31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform the Senate that the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carrick, will be absent from the chamber throughout the whole of this day as he is attending a meeting of the Australian Education Council in Perth. During his absence I will act as Leader of the Government in the Senate and I suggest that any questions that would otherwise be directed to Senator Carrick be directed to me.
– I present the following petition from 5 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the 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.
Petition received and read.
Lead Concentrates in Motor Spirit
– I present the following petition from 2 1 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.
– 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 construction of a uranium enrich- ment plant in North Queensland and the mining of uranium on 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.
3 ) The danger of poisoning chemicals seeping into surface and underground water supplies as a result of uranium ore mining and refining of uranium ore could pose serious health hazards for persons living in the Townsville region.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should take all possible steps to abandon or postpone indefinitely the mining of uranium in the Herveys Range area, and the construction of an enrichment plant in the Townsville region.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 17 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That a grave threat to the life of refugees from the various States of Indo-China arises from the policies of the Government of Vietnam.
That, as a result of these policies, many thousands of refugees are fleeing their homes and risking starvation and drowning. Because of the failure of the rich nations of the world to provide more than token assistance, the resources of the nations of first refuge, especially Malaysia and Thailand, are being stretched beyond reasonable limits.
As a wealthy nation within the region most affected, Australia is able to play a major part in the rescue as well as resettlement of these refugees.
It should be possible for Australia to: establish and maintain on the Australian mainland basic transit camps for the housing and processing of 200,000 refugees each year; mobilise the Defence Force to search for, rescue and transport to Australia those refugees who have been able to leave the Indo-China States; accept the offer of those church groups which propose to resettle some thousands of refugees in Australia.
The adoption of such a humane policy would have a marked effect on Australia ‘s standing within the region.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 80 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the very survival of mankind is at stake, with the stockpile of nuclear weapons able to kill every person on earth 24 times over and with conventional arms of increasing sophistication having enough destructive power to destroy most life on earth.
Noting that, while millions starve, expenditure on the arms race is $ 1 , 000m per day for the World, and $7m per day for Australia; and noting that the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has listed ‘peace and disarmament’ as a theme for the International Year of the Child; and further noting that a reduction in expenditure on arms could contribute in both developed and developing countries to the eradication of hunger and disease and to the provision of more adequate housing, education, health services, economic security and social welfare for all people:
In the interests of children in Australia and around the world, particularly in developing countries, and as a matter of highest priority during the International Year of the Child,
We call upon the Australian Government to give political leadership both nationally and internationally in working towards:
general and complete disarmament under effective international control;
2 ) the establishment of the Pacific and Indian Oceans as nuclear-free zones; and
3 ) the disbanding of all nuclear bases. and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray.
Petition received and read.
– A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representatives without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council ‘.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray. by Senator Webster.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence verify the authenticity of documents which have been widely reported today and which purport to be the Army service record of a prominent member of a political party in New South Wales? Is the Minister aware that the public relations unit of the Department of Defence is freely offering verbally the same details of service on the basis that they are public information? Does the Minister regard that as a proper and desirable practice, especially when, as is the case in this situation, it is fuelling a smear campaign against an individual?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Defence and ask him to give an early reply to the honourable senator.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen criticism of committees of inquiry into overservicing expressed by the General Practitioners Society in Australia in its journal? Did the Society in that article talk at all of public interest, or was it a self-interest statement? Did it do justice to the Government’s position or to the committees?
-The Minister for Health has seen the criticism by the General Practitioners Society in Australia. May I observe that nowhere did the General Practitioners Society talk of public interest in its September 1 979 editorial. The burden of the editorial was to denigrate a very fair system established by the Government to balance the rights of individual doctors and of the community at large. In no way does the editorial do justice to the Government’s position or to the work of the committees. The medical services committees of inquiry consist of five professional peers. Four are nominated by the Australian Medical Association and are practitioners from private practice. The committees deal with possible cases of doctors providing excessive services; that is, services not reasonably necessary for the adequate medical care of the patient concerned.
Before a case is referred to a committee, the doctor is first visited by a medical counsellor. If appropriate the counsellor may give a warning. If, and only if, such a warning is disregarded will consideration be given, after a number of months have elapsed, to referring the case to a committee. The doctor can be represented at the committee and that representation can be by legal practitioner. The committees can make recommendations to the Minister covering, firstly, the recovery of medical benefits involved in individual excessive services identified by the committee, and, secondly, a reprimand. The Minister can accept or reject each recommendation made to him. Before a determination made by the Minister can become operative, the doctor concerned has 30 days to request a review by the Medical Services Review Tribunal. On points of law appeals can be made to the Federal Court. None of the committees, the Tribunal, or the Minister has power to impose fines or to gaol doctors. Such penalties can be imposed by courts only in respect of fraud, not overservicing.
Senator McAULIFFE Given that the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has been declared, can the Minister for Science and the Environment inform the Senate what area of the Great Barrier Reef is proposed as the next section of the Park to be declared?
-At this moment it is not proposed to declare a second area. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is going ahead with a survey of various areas. A particular attraction is considered to be the most prospective. It is out of Cairns, in the general area to which the honourable senator has directed this Senate’s attention previously. It is not between Lizard Island and another area which he mentioned but, as far as I am aware, a wider area. I am unable to say which area will be declared next. I can assure the senator and the Senate that I will be taking every step within my power to ensure that progressively various parts of the reef are investigated, assessed and, if there is a capacity to declare and manage them correctly, that will be done at the earliest opportunity.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs been drawn to statements reportedly made in the New South Wales Parliament by the New South Wales Minister for Youth and Community Services, Mr Jackson, concerning the Aboriginal settlement at West Brewarrina? What steps has the Commonwealth taken to improve conditions there?
– My attention was drawn to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday in which Mr Jackson, the New South
Wales Minister for Youth and Community Services, is quoted as being extremely critical of certain allocations to West Brewarrina, which is a settlement in New South Wales. I regret the adversary approach which has been adopted by Mr Jackson. It is an approach which I do not adopt. He has since telegrammed me requesting co-operation in organising a conference in West Brewarrina of all interested parties to assess the situation. I have advised him of my support and in fact I directed my Department to be represented at a senior level.
The report contained in the Sydney Morning Herald is not accurate in any event. In fact originally an allocation of $1 1,000 was made in the Budget, and that is indicated in the Budget Papers that were circulated to honourable senators. I have had a series of representations about West Brewarrina, starting with a visit of National Aboriginal Conference representatives from New South Wales. I received various written representations after that. I undertook to visit West Brewarrina. I did so some weeks ago. I would have to say that I agree with the view that the Aboriginal representatives expressed to me that conditions could not really be worse. They described the situation at West Brewarrina as the worst in New South Wales.
As a result of that recent visit in response to the views which were put to me by the Aboriginal people of West Brewarrina and representative of the local shire, who seem to be taking a very positive and sensible interest in the matter, I allocated further funds which will enable the place to be upgraded to some extent. The additional allocation is only some $8,500. Although that is not a large amount it will at least improve immediate living conditions through a general clean-up and will enable some improvement in home maintenance, the payment of outstanding water and other rates and urgent repairs to sewage systems. In addition, there are to be cooperative arrangements between the shire and the community which will ensure that the place is kept cleaner in future.
I welcome the interest of Mr Jackson. He visited the area after I had seen representatives of the NAC but before I was able to get there myself. I hope that by co-operative action between the various agencies of government the situation will be improved very quickly.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Transport seen the item in the latest issue of the National Times which claims that the Malcolm Fraser is unreliable? The item further states that the Gough Whitlam took up the load and carried the Australian National Railways train to Cook. In the meantime, the Malcolm Fraser, described as ‘a real lemon and a useless hunk of machinery’, was hauled back by the William McMahon to Tarcoola for repairs. Can we have the Minister’s assurance that when the new rail link between Tarcoola and Alice Springs is opened all these tired locomotives will be replaced by reliable ones so that the people in the outback will have dependable transport?
-I think I saw the article to which the honourable senator referred. There have been very few articles in the National Times recently in which I place great credence. In fact only one attracted my attention; the rest seemed to me to be rather footling and irrelevant to the nation’s great needs. I appreciated the National Times attempt to enliven what is generally a fairly doleful argument about the South Australian railways, about which we have had a series of complaints in this chamber from various South Australian senators. Usually they complain about the effects of the agreement which was entered into by the Whitlam Government and the South Australian Labor Government and which resulted in the Commonwealth’s undertaking substantial financial responsibilities for the South Australian railways. The honourable senators supported the arrangements at the time but have been complaining about them ever since.
It is highly unlikely that in the event of any revamping of that railroad there will be a locomotive which is named the Gough Whitlam unless it is a locomotive which is regarded as utterly unreliable. As far as the Prime Minister is concerned, I can assure the honourable senator that if his name is used on any new locomotive it will be a sign of the very great confidence that we have in that mode of transport.
– 1 preface my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer by noting that no doubt the Minister is aware of advertisements that Australia Post has run recently in Tasmania to promote the collecting of stamps- no doubt because it realises that philatelists contribute much to the Treasury’s coffers without much effort on its part. With that in mind, I ask: When will the Treasurer insist that the Treasury mint coins of $1 and $2 denominations so that those who collect coins also may contribute to the Treasury’s coffers and so that such coins can replace the $ 1 note, which is now quite out of date, and perhaps be used in vending machines?
– I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Treasurer and ask him to provide an early answer.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether the Australian Industry Fishing Council has referred to the recently signed AustraliaJapan fishing agreement as a sell-out? On what criteria was the $ 1 .4m paid by Japan for fishing rights based and what, if any, supervision does Australia retain under the agreement?
– I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Primary Industry and obtain a full answer for him.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Social Security, by pointing out that Commonwealth support for the Children’s Services Program is by subsidy to selected child care and family day care centres and has the effect of creating competition between subsidised and unsubsidised private child care centres which operate in the same region; further, that the Commonwealth subsidy is designed to assist disadvantaged children, yet there are regions where only unsubsidised centres are situated, thus depriving disadvantaged children in that region of access to assistance. I ask: Will the Minister give consideration to applying the subsidy directly to disadvantaged children so that all such children can have access to the centre of their choice?
– The Children’s Services Program does provide a range of services. I believe that what Senator Thomas is referring to is whether subsidies could be extended to commercially-operated centres in the future. The Government has received representations on this matter from time to time and I know that Senator Thomas is a strong supporter of the type of arrangement that he has outlined in his question. However, the matter would need careful consideration. At present we feel that there is an absence of reliable planning data necessary for the provision and use of child care services on a regional basis throughout Australia. We have been working closely with commercial child care service organisations, particularly where new grants are being made for subsidised child care centres. We are also studying with State licensing authorities the provision of a national data base which would enable better planning of services to be undertaken. The matter raised by the honourable senator would have to be subjected to examination by the Department and consideration by the Government in order to ascertain whether subsidies should be directly related to children and not to services. If there are any developments along those lines, I will see to it that the honourable senator is advised.
– My question is directed to the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: In view of the incidents that have occurred around Australia in the last few days concerning the use of liquefied petroleum gas in cars and vans, what action has been taken by the Government to up-date Australian safety standards? Does the Government accept that it has a role to play in setting a standard in this area?
– I have seen reports of some incidents concerning the use of LP gas units in cars. I understand that it has been suggested that some of these containers should be recalled for examination. That could be simply a matter which concerns the particular manufacturer of that type of container. The matter is one which requires attention and consideration. I will refer the question to the Minister for National Development to see whether there is anything which would in any way reflect upon the policy of encouraging the use of liquefied petroleum gas. At this stage, as I understand it, it is simply a concern that has been expressed about a certain make of unit.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer to the annual report from his Department for 1978-79 and in particular to the chapter relating to the Washington representative of his Department. The report says that the Department’s London representation was discontinued at the end of 1977. I quote:
The Department considers, however, that there is still a very great need for senior representation at London and hopes that it will be able to obtain favourable consideration for the re-establishment of that position in the future.
I ask the Attorney-General: Why was the Department’s London representation discontinued at the end of 1977? When does he anticipate that it will be restored?
– The decision to eliminate, I hope temporarily, the position of my Department’s representative in London was made after a general review of Australian representation overseas and following also consideration by the House of Representatives Expenditure Committee on the same topic. I am not absolutely certain that the two were linked. At the time there were very considerable pressure and advice to review the extent of Australia’s representation overseas. My Department’s decision was that we could not retain both positions, lt was felt that in the present circumstances, particularly with the anti-trust problems that were arising, it was more important to have a representative in Washington than in London. Obviously a good case can be made for a representative in London as well, but that has to be determined in the light of the Government’s priorities and overall policies of budgetary restraint. At this stage, I am not able to indicate whether or when my Department will be able to reinstate its officer in London.
– My question is addressed to the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. It arises out of the question that was asked earlier by Senator Melzer. Has the Department of Transport carried out any studies to determine the potential extra risks arising out of widespread use of liquefied petroleum gas as a substitute for petrol in both commercial and private vehicles? Further, does the Minister have any information on the disastrous lethal range of an LPG tanker if it were involved in an accident and exploded?
– I do not have any information which would enable me to answer specifically the question that Senator Sibraa has asked. I will refer it to the Minister for National Development and ask him to provide an early reply.
– Is the Minister for Science and the Environment aware that MFC Survival Ltd of mid Glamorgan, South Wales, in the United Kingdom, has developed a portable decontamination station that can be erected at the scene of an accident within minutes? As exposure to nuclear radiation toxic chemicals and biological agents requires fast action and as this unit provides this essential treatment, will the Minister’s Department, if it has not already done so, investigate and evaluate this potential life-saving unit?
-The answer to the honourable senator’s first question is no. The answer to his second question is that I will make myself aware of the article. I am uncertain that my particular responsibilities go to this matter. Certainly, from a scientific point of view, I will be most anxious to see what the proposal is that has been put forward for this survival unit and take action on the honourable senator’s question.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It relates to the method of distribution of Australian aid to Kampuchea. Is the Minister aware of complaints about diversion of some Australian aid supplies to soldiers in Kampuchea and of negotiations currently under way in Phnom Penh for United States aid to be distributed by truck convoys which are planned to proceed across the Thai-Kampuchean border at Arunya Pratet into areas of northern Kampuchea which are reported to be among the worst affected by famine? Since this method of distribution ought to achieve fair and equitable distribution of aid to people who really need it, could we associate ourselves urgently with the current Phnom Penh negotiations with the aim of also providing Australian truck convoys to distribute our aid supplies?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and ask him to provide an early answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. There is a continuing complaint especially from lower and middle income earners when they compare their average weekly earnings with the figures compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Unfortunately a number of deficiencies show up in the compilation of these official statistics, especially those arising from the private sector through payroll tax returns. For example, not all firms are required to submit returns. Therefore a high degree of estimating is needed. The average does not recognise movements in employment during the month as the dollar figure for the month is divided by the numbers on hand at the end of the month, resulting in an unnecessarily inflated figure. As these are not the only deficiencies, will the Government consider scrapping the current statistics or alternatively examine means of improving the accuracy of the official average weekly earnings submitted by the Bureau?
– I will refer that question to the Treasurer and ask him to give early consideration to it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Have discussions been held between his Government and the Northern Territory Government on the possible sale of the Territory airline Connair Pty Ltd? What steps have been taken to ensure that the people of the Northern Territory, particularly those in the remote areas, will enjoy a reliable air service? The Minister will appreciate that to be viable a Northern Territory air service must have some of the traffic at present carried by the two major airlines and enjoy some protection from illegal charter operators.
– Although I have some information on that matter, I think that to do justice to the question asked by the honourable senator I should get a proper reply from the Minister for Transport.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Foreign Minister. I refer to a special service article appearing in the Melbourne Herald last evening in which it is alleged that the Indonesian Government, in opening the province of East Timor to international relief agencies, stressed that such agencies would not be able to count on any support from its armed forces and further quoted an Indonesian general as saying:
Everyone expects us to play Santa Claus. They expect us to feed 600,000 people. We just can’t do it. We don’t have the resources.
Will the Minister ask the Foreign Minister to remind the Indonesian Government that it chose, in 1975, to invade East Timor, since when it has been engaged in suppressing the legitimate aspirations of its native peoples through bloodshed and starvation, and that, in the eyes of decent people throughout the world, the Indonesian Government has the present urgent responsibility of feeding and bringing medical and other relief to the unfortunate inhabitants- whether they be 600,000 or 350,000 in number-and in providing transport to the remote areas to distribute such relief and humanitarian aid as is now being contributed by Australia and other countries?
– As Senator Missen has requested, I will certainly refer that question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and ask him to provide an early answer.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President. It concerns security in Parliament House. Yesterday in a personal explanation Senator Chipp quoted from the document Rural Digest’, which is prepared and distributed by me. At the time Senator Chipp spoke, to the best of my knowledge only three copies of it were in existence- one in my office; one in Curtin House, where it was sent to Mr Ferguson; and the original in the Senate reproduction room, where it may have been in the process of being reproduced. I have contacted Curtin House and Mr Ferguson has assured me that he has not given this document to anyone. Although this document was not confidential, it could have been. Will you, Mr President, inquire into security in Parliament House to establish whether, and if so, how, the document was purloined, and if it was not purloined, how it came into Senator Chipp ‘s hands at the time it did?
– I shall study the question very closely to see whether within my competency I can take any action in respect of the matter to which the honourable senator refers.
-I ask the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he has seen reports that now even China and some other major trading countries are doing extensive research into the extraction of uranium from the sea because, as has been stated, an independent and secured uranium supply, even from exotic and expensive sources, is to be preferred to reasonably priced but uncertain supplies of uranium. Does this not clearly show that many countries are very concerned about their future energy needs, and that Australia should do all it can to assist those countries by mining its uranium as soon as it possibly can?
– I have not seen the reports referred to by Senator Young, but it is well known that it may be possible to extract uranium from the sea. Research into this matter is no doubt being undertaken at this stage. I would not be surprised to hear that China is engaging in such research. It certainly indicates a very widespread demand for uranium, and the concern that there will be adequate supplies of uranium on the world market to satisfy that demand. Naturally, if countries are frustrated in satisfying their energy needs, they will be forced to undertake probably very expensive research and the development of very expensive technologies.
-The Minister for Social Security will recall that on 28 August I asked a question in relation to special benefits and supplementary assistance, which was followed by a question from Senator Colston. In her answer the Minister stated that the question involved some legal considerations in respect of section 125 and section 1 12A of the Social Services Act and that she was having the position examined. I ask the Minister whether she is in a position to give any more information in respect of the matters raised by both Senator Colston and me.
– I recall the earlier questions, but I have not received any further information from my Department. I will make an immediate inquiry to see whether any finality has been reached on this matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It follows a number of questions I have asked already on this subject this session. Can the Minister indicate what effects Mr Staley ‘s statement last Thursday concerning the establishment of a national satellite communications system will have on the proposed expansion of television services to Eyre Peninsula in South Australia? As the satellite is not expected to become operational before 1985, does this mean that the Government’s already announced plans for extension, by terrestrial means, of the national broadcasting services in the Eyre Peninsula are now in jeopardy? If not, does the Minister expect that the time-table for terrestrial development will proceed as announced?
- Senator Jessop has raised this matter a number of times in the Senate, and he has been assiduous in following up this matter of the Eyre Peninsula. I am pleased to be able to tell him on this occasion that he does not have a problem. Despite the undoubted benefits which the domestic satellite will provide to many Australians in remote areas, the plans for the Eyre Peninsula already announced by the Government and conveyed to Senator Jessop will go ahead. During the visit by Mr Staley to the Eyre Peninsula earlier this year, in company with Senator Jessop, I believe the Minister made it clear in a series of meetings that he could give no guarantees on the exact timing of this project, but he undertook to provide as soon as possible detail of the exact sites to be included and promised to progress the project without delay. The detail of the sites has now been provided to Senator Jessop, and I understand that he has made this information public in the area.
With the finalisation of further engineering and planning studies at the end of this month, all approved aspects of the project will be immediately added to the capital works program. Although no specific allocation has been made in the 1979-80 appropriation for this project, it should be made clear that it will be possible immediately to fund the project as the capital works program includes a forward commitment approval. To summarise, planning for the project is now well advanced, it will progress with all speed and there is capacity in the financial program to fund the capital works once planning is completed at the end of this month.
– My question is directed to the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. He may recall that we in the Senate were sitting till about quarter past three on Friday morning considering the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill, which the Government regarded as an urgent Bill. We were sitting at that time, presumably- as Mr Street told Sir John Moore- in our normal fashion. Does the Minister consider that there is any significance in the fact that that Bill has not yet received the royal assent although the Bill was forwarded to the Governor-General for royal assent? Does the Minister not see any significance in the fact that there has been a considerable time lapse and that the GovernorGeneral has not made the declaration in accordance with section 58 of the Constitution?
-No doubt we all recall the late sitting we had last Thursday and into Friday morning. This may not be an everyday occurrence in the Senate but when one looks at the record of Parliament one sees that it is not abnormal for the Senate to sit late. I understand that the House of Representatives sat very late one night this week. One could not say that Parliament’s deciding to sit on and to treat a Bill as urgent is anything particularly unusual, although it may not satisfy conditions of absolute normality. Senator Harradine ‘s question concerns assent to the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill. I do not believe any significance should be attached to the question he raised. Procedures have to be undertaken as to the preparation of documents to be submitted to His Excellency for royal assent, including a certificate which I had to sign. I signed that certificate, I think, yesterday. I imagine that the documents for royal assent- if they have not already been presented- very likely will be presented to His Excellency today. No significance ought to be attached to any delay in the granting of assent.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. If the Minister signed the certificate only yesterday, why was it necessary to keep the Senate sitting in such extraordinary circumstances last Friday morning?
– I answered the question that Senator Harradine asked. I do not think there is anything more to add.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware of the partial retirement scheme which has operated in Sweden since 1976? Is the Minister aware that the object of the Swedish scheme is to ease the transition from a full working life to retirement for employees aged between 60 and 65 years by giving them the possibility of a part time job and a partial retirement scheme? In view of the current debate on early retirement in Australia, has the Department of Social Security examined the feasibility of such a scheme in Australia? Does the Minister agree that such a scheme has merit and might be a convenient way of eliminating the anomaly whereby men receive age pensions at 65 years and women at 60 years, even though the life expectancy of a female is much greater than that of a male?
– My Department is aware of the Swedish national social insurance scheme. In my Department’s journal, Social Security, of last year the Director-General of the Swedish National Insurance Board outlined the main features of the Swedish partial retirement scheme. He stated its object to be largely as was expressed by Senator Hamer in his question. Through the operation of the income test in Australia, Australian pensioners are able to supplement their pension by other income, including that derived from partial employment.
– An amount of $20 a week?
– In this way they are able to have a transition from employment to full pension. It is not just $20 a week, as I heard expressed in the chamber. There is a tapering of that test and a quite substantial amount of other income can be received with a partial pension. The Swedish scheme is based on contributions, from employers throughout a person’s working life, and these contributions are related to the person ‘s earnings. It is therefore a scheme quite distinct from the Australian system of general revenue financing of flat rate pensions, as we know them.
Senator Hamer mentioned an anomaly with regard to the different age at which women and men are entitled to receive pensions in this country. I only make the comment that both the Henderson poverty inquiry report and the Hancock superannuation report recommended a common pensionable age of 65 years, although the Henderson report also recommended the introduction of a pension for breadwinners aged between 60 and 64 years if they were finding difficulty in working for an adequate private income. The Hancock superannuation inquiry was unable to recommend a reduction in pensionable age for males, mainly on the grounds of cost. It also rejected a proposal to vary retirement ages, mainly on grounds of administration complexity. So far as raising the pensionable age for women to 65 years is concerned, this is not a matter that is before the Government. The review of all pension entitlements is one that is conducted very often by the Government and I have no announcements to make with regard to any proposed changes.
-My question, which is directed to the AttorneyGeneral, follows his reply to me yesterday concerning criticism by the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Garfield Barwick, of the lack of availability to the public of some regulations. I appreciate the long and detailed reply the Attorney gave me yesterday. However, I now ask him: Is it a fact that on 2 1 April 1 977 the Department of Finance issued an information paper setting out the savings expected in appropriations for that financial year? Is the Attorney aware that on page 11 of that document it is shown that whereas there was an appropriation of $1,088,000 for publication of Acts and statutory rules by the Attorney-General ‘s Department, in fact there was an underexpenditure of $788,000? Is he also aware that in the same document for 13 April 1978, whereas there was an appropriation of $1,035,000 for publication of Acts and statutory rules, there was an under-expenditure by his Department of $535,000? I ask the Attorney whether the real reason copies of Acts and regulations are not available to the public is the drastic underexpenditure on publications of Acts and statutory rules by his Department.
-I accept the figures that Senator Douglas McClelland has read out, but my attention has not been drawn specifically to them. However, it does not surprise me to learn that there has been underexpenditure in relation to the matters that he mentions. The position is that over some years there have been problems in having Acts and statutory rules prepared for printing. There was a variety of reasons for that. I am happy to say that many of those problems have been overcome and that there has been considerable improvement over the last 12 months. For instance, two years ago when I became Attorney-General the 1 974 Acts of the Parliament had not been bound and printed in the annual volume. Now we have the 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977 volumes and, before very much longer, I hope we will have the 1978 volume. Some further improvement has been made also in the printing and binding of statutory rules.
In my response to the report of the Joint Committee on Publications some months ago- I cannot remember for the moment the exact date of it- I canvassed all these questions of what my Department was doing to improve the situation. I refer Senator Douglas McClelland to that report. In view of his interest in this subject I will endeavour to ascertain the exact date of it so that he will be able to read it. I think that probably is the main reason for the underexpenditure but I will have the matter checked further and ascertain whether there are any other factors of which I am not aware or which I have overlooked.
-Is the Minister for Science and the Environment aware that the annual research budget for the IBM company this year will be $1.25 billion? Is he aware that in recent years the percentage of gross domestic product spent on research has increased in countries such as West Germany, from 3 per cent to 3.2 per cent, and in Japan, from 1.3 per cent to 1.9 per cent? Is he further aware that the percentage of GDP spent on research and development is declining substantially in both the United Kingdom and the United States? Does he understand the relationship between investment in research and development and general economic growth indicated by the relative performances of West Germany and Japan, on the one hand, and of the United States and the United Kingdom, on the other hand? If he does, what steps does he propose to take to seek major increases in research and development expenditure in the government and private sectors in Australia?
-The honourable senator has asked a quite complicated question. The answer to the first part is no. The other parts of his question were a little complicated in that they asked whether I was aware of certain percentages of expenditure by certain countries and, in particular, whether I was aware that research expenditure is declining in the United States and the United Kingdom, compared with that of some other countries. I am not aware of that matter, but I will seek to make myself familiar with it to see whether it is a factual situation. I know that the bases of calculation of figures that are produced as being representative of the research budgets in certain countries do not coincide with each other or necessarily with the basis used in Australia. For instance, it is most difficult to arrive at a figure for actual research expenditure in this country. The honourable senator will be aware that it is very nearly impossible to be able to conclude what is the research component of a university’s expenditure because in universities in Australia the teaching component is integrated with the research component. I believe that the projected figure for expenditure on research in this country is not necessarily correct.
Another part of the honourable senator’s question- I think I understood it correctlyasked whether I understood the factors relating to the decline in research expenditure in the United States and in the United Kingdom compared with the expenditure of some other countries which appear to have quite large budgets. There is no doubt that this country, along with others, will come to recognise very quickly the great importance of expenditure on research, both from a government standpoint and certainly from a private industry standpoint. I would encourage private industry- as does the honourable senator from New South Wales- to become more responsible and to establish, if it is possible, its own research endeavour within industry. It is a fact that in Australia in the last couple of years there has been a decline in the amount of money spent on research by private organisations. I believe I am correct in saying that that decline has been represented as being in the vicinity of 18 per cent over a one or two-year period.
The honourable senator asked finally what steps might be taken. I think that he, as a Government senator, will be aware that this Government has done a great deal towards encouraging research and development in this country, not only through what I believe to be the great reservoir of funds which have been projected into areas of research undertaken by the Department of Science and the Environment and organisations within its responsibility, but also through the funds which have been projected into the Department of Productivity.
– How long is this answer going to go on?
– I know that the honourable senator from Tasmania, being on that side of the Senate, might not be as interested in research and development as some Government senators happen to be.
- Mr President, I take a point of order.
-Mr President, you allowed a fairly long question to be addressed to me.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. That outburst stirred us a bit. I again draw your attention to the rulings you have given on numerous occasions. This is the first time this morning that your ruling has been broken. I ask you, sir, to remind Senator Webster of the rulings you have given on so many occasions, particularly as he is one of the offending Ministers.
– The question was couched in very lengthy terms. The reply, similarly, is very lengthy. I again ask honourable senators, as I have done so often, to endeavour to give information with the utmost efficiency and to keep both questions and answers as short as possible.
-Mr President, you are correct in saying that the questions and the answers should be short. I think the Senate would achieve a great deal if it were to do some research into how answers as well as questions can be kept short. Having taken note of the various questions asked of me, I was only part way through providing the information which the honourable senator requested. I was at the point of saying that a great amount is being provided for research conducted not only within my Department but also, as all honourable senators will be aware, within the Department of Productivity. There has been also an enormous projection of funds into areas of research and development within areas of responsibility of the Minister for National Development.
I am confident about the future, much as one becomes disturbed when one sees that the budget of one of the major international organisations, such as IBM, which was mentioned by the honourable senator, is of such magnitude. I know that some companies in this country have a very large budget for research. However, 1 take note of the points put forward by the honourable senator. If further information needs to be provided I will provide it at the end of the Question Time.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Transport will be aware that the previous South Australian Labor Government made repeated requests to the Federal Government for extra funds to upgrade the Stuart Highway in South Australia and that during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Transport in this chamber last year an amendment moved by Senator Bishop calling for extra funds for this purpose was defeated by Government senators. Has there now been a change of attitude by the Federal Government? Are previous strong calls for assistance from the former State Labor Government and Australian Labor Party senators now to be agreed to?
– I am not aware of any recent change of attitude. It is amazing how our views of history differ. I can recall strong representations being made by both Government and Opposition senators about the Stuart Highway. I recall also the difficulty which I think Mr Nixon had in getting the South Australian Labor Government to include provision for that in its national highways allocation. Over the last year I have answered a number of questions on the matter, which included the fact that Mr Nixon eventually was able to get Mr Virgo to agree to allocate to that important project some of the funds available to that State. My recent recollection is that increased funds have been allocated this financial year. I have little doubt that the new Government in South Australia will be listening to the urgings not only of honourable senators on this side of the chamber but also of honourable senators on the other side who believe that this project should have some priority. I will ask the Minister for Transport to advise me whether there has been any recent revision of arrangements. I am not aware of any. If there has been I will pass the information on to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Deputy Leader of the Government. Is the Federal Government prepared to reexamine existing and proposed contracts for the sale of liquefied petroleum gas and liquid natural gas overseas in the light of the changed circumstances of the last 12 months with a view to preserving energy supplies which might be essential to Australia?
-Senator MacGibbon’s question is in general terms and perhaps, as such, I should refer it to the Minister for Trade and Resources. There has been a good deal of discussion in recent days about the question of export from the North West Shelf. The Government has agreed to the terms of export from that huge resource development in respect of which a feasibility study is now in a very advanced stage. No change is contemplated by the Government with respect to any question of export. As the question may have some general implications for other areas, I will refer it to the Minister for Trade and Resources.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science and the Environment and follows a question I asked yesterday about a continuing Federal responsibility for the environment. The Minister said that environmental legislation in the States varied in quality and that, in fact, in some States there was no legislation but only regulations. The Minister also affirmed the Federal role of encouragement of the States with regard to environmental assessments.
Does the Minister have regular meetings on environmental matters with his State counterparts? Does he recognise the increasing need for some Federal-State uniform legislation, especially in the light of recent articles in the Age about independent truckies being paid to dump toxic liquid waste in residential areas? This has been described in the headline in the Age as ‘like letting loose a Great Plague ‘. Will the Minister consider as a topic for a meeting of Federal and State Environment Ministers the need to compile a register of materials which are dangerous to the environment in the same way as a register of the National Estate has been compiled?
– The honourable senator has asked a fairly wide and embracing question. He drew the attention of the Senate, firstly, to the fact that all States do not have similar environmental legislation. I refer the honourable senator to page 2208 of the House of Representatives Hansard, of 18 October 1979, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, which had just presented its report, stated:
The Committee notes that Victoria is the only State which, at present, has comprehensive environment legislation.
The report is from a committee with which honourable members on both sides of the House are involved. It emphasises the point which the honourable senator made. The honourable senator suggested that there might be some moves to bring in uniform legislation. I am not particularly attracted to the suggestion that uniform legislation is necessarily a good thing in this area but I do believe that legislation or regulations of a high level are required. The various States may have views as to how the legislation or regulations should be implemented. I agree that a competence must be reached by the States if they are to deal with environmental matters. As Minister responsible for this area I would certainly require that.
The honourable senator then broke away somewhat to ask about independent truckies and their dumping of toxic liquids and chemicals. I would have to make myself familiar with the information on that point; I am unaware of it at this time. I have been aware of, and have read, the article in the Age which speaks of environmental legislation. I will take note of the honourable senator’s suggestion that a register of toxic wastes in the various States be compiled. As he will know, meetings of the Australian Environment Council are held regularly. The next meeting is to take place in early December. I will give consideration to the honourable senator’s suggestion.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport by referring to recent announcements by Trans-Australia Airlines regarding the placing of a holding deposit on four European Airbus aircraft as possible replacements for its fleet. I ask: As the noise level of the Airbus is said in some circles to be higher than that of other aircraft, will the Minister advise whether this is a fact and, if it is, whether he will take it into consideration before granting approval for the purchase of the Airbus?
– It is obvious that the honourable senator and the Minister for Transport move in different circles, because the information that I have been able to obtain from the Minister on the question is contrary to that suggested by the honourable senator. The Minister has advised me that the Airbus A300B4, the aircraft that is being considered by TAA, is the quietest airliner currently operating in the world and the only existing jet airliner believed capable of meeting the latest aircraft noise standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Its noise levels are significantly lower than those of the Boeing 727 and the McDonnell-Douglas DC9 aircraft currently used by the Australian domestic airlines. In fact, the low noise levels of the aircraft are an attractive feature which will be taken into account in considering any proposal to use it in Australia. It would be useful if the honourable senator could take that information back to the people from whom he has heard to the contrary, because it might relieve their concerns in the matter.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, follows a question that was asked last Tuesday by Senator Elstob. I ask: Can the Minister inform the Senate of the nature of the British nuclear tests at Maralinga and in particular whether the experimentation included work on a cobalt bomb? If the answer is in the affirmative, was a cobalt bomb actually developed and /or exploded in the area and what are the implications of the nature and extent of contamination from the dangerous gamma rays that would have been emitted? What arrangements have been made with the United Kingdom Government to provide the Australian Government with a full report on the material removed from Maralinga, or is it just accepted that the only contract with the United Kingdom was that for the removal of the waste deposit?
-I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for National Development and seek an early answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I ask: Having in mind the problems that exist in the fields of Aboriginal health, education and employment and the fact that a large number of organisations, including government departments and authorities and community organisations, participate in these areas, does the Government acknowledge that there appears to be a lack of efficiency and a degree of high cost associated with many, although not all, of these organisations, where consultation and liaison is minimal, and there is much overlapping and duplication of effort? If so, will the Government review the overall expenditure and operation of government-financed organisations to ensure that finance is better spent and that results are more in keeping with the high level of financial assistance that is now being provided by the Federal Government for the Australian Aboriginal people?
– I assure the honourable senator that I do have in mind the problems, which he described in prefacing his question, in the fields of Aboriginal health, education and employment. It is a fact that a large number of organisations, both governmental and nongovernmental, do work in these areas. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs, in fact, funds by way of grant-in-aid in the vicinity of 1,000 organisations, so a great variety of groups, mainly Aboriginal, are active in this field. On the other hand, I do not have any evidence that there is a serious lack of efficiency or high cost associated with most of the Aboriginal organisations. The procedures which have been established for consultation between the organisations and the co-ordination of plans with other Government departments and authorities ensure in the main that overlapping and duplication of effort are minimised. I do recognise that this is a continuing problem.
In the field of health, I have promoted a series of discussions among State health authorities, Aboriginal medical services, my own Department and the Commonwealth Department of Health to try to ensure that we do reduce to a minimum any areas of duplication and waste, and also in the hope that we can develop more common approaches to the problems that have been tackled by different agencies. There has been a great deal of effort over the last four years to tighten up the procedures of the Department. I am hopeful that some of the problems to which the honourable senator refers in his question have been reduced, if not totally eliminated. If Senator Kilgariff has particular instances in mind, I would be very grateful if he would draw them to my attention. I can assure him that they would be carefully examined. The Government and Aboriginal organisations are interested in seeing that Aboriginal people get the maximum benefit for the dollars which are available.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is the Government aware that State governments profit considerably by the operation of totalisator agency boards? Is the Minister aware that, since the New South Wales Government has stamped down on the illegal operation of starting price betting, TAB revenue has increased in New South Wales by $ 1 m a week? Does the Government recognise that the successful operation of SP betting is a source of corruption, but depends substantially upon the provision of telephones supplied by Telecom Australia as well as a measure of tolerance by some sections of the police force? As all States are plagued by SP operators, can the Minister say what steps the Government has taken, or can take, to tighten up the provision of telephones to SP business operations, often available freely but at the expense of the legitimate requirements of law abiding citizens?
– The honourable senator raises a matter which has been the subject of some publicity about the State of New South Wales this week in a weekly journal. It is certainly true, as he says, that the operation of totalisator agency boards in the States does return substantial income to the States. I was not aware of the figure of Sim a week in New South Wales, but I take the honourable senator’s word for it, if that is the figure. Of course, it is axiomatic that starting price bookmaking does rely on telephones. For those reasons the matter which he raises in this question is of some significance.
I do have some advice from the Minister on this matter because of the publicity it has recently received. Telecom Australia takes the view, which the Minister shares- I am told- that the responsibility for initiating inquiries and pursuing prosecution rests with the appropriate authorities, which are the police forces within the various States and the Commonwealth of Australia. The Minister acknowledges that it is not new for criminal elements to avail themselves of modern technology. That is a problem. The more sophisticated the technology that is available, the more it facilitates criminal activity.
If anybody has any hard evidence of the involvement of any employee of Telecom in any alleged operations, this should be brought to the attention of the relevant police force as quickly as possible. I would like to say, in case that part of my answer is misunderstood, that I am sure the honourable senator is not suggesting- I am not suggesting in my reply- that there is any complicity on the part of Telecom employees. I will refer the question generally to the Minister because I am sure that it would be the wish of Telecom that to the greatest extent possible its service is available to improve the lot of the citizens of Australia and not as an aid to crime.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I am sure that the Minister appreciates that when one makes an application for a telephone one has to state whether it is for a business or private reason. In those circumstances, if Mr ‘A’, an SP operator, states that it is for the use of a confectionery business, for example, and then it is found to have been used for another purpose, surely there would lie within the provisions for the operations of Telecom some measures for punitive action that ought to be taken as the telephone has been obtained for improper purposes or is not used for the purposes for which it was originally granted.
– It is my understanding that the statement of purpose is a statement which is obtained simply for the purpose of ascertaining the relevant charge. If there were a question of misstating the purpose and thereby paying the wrong fee, that may well be an offence. I am doubtful that in other circumstances there would be any actual offence committed if there were no effect on the relevant charging rate. Again I will take the question as one warranting perhaps more detailed examination than I can give now, with a comparative lack of information. I will let the honourable senator have a reply if I can usefully add anything.
-Yesterday Senator Mulvihill asked me a question concerning the Kurnell dispute. I undertook to get the latest information about it for him. I am advised that following the presentation of the Joint Commonwealth-New South Wales Working Party Report on Kurnell to the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments, each government has separately considered the findings of the working party. More recently the working party report has been made public and interested parties have been asked to make submissions to the respective governments on the matters contained in that report. Mr Street has already met with two representations from interested parties and further meetings are to be held as soon as they can be arranged. The New South Wales Government has, for its part, been meeting with interested parties who have State responsibilities. Honourable senators would be aware that there is to be a meeting of Commonwealth and State Labour Ministers in Canberra tomorrow to discuss further industrial relations systems in Australia. Mr Hills may well take that opportunity to raise the Kurnell matter further with Mr Street.
– On Tuesday of this week Senator MacGibbon asked Senator Carrick, the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning a newspaper advertisement by a supplier of office equipment. Senator Carrick has received from the Treasurer the following reply:
Under the terms of the income tax law a taxpayer is entitled to a deduction for all losses and outgoings incurred in gaining or producing assessable income or necessarily incurred in carrying on business for that purpose. Where a taxpayer enters into an agreement for the lease of office equipment to be used for the purpose of producing assessable income he is entitled to a deduction for the lease payments. If, on the other hand, the office equipment is purchased outright he is entitled to a deduction for depreciation which is calculated on the cost to him of the equipment. The 20 per cent investment allowance applies to eligible property that is first used or installed by 30 June 1986. Office equipment would qualify for the allowance.
The value of holiday trips gained in consideration for acquiring office equipment to be used for business purposes would represent assessable income of the recipient.
- Senator Grimes asked me a question without notice on 23 October 1979 about a licence for Air Tasmania to fly between Sydney and Flinders Island. The Minister for Transport has now given me the following information:
Approval was given to Air Tasmania to operate between Sydney, Flinders Island, Devonport and Hobart under Air Navigation Regulation 203. Since this approval was given major issues concerning the viability of airline services over the regional routes of Tasmania including King and Flinders Islands have been raised with the Minister. In view of these issues it was felt that further consideration should be given to the Air Tasmania proposal to operate between Flinders Island and Sydney. The other services have not been impeded in any way. As a consequence of this review the Department of Transport requested that Air Tasmania return its licence for the Sydney-Flinders Island service. I am unable to say what expenditure Air Tasmania incurred in relation to its proposed Sydney-Flinders Island service. However, the review I referred to previously is being undertaken as a matter of urgency and a final decision on this matter will be taken in the near future.
-On 17 October Senator Evans asked a question without notice concerning a report in that day’s Melbourne Age about share transactions concerning Mr Rupert Murdoch, News Ltd and Ansett Transport Industries. The response is some three paragraphs.
I would seek leave and be quite happy to incorporate that in Hansard, if that suits the Opposition.
The document read as follows-
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has informed me that he has seen the report mentioned by Senator Evans and, indeed, a number of newspaper articles commenting on various share dealings concerning Ansett Transport Industries and possible effects upon the licence of ATV Channel O.
Senator Evans knows, of course, that power to determine the ownership of commercial broadcasting and television stations is vested in the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal under the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942 and is, therefore, a matter over which neither the Minister nor the Government has any control. Mr Staley is confident, however, that, when dealings in the share market involving Ansett Transport Industries have stabilised sufficiently, the Tribunal will undoubtedly consider the effect of those dealings on the licence for station ATV-O Melbourne and the im- plications of the ownership or control provisions of the B roadcasting and Television Act on the transactions.
In considering any change in the control of the licence for ATV Channel O the Tribunal would, of course, be bound by the relevant provisions of the Act and in its deliberations would undoubtedly have due regard to any evidence previously placed before it at a licence inquiry.
-On 17 October 1979 Senator Watson asked a question without notice about Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcasting facilities and reception difficulties in the north-west and other areas of Tasmania. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has now provided me with a response. Once again, if it suits Senator Watson and the Opposition I would seek leave to incorporate that answer in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has informed me that he is well aware of the situation in these areas of Tasmania, particularly as a result of the strong representations he has received from Senator Watson and other Tasmanian senators and members about a number of issues concerning radio and television facilities.
Engineering advice to Mr Staley is that reception through the ABC’s transmitter at Launceston is adequate in that city although areas which Senator Watson mentioned in his question are certainly experiencing reception problems and require improvements.
Funds to extend the National Broadcasting Service are already committed to projects in the 1979-80 Capital Works Program. However, because of the strength of representations from Senator Watson and others, this matter will receive full consideration in the 1980-81 and 1981-82 years of the Government’s on-going Three Year Capital Works Program.
The possible establishment of a second ABC regional network will be included within the development of future plans although policy and other technical issues may delay final and detailed planning for some time.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) On behalf of Senator Carrick, for the information of honourable senators, I present the report of the Australian Delegation to the Committee on Disarmament 1979, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs relating to the report.
– by leave- I move:
This is an important report, and the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) is an important one. We believe that in this Disarmament Week some reply is merited. We welcome the statement and the report, and we welcome the fact that the Minister in his report and in his supporting statement has announced that in future we will receive more regular reports of similar Australian delegations and Australian participation in important international forums. The Minister points out in his statement that it has been a very successful effort of the Government to achieve Australia’s participation in the United Nations Committee on Disarmament. We agree, but we point out that it was in 1974, when the Labor Government was in power, that an Australian Government first sought to secure for us membership of what was then the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament in the United Nations. This was not possible because of the balance of power prevailing in the United Nations, and the fact that the Western allied nations had what was considered to be sufficient representation. We are pleased, therefore, that with the expansion of the Committee and the change in the nature of the Committee the Australian Government is at last represented.
We on this side of the House consider the only future for disarmament, for reduction in world tension and reduction in hostilities throughout the world, is through international agreement, even though international agreements of the type that this Committee is trying to achieve are made difficult by the fact that the world is dominated in this area by the two super-powers, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It has often been said that war is the father of all things. Willy Brandt, who as many will know, has been labouring for peace in this world, has added that modern war with its nuclear weapons, its chemical weapons and its radiological weapons will be the death of all things, if we allow it to continue and allow such things to proliferate.
The Committee has set itself an ambitious program, a program which some people- I suppose one could call them cynical- would say is impossible. The Committee attempts to investigate and draw up agreements on nuclear weapons in all their aspects, on chemical weapons, on weapons of mass destruction generally, on conventional weapons, on the reduction of military budgets and forces, on disarmament, on development and disarmament and international security. It also attempts to draw up comprehensive controls as to the use particularly of nuclear materials- materials which are allegedly for peaceful means, but which can be easily transferred into the production of mass weapons of destruction. Of all the items that the Committee is looking at, we consider this to be the most important.
We know that in the world at present there is already an accumulation of massive amounts of potentially weapon-grade material. Japan, with its breeder reactor program, has over 5 tonnes of metallic plutonium which could be used very easily to produce a massive number of nuclear weapons to destroy most of life on this earth. The United Kingdom and the Eastern bloc countries have similarly accumulated vast quantities of potentially weapon-grade material. All these materials are under international control. They obviously should be under international control and under international supervision if possible.
We hope, even if it is a long term hope, that the work of this Committee will be able to introduce some sort of international control. We know how unsuccessful this has been in the past. We know how India was able to overcome the restrictions put on its uranium supplied by Canada and produce nuclear weapons. Pakistan is willing to go ahead developing nuclear weapons because of its hysterical reactions to India’s behaviour. We know that all over the world when countries accumulate potential nuclear materials that their neighbours, quite justifiably, get apprehensive and anxious and tend to do the same.
It is for this reason that international agreements and international supervision of the nuclear cycle is so important. It is for this reason that we, on this side of the House, believe that until we can get adequate nuclear safeguards, internationally supervised, we should have no part of the nuclear cycle and the development of the nuclear system throughout the world. We should work to help countries to develop alternatives.
We also believe that it is of vital importance- we will be very firm on this when we are in government- that we take part in international discussions of this type and take an active part in contributing scientific and legal material and working out scientific and legal solutions to the development of international agreements. We welcome Australia’s participation in this Committee and welcome this report. We hope that in future we will get regular annual reports. It is through this Parliament to the people of this country that such regular reports should be made. They should not be made in secrecy to the Executive government. Having said those few words, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Legislative Drafting Institute 1979.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the National Training Council 1979 Training Study Mission together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) relating to the report.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Department of Finance for 1979.
– Pursuant to section 76A of the National Health Act 1953 I present the annual report on the operations of the registered medical and hospital benefits organisations for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– by leave- I move:
I merely question why the report of 1978 has arrived so late. I also question the fact that I, as Opposition spokesman on health, have yet to see the report. One hopes that the previous practice of the responsible Minister supplying a report two hours before it is tabled will be followed in future. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Director-General of Health 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1972 I present the report of the Australian Institute of Marine Science for 1978-79.
Senator ROBERTSON (Northern Territory) by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 24 (4) of the Metric Conversion Act 1970 I present the ninth report of the Metric Conversion Board, covering the year ended 30 June 1979. The Board has carried out its functions in achieving the object of the Act and no amendments have been made to the Act or regulations introduced.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service 1 978-79. 1 seek leave to make a statement relating to the report.
– I seek leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– No, we want to hear it.
– Leave is not granted.
– I am delighted that honourable senators want to hear it. In the period covered by this report substantial achievements have been made in a wide range of nature conservation issues with which the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service has been involved. Following lengthy discussions between the representatives of Aboriginal landowners and the Commonwealth, Stage I of Kakadu National Park was declared under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act on 5 April 1 979. The Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty and contains much of scientific, cultural and environmental interest. The area is of Aboriginal significance and the declaration of the Park marks a new era in the involvement of indigenous people in national parksboth within Australia and internationally.
The lease agreements executed between the Kakadu Land Trust and the Director, National Parks and Wildlife Service, mean that the traditional Aboriginal owners of the area have leased their land to the Director to be managed for the nation as a national park. Six Aboriginal trainee rangers commenced an intensive course during the year and together with other Aboriginal employees already engaged will in the future provide for substantial Aboriginal involvement in park management.
Following detailed consideration of the report of the Independent Inquiry into Whales and Whaling, which was held under the chairmanship of Sir Sydney Frost, the Government announced its new policy of vigorous and active protection of whales on 4 April 1979. Responsibility for whale conservation is to be transferred from the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) to my Ministry. In accordance with government emphasis on the conservation of whales, the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service was appointed the Australian Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission on 6 June 1979. At the subsequent 3 1st annual meeting of the Commission the Australian delegation played a leading role in advancing the conservation of whales.
The research investigation and survey program during the year related both to issues of national concern and to more specific matters related to the parks for which the Service is responsible. The program has continued to provide a valuable and tangible contribution to the resolution of critical nature conservation issues. Good and productive arrangements have been developed with State authorities and non-government organisations. The year saw a continuation of Service involvement in a range of international forums including the Whaling Commission which I have already mentioned, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and the Endangered Species Convention.
To accommodate the increasing awareness of nature conservation issues the Service has produced a variety of publications. Particular interest has been shown in the series of leaflets dealing with endangered species which are now used as a teaching aid by schools throughout the Commonwealth. The year saw a marked increase in the requests for Service officers to give lectures in schools and other institutions and to participate in seminars. The year has been one of commendable progress and new responsibilities for the Service and I am pleased to table this report.
Motion (by Senator Robertson)- by leave -proposed:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
– I rise to comment in particular on the statement of the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) about the Kakadu National Park. He says in his statement that the Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty and contains much of scientific, cultural and environmental interest. I agree with him; that is certainly no exaggeration. In fact, having looked at the place on the ground recently, I feel that he could justifiably have been more enthusiastic. That is really the basis of this statement. I have been lucky enough to see national parks and areas of natural beauty in various parts of the world. I mention that only as an indication that I may have a basis of comparison for an assessment of Kakadu National Park on a world scale. I do not think that Australians understand yet what a tremendous and enormous asset they have in this place.
I believe that the Kakadu National Park is outstanding even in world terms and quite soon will be recognised, as is the Great Barrier Reef, as a tourist area of world class which will be visited, I hope with discretion, by tourists from all over the world. That will happen provided one important condition is met- that is, that the Kakadu National Park stays in its present pristine, completely natural state. There are very few parts of the world left where a park of that size and of such tremendous diversity of interestcontaining as it does such things as jabiru birds, saltwater crocodiles and an enormous wealth of natural life- is available to a world body of tourists of increasing size who make a cult of that sort of thing and who are prepared to spend almost any sum of money to go to a place which they regard as being worthy of inspection. In other words, with careful exploitation- I suppose one has to use that word- and the provision of facilities such as accommodation, I believe that a very considerable income will come to Australia, and especially to the Northern Territory, from the Kakadu National Park into the indefinite future, provided that the park is not defaced, contaminated or possibly ruined by industrial and mining activity over the next decade or so.
While I was in that area I had a look at the extensive total land clearing and other activities associated with the Ranger uranium mine, where the No.l ore body is at present being exposed. The first open cut hole will be 42 hectares in extent- that is something like 100 acres- and it will go down 175 metres, which is something more than 500 feet. Every bit of spoil taken from that mine will go through the crusher and will finally end up carefully contained in a rock and earth tailings dam where it can be held because of the danger to the environment below it of the heavy metals used in uranium processing, to say nothing of the possibility of some residual radioactivity. I believe- I did raise this point with the people of Ranger- that environmental measures there have been scrupulously abided by. A great deal of care has been taken. The fact remains that below the tailings dam proposed at Ranger lie the highly sensitive areas of Magela Creek, which I think Senator Keeffe asked a question about the other day. The point was not made by Senator Keeffe, nor in fact by the Minister, that at high tide Magela Creek backs up into the East Alligator River, which I found one of the most beautiful, unusual and exotic parts of the Kakadu National Park.
I am quite sure that we will get into the Park tourists from Japan, England and America, in large numbers provided that they can go there and find it to be an area of natural wonderland. They will not go to an area through which trucks carrying yellow cake regularly rumble which is dotted and spotted with mining operations or the remains of them. In the event of another cyclone such as the one which devastated Darwin so recently, it would be impossible for the miners to guarantee that the tailing dams would not burst and that the residues in them would not be sent down into the creeks and sensitive areas of the East Alligator system. If that happens we can forget forever any idea that we will have a national park of world importance in that area. I will not use the rude word that I should to say what we will do to the area if that happens. At this stage I am not canvassing in any way whether or not we should export uranium. My views and those of the Australian Democrats are well known on that issue. I am putting as a cold economic proposition that there should be an investigation, a careful study, by the Government to consider whether we should go ahead with the mining of the Jabiluka deposits. I believe that the system might sustain Ranger- it is going ahead- but the Jabiluka proposal is much bigger.
When we look at the map of the park we find that it has a very curious shape. We find that out of the top of it an oblong bite has been taken, roughly between the sea and the Arnhem Land escarpment, which is unnatural and which, when we get there on the ground, we find is the most beautiful part of what should be the park. It has been left out of the park because the Jabiluka leases and another large area towards the coast are where it is believed- I think quite reasonably- that there is a lot more uranium and where further prospecting will take place. How far are we going to let this prospecting go? Are the leases going to go through that whole area and will uranium be mined for the next 30 or 40 years? I believe- and I think many Australians would believe as time goes on- that with the falling market for uranium and the dropping price for uranium and with the damage which would be and is already being caused to the Arnhem Highway by mining operations, it would be a mistake for us to prejudice the Kakadu National Park, an enormously valuable national asset, which could be a world asset and which we have a responsibility to preserve instead of providing the few million dollars which would go mostly to the Getty oil company and to some other foreigners.
Motion (by Senator Peter Baume) proposed:
The debate be now adjourned.
– I want to seek leave to make a statement.
– You have had a speaker already.
– You had better do your homework with the third party. You have been fumbling the ball for the last fortnight and it is time that you, the autocrat last Friday morning, played a bit fair with everybody else.
– Order! I have a motion before the Chair.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Does that veto my right to ask for permission to make a five minute address?
– You can seek leave in a moment.
– I ask leave to -
– In a moment, please.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
-I seek leave to make a statement on the topic under discussion.
-Is leave granted?
– I know the great interest that Senator Mulvihill has in the Kakadu National Park. If he wants leave to make a very short statement, I will give him leave, provided that there is no precedent attached to it.
– I am renowned for short, crisp statements. I enter this debate simply to say that all that we have heard from the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) and what is in the minds of Senator Robertson and the Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats (Senator Mason) simply justifies Senator Webster’s forming an alliance with the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment. In fact, if this debate had come on the week after next we might have made even more contributions. I simply emphasise that the Minister’s statements indicate that he will need allies, whether they be in relation to whaling protection or in relation to what Senator Mason said about other adversaries in the mining field. I simply make the plea that I hope the Government will grasp what I have suggested previously and that the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment will be given permanent statutory authority to maintain a form of auxiliary monitoring system and, if necessary, for trespassers into the park or into whaling to be given the opportunity to put testimony before that Committee under the chairmanship of Senator Jessop.
– Pursuant to section 24 of the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957, I present the annual report of the National Capital Development Commission 1 979.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 53 of the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946,I present the annual report of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission 1 979.
-I present the fifth report of the Committee of Privileges relating to the imprisonment of a senator.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- Arrangements have been made for the consideration of this report to be placed on the Notice Paper as Government Business and for the report to be debated before the end of the present period of sittings. I will, therefore, be very brief in drawing the attention of the senate to the contents of the report. On 30 August 1979, the Senate referred to the Committee three matters relating to the arrest and imprisonment of Senator Georges earlier in that month. The most important of these matters was related to the failure of the appropriate authorities in Queensland formally to advise the President of the Senate of Senator Georges’ imprisonment. The report indicates that it is the right of the Senate to be formally notified whenever any of its members are placed in custody by a court and that the Senate would be on firm ground in treating the failure to make such a notification as a contempt. The report suggests, however, that the Senate should take steps to secure the co-operation of the courts in the various jurisdictions of Australia in adopting the practice of notifying the Presiding Officers whenever a member of the Parliament is ordered to be held in custody, which practice has been firmly adhered to in Britain for many years. To this end, the report recommends that the Senate pass resolutions declaring that it is the right of the Senate to receive notification of the imprisonment of any of its members and that all courts should make formal notification to the President whenever such imprisonment occurs. The report further recommends that the Commonwealth and State Presiding Officers and Attorneys-General confer upon action to be taken to secure compliance with the practice of notification.
The other matters referred to the Committee relate to the questions whether the imprisonment of Senator Georges was as a result of civil matters and whether the privilege of freedom from arrest in civil causes was infringed by his arrest and imprisonment. The report discusses the privilege of freedom from arrest and concludes that the matters leading to Senator Georges ‘s imprisonment were not such as to attract that privilege. When the report is debated, I will speak further on the implications of the Committee’s recommendations. I suggest that all honourable senators read the report before the debate ensues.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That consideration of the report be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting:
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Australian National University Act 1946.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move:
The Australian National University Amendment Bill 1 979 brings together in one Bill a number of amendments that relate to the Australian National University Act, and replaces the Australian National University Amendment Bill which was introduced on 24 November last year. These amendments include the insertion into the Act of provisions to give effect to the Government’s policy on membership of student organisations; the changing of the structure of the academic boards of the School of General Studies and of the Institute of Advanced Studies; the changing of the name of the School of General Studies to The Faculties; and the amendment of the financial provisions in the Act to bring them into line with current Commonwealth provisions.
The sections of the Bill dealing with student organisations will provide that: membership of a student organisation will be voluntary; fees payable in respect of membership of a student organisation will be voluntary; compulsory fees can only be used for the provision of amenities or services; where the Council of the University makes compulsory fees moneys available to a student organisation for the provision by that organisation of approved amenities or services, the Council must first be satisfied that the governing body of that organisation is representative of its members; in addition, where the Council of the
University makes compulsory fees moneys available to a student organisation for the provision by that organisation of amenities or services, then it is the duty of the Council to ensure that the moneys are applied only in respect of the provision of amenities or services that are not of an academic nature, that are of direct benefit to the University, and that have been declared in university statutes to be amenities or services in respect of that organisation; compulsory fees moneys are not to be paid to a national organisation which represents students but they may be paid to national student organisations whose principal function has to do with sporting or recreational activities, or with a particular education, social or cultural field, or with the interests of post-graduate students; and financial statements are to be prepared and audited each year showing details of the manner in which compulsory fees have been expended.
As I have indicated, the Bill also provides for a number of administrative changes within the University. The Council of the University believes that the name School of General Studies, which has the connotation of ‘general’ studies or adult education, is inappropriate as the name of the undergraduate arm of the University. The Council is of the view that the name ‘The Faculties’ is the most appropriate term to distinguish the undergraduate side of the University from the Institute of Advanced Studies and reflects more accurately the activities of this important side of the University. Accordingly, the Bill will change the name of the School of General Studies to The Faculties.
In addition the boards of the School of General Studies and of the Institute of Advanced Studies will be restructured in accordance with decisions of the Council. The restructured Board of the Institute will take account of the changing structure of the research schools in the Institute and of the growth in the number of centres, units and groups within the Institute. The Board will now become a smaller representative body and will be more effective in its review and policymaking role. The Board of the School of General Studies, which will now be called the Board of the Faculties, will become a larger body with increased representation of student members and of non-professional staff. With this increased representation, it is envisaged that the Board will be better placed to fulfil its function of having responsibility, under the Council, for all academic and related matters arising in The Faculties.
Finally, the opportunity is taken by the amendments to update the financial provisions of the Australian National University Act so that they are in line with current Commonwealth provisions. In preparing these provisions care has been taken to maintain the autonomy appropriate to universities in our society. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mcintosh) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Canberra College of Advanced Education Act 1 967.
Bill presented, and read first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
The Canberra College of Advanced Education Amendment Bill 1979 also replaces the Bill which was introduced in November last. This Bill allows for the insertion into the Canberra College of Advanced Education Act of provisions similar to those in the Australian National University Amendment Bill which will give effect to the Government’s policy on membership of student organisations and, in addition, amends the financial provisions in the Act to bring them into line with current Commonwealth provisions.
The sections of the Bill dealing with student organisations will provide that: membership of a student organisation will be voluntary; fees payable in respect of membership of a student organisation will be voluntary; compulsory fees can only be used for the provision of amenities or services; where the Council of the College makes compulsory fees moneys available to a student organisation for the provision by that organisation of approved amenities or services, the Council must first be satisfied that the governing body of that organisation is representative of its members; it is the duty of the Council to ensure that moneys provided to a student organisation for the provision by that organisation of amenities or services, are applied by the organisation only on those amenities or services which have been approved by the Council as being of direct benefit to the College; and financial statements are to be prepared and audited each year showing details of the manner in which compulsory fees have been expended.
In addition to these provisions, the Bill maintains the relationship which exists in the Act between the Minister for Education and the College. This means that the Minister will continue to have the power of direction with regard to determination of which amenities or services are eligible to be supported from compulsory fees. Finally, as with the Australian National University Bill, the opportunity has been taken to amend the financial provisions of the Canberra College of Advanced Education Act so that they are in line with current Commonwealth provisions. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mcintosh) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move:
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975 established new machinery for review on the merits of administrative decisions. It was supported on both sides of the Parliament. The Act established two important new bodies, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Administrative Review Council. The purpose of the present Bill is to make some changes to the constitution of the Council and improvements to the functioning of the Tribunal. The Tribunal came into operation on 1 July 1976, with jurisdiction to review decisions made under a number of Acts of the Parliament and Ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory. That jurisdiction is being progressively extended, in accordance with the Government’s policy in this area.
The Administrative Review Council, which is established under Part V of the Act, first met on 1 5 December 1 976. The Council ‘s functions relate to the examination of decision-making processes and administrative review mechanisms, and the making of recommendations to me on the need for changes. The Council has already produced two very valuable annual reports which have been tabled in the Parliament and are available to honourable senators. I anticipate that the Council’s third annual report will be presented shortly. The Council has also made a number of very helpful recommendations to me as Minister. I am pleased to take this opportunity to announce that it is my intention to table the more important of these recommendations after the Government has completed its consideration of them.
The amendments to be made by the Bill principally stem from recommendations made to me by the Council. They deal with the constitution of the Council itself, the powers of the Tribunal and the Federal Court of Australia in relation to stay orders, and machinery matters relating to time limits and staff of the Tribunal.
The Council was originally conceived as an expert body of lawyers and administrators. Section 50 of the Act accordingly provides that the qualifications for Council membership are extensive experience in public administration or extensive knowledge of administrative law. It has become increasingly apparent, however, that the Council would be even better equipped to discharge its functions if it had access to expertise in areas outside the confines of law and public administration as such.
Clause 11 of the Bill therefore extends the qualifications for membership of the Council to include extensive experience at a high level in industry, commerce, industrial relations, the practice of a profession or the service of a government or an authority of a government and extensive knowledge of public administration. As a result of this extension of the qualifications for appointment, the Council will be able to reflect the views and experience of a broader cross-section of the community.
The Act at present requires the President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, who is an ex officio member of the Administrative Review Council, to preside at meetings of the Council. The Council believes, and I agree, that this situation can give rise to potential conflict of duty where the Council is considering and reporting on matters that might be the subject of proceedings in the Tribunal. Clauses 10 and 12 of the Bill have therefore been included to enable a member of the Council other than the President of the Tribunal to be appointed Council Chairman. The Tribunal President will remain a member of the Council, but it will be easier for him to withdraw from the Council’s deliberations in appropriate cases, and he will no longer need to be the channel of communication between the Council and the Government.
I turn now to a number of amendments relating to the making of stay orders. For review procedures to be effective, it is sometimes desirable that a decision the subject of a review application should be suspended or stayed pending the outcome of the application. Section 4 1 of the Act makes provision for this to be done.
This provision enables, for example, a deportee to obtain a stay of deportation while he applies to the Tribunal for a review of the deporation order. However, experience has shown that the powers available to the Tribunal under section 41 are not sufficiently flexible. Thus, in the case of a deportation order, the Tribunal ‘s power is limited to ordering suspension or stay of the whole of that order. The result is that the order will cease to be ‘in force’. Once this is done there is no statutory basis, under the Migration Act 1958, to detain the deportee. Clauses 6 and 14 of the Bill have therefore been included to give the Tribunal much greater flexibility in framing a suspension or stay order, to overcome problems of this kind. The Tribunal will have power to suspend or stay part of a decision, as well as the whole of the decision, to make an order subject to condition, and to limit the duration of the order so that it does not have an unnecessarily long duration. The Tribunal will also have power to revoke or vary a suspension or stay order, so that changing circumstances can be met.
Section 4 1 at present prevents the making of a suspension or stay order unless the decisionmaker has been given a reasonable opportunity to make a submission to the Tribunal. This could undesirably delay the making of a stay order in some cases. Under the proposed amendments it will no longer be necessary to afford the decisionmaker the opportunity to make a submission where it is impracticable to do so. As a safeguard, however, an order made in those circumstances will not come into operation until a notice setting out its terms is served on the decision-maker. He will then be able quickly to seek recovation or variation of the order if he considers it necessary.
An appeal lies on questions of law to the Federal Court of Australia from a decision of the Tribunal. Under sub-section 44(6) of the existing legislation, the Court has powers similar to those of the Tribunal to make suspension or stay orders. Clauses 8 and 9 have been included in the Bill to ensure that the Court’s powers are parallel to the broader powers which are to be conferred on the Tribunal. The amendments will also ensure that the Court’s powers extend to both the Tribunal’s decision and the original decision which the Tribunal was reviewing.
The Bill also contains some matters of a machinery nature. These cover an amendment to sub-section 21 (1a) relating to the Tribunal’s constitution when hearing certain preliminary matters, an extension to a maximum of 28 days of the times within which a decision-maker must provide findings of fact and reasons for decisions, and a provision to cover staffing arrangements following Northern Territory selfgovernment. The changes are set out in clauses 3, 4, 5 and 13 of the Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mcintosh) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That, unless otherwise ordered, Government Business Orders of the Day Nos 1 to 7 take precedence of General Business after 8 p.m. this day.
-The Opposition opposes this motion ibr the reasons that I gave yesterday. The Government has to move this motion because it has been delayed in bringing forward what we concede is important legislation. At this very late stage it is bringing forward legislation which is due to go into action. We concede that the Social Services Amendment Bill, the National Health Insurance Amendment Bills, the Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill and the Overseas Students Charge Bills are important, but we do not concede that it has been necessary for them to be so delayed in coming into the House of Representatives or the Senate.
Honourable senators on both sides frequently have pointed out the importance of a House of review being able to conduct General Business and participate in General Business. The only reason that this motion has been moved is that the Government has been unable to order its business. For weeks Bills of relatively less importance and urgency have been brought into this place and the other chamber. At this late stage of the session important pieces of legislation are being introduced. We are told that unless we go along with the Government ‘s program pensioners, repatriation beneficiaries and other recipients of social security in this country will not get their increases. That is a weak excuse. It borders on blackmail. We think it is the wrong way to conduct business. We believe that the legislation that has been put forward deserves much longer debate than it will get.
We will not obstruct the passage of these Bills. At the same time we will insist, as we already have insisted, that they receive proper debate. Therefore, we formally oppose the motion. We believe that it is up to the Government to present to this House and the other House legislation of this type in adequate time so that we will not be subjected to the sorts of threats of the last couple of days.
– Very reluctantly we will be voting with the Government on this issue, although I am in absolute sympathy with what Senator Grimes has said. The hard facts, as I understand them, are that if the Social Services Amendment Bill does not pass through the Senate today additional payments to pensioners will be delayed significantly. I sympathise with Senator Grimes’s dilemma. We have had thrust before us two decisions. One is to agree to a Government request to pass this Bill before 6 o’clock tonight. This, as I believe Senator Grimes mentioned in his speech at the second reading stage, would be an intolerable situation. Many matters will have to be explained at the Committee stage. Most honourable senators would like to speak on many matters in Committee. On the other hand, if this motion is defeated, as the Opposition hopes it will be, payments will be delayed to pensioners unless the Government guillotines debate on the Bill. For that reason, we have great sympathy and support for the case put forward by the Opposition. But because of the practicality and pragmatism we will be obliged to vote with the Government and against the Opposition on this question.
– I want to record my protest about this matter. It is not correct to say that unless we pass the Social Services Amendment Bill today the pensioners will not receive their increases. The position is that unless we pass this Bill before 1 November 1979 they will not receive their increases. The Senate could sit another day for the purpose of passing this Bill. The Government seems to neglect the importance placed upon General Business. This is the only opportunity we have for discussing private members’ business, and that opportunity has been taken away. This place is becoming a Government House with no rights for individual politicians at all. This state of affairs cannot be permitted to remain.
Last Thursday, by Senate decision, General Business was forgone in order that a Bill which was before the House and which was later determined by the Senate to be an urgent Bill could be passed. We had to get the bill through the Senate that day. Consequently we sat to 3 o’clock the following morning. Although it was passed last Friday morning as an urgent Bill, we learned only today that the relevant Minister did not sign it for transmission to the Governor-General until yesterday. That shows the delay that has happened with an urgent Bill. There was no urgency at all. As a result the Opposition has shown some protest this week. We have prolonged business possibly when we could have taken Bills conjointly or permitted incorporations of second reading speeches in Hansard. We have done so to demonstrate that if this Parliament is to function at all efficiently it must function with the cooperation of both sides.
We are now at the stage where a Bill must be passed today. Let us get some rapport between the Government and the Opposition about future business. It should not be entirely the prerogative of the Government to say how business should come on in this House. If the Government wants to pass legislation it should consult with the Opposition to see how assistance can be given. I know the difficulties of voting against this motion, but at this late stage there should be a conference between Opposition and Government senators as to the future running of this place. The present situation cannot be tolerated. The private member’s Bill is being sacrificed on every occasion because the Government has the monopoly of saying which Bills will be debated. It is a neglect of Government procedure that these Bills were not brought on long before today and before the industrial legislation, which still has not been made law. I appeal to the Government to reconsider the attitude that it is now determined to take.
– It is desirable that I intervene in the debate to make a few points in response to some of the comments that have been offered by Senator Cavanagh. First, the Government appreciates the view that the Australian Democrats have expressed and understands that those honourable senators will vote with it on this matter. It is grateful for that assurance. The motion which has been proposed allows for General Business to be brought on tonight if the essential parts of the Government’s program can be dealt with. There is no attempt to prevent General Business from being brought on.
– Of course there is.
-Senator Cavanagh intervenes. It is up to people such as Senator Cavanagh- a point on which I will elaborate in a moment- to decide whether they will continue the practice of frustrating and slowing down the business of the Senate. That matter is in their hands. Debate on General Business will be available tonight, as it is always, if the Government’s program can be completed. That program was set out earlier in the week, well in advance, so that honourable senators would know, week by week, what was required. It is necessary to record that this week certain activities have taken place- they are activities to which I do not object- which have systematically slowed the achievement of the Government’s program. For example, there has been a refusal to grant leave to incorporate speeches.
– How often?
-That is within the right of an Opposition but it is an activity which slows down the passage of business. Quorums have frequently been called. That also slows down the passage of business. Additional speakers have been called, in Committee deliberations particularly, and there has been a refusal to permit Bills to be debated cognately. All of those activities are entirely within the rights of an Opposition, and we have not complained but I point out to people such as Senator Chipp who wish to take part in the debate that whenever that kind of delay is imposed their rights as senators are abridged.
I wish to respond to a point that Senator Grimes made and to place on record the fact that the delay in passing the social service and associated health and repatriation Bills in another place was due, at least in part, to the Government’s responding to a request by the shadow Minister in that place and as a result of special arrangements being made to allow him to attend an Estimates committee hearing. We could have had the Bills before us a little earlier had that shadow Minister not had other matters before him.
Finally, I think that it is necessary to say that when I first came to this place I was a member of the Opposition. We then had a Labor government composed of people, such as Senator Cavanagh, who are now complaining. I learned then what happened to General Business in the last weeks of a session when one was dealing with a Labor government. None of the consideration of which Senator Cavanagh now speaks was given then. Honourable senators have complained of the use of the guillotine. I remind them that we first learned of its use from a Labor government. In fact, the most famous guillotine of all, one which applied to 43 Bills, including a conciliation and arbitration Bill, was imposed by then Senator Murphy. It simply is not right for Labor senators with that record of sin to begin to preach virtue. For our part, we are very anxious that all honourable senators should have a chance to make a contribution on every issue that comes up but I do not think that anyone can pretend that if certain time-wasting activities are employed it will not result in the truncation of the program at the end of a given week or period. Whether that program proceeds slowly or rapidly, now or in any other week, is entirely in the hands of each honourable senator.
– I intend to vote with the Government on this particular proposition, but I do so against my own desire. I do not want the Government or Senator Peter Baume to thank me for it because, as I see it, we have a great big double-barrelled shotgun pointed at our heads in that we are being told authoritatively by the Government that unless certain measures are passed today the beneficiaries will miss out some weeks of payment to which they are entitled under the provisions of those measures. I do not want my brains splattered all over the electorate for having voted in any way other than that which I have just indicated. While we are on the subject of brains I must say that my own, at all events, becomes a trifle addled at a quarter past three in the morning.
– You were doing very well.
– I take this opportunity to apologise for the heat of one of the comments that I made at about that time last Friday morning. I hope that we can dispose of this matter fairly quickly so that due time will be permitted for debate at the second reading stage and in Committee. That is another reason why I will support the Government ‘s proposal.
– I wish to emphasise what I said previously- that we have reached the present position because of the stupidity of the Government. There is no doubt that what happened last week resulted in our taking certain measures to indicate to the Government in a limited way that this place works best on a basis of co-operation. Over a number of years we have co-operated quite well. In the last weeks of sittings we have had our moments but nevertheless have co-operated fairly well. But suddenly, for some reason or otherpossibly because of bungling in the other placelegislation is being received in the Senate without sufficient time being left in which to debate it properly. The debate on the legislation last week took so much time because we opposed it vigorously, and we would have opposed it even further had we been allowed to do so by the
Government, which appeared to be hell-bent on gagging that legislation through.
– After 15 hours in the Senate.
-Yes, but the Government would not come to any reasonable arrangement regarding the debating of that legislation, and it succeeded in frustrating the Opposition, which reacted accordingly. But let us discuss the Bills that we have before us today. Their passage in another place was delayed because the House of Representatives cannot handle its new arrangement, which provides for the meeting of Estimates committees. It has really got itself into trouble with those committees. Suddenly, honourable members in that place found that they had to deal with Bills at the same time as they had to appear before the Estimates committees. The shadow Minister had to decide whether to continue his questioning as a member of the Estimates committee or to go back into the House. The arrangement was that Estimates committee questioning would be concluded first, but that inability to handle legislation that is before the House is now beginning to affect the Senate adversely. That is no excuse for the Government which must accept our complaint that this legislation is important and that to delay its passage beyond today would be to deprive recipients under it of benefits. However, it is not good enough for the Government to accuse the Opposition of using delaying tactics when it has not given us time in which to debate the legislation properly.
I wish to make it clear to the Government Whip that there must be a return to the understanding that if this place is to operate effectively proper time for debate must be given on all Bills; further, that General Business is a right that the Opposition has, and will protect. In the last week of a sitting, of course, we may have to dispense with that right.
– General Business is not just a right of the Opposition; it belongs to the Senate.
– It belongs to the Senate but I would say that it is more a concern of the Opposition than it is of the Government. Early in the piece, on two occasions now- last week when it was not necessary and today when it is necessary, I grant- the Government has sought to have its business take precedence over General Business. We must resist that tendency. We find ourselves opposed to the proposition in spite of the fact that we know that we cannot deny those people who are to receive benefits next week.
What did we do when these Bills were introduced? Senator Grimes, who is in charge of the Bills for the Opposition, indicated that he understood the position and we agreed to the incorporation of the second reading speeches. We did take the Bills separately.
– Not all of them. One of your senators refused leave to incorporate one of the speeches.
-Yes, but I hope honourable senators realise how they treated that senator. The pressure that was brought to bear on him was such that he rightly objected and will continue to object. Those are the consequences that the Government must accept. If the Government begins to frustrate and to provoke, individual senators will begin to stand upon their rights. Nevertheless, after that incident, the rest of the second reading speeches, with the exception of one, the Overseas Students Charge Bill- we believed it was important to have that read outwere incorporated. The list of speakers today is not a list in depth. If we wished to delay, as the Government asserts we intend to delay, the list of speakers would be considerable. I strongly object to what the Government Whip has said. It seems to me that, unless some understanding is reached, we are going to do to the Government what it did to us. Make no mistake about it. The Government has frustrated and delayed. It delayed on Estimates committees. It delayed on select committees. I was the chairman of one and I sat and listened to extended debate and questioning on the part of Government senators. It was on the very important securities and exchange legislation. There was prolonged and deliberate delay.
– You had many concerns about that Bill too.
-Yes, I might have, but not the lengthy concern that some Government senators had about it. The Government stretched out its consideration. If it had not been for that, we might have had the legislation before us now instead of next week. I am talking about the devices which were used by the other side three years ago. I remember Senator Greenwood was most effective, as honourable senators will acknowledge, in being misunderstood on practically every proposition that was before this place. If he was misunderstood he got to his feet, made another lengthy speech and subsequently, when somebody else entered the debate, he was further misunderstood. Those devices went on. If I remember correctly, Mr President, in those days when you were not in a neutral position, I think you were party to those delays. They are delays of which honourable senators should be reminded. A rather cryptic note which I do not quite understand has been handed to me. I do not want it to take away from the thrust of my argument. The thrust of my argument is this: There is no intention on the pan of the Opposition to delay these Bills, but it wants them to be debated fully. At the same time, the Opposition considers it an affront to have our General Business debating time truncated.
Senator Peter Baume said: ‘That is all right. If you want General Business, cut down your participation in the debate on these Bills’. The Government has us on the horns of dilemma- we are in a bit of a fix- as we are demanding that we should have our General Business debate, but at the same time we are seeking to debate these Bills fully. We cannot fully debate these Bills, I take it, without cutting down our speakers’ list considerably before 6 p.m. today. It seems to me that we will have from 2. 1 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. That does not give us sufficient time to debate these Bills fully. I wonder whether the Government will accept the responsibility that legislation of this sort ought not to be pushed rapidly through this place. I think that every honourable senator accepts that we do often add to the quality of the legislation which goes through this place. We would like to be effective. Otherwise, why should we bother? Why do we not just dissolve and abandon the Senate and let the House of Representatives with its associated committees deal with the legislation? After all, in the way we are proceeding at the present time we act just as a stamp for what is done in the other place. Surely that is not our role. The Australian Labor Party has shifted its position on the role of the Senate. It understands the difficulty in seeking to abolish this House. Nevertheless, subject to certain restrictions of the powers of this place -
– There are 64 good reasons for that.
-There are not. If I wanted the Senate to accept on its own vote the dissolution of this place, I would say that we could easily pension everyone off at a considerable rate a year for the rest of their lives. We would all vote for it. We would go home. If we had the vote in this place, perhaps we could do it easily. To say that there are 64 reasons why we should not is -
– There are only 63.
- Senator Cavanagh says there are only 63. The import of that interjection escapes me. The role of the Senate is made irrelevant if the Government is to continue to proceed in the way that it has proceeded. Incidentally, there is not that much legislation. I should direct the attention of the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Durack) to the fact that, if one looks at the legislation before the House of Representatives, it is fairly trivial in comparison with the legislation which the Whitlam Government had before it. The legislation before the Senate at the present time is not substantial. I cannot see how we cannot conclude consideration of all the legislation in the month of November. It is no wonder that I cannot understand the note that I have been handed. It has come from a doctor. That is the reason why I cannot understand Senator Peter Baume ‘s reasoning either. I will conclude my remarks by saying- I have already made the point that I wished to indicate- that, unless the Government has intentions to rise for the summer recess in the middle of November, we have plenty of time to discuss the debate and to investigate fully the legislation before us.
– I just wish to raise one or two points in connection with the motion that is before the chamber now. I point out to the Government and particularly to Senator Peter Baume that, when an Opposition feels that its rights are being whittled away and that it is not getting a fair go in its presentation of matters to the Parliament, it has not only a right but also a responsibility on behalf of the section of the Australian people whom it represents to adopt the attitude of opposition to motions of this nature. I know that Senator Peter Baume said in the course of his remarks that when he first became a member of this Parliament there was very little frustration of the then Government’s business in the form of taking matters out of the hands of the Government. I well remember that day after day -
– I don’t think I said that.
– If the honourable senator did not say that, I am sorry. That was my interpretation of what he said as I heard it when I listened to him with one ear and with one ear on the telephone. Might I just say that we were subjected day after day to Ministers not being given leave to have their second reading speeches incorporated. 1 know that last week Senator Peter Baume by way of interjection at one stage referred to the fact that the Labor Government in 1973 put through by the device of a declaration of urgency some 43 or 46 Bills. Might I point out to the Senate that at that time the Labor Government had three sections of an Opposition. It had the Liberal Party, the National Country Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party. It was only with the support of the Democratic Labor Party at that time that we were able to have the Bills declared urgent. The reason why the Democratic Labor Party agreed to those matters being declared urgent, as one can ascertain if one goes back to Hansard, was the frustrating delaying tactics that were being adopted by the then members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party in the Senate.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I do not intend to speak at length. I wish to make only three points. I probably made them during the couple of minutes before the suspension of sitting. The first point I wish to make is that if the Opposition feels aggrieved at the way in which the Government is processing its legislative program it is not only a right on the part of the Opposition, but indeed it is a responsibility on the part of the Opposition, to take strong objection to the Government’s truculence. The second point is that I think it was mentioned by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) that the Opposition spokesman on social security matters in the House of Representatives could not take or deal with the Social Services Amendment Bill 1979 at the time that the Government wanted the Bill dealt with in that House because the Opposition spokesman there had to attend a House of Representatives Estimates committee. I am given to understand that in any event that was for a period of only about an hour. Again I submit that is the fault of the Government in processing its legislative program in that manner. In other words, knowing that the estimates of a department were being dealt with by the House of Representatives Estimates committee, the Government could well have withheld the debate in the House of Representatives until those estimates were considered.
The third point I wish to make is that I believe that Parliament has to reassert its supremacy over the Executive. It is about time this Parliament gave consideration to the House of Commons procedure which has been adopted for some time whereby Government sets out in advance of each session its legislative requirements and timetable with the exception, of course, of emergency Bills. It gives the Parliament a rundown on its legislative desires in advance of the session starting. Having made those points, we do raise objection to the Government’s again seeking to take General Business away from the Opposition. This motion is normally a matter on which the Opposition would divide the Senate, but it too wishes to see the Bills dealt with. The only difference is that we want to see them dealt with properly. I understand that it is for those reasons that the Opposition does not intend to divide the Senate. I lodge my objection to the Government’s once again, for the second week in the session, taking General Business away from ordinary members of the Senate.
-I want to join with the previous Opposition speakers in their strong objection to the attitude of the Government. It does appear now that the Government has a very poor set of priorities. We witnessed last week legislation being forced through the other place and through this place to deal with trade unionists. Now we have the argument of having to get the Social Security Amendment Bill through the Parliament otherwise the pensioners will not receive their payments in November. We well know where the Government’s priorities lie. It is more concerned with forcing legislation through the Parliament to mete out some injustices to trade unions rather than to get legislation through which will benefit the pensioners of this community. I think the pensioners of this community and the work force ought to be well advised of where the Government’s priorities lie. We saw its priorities last night in a Bill which was debated, the Homeless Persons Amendment Bill 1979, and which was put through. So, its priorities fall far short of what the community of Australia deserves. It is no good the Government coming in here with the excuse that this Bill has to go through, because it has had ample opportunity to introduce this legislation since it brought the Budget down on 1 7 August. It knew the legislation had to come in. If it was so concerned about pensioners, why was not this Bill the first on the list to be dealt with immediately? It would have been on the stocks and nothing that could have happened would have prevented the pensioners from getting their increases. It is all very well for Senator Sim to giggle and laugh, but that is exactly what happened. The Government is more intent on getting this legislation through the Parliament which will bring the heavy hand of its Executive down on the trade union movement than it is in getting legislation through which will be of benefit to the pensioners.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- I move:
Honourable senators will be aware that the Australian National University Amendment Bill 1979 and the Canberra College of Advanced Education Amendment Bill 1979, introduced this day, supersede Government Business Order of the Day No. 41.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion ( by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That unless otherwise ordered, the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 6 November 1979, at 3 p.m., unless otherwise called together by the President or in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees.
Debate resumed from 24 October, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Grimes had moved by way of an amendment:
At the end of the motion add , ‘but the Senate is of the opinion that it should provide for:
twice yearly indexation of benefits for the unemployed without dependants;
an increase in unemployment benefits for those under 1 8 years;
removal of the provisions relating to the mandatory postponement period for the ‘voluntary’ unemployed and those who fail the work test;
removal of the provision of refusing unemployment and special benefit to those unemployed through the industrial action of others;
the updating of supplementary allowances and allowances for pensioners’ children to compensate for inflation, and
an increase in family allowances to compensate for their erosion by inflation ‘.
– Last evening I had five minutes before the sitting of the Senate adjourned. I occupied most of that five minutes complimenting the Government and congratulating the Minister for Social Security (Senator
Guilfoyle) on her personal achievements in the Cabinet to hold the wall against fierce opposition. Today I want to devote some time to being critical of the Government and of the omissions in the Social Services Amendment Bill 1979. Although it does some good things, there are a great number of grave problems which this legislation does nothing to assist. Firstly, the family allowance has been frozen since the new scheme was first introduced in 1976. The Government took and now takes a lot of credit, and properly so, for the new increased allowance when it hailed the allowance as an improvement on the tax rebate system which it replaced. There has been no increase since 1 976. With the inflation we have experienced since that time it is inevitable that the financial position of those people who are in receipt of that allowance is deteriorating daily. Families of pensioners are hit particularly hard because the extra allowance granted for each dependant has not increased since 1975. Families of unemployed people with three or four children and families of single parents with three or four children are now almost $30 below the poverty line.
I ask the Minister: Would she pay me the courtesy when she responds of telling me what is the Government’s attitude to these people? Admittedly, a poverty line is an arbitrary line drawn by some social economists- essentially, Professor Henderson. After due consideration I have not heard anybody declare that Professor Henderson is a left wing radical or whatever. In fact, the Government appointed him to head an inquiry. He is a very highly respected, responsible and conservative gentleman. He drew a line which simply meant that any person or group of persons in Australia who did not have an income up to that poverty line did suffer hardship. People at the poverty line have almost a subsistence living- the bare essentials. But now we have people, families, $30 below the poverty line. I am fascinated to know how the Minister could justify that. How does the Government justify it? Will the Minister answer that by saying: ‘Well, we are keeping them $30 below the poverty line for this reason or that set of reasons’, or will she ignore it? If she ignores it, and I feel that she has no other alternative, that is virtually an answer in itself. The Government’s response has been to allocate half a million dollars in this Budget to the emergency relief agencies. Not too many people in Australia die of starvation, but how do people below the poverty line live? If my figures are correct and they are $30 below the poverty line, it could be said that they should be dying of starvation in the streets. They are not- we know that- and I am not alleging that they are. But the reason that they survive is that they go straight to the emergency relief agencies, the Salvation Army, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Catholic Welfare Bureau- these magnificent groups of people who virtually save lives.
We may ask whether the Government has been reasonable to them. This year an allocation of $500,000 has been made to those agencies for all of Australia. That $500,000 is about onequarter of the amount spent on relief in Melbourne alone in one year. In Melbourne alone $2m is spent by those emergency relief agencies. The voluntary agencies estimate that the whole amount will be used up in one month. They report an increase in demand of over 50 per cent in the first six months of this year. Some increases are greater. In my own State, the Sunshine Christian Community Services reports a 460 per cent increase in families seeking relief. The Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau reports that demand has increased by 50 per cent for every six months for the last three years. What is needed is a government guarantee of a dollar for every dollar spent by the agencies in emergency aid. Are we talking about much money? No, we are not. We are talking about a sum between Slim and $ 1 4m a year, which in a Budget of this size is petty cash. In fact the figure being provided is $500,000. 1 would be grateful if the Minister could explain the rationale of this apparently ridiculous figure.
Half of the people receiving relief are on Department of Social Security pensions and benefits, which in many cases have dropped so far below the poverty line that people simply cannot exist on them, and as benefits for young unemployed people and unemployed people without dependants are still frozen, their position will become even more desperate. One could wonder about the homeless young of whom we talked yesterday, when debating the Homeless Persons Assistance Amendment Bill 1979. Their numbers are increasing at a catastrophic rate. But this sort of legislation means that there will be more of them. The Australian Democrats say that the whole situation is a national disgrace. The Government is now forcing low income people and voluntary agencies into institutional begging, it is depriving people of dignity. Last year was a disaster, and this Budget has ensured that this year will be even worse.
I am trying to be as objective as possible. I know that is almost impossible in politics if one belongs to a political party other than the
Government parties. I believe the economic policies being followed by this Government are callous, I believe they are wrong. The Government is obsessed with the monetarists who seem to monopolise the Treasury. As I said before, the quantity of money theory, which is essentially what the monetarists say in dressed up form, is still valid. It was valid when I learned about it in economics at university, and it is valid today. The theory is that if the demand for goods and services is almost equal to the supply of goods and services and a lot more money is thrust into the economy, there will be too much money chasing too few goods, and prices will go up. Is there anybody in this place who suggests for one moment that the demand for goods and services in today’s economy is equal to the supply of goods and services? I would have thought that industry was about 30 per cent under capacity and that there was about 1 1 or 12 per cent under capacity in our human resources. We say that there is a gap that can be made up to get the economy moving. As I think the Labor spokesman in the other place said, the Government has an obsession with putting up prices; it seems to react to inflation by encouraging increases in prices.
Quite apart from faulty economic policies, I have said in this place over and over again that the position will get worse, even if the Government reverses its economic policy. In the next five years- at the longest, a decade- automation and computerisation will eliminate one job in every three in Australia. We will then have a divided society, as Senator Grimes put it so well yesterday. I believe that the Government is sincere in its belief that its economic policies are correct, although I say that they are not; but those policies, by their very definition, will cause more unemployment. The Government has been honest enough to say that. Those policies are hard medicine, they will cause more unemployment, but they will fix inflation. That is the Government’s argument. It is a respectable argument, and I am sure that the Government believes it and is sincere about it. But it also says that the policies will inevitably cause more unemployment in the short term.
Having said that, it penalises the victims by not giving them indexation of their pensions, by making unemployed kids under 18 try to live on $36 a week. The position of the young unemployed will be a scar on our society which will take a lifetime to erase. Yet some people make the assumption that all unemployed youths can live with their parents. I know the view of some of my former Liberal colleagues who are of a conservative political persuasion. They have been brought up in good homes, so to speak, in good families, reasonably affluent families, in which a fairly strong line of discipline has been exercised. I give them credit for that. They make the assumption that all good children should live with their parents. But the tragedy is that they make the mistake of judging everybody by their own high standards. There are hundreds of thousands of young kids in Australia who for some very good reason do not, cannot and will not live with their parents. Since 1975 they have been expected when unemployed to accept a flat rate, a frozen rate, of $36 a week. Again I ask the Minister how she expects a kid of 18 to live on $36 a week for housing, food, clothing and travelling. That is what has happened to an estimated 15,000 homeless young people a year in Melbourne. We are not talking about an isolated little case of half a dozen beeros with wine bottles in a park, slumped down on an army greatcoat -
– Cut out the emotion.
– I do not know whether it would be any good appealing to the honourable senator’s emotion, because it is always impossible to appeal to something that does not exist.
– You don ‘t appeal.
– It gives me some sort of relief to know that I do not. The honourable senator slumped down in his chair can scoff at 15,000 kids in Melbourne who do not have a home. Does he think that is a situation for levity? Does he think that is a situation for making a political point? Or is it a situation that is a serious one which needs some response? A welfare worker in Shepparton in my State recently counted 30 homeless young people sleeping out under bridges, in railway carriages or whatever. If Senator Sim would care to search his own city, I am sure he would find a similar situation there. Those young people are $33.40 below the poverty line. Yet this of course applies only to the lucky ones who are actually on unemployment benefit. One agency providing emergency accommodation found that 80 per cent of the homeless young people coming to it were actually not on any benefits at all through difficulties with the Department, through fear, shame or confusion. Obviously this is driving young people into crime. If Senator Sim will forgive me for being emotional once again, it is in fact driving young people into prostitution, drug peddling and all kinds of squalid and demoralising lifestyles. Social workers in Sydney estimate that teenage prostitution has increased by 400 per cent in the last six months. They estimate that
Australia-wide 30,000 to 40,000 kids will not have a bed to sleep in tonight.
– On the prostitution aspect, figures show that many of the kids involved are still at school.
-I thank Senator Young for his interjection. That is perfectly correct. It is tragic. I am not saying that all those kids are engaging in these activities because they are unemployed. Almost every report by social welfare workers that I have read indicates a direct link nowadays from youth unemployment to drug addiction, unemployment and crime of various descriptions, particularly prostitution. The Liberal Premier of Victoria recently made a statement along almost identical lines.
I conclude by simply referring to what this Bill does to innocent trade unionists who are thrown out of jobs through no fault of their own and who will be penalised. I just cannot understand that sort of inhuman legislation. As Senator Grimes reminded us, the Age editorial- which I readsaid that the right of a person in a civilised society to be able to expect a reasonable standard of living for himself and his family is a right, not a privilege. That right of an unfortunate person to receive support from his more fortunate colleagues is not a play thing of politicians. But this Government has chosen to make it so.
– I will speak only briefly. We are dealing with the Social Services Amendment Bill to which the Opposition has moved to add at the end of the motion that the Bill be read a second time the following amendment:
But the Senate is of the opinion that it should provide for-
twice yearly indexation of benefits for the unemployed without dependants;
an increase in unemployment benefits for those under 1 8 years;
removal of the provisions relating to the mandatory postponement period for the ‘voluntary’ unemployed and those who fail the work test;
removal of the provision of refusing unemployment and special benefit to those unemployed through the industrial action of others;
the updating of supplementary allowances and allowances for pensioners’ children to compensate for inflation; and
an increase in family allowances to compensate for their erosion by inflation.
I intend to support that amendment. I remind the Senate that one of the General Business motions which stands in my name that was to be debated tonight deals with at least two of the particular points in the Opposition’s amendment. I draw the attention of the Senate to that General Business motion which, because of our vote in the Senate today, will not be dealt with. It reads:
That the Senate calls on the Government to introduce sixmonthly indexation of repatriation and social security benefits, in particular, pensions and family allowances.
In that respect the Opposition’s amendment does not go far enough. I believe that in addition to compensating families for the erosion of family allowances that has taken place the allowances should be taken out of politics and indexed every six months to avoid the difficulties that are being experienced. I repeat that the Government is going to be in trouble if it does not do anything about the economic difficulties and pressures on families in this day and age. Worse still, this nation is going to be in trouble if nothing is done, and that concerns me. If the Government does not do anything by the next election, every mother of five children will be told by me and others that the Government has taken away $500 a year from her because it has failed to index family allowances. A mother of four children will have lost approximately $400 a year; a mother of three children approximately $270 a year; a mother of two children approximately $160 a year and a mother of one child approximately $70 a year. That is a fact of life. Family allowances have not been indexed. The introduction of the family allowance scheme, as has been said in this chamber and elsewhere, was just a book entry scheme. The old child endowment scheme and the tax rebate system were abolished and replaced with the family allowance scheme. If there had been indexation of the previous scheme there would have been a substantial improvement in the financial lot of families.
Many of the problems in the areas of social welfare and health stem from the fact that families are under economic pressure. I know that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) understands this and I know her feeling in this regard. However, I hope that she is able to convince her colleagues in the Cabinet that this is a matter of vital interest. It is being talked about more and more frequently amongst ordinary people, the ordinary battlers. It is becoming a real issue in the community. I hope that the Government understands the facts of political life and that in the interests of the nation something positive will be done in this regard in the very near future.
– A number of senators have spoken during the second reading debate on the Social Services Amendment Bill. A number of matters have been raised and a number of points have been made. I want to refer to some of them. Perhaps there will be the opportunity in the Committee stage to deal with them in more detail.
I refer firstly, to the speech of Senator Grimes who led for the Opposition. I have to say that his speech highlighted the differences between what the Government feels it can achieve responsibly and what the Australian Labor Party’s promises would be. It would be conceded by Senator Grimes that at the time of the Opposition response to the Budget the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) made very few specific proposals. But, through Senator Grimes, we have now been able to construct the Labor Party’s alternative Budget, at least in the social security area. The amendment proposed by Senator Grimes shows some of the things to which the Labor Party gives priority. We also note that many things were not given priority by the Labor Party.
Despite what might have been said about a Henderson poverty line, there is no commitment in the amendment or according to the table which was incorporated in Hansard, to lift pensions and benefits above the poverty line. There has been no commitment to index or even increase the income-free areas for pensions and benefits; that is, the allowable income that people may have and still receive full pension. Notably, there was no expression with regard to that free area of income so far as the unemployment benefit is concerned. There was no promise to index the limits on income in relation to fringe benefits, although these were mentioned. Nor, despite the comments in his speech, was Senator Grimes able to propose any amendment or to include in his amendment wording which would enable those receiving the unemployment benefit to receive fringe benefits. I point to these matters as being aspects of policy which may have been mentioned by the Opposition but which do not appear in the amendment that was moved.
– It would have been a big amendment.
– It would have been a big amendment, Senator Grimes.
– You would not have accepted it, anyhow.
– I believe that if we are to hear the alternative policy, those matters spoken about could well have been added to the end of the motion so that we could have had a full expression of the priorities in a welfare Budget of the Opposition party in government.
There was no promise to index the means testfree pension for those who are over 70 years of age. Indeed, in that area of the welfare system I think we need to take note of some of the other comments that have been made by the Opposition with regard to pensions for those who are over 70 years. Honourable senators could note the decision taken by the Australian Labor Party to remove that commitment from its own platform. Senator Grimes was able to give some commitments. But if we look at the amendment itself, those commitments raise many questions and they certainly give rise to many costs. The comment with regard to lifting the benefit payable to those who are under 18 years of age requires us to ask to what level the Australian Labor Party proposes to lift it.
– You are the decision makers; you make the decisions. Don’t put the blame on us.
-I am not putting the blame; I am just asking for an interpretation of policy. If we are to judge the amendment seriously we need to look at the cost involved in it. If one takes paragraph ( 1 ) of the amendment, which seeks twice-yearly indexation of benefits for the unemployed without dependants, one needs to put in a column alongside that item the cost of $50m for a full year. If one were to look at paragraph (2), which seeks an increase in the unemployment benefit for those who are under 1 8 years of age- they are the persons to whom I was just referring- one would need to know to what limit the benefit would be raised. If the proposal is to increase it to the same level as the benefit payable to those over 18 years- that is, $5 1.45- it will cost $45m. Paragraph (5), which seeks the updating of supplementary allowances and allowances for pensioners* children to compensate for inflation, involves a cost of $26m in a full year. We then come to paragraph (6), which seeks an increase in family allowances to compensate for their erosion by inflation. If it is proposed to compensate for erosion by inflation in the past year, it will involve a cost of $87m, but if it is proposed to compensate for erosion by inflation since 1976, which was mentioned by Senator Harradine, it will involve a cost of $330m. I put those costs on record because I think that it is important when discussing an amendment and pursuing a debate that the costing that can be provided through my Department is also placed on record. Senator Grimes made some comments recently in the Australian. He wrote:
If the family allowance to higher income families was limited, and a family income supplement was paid to lower income and larger families on the basis of family size and income, the distribution of such funds would be directed to those in need, and therefore do most good.
No one would argue with that proposition but it may be serious news to those who are receiving the present family allowances that those allowances will be limited for some people and that there may be a family income supplement on a means tested basis for other families. I simply point to that as being one of the difficulties in establishing a cost in relation to paragraph (6) of the amendment proposed by Senator Grimes. If there is some expression of what the policy with regard to family allowances is, such an expression which allows for an increase in those allowances to compensate for their erosion by inflation may mean an increase for some people but not for all people. It may mean a change in the universal system of family allowances. I think that the putting down of an amendment provides a good opportunity to express to the Australian people what the policy is, how this compensation for erosion by inflation would be interpreted, and whether it would be interpreted to cover all families and all children at a cost of $330m in a year. The total cost of the items set out in the amendment against which I have put figures is something like $208m at the lowest rate of increase by way of indexation or it could go up to $500m if one looks at full compensation for the erosion by inflation.
There has been no expression in any of the speeches that have been made as to how these proposals would be financed. Whilst there are those who talk of economic difficulties and those who talk of the responsibilities of the family, we need to look at whether these costs- be they $200m or $500m- are to be raised by increased taxation or by withdrawing from those over 70 years of age some of the means test free pensions which they have. Are some of the costs to be raised in other ways? Are alternatives to be produced by an alternative government? The Government clearly needs to strike a balance between the objective to improve real levels of income security assistance and the desire of the taxpayer in this country to retain resources to support the living standards of himself and his family.
I say to Senator Harradine that whilst it may provide some compensation to families to receive more in the way of family allowances, if as a result of those increased allowances a higher level of taxation is imposed on those families who are struggling to support themselves, this may be counter-productive and not the best way in which to assist them. In view of Senator Grimes’ comments on the redistribution of wealth, I put on record a comment which appeared in a recent publication by Professor Henderson. He stated:
In an unequal world, Australia has one of the three of four most equal distribution patterns, both of income and property- the distribution of property mainly through the prevalence of home ownership.
I think that needs to be recognised in this country. If we are to support in our society the concept of extensive home ownership we need to see that the taxation of people’s incomes is not at such a level that it is made extremely difficult for people to buy homes for themselves and their families.
I turn to some of the comments made with regard to the levels of the unemployment benefit for the different categories of persons eligible to receive it. It ought to be noted that since the mid-1960s the levels of pensions and benefits have increased significantly faster than prices. Under the Fraser Government most social security and benefit payments have reached record levels relative to average weekly earnings. I think tables showing that have been cited many times in the Senate. Let us look at the rates of pension which are now supported by the Australian people. The standard rate of pension has increased from $14 a week in 1968 to $53.20 a week in 1978. That represents an increase of 280 per cent. More importantly, as an expression of average weekly earnings, the pension during that period increased from 20 per cent to 24 per cent. The latest available figure is 23 per cent of average weekly earnings, and that percentage will change with the rises which are the subject of this Bill.
I turn specifically to the unemployment benefit. The married rate of unemployment benefit has also increased substantially. A married man with two children would have received, including family allowances, some 50.5 per cent of average weekly earnings at December 1978, compared with 48.4 per cent at the end of 1975. Comparing that with the situation in 1 968, the figure was then 26.9 per cent. So there has been a substantial increase in the level of pensions and benefits paid. Whilst regret has been expressedand I share some of the comments that have been made- the Government has not been able in this Budget to do more than it has for those people who are receiving income security pensions and benefits. The rate of the unemployment benefit for a single adult without dependants has increased from $8.25 a week in 1968 to $5 1.45 a week at present. As a proportion of average weekly earnings, the single benefit rate has increased from under 12 per cent to over 23 per cent.
The other matters that ought to be drawn to the attention of honourable senators include some of the comments that have been made with regard to family allowances in general, because this is now an important aspect of the social security system. Whilst it is said that family allowances have not been increased, in social security matters we still draw attention to the fact that family allowances go to the lowest income families who did not benefit from the previous scheme of tax rebates. If we consider that an important thing, I think that those who have urged that family allowances be indexed or increased would support what I believe was an important social innovation. I can only say that the Government is committed to the family allowance scheme and that it finds that the Australian community supports this scheme very strongly. I think that the suggestions that come from the Australian Labor Party with regard to changes to the scheme ought to be clarified and should be spelt out very clearly for the Australian people. Whilst it might be an argument to talk about giving an additional benefit to the lowest income families, I think there would be general alarm if this were done at the expense of other families who have received family allowances for some years now.
The tables which were incorporated in Hansard by Senator Grimes show the disposable incomes of various types of low income families and compare them with the Henderson poverty line figures. As Senator Grimes mentioned, I have some reservations about the Henderson poverty line, mainly because it is probably no less arbitrary than anyone else ‘s judgment might be of what an adequate social security line in this country ought to be. My main objective would be to see what, in present day terms and conditions, ought to be the line by which we would judge families in need in this country. I would certainly welcome any work that could be done to devise a poverty line suited to Australian conditions in the late 1970s. In setting payment levels it is important to reach a reasonable balance between the needs and desires of those who receive assistance and the burden placed on those who had to find something like $9,000m for expenditure by my Department this year.
I note- I think Senator Grimes mentioned this also- that the tables he incorporated do not include some of the payments that pensioners may receive. For example, pensioners with little or no private income may receive up to $5 a week supplementary assistance and sole parent pensioners receive weekly $4 or $6 in mothers’ and guardians ‘ allowances. If we included those payments in the tables which have been incorporated we would see a reduction in the differences in the figures shown in the table. For example, a sole parent with one child may currently receive either $73.20 or $75.20 a week rather than the $64.20 a week which is shown on the table. These figures are a little different from the Henderson poverty line figures which show that a family in which the head of the family was not working would receive $76.10 a week as against the $75.20 a week which I have just mentioned. I draw attention to the fact that the figures for other family payments would show similar differences if the other allowances that are available to those with dependent children were included in the table. I feel sure that there are many areas in which increases in payments would be desirable and could be adequately supported, but we cannot overlook the costs that are involved in them. We have to recognise that there are costs involved in some of the matters which are advocated in the Opposition’s amendment.
Other speakers raised matters that perhaps can be dealt with at the Committee stage. They include specific matters regarding unemployment benefit changes and other things that were drawn to our attention. Senator Chipp raised the matter of the poverty line figures in the table incorporated by Senator Grimes. I have acknowledged that there are difficulties for many families with a number of dependent children, who have an income either from social security or from one wage earner. Senator Chipp drew attention to some families which are almost $30 a week below the poverty line. In that instance, I think we could be looking at the figures for a family with four children on the table incorporated by Senator Grimes. We would need to take into account those other payments which I mentioned earlier- mothers’ allowance, guardians’ allowance and things of that sort- and add them to the figure on Senator Grimes’ table. I have not those figures in front of me, but they would certainly change what was said.
The emergency relief payments were included in this Budget following an election commitment to make available $500,000 to assist voluntary agencies. Voluntary agencies, through the Australian Council of Social Service, co-operated with my Department in preparing a report on the extent of emergency aid that is provided in Australia. It showed that something like $ 1 1 m to $14m was provided at the time when the survey was undertaken. The report pointed to the fact that a large percentage of the people who were receiving emergency aid were waiting for cheques from my Department for Social security benefits to which they were entitled. Extensive administrative changes have been undertaken to decrease that demand in respect of people for whom my Department has a responsibility. I believe that about two-thirds of what was previously a problem has been largely overcome, and I think that this is acknowledged in comments that my Department has had from some of the voluntary agencies and co-ordinating bodies. The Commonwealth Government has a fund of $500,000 so that it may make a gesture of assistance to the voluntary agencies concerned.
Senator Chipp said that it is a national disgrace that emergency funding is required. I would think that it would also be a national disgrace if voluntary agencies and individuals, outside of what is provided by government, were not prepared to give some assistance to those who are in distress or who are in emergency situations. In a society such as Australia, there ought to be the compassion and organisation of effort which enable people to provide emergency aid outside of government. Government can provide $ 9,000m, but there are still people who are not eligible for pensions and benefits from my Department or who have access to State government or local government programs and who still require emergency assistance. Our magnificent charitable and religious organisations have played such an outstanding role in this country in providing assistance which meets that human and emergency need in a way that governments are never able to provide it. Whilst we have been able to overcome possibly twothirds of the emergency aid problem that was mentioned in that report and we have a small fund through which we will be able to assist some of the voluntary agencies in their work, I would think that the community at large, which has supported those voluntary agencies in the past, will still find the compassion and the resources from which to give them assistance so that, outside of government, there is another avenue of assistance for the most dire emergencies.
Senator Harradine said that he supported the amendment. He referred to the economic pressure on families. I think we all acknowledge that that exists, particularly if we look at the level of taxation which we impose on the families concerned. If we provide an income security system for redistributive purposes which imposes such a high level of tax on the family that is trying to support itself, we will find that very great difficulties would ensue and that new difficulties will occur. This Government’s objective has been to have as low a rate of personal income tax as possible so that as many people as possible are able to manage their own responsibilities; and at the same time we have a comprehensive social security system which pays pensions and benefits to more than two million people. I have to say that the Australian people, having accepted that sort of responsibility, are entitled to believe that governments will show responsibility in what they introduce in each Budget.
Some opportunities to provide assistance have been taken in this Budget Bill. It provides assistance in increasing the level at which fringe benefits are paid. It provides assistance to supporting parents through applying fringe benefits to them. It includes many other matters which we will probably discuss. But with the increase which is required in the funds for the income security system each year because of the growth of numbers in every category and the level of pensions and benefits which are paid, I would have to say that the result of the Budget deliberations on social security this year shows the Government’s commitment to improve this where possible, but only as it is economically responsible so to do. Mr President, may I correct a statement I made earlier when I attributed a comment to Professor Henderson. I should have said that it was a comment from Dr Mendlesohn and I would like that corrected for the record.
– There is a difference.
– There is a difference.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Grimes’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke )
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 8- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 9 (Variation of maximum rates of age and invalid pensions).
-Clause 9 provides for the reintroduction of twice-yearly indexation of pensions. We have already indicated that we certainly do not oppose this clause. I wish merely to point out that the reintroduction of this measure follows its abolition in the previous Budget; that it is merely restoring justice to those who need justice; and that it does not go far enough, as we said in our amendment, in that it omits to index twice-yearly the benefit received by people who are unemployed and without dependants. I point out that, despite the remarks made by Government members during the debate and frequently outside this chamber, people who are unemployed and without dependants are not only young people- they are not only people under the age of 2 1 years- even though young people may form the majority. Increasing numbers of people at middle age are put out of work because of technological and structural changes in our industries. These people have paid taxes for many years and deserve the benefits of our social security system and deserve protection against inflation in receiving those benefits as much as anybody else in the community does.
In passing, I express my sorrow that I could not, as the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) suggested in her reply to the second reading debate, move an amendment setting out the whole of the Labor Party’s social security program. I do not believe that that should be the intention of second reading amendments. It certainly was not possible for me to do so. As the Labor Party announces its social security program and its pre-election programs, the people of this country can at least be assured that if elected to government it will carry out those programs, unlike the present Government, which we well remember put forward a platform for the indexation of pensions automatically and immediately in line with cost of living increases. This still has not been introduced; obviously we will never see it.
I make another comment in passing. It does not relate to any clauses of the Bill. I believe that my statements on family allowances have been deliberately misinterpreted in this place and another place during this debate and other debates. I have no intention ever of introducing a policy whereby family allowances will be removed from anyone in the community. I believe that family allowances are a recognition that it costs money to bring up children. My suggestion-I make no bones about it- is that increases in the amount of money spent on family allowances should, if possible, be distributed more to those in need, the low income families which I spoke about and whose position was demonstrated in the tables which were incorporated in Hansard, and less to families on high incomes. I include myself in that category. Therefore, if possible, I would introduce a family income supplement to complement the present family allowance scheme, not to replace it. I would not take money away from anyone.
We do not oppose this clause. We believe in twice-yearly indexation. We believe that twiceyearly indexation should be extended to the unemployed without dependants, who are just as much in need as anybody else.
– We will not oppose this clause. In regard to clause 9 (a) I point out that our party’s policy does not seek six-monthly indexation but quarterly indexation of all pensions and benefits. I briefly remind the Committee that when I was the chairman of the Liberal Party’s Social Welfare Committee we researched this matter very deeply with almost every social welfare agency in the country- the Australian Council on the Ageing, the Catholic Welfare Bureau, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Australian Council of Social Service and so on- all of which said that indexation was the most pressing social reform needed. The Committee, in consultation with those bodies, was satisfied that quarterly indexation would present no great burden to the Department of
Social Services or to the bureaucracy. Hence the election promise of 1975 given by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of instant and automatic indexation adjustments of pensions came about. Six-monthly indexation is certainly not instant and automatic. The release of consumer price index figures quarterly is a pointer to when pensions should be indexed. Having said that and pointing out our objections, I state that I will not be voting against the clause.
– Neither Senator Grimes nor Senator Chipp has taken into account what the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) said about costing. Certainly Senator Chipp has spoken about not being able to put forward Labor Party policy. He made his excuses in that area. But he has not taken up the costing area.
– I did not say that. You have got your speakers mixed up.
-Senator Chipp suggested that pensions should be indexed quarterly. I wonder whether costing should be taken into consideration in that area.
-I believe that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) estimated that the cost of twice-yearly indexation of the unemployment benefit for people without dependants amounted to about $20m.
– Twice-yearly indexation for the unemployed without dependants for a full year amounted to $50m.
-I suggest that $50m in a full year is higher than the estimates that we have had in the past. Perhaps if we took off the $40m that Senator Walters’ leader decided to spend on the purchase and maintenance of 707 aircraft to take himself around the world, perhaps if we took off some of the expenditure on a couple of establishments in Canberra and Sydney, perhaps if we looked at the expenditure that was saved in the abolition of probate duties and perhaps if we looked at the fact that we are the only country without a capital gains tax and without a wealth tax we would be able to afford that vast sum of $50m. Of course that is a petty argument.
We are talking about justice in the community and a social services Act which is meant to give assistance to people who are in need. If that is Senator Walters’ argument, why should the unemployed who are without dependants be excluded from the twice-yearly indexation which the Social Services Act justifies for other groups?
The Government has to justify excluding that group and demonstrate why a 45-year-old man or a 45-year-old spinster who has been working all his or her life and paying taxes should suddenly not be eligible for the protection against inflation that everybody else in the community is entitled to. I suggest that the Government has not justified this change. I think it is worth $50m. However, I doubt whether it will cost $50m. It is certainly worth this amount when looking at a Budget deficit of some $3,000m.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 13- by leave- taken together.
– I want to make some criticism about clause 13. Although my point may appear insignificant, it shows that there is further encroachment upon present entitlements to benefits under a number of clauses in this legislation. It has apparently gone unnoticed that the Bill further reduces the number of people who benefit.
It is difficult to know what we are amending. I went to the Senate Records Office today to obtain a copy of the Act. I received the original Act of 1973 and ten sets of amendments that have been made. One has to go through ten sets of amendments to see what has been amended since the Act was passed in 1973. In the time available to me it was impossible to do so. In criticism of the fact that there has been no consolidation of the Act, I raise the question that, among other things, I found- whether an amendment was absent from the list that the Senate Records Office gave me I do not knowmany references to a person with an entitlement under sub-section (4) of section 107. There is no sub-section (4) of section 107 in the original Act, and on the ten sets of amendments I received there is no mention of amendments to section 107. I simply do not know what that means. If the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) could tell me where I could find subsection (4) of section 107 I would be most appreciative. I raise this matter now so that perhaps we will be in a better position to understand later clauses when they come up for discussion.
Clause 13 repeals section 33 of the Principal Act. The following section is substituted:
A wife’s pension is not payable to a woman:
The section that we are deleting provides:
. a wife’s pension is not payable to a woman:
The last preceding sub-section does not apply in relation to a woman by reason that her husband is an inmate of a benevolent home if the woman:
The provision in sub-section (2) of that section relating to a woman having custody, care and control of a child under the age of 16 years, or to one who has attained the age of 50 years, is simply to be deleted. The wife’s benefit is one that is derived from section 31, which relates to a woman-
Sub-section (2) of section 3 1 provides:
A wife’s pension is not payable to a wife who is living apart from her husband.
When the husband is receiving a pension the wife is entitled to an allowance, as decided by the Director, for the purpose of keeping herself; she is not working. But when her husband is admitted to a home what will she live on? Will she have to go out to work if she has a child under her control and care? If she is more than 50 years of age- she may not have worked in her lifetime- is it right that she must now go out to work, simply because her pensioner husband is in a home? She did not have to work before, although she may have contributed something by virtue of the wife’s low allowance. Under the Bill, that will be removed. I would appreciate it very much if the Minister could justify that proposed change.
– I would like to explain to the honourable senator that clause 1 3 repeals and replaces section 33 of the principal Act. The effect of the amendment will be to provide for payment of a wife ‘s pension to a woman who is an inmate of a benevolent home, and to a woman who has no child under 16 or who has not attained 50 years of age, where her husband is the inmate of a benevolent home. It is designed not to remove a benefit but rather to provide for payment of a wife’s pension in the circumstances to which I have referred.
– I do not understand what the Minister means when she says that the clause does not remove a benefit. I ask her what is meant by the words: ‘Section 33 of the Principal Act is repealed’? The provision that is repealed refers to a woman who has the custody, care and control of a child under the age of 16 years; or a woman who has attained the age of 50 years. As I understand the Minister, that benefit is not to be repealed. I ask her to indicate where one of us is wrong?
– I wonder whether there is not a mix-up here. As I understand it, the wife of someone whose husband is an inmate of a mental hospital is eligible for a widow’s pension and, in fact, is better off than if she were on a wife ‘s pension. The effect of the legislation, as I read it, would be to improve her position or to clarify it. I think that the Minister, in her answer to Senator Cavanagh, said that the provision actually gave her a wife’s pension. If that is so, I agree with Senator Cavanagh. I do not like the section, but my interpretation of it was that it would clarify her right to a widow’s pension.
– Where is it provided that she is to get the widow ‘s pension?
– Does the Minister wish to reply?
– No. What was said before conveyed the effect of the section.
– In that case, I certainly misunderstand what the Minister is saying. Clause 13 amends section 33.
– It repeals it.
– It amends it by replacing it with new section 33, which provides that a wife’s pension is not payable to a woman who is an inmate of a mental hospital, or whose husband is an inmate of a mental hospital. I understood the Minister to say that this meant that she would receive a wife’s pension. To me, quite clearly, the clause provides that she would not. I believe that more clarification is needed.
– I am advised that the effect of the section will be to provide for the payment of a wife ‘s pension to a woman who is an inmate of a benevolent home and to a woman who has no child under 16 or who has not attained 50 years of age, where her husband is an inmate of a benevolent home. It has nothing to do with the wife of a mental home patient.
– We are dealing with clause 13?
– Yes, which repeals and replaces section 33 of the Act.
– But it says ‘ mental hospital ‘.
– Section 33 granted a concession to a particular woman. We are to delete that. Among the women to whom the benefit was granted was a woman whose husband was in a mental or benevolent home, who was a pensioner who had the custody, care and control of a child under the age of 16 years, or who had attained the age of 50 years. On the basis of those principles, under clause 13, she will no longer receive that benefit; it will be repealed. I would like the Minister to tell me how, under new clause 33 that woman concerned is to receive the benefit of which the Minister speaks. Senator Grimes seems to think that she qualifies for a widow’s pension, but would a woman who was 30 years of age and who had the care and custody of a child under 16 years of age, and a husband who was in such a home, qualify? I ask the Minister not to say: ‘I am given to understand ‘ or something like that, but to tell me which wording says what she has implied. Her advisers know the purpose of the provision and can tell us where to find that wording.
– I repeat: The purpose of the amendment is to extend a wife’s pension to women who are inmates of approved benevolent homes and also to women who have no child in their care, or who are under 50 years of age, where their husband is an inmate of a benevolent home.
– Would you point out that wording?
-Clause 13 states:
Section 33 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section is substituted:
A wife ‘s pension is not payable to a woman:
who is an inmate of a mental hospital; or
whose husband is an inmate of a mental hospital. ‘.
That is crystal clear and I understood the officers from the Department to tell us in their briefing that that was reasonable because she would be eligible for a widow’s pension. It has been my understanding, having obtained widow’s pensions for such people in such circumstances, that that was so. It is beyond my understanding how such wording can mean that the woman gets the benefit. The clause quite clearly removes it.
– That wording does not convey that meaning. There may be wording somewhere else which conveys it.
– There is.
– That is what we want to know. Tell us where it is.
– The amendment does not affect the position of a woman who is an inmate of a mental hospital or whose husband is in a mental home. It provides for payment of a wife’s pension to a woman who is in a benevolent home. The section will read, after, I hope, the amendment is passed:
A wife ‘s pension is not payable to a woman:
That would be the effect of the amendment. That is how section 33 will read after the amendment is passed. A wife’s pension is not paid. She will get a widow’s pension. The other sections will provide for her to receive a widow’s pension. The effect of the passing of that amendment is as I have just read it:
A wife ‘s pension is not payable to a woman:
The reason why that amendment has been moved is so that that woman will become eligible for a widow ‘s pension.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 14. (Inmates of benevolent homes).
– I have some questions about clause 14 and possible opposition to it. This fairly complicated clause, I am told, is the one that provides that inmates of benevolent homes will retain only $7.95 a week whereas at present they retain $18.75 a week. It seems to me that the complicated calculations in this clause have that effect. What are benevolent homes these days and where are they? Why is there a change from $18.75 to $7.95, which is a very small sum of money. What sort of people will be getting only this amount of money left out of their pension? Does it mean that there will be two classes of pensioners in these benevolent homes- one getting $18.75 a week after their pension and other getting only $7.95?
– The benevolent homes are in Tasmania and Victoria only. They are degazetted wards of mental hospitals. The reason why different amounts would be received by pensioners is that a savings provision is contained in the Bill to ensure that, when the new arrangements come into effect, no existing benevolent home pensioner will be paid a lower amount than that which he is then receiving. Subsequent increases in pension will be applied towards the maintenance of the pensioner until the amount of maintenance of the pensioner equals the contribution by nursing home patients. If we had not had a a savings provision and, as Senator Grimes has put it, two classes of people, we would have been taking from existing pensioner inmates of benevolent homes a sudden and substantial reduction in the proportion of their income which they retained. That savings provision in the pension rates will mean that ultimately all pensioners will have the same retention of their pensions.
– I am rather concerned about this sum of $7.95. Before I saw the light and gave up smoking, $7.95 would not have kept me in cigarettes for a week. I know that it would not keep Senator Cavanagh in cigarettes for a week. I realise that we have a policy in this country and in this chamber of discouraging people from smoking. I would expect that these people in homes would be largely elderly people who may smoke and who may well not achieve anything by way of longevity or good health by giving up smoking. It seems to me that this is an illustration how very small a sum $7.95 a week is. It is less than half of the $18.75 a week they received before. I wonder what the justification is for such a very small sum, even though it corresponds with other sums available under the health legislation. I wonder what will be the situation if, say, an inmate of one of these homes who at present retains the sum of $18.75 goes home for a few days to his relatives at Christmas or for a holiday at any time of the year and comes back into the home. When he comes back in, does he drop back down to the $7.95 as a new inmate of the home? I just wonder whether, if these homes are so few and if the inmates are so few, is it not cheeseparing to have cut this amount down for this small group of people in the community.
– I will deal with the last matter first. If the pensioner was not formally discharged and left the hospital or the home for a short time, he would not have any interruption to the rate at which his benefit was paid. The reason for the amendment in this case is to bring all people who are in benevolent homes, hospitals or nursing homes into the same patient contribution. The reason why there is this difference is that those people in benevolent homes had this other arrangement. What will occur now is that people who are in nursing homes, State hospitals or benevolent homes in Victoria and Tasmania will ultimately all retain the same proportion of their pension income. There will be some period while these increases are required to make those presently in the arrangement for benevolent homes retain the same amount as those in the other institutions.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 to 18- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 19. (Prescribed persons.)
-Clause 19 amends section 83CA of the principal Act. To echo in passing Senator Cavanagh ‘s remarks and my remarks during the second reading stage, I urge the Minister and the Department to continue with the rewriting and consolidating of this legislation so that we can all be helped through the difficulties that we always have. Clause 19 amends section 83CA and increases the fringe benefit limit to pensioners. That is something that we do not oppose and which will certainly be of assistance to many pensioners in the community. I raise by way of a question the problem of those other people who do not receive these fringe benefits- the unemployment, sickness and special beneficiaries.
The unemployment benefit in this country was once a temporary benefit, a short term benefit, to relieve people who were temporarily out of work. The average duration of people on unemployment benefit now is somewhere near seven months. There is no way that that can be considered a short term benefit any more. Many people have been on unemployment benefit for more than a year and even more than 1 8 months. The difficulty that we have- as I pointed out at the second reading stage and in the tables which reviewed the people on low incomes and in poverty in this community- is that the unemployed group, particularly the unemployed families, stay in their poverty track because of their low income entitlement, the low allowable income they can earn and the harshness of the means test which is applied to them. They stay in this difficulty because of the absence of the availability of fringe benefits. Under the health scheme we have the disadvantaged patients’ scheme which is implemented at the whim of the doctor. These people can, if they are lucky, be treated as disadvantaged patients by doctors. If they are lucky, if they do not have a lot of children, if they have a means of getting there and waiting around, they can go to a public hospital.
One wonders whether the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has investigated a scheme whereby at least long term unemployed people could either receive fringe benefits or some recognition that they are unemployed. The medical profession, in my opinion, would then be obliged to treat them as disadvantaged patients. They would not have this extra burden of health costs which, if the patients are not in a suitable area or not near to public health facilities, may mean them taking some of their meagre income to pay health insurance costs. The surveys carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that a disturbing number of the percentage of the people on unemployment benefit have to contribute to voluntary health funds for their own peace of mind and protection.
– I thank Senator Grimes for the comment that he made. I noted that he had made that comment earlier. I accept what he said with regard to those who are on long term unemployment benefits. I give an undertaking that I will have the matter investigated. It may be difficult perhaps to have some arbitrary time at which a person could come within this system. I am sure that if there is a way of dealing with those who are longterm unemployed people, we would wish to see that they have some access to health care and other benefits as do those who are on the more permanent pensions and other benefit schemes. So, I give an undertaking that I will have some investigation done of the proposal put forward by Senator Grimes.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 20 to 25- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 26 (Interpretation).
– I seek an explanation from the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) of the necessity for change proposed by clause 26. One assumes that it means that people have been bringing children into this country after adopting them in other countries under conditions and laws not acceptable under the laws of this country; when they have got the children here they have been claiming a double orphan’s pension. Under what circumstances can people in fact bring a child into this country when the child has not been adopted in accordance with the laws of this country? What progress is being made with inter-country adoption negotiations to stop this sort of thing? How many people have actually brought children in under their care as adopted children and then claimed a double orphan’s pension when they have got here?
- Senator Grimes was correct when he stated his interpretation of the clause. By adding this definition people who have adopted children under the laws of other countries will be precluded from receiving the double orphans ‘ pension for that child. I am not able to give any figures and I do not know whether my officers have any figures about the number of people affected. The inter-country adoption discussions and investigations that are being held may reveal some figures for us. If any figures are available I will see that Senator Grimes is advised of them. The State governments through their adoption procedures, are principally involved in this. Of course, the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is more directly involved than my Department. It was felt necessary to add this definition so that when children are adopted under the laws of other countries they would not be eligible for the double orphan’s pension when they come to live in Australia with their adoptive parents.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 27 to 34- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 35 (Unemployment benefits).
-The Opposition opposes clause 35. It repeals the whole of section 107 of the principal Act and substitutes for that section a proposed new section which in short provides that people who are unemployed as a result of industrial action by members of their same union even though the industrial action may not be in the same plant, same town or same State, shall be deprived of unemployment benefit. Section 107 of the present Act provides in part that a person who satisfies the Director-General that he is unemployed and that his unemployment is not due to his being a direct participant in a strike shall qualify to receive an unemployment benefit. In other words, a person who is out of work as a result of a strike, but not by his being a direct participant in it, shall receive an unemployment benefit. It has been interpreted that a member of a striking union or unions at a establishment where there is an industrial dispute is not eligible for unemployment benefits. Members of that union whose members at other establishments are stood down, have until now been eligible for an unemployment benefit. Members of unions at an establishment where members of other unions have been stood down have been in the past eligible for unemployment benefits.
Proposed new section 107 (4) (ii) excludes non-trade-unionists stood down in an industrial dispute from receiving unemployment benefit. In other words, if a person is not a trade unionist and is stood down he cannot be refused unemployment benefit. Proposed new section 107(4) gives the Director-General the discretion to refuse unemployment benefit to a unionist taking industrial action. The definition of ‘industrial action ‘ is:
What this means is that unemployment benefit is in fact entirely at the discretion of the DirectorGeneral or the Director-General’s delegates, as is the definition of ‘industrial action’. This is entirely at the discretion of the Director-General. Whether the action is a go-slow, work to rule or any other industrial protest, short of strike action constitutes industrial action and therefore penalises stood-down employees is entirely at the discretion of the Director-General of the Department of Social Security. I can find nothing in the Act or in the Social Services Amendment Bill which requires the Director-General to accept the definition from the Department of Industrial Relations, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or any arbitral body or anybody else. It is entirely at his discretion.
– We have got a definition of ‘industrial action’.
-Yes, I have read the definition, but I think that Senator Cavanagh will accept that it is pretty wide. The definition of a trade union in this Bill is also very wide because it includes a deregistered union and any organisation, association or any group of employees together working for the employment of its members. One could imagine that it could include any group of people which has got together for any purpose. The whole proposal is restrictive and is completely at the mercy of the DirectorGeneral ‘s discretion. It has the effect, in fact, of refusing unemployment benefit to any unionist whose fellow members of that union are stood down as a result of industrial action. That may happen in quite a different establishment. It may be in another State. It may be hundreds of kilometres away. The unionist who is stood down and who is refused unemployment benefit may be completely ignorant of the strike or industrial action that was taken in the first place. He may completely disapprove of it. He may even violently disapprove of it.
We have an incredible situation in this Bill where people in a factory, completely ignorant of the nature of a dispute in that same factory, may find themselves unable to get unemployment benefit. They may find themselves unable to get any sort of assistance, including special benefit, the most stringent of all benefits, when their work mates at the next bench or their neighbours in the next house, who happen to be a member of a different union, may be completely eligible. If the spouse of a worker is not involved in the industrial action she can claim unemployment benefit at the single rate, if she can pass the work test. If she makes herself available for work and if she registers at the Commonwealth Employment Service, provided she does not have a stack of kids to look after at home, or even if she has, she can claim unemployment benefit on passing the work test, but of course she has a seven-day waiting period. If she thinks that she should stay home and look after her children- and we are assured by people such as Senator Walters that mothers should stay home and look after their children- and she cannot pass the work test, she may qualify for special benefit. But as anyone who has had anything to do with this business knows, the stringent tests on special benefit are so severe that it would mean that a person would have to have insufficient money in the house for a week.
I read in the second reading speech all the comments by various people in the community who did not think much of this proposal- people such as the honourable member for Casey, Mr Falconer, of the Government Members Industrial Relations Committee; Senator Hall, who was once a Liberal in this place; the editorialists in the Age, the Canberra Times and the Sydney Morning Herald of recent weeks, all of whom condemn this legislation because what it is doing is making the innocent suffer when they have no control over the situation at all. It is using the Social Services Act to carry out the Government’s misguided industrial relations policy. It will not achieve what it sets out to achieve, which, as I understand it, is apparently to stop trade unionists doing what they are entitled to do, that is, withdraw their labour when they consider the situation warrants it. It will not stop trade unionists doing that, and this sort of restrictive behaviour never has. In the past people have considered this situation. When Dr Myers considered the administration of unemployment benefit he made this firm recommendation:
That the Government consider the drafting of an amendment which would relieve the Director-General of the responsibility for interpreting what was then section 107 (c) (a) of the Act by clarifying in this context the terms direct participant ‘ and ‘strike’.
The Government has in fact widened the terms of ‘strike’, giving the Director-General of Social Services the responsibility for the interpretation, and has given him far more responsibilities and extended the number of people who can be denied benefit should there be a stand-down. This situation is unfair, it is unjust and it will not work. The only real justification for it that one has heard in either House is the sort of justification we heard from Senator Walters last night, and from Mr Burns, and Mr Adermann in another place- that the McKenna rules, which were brought into this country in 1947 under special circumstances for special situations, provided that in some circumstances people could be refused unemployment benefit at times of a strike if they belonged to the same union as those on strike. They were what they were. They were rules. They were not legislation; they were real rules. They were brought in under special circumstances and were used very rarely. They were used not at the discretion of the DirectorGeneral, but were used by the Government.
I would merely make the comment that this sort of nonsense argument does not impress me and does not impress any of the other people who have commented on it. In this country we do not govern by historical imperative. If we take Senator Walters’ argument to the extreme, we will go back to 1908 and stop paying old age pensions. In those days pensions were considered bad for the morale of the community. We will go back to 1912 and not give assistance to women who are having children. Perhaps we will go back to 1 946, 1 947 or whenever it was, and stop paying assistance to people in tertiary institutions. Perhaps we will go back to the 1930s and stop paying any unemployment benefits at all, if that is the son of thing we are going to judge the legislation on. This is 1 979, and I would certainly not introduce legislation whereby innocent people would be deprived of what is their right, as the Age newspaper said, because of a government ‘s obsession with making an issue of industrial relations.
Despite what Senator Walters said last evening, I am not in favour of paying unemployment benefits to people who are on strike. In fact, I have not heard the trade union movement requesting that at all. What I am in favour of is paying people under our social services legislation unemployment benefits or special benefits, or both, when they are out of work through no fault of their own and under conditions which they could not influence if they wanted to. Industrial blackmail such as that proposed by this legislation does not work. In fact, I suggest that it makes industrial relations worse. It will not be the election issue that the Government thinks it might be. I suggest it may well create a backlash against the Government if the Government attempts to use it. People in this country have a sense of fair play and believe that those in need should receive the assistance which is their right, and that the social services legislation should not be used in such a crude manner as is proposed.
-There is one point which may not have been raised in relation to proposed new section 107 (4) (b) (i) which I think is relevant. It follows on from what Senator Grimes has said. I think most of the reasonable people in this country realise that, as has happened in other efficient and enlightened capitalist societies such as West Germany, there is urgent need for a rationalisation of the number of trade unions in this country and that industrial harmony will probably come only when an effort is made to tackle the already very difficult and complex task of bringing the unions down to a much smaller number than now. As honourable senators would know, for our population we have one of the largest numbers of individual trade unions in the world. With the best will in the world this must complicate and continue to bedevil industrial relations. With this clause the Government has absolutely guaranteed in the most permanent way it could possibly devise if it set out to try a perpetuation of that situation. There is no way with this Bill as law that any union will be persuaded to join with another union. This clause means that in the event of an industrial dispute in one area, huge numbers of people may be involved in non-payment of benefits.
I think this is a serious matter. With this legislation the Government is guaranteeing a perpetuation of demarcation disputes in Australia into the indefinite future, and probably a future splitting of unions or trade associations into even smaller groups- the definition is very broadsimply for the reason that it is a protective mechanism to defend themselves against what I might say is a very bone-headead piece of legislation.
- Senator Grimes has spelled out in some detail the concern of the Opposition with regard to clause 35 and all of the ramifications which will flow from it. The Bill spells out by way of legislation the determination of this Government to bring the work force to its knees and to force decent Australian citizens to be subservient to the capitalistic system which this Government represents. In effect the Government is saying by way of this legislation and the legislation that went through this Parliament last week that the work force of this country must bow to the will of the boss or else suffer the consequences. We only have to look at the second reading speech brought down by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). Dealing with clause 35, under the heading ‘Unemployment BenefitIndustrial Action’, she said:
We are told also:
The Bill provides that unemployment benefits will not be payable to a person whose unemployment was or is due to industrial action by himself or by members of a union of which he is a member.
Of course, as Senator Grimes has so ably pointed out, it means that the scab is being protected by this Government. If people are not prepared to join trade unions and to share the responsibility and the expense of going to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to get a better living standard and wage structure they will be protected by this Government. The new Liberal Government in South Australia has already stated that it is going to withdraw preferences to trade unionists. Liberal governments, whether they be in the Federal sphere or the State sphere, will not protect a member of a trade union but they will protect the scab. No one in the community is more despised or despicable than a scab; that is, a person who takes a free ride and takes what the members of a trade union get for him. Proposed new section 107 (4) reads:
A person is not qualified to receive an unemployment benefit in respect of a period unless:
the person satisfies the Director-General that the person’s unemployment during that period was not due to the person being, or having been engaged in industrial action;
Proposed new section 107 (4) (b) (ii) states in part: . . that the first-mentioned person was not, during that period, a member of a trade union of which the other person was a member, or of which any one or more of the other persons was or were a member or members, during that period.
It is clearly spelled out in the Bill that this legislation is going to protect the non-unionist- as I said, the scab. Proposed new section 107 (8) (c) reads:
If a trade union is divided into branches (whether or not the branches are themselves trade unions), the persons who are members of the respective branches shall all be deemed to be members of the first-mentioned trade union.
Right through the Minister’s second reading speech and also in the Bill we see that the nonunion member is going to be protected. It is a sad day for the work force of Australia when we have a government in office- both here and in South Australia- taking the whip to a member of a trade union. The Government is asking for anarchy in the country by carrying on like this. Surely one must have some respect for an honest trade unionist who does a hard day’s work for an honest day’s pay. All the trade unionist has to sell is his labour.
The Government talks about not being prepared to pay people who go on strike. I did not hear any of the honourable senators who now sit in government say that they would forego their pay when they went on strike in this chamber in 1 975 and would not vote on the Budget. They sat pat and got their salaries then but they are quite prepared now to deny a trade union member his pay, or even his unemployment benefit, because of some industrial dispute in which, as Senator Grimes has pointed out, he may not even have had any part. I repeat that it is a sad day for the trade union movement- in fact, for every citizen in this country- when we now have a government in office which is prepared to mete out treatment such as this to our citizens. Many Australians went to fight for this country and many of their sons and daughters are proud of the efforts made by their parents in time of war. The Government is now going to hand out this sort of treatment to them. I can only say that the Government ought to be ashamed of itself.
– I rise in this debate to support what has been said by the Opposition on this clause. We are totally opposed to this clause because it increases the number of people deprived of unemployment benefits. This clause is accepted to be both a penalty against industrial action- to support the industrial legislation of this Government- and an attempt to discipline trade unions. As stated in the second reading debate, if only two men stop work over some dispute in a local council in Tasmania it can deprive many people throughout Australia of unemployment benefit who have no control of the action of those two individuals.
– Only if there is no work for them to do.
– If there is no work for them to do, they qualify for unemployment benefit. This clause debars members of a particular section of the community from unemployment benefit because they happen to be members of a particular union. They may not support the strike or be involved in the organisation of the strike but they will not get unemployment benefit because they happen to belong to the union in which the two members who caused the strike were also members. But if they are not members of that union and there is no work for them to do, the Government will give them unemployment benefit. Some people are to be put in the unfortunate position of not being able to get unemployment benefit because of their membership of an organisation. That is the penalty. I think this provision is intended to discipline people to control their unions more thoroughly. But the clause applies not only in the case of a strike; there is a wide interpretation of any limitation of work. Proposed new section 107 (8) (a) states:
Conduct is capable of constituting industrial action notwithstanding that the conduct relates to part only of the duties that persons are required to perform in the course of their employment;
It is a wide provision. At all times the discretion lies with the Director-General of Social Services. Clause 35 provides for the repeal of the old section 107 and the insertion in the existing Act of a new section 107. Proposed new section 107 provides that an applicant for benefit must satisfy the Director-General that throughout the relevant period the applicant’s unemployment was not due to his having been engaged in a strike.
I have complained time and time again about this provision. There is a Social Security Appeals Tribunal for the purpose of appealing against the Director-General’s decisions. But what can an applicant appeal against? No subjective criteria have been set as grounds for appeal. An applicant could say: ‘I am unemployed. I have no means. I have met the work test.’ But the only ground on which he can appeal is whether the Director-General was satisfied. He has no hope of winning an appeal, despite the fact that from time to time the Appeals Tribunal decides contrary to the decision of the Director-General. This provision is harsh and unjust. In the case of Karen Green the judiciary found that the Director-General did not act properly. After that decision she did not receive unemployment benefit, as the Director-General still was not satisfied.
Last night I was a member of a party which went on an inspection of the premises and to meet the personnel of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. I had a talk to the officers. Whilst the social security area is still not under their control, they anticipate that in the near future it will be placed under their control. I hope the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) will see that the transfer of power to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is soon made. Recent decisions on appeals indicate that departments and Ministers act in a way that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will not accept. I was assured that Mr Justice Brennan would consider this matter as a new application and on the basis of whether the Director-General was incorrect in rejecting the original application; it would not be based on whether he was satisfied. There may be some justice if the matter goes to an Appeals Tribunal. It is one of the matters that need the earliest attention in order to stop the injustice that occurs now. Until such time as poverty gets so great that there is an uprising in this country, I suppose that the Government is entitled to use its ideology for the purpose of inflicting penalties upon a person who unfortunately may be a victim of either his own union striking, another union striking, or a strike that occurs for some reason over which he has no control. I voice my complete opposition to this proposal.
I know that the Senate has approved clause 13 of this amending legislation with an assurance from the Minister that those deprived of a benefit under the new section 33- that is, a widow who received the benefit before will not get it in future- will now receive the widow’s pension. I have since found in the Act the section relating to widows’ pensions and on no interpretation of that section could the sort of woman described in the Bill be entitled to a widow’s pension. I ask that at the end of the Committee stage I be allowed to look again at new section 33, otherwise I will take up the matter at the third reading stage.
– I would also like to voice my opposition to this clause. As Senator Grimes stated, the Government wishes to return to the days before child endowment and before other benefits which are now accepted in our community. I think the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) wishes to return to those times. I have the impression that she would like to go back to the Victorian days, the days of the master and servant and what Government senators consider to be normal. I am afraid that those days have gone. The Government is now creating a weapon to turn worker against worker in the community. This provision does not assist industrial relations in the least; in fact, it is a deliberate weapon to turn worker against worker. The Government is only further aggravating a situation to which I referred and at which Senator Harradine hinted in debate on the Conciliation and Arbitration
Amendment Bill. Some of the larger unions will end up withdrawing from the conciliation and arbitration system even if it is only a means of hiding the names of their members so that this provision of the Bill cannot be implemented.
The Government is affecting innocent people. Take the example which I have already given to the Senate, namely, that of a strike over safety conditions. If a union goes on strike because of a safety feature and members of that union employed elsewhere are affected by a hold-up in production caused by the people on strike, those people will be deprived of the unemployment benefit through no fault of their own. Surely no government would condemn people for going on strike over a safety issue. I know that this Government condemns people for striking when seeking a decent standard of living or a decent wage.
It is all right for Senator Walters to shake her head, but I challenge her to write down what she considers to be a decent living wage, taking into consideration the expectations of 1979. If the honourable senator writes it down, then she can start arguing when people receive more than that amount, provided it is a proper and decent wage. In the meantime, the Opposition is concerned about innocent people who would be deprived of the unemployment benefit through no fault of their own over a strike about safety conditions. I outlined the circumstances of a strike at Transfield (WA) Pty Ltd. It involved a three inch electrical cable being under water. After a lot of rain the cable was eventually covered by water and the people went on strike. Surely the Government would not condemn them for doing that. Yet, it is proposed to deprive the people of that union who did not go on strike but who could have been affected by the holding up of production on a particular line.
There is no allowance made at all for strikes that could be considered to be completely legitimate. Those people who went on strike over that safety feature were able subsequently to obtain their wages. This does not happen on every occasion; not always does a court award them the wages they lost while on strike. Suppose scaffolding on a job is unsafe and the men decide to go on strike but nothing happens about it. The people affected cannot even claim the unemployment benefit, even though they became unemployed through something that had nothing at all to do with them. I think it is a very hard piece of legislation and I believe that it is purposely designed to try to break the trade union movement. It is such a heartless piece of legislation that I cannot see any other motive behind it. This clause makes it obvious that this is what the Government is trying to do.
– It will make the trade unions answerable to the public.
-I think the Government should answer to the public.
-If I heard the interjection properly, I thought it was said that this part of the legislation will make the trade unions answerable to the public. I believe that it will do quite the opposite. This proposal indicates that the drafters of this part of the legislation- I am not accusing the whole of the Government because I know that a number of Government senators do not agree with it- have no conception whatsoever of the day to day functioning of a union registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is a purely simplistic approach which does not have regard to the fact that each union or registered industrial organisation has a complicated set of rules which must conform to the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and which are designed to achieve orderly industrial progress. I hope that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) will be able to leave this clause aside so that it can be tidied up.
With the best will in the world, I give to the Senate an example of what could happen in the case of a section of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia imposing industrial action in the shape of a ban on spare parts coming across the wharf. This would involve the shipping section of that union, a distinct part of the general membership. As I understand it, the union has various sections which cater for the particular interests of its members. There are shipping, transport, airline, commercial, and mining sections, and so on. Each of those sections elects members and representatives to the State Council. The membership as a whole elects State officers and State executives who are ultimately responsible to the membership for the day to day running of the union.
Let us suppose that some members of the shipping section got a bee in their bonnet and said that they were going to place a ban on a particular ship in Sydney. The dispute might not be associated with what was in the ship but how the ship was being handled. Perhaps there were spare parts in that ship for the motor vehicle industry. That would have an effect on the motor vehicle industry in every State. Under those circumstances the members of that particular section of the union in the various States may be stood down. Of course, in this case proof would have to be provided to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in respect of a stand-down application. The commissioner would have regard to whether those members of that union had any control or say over the dispute which was affecting them. Immediately those persons are affected by the decisions of others over which, in the span of time available, they have no control, under this provision the Government will add insult to injury.
– If the commissioner makes a point of saying ‘Yes, they have some control’ and they are stood down.
– No. Under the Government’s legislation it has nothing to do with the commissioner, irrespective of whether they have control over the situation.
– Only if they are stood down.
– That is right. So the commissioner makes the decision that the employer has no say in the matter, that it is not the employer’s fault, and they are stood down.
– What about the Telecom dispute and the petrol disputes that bring my State to a halt and injure innocent bystanders?
– Let us come to that in a moment. I am giving a practical example, which occurred in 1969, 1 think, when there was a major dispute on the wharves. In this circumstance the Government gives the members no opportunity whatsoever; it prejudges the situation and it penalises people. It adds insult to injury. Members of the union are already losing their pay and the Government will not allow them to get unemployment benefit, as I said, in the time span. Let us go one step further. The executive of the union has a meeting and, on behalf of all of the members who elected it, instructs those members on the wharf to lift the ban. The members of that particular section take the view that they will not abide with the decision of the federal executive of the union.
– If their fellow unionists are not being paid, they might well take notice.
– According to Senator Walter’s previous interjection, they will not. It is not done that way. I will come later to how the honourable senator is misunderstanding the day-to-day running of a union. The federal executive of the union instructs its members to lift the ban. It does so on behalf of all those members who are stood down and whom the Government is depriving of unemployment benefit. The members say: ‘We will not have a bar of that. We have our industrial might and our industrial action to take’. What does the federal executive do? It starts to take disciplinary action under its rules against the members of that section, but before it does that, I imagine, it would say to all the members: ‘Let us have mass meetings throughout the Commonwealth of all members of our union to make recommendations in respect of this industrial dispute ‘. To ensure that all the members can attend it proceeds to have stop work meetings. In a shift industry such as the shipping industry, that is the only way to make sure that all members will attend.
The union calls a compulsory meeting of all members of its shipping section throughout Australia, including those members who put on the ban. Those members say: ‘No. We have only a ban. We are not going to stop work for four or six hours over this matter. We are not going to lose pay by having a meeting over this matter. That is against the Federal Government’s 1977 amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act’. This is how stupid the situation is. Those people on the wharf who are causing all the trouble could point to this Government’s legislation passed in 1977 which enables an individual member of a union to opt out of industrial action- the very industrial action which a stop work meeting has been called to try to solve. I have been at such meetings and I know that they can go on for four to eight hours. This Government’s legislation would give those people the opportunity to turn around to the union and say: You are a wipe-off. The Federal Government knows what is is talking about. We have our rights under the provisions of the 1977 amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act’. The union could force the employers to stand those blokes down for the duration of the stop work meeting and the union would be liable for action under this Government’s own legislation. That is how ridiculous it is. That is where this Government is meeting itself coming backwards because it does not know about the day-to-day operations of individual unions and how they work.
Time does not permit, but there are a large number of matters such as that which immediately occur to one. Let us take the definition of industrial action’. In these proposed amendments to the Social Services Act the definition of industrial action’ is the same as its definition in the 1977 amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act- with a very interesting omission. I refer honourable senators to the proposed definition of ‘industrial action’ in the Social Services Amendment Bill before us. It states:
In this section-
Industrial action’ means -
limitation or restriction on the performance of work or on acceptance of, or offering for, work;
The definition in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act states: ban, limitation or restriction on the performance of work, or on acceptance or offering for work, -
Listen to this: in accordance with the terms and conditions prescribed by an award of the Commission, an award, determination or order made by another tribunal in pursuance of a law of the Commonwealth or by or under a law of the Commonwealth;
They are very significant deletions. Through the social services legislation this Government is attempting to involve itself, by political interference, in the industrial arena. This means that an employer can impose on a worker or on a group of workers an order which is not in accordance with the provisions of the award. The workers can go out on strike because of that. If their colleagues in the same union are put out of work because of their going on strike as a result of an order which is contrary to or not in accordance with the provisions of an award or a determination, they can be penalised.
– They could go to the Industrial Relations Bureau, which would say that it was outside their award, without their having to go on strike. Other avenues are open.
– Not according to my experience in my association with the Industrial Relations Bureau. Its predecessor, the Arbitration Inspectorate, had too few arbitration inspectors to cover all the awards they had to cover. It is just ridiculous to think that those people -
-That’s not right.
– With due respect to the honourable senator, I have had 26 years as a unionist and 2 1 years as a union official. I hope that the Government will take on board what I have said in this debate.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to speak again on this clause because when I spoke on it initially I spoke in a general way about the difficulties which the Government will create by using the social services legislation to carry out its industrial policy. Two difficulties are involved: The first is a humanitarian one, and the second is an administrative one, one aspect of which was just outlined by Senator Harradine when he explained the difficulties which will be created for the unions if this sort of approach to industrial relations is adopted. Before I mention further administrative difficulties and seek explanations from the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) on them, I point out again, using a different illustration, some of the problems and injustices which will arise.
No doubt, this legislation grew out of the Latrobe Valley Strike in 1977 and the problems which arose for people who were stood down as a result of that strike. At the time this sort of legislation was mooted and was highly criticised. I point out that one thing which came out of that dispute was that a large percentage, something like 50 per cent, of the people who were put out of work by the strike, many of whom belonged to the same unions because a number of unions were involved in the strike, had practically no savings- I think the figure was less than $75- in the bank. As a result, an enormous burden was placed on the welfare agencies of Melbourne and of Victoria in general.
One can remember the reports on that. In October 1979 the Australian reported of scuffles which broke out at the Salvation Army offices at Clayton as 500 men and women lined up for vouchers worth some $30 to buy groceries and other items to feed their families because at that time they were not able to get the unemployment benefit as a result of a deliberate policy of the Government to delay payment of the unemployment benefit. A few days later all the Salvation Army offices had to close because hundreds of people were still queueing up. People were trying to get through windows to get into the buildings to get assistance. As a result of that, the Victorian and Commonwealth governments each had to give $50,000 to distribute to relief organisations.
Of course it was a serious situation; of course it was a difficult situation. But that type of situation will not be helped by introducing legislation which gives the Director-General the discretion to decide who is on strike and who is a member of the same union, but which gives the DirectorGeneral, on making those decisions, no discretion to determine whether the people on strike will get the unemployment benefit. That will lead to further administrative difficulties; not the administrative difficulties which will arise in individual unions, which Senator Harradine pointed out, but the administrative difficulties which will arise for the Director-General of Social Services, or more often for his delegates- the people to whom he delegates the power to decide.
What will be the administrative procedure for the Director-General, a director of the Department of Social Security or an officer in a regional office to decide who is a member of a union which is out on strike and who is not? What will the situation be when one of those people says to someone who comes in for the unemployment benefit: ‘Are you a member of X union’? If the persons says he is not and a director suspects that he is, will the director then go to the union office and demand the list of all the members of that union? Will that union officer give it to him? In fact, will the union officer be entitled to give him the list of all the members of that union?
– He will be compelled to give it to him.
– Will he be compelled to? It certainly does not seem that he will be under this legislation. The important thing about the whole of the Social Services Act is that so much of it relies on the delegation of power and the discretion of the Director-General or his underlings. This power- this operating ability- is decided by regulations and guidelines which are given to those underlings by the DirectorGeneral with the agreement, we assume, although we sometimes suspect without the agreement, of the Minister involved. When any legislation of this type comes into this placewhen any legislation giving power to a public servant comes into this place- I believe we as members of parliament should be able to look at the relevant guidelines, instructions and regulations. Certainly, before any honourable senator on either side of this chamber, no matter what his ideological bias may be, votes for such legislation, he should demand to see the guidelines and regulations. At least he should be given a careful list of the instructions on how the procedure will operate.
– They do not exist unless we see them.
– As Senator Mcintosh interjects, unless we see them we have no idea of whether they are in existence. One suspects that they are probably not in existence yet for this legislation. I can see enormous administrative difficulties in carrying out the requirements of this clause, apart from the fact that I think it is unjust, unfair and a wrong use of the Social Services Act. Those administrative difficulties should be known to the Minister, to the Department and to this chamber. We should know how the Government intends to get over those administrative difficulties. We have been given no indication in the second reading speech or in any other utterances from the Minister of how this legislation is to be carried out.
We have a piece of legislation- the Social Services Act which, I repeat, is meant to assist people in need. That legislation is being used to carry out an industrial policy. We believe that is a wrong use of that piece of legislation. I think it has been clearly demonstrated by Senator Cavanagh, Senator Harradine and others that the manner in which trade unions operate in this community- the manner in which trade unions are structured in this community- will mean that the industrial situation will not get better as a result of this legislation being enacted; in fact, it may get worse. The implications, if Senator Harradine is right- I have no reason to believe he is wrong- are that we may be put in a situation in which some unions will be asked to act illegally under the Government’s arbitration legislation if they are to fulfil the letter of this law. The Government and Government senators should look seriously at what they are doing with this legislation and what the results will be. They should think very carefully about whether they should not take the advice of their colleagues, which was publicly given at the time of the Latrobe Valley strike, and withdraw this legislation. If the Government must interfere politically with the industrial relations of this country, at least it should do it through the industrial relations legislation and not through the social services legislation, which was not designed for the Government’s purpose and will not achieve the purpose which the Government thinks it will.
-I think the discussion on the Social Services Amendment Bill 1 979 this afternoon has demonstrated, as did the discussion on conciliation and arbitration legislation which was before the Senate last week, that the principle being applied by the Government is most reactionary. It probably is inconsistent with the recommendations and conventions of the International Labour Organisation. It makes almost impossible the normal activities of a trade union movement. I suppose that one of the best examples was that given by me about industrial action as outlined in proposed new section 107(7). Other examples have been given also. I refer to industrial action which comes within the definition of the application of a safety program by workers. I instance cases in South Australia of men being injured when digging engineering trenches or shoring up walls on construction sites.
I refer also to the railways industry, to which Senator Mulvihill and I have drawn attention. Signalmen, shunters and locomotive drivers may be marshalling long lines of trains in a yard which is not in good condition. Because of rain, it may be under water. These train men and shunters may decide that some urgent action is needed and may put a ban on part of the yard. If they do they will be liable to be stood down under the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and then will become ineligible for social security benefit because of this Bill.
As Senator Grimes has pointed out, proposed new sub-section (8) closes off every escape hole concerning branches of unions. Proposed new sub-section (8) (c) states: if a trade union is divided into branches (whether or not the branches are themselves trade unions), the persons who are members of the respective branches shall all be deemed to be members of the first-mentioned trade union.
So there are related provisions which flow closely into what we criticised in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. A few people at an outpost can decide whether workers are to be deregistered or not. Having been deregistered, put out of work and classified as one taking part in an industrial action, these people not only lose their rights in the community but also are deprived of their rights to sustenance under the Social Services Act.
Proposed new sub-section (8)(b) covers up minute loopholes in people ‘s rights. It provides:
A reference to industrial action shall be read as including a reference to a course of conduct consisting of a series of industrial actions;
So bit by bit whatever rights men had as free men under the concept that is applicable to Western society- the right to organise into trade unions; all the things that have been treasured in the past- are being closed down.
I think Senator Grimes put his finger on the matter. This Bill will be passed even though the Opposition and other members on this side oppose it. Certainly there must be an obligation on the Government to provide some sort of arrangement whereby people who know the industrial field can hold discussions with the DirectorGeneral of Social Services. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) knows that this question of discretion by the DirectorGeneral is almost a constant irritant in cases which concern payment of pensions and entitlements. Frequently throughout the year members of parliament, other people and organisations talk to their local directors and to the Minister in respect of many cases. So there is a continual irritation to the point where individuals have to solve something which should be solved on the basis of a formula. I support in particular what Senator Grimes put forward in the way of criticism. I would like to see a formula which will allow the proper examination of these clauses. The Director-General could be guided by a committee representing industry and unions. The Director-General, in cases such as this, has to rely- as Senator Grimes said- on the information he can obtain from trade union organisations. The Director-General can use the powers of the Act to enforce his requirements. To what extent is he required to lean on the Government’s industrial relations bodies? To what extent do the Director-General and those bodies work together? The Parliament should be informed- this is stipulated in respect of vital matters relating to other legislation- of what the Director-General has done in respect of large industrial troubles where thousands of workers are affected. If the Government provided a guarantee that these matters would be reported to the Parliament we might be able to discuss the matter in a calm way.
– A number of honourable senators have spoken on this clause. I will comment on some of the matters raised by Senator Grimes. In his first speech on the clause he was concerned about the Director-General of Social Services deciding what was industrial action. I draw his attention to the clause. The definition is quite precise. It is to be inserted into the Act for the first time. One of the reasons for the amendment is that the original Act is not precise. This was drawn to my attention early in my ministry. I think that many people held the same view that the Act was not capable of interpretation. The definition of industrial action now is not left to the Director-General; it is a legal definition. The Director-General does not have a discretion regarding the definition. A factual inquiry must be made by him before he can make a determination.
– And he has got to be of the opinion that someone was taking part in the action.
– The description of industrial action is now precisely stated in the Bill. The action referred to has now been defined. Several honourable senators have referred to the elements of the definition.
The only other matter that I wish to refer to arising from the first speech of Senator Grimes relates to the special benefit. I think he answered his own question when he referred to the fact that special benefit may be applied for by a wife for herself and her children. Special benefit will be available to her. She may also seek unemployment benefit to be paid for herself and her children if that is the appropriate income security that she requires. Concerns were expressed by other honourable senators. Senator Cavanagh referred to what would be key worker strikes and their effects on other employees within the same union. Other honourable senators suggested that we wished to turn the clock back to 1947. What was decided at that time was not covered precisely by the Act. The same applies to decisions that have been made since then. Equally, the decisions made in 1973 by the then Government were not sustained by the Act. For the reason I gave earlier, the Act was not precise and it is necessary to define the matters that will be taken into account under these circumstances. We can go back to the beginning of this concept. I refer to a letter dated 12 May 1948 which Senator McKenna wrote to his Director-General. It reads:
All Unions represented at the Conference with me in Sydney on 23rd April accepted the principle that the Commonwealth could not permit unemployment benefit to be used for financing strikes.
He stated further:
I informed the deputation that no hard and fast rule should be laid down to cover cases where a strike of key worker unionists-
Page 1404 of Hansard of 1 1 April 1972 sets out the points that Senator McKenna made to his Director-General. He asked him to administer the Act accordingly at that time. I will not find it necessary to write to my Director-General. The Act is now precise in what needs to be taken into account in industrial actions so that there will be no payment of unemployment benefit to members of a union which is on strike.
Senator Grimes, in his second speech on the clause, asked what guidelines would be used by the Department to determine who was or was not a member of the union. He asked, in effect, that I indicate upon whom would lie the burden of proof in this respect. Initial information relevant to determining whether a person is disqualified from benefit by reason of industrial action, or membership of a union whose members are engaged in industrial action, will be sought from the claimant. Authority for this is contained in the Social Services Act and similar powers exist in relation to all social security benefits; that is, a claimant must establish his eligibility for a particular benefit. If the information supplied by a claimant is insufficient to determine eligibility, the Act contains authority for further information to be sought from other sources.
In the case of an unemployment benefit, other sources could include the claimant’s employer or the Department of Industrial Relations. They could be approached for the information necessary to satisfy the Director-General, under proposed section 107 (4), that the claimant’s unemployment was not due to industrial action either by himself or by members of a union of which he was a member. It is understood in this place that my Department accepts the guidance of the Commonwealth Employment Service with regard to work testing. In the case of strikes, the Department of Industrial Relations is the department which at present relates to my Department the conditions under which members of certain unions are not now eligible for benefit. There is nothing new about that. The procedure has been well established and is the way in which the Department already determines whether a person is eligible for unemployment benefit. Similarly, since the Act will now state precisely that union members who are stood down as a result of a strike in which the union is engaged will not be eligible for unemployment benefit, the DirectorGeneral will be assisted by the interpretations embodied in the Act itself. The information and degree of proof required in any particular case will, of course, vary with the circumstances and it would therefore be necessary for the DirectorGeneral to seek guidance from the Department of Industrial Relations.
I was interested in Senator Bishop’s constructive suggestion with regard to assistance being obtained either from a committee or by reference to the trade unions. I will refer that suggestion to the Department of Industrial Relations and see that it is discussed by the Government in order to assist the Director-General of my Department to make the determinations which, under the Act, he is required to make.
One could well repeat that there is in the Act a general provision that if a claimant for unemployment benefit supplies false or misleading information, any payment that is made in pursuance of that claim will be recoverable when such a person is not eligible. As I said earlier, a claimant must provide information sufficient to enable his eligibility to be determined. If he gives false or misleading information and an incorrect determination is therefore made, the benefit is recoverable under the Act, and an attempt to recover it must be made.
The Director-General will need to take all of these matters into account. As far as administration is concerned, it must be remembered that at present we do not pay unemployment benefit to persons who are union members who are directly involved in a strike. An extension of that practice to all members of the union would take us back, not to 1947, but prior to 1973, when the alternative rules, as they were described by Senator Grimes, were made by the then Government.
As far as appeals are concerned, I know of Senator Cavanagh ‘s interest in the matter. I agree with him that a satisfactory right of appeal does not at present lie under the Social Services Act. I was interested to learn of his discussions with Mr Justice Brennan. Equally, I have had discussions with the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) to ensure that, as soon as is possible a right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will be provided under the Social Services Act. If it is possible to expedite that it certainly will be done but I understand that action is already being taken and that the time is not far distant when that right of appeal will exist. Then, under this section or any other section of the Act, an appeal may be taken.
The powers of the Director-General under the Act is always a subject for discussion. It is necessary that someone makes a determination under the Act. I sustain the comments made earlier with regard to the re-writing and consolidation of the Act, and if more precision is required in regard to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and other attitudes that have been taken since the Act was first written I believe that that should be provided as soon as is possible. This is one section in respect of which it was felt that it was needed. I hope that the Director-General, in making determinations under this section, with the advice that he obtains from the Department of Industrial Relations, the Commonwealth Employment Service and others, can be more precise in determining eligibility than he has been able to in the past.
I note that in a department with some 1 1,000 employees delegation to the officers who are to determine each claim is certainly required. Again, a determination must be made. There is no other way in which, under the Act, one is able to decide that a claimant is to be paid. The Act provides that the Director-General shall be capable of making that determination. I commend the clause to honourable senators.
-I can foresee injustice arising in situations where perhaps a very large union is involved and the government body thereof does not actually endorse the strike in question. I was wondering whether, in such circumstances, the DirectorGeneral should be given an additional discretion- to decide whether it would be reasonable that some of the members stood down as a result of strike action should be deemed to be entitled to the unemployment benefit. I visualise that, in a large union particularly, certainly injustices could result because a segment thereof involved people who, though they had not directly contributed to the strike, may have been stood down as a result of it. In such circumstances I would like to see the Director-General possess a further degree of discretion.
– I do not want to transgress the arguments that have been advanced by other members of the Opposition, but I would like to consider the other side of the coin and refer to the staffing of the average social security office. I have in mind the Burwood office, which is located in the heartland of the western suburbs area of Sydney, whose total staff numbers 34 employees. With the work that will be created in respect of all of these additional civilians seeking benefit, and the kindred activity to which reference has been made, I ask whether one of the byproducts will not be that some of the 34 officers at Burwood will be diverted to these search and destroy missions, if one may so term them, concerning applications. Will that not hamper the processing of normal cases involving people who are not in an industry that is involved in industrial strife. To take the matter a little further, I do not think that it would be claimed that the Department of Social Security is overstaffed or has capacity to process applications rapidly.
Senator Colston and myself had occasion to seek action in the case of the misfortune which befell an invalid pensioner who had been travelling from Queensland en route to Western Australia. He had come with friends by car but he took ill at a small town near Dubbo. I believe that the matter has now been adjusted but I am still awaiting a letter from the Director-General explaining the sequence of errors which occurred in that case. If that delay is indicative of the limited staff that is available to answer the inquiries of members of parliament it seems that these difficulties will impose an additional burden. I conclude where I began by asking whether at the Burwood social security office, which has a staff of 34, an additional work load will be imposed on some officers or staff numbers are to be increased. Often, when innovations are proposed such trends are not foreseen.
During the last 12 months there has been considerable agitation regarding cheap air fares. As Senator Sibraa will confirm, an SOS was sent out by the staff of the Passport Office in Sydney. The staff was simply inundated with applications. As a result of a positive move, people wanted Australian passports to gain access to what they thought was cheap air travel. This is a different situation. I cannot see that people not involved in a union that is in industrial dispute, but who must try to deal with their own problems that arise at times from such an industrial dispute will be unaffected. The service to those people will suffer also. That is the real thrust of my argument, on which I express my doubts.
– I thank the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) for her reply. I found it very helpful. As I said earlier, the difference between the Minister and the Opposition is one relating to our approach in theory. The Opposition has never supported the payment of the unemployment benefit to strikers but questions now how far the action proposed by the Government should go. Should innocent people be affected by the provisions of this legislation? The Government says that those not involved in a strike should be affected; the Opposition says that they should not.
I wish to explain my concern at the discretionary powers of the Director-General. I know that with respect to any piece of legislation a decision must be made by someone whether a person qualifies for a particular benefit or is within the terms of a certain provision. If there is a possibility that a decision may be the wrong one, I believe that a right of appeal should exist. I am concerned that criteria should be set down to enable people to know whether they are eligible. In those circumstances people can appeal in the belief that they are entitled to a benefit and establish that they are eligible for it. The reason why they did not receive the benefit was not that they were not eligible but that somebody had to make a decision as to their eligibility.
My argument, which has been supported by the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee, is that an appeal must be made on the basis that the person who made the decision did not act in accordance with the subjective criteria set down on which people should qualify. Let us take the case of an unemployed person who met the work test criteria and was eligible in every other respect but did not satisfy the DirectorGeneral. That person must appeal on the basis that the Director-General should have been satisfied. I believe that this provision does not apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal as the legislation governing it sets out guidelines how to decide the question. Senator Chaney referred to the Patents Act under which an appeal, in effect, is a new hearing of an application. I am reminded of the Karen Green case which was concerned with whether the Director-General was satisfied as to her eligibility. No one can prove whether the person making the decision is in fact satisfied.
A definition of ‘industrial action’ is included in this legislation. That does not help the DirectorGeneral in or take away from him his duty to decide an issue. Under this legislation, the responsibility of proof is on the applicant. Proposed new section 107, contained in clause 35, provides in proposed new sub-section (4):
A person is not qualified to receive an unemployment benefit in respect of a period unless-
the person satisfies the Director-General that the person’s unemployment during that period was not due to the person being, or having been, engaged in industrial action.
Industrial action’ may mean being on strike. In terms of the provisions in this legislation, the onus of proof rests on the applicant to establish that he or she is not unemployed as a result of industrial action’, as that term is defined in the legislation. The applicant must show that it is not because of a ban, limitation or some other industrial action or because someone else will not do the whole or part of their duties that the applicant is unemployed. The responsibility on an applicant is enlarged by this legislation defining what an applicant must prove to the satisfaction of the Director-General. A long list of responsibilities is imposed on an applicant with respect to satisfying the Director-General.
This legislation raises the following question in my mind: Take the case of an employer who dismisses a number of employees for reasons which are unknown to those employees. How will such employees establish that their employment was not terminated, for example, because of some shortage in materials which did not arrive as the result of another strike. If an employer dismisses an employee because production at his factory has been affected by a strike involving the supply of raw materials and substitute raw materials have been obtained from another source, possibly not at a price on which his business was dependent, I pose the question: Were the employees dismissed because of the strike? In the example I have given, the employee was not dismissed because of a shortage of material. How does the employee prove that fact to the satisfaction of the Director-General?
By this legislation, the Government seeks to impose an impossible task on each applicant for the unemployment benefit. How does a person know why he or she has been dismissed? I suppose in industry the person knows because the employer tells that person. On most occasions the employer will lay the blame on someone else; dismissal will rarely be due to the mismanagement of the employer. The employer may claim that a stoppage by seamen in some area meant that it was not possible for his business to do any work. The Government is seeking to make it much too difficult for those who have a legitimate entitlement to establish the validity of a claim for the unemployment benefit.
-This clause will not restrict strikes. It will extend them. That is not really what the Government wants. The Government believes that, by denying people the right to claim unemployment benefit if they are out of work because of some industrial action in some other part of the country, the number of strikes will be restricted. The legislation will not do that. Members of trade unions are on various salaries. Some may earn $20,000 or $30,000 a year whereas cleaners and other like employees are on a very small salary. Instead of larger unions, which I believe are essential for this country, there will be a tendency through legislation such as this to divide big organisations into small groups. The smaller the groups, the more difficult it will be to get industrial peace in this country. A union can be in the situation where a small group of people, irrespective of what the main body of the union is doing, can call on an industrial dispute against the wishes of the rest of the members of that union. If the national body of any union tried to take action on that, under this legislation it would be denied the opportunity. In my opinion, this type of legislation is going to increase the number of organisations which can go on strike. There will not be the tendency in a union to try to confine a strike in a small group. Whole sections will be involved, including large sections that should not be in it. Because of this type of legislation, all types of unions will be forced into taking major action where it should not be taken. It is easy enough to get people out on strike- I can assure the Government of this- but it is jolly difficult to get them back once they are out. Anyone can talk to them, get up and inflame them into going out on strike. But it is hard to get them back. If there is only a small group of members on strike why should the rest of them then pay the penalty? I believe it is quite naive on the Government’s part to bring down legislation such as this. If it sincerely believes that it will restrict strikes in this country it must remember that one cannot light small fires in large haystacks. Once it does that, by implementing this type of legislation, industrial trouble will build up and in this country it will be quite impossible to have any form of decent and respectable industrial legislation.
This Bill is no way to go about improving industrial relations. As the Opposition said during the debate on amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, there are ways of doing it. I believe that many sections of the Australian community could and would co-operate to bring about better industrial relations, but that will not happen with legislation such as this. The Government will isolate people. It will divide this nation. It will increase the hatred between sections of the community. I believe that this Bill has been introduced for the evil purpose of trying to cover up the misdeeds of this Government in regard to inflation, unemployment and the rest. That is all it is doing. To do this to any nation, I think, is despicable. I believe the people of this nation will wake up to what is going on. I believe that at the next election this Government will most certainly feel the sting of the people.
-The only reason for my rising is that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has not answered the question I raised. The point was very practical. It is a point upon which this legislation will either fall or stand. The Minister must admit that the legislation will either fall or stand. If it is practical and capable of implementation, if it is fair and just and is seen to be fair and just it will stand. I thought I pointed out by practical example, because of my knowledge of the day to day running of unions, that it is not just and it will not seem to be just. Senator Elstob, with his practical knowledge of the matters, told the Minister that this Bill will exacerbate strikes and industrial action. That is very clear.
If a section of a union is on strike one has to try to isolate it to try to fix up the dispute. Under this legislation one will have to bring in all other members of the union who are affected. Any responsible union official will have to bring all other members into mass stop work meetings. As Senator Elstob said, it is easy to get them out on strike, particularly by the bods who are already out, but it will be very hard to get them back to work again. Senator Watson who has vast experience in managerial positions and direct positions within industry understands the very real problem that this legislation will present to people and the injustice that will be suffered by quite a large number of people. I ask the Minister to say why the Government would impose such a penalty on innocent persons: As I mentioned to her in the example I gave, the federal executive of a union, acting on behalf of the people whom the Government would penalise, could make a decision opposing the industrial action which put other people out of work to whom the Government will not pay the benefits. Therefore, those people, through their elected officials, have done the right thing. Yet the Government will still penalise them. The legislation does not even say words to the effect that the restriction of benefit will not apply if the governing body of the union has not approved of the industrial action.
– That is what I said.
– That is right. Senator Watson mentioned that the Government has thrown this restriction on to the table of the Senate. Surely, if the Government were serious about solving industrial problems it would have such a proposition. This restriction would not apply if the governing body of the union had not approved of the industrial action. As I mentioned in my earlier contribution, even the Government’s industrial legislation will mitigate against a responsible union attempting to do the right thing by the Government in accordance with the Government’s wishes as we have before us in the Social Services Amendment Bill. As I mentioned, if for example that small section of a union persists with industrial action, what does the responsible union official do? He would go to those members who have got the ban on and say to them: ‘You are required to come to a stop-work meeting of 8 hours’ duration in order that this may be thrashed out. We will get to that mass meeting all of those other people who are affected’. The Government’s industrial legislation, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, in section 188 ( 1 ) (d) states:
An organisation . . . shall not impose, or threaten to impose, a penalty, forteiture or disability of any kind upon a member of the organization with the intent to coerce the member to join in industrial action;
In order to overcome a union’s problem as presented to it by the Social Services Amendment Bill, a union official would go to the offending section of the union which has a black ban on certain goods which are required for a particular factory where the members of that same union have been laid off or stood down as a result of the black ban. That officer would be doing the right thing. He would be acting in contravention of the Government’s industrial legislation by calling out those people to a stopwork meeting. Those offending members can say: ‘You, Harradine, the official of this union, have no right to call us out on a stop work’. For calling them out there is a penalty of $400 a day.
This is an example of what I have said about the Government’s not understanding the way that a union works and not understanding the need to have genuine and responsible participation in the decisions of the union, with the union having the ability to impose discipline through its rules. I warned the Government, when that piece of legislation was put up in 1 977, that it would not be a deterrent to unions imposing discipline in order to achieve orderly industrial progress. My words unfortunately have been found to be true by reason of what the Government is trying to do with this Bill. Furthermore, the Government has gone one step further and said to those people who do not want to be in the union nor take part in proper consultation and meetings in order to achieve orderly industrial progress: ‘No, you can opt out of the whole thing and you will be paid. You will be paid. You do not have to go to the meetings. Just resign from the union and you will get your unemployment benefit. Don’t go to the meetings and try to fix it up ‘. This irks me.
I can see and recognise problems such as those mentioned by Senator Baume in relation to the Telecom strike. In that instance decisions were taken by the governing body of the organisation elected by union members. The governing body has the responsibility to reflect the point of view of the union members, and if its decision is wrong and it affects the ordinary union member, the union member knows what to do about it next time they elect officials. But as in the case I first instanced- it has happened before- if the union federal executive or responsible body decides not to approve a strike, those members who have put officials into their positions will be penalised. I do not think that is just; I do not think it is reasonable; I do not think it has an ounce of commonsense about it; and I do not think it will overcome the problems that the Government is trying to overcome- that is, to try to engender a sense of responsibility among the members of the union concerned. That is done by creating an atmosphere in which unions will be encouraged to exhibit responsibility. It is not done through this sort of legislation. An atmosphere conducive to responsible decisions should be created, but this legislation will penalise the very people who may have taken responsible decisions and to whom no fault can be attributed for an industrial dispute. Why should the Government penalise them and their families when they are already well and truly penalised by having been stood down?
– I think in all fairness the Minister for
Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) should take some notice of what has been said in this chamber in the last hour with respect to clause 35 of the Bill. I would suggest to the Minister that consideration of clause 35 be postponed to a later hour this day so that she can confer with other members of the Cabinet, with a view to the Cabinet agreeing to the changes to the legislation which have been suggested by speakers from both sides of the chamber.
We notice from the second reading speech that some parts of this legislation will come into effect on 8 November, and that another part will come into effect on 1 November, which is Thursday of next week. There is ample time to have clause 35 reconsidered. Even Senator Watson, a member of the Government parties, has some misgivings about clause 35 and the problems which it could create. No doubt many other senators on the Government side would have the same misgivings, although they would not be prepared to express them, as did Senator Watson. I think it has been pointed out to the Minister quite clearly that untold problems will arise if this legislation is passed in its present form. There is no reason why this clause cannot be reconsidered, even over the dinner break. Perhaps the Minister could then come back and say that the Government has seen the errors of its ways and agrees to some modification to the clause so that after the legislation is passed, we will not find, say next year, perhaps the whole community being put at risk because of what is being imposed in this legislation.
The Minister spoke of the recovery of moneys if a false claim was made. I think this puts many people in a very unfair position. People may work in a factory dependent upon component parts from a factory in another State where there is a strike. The boss may say to them ‘I have to close down because I have run short of parts. I am going to stand you down’. Those people will go along to the Commonwealth Employment Service to register for unemployment benefit. How is the CES to know that these people are unemployed because of a strike? In all innocence they could make a claim for unemployment benefit and be paid. Then at some future date the Director-General of Social Services will say ‘You made a false claim’. Not only will they be asked to repay the money that they have been paid, but also they will have been tagged with the stigma that they made a false claim for unemployment benefit.
– They have no claim at all until they satisfy the Director-General.
– In clause 35 we find that the Director-General is mentioned no less than 15 times. We all know that the Director-General is domiciled in Canberra. What powers do the regional directors have to make a decision? How long will it take if a person in Western Australia or Tasmania or Queensland -
– They have the same powers.
– I do not know whether they have the same powers.
– Yes, they do.
– I am told that the regional directors have the same powers as the Director-General.
– How would you satisfy him if you were put off and you did not know the reason?
- Senator Cavanagh raised that point and I do not think the Minister has answered it yet. Perhaps she will do so when she rises. The Minister also said that when this legislation is passed she will have no need to write to her Director-General because the directions in relation to how he is to administer the Act will be spelled out in the Act. She quoted the letter from Senator McKenna to his DirectorGeneral in 1949, in which he said that unemployment benefit was not to be used to finance strikes. As Senator Cavanagh has pointed out, we on this side of the chamber have never adopted the attitude that unemployment benefit should be used for financing strikes. But as I have just pointed out, people are to be deprived of unemployment benefit because a strike may take place in a far distant part of this great continent. They are the people who will suffer- the lower paid people. They will face great disadvantages.
In this Parliament last year I mentioned the suffering caused to many people when the Government decided to pay unemployment benefit in arrears. That move threw a great strain on the State Government community welfare departments and on the voluntary welfare organisations. Some people out of a job had to wait up to six weeks before they could get unemployment benefits. The only people to whom they could turn were the community welfare departments or the voluntary welfare organisations. The Minister will well recall my imploring her to make an extra allocation of funds available, particularly to the State departments. Mr Ron Payne, who was the South Australian Minister for Community Welfare, had to make a special trip to Canberra to talk to departmental officers about the possibility of getting some assistance to relieve the strain that was being placed on his own State department.
There is no mention in this Bill that the Government will provide extra funds to voluntary welfare organisations to allow them to carry the extra burden which will be imposed upon them as a result of the Government refusing unemployment benefit to many people who may be put out of work by a strike which is not of their own making. That has been pointed out to the Minister on many occasions during the last hour or so. I ask the Minister whether it is the Government ‘s intention to make extra moneys available through some other avenue, not only to the community welfare departments or whatever they are termed in the States, but also to the voluntary organisations so that they can provide the necessary food and clothing or whatever else may be needed for the people who are out of work, and their wives and dependants. Or is the Government just going to let them suffer and use this legislation as a means of forcing people back to work or forcing them to accept some unjust offer that is made to them by an employer. Is this legislation just another device to bring the work force to its knees so that workers are subservient to unjust bosses?
– It is my intention to speak quite briefly. I rise only because of some interjections concerning the onus of proof. If possible I should like some clarification from the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) on the onus of proof. It seems to me, and I ask the Minister whether I am correct in thinking this, that a person has to satisfy the Director-General that he himself has not been involved in a strike which leads to his applying for unemployment benefit. However, the Director-General has to be satisfied that a person applying is unemployed because of the strike of another member of the same union before he can refuse benefit.
In other words, is it a fact that under this legislation a person who is not on strike but who is out of work because of the strike of another member of his union can get unemployment benefit quite automatically, as it were, unless the DirectorGeneral cares to make an inquiry and satisfy himself as to the relationship between the applicant for unemployment benefit and the person actually causing his unemployment. Does the Director-General have to satisfy himself as to the status of a person seeking a benefit when he is unemployed because of the strike of another?
– I am just trying to be helpful to the Government and attempting to clarify the thinking on some of the suggestions that have been made. I do not like this clause one bit. I make a suggestion to the Government in relation to proposed new section 107 (4) (b) (ii), which reads:
It goes on further to state:
To try to isolate the problem that the Government has I suggest the addition of these words: and that the governing body of the union has approved of the industrial action’. That would at least do something to alleviate the situation.
– This clause has had very wide discussion and a great deal of debate. The Government very seriously considered this matter before it brought forward this proposed amendment. Much has been said with regard to trade union members who are not eligible for unemployment benefit because they happen to be members of a union. Senator Harradine used the words ‘discipline’ and ‘responsibility’. When the Government was considering this clause it was in the essence of collective responsibility that it believed the members of the trade union movement ought to approach their responsibilities, one to another. If members of a trade union cause a strike which in turn means that others in other unions or in the same union are stood down and there is a great deal of unemployment as a result- even if a key-worker strike is disowned by the federal executive body- it would seem to me that collective responsibility in that instance ought to be stressed.
Senator Harradine has made many comments and analytical and constructive suggestions with regard to the proposed amendment. The Government is very serious about this amendment. I have noted that he seeks to have added to proposed new section 107 (4) (b) (ii) words to the effect that the governing body had approved of the action. If we were to look at the ChifleyMcKenna approach to payment of unemployment benefit as a result of strikes in the past we would see that even a member of a nonparticipating union which did not disown the strike would not be able to obtain unemployment benefit. In this case we have not put that requirement. We are talking about confining the ineligibility for unemployment benefit to members of the union which is on strike as a result of which unemployment has been caused. The members of the union need to treat seriously their own responsibilities before they call and participate in strikes. I am not able to make any commitment, on all the discussions I have heard, that the government will reconsider this matter. It was considered very seriously in a number of ways. It had the overwhelming support of the Government parties. The Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) took it to the National Labour Consultative Council for discussion but the unions chose not to attend that particular meeting.
In regard to matters that were raised by Senator Cavanagh, again relating to the discretionary power of the Director-General of Social Services- with regard to onus of proofalso referred to in the same way by Senator Tate, it must be accepted that a person who is seeking an unemployment benefit needs to show that he is eligible for it. The Director-General, on the facts, shall determine whether he is satisfied that that person is eligible. In this instance there is very precise legislation for the Director-General, knowing whether a person is a member of the union which is on strike and whether the application for unemployment benefit, is a result of industrial action, to decide that that person is not eligible. There is no different onus of proof for the proving of eligibility from what there is in relation to any other claim. Facts need to be determined and facts that are determined which support the application mean that a person is eligible to receive a benefit. In this instance, if he is a member of the union and his unemployment is due to industrial action of that union he is, by legislation, not eligible for a benefit. No onus of proof needs to be found other than that he shows that he is not a member of the union which has caused the unemployment through industrial action.
Other matters relating to the Director-General being required to make determinations have been canvassed not only on this occasion but also on many other occasions. The requirements of the Social Services Act are such that the DirectorGeneral or- in relation to Senator McLaren’s point- his delegate, must make these determinations. The facts are used to sustain, or otherwise, an application. A question was raised relating to voluntary organisation funds to support those who are on strike. We were discussing earlier the provision of $500,000 by the Government to assist voluntary organisations. There is no requirement by the Government that the organisations do not assist people in these circumstances. The voluntary organisations will assist those who, in their own wisdom, they wish to assist because of their circumstances. In providing funds to voluntary organisations the Government will not prescribe in any way how they will be administered other than that they will be administered to those who have urgent and immediate need.
Senator McLaren raised the matter of support for the families of people who are on strike. I draw attention again to the availability of special benefit or unemployment benefit which may be sought by wives on behalf of themselves and their children. After this very wide discussion on this clause I commend it to the Senate.
– The reply made by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has just shown that the Government is quite callous and has no consideration whatever for people in need. She spoke about the $500,000 that is going to be provided to voluntary organisations. My question directed to the Minister was whether she would be prepared to provide extra funds to the voluntary organisations and to the State community welfare departments to cover an emergency which may arise out of the imposition of this legislation. The Minister has not answered that. Also, she said that the Government parties had considered all of the things that have been raised in this Senate prior to the introduction of the legislation. So much for this place being a House of review.
After the legislation comes in here the Government is not prepared to listen to argument or to give any credence to what is said in opposition to the legislation. Yet the Government goes to the electorate time and time again at elections and say: ‘The Senate is a House of review. The senators sit in as a States House to review legislation brought in by whatever government is in office.’ Yet the Minister’s words tonight have knocked on the head for ever the argument that the Senate is a House of review. It is not a House of review because the Government is not prepared to listen to argument put forward- I believe it is legitimate argument- on behalf of people who will be in need. The Minister has clearly told us- it is now on record- that the Government considered all the things that we have brought forward before the legislation was brought in. How on earth could it? I am sure there are not enough members in the Government parties who have the experience that members on this side of the chamber have had in working with the needy people in this community. The Government just does not have people with the experience. It might have a few but there is not the wealth of experience that sits on this side of the chamber. We have had to deal with needy people every day of our lives and make representations on their behalf. This legislation shows, as I said yesterday and the day before, that we are dealing with a very heartless government.
– I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to the problem that I raised concerning the realism of collective responsibility in the case of a union which has particularly wide membership covering various segments of an industry. In the case of the governing body of that union not endorsing a strike, I wonder whether a further discretion should be given to the Director-General to determine whether it would be unreasonable under those circumstances for the unemployment benefit to be denied to those union members not on strike but stood down as a result of the strike.
- Senator Watson has a lot to learn about this House. Rarely does one get replies; one gets evasions. I think the pertinent question was raised by Senator Tate. Having a legal mind, he would be correct in his interpretation of the legislation, and possibly I am correct in my belief that the onus of proof goes right to the applicant. The more one looks at what he is suggesting the more difficult or impossible one realises it is to administer the Act and the more impossible it is for the Minister or the Minister’s advisers to give answers. Section 35 (4) of the Act states:
A person is not qualified to receive an unemployment benefit in respect of a period unless-
a ) the person satisfies the Director-General that the person ‘s unemployment during that period was not due to the person being, or having been, engaged in industrial action . . .
Obviously that onus of proof is on the person applying for the benefit. My complaint is that the onus of proof is not in regard to his not being on strike but his not taking part in industrial action. That means the applicant has to prove that he did not do one of the many things that can be interpreted as industrial action. For instance, if a factory were closed down because of industrial action, he would have to prove that he was not a participant in that action. As Senator Tate points out, the applicant must satisfy the DirectorGeneral that he was not engaged in industrial action. That is the first of two ingredients in this matter to be considered before a benefit is given. Section 35 (4) further states:
This is a matter that the applicant does not have to prove but I wonder how the Director-General is to be satisfied; there is a lot of responsibility on the applicant-
How does the Director-General satisfy himself that a person who comes from a factory not connected with the industry is not someone whose unemployment was caused by a strike somewhere else?
– It is a different ownership.
– It is a different ownership. But, unless the Director-General is satisfied, the applicant does not get a benefit. It opens wide the situation of the Director-General’s never being satisfied, or his being satisfied on false premises. How can a Director-General ever satisfy himself whether a person is a member of a particular union. If the applicant does not have to tell him- it is not one of the matters in relation to which the onus of proof is on the applicantand the union will not tell him, the DirectorGeneral is in a hopeless position ever to carry out the provisions of the legislation. It is impossible to satisfy that provision.
– I would imagine the form will be changed to get the applicant to make a declaration.
– I would say that that satisfies one element, but it does not satisfy the Government because the Government wants to restrict the number of persons receiving benefits. That is the purpose of the legislation. The number of recipients can be restricted under this clause, and it cannot be challenged. Of course, the Director-General may be satisfied that certain people are affected by a coal or electricity strike, but that may not be the cause at all; he simply assumes that it is.
- Senator Watson asked me to comment on the query that he made with regard to a union with a very wide membership and on whether the Director-General ought to be given a further discretion. The Senate has just heard of the evils of any discretion being given to the Director-General and of the requirement of the Director-General to find satisfaction in the facts that are presented to him. I must say to
Senator Watson that the amendments cover all union members who are unemployed as a result of industrial action taken by other members of that union. There is no discretion proposed for the Director-General in any other circumstances. With regard to the matter that Senator Cavanagh has raised a number of times, the Director-General will ascertain the facts and the person who is seeking the unemployment benefit will provide the facts on which a determination may be made.
The Act states quite explicitly the requirements with regard to industrial action. It provides that a person seeking an unemployment benefit will provide the information that will enable his unemployment benefit application either to be sustained or to be regarded as ineligible. This provision is not new. When making a claim on my Department under any section of the Act information must be provided that enables eligibility to be determined. That would be the case whether one was seeking a family allowance, a widow’s pension, an age pension or whatever. When information is required and the facts are requested by the Department, the person who seeks the claim provides the information and the application is determined on the facts.
-On that basis I take it that, if the applicant is unable to supply the facts and to say that his unemployment is caused through someone else being on strike, then he will not succeed in his claim?
– Could he not give a statutory declaration?
– But he does not know the facts.
– The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) continually tells the Senate that the applicant must provide the facts; that the onus is on the applicant. In many cases how on earth will the applicant be able to provide the facts to substantiate the claim for unemployment benefit if he is employed in a country town? Are such applicants to be left on the scrapheap until they can get some facts from somewhere by writing away, sending a telegram if they have the money, or getting the information on the telephone? How will they get those facts? Will that be done at the expense of the Department of Social Security? Will it provide the facilities for the applicant to make the request to wherever it has to go to find what the facts are to substantiate his claim, or is the Minister suggesting that the applicant will have to provide the facts before he can lodge a claim? That is what the Opposition is concerned about. Senator Cavanagh has asked about this matter many times and yet the Minister keeps saying that the applicant for unemployment benefit must provide the facts so that the Director-General can satisfy himself that the applicant has made a legitimate claim. What assistance will the Department give to an applicant so that he can get the facts to substantiate his claim for unemployment benefit.
– I said about an hour and a half ago that if information supplied by a claimant is insufficient to determine eligibility there is authority within the Act to seek further information from other sources. We have gone through the way in which the Department can use the Department of Industrial Relations. It can also seek information from the claimant’s employer, and there are other ways of obtaining the information. It is standard practice and procedure in the Department to use those means. Anyone who suggests that a person does not have to provide information which enables him to be deemed eligible is talking absolute nonsense.
– I just want to put on the record something which was hinted at by, I think, Senator Elstob, that is, the change in organisations which will result from this legislation because it is allied with the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I give this example. Some years ago we used to talk in this place about the number of organisations which were registered with the then Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Over the years we have found a great reduction in the number of organisations registered, and this has been acceptable to all parties. In the old days many of them were organised on a craft basis. Everybody agreed that whenever there was a dispute it was better to talk to a big union than to 20 small unions. For example, in Queensland at present there still exist small railway unions such as the fettlers’ union, what is called the permanent way employees’ union, the Queensland Railway Sta.tionmasters Union and the carpenters’ union. If in Queensland there was a strike over a hazard or safety matter and the members of, say, the fettlers’ union decided not to work on a part of a job which was declared to be unsafe, the people punished as a result under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and under this legislation would be the members of a small group of unions.
If a member of the Australian Railways Union, which covers the same sort of work, did the same thing, all members of that union would be affected by the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and by this legislation. That is just silly; it is nonsense. We know that over the years the small unions registered with State industrial commissions have amalgamated bit by bit and generally gone to the federal sphere. Legislation such as this will simply create changes whereby workers will change their affiliations to the Commonwealth Commission. There is no doubt in my mind that the old system will apply and that, unless the law is changed, more unions will be created. In that way union members will be protected. This is allied with what Senator Watson has said, that is, we will have a silly position whereby people will be penalised because they are members of a bigger union, which is better for governments and for arbitration, instead of being in a smaller union and not being affected.
– This will be my last word. I am sorry that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has not taken up the helpful suggestion to the Government, because the decision not to take it up has removed any cloak of respectability that the proposition may or may not have. I pose just another difficulty. How is the Director-General to satisfy himself that a person is or is not a unionist? I will give a guarantee right here and now that as an elected official of a union I will not provide lists of the names of my union members to the Director-General unless I am directed to do so by the members of the union. I say this very seriously: Given the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the amendments thereto and the tested rules of registered industrial organisations, how is the DirectorGeneral to ascertain whether a person is or is not a member of that registered organisation?
– I wish to reinforce the point just made by Senator Harradine about protecting members of unions. It was a point which I mentioned earlier. What will happen is that the unions will protect their members by not revealing their names. The Government will force them underground. While I am on my feet I may as well say that this collective responsibility that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) keeps talking about reminds me of Nazi Germany where villages were wiped out because of so-called collective responsibility. Are we seeing shades of this now in this type of legislation that is coming forward? Are we seeing the Government move so far to the right that it is practically mimicking what took place in Nazi Germany? This is the first step towards that type of collective responsibility. Whole villages in Nazi Germany were persecuted because of so-called collective responsibility. It has been pointed out here time without number that many innocent people will suffer because of this particular clause in the legislation. Therefore, I feel that the Minister should take up the suggestion made by Senator McLaren and re-think that whole clause, because it will cause nothing but industrial strife throughout the country. It does not enhance industrial legislation at all.
– It will create chaos.
– It will create chaos throughout the community.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– During the suspension of the sitting for dinner, did the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) have time to reflect on my request to suspend consideration of clause 35? Was she able to have a discussion with her colleagues to decide whether she and they were prepared to accede to my request?
– The Government wishes to proceed with the consideration of clause 35.I have no further comments to make on the request. ( Quorum formed).
That the clause be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator D. B. Scott)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 36 to 40- by leave- taken together.
- Mr Chairman, I want some information on clause 39. It is very hard for me to be heard. It might help, Mr Chairman if you were to stop the North Sydney Branch from bringing its troubles into the chamber.
– We will have to bring Senator Georges in.
– Yes. But one does not need police protection with Senator Georges, whereas one does with the North Sydney Branch. I would like some information on clause 39, which repeals section 115 of the principal Act. That section made provision for the nonpayment of sickness-benefit if a person was unable to work because of an injury which was subject to the payment of compensation. If a payment was made it was recoverable by the Department of Social Security. The clause repeals that section and proposes a new section 1 1 5. Sub-section (2) of that section provides:
a payment by way of damages;
The previous provisions clearly referred to compensation. Does this proposed new sub-section not enlarge the scope of compensation payments for the purpose of increasing the number of people who will be deprived of unemployment benefit? The new provision refers to ‘any other payment’, which may or may not really be a compensation payment. It is a payment which, in the opinion of the Director-General, is a payment in the nature of compensation. Is this not what I have been claiming from the start of the debate? The purpose of this Bill is to reduce the number of people eligible for unemployment benefit.
– May I clarify the matter for Senator Cavanagh? The provision refers to sickness benefit and not to unemployment benefit.
– It is my mistake. Does the new provision not reduce the number of people entitled to sickness benefit under the section which we are repealing?
– This clause repeals section 1 1 5 of the principal Act and provides for other payments, such as compensation payments, to be taken into account in the payment of sickness benefit. It is understood that income that is received is taken into account in determining eligibility for sickness benefit. The proposed new section sets out a number of matters that are to be taken into account where recovery is sought after sickness benefit has been paid and where compensation subsequently has been granted for the same incapacity for the same period. The various provisions of this proposed new section enable certain matters to be taken into account when determining the amount of sickness benefit.
– The only question I want to ask is whether this proposed new section gives greater scope than the section which is being repealed and which related to non-payment of benefit if compensation were received. The section which is being repealed did not refer to a number of payments which may have been associated with compensation. Therefore, does the proposed new section not reduce the number of people entitled to sickness benefit?
– Let me refer to the principal Act. This provision clarifies the existing legislation. Senator Cavanagh ‘s remarks relate to section 1 15 ( 1 1) (b) which is being repealed. The provisions of the new sub-section are the same as those of the existing legislation. The provisions are clarified by the section which we are now seeking to insert.
– That answer is not sufficient. I only wanted a yes or no answer. I wanted to know whether the proposed new section reduced the number of people entitled to sickness benefit. I am confident that it does. The clause seeks to repeal section 1 1 5 which provides:
Sub-section (11) reads:
The reference in sub-section ( 1 ) to a payment by way of compensation shall be read as including a reference to-
a payment that, in the opinion of the DirectorGeneral, is in the nature of compensation or damages,
The provision refers to a payment which, in the opinion of the Director-General, is in the nature of compensation or damages. Proposed new section 1 15 (2) (a) (ii) refers to a payment under a scheme of insurance or compensation which is provided for by a law of a State or Territory and which in the opinion of the Director-General may constitute payment in the nature of compensation. So, the new provision must be an extension of previous legislation. Paragraph (iii) reads: a payment, whether with or without admission of liability, in settlement of a claim for damages or of a claim under a scheme referred to in sub-paragraph (ii);
Again, that provision is unnecessary if, in the opinion of the Director-General, payment is in the nature of compensation. We have added two provisions which need not refer to whether a payment is, in the opinion of the DirectorGeneral, a payment in lieu of compensation. We are raising additional criteria under which payment can be refused. The only thing I want is an admission that the provision is increasing the number of people who will not receive a benefit. That is obviously what the provision is doing. The Minister for Social Security is trying to hide the attitude of this Government.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 4 1 and 42- by leave- taken together.
-The Opposition opposes clauses 41 and 42. Clause 41 amends section 120 of the principal Act. Under the postponement provisions of the proposed new sub-section the unemployment benefit will be withheld for a period of not less than six weeks and for a maximum period of 12 weeks if in the opinion of the Director-General or his delegate- who may be a junior officer in the Department of Social Security, as advised by a junior officer in the Commonwealth Employment Service- a person is out of work because of what is described as voluntary unemployment, misconduct of a worker or failure to accept suitable work; in other words, failure to pass the work test.
The amendment makes the minimum period of postponement six weeks which, on the basis of the present benefits, would mean a penalty of $347.40 for a single unemployed person and $579 for a married unemployed person. The maximum period of 12 weeks involves a penalty of $694.80 for a single unemployed person and $1,158 for a married unemployed person. These are pretty severe penalties for breaches of an Act, the interpretation of which is left entirely to the discretion of the Director-General or his delegates. Under the guidelines the offences are vague, which I shall refer to shortly. The offence can be as little as not telephoning the Commonwealth Employment Service within a period of 48 hours and can depend on a subjective judgment of a departmental officer.
One will expect, as happens now, that compassionate officers will try to apply the regulations sparingly. However, unfeeling officersunfortunately there are some- will have the power to deprive people of income. In the magistrates court a power of this kind would be used only in severe cases. I am talking about a minimum amount of $347 and a maximum amount of $694 for a single person. These penalties are more severe than are fines normally imposed on people for drunken driving. I understand that there is some doubt as to whether people in dire straits can be granted the special benefit if they are subject to these postponement provisions.
Unlike pensioners, unemployment beneficiaries cannot be paid during the course of an appeal made to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal on the grounds that they believe that an officer has acted in a harsh or unfair way. To my knowledge, there are no guidelines whatever for establishing what is a good and sufficient reason for leaving a job voluntarily. I was given the example of a man who works night shift for many years and, upon reaching the age of 55 or 56 years, becomes tired and fed up with it and wants to change his employment. In some States he will be accepted as having a good and sufficient reason for leaving his employment. In others he will not.
We believe that the Commonwealth Employment Service could well spend more of its time protecting, rather than hounding down, the unemployed. As it happens, we do not believe that there should not be a work test. We realise, as we have always realised, even when we were in government, that there may be a necessity to apply such a test. For many years the penalty applied in such circumstances was a period of up to six weeks. Recently it was extended to 12 weeks. There has always been a discretion- which
Senator Cavanagh and some others of us find offensive- available to the Director-General, or a delegated officer, but in fact the delay period could be one, two, three or up to six weeks, and recently 12 weeks. Now the choice is to be moved. There is to be a mandatory postponement period of six weeks. That represents a considerable penalty and the loss of a considerable sum of money.
There has always been difficulty with this sort of provision. Welfare workers have cited often the case of the young woman working in an office who has been exploited by her employer, has had advances made to her, has left her employment but has been unable to prove that such advances were made. She may be too embarrassed to talk about them and be unable to give to the Department a satisfactory reason for leaving her employment. Such a person would lose at least six weeks unemployment benefit. That encourages what the Youth Council of Victoria describes as dubious employment practices. It encourages under-award payment in times of economic difficulty, misleading advertising, sexual blackmail, misuse of youth training subsidies and non-payment for work done on probationpractices which we should not have to tolerate in this year of 1979. A person can be considered to have failed the work test, to have made insufficient effort to obtain work if, according to the guidelines of the Commonwealth Employment Service, that person has not answered a telephone, telegram or courier message or letter within 48 hours of the date of issue. Thus, a relatively small breach would warrant six weeks suspension of benefit.
Another guideline provides that where a client fails to report for an interview by the employer, or fails to present to the employer in a satisfactory way, an adverse work test result must be issued. There is no fairness in a system which makes such heavy fines mandatory and does not give a claimant an opportunity to explain himself satisfactorily. Harshness like this, in a time of high unemployment, when there are many more jobless than there are vacancies, is unnecessary and reflects the Government’s attitude to the unemployed. Apparently it thinks that the unemployed of this country are unemployed because they are slackers or, to use that unfortunate word, bludgers, when in fact there are very few jobs around. It is a harsh and unfair attitude and we oppose it. We do not like the existing provisions that much, but we accept the fact that they have been there for a long time and in general have been applied fairly by the Department. However, this mandatory six weeks period is too harsh and puts too much power in the hands of what may be relatively junior officers.
Clause 42 of the Bill we also find offensive and oppose. It is an extension of section 35 of the Act, which prevents unemployment benefit being paid to innocent people who are put off because of a strike in another area. It provides that special benefit will not be paid to a striking unionist- the same unionist who is refused unemployment benefit- whatever the degree of hardship which obtains. A spouse who is not a member of a striking union, or who is stood down as a member of a striking union in another establishment can receive special benefit if ineligible for unemployment benefit, but the husband or wife cannot. A spouse who is a member of the same union as his or her partner and who is stood down as a result of that partner’s industrial action, even though he or she may have voted against such action, cannot obtain special benefit. So we have a period of limited work opportunity in relation to a husband or wife who may well belong to the same union. If one of them is on strike the new provision will prevent the payment of either unemployment or special benefit to both, even though they may be supporting children. They will get nothing for the duration of the strike; neither will their children.
Special benefit, as anyone who has dealt with social security problems in this country is aware, is normally paid only when there is severe hardship. The usual guideline is that it is paid when there is in the house less than one week’s money. In common with the unemployment benefit, it also attracts a seven-day waiting period. It is the hardest benefit to obtain and is available only in cases of extreme hardship. Even this benefit, with its stringent guideline, is to be refused to people- I will not go into the details again- who may quite innocently be laid off as a result of a strike somewere else. For this reason we oppose clause 42.
Clause 41 is opposed because it is harsh and discriminatory in a time of high unemployment, or at any time. Clause 42 is grossly unfair, as was the restriction of unemployment benefit in the same circumstances, but it is especially unfair because it was placed in the Act to assist people who were suffering severe hardship. Even these people will now be unable to get the benefit. We oppose both clauses.
– I rise to oppose both clauses 41 and 42 and to support the reasons which Senator Grimes has given for doing so. What I said in opposition to clause 35 was in line with what I would say in opposition to clause 42. Therefore, I shall not pursue that line further. Clause 4 1 has one of two purposes, either to censure the Director-General, or further to reduce the amount of benefit that is to be paid. Its main thrust is to amend section 120 of the Act, which provides:
The Director-General may postpone for such period as he thinks fit the date from which an unemployment benefit shall be payable to a person, or may cancel the payment of an unemployment benefit to a person, as the case requires-
if that person’s unemployment is due, either directly or indirectly, to his voluntary act which, in the opinion of the Director-General, was without good and sufficient reasons;
if that person’s unemployment is due to his misconduct as a worker;
if that person has refused or failed, without good and sufficient reason, to accept an offer of employment which the Director-General considers to be suitable; or
if, in the opinion of the Director-General,
that person is a seasonal or intermittent worker- and so it goes on. The legislation sets out in that section all of the conditions under which a penalty can be imposed and an immediate payment of benefit denied. The question I pose is: What is the proper penalty for the action of the worker? The Director-General makes that decision on his determination of the enormity of the offence. The case may be that an employee has terminated his employment without any logical reason and, therefore, a long period should elapse before he receives any entitlement. In another case, a worker may have terminated his employment for entirely justifiable reasons. In such a case the Director-General may determine that only a short delay in the payment of benefit is warranted.
For some years, the Director-General has administered this Act by enforcing delays in the payment of benefit in accordance with his determination as to what is a proper penalty in relation to the circumstances under which a person left his employment and having taken into consideration the other elements which govern qualification for receipt of the benefit. This provision seeks to take away that prerogative from the Director-General and to substitute the following new sub-section:
Therefore, by this provision, we are instructing the Director-General that in decisions that he has made he has set either too long a period or too short a period and that in the future the minimum period must be not less than six weeks and the maximum must not exceed 12 weeks.
Previously the Director-General may have considered two weeks a sufficient penalty or he may have thought that the attitude adopted by an applicant was such as to justify a delay of 15 weeks. That direction is being taken away from the Director-General. The inference is that he has erred somewhere and we wish to rectify the situation. Surely the implication is that the Director-General is no longer trusted to carry out the provisions of this section which is being amended to impose limitations on his discretion. It is unusual to specify such restrictions on a Director-General. Is the purpose only to direct the Director-General that he may not move from the confines of the prescribed periods, that is, not less than six weeks or more than 12 weeks? Has injustice been done under the existing provision? That question demands an answer. Was there something so manifestly wrong that remedial action is required in this form?
I stress that an employee is not always in the wrong when he or she leaves his or her employment. The conditions of that employment may be so arduous or the behaviour of the employer so tyrannical that the employee is justified in leaving. Those possibilities are acknowledged, I believe, in the existing legislation. Therefore, the penalty that could be imposed was set at a minimum. If a person is justified in leaving employment, in terms of this new proposal, I ask: In seeking to gain succour in this life, what must an employee tolerate? Working conditions may be intolerable but, because of this provision in the Bill, the employee must remain in that unsatisfactory employment knowing that, if he terminates his employment, relief in the form of the appropriate social service benefit will not be available for a minimum six weeks. A worker may not be able to bear that penalty. Will this proposal enslave an employee to such an employer because the employee faces no alternative but a penalty if he terminates his employment? How bad must employment become before a worker makes the sacrifice which will affect his wife and children by terminating such employment? The penalty is at least six weeks without any income. Is that the type of situation that this Government wants to create by this provision? I join with the opposition that has been expressed already to this clause and ask the Minister to indicate the details of the dissatisfaction with the administration of section 120 of the Principal Act which has led to the need to introduce this amending provision.
-The Government notes the opposition to this clause. As was stated by
-General may postpone for such period as he thinks fit the date from which unemployment benefit shall be paid. There are certain requirements. The Act as it stands is imprecise. When the Act is amended the Director-General will have the discretion to fix a period of postponement of unemployment benefit of no less than six weeks and no more than 12 weeks. The Director-General may postpone the period, but under the legislation he is not required to do so. He makes a judgment whether postponement of benefit is appropriate in the circumstances. He then determines a period between six weeks and 12 weeks which he believes to be appropriate.
asked where this section was improperly administered in the past. I have no reason to say that the Director-General improperly administered the Act. Under the new legislation, the Director-General will now have a provision under the Act which enables him, with statutory authority, to set a minimum period of postponement, if he makes the decision that a postponement should be made. The discretion is still in the hands of the Director-General with regard to whether he exercises postponement. This legislation will provide a statutory period which he may use in the exercise of that responsibility. I do not think it should be read that this amendment has been introduced because there was dissatisfaction with the way in which the DirectorGeneral used the postponement provisions. The Act now prescribes the minimum and maximum periods under this section.
– I wonder whether the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) anticipates that there will be fewer people who will have their unemployment benefit postponed.
– Or the same number for a longer period.
-Yes. Will figures be kept as to the number of unemployment benefits that are postponed? Under the present discretion, the Director-General may postpone the benefit for up to five weeks, as well as six or 12 weeks. Under this legislation the minimum provision is the mandatory period of six weeks. Does this mean that, if the Director-General makes a judgment in terms of the subjective judgments that he makes now and considers that the penalty should be two or three weeks suspension, he will not postpone it at all? Therefore, we will have fewer benefits postponed. Does this mean that the same number will be postponed- as Senator Cavanagh interjected- the same number who previously may have been only suspended for up to five weeks, perhaps will be suspended for six weeks. We will then have the same number suspended for a longer period? I think that it would be interesting for us to look at this in a year’s time to see what has happened to the behaviour of the Director-General and his various delegates around the community and see also how this is reflected in the figures. Does the Minister anticipate a lower number of people who will have their benefit postponed, or does she anticipate the same number but for a longer period?
– I would not seek to place my judgment in the Director-General’s mind at this stage, but I do agree with Senator Grimes that this aspect would be worth looking at in a year’s time to see whether the DirectorGeneral does exercise his discretion by treating to a postponement only those cases which at present would receive a six weeks postponement. It could be that in the administration of this responsibility with the statutory requirement which he now has he will exercise the judgment and take into account the serious nature of the requirement for postponement. The matters raised earlier about people needing to leave work for a number of reasons, I think, are covered in the provision of the ‘good and sufficient reason’ which can be taken into account by the DirectorGeneral. I would say that the Act gives the Director-General a statutory minimum and maximum period. It is entirely in the DirectorGeneral’s discretion as to whether he uses the postponement provision. If he does he now has those maximum and minimum periods.
-I would like to pose some questions to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). Earlier my colleagues said that it would be possible under the existing legislation for a person to have his or her benefit terminated for, say, a period of 1 5 weeks. As far as one reads that legislation it seems that that could be possible. Did the guidelines that were issued to departmental officers set out a maximum period that they should observe under the current legislation? If the guidelines did, was the period until recently six weeks? If that is correct, was it recently changed to a maximum period of 12 weeks? I will probably have some further supplementary questions to that, but I think that if I leave the question at that stage I can follow it up with the other queries I have. In other words, did the guidelines state a maximum period of six weeks until recently; was it changed within the last couple of months to a maximum period of 12 weeks?
– As a result of the reply by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and the contribution by Senator Grimes, I am again brought into this discussion. I do not know whether section 120 is properly understood. Previously the Director-General had the power to change the penalty. Senator Grimes has now suggested that there may be a tendency not to invoke the provision if the Director-General has to inflict the six weeks’ penalty which in all reasonable circumstances he may think is unreasonable.
– I do not have that faith.
-No, but I wonder whether he would now have the power. That is the question. It shows the severity of what we are trying to do. He had the power before. He had only to put a postponement on payment previously if he thought that termination of employment under the four conditions he had to take into consideration were sufficient to justify some postponement of payment. It may have been- I do not know- that he did not always inflict the penalty. It may have been that he inflicted a light penalty. It may have been that he unduly inflicted the penalty. Now we are saying that the Director-General may postpone for such periods as he deems necessary if a person’s unemployment is due to either of four reasons which are set out. Clause 41 states:
Section 120 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section:
A period of postponement fixed in relation to a person under sub-section ( 1 ) in the circumstances set out in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) of that sub-section shall not be less than 6 weeks . . .
Therefore, if there has been an offence under (a), (b) or (c)- if a person refuses to take the action that the Director-General considers is reasonable for him to take in order to terminate or reduce the extent of his incapacity; however minor the offence against one of those sections may be- the Director-General now does not have a freedom. He now has a freedom only to decide whether the postponement should be six weeks or 12 weeks or a period somewhere between six weeks or 12 weeks. If in his opinion someone left employment for one of the reasons under the Act he will not have the power that he had before to make the penalty one or two weeks. This Bill will bestow upon him the requirement to impose a postponement of six weeks. It will not give him the opportunity to say: ‘Well, I do not recognise the facts’. The facts are there. Did it happen? He does not have an alternative. Previously he did have an alternative not to impose a penalty if he thought the offence was trivial or if he thought he was not justified in imposing a penalty or a light penalty. Now we are insisting that he imposes a penalty of more than six weeks.
This Bill will reduce the number of people who will receive a benefit. I think there is a responsibility on the Minister to tell us whether this will reduce the number and whether the average postponement of the action of the DirectorGeneral in the past was below six weeks or whether it was in excess of 12 weeks. What was the average? Will this Bill reduce the payment that will be made or will it increase it? If the Director-General wanted to suspend payment for 1 5 weeks this Bill would restrict him. If we are conscientious legislators we should know the facts. Is there a wrong that wants righting? That is the whole question I am getting at. We do not know whether there was a wrong. We do not know whether this Bill, other than putting restrictions on the Director-General, will improve the position or worsen it. Surely we should not make a decision in the dark. The question of looking at the position in a year’s time is useless because we could not then look at the past year. We would not know what happened in the past year. Surely we would have to have information about the past year if we are to consider the future years. If we are to make this change for an experimental purpose, what are we comparing it with? The Minister may know, but she will not tell us. That is the whole basis of my contention.
Surely, if the Government wants to alter an Act there must be some purpose for altering it. Is the purpose of altering this Act to stop more people from getting a benefit or to increase the number who get a benefit? What was the action of the Director-General in the past? Surely we should not make a stab in the dark and say: Well, the Minister does not know so we will make the alteration’. We would all be stabbing in the dark. We would not know what we were doing. I think that as members of the Parliament we are entitled to make decisions on bona fide grounds which have been established that an alteration is justified.
– I must point out again that under section 120 the Director-General may postpone for such period as he thinks fit. That provision still remains now with the added definition that he has a maximum and minimum period.
– But what did he do in the past?
– In the past, when the Director-General determined that there would be a postponement the usual period was for six weeks. Senator Cavanagh will recall the postponement provision with regard to school leavers. The Act has been since amended to be precise on that point. Senator Cavanagh will recall that it was a postponement for six weeks. The usual period of postponement was six weeks. There is now inserted a maximum period of 1 5 weeks. I am advised by my officers that they are not aware of any period of 1 5 weeks which seems to have been mentioned by everyone as being the period that was used for postponement. But the Director-General still has the discretion whether he will postpone a benefit. He now has legislative authority with a minimum period of six weeks and a maximum period of 12 weeks.
asked me about the postponement period set out in the manual given to departmental officers. I understand that the manual mentions the postponement period as being six weeks. I understand that at the time the Commonwealth Employment Service, through the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) announced the maximum period of postponement as 12 weeks, informal advice was given to that effect. The Act will now set out perfectly clearly in legislative form the maximum period of postponement.
I am unable to add anything further to the comments that have been made by Senator Cavanagh. I repeat that the Director-General may decide not to postpone a benefit. If he does decide to postpone a benefit, he has the discretion to make the period of postponement either the minimum period of six weeks or somewhere between six weeks and a maximum period of 12 weeks.
– I thank the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) for her reply. At last I have clarity on the question. I have found that the period set by the Director-General is usually six weeks. We have no complaint with that. Under this Bill he may now postpone unemployment benefit for a maximum of 12 weeks. Obviously in some cases he has been delaying payment for in excess of 12 weeks. We are hostile about such action by the Director-General. This provision is really a censure of the Director-General. We will not again let him go in excess of 12 weeks, as apparently he did in the past. It is now necessary to put this restriction upon him.
-May I have a final word on this clause without the note of sarcasm I detected in Senator Cavanagh’s voice. Obviously the reason for this clause as was the case with clause 35, is to pander to those people on the Government side and those Government supporters who are obsessed with unemployment in this country, as well they might be, because they are incapable of doing anything about unemployment- in fact they are increasing it- and who wish to blame, as they did before they came into Government, the unemployed for the trouble that this country is in and for their own unemployment.
From the words of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) it is obvious that there would have been no reason at all to amend this legislation in this way had the Director-General always previously applied a six-week minimum postponement period and a maximum of 12 weeks when the guidelines were changed. This clause is a gesture to pander to those people on the Government side who say that unemployment is a myth, who say that this country is populated by people who will not work, want to bludge on their mates and do all the other things alleged. The amendment will achieve nothing if, as the Minister says, there was previously in effect a minimum of six weeks postponement. All we are seeing is a repeat of the performance that we have seen since this Government came into power- this obsession every year in the social services legislation and practically every month in the Commonwealth Employment Service guidelines, to tighten up the guidelines, and change the legislation to restrict people on unemployment benefit in order to impress those of their supporters and those misguided people in the community who believe that the unemployed are unemployed because they want to be, that unemployment does not in fact exist and that there are jobs for all, despite the figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the CES, which show that there are some 25 unemployed in this country for every job vacancy available.
– Last night during the second reading stage, I outlined my objections to this clause. I do not intend to traverse them again. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) recently said words to the effect that the usual term of postponement was six weeks. I have met many people who have had terms of postponement of less than six weeks. I have met many people who have had postponement for two weeks under this particular section 120 of the Social Services Act. That being the case, if the same sort of people are to have a postponement, it will have to be at least four weeks more. I can see ample justification for putting an upper limit on a postponement so that the officers of the Department of Social Security know that they cannot go beyond a certain limit. But I cannot see any justification for making a minimum provision. I cannot recall having heard during the debate any reason why six weeks was chosen to be a minimum, and why the DirectorGeneral was not given the discretion of making some postponement between one week and 12 weeks if 12 is to be the upper limit.
I ask the Minister whether, when this new provision becomes law, new guidelines will be issued to officers of the Department of Social Security. Is it normal for the contents of the guidelines to be made known to people outside the Department of Social Security? Finally, does the Department have statistics which indicate what were the average periods of postponement over the last year so that in 12 months time, if we do keep statistics, we will be able to make a comparison with what happened over the previous 12 months?
– New guidelines will be issued when the Act is amended. They will be issued in manual form to our officers. There is access to them under some circumstances. I believe the Opposition has access to the manual through Senator Grimes. The guidelines will be amended so that the officers of the Department are able to administer the amended Act. I will inquire what statistics can be gained from the Department all round Australia to show what the average periods were in the previous year. If at some future time we wish to compare figures, I would be perfectly happy for that to be done.
That clauses 41 and 42 stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator D. B. Scott)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– There is one small matter I wish to raise at the third reading stage. I would have done it earlier had I had today’s Adelaide Advertiser. In an article in the Adelaide Advertiser the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) is quoted as having said in a speech- she has also repeated that in her second reading speech -
– What page of the Advert iser?
– It is on page 4 of today’s Advertiser. The Minister is quoted as saying that because she has lifted the limit on fringe benefits pensioners could benefit to the tune of $10 a week. The Minister will recall that over a number of years I have made pleas to her to lift this fringe benefit limit. I am pleased she has done so. The Adelaide Advertiser in the article more or less attributes to the Minister her saying that this legislation is giving all of these benefits to the pensioners- that is a 60 per cent reduction in council rates; 60 per cent reduction in water rates; 33 per cent reduction in telephone rentalthat is a Commonwealth matter- 50 per cent reduction in motor vehicle registration charges and half fares on public transport. We all know that the South Australian Labor Government was in the forefront in giving these benefits to pensioners. I hope that the Tonkin Government, with its cutbacks in expenditure, does not take these benefits away from pensioners. In no circumstances can this legislation be responsible for giving those benefits to pensioners; they are solely the province of State governments. I hope that the Minister is not claiming credit, that the person who wrote this article has wrongly attributed those claims to her. The lifting of the benefits will not be worth $10 a week. We know that the contribution from the Federal Government in the Bill is going to be worth only $7 a week. I wanted to put the record straight on that point.
– in reply- I thank Senator McLaren for raising that matter. To my knowledge I have not made any statement to the Adelaide Advertiser that could have been quoted in the terms that have been used. Senator McLaren said the article more or less attributes it to the Minister. I certainly would not have been talking in those terms. I am not aware of any finite figure of the value of fringe benefits being used. The $10 a week that has been quoted is sometimes used as a guide by those who wish to assess the value of fringe benefits, in particular those who have made representations to have fringe benefits extended. They have claimed that the fringe benefits could be worth up to $10 a week. As Senator McLaren said, many of these benefits flow from State governments and in some cases from local governments. This Bill raises the level at which eligibility for fringe benefits may be claimed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 October, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr President, may I suggest that the National Health Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1979 and the Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 be considered a cognate debate.
– There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The National Health Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1979 and the Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 should not take as long to deal with as did the Social Services Amendment Bill 1979. These Bills are not opposed by the Opposition. In fact, we welcome them. These Bills provide that lone parents, supporting parents and their dependants in this community, other than those that are excluded by an income test in the Social Services Act, will receive fringe benefits. The legislation provides for those people to receive fringe benefits. In fact, it provides for them to become holders of pensioner health benefit cards and to be entitled to free pharmaceutical benefits. As the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has indicated in the past, I hope that this legislation will be the forerunner of this country having a lone parents pension so that there will not be distinctions that there are now between the various types of lone parents in the community. I hope also that the lone parents pension will be based on need and not on some form of moral judgment as to the cause of the person being a lone parent. The Bill increases the amounts of the age, invalid, widows and service pensions. Lone parents will now receive the health benefits and pharmaceutical benefits that should be available to disadvantaged people in the community.
My interest in the legislation lies in the reaction of my colleagues in the medical profession and in the reaction of the Government to that reaction of the medical profession. I am reminded of one of the national health debates we had in this place when I was sitting on the other side of the chamber and when Senator Button and I used to debate regularly with Senator Baume and Senator Sheil the national health legislation, the purpose of which was to bring in the national health insurance scheme. I remember an incident which was widely publicised in the medical press when, under some provocation from our side of the House, Senator Baume said that the medical profession would co-operate with anybody, except the Australian Labor Party. We find now that the medical profession went perilously close to not co-operating with the Liberal-National Country Party coalition in this situation. In the past, when the pensioner health benefit has been extended it has been the custom or the convention for the Government to consult with the Australian Medical Association as to the number of people who would be added to the pensioner health list. The Australian Medical Association considers that it is the best judge of who is disadvantaged in this country and who is in need of assistance; it is not the Government or the elected representatives of the people and not the welfare workers or researchers in the community who view the statistics and look at the social problems we have, but the doctors who are the best people to judge.
When the Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Howard) announced in the Budget that free medical treatment would be extended to lone parents and that they would get free pharmaceutical benefits, the reaction of the Australian Medical Association was sharp. It was annoyed because, firstly, it had not been consulted and, secondly, it did not think it was a fair thing. The Association expressed its annoyance in the AMA Gazette of 13 September as well as in other articles in the daily Press. The President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Lionel L. Wilson, it is said in an article in the AMA Gazette, reacted with indignation to the Government’s announcement. The article continued:
Doctors will be incensed’, he said. ‘The Government is trying to buy popularity on the cheap by giving concessions which are not the Government ‘s to give.
Pensioners who hold Health Benefit Entitlement Cards are voluntarily treated by doctors at discounted fees. These fees, which are paid by the Government, are up to 1 5 per cent less than the fees determined by the Government’s own fees inquiry.
Services to pensioners eligible for health benefit cards already constitute 25 per cent of the average doctor’s work load and in many practices a much higher percentage.
The Government has no right to increase the numbers without having the agreement of the doctors in advance ‘.
I congratulate the Government for taking it upon itself to decide who is disadvantaged in this community and who deserves to have pensioner health cards. I congratulate it for ignoring the outburst of the Australian Medical Association. The Australian Medical Association and Dr Wilson in particular, being what it is and who he is, will not make much fuss about this in the future because the Association knows quite well that its members will be very off under this provision, that a 1 5 per cent discount for a certain fee which does not involve the expense of sending out bills or the problem of bad debts is a very good deal. I congratulate the Government further because I have always believed that it was an outrageous situation that the medical profession in this country should be able to decide who is poor and who is not, and who will get concessions and who will not.
The Government has set a very good precedent which I can assure honourable senators a future Labor government will follow. When we wish to extend the pensioner health benefits to further groups of pensioners, to raise the fringe benefit level, to enable long term unemployed people to receive treatment as disadvantaged patients or even to receive pensioner health benefit equivalents, we will introduce that legislation. We may consult out of politeness but we will not be browbeaten and stopped from introducing such a change in the future any more than the present Government has been browbeaten and stopped from introducing this change. Therefore, the Opposition supports the legislation; it supports the Government’s action in its handling of the medical profession on this occasion and thanks the Government for the precedent it has set for us for the future.
– I wish to deal with the Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979, which seeks to amend section 3 of the Health Insurance Act. I take the opportunity to remind the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) of what she said on page 1632 of the Senate Hansard on 25 October 1978 in response to my questions at the Committee stage of the health insurance legislation being considered at that time. This matter deals with the right given to the medical profession to identify disadvantaged persons. 1 know that the Government has determined certain of these categories but I wish to deal with the situation of unemployed persons. 1 have an instance in my mind which was raised with me again only two weeks ago by the mother of an unemployed girl in a country town. There is only one doctor in that town and he will not identify this unemployed girl as a disadvantaged person. On 25 October 1978 the Minister graciously said that that particular practice accorded with what the medical profession desired. Quite forthnightly, she also said:
We would expect to have co-operation from the Association.
That is, the Australian Medical Association. She continued:
We would also expect that it would work to alleviate the normal fee structure for those people who are disadvantaged.
She also mentioned that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and his Department would want to hear about the type of case I have mentioned because the Government intends to take whatever action is necessary to overcome any difficulties that may result from the Government’s proposals for disadvantaged persons’.
This particular case has been referred to the Australian Medical Association, which has said that it cannot do anything about it. I wonder whether the Minister, in her reply to the second reading debate, will advise the Senate what advice has been given to the Australian Medical Association about these particular circumstances and what instructions have been given to the State officers of the Department of Health for dealing with such complaints from individual patients. The person whom I have in mind has also told me that there are a number of others who do not want to have their names involved in any complaint because there is only one doctor and it is obviously a delicate type of situation. I am sorry to take up the time of the Senate on this matter, but it seems important.
– in reply- The Government thanks the Opposition for its support of these measures. I note Senator Grimes’s comments. I agree with him that we are pleased to be able to extend fringe benefits to the numbers of people who are now covered by this amending legislation. Senator Harradine raised the matter of disadvantaged persons. I was interested to hear what he had to say about some individuals who have had difficulty in being classified, particularly when there are no alternative medical practitioners in their district. The Government had expected that members of the medical profession would treat as disadvantaged those persons who would be identifiable by doctors to be in that category. I can only refer to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) the matter that has been raised by Senator Harradine and seek from him details of what negotiations have been undertaken with the Australian Medical Association and how complaints such as those he has instanced are dealt with when they are brought to the Minister’s attention. I regret that I am not able to be any more precise on that point at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 24 October, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 24 October, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose the Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979. The Bill is typical of the repatriation Bills that are introduced each year with the social services legislation. It provides to the repatriation Acts changes parallel with those contained in the Social Services Amendment Bill 1979, with a few different additions because of the different nature of the repatriation system. The Bill provides for six-monthly indexation, which was introduced in the 1976 Budget.as we all know, and which was reduced to annual indexation in the 1978 Budget. The saving in a full year was estimated by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in another place to be of the order of $4m. Pensioners were given the November 1978 increase but they were not given the May 1979 increase. Despite opposition in both Houses, that change, which was contrary to the Government’s promises and to its stated intentions, went through. Veterans, like pensioners, lost one indexation increase in May 1979 and the November 1979 increase is scheduled on the basis of a yearly indexation. So it is completly misleading of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to state, as she did on behalf of the Minister in another place, that this was something new and that the pension increase alone would cost something like $84m in a full year. This increase would have taken place regardless of the decision to introduce six-monthly indexation.
In the case of repatriation pensioners, it is important to note that the December 1 978 quarter showed a high increase in the consumer price index for which repatriation pensioners wil not be compensated until November this year by which time they are already much worse off, given other increases in the cost of living and in the cost of almost every form of purchase in the community. This was compounded by the fact that repatriation pensioners in particular, but also some civilian pensioners, did not benefit by the 1.5 per cent reduction in the consumer price index which was due to changes in health insurance arrangements introduced from 1 November 1978, although those arrangements were subsequently changed in the mini-Budget of 1979. Because repatriation pensioners did not have to take out private insurance or to pay the levy before 1 November 1978, they did not benefit from the 1.5 per cent relative reduction in the consumer price index due to the changes in health insurance arrangements. The net result of this is a loss of comparative purchasing power for those pensioners not of the 2.3 per cent of the December quarter CPI increase but in fact of the 3.8 per cent in a single quarter. For single pensioners this amounts to over $2 a week and in the case of a married couple it amounts to about $3.40 a week for the December quarter in 1978 alone, which is not compensated for and will not be compensated for until November of this year.
We can only welcome the other provisions in the legislation which increase benefits to veterans. I welcome particularly the introduction of the service pension for allied veterans, which was promised in 1 977. When I was shadow Minister for Repatriation I was responsible for having that provision introduced into the Australian Labor Party platform at the ALP’s Perth Conference. Allied veterans will not be eligible to receive tax concessions, defence service home loans or repatriation and medical treatment benefits. But they will be eligible to receive income-tested service pensions and funeral benefits and may be eligible to receive a pensioner health benefit card. That is very important to people who fought with the allies, most of whom have spent many years in this country helping to make it what it is and frequently working in difficult conditions on projects such as hydro-electric schemes, railway construction work and other jobs of that type.
We approve of the increase in the attendance allowance, which is long overdue; an increase from $14.70 to $17.50 a week for blind people and people suffering from spinal injuries; and an increase from $24.90 to $35 a week for people suffering from blindness and total loss of speech and hearing. Other increases for severely disabled amputees are welcomed, as is the increase in the orphans’ allowance. So, all in all, we do not oppose the legislation. We believe that the benefits will not be worth while to the veterans who will receive them. I have only one question on a matter in the legislation which interests me. I might as well bring up that question now. It relates to clause 12 of the Bill which seeks to insert, among other things, a new section 98h into the Act. That proposed new section contains the following extraordinarily wide definition of government-in-exile ‘:
Government-in-exile’, in relation to a country, includes any person, or group of persons, claiming to represent, or administer, the country or a part of the country or the people of the country;
I merely state that that definition seems to me to be extraordinarily wide. In view of the difficulties being experienced in New South Wales, which Senator Puplick made clear, one could well imagine a government-in-exile for North Sydney. May I have an explanation of why such an extraordinarily wide definition is necessary?
– I will not go over the matters dealt with by Senator
Grimes, except to say that I also intend to support the Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979. I note in particular that in this legislation the Government is implementing, as it sees fit, its election undertaking in relation to allied ex-servicemen. I am disappointed that the decision of the Government does not extend to providing benefits such as repatriation medical treatment benefits. I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision and keep that matter under active review. What the Government has done so far has been appreciated by the groups of people involved. A great deal of work has been done by a number of those groups, not the least of which is the group of Polish servicemen’s associations.
I know that Senator Grimes will not mind my mentioning another person who was very intimately involved in this matter during the days of the Whitlam Government; I refer to the former Minister for Repatriation, Senator Wheeldon. I have had discussions with him on this matter. I was not a member of parliament at the time he was Minister for Repatriation, but I know that people who were members of Parliament at that time and groups of people had discussions about the matter with him then. He indicated his intention to recommend that service pensions should be extended to allied ex-servicemen. I am sure that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) will not mind my mentioning him. I simply state again that I support the legislation.
– in reply- The Government thanks the Opposition and Senator Harradine for their support of the Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979. 1 have noted the remarks of Senator Harradine and will convey them to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann). In respect of the question raised by Senator Grimes with regard to a government-in-exile, I explain that the definition is intended to encompass the possibility of forces of more than one government-in-exile being recognised. It is intended to cover a governmentinexile only when that government receives some recognition by at least the country in which it has established itself. A question in regard to that was asked in the other place and it was not clear that a government-in-exile must be something more than a self-styled organisation. The definition is intended to cover a governmentinexile which has some support within its home country.
In addition, it would be a mistake automatically to align the terms ‘government-in-exile’ and ‘irregular force ‘. An irregular will not always have an allegiance to a government-in-exile. The Yugoslav partisans are an example of that. It should be noted that there were few governments-in-exile and those which existed were based almost exclusively in London. At this stage we know also of a Polish governmentinexile in Moscow and a French governmentinexile in North Africa. As I understand it, the definition is intended to cover the categories I have mentioned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– As the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and her officers would know, I covered the aspect of eligibility when Senate Estimates Committee C met. I received an answer from the Minister which specifically excluded the partisan forces of Yugoslavia. One of my colleagues in another place had a list of all the countries involved when war was declared against Germany. The list implied that a Yugoslav national could qualify to receive benefits under this legislation.
I shall explain my point to the Minister in this way: As we know, in the middle of the campaign of resistance by the then Yugoslav Government, the allies decided rightly that the Tito regime was fighting harder against the Nazis than it was fighting against the Mihailovic people. After the war, Australia’s immigration policy rightly did not distinguish between Yugoslavs who had served in World War II who came here. Without wishing to offend anyone, it could be argued that at a later stage some of the Mihailovic people regarded their rivals within Yugoslavia with a greater degree of hatred than they regarded the Nazis. As the Minister knows, I am choosing my words carefully. Can the Minister tell me whether someone who served in the Mihailovic force will automatically qualify to receive a pension and someone who served in the partisan forces will not?
Another example I give is that the Yugoslav navy was relatively small, but small groups of people would have worked in conjunction with the Royal Navy on what I would call Adriatic adventures, miniature commando raids and combined operations of that nature. Is the Minister saying that any post-war migrant of Yugoslav origin who was in Yugoslavia during the war has to provide documentation to prove what he did during the war? I ask that question because I have a case of a man living in the Hume electorate who probably was one of about 15 noncommissioned officers in the Royal Australia Artillery at the commencement of World War II. These people were given certain missions in the islands adjacent to outside Australia. The records, apparently, are not up to scratch. I am still waiting on the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) for some clarification of the rights which the person never sought to exercise until he reached 57 years of age. If the records are a bit dicey in the case of the elector in Hume, I am curious as to how we will arbitrate on cases involving people of Yugoslav origin who are Australian citizens and who have been here for more than 10 years.
- Senator Mulvihill raised some questions. I am aware of his close interest in the matter. In terms of the proposed legislation, any person who served in a partisan-type force, regardless of whether he or she received a citation from the allied forces, will be ineligible to receive a Service pension. The policy adopted by this Government is no different from that applicable to Australian or other British Commonwealth veterans who might have been in like circumstances.
Serious consideration will have to be given to the Mihailovic forces which claim to be those of Yugoslav King Peter, who was exiled in London after April 1941. Consideration will then need to be given as to what dates such recognition would be withdrawn in the light of the Allies throwing their weight behind the Tito partisan forces. I know that Senator Mulvihill keeps a close watch on these complex situations. If he would work with the Department we would be able to sort the matters out as best as we could and give benefits which are covered by this legislation.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a third time.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Passports Amendment Bill 1979 States Grants ( Roads) Amendment Bill 1 979. Quarantine Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979. Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Amendment Bill 1979. Ombudsman Amendment Bill 1979. Remuneration Tribunals Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1 979. Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill 1979.
Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1979. Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1979. Seamen ‘s Compensation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979. Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1979. Telecommunications (Interception) Bill 1979. Telecommunications Amendment Bill 1979. Customs Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
Debate resumed from 24 October, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I suggest with the leave of the Senate, that the second reading of this Bill and the second reading of the Overseas Students Charge Collection Bill 1979 be debated cognately.
-Is it the wish of the Senate that the Bills be debated cognately? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-These Bills are of interest to the Opposition because they demonstrate to us and to the community in general an interesting case study of how the Government works, how it makes its decisions and the desperate situations it gets into. On behalf of the Opposition I move an amendment to the Overseas Students Charge Bill 1979, which reads:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘consideration of the Bill be deferred until the Government presents a comprehensive proposal for a program of educational aid for students from developing countries according to denned criteria including priority attention to academic ability, the needs of the developing nations and the needs of particular students’.
As I have said, this Bill and its concomitant Bill present an interesting case study of government inaction. One first sees a government unable to control the economy, getting into economic difficulties and trying to frame a Budget for 1979-80. On the admission of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) inflation is expected to be 10 per cent this year, and from yesterday’s consumer price index increase it obviously will be. Unemployment will rise. The Government has difficulty in controlling rising costs. It has broken taxation promises that were the very cornerstone of the policies on which it was elected at the last two elections. Political face-saving requires that at least some of the surcharge on tax be removed this year. This is a government whose economic policies, such as they were, have proved unsuccessful. It is a government desperate for money.
It is confronting the taxpaying public, which is fed up with paying more taxes and receiving less government services.
It is in this scenario that Government Ministers searched around for the least odious way to bolster the Government’s coffers. Who do they seize upon but the group, amongst many others, which is unable to defend itself and which is completely disenfranchised in this countryoverseas students. We are told that the Government has decided to hit that group for roughly $6m. At this stage in the case study the Government has decided to impose fees for no other reason than to raise $6m. The Government’s decision was announced in the Budget Speech in these bold terms:
Commencing with the 1980 academic year, private overseas students who enrol at an Australian university or college of advanced education for the first time, or who change courses, will be charged between $ 1 ,500 and $2,500 per year towards the cost of their tuition.
This charge is consistent with overseas practice where foreign students attending tertiary institutions are required to contribute to the costs of their education. The move will also assist in alleviating the current excess demand for places available to overseas students.
This charge is estimated to yield about $6m in 1979-80 and will help to defray the costs- presently met in full by Australian taxpayers- of educating private overseas students in Australia.
Full details of these new arrangements will be announced after consultations have been held with major source countries.
Clearly, the implication was that the students would be charged tuition fees and would be required to contribute to the cost of paying their fees at the various tertiary institutions. Nowhere in the Budget Papers did the Government state that this decision was motivated by a desire to increase development assistance to developing countries. At all times the impost was referred to as a contribution towards the cost of tuition.
The Budget statement made it quite clear that no discussions had been held with the countries from which the students came. Their views on the effectiveness of free education as aid or on alternative strategies have clearly not been sought. After the decision was announced in the Budget several facts became clear. Firstly, the Government had introduced the charge without consultations with the universities and colleges of advanced education on the need for the charges or the best way to go about introducing them. It was the unilateral decision of a government too harassed or too arrogant to go to the organisations affected for consultation before a decision was taken. It is just another example of how the idea of consultation has gone out of the window with this Government.
Secondly, it became clear that, as the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, had given an undertaking not to introduce fees for tertiary courses, the charge would be made by way of a tax on a visa. Hence I am standing here speaking to this legislation because it is presented by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) and not the Minister for Education.
Thirdly, as the weeks after the Budget elapsed it became obvious that the Government had no idea about the mechanics by which the system would operate or how it had arrived at a figure of $6m. On 12 September, three weeks after the Budget decision, replies to questions from Senator Button in this House were couched in these terms:
I hope in the early future to be able to introduce into this Parliament substantial details which will cover all the matters raised by Senator Button.
The information before the Parliament and the Bills before the Senate still fail to reveal any of the substantial details that Senator Button had sought at Question Time in this place. When the unfavourable reaction to this decision and the manner in which it had been implemented began to set in, the Government spokesmen started to emphasise that this decision was taken in a broader context- that of increasing assistance opportunities to overseas students. Only then was this statement brought out. The original statement was that they were to be required to make a contribution towards tuition in this country.
It is interesting to note that this selling point was not made initially by the Treasurer. It was not in the Budget Papers. The other interesting feature of this late-found emphasis on expansion of development aid through provision of greater educational opportunity for poorer students from developing countries is that Government spokesmen have made no commitment actually to make sure that the result eventuates from this decision; that in fact assistance will be given to poorer students. In her second reading speech, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), said:
The Government believes that these new policy initiatives will result in increased numbers of overseas students coming to Australia and improvement in selection criteria and arrangements.
The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs delivered a similar statement in the House of Representatives on 22 August. He concluded his remarks by saying:
The proposed policy changes will contribute significantly to international cultural exchange and understanding. They should also provide major additional benefits to developing countries through increased educational opportunities and skilled manpower training for their people.
The outcome can be made equitable and beneficial only if. as the Minister says, the Government commits itself to a policy of increas-ing assistance to students from poorer backgrounds in developing countries so that they can actually come here to study. This is what we are asking the Government to do. When it came to that crunch issue of just what the Minister and the Government would do, the Minister said that the Australian Development Assistance Bureau:
That is, to pay the student’s visa charge-
I direct attention to the phrase ‘is not reduced’, which is a rather lesser statement when it comes to the matter of a firm policy commitment, when compared with the glib statements of belief made by Ministers earlier. They made a highsounding statement of belief but there has been no follow-through on policy commitment. That is just one reason why this legislation is a typical case study of the way in which this Government acts in a crisis.
The other reason lies in the total confusion that has surrounded this policy initiative from the outset and, I suggest, continues to surround it. I have mentioned the failure of the Government to consult the universities and colleges of advanced education on this matter. The Government has admitted from the outset that it has not consulted the source countries from which the students come. The Government still refuses to reveal whether any of the developing countries which are source countries are madly enthusiastic about this Government initiative that is meant, we are told, to aid them in some obscure and, certainly as far as we know, unannounced way. We have no way of knowing just what damage has been done to Australia ‘s good will, particularly in South East Asia, as a result of this decision. For example, it would be interesting to know to what extent the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and the Department of Foreign Affairs were consulted in making this decision and whether, in fact, they approved it. Ever since what a confused decision the Government had made became apparent, Government spokesmen have gone to ground on, in fact, the Budget estimate of $6m to be raised this year from this initiative.
It is interesting to note that the Minister, in her second reading speech in this place, made no reference to that figure. The only revenue details revealed were that the rate of charge would range between $ 1 ,500 and $2,500 and that it was estimated that three-quarters of the students affected would pay the minimum rate of $1,500. No reference was made to the number of students expected to fall within each category. No reference was made to how the figure of $6m for this year was arrived at or to whether it is still a valid estimate, in the light of all of the exemptions that the Government had to create when eventually it learned some of the facts concerning how its decision might be affected. We have had just silence, because it seems that the Government has blown it and is not willing to admit that fact. Our amendment calls for deferral of the consideration of these Bills until the Government has had time to think again about what it is doing and comes up with a proposal that is coherent enough to be worthy of our consideration.
On 13 September Senator Button put before the Senate all of the problems and questions about this initiative that remained unanswered at that stage. The introduction of these Bills still leaves outstanding many of those problems and questions. The Minister, in her second reading speech, said:
The actual charges to apply will be based on the costs of providing particular courses and will be: Students undertaking a master’s or Ph.D. Degree will be charged $2,500 per annum; students undertaking a medical, veterinary science or dentistry course will be charged $2,000 per annum; students undertaking other award courses will be charged $1,500 per annum.
I wonder whether it is correct to say that it costs more to educate a Ph.D. or master’s degree student doing a thesis than to educate a medical student, with all of the use of capital-intensive teaching aids that such a course entails. Can the Government and the Minister provide us with details concerning the actual relative costs of these courses and how these figures were arrived at. The Government has not elaborated on its decision to exempt from the charge holders of postgraduate awards of a minimum value of $3,500 per annum. Why was that value determined? What number of award holders falls above and below that figure? In relation to those awards, to what extent will any aim of assisting poor students be lost and result in these stipends going to wealthier students?
In her speech, the Minister said that an exemption from the charge would be given to students who entered subject to an approved reciprocal exchange agreement between Australia and overseas countries. However, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs said in his Press release on the matter that the exemption would be given only to students on fully reciprocal agreements. Is this a last-minute shift in policy or are the only arrangements to be approved to be those in respect of which students are subject to fully reciprocal agreements?
Another matter of concern to the Australian Labor Party is how this policy will affect the efforts of international aid organisations and private groups such as Rotary and the Council of Churches in providing aid by supporting students to study in Australia. These Bills will create a very sizable financial barrier to organisations which bring students to Australia for that purpose. Such efforts, we believe, have brought Australia much international goodwill and it is a pity that the Government apparently has not seen fit to create an exemption in respect of such activities.
I also draw the Senate’s attention to the problems with the transitional provisions that relate to changes in course. The Minister’s speech gives no indication who will arbitrate the question of a change in course. Will it be the education institution? Will it be the Commonwealth Department of Education or will it be the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs? No Government spokesman has cleared up the matter of the student who has initially enrolled, because of quotas, in a course not of their first choice, with a view to changing courses at a later time. This is seen in a student changing from an arts course to law or from a science course to a medicine course. That is seen very commonly in our universities. Will this move, which is a very common one, be regarded as a natural progression or as a change of course?
In conclusion, the Opposition asks that this Bill be deferred until these questions that I have raised have been answered and until the Government puts before the Parliament, before the people of this country and before the people from whom we get our overseas students a proposal that comprehensively deals with the problem of education as aid. Accordingly I repeat the motion which I moved at the beginning of my speech:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘consideration of the Bill be deferred until the Government presents a comprehensive proposal for a program of educational aid for students from developing countries according to defined criteria including priority attention to academic ability, the needs of the developing nations and the needs of particular students’.
Until we get a comprehensive statement of what the Government intends to do, such legislation as this which is obviously conceived in haste- its mechanism of operation obviously has been changed several times since it was first announced in the Budget- should be deferred until we all know what the Government is thinking and what its intentions are in the future.
– I rise to support the Overseas Students Charge Bill 1979 and the Overseas Students Charge Collection Bill 1979. As has been stated by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in her second reading speech, the purpose of the Bills is to put into effect the Government’s decision to introduce an annual charge on overseas students studying in Australian universities and colleges of advanced education. The Bills have as what one might call its underlying rationale a statement which also appears in the Minister’s second reading speech to this effect:
The Government believes that these new policy initiatives-
The Minister is not talking just about the two Bills, but to other matters to which I will refer in a minute:
Will result in increased numbers of overseas students coming to Australia and improvements in selection criteria and arrangements.
I think that if it could be demonstrated in practice that the net effect of these changes will be to increase the number of overseas students coming to Australia and to improve the selection criteria and arrangements these Bills would find ready acceptance. It is certainly true that, given that underlying rationale of the Bills it will be necessary for the Government to measure and monitor the success in achieving those aims once we have some empirical data upon which this test can be made. Quite clearly, if that underlying aim is not achieved, it will be necessary also for the Government to reconsider its position on the Overseas Student Charge Bill and to see whether the Bill remains compatible with that aim which it has announced.
I indicate at the outset that lest it be thought that this legislation is designed to cover all overseas students in Australia, in fact, it covers private overseas students. As I understand the Minister ‘s second reading speech and other statements there are some 12 exemptions made by the legislation. 1 will list them. The first exemption relates to those overseas students who come to Australia under Australia’s Development Assistance Program. The second is an exemption to permit development assistance funds to be applied to meet the charge in respect of students sponsored for entry by the governments of developing countries if the Minister for Foreign Affairs agrees to such arrangement.
The third exemption involves post-graduate students who are holders of scholarships providing a basic stipend of at least $3,500. The fourth exemption is students undertaking postgraduate courses who are the holders of a scholarship awarded by the Australian-American Educational Foundation. The fifth is for students who are subject of approved reciprocal exchange agreements between Australian universities or colleges of advanced education and overseas tertiary institutions. The sixth exemption is students coming to Australia as part of an external study course. The seventh is students holding postfellowship awards awarded by the Australian Development Assistance Bureau.
The eighth exemption applies to residents of external territories. The ninth is students already in Australia who were admitted specifically to undertake the final two years of their secondary education in Australia as a preliminary to an approved tertiary course and who commenced that course in 1980 and 1981. The tenth is students already in Australia who commence new courses at the same level of study that could be regarded as a normal progression from their current course. The eleventh is students changing from masters to doctoral awards or vice versa but only where either award has not been conferred. The twelfth and final exemption is students currently undertaking English language courses as a preliminary to an approved tertiary course, but only in respect of tertiary courses which are commenced in 1980.
It should be noted also that these charges relate to students who are studying at Australian universities and colleges of advanced education. (Quorum formed). These charges apply to students studying at Australian universities and colleges of advanced education. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which shows the number of private overseas students studying in Australia as at 30 June 1979. It is listed by country of origin and by the institution at which those students are enrolled.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the Senate. This table shows that there were at that date some 8,572 private overseas students studying in Australia. The nature of the exemption which I have just mentioned, or the nature of the qualification that this charge applies only to CAEs and universities mean that those enrolled in primary schools, junior secondary schools, senior secondary schools, trade courses, secretarial commercial institutions, certified technical colleges- in other words, the schools and the TAFE areaand those who are in Australia studying to obtain professional qualifications or various English language programs will not be subject to the imposition of this fee. I should add that the table shows that that involves some 1 ,886 students or 22 per cent of the total number of private overseas students currently studying in Australia.
I turn now to the definition of ‘overseas student’ which is set out in clause 4 of the Overseas Students Charge Bill. It reads:
Overseas student’ means a person (including a person who has not attained the age of majority) who is an immigrant within the meaning of the Migration Act 1958 and is enrolled or proposes to become enrolled in a prescribed course for a year, but does not include a person to whom subsection 8 ( 1 ) of that Act applies or a person who is the holder of a permanent entry permit;
Without wearying the Senate with the details of precisely what it is that section 8 ( 1 ) of the Migration Act provides, I understand that it basically applies to members of the armed forces of the Crown entering Australia in the course of duty, diplomatic or consular representatives, a complement of a vessel of regular armed forces, members of the crew of certain vessels and people who are for the time being exempted by instrument under the hand of the Minister from the requirements of this division relating to entry permits. The relevant section goes on to provide that a person who is the holder of a permanent entry permit will be exempt from the payment of these charges. This legislation has to be seen within the context of an overall policy in terms of changing migration policies which were outlined by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) in the House of Representatives on 22 August. The Minister drew attention to a number of matters in which he dealt with this problem. Among other things he said: . . although students have been admitted on the clear understanding that they would return to their home countries on completion of their studies, substantial numbers have sought and obtained permanent residence. Almost 75 per cent of students completing formal studies in recent years have applied successfully for resident status. This development has negated the main objectives of the program.
– Who granted them the status? Are you blaming them?
-No, I do not in the least. I make no apportionment of blame. The fact that we have announced that we do not intend to grant that level of approval is a proper announcement for the Government to have made. I think it is long overdue. In talking about this matter the Minister went on to say:
Australian students do not pay fees. However, in their case, pan of the cost of their education at tertiary level comes from Consolidated Revenue contributed in pan through tax by their families. No such contribution is made by overseas students or their families although many are well able to afford such costs and, indeed, would have to pay fees if the student undertook higher education in the home country.
The spokesman for the Opposition, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) in replying to the statement of the Minister gave what I think amounts to quite a clear degree of support for that general principle. Dr Cass said:
The Minister has made the point that overseas students sponsored under bilateral arrangements will have their charges paid under the aid programs. Quite clearly we as a country will be making a contribution to that. At the same time it seems unreasonable, as noted by the Minister, to allow the people who are well able to pay- wherever they might go- to be able to take advantage of the free tuition in our colleges of advanced education and universities. They receive the training at no cost to themselves. The burden is completely on the Australian taxpayer. The Opposition agrees with the Minister’s proposals in that regard.
The Minister interjected and said:
They will not be able to do that now.
Dr Cass continued:
Precisely. We agree with the Minister’s proposal to change that.
I think that is an indication of a degree of support rendered by the Opposition spokesman on this matter. The objectives of the overseas students policy were spelt out with a little more decision in a statement released by the Minister on 28 August. In that statement the Minister said:
A recent review of the former policy-
I understand that to have been a review undertaken by an inter-departmental committee upon which representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Australian Development Aid Bureau were represented- showed that the limits on total overseas student numbers were denying opportunities to many people of ability, wanting to acquire qualifications which would be of considerable use to their countries. In many such cases, these people came from developing countries with insufficient places in universities to meet their own needs.
A key element of Australia’s new policy is the abandonment of previous numerical limits and the development of criteria to increase total numbers of overseas students within the available capacity of Australian institutions and without displacing Australian students.
The imposition of a charge on overseas students will enable an increase in total student numbers without adding significantly to the burden of the Australian taxpayer.
The new Australian policy is intended to ensure that study opportunities in Australia are of maximum benefit to developing countries, particularly those in our region. Henceforth, an important factor in determining admission will be the usefulness of the proposed course both to the individual student and his home country.
I believe it is within that general framework that the operation for these two new pieces of legislation have to be perceived. Again speaking in the debate in the House of Representatives on 24 October this year Dr Cass indicated:
That is the scheme which is referred to in the Opposition’s amendment moved to the motion for the second reading of this Bill. A number of criticisms have been advanced of this proposal in general. I wish to refer specifically and, indeed, in some detail to the publication by the Australian Union of Students and the Western Australian Institute of Technology Guild which prepared a submission to the Minister for Education and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. It is entitled: ‘The effect of the Proposed Tuition Charge for Overseas Students in Australian Post-Secondary Education, and related matters’. This publication by AUS- I have the liberty to say it is one of the weakest and most farcical that I have seen that organisation produce, which says a great deal-in terms of the ten points it puts forward exposes each one of those points severally and collectively as a great deal of nonsense. The preamble to the report in the chapter headed ‘Summary of Submission’ indicates, for instance, that there is an alleged proposal to ‘force them to leave Australia immediately on completion of their courses despite the fact that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has indicated that there are a number of ways in which that matter can be dealt with and that the element of forcing them to leave Australia is quite incorrect in that sense although the idea that they should return to their home countries is one supported not only by the Government but by the Australian Labor Party. It goes on in the first point to say:
The tuition fee is discriminatory and will create international ill will.
That is put forward again with absolutely no evidence to substantiate it. We have had a period of two months since this charge -
-Do you think it will create goodwill?
-It will create goodwill, Senator Gietzelt, if, as I have said, the objectives which this Bill intends to pursue in making more places available in Australian universities are fulfilled. So, the answer to that question is yes. The lack of evidence that is presented for this charge and the fact that in the two months which have elapsed since the announcement in the Budget Speech of any indication of a government-to-government basis of any disquiet or international illwill needs to be borne in mind. The AUS went on to say:
The fee will discourage poorer overseas students from undertaking courses in Australia.
That is not correct since the selection criteria, the variations in the selection criteria and the ability to expand this scheme and the various schemes of reciprocal scholarships will in fact mean that the emphasis will be upon the selection of people of merit rather than the selection procedures which have been highly discriminatory in countries of origin in the past, as one can see from the practices involving the Malaysian Government in the way in which it has practised quite a considerable form of discrimination against students it trains in its own universities, and in the racial composition of that group of students who study overseas. The AUS went on to say:
The financial yield from the fee is miniscule.
If that were a substantial criticism, simply because the fee that is charged is not large, there is no case. It goes on to say:
Overseas students already bring to Australia considerable foreign exchange and contribute to taxation through part time and vacation work, and jobs after graduation. There is no evidence that the Australian taxpayer resents providing them with free tuition.
It is not a matter of whether the Australian taxpayer resents or does not resent. It is a matter of whether the objective stated by the Government in terms of its ability to provide more places at the university can be met. The article continues:
They are a valuable asset to our tertiary institutions.
Indeed they are, and the policy is designed to have more of them there. It continues:
The qualifications gained by overseas students in Australia are generally useful in their home countries.
That is precisely the point we are making, and precisely the point which exposes the nonsense in the AUS submission about students being forced to return to their homes. How can they possibly be generally useful in their home countries if they stay here once they have obtained the qualifications? The submission goes on to deal with the administrative problems which presumably AUS has a far greater appreciation of than the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. The submission goes on to say:
Repatriation may also place some students in political jeopardy.
Yet is has been made quite clear in ministerial statements that a student who believes that if he is required to return to his home country he will be subject to some form of political persecution and discrimination has the same rights to apply to the Committee on the Determination of Refugee Status to have his case considered and to be one of the exceptions that would be made. The AUS goes on to say:
Private students who have been able to enter a higher education in their own countries and have had access to Australian education may not be able to do so under the new selection criteria.
The new selection criteria will be based upon merit, and I think they are appropriate selection criteria to pertain. In the typical hysterical nonsense that one gets from AUS this is said:
The fee proposal represents a broken promise by the Government and may be a pilot mechanism for introducing universal tuition charges.
I suppose that both the AUS comment and the comment in similar vein which was made by Yvonne Preston in the National Times of 27 October simply go to show that one can keep on repeating statements of policy, but if there are people in the community who do not want to believe statements of policy, it does not matter how often we repeat it; we will not be able to budge them away from the fact -
– You do not really suggest that we should believe this Government, do you?
– All I can say in reply to the honourable senator is that the people of Australia have had several opportunities in the last couple of years to pronounce upon that matter and they have pronounced upon it in fairly firm and fairly large terms.
The fee issue is the typical red herring introduced to confuse this debate. It has been said, and it was said again today by Senator Grimes, that part and parcel of this whole exercise is that studying in Australian universities and the facility to study at Australian universities constitute part of the foreign aid program. That is simply not so. The private overseas student scheme is not an aid program. This concept was removed from the scheme when the policy was reviewed by the then Government in 1973. The policy was not the subject of a debate in the Parliament, and I suppose it is not surprising that it was not the subject of a debate in the Parliament in 1973. 1 refer to a comment by the then Minister for Immigration, the Hon. A. J. Grassby, who on 22 October 1973 said:
This scheme is designed to promote friendship and amity in our region. It is not meant as an aid gesture to our neighbours.
So in 1973 the Labor Minister for Immigration put clearly in perspective what this scheme was and what it was not. He said:
It is not meant as an aid gesture to our neighbours.
I think the attempt by the Labor Party now to repudiate its own Government policy in 1973 and try to pretend that this scheme is part of an aid program is one which does not bear very close analysis by members of the Parliament.
It is important that we have some idea about the nature and the characteristics of the private overseas students to whom we are referring in this legislation. Earlier this year a book entitled Brain Drain and Foreign Students’, by G. Lakshmana Rao was published, it being the survey of overseas students in Australia conducted from 1973 to 1975. It is, I suppose, one of the most up to date and comprehensive analyses of the characteristics of overseas students studying in Australia. I wish firstly to read a number of the conclusions from Mr Rao’s book, and then seek leave to incorporate some statistical material from the book in Hansard. In the summary to his chapter entitled ‘Social Background of Overseas Students ‘ Mr Rao writes:
From this point of view it is desirable that overseas students (future innovators and elites in their home countries) should come from a cross-section of the society in their home countries. The fact, however, is that a vast majority of the overseas students in Australia come from a very privileged urban middle class social background and from minority racial, religious, and language groups.
– You will exacerbate that.
-That is a very unworthy interjection that I would hardly have expected from the honourable senator. In the chapter entitled ‘Motives for Overseas Study’, Rao writes as follows:
All told, both push factors from home and pull factors from abroad influence students to come to Australia, but push factors from home appear to be important in the case of private students while pull factors from Australia appear to be more important in the case of sponsored students.
Finally, in the chapter in which he is writing about ‘Factors and Attitudes associated with Intentions to Stay Abroad ‘ Rao writes:
Within Australia, the phenomenon of non-return of overseas students relates mostly to private students.
I now seek to have incorporated in Hansard a number of tables which I had the opportunity of showing Senator Grimes earlier this evening. They relate to the type of residence, education and occupation and overseas visits by the parents of the respondents to the survey which was conducted among overseas students in Australia; the religious affiliation of and goods and services possessed by the parents of respondents in their home countries; the social and educational background of students in their home countries; the factors which cause overseas students to hesitate about leaving their country of origin to study abroad by country of origin, sponsorship and career plans; the ranking of reasons for studying
abroad by racial group; the percentage of respondents perceiving different problems as very important or important by country of origin; the long-run migration plans by country of origin and race; the indices of return for majorityminority groups by country of origin; and the index of return by sponsorship, scholarship, source of financial support, bound bond job guarantee student.
– How many pages is that?
– My response to Senator Colston is simply that the tables that I indicate are each on separate pages. There are nine tables altogether which I have sought to have incorporated in Hansard and which Senator Grimes had the opportunity to see earlier this evening.
– But it is the Senate, not one person who gives permission.
-I appreciate that, and if the honourable senator has any particular objection, I am sure it can be dealt with.
– I did not have time to make an objection.
-As I said, negotiations with foreign governments are taking place. I note from an article in today’s Melbourne Age that some discussions are not to take place with the Malaysian Minister for Education, Datuk Mutta Hussein bin Onn. I repeat the information that it appears that in the two months since the introduction of this announcement in the Budget no formal protests or objections have been lodged with the Australian Government. The practice that we are now undertaking is not a practice unique to Australia. I note that in the Economist of 22 September 1979 it is indicated that the 85,000 foreign students in Britain’s statefinanced colleges and universities are now subject to a decision of the Government, which ordered the colleges to raise their tuition fees and set officials working on ways of charging nonBritish students the full cost of their education.
In conclusion I want to say briefly that the charge that this innovation could reduce numbers is not sustainable. In recent years Australia has accepted about 2,400 private overseas students a year to undertake long term and formal studies. The selection criterion has been quite restrictive, particularly the requirement that proposed courses should not be available in the home country. Even within the widespread knowledge of this criterion, inquiries about entry for formal studies are usually about 30,000 a year. The Government expects to increase the intake of private students in line with the available capacity at Australian institutions, taking care to avoid any significant displacement of local students. It is expected that there will be no shortage of applicants able and willing to meet the moderate charges proposed. Indeed, it is almost certain that the number of applicants who may be considered under the new criterion will substantially exceed the number who may be accepted, and preference will be given to those with high academic standard and those from priority countries who wish to acquire a qualification or skill of particular value in their countries. The experience of other countries offering training facilities for overseas students indicates quite clearly that the need to pay fees or charges does not cause reduction in interest. On the basis that the objective of the Government in introducing this legislation is to bring about a situation in which more overseas students can be found places to study at Australian universities to the benefit of Australia, the students and their home countries, I give my support to these two Bills.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m. in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally propose the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the negative.
– We are debating two Bills cognately, the Overseas Students Charge Bill 1979 and the Overseas Students Charge Collection Bill 1979. My remarks will be confined to the Overseas Students Charge Bill 1979. To the motion that that Bill be read a second time Senator Grimes has moved an amendment on behalf of the Opposition. The amendment reads:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘consideration of the Bill be deferred until the Government presents a comprehensive proposal for a program of educational aid for students from developing countries according to denned criteria including priority attention to academic ability, the needs of the developing nations and the needs of particular students ‘.
The purpose of the Overseas Students Charge Bill is to introduce an annual charge on overseas students studying in Australian universities and colleges of advance I education. Before proceeding to a general discussion of the Bill, I wish to make some comment on part of the statement made by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) in the House of Representatives on 22 August. On that day the Minister remarked:
In recent years almost 75 per cent of students completing formal studies have applied successfully for resident status.
This matter was mentioned by the previous speaker, Senator Puplick, only a few minutes ago. The honourable member for Maribyrnong, Dr Cass, at the time canvassed this issue. As far as I can ascertain he did not receive a reply to the matters he raised. In fact, Dr Cass also canvassed these issues only yesterday when this Bill was passed by the House of Representatives. Part of his suggestion was that the 75 per cent was a spurious statistic. Why is it spurious or why was the suggestion made that it was a spurious statistic? It has been suggested that to obtain work experience, overseas students who have been studying in Australia are advised to apply for permanent residence. I ask the Minister to confirm whether this is so when replying to the second reading debate. Many students who study in Australia need to have some work experience before they go back to their home countries if their education is to be the full education that they expected when they first came to Australia. Take, for instance, a person doing an engineering course. It is all right for him to do a four years engineering course at university but unless following that he gets some work experience for one or two years he will not go back to his home country with his skills developed to the level required in his home country.
It has been suggested to me that students who want to stay for one or perhaps two years to gain that experience have been told that they must apply for resident status. The information given to me is that they do obtain this resident status. If that is so, some of those included in the 75 per cent that has been mentioned are students who applied to stay simply so that they could continue their education in the work force and then go back to their home countries after one year or perhaps two years. It would be more precise for us to be given a figure, not of those who were given resident status, but of those who remain in Australia after one or two years or those who stay in Australia permanently. It may be that if we are given those figures we would find the percentage is quite low. In fact, the honourable member for Maribyrnong placed a question on notice some time ago in relation to overseas students. His question revolved around that point. The content of the question is pertinent. I shall read it to the Senate. He asked:
The fifth point is pertinent tothe argument that I have just been canvassing. It reads:
The question continues:
As far as I am aware, Dr Cass does not yet have a reply to that question. We need an answer so that we can understand better the background of these Bills. I ask the Minister in his reply to advise whether these figures are now available or whether they will become available in the near future.
I now turn to aspects directly associated with the Bill. This Bill bears all the hallmarks of another ill-thought-out revenue scheme by this Government. It illustrates decision making without regard for a number of consequences. I refer to the consequences for education in Australia, Australia’s immigration policy and Australia’s foreign policy. In each of those areas there are direct consequences from the two Bills that we are discussing tonight. I do not believe that the consequences were well thought out when this scheme was put forward or when it was thought up by the Government and put into the package of Bills that went into the Budget.
I illustrate this by referring to another policy area of this Government. We all know that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has had imposed on him numerous and contradictory health scheme changes. In fact, the Australian people know this only too well. Over the past three or four years they have just become used to one health measure when it has been changed and they have had to get used to another. These changes were not designed to serve the health provisions of the nation; rather they were designed to serve the fiscal needs of this Government. In a similar way the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs or perhaps the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), or perhaps both, have had imposed on them these overseas students charge Bills, despite the fact that they introduce clear inconsistency into our educational policy. They revive, whether justly or not, suspicions that our immigration policies are racist. In some of the overseas countries there are suspicions that our immigration policies are racist. This measure that we are debating tonight, which imposes fees on students who are going to come from overseas countries to study in our universities and colleges of advanced education, will only reinforce the feelings in overseas countries that we have a racist immigration policy. It also contradicts our foreign policy, in which Australia says that it will help people in overseas countries to obtain a better standard of living and to have more educated people. The whole thrust of our foreign policy is contradicted by these measures.
I wish to make a small quote from the remarks of a person who was a very highly respected member of this Parliament, and who I believe is still highly respected, even by those on the Government benches. I believe that although he was a member of the Australian Labor Party and a Minister in the Labor Government, he is still highly respected by most people on the other side of the chamber; he is certainly respected by those on this side. I refer to Kim Beazley who was the former Minister for Education. When he made the statement to which I referred he was probably under the impression that the Bills would be introduced by the Minister for Education. The fact that that is not the case does not detract from what he said. In relation to this package of Bills, only last month he stated:
The action of the Fraser government in cutting out the form of foreign aid inherent in making Australian universities, colleges of advanced education and technical colleges free to some 3,000 overseas students a year (mostly from Asia) is poor and paltry.
The policy made a link with the future leaders of Asia and was inherently right in itself in the sense that tertiary education was made free from January 1974, regardless of race, and won Australia a great deal of goodwill. The propaganda attack on this country is for race bias. Mr Fraser and Senator Carrick justify the attack.
Perhaps we could add the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs as well. That is the sort of argument I am pursuing, namely, that it will not be good for Australia’s foreign relations. It seems clear to me that this scheme was made on the run, just as were the health policies that I described a couple of minutes ago. It appears to me to be one of the last minute changes that occurred just before the Budget was finalised. 1 can imagine what happened. A number of Ministers were sitting around and they said: ‘How can we raise some more revenue?’ Some person said: > Ah, we will get $6m from overseas students; let us announce the new scheme and once we have done that we will work out how we will do it’. That seems to me to be the sort of action that would have been taken to produce a scheme like this. I think that there is some evidence that this is so. On 29 August in this very place, in answer to a question about this scheme, Senator Carrick said:
The details have not been fully or precisely defined.
Or course they were not. They were not known when the Budget was brought down a few days earlier. It now seems from some statements that it is not a tuition fee, as it was suggested it would be in the Budget, but a visa tax. It is the same thing, whether it is called a tuition fee or a visa tax. These people are coming from overseas and they will pay dearly for the privilege of being able to study in Australian universities and colleges of advanced education.
As the months have passed since the Budget introduced the tuition fee or visa tax the problems associated with the changes have become apparent. For example, originally the Government had no clear idea of how to define a private student. The result is that there is now a list of exemptions, developed mostly since the Budget. That list of exemptions has become tremendously long. From memory, Senator Puplickthe previous speaker in the debate- outlined all of these exemptions. To name only a few, the list of exemptions include many scholarship holders, students sponsored by overseas governments, reciprocal exchange students, students coming to Australia as part of an external studies course, residents of external territories. In addition to these, a whole set of transitional arrangements have been thought up since the Budget.
After all that, what remains of the $6m the Government set out to save? Incidentally, what does that $6m represent? It is important that we look at what it represents when we consider what it will do to Australia’s image overseas. It represents less than one per cent of the Government’s foreign aid program and it represents less than one per cent of total Federal Government expenditure on universities and colleges of advanced education. It is a sum which will be reduced by administrative costs and by the exemptions that have already been made. I repeat that the measure was ill-prepared; it was made on the hop. It threatens to become a bureaucratic nightmare. It is typical of the measures for which this Government hunts around. It hunts around for measures in which the victims have no political clout, in which they are unpopular or in which they are defenceless.
If we take each of those situations where people do not have political clout, are unpopular or are defenceless, we can see immediately where the Government has attacked those groups in recent times. For instance, the unemployed have become second-class welfare recipients. In the last day or so the unemployed have been attacked by the legislation brought into this place. Unionists stood down through no action of their own are discriminated against in unemployment provisions. The Senate discussed this matter only yesterday and today. What pleasure it must have given the Government to add to its revenue by charging voteless overseas students.
The new measure introduced provides for a discriminatory charge. The charge is formally based on residence but overwhelmingly the only students who will pay fees in Australian tertiary institutions next year will be Asian students. This is why the measure is so discriminatory. Inevitably the fee will be seen as discriminatory in the source countries. It is in the national interest to abolish such charges and forgo the $6m in revenue. It may be far less than $6m; we are not sure at this stage. It is important that we look at the possibility of scrapping the whole thing because the image of Australia is at stake.
The claim is sometimes made that overseas students come from wealthy homes. For instance, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has said that many people are well able to afford such costs. I think this statement is disputable. We can say with a great deal of certainty that the students who come here are not children of Asian peasants. But most of them appear to come from Asian middle-class families. This issue was raised in the Age on 13 September last. The Age said:
Most of the 8,300 private overseas students have come from middle-class families who sacrifice about a third of their incomes to send their children to university.
I think the suggestion that most of the people who come here are wealthy can be disputed. On the other hand, if they did come from a wealthy family there would still be some discrimination. There would still be people from overseas paying fees at universities. But what would happen is that the fee system would produce a wealthy elite. I have not mentioned the actual fees that are envisaged. However, I should do so to put on record how substantial these fees are. For a master’s degree or Ph.D. an overseas student will pay $2,500 a year. A medical, veterinary science or dentistry student will pay $2,000 a year and other students will pay $1,500 a year. I was interested in Senator Grimes’s earlier remarks in regard to these fees. He asked whether we really know that a Ph.D. student or a master’s student will cost the universities or the taxpayers more than a medical, veterinary science or dentistry student. I think that was a very good point, and one which we should look at. It seems that these figures were plucked out of the air, just as the whole argument was plucked out of the air.
When I look at this measure I begin to wonder whether this is the first step towards the reintroduction of fees in tertiary institutions in Australia. It is all right for honourable senators opposite to say: ‘We have told you that we will not re-introduce fees in tertiary institutions in Australia’. We know how many promises have been broken by this Government. We have to be very wary of promises that are made. When we see a flag which indicates that there might be something in the wind, we have to look at it very carefully and ask: ‘Is this the harbinger of something that we do not really want to see occurring in Australia?’ After all, the measure means in reality that some students will be paying for tertiary education next year. Despite the nice turn of phrase by the Government, it is really a tuition fee. Despite what it might be called and where it might be collected, these students are being charged because they are to undertake education at a university or college of advanced education in Australia. This is in direct conflict with what the Minister for Education has said. Let me just quote a letter about tertiary education fees that he wrote this year to the Education Vice President of the Australian Union of Students. Senator Carrick said:
I refer to your letter of 3 May in which you sought my assurances on tertiary education tuition fees.
As you possibly know the Government’s policy is to maintain the principle that student fees will not be imposed at any level in tertiary education. I am pleased to have the opportunity to assure you that the Government has no intention of re-introducing tuition fees in tertiary education and to confirm that fees will not be re-introduced for tertiary education in 1980.
In your letter you also asked if the study of fee reintroduction, recommendation R18.34 of Chapter 18 of Volume I of the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training, would take place. The Government has not yet made decisions on the implementation of recommendations contained in the Report. A Committee of Ministers has been established to consider the Report and to present to the Government later this year proposals relating to the Report as a whole.
I have asked my officers to note the Australian Union of Students’ rejection of the Report as a valid basis for the development of Australian education so that this view may be brought to the attention of the Committee of Ministers.
I read the whole letter in case it was suggested that I had not read the whole letter as some latter part of it may have been relevant. The nub of the matter was the second paragraph which ended with the Minister’s statement that he would confirm that fees for tertiary education would not be re-introduced in 1980. In some ways, fees for tertiary education have been re-introduced for the 1 980s. We may call this something other than a tuition fee, but in reality that is what it is. Can we read into this letter that the Minister wrote that we will have fees for overseas students in 1980 but that after 1980 they will apply for all other students? I quote again the amendment to the second reading motion which Senator Grimes moved and which is being supported by the Opposition. It states:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘consideration of the Bill be deferred until the Government presents a comprehensive proposal for a program of educational aid for students from developing countries according to defined criteria including priority attention to academic ability, the needs of the developing nations and the needs of particular students’.
When such a comprehensive proposal is presented, we could support it. At this stage, for the reasons that I have outlined, our support is not possible.
-The Overseas Students Charge Bill and the Overseas Students Charge Collection Bill are the sorts of Bills that arise for a number of reasons. Some of these are historical, some economic, some social and some even international. When the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) was introducing the Bills he pointed out that the purpose of them was to put into effect the Government’s decision to introduce an annual charge on overseas students studying in Australian universities and colleges of advanced education. This observation was a reflection of the policy announced by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in the Budget Speech and further elaborated in later statements. At that time the Minister mentioned that the Government had been anxious to make available additional educational opportunities for overseas students. In the earlier statement the Minister outlined some provisions that he thought would make the program more responsive to the needs of people who were seeking to study here but more particularly to the needs of their home countries.
For some time the community in Australia and the Government, reflecting the opinion of that community, have been concerned at a number of costs in relation to education. One of these has been the provision of opportunities for overseas students attending educational institutions which have been funded wholly or partly from public money. The Government believes- this was outlined earlier- that these initiatives will result in increased numbers of students coming here with a sense of responsibility, as a result of their own desires and with better opportunities to return to their home countries. Furthermore, this will provide for an improvement in selection criteria and arrangements. Therefore, the decision which was announced earlier by the Minister has been made and the Government has decided that private overseas students attending Australian universities and colleges of advanced education, which are fully funded by the Commonwealth- a point which should be borne in mind- should be called upon to make some contribution towards the cost of their education.
Of course, this is not a new process because, after all, there is no such thing as anything that is free within the community. Somebody somewhere along the line must pay for it. I think it should be pointed out that the level of charges which has been set by the Government has been determined in a very realistic fashion, taking into account the cost of providing the courses and the administrative arrangements as well as establishing some relationship with fees that are charged by other comparable countries. I think it is correct to point out that the Government has been conscious of the need to set charges at a level which will not deter overseas students from undertaking their studies in Australia.
The background to the legislation is well known and has been spelt out in a number of ways. Since 1973 the number of private overseas students in Australia at any one time has been subject to a limit of about 10,000. Such students could be granted temporary entry visas provided they satisfied a number of conditions which had to be observed to allow for their entry. The chief of these was that their proposed course of study was not available in their home country. This is a very important point. They had to indicate that they had a genuine intention of returning to their home country on completion of their courses. Every one of us who sits in this place and who has anything to do with private overseas students knows very well that in recent years a considerable number of those who have completed their formal studies have applied for and been successful in obtaining resident status.
During the debate tonight a number of references have been made to the statement made by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) when speaking in the House of Representatives in August. He indicated that the criteria for entry had been based mainly on the inability of students to obtain enrolment in courses in their home countries. This has sometimes led to students proposing to undertake courses of little value in their home countries. In addition, although students have been admitted on the clear understanding, as I said a few moments ago, that they would return to their home countries, to some considerable extent they have remained here. I think the unfortunate feature about that development is that it has negated the main objects of the program relating to overseas students.
The average annual tuition cost of a full time student at a university has been estimated at $5,500 per annum and slightly less- about $4,000 per annum- at a college of advanced education. Australian students do not pay fees, but funds for their education come from our Consolidated Revenue, which comes from the tax paid by their families. No such contribution is made by overseas students or their families. Those people would be able to pay fees here and, indeed, would be able to pay fees in their home countries.
It is important to point out that the charges outlined in the Bill vary from an amount of $ 1 ,500 to something like $2,500. 1 am of the view that those charges will not deter overseas students who are able to pay and whose families are able to pay those charges from undertaking studies in Australia. The fees have been determined in relation to costs and in relation to fees which have been tried and proved in other experiences in other places. The fees will not cover the full cost of studies. The Australian Government, therefore the Australian taxpayer and the Australian community, will still substantially subsidise the costs of overseas students.
That is applicable particularly in the case of professional courses. Such courses are generally long courses, which end up placing quite a heavy burden on the Australian taxpayer. In all fairness, it is acknowledged that the professions which result from those courses become extremely lucrative for the people who are fortunate enough to complete them, especially if the students return to their home countries, where there are opportunities for them to undertake a professional career which yields them a very substantial income.
Other governments have sought Australia’s assistance in educating their citizens, particularly at tertiary level. In view of that and because of the Government’s very firm belief that it is in Australia’s interest to develop a cultural exchange and international understanding, these policies have been developed with a view to increasing the number of students who will be admitted for study at Australian universities and colleges of advanced education. The revenue which will be derived from the new charges will help to facilitate that. It will help to offset the additional public cost involved in educating increasing numbers of overseas students who come to Australia. The charges outlined in the Bill apply to private students and to private and sponsored overseas students.
Australia will continue to provide substantial educational assistance to Colombo Plan students and to students studying under similar educational aid programs so that those programs will continue to be available to students who need them and who cannot afford to pay education costs. Overseas students from developing countries have been studying in Australia for some considerable time now. The majority of them have come here in the past 30 years, although educational aid programs have been running for nearly 70 years. Over the years the Commonwealth Government has become more heavily involved in the training process. The number of sponsored students has grown very steadily. For example, I read that in 1955, which was some considerable time ago, there were a mere 450 sponsored students. The latest figures available show that two years ago nearly 5,000 students and trainees were sponsored by Australia.
Government sponsored overseas students who have come here since World War II have been incorporated into a great number of programs, including the Colombo Plan, the Australia Papua New Guinea Education and Training Scheme, the Australian International Awards Scheme, the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Plan, the Commonwealth Co-operation in Education Scheme, the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan, the South Pacific Aid Program and the Australian-Asian Universities Co-operation Scheme. From 1945 to 1975 Australia financed something like 22,000 students and trainees from no fewer than 80 developing countries, at a direct cost of well over $114m. Those costs are for education only and do not include the vast range of administrative and hidden costs, including the cost of maintenance of facilities, current and other capital costs.
The matter of Australia’s program of overseas aid and of developing co-operation, especially in education, is widespread and diverse. Our education program directed towards overseas countries has been extensive. Yet I think that we should encourage a reciprocal understanding and should develop an arrangement whereby the people who can afford to do so are placed in a position to make some contribution. That would help them to understand the responsibility which they must bear. I believe that the measure outlined in the Bill will encourage a sense of responsibility.
After all, there is a limit to the extent to which the Australian taxpayer can finance overseas students who can afford to pay some of their fees. That statement is not mine; it is that of the Minister for Education of Malaysia, whom I met when visiting Malaysia a few weeks ago. Whilst I hope that the Government will always bear in mind its responsibility in providing overseas aid, particularly in areas related to education, at this time, when there is a great interchange of students and of people engaged in activities related to education, when services are rendered- the services which Australia renders are particularly good services- there should be an arrangement whereby some contribution can be made towards the cost of those services. That finds expression in the Bill in the fees which it outlines.
– I express my opposition to the tenor and the provisions of the Overseas Students Charge Bill 1979 and the Overseas Students Charge Collection Bill 1979 and to support fully the amendment moved by the Opposition. Before I detail my reasons for so doing, I wish to respond to some of the points made by Senator Davidson, as they were utterly without foundation. I refer firstly to his statement that there is widespread concern in the Australian community about the subsidising by the Australian taxpayer of the tertiary education of overseas students in Australia. Where is Senator Davidson’s evidence for that widespread concern? It does not exist, except where it is whispered in the xenophobia and the racism which is pandered to by this legislation. I have not seen any evidence of it in the public sphere. I doubt that Senator Davidson can produce any such evidence. I refer secondly to his statement that many of those students apply for enrolment in courses which are of little use to them back in their home countries. That is totally at variance with the facts. In fact, overseas students in Australia predominantly undertake courses of study which will benefit their home countries upon their return.
– They do not return.
– I will respond to that defamatory remark shortly. Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a comparative table showing, in percentage terms, overseas students in Australia and Australian students by field of study. I have shown the table to the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Durack).
The document read as follows-
– I thank the Senate. That table shows, for example, that 22 per cent of all overseas students in Australia are studying engineering or engineering technology, whereas 7.9 per cent of Australian students choose to be engaged in that field of study. So the percentage of overseas students engaged in that very practical, useful field of study is something like three times that of Australian students. Let me take another example. Of all the overseas students in Australia, 4.9 per cent are engaged in the course of building, surveying and architecture, whereas 2.3 per cent of all Australian students are engaged in that field of study. Opposed io that, only 1 1 .4 per cent of overseas students are undertaking a course in the liberal studies, humanities, social sciences, behavioural studies- perhaps they are the studies which Senator Davidson had in mind- whereas 33.7 per cent of Australian students are engaged in that field of study. So much for that.
It is remarkable that this Bill should be brought into the Senate under the auspices of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) when it is very clear from the wording of the Bill that the charges involved are imposed on a student in respect of his enrolment in a tertiary institution. In other words, the Bill relates to tuition fees; however it is dressed up it has nothing to do with visa fees. The mere fact that the machinery is under the control of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs does not disguise the fact that this is a fee to do with enrolment in a tertiary institution.
Why is it then that Senator Carrick has managed to evade- he has done so- in Question
Time any formal responsibility to Parliament for this Bill? It must be because he realises that the introduction of the Bill is at variance, as Senator Colston pointed out, with the very firm and categorical assurances that he has given to Australian students and universities that no tertiary education fees will be introduced in 1980. The letters in which he has stated that fact to representatives of the Australian Union of Students have already been spoken about by Senator Colston. I do not need to repeat them. One can be sure that no Australian student can henceforth accept any assurances, however categorically, given by this Government concerning tertiary education fees. If this Bill is to be under the control of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, who is an aspirant to the foreign affairs portfolio, it is remarkably insensitive to the foreign policy implications involved in this exercise.
The goodwill generated by the welcoming of overseas students into Australia is immense. I will elaborate later for Senator Hamer’s benefit, on aspects of the students returning to their home countries. It is evident that when such people return to their home country they enter- by virtue of their education in Australia- into the very highest decision-making levels, whether it be in industry, commerce, public corporations, the Public Service, professional areas or political life. Having experienced three, four or five years in a liberal democracy such as Australia these people return home with an understanding which can only benefit our commercial and political relations with those countries.
For an investment of some $6m we are gaining all that. I cannot think of any expenditure of a mere $6m which could devise such a system more calculated to create within the Pacific region and in south and south-eastern Asia a body of influential opinion inclined to understanding Australia. It must auger well for our political and commercial relations with that area. Yet the Government says that it is its aim to have students in this country to enjoy the benefits of our education system and return to their country to positions of influence in the decision-making apparatus. The Government says: ‘That is fine; that is a good aim. But let us deal only with the children of the very wealthy elite. Let us perpetuate privilege for certain families and ethnic groups in those developing countries’. That will be the effect of this Bill. It must be the effect of charging an extra $1,500 to $2,000 a year for undergraduate courses and $2,500 for postgraduate courses on top of the $3,500 to $4,000 a year which families and community groups in
those home countries must find in order to sustain the living costs of an overseas student in Australia. These families are already finding some $3,000 or $4,000 at least to sustain a son or daughter who is receiving tertiary education in this country. To find an extra $1,500 to $2,500 will put education beyond the limits of certain families and community groups. They band together in many instances to sustain their youthful students in Australia.
Of course, not only will this Bill put education beyond the reach of the helping sustenance of families and groups in the communities that the students come from but also it will put certain Australian community aid groups in a position where they cannot offer as much assistance and as much help as they did previously. For example, I hold a letter from a Tasmanian lady well known in the field of overseas student assistance, Mrs Margaret Eldridge, the convener of the Host Family Scheme for Overseas Students in Hobart. Amongst other things, she says:
Whilst aware that some students who come here have adequate means, those of us involved in the welfare of overseas students know only too well, that this is not true of all students. Already there are those who find the cost of living here a financial problem and the impost, including that part which will have to be paid in Australia, is adding to this burden . . . Other students are brought to Australia by voluntary organisations and church groups who .view their efforts as aid to developing countries. These groups will now find that they can bring half the number of students or will have to raise twice as much money to bring the same number.
That is the situation that is being brought about by this Bill. The Bill will prevent able and talented young people from merely moderate or poor families in Asia and in the Pacific, from coming to this country to further their studies in the tertiary field. It will close off for many students who belong to minority racial or ethnic groups the only possibility for acquiring a tertiary education, given the quotas and other devices used by their home governments to exclude them from the benefits of teritary education. One has in mind here the Chinese and Indians in Malaysia and perhaps the Tamils in Sri Lanka. There is little point in pointing to the United Kingdom and the United States, as some Government speakers did, and saying that they impose such charges. They are not in a comparable position. We are the country adjacent to the millions in the developing countries of this region and we have an inescapable obligation, perhaps forced upon us but certainly derived from our geography and affluence, to make education available to a number, limited perhaps, of the most talented, not the wealthiest, youth in those countries so that they may return to serve their own people. Surely that is the point.
The Opposition in no way would oppose an effort to ensure that the criteria for admission to our tertiary education institutions are so designed that the most talented come here and that the courses they undertake will be the most useful to them upon their return. But why add to those criteria the fact that they must also be very wealthy by the standard of their home countries? Not only are there foreign policy implications in this Bill which makes it a disaster, but also there are educational reasons for expressing concern. They are, firstly, that those who come to Australia because of this extra financial barrier, will not necessarily be the most talented people available from those developing countries. This means that even in our undergraduate courses we will be deprived of the benefit of having studying within our tertiary institutions the most talented overseas students. Perhaps this has particular significance when one looks at postgraduate studies because where one has research at a high level, it is quite clear that country of origin and racial or ethnic considerations make no difference whatsoever. One is looking for the best available talent to make a contribution not to Australia, not to their home country, but to the field of study concerned, for the benefit of the world community.
There can be no doubt that the contributions which overseas students make to our postgraduate research effort in Australia are immense. Only last week I had the pleasure of talking with some overseas students on Sunday night in Wollongong. I recall very well a Pakistani student whose research into cancer no doubt will be of great benefit to mankind. During this week I had discussions here in Parliament House with a Sri Lankan post-graduate student who is studying the earth’s magnetic field. These studies perhaps cannot be related to benefit to their home countries, but I am making a plea on behalf of learning itself. Australia ought to be making available in its post-graduate courses, for the sake of those post-graduate courses themselves and for the sake of higher learning, opportunities for overseas students to participate when they have the talent and ability to do so.
I take up Senator Hamer’s interjection about these students returning home. Let us be quite clear what is involved. Are we offering these overseas students schooling certificates, diplomas, degrees, or are we offering them education? If we claim that we wish to offer overseas students education- even at a price- to say that they must return home immediately upon the completion of their formal studies is to disrupt seriously, to truncate and I believe in almost every field, directly to contradict the educational process.
– Seventy-five per cent of them never return home.
– That is unproven and is a defamatory statement concerning these students. It is an unthinking, ignorant policy that would send them home. It reflects and fosters the xenophobic racial attitude which lies latent in Australians. To answer Senator Hamer’s interjection precisely, as I recall it, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs claimed that somewhere between 70 per cent and 75 per cent of overseas students apply for, and are granted, permanent resident status. That is not equivalent to saying that 70 to 75 per cent of overseas students having been granted that status, remain permanently in Australia. Why is there a disparity between the two propositions? How can we explain the application by students for permanent resident status?
– And acceptance.
– And acceptance. I will explain the situation of one category of students, which even Senator Hamer- I know that Senator Sim would agree also- would wish to remain here. I refer to students from Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, who cannot return to their home countries and who would in any case qualify for refugee status. A large percentage of those who apply for this status have been advised by the Government that if they want that very necessary post-graduate work experience they ought to apply for, and will be granted, permanent resident status in order to spend one, two or three years in the work force gaining those skills and completing their education in order to return to their home countries with something reasonable to offer their employers.
In fact, in talking to students in Wollongong, where I was the guest of Mr Dewendra Singh, the Chairman of that area’s Overseas Students Society, one encountered engineers, accountants, agriculturists and so on for whom some years’ experience in the work force is absolutely essential if they are to make any contribution upon their return home. Make no mistake, they want to return to their families and their home countries. It is a natural human urge. They want to build a better society upon their return. For Australia to do as Senator Hamer suggests- that is, to send these students back immediately they complete their certificates, diplomas and degrees- would be an utter waste of the supplementary funds which, even under this Bill, the Australian taxpayer has to pay in order to sustain these overseas students in tertiary institutions. They would be utterly wasted because we would be returning to developing nations persons who may have a diploma but who were unable to offer anything to a prospective employer.
The fact is that this Bill, which has to do with the commencement of courses rather than with the return home of students, will have a disastrous impact on our international relations. It is not even good educationally. It is simply another ill-conceived project of the Treasury in order to raise revenue. That can be the only explanation for such a scheme. It is supported by spurious reasons against which only cogent arguments can be, and have been, mounted by the Opposition. In order to obtain $5m or $6m in revenue this legislation proposes to deny us the possibility of aiding the moderately wealthy families of the Pacific and South East Asia from sending their youth to Australia who upon their return will be in positions of influence in the decision-making processes in commerce, industry and public life in their home country. We are by this legislation sustaining the very wealthy priviliged elite and privileged ethnic groups within the developing countries. How are we getting away with it? We are getting away with it because, as Senator Colston said, these students are voteless. They are voiceless within this community. They are peculiarly vulnerable and virtually defenceless. They are voiceless particularly at this time when the Government brings in this legislation two weeks before the major examinations within every tertiary education institution in Australia. There is no way in which the solidarity among overseas students within those institutions can be marshalled two weeks before the final examination, and Senator Puplick who has benefited from the tertiary education system would well know that that is the fact.
– I also paid the fees associated with it and my parents contributed to the taxation for that education.
– And so did every other taxpayer.
– Yes, and so should these.
– No, these should not because as I have tried to say, they are not in a comparable position to Australian students. We are promoting what I believe is, if not a species of foreign aid- apparently we are not allowed to use that term in relation to them, according to Senator Puplick- and accepting Mr Grassby’s terminology, international friendship and amity. Certainly $6m is a very small price to pay in order to achieve that. This legislation is ignorant. It is retrograde. It is part of an ill-conceived scheme which can only return to these developing countries, particularly if Senator Hamer ‘s proposal is carried through, poorly educated sons and daughters of the wealthy elite. We of the Opposition say that the whole scheme needs to be thought out afresh. For that reason, I have much pleasure in supporting the Opposition’s amendment that ‘consideration of the Bill be deferred until the Government presents a comprehensive proposal for a program of educational aid for students from developing countries according to denned criteria including priority attention to academic ability, the needs of the developing nations and the needs of particular students’.
– I support the two Bills which are being debated cognately. I am happy that all of those honourable senators who preceded me in this debate have displayed their utmost support for the overseas student program in Australia. Since the beginning of the Colombo Plan in 195 1 when we began a sponsored overseas student program to Australia to bring students to our universities and later to our colleges and every area of educational support in Australia, a good deal of benefit has been given by Australia to the countries in our region. Through training programs for those students who come to be among us all in the Australian community we achieved a better understanding of each other. All of those who have participated in this debate strongly support the continuation on a healthy basis of the overseas student program. Certainly I am confident that the Australian Government through this legislation and other measures it is considering at this time wishes to strengthen our good relations with the countries in our region, particularly the countries of Asia and of the Pacific and also all the countries from which students come to our colleges and universities. I was surprised by the rhetoric in the speech by Senator Tate. It seems as though in his attempt to find some weakness in the Bill he was overcome and he abandoned his normal moderate language. However, I applaud Senator Tate and those other speakers who do support a healthy and flourishing overseas student program.
There are about 11,500 overseas students in Australia. Some 3,000 of these students are sponsored overseas students gaining scholarships, such as the Colombo Plan scholarship, from the Australian Government or other agencies. There are 8,500 students- the greater majority- who are private overseas students who come by their own means to enter our universities, colleges and a great variety of teaching institutions. It is proposed that a relatively small fee be asked of those private overseas students to contribute to the cost of that education. That takes the form of a charge levied at the time of gaining a visa or an entry permit to study in Australia or at the time of re-enrolment for another year of study. The amount that is to be paid by these students is less than $2,500 in any one year and for threequarters of the students who pay the charge it will amount to $1,500. At the moment the average cost of a university place is estimated to be $5,500 and a place in a college of advanced education $4,000. The actual tuition cost for a private overseas student in Australia far exceeds the charge that this Bill would levy. The number of students who will pay this -
– I raise a point of order. At exactly this time a week ago Senator Teague expressed his surprise that I was reading my speech. I would like to draw your attention, Mr President, to the fact that he is reading his speech.
– I believe that the honourable senator is closely adhering to his notes.
– I wish I were reading my speech. Perhaps, at this late hour of the night, I might be more coherent in giving you my thoughts on these Bills, Mr President. However, my very brief notes will allow me to stumble along for a few more minutes. About 80 per cent of private overseas students, a little over 6,000, would be paying the charge. That amounts to only half of all the overseas students in Australia. The basis for the Bills is the consideration that Australia has given to lifting the limit on students that was fixed in 1973 at 10,000 private overseas students in Australia. In lifting this limit and giving greater access to overseas students to come and study in Australia, the Australian Government has reasonably and with good accountability to the Australian taxpayer, given consideration to whether those students should contribute to something of the cost of providing that education.
Those Opposition speakers who jump so readily from support of an overseas student program to being soft-hearted towards the good advantages of such students being able to come to Australia easily drift, as they do in some other matters, to being soft-pocketed and soft-headed. I believe that any alternative government, such as the Opposition may aspire to be, ought to have an accountable and reasonable approach to the actual cost of the programs that we afford, not only to overseas persons in Australia but also to our own Australian citizens. Given the widened access by the Australian Government to private overseas students, it is reasonable for consideration to be given whether a small charge should be paid by these students. Another consideration clearly has been the practice of other countries in a comparable situation with Australia in the charges that are made to private overseas students coming to study with them. It is now the practice for such charges to be made and from the beginning of next year Australia will make similar charges. Over the last couple of months I, along with many other honourable senators, have received representations from groups representing overseas students. The great emphasis in these representations has been to give consideration to those who are now enrolled in secondary institutions, or who have scholarships given by universities, or who will proceed to diploma studies and who have clear intentions that would have to be reconsidered if they had to meet the charges. These representations have been clearly brought before the Government and, in determining the details of this scheme, it has ensured that no student already in Australia will suffer by paying the new cost.
Reference has been made in this debate to whether the private overseas students are coming from elite families in Asia or other areas. All I can say is that the statistics of family incomes of overseas students have not been available to tertiary institutions or to the Government. There can only be speculation as to the actual family incomes of the overseas students who will pay these charges. Similarly, there has been speculation about tuition fees for tertiary study in Australia being reintroduced. I for one do not see any prospect of the pre- 1974 tertiary tuition fees ever being reintroduced into Australia. I do not believe that the basis for academic admission on academic grounds is compromised by these proposed charges. Clearly, academic admission will continue to be on the basis of academic grounds.
I support the Bill. I believe it is a responsible Bill. I believe that we will see an increasing number of overseas students in Australia. When there has been a lifting of this ceiling of 10,000 for the number of private overseas students in Australia, I believe the Australian Government will show responsibility in considering whether or not a proportionately small charge should be levied. After all, their families do not contribute to the taxes of this country. In this way, the Australian Government will be reasonable and responsible in the call it makes on the Australian taxpayer. I support the Bill.
– I am sorry that the Opposition has decided to oppose this measure. However, I believe that the arguments that have been submitted on this side of the chamber by Senator Puplick, Senator Davidson and Senator Teague have very effectively disposed of the arguments that have been raised by the Opposition against this measure. I do not propose to canvass these matters again at this hour of the night. However, the Opposition has moved this amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘consideration of the Bill be deferred until the Government presents a comprehensive proposal for a program of educational aid for students from developing countries according to defined criteria including priority attention to academic ability, the needs of the developing nations and the needs of particular students’.
The Opposition seems to have overlooked the fact that in 1977 the Government reviewed its policies of assistance to people from developing countries seeking to study in Australia and issued broad guidelines for the future direction of the training aid program. In August 1978 the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) announced detailed principles for the implementation of the program based on considerations of cost effectiveness and development impact. The amendment moved by the Opposition seems to be misconceived and I trust that the Senate will defeat it and give these measures a speedy passage.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 24 October, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
– At Question Time today Senator Walsh directed to me a question relating to a document entitled ‘Rural Digest’, copies of which he had arranged to have run off in the Senate Reproduction Room. He raised a query in regard to the security that applied in view of the fact that a copy appeared to have been released or obtained without his approval. I have had inquiries made into this matter and I am advised that the document was typed by the Senate Opposition typist some weeks ago and was subsequently delivered to the Reproduction Room on 1 7 October for reproduction. Senator Walsh indicated that the material was not marked confidential nor was there any suggestion that it should have been treated in other than the normal way with the normal arrangements for handling. Copies were run off yesterday and delivered as requested by Senator Walsh. I am unable to advise Senator Walsh how any copy or copies may have become available to any persons other than as directed by him. I am informed that no copies were distributed by Senate staff other than in the way that I have described and that the handling of the document was completely in accordance with normal arrangements. I have the utmost confidence in the integrity of the Senate staff.
Alcohol Distillation Machinery -CSR Ltd: Developmental Projects
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I rise to ask a question that I would like to have asked at Question Time but did not have the opportunity to do so, perhaps largely due to the extensive answers given by the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) to several questions posed to him. It is about a problem which has arisen in north-west Tasmania and, no doubt, in other parts of Australia. Ministers will be aware of the need for this country to encourage enterprising and inventive Australians in the developing of alternatives to petroleum as a fuel for transport and agricultural use. We on the north-west coast of Tasmania, not a few miles from where I live, are fortunate to have a Mr David Cunningham who has an imaginative and constructive mind and who has drawn on his engineering and farming experience, in cooperation with the staff and students of the local technical college, to try to devise an on-farm power alcohol distillation system which will enable him to run farm machinery. Eventually it could have implications for general transport use as a liquid fuel of the ethanol type, that is, derived from vegetable products, particularly beet.
In trying to carry out this enterprise he has run into a licensing problem with the Bureau of Customs, which is now a division of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs. He applied for a general distillation licence to manufacture power alcohol from vegetable matter at his premises in Ulverstone. This licence was denied by the Bureau of Customs. I believe that the attitude of the Bureau to licensing such on-farm alcohol distillation machinery is probably bound up with the days when such distillation took place for the production of alcohol for use as a beverage for human beings rather than as an alternative source of energy for machinery. Such is the history of the licensing system that it appears that, for example, the still would have to be capable of processing 675 litres of wash per hour. Only then would a licence be granted. Of course, this is out of the question for an experimental pilot plant such as that which the inventive Mr Cunningham has in mind. Further, it might well be that because of its association with alcohol as a beverage, some sort of excise would need to be paid on any alcohol produced by this distillation machinery.
My question for passage to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) by the Minister for Science and the Environment, who is in the chamber, is simply: Will the Minister urgently consider the removal of such restrictions as exist either on the issuing of licences or the imposition of excise on the construction and operation of a distillation plant to manufacture power alcohol from vegetable matter? I know that Senator Webster has a keen interest in scientific endeavours of the small scale as well as those of the large scale that come under his responsibility, particularly those of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Not only is a fully professional effort being bent to devise means to save Australia and perhaps the world from an energy starved future, but also there are the small scale efforts by imaginative, constructive, practical and enterprising Australians such as Mr Cunningham. I believe that the Government would do well to support them by removing such barriers as appear to exist to their endeavours. I ask that the matter be given urgent consideration by the Minister.
– I wish to take the opportunity of the adjournment debate to speak very briefly to express a concern about the interests of a major Australian company in furthering its participation in Australia’s development, and the rather small-minded attitude which has been adopted by one of the State governments. It is not a rare attitude. It is a problem within a federation. It relates to CSR Ltd, a company which has had a lifetime of association with Queensland, a company which is a major Australian company, a company which wishes to become further involved in the development of Australia, a company which I believe is well managed, a company which is significant and a company which ought to have the opportunity, if the market forces permit it, to be able to participate in a take-over and development to maximise the efficiency of the operation of the whole capital market system without interference by a State Premier who apparently regards anything which comes from south of the border of Queensland as beyond the pale and, if necessary, to be kept out of the development of a national attitude, a national development, a national efficiency on the basis that a company, even with that background of association with Queensland, is not to be allowed to participate in a take-over or a take-over attempt, which is natural within our total system, because it is not based on a totally Queensland shareholding.
This is absurd. Queensland is controlled to a large extent out of the United States. Yet when an Australian company with a major Queensland association, when an Australian company which is efficient and competent wants to maximise the utilisation of the total capitalist system, in which I happen to believe and which I think is efficient only if market forces are allowed to operate, a man who purports to be in support of a private enterprise system- since he has been Premier, in the period from 1 97 1 to 1 979, he has increased the Public Service by over 30 per cent whilst private employment in that State has increased by less than 14 per cent- wishes to move in and prevent the market forces from operating to enable efficiency, which is after all the criterion on which the whole thing is based, and to prevent the company from having a go.
I just wanted to take the opportunity to say that I think it would be the most retrograde thing that could happen to the potential development of Australia if the Queensland Government were to decide that north of the border is sacrosanct; that the Australian nation does not exist, that a company which has been involved in the development of Queensland, the development of the sugar industry and the development of a large number of other industries should not be allowed to attempt to participate in the development of the coal industry and a number of other associated activities with Thiess Brothers Pty Ltd.
I am grateful to the Senate for the opportunity to express a concern about the development of Australia, about the private enterprise or capitalist system, about free market forces, and about what I would describe as the absurd aberrations of a rather small-minded local State nationalist attempting to interfere with those rather more significant forces applying. I thank the Senate.
– I thank honourable senators for their comments. I note the personal interest shown by Senator Tate from Tasmania in his comments about Mr Cunningham and the distillation of power alcohol from sugar beet. An opportunity has been given for scientists such as Mr Cunningham to put proposals for the production of alternative fuels to either the National Energy Advisory Committee or one of the particular groups which are allowing some funding for the development of alternative sources of fuels. I am sure that if there were any basis for Mr Cunningham’s project, it would receive consideration from the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman). I have had the interest and the opportunity to take a letter which has been handed to me by the honourable senator. I will certainly see that it is in the hands of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) tomorrow.
I noted the comments made by Senator Rae. I hope I did not misunderstand him when he said: Small minded nationalist from north of the border’. I am sure he did not mean that. It is a criticism of a Premier which appears to be quite widespread these days. I know that he did use the words: ‘Of the individual’. On the 10 o’clock news tonight, it was stated that the Queensland Government had withdrawn all opposition to the proposals of CSR Ltd, so the honourable senator now knows that there is no opposition from the Queensland Government to the CSR takeover bid.
– I am delighted. Thank you.
– I think one can get caught up with the idea that States should not attempt to protect companies which have developed and grown in a particular State. I do not know the position that Senator Rae took when the great Liberal from Victoria, Mr Bolte, did the same thing with Ansett Airlines of Australia. I was in Victoria at the time and I know that Mr Bolte ‘s attitude was that Ansett had developed at Hamilton in Victoria and he was not going to see it taken over by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd. Probably the comments that the honourable senator has made about the Queensland Premier were applicable to the Victorian Premier at that time. However, I believe that in certain situations State governments do have a say. As a Tasmanian, I have seen cases where entrepreneurs, from that State, who happen to be asset raiders have found it appropriate to take over companies -as you would know, Mr Presidentand unscramble them, to sell their assets and then leave nothing but a shell with nothing to operate in the State. That situation occurred firstly in Great Britain and spread widely to a number of other countries, particularly America. A number of companies and entrepreneurs have found themselves broke because of the particular type of raiding that they have done. The situation I have just outlined has nothing to do with CSR which is a most wonderful Australian company, wonderfully directed and wonderfully managed. I think its interests will be- by the share raid it has managed today- to continue the operation with a business approach and to get into the lucrative trade in coal which is going on in Queensland. However, I think Senator Rae ‘s comments can be set aside because, as we now know, the indication was given tonight that the Queensland Government finds no objection to CSR’s takeover.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.59 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 6 November 1979, unless otherwise called together in accordance with the resolution agreed to this day.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 21 August 1979:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(a) As at 30 September 1979, five doctors had been investigated by Medical Services Committees of Inquiry in respect of possible excessive services rendered by them and 750 doctors had been counselled.
Of these cases, 76 were completed in less than six months, 39 between six and twelve months, 24 between twelve and eighteen months, 4 between eighteen and twenty-four months and 1 case took thirty months to complete.
Boeing 707 VIP Aircraft: Cost of Refit (Question No. 1806)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 23 August 1979:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 28 August 1979:
– The Minister for Home Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Gallery and the Australia Council is very substantial. If the honourable senator wishes he may obtain what I am informed is a copy of a reasonably up to date list from my office.
I am informed that works on loan from the Gallery have been acquired since 19S3 by a number of successive bodies: the Commonwealth An Advisory Board, the Australian An Acquisitions Committee, the Interim Council of the Australian National Gallery and the Council of the Australian National Gallery. The Australian National Gallery has advised that it could provide the information about the acquisition of each work on loan from its Collection only by directing staff resources from other urgent priorities. However, information about the origins of a small number of works of particular interest to the honourable senator could be provided, on request. Works on loan from the Australia Council’s Aboriginal Ans Board were, I am informed, acquired by the Board in 1974, with general support for the ans funds, for exhibition purposes. Works on loan from the Australia Council ‘s Visual Ans Board were, I am informed, acquired with general support for the ans funds under the heading Direct and Indirect Assistance to Artists.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 1 1 September 197V:
How many persons were declared bankrupt in each year from 1970-71 to 1 978-79 inclusive.
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The following statistics are available in relation to bankruptcies, order for administration of deceased persons’ estates, and arrangements under Pan X of the Bankruptcy Act for each year from 1970-71 to 1978-79 inclusive-
Unfortunately, the statistics do not indicate the number of persons who became bankrupt. Under the provision of the Bankruptcy Act 1966 it is possible to present a single creditor’s petition against partners or joint debtors and to present a single debtor’s petition in relation to partners. Consequently a bankruptcy on a creditor’s petition (or on a debtor’s petition) could involve the bankruptcy of two or more persons. Statistics on the incidence of joint or partnership bankruptcies have been recorded only since the beginning of this year. As a guide to the number of persons who may be involved in bankruptcies, the statistics on the actual incidence of joint and partnership bankruptcies for the first six months of this year are set out hereunder
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 26 September 1979:
What action is proposed by the Government in relation to Amnesty International’s request to have included in the European Convention of Human Rights the principle that any person who is, under the national legislation of his country, liable for conscription into his country’s armed forces, may, on the grounds of conscience or profound conviction arising from ethical, moral, humanitarian, philosophical or similar motives:
refuse military service or any direct or indirect participation in wars or armed conflicts;
refuse to serve in a particular war or armed conflict, because he considers it unjust; or
refuse to participate in a war or armed conflict in which weapons of mass destruction are likely to be used.
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government does not propose to take such action as Australia is not a party to the European Convention on Human Rights.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 27 September 1979:
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs had provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 9 October 1979:
– The Minister for Productivity has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Pritchard Steam Power Pry Ltd for the project. The information was incomplete in the sense that not all of the information available to me was provided, since much of it was irrelevant to that purpose. I do not agree with Mr Pritchard ‘s reported statement that it was misleading because of its incompleteness; I note that Mr Pritchard is reported to have acknowledged that none of the information provided was incorrect. I do not agree that the information provided in the circumstances in which I provided it can be classed as confidential detail which I ought not to have released; nor can I agree that its provision in those circumstances has jeopardised the project’s development.
School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine: Pre-natal Statistics Unit (Question No. 2054)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 10 October 1979:
Is it planned to establish a pre-natal statistics unit at the school of public health and tropical medicine; if so; (a) will the general public, or at least medical practitioners, have access to the statistics on demand; (b) what will be the total staff complement; and (c) what qualifications will staff members be expected to have obtained.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
One research officer- University graduate.
One research officer- University graduate (from 1980-81).
Data entry clerk.
Computer systems officer (part-time).
Percentage of Alcohol in Beers
Senator GuilfoyleOn 28 August 1979 (Hansard, page 268), Senator Townley asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health, a question without notice concerning the printing of the percentage of alcohol on the labels of beer containers.
The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
Over the past few years the printing of the alcoholic content on alcoholic beverage containers has been the subject of investigation by the Food Standards Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference Working Party on Alcohol.
In June 1976, the Food Standards Committee placed before the State Food Advisory Committees a recommendation on the alcohol content labelling of alcoholic beverages. Generally, the States did not accept the principle of labelling alcoholic beverages according to their alcohol content. One of the main arguments against such a proposal was that it may have an opposite effect to that intended. That is, some people may well be attracted to the beverage with the highest alcohol content.
Low-alcohol beers are now on sale in a number of States and the ACT and have proved so far to be very popular. Media publicity has ensured that the public is aware of their ready availability. I am hopeful that these low-alcohol beers will help to increase safety on the road and reduce the incidence of illness caused by the misuse of alcohol.
My Department will continue to keep the subject under review as pan of its on-going role of monitoring the patterns of alcohol consumption in Australia.
As I indicated on 28 August, the matter of a reduction of excise on low-alcohol beers has been referred to the Treasurer.
United Nations Disarmament Week
– On 26 September, Senator Sibraa asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following question without notice:
In view of the active role played by the Australian Government on the United Nations Preparatory Committee and in the Special Session on Disarmament in 1 978, does the Government have any plans to mark United Nations Disarmament Week, beginning 24 October, with special activities or the distribution through public bodies of materials informing the Australian people of the importance of disarmament ? Also, does the Government intend to establish, and assist in the funding of, a committee representative of interested groups in the Australian community to undertake research and to publicise the second Special Session on Disarmament in 1 980, along lines similar to those of committees established for the International Women’s Year and the International Year of the Child?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
To mark the first Disarmament Week, the report of the Australian Delegation to the 1978 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Disarmament was tabled in Parliament on 25 October 1 978. As pan of efforts to engender greater public awareness and understanding of the issues involved, the report was also circulated widely to educational institutions, libraries and interested community organisations.
To mark Disarmament Week in 1 979, 1 plan to present to the Parliament the report of the Australian Delegation on its participation in the Committee on Disarmament this year. The Special Session recommended that the Committee on Disarmament replace the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament as the principal international disarmament negotiating body. Australia succeeded in securing membership of the new Committee. The Australian delegation’s report will be given a distribution similar to that of the delegation to the Special Session on Disarmament.
The considerations relevant to Government participation in ‘ international years ‘ do not arise in respect of preparations for the second Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to Disarmament which will be held in 1 982.
A distinction exists between a Special Session of the General Assembly and an ‘international year’ declared by the United Nations. The former is an extension of the activities of the General Assembly, whereby a special meeting of the principal deliberative organ of the United Nations is convened to enable governments to discuss an issue of particilar importance at the international level. ‘International years’ are declared to facilitate action, in particular at the national level, to further realisation of objectives already identified by the United Nations. In the case of International Women’s Year and the International Year of the Child, the international community required governments to promote national activities and it was appropriate for the Government to sponsor and to assist in funding committees established by Non-Governmental Organisations to support these two years.
I have informed concerned NGOs of the Government’s interest in any activities which they may be planning for this period but I cannot hold out the prospect of financialsupport for NGO activities in the period leading up to the next Special Session on Disarmament in 1 982.
Labelling of Food Containers
-On 11 October 1979 (Hansard, page 1213), Senator Townley asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health in the Senate, a question without notice concerning the listing of ingredients on the labels of food and drink containers.
The Minister for Health has provided the following information:
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NH and MRC) at its eighty-fifth session in June 1978 recommended that amendments to the NH and MRC Standard for Labelling providing for ingredient labelling of packaged foods, should be adopted by States and Territories.
These amendments to the Standard for Labelling require that the label of a packaged food include a list of the ingredients used in the food in descending order of proportion.
I am aware that the NH and MRC recommendations on this matter have been adopted in the South Australian Food Regulations and are currently under consideration in the other States.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 October 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19791025_senate_31_s83/>.