in the other place, Mr Mick Young, said that the appropriate course was that there should be a cooling off period and that we should consult with all the parties concerned. That seems to be a reasonable and constructive approach. What one needs to see is legislation which is not simply the product of ideology and confrontation politics. I believe that in this legislation we have confrontation politics at its extreme as practised by its most constant practitioner within Australia- Mr Fraser. I exhort Government senators to reject this attempt to set the scene for an election. They should heed the warnings by editorialists and they should heed men of standing. They should reject this legislation because it will create an unworkable situation within which industrial disputes will not be solved as readily as they are at the moment. What is more, the legislation should be rejected because, as I have said, it strikes at the very heart of the Constitution which guarantees the integrity of our conciliation and arbitration system. For those reasons the Opposition rejects this Bill.
– I wish to raise a point of order. Mr President, I draw your attention to Standing Order 58. 1 would like to point out that it is an indication of the cynicism and the subservience of members on the Government side that they are not even prepared to attend the Senate to hear the debate that they are submitting to the decrees of the Executive which is imposing this legislation on the Parliament. There are only three or four of them present at this very important national debate. ( Quorum formed)
– I rise this evening to support the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1979. I must say that I have enjoyed the reasonable and relatively quiet approach of the two Opposition speakers to this point, Senator Bishop and Senator Tate. It does disturb me to hear Senator Tate describing this legislation as legislation which sets out to denigrate the trade union movement, to provoke and to antagonise. I want to make a few general remarks at the beginning about industrial relations. I do regret that in the circumstances that we have tonight we find ourselves taking the view, or having the view promoted from the Opposition side of this chamber, that this industrial legislation seeks only to antagonise, oppose and alienate the trade union movement. I want to make the point that no matter what legislation it is, whether it is industrial relations legislation or that which is referable to any of a host of other areas of importance, unless the Australian community is prepared to give it a trial, to get behind and promote the legislation, whatever government may be in power, that legislation has less and less opportunity of proving successful.
If all that this debate does in this Senate chamber tonight and perhaps tomorrow is to create a fantastic antipathy between one side and the other, it puts this legislation well and truly behind scratch. The result is a disaster for the whole of the Australian people- trade unionists, employers and the whole cross-section of the Australian community. And so it is with a great deal of regret that I see our developing this discussion about this legislation which seeks to improve the industrial laws of this country. It is with a great deal of distress that I see a circumstance arising in which all we are going to achieve is to promote a view from one side that all trade unionists and all trade unionism are bad things. From our side comes a view that that is not so. Indeed, we believe that it is not so. We are going a long way down the track towards destroying the opportunity of an improvement in industrial relations having any real chance of working.
I do not believe that there is anybody in Australia today who would deny that the trade union movement over the decades has contributed a great deal to the development of the total Australian community. There is no suggestion that that is not a fact. The problem that confronts every Australian- I mark every Australian because that includes millions of trade unionists- is the abuse of power, whether by organisations in a significant measure or by individuals within those organisations. This type of legislation is an attempt to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to the extent that it will be more effective in solving the problems that confront us in the industrial area and in curtailing the abuse of power which from time to time creeps into a free society. There are not many people around the world who live by the rule of law. It is in that area of trying to direct itself to the control of the abuse of power in the industrial relations area, whether it be abuse from a trade union area or from an employer area. To stop that abuse is the area to which this legislation directs itself. This Bill in the main seeks to strengthen and to make more flexible the solution capacity of the conciliation and arbitration system. That is an objective that must surely have the support of every Australian across the whole canvas of this country.
The conciliation and arbitration system in Australia has been and still is regarded with considerable envy by many nations around the world. It is a system of industrial settlement which stands many tests. It is a system that has been built up in this Australian community and has basically produced a successful result. It would be far from responsible of any government in this country not to observe the operations of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, not to observe the shortcomings that appear from time to time and, even worse, to fail to try to resolve the problems that may be seen within the conciliation and arbitration system. That is the pure and simple objective of this piece of legislation. If we merely seek to promote it as something that sets out to destroy the Australian trade union movement, of course we are determined to take the course that will give the legislation the least chance of being effective. It hardly needs to be said that nobody gains from industrial unrest, whether a trade union member or an employer. No matter who he is, no one gains. Indeed, the loss is to productivity. The loss is to job opportunities in this country. I am aware that most significantly the loss is also to the market opportunities of this country at a time when our potential is so great that it is exciting.
Recently I had the honour of leading a delegation from this Parliament to South East Asia and South Korea. In South Korea, when we were observing the quite fantastic development of industry and commerce, particularly of heavy industry in that country, we were pleased to find that South Korea bought from Australia, traded with Australia in a very large measure; that its industries were reliant on Australian iron ore to an extent of something like 35 per cent and reliant on Australian coal to about 61 per cent. The point I want to make is that it was disturbing to find that these people, who have a great measure of friendship for Australians and whose friendship I know is reciprocated, are saying to us that we must look- (Quorum formed.) Mr President, I apologise for my inability to retain an audience but I shall continue now that it has increased under duress, from the point which I had reached. I was talking about South Korea. The point I want to make is that it disturbed me, and I believe it disturbed every member of that Australian parliamentary delegation, to find that the Koreans were indicating quite clearly to us that they saw Australia as becoming an unstable market and a somewhat insecure supplier. That is a desperate circumstance.
I make the point as an indication of the great danger to all people- to Australian trade unionists, to employers and to the whole cross section of our community- of failing to recognise the enormous responsibility we have not only to ourselves but also to the people who are our neighbours to the near north and, indeed, further north. Anybody who fails to recognise that this sort of thing is destructive of the capacity of this country is interested only in the destruction of the conciliation and arbitration system. I do not believe that the great mass of Australians are interested in destroying the conciliation and arbitration system. They are interested in maintaining, developing and moulding it and in making it work for the great community in which it operates. That is the objective of the legislation that is before the Senate. It is not the sort of legislation that should raise emotions; it is the sort of legislation that should make people sit down, think about it and ask themselves whether it has the capacity to achieve the sorts of things that it sets out to achieve.
This Bill proposes amendments to speed up and make more flexible the whole operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I wish to state briefly the basic changes that it seeks to implement. They are relatively simple and most thinking people will admit that they are responsible efforts to control the abuse of power in industrial relations. The amendments will require a commissioner to consult with his deputy president before making or varying an award relating to wages and conditions. The amendments will prohibit the Commission from ordering, recommending or sanctioning in any way an employer paying wages to an employee for time when the employee is engaged in industrial action. They will provide for the expeditious hearing of stand-down applications before either a single member of the Commission or a Full Bench. The amendments will provide that the question of whether an industrial dispute exists may be the subject of a reference to a Full Bench. They will enable an industrial dispute or part of an industrial dispute to be referred to a Full Bench at the conciliation stage and they will reinforce the powers of the President of the Commission by enabling him to withdraw a matter from another member of the Commission and either deal with it himself or refer the matter to a Full Bench. Finally, they provide increased protection for the community by creating an alternative path to the deregistration of organisations and thereby remove delays in the deregistration process in cases where the safety, health or welfare- in other words, I believe, the public interest- of the community are put at risk by industrial action.
I wish to expand a little on those objectives. The consultation that is required between a commissioner and his deputy president is a matter that has come under a measure of dispute and excited discussion in this chamber tonight, yet it is not a terribly unreal or unreasonable situation. It already exists and in most cases it has in fact occurred. All this legislation does is make it formal that that sort of consultation should occur. I believe that if it does it will create a greater consistency in the operation of the conciliation and arbitration system. Far from being, as is sometimes intimated, insulting to the individual commissioner that he should be required to talk over a matter with a deputy president- not to change his view but to talk things over- it is merely giving him a wider breadth of involvement. Indeed, it is releasing him from some of the extreme pressure which individual commissioners must feel themselves to be under when they determine that they have to come to a conclusion more or less in isolation. 1 do not think that the necessity for a commissioner to consult with his deputy president is a great impost at all. It will, it must and it should create a measure of consistency in the application of industrial law in this country. It will broaden the area of responsibility but it will take away a great deal of the stress that applies to the individual commissioner in the present circumstance.
– The 25 commissioners do not agree with that, do they?
-You said that, Senator. I do not know what the 25 commissioners have said.
– We will not be dictated to by 25 commissioners.
– The commissioners have more brains than the collective Liberal Party. If Senator Sim does not like that he does not have to listen; he can leave.
-No, but I have to listen. That is the unfortunate part about it. The amendment that makes it outside the power of the Commission to award pay retrospectively to people on strike is a reasonable and proper amendment. Goodness me, if an injustice has been done there is always the capacity to appeal. There is no reason on earth why the Commission should be empowered to award strike pay retrospectively. The third amendment makes it much easier and quicker for stand-down applications to be considered and approved, and that too is of great significance. It is totally unreasonable that people should not be performing work for certain reasons outside the control of the employer and yet be paid. That is only a simple and quick way of bankrupting Australian industry or commerce, whatever area may be involved, and the bankrupting of Australian industry and commerce is certainly not in the interests of anybody in this country. The stand-down application is a sensible approach to a problem. In the past it has been far too difficult and has taken far too long for that sort of relief to be provided. Indeed, it is probably better from the employees’ position that they should be stood down than that they should be in the sort of tough financial circumstances that will quickly arise if they are sacked. There is a great deal to substantiate that particular amendment.
The capacity to get a reference to a Full Bench has been hampered by procedural difficulties, and these amendments seek to get rid of those difficulties. The fact that a matter can be taken straight to the Full Bench has been criticised in some quarters. It has been said, I believe rather ridiculously, that this denies people the right of appeal. To what would they be appealing? They would be appealing to the Full Bench, and if the Full Bench considers the matter from the beginning of the problem then the matter of appeal loses whatever significance it undoubtedly may have had.
– What about the work load?
-The work load is a problem that has been considered, of course. Generally speaking, the deputy presidents and the panels dealing with the various areas of industry are extremely well informed and the work load would not be increased significantly by the propositions in these amendments.
The cancellation of registration is the final amendment proposed. That is being heralded as a disaster in some areas, and yet it is something that is being greatly overstated. The deregistration procedure and the whole range of alternatives which can be used and which are lesser than deregistration are matters that will be implemented only in extreme circumstances. There is no shadow of doubt that this sort of severe penalty would be applied only in the most severe circumstances, which under this legislation are a threat to health, to welfare and to safety. The definition of those things remains the province of the Commission. The Minister can ask that a matter be considered by the Full Bench of the Commission as it is a threat to the safety, health or welfare of the community- in other words, a threat to the public interest. The Commission will decide whether, in its view, such a circumstance does exist. If it makes a declaration that there is such a threat, of course that is a very serious situation to the whole community. Then the Governor-General, naturally on the advice of his Ministers in the Executive Council, can make a determination within six months whether to cancel the registration of a union or whether to do any of a number of lesser things; that is, whether to restrict some of the privileges or to control some of the funds. In other words, there is a significant range of alternative penalties which the GovernorGeneral, on that advice, can implement. The mere fact that those penalties are there will probably hasten the solution of problems in the industrial field.
– If they are constitutionally valid.
– If they are constitutionally valid, and I do not claim to be a constitutional lawyer or, indeed, a lawyer. Naturally, that would be pertinent to the matter. There is no doubt that this sort of legislation will bring a real and sincere measure of moderation in the trade union movement and in the employer movement. It becomes patently clear under this sort of amended legislation that there can be a real retribution for abuse of power- I emphasise the words ‘abuse of power’- because that is the only area with which this sort of legislation involves itself.
Mr President, as my time has nearly passed, I want to comment on one or two of the matters that have been raised tonight during this discussion or debate, define it as we will. Senator Bishop mentioned, in his quiet and reasoned contribution, the need for consultation. Indeed, he had almost a consultation phobia. Yet there is every opportunity for consultation. One of the sad things about this Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill is that the National Labour Consultative Council meeting was not attended by the union representatives. They were invited–
– But you know why.
– The honourable senator may well know much more than I do, but as I understand it an invitation was extended, as it should be, to the union representatives and they were not present at the meeting on 6 August. They failed to be party to the discussion in spite of early advice that the meeting of the Council would take place on that particular day, 6 August. It is a shame to suggest that there has not been consultation when quite obviously the capacity to consult and the knowledge that consultation would take place were well known to all parties. The meeting of the conciliation and arbitration commissioners in Sydney this afternoon was raised, I think, in the early part of Senator Bishop’s speech. The suggestion was that we should postpone this debate because the commissioners were meeting in Sydney. Surely the commissioners can meet whenever they choose, discuss what they like in whatever method, and come to whatever conclusions they may. The Government, whether this Government or another one, is here to legislate; the commissioners are there to implement the law. The commissioners may meet whenever they choose, discuss what they will and come to conclusions, as they undoubtedly will. I do not intend to follow this matter any further. I merely hope that in the remarks I have made tonight I have indicated that the amendments proposed in this legislation seek responsibly to stop the abuse of power in industrial relations in this community. I support them.
-In 1929 the Bruce-Page conservative government tinkered with the Australian arbitration system. Shortly afterwards it was thrown out of office. Even the then Prime Minister, Mr Stanley Bruce as he was at the time, lost his seat of Flinders. That was at a time of high unemployment like today when we have some 400,000 Australians registered for employment. This is directly attributable to the present Government’s policies. Today I venture the prediction that the political events which flow from this legislation will lead to a repeat performance of half a century ago. As the Bruce Government was thrown out of office so too will the Fraser Government incur the wrath of the Australian people.
The Australian people are fed up with the constant hoodwinking of them by this Government. The real reason for the legislation is not to protect the Australian community, as Senator Lewis asserted. The Government hopes it can impress itself and its judgments on the decisions of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is standover legislation. Sir Richard Kirby, the former President of the Arbitration Commission, the man who was President of the Commission for some 1 7 years, said that in his opinion the Government was trying to tell the Commission how to conduct its business. This legislation is setting out to destroy the independence of the Commission. It is designed to tip the industrial scales of justice the Government’s way.
This legislation seeks to drastically amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and, if enacted, will make the long established principles of conciliation and arbitration in this country practically unmanageable and unworkable. It is legislation of a most repressive nature. It is insulting to wage and salary earners and to the trade union movement and is highly offensive to e trade members of the Arbitration Commission. These draconian proposals, if carried, will give a
Minister of the Crown a right to start deregistration proceedings against a union or part of a union engaging in any industrial action that is considered to be harming community safety, health or welfare.
Quite offensively and insultingly to the arbitration commissioners, the amendments will require them to go cap in hand to a deputy president of the Commission, a person with the status of a judge, before they make or vary an award in relation to wages and working conditions. The legislation is making the commissioners look, as it were, like schoolboys in the eyes of the parties to any dispute before them and it is giving the impression to the public at large that the Government regards commissioners somewhat in the role of students of arbitration engaged in the task of essay writing.
The legislation provides for quick hearing of stand-down applications either before a single member of the Commission or before a Full Bench. Again, quite insultingly to members of the Commission, including the deputy presidents, the Bill allows the President of the Commission to withdraw a matter from another member of the Commission and to deal with it himself or to refer it to a Full Bench. The legislation puts a prohibition on the Commissioner’s agreeing to any employer’s paying wages to workers engaged in industrial action. It enables an industrial dispute to be referred to a Full Bench at the conciliation stage and makes it possible for the question of whether an industrial dispute exists to be the subject of a reference to a Full Bench. It is legislation of a restrictive nature. It is legislation of a repressive nature. It represents a shackling of the role of members of the Arbitration. Commission. I believe that it is legislation that should be rejected by the Parliament.
Since this Government assumed office it has governed on the basis of dividing the Australian community. In order to achieve office we know the Government divided this nation. Australia has never quite recovered from it. I think Senator Scott rather made the same remarks when he spoke to the Senate this evening. This Government has divided State against State, it has divided employer against employee and it has divided the Liberal Party against the National Country Party. The parties cannot even get a joint ticket in Queensland and Victoria. As they have divided themselves and this nation, so too they have divided the community. They have blamed everyone but themselves for the economic mess of this nation. This legislation is part of the Government’s policy of blame and divide. In each Budget that the Government has brought down since it came to office in 1 975 it has held the Arbitration Commission responsible for wages rises, for inflation and for unemployment. Let me give an example. In the 1977-78 Budget Speech the then Treasurer, Mr Lynch, dealt with the problem of unemployment. He stated:
This is a matter of grave concern to the Government.
He went on to say:
It is precisely because of the social and family tragedies that go with unemployment that we have pressed, to the fullest extent, for wage and salary restraint in hearings of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
The Commission must be prepared to face, with a greater degree of reality, the employment consequences of its decisions.
Because the Commission has not always accepted the arguments put to it by the Government and because it has not bowed to the obeisance of the Government’s direction, the Government has now decided to look at it and to rope it in as part of the bureaucratic jungle rather than as part of the judicial processes of this nation. The Government by this legislation is putting its weight on one side of the scales of industrial justice. It is threatening the independence of the Commission, and the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, as the great divider of this nation, has now tried by this legislation to divide the Commission itself.
As I said earlier, a highly respected Australian, a former President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Sir Richard Kirby, who was the president of the Commission for 17 years, was reported in the Melbourne Age of 22 September last as saying that the legislation stopping the Commission from acting in certain ways was probably invalid and would be liable to constitutional challenge. Sir Richard Kirby said that the Government was trying to tell the Commission how to conduct its business; and he, with his expert knowledge of the arbitral and conciliation proceedings of this nation, averred that the new measures would lead to greater industrial trouble. The irony of the situation is that this Government, speaking with a forked tongue, says that the legislation is designed to overcome industrial problems when it must know, as Sir Richard Kirby has told it, that great industrial trouble is likely to flow from the passage of this legislation and from the actions of the Government.
Then, as we know, His Honour Mr Justice Staples, a deputy president of the Commission, has criticised the legislation. He in turn was criticised by the Minister for Industrial Relations,
Mr Street, and also insulted by the Prime Minister. I think it was the Prime Minister who said something to the effect of ‘take no notice of him when you know the type of person’. What an insulting remark to make about a deputy president of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of this country. The Minister for Industrial Relations has gone on record as saying that the judge’s statements were astounding. He repeated that statement in the House of Representatives today. The Government has floated the possibility of the dismissal of Mr Justice Staples from the Bench.
– And tapped his telephone.
-The Government was supposed to have called for a report from the Attorney-General’s Department and, as my colleague Senator McAuliffe has said, the accusation has been made that the judge’s telephone was tapped. Once he had made a constructive criticism of the legislation he was subjected to nothing but smears and personal attacks. I remember a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, His Honour Mr Justice Samuels, going to a seminar and attacking legislation that was being introduced by the Labor Government in 1974 and 1975. But there was no criticism by the present members of the Liberal Party and National Country Party when they were in Opposition of the remarks by Mr Justice Samuels against Labor legislation. The reason was that they thought that Mr Justice Samuels was attacking not the legislation but the Labor Government. That situation is in reverse as far as Mr Justice Staples is concerned. Government members are not big enough to realise that Mr Justice Staples is making constructive criticism of the legislation before the Parliament. They believe that Mr Justice Staples is criticising them for their lack of political nous. Then when the criticism of the legislation by Mr Justice Staples became public we heard that there had been unanimous complaints by the 25 arbitration commissioners, which complaints were made as long ago as 20 September. But the complaints have been merely brushed off by this Government.
– What were the complaints?
-We want to know what the complaints are. We have asked that this matter be adjourned so that the Parliament can be told what they are. There was a conference today. The arbitration commissioners had to resort even to asking the executive of their association to confer with His
Honour Mr Justice Moore and the deputy presidents of the Commission so that their case could be put. Whilst the Government says in a cavalier manner that their attitudes and complaints can be brushed aside, we believe that this Parliament is entitled to know the gravamen of their complaints. This is yet another broken promise to be chalked up in the Government’s long list of broken promises. On 21 November 1977 the Prime Minister made his policy speech to the Australian people. On the subject of employment and industrial relations he referred to a number of matters and then went on to deal with the question of worker co-operation. He said:
The Government has asked the Minister for Productivity to report early next year on how the Government might assist employers and employees to create improved industrial relations at particular workplaces.
– Who said that?
-This was Mr Fraser, the Prime Minister, in his policy speech on 2 1 November 1 977. He went on:
This is an extension of its policy encouraging a wider spirit of participation and employee involvement to improve work environment, industrial safety, promotion opportunity and job satisfaction.
That was said in November 1 977. To the credit of the Minister for Productivity, Mr Macphee, he got to work and presented to this Parliament on 8 May 1979 a document entitled ‘National Employee Participation Steering Committee’. Mr Macphee made a statement to the Parliament. He said, amongst other things:
This morning in Melbourne, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Bob Hawke, and the principal employer spokesman, Mr George Polites, joined me in launching a slim but significant booklet entitled ‘Employee Participation: A Broad View’. This booklet sets out for the first time in Australia on a national level an agreed view on employee participation policy by employers, unions and government.
He then said that he had also attended a function with Mr Hawke at the Australian Boot Trade Employees Federation. Then he said:
Employers and unions sat down with government to discuss their mutual problems. As a result of these deliberations, a consultant was hired and recommendations were made to improve the state of the industry. I am pleased to say that those firms which participated in the program have recorded productivity gains of between 8 per cent and 20 per cent. Consequently some of these firms have increased their work forces, in one case by nearly 200 employees . . .
There is a program being carried out by one Minister and one department- the Department of Productivity. That program has the support of the trade union movement and of the employer organisations. The program has been put into effect, has been found to be successful and has brought about job opportunities for Australians. But on the other hand, the Minister for so-called industrial relations and the Department of Industrial Relations, aided and abetted by the Prime Minister, are introducing this repressive legislation. All it is going to do is to rip off the good work of the Department of Productivity and the steering committee that was formed. Then what did Mr Macphee say? I remind the Government and the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), who is at the table, that he said:
Employee participation and productivity improvement are both about reorganising work so that employees work more effectively. This must involve more two-way communication, information sharing and job redesign so that people are better motivated and derive more job satisfaction. The co-operation and consensus between employers, unions and government, evidenced by the book launching this morning and the dinner last night, means that those objectives are closer to becoming realities rather than merely being cliches.
I pose this question to the Government: Why has it not got on with the development of this valuable work on employee participation? It is work which has involved the Government, the trade union movement and the employers all sitting around the table together to try to work out a satisfactory solution to many of today’s industrial problems. But, because the Government is hellbent on creating divisions within the community, it goes ahead with this sort of legislation. When the present Prime Minister and this Government took those very heavy steps in 1975 they destroyed the faith of millions of Australians in the parliamentary system. Ever since this Parliament and this nation have suffered the consequences. Four years later, by introducing this legislation, the Government is bent on destroying the faith of millions of Australian workers in the political and industrial neutrality of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Just as this Parliament has suffered the consequences of the attitude that the present Government adopted in 1975, so too will the Commission suffer the consequences of the action taken in 1 979.
I wish to refer to only one other matter, that is, the release by Mr Street, the Minister for Industrial Relations, of the letter written to him by Mr Justice Staples. I believe that at one stage the Minister said that it came to him with merely a With compliments’ slip. Just to set the record straight, I quote an announcement made this evening on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s program PM, when it was reported that the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Sir John Moore, was seeking a meeting with Mr Street. Mr Geoff Duncan, of the PM program, said:
Just to set the record straight, at the time we went to air on Thursday evening and broke the story of Mr Justice Staples ‘ letter, PM did not have a copy of that letter. We had sighted a copy and had been able to confirm its authenticity. After the broadcast our Canberra office was approached by a member of Mr Street ‘s staff and a member of the Canberra press gallery for a copy of the letter. They were told that we did not have a copy, that we were seeking to obtain one to enable us to quote directly from it, for a report to be broadcast the following morning on AM. At no stage did our Canberra office inform Mr Street’s office that a copy was in our possession and no contact was made to our Melbourne office from where the broadcast emanated, to establish whether a copy was being held there.
– But Street said that they had a copy.
-As my colleague Senator Cavanagh says, the Minister for Industrial Relations said in Parliament that PM already had a copy of the letter. This legislation should be rejected in the interests of good government. It should be rejected in the interests of the preservation of the conciliation and arbitration system, which for many years has served reasonably satisfactorily the industrial needs and requirements of this nation. It is a system that has been administered without fear of interference by a harsh, capricious and arrogant government. I urge the Attorney-General, who represents in this chamber the Minister for Industrial Relations, to heed the urgings of the members of the Opposition that this legislation be deferred so that the consultation with the Government, sought by Sir John Moore, can take place and, if necessary, this legislation can be amended, even at a late stage, to give some satisfaction, some hope, for the future development of the arbitration system. As the legislation now stands, because of its repressive nature and because of its shackling of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should be rejected by the Parliament.
- Senator Douglas McClelland and many other honourable senators opposite have recalled again tonight the events of 1975. When will the Opposition realise and accept the fact that in 1 975 it was the people of Australia who put the Australian Labor Party out of government. I do not think there would be many in Australia who would dispute the fact that the role of government is, through legislation, to protect the rights of the individual and of the community at large. That is what democracy is all about.
– What about the rights of the workers?
– Democracy is about the rights of every individual in Australia. The freedom that we enjoy in this country, as opposed to the way of life in communist countries, is something for which we must fight. My government will certainly do that. No organisation, group of people or individual can conduct his affairs or way of life without regard to the rights of other Australians. Every resident of Australia, simply by being a resident, has rights and privileges and at the same time, obligations and responsibilities. Quorum formed. I note that not one Labor supporter has answered the call for a quorum, even though earlier this evening Senator O’Byrne gave us a lecture and claimed that Liberal Party and National Country Party senators were not here in sufficient numbers to display an interest in the debate. Senator O’Byrne himself has just walked into the chamber.
As J was saying before Senator Cavanagh interrupted me by calling a quorum, all Australians, because they are residents of Australia, have rights and privileges. But they also have obligations and responsibilities. This is something that most people choose to ignore today. They choose to think that their rights and privileges are paramount. They seem to get them muddled up with their obligations and responsibilities. I believe the freedom of the individual to behave just as he pleases is mistaken for democracy. They forget that they have obligations and responsibilities in our democracy. There is a fine line between the rights of a person to protest about some government decision that they object to and the rights and privileges of people in the community to be able to go about their normal day’s work while they are objecting and protesting.
This legislation before the chamber tonight is further evidence that my Government is prepared to fight for the rights of the individual and the rights of the Australian people to be able to go about their way of life- I quote from the legislation- free of any: substantial adverse effect on their safety, health and welfare.
Let us have a look at the policy of the Labor Government when it comes to fighting for or looking at the rights of the people of Australia when they are put at risk by irresponsible communist led unions in this country. Let us remember the aims of the Communist Party because they are completely opposed to our way of life in this country. They are not in favour of democracy. As a matter of fact, they try to undermine everything that we believe in. It is the policy of the Labor Party that these communist led unions:
I do not understand how anyone, even members of the Labor Party, could suggest that any organisation should be above the law. Yet this is exactly what the Labor Party brought up at the Adelaide conference. It was decided that a communist led union, no matter how radical it may be, should be above the law and should not be subjected to any government or judicial interference. The Adelaide conference made that an official Labor Party policy. It also made these socalled democratic unions able to exercise their right to strike, immune from any pains or penalties. I think that they were the words used. There was no suggestion of any mechanism that would make sure that these unions were conducted in a democratic fashion. This is not to be part of the Opposition policy because if it were, there would have to be government interference to ensure that they were democratically constructed.
We have heard of the complaints put forward by the 25 arbitration commissioners. These objections must be kept in perspective. I do not think there are many people who have the power those commissioners have who would willingly give up part of that power no matter how justified it might be. If we bear in mind that these commissioners will not happily give up part of that power, even though it may be well justified, I think that we will be keeping the position in perspective. I believe we have also got to remember that those commissioners must administer the law. It is not their duty to criticise. Senator Douglas McClelland said that Mr Justice Samuels of New South Wales criticised part of the policies of the Labor Government when it was in power. If that was so, I believe that Mr Justice Samuels had no right to criticise the legislation. Judges of this land are appointed to implement the legislation, not to comment on it or to be critical of it.
The outburst from Mr Justice Staples is quite a different matter. Unfortunately, the judge has very little knowledge of the workings of this Parliament.
Honourable senators interjecting;
– He has no knowledge of the workings of this Parliament and I do not suppose he should have. He has never been a member of this Parliament; even though he had a go, he did not make it. He has never been a member of this Party and does not know how a Government party committee system works. There is no reason for him to know how this Party works because I believe he was a member of the Communist Party and a member of the Labor Party. He was not a member of the parties of this Government. He claims that the amendments were produced in great secrecy. You, Mr Deputy President, and Government senators will know that this legislation came before our back bench members committee in the perfectly normal way that all other legislation has come before our committee previously. There was nothing different about this legislation; there was nothing secretive about it. As I say, I think the judge only made these statements out of complete ignorance of the methods of working of back bench committees.
However, he also made the statement that the Department of Industrial Relations did not have any input into the construction of that legislation. That is completely inaccurate. Members of the Department came before the committee to describe the legislation. They were completely involved and they had much to do with the drafting of that legislation. Mr Justice Staples goes on to say that there were no peak council consultations; that again is untrue. He also says that the National Labour Consultative Council was not taken into the consultation. The Council was consulted. The fact that the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations, Mr Hawke and his fellow unionists refused to attend that National Labour Consultative Council is not the problem of Mr Street. It is the problem of Mr Hawke.
Senator Douglas McClelland said tonight, Why were they not there at the consultations?’ The reason they were not there was because they did not like a certain piece of legislation. They did not like the Commonwealth Government employment provisions that the Government had brought in. Mr Hawke decided, like a little boy, to pick up his marbles, go home and not attend the National Labour Consultative Council. If Mr Hawke has any intention of entering this Parliament, perhaps after the next election, he will have to learn to behave in a more adult fashion. If he does not approve of a piece of legislation, he will not be able to pick up his marbles, go home and not attend as he did on that occasion. It is time that the prospective member for Wills, if I can put it that way, understood a bit more about the workings of this place before he comes here.
This legislation has been introduced in answer to a need. There are gaps in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and this legislation has been introduced purely in answer to that need. If the Government attempts to make radical unions answerable to the law, why is it called confrontation ‘? That is what this is all about. We have been told that this legislation represents nothing but confrontation. The Government is attempting to make the radical unions answerable to law. The normal union member carries on in a responsible fashion and the normal union in this country carries on in a very responsible fashion. It is the radical unions, such as the communist-led unions, the unions led by Mr Halfpenny and Mr Carmichael, which this legislation is endeavouring to do something about.
One of the major amendments, even though Senator Cavanagh thinks it is not a major amendment, also endeavours to protect the rights of Australians. That is the amendment which says that if the Minister believes that industrial action is likely to have or is having substantial adverse effects on the safety, health and welfare of the community he may apply to the Full Bench of the Commission for a declaration. He cannot determine that that particular industrial action is having that effect; he must apply to the Full Bench. It is then up to the Full Bench to say whether it believes that that industrial action is having a substantial adverse effect on the safety, health and welfare of the community.
– What is the legal definition of an adverse effect on the public interest?
-‘ Substantial adverse effect’.
– What is the legal definition of ‘public interest “?
– I will give an example to the honourable senator. Take the instance when the milk carters struck for a long time. I believe that that is a typical example of a strike affecting the safety, health and welfare of the community.
– But the judge may not.
-The honourable senator asked me for an example and I have given him one. If the Full Bench agrees with the Minister, then the declaration is made. It then goes to the Governor-General who may, within a period of six months and on the advice of his Ministers, deregister a union or order lesser penalties, as Senator Scott has said. Those lesser penalties include the cancelling of the rights, privileges or capacities of the union concerned, or the restriction of the use of organisation funds or properties. That is one of the major amendments, and I believe it is the major amendment.
Proposed new section 22A relates to consultation and says that commissioners must consult if they go outside the guidelines of the Full Bench. This seems to be the section which most disturbs Senator Cavanagh. All that the legislation says is that if a commissioner intends to bring down an award outside the normal guidelines of the Full Bench -
– It does not. It relates to wages and conditions of employment, not to awards outside the guidelines.
– The section does relate to wages and conditions. All the commissioner has to do is to go along and consult with the deputy president of his panel. The panels work in consultation. All the commissioner has to do is to go along and consult. If, after that consultation, the commissioner still wants to go his own way, that is perfectly all right. There is nothing in the legislation which says that the deputy president will override the award of the commissioner. It just proposes that consultation should take place.
Tonight members of the Opposition have given us a lecture on the lack of consultation by out Government. Yet in the very next sentence they object to the consultation of this Government desires to put into the legislation. That is something that I find very difficult to understand. Some extraordinary awards have been brought down by some of the commissioners- awards that have gone well beyond the wage guidelines set down by the Full Bench. That has resulted in the viability of an industry being threatened. If the viability of an industry is threatened, then the threat to jobs is twice as severe. It is time that the Opposition and the radical unions realised that profit’ is not a dirty word. Profit is the only thing that gives people jobs. Another amendment is contained in proposed new section 25A. This is designed to prevent a commissioner from making an award recommending that employers pay employees for time lost through strike action. Senator Tate said that ‘no work no pay’ sounded very nice on the surface but the commissioners had awarded strike pay only where it had been proved that the strike was the fault of the employer. Perhaps we should look at one of the cases in the Victorian building and construction industry where Mr Commissioner Brown recommended that five weeks pay be paid to cover loss through strike action or people being stood down.
– What was the cause of the strike?
-Does the honourable senator want to know what that strike was about?
– Yes, I do.
-That strike was about a $30 wage increase. It had nothing to do with the employer doing something wrong. The employees were after a $30 wage increase. Because the strike was a protracted one- it went on for seven weeks and two days- Mr Commissioner Brown recommended that the employer pay for five weeks of the time lost. That is the sort of thing that causes people to lose jobs hand over fist. An employer must be viable. He must make a profit to be able to employ men.
There are further amendments. One amendment provides for application to the Full Bench. This can be done by either party, by the Minister or by the President of the Commission if he so chooses, if he feels that matters are bogging down and that a commissioner will not be able to come up with a recommendation. We have had cases where a commissioner has not been able to establish that there is industrial disputation while a strike is in progress! In cases where the situation is bogged down, the President can take it to the Full Bench. We come then to stand-down clauses. These are contained in proposed new section 33A. This section again protects jobs. Quite frankly, if stand-down clauses are not available an employer would go broke if he had to pay his employees. ( Quorum formed). As I was saying before the second quorum was calledthus taking up my time frivolously- proposed new section 33A deals with stand-down clauses. As the legislation stands at the moment, if a stand-down clause is in an award that clause permits employers not to pay employees who cannot usefully be employed during industrial action. If there is not a stand-down clause in the award and someone applies for a stand-down that application should be dealt with as expeditiously as possible. If the person making the application feels that the matter is not being dealt with as quickly as possible then he has the right it to a Full Bench. Those are the main amendments in this legislation.
In the time left to me I would like to stress that not only Senator Bishop but also Senator Tate and Senator Douglas McClelland spoke about the Government’s proposed intervention in the consultation area. It will not be intervention. The Commonwealth Government has enabled only pure consultation. The Government has not insisted that a deputy president has an overriding power on a commissioner. It has merely said that commissioners must consult with a deputy president. Senator Tate also said that there was no consultation with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and with the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations. I have dealt with that matter. I said that the ACTU and
CAGEO were too childish to go along to a meeting even though the Minister for Industrial Relations on two occasions wrote to them and invited them along. If they chose to keep out of that consultation then that can hardly be blamed on the Minister. Senator Tate also said that an application for deregistration is a matter for Cabinet. That is absolute nonsense. An application for deregistration has to go to the Full Bench of the Commission for its decision.
– That is wrong.
-Senator Tate has obviously not looked thoroughly at the legislation. He says that that is wrong. The Minister must apply to the Full Bench for a declaration. The Full Bench must make that declaration, not the Minister. The Full Bench must agree with the Minister that there are in fact grounds for a declaration of substantial adverse effects on the health, safety or welfare of the community. The Cabinet does not do that, the Full Bench does. It is only on the declaration of the Full Bench that the matter is taken to the Governor-General. It is with great pleasure that I support the Bill which is before the chamber this evening.
-No system of justice, whether it is industrial justice or any other kind, can operate without the confidence of those who have to administer it. It is manifest that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill just does not have the confidence of those who are part of our conciliation and arbitration system. For a start, it is obvious that the Bill does not have the confidence or the acceptance of the 25 commissioners of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. They are the people who, it must be remembered, are more or less equally representative of governments, employees and trade unions and who in their appointment have been the product of consultation and acceptance- one among the other- of each of those groups. Twenty of those commissioners were appointees of Liberal and National Country Party governments. The 25 commissioners have communicated in terms which make their position unequivocally clear. They are unwilling to accept this legislation. It is obvious, further, that the Bill certainly does not have the approval of at least one Deputy President, Mr Justice Staples and, moreover, of a number of other deputy presidents who met with Sir John Moore this afternoon.
It is evident from Sir John Moore’s willingness to communicate and consult tonight with the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Street, that Sir John Moore has reservations, difficulties and an unhappiness over this legislation and about how he is to administer and work with it in the face of hostility from his commissioners. It is obvious from the public statements of Sir Richard Kirby, probably the most respected President that the Commission has ever had, that he is most unhappy not only with the legality but also with the morality and principles that lie behind this legislation. Under those circumstances it is extraordinarily insensitive, to say the least, fo r the Government to have proceeded with this legislation. If it were serious about improving what are genuinely and sincerely perceived to be deficiencies in the present conciliation and arbitration system, if it genuinely wanted to improve the administration of industrial justice within that system, then one would have thought that its first port of call would have been consultation with the justices and the commissioners who make up the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It should have done that not just as a matter of good faith but as a matter of plain common sense since those justices and commissioners are the ones who have to administer this system. They are the ones in whose interest presumably in the first instance the streamlining of that system is to take place.
The protestations of the Government that what it is really about in this legislation is the genuine improvement of the system become very hollow indeed when one appreciates- as has become so evident in recent days- that it did not originally seek advice from anyone in the Commission and that it was disposed initially to reject out of hand the criticism which it was receiving from a number of members of that commission. It is only now when the whole matter has become the subject of acute political embarrassment that the Government is going through the motions of listening to that criticism which is now being forwarded. How can we believe that the Government is seriously committed to the improvement of the system and the correction of manifest deficiencies in it when not only has it treated the business of consultation with the judges and the commissioners in this way, but also when- as has been pointed out in the course of this debate, but which needs repeating- it has not consulted the unions which are so closely involved in this process. It did not consult them in that it brought forward the proposals for this legislation at the National Labour Consultative Council, at a time when it well knew that the peak union councils would not be represented because they were protesting about a specific failure of the Government to communicate and consult with them on the proclamation of another very controversial piece of legislation.
How can we take seriously the Government’s protestations that this legislation is wellintentioned and sincere when we know how it forced the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill through the House of Representatives with gag after gag being applied and with the Minister for Industrial Relations not deigning to reply to more than one of the points that were raised in criticism of the Bill during the Committee stage of the debate? Finally, how can we take seriously the Government’s protestations about its sincerity in bringing forward this Bill when we note the way it has responded to the criticism it has received from Mr Justice Staples? How can we take seriously its protestations when we note the way in which it has responded to the reasoned criticisms and arguments of Mr Justice Staples which have been acknowledged as such by journals as respectable as the Australian Financial Review! Rather than responding in a reasoned way to those criticisms, the Government through the Ministers most immediately concerned- they include the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) who is sitting across the chamber here tonight- has responded by the worst kind of personal vilification and denigration of Mr Justice Staples. The Government has responded in a way that has dragged Mr Justice Staples’ reputation through the dust. It has responded by leaking to the Press a proposal that the removal of Mr Justice Staples from office was being contemplated. This kind of reaction was totally inappropriate to the kind of reasoned document that was received from Mr Justice Staples. Perhaps it is best proven to this chamber by the incorporation in Hansard of this famous document, the letter of Mr Justice Staples. I now seek leave to have the letter incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows:
AUSTRALIAN CONCILIATION AND ARBITRATION COMMISSION
Chambers, Law Courts Building Queens Square Sydney, 2000 28 September 1979
CONCILIATION AND ARBITRATION AMENDMENT BILL 1979
I circulate to members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission some comments on the proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act introduced into the House of Representatives by the Minister for Industrial Relations on Thursday, 20 September 1979.
The amendments have been produced under conditions of secrecy not appropriate in a law-making field in which the prime concern is and should remain the conciliation of conflicting interests.
It appears that the Department of Industrial Relations played no part in the drafting of the amendments, that no member of this Commission was consulted and no trade union or employer or peak council representing employees or employers was consulted.
The Minister, in his second reading speech claimed that the “initial proposals” (but not, apparently, the final proposals) were shown to some persons present at the National Labour Consultative Council, but he admits that no trade union representatives were present at that meeting. He does not claim that those “initial proposals” were forwarded to the trade union representatives who were entitled to be at the meeting, or left in the possession of the employers’ representatives present. He does not claim that the final proposals were shown to any member of the National Labour Consultative Council or to the Council as a whole. Nor does he offer any reason for his failure to take the final proposals to the Council before their introduction into the legislative process. Urgency, if it is ever an excuse for hasty legislating, is not a factor discernible here.
Considerations of courtesy to this Commission warranted consultation with ourselves if only because the amendments can be construed by uncharitable minds as insulting to the integrity of the Commission as a whole and to certain particular members of it whose decisions are part of the background of the proposed changes.
Some notice of the “initial proposals” was given to members of the Government parties some weeks ago under conditions of privacy and confidentiality. Persons privy to this disclosure were not permitted to retain the text distributed. Each was required to surrender the same before leaving the place of meeting. “The Government (was) keeping the legislation under tight raps. Copies were collected at the end of Tuesday night’s meeting and backbenchers were asked to regard the briefing as confidential.” (Age, 31 August 1979)
Law making by these methods is antipathetic to the best procedures open to be pursued in a democratic society. They deny the search for consensus and the accommodation of conflicting interests. Laws made in such circumstances are not likely to gather up broad assent and respect which it may be desired to put in place of the temptation to resort to force.
Law reform is often proposed on two grounds:
Firstly, it may have the purpose to restate in more concrete and substantive manner values which are not obtaining expression in the decisions of persons, judges or administrators. So, a rule must be stated or restated so that its intendment may not be avoided in its application in particular cases. Secondly, law reform is often directed to procedural questions. Most commonly, procedural changes are proposed so as to simplify and expedite, with a reduction in cost, delay and complexity, the trial of issues of fact and law. Procedural reforms set the quality and import of the substantive rules of law. It has been said that the substantive law is secreted in the interstices of procedure’.
Measured by these considerations the present Bill is not reform: it is reaction. It introduces complexity and delay. It is not argued that the procedural changes are required in order to achieve expedition and economy in the trial of issues. Such a contention would fall before a timeconsuming, cost-incurring, delay-provoking system of resorting to Full Benches on issues which have hitherto been dealt with by one person under the sanction of an appeal procedure (which is now in practice to be broadly removed wilh all its benefits taken away).
The denial of the right of appeal is a step backwards. I take the liberty of reproducing what I wrote in a recent Full Bench decision:
Institutions such as ours, however, should be structured so as not to afford even the appearance of arbitrariness of judgment, fickleness of decision or other waywardness. That is why an appeal tribunal is put here behind the arbitrator within reach of a dissatisfied party. Law systems that do not provide opportunities for appeal invite suspicion. Thus, the existence of the opportunity to appeal may serve from time to time to condition the manner and the terms in which a decision is brought down. The presence of an appeal tribunal gives confidence to parties to enter into a procedure having a binding result. A decision is more authoritative if it has been confirmed on appeal; it may sometimes fetch authority precisely because it has not been appealed. ‘ (B.W.I.U. and the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, 1 1 May 1979-Print E39.
The Bill proposes to require Commissioners to consult with Presidential members in certain circumstances, in a smoke-filled back room, as it were, to deal with the interests of absent parties. In every sense this proposal deprecates the competence and integrity of Commissioners. They are directed to submit their will and their judgment in the discharge of an office (in which they have given their oath “faithfully and impartially to perform the duties of that office “) to the overriding determination of another.
The evil of this proposal is that it can only shake the confidence of parties before a Commissioner in the integrity of any ruling to which he ultimately puts his hand. No party knowing that a Commissioner reserves his decision and submits it to another can have sure confidence that he will report each party’s case accurately to the Presidential member or that the Presidential member will accurately understand that party’s case. The understanding may be conditioned by the manner in which the Commissioner sees fit, in all good faith, to present it.
The Minister justifies this astonishing departure from established standards of behaviour by claiming that there is a complex range of awards and agreements within the jurisdiction of the Commission. He argues that “this very fact demands consistency of principle and decision making . . . there have been some occasions when such consistency has been lacking.” One is entitled to wonder when it came about that identical dollar sums alone may manifest consistency of principle and why a discrepancy in dollar sums manifests a want of principle.
What is the principle that the Minister contends for? Is it lock-step mechanical judgment in the face of all the circumstances of a case? Is the only decision correct which comes first in time? ls the only decision correct which makes the most modest draft upon the resources of an employer? Is it right that a matter be resolved not by reference to its own facts but by force of other facts established by other persons between other parties? What do we have an appeal procedure for?
No person need fear that I will deal with the interests of parties whom I have not heard in open court. I will prefer to be a member of a panel of one or, if this is not convenient, to require that any consultation take place in open court with the parties present by way of a rehearing.
I would by this act out the values expressed by the Privy Council in the Boilermakers’ Case 95 C.L.R. S29 at 544: “The same qualities of fairness, patience and courtesy should be exhibited by conciliator, arbitrator or judge alike . . . none of them should act without hearing both sides of the case.” It would be inconceivable that the community would tolerate judges acting in the manner enjoined of Commissioners and Presidential members by the Bill.
Clause 6 of the Bill deals with stand-downs. It sanctions one of the great evils that beset the judicial process from time to time, namely, the manoeuvring of parties to select the judge of their cause. Where an applicant for a stand-down finds success in doubt he may have another court as of right (even after a matter has been reserved for decision) and thereby not only does he shed one judge but he deprives his opponent of a right of appeal against the decision taken at first instance. Moreover, an exercise expressed to be directed to expedition is thereby beset with delay.
Further, the second court is permitted to take short cuts without the consent of the parties by having regard to evidence given and arguments adduced in the previous attempt at a trial at first instance.
Time lost through industrial action.
The Minister in his second reading speech described his amendments in terms of ‘time lost’ and ‘industrial action’. It is to be noted that ‘industrial action’ embraces conduct not involving a strike, e.g. bans. Such bans do not necessarily involve any loss of working time. Nonetheless they may attract the amendment. To the extent that the Minister adopted the phrase ‘time lost’ he has not stated accurately what is embraced by the proposal, which is directed to claims in respect of a period during which the employees are engaged in industrial action’. This need not necessarily have involved the loss of time as in a strike. The claim may arise in a period in which work was done. The Minister seeks to enrich employers by saving them from paying for what is done.
This amendment seeks to defeat the common law and to deny employees access to this Commission in the interest of employers. It can only serve to depreciate the status of this Commission in the eyes of the millions of employees who contribute by their taxes to its support, for it is proposed to forbid members of the Commission to attempt to prevent and settle by conciliation and arbitration industrial disputes.
It occurs under the same speech in which the Minister complains that some unions have failed to bring their disputes to the Commission and have ‘rejected the proper processes for settling their disputes’. Yet here there is a denial of all process for settling a dispute.
Other members of the Commission have mentioned to me cases in which they have given decisions which they believe would be caught by the amendment. I wish to add to the count a ruling I gave in a dispute between the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists and The Australian Postal Commission on 26 April 1979 (Print D9961)-a ruling which provoked a certain displeasure in high places at the time. It was a ‘no work no pay case. In the particular case an employee had carried out 99.999 per cent of his duties, omitting one of trifling significance as a work task but of monstrous import to the bureaucratic mind, for by reason of a union ban he had declined to sign a document which was otherwise authentic, complete and accurate, lacking merely his mark. He had performed in every other respect his duties faithfully and well but for none of it would the employer pay him. It was plain to me that the employer had requested implicitly, if not explicitly, the doing of the work for which it would not pay. Inter alia, I had this to say on the ‘work-on but no pay’ principle:
My understanding of the law and the position is perfectly clear. A servant has certain entitlements of his master and he has certain duties towards his master. If the contract of employment requires of the servant that he should perform certain duties then a refusal by the servant to perform those duties provides an option to the employer.
Where a servant declines to perform a task within the duties contemplated by the contract of service the employer may treat the contract as being at an end. It is voidable at his option; he may, if he wishes, dismiss the servant; he may, if he wishes, ignore the refusal. But he is not entitled to take the benefit of services rendered by the employee, by the servant, without paying a fair price for them. It may be that the price that is deemed fair and which ought to be paid by the master to his servant for such services as the master accepts, explicitly or implicitly, from the servant ought not to be remunerated by reference to the amount due if the service that is refused were given and taken into account. In other words, a fair price for the service that is rendered by the servant may not be one that is determined by reference to the wage due in the ordinary circumstance, but it does not follow that a fair wage for services that are offered and accepted may be refused out of hand. The master is under a duty to pay for what he accepts from his servant. The master, however, has another resort and that is to sue the servant for damages if he declines to dismiss him, and he may recover damages from the servant simply for the mere refusal to carry out the full intent of the bargain. The mere breach of the contract gives rise immediately to a right to nominal damages arising from the fact of the breach. Whether the master is entitled to recover damages that are not nominal but, indeed, are substantive is a question that needs to be determined by reference to the loss suffered by the master as the result of the breach.
In the present case the position taken by Australia Post is ‘We will accept the servant and we are accepting the service ‘. Indeed, it has been represented to me that they actually threatened someone against withdrawing service, or more accurately, perhaps, required of that person that he should actually continue to render service and not go home, although he was on no pay.
It is not conceivable to me that any authority can be found in the common law which will support a result that the Postal Commission is entitled to take the services without payment on the facts that I have been dealing with here. The Postal Commission, one would have thought, consistent with its being a creature of statute law would at least seek to justify its position by argument about the consequences of the common law rules. However, here they seek to evade the obligations that may appear to be cast upon them by the common law by arguing that in this tribunal there is no jurisdiction to deal with the matter, and further they put that the employee if dissatisfied can take them to law in another place.
Let me just put the position as I see it. Every citizen in this community has a duty to adhere to the rules of law and has no privilege to escape his obligations by reason merely that he has not been ordered by a court to carry out that which the law prescribes, just as I have a duty to conform to the rules of law as I understand them to be and am bound to do my best to carry them out without the command of a court.
In my view the Australian Postal Commission, being a creature of the parliament, is acting inconsistently with the public’s interest in the upholding of the law if they decline to act out the rules of law of their own volition and sit pat waiting until someone sues them in a court properly vested with the jurisdiction to make the orders appropriate in the circumstances. People should volunteer to obey the law, the Australian Postal Commission should volunteer to obey the law, and the law includes not only the statutes but the rules of common law; in this case, contrary to what one would expect of a great statutory corporation, we find people sitting pat and asking others not nearly as equally placed as they are to call on the courts in their aid if they have a complaint.
Not only in my view is the Postal Commission at law misconducting itself on the facts revealed to me, but they are misconducting themselves in that they are seeking to impose a situation of total inequality upon their employees. In my view, the proper position for Australia Post to take up at this time is to pay the employees and then sue the employees at law if Australia Post feel the law is on its side. The resources available to Australia Post to conduct litigation on its own initiative are infinitely greater than are the resources of ordinary employees, and if the law is on its side and it is justified in pursuing the line of conduct it would lead to the consequence that Australia Post should do the right thing and pay these people for the work taken from them, and if it feels it has suffered a loss that goes beyond nominal damages, it can sue to recover the losses’.
Nothing is more calculated to strike at the independence and authority of any member of the Commission than that he be under threat of becoming disentitled to act if he does not please. By what corridor of power may complainants hope to reach the ear of the President and to induce him to defrock a colleague? What pressures may we expect to be brought against a recalcritant President if he fails to respond to insinuations, subtle or overt, against one judge in favour of another? How will the President satisfy himself that there are special reasons’? With whom is he to consult? With the parties? Severally, or altogether, or shall strangers be consulted? Or shall the President be left to act with all the appearance of caprice?
The power to remove a matter before a member of the Commission from his hands falls somewhere near a power already in the Act (s. 23 (3)), under which Presidential members may allocate work to members of the panel who are bound to comply with the directions of the Presidential member. There is no basis for concluding that the power of a Presidential member to organise and allocate the work of a member of this panel permits what is here proposed. I had occasion, not so long ago, to give a direction to a member of my panel not to take any step in a matter which had been previously under his active attention, and which came before me in his absence. My direction gave rise to certain misunderstandings.
The member of my panel affected was away on vacation when a matter was notified to me and was urgent. When it was last before my colleague certain recommendations he had made had been rejected. The matter had been stood over generally. When it blew up again, I conferred privately with the parties, I gained a strong impression that a manoeuvre was on foot, notwithstanding the urgency of the matter and the absence of my colleague, to delay a further hearing in the Commission until he returned and became available. I had the strong impression that this manoeuvre was founded on two considerations- firstly, to ensure that I did not hear the matter and secondly, to ensure that my colleague did. To put a short word on what I believed to be going on, some persons were intent on selecting the judge of their cause. I gave the direction, of which I immediately informed the parties, without explanation, in order to make it perfectly plain that I would not permit it to appear that outsiders could influence the procedures of this Commission. Whether the particular means I chose to quash the ambitions that I detected were politic is a matter that others may question. It was not my purpose to act against my colleague’s stature, rather to uphold his and mine and the independence of the Commission. This amendment strikes at the concept of judicial independence.
Moreover, the amendment curtails a provision in the Act which is intended to serve the interest that justice shall appear to be done. Section 22 provides that where a member of the Commission has exercised powers with respect to conciliation he shall not participate in an arbitration, if there is an objection.
Under this proposal the President is free to attempt a conciliation and thereafter to impose an arbitration at his will. So much for the spirit of s. 22 (2).
The declaration may rest upon the losses alleged to have been incurred by shareholders. Such persons are ‘part of the community’. The system is not limited to present or future situations and would not be any more acceptable if it were.
One of the key practices of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes is to dissolve trade unions and to put puppets in their place. This legislation provides for precisely that possibility.
The amendment is framed so as to manoeuvre this Commission into providing respectability for an exercise which is essentially reactionary and under which this Commission may be rendered perfectly superfluous if it is riot willing to be an instrument of the Government’s will in a particular case. We have already seen a number of examples recently where the present Government’s will has been declared to have been thwarted by the decisions of this Commission. So, amendments have been brought into the Act and are now proposed again for the Act in order to promote the authority of the Government over our deliberations. Under this amendment, if the Government can empower the Commission to make a declaration it can, as well, amend the law so that it may proceed without the need for our declaration. We shall be left with the power only so long as we exercise it to the pleasure of the Government.
One could write a treatise on the unconstitutionality of this proposal taken as a whole. It is not a proposal to prevent and settle industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration. Its purpose is to proceed to put an end to relevant industrial action by Government harassment, oppression and expropriation. Furthermore, a choice is given to the Government either to cancel registration or to set at nought the rights of a particular employee. By stripping a man of his civil rights, he becomes to that extent an outlaw. It is not to the point to clothe this diminution of status under the misleading phrase suspension’. A man at any point of time is either within or without the law. This proposal seeks power to put a man outside the law and to do it withal by executive act.
Who wishes to co-operate in Full Benches trying such applications? Whether or not the jurisdiction is left in our hands by the High Court, which of us in any event would want to be like the judges in pre-war Germany who simply acted out their office in a train of events that culminated in legal conclusions that ‘Jews’ and ‘Communists’ were no longer full citizens entitled to rely on rights previously accumulated, that is to say, were persons who could be struck down by a mere executive act.
I am opposed to the amendments one and all and I would wish that my colleagues were, too. We shall be lesser men and women and of lesser use to the community as a whole if they become law.
– For the moment, I do not wish to deal in detail with any part of that letter. I simply put it to the chamber and the honourable senators on the other side who are disposed to treat this matter seriously that any fair and reasonable perusal of that letter will demonstrate the sincerity and the force of the arguments that are put foward in opposition to this legislation and will demonstrate the complete contemptibility - no lesser word is appropriate- of the Government’s reaction to that reasoned criticism. How illustrative it is of the Government’s confidence in its arguments. How illustrative it is of the justitification of the case the Government mounts in defence of this legislation that it has responded in this way. Rather than by giving a reasoned criticism, it has responded in a way which one would expect of a government that is writhing with embarrassment about what it now appreciates to have been a serious political mistake in bringing this legislation forward at all. It is simply seeking to get out of that embarrassment by scoring cheap political points wherever it can.
In the process of trying to score some cheap political points at the expense of Mr Justice Staples, the Government has got itself into very considerable hot water. It is going to be in rather hotter water when this matter is debated further tomorrow in the other place, as I have no doubt it will be, than has so far been acknowledged. I refer to the events which have transpired this evening and to which passing attention was paid by Senator Douglas McClelland in his speech. A very clear contradiction emerged between the statement made by the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Street, in the other place today at Question Time and what has been said on the radio program PM this evening in response to that statement by the Minister. Let me quote from the Hansard greens what Mr Street said in the Parliament today when asked by the honourable member for Parramatta, Mr John Brown, whether the Minister stood by his earlier statement that he through his office had checked with PM to find out whether it had a copy of the letter from Mr Justice Staples. In answer to that question Mr Street said that he did confirm and repeat what he had said previously. He told the Parliament:
My staff did check with the program PM and it confirmed that it had a copy.
The significance of this and Mr Street ‘s insistence about the checking and his understanding that PM did possess a copy of the letter in question is that this is the rationale and the basis upon which Mr Street then proceeded to issue to the Press, to the world at large, this confidential communication from Mr Justice Staples. I repeat what Mr Street said in the Parliament this afternoon:
My staff did check with the program PM and it confirmed that it had a copy.
Tonight PM, through Geoff Duncan, the Canberra correspondent, stated as follows:
Just to set the record straight, at the time we went to air on Thursday evening and broke the story of Mr Justice Staples letter, PM did not have a copy of that letter. We had sighted a copy and had been able to confirm its authenticity. After the broadcast our Canberra office was approached by a member of Mr Street’s staff and a member of the Canberra press gallery for a copy of the letter. They were told that we did not have a copy -
They were told that we did not have a copy-
The statement continued: that we were seeking to obtain one to enable us to quote directly from it, for a report to be broadcast the following morning on AM. At no stage did our Canberra office inform Mr Street’s office that a copy was in our possession and no contact was made to our Melbourne office from where the broadcast emanated, to establish whether a copy was being held there.
The clearest possible contradiction has now emerged between what Mr Street claimed in the Parliament this afternoon and what has been claimed or stated or asserted to be the truth by the radio program PM tonight. Someone is telling fibs. I will go further than that and say that there is prima facie ground for believing that Mr Street, the Minister for Industrial Relations, has lied to this Parliament.
– I raise a point of order. I believe that that is in contravention of the Standing Orders.
– Order! It is. The inference or imputation of a man being a liar is unparliamentary. You must withdraw it, Senator Evans.
– In deference to the Chair, Mr President, I withdraw that statement and substitute the proposition that there is prima facie evidence that Mr Street’s commitment to the truth in this matter was something less than obsessional. I now move on to say that the truth of this matter -
- Senator Evans apologised or withdrew only in deference to the Chair. Mr President, were you asking for an unconditional withdrawal?
– Yes. I took the withdrawal as unconditional. I requested the withdrawal and it was given. It was a withdrawal which was given in respect of what was said. That is in order.
– There is some truth at least somewhere in this debate. The truth about this legislation is that everything about it is wrongits timing, its motivation, its content and its constitutionality. It was introduced in circumstances which make it impossible to believe that it was a sincere attempt to rectify wrongs which had clearly emerged in the administration of industrial justice. Rather, it is obvious from the circumstances in which it was introduced and the way in which it has been conducted subsequently that it is just another demonstration of this Government’s insatiable appetite for industrial provocation and its incredible capacity for dredging the bottom of the legislative barrel to find something, anything, that will provoke the union movement into the kind of reaction that the Government shortsightedly thinks will be politically advantageous to it.
During the lifetime of this Government this has happened over and over again. It happened initially with the enactment of section 45D of the Trade Practices Act, with the unparalleled introduction of sanctions and penalties into an area hitherto quite untouched by them. It happened with the amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act two years ago which savagely increased the scope of the penalties and the punitive powers in that legislation. It happened with the introduction of the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act which introduced into the public sector arena provisions for stand-down, suspension and dismissal of employees engaging in any form of industrial action without any significant safeguards to their rights. It happened with the further amendments last year to section 45D of the Trade Practices Act to further enhance and widen the scope of that obnoxious piece of industrial legislation. It happened earlier this year with the enactment and proclamation of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Act, making provision, as it does, for the compulsory retirement and redeployment of public sector employees in circumstances where their rights and privileges are hopelessly without safeguards.
In many ways, this Bill is the worst of them all in this Government’s obnoxious industrial record. The reason it is the worst of them all is that it combines two things: On the one hand there is the usual familiar crude union bashing that we have become used to with earlier legislation which is most evident in the deregistration provisions of the legislation now before us. On the other hand, combined with that, we have a number of subtler provisions in this legislation.
These are provisions which are aimed at the perversion of the whole conciliation and arbitration process itself. They are aimed at the destruction of the independence of that system, the erosion of its credibility, the undermining of its selfrespect, and the creation of opportunities for insidious government manipulation of that system for its own purposes.
Aborigines- Commercial Egg Producers in the Australian Capital Territory
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., under sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I am taking advantage of the adjournment debate tonight, despite the threats from some members of the Government parties that they will not be present during the adjournment debate, to bring to the attention of honourable senators a situation which has developed in a small township in the Kimberleys in Western Australia and to speak about a particular person who is employed there. The town is Fitzroy Crossing and the man involved is Stan Davey, a former community welfare officer. It is rather unfortunate that I have to do this in this way. Perhaps one of the reasons that I have to do it is that very little news that emanates from Western Australia is repeated in newspapers of the eastern States. I happen to believe that this issue is important to all people wherever they live and whatever the colour of their skin. There have been a few isolated reports on radio and a snippet here and there on television but perhaps the most important item of all appeared in this morning’s Canberra Times, which I will come to later.
It is important that honourable senators look at the situation in the town of Fitzroy Crossing. I was rather interested to find when I asked the statistical service of the Parliamentary Library to get me the latest census figures for the total population of that town that it had to go to some trouble to do so. The 1976 census figures show a population of 649 at Fitzroy Crossing. Of these people 108, or 16.6 per cent of the total population, are classed as Europeans and 534, or 82.3 per cent, are classed as Aboriginals. I would hesitate in 1 979 to accept that those figures of 1 976 are still appropriate but I would certainly accept that the percentages would be approximately the same. Eight separate Aboriginal communities reside at Fitzroy Crossing, and I intend to read letters from the leaders of those organisations very shortly. It is important for people to appreciate how the population in that town has increased over the years and the reasons why it has increased. For instance, Audrey Bolger, a lecturer in the Department of Social Work at the University of Western Austarlia, says that it is due to the pastoral award being put into effect. I believe that that is largely correct, but there are other factors. The point she makes is well worth taking. She states:
They are her words, not mine- on which they were working, and so the population increased in those years from somewhere around 200 to about 800 people.
The majority of the pastoralists did not want to have to pay Aborigines for the work that they were doing. They had been exploiting the Aborigines perhaps for generations and they did not like the idea of paying for labour which until that time had been relatively free. I am not condemning all pastoralists because I believe that there were, and still are, a number of people in the Kimberleys, in the north of Western Australia, and in other States who highly valued the work that their Aboriginal employees did then and still do. The point I am making, and that Audrey Bolger makes, is that not all of them liked the new situation with the pastoral award. Audrey Bolger went on to say:
The conditions in Fitzroy were appalling. There was nowhere for the Aboriginal people to stay and most of them camped around the hotel. They were seen as a large, unruly group. There were fights, there was drunkenness, there was unemployment . . . really a situation of chaos.
That was the situation at Fitzroy Crossing. Let us look at Stan Davey. Mr Davey has a long history of work with the Department of Community Welfare. Indeed, he has a long history of work with Aborigines. In Victoria, for instance, he worked with the Aborigines Advancement League. He worked with the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement and he worked with the Community Welfare Department at Wyndham and at Oombulgurri. Some five years ago he announced his intention to retire and perhaps to go to Queensland to live. He has not given a reason for this. Perhaps he saw that he could work amongst the Aboriginal communities there. I do not know. He has a history of caring for and a knowledge of those communities that very few white people are ever fortunate enough to obtain. Perhaps his greatest commendation comes from Professor Colin Tatz who is the head of the Politics Department of the University of New England and who has known of Stan Davey ‘s work for 20-odd years. He has written a number of books on the subject of racism and politics and the attitudes of blacks to whites and whites to blacks. He says:
Stan Davey suffers from one disastrous fault. He’s successful in his relations with black people, and there are an awful lot of people who sit by and don’t like to watch the success of somebody, particularly in the. light of their record of failures.
As I said, about five years ago Stan Davey decided that he would retire and go to Queensland to live. He subsequently notified the Department of his intentions. It was the Director of Community Welfare in Western Australia who asked him to go to Fitzroy Crossing because of the racial problems that were emanating there, to make an assessment of the total situation and possibly to make recommendations on what could or should be done. It is pretty obvious that Stan Davey was well thought of by the Department, to have the Director of Community Welfare himself suggest that this might be an area where he could find fulfilment and where he could be helpful to the Aboriginal community.
I think it is important also that we look at the sacrifices that have been made by Stan Davey in his work in the Kimberley area. His wife, Jan Richardson, also has made some sacrifices in her work amongst the Aboriginal community. I understand that Senator Chaney was at Fitzroy Crossing quite recently and met and spoke with both of them. He will understand the amount of work that has been carried out at Fitzroy Crossing, largely with the help of both of these people. It is not an easy life in the Kimberleys. I suppose one would have to spend time there to understand just how isolated it can be. I have mentioned in the Parliament before that it was said to me at Halls Creek that its residents were so isolated and so out of touch with what was happening that if war were declared in Perth on a Saturday they would not find out about it until the Sunday papers did not arrive on Tuesday. I do not think the situation is much different at Fitzroy Crossing. On the few occasions that I have been there I have been struck by the absolute desolation of the majority of the countryside. I have also been terribly impressed by the community spirit that has developed there in the last few years. I would say that that is largely because of the work of Stan Davey. Professor Tatz, who has been to the Kimberleys, describes Fitzroy Crossing as ‘in some ways a bit of a hell hole in terms of white living conditions and white living standards’. He said further:
It takes a very special kind of selfless person to spend five years at a place like Fitzroy Crossing . . . and is willing to spend the rest of his life there.
Let us look at what Stan Davey and his wife have been doing while they have been at Fitzroy Crossing. I think it is important that one recognises that four years ago the Federal Government purchased Noonkanbah pastoral station for the Aborigines. It was already being run as a pastoral station. It had been managed by a number of white companies and white managers who had not been able to make it a profitable concern. It was purchased by the Federal Government, and the Aborigines took it over. The fact that they are running it as a cattle station, and running it very successfully, is indicated by the fact that since they have had control they have made more profit than was made by the white owners and the white managers in the previous five years.
– When was it purchased?
– In 1974, 1 believe. That is one program that has been achieved, and from the letters I will read from the leaders of the community the Senate will be able to appreciate the help, assistance and advice that Stan Davey was able to give the Noonkanbah people. Of course, there are many other projects. For instance, Ms Richardson, the wife of Stan Davey, has started an extremely successful homemaker program. It is a very imaginative program. It was the first of its kind in Australia. It is rather interesting that people from other States have come to look at it and to see how it works, and they are adapting it in their own communities. In other parts of the Kimberleys it is already under way, and I believe it is now going into the Northern Territory. So Ms Richardson has been very successful in her own right in the black community.
As I said earlier, I understand that Senator Chaney was at Fitzroy Crossing in August of this year, at about the time a great deal of this racial unrest was making itself felt. Some 12 months ago there came into this situation a police sergeant, Sergeant Malcolm Cole, and that is when the trouble really started. The previous sergeant, a Sergeant Westerside had been most appreciative of the black people’s problems and obviously had commanded their respect. He was prepared to listen to them and accept that their way of life was different from that of the white man. Whether the white man’s way is the good one or not is something that honourable senators will have to determine for themselves. In the 12 months that Sergeant Cole has been at Fitzroy Crossing 24 allegations of police brutality against blacks at Fitzroy Crossing have been made, and they are only the ones that have been reported to the Aboriginal Legal Service. One questions whether there were other allegations of police brutality against Aboriginals at Fitzroy Crossing in that same period that were not reported to the Aboriginal Legal Service. The point I am making is that Sergeant Cole has a history of brutality going back to 1968 in Port Hedland, as I recall it.
As a result of these 24 cases being reported to the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Police Commissioner in Western Australia, Owen Leitch, decided to send two senior policemen who were experienced in the north-west to look at the situation in Fitzroy Crossing. At roughly the same time reports were made to the Commissioner for Community Relations alleging police brutality, and it was decided that a deputy, Mrs Lorna Lippmann, would go to Fitzroy when she had the opportunity, which I believe was two weeks ago. There is a bit of a problem here because I have to question the wisdom of the Police Department posting a person with a history of problems with the Aboriginal community to an area with a predominance of black people. I wonder whether it is not all part and parcel of a rather intricate design. It does not appear that in all the years Sergeant Cole has been in the north-west he has learned anything about Aboriginal people. If he has, he certainly has not used that knowledge.
A meeting was held on 23 May this year, and I referred briefly to this before, between the Marra Worra Worra and the police. Present were the chairman, Joe Lanigan, the members of the council, and, by invitation, Superintendent Styant and Senior Inspector Walker, and Mr Vincent from the Aboriginal Legal Service. A number of questions were asked which apparently had already been placed on the blackboard to enable the Aborigines to determine the area about which they wanted to speak and to give them some assistance in making any statements they wished to make. At this stage, I think I should seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the minutes of that meeting.
– Is leave granted?
– The practice is that this sort of material is shown to the Minister. I have not seen it and I would appreciate it being shown to me. I do not imagine that there will be any problems.
– I have no problem with that. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that I have marked some names with the letter P’ simply to indicate that they are police officers, so that there is no confusion. A number of interesting things come out of those minutes. For instance, in reply to a question as to whether it is right for policemen to drink on duty, the superintendent said that they have many rules, one of which is that they should not drink on duty. The senior inspector went on to say that it is a very hot climate and that they do relax the rule and people can drink a little. I think that is an entirely reasonable attitude to adopt. Unless one has been to the Kimberleys and unless one has suffered the heat one cannot possibly know just how hot and how dry it can be. As I said, I think the attitude expressed by the senior inspector at that meeting was a very sensible one.
Of course, it could be considered also a little unreasonable if, as a result of that little drink, there were incidents that occurred later on. I am not saying that all the incidents occurred after the policeman had had a drink. I am simply raising the possibility that it may have occurred because some very serious charges were made at that meeting. There are suggestions, for instance, that people have been belted up, pulled out of their cars, kicked, had their arms twisted, punched, and even punched while handcuffed. There are certainly allegations contained in those minutes that police were drunk when some of those brutalities occurred. I think it is probably sufficient, at this time, to say that as a result of that meeting there apparently was a recommendation that the senior police officer would be transferred- or perhaps I should say that the communities were certainly under the impression that they had an assurance that he would be transferred.
As I have said, I make it perfectly clear that not all police officers carry out brutal acts against Aboriginals. I believe that the majority of those people in the north of Western Australia, those policemen who have been there for some years, have adopted a very kindly attitude towards the black population. But I think it is a very dangerous situation, having almost certainly been given some assurance that there could be a transfer of a police officer, that we suddenly found that into the fray came the Police Commissioner of Western Australia. He decided to reverse the decision that had apparently been made. He decided that Sergeant Cole would not be transferred. He decided, for instance, to go to Fitzroy Crossing himself and to talk to the people again.
I think, once again, I have to admit to a strange feeling about that particular meeting. I would have said that on the surface it appeared to be a good action, but from information that I have received it would appear to have been a meeting with a very select audience. One of the people who did not know that the meeting was on was a man who was very much involved in community affairs. That was Stan Davey. In fact, he was so much in the dark about the meeting that he went off to Derby to fulfil another commitment. I can assure honourable senators that his visit to Derby would not have been intentional. If he had been aware that there was a meeting with the Police Commissioner in that town he would have broken any commitment to be there, not only to advise but also to put propositions forward in the interests of all the community, not just the black community. The only conclusion one can draw from that fact is that that knowledge was deliberately kept from him. That immediately raises other questions. Whom else was this knowledge kept from? How many Aboriginals attended the meeting? I have been told two; I have been told six; I have been told 12. 1 have not been able to establish a true figure. But if any of the Aboriginals who are supposed to have attended that meeting did, in actual fact, attend it, did they speak? If they did, did they speak as representing the communities? Were those who attended elders of the eight Aboriginal communities that I have mentioned before or were they just Aboriginals who happened to drop by?
Earlier this year- I will have to try to draw all these strings together pretty soon as the time is late- the Noonkanbah community lodged an appeal in the courts against a decision to allow the Amax corporation to drill for oil on its property. The corporation wanted to drill at Noonkanbah on a site called Pea Hill. Pea Hill is considered to be a sacred site by the Aboriginal community at Noonkanbah. The interesting thing I found in this dispute was that whilst the Government said that it was quite happy to have the museum prepare a report on the sacred significance of Pea Hill, the court did not wait for that report to come down. In fact on the very day that the museum stated that Pea Hill was a site of sacred significance, the court determined that, in the national interest, it would permit drilling for oil at Noonkanbah. Personally I am getting a little tired of the phrase ‘in the national interest’. In fact, we heard it this morning on the national news. The Pakistani Government stated that it would not hold an election it had promised ‘in the national interest’. It seems to be a phrase that can be drawn into absolutely anything. When people disagree with governments they say that something is ‘in the national interest’.
At this stage we are concerned only with Noonkanbah. The Aboriginals, as I said, decided that they would not permit Amax to drill on Pea Hill. The company co-operated to the extent that it said that drilling operations would not start until 1980 and then only on a site removed from Pea Hill. One might think that that should have been the end of the problem. In the intervening period we have had this problem with the communities and the problem of the alleged police brutality. Then came perhaps the most bitter blow of all, the transference of Stan Davey. Stan Davey was advised that he was transferring to Kalgoorlie. The date, I understand, was set at 5 October. Perhaps one could say that it was a jolly good thing to have him transferred to another area where he could establish the same rapport with the communities and set up the same programs with which he had been so successful at Fitzroy Crossing except for the fact that a job was not available for him at Kalgoorlie. He was doing marvellous work in an important area in which good relations had existed prior to the immediate 12 months. There has been marvellous community relations in that area. Stan Davey had, in part, been responsible for that. Now he was suddenly being transferred to a nothing job in Kalgoorlie. He was being taken away from people who admired and respected him and for whom he had a great admiration and respect.
It is opportune that at this time I read letters from the various communities that were written in September of this year. They give an indication of the high regard in which Stan Davey was held. The first letter is addressed to the Commissioner for Community Relations in Canberra from the Aboriginal community leaders at Fitzroy Crossing. It complains about the transfer of Stan Davey from Fitzroy Crossing by the Western Australian Department for Community Welfare. It reads:
We wish to make a complaint under the Racial Discrimination Act, 1975. We have been told that Stan Davey is going to be transferred by the Community Welfare Department from Fitzroy Crossing to Kalgoorlie.
He has been working with our community since the start of 1973, and he has done many things to help us. He was the first white man to come to this place to help Aborigines. He has taught us how to do many things for ourselves. He has helped us with housing and transport. He does not interfere with us in how we run our communities, but he will always give us advice and support when we ask him.
Many white people don ‘t like Stan because of what he has done to help us. One reason he has been told for why he has to leave is that he does not get on with the whole community. He gets on well with all the Aborigines, so that means some of the white people must have been complaining about him.
We think that forcing Stan to leave Fitzroy is discrimination because it will make things harder for we Aborigines.
And also because a small number of whites have made the trouble Tor him, while all the Aborigines would like to see him stay here with us.
We would like to see one of your officers come here to try to get at the truth of why Stan Davey is being made to leave Fitzroy Crossing.
That letter is signed by the chairman of the Bayulu community, the chairman of the Noonkanbah Management Committee, the chairman of the Milijidee Management Committee, the National Aboriginal Council representative at West Kimberley, a community worker at, and the chairman of the Kroonull community, and the chairman of the Wangkatjunka community of the Windmill Reserve. I have another letter from the Kadjina community at Fitzroy Crossing. It reads:
I don’t think we’ll let him go, Stan Davey, he’s doing a good job for us. He’s the one been start us off doing good things for us. We are doing things for ourselves now, and he doesn’t interfere with us, just helps us when we ask him.
All we Kadjina people, and the Noonkanbah people, and the Bayulu people and the Kroonull people, we see he is alright. He hasn’t done anything wrong.
We don’t know how this thing’s been going to try and push Stan away from here, and we don’t want him to go out from this place. Why is this going on? We want to know who is the man writing a letter to try and do this.
We don’t see nothing wrong with Stan. He’s been doing a good job for us for years.
The letter is signed by George Bell of the Kadjina community. The next letter reads:
I never seen anything wrong with Stan Davey. In the first place we never see any Gudia-
For the benefit of those honourable senators who do not understand, that word means European’- who can help us, only Stan. Before we never used to come in the office, but this time we got a good life. With Stan we learnt a lot of good things.
Stan is working with Aboriginal people. He doesn’t feel afraid of us, and we don ‘t feel afraid of him. We trust him.
When we first moved to Kurnangki we only had one tap. Today we got houses, more taps and a toilet through Stan helping us. I don’t think Stan leave here.
It is signed by Wadgie Thirkall chairman of the Kurnangki community. The next letter which I have reads as follows:
Stan Davey never did anything wrong here. He doesn’t interfere with us at Milijidee. He was a good helper and a good worker with us and we started the station. Wc didn’t have any trouble with him.
He is a good bloke and he is doing a good job for the Bayulu community and the Kroonull community. We need him to stay in Fitzroy Crossing to help the Aboriginal People.
This letter is signed by Charlie Rangi, chairman of the Milijidee Management Committee. It goes on and on. I have half a dozen letters from various communities to the Director of Community Welfare. Perhaps honourable senators will get a better appreciation of how this transfer was regarded when they learn that there was even a threat of a strike by members of the Civil Service Association. That would have to be considered to be an unprecedented action on the part of those who are normally considered to be most conservative in their activities. On 26 September a newspaper report under the heading N-W Strike Threat’ stated:
The Department of Community Welfare could face strike action in the North- West if officials insist on transferring a popular Fitzroy Crossing field officer.
The Civil Service Association claims that Mr Stan Davey is being ‘ evicted ‘ for political reasons.
And the Opposition spokesman on community welfare matters, Mr Harman, says he will demand a judicial inquiry.
Mr Davey has been told to report for work at Kalgoorlie on October 15.
The general secretary of the CSA, Mr Tony Black, said today he had been to Fitzroy Crossing to investigate the matter and was satisfied that Mr Davey’s transfer would dramatically interfere with the department’s assistance programme for Aborigines in the town.
I can see no other reason for his transfer than poltical embarrassment if he is kept in the area, ‘ he said.
There is a very clear feeling among his co-workers in the North- West that they should take direct industrial action if the Department proceeds. ‘
Mr Black said that problems in the town seemed to have been resolved some months ago when the Aboriginal Legal Service received an assurance from the Commissioner of Police that the local police sergeant would be transferred away.
But, after a visit to the town by the Commissioner and the deputy chairman of the Public Service Board, Mr Pat Shaddick, the sergeant was still there and one of the DCW’s most effective officers was being transferred.
He said Mr Davey had had to make a formal request for the reasons for his transfer.
He was not even told why he was being transferred. The article continued:
A telex message in response claimed the matter had been discussed by senior members of the DCW and the Public Service Board.
It said that both agreed it was in the best interests of the needs and operations of the DCW and PSB for him to be transferred.
The department had to be concerned about the ‘broad community’ in order to provide the most efficient and effective service.
Mr Harman said he would give notice in Parliament today of a motion calling for a judicial inquiry into the situation involving the community at Fitzroy Crossing.
Particular reference will be made to the proposed transfer of a community welfare officer, ‘ he said.
Mr Davey said today he would not comment on the growing controversy.
It is a growing controversy and it has not been eased by the fact that Mr Davey has now announced that he will resign. The article claims that the transfer of Stan Davey was politically motivated. Of course, the Western Australian Government has denied that it would be a party to anything like that, so I think it is important that we go back a little further in history. We can go back, for instance, to the State election of 1977. This was the election in which the sitting member for Kimberley, Mr Alan Ridge, very nearly lost his seat to an Aboriginal candidate for the Australian Labor Party, Mr Ernie Bridge. Honourable senators will remember the controversy that arose at that time because it was important enough for all the eastern States Press to carry the matter. It eventually went to the Court of Disputed Returns where allegations were made that Liberal Party candidates and members of the Liberal Party had applied undue pressure to members of the Aboriginal communities to ensure that their votes were not cast in the way they wished them to be cast.
In the court Mr Justice Smith found that the Labor candidate had been improperly denied votes by the tactics of the Liberal candidate, Mr Alan Ridge, who was then the Minister for Community Welfare. A new election was subsequently held, I think on 19 December 1977, and Mr Ridge retained his seat. It is quite feasible to suggest that the vote of the black people could tip the balance at the next State election which is due early next year, because in a letter presented to the Court of Disputed Returns Mr Ridge stated, in part:
I would anticipate that the next election there could be 3000 to 4000 Aborigines on the roll and under such circumstances the Liberal Party would be doomed to failure.
I said earlier that Stan Davey wanted the Aboriginal people to be able to stand as true Australians and to be a proud race of people in their own country. He wanted them to be able to accept the responsibilities that are accepted by the European community, part of which is the right to cast a vote in elections and to know what one is voting for. We tend to accept those rights fairly lightly because we have always had them, but the Aboriginal people have not. At the moment the Western Australian Government- this may appear to be another diversion, but I can assure the Senate that it is not and that it is part and parcel of the same activity that is being conducted in Fitzroy- has before it a very important and most controversial piece of legislation. It is an amendment to the Electoral Act and it will preclude many Aborigines from casting a vote in the next State election, on the grounds of illiteracy as much as anything. There are provisions in the Bill which raise other objections, one of which is that to get on to the electoral roll a person has to have an application form signed by a justice of the peace, by an officer of the Electoral Department or by a police officer. That is one provision that I object to, but there are other provisions relating to how-to-vote cards being accepted as an indication of the way a person wants to cast a vote and other things like that.
I have spoken already about the allegations against a police officer at Fitzroy Crossing. I do not know whether a justice of the peace is resident there, but certainly there is no person who can be considered to be an officer of the Electoral Department resident there. If enough distrust were built up about a police officer of course there would be considerable apprehension on the part of the Aborigines about going to him to get assistance to get their names on the electoral roll. Many potential black voters would not be eligible to enrol.
Earlier I mentioned the Amax corporation and its proposed exploration for oil at Noonkanbah. I find it a little more than coincidental that the very week before the transfer of Stan Davey from Fitzroy Crossing to Kalgoorlie was to take effect another large mining company, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, moved drilling equipment on to Noonkanbah station- probably once again ‘in the national interest’.
– I thought it was by agreement.
– I understood that it was by agreement but I am disturbed by what I read in the Canberra Times this morning. I am even more disturbed that I could not find a reference to it in the West Australian. Admittedly I did not go through the business page, the sporting page or the comics, but I did think I would find something about the matter in a fairly prominent position because Western Australia is the State where the action is. If the Canberra Times can find room on page 3 for an article on the subject one would expect that the newspaper barons in the State where the action is, would at least have found a spot somewhere for a report. The article on page 3 of the Canberra Times of Wednesday, 17 October, under the heading of Blacks tell minor to get off land ‘ states:
Conzinc Riotinto of Australia has been told to ‘get out’ of an Aboriginal pastoral lease in the eastern Kimberleys by the elders of the community.
The Nookembah community has accused the mining company, which has exploration leases on the station, of deceiving it about its intentions about the land.
You say you only look at one part of our station and go away after three weeks’, a letter from the community to CRA, issued in Canberra yesterday, said.
But we, after talking more between ourselves, say we don’t want you because if you find something up there you may come more and more on to our land and we don’t want that.
Also you didn’t tell us you were looking for uranium. That stuff dangerous for everybody.
We have been born out of the ground and we have to stay in that bit of ground.
So we don ‘t want the mining companies to come. We only say one thing, get out. We don’t want mining companies on our land’.
Nookembah has already made a number of attempts, some through the courts and some by confrontation of prospectors, to prevent exploration on the station.
It has had only limited success, however, because the Western Australian Government is firmly opposed to Aboriginal land rights over the area and believes that exploration should go ahead.
Presumably, the Western Australian Government wants exploration to go ahead in the national interest. There are newspaper articles going back to 1971. Stan Davey is mentioned in an article written by Diana Warnock in the West Australian of 12 May 1971 under the heading Aboriginals’ plight angers poet’. In this article Mrs Kath Walker is quoted as saying:
At Wyndham Stan Davey, field research officer for the Aborigines Advancement League, wanted to set up an employment bureau for the Aborigines where they could arrange to sell their labour to the stations at the correct price.
There are dozens of articles on the matter in Western Australian newspapers, particularly the Daily News but not so much in the West Australian because that newspaper does not see the importance of the matter. Many newspaper articles have been written about the work of Stan Davey in the Aboriginal community and the regard that the Aboriginal community has for that man. It is a little bit distressing to me- and I would hope it would be to other members in this chamber- to read in the Daily News of 15 October, two days ago, an article under the heading ‘Welfare officer resigns’. It confirms that Stan Davey has decided that he cannot take any more of this controversy. He is not prepared to put in jeopardy any longer those people whom he considers to be his people- those people at Noonkanbah and the Bayulus and all of the communities in that area, those people for whom he has a love, a regard, a caring and a respect and who return that love, regard and respect. So he has resigned. This is what he had to say:
It is better that I resign than let all this build up and up.
He said that he was prepared to negotiate his finishing date with the Department of Community Welfare and help to settle a new officer into the job that he had held for four years. He said:
I would like to stay on at Fitzroy Crossing working with the Aborigines if I can find a sponsor, but there’s not a lot of work around that pays enough to keep a family.
Mr Davey’s position at Fitzroy Crossing has caused upheavals among other officers in the department and in State Parliament in the past month.
Members of the Civil Service Association of WA threatened strike action on 2 October if Mr Davey was transferred.
Mrs L. Lippmann, assistant to the Federal Commissioner for Community Relations, Mr Grassby, spent three days in the town investigating.
Today the Opposition spokesman on community welfare, Mr J. J. Harman said: ‘This is another classic example of the government getting its way against someone who dares to oppose or question them.
No real reason has been given for this transfer. The only explanation was that it was “at the convenience of the department”.
It’s really a matter of “The transfer or the axe”.
The Government has already partly conceded its mistakes by postponing the transfer date. Mr Davey was to move today, but on 3 October the Minister for Community Welfare, Mr Young, told Parliament that it was off until the end of the school year. ‘
I might add that the change to the end of the school year was made upon the application of Mr Davey himself, who pointed out that he had a young family attending school in Fitzroy Crossing and did not want to disrupt the education program of his daughter. The article continues:
Mr Harman said that no replacement had been chosen for Mr Davey.
His welfare programs with Aboriginal communities at Fitzroy Crossing had several months to run.
Leaders of all eight Aboriginal communities at Fitzroy Crossing had written in support of Mr Davey and he had been backed by other professional social workers.
Mr Harman said it was obvious that Mr Davey had been forced to resign for political purposes.
He said: ‘There is no doubt he is a very competent and popular officer.
But he made the mistake of questioning the Court government policy of allowing mining on sacred Aboriginal sites.
He was reprimanded for this and he accepted the reprimand, but that wasn’t enough for the Government- they insisted on his transfer. ‘
He said that Mr Davey’s resignation was the third major step by the Government in its campaign to ensure that the present member for Kimberley, the Minister for Housing, Mr Alan Ridge, held the seat at the next State election.
Mr Harman said: ‘The first step was to push Ernie Bridge (the endorsed Labor candidate) off the Aboriginal Lands Trust.
Then they fixed the Electoral Act to make it much more difficult for Aborigines to enrol, and now they’ve forced Stan Davey to quit because he just might have helped Aborigines to stand up for themselves. ‘
Mr Harman said he still wanted a full judicial inquiry to be held into Fitzroy Crossing.
He said: ‘Mr Davey is being forced to resign because he has stood up for Aborigines and criticised the government.
It spells danger to any other public servant who might notice government errors and dare to speak up. ‘
Mr Young said today the only intrusion of politics in the case had been the intemperate comments made by Mr Harman.
Mr Young said that the Community Welfare Department had as much right as any other department to transfer staff.
He said that any interference by him would make the administration of the department unworkable.
He said: ‘The fact that Mr Davey has chosen to resign rather than accept a routine transfer can best be judged by the public without any further comment by me. ‘
I question whether in fact we can call this a routine transfer. I believe that the activities of the Western Australian Government- I think we must consider all of the pieces that I have drawn together tonight- are such as to indicate to anyone who is astute that there has been a determined effort on the Government’s part, acting in cahoots with the Police Commissioner and the mining companies, to ensure that the Aboriginal communities will not have available the advice and support of a man who cares for, and understands, them. I believe that the Government’s intentions will be thwarted even yet. I firmly believe that next year when people go to the polls these attempts to deny justice to some Australians- I speak of black Australians- to deny them the ability properly to cast their votes, to determine those who will come and work with them, and to determine who will come on to their property- property given them by the Federal Government- will be remembered. When the people of Western Australia go to the polls, as they must before the end of March of next year, the Government of Western Australia will be the recipient of the contempt that it so richly deserves for the totally unnecessary actions that it has taken against a very small community in a very large State.
– I speak tonight on the egg industry of Australia which once again has been put in jeopardy by the actions of certain egg producers, particularly those in the Australian Capital Territory. Mr President, you will recall that today I asked a question of Senator Webster. I did not get an answer from him, but I sought leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter which I had received from Senator Carrick on behalf of Mr Ellicott. I was refused leave for the incorporation. You told me that it was not permissible when asking a question to incorporate the information in Hansard. Senator Carrick interjected to say that the reason leave was refused was that it would be giving information. I draw your attention to the Hansard of Wednesday, 10 October. I asked a question of Senator Chaney and at the end of my question I sought and was granted leave to incorporate in Hansard a Press statement put out by the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, in relation to the Board of Qantas Airways Ltd. So the precedent was set on 10 October- Wednesday of last week.
– Mistakenly, I think.
– I do not know whether it was mistakenly or not, but the precedent was set. There was no objection and leave was given on that occasion. All I sought to do today, to clarify my question, was to incorporate in Hansard an answer that in fact had been given to me by way of letter dated 9 July from Senator Carrick. Of course leave was refused. That is the reason I am on my feet tonight taking the time of the Senate. Because of what has transpired and what I learned later from people who were listening to the broadcast of proceedings todayinterested egg producers- I am now in a position in which I have to take some time of the Senate again to put on record the feeling of many poultry farmers in Australia that they are going to be sold down the drain if what Senator Webster told Senator Knight yesterday in answer to his question-that certain legislation was to be introduced into this Parliament- is correct. I refer to yesterday’s Hansard of Tuesday 16 October. A question was asked about legislation to be introduced in relation to the Australian Capital Territory. I interjected:
What about the dumping of eggs in other States? Tell us about that. Stop calling the kettle black.
Senator Knight continued asking his question:
I am well aware of Senator McLaren’s ignorance of this matter, without his saying any more.
It was rather astounding that Senator Knightprobably the only thing he knows about poultry farming is from eating either chicken or a fried egg- said that I was ignorant of the politics of the poultry industry. Mr President, as you well know
I was very active in the poultry industry in South Australia for a great number of years. I was a practising poultry farmer and egg producer for
I I years. I was a member of the State poultry committee of the then Australian Primary Producers Union which amalgamated with the wheat and wool growers organisation to form the United Farmers and Graziers Association. It has amalgamated again now with the stock owners association. I also served for a number of years on that association’s State poultry committee. So 1 do have some knowledge. I was also the inaugural chairman of the poultry section in the Murray Bridge district of the old APPU and then the United Farmers and Graziers Association. So I claim that I have some expertise in the problems of egg producers throughout Australia.
Apart from that, I have raised this matter many times in the Senate. Going back through the Hansard reports this evening I found that I spoke on this matter on 2 1 February when we were dealing with the Poultry Industry Assistance Amendment Bill 1978. I referred then to Parkwood Eggs Pty Ltd and what could happen to the industry. Again on 27 March I spoke at some length on poultry industry legislation in this Parliament- the Poultry Industry Levy Amendment Bill. The Government brought in this legislation- I complimented it for it at the time- to increase the levy from $ I to $2 a bird. During the course of my speech on that occasion I had incorporated in Hansard a speech made by Mr Bywaters, M.P.- it was before he became a Minister in the South Australian Government- in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, 13 October 1964. He outlined at length the problems that were then besetting the poultry industry in Australia because businesses like Parkwood Eggs were marketing eggs outside the recognised orderly system. At that time I also quoted from a speech that you, Mr President, had made when you were a member in the House of Assembly. I was a little stronger in my remarks than you were although your remarks at that time were also very strong. You were referring then to the same type of people who we now see surfacing again and trying to white-ant the Australian egg industry.
I spoke again on the matter by way of a question directed to Senator Carrick on 28 May this year. That is the answer I was referring to today and which I tried to have incorporated in Hansard. I spoke also on 7 June on the Supply Bill (No. 1), again about Parkwood Eggs. It can be seen that I have raised this matter repeatedly in the Parliament. It is not of my volition that I raise these matters. I raise them because I have had representations made to me by poultry farmers right throughout Australia who know that I have had some experience in the industry and who know that I am prepared to speak in this Parliament on their behalf. I say now that very few egg producers in Australia would support or vote for the Party that I represent in this Parliament. I am still prepared to put a case for these people in the Parliament because I believe that the egg industry in Australia is a viable industry. It is an industry that is very proud of the fact that it never has sought financial assistance from any government.
The poultry industry in Australia- I am referring to the egg producers- is one of the very few primary industries that stood on its own two feet through bad times and good times. It has never sought assistance from the taxpayers through governments. It is a crying shame that we find, after all the problems we went through in the early 1960s trying to get orderly marketing into Australia, people who want to monopolise the industry and people like Mr Banters who runs Parkwood Eggs. Honourable senators will recall that the late Charlie Adermann when he was the Minister for Primary Industry in the LiberalCountry Party Government introduced legislation into this Parliament to institute a hen levy so that we could catch up with some of these white-ants and parasites- scabs as I call them- on the industry who were evading their due levies and leaving it to the legitimate farmers to carry the burden while they scooped the cream of the industry. Mr Adermann introduced that legislation but he was unable to proclaim it until he received the agreement of all State Ministers.
We all know that Mr Brookman who was the then Minister in South Australia refused to give the agreement of the South Australian Government, despite the pleas of the industry. I was one who pleaded on his doorstep on more than one occasion as a representative of the egg industry asking him to agree to it but he would not do so. When we had a change of government in 1965, Mr Bywaters became the Minister. This is the very same person who set out the problems of the industry and whose speech I had incorporated in Hansard. He became the Minister, quickly conferred with the Federal Government and gave the sanction of the South Australian Government that it would agree and the legislation was proclaimed. What was the electoral result for Mr Bywaters? He had a majority of 3,500 in the seat of Murray in 1965 before he became the Minister. At the next election he lost his seat purely because people like this person in the Australian Capital Territory organised against him. These free traders and scabs organised against him and not only did he lose his seat but also we lost government because we were prepared to put into operation legislation which was enacted in the Federal Parliament by the Liberal Government. We supported it and because we supported the Liberal Government, the Liberal Party together with all the traders in South
Australia organised a vicious campaign against him and we lost government.
Mr Bywaters has told me on many occasions that if he had his time over he would do the same thing again because many of the people who organised against him on that occasion have come to him since and said that it is because of his actions that the industry is now on a very stable footing. It is one of the most stable primary industries we have in this country. Yet we find that this company in the Australian Capital Territory- it also has a farm at Griffith- is now surfacing and wants to white-ant and destroy a viable industry. Those people seek to benefit themselves, but they will put in jeopardy the livelihood of many family farmers in Australia.
I am very disturbed to learn from the answer given by Senator Webster that despite the correspondence to the Prime Minister the Government is going to renege on a promise that was given to the poultry industry way back in 1967. 1 want to read into Hansard a letter which was written to a colleague of mine in Victoria, Senator Evans. I understand that similar letters were sent to Senator Primmer and to all Victorian senators. I also understand that Liberal members in the House of Representatives have pleaded with the Government not to put this industry in jeopardy. This letter was written by Mr Carpenter, the then Chairman of the Poultry Section of the Victorian Farmers Union. I guess it could be truly said that that union has never publicly supported the Labor Party. The letter to Senator Evans dated 13 June was received on 16 July. It reads:
In your role in the Federal Government as a guardian of the interests of Victorians, the Poultry Section of the Victorian Farmers’ Union would appreciate your interest and assistance in a matter which is of concern to the Poultry Industry.
As you are probably well aware, commercial egg producers in Australia are subject to a restriction on the number of hens which can legally be kept. This hen quota is part of a scheme to ensure that egg production is kept reasonably in line with domestic demand. Eggs which are surplus to Australia ‘s domestic requirements are sold in export markets for prices which result in a loss to the industry and it is therefore important that all producers adhere strictly to the hen quotas which they have been given.
Parkwood Eggs Pty Ltd. of Canberra was given a quota for the Australia Capital Territory. The Company is reported in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 30th May, 1979 as allegedly admitting to having 20,000 hens in excess of the Company’s quota.
In 1977, the VFU sought the view of the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser on the coalition Government’s attitude to hen quotas in the A.C.T., and the attached reply was received.
Mr Fraser has been asked in the past few days what action he proposed to take in view of what appears to be a disregard for the hen stabilization law in the A.C.T.
The VFU understands that the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia which consists of the members of the Egg Marketing Boards had advised Mr Ellicott, the Minister for the Capital Territory, and Mr Sinclair the Minister for Primary Industry, of the alleged activities of Parkwood Eggs Pty. Ltd. in relation to the hen stabilization law.
The VFU would appreciate any representations which you are able to make to ensure that the orderly marketing system in the egg industry is not jeopardised by any action which might be planned by Parkwood Eggs Pty. Ltd.
Any comments you wish to make would be welcome.
Yours sincerely, P. W. Carpenter, Chairman, Poultry Section, Victorian Farmers’ Union
I have not a copy of the letter that was sent as an attachment to that letter to Senator Evans but I have a copy of an exactly similar letter which was sent to Mr D. J. Foster, the then Chairman of the Poultry Section of the Victorian Farmers Union from Mr Fraser dated 6 December 1977. Mr Foster is now the President of the Federal Council of the Poultry Farmers Association of Australia. That is why that letter I quoted was signed by Mr Carpenter who succeeded Mr Foster as Chairman. The letter from the Prime Minister dated 6 December 1 977 reads:
Dear Mr Foster,
I refer to your letter of 1 7 November seeking an assurance that a Coalition Government would enforce hen quotas in the ACT as determined by the Australian Agricultural Council.
Action is being taken by the Government to enforce hen quotas now applying in the ACT consistent with its commitments under the national hen quota scheme.
Since the Egg Industry Ordinance 1973 came into effect there has been one successful prosecution. You would appreciate that the penalty imposed in that case is a matter for the discretion of the Court and is not an issue reflecting Government policy. An incoming Coalition Government would keep the level of fines under review and if found insufficient to enforce the law, consideration would be given to other steps which might be necessary to secure enforcement.
I would add that as a consequence of the Government’s action in enforcing the Ordinance in the ACT 3 matters are awaiting hearing and several other alleged breaches are being investigated.
As a matter of policy the Government would, on reelection, continue to support statutory control over egg production with a view to preserving the orderly marketing and stabilisation of the Australian egg industry and in so doing would ensure that hen quotas in the ACT, as determined by the Australian Agricultural Council, were strictly enforced. Yours sincerely, J. M. Fraser (Malcolm Fraser)
That is the assurance that was given to the egg industry by Mr Fraser prior to the 1 977 election; that he would ensure that the law was carried out to the letter.
On 28 May I asked a question in this place. In reply, I received a letter from the Minister for the
Capital Territory, Mr Ellicott. This is the letter about which there was a dispute today. The letter reads: 9 July 1979
My dear Senator,
I refer to the question you addressed to Senator Carrick in the Senate on 28 May 1979 about the enforcement of the Australian Capital Territory hen quota.
The Government continues to support the statutory control of egg production. In relation to the Australian Capital Territory, this has entailed acceptance of a Territorial quota as determined by the Australian Agricultural Council and the enforcement of that quota by the Department of the Capital Territory.
The Government’s policy is effected through a regular programme of inspections conducted by N.S.W. Egg Marketing Board inspectors to ascertain the number of hens kept by producers. Where an inspection shows that a producer has exceeded quota the matter is referred to the Deputy Crown Solicitor for advice. Proceedings are instituted in all instances where the evidence, prima facie, indicates there has been a breach of the Egg industry Ordinance 1 975.
To date there have been seven successful prosecutions for breaches of hen quota. In addition there are three matters before the Court concerning alleged obstruction of inspectors in the carrying out of their duties under the Egg Industry Ordinance. The Egg Industry Officer has a further seven alleged breaches of the Ordinance under consideration.
The maximum prescribed fine for keeping hens in excess of quota is $500. The Egg Industry Ordinance is, however, being amended to increase this penalty to $ 1,000 plus5 cents for each hen to which the offence applies. I understand this penalty would be comparable to similar penalties under State legislation.
Yours sincerely, R.J. ELLICOTT Minister for the Capital Territory
That is the letter which came to me. So we have the two letters, one from the Prime Minister to the industry and one in answer to the question whichI asked. I have another letter stating that the Government, on 9 July, intended to enforce the law as it applied in the Australian Capital Territory. Yet, in answer to a question yesterday, Senator Webster came in here and said that the Government now intends to introduce legislation which is solely for the protection of the person who has been breaking the law, has been before the court and has been fined. There are further charges pen ding. I ask: What sort of government do we have? Here is a government which claims to represent primary producers yet now it admits that it is going to introduce legislation for the benefit of one businessman and to the detriment of hundreds and hundreds of poultry farmers right throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
If this legislation comes in, and if it is for the protection of this one person,I will see that it is distributed. The Government’s actions will be known to every commercial poultry farmer throughout the length and breadth of this country. If the legislation is as Senator Webster said in his answer yesterday, the Government is protecting one person who, as I said, has continually flouted the law. Let us have a look at some of the statements in the daily Press. I refer to the Melbourne Age of today’s date which contains an article relating to this matter. It is headed ‘ ‘ Poachers ‘ irk Egg Board “ and states:
The Victorian Egg Board is waging a marketing war against a New South Wales poultry farmer.
This is Parkwood eggs.
The farm, Parkwood Eggs is run by brothers Peter and David Bartter who are selling New South Wales eggs in Victoria for less than Victorian eggs.
The VEB has retaliated by selling Victorian eggs in Bartter territory at a lower price than it charges in Victoria.
The Minister for Agriculture, Mr Smith-
This is the Victorian Minister for Agriculture- said the Bartters were Australia’s largest poultry farmers. The VEB had tried to stop them selling their eggs in Victoria but failed.
Parkwood Eggs are sold in Half Case Warehouses and Mighty Man supermarkets.
Every Bartter egg sold in Victoria pushes a Victorian egg into surplus, ‘ Mr Smith said.
He said the attack had two prongs, to stop the Bartters selling their eggs in Victoria and to sell more eggs in total.
Many months ago I outlined what Bartters were doing. They were not exactly infringing the law, but working under the umbrella of section 92 of the Constitution. They were infringing the spirit of co-operation which has existed in the industry for quite a number of years by dumping eggs into Victoria. We now find them squealing like stuck pigs because the Victorian Egg Board has come back and retaliated. As I outlined to this Parliament before, Bartters are the same people who dumped contaminated egg pulp in Victoria and could not give a hoot about the health and welfare of people in cafes and baker shops and those sorts of places who used their contaminated pulp. Action had to be taken by the New South Wales Health Commission to prevent Bartters from continuing with that practice. These are the same people whom this Government now wants to protect. We now find that the House of Assembly has made a special plea to the Minister to bring in legislation.
– Called by the Labor Chairman.
– I could not care less whether he is a Labor Chairman or whatever. I would say that he has as much knowledge of the industry as has Senator Knight. He is not interested in the overall politics of the thing. He is interested only in his parish pump politics in the Australian Capital Territory.
– I will send him a copy of your speech.
- Senator Knight can send him what he likes. I am putting a case here for people whose livelihoods are in jeopardy. As I said earlier, I am putting a case for all those poultry farmers all over Australia who would not vote for me or the Labor Party- people whom Senator Knight claims to represent and whom he is doing his best to throw on the scrap heap.
Let me turn once again to the article in today’s Canberra Times. It is headed ‘Victoria competing: Minister’ and states:
The Victorian Egg Board was selling surplus eggs on the ACT market in competition against a NSW producer who was selling cheap eggs in Victoria, State Parliament was told yesterday.
The Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Mr Smith, said that NSW producers selling cheap eggs in Victoria were damaging producer interests in this State ‘.
The most notable producer in NSW who was, and still is, selling eggs in Victoria, is the Banter organisation’, Mr Smith said. This company owned a poultry farm in Canberra, he said.
It was decided by the Victorian Egg Board to market surplus Victorian eggs, which would otherwise have been sold at a loss on the export market for pulp, in competition with the Barter organisation, in Canberra ‘, he said.
So there we have it. We have a Liberal Minister of Agriculture in Victoria bitterly complaining about this company in the Australian Capital Territory, yet we have its counterpart in the Territory telling us that the Government is going to introduce legislation to protect a person who is doing his damnedest to white ant the egg industry right throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
I have some more revealing figures- figures that I was going to use back, I think, in February, so possibly they are out of date now. We find that at that time Banters had a quota of 1 34,3 1 6 birds for the Capital Territory. The present number of birds on their property is 2 17,000- 82,600 above the quota. There was also a dispute over the age of some of those birds. People who have a knowledge of the industry will know that the bird levy is not paid until a female fowl reaches the age of six months. Of course it is very hard to determine when a fowl actually reaches the age of six months. It is not like a horse or a sheep where one looks at their teeth to determine their age. We also find that at that time Banters had a farm capacity for 288,000 laying hens. They also had sites levelled for a couple more sheds to house another 121,000 birds, which would give them a future total capacity of 409,100 hens in the Australian Capital Territory. So what Banters was trying to do was to get a great monopoly. When I said earlier that Banters had about 90 per cent of the quota in the Australian Capital Territory, Senator Knight interjected and said no, that they had 98 per cent. Banters have brought up all the poultry farmers so it now has a monopoly. The latest bulletin put out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics shows that in 1967-68 there were 17 poultry farmers in the Australian Capital Territory and that by 1977-78 that figure was down to five. Banters had bought them out. There are probably fewer than five poultry farmers now.
So I come back to what I said earlier. We now find the Government giving notice that it is going to introduce legislation to protect one businessman and, by doing so, it will put the livelihood of every egg producer in Australia in jeopardy. Not only will it affect their livelihoods, but also you will find, Mr President, that if this thing is allowed to snowball in your business people who manufacture poultry feed will not get their accounts paid because the commercial poultry farmers will not be able to pay their bills. I do not think that you or any other seller of provender would have a bad debt on your books because the industry is stable at the moment. But I give this warning here tonight: If this legislation is introduced into the Parliament to protect this one monolithic enterprise we are going to go back to the days of instability in the industry, to the days of Rafferty’s rules, and we will find, as I have said many times before, that the livelihoods not only of poultry farmers will be in jeopardy but also those of people who grade eggs in the egg marketing boards. There have been some stories going around here that the jobs of 15 people in the Australian Capital Territory are in jeopardy. But the jobs of 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000 or 1 0,000 will be in jeopardy if this Government goes ahead with this proposed legislation to protect this monolithic enterprise in the Australian Capital Territory.
I hope that the Government will heed the warning that has been given not only by Mr Smith, the Minister of Agriculture in Victoria but also by Mr Day, the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales and by its advisers in the Department of Primary Industry who are well aware of the problems that exist. I hope it also heeds the warning which could come from many of those people who, in the main, support this Government in office. I think that if the Government brings in this legislation it will rue the day. It is unfortunate that the Minister has made the announcement that he will introduce this legislation. In a telephone conversation I had with a person in Victoria late this evening- I think it was at about a quarter past ten- I was informed that negotiations were taking place between Parkwood Eggs and the Victorian Egg Board but as soon as the Minister made this announcement that he was to introduce legislation to protect Parkwood Eggs all negotiations failed. A solution could have been reached through conciliation- that is something that we have discussed here all day today- but the negotiations have now failed because Parkwood Eggs feels that this Government will protect it. The negotiations have broken down and we have to face the consequences.
– Because of the comments of Senator McLaren I feel compelled to say something about the important subject of the egg industry in the Australian Capital Territory. While I acknowledge Senator McLaren’s expertise with respect to chickens and eggs- even if we are unsure which came first- I hope he will acknowledge my legitimate concern with events in my electorate. I must express some surprise at much of what Senator McLaren said. Locally, the Australian Labor Party is adopting a quite bipartisan position on this matter. In fact, in many instances it has taken the initiative in attempting to protect a local industry. These people, including, I believe, Senator McLaren’s Labor Party colleagues Senator Ryan and Mr Fry from the House of Representatives, are not acting in ignorance. I understand that Mr Fry directly and through his family was involved in the poultry industry. I think he knows that industry. I think that the people in the Territory who have taken an interest in this matter have looked into it carefully and are not acting simply out of parochial motives. It seems that, despite that bipartisan approach in the Territory, Senator McLaren wants this industry in the Australian Capital Territory destroyed. This is despite the fact that it is widely acknowledged as the most efficient of its kind in Australia. He wants it destroyed despite the fact that the Australian Capital Territory egg industry, which has more than one producer, although the others are small producers, has consistently produced eggs at the lowest possible prices in Australia for some time and despite the fact that the industry provides some 60 or 70 jobs in the Territory. It seems from what Senator McLaren has said that, firstly, he is completely out of tune with his Labor Party colleagues- I hope he is- and that, secondly, he would destroy this industry in the Territory or would stand by and see it destroyed by others.
– I did not say that.
– I am sorry. The honourable senator may not have said that directly, but he might as well have because he clearly implied, in everything he said, that he would be quite happy to see the egg industry in the Australian Capital Territory destroyed. Whatever reservations I might have about artificial marketing arrangements, it has been accepted to ensure orderly production and marketing arrangements in the egg industry for a number of years. One of the difficulties that the Australian Capital Territory faces is that it is not properly represented on the organisations that have been established to ensure the orderly production and marketing of eggs in Australia- for example, the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia. It is my view that if the Australian Capital Territory had proper representation on the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia and if some States gave the Territory and one of its industries a fair go- for example, if they would act with restraint between one another and with reasonthen none of this would have happened.
Senator McLaren has talked about the hen quota. Victoria can dump eggs in the Australian Capital Territory because the quota in the Australian Capital Territory is inadequate. It should be in the vicinity of 250,000 birds. In fact, it is not much more than half that number, as I understand at present. A new quota is being negotiated. I hope that reason will prevail and the Australian Capital Territory producers will be given a quota which will permit them to produce eggs to meet the demand in the Australian Capital Territory market. As I said, the reason that the Victorian Egg and Egg Pulp Marketing Board can dump eggs in the Territory is that the quota in the Territory is inadequate. This answers the argument as to the quota. If we had a reasonable quota in the Territory our producers would be able to meet the demand, as the State producers are intended to be able to meet the demand within their States through the quota system. It is my view- I know that some people differ on this point- that because of its lack of proper representation the Australian Capital Territory does not have a chance to put its case effectively in the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia although, as I understand it, the Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Ellicott, has intervened to see whether something can be done. I hope that something will now be achieved by negotiation in an atmosphere of restraint and reason.
I refer briefly to the immediate situation. Victoria is now dumping eggs in the Australian Capital Territory, undercutting the local price and thereby threatening to drive the local industry to the wall, although the Australian Capital Territory normally has and would in reasonable circumstances still have the lowest priced eggs in Australia. As I understand it and as Senator McLaren has suggested this evening the Victorian Egg and Egg Pulp Marketing Board is dumping eggs in the Australian Capital Territory because of the action of a producer based in Griffith, who is selling eggs in Victoria. Why is that producer from New South Wales selling in Victoria? My understanding of the situation is that the producer in Griffith is marketing in Victoria because of zoning arrangements in New South Wales which prevent him from reaching a market to sell his eggs. Therefore, to dispose of his produce, he is marketing in Victoria. Victoria is not retaliating against New South Wales, despite the fact that both those States have full representation on the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia. Instead, it is extending the dispute to the Australian Capital Territory in a deliberate attempt to destroy a local industry to try to win an argument which should be conducted between two States of the Commonwealth and the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia.
I understand that the Victorian and New South Wales egg boards have, partly as a result of moves by the Minister for the Capital Territory, conducted some negotiations to attempt to resolve the difficulties that have arisen between those States, which are, I reiterate, full members of the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia in which these matters ought to be resolved. I am told that the negotiations have been unsuccessful to this point. Surely these States can settle their differences without attacking a highly efficient and well-established industry in the Australian Capital Territory? The local industry produces for the Australian Capital Territory market and for the people of the Australian Capital Territory the cheapest eggs in Australia. It provides jobs for 60 or 70 people in the Territory. Senator McLaren seems to want to destroy this industry. Apparently he would happily dispose of the jobs involved in the Australian Capital Territory.
– I did not say that at all.
– You showed great concern for jobs. Let me just make the point that he is freely disposing of 60 or 70 jobs in the Territory in his willingness to destroy this industry and without a second thought. He would be quite happy to see that happen when surely New South Wales and Victoria ought to be able to resolve this matter either by sensible and restrained negotiation or through the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia of which they are both members and of which the ACT is not a full member. I have to say to Senator McLaren that I do not believe that people in this Territory will accept the stand that we should simply dispose of this industry and allow the Victorian Egg Marketing Board to dump its surplus in this Territory, and undercut the price of the local eggs to meet a demand that ought to be met by the local industry. It is now being driven to the wall in this war with Victoria which ought to be settled between Victoria and New South Wales. If the Victorian Egg Marketing Board is not prepared to act reasonably in this matter so that an ACT industry is able to survive, it is incumbent on the authorities in the Territory- the authorities with the power to do something, such as the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott)- to take action. The Minister has indicated that he will legislate to protect this industry if necessary, if orderly marketing arrangements which the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities in Australia is supposed to establish cannot be established as they ought to be.
I have to say quite simply to Senator McLaren that the people in this Territory will not stand by and see an important industry destroyed and 60 or 70 jobs disposed of because the Victorian Egg Marketing Board cannot settle a dispute with a producer in New South Wales. Victoria then comes in here, dumps eggs and attempts to destroy an important industry. If it happened in South Australia, in the honourable senator’s State, I suggest that he would say that it was not on. On behalf of the ACT, I say that it is not on here.
-I claim to have been misrepresented and seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– On two occasions Senator Knight said- this will be in the Hansard tomorrow- that I said that I wanted to destroy the egg industry in the ACT. At no time did I make that utterance. That is not my policy at all. All I was seeking to do was to see that the present people in the ACT did not destroy the Australian egg industry. A reading of Hansard will prove what I have said.
Senator KNIGHT (Australian Capital Territory)- I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– The point that I was making is that Senator McLaren by his remarks made it quite clear that he has no inhibitions about seeing the destruction of an industry in the ACT. Every sentence of his speech carried that implication. (Quorum formed)
Mr President, the Senate has had an unusually long adjournment debate. I will prolong it as little as possible. The major part of the debate was taken up by a speech by my colleague from Western Australia, Senator Coleman, on a series of matters which, in the main, related to the State Government. She dealt with the question of the transfer or proposed transfer of a State public servant which has led to his resignation; some complaints about the police in Fitzroy Crossing; her concern about mining on Aboriginal pastoral leases- on Noonkanbah in particular- and her concern about amendments to the Electoral Act in Western Australia.
Although all these matters are within the direct control and jurisdiction of the State Government, there are some matters in which the Commonwealth Government has a concern because of its responsibility in Aboriginal affairs. Because they are State matters I do not have a total brief on some of the matters which she raised and I would not seek at this late hour to try to answer her point by point, in any event. I do have some personal knowledge of the matters she raised because, as she pointed out, I spent some time in Fitzroy Crossing and, along with a number of other people, including the State Minister, the Honourable David Wordsworth, State Minister for Lands, the Chairman of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission, Dr Charles Rowley, and others, and Professor Colin Tatz who was also mentioned in her speech, we had an evening in which I was able to speak to both Mr Davey and his wife, Jan Richardson.
With respect to the transfer of the State public servant, I understand from what Senator Coleman has put before the Senate and from what I have read in the newspaper, that the State Minister has asserted that the transfer was in the normal course of the administration of his Department. 1 do not therefore seek to comment on the transfer, except to say that in the course of my discussions with Mr Davey, the detail of which I do not propose to go into, I would have to say that he and I acknowledged that we had differences of opinion on the role of community development officers in the situation which exists in the Kimberleys. I make no more comment than that. I certainly found Mr Davey to be a man whom I thought to be very serious about his work and a man whom I believe was acting in good faith. But we certainly had differences of opinion about the way in which one ought to go about matters in the Kimberleys.
The second matter referred to by Senator Coleman relates to the complaints about police. This has been raised with me directly by constituents in Western Australia in the last few days. At the moment I am considering what action, if any, is appropriate by the Commonwealth in the circumstances. I should say, however, that there is a conflict of evidence about precisely what the position is in Fitzroy Crossing with respect to the police. I am not in a position at this stage to say what the facts are. The third matter, the concern about mining on Aboriginal pastoral leases, has been a matter of considerable concern to me because of the conflict between the concern of Aboriginals on pastoral properties to keep miners off the properties and the clear concern of the State Government over suggestions that Aboriginal owned pastoral leases will not be open to mining.
The general position of pastoral leases in Western Australia needs to be understood if the conflict is to be understood. In general, the pastoral lessee in Western Australia has no protection against the incursion of miners. The land is open to entry by miners for both exploration and mining purposes. The claims of the Noonkanbah community- I am familiar with them after having had several visits to that community- are not merely that particular sacred sites should be protected but that the whole property should be kept free from mining. That is a situation which I think is not possible to sustain, given the general position of pastoral leases in Western Australia. My own role in the matter has been to urge the community to discuss the situation with both the State Government and the mining companies with a view to protecting their special sites and at the same time protecting the quite fragile social structure which is developing at Noonkanbah and which I think is a very positive development at that place.
For that reason I welcome the agreement which was made with Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd and which I read about in the newspapers last week, which was a first in Western Australia. For the first time I think an Aboriginal community on a pastoral lease had entered into arrangements with a mining company which, first of all, in the terms reported in the newspaper anyway, gave protection to sites of significance. Secondly, it meant that the Aboriginals were involved in determining what work was actually done and where is was done on the property. I regarded that as a great step forward and I was hopeful that it would be followed by an agreement with Amax, which was the company involved in the earlier dispute to which Senator Coleman referred.
For that reason I would like to express my very great regret at the repudiation of the agreement by the Noonkanbah community and to express the hope that that agreement will be reinstated as soon as possible. If that is not done I think that it is inevitable that there will be continued conflict between the State Government and the Aboriginal communities on pastoral leases. If the Aboriginal communities seek to extend the protection beyond sites of significance to the generality of the land that is contained within a pastoral lease, I believe that these continuing difficulties will inhibit other Aboriginal groups obtaining pastoral leases and will ultimately lead to the Aboriginal leaseholders who are trying to resist mining being overruled. I think that would be a matter for great regret because the situation we should all be trying to encourage is a situation in which the miner and the leaseholder get together and make arrangements of the sort that were apparently made with Conzinc Riotinto of Australia, which ensures that the community gets some protection in both a social and a spiritual sense.
I do not wish to go on at length on this matter but I do want to refer to the latter comment of Senator Coleman that when the State Government goes to the polls next year it will receive the contempt that it deserves. That comment underlines one of the real reasons for stress in the Kimberley area at the moment. I think it is undoubted that there is considerable stress between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population. The Kimberley region is an unusual area of Australia. It has approximately equal Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations but in some places, such as Fitzroy Crossing, there is a great majority of Aboriginals. Clearly there are problems. There are tensions which I think are very destructive of good race relations. There is some resentment among the non-Aboriginal community at the measures that are taken to improve Aboriginal conditions, including the measures that are taken by this Government. There is real concern- concern that I share- about the problems of Aboriginals and alcohol. Again, those problems tend to exacerbate community relations. There are situations of stress, such as the complaints against the police sergeant which were referred to by Senator Coleman, and the charges which were recently brought and dismissed against a station manager by some of the Aboriginals who had been working on the station. There is resentment about the fact that the Aboriginals at Noonkanbah have resisted mining when no other pastoralists have been able to resist mining in the same way.
All of these things are symptomatic of what I see as an undesirable situation. There is deep cynicism in the non-Aboriginal community about Aboriginal claims in regard to secret sites. In these circumstances, I would like to stress to Senator Coleman and to the Opposition as well as to honourable senators on this side of the chamber that it is critically important that all people who are involved, whether they are from State agencies such as the Community Welfare Department and the police or Commonwealth agencies such as my own Department, pursue means of reducing these tensions and removing the difficulties which I have described. I have not purported to describe all the difficulties which exist. I think that, unless all persons and agents who are involved in the field see that as a positive duty, an already difficult situation will be exacerbated. I would like to put on record in the context of the comments made by Senator Coleman my own concern that some State officers- I do not refer to Mr Davey- have not seen it as their duty to arrive at an accommodation. I think that anybody working in the Kimberleys at the moment who does not see that as his positive duty is counter-productive and likely to do far more harm than good. If any officers of my Department did not have that attitude I would want them out of the area immediately.
I do not have a great deal more to say. I am sure that all my colleagues wish I had had less to say because of the extreme lateness of the hour. Perhaps I should just mention the electoral situation and draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that the Commonwealth is engaged with the Western Australian Government in a joint education exercise to try to ensure that Aboriginals in the Kimberley area are able to exercise their franchise without the difficulties that were experienced in the last election. It is my hope that this education campaign, like the one that preceded the by-election after the decision of the court of disputed returns, will reduce the difficulties which led to the voiding of the previous election. If the electoral changes which have now been passed through the State Parliament pursuant to recommendations made by a commission of inquiry prove to give rise to the difficulties which have been predicted by the critics of the Bill, I think we will have to examine that situation very carefully in order to see what remedial action can be taken to remove any disadvantages suffered by Aboriginals. I refer particularly to any disadvantages which might appear in the area of enrolment, of which area particular criticism has been made.
The Commonwealth Government has put views to the State Government and the State Government has responded by saying that it believes that the amendments which are being made are in the interests of all electors and will avoid some of the difficulties of the past. I think all honourable senators ought to do whatever they can, to the extent that they have contact with people who are active in the Kimberleys, to try to ensure that the people of Noonkanbah and indeed of all the communities about which concern has been expressed tonight see that there is a need to build bridges in both directions. I for one will be doing my best to ensure that the difficulties that I have outlined in the Kimberleys are reduced rather than increased.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.37 a.m. (Thursday)
The following answer to a question was circulat
Right Hon. I. McC. Sinclair (Question No. 2059)
1 ) Has the Minister given permission for the Member for New England to retain his former ministerial staff and office accommodation; if so: (a) why; (b) how many staff are involved; (c) do all or any of the staff retain travelling rights; and (d) was the agreement in writing.
Does the Member for New England still draw a ministerial salary; if not, when was it terminated.
) Does Mrs R. Sinclair have the travel rights of a minister’s spouse, or a backbencher’s spouse; if the latter, when were ministerial spouse rights terminated.
What is the reason for any exceptions to the usual practice which normally applies when ministers resign or are dismissed.
1 ) The Member for New England was given permission in writing to retain his former ministerial staff and office accommodation for the normal two weeks ‘ settling-out period applying to Ministers on resignation.
No. Ministerial salary was terminated on 27 September 1 979, the day Mr Sinclair resigned.
In accordance with usual practice, Mrs Sinclair’s travel rights as the wife of a Minister ceased at close of business on 11 October 1979, i.e. two weeks after Mr Sinclair’s resignation.
There have been no exceptions.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 October 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19791017_senate_31_s82/>.