31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 1 8 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Northern Territory of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is acknowledged that it is reasonable for major sporting organisations to conclude agreements with individual commercial television networks for sole telecasting rights.
However, one of the functions which the ABC should be expected to perform on behalf of the Government is a service to enable all areas of Australia to receive telecasts of major events, irrespective of whether some parts of the country are serviced on that particular event by a commercial network.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable Members should:
Direct that the ABC should:
Give priority to its role as a community service organisation in preference to its commercial interests. On behalf of the Government, provide a community service to those areas not serviced by a commercial network so that direct telecasts of major events are transmitted to all Australians.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 42 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 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 representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 24 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Northern Territory of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the natural resources of Australia and in particular the uranium deposits of the Northern Territory should be exploited by companies which have substantial Australian interests so that the benefits accrue to all Australians.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable Members should:
In the event of a decision to sell the interest of the Australian Government in the Ranger Uranium Mining project, ensure that the sale of such interest be only to Australian buyers.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council ‘.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Senator Guilfoyle.
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate of the Australian Parliament assembled.
The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth:
Their support for and endorsement of the National Women ‘s Advisory Council.
We call on the government to:
Continue to maintain the National Advisory Council and increase Federal Government support for its activities.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Grimes and Puplick.
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 $1000m 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:
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs: The provision of legal aid services in the Australian Capital Territory.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
Notice of Motion
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Mcintosh moving:
a motion forthwith- that intervening business be postponed until after consideration of General Business, Order of the Day No. 248 (Western Australian Aboriginals (Right to Electoral Enrolment) Bill 1979-Second Reading); and
the motion for the Second Reading of the Bill.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That there be laid on the table of the Senate this day the Auditor-General’s reports on Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd furnished to the Minister for Primary Industry and referred to in the Auditor-General’s report contained in the Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Corporation 1978-79.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Did the Prime Minister at a recent Liberal Party meeting use or quote from a document described as ‘ALP Campaign Planning’? Is the Minister able to confirm that the remarks made by the Prime Minister at that meeting were based, at least in part, on material obtained from a document so described? I also ask the Minister whether he is able to indicate the possible source from which the Prime Minister would have obtained such material.
-As to the first question, I was present when the Prime Minister spoke in Melbourne last Saturday. He made references to a document. I cannot say what the particular document was. But I want to say that for the past six weeks throughout the whole of Australia in ample quantities a document purporting to be a campaign document of the Australian Labor Party was distributed like confetti and was available to Press and public alike.
– Now we know where it came from.
-Yes. It may interest Senator McAuliffe if I respond as to what was the best bet source of the document. It is widely agreed that it came from a member of the Labor Party disaffected with Mr Hayden, and who wanted to expose a document which is, in itself, a remarkably frank expose of the grave weaknesses and defects of the Labor leader. One has only to look at the document to see that the Labor Party itself has shown -
– Back to your old tricks as the gnome? How much did you pay for it?
- Mr President, Senator Grimes asks how much did I pay for it. Of course, that is offensive but I will let it pass. Here now are bleeding hearts. The other day when the Australian Financial Review published on its front page a document from the federal secretariat of the Liberal Party, nobody suggested that the Labor Party sneaked in and stole something, and nobody got uptight about it at all.
– You are a burglar. We know you are an expert at it.
– Order! Senator Grimes, you cannot call the Minister a burglar. That is unparliamentary and cannot be tolerated. Please withdraw it.
-I really thought I called him a bagman, but I will withdraw it if you thought I said ‘burglar’, as appropriate as that may be.
– In answer to Senator Wriedt, I do not know from which document the Prime Minister quoted. I would be happy to find out that answer and let him have it before the House rises. He asked whether I was able to indicate the source. I am able to indicate that such a document was in the possession of a wide range of the community, including the Press which published it. If there is any suggestion of a link with the suggested break-in last weekend, that document has been in circulation for six weeks or more, so that is an absolutely nonsensical invention. The claims by those who talk about it are that a disaffected member of the Labor Party released it to the Press and thereby disclosed the inherent weaknesses of the Labor leader as disclosed by the Labor Party itself to its own people.
– I refer the Leader of the Government to attacks in the last 24 hours on the United States Embassy in Islamabad and the burning of the American centre in Rawalpindi. Is the Government aware of any Australian citizens in Islamabad orin Pakistan being at risk?
-As Senator MacGibbon will be aware, these events have occurred in Islamabad and Pakistan in the immediate past hours. I have not been able to get a brief about the situation and therefore I cannot answer whether Australian citizens are at risk. While Question Time is in progress I will seek to get that answer.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he accepts that, as the first law officer of the Crown, the ultimate decision to prosecute in the present social security frauds case in Sydney was his. When did the Attorney first become aware of the investigations taking place in this case and at what point was he first consulted in relation to the prosecution? Did he personally authorise the prosecution’ to proceed in the case? When did he give that authority and, if he did not, in what way was he consulted before the prosecution proceeded?
– I think Senator Grimes is under some misunderstanding as to the way prosecutions are commenced. Speaking generally, the pattern followed in a normal case is that charges are laid as a result of investigations by the police or some other Commonwealth enforcement authority. For instance, taxation matters would be investigated by officers of the Taxation Office. The decisions, as such, to prosecute made by the Attorney-General in the vast majority of cases are made by people delegated by the Attorney-General in relation to the lodging of indictments; that is, for trials by juries. In this case the word ‘prosecution’ was used in broad terms; that is, the informations were laid and the arrests were made by police officers who had been engaged in the investigations. The role of the Attorney-General’s Department in this matter has essentially been one of providing legal advice and assistance in the conduct of the committal proceedings. So they were launched in that way. I cannot say exactly what date the Crown Solicitor’s Division of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department obtained instructions in the matter. I will take note of the particular questions asked by Senator Grimes as to dates and so forth and let him know.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, refers to a recent grant from the Federal Government to the
Tasmanian Government for the development of a specialist manpower unit. Firstly, is the funding intended to help to train young people for careers in industry and commerce? Secondly, is the grant in the form of special assistance to Tasmania or have similar grants been made available to other States?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs and seek to obtain an early answer from him.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs seen an article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph dated 19 October in which it is claimed that Prince Norodom Sihanouk will soon fly to Australia to seek recruits and money for a guerilla army to help restore him to power in Kampuchea? Has the Minister any information about Prince Sihanouk’s intentions in this regard, given the Foreign Minister’s statement in the same newspaper article that he understood that the Prince would be coming here and in fact that he, the Foreign Minister, would be meeting him?
– I have no knowledge at all of any intended visit by Prince Sihanouk. If Prince Sihanouk came to this country he would have to observe the precise rules that all visitors to this country should observe. Certainly there would be no suggestion that Prince Sihanouk would have the right in this country to raise money for guerilla armies or to pursue such a project at all. I think Senator Mcintosh mentioned the date 19 October. He has been good enough in the past to give me photostat copies of articles to which he has referred. If he will do so now, I will pursue the matter. I will ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether there is an impending visit and what the terms of the visit are. As to any suggestion that this country could be exploited for the foreign incursions of others, that just would not be on.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Did the recent Royal Commission on the National Health Service in Great Britain, chaired by Sir Alec Merrison, recommend in paragraph 2.6 that the first objective of the National Health Service should be ‘to encourage and assist individuals to remain healthy’? Did the report go on to examine ways in which this might be achieved? Which of the recommendations of that Royal Commission in the United Kingdom are presently being implemented in Australia?
– I understand that the Department of Health has received a copy of the report of the Royal Commission on the National Health Service in Great Britain and is currently studying its implications for Australia. The Royal Commission on the National Health Service believed that the National Health Service should ‘encourage and assist individuals to remain healthy’ and that a significant improvement in health could come through prevention. The Commission considered that it was both legitimate and desirable to use public resources to maintain and promote personal health through exhortation, education and incentives. The Commission considered that the major areas where government action could result in improvements to health were: A tougher attitude towards smoking; a tougher attitude towards preventing road accidents and mitigating their results; a clear commitment to fluoridation; and a program to combat alcoholism.
Other necessary measures included placing a greater emphasis on health education and the development and monitoring of its techniques; a greater involvement of general practitioners and other health professionals in health education; and better in-service training for teachers in health education. The Commission also believed that the imaginative use of radio and television would be important and that much more could be done to emphasise the positive virtues of health and the risks of an unhealthy life style.
The recommendations of that report are being studied closely in connection with the Australian Government’s National Health Promotion Program. On 24 May this year the Minister for Health announced that the Government would provide $500,000 during 1979-80 to develop and test a program aimed at improving the general level of health in Australia. That program, the National Health Promotion Program, will seek to motivate individuals to take a responsible attitude towards their personal health care and will make extensive use of television as well as seeking to involve health educators and other health professionals.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Social Security, by pointing out that the third main report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, entitled ‘Social-Medical Aspects of Poverty in Australia’, contained a recommendation that pensions should be continued for all psychiatric patients eligible to receive them, regardless of whether they were ‘excluded’ or ‘non-excluded’ inmates of psychiatric hospitals. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the ad hoc committee of Ministers, the formation of which was mentioned in the Minister’s statement to the Senate on 8 November 1977, has yet determined whether that recommendation will be implemented by the Government?
– I am currently reviewing the matters raised by Senator McAuliffe. At this stage I am not in a position to make a statement to the Senate on those matters. As soon as I am able to give some information on them I will be pleased to do so.
– Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in a position to indicate the present situation in regard to the Mereenie oil negotiations which have been taking place between the Magellan oil company, the Central Land Council and traditional owners?
– I am not in a position to give precise details in respect of the negotiations referred to because although both parties involved advised me recently of their position, they have asked that the matter be kept confidential. Essentially, it is a commercial matter between the parties and I have to respect that request. I can say to the Senate that the parties- that is, the Central Land Council, on behalf of the traditional owners, and the Magellan interests- are now engaged in what I would regard as real negotiations after a long period in which there was not in my view a reality of negotiations but rather a seeking by the mining interest to have a variation made to the Act which governs the matter. I am satisfied that progress is now being made. I understand that negotiations are likely to be finalised in the not too distant future. This is a matter of some importance. The Northern Territory Government, and I am sure the Northern Territory community, are vitally interested in the development of that gas field and oil field. It certainly has been my wish that the negotiations should proceed in the fruitful manner in which they are now proceeding.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer the Minister to her answer last week in this place when she said that, before examining the official file concerning the possibility of a reward being given for information in February of this year, she had no recollection of the matter. I ask: In the examination of the file, did she learn that discussion of the reward was for ‘an unnamed person’ or ‘an unnamed social security pensioner or beneficiary’, or whether the alias Mr Nakis had used when communicating with Detective Chief Inspector Thomas- that is, Mr Con Poulos- was used? If there was no information on the file as to the informant’s identity, why did the Minister not ask for it?
– I will take that question on notice. There seem to me to be several points on which information is sought. I will give consideration to them.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory and also, equally importantly, to the Minister for Science and the Environment. Is he aware of reports that the Mumimbidgee River, particularly below the Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre, is now severely and increasingly polluted, that this pollution may now extend as far as Burrinjuck Dam and that flora and fauna along the river are being decimated as a result? Can the Minister indicate the precise extent of the damage being done to the Murrumbidgee which is one of Australia’s major waterways? What action is the Government contemplating to overcome this problem?
– The question raised by Senator Knight certainly takes the attention of representatives of the Australian Capital Territory. I know that the matter was raised in the Senate on a previous occasion. The Minister for the Capital Territory has advised me that pollution in the Murrumbidgee River originates from a variety of sources including effluent from sewerage treatment works, industrial wastes, urban stormwater run-offs, mine waste and run-off from land used for grazing and agricultural purposes. The run-off generated in the Australian Capital Territory, Queanbeyan and surrounding districts all comes within this river catchment area. A particular problem developed in the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee rivers because of the poor quality effluent discharged from the Weston Creek sewerage treatment plant in the late 1960s and the early 1970s when the plant was operating well beyond its designed capacity. That particular plant has now been decommissioned with the opening of the Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre which is situated at the junction of the Molonglo and Mumimbidgee rivers.
Attempts are being made to raise the quality of the water and the effluent discharge by certain works and operations. There is quite a detail of information which I will attempt to get to the honourable senator in relation to this matter. He asks what action the Government may be taking. I am advised that the Department of the Capital Territory, the Department of Housing and Construction and the National Capital Development Commission are co-operating to identify specific problem areas and causal agents and in devising the necessary corrective strategies. Some major tasks have already been completed. For instance, the sealing of the Captain’s Flat mine workings and construction of the Lower Molonglo water quality plant are seen as major achievements in reducing pollution in the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee rivers. Although I am advised that it may be some time before the full effects of these actions become evident. Department of the Capital Territory biologists are seeking to develop a more rapid and useful method of assessing water quality by direct analyses of living organisms in the river and are relating changes in water quality to discharge of sewerage effluent and other factors in the catchment.
Opposition senators interjecting-
– I see that a number of honourable senators on the Opposition side are not interested at all in the quality of water that is coming from the treatment area in Canberra. But this is a matter which is of great concern. I acknowledge Senator Knight’s interest.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and it follows the question I asked earlier about a document from which the Leader of the Government concedes the Prime Minister quoted at a Liberal Party function recently. Has the Minister personally seen the document? Can he tell us what is the source of the document? Will he table the document in Parliament before we rise?
-I did not concede at all that the Prime Minister quoted from such a document. I wish the public at large would understand the misrepresentation that the Leader of the Opposition indulges in repeatedly. I said that I had been at the meeting. I did not know what document the Prime Minister quoted from. I make no such concessions at all.
– You said there had been a document floating around for weeks.
-I said that there was a document floating around for weeks. Indeed, I will seek from the Press and from other sources a copy of the document and table it. Let us make sure we understand which document we are quoting from. I take it that it is the document in which the Labor Party denigrates the swinging voter by describing him- I use its words- as ignorant, ill-informed and selfish.
– That is a description of you. It is a deliberate misrepresentation and it proves that you have seen the document.
– I am trying to identify a document which has been in circulation, as I said, like confetti. I ask again whether this is a document which states:
Meaning the swinging voters- will only be vaguely interested in voting for Bill Hayden if and only if they can get some kind of line on him, preferably one involving some sense of hope for Australia ‘s future. Giving Bill Hayden some kind of profile in the minds of these people, therefore is the only communications objective that offers the slightest hope of success.
I take it that this is the document we are talking about. If so, I will invite the Press, because it has many copies, to supply a copy and I will let the Parliament have it.
- Mr President, I ask the Minister to table the document from which he is quoting now.
– I have no objection. In fact, it is a document from the secretariat which simply gives some extracts from a document purporting to be a Labor document -
Opposition senators interjecting-
-I ask honourable senators opposite to wait for a minute. There are also some Press clippings on this matter. I am perfectly happy to table the document and I now so do.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Does the Minister recall that a few weeks ago I asked my most recent question about the extension program for television on Eyre Peninsula in South Australia and requested an early announcement concerning when this program of construction would commence. Although a program concerning the siting of various installations has been announced, as yet no definite statement has been made regarding the timing of the commencement of the first installation. Is it a fact that this delay is due to the indecision of the engineering section of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board? In view of the undertaking by the Government that the program will be completed in three years, does the Minister agree that the residents of Eyre Pen- insula, unable to receive a reliable television ser-vice, could be excused for thinking that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is incompetent? As my patience is fast becoming exhausted in respect of the matter, will the Minister exert his influence on the Broadcasting Control Board so that the exact timing and commencement date of the construction program can be announced before the end of this year?
– I recollect this matter being raised in the Senate on at least two occasions by Senator Jessop. I seem to remember that I was somewhat embarrassed on the second occasion because I had not met a timetable in regard to giving information that I had promised. I was extremely reticent a couple of weeks ago when the second question was asked. My recollection of the information I had at that time is that there is no financial problem with respect to this matter. The finance is available. Certain technical studies must be completed and once they are completed it will be possible for the work to proceed without any further delay. If that is the case then it appears that in the absence of any further action the delays are related to technical problems. I will take the matter up with Mr Staley, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, and seek a reply for the honourable senator. I note that he has expressed himself as running out of patience on the matter. I would not wish to have the rest of this period of sitting spoilt by an impatient Senator Jessop.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Have officers of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs been ordered to recall pamphlets on the Numerical Multifactor Assessment Scheme of migrant selection, or.NUMAS as it is often called? If so, what has prompted the order to recall the pamphlets? Does this mean that NUMAS will not be used in selecting migrants wishing to come to Australia? If.so, what system of migrant selection does the Government intend to adopt to replace NUMAS?
-I do not have any information on the matter that has been raised by Senator Colston, but it is very important. I will seek advice on it from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and perhaps encourage him to make a statement in case there is any public concern about it. I will seek an early response for the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs: Is it a fact that it is now nearly 30 years since Australian forces became involved in the Malayan emergency, 14 years since Australian forces were involved in the confrontation operations in the defence of Malaysia and 1 7 years since the first Australian advisers were sent to Vietnam? Is it also a fact that in the case of the two world wars, official historians were appointed either during or immediately after the period of conflict and their works required many years of preparation? In view of the loss of valuable source material which is constantly occurring through the aging and death of key participants in these operations, when will the Government take action to commission official histories of Australia’s part in these operations? Does the Minister agree that the Australian people should not have to wait for more than 30 years to have a thorough appraisal of the nation’s participation in major military operations which involved the sacrifice of hundreds of Australian lives?
-The question asked by the honourable senator is quite timely. I am advised that last week a meeting was held by representatives of Commonwealth authorities which have an interest in the publication of war histories. I am also advised that a report is being prepared for the Government and is expected to be completed within the next few weeks. The honourable senator has pointed out that it is nearly 30 years since Australian forces became involved in the Malayan emergency and implies that the publication of these official war histories is overdue. I point out that often good reasons exist for not rushing these histories into print. Much of the research material is classified, politically sensitive and must be carefully examined. As will be recognised by all honourable senators, in many cases the agreement of governments other than ours is needed in order to give historians access to the records held by them. The answer to the honourable senator’s question is that the Government will receive a report on the subject shortly.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: Was a meat boning room at Glenroy in Victoria recently raided by Commonwealth police and some meat impounded? If so, who is the owner of the rooms which were raided and what, if any, action is contemplated? Was this action taken as a result of knowledge that some boning rooms in Victoria are working outside Department of Primary Industry export regulations?
-I am not aware of the situation that has been described by the honourable senator. The Minister whom I represent has not advised me of it. When did this take place?
– I am not quite sure of the date, but it was within recent weeks.
-I will seek a response from the Minister for Primary Industry before we rise.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What is the Australian Government’s assessment of the likelihood of China’s again attacking Vietnam, possibly through Laos and Kampuchea? In the early weeks of this year the Australian Government accurately predicted the invasion by China of Vietnam- the so-called first lesson. China has been threatening a second lesson with regard to the Vietnamese attack on the Pol Pot forces in Kampuchea. The implications of such a war are severe. What is the Government’s assessment of the situation there now?
Opposition senators interjecting-
– The Australian Labor Party is not interested in what is happening to the people in Indo-China. Senator Teague has asked -
– I raise a point of order. I would like that remark retracted. It is not true to say that the Australian Labor Party does not care. After all, we did raise a matter of public importance on this matter. The Government is aware of that. Also, Senator Susan Ryan presented a report on the matter the other day. I personally resent that remark.
-There is no point of order. It was not a personal reflection.
-I made that response because members of the Australian Labor Party sought to interject and to stop people hearing my reply. The fact that the Labor Party wishes a particular subject to be discussed as a matter of public importance only indicates one thing- its desire to take up the time of the Senate and to stop it getting on with its ordinary business.
– I raise a further point of order. I consider that those remarks should be withdrawn also. The Minister has no right to cast a reflection on the whole of the Labor Party simply because someone interjects.
-There is no point of order.
- Senator Teague asked for the Government’s assessment of the situation. I would have to ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to reflect on this matter and to give a considered reply. One would understand that any reply would have to be a cautious one that was in no way inflammatory. It is certain that both the Vietnamese and the Chinese are claiming that there is aggression by the other. While the military forces on both sides are enormously assembled there is a dangerous situation. As to more specific details, I will refer the matter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia has agreed to provide funds for Mr Murdoch to take over the Herald and Weekly Times group? Does this financial backing by a Commonwealth instrumentality indicate that the Government supports the further monopolisation of the media in Australia? Will the Minister investigate the Commonwealth Bank ‘s involvement in this massive concentration bid and advise the Parliament before we rise for the summer recess of the Government ‘s attitude to the takeover?
– This is a very curious question. It contains some facets that are well worth looking at. I do not know what relationship there is between any one person and one of the banks in Australia. I would hope that one would not know that. The relationship between bank and client, within the guidelines of the community, must be confidential. As I understand it, that would be the case unless the banks infringed the guidelines. Senator Gietzelt suggests that one should intervene and make some political judgment, apparently, as between banker and client. I do not know whether Mr Murdoch has approached the bank mentioned. I will try to find out. Very strong guidelines are laid down- stronger than were laid down under the previous Government- regarding the lending of money and foreign investment, and the bank, an ethical institution, would follow them. Nevertheless, since the question has been asked, I will seek a reply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Science and the Environment. It concerns the ozone layer. Has the Minister seen further reports of concern about the problems of a disintegrating ozone layer? Is this not potentially as disastrous as nuclear warfare? Can the Minister tell us what the latest expert advice is on this problem? Can the Minister inform us whether the world can afford to wait for the experts to end up telling us that it is too late to do anything about it?
-The subject which the honourable senator has raised is of enormous significance. The studies that have taken place over the last few years do not necessarily support the latest publicity that has come from the United States of America. The global ozone data- that is, both ground-based and satellite observations- provides no evidence that global stratospheric ozone levels have decreased in recent years.
– You could not give me that information last night when we were considering the Estimates. You promised to give me an answer and now you are fudging. You have given it to him. You have now got that in the record. You are prostituting Hansard.
– I am quite upset that Senator Mulvihill thinks that I do not provide him with answers.
– But you have done me a discourtesy. You promised to give me a written answer on what I asked of you at 2 a.m. You have not sent it to me but you are now giving it off the cuff to one of your own mob.
– I do not have a mob and I do not think that comment is fair. What happened at 2 o’clock this morning is not the same as what is happening now. If Senator Mulvihill cares to ask a question on this matter I will give him more information. I am scared that you, Mr President, may stop me from giving the information that I have. I encourage Senator Mulvihill to ask me a question on the matter. I was giving some vital information relating to this matter, which is an important question.
Computer calculations suggest that at present chlorofluoromethane release should have caused a 2 per cent reduction in stratospheric ozone.
Computer calculations indicate that there should have been a 2 per cent reduction in stratospheric ozone. But the natural long term irregularities of the global stratospheric ozone are plus or minus 5 per cent and short term variations- that is, perhaps over one year or two years- are even larger. They are normally occurring variations. So it is not possible, basically, to detect global ozone changes that are smaller than 2 per cent. With the current monitoring network that we have had operating for a period of decades, we are not likely to be able to predict accurately that variation.
I am advised that the models predict that ozone will decrease by approximately 2 per cent per decade for the next 30 years if chlorofluoromethanes continue to be released basically at the rate that was known in 1975. If the current ozone monitoring network can be improved- that is something which Australia and this Government are attempting to do- such a trend should be detected within the next 10 to 20 years. Significant ozone trends of 4 per cent per decade have been detected in the past, but these have been attributed to changes in stratospheric calculations.
– I raise a point of order. Mr President, I ask: Is it not a gross abuse of Question Time for the Minister to come forward now with a statement like that when he could not give the answer sought by Senator Mulvihill in the early hours of this morning? This is a repetition of what I raised with you last week in regard to the monitoring of the broadcast of Question Time. The Minister is continuing to abuse Question Time. I suggest that you rule him out of order or ask him to make a statement after Question Time.
– Order! I cannot uphold the point of order, but I must say that in many instances the presentation of a statement on matters that are worthy of close study would meet the situation better than the giving of very lengthy replies to questions.
– I raise a point of order. On, I think, Tuesday of this week Opposition senators drew your attention to Senator Webster’s long-winded answers to questions that obviously were contrived questions and you warned him that you expected his answers to questions to be brief and to the point. We have had a repetition of that today. Senator Webster uses up so much time that members of the Opposition are denied the opportunity to ask the questions without notice that they validly want to ask of the Government. We are denied the opportunity to do that principally because this Minister continually and persistently flouts your ruling. I ask you to take up the matter with him personally with a view to avoiding a repetition of this practice in the future.
-Mr President, I rise, if that was a point of order -
-There was no point of order.
-I do not know the basis on which the honourable senator rose. If I may ask you, Mr President, what was the point on which Senator Gietzelt rose?
– The point of order has been ruled upon. Complete your reply as briefly as you can, Senator.
-Mr President, I had given a reply. But I think it is reasonable for me to say, and you may acknowledge, that when questions which have a scientific basis are asked of this particular Ministry, they cannot be answered in a few words. If, for instance, Senator Mulvihill were to ask a question such as this, you may rule that a scientific answer should be given at the end of Question Time. I am faced with the situation where it is impossible to deal with some questions of a scientific nature in very few lines. There is an area where, if members of the Opposition or members of this side of the Senate ask me questions in relation to matters such as this, I must give a reasoned reply.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. Was leave granted for Senator Webster to make a statement?
– No. In regard to replies of the nature to which you, Senator Webster, have referred- I have listened to what you have said, although you were not in order in speaking when you did- if there could be a condensation of information and then the matter could be expanded upon in greater detail, to be incorporated in Hansard, that would, I think, meet the situation in reply and give more honourable senators who desire to ask a question an opportunity to do so.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It follows two questions which I asked earlier today in which, in answer to the second question, the Minister said that he would obtain a copy of an alleged ALP document from the Press, the implication of that remark being, of course, that he did not have a copy himself. He also disclaimed any personal knowledge of the document. I ask the Minister: Is he not aware that in the document just tabled headed ‘The Liberal Party of Australia’, marked personal and confidential, both his name and that of Mr Lynch appear at the top of the letter, marked with an asterisk? The asterisk indicates at the bottom of the page ALP paper provided earlier’. This document also, of course, quotes directly from this alleged publication, quoting paragraph numbers, page numbers and so on. I ask the Minister whether he will concede that he has been given a copy of this alleged ALP publication? Will he tell us what that document is? Will he also undertake to table it? I put it to him that he gave an undertaking that he would obtain a copy of the document from the Press and table it. I am now asking him to give a similar undertaking to table the document which his own Liberal Party headquarters says he received earlier than 20 November.
-I think Hansard will show that what I said was that, according to my understanding, there were many copies of the document around the place. I said that I understood that it had been distributed like confetti in the past six weeks. I tried to identify the copy, and that is the reason I quoted from that particular document that Senator Wriedt has. I said that if that was the document I would seek to get it and that I would in fact be happy not only to table it but also to incorporate it in Hansard. Why should I deny the people of Australia the joy of reading every single nuance of this expose of the defects of the Leader of the Australian Labor Party? I will seek out the document now. I had already sent out to see whether I could get such a document. I make it perfectly clear to Senator Wriedt that I have not read such a document. It is certain that such a document was provided, with many others, to my office. I have not read it but I would be very happy to have it incorporated in Hansard. Then everyone can read it.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I am not concerned as to whether the Leader of the Government reads documents from his own Federal secretary marked ‘personal and confidential’. I am concerned that he gives an undertaking that he will table in this Parliament the paper referred to in this document from his own party headquarters.
-I needed to identify it. I am happy to say that I will do exactly that. I will do better than that. With the assistance of Senator Wriedt- which no doubt I will get since he is eager to have it- I will incorporate the document. I take it that the Labor Party could not object to that.
-I ask the Minister for Science and the Environment, absolutely without notice, what progress has been made on the upgrading of Australian legislation and Customs regulations to reflect the changes made in the appendices to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species which were made at meetings held in Berne in 1977 and in Costa Rica earlier this year.
-The matter is under consideration. My Department is involved with other departments which have an interest in this matter. I can assure the honourable senator that progress is being made. I would expect that following interdepartmental discussions 1 will be able to give more satisfactory information to him early in 1980.
– The Attorney-General will be pleased to know that my question to him is easy and non-party political. It concerns that non-controversial body, the National Women’s Advisory Council, which recently delivered its first report concerning the need for Commonwealth legislation to protect women from domestic violence. The Attorney will notice that that report recommends the bringing down by this Government of specific legislation and it draws the Government’s attention to the United Kingdom Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act, which gives police power to restrain the offending party from molesting the other partner or children, and which in fact can exclude that party from the matrimonial home or part thereof. Will the Attorney give consideration to introducing such legislation into the Australian Parliament?
– I have not seen the report of the National Women’s Advisory Council to which Senator Chipp refers. Of course that Council reports to and is under the portfolio of my colleague the Minister for Home Affairs. I regret that I cannot speak with any knowledge of the particular recommendations it has made. When it does make recommendations- as it seems to have done here- with regard to matters which come within my areas of responsibility, such as the Family Law Act, no doubt in due course I will be advised. Perhaps my Department has already been advised in relation to the matter. I will make inquiries about it. Without going into any detail, the Family Law Act does have provisions for the making of injunctions.
– They are not working.
-This is one of the problems. We can make laws in this Parliament until the cows come home and we can have perfect administration, but there are always laws that are very difficult to enforce. As legislators and administrators, we must never hold out the prospect that we can solve all our problems by passing laws. As Senator Chipp has drawn my attention to this matter, I certainly will seek advice as to what is recommended and also see in what way the proposals expand or differ from the provisions in the Family Law Act. I certainly undertake to give the matter my attention.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Currently the Income Tax Assessment Act recognises the increased cost of living in isolated areas of Australia by providing tax rebates in relation to two zones, A and B. In view of the difficulty of attracting skilled people to work in the more remote areas, coupled with the need to develop resources in such places, will the Government give recognition to extending and liberalising the present tax rebate in relation to the respective zones?
-Is this a policy question?
– Yes, I will be aware of that. Thank you for reminding me, Mr President. The Government is keenly and consciously aware of the special problems of people who work in isolated areas throughout Australia. A wide number of initiatives and policies have been developed already. Since this is a policy matter, as you said, Mr President, I will refer it to the Treasurer for a response.
-Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate heard of an association of doctors known as Doctors for Nuclear Awareness which was set up recently in Australia? Does the Minister agree with the goals of this association and, indeed, of many other Australians that there should be a moratorium on building nuclear power plants and a phasing out of existing ones, a cessation of the export of nuclear technology, extensive studies of populations exposed to nuclear radiation, nuclear weapons disarmament, and the development of conservation policies and renewable energy resources?
-I have not had the advantage of learning of an organisation such as Doctors for Nuclear Awareness and, therefore, I have not seen any manifesto setting out its goals. In common with Mr Hawke, and in opposition to Mr Hayden, I would not agree with a moratorium. Mr Hawke and a substantial section of the trade union movement of Australia believe that there is an authentic job for Australia to do to keep the world out of the peril and dangers of warfare which could occur if we denied to the world an essential source of energy. Of course, the Labor Party is in the throes of a conflict on this matter.
I believe that the dissemination of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes is an authentic role for the community as a whole. Of course, we are implacably committed to all the safeguards associated with the use of nuclear energy for electric power purposes. We are world leaders in that code. We are also implacably opposed to any kind of nuclear weapons and we will do nothing at all to provide any kind of nuclear fuels in that regard. Our code of conduct is very well known. I want to warn of the real dangers to this world if, by having a program of resources strategies, we create such a shortage of energy resources that living conditions in other countries are so lowered that they may be forced to war to get the things they need. A resources strategy in the energy field is madness.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, by saying that no doubt he and other honourable senators realise that for a considerable time now there has been speculation about and a study of the possibility of direct flights between Hobart and Christchurch in New Zealand. Is the Minister yet able to say when those flights will begin? Can he give the Senate any information about them?
– I am aware of the interest which has been expressed in this matter. Indeed, the honourable senator has asked questions about it in this chamber. I am not in a position to give him the information he has requested, but I will seek a response from the Minister for Transport.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General and concerns the social security conspiracy case. Is the Attorney-General aware of the existence of a report from Detective Chief Inspector Thomas to the officer-in-charge of the Commonwealth Police, New South Wales district, dated 10 August 1977, which report canvasses in detail the role of a key informer in the case and notes that both an indemnity and a reward were being sought by him? Is the AttorneyGeneral aware further of a note attached to that report by Detective Chief Inspector Thomas, dated 24 August 1977, indicating that that report had been discussed at the officers’ meeting held on that day, 24 August, which meeting has been the subject of earlier questions and answers in this chamber? Finally, at the time the AttorneyGeneral considered giving the indemnity or pardon to Mr Nakis, did the file before him contain the report to which I have referred, with or without the note attached to it to which I have referred?
– I am aware of the report dated 10 August 1977 from Detective Chief Inspector Thomas to, I think, the Commonwealth Police Inspector for New South Wales and the note from Detective Chief Inspector Thomas which is attached to the file. As I indicated in response to a question from, I think, Senator Douglas McClelland, I first became aware of that report and that note when a subpoena was addressed to the Commissioner of Police to produce reports from Detective Chief Inspector Thomas. I became aware of those reports in relation to that subpoena to produce the documents on Monday, 12 November. I was not aware of those reports prior to that. I think that answers also the last part of the question that Senator Evans asked.
– I can now give very short answers to two questions which were asked of me today. Regarding the situation in Pakistan, the Department of Foreign Affairs has been advised that the Australian Embassy in Islamabad is secure and that our staff and their dependants are safe. The Department is seeking full details about the incident and inquiries are being made to see whether any Australian citizens are involved.
-Regarding Prince Sihanouk, my understanding is that he intends to visit Australia in February 1980 as pan of a program of visits to a number of countries. He has been informed that he would be welcome in Australia on the understanding that he was making the visit in a private capacity and subject to the conditions which apply to all visitors.
-Senator Wriedt asked me whether I would provide a particular document to the Senate. I have a document which the Press basically has indicated over the weeks is, or purports to be, a document on Australian Labor Party campaign planning dated October 1979. Mr President, I seek leave for its incorporation in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted for the moment. The Minister gave an undertaking that he would seek to incorporate in Hansard the document he referred to, which was supplied to him by the Liberal Party of Australia Secretariat. That is not the document he is seeking leave to incorporate in Hansard now, as every honourable senator opposite knows. He is retracting on the undertaking he gave during Question Time. Unless he is prepared to incorporate that document, leave will not be given. I do not think that there is any need to be concerned about the incorporation of that document. He claims that the document which he wants to incorporate is now circulating widely amongst the media and has been for weeks. We will establish in due course whether that is the case. If the Leader of the Government in the Senate is prepared to incorporate the document referred to in that letter he will get leave to do so.
-Senator Wriedt ‘s cup of joy runs over. It so happens that the document which the Press has been saying is an official Labor Party document is the one referred to in the Liberal Party memorandum. Therefore, he will assist me no doubt in having the text incorporated in Hansard.
– Before I grant leave, I want an undertaking from the Leader of the Government in the Senate that the document he is seeking to incorporate is the document which he received from the Liberal Party secretariat.
-I made it abundantly clear that the document that was identified in the memorandum is a document which purports to be, as described by the Press, an official Labor Party document. As I understand it, it is the document referred to in the Liberal Party memorandum. Therefore, I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– No, on those grounds it is not.
– Leave is not granted.
– Earlier today Senator McLaren referred to the report of Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd. The Minister for Primary Industry has sent the following information. The matter is under review by the Minister for Primary Industry. Mr Nixon is concerned that the delicate and sensitive commercial report should not be made public. There is no legislative requirement to table the report. The Minister has conveyed that information to me.
-On 18 October 1979 Senator McAuliffe asked me a question relating to fishing within the bounds of the Great Barrier Reef region. I seek leave to incorporate that reply in Hansard.
The reply read as follows-
Minister for Primary Industry Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 20 Nov. 1979
My dear Minister,
On 18 October 1979 Senator McAuliffe asked you the following question without notice:
Whether or not Japanese under the new fishing agreement will be allowed to fish within the bounds of the Great Barrier Reef region.
You undertook to seek my comments on the matter and I would suggest that you reply to Santor McAuliffe in the following terms:
In reply to the question without notice which Senator McAuliffe asked me on 18 October I can now give him the following information which, together with my answer of 17 October, to a previous question from the honourable senator, dealing with the Fisheries Agreement with Japan, was provided by my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry. In accordance with the Fisheries Agreement signed with Japan on 17 October 1979, the Japanese longline vessels will be licensed to operate in certain areas on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef region as specified in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Pank Act 1975 between 10°41’Sand24°30’S.
Within the region, the Agreement will allow them to operate outside the eastern edge of the Great Barrier Reef between 10°4I “S (which is the northern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef region) and 14°20”S; between 14°20*S and 18°S outside a line drawn generally at least 12 nautical miles to seaward of the outer edge of the Reef; between 18°S and 22°21’30”S (which is the southern extremity of the Reef), outside the eastern edge of the Reef; and seaward of the 200 metre depth line from 22°2 1 ‘30 “S to the southern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef region at 24°30
Yours sincerely, P.J.NIXON
Senator the Hon. J. J. Webster, Minister for Science and the Environment, Parliament House Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
-On 8 November 1979 Senator Sibraa asked me a question relating to the $1.4m licence fee that has been paid for access to tuna. The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied me with a reply and I seek leave to have that incorporated in Hansard.
The reply read as follows-
Minister for Primary Industry Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600 20 Nov. 1979
My dear Minister,
On 8 November 1979 Senator Sibraa asked you the following question without notice:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that Japan has paid a $1.4m licence fee for access to tuna in the Australian 200 mile economic zone? In view of the fact that the Chief General Manager of the South Australian Fishermen’s Co-operative Ltd., Mr Fowler, estimates that the Japanese would have paid S 10m for the access, will he agree with Mr Fowler that the decision has done a great deal of damage to the Australian fishing industry?
In your reply you indicated that you would check with me whether or not the fee of $1.4m was for one particular species of fish. You also suggested to Senator Sibraa that he place on notice that part of his question relating to the reported claim by Mr Fowler, Chief General Manager of the South Australian Fishermen’s Co-operative Ltd., that the Japanese would have paid $ 10m for access to the Australian fishing zone.
Acting on the assumption that Senator Sibraa will follow your suggestion I have confined my answer to the question he raised on the access fee. I would suggest you reply to the Senator in the following terms:
The access fee of $1.4m will enable up to 350 tuna longliners to operate in the Australian fishing zone for a period of 12 months from 1 November 1979. These tuna longliners operate mainly in waters off the east and south coast of Australia and catch a variety of tunas including southern bluefin, bigeye, albacore as well as oceanic sharks and some species of billfishes
Yours sincerely, P.J.NIXON
Senator the Hon. J. J. Webster, Minister for Science and the Environment, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600
-On 24 October 1979 Senator Messner asked me a question relating to critical reports from various sources giving rise to acreages planted to vines in all States. The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied a response and I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The response read as follows-
Minister for Primary Industry Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600 20 November 1979
Mr dear Minister,
On 24 October 1979, Senator Messner asked you the following question without notice:
Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to the critical reports from various sources that there is a continuing rise in acreages planted to vines in all States, but particularly in South Australia? Whilst this is true is it not a fact that total grape production has declined from 733,000 tonnes in 1975 to 693,000 tonnes in 1978? Does this indicate that the socalled grape surplus of recent years is not due, as is commonly supposed, to indiscriminate and irresponsible vine plantings but is related to other factors, particularly demand in the market place, and is likely to be a function of product price?
You undertook to bring Senator Messner’s views to my attention. I suggest that you include the following comments in your reply to Senator Messner
Information provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics shows that total production of grapes in 1978 was only slightly less than in 1975 when allowance is made for the estimated 33,000 tonnes of grapes left on the vine (see attached Table No. 1). However, more importantly, the production of red wine grapes continued to rise, whereas from 1975-76 onwards the demand for red table wine declined and has only recently bottomed out.
Since 1975, the first year to which you refer, the level of plantings of new grape vines has declined and in 1978, grubbings actually exceeded new plantings (see attached Table No. 2). So it would appear that the grape industry has now reached a point where the total area under vines has begun to decline. However, on present trends, total bearing area is expected to continue to rise over the period to 1982-83 (see Bureau of Agricultural Economics, The Australian Grape and Wine Industry, Industry Economics Monograph No. 19, 1979, page 6).
Most plantings in recent years have been of specialist white wine varieties; whereas most grubbings have been red grape varieties (the varieties in surplus). Continuation of thus trend should largely correct the varietal imbalance in the wine grape industry, which is a major cause of the current wine grape surplus.
Yours sincerely, P.J.NIXON
Senator the Hon. J. J. Webster, Minister for Science, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600
-On 19 November Senator Teague asked me a question about the closure of the road from Gove across Arnhem Land. I was not able to give him all the information he requested and in particular I was not able to respond to his question as to whether Aboriginals were denying European residents road access across Arnhem Land. As I thought at the time, there are no continuing problems in this matter. There were some problems some time ago. The only additional point that arises that may be relevant is that the police closed the road about two weeks ago because of water over it during the Wet which is normal for this time of the year. I wanted to clarify the point about the permits because the answer was reported in terms which suggested that there was a problem between the residents of Gove and the Aboriginal owners of Arnhem Land. I am pleased to say that that is not the case.
-On 20 November Senator Ryan asked me a question without notice concerning the bid by News Ltd for a majority shareholding in the Herald and Weekly Times group. In answering that question, I indicated that Mr Staley had under consideration earlier calls by Senator Ryan and others to have the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal conduct an inquiry into the ownership and control provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act. Mr Staley has asked me to make it clear that the Government has noted the view put forward by the Tribunal in its report on the recent purchase by News Ltd of Channel 10 in Sydney.
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has informed me that whilst he is still considering this matter in a general sense he wants to make it clear that no immediate action will be taken along these lines. The question is complex and Mr Staley has already publicly indicated that he is prepared to look at it in the context of a major review of the Broadcasting and Television Act. As to the latest bid by News Ltd, Senator Ryan will be aware of Mr Staley ‘s public statements on this matter in which he stressed the very stringent provisions on ownership and control which apply under the Broadcasting and Television Act. Statements attributed to the chief executive of News Ltd appear to indicate that Mr Murdoch is aware of these stringent provisions and will adhere to them in seeking the Tribunal’s approval of any actual agreement.
-Senator Keeffe asked a question on 14 November to which I gave some supplementary information yesterday about the Community Development Employment Projects Scheme. I gave him the names of three communities where there are such projects in the Northern Territory. I wrongly advised that the Milingimbi figures related to six months of operation; it should be eight months of operation. I have a small amount of additional information, namely, that in relation to new CDEP projects departmental officers will, in the next week or so, commence detailed discussions with communities to develop specific proposals. I am not in a position to make a statement on specific locations until I receive the proposals developed in consultation with communities.I have previously publicly indicated that the Government proposes to increase CDEPs to a level which would involve an annual expenditure of something like an additional $5m.
– For the information of honourable senators I table a report by the Minister for Education entitled ‘Progress in Education 1979-80’.
– For the information of honourable senators and pursuant to section 30 of the States Grants (Technical and Further Education ) Act 1 974 and section 20 of the States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Act 1976 I present a statement of payments to the State under the States Grants Act. I regret that the order of presentation of some of these reports may not be as given earlier because of the hurried situation. I apologise for this. My understanding is that the relevant changes have been made known to the Opposition.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Independent Schools (Loans Guarantee) Act 1969. I present the statement of the payments made in 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 40 of the Curriculum Development Centre Act 1 975 I present the annual report of the Curriculum Development Centre 1978-79.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report of the Australian Delegation to the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, resumed seventh session 1978.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Defence on the selection of a new tactical fighter aircraft.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Defence on the Bonnett inquiry into the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Scheme.
– Pursuant to sub-section 10 (2) of the Primary Industry Bank Act 1977,I present a report on the operation of Part II of the Act for the year ended 22 November 1 979.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Committee of Inquiry concerning Public Duty and Private Interest. I seek leave to make a statement.
– I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
-I therefore table a statement on the report of the Committee of Inquiry concerning Public Duty and Private Interest.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 32(2) of the Commonwealth Legal Aid Commission Act, I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Legal Aid Commission 1 978-79.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 35 of the Law Reform Commission Act 1 973,I present the annual report of the Law Reform Commission 1979.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the National Energy Research Development and Demonstration Council on the Australian Atomic Energy Commission Research Establishment for 1979.
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note or the paper.
In so doing, I want to express my concern that many of the reports that are now being presented were not put down in the Senate yesterday. We had to sit here until 20 past five this morning debating the estimates for many of the departments whose reports are being tabled today. Very few copies of the report of the National Energy Research Development and Demonstration Council are available. I was able to obtain one just a few moments ago. Certainly it was not available to the Senate yesterday when we debated the estimates of the Department of National Development and of the Department of Trade and Resources. Also, Senator Young raised the matter of nuclear development and quite a lengthy debate ensued. Had honourable senators on this side been in possession of this report I am sure that the debate would have continued much longer.
I repeat, I wish to express disapproval of the way in which the Government railroaded all that legislation through last night and now seeks to present these reports. I have before me a list which indicates that many of the reports that are being put down in the Senate today are relevant to the legislation which was railroaded through this Parliament last night. I hope that we will not see a repetition of that. If we do, Government supporters can expect no co-operation whatever from the Opposition. The Government has deliberately taken away the right of free discussion in this Parliament. That was proved last night and is being confirmed today by the presentation of all of these reports and by Opposition senators being given no opportunity to debate them. They concern matters in respect of which appropriations amounting to thousands of millions of dollars were approved last night.
– Who was stopped from speaking?
– Of course, the honourable senator was not awake. He was asleep all last night. Last night we were prevented from using these reports, and having available to us the information that they contain, when we debated the Appropriation Bills. I repeat, for the benefit of Senator Archer, that many of the reports that are listed for tabling in the Parliament today have great relevance to the Appropriation Bills that were approved last night. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 314 of the Bankruptcy Act 1966 I present the annual report on the operation of the Bankruptcy Act for 1978-79.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs 1978-79.
– Pursuant to sub-regulation 8a (2) of the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance Superannuation) Regulations I present the report by the Commissioner for Superannuation on the operations of the Papua New Guinea Superannuation Board and the Contract Officers (Papua New Guinea) Retirement Benefits Board 1976.
– Pursuant to section 162 of the Superannuation Act 1976 I present the annual report of the Superannuation Fund Investment
Trust and the Commissioner for Superannuation for 1976-77.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the Medical Research Endowment Act 1937 I present the annual report on medical research projects for 1978.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Review for 1 978-79.
– For the information of honourable senators and pursuant to section 60 of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 14 of the Beef Industry (Incentive Payments) Act 1977 I present the interim report on the operation of that Act.
– Pursuant to section 23 (2) of the Australian War Memorial Act 1962 I present the annual report of the Australian War Memorial 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 58 of the Darwin Reconstruction Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission 1977-78.
– Pursuant to section 42 of the National Gallery Act 1975 I present the report of the Australian National Gallery 1978-79.
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
Very briefly I would like to say that the report on the Australian National Gallery is welcome in that it goes into some detail about the expanded activities of the Australian National Gallery, the increase in acquisitions for the National Gallery collection, and progress towards the opening of the National Gallery building in 1981. The report predicts that the Gallery will still open on time. However, I wish to take this opportunity to present my concern about the staffing situation at the Australian National Gallery. I draw the attention of honourable senators to the staffing situation as set out in this annual report. Gallery staff as at 1 July 1978 was 33. This rose to 50 in the course of the year, the new figure being the staff ceiling set for 1978-79. These figures should be compared with the 268 staff necessary to operate the building when it opens to the public. I express concern that the Government, through its staff ceilings policy, will be impeding the proper establishment of staff for the opening of the gallery in 1981. It seems to me that if 268 people are necessary when the Gallery opens, the current staff ceiling of 50 persons is far too low. I hope that the Government takes note of my remarks. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 27 of the National Library Act 1960 I present the annual report of the National Library of Australia 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 42 of the Australian Film and Television School Act 1973 I present the annual report of the Australian Film and Television School 1978-79.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Police 1979.
– Pursuant to section 38( 1 ) of the Parliament House Construction
Authority Act 1979 I present the first annual report of the Parliament House Construction Authority 1979.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1930 I present a statement of receipts and expenditure by the Commonwealth in the administration and development of the Territory for the year 1 979.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the first annual report by the National Women ‘s Advisory Council 1979 entitled ‘More than a Token Gesture’.
– by leave- I move:
I must say on behalf of the Opposition that this report is welcome and that its title, ‘More than a Token Gesture’, is appropriate. The National Women’s Advisory Council has come under some criticism from very small minority groups in the community for its activities. However, I would like to place on record my appreciation, and the appreciation of the Opposition, for the extremely competent and effective work by way of advising government on policies affecting women that has been carried out by the National Women ‘s Advisory Council. I would recommend to all honourable senators, particularly those who may be sympathetic to some of the criticisms made of the National Women’s Advisory Council, that they read this report and address themselves to the very thorough recommendations within the report covering a vast range of areas affecting women in Australia in our time.
In particular, I hope that the Government will address itself to the issue of sex discrimination legislation. In particular, I believe that recommendations 64 and 66 of the Council’s report ought to be acted upon at the earliest possible opportunity. Recommendation 64 reads:
Commonwealth sex discrimination legislation should cover both direct and indirect discrimination in the areas of employment, education, accommodation, access to goods, services and facilities, credit, insurance and superannuation, sport, recreation and clubs, the Defence Forces and Government contracts, and should apply to the Australian Capital Territory and to Government administration. The proposed law should provide sanctions against offenders, and remedies for those with justified complaints.
Recommendation 66, which I heartily endorse, states:
The Commonwealth Government should act quickly to enact the strongest possible sex discrimination legislation consistent with its constitutional powers and in the spirit of the recommendations developed by the Council’s National Conference on proposed Commonwealth sex discrimination legislation.
I would simply say that the Human Rights Commission legislation which is being enacted in this place at this time goes no way at all towards the recommendation for sex discrimination legislation outlined in the report. I express the hope that at the earliest opportunity in the meeting of the Parliament after Christmas we will have before us sex discrimination legislation as outlined in the first annual report of the National Women’s Advisory Council. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Rae)- by leave- agreed to:
That the following matters be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations:
1 ) Report by the Commissioner for Superannuation on the operations of the Papua New Guinea Superannuation Board and the Contract Officers (Papua New Guinea) Retirement Benefits Board, for year ended 30 June 1976.
First Annual Reports of the Superannuation Fund Investment Trust and the Commissioner for Superannuation 1976-77.
Final Report of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, for year 1977-78.
– by leave- I move:
In moving that motion with respect to the report of the Committee of Inquiry concerning Public Duty and Private Interest- the Bowen Committee- which is a report about which a statement has been tabled and circulated, I say briefly that the most cursory scrutiny of the tabled statement summarising the report indicates that the report of the Bowen Committee is, regrettably, something of a damp squib. It is insensitive to the issues and both timid and unimaginative in the kinds of solutions it is proposing. Moreover, it also appears from the tabling statement that the Government’s reaction to that
Committee’s report, regrettably, appears to be nothing short of contemptuous not only of the Bowen Committee itself, which devoted a very long time to the development of its recommendations, but also of the public interest which that Committee was purporting to protect. The irony, indeed the aptness, of this Government’s stating that it is unable to accept the establishment of an integrity commission will not go unnoticed by the Australian community. 1 simply make the final point that it is obviously of the utmost importance that the matters dealt with in this report and in the Government’s initial reaction to it be debated by this Parliament at the earliest opportunity. I hope that the Government’s statement of intention to allow such a debate which appears in the tabling statement is not one of those sonorous banalities that we are becoming accustomed to from the Government and of the kind that were made with respect to the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships, which we now wind up yet another session without addressing overselves to. The matters raised by this report are of the utmost importance to our credibility as parliamentarians and public representatives. It is crucially important that this matter be allowed to be debated. The Opposition looks forward to a much more explicit undertaking from the Government than it has so far received that there will be such an opportunity very early in the next session. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
– by leave- I want simply to say that, as I understand it, Senator Evans has completely misunderstood the intention in the statement. He said, as I heard him, that the Government had rejected the concept of an integrity commission. I think that what in fact the Government has done is very simple. It has said as to individual members of Parliamentback bench and private members and senatorsthat that is a matter that should be discussed within the Parliament before a judgment is made. That is totally different to having rejected this situation. I invite the Senate to disregard Senator Evans ‘s statement entirely.
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I repeat that if the Senate had been in receipt of this statement last night when we were debating divisions 330 to 348 of the estimates for the Department of Home Affairs and divisions 210 to 2 1 5 of the estimates for the Department of the Australian Capital Territory it could well be that my colleague Senator Walsh would have been able to take his seat in this place today. Although I have not seen this statement of expenditure and receipts, it should encompass much of the expenditure on the monstrosity of a building on the side of Lake Burley Griffin about which a lot of discussion took place- Gar’s Mahal, as it is called. If Senator Walsh had had the opportunity of speaking to this statement yesterday, a different situation altogether might have transpired. It is unfortunate, the Appropriation Bills having gone through this Parliament, that we are now presented with statements and reports of expenditure on many of the very things on which we were forced to pass judgment last night -
– It is a further illustration of this Government’s mismanagement.
-As Senator McClelland reminds me, it is a further illustration of the mismanagement of the affairs of this nation by the present Government. The sooner it is removed from office the better the community as a whole will be. The Government has demonstrated that quite clearly, particularly today. These reports on expenditure have come in after the appropriations have been passed through the Parliament with hardly a word of comment on them by Government senators. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators and in accordance with an undertaking given by the Minister for Trade and Resources in the House of Representatives on 2 1 August 1 979, 1 present a report by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies on the social impact of uranium mining on the Aborigines of the Northern Territory. I also have a statement which sets out what the Government has done with respect to the matters raised in the report. It is not on the list of statements, but I do want it to be available to the public and to the Opposition. I seek leave to incorporate that in Hansard. If leave is not granted, I will simply table it.
Leave not granted.
-I table a statement from the Government on the report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Australian Tourist Commission Act 1967 I present the annual report of the Australian Tourist Commission 1978-79.
-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 Australian Shipping Commission 1 978-79. Copies of the report are available from the House of Representatives Table Office and the Parliamentary Library. Bulk copies will be distributed during the recess.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the University of Adelaide Road Accident Research Unit entitled ‘Adelaide In-Depth Accident Study 1975-79 Part I: An Overview. I think it deals with the great final accident in Adelaide in 1979.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to move a motion in respect of the statement made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) on the social impact of uranium mining on the Northern Territory Aboriginals.
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I think it probably is in order to move a motion relating to the report by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. I would grant leave for the honourable senator to do that, rather than his moving a motion relating to the other matter, if the honourable senator does not mind. He might recall that he refused me leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
– I will be quite happy to do that, and I seek leave to do so.
– In relation to the report by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, I move:
The statement which has just been tabled by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) on the social impact of mining on the Northern Territory Aboriginals refers only to some part of the report. We have not yet received a copy of the report, and therefore we are at somewhat of a disadvantage, although I would agree with the Minister that the statement probably summarises the main points of the report. Before I make some comments about the stater ment as it relates to the report, I think I should point out that the Parliament is entitled to some explanation about the volume of reports which it has received in this last, dying week of this session. If honourable senators have taken time to examine the reports which have come into their office and also the reports presented today, they will agree with me that, because of the volume of the reports, their importance is lost to the Parliament. This is because of the rather rushed approach taken to the very many important matters which are contained in the reports, and to the recommendations and considerations which are there for the Parliament and for the Public Service to examine.
Having stated that, I want to refer to the report as summarised in the Minister’s statement. What seems to flow from this particular report is a confirmation of the concern that has been expressed by the Opposition during the whole period of negotiations with the Aborigines in the
Northern Territory as it relates to mining generally, and mining of uranium in particular. Ever since the commencement of land rights and the acquisiton of land in the Territory for the purpose of mining, the Opposition has warned the Government on many occasions- as have many other groups in the Australian communityabout social impact and the destruction of the social life of Aborigines as a result of this mammoth investment by mining groups in our country, and in the Northern Territory. In many ways the report is quite disturbing because it has borne out our fears. It has certainly borne out the concern which has been expressed from time to time about the impact that this situation will have on the life and the environment of the Aborigines in that region.
It seems to me that the statement, following the report from the Institute of Aboriginal Studies, is an admission that in fact there has not been sufficient surveillance, understanding, or administration of the way in which Aborigines have been affected by mining activities in the Northern Territory. To that extent I think the Government stands indicted for its failure to appreciate the warnings that were given in the Parliament by members of my party and by various other interested groups in Australia on the very considerable social implications which would flow from the development of mining in that region. I say this without setting aside the moral aspect of uranium mining.
We have said and Government reports have shown- as this report now confirms- that interference with the normal life style and life pattern of Aborigines in that area is a matter which has not been properly understood by the Government. I make no comment about the current Minister, because I think the period in question is relevant. That was the time when Mr Viner was hell bent, as I would put it, on stampeding the Aborigines in the area to agree to the Government’s proposals. There was abundant evidence in subsequent debates in the Parliament, particularly in the Senate, when we were able to show that Mr Viner was in fact forcing the Aborigines to accept Government proposals and forcing them, because of his own persuasive powers, ability, capacity and public position, to accept standards which they did not understand. Now we have a report which underlines and confirms those observations that we made at that time. We said then that if the Government had a proper understanding of the difficulties that the Aborigines had in comprehending what the Government was about, that if it had some compassion about what effect this move would have on the life style of Aborigines and that if it had some understanding that it was attempting to impose a white form of administration, or a European type of administration on the Territory, then it would understand that this matter needed to go through the process of a time scale or a discussion, which should be done in an atmosphere of complete understanding so that each and every Aborigine understood what was involved.
We said that the problem was related to a question of communication. We said, as this report now points out, that the problem of communication is one which affects all aspects of mining on the people of the region. Effective communications are vital if other problems are to be acted upon successfully. This is the very matter which we emphasised here in debate when we were talking about the establishment of the Northern Land Council and about negotiations that were proceeding. We also emphasised this matter when we talked about the Government’s haste and in particular Mr Viner’s haste and the haste of the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), in imposing the will of this Government on the Aborigines in an atmosphere which made it impossible for those Aborigines to comprehend the effects of those negotiations. It was at that point that we made the suggestion to the Government that there ought to be less haste and more compassion. In the Minister’s statement we find the following:
It was originally thought that the Northern Land Council would have had the capacity to provide and receive information relating to mining developments in the region.
The advice that we preferred to the Government at that time was that the Government should take extraordinary steps to provide the Aborigines with the concepts of what that would do. It was not only the question of losing title to land and of having the land sold, but also the effect that it would have on their own environment. Of course, as the report goes on to say, some of this information was available to the Government at the time in Mr Justice Woodward’s report following the Ranger inquiry. There was abundant evidence available to the Government of the sort of problems that would accrue. For page after page instances and statements were made, which at that time, the Government completely ignored. When one reads the information from the Australian Mining Council, one gets the view of that selfinterest group. I commend the Minister for tabling the report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, because I think the debates in this Parliament over the last three or four years have at least drawn to the attention of some members of the Government the need to act more vigilantly, to consider their responsibilities afresh, and to re-examine what has happened with a view to taking the sorts of steps in the future that would elevate the protection of the Aborigines to a major principle.
I stress that I have not actually seen the report; I have only the statement of the Minister. However, the most incredible part of the summary made by the Minister of the report is that now there is recognition that we have to take extraordinary steps to protect the rights of Aborigines, but not in any paternalistic way by saying that they do not understand and therefore we need to act on their behalf. That is not the issue as we see it. The issue is providing them with the information, structures and means by which the decisions that are to be made are of such character that the Aborigines can make a value judgment based on all the facts and not just the financial remuneration that flows from their changed status as land holders.
Of course, the report goes on to point out that the organisations which have been set up by the Government to handle the funds are concerned that there needs to be not a paternal administration but an administration that provides them with the means of understanding what is going on in their region, of how they can spend their financial resources in a way that does not destroy their culture but which enables them to survive the challenge that mining places in their particular region, and which takes the extra step to show that at all levels of government in Australia we do have a better appreciation of our responsibility than hitherto. It seems to me that it is essential to get that sort of message across to the Government of the Northern Territory. From the various comments that are made from time to time one does sense that there is not the same realisation in the Northern Territory Government that the sorts of problems that are now freely acknowledged in this report places us in a position where history will judge that we did act precipitately and hastily, and that we did not act responsibly because the Government did not understand what its proper obligations were to the people in the Northern Territory, who are the indigenous people of our continent.
Of course, there needs to be a more detailed study made of the Institute’s report. The Opposition would welcome an opportunity at a later date to debate the matter in much more detail. Obviously I want to read the report, as would my colleague Dr Everingham who is the Opposition spokesman on Aboriginal Affairs. He would want to consult with me on this matter because I only represent him in this place. My own education in this area has been assisted by his compassionate approach to Aborigines. Many of my colleagues have not yet had the opportunity to read even the statement. In the light of that, I intend to seek leave to continue my remarks. I appreciate that there may be one or two other honourable senators who have something to say on the matter, including the Minister. In that sense I would hope that the Senate would provide an opportunity to debate the issues contained in the report. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- There will be no opportunity for the Senate to debate the report of the Institute of Aboriginal Studies. I made a serious effort to get this statement before the Senate because I know that it is of general interest to the Senate and to the community. It is a matter of keeping faith with both the Paliament and the community that the Institute ‘s impact statement has been made available in this way. On behalf of the Government, I wish to indicate that we would not be granting leave to have a series of speeches made on the matter. I will confine my own remarks to a couple of minutes.
So that it is on the record following what was said by Senator Gietzelt, I merely wish to say that the Government has on a number of occasions met the allegations with respect to the Ranger negotiations. I do not intend to canvass the matter again except to say that the Government rejects any suggestion that any wrong pressure or undue influence was exerted on the Aboriginal people with respect to that agreement. I would like simply to draw the attention of the Senate to what I see as a quite objective proof of the Government’s sincerity in this matter. I am referring to an action of the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, which was the appointment of the Institute of Aboriginal Studies to perform this monitoring role. I do not believe that anyone could ask for a greater indication of the sincerity of the Government than for the Government to engage people who are all totally independent of the Government. The chairman is a professor from the University of New South Wales; the deputy chairman is a leading anthropologist from Western Australia; and there are people like Bill Wentworth and Ken Colbung who are involved in this monitoring process. I put that before the Senate as a clear indication of the Government’s good faith in this matter.
Needless to say, the Government is concerned about the matters which have been raised by the monitoring group. At the same time, it expected difficulties to arise. I have put down in the statement which I tabled earlier the response which the Government has made to the points which have been raised. Many of those responses predate the delivery of the report as they were part of a continuing process of action. In the interests of the public being informed, I again seek the leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard my statement so that the record is available over the recess. I am sure that that will contribute to an informed debate both within and without the Parliament. I seek leave to incorporate my statement.
Leave not granted.
– I conclude my remarks by simply drawing the attention of the public and of the readers of Hansard to the fact that the Government has conscientiously put this report before the Parliament. It has set out in a statement, which is available but which now will not appear in Hansard, what is actually happening with respect to areas of concern in this matter. It can do nothing further to ensure that the public and the Parliament are informed. It is the Opposition which is ensuring that this response is not available. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-by leave- I wish to make a brief statement on this report about the social impact of uranium mining on Aborigines. I have not been able to study the report for reasons that Senator Gietzelt mentioned, but I note that in the statement tabled by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) he does not mention the potential effect on the diet of the people of the East Alligator Rivers region of unfettered uranium mining. I would have thought that this was a social effect of some consequence to which we have to give a good deal of attention because it is a fact that the Aboriginal people of that area traditionally rely a great deal on seafood and also fresh water food from streams and billabongs. Therefore, the degree of contamination of those streams and billabongs is of tremendous interest to their future from a social point of view.
The food sources in that region are very intimately associated with Magela Creek, which, of course, has been mentioned previously in the
Senate, because it is the area which, for very good geographical reasons, must be used for discharge, drainage or seepage from the tailings dams of the uranium operations of both Ranger and of Pancontinental Mining Ltd at Jabiluka. I understand from the Supervising Scientist’s laboratory in that area that the water in Magela Creek at present is unusually clean and pure. Therefore, it is a low threshold situation at the moment which is at risk. The situation is that Ranger will come into operation first. Its tailings dams will discharge water into Magela Creek at a point higher up than Jabiluka. If Jabiluka proceeds, it will be several miles downstream, and that will be an additional burden on the creek. Until my last visit to that region I had thought, perhaps naively, that these rock fill and earth tailings dams would contain fairly substantially all the water put into them. The argument has been that perferably there should be no discharge of water from these tailings dams because it has been realised that it would get into Magela Creek and thus into the East Alligator Rivers region.
Some work has been done already. I believe work on rock oysters has been started by the Supervising Scientist’s laboratory at Ranger. I think there is already some clear evidence that there is a very grave possibility of a build-up of some radioisotopes and, more particularly, heavy metals in those rock oysters which are largely used as a traditional form of food. The fact is that the water does escape from these dams. The figures I got from the Ranger people recently show that the earth dam will lose at least 800 cubic metres of water a day. I have been asked to regard even that figure as only an interim one. Eventually the figure might be higher than that. I am awaiting that figure. This means that at least 292,000 cubic metres of water a year will seep through those dams and inevitably will find its way into these creeks in the East Alligator Rivers region. This water escape contains heavy metals. These are interesting; they are actually radium, copper, lead and zinc. One could not imagine a more dangerous and troublesome group of elements. The geological accident that nature has provided there in association with the uranium deposits, I suggest, creates a problem of major proportions to which we must address ourselves.
Because the proposed Pancontinental mine at Jabiluka will be underground, loss from its tailings dams will be smaller because it is going to put at least half of the back fill into the mine itself. Obviously the company cannot put in more than that. It cannot put back into a mine as much as it takes out of it. The likely seepage loss will still be another 200 to 300 cubic metres a day. I think that this is a matter that the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Affairs should look at much more carefully. I think it is not good enough for there to be constant assaying or checking on the degree of contamination by radioactive substances, radioisotopes such as Strontium 90, and by heavy metals in this creek system. I think that the Government and the Institute will have to look at this situation and say that there is a level at which this has to stop. Otherwise an environment which is important in many respects and which is socially of enormous consequence to the people in that area may be harmed. One only has to speak to some of them to realise how much they love that place and how much they recognise its beauty, but it could in effect poison them through their food. Those are the main points that the Australian Democrats wish to make and we commend them to the Institute.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Department of Administrative Services 1978-79.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Department of Productivity 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 99 of the Telecommunications Act 1975, I present the annual report of the Australian Telecommunications Commission 1978-79.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Postal and Telecommunications Department 1978-79. As final printing of the report will not be possible until late next week, limited numbers of the report are available from the Parliamentary Library. In addition, other proof copies of the report are available for interested senators from the Minister’s office.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a substitute version of the annual report of the Australian Shippers’ Council 1978-79 which I initially presented on 15 November 1979. This is necessary because the final page of the initial report was omitted. I apologise for that.
-I present the report and transcript of evidence from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on its inquiry into Australian defence procurement.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Senator BISHOP ( 12.8)- by leave-I move:
I inform the Senate that a separate report is in preparation on that part of the terms of reference related to the capacity of the three Services to meet requests for assistance by the civil authorities such as for coastal surveillance. The precise terms of reference for the present report were:
The implementation and effectiveness of Australia’s announced defence programs, with particular reference to procurement policy.
This reference was received on 12 April 1978 and sub-committee C of the Joint Committee commenced hearings on 20 June 1978. The last formal evidence was presented in October 1 979. In the intervening 1 8 months we took over 2,300 pages of written and oral evidence from a very wide range of sources.
The report is not a lengthy document, but I put it to the Senate that it may be one of the most significant papers to emerge from the parliamentary committee system. It represents a year and a half of concentrated work and detailed examination of evidence in a very complex field and has been exhaustively considered before being agreed to. This report takes procurement in its widest sense. It examines the procurement process from the initial strategic analysis right through to the acquisition of equipment for the defence forces. We have expressed our agreement with the strategic assessment as set out in the 1 976 Defence White Paper and subsequently updated and restated by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). It is most unlikely that Australia will become the target of a major direct attack inside the next five years. At the same time, we allude to the Sino-Vietnamese conflict and developments in Iran, not in any alarmist way but to point out the continuing potential for sudden and unforeseeable changes.
I wish to acquaint the Senate with our major recommendations. Honourable senators will appreciate that in a statement of this type brevity is essential. I commend a study of the report to those who wish a full outline of the Committee ‘s views on the subjects I mention. We have certain reservations concerning what is known as the core force’ concept. These centre around our concern for the capacity of the Defence Force to expand rapidly enough to meet some contingencies. Our concern is sufficient to prompt us to recommend that a high-level inquiry into the expansion capability of the Defence Force be undertaken. There is a need for an interdepartmental or national approach to such an inquiry, which should determine the industrial and manpower support which could be available to the force-in-being.
This Committee reported two years ago on Australian defence industry, and we have followed that matter up in the present report. We maintain our view that our defence industry base is not as good as it might be, and that we should develop it to make Australia as free as possible from dependence on foreign suppliers. We suggest that this can be achieved through the provision of stable work loads; acceptance of apparent cost disadvantages where these are not excessive; improved communication between industry and the Department of Defence; and, importantly, the Government and the Department sticking to decisions previously announced.
The Committee, while concurring with the view that our strategic outlook is favourable, wishes to make the point that we should use this time to advantage. We consider that it would be unwise to wait for some threat to emerge before acting to enhance preparedness and further increase our self-reliance. We do not suggest in detail how this might be done, or how much money should be allocated. We recommend that the Government should act to determine several matters: The most effective security strategy; capabilities needed to execute that strategy; deficiencies in our present capabilities and what is required to make good any deficiencies. We recommend that these capabilities be introduced over a 10-year period and make the point that this will require a bipartisan approach to defence. Some form of supplemental equipment acquisition budgeting may also be required. Such funding would provide for supplemental 10-year budgeting packages to cover the development, production and entry into service of specific equipment systems. This funding would be separate from the annual defence budget.
The Committee received convincing evidence that there is a problem in procedures which apply to the purchase of defence equipment in Australia. We are persuaded that these procedures act as a deterrent to Australian industry and to the Department of Defence. We have recommended improvements, and suggested principles on which these might be based. We have made an exhaustive study of the decisionmaking system of the Department of Defence. A major point arising from this study is the length of time it can take to acquire a piece of major equipment for the forces. According to standard Department of Defence procedures, it can take up to eight years from the issuance of a major equipment proposal and rarely takes less than three or four years. These lead times exceed likely periods of warning for some defence contingencies we may have to face. The Committee has therefore recommended that, if it is not possible to reduce the contribution of decisionmaking to lead times, key major equipment should be acquired earlier.
Our examination of the organisation of defence procurement revealed that for several reasons aspects of this function have been dispersed between various departments or agencies. The Committee considers that this dispersal can lead to inefficiencies or lack of flexibility. For this reason, we have recommended that functions related to the procurement of major military equipment now with the Department of Administrative Services should be transferred to the Department of Defence.
Each member of the Sub-committee was completely objective in his approach to our responsibilities and I commend members for their continued interest and the serious manner in which they examined and evaluated the evidence and finally formulated the recommendations. I thank Malcolm Hills for his intense dedication to his work and express the regrets of the Subcommittee that continued illness has deprived the Committee of his services. Robert King has done a splendid job under a great number of difficulties. When Mr Hills was not available Mr King was there to take over and the Subcommittee is grateful to him. Our two consultants, Commodore Ken Gray and Gary Brown of the Parliamentary Library, justified the reputation they both have for their knowledge and understanding of the defence scene. The vast and valuable experience of Ken Gray and the observations and monitoring of defence activities here and abroad by Gary Brown combined to provide most valuable assistance to the Sub-committee.
Finally, the Sub-committee is immensely grateful to all who were prepared to appear before it and to assist with their submissions. The Minister for Defence, the Hon. Jim Killen, and the Minister assisting him, the Hon. John McLeay, never hesitated to make every possible facility available to the Sub-committee to assist our inquiries and, as a result of Mr Killen ‘s cooperation, Department of Defence witnesses of the highest possible calibre appeared before the Sub-committee.
Having said that I must point out that, as the Senate is well aware, the inquiry which has produced this report has on occasion been very controversial. On one or two occasions the controversy has reached the Parliament. I have to inform the Senate that the sub-committee expresses concern about remarks made in the House of Representatives on 26 October 1 978 by the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence and on 8 March 1979 by the Minister for Defence. We consider that the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence over-reacted to criticisms which had been levelled at the Department of Defence by witnesses who appeared before the Sub-committee at public hearings and which, in some cases, had received Press publicity. The Sub-committee considers that, to a lesser degree, the Minister for Defence also overreacted to such criticisms. At the time the criticisms were levelled at the Sub-committee, evidence favourable to and critical of the Department had been presented and further evidence was still to come. All this evidence had yet to be evaluated by the Sub-committee and, accordingly, any criticisms of the Sub-committee for its handling of the evidence were premature and ill-founded.
The Sub-committee emphasises that the inquiry was carried out in accordance with the established procedures of the committee system of the Parliament and its Standing Orders. We therefore reject the criticisms that were levelled at the Sub-committee, though we appreciate that the Ministers were understandably sensitive to some of the Press coverage of evidence given at public sessions of the Sub-committee. We are pleased to note that, as further evidence was received and evaluated, a far better understanding obtained between the Minister for Defence and the Department of Defence, on the one hand, and the Sub-committee on the other.
I have also to inform the Senate that certain allegations have been made regarding the alleged intimidation of some witnesses before the Subcommittee. Those allegations are under examination. The Minister for Defence responded in detail to the previous report of the Committee in this chamber in November 1978 on defence industry. This mark of attention by the Government was most welcome. I commend this report to the Senate, and consider it essential that the report be debated after honourable senators have had time to consider it. The first responsibility of government is to provide the nation with security from armed attack and from the constraints on independent decisions imposed by the threat of such attack. I look forward to comment by the Minister for Defence in debate in the Parliament after he has had an opportunity to consider the matters raised in the report.
– As a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, I support Senator Bishop in commending the report to honourable senators. Defence procurement is a complex and highly technical subject, but it is also very important. In this report the Committee has attempted to show shortcomings in the present arrangements and to suggest improvements.
The 1 976 White Paper on defence identified the need for a five-year program of $2.3 billion, at January 1976 prices, for ships, aircraft, armour and other equipments and plant ‘to strengthen defence and correct existing shortcomings and imbalances’. The subsequent reductions in actual allocations to defence have meant that the shortcomings and imbalances perceived in 1 976 have been perpetuated. Meanwhile, other equipments have aged and the time when the capabilities that they represent will require replacement has come closer. Unless a dynamic, continuing and sustained long-term program of re-equipment is authorised the total capacity of the Defence Force and its capacity to expand will be eroded. The Committee considers that it is necessary to spend in the region of $650m a year at December 1978 prices on new equipment as opposed to the $43 7m allocated in the 1979-80 Budget to provide the equipments identified as necessary in the 1 976 White Paper.
Australia is separated from its oversea suppliers of defence equipment by long lines of communication. Those lines of communication are vulnerable and potentially capable of interdiction. In a deteriorating world situation overseas suppliers would be likely to accord higher priority to their own needs than Australia’s. In a conflict with a regional country, overseas suppliers may be unwilling to provide Australia with its defence requirements. For these cogent strategic reasons the Committee recommends that Australia should become increasingly self-reliant for its production of defence equipment. Because of Australia’s relatively high technology, resource and economic potential and its potential to maintain sizable, modern defence forces, there is an important role for it to play in providing stability within its area of strategic environment- the South Pacific, the southern and eastern Indian Ocean, and the island chain to our north. This is an area of potential international conflict, perhaps even involving an area of relatively low indigenous military power in which Australia ‘s potential influence could be a determining factor in the maintenance of stability.
The absence of any perceived major threat or identifiable potential enemy has been interpreted in many quarters to mean that no threat could arise to Australia in the foreseeable future and has resulted in a no-threat syndrome and a lack of clearly defined military capability objectives. This has promoted complacency, allowing successive governments to defer equipment acquisition decisions and leading to a marked reduction in defence preparedness.
The limited deterrent capability of the present Defence Force could encourage a potential enemy to chance its arm and to cause Australia to engage in a massive rearmament program at a time not of its own choice. Because of the uncertain assurances of long-term security provided by the Department of Defence core-force approach for determining the Defence Force requirements, the Committee has considered five optional approaches. We describe these as the major deterrent approach, the high cost of entry or disproportionate response approach, the major hypothetical contingency approach, the low-level approach and the regional security approach.
For reasons which we have discussed we have discarded all but the high cost of entry and major hypothetical contingency approaches. We recommend that the Government subject these to detailed assessment to determine which would be the most effective for defining the Defence Force requirements. Mr President, I hope that what I have said gives some indication of the range and depth of this report. There is much more that could be said concerning the report, and it is unfortunate that at this late stage of the Parliamentary session we have so little time to discuss it. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-I table a number of submissions made to the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment during the inquiry into industrial research and development and seek leave to make a brief explanation for doing so.
– Since tabling my Committee’s report on industrial research and development in Australia, there have been a number of requests from members of parliament and others for access to submissions made to the inquiry into industrial research and development. Many of these requests relate to submissions which were not examined in public and which accordingly were not published in Hansard. The Committee therefore wishes to make all submissions of a non-confidential nature which were not considered during public hearings available to interested parties. To facilitate this I am tabling the submissions in the Senate.
-by leave- I present the official report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Indonesia, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea and Thailand from 10 July to 31 July 1979. I seek leave to move a motion to take note of the report.
I will address myself to this report on this occasion as briefly as I can. This delegation which visited the countries I have mentioned, plus, for two days only, Hong Kong, was I believe made up of an excellent cross-section of the Australian Parliament. It comprised Mr Cotter and Mr James from the House of Representatives and from this chamber Senator the Hon. Reg Bishop and Senator David Hamer. To those members of the delegation I express my appreciation for their co-operation, good humour, and, indeed, their responsibility on this tour. I also want to express my appreciation and the delegation’s appreciation for the great help and diligence of Mr Tom Wharton of the Senate staff, who accompanied us as secretary to the delegation. It is a satisfying experience, on delegations such as this, to find that a group of members from the Australian Parliament can be seen to be an Australian entity and can reach, in most areas, a consensus of opinion. I believe this is of great value to this country internally and externally.
In spite of the sophistication and speed of modern communication, there is no doubt that there is no real alternative to the value of personal contact when it comes to understanding the problems of the people who live relatively close to us or elsewhere and indeed to understanding the people themselves. This sort of delegation is a pleasant and informative experience, but it is also an experience of great responsibility to understand, and perhaps even more importantly to be understood by, our friends and neighbours wherever they may be. There is no time to refer in detail to the events and the facts that were found individually in these countries on this occasion. Suffice it to say that the extreme seniority of rank of the hosts whom we met and the hospitality of those countries were in every sense an exhibition of the regard in which those countries hold Australia and, I believe, Australians.
It was clear that in this area there is recognition of a large measure of interdependence on trade, development and security. The countries of our northern neighbours have vast populations and the exciting potential of developing lands. Their great need, as indeed for the rest of the world, is for a long and significant period of peace and stability for they are an evolving social and economic entity at a moment of technological explosion. This must be seen to be an advantage on the one hand and certainly a challenge on the other. It is an advantage because technology has the capacity to increase the productivity and raise the standards of living across the whole canvass of society in those countries. It is a challenge as technology is a challenge to the rest of the world. It is a challenge to their capacity to adjust and develop their education systems to cope with the problems of technology, employment, or indeed, in many cases, unemployment with which they are so significantly involved.
In very brief terms I reflect on one or two areas of interest generally in the countries we visited. We were, I believe to a man, impressed on several grounds with the value and nature of Australian developmental aid through the area. The fact that that aid is untied and unconditional is appreciated in a very real sense by these neighbours and friends of ours. More significant also is the very nature of the aid because it is involved largely in the development of land, communication, roads and bridges, irrigation and research into animal and plant breeding which is of great significance to these peoples. Perhaps the most significant part of that sort of aid is that it is closely related to the natural history and development of those societies. Some 70 per cent of the people in those societies are in the peasant farming category. The aid that we are delivering in communication and research enables them to improve their standards of living along their traditional and evolutionary lines. I believe it is well recognised that this is the circumstance and the objective of Australian aid in those areas. There is a very great need for us to pay attention to the social and political evolution of proud people who live mainly to our north and to understand their traditions, disciplines and cultures. It is only in the final resort that by understanding the traditions, cultures and evolutionary circumstances of our friends and neighbours we will be able to solve the mutual problems we have.
Technology is bringing about a great change in the occupations and productivity of these lands. It is of great significance across the whole range of the countries we visited. We saw the result of technology in the Republic of Korea where to the nth degree there has been an industrial explosion in shipbuilding, textiles, the motor industry and steel mills. It is an exciting and extraordinarily big enterprise. That Republic, as a trader with Australia, receives from us something like 35 per cent of its iron ore and some 60 per cent of its coal. It has a tremendous future, but it has a great poverty of resources. Its concern lies, amongst other things, in the stability and reliability of the source of supply of these raw materials.
I refer to another area which is of great concern to the delegation and which we had an opportunity to observe at first hand on a number of occasions, that is, the circumstance of refugees in the area. We were able to see refugees in a staging camp at Jakarta in Indonesia, many of whom were in fact coming to Australia. In Thailand we saw a different group of refugeesmany thousands on the Kampuchean bordersome of whom have been in camps for three or four years and all of whom were refugees by land as distinct from the boat people. We saw many thousands of boat people in Hong Kong and their circumstances could only be deplored and their courage admired. We were impressed with the efforts of the United Nations, the Hong Kong authorities, the Indonesians and, indeed, the Thais looking after these people, who live in desperate circumstances. It was our view that Australia contributed and will continue to contribute to a very great degree to this enormous problem. I think it was of value that we were able to expose more clearly circumstances that were sometimes somewhat misunderstood as to Australia’s effort in the refugee field. It was our endeavour to make clear what we had done in respect of the intake of refugees into this country and aid that we had given in the form of finance and food. It was our opinion that these points, after discussions, were much better appreciated. It was also our view, as it seemed to be the view of the Geneva conference in July, that the source of the refugee was the area to which the world must pay the greatest attention.
I do not want to take any more time of the Senate. I make those few reflections on behalf of this delegation. I close by expressing my appreciation as leader of the delegation and the appreciation of its members, of the hospitality we received from the host countries, from Australian personnel in the diplomatic field, their staff, and Australians involved in the various aid development operations, who were held in extremely high regard by the people in the lands in which they served. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I wish to inform the Senate that the Speaker of the House of Representatives and I have prepared a response to the sixth special report of the Joint Committee on Publications which related to the Australian Government Publishing Service and its Role in Commonwealth Printing and Publishing. I have circulated copies of our statement to honourable senators and I suggest it might suit the convenience of the Senate for the text of it to be incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
On 23 November 1978, the Joint Committee on Publications presented its Sixth Special Report, entitled The Australian Government Publishing Service and its Role in Commonwealth Printing and Publishing 1 964- 1 978.
Mr Speaker and I gave the Report our earnest consideration following its presentation. However, since most of the recommendations contained in the Report came within the province of the Government, we withheld our comments until the Government’s response was made to the Parliament. This response was given on 18 October 1979. As expected, most of the Government’s comments related to the internal administrative arrangements connected with the AGPS, the Government Printer, the Department of Administrative Services, and user departments and authorities.
Nonetheless, there are certain matters of principle affecting the Parliament, to which Mr Speaker and I wish to refer.
The first relates to the Government’s response to Recommendation I of the Report. Recommendation 1 is as follows:
That at the commencement of each Session of Parliament, a Resolution be agreed to by both Houses of Parliament similar to the following:
That the Government Printer be responsible to the Presiding Officers for the printing of all Parliamentary publications and be provided with the necessary resources to meet Parliamentary printing requirements. That at all times, the Government Printer give priority to Parliamentary work.
The question whether a Resolution be adopted by the Parliament, as recommended by the Committee, is, of course, a matter for the Parliament itself to determine, and we do not presume to comment on that particular aspect. Rather, our concern lies with the Government’s response to the recommendation. With respect to the Government’s comment on the status of the Government Printing Office, we acknowledge that, in relation to the strict administrative responsibilities of Government and its overall publishing requirements, the Government Printer is an agency of Government. However, there has been a long-established practice, dating as far back as the establishment of the Printing Office in Canberra, that the necessary priorities of Parliament have been accepted and have constituted a considerable element in the functioning of that Office. We agree with the Government’s comment that the working arrangements for the printing of Parliamentary publications have proved satisfactory and we shall be anxious, and vigilant, to ensure that, with mutual cooperation, they remain so.
The next matter of concern also relates to the principle declared above. Recommendation 10 of the Committee’s Report states:
That the Government Printing Office, wherever possible, operate its plant and associated personnel in such a way as to achieve the most effective utilisation of these resources.
The Government, in accepting the recommendation, emphasises difficulties which might be expected from time to time through changes in Government policies, workloads and priorities. Mr Speaker and I expect that changing workloads and priorities of the Parliament would require similar consideration.
The theme of Government decision-making directed towards Executive rather than Parliamentary requirements is continued in the responses to recommendations 92 to 97. The nub of the Committee’s attempt to combine administrative flexibility with accountability to the Parliament may be summarised as follows:
That a Board of Review be established on an interdepartmental basis to supervise Commonwealth printing and publishing, in accordance with a Charter of Responsibilities to be drawn up by Cabinet after consultation, where appropriate, with the Presiding Officers; that a permanent secretary and support staff be provided by AGPS; and that the Board report at least annually to the Joint Committee on Publications.
The Government decided not to accept the Committee’s recommendation to establish the Board of Review, adopting instead the creation of a Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Government Printing and Publishing. While we appreciate that such a decision was the Government’s to make, we are concerned that, in accepting the proposal of the Committee for a Charter of Responsibilities, the Government has decided that Parliament be excluded from consultation in the drafting of a Charter insofar as that Charter affects the Parliament. Further, there will be no requirement
Tor the Interdepartmental Committee to report to Parliament through the Joint Publications Committee.
The Parliament, having special requirements and responsibilities distinct from the Executive, should, in our opinion, be involved in framing the Parliamentary aspects of the Charter. We note that the views of the Publications Committee, as expressed in the Report, will be taken into account when the Chaner is prepared. Clearly, however, the modifications imposed by the Government’s decision to establish an IDC will necessitate Parliament’s taking an active role in formulating the Charter. We believe that such a role should be taken either through the Presiding Officers, as recommended by the Committee, or through the Committee itself. The Government’s failure to provide a formal mechanism for specialised Parliamentary scrutiny of publishing activities is also of concern to us.
The final matter of principle we wish to raise relates to the Government’s response to recommendation 108, which states:
That the Standing Orders of both Houses of Parliament be amended to enable the Joint Committee on Publications to:
move from place to place; and (ti) form itself into a sub-committee when considered necessary.
The Government rightly points out that this matter is one for the Parliament to determine. We therefore find it curious that the Government has chosen to proffer the comment that it sees no need for a power to move from place to place. We note that the Committee has previously sought and obtained the permission of the Parliament to move from place to place. We, of course, would be guided by any decision made by both Houses, and would ensure that, within the limits of financial and staffing constraints, the wishes of the Houses, if the amendments proposed by the Committee were accepted, would be respected. We propose to take the recommendation of the Committee to the Standing Orders Committee of each House for consideration.
Other matters arising from the Report:
Recommendation 70: That the Parliament undertake an investigation into the requirements of a complete inquiry and information service for the general public and that the results of such an inquiry be laid before the Parliament as soon as possible.
Comment: This is a matter for the Parliament to determine.
Recommendations 106 and 107: That the Presiding Officers continue their examination of the most suitable computer information retrieval system for introduction into the Commonwealth Parliament.
That all necessary resources be provided to ensure that the introduction of a suitable computer information retrieval system is introduced into the Parliament at the earliest practical time.
Comment: Both of these recommendations have been taken into account in the preparation of a brief to commission an information systems consultant to investigate the information systems of the Parliament. The consultant is expected to begin his investigation in March 1 980.
In conclusion, we note with satisfaction that the Government has already implemented recommendation 42 of the Committee ‘that a mail order service for Members of Parliament be introduced and operated by AGPS Bookshops, excluding Canberra’. We understand that the service has already proved of great assistance to Senators and Members.
We reiterate our concern, however, that the Government should recognise the practical extent of the Government Printer’s responsibilities to the Parliament as an institution.
– by leave- On 22 March the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) tabled the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training and indicated the arrangements that would be followed to coordinate the Government’s handling and consideration of the report. I now wish to make a statement on the Government’s response to the report. The Williams Committee was set up by the Government in September 1976. The Committee comprised distinguished representatives of education, employer and trade union interests. Education and training in Australia has been very well served by the contribution made by the members of the Committee. The Government acknowledges its debt to them and in particular to its Chairman, Professor Bruce Williams. The work of the Williams Committee has constituted the most comprehensive examination ever undertaken in Australia into the provision of education facilities and services for individual development and into the relationship between the education system and the labour market. Both of these particular concerns of the Committee were directed towards possible developments up to the year 2000. The comprehensive report of the Committee will be a source of substantial influence over developments in education and its interaction with the world of work for the remainder of the 20th century.
I turn firstly to education aspects. (Quorum formed). The Committee’s review of the provision of education facilities and services led it to the conclusion that the goals which it perceives for the decades ahead can be achieved within the existing framework of the education system without the need for substantial change. The Committee did not recommend major structural change and it advocated development within the existing sectors of tertiary education, through a process of evolutionary adjustments. The overall judgment of the Committee is that the education system is appropriately constituted to respond to the needs of individuals and the community.
The Government accepts this judgment. It accepts that the future development of the system should be within the present sectors. It agrees with the Williams Committee that emphasis in policy consideration should be placed on the processes of education rather than its structures. This is linked with the Government’s concern for the improvement of quality in education. This is no counsel of complacency. The report recommends numerous and often wideranging reforms which will profoundly affect the nature and quality of education in the years ahead. I have no doubt that the report has found a sympathetic response from the many people in the community who have questioned the relevance and quality of education, particularly with regard to basic skills and preparation for vocations.
The Williams Committee does not seek to challenge the generalist stream of education, which aims primarily at individual development and upon which the secondary school systems in Australia are essentially based. It does point, however, to the inadequacies within that concept for a significant number of students who cannot readily adapt to the concept and find themselves at risk because their particular skills and difficulties are not identified and effectively treated.
In its consideration of the major recommendations of the Committee and in discussions with State Education Ministers, the Government has had particular regard to measures for improving the quality of the education system. The quantity of education has increased enormously in the post-war years, and particularly in the past decade. Many people have questioned whether there has been a parallel and comparable increase in quality.
I shall mention the most significant of these measures directed at improving the quality of education and return to more detailed comments later in the statement. We are co-operating with the States in the development of testing measures to assist classroom teachers and systems to identify deficiencies in literacy and numeracy. We will contribute half of the cost of operating a national Technical and Further Education Research and Development Centre which will be involved in the analysis of skills required for various occupations and in the planning and development of teaching materials.
We endorse the recommendations of the Williams Committee directed to institutions, particularly universities and colleges of advanced education, for improving the selection and induction of students, academic staff development, improvement in the qualitative delivery of education, and in the areas of academic progress, including the reduction of failure rates. We shall keep the whole of tertiary arrangements under regular review.
The Williams Committee strategy of evolutionary adjustments within the present sectors of education provides a flexible framework for the development of the education and training systems.
The Government accepts, for the most part, the Committee’s judgments on balance between the sectors of tertiary education for future development of the systems. The Committee, in its projections of future growth, placed emphasis on the growth of the technical and further education and advanced education sectors, while growth in universities would be stabilised. It has been the Government’s policy to give priority to the development of the TAFE sector, and it readily endorses the recommendation that this should continue. The Government accepts the view of the Committee that the number of students in universities be stabilised and that this should be associated with a greater concentration on postgraduate work and research. In the case of advanced education, the Tertiary Education Commission will advise the Government on the particular fields where future growth, if any, might occur. Other issues raised by the projections of the report will be kept under review by the Government in the context of the triennial programs of the Tertiary Education Commission.
Although the Williams Committee was mainly concerned with tertiary education, its proposals on schools include a number of matters to which the Government attaches considerable importance. These include improving the teaching of basic skills in schools, facilitating the transition from school to work- particularly for girlsimproving teaching methods, improving school and community relations and strengthening vocational education. The Government welcomes the proposals of the Committee relating to these matters. Some aspects of them will be considered further by the National Inquiry into Teacher Education- the Auchmuty Committee- which will report by the middle of 1 980.
The Government also attaches considerable importance to increasing access to education, in particular for. those groups that are underrepresented in tertiary education. The Government reaffirms its commitment to widening access to education for such groups and welcomes the particular consideration given to this issue by the Williams Committee. I mention in particular in this context Aboriginals, migrants, the handicapped and those living in isolated country areas. There are also proposals in the report relating to the situation of girls and women, both in securing access to all sectors and fields of education and in access to employment opportunities. The Government attaches considerable importance to these recommendations and will consider carefully ways in which the Commonwealth can contribute to their implementation. In addition to the issues identified by the Williams Committee, there are others relating to access to education by special groups that the Government will continue to address.
Education and the Labour Market
The Williams Report highlights the complexity of the relationship between the education system and the labour market. The role of education is to meet both individual and community needs and the appropriate balance of these perspectives is a matter that requires continuing review. The Williams Report did not recommend substantial changes in the relationship between educational services and labour markets. The Government takes the view that there are some issues in this area that require early action by the Government on a more comprehensive basis than has been suggested by the Williams Committee. These relate, in particular, to the problem of youth unemployment and the general question of the transition of young people from school to work.
The question of the transition of young people from school to work has been under consideration by the Commonwealth and the States for some time. The problem is not unique to Australia. It has been recognised in most Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, and programs are being developed to facilitate transition. OECD conducted in 1976 a review of Australian education that focussed on this subject. Following the OECD review, the Australian Education Council established several working parties that have examined and made recommendations about aspects of this problem. Action has been taken on a range of measures within the education systems. However, more concerted and systematic action is necessary by both the Commonwealth and the States.
The Government has consulted the States on this question and intends to take immediate steps to move towards the implementation of a comprehensive policy for transition from school to work. Later in this statement I will provide information on action that the Government will take.
I now turn to the role of manpower considerations in educational planning. The Government’s policy is that in determining the level and pattern of tertiary education, the objective should be to allocate available resources so as to meet as much of the demand for places as possible, in ways consistent with what is known of the present and future structure of society and the work force.
In this difficult task of reconciling individual aspirations for education with community needs, the Government will continue to be guided by the advice of the Tertiary Education Commission. The Commission will ask advice from the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs on manpower matters. The Government’s approach to determining the pattern of tertiary education will continue to be that, in expensive and highly-specialised fields of study, decisions on the number of places to be made available will be influenced primarily by manpower considerations. In other fields the Government will, as now, have prime regard to the demand for places from those qualified and wishing to enter particular courses. The Government recognises that education serves a plurality of purposes, including its important role in promoting human fulfilment.
The role of manpower considerations in educational planning depends fundamentally on improved assessments of the labour market. The Government is in agreement with the view of the Williams Committee that improvement in the quality and comprehensiveness of labour market information is a pre-requisite for any significant advance in the use of manpower considerations in educational planning.
I have drawn attention to the fact that the Williams Report was required to provide a perspective on educational planning up to the year 2000. A number of its proposals involve adjustments over a period of some considerable time. The proposed changes in skills training illustrate this point. Given this time-scale, implementation of the recommendations of the Williams Committee is a matter of evolving priorities within a flexible long-range framework.
A number of the recommendations in the Williams report are matters for the States and individual institutions to consider. The Government has considered in the light of these considerations, and the more general ones I have previously mentioned, which particular policies can best provide stimulus to the directions advocated by the Williams Committee. The
Government has decided that the following policy objectives will guide its responses to the Williams report: Firstly, qualitative improvement of the TAFE sector; secondly, strengthening the teaching of basic skills in schools; thirdly, facilitating the transition of young people from school to work including the development of a comprehensive policy for youth in transition; fourthly, improving the quality and availability of labour market information; fifthly, improving skills training arrangements; sixthly, strengthening and concentrating research in universities; and seventhly, continuing monitoring and adjustments of the education system. Particular initiatives will be brought forward in the Budget context in pursuance of these policies and the Government will announce its decisions on these initiatives when these are taken. Some of the initiatives recommended by the Williams Committee will be considered in the context of the triennial programs of the Tertiary Education Commission. I turn now to indicate some of the matters that are being considered in connection with these policies.
Qualitative Improvement of the TAFE Sector
The Government has indicated to the States that it is prepared to contribute to the establishment of the National Research and Development Centre in TAFE proposed by the Williams Committee. This proposal was discussed by the Australian Education Council at its June and October meetings and has the support of the Council. Detailed plans for the centre are at present being drawn up. I am confident that a National Research and Development Centre in TAFE will make a valuable contribution in enhancing the capacity of the TAFE sector to undertake the important role in tertiary education that the Williams Committee envisaged for it. The Government takes the view that the expansion of TAFE in response to community and industry needs and the qualitative improvement of the TAFE sector must be essential elements in any strategy for the development of the tertiary education and training system. Special groups such as Aboriginals, migrants, and the handicapped will receive particular help from flexible bridging and transition arrangements in the TAFE area. There is scope for a determined effort to widen the opportunities for skilled training for girls.
Other ways in which quality in the TAFE sector can be improved are currently under consideration by the TAFE Council. These will be brought forward by the Tertiary Education Commission in due course. The Government is prepared to consider, in the context of the 1 980 guidelines for TAFE programs in 1981, proposals from the Tertiary Education Commission for support of quality improvement in TAFE additional to those at present being supported by the Commonwealth.
The Teaching of Basic Skills in Schools
The Williams Committee took the view that proficiency in the basic skills was a factor in the employability of young people. Whilst there is no evidence that standards in the basic skills in schools have fallen, there is research evidence that a significant proportion of school students are not reaching acceptable standards in the basic skills of literacy and numeracy. A national survey undertaken by the Australian Council for Educational Research in 1975 found that approximately 25 per cent of 14 year olds in the sample required some instruction in reading, without which they would be unlikely to undertake independent learning or to read for recreation or to obtain information. That is not good enough. This survey also found that approximately 20 per cent of 10 year olds and 15 per cent of 14 year olds needed remedial instruction in number work. Only 50 per cent of 1 4 year olds could write a satisfactory letter of application for employment in terms of four basic criteria. This is a matter of substantial public concern, and action to improve standards in the basic skills will have wide support.
The Australian Education Council has recognised the need for a comprehensive program of action directed at the improvement of the teaching of basic skills in schools. The Council at its recent October meeting decided to act on the Williams report proposal and to commission the Australian Council for Educational Research to develop a series of diagnostic and survey tests to enable progress by students in the basic skills to be assessed. This program will include the development of progress and review tests for use by schools. In addition, there will be a national monitoring of literacy and numeracy skills on a light sampling basis. The Government welcomes this decision of the Council and will meet half the annual cost of the national monitoring.
Transition from School to Work
The Government will broaden opportunities for young people in making the transition from school to work by supporting the extension and diversification of education, training, and workrelated activities. The Government has consulted the States on ways in which this should be done. At its October meeting the Australian Education Council endorsed the need for a comprehensive policy on transition from school to work. The
Government expects that the action that it will be taking will have the full support and cooperation of the States.
The aim of the Government’s policy will be to ultimately provide all young people in the 15-19 age group with options in education, training and employment or any combination of these whether full-time or part-time, so that unemployment becomes the least acceptable alternative. Such a program will be adapted to the diverse range of needs of young people during these transition years. It will have particular regard to the needs of young people who are identified as being at risk in making the transition from school to working life. Adequate guidance and community services must be provided for such students. The Government’s policy will foster the development of a range of alternative programs both in schools and in TAFE colleges, and in manpower training, that are specially adapted to the needs of particular groups of young people. It will have regard to the significant observation of the Williams Committee that school retention rates in Australia are considerably lower than in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries such as the United States and Japan.
The Government will be taking immediate steps to implement this comprehensive policy in co-operation with the States. In a separate statement I will announce in more detail the action the Government will be taking. This would involve the provision of Commonwealth funds over five years for a special transition program to which the States and the Northern Territory will be invited to make matching contributions. The Commonwealth’s contribution will total $25m in 1980, rising to $40m in 1984 with adjustments for inflation. These funds will provide for the development of programs, in both government and non-government schools and in TAFE colleges, directed at the objectives I have mentioned.
Both the Crawford and Williams reports pointed to deficiencies in labour market information that need to be remedied. The Government is examining ways in which this should be done. More needs to be known about the labour market experience of young people and the Office of Youth Affairs will intensify its role in stimulating and co-ordinating research into those issues.
The Government is committed to improving skills training arrangements both within and outside of apprenticeship. The Government accepts in principle the Williams report proposal for a greater emphasis on pre-employment education and training. The Government recognises that the implementation of this policy requires extensive consultation and that change in this direction could only take place over a period of some time. As a first step the Government has reviewed the role of preapprenticeship and prevocational training and accepts the need to expand such training.
The Government will make funds available in 1 980 for an immediate expansion of preapprenticeship and prevocational training as an aspect of its comprehensive policy to facilitate transition from school to work. Details of this expansion will be worked out in consultation with the States in the context of the funds allocated for the new transition policy.
A series of reports in recent years have argued that university research should be more concentrated in effort. Both the Australian Science and Technology Council and the Williams Committee have supported the proposal to build up post-graduate research centres in universities as a means of securing a more concentrated research effort in universities. The Government recognises the force of this argument and has asked the Tertiary Education Commission to examine this proposal and report to the Government during 1 980 on measures for possible implementation during the 1982-84 triennium. The Government also acknowledges the importance of post-graduate awards in maintaining the strength of university research. The Department of Education and the Tertiary Education Commission will review the number and value of post-graduate awards for consideration in the 1980-81 Budget.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m. ( Quorum formed).
– I turn now to the aspects of monitoring and adjustment of the education system.
There are a number of proposals in the Williams report for monitoring of particular developments in the education system that the Committee regarded as important for the development of both State and national policies. The Government accepts the importance of the education system being kept under continuing review so that the flexibility and responsiveness of the system may be monitored and adjustments may be made in response to social and economic changes. To this end the Government has intensified the evaluation of its own programs. Priority in evaluation studies is currently being given to student assistance, including the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme, and migrant education programs, and the Tertiary Education Commission and the Education Research and Development Committee are supporting other evaluation studies. The Government will look to continuing monitoring and review in the process of reaching future decisions on the programs of the relevant departments and other agencies.
A number of the proposals in the Williams report require further examination by various Commonwealth agencies in the light of the development of the programs of these bodies and other considerations. In some cases further consultation with State authorities and individual institutions will be necessary. In line with this approach, a number of proposals have been referred to the Tertiary Education Commission. Some of these proposals will be considered by the Commission in the context of its development of proposals for the 1982-84 triennium. These include the recommendations for the funding of non-award courses in universities and colleges of advanced education and the establishment of a national network of study centres. The Tertiary Education Commission will also investigate the implications of an extension of the concept of contracting in consultation with State authorities and will advise the Government on this matter. A number of matters concerning skills training have been referred to the National Training Council for consideration. Relevant recommendations will be taken up by the National Inquiry into Teacher Education, the National Training Council, the Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change in Australia and various Commonwealth agencies in the course of their work.
The Williams Committee recommended some changes in Commonwealth and State roles and relationships in the planning and administration of tertiary education. These related, in particular, to the planning and administration of advanced education and involved a proposal for further devolution of responsibility to State authorities subject to certain conditions. These proposals have been discussed with the States through the Australian Education Council and agreement has been reached with them on procedures to be followed which will ensure adequate consultation with the States. Consultations will be convened by the Chairman of the Tertiary Education Commission and held at least twice a year. Revised arrangements involving close cooperation with the States in the preparation of triennial plans by the Tertiary Education Commission have also been agreed. (Quorum formed). The Australian Education Council has agreed that the modified arrangements should be reviewed in 1981 after the completion of the planning cycle for the 1 982-84 triennium. Until this review has been completed, the Government will not be undertaking a review of the structure of the Tertiary Education Commission. Improved consultation arrangements between the Schools Commission and the State schools systems have also been agreed with the States.
Review of Follow-up Action
The Williams report covers a broad spectrum of education and training issues, many of which are matters for bodies other than the Commonwealth and its agencies. In some cases these are matters for consideration by State government authorities and in other cases for individual institutions. The impact on the Williams report on Australian education will depend on the cooperation and goodwill of many parties. It is important that governments give a lead. I have been greatly encouraged by the positive response that governments, government agencies, individual institutions, industry, and community groups across Australia have given to the report. Not everyone agrees with all of its philosophy and proposals, and I would not expect this, but the report has provided an opportunity for a national stocktaking of directions for the development of Australian tertiary education.
Some of the most significant proposals in the report are for individual institutions to address. These relate to such matters as the selection of students, teaching, examining, failure and attrition, the awarding of credit for studies undertaken in other institutions. In the long run, the impact of the Williams report will depend as much on action taken by institutions, and individual educators, in re-examining their practices in these matters as on any action taken by government. The Government, through the Tertiary Education Commission, will keep in close touch with these developments. The Government will maintain a continuing review of developments arising out of the Williams report. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) and I will report annually to the Government on developments for the next three years.
The Government in turn will report to the Parliament on progress in implementation. The Tertiary Education Commission will have a key role to play in this process of monitoring, and I expect that the Commission’s report in 1981 for the 1982-84 triennium will provide a further opportunity for the Government to develop major thrusts of the Williams report.
The Williams report has provided a variety of insights into the challenges that face tertiary education and training in Australia. It has focussed our attention on critical issues. It is evident that there is a great need for active co-operation between all those involved in education and training in responding to the challenges the report has documented. In particular, the Commonwealth will work closely with State governments and it recognises that State education authorities have a particular responsibility in many of the matters raised by the Williams Committee. In the future, I am confident it will be judged that the Williams report represents a major endeavour in the move towards a more comprehensive view of the role of tertiary education and training in Australian society. The ‘learning society’ may still lie in the future, but some of its prerequisites are clearer as a result of the work of the Williams Committee.
For its part, the Government will continue to address questions of quality in education and training. The Government has recently tabled the report of the National Training Council’s training study mission, which examined a number of issues relevant to training in industry, and it is currently considering this report. Next year the Government expects to have the reports of the National Inquiry into Teacher Education and the Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change in Australia. These reports, following after the Williams and Crawford reports, will provide a further delineation of the changing conditions to which Australian education must respond. Taken collectively these four inquiries constitute the most searching probe into education and training in Australia’s history. They will significantly influence the quality of education in the future. The Williams report has provided the opportunity and occasion for a national stocktaking of directions and practices in Australian tertiary education and training. Its purpose has been sell served by that result alone. The report and its follow up also constitute a crystallisation of ideas and action already being developed in various parts of Australia. There is now a need to build on this basis. I am confident that all those involved in the great enterprise of education and training in Australia will take up the challenges of the Williams report in a forward looking and constructive way.
– by leave- I turn now to a report on a comprehensive policy for transition from school to work in which my colleague, the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) is also involved.
The Commonwealth Government is concerned about the problems of young people in making the transition from school to work or to further education, and is prepared to join with the States and the Northern Territory in developing a comprehensive policy to assist them. The Commonwealth will provide additional grants to a total of $150m over five years for a special transition program involving matching contributions from the States and the Northern Territory in the later years. The Commonwealth’s contribution in 1980 will be $25m rising to $40m in real terms in 1 984. It is envisaged that a range of developments in the interests of young people making the transition from school to employment will be stimulated or extended as a result of this initiative and that in the longer term the education system as a whole will’ become better geared to the needs of young people in the changing circumstances of the 1980s. Our primary concern is the 50,000 young people who now leave school each year with poor employment prospects. We wish to provide appropriate education and training courses for them and also tackle the problem of those in the schools who are likely to be in similar difficulties when it comes their turn to leave.
Developments likely to occur in 1980 with support from the Commonwealth’s provision of an additional $25m include:
Expansion and development of transition courses in Technical and Further Education institutions, including pre-apprenticeship, prevocational and pre-employment courses. These would be full-time courses up to one year in duration to prepare young people for vocations, particularly in the trades and technical occupations where shortages of skilled workers still exist. (Quorum formed).
Expansion of the number of places available in the Education Program for Unemployed Youth.
It is expected that an additional 7,000 places could become available in these TAFE courses in 1980 with substantial further increases in later years.
Development of improved services and techniques for identifying potential early school leavers.
Expansion of school counsellor, vocational education and guidance services to provide more intensive and comprehensive assistance for students at risk and their parents.
Development of alternative courses in schools for potential early leavers.
Establishment of after-school and vacation programs of vocational education and counselling.
Development of link courses involving students’ participation in programs combining elements of secondary and TAFE courses.
Teacher development programs. In-service courses and re-orientation programs to fit numbers of teachers for their roles in the development and implementation of alternative courses and identification and counselling of at risk students.
Community education projects to include increasing employers’ and parents’ understanding of school activities and programs to increase teachers’ awareness of specific employment requirements for new employees.
The Government acknowledges that a number of measures is already available from the States and the Commonwealth to assist young people to be better prepared for the world of work. It considers, however, that there is a need for substantial changes and development in education, training and preparation for initial employment for a significant minority of young people who have unsatisfactory experiences at this important and formative stage of their lives. (Quorum formed). The Government has decided, therefore, to commence a program of special action directed to the transition from education to working life.
The aim of the Commonwealth ‘s policy is that ultimately all young people in the 15 to 19 years age group would be provided with options in education, training and employment, or any combination of these, either part-time or fulltime, so that unemployment becomes the least acceptable alternative. Progress towards this objective is seen as involving development of improved techniques for identifying children at school who are likely to be at risk in transition from education to work, improved vocational education and counselling services and provision of alternative courses for at risk students. Other developments might include extension of work experience and community service programs involving students at school and of link courses combining elements of secondary and TAFE courses. Teacher development programs may need to be supplemented or adapted to prepare larger numbers of teachers to implement the changes successfully. In addition, expansion and development of TAFE programs, such as pre-apprenticeship and pre-employment courses and the EPUY program, which contribute to the successful transition of young people to employment is regarded as an important element of a comprehensive transition education and training program. In the development of programs the Government would wish to see attention given to the particular problems which girls have in making the transition from education to employment.
It will be important to the success of the new policy that effective guidance and counselling services be available. In addition to making some provision for this in the special funding arrangements, the Commonwealth wishes to review with the States the existing vocational guidance services to see how they can be improved and rationalised. Over a period the Commonwealth wishes to see the pattern of allowances and benefits for young people, and of related assistance to industry, reorganised to ensure that these separate measures provide the appropriate incentives to participation in education and training. This important aspect of a comprehensive policy is being examined, but we do not intend to withdraw or reduce the unemployment benefits presently available to young people.
I repeat: We do not intend to withdraw or reduce the unemployment benefits presently available to young people.
The developments the Commonwealth proposes follow from the consideration the Commonwealth and the States have been giving to issues in transition for some time. They are consistent with the deliberations of the Australian Education Council, which led the State, Northern Territory and Commonwealth Ministers for Education who constitute the Council, at its meeting last month, to endorse the need for a comprehensive policy on transition from school to work. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs attended that meeting. The developments are also a natural consequence of the findings of the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training. The additional funds will be available for agreed programs in government school and TAFE systems and non-government school systems from the beginning of 1 980. They will be provided, as special grants, in addition to the programs of the Tertiary Education Commission and the Schools Commission. Commonwealth grants will be made available under the program for a period of five years, as follows, with expenditure adjusted after 1980 to allow for inflation:
The Commonwealth’s contributions are being offered on the understanding that in 1981 the States and the Northern Territory will contribute a total of $9m for the agreed program and that in later years they will match the Commonwealth’s spending on their government systems dollar for dollar. The particular purposes for which the grants may be spent will be worked out in discussions with State, territorial and nongovernment education authorities to commence immediately the States and the Northern Territory have accepted the Commonwealth’s offer. The Government will invite the Tertiary Education Commission and the Schools Commission to take account of this new policy in the development of their program proposals.
The problems of transition are not, I stress, an area for government action only. A comprehensive approach to the problems requires the interest, understanding and support of the whole community. Teachers have an obvious and crucial part to play. Parents need to encourage and support their children and to be interested and involved in the vital work of the schools and the decisions made by authorities affecting their children. To a large extent the motivations and attitudes of young people are affected by the expectations their parents have of them and the encouragement they receive at home. Employers should develop closer links with education systems, particularly at the local school level, in the interests of, on the one hand, schools understanding better the requirements of the workplace and, on the other hand, of employers appreciating more clearly the education process and the difficulties faced by young people and their teachers in preparing adequately for the complex requirements of life and work in the eighties and nineties. Organisations of employees should lend their support and participate in the working out of the new arrangements.
The Government is presenting this initiative as an important and substantial contribution to the difficult problem of equipping our young people for the world of work. With the co-operation and support of the community, the opportunity is now being given to develop a comprehensive approach to the transition from school to work of all young people which, given time, will ensure that the teenage years are productive, constructive and satisfying, and that unemployment is not an option that they would seek rather than participate in the opportunities opened up by a comprehensive transition policy. The two statements are of great significance, and I commend them to the Senate. I present the following papers:
Inquiry into Education and Training- Ministerial Statement, 22 November 1979.
A Comprehensive Policy for Transition from School to Work -Ministerial Statement, 22 November 1979.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the statements. 1 wish to confine my remarks to the second, and shorter, of the two statements made by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). Of course the first statement is important but it is so large that we have not had time to peruse it. It refers to the large and very comprehensive Williams report. We have been awaiting the second statement for quite some time. There have been many leaks about what may and may not have been in it. There have been references by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, the Honourable Ian Viner, in speeches around the country and references by Senator Carrick in this place and outside as to the Government’s new developments in the field of transitional educationeducation to enable people to go from school to work. It was suspected that some of the reports in the newspapers were kite flying exercises, some were confusing and some were obviously the guesswork of the reporters concerned. We have been waiting for this statement for some time. In fact, what we have is an eight page statement entitled, ‘A Comprehensive Policy for Transition from School to Work ‘. This it is not. I will begin my comments where Senator Carrick left off. He ended his statement with the following words: the opportunity is now being given . . . will ensure that the teenage years are productive, constructive and satisfying and that unemployment is not an option that they would seek rather than participate in the opportunities opened up by a comprehensive transition policy.
Throughout the statement there are references to the fact that the Government does not consider that unemployment should be a satisfactory alternative to the youth of this country who leave school. Of course, the youth of this country do not see unemployment as a satisfactory alternative, and Australia will retain its high unemployment and persist with a high youth unemployment rate. As long as we have a ratio of job vacancies to those who are seeking work of something like I to 20 it is absolute nonsense to think that by introducing a program of this type, or any other type, without increasing the number of jobs available in the community we will in fact do anything about youth unemployment. It is a serious problem. Everybody knows it is a serious problem.
Of those on unemployment benefits in June this year, 10.5 per cent were school leavers who had not had any work at all. I am talking about those on unemployment benefits, not those registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service or in the figures of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Of those people, 27.2 per cent- 48,000- were under 18 years of age and 56.7 per cent- 177,000- were under 25 years of age. The unemployment rate for those under the age of 20 years is 1 5.6 per cent. Some communities have a rate much worse than that. In some of the ethnic communities- for example, the Lebanese and Turkish communities in Victoria- 40 per cent of the unemployed school leavers were out of work in June; almost one in four of those unemployed for more than three months have not applied for or claimed benefits in this country. The average duration of unemployment in Australia is now 27 weeks, whereas four or five years ago it was six or seven weeks. We are viewing a serious problem and I think it is quite dishonest for the Government to bring down an eight page statement entitled ‘A Comprehensive Policy for Transition from School to Work ‘ when it is nothing of the sort.
One can sum up this statement in a very short time by saying that the Government will spend, on an average, $30m per annum if the States will also kick in to increase the amount of money spent on programs assisting in transitional education between school and work. The first section describes a moderate expansion of already existing programs, such as the Education Program for Unemployed Youth, developments for improved services and techniques for identifying early school leavers, the school councillor system, alternative courses in schools and establishment of after-school courses, et cetera. The statement then goes on to acknowledge that most of these measures are already being used, and it is expected that they will assist some 7,000 people. The second section has no specific details at all. It starts on page 4 after the statement that unemployment becomes the least acceptable alternative. Throughout the section, on pages 4 and 5, we find over and over again the words ‘might’ and ‘may’. We find statements such as ‘other developments might include an extension of work experience’, and ‘teacher development programs may be needed’. The words ‘might’ and ‘may’ appear all through it. It is not a comprehensive policy; it is not a specific policy. It is a list of suggestions, of things that we might do or may do. To call this a comprehensive policy for transitional education is utter nonsense.
The third section occurs on page 7. It can be described only as an exhortation to teachers, students, parents and employees to get together and do something. That is not a comprehensive policy or part of a comprehensive policy. It is the sort of sermon on the mount nonsense that we get from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who, over the years, has urged people to buy more refrigerators and more cars- to buy our way out of trouble. People in this country do not fall for that nonsense any longer and they certainly will not fall for a document which claims to be a comprehensive policy but which contains hardly any specific suggestions and only a series of suggestions of what we might or may do. If it were an ordinary policy discussion paper looking to a few things that we might be able to do in that distant future it would be fair enough; but to describe it as a comprehensive policy is utter nonsense. The problem is too urgent for us to be sitting in here reading pious mouthings of this sort. We have to do something about unemployment. Even Senator Archer, a great critic of the unemployed -
– I beg your pardon. Would you please explain that?
– Admits that we must -
– Explain what you mean.
– A well-known dole bludger kicker around the place is Senator Archer; he is well known on the north east coast of Tasmania
- Mr President, I strongly object to that statement. I am certainly not going to put up with that. If that bloke over there is going to accuse me of all sorts of things, let him put up.
-I think that Senator Archer should learn that if he interjects he has to cop something back. As President Truman said: If you don’t like the heat you know where you can go ‘.
-Order! I did not hear very clearly.
– That is all right.
– He has settled down. He is all right. He got a bit excited. He did not get enough sleep last night. I merely say on behalf of the Opposition that no one who read the statement could have any clear idea of what the Government intends to do about the transition from school to work. We have some idea of what it might be thinking about and what it may be going to discuss with the States, but with 1 77,000 people under the age of 28 receiving unemployment benefit, with 48,000 people under the age of 1 8 receiving unemployment benefit and with another 50,000 coming into the work force from school, we have not time to do that. I would like to say finally that although it may be clear to the person who wrote it, I am not clear just what the paragraph on page 5 means exactly. That paragraph states:
Over a period the Commonwealth wishes to see the pattern of allowances and benefits for young people, and of related assistance to industry, re-organised to ensure that these separate measures provide the appropriate incentives to participation in education and training. This important aspect of a comprehensive policy is being examined -
Again nothing specific; it is being examined- but we do not intend to withdraw or reduce the unemployment benefits presently available to young people.
I assume that Senator Carrick ‘s emphasis on that statement means that the unemployment benefit available to young people now will be retained together with whatever allowances and benefits will be introduced in the future; that the availability of those benefits will remain as it is now; and that the word ‘presently’ does not mean that only those who are receiving them now will retain them and that others will have to go through some new system- which may be landed on us when Parliament is not sitting- of the type that has been mooted around this country by Mr Viner.
All of us want to see something done about youth unemployment. All of us want to see something done about the appallingly low take-up rate of our youth in tertiary education as compared with the rates for other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and even for countries outside that organisation. All of us suspect that, if unemployment levels are to remain high because of technological change, of industry readjustments and of economic difficulties in this world, the education period may have to be longer and that we may have to have more people in special sorts of education processes at the tertiary level. We certainly need- I agree- more assistance at the secondary level to ensure that a person’s education fits him more to the world he will go into. We all accept that and we all accept that it may be done, but we believe the problem is urgent and will not be solved by a statement such as this which talks about what might and what may happen, which says in effect ‘we will do this with the States if they co-operate’ and which finishes up by exhorting everybody in the community to rally together without giving them any real leadership.
I think it is a superficial statement and I condemn it as such. We expected more in view of the publicity and the long and pious words which came, particularly from Mr Viner, in the speeches that have led up to the release of the report. It tells us nothing much. We still have no real concept of where we are going and where the Government intends to lead us. I believe it is a great disappointment and that we have taken no steps forward in this area.
Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.
– I seek leave to make a statement concerning the report by the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts on the education of isolated children. I now seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
-I table the document.
– I seek leave to make a statement concerning the report by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on Australia and the South Pacific. I now seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
– I table that statement.
– I seek leave to make a statement concerning the report by the Seante Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on Australia and the Indian Ocean region. I now seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
– I table the statement for the benefit of the Senate.
– I seek leave to make a statement concerning the report by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on the Torres Strait Treaty. I now seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
– I table the statement.
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to the report by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on the Middle East. I now seek to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
– I table the statement.
– On behalf of Senator Durack, I seek leave to make a statement concerning the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on scrutiny of Bills and delegation of parliamentary authority. I now seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
– I table the statement.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note or the paper.
Unfortunately the statement of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) will not appear in Hansard and, because of the time it will take, I will not read it into Hansard. I hope it will be incorporated in Hansard at some time, when reason prevails in the Senate, so that honourable senators will be able to read it. The statement relates to the recommendations of the Senate committees, in particular the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. Because of my motion Senator Cavanagh will not be able to deny other honourable senators, including members of his own party, the opportunity to speak on this matter.
The statement which was put down- as it was only tabled and not incorporated in Hansard, I will have to describe it and go through it very briefly- is one which relates to the Government’s response to two reports of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs; one relating to the scrutiny of Bills and the other relating to the delegation of parliamentary authority. The response comes one year after the two Committee reports were put down in the Senate. That, of course, is not within the six-month period of the Government’s undertaking. It is unfortunate that it has come to the Senate right on the death knock of this session, so it is difficult for honourable senators actually to have the chance to read it and respond properly to it.
The position is this: The Senate Committee put down two reports. The basic effect of them was to suggest to the Parliament that a scrutiny of Bills committee ought to be set up by the Parliament- it would be a relatively small committee- and that it ought to operate in a manner similar to that of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances when it deals with regulations and ordinances. Such a committee would then be in a position to investigate Bills and to discuss and consider the civil liberties implications of such Bills. It would be able also to investigate the matter of the delegation of parliamentary authority and other such matters of a technical nature which tend to be overlooked when Bills are considered in this Parliament. When Bills are considered in the Parliament so many issues become political and, at that stage, the other matters are no longer considered. Therefore, the defects which might exist in Bills are ignored. In view of the statement now made by the Attorney-General, I shall read from the statement I made when I tabled the report of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee last year. This is taken from the tabled statement. I said:
In assessing the need for such a committee we noted that many Bills come before the Parliament which contain provisions that: Significantly interfere with personal rights and liberties; delegate powers which, arguably, should not be delegated at all; delegate powers to affect rights, liberties and obligations without providing an opportunity for the exercise of those powers to be reviewed either by the Parliament itself or by an independent body; or delegate powers to impose obligations without any clearly defined guidance as to who is to impose them, upon whom and in which circumstances.
The effect of the Attorney-General’s statement is to deny the statements we made in the report because the conclusion of the Government is that there is no need for such a committee. Presumably, there is no need for such a committee because the situations, which we claim occur, do not occur. As Chairman of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee, I stand by what the Committee said. I shall run through the Attorney-General’s statement briefly. It contains assertions which positively amaze me. It is a short statement. It absolutely refuses and rejects the recommendations of the Senate Committee. In my view, it is insulting to the two Committee reports under consideration because of its failure to accept or discuss the details or evidence which we provided. It is misleading in the statements made in it. In order to enable honourable senators to read what I am saying in the light of the Attorney-General’s statement, I appeal to honourable senators to permit the incorporation of the Attorney-General ‘s statement in Hansard. I seek leave, Mr President, to have the statement incorporated in the Hansard record of the proceedings of the Senate.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– I am sorry, Mr President; I was led to believe that perhaps common sense would prevail, but apparently that is not so. In the Government’s response it is stated:
During the debate in the Senate it became clear that there was strong opposition to the proposal for the establishment of a Joint Committee.
The statement claims that Senator Rae, in opposing the proposal for a joint committee, pointed out various things in regard to joint committees and stated that in general they are undesirable. The confusing thing about that is that Senator Rae certainly thought that there ought to be a Senate committee doing what we suggested. The Committee considered that proposal but, because most Bills come into the House of Representatives, it was thought that this was a situation in which one joint committee would best satisfy the requirements. But the Government’s response is misleading when it picks up the issue and suggests that Senator Rae was opposed to the proposal. He was not opposed to it, he was opposed to the concept of the establishment of a joint committee. We stand strongly by our recommendation. I think that the Government’s response has given a misleading impression. The Government states that the Committee’s proposals are unacceptable. It states that it accepts that there is a necessity to protect personal rights, but it then goes on to state that the Committee ‘s proposal would inject a new element into the legislative process and states that that element is:
I do not know what that means. I do not know what present arrangements are likely to be ‘distorted’. Certainly we do not see it as a new element; we see that the Houses of the Parliament, operating through such a committee, using such a committee and no doubt obtaining the services of counsel to guide that committee, would provide members of Parliament in both Houses with an opportunity better to study the purposes of Bills and recognise the defects they might contain. Far from taking away from members of parliament their rights or opportunities, what would happen would be that a better investigation would be undertaken of the civil liberties aspects of Bills and a number of issues would be taken out of the political content and made matters on which agreement might be reached in such a committee. The House of Representatives, apart from anything else, needs the injection of that sort of non party-political attitude towards those issues. Moving on from that aspect and saying that, therefore, the establishment of such a committee would enable greater emphasis to be placed on civil liberties aspects of Bills in both Houses of Parliament, we come to the part of the Government’s response which reads: . . there are already ample opportunities for the examination of legislation that comes before the Parliament to ensure that these interest are protected and that any provisions that might be objectionable on the grounds indicated by the Senate Committee are brought to attention either before introduction or after introduction in the Parliament.
The statement mentions parliamentary counsel and their job. It mentions the legislation committee of Cabinet and so forth and of the traditional Committee debate in the Senate. It cannot be said that, even in the Committee debate on Bills in the Senate, a great deal of consideration is given to questions of whether a Bill contains such powers as a power of entry or search which it ought not to contain. Those issues are important, but they are overlooked in the political contest between the parties. Therefore, the existing system is not adequate for that purpose. The most amazing part of the Attorney-General’s statement is found in paragraph 9, which states:
The Back-bench committees have a particular function in their examination of proposed legislation and the Law and Government Committee of the Government parties is invited to give close scrutiny to legislation that may raise questions in the light of the principles that the Senate Committee proposed should guide the proposed Joint Parliamentary Committee.
– That is not true.
– As my friend Senator Hamer said, that is not true. I am the Deputy Chairman of the backbench committee on law and government. I have been a member of that committee for many years. That committee has never had the power or obligation and is not invited to look into other legislation. It operates as one of the many party committees. It looks into legislation on legal issues in the AttorneyGeneral ‘s area. That being so, of course, it would look into the application of civil liberties. But it does not rush off and look into trade Bills or into all the other types of legislation which come before the Parliament. What the Government has said in its statement is quite incorrect. I am amazed to find such a remark in the AttorneyGeneral’s statement because surely he must know that the committee which reports to him does not do as he claims it does. It never has done so and does not have the facilities- counsel or anybody else- to assist it in performing that task. Therefore, that part of the statement, on the face of it, is incorrect. Someone has made a terrible error in gathering the facts.
Apart from that Government statement, which is, as I said, an incorrect assessment of the situation, the public has been concerned about the recommendations which we made as a Senate committee. Not very long ago there was considerable public discussion about this type of issue. An editorial in the Melbourne Age of 3 September 1979 referred to the recommendations of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee. Under the heading ‘Watchdog on civil rights’, amongst other things it states:
Such a committee would seem, on the face of it, to be a sensible idea. Yet it seems that only a revolt last week by backbenchers persuaded the Government not to reject the proposal. The Attorney-General told a meeting of the Government parties that the Government was opposed to the suggestion. But when about 10 backbenchers objected, Senator Durack changed his tune, promising that Cabinet would look at the proposal afresh.
Having commended the proposal, the editorial concludes by saying:
The proposal is constructive and Federal Cabinet should take its cue from last week ‘s party meeting and adopt it.
Without further adequate discussion this statement has been brought before us today and in it the recommendations of the Senate Committee are totally rejected. The Senate could, alternatively, set up a committee, just a Senate committee, to look into these Bills. That would be the second best thing; that is all. It would be very difficult for the Senate or a Senate committee to look into Bills which have not been debated yet in the House of Representatives. Therefore, that would not be good enough. I will make a very brief comment -
– You have already been speaking for quarter of an hour.
– The honourable senator says that I have been speaking for quarter of an hour. I am sorry if my speech has already taken a quarter of an hour. The matters contained in the report took a long while to investigate. I cannot help it if the matter comes on for debate today. What value have Senate committees if their recommendations are rejected in such a churlish way? What can we do to ensure that civil liberty matters are given greater understanding and consideration by the houses of Parliament? I am appalled by the Government’s response to the Committee’s report and have no intention whatsoever of letting it rest there. I trust that the Senate will try to take this matter up in the interests of the effectiveness of Senate committees.
-I think Senator Missen indicated that he wanted leave to incorporate a statement.
– That was rejected by you, Senator.
– If Senator Missen seeks leave again, leave will be granted.
– I seek leave again to incorporate in Hansard the Ministerial statement on reports of the Senate Standing Committee on Constititional and Legal Affairs on scrutiny of Bills and delegation of parliamentary authority.
The statement read as follows-
MINISTERIAL STATEMENT ON REPORTS OF SENATE STANDING COMMITTEE ON CONSTITUTIONAL AND LEGAL AFFAIRS ON “SCRUTINY OF BILLS” AND “DELEGATION OF PARLIAMENTARY AUTHORITY”
The Reports of the Senate Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on “Scrutiny of Bills” and “Delegation of Parliamentary Authority” were tabled in the Senate on 23 November last year and debated on 1 March of this year.
The Senate Committee recommended that a Joint Parliamentary Committee should be established to maintain a watching brief on all Bills introduced into the Parliament and to report whether, by express words or otherwise, they:
trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties;
make rights, liberties and obligations unduly dependent upon insufficiently defined administrative powers or non-reviewable administrative decisions; or
inappropriately delegate legislative power or insufficiently subject its exercise to parliamentary scrutiny
The Senate Committee recommended a mechanism which they saw as enabling the proposed committee scrutiny to be effective without impeding the Government’s legislation program. They recommended a mechanism which might briefly be stated as follows:
the clauses of all Bills to stand automatically referred to the Joint Committee on the motion for the second reading in the Chamber in which the Bill is first introduced;
the Joint Committee to be given the opportunity to report to the two Houses before passage of the Bill through Parliament;
the Standing Orders of both Houses to be amended to provide that the Joint Committee should have at least four sitting days from the time the second reading is moved in the first Chamber to the time of the third reading in the second Chamber to make its report to both Houses;
where the Government wished a Bill to pass both Houses within the four sitting days without awaiting a report from the Joint Committee, it must move to suspend Standing Orders; in that event, the Joint Committee can continue its scrutiny of the Bill and report after enactment of the Bill.
During the debate in the Senate it became clear that there was strong opposition to the proposal for the establishment of a Joint Committee. Senator Rae, in opposing the proposal for a Joint Committee, pointed out that the Report of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System in 1 976 indicated that there was a general view that Joint Committees are undesirable and unlikely to function satisfactorily.
The Government has carefully considered the proposals in the Senate Committee’s Reports but has concluded that they are unacceptable. The Government is at one with the Senate Committee in its concern to protect the personal rights and liberties of the individual, and to ensure that there is no inappropriate delegation of legislative power or avoidance of adequate Parliamentary scrutiny of the exercise of legislative power.
However, the present proposals amount to injecting a new element into the legislative process and one which we believe will distort, and may lengthen, the present arrangements. We believe that every Member of the Parliament should be concerned, when legislation is before the Parliament, with any questions of human rights and civil liberties which may arise. This proposal would tend to make this concern the responsibility of one small group only.
The view the Government takes is that there are already ample opportunities for the examination of legislation that comes before the Parliament to ensure that these interests are protected and that any provisions that might be objectionable on the grounds indicated by the Senate Committee are brought to attention either before introduction or after introduction in the Parliament.
The processes of examination begin when legislation is being prepared by Parliamentary Counsel in conjunction with the Department concerned. They are continued when the draft legislation is considered by the Legislation Committee before its introduction and are pursued through the existing procedures in each House. In the House of Representatives, a Bill may receive detailed consideration by a Legislation Committee of the House and in the Senate there is the traditional Committee debate in which the detailed provisions of the Bill are examined closely and with the principles the Senate Committee is concerned with very much in mind. In addition Bills are occasionally referred to one of the Legislative and General Purpose Committees (e.g. Freedom of Information).
The Back-bench committees have a particular function in their examination of proposed legislation and the Law and Government Committee of the Government parties is invited to give close scrutiny to legislation that may raise questions in the light of the principles that the Senate Committee proposed should guide the proposed Joint Parliamentary Committee. The Opposition, I would expect, has its own committees that perform a similar function.
The restrictions that implementation of the Standing Committee’s present proposals would place on the legislative program of the Government are serious and could not be accepted by the Government. The Government does not see the need to impose further restrictions on the legislative process as proposed by the Senate Committee’s reports. Adequate opportunities are given under existing procedures to ensure protection of personal rights and liberties. Adoption of the cumbersome machinery of a Joint Committee as proposed by the Senate Committee could only serve to frustrate legislative programs without compensating benefits.
– I rise very briefly to express my grave concern at the contempt shown for this chamber in this ministerial statement on the reports of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. We have waited 12 months for a response. As the months went by we thought that perhaps earnest consideration was being given to the report, that perhaps it was not being accepted in every detail that perhaps it would not be fully implemented or that perhaps a compromise was being worked out. When one finds, 12 months after the tabling of the report, a response from the Government one has to peruse it briefly in the short time available. Of course, it was thrown on my desk in the midst of a whole lot of other papers an hour or so before I was due to speak. The response reeks with the arrogance of the Executive. It shows a complete contempt for the Parliament and certainly insults the bipartisan committee of six honourable senators of this chamber, drawn from every Party, who came to this conclusion as a practical measure to ensure that no legislation escapes the scrutiny of this chamber and of the House of Representatives in relation to these human rights.
– It is not necessarily the right decision.
– No, but it is part of the pattern spoken of by Senator Puplick.
– There is some opposition on this side of the chamber I can assure you, Senator.
– This was part of the pattern hinted at by Senator Puplick in his question yesterday. He pointed out that the Executive was about to send troops overseas without parliamentary debate. With that sort of contempt for human rights, including the right to life of our young Australians, it is not surprising that we have this sort of response from the Government to a parliamentary report.
– It is not just the Government; it is some of the backbenchers too. That is the point I am making clear.
– What is so insulting about this report is that whoever put together the form of words in it has not really understood the report. The people concerned have misrepresented the conclusions of the Committee. They have certainly misdescribed the consequences which would flow from its implementation. For example, paragraph 10 of the ministerial response contains words such as ‘restrictions’, cumbersome’ and ‘frustrate’- all the sorts of words which convey an impression to the reader about the proposals put forward by this Committee, not a committee of academics or people who do not understand the machinery of government, but a committee of six members of this chamber.
The recommendations of the Committee show that we were particularly concerned that nothing this Committee did would frustrate the Government program. In those instances where the Government has such an urgent piece of legislation that it needs to force through a matter within four days of introduction we say that the legislation should go ahead. There is no attempt by this proposal to halt the progress of legislation. If the Bill becomes an Act, because the Government decides that the matter ought to be proceeded with in a period shorter than four days, then the Committee retains its right to report to the Parliament on any discrepancy it finds between a human right and the actual operation of the Bill. There is no way in which the operation of this joint committee could frustrate the passage of legislation through either chamber according to a timetable decided on by the Government.
The Committee’s recommendation offers a supplement to every member and senator in his or her perusal and consideration of the legislation. We are inundated with pieces of paper.
We are given memorandums from the parliamentary research staff. We are given copies of second reading speeches from Ministers. We have all these aids. As an additional aid the joint committee would provide to each parliamentarian for his or her consideration a commentary on the Bill linking the operative provisions of the Bill to such questions as whether the Bill significantly alters or interferes with personal liberties and rights, delegates powers which ought not to be delegated or in some way delegates power without giving sufficient consideration to ongoing parliamentary scrutiny. There is no attempt by the Committee to weigh up the balance between the Bill and the delegation to be undertaken. We leave that to the parliamentarian concerned. This is merely a service to alert parliamentarians to the possibility of conflict.
– Academic nonsense.
– It is net academic nonsense.
– You have no understanding of the Westminster system of Parliament.
– I will speak to the Chair, Mr President. You will be well aware, Mr President, that there are occasions -
– Order! You cannot use that expression, Senator Evans. You know that it is unparliamentary; I ask you to withdraw.
– In deference to the Chair, I withdraw.
– There are occasions- I recall reading about one before I entered this chamber- when, without any intention to do so and given the nature of a government’s program, a Bill is introduced into one chamber of the Parliament, proceeds to the other and becomes law without members or senators being alerted to the fact that there may be a serious possible infringement of a human right, personal liberty or personal right in the operation of the law. I refer, of course, to the Atomic Energy Amendment Act. I believe Senator Missen was the only member of this Parliament to raise the possibility that some sections of that Act as used to regulate the exploitation of the Ranger uranium deposit were in contradiction to the sons of principles which should govern the peaceful exploitation of those resources for the development of energy concerns rather than, as at the time when the legislation was originally framed, for the provision of nuclear weapons materials for our allies, such as when Rum Jungle was the deposit being exploited. That is the sort of instance where legislation comes into a chamber and the focus is on an element of that legislation- in that case the development of uranium deposits- and clauses to do with human rights and their infringement get lost perhaps in general argument on matters of more public concern.
All the Committee is saying is that it is precisely in instances like that that a joint committee can help and aid parliamentarians in coming to a decision as to their position on the Bill. We say that a joint committee should do the job to enable flexibility, speed and the least possible frustration of the Government’s program, which Senator Lewis desires. Whichever chamber the matter is introduced into, it can be referred to that joint committee and be expeditiously dealt with. As I say, the response by the Attorney in its language of distortion, frustration, cumbersomeness and restriction completely misrepresents the balanced, practical proposals put forward by this Senate Committee.
The Government’s reply amounts to an insult to the effort that was put into the report. I do not say that the report has to be totally accepted by the Government. I object to the language used here which is similar to the language used in the response by the Attorney on the priority of Crown debts matter. For example, the AttorneyGeneral uses language such as, ‘the Government is at one with the Committee’. It is not at one with the Committee. It cannot be at one with the sentiment of the proposal and make no move along the road to implement it to any extent whatsoever. We have a complete rejection of any practical implementation of the proposals in the report of the Senate Committee. It makes one wonder, having been nurtured on the belief while outside the chamber and while striving to enter it that the Senate Committees had a constructive role to play, whether one would not be better spending one’s time back in the electorate instead of coming to Canberra when Parliament is not sitting and spending days and weeks on parliamentary committees only to have the results of one’s efforts completely ignored by an Executive which is showing its arrogant contempt for the whole parliamentary process. If anyone is directing an arrow at the heart of the Westminster system as applied to our Federal Parliament it is the present Executive. For that reason I express, on behalf of the Opposition, and in harmony with many members of the Government parties our complete rejection of this response by the Attorney.
Motion ( by Senator Peter Baume) put:
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative; debate adjourned.
– I move:
I do not canvass the substance of those reports except to say that they are obviously important. Despite some earlier interjections from Senator Lewis, they deserve the notice of the Senate. They represent a substantial and thoughtful set of recommendations about the reform of parliamentary procedure. The total rejection of the recommendations by the Government in the casual and unargued way that appears from this statement is nothing short of contemptible and a contemptible treatment of this Parliament. I would say something, not about the substance of the reports, but about the attitude of the Government to the gagging of this debate. It was an arrangement or understanding that had been reached no longer than a couple of hours ago and which no subsequent developments in this chamber have done anything to breach or undermine, so far as the attitude of the Government back benchers or the Opposition is concerned.
– Order! The honourable member should speak to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
- Mr President, with respect, I am speaking to it. The motion is prompted by a clear breach of an arrangement by the Government Whip, Senator Baume- for reasons best known only to himself- and I hope that he will do us the courtesy now of communicating those reasons to the Senate. One suspects that the only possible reason for the Government’s taking this attitude is that it had become apparent from the opening speech of Senator Missen that there existed intense hostility to the Government’s statement on the part of the honourable senator as Chairman of the Committee. It was also known to the Government that there would be equal hostility from Senator Hamer, as undoubtedly there was from Senator Tate and as undoubtedly there will be from me. The Government is embarrassed by the report. It does not wish to listen to debate, however short- and it will be short because that was the basis of the arrangement that we had entered into and had no intention whatever of breaching.
We are all under strain and tension because of the way in which the business of the Senate has been conducted in the last 48 hours, because of the way in which the Government has gone about the whole process of winding up the legislative program for this session. We are under strain and tension and becoming irritable but that is absolutely no excuse for the Government’s behaving as it has done- breaking a clear arrangement, agreement and undertaking for reasons which are apparently capable of being described only as blatantly and contemptibly political.
-Is the motion seconded?
– It is correct to say that a couple of hours ago there was an agreement between Senator Evans and myself that we would attempt to have a short debate on this matter, but that arrangement was predicated upon certain things happening. Among them was that the Opposition would show the Government the usual courtesies and decencies when it came to bringing down the Government’s responses to the reports of the Senate committees. The first of those decencies is that reports be incorporated, as is normally done. Senator Cavanagh refused the Government leave to incorporate a series of responses. Thus, we had a clear indication from the Opposition that it did not wish to co-operate with us on this matter. When the report, which could not then be incorporated, was finally tabled, Senator Missen sought leave to move a motion. It was granted and he spoke to the motion. I must say that he spoke as briefly as he could but longer than the Government had anticipated. While he was speaking I went across to the other side of the chamber and informed Senator Evans that the Government could no longer adhere to the arrangement and would not be able to agree to there being four speakers. Senator Evans knew of that while there was still an opportunity to decide which of the Opposition speakers would take part in the debate.
I emphasised that the debate has not yet been completed; it can occur later. The Australian Labor Party has not attempted to establish why at this stage of the legislative program there is any urgency to pursue this matter- for one committee to take up the time of the Senate. It is up to Senator Cavanagh and people like him. If they are determined to refuse the Government leave to do the things that will expedite the program the Government is not prepared to make the time of the Senate available to disrupt its program.
-Just for the sake of the record of the proceedings in this chamber, Senator Baume has rewritten history. He did not come over to consult Senator Evans during the course of Senator Missen ‘s speech. He came over while I was on my feet. I just want to make that very clear.
– If that is correct I acknowledge it.
Motion (by Senator Webster) put:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Senator Evans’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President-Senator the Hon. Sir Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I request the withdrawal of General Business, Notices of Motion, Nos 15 and 1 6 standing in the name of Senator Walsh.
Notices- by leave- withdrawn.
The following Bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment:
Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 1979.
Administrative Appeals Tribunal Amendment Bill 1979.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
Leave not granted.
-The purpose of the Bill before the Senate is to authorise the Pipeline Authority to construct a natural gas pipeline from Young on the main Moomba to Sydney pipeline to Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga. The Bill provides for construction of a 324- millimetre pipeline at an estimated cost of $ 17.5m. When completed the pipeline will be operated and maintained by the Pipeline Authority, carrying natural gas from the Cooper Basin gas fields in South Australia. The Government’s decision to construct the pipeline was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his energy policy statement of 27 June 1979. Introduction of natural gas to Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga will aid the Government’s liquid fuel conservation program by providing further opportunities for significant fuel substitution. Employment opportunities in Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga will be improved as a result of the stimulus provided to local industry and commerce by a natural gas supply.
As the Prime Minister indicated in his statement, a smaller diameter pipeline would be sufficient to meet the requirements of Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga. The Government has decided to authorise construction of the larger pipeline with the view to extending the pipeline from Wagga Wagga to Albury in the future and after consultation with the New South Wales and Victorian governments. That extension would connect the Cooper Basin and Bass Strait gas fields with the major cities and establish an east coast natural gas pipeline grid. This would provide a measure of security of supply for the two largest cities in the Commonwealth in the event of interruption to supply from either gas field, a major pipeline failure or prolonged industrial action. Detailed planning for the Young to Wagga Wagga pipeline and easement acquisition will be undertaken in the current financial year. Construction of the pipeline is expected to commence early in 1980-81 and natural gas is expected to be reticulated in Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga in mid- 1981.I commend the Bill to the Senate. ( Quorum formed).
Debate (on motion by Senator Mcintosh) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a firsttime.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLaren) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLaren) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Motion ( by Senator Durack ) proposed:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLaren) adjourned.
– I move:
The Government has considered the report of the Distribution Commissioners for Western Australia. It is the view of the Government that the report should be adopted insofar as the boundaries are concerned but that it would be appropriate to adopt different names for two of the proposed divisions. I take the opportunity to thank the three Distribution Commissioners for Western Australia. They have done their job expeditiously. The Government believes that they have done it fairly. A motion in similar terms has already been passed through the other place. I commend the motion to the Senate.
- Mr President, I do not want to say very much about the motion except to make some very brief comments. The Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) was asked some questions about the redistribution which flowed from the decision which was made by the High Court involving an interpretation of the Constitution which required the Government, at a certain time, to create an additional electorate in Western Australia. That was in the case of McKinlay and McKellar which made some new determinations which finally led to the appointment on 22 April 1979 of threee Commissioners to examine the Western Australian redistribution for the purpose of creating an additional seat. They completed their task on. 27 April 1979. They did in fact make certain recommendations to the Government which were then placed on public exhibition. Whilst my party was not very enthusiastic about the redistribution, it nevertheless did not make it a matter of major contention. Only eight objections or submissions were made in respect of the redistributions, and all that the Government is seeking endorsement for now is the final document.
No explanation has been made to the Parliament either in this place or in the House of Representatives of the reasons for the changes in name. The seat of Canning has been renamed O’Connor, and the new seat of Roe, as has been subsequently recommended in a resolution moved by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), is to be named Canning. One can only assume from that that there are some reasons for the members in the particular electorate wanting to be associated with the existing name of the electorate. That seems to be the only conclusion that the Opposition can reach about the proposed name change. The Government’s resolution is to adopt substantially the redistribution but in fact to change the name of two of the electorates. As my colleague the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) has indicated in the other place, such is the redistribution that it requires my party to gain more than 50 per cent of the votes in order to exceed the quota of two seats in Western Australia. That is a pretty horrendous sort of situation to envisage. It indicates how difficult it is to have equity in a single electorate constituency arrangement which we have operating in our electoral system in this country. Of course it raises again the need for us to examine perhaps a more equitable system. I do not want to canvass that at this stage other than to say that it is a rather anomalous position that a party has to exceed 50 per cent of the vote in order to win more than two seats out of 1 1. But having said that, one can only hope that the electors in Western Australia will in fact give us more than 50 per cent of the vote so that we can win more than an even share of the seats in that State.
One can understand the reason why the seat has been named O’Connor. Mr O’Connor was a very distinguished engineer in Western Australia. He was a person who was associated with the Constitutional Convention almost 90 years ago. We certainly would not object to a seat being named after Mr O’Connor, who played a significant part in the development of the constitution, even though we might say that in an historical sense he was probably partly responsible for the many defects that we have in our Constitution which need change to bring it into the latter part of the thinking process of the 20th century. But Mr O’Connor was a very distinguished person in his own right, and he was part of the processes which finally brought about Federation. To that degree we do not raise any objection to the name of Canning being changed to the name of O’Connor. We follow that with the need to maintain the historical link with the seat of Canning, which superseded the electorate of Roe, even though the name Roe, which was proposed by the electoral commissioners, was also an attempt to identify a very significant figure in historical terms in the person of Mr Roe. We do not oppose the motion of the Minister. (Quorum formed).
– in reply- I should like to thank the Senate for its speedy consideration of this motion and to thank the Opposition in particular. I would just like to make two comments. The first is that the O’Connor after whom the seat is named is C. Y. O’Connor, a notable Western Australia engineer who was engineer-in-chief of the colony in 1891. So that does not give rise to the historical and philosophical concerns mentioned by Senator Gietzelt.
The only other point I want to mention relates to the honourable senator’s concern that the Australian Labor Party has to get 50 per cent of the vote to win more than two seats. This is acknowledged by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) in the other place as being a problem which cannot be overcome easily by the Distribution Commissioners because of the nature of the distribution of the population within metropolitan Perth. So one can envisage that almost any redistribution will produce the same result. The point that I made in the Senate the last time we debated a similar matter was that in no electorate is there a large majority of
Labor votes locked away, so it cannot be seen as a redistribution which is locking away a majority of Labor votes in a way which disadvantages the Labor Party in other seats. I just mention that because I think it does reflect on the problems of the Labor Party in winning seats in Western Australia. I would suggest to all honourable senators that they look at the percentages of votes obtained by the parties in the last three elections which are contained in the figures which were distributed by the Australian Electoral Office to all senators. I think those figures indicate the political problem which is faced by Opposition members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7 November, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This afternoon the Senate is debating the Queensland Grant (Special Assistance) Bill 1979. The Opposition does not oppose this Bill but to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time, I now move:
At the end of motion add, ‘but the Senate deplores the failure of the Queensland Government to make available to the Brisbane City Council all funds included in the Grants Commission assessment of Queensland’s special needs due to losses incurred by the metropolitan transport system, and calls upon the Federal Government to ensure that the Queensland Government makes full payment of such funds to the Brisbane City Council in this and future years ‘.
I shall outline later in my speech the reasons for my amendment but first I wish to make some general remarks about the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the current claim of Queensland. I have mentioned previously in this chamber that, as a Queensland public servant, I assisted in the preparation of cases that were put before the Grants Commission. These cases were considered by the Commission when it was deciding what financial assistance, if any, should be made available to the State of Queensland. On one occasion I appeared as a witness before the Commission. Because of my association with the Commission as a public servant, both in the preparation of cases to go before the Commission and as a witness before it, I have taken a special interest in the Commission’s activities. As the 46th report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission has specifically referred to Queensland- the State that I represent- I have even more interest.
The main purpose of the Queensland Grants (Special Assistance) Bill 1979 is to authorise payments to Queensland of $ 12.4m in special grants. These grants are in accordance with the recommendations set out in the 46th report of the Commission. It is worth recalling that the Grants Commission was appointed on 17 July 1933. It made its first report in July the following year, covering applications made by South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The fact that the Commission has been in existence since 1933 makes the record of Parliament’s acceptance of its recommendations remarkable. It is well to recall some words of the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, in his second reading speech. He stated:
The Commission’s recommendations in relation to the special grants arrangements have been adopted by the Parliament each year since the Commission’s inception and the Government considers that they should be accepted on this occasion.
The fact that the grants have been adopted each year by the Parliament is a remarkable achievement. Nevertheless, it is a practice which should continue to be followed unless exceptional circumstances occur. As a senator for Queensland I certainly support the payment of this grant but I do have reservations about the way this grant will be used. Those reservations, on which I shall elaborate later, have prompted me to move my amendment to the Bill.
The existence of the Commonwealth Grants Commission acknowledges the fact that some States suffer financial disabilities by comparison with New South Wales and Victoria- often referred to in this context as the two standard States. In other words, it acknowledges the fact that within our federal system there is financial inequality among the States. The general principle of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is to investigate that financial inequality when a request is made for it to do so. It is accepted that its recommendations will strive to ensure that the residents in the State investigated will enjoy similar services to those provided to their fellow Australians in the standard States of New South Wales and Victoria. One of the strengths of our federation is that we can minimise the inequalities between the States by using, amongst other measures, the Commonwealth Grants Commission. On the other hand, it is difficult for the Commonwealth to minimise inequalities within States. Some progress in this regard has been made by way of funds payable under the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act. Nevertheless, a great deal remains to be done. In general, given the provisions of the Constitutional constraints u. der which the Federal
Government operates, it is the States themselves which are required to minimise the inequalities within their boundaries.
It is easy to understand why Queensland is at a disadvantage in relation to the two standard States. I shall outline some of those reasons. An examination of the populations of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria immediately reveals a disadvantage. At 3 1 March this year the population of Queensland was 2.2 million, the population of Victoria was 3.8 million and the population of New South Wales was 5 million. One disadvantage that occurs as a consequence of the lower population of Queensland in comparison to Victoria and New South Wales is that Queensland has access to less taxation revenue. This is exacerbated by the relatively lower income per head of population in Queensland. For example, the household income per head in Queensland is $5,1 13, in New South Wales it is $5,638 and in Victoria it is $5,757. Not only has Queensland a smaller population but also it has a larger area than the two standard States. It is the second largest State in the Commonwealth. The area of Queensland is 1.7 million square kilometres, whereas Victoria is only 0.2 million square kilometres. The area of New South Wales is 0.8 million square kilometres. When all the other factors are equal it is easier to provide services for a smaller population, but when that population is distributed over a large area the cost of providing those services becomes greater.
Additionally, it is well to recognise that Queensland is a highly decentralised State. There are major centres of population extending from Brisbane to Cairns. There are centres such as the cities of Gympie, Maryborough, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay and Townsville. It is also worthwhile noting that there are some reasonable centres of population north of Cairns. The vast distances in Queensland are a function of the State’s large area. If one travels by air from Brisbane to the northern city of Cairns it is a distance of 1,435 kilometres. That is a long distance when compared to the distances in the standard States of New South Wales and Victoria. One can go from Brisbane to another major city in Queensland and travel further than the Brisbane to Cairns distance I have mentioned. The distance between Brisbane and Mount Isa by air is 1,580 kilometres. Recently I travelled from Brisbane to Boigu Island, which is close to the northern border. The air distance for this journey is 2,3 1 5 kilometres. It is well worth noting that that distance is far in excess of the distance from Brisbane to Melbourne by air.
The fact that such vast distances separate the major centres of population in Queensland puts that State at a disadvantage in providing services equivalent to those provided in the standard States. When the Commonwealth Grants Commission examines the case made by a claimant State it directs its attention to what are termed revenue needs and expenditure needs. Part of the 46th report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission referred to these two types of needs. In part, paragraph 1 .9 states: the Commission has compared the fiscal capacity of Queensland with that of New South Wales and Victoria, which are referred to as the standard States, talcing into account differences in revenue- raising capacity and differences in the cost of providing comparable services. Separate calculations are thus made for what the Commission refers to as revenue needs and expenditure needs respectively.
In determining these revenue and expenditure needs, the Commonwealth Grants Commission conducts hearings which are able to elicit information about relevant disabilities which confront those who administer that State. Naturally, the Commission also uses statistical data available to it. In determining these needs the Grants Commission compares the claimant State with the two standard States. On 30 September 1971 Queensland applied for a special grant for the year 1971-72 and it has been a claimant State ever since. It is now the only claimant State to the Grants Commission. It is relevant to mention the other non-standard States and to indicate when they ceased to be claimant States. South Australia ceased to be a claimant State on 1 July 1975. This was the result of an agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australian governments in relation to the transfer of the non-metropolitan South Australian railway system. Tasmania made but later withdrew applications for special grants for 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1977-78. In reality Tasmania ceased to be a claimant State in 1974. Tasmania’s withdrawal as a claimant State was the result of other additional finances being made available to it. The only other non-standard State I have not mentioned is Western Australia. It was last a claimant State in 1968-69.
Earlier I mentioned that the Grants Commission determines revenue and expenditure needs for a claimant State. What the Grants Commission assessed to be the revenue needs for Queensland for 1977-78 is shown in its fortysixth report. Queensland revenue needs were grouped under three main headings: Taxation, land revenue and mining revenue. Under the heading of ‘taxation’ the Grants Commission assessed the revenue need for Queensland as being $94. 266m. I refer those honourable senators who are interested in how this figure was determined to chapter 4 of the forty-sixth report. With land revenue there was an assessed need of $20.68m. When mining revenue was considered, however, there was a significant difference. The Grants Commission considered that in this case there was a negative need. In other words, Queensland had an above standard revenue capacity for mining. Its capacity to raise finance in this area was higher than that of the standard States of New South Wales and Victoria. For mining revenue the negative need was $47.8 12m.
The expenditure needs for Queensland were grouped under a number of headings. These were: Social services, business undertakings and a group of miscellaneous expenditure items. The assessed expenditure needs were all positive; that is, Queensland was at a disadvantage in all four cases in relation to the two standard States. Pages 90 and 9 1 of the forty-sixth report outline how the Commission arrived at a sum of $ 12.4m which is the recommended grant. This sum is the amount which the Bill under consideration authorises to be paid to Queensland. Although I am pleased to see a sum of $ 12.4m being made available to the State which I represent, I am disturbed at one aspect of this funding. Indeed, I shall show how the Queensland Government has behaved in an unbelievably immoral fashion in relation to the funds which it has received over recent years by way of various Queensland Grant (Special Assistance) Acts. Perhaps one should be more strong and more to the point. If one were, the more precise comment would be that the Queensland Government is guilty of grand larceny.
In making its assessment of expenditure needs for business undertakings the Commonwealth Grants Commission takes into account metropolitan transport. The metropolitan transport undertaking in Brisbane is not a State Government undertaking. It is a service provided by the Brisbane City Council. It is worth noting that this service is a significant one. It carries about 200,000 passengers each normal working day. Over a whole year approximately 50 million passengers use the Brisbane City Council bus service. The service extends over 619 kilometres and travels about 20 million kilometres a year. The Brisbane City Council transport department has 550 buses, 830 drivers and a total staff of 1,436. The bus service operated by the Brisbane City Council carries one and a half times the number of passengers carried by the suburban railway system, including rail passengers to and from the nearby city of Ipswich. The service, therefore, is a significant part of Brisbane’s public transport system.
Late in 1975, at the request of the then Treasurer of Queensland, Sir Gordon Chalk, the Brisbane City Council made a submission to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. This submission requested that the Commission take into account the cost of the Council ‘s transport undertaking in its determination of the State’s grants allocation. The Commission agreed with the view that it would be consistent with its principles to take account of the costs incurred by the Brisbane City Council in assessing Queensland’s needs. On page 74 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s forty-third report the Commission states:
Such an approach would more adequately show the financial consequences of a notional application in Queensland of the metropolitan transport policies of the standard States:
As a result the Commonwealth Grants Commission increased Queensland’s grant by $7.085m on account of the 1974-75 deficit of the Council ‘s transport undertaking. I am informed that at the time he made his initial request for Council assistance in providing a submission to the Grants Commission, Sir Gordon Chalk undertook that if the State was successful in extending its claim into this new field it would be in a much better position to assist the Council with its urban transport losses. Perhaps unfortunately for the Council, Sir Gordon Chalk retired in August 1976.
Nevertheless, in late 1 976, when advice of the Grants Commission’s determination was received, the Council looked expectantly to the State for the promised assistance. No assistance was forthcoming and the incoming Treasurer, Mr Knox- now Sir William Knox- refused to acknowledge that these considerations by the Grants Commission had in any way increased Queensland’s grant. Instead the State Government pocketed the whole $7.085m. In mid- 1977 the Brisbane City Council became exasperated with the Treasurer’s repudiation of its claims and thus sought from Federal parliamentary sources some answers in relation to the Grants Commission’s funding. Answers were supplied by the then Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers. The questions and answers established beyond doubt the validity of the Council ‘s claim and the legitimacy of its expectations with regard to the $7.085m. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a copy of Senator Withers’ letter to the Rt Hon. Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Sleeman, and the questions and answers in relation to the Commonwealth Grants Commission funding.
Leave granted. 77te- document read as follows-
Minister for Administrative Services 12 July 1977
My dear Lord Mayor,
I refer to a recent telex message that you sent to the Acting Minister for Transport, Mr Macphee, concerning the allocation of funds related to the Brisbane City Council’s public transport undertaking. Mr Macphee has asked me to reply to you directly.
I am pleased to provide the information as set out in the attached papers.
I am sending copies of this letter and the attached papers to the Minister for Transport.
Yours sincerely, R. G. WITHERS
The Rt Hon. Alderman F. N. Sleeman, Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Lord Mayor’s Office, Brisbane, Qld 4000
Q.l Did the Grants Commission take account of the loss incurred by the Brisbane City Council’s Street Public Transport Undertaking in assessing Queensland’s expenditure needs?
Q.2 Was this the first occasion on which the Grants Commission has taken account of the loss incurred by the Brisbane City Council’s Street Public Transport Undertaking in assessing Queensland ‘s Expenditure needs?
A.2 Yes. Queensland first applied for a special grant for the year 1971-72. Prior to 1974-75, however, the Commission did not have access to data which would have allowed it to take losses incurred by the Brisbane City Council ‘s Transport Undertaking into account in assessing Queensland’s needs for Metropolitan Transport.
Q.3(a) Was the assessed special grant for Queensland 1974-75 increased over what it would otherwise have been because the Brisbane City Council’s Street Public Transport Undertaking deficit in that year, modified for the relevant policy differences, was taken into account?
Q.3(b) Was the amount of Queensland’s assessed needs met from other Commonwealth Grants for 1974-75 increased over what it would otherwise have been because the Brisbane City Council’s Street Public Transport Undertaking deficit in that year, modified for the policy differences, was taken into account?
A.3(b) No. The amount of Queensland’s assessed needs met from other Commonwealth Grants was SI 13.6m in respect of the year 1974-75. This amount was not affected by the Commission’s treatment of the losses incurred by the Brisbane City Council ‘s Transport Undertaking.
Q.4(a) By what amount was Queensland’s assessed special grant for 1974-75 increased on account of the Brisbane City Council’s Street Public Transport Undertaking modified deficit, being taken into account?
A.4(a) $7,085,000. The special grant paid to Queensland for the year 1974-75 was $24m. The amount of this special grant would have been $16,915,000 had the losses on the Brisbane City Council ‘s Transport Undertaking for that year not been taken into account. It should be noted, however. that the Commission still assessed negative needs of $7,596,000 in respect of Queensland’s Metropolitan Road Transport for the year 1974-75.
Q.4(b) By what amount was Queensland’s assessed needs met from other Commonwealth Grants for 1974-75, increased on account of the Brisbane City Council’s Street Public Transport Undertaking modified deficit, being taken into account?
A.4(b) See answer to Question 3(b).
-I thank the Senate. I invite scrutiny of that letter together with the questions and the answers to those questions. In particular I wish to quote from question and answer 4 (a). Question 4 (a) says:
By what amount was Queensland’s assessed special grant for 1974-75 increased on account of the Brisbane City Council’s Street Public Transport Undertaking modified deficit being taken into account?
The answer to question 4(a) was, in part:
In each of the years subsequent to 1 975 the Commonwealth Grants Commission has taken into account Brisbane City Council ‘s transport undertaking. On each occasion significant sums have been included in the grant to the State due to this bus service. As supporting evidence of my assertion I refer honourable senators to the answer by the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, in reply to a question in the House of Representatives asked by the honourable member for Griffith, Mr Humphreys. The answer appears in the House of Representatives Hansard for 19 May 1979 at page 2047. In part the answer refers to losses made by the Brisbane City Council transport department. It says:
If the Commission had not taken these losses into account the special grants recommended for payment would have been reduced as follows: 1974-75, $24m to $16.915m; 1975-76, $35.8m to $29. 1 78m; and 1 976-77, $23.7m to $ 1 4.048m.
In other words, in each of the years mentioned in the answer to the question raised by the honourable member for Griffith, Mr Humphreys, Queensland would have received a lower grant if the losses of the Brisbane City Council transport undertaking had not been taken into account. A little funding has come to the Brisbane City Council transport service from the State Government since 1975-76. In 1975-76 and the next year some funds were made available to assist in providing fare concessions for students. In 1977-78 a State Government scheme was introduced whereby a subsidy amounting to 50 per cent of fare collections was paid to the Council. Nevertheless, the subsidy fell far below the funds which the State Government received from the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
I have outlined in tabular Form the amounts which the Queensland Government has received by way of Commonwealth Grants Commission grants due to the inclusion of metropolitan transport in the assessment of Queensland’s financial needs. Also listed in the table are amounts which have been paid by the Queensland Government to the Brisbane City
Council. Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the table showing those amounts. It is based on Commonwealth Grants Commission reports and Mr Nixon’s answer, to which I referred a few moments ago.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the Senate. The table reveals that in 1974-75 the Queensland Government received $7.085m because of the inclusion of metropolitan transport in the assessment of Queensland’s needs. In that year, nothing was passed on to the Brisbane City Council. In 1975-76 and 1976-77 amounts of $6.622m and $9.652m respectively were paid to the Queensland Government. In those two years $900,000 and $lm respectively were passed to the Brisbane City Council for fare subsidies for students. Finally, in 1 977-78, the year discussed in the 46th report which is the basis of the Bill before us this afternoon, $12. 274m was paid to the State Government because of metropolitan transport in Brisbane, but only $4.886m was passed on to the Brisbane City Council. If one looks at the table one sees that between 1974-75 and 1977-78 Commonwealth funds made available to the State Government because of the Brisbane City Council’s metropolitan transport undert .ing totalled $35. 633m. In the same period, the State Government funded the Brisbane City Council for its transport undertaking to the tune of $6. 786m. About $28m stayed in the coffers of the Queensland Government.
It is really an incredible situation. What it virtually means is that the Commonwealth Grants Commission has recommended that funds be paid to the Queensland Government for metropolitan transport, but that those funds have not been passed on to the operators of that metropolitan transport, namely, the Brisbane City Council. I am not sure whether it would be within the province of the Grants Commission to recommend that a certain sum be paid to the Brisbane City Council for the metropolitan transport operations. Whether it is or is not, one would not expect that it would be necessary for it to do so. Any government with a speck of decency would forthwith pay to another authority those funds which had normally been destined for that authority. Whilst there is no legal basis under the legislation we are now debating for certain funds to be passed on to the Brisbane City Council, there certainly is a moral obligation on the Queensland Government to do so. If it were not for the Brisbane City Council’s transport losses being taken into account, instead of Queensland having an assessed special grant of $ 15.4m for 1977-78 it would have had a recommended grant of only $3. lm.
How the Queensland Government will chuckle when this legislation is passed and it pockets the $ 1 2.3m which morally belongs to the ratepayers of Brisbane. How it must chuckle when it muses on how in the last four years it has received $35.633m because of the Brisbane City Council’s bus operations, but it has passed on only $6.786m to the bus operator. A cool $28m socked away because of a clear disregard of any moral obligation cannot, despite the Queensland Premier’s background, be regarded as peanuts. It is necessary that this Senate show its opposition to the Commonwealth’s funds being misapplied in the way that the State of Queensland is apparently intent on doing. I could not oppose the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) because I am anxious to see the recommended funds go to the State which I represent. However, a strong condemnation by the Senate of the withholding of funds rightfully belonging to the Brisbane City Council- or, to put it another way, to the citizens of Brisbane- is absolutely necessary. It is for that reason that I commend my amendment to the Senate.
– I thank the Senate for its speedy consideration of the Queensland Grant (Special Assistance) Bill 1979. I advise the Opposition generally and Senator Colston in particular, that the Government is not able to accept the amendment which he moved for reasons which I will now explain. Senator Colston has taken a close interest in this matter and has made a carefully prepared speech on a matter of some technical complexity and I am sure has greatly aided the Senate in its understanding of the operations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Because of the technical nature of the matter, I have sought some advice on the amendment which was moved. On the basis of that advice it does appear that there may be some confusion surrounding the treatment by the Commissioner of Queensland’s metropolitan transport system.
It is true that, as a result of a change in approach adopted by the Grants Commission, Queensland’s recommended special grant has been greater since 1974-75 than it would have been had the Commission continued to use its previous approach. But that is simply because under the current approach the assessed needs are less negative than they were under the old approach. The central point is that needs in regard to metropolitan transport in Queensland have continued to be assessed as negative. The total negative need is estimated at $ 13.66m for 1 977-78, the latest year for which a final assessment has been made. That is to say, the Grants Commission has concluded that in Queensland metropolitan transport services can be provided at the same level of service as in New South Wales and Victoria at a lower cost per capita. So in fact it has a negative influence on the overall figuring of the Grants Commission.
The continued assessment of negative needs in this area means that the overall special grant recommended for Queensland is less than it would have been had metropolitan transport operations been excluded altogether from the Commission ‘s assessment of financial needs. In those circumstances and even if the Commonwealth were prepared to abandon the principles which have underlined the Grants Commission system for 40-odd years, it would hardly seem appropriate for the Commonwealth to suggest that some part of the special grant to Queensland should be passed on to the Brisbane City Council.
It is a little odd to expect the Senate, as a States House, to be directing the States on this matter when, for 40 years, the practice has been to make these payments as general purpose payments to the States, the precise use of which is determined by the States. To do otherwise is, of course, to deprive the States of flexibility in their internal financing, a matter about which I think they would be fairly hostile. I would have thought that in Queensland there would have been fairly strong support for the view that it ought to be within the province of the Queensland Government to regulate its financial relationships with its local authorities.
This is not to say that it would not be appropriate for the State, if it so wished, to make its own arrangements to assist the Brisbane City Council in this area. The State introduced a scheme in 1977-78 whereby a subsidy amounting to 50 per cent of fare collections is paid to the Council. In addition the State reimburses the Council for various fare concessions granted to students and so on. The figures incorporated in Hansard by Senator Colston give us some guidance in this area. The figures show that no State Government funds were made available to the Brisbane City Council in 1974-75. In 1975-76 $0.9m was made available. In 1976-77 $lm was made available. In 1977-78, which is the year in which the additional measures I referred to were instituted, the figure rose to $4.886m. In fact there is a growing involvement of the Queensland Government with this area of the activities of the Brisbane City Council.
There are basically three reasons why the Government does not accept the amendment put forward by Senator Colston. Firstly, as I have already indicated, throughout the 40-odd year history of the Grants Commission special grants paid to claimant States have been general purpose payments. If the Commonwealth were to require or even urge that part of the currently proposed grant be paid to the Brisbane City Council towards its deficit on bus service operations the door would be open to a welter of requests from special interest groups asking that the Commonwealth ensure that Queensland applied funds in accordance with the contributions made by particular activities to the special grant. The second problem in any proposal that we should direct or urge the Queensland Government in this matter, is that bus operations are only one aspect of the financial relationship between the Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Government.
I can give some figures which show that the Council receives funds from the State for various purposes. The question of balancing the financial roundabouts and swings between the two bodies is one which in the view of the Commonwealth is for the citizens of Brisbane and of Queensland and not for the Commonwealth to determine. In 1977-78 the Queensland Government paid moneys to the Brisbane City Council under a variety of heads. For example, it paid subsidies on capital works to the tune of $3. 569m. It paid loans towards debenture programs of $ 167m. It applied certain Commonwealth moneys, within which there is a discretionary element left to the Queensland Government, in the local government tax sharing entitlements of $4.9m. It made untied grants towards administrative and operating costs of $0.492m.
I refer now to the subsidy on transport operations. The figures I have differ slightly from the figures incorporated in Hansard by Senator Colston. My advice is that the subsidy was $5.027m in 1977-78. In fact, one has a complex of financial arrangements between the State Government and the Brisbane City Council of which the transport operation is but one. In a number of important respects the Queensland financial arrangements differ from the financial arrangements in other States. For example, Queensland has its own hospital system of which it is very proud. It has always stoutly resisted any interference with its tradition of free hospitals. I do not believe it is for the Commonwealth to override all State discretion in this area, although the Opposition may take that view. The Brisbane City Council is a local authority structure which is peculiar to Queensland. Again it is not a structure on which one can seek to impose some Australia-wide rule.
I turn now to the final point that I want to mention as to why the amendment cannot be accepted by the Government. The change in approach or methodology adopted by the Commonwealth Grants Commission since the year of review 1974-75 involves the use of what is known as the modified deficit of metropolitan road transport services of the Brisbane City Council. This means that the Grants Commission is looking not at an actual deficit but at a notional deficit. In other words, it looks at the system as though certain theoretical parameters are applied rather than the actual.
Perhaps I might put this a little more succinctly than it appears in the note which has just been given to me. I think my explanation might have been a little confusing. It represents the notional deficit which would have resulted if the Brisbane road transport services had followed the same policies and practices as the metropolitan road transport services in New South Wales and Victoria. Even if the Brisbane City Council doubled or halved its fares that would not affect the amount which was taken into account in terms of this notional or modified deficit. In fact, my understanding is that the modified deficit is very close to the actual deficit figure, but in terms of having a practice that one could follow, it could in fact be quite a different figure. I simply mention that as being another reason why it has to be left, in the view of the Government, to the arrangements between the City Council, the State Government and the citizens they share in common. I commend the Bill to the Senate and seek speedy passage.
– by leave- The Australian Democrats are very sympathetic with the purpose of the amendment moved by Senator Colston on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. We must say that we stick to the principle enunciated by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney). It would be a terrible time if the Federal Government detailed every cent for every particular purpose. As much as I am reluctant not to limit the powers of the Queensland Government- this is an opportunity so to do- we would very much support the principle enunciated by Senator Chaney. Therefore, we will be voting with the Government.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Colston’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.
-I would like to take a few minutes of the Committee’s time to reply to the comments that Senator Chaney made in replying to my second reading speech. He said at the time that there was some confusion about negative needs or the assessed needs in Queensland for metropolitan transport. I can assure Senator Chaney that there is no confusion in my mind. However, there is probably confusion in the minds of many people who have not really studied the Grants Commission report. When I first looked at the section in the report which mentioned metropolitan transport, I was rather taken aback to see that the amount for the assessed need of metropolitan transport for Queensland was minus$13.6m. This is the figure Senator Chaney mentioned. But we must remember that the crux of the matter is not the negative need of $13. 6m. If Brisbane’s metropolitan transport undertaking had not been taken into account Queensland’s negative assessed need would have been far highersomewhere around $25m. The difference between those two figures- the amount of$12m- is the extra amount that Queensland is going to receive because metropolitan transport is taken into account.
The whole concept is rather difficult to comprehend, yet once it is understood, it is very simple to see that Queensland is receiving more by way of grant than it would if metropolitan transport were not taken into account. In fact, the assessed special need for Queensland for 1977-78 was set at$ 15.4m. That is not the amount in the Bill because money has been paid earlier by way of an advance grant. Rather than receiving$ 15.4m, if metropolitan transport had not been taken into account Queensland would have had an assessed need of approximately $3m. The difference between those two figures is the amount of funds I was speaking about. Very few people really understand how Queensland is receiving extra money because of the Brisbane metropolitan transport undertaking. I can assure Senator Chaney there was no confusion in my mind.
It was mentioned that a subsidy of 50 per cent of fare box collections was payable by the Queensland Government to the State Government. That is quite correct. As Senator Chaney showed, there was an increase in the amount payable from the Queensland Government to the Brisbane City Council over the years since Queensland first had a grant from the Commonwealth Grants Commission because of metropolitan transport undertakings. The 50 per cent of fare box collections is nowhere near the amount that the Queensland Government is receiving because of the inclusion of the metropolitan transport undertaking. From memory, the figure for the year we are discussing, 1977-78, was $4,886m payable to the Brisbane City Council by the State Government. But about $12m came through the Grants Commission. Incidentally, a subsidy on fare box collections is probably not a very good way of providing a subsidy for a metropolitan transport system because if one wants to obtain more subsidy one puts up the fares. If one puts up the fares one probably has fewer passengers and, therefore, could end up with less fare box collections. It would seem to me that if a subsidy were to be paid it should not be tied to fare box collections because that is not an easy way for a transport undertaking to increase any subsidy that comes to it. It is probably a good way for the Queensland Government but certainly not for the Brisbane City Council.
I wish to mention also the aspect of the notional deficit. I am not really sure that this is a good argument against the particular amendment that I have moved. Probably the best argument against it is a philosophical one and probably there would be a different philosophy on either side of the chamber. I think that really we are arguing not about figures but about a method of approach. It would seem to me that probably the notional deficit argument was not a good one. I believe that in some respects the notional deficit for Queensland, in respect of metropolitan transport in Brisbane was, in some ways, reduced by the Grants Commission because Queensland was not charging fares as high as those that were being charged in the two standard States. I mention those aspects merely by way of illustration. Usually I have found in this chamber that the debate goes the other way around, in that the Minister is able to respond to criticisms, but on this occasion, in moving the amendment, I have had to use the Committee stage to bring forward these few points. ( Quorum formed).
– I would like emphatically to support the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) for his comments on this grant of special assistance to the States. I accept the fact that there is no confusion in Senator Colston’s mind on this, but I would gently suggest that there might be some degree of misunderstanding as to what special assistance to the States, as seen by the Grants Commissions, implies. I take him back to the third report of the Grants Commission in 1936. The Commission justified it all in the statement that:
Special Grants are justified when a State through financial stress from any cause is unable efficiently to discharge its functions as a member of the federation and should be determined by the amount of help found necessary to make it possible for that State by reasonable effort to function at a standard not appreciably below that of other States.
It really does not get down to the matter of transport, per se. The point that needs to be made is that Queensland has the lowest income per capita of any State in the country. Queensland’s personal income per head of population in 1977-78 was estimated to be $5,1 13, the lowest in the country, and more than $400 below the Australia-wide average. Our need for grants is tied principally to the high level of protection in this country. Without going into a discussion of Queensland’s industry, I mention that the three most highly protected industries in the country- clothing and footwear, transport equipment and textiles- engage only 1 4.7 per cent of Queensland ‘s work force. On the other hand, those industries with the lowest level of protection- non-metallic mineral products, basic metal products, food beverages and tobacco and wood products- employ 52.1 per cent of Queensland’s workforce. Queensland does not get the benefit of the very high levels of protection in Australia. That is principally the reason for this grant.
– I could not let pass without comment what Senator MacGibbon had said. Unfortunately, he missed the whole point of my argument. I do not know whether he was in the chamber when I was speaking. I made it quite clear that I realised that these were untied grants. I refer Senator MacGibbon to page 87 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission report for 1979, also to page 1 75, and an earlier page that he should be able to pick up fairly readily, which refer to the matter of metropolitan transport. That was the only aspect that I was looking at.
– I wish to respond briefly to the points which have been made. I make it quite clear to the Committee that I was not suggesting in my response that Senator Colston was confused. I used the word ‘confusion’ but it is a difficult area. I referred to the very careful preparation that the honourable senator’s speech had obviously had and if there was any inference that I was suggesting that he was confused I withdraw it.
In relation to the matter of fare box subsidies, I suggest to the Committee that, although that aspect is beyond the province of the Government and this chamber, the increasing of fares is not necessarily the only way for the transport system to increase the subsidy. If one can increase usage of the transport system, which might be done by reducing fares, that could give rise to the payment of an increased subsidy. That matter is not before us for determination. I simply challenge the point that has been made. I accept Senator Colston’s comment that there is a philosophic difference which is central to the Government’s non-acceptance of the amendment. As I indicated earlier, for 40 years Grants Commission payments to the States have been in the form of untied grants. The States have been left with the discretion to apply those grants in the way they have seen fit I mentioned the special circumstances of Queensland in relation to both local government and hospitals as examples of the way in which that discretion had been exercised in that State. It is a process to which the Government does not wish to see a change made. The Government believes that it would become enmeshed in a most unfortunate situation if it tried to direct that grants by the Grants Commission be made in the way in which the amendment proposes.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13 November, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Bill provides legislative authority for the establishment of the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs. I move the following amendment to the motion:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to-
establish the Institute as an independent statutory authority responsible to the Parliament;
provide the Institute with a more positive responsibility for the maintenance of cultural identities and traditions and encouragement of multiculturalism
elaborate the functions of the Institute to include research into the history and phenomenon of immigration to Australia and issues related to the development of ethnic groups in Australia and their diverse cultures;
ensure the possibility of entering into contractual relationships with other community-based organisations engaged in activities in accord with the objectives of the Institute;
enable the Institute of Multicultural Affairs to conduct research into and foster community sensitivity for racial groups not the subject of study by the Institute of Aboriginal Studies while including the latter in the ambit of multicultural affairs; and
define members of the Institute, their method of election, and their duties and powers as members of the Institute’.
As the Opposition’s spokesman on immigration, Dr Cass, stated last week during the debate on this Bill in another place the Opposition does not oppose the establishment of the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs. However, the Opposition is disturbed by the restrictions under which the Institute will be placed and its status, not only as a government-sponsored body but also as a government-controlled establishment. One would find it difficult to oppose the establishment of such an institute, whose aim is to increase our awareness of the sort of society in which we live and the opportunities for new settlers to become pan of the multicultural society that we have become. The Opposition is concerned that such an institute should not be just a matter of tokenism to the ethnic community; if it is to be established it should be effective. We believe that the principles outlined in the amendment moved at the second reading stage and the amendments which we will move at the Committee stage will, in fact, do this.
The Institute is to be governed by a council consisting of the Government appointed Director of the Institute, the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, a Government appointed chairman and three to six other members. As there is no provision for migrant or community bodies to elect the additional members, one supposes that they too will be Government appointed. Up to 100 persons will be appointed as members of the Institute by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, so I suppose it is not to be expected that that group will cause the Government any trouble. Perhaps that is the reason why this means of setting up the Institute has been chosen. In any case, these members will be called together as the Council, not as the members of the Institute, determines, which is a further restriction.
Our amendments are designed to strengthen the independence of the Institute and give it more direction and substance than we believe the legislation before us does. In his second reading speech, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) said that one of the early objectives of the Institute would be to define multiculturalism and then to follow that through with various worthy aims, which would include the development of awareness among cultural and ethnic groups, the promotion of tolerance, understanding and mutual esteem, the promotion of cohesiveness through existing political and legal structures, and the promotion of an environment conducive to participation. But because of the way in which the Government has set up the Institute, it is difficult to see the Government allowing it to do these things in its own way, something we believe is important. Our view is that unless there is a reconstruction of the structure and procedures of the Institute, it will be no more than a research arm of the Government. Clause 18 (3) of the Bill states:
In preparing any report to be furnished under section 17, the Council shall have regard to such policies of the Commonwealth Government as are communicated to the Council by the Minister in writing.
It is not even clear whether these reports will be tabled in the Parliament or whether they are to be produced only for the Government, making it far less like an institute and far more like a private advisory body to the Government- a body like the Social Welfare Policy Secretariat which reports to the Government. The final aim of the
Institute as set out in clause 5(d) is the promotion of an environment conducive to participation. It would seem to me that that is negated already by the structure of the Institute. There is very little evidence that the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs would do more than pay lip service to that aim. From our experience of that Department, it would be hard to imagine it allowing an environment conducive to too much participation.
We have just witnessed the case of the small welfare rights program which was transferred to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs from the Department of Social Security, where it was very effective. The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs annihilated this program without consultation with the ethnic groups. It was a program which had a good record of participation and a good record of care in relation to its client groups. Once the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs got hold of this welfare rights program, it quickly cut it off in its prime. If the Institute’s researchers pointed to the need to fight for the rights of disadvantaged migrant groups against the private and public bureaucracy and wanted the Government to fund such a program. It might well hesitate in view of the swift dismantling of that particular program after its transfer.
The amount of money to be spent on the Institute is some $1.8m over 3 years, which is about $600,000 a year. That must be seen as pretty small by comparison with its ambitious programs of commissioning and conducting research, informing the public, promotions, community education, and that quaint aim of establishing a literature repository, which us mere mortals could assume is a library. The only really worthwhile part of that program, I believe, is the commissioning of research and the provision of community education. Conducting research is, by its charter, pretty much what the Government wants done. It is not being done satisfactorily at the moment, it is clear, by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. The legislation provides for reporting to the Minister. It may be a necessary task to write that into the legislation, but it is a procedure which would otherwise be taken for granted. Similarly, the establishment of a literature repository should not need to be stated in the legislation. It is difficult to imagine any institute which does not have such a repository, or library, and a custodian of that library. I find it difficult to see that this not actually padding out legislation.
What also makes one suspicious in view of recent history are the aims of informing the public and promotions. In recent times there has been a good deal of waste where promotions are seen as an end in themselves, particularly when conducted by government. We have seen money which could be better spent going straight to public relations firms and straight to the creative advertising businesses, which may have been fine for them. One can suggest that Project Australia and many promotions in the International Year of the Child, such as the ill-fated Job Show, are examples of promotions where Commonwealth money, provided in some cases for a good cause, has gone to advertising firms and not necessarily where it would do the most good. One would be fearful that an institute set up with such rigid government control and lack of independence might fall into the same trap.
It seems to me that the major constructive work of the Institute of Multicultural Affairs is likely to be in the field of commissioned research, particularly if that research is acted upon, and also in the field of community education. That, I think, is a very important aspect. One has only to deal with any affair involving difficult situations for migrants in this country to find this strange current of xenophobia which exists under the surface. Those of us who have been involved in cases like the current affair in Sydney or involved in making comments on the refugee situation soon find that we receive- I am sure that Senator Mulvihill also receives- rather unkind letters from these strange people in this country who do not wish us to be a multicultural society, who do not wish us to have migrants at all.
There is a strong case, I believe, for multiculturalism at work to receive far more study and research than it has in the past, and a strong case for that study to be contracted out of people who are experts in the field. I quote from the Jackson report on the Development of Manufacturing Industry in support of that statement:
The work force is multi-racial and multi-cultural. Four out of ten were born outside Australia. They frequently do the dirtiest, least skilled, menial tasks; tasks for which, despite unemployment, young native born Australians cannot be found. Women are a quarter of the workforce and in some sectors eight out often. Little attention is paid to their special needs, particularly of the two-thirds who are married. The married migrant woman in industry is trebly disadvantaged.
I know that many honourable senators who have read the survey carried out by the Centre for Urban Research and Action, that excellent document entitled ‘But I Wouldn’t Want My Wife to Work Here’, will have no problem in accepting that that sort of disadvantage exists, particularly for migrant women in the community. The Jackson report continues:
People remote from the shop floor who staff governments, traditional firms and the unions do not appear to be conscious enough of these long term problems, or well enough prepared to deal with them.
For that sort of reason, I believe that on-going research should be commissioned or contracted out of some of the most reputable organisations in the field, with either a migrant base or strong migrant participation. It is important that this on-going basis should be established to enable some expertise and continuity to be built up. The Institute of Multicultural Affairs, as do all the projects put up under the Galbally report, is to have a three-year lifetime. It is to have funding for three years and there are no promises. Multiculturalism in the work force, simply because so many of our post-war and recent migrants are propelled into the work force and it is a major focus of their lives, will remain an important issue because it affects so much of a migrant’s place in society. Mr Frank Stevens, in his paper Migrants and the Trade Union Movement’, says:
If you study the figures you will find that not only do the ethnic community in Australia bear the brunt of over 40 per cent of all industrial accidents (although they make up some 28 per cent of the population) they bear more than double their share of unemployment, fail to take advantage of the advanced education system, earn at rates of pay well below the Australian average, live at conditions which are substandard, bear children at a greater rate than native-born Australians, have a higher level of ill-health, possess fewer skills, and fill the ranks of menial workers when they are able to obtain employment.
He went on to say:
It is one thing to identify a problem; it is another to provide a solution. As Oscar Lewis pointed out in his study ‘The Culture of Poverty’, the interlocking social systems of poverty, poor education and lack of economic opportunity are selfsustaining, particularly if the group concerned is both of significant size and identifiable within the broader framework of the social system.
This problem of cultural differences in the work force and the different treatment of cultural groups must be grasped at by our community. One hopes that this Institute can get to that problem, get us some decent research and get us towards decent solutions to the problem. George Said, who has written on multi-culturalism in the work force, has already suggested a different definition of multi-culturalism. It is something that the Institute is being directed to put some thought into. He said: ‘Multiculturalism exists where one society embraces groups of people with different cultural identities’. He has already made some suggestions for the Institute. He has suggested that educational institutions should provide courses for supervisors and managers to learn how to perform within a multicultural organisation because all our work places are multicultural now, and a learning exchange with sufficient resources to pool the knowledge that exists now and to provide training for others who need it to do field work. In this area, as in so many other areas, there is a pool of knowledge, but it is a pool which is not being properly processed or brought together. We need to do this. One hopes that the Institute will be able to do this.
Some of this community’s major industrial plants operate with something like 80 per cent of wage earners who were born in non-English speaking countries. Of the total tradesmen, male process workers and labourers in this country 52.8 per cent were born overseas. Of the male migrants, 62 per cent of the Greek migrants, 59 per cent of the Italian migrants and 40 per cent of the Yuoslav migrants have had five years or less schooling. Of the female migrants, 72 per cent of the Greek migrants, 65 per cent of the Italian migrants and 50 per cent of the Yugoslav migrants have had five years or less schooling. These people are not unintelligent. They simply lacked the opportunity of education in their country of origin and lacked the opportunity to learn English adequately- the opportunity to be motivated, involved and participate in their own safety. I impress that upon the Senate.
– Do you have some figures on the number of migrants in executive positions in the trade union movement?
– I mentioned earlier in my quotes that there is a lack of participation in all areas of our society. It varies from union to union. In some unions one sees a high participation rate. I am sure Senator Lajovic has read the publication ‘But I Wouldn’t Want My Wife to Work Here ‘, to which I have referred. It was produced by trade union people. It is a quite scathing indictment of the attitude of some trade unions to migrant women, particularly those who are process workers in Melbourne. The trade union movement has accepted this. I was at the launching of that publication. Some of the severest critics of the lack of participation by migrant women workers in the trade union movement, the most trenchant critics there, were in fact active trade unionists.
– I just wanted to say that because my wife and I worked on the floor of a factory for two years.
– Sure. When Senator Lajovic interjected, I was referring to the fact- it is a fact and we can do something about it but we cannot do anything about the fact that it existsthat amongst some migrant groups, because of conditions in their country of origin and because of lack of opportunity, they have not had much education in their native language and therefore are in considerable difficulty in this country. We hope that this Institute will look at some decent solutions to that very real problem. It is a legitimate and necessary role of government in this country or anywhere else to do what we can to improve the life style and the access to the decision-making processes of this country of people whom we invite here and who contribute so much to this country. Another body that has looked at the problems that we face is, of course, the New South Wales Ethnic Affairs Commission. It claims that multiculturalism is either a mosaic and it is the job of education to recognise and delineate the parts of that mosaic or else should be seen as a goal and in that case the education system should have a mobilising role in promoting the concept of multiculturalism.
One knows that there is considerable debate amongst the ethnic community about which of those things it should do or whether it should do both. There are differences between different ethnic communities. The differences are important and ones which add to our life style. It is part of the practical research purpose in promoting community education, which must include migrant education and should include research on second language acquisition. All these things should be looked at by this Insitute. There should be research on the backlog in education, that is, those migrants who have not learnt English despite many years of residence in Australia. A lot of work has been done in recent years on how to overcome that problem. One has acquaintenances who are working in the active in-home language teaching programs and who are trying to get over this problem. If we can get together the knowledge and experiences of people in these areas that we have now and co-ordinate the research in the Institute of Multicultural Affairs we will achieve something.
We need statistics- we are very short of them in the welfare’ field particularly- on migrants who have never done an English course, on those who have had only minimal tuition, and on the personal work and psychological problems that result from this. We still need major research into the areas of migrant disadvantage in regard to health, the law, industrial safety, workers compensation and the cost effectiveness of providing one-year’s full time tuition, say, in English to all English-speaking migrants on arrival and providing them with an acceptable living allowance, as was suggested by the Adult Migrant Education Service in New South Wales. This may be very expensive and may not be very effective, but it is worth looking at. Much of this research, however, would be best done outside a centralised government controlled institute by people in organisations who have first hand knowledge of the area, while the Institute contracts the research and co-ordinate and makes effective use of the findings of that research.
Finally, I mention two of the more serious problems which will be deserving of the Institute’s research and action, particularly community education. The first is the continuing sorry situation of our Aboriginal people who were, after all, the first Australian migrants. The second is the personal plight and the community reaction to the last of our Australian migrants, the Indo-Chinese refugees and in particular the boat people. In the first place, some research, mainly of an historical kind, is produced at the Institute of Aboriginal Studies, and some policy research is done in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. An Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs should be more concerned with research that recognises those disadvantages which are shared jointly by Aboriginals and post-war nonEnglish speaking migrants. It should be there to ensure that any research does not fall into the trap of trading one ethnic group or racial group off against another. There is more than enough Anglo-Saxon prejudice without allowing us to involve resentment between peoples of different colours or different races and from different continents in such an institute.
The very real problems that have arisen in this country, the resentment, the unfortunate effortscertainly by a minority of people- as a reaction to the arrival of the Indo-Chinese refugees and the boat people is something which I believe community education can assist to overcome. One hopes that the Institute of Multicultural Affairs will branch out into a much wider area to overcome this problem. I believe that understanding and compassion should be built into every exercise which is commissioned by this Institute. Our amendments are designed to strengthen the Institute, to provide a wider governing body and a wider participation by Aboriginal and ethnic groups which we believe will help overcome their social isolation, affirming their own cultural beliefs and values and working towards our society, embracing all groups, whatever their cultural identity and whatever their background.
I think it is important if we are going to establish an institute like this that we give it independence and strength and that we divorce it as much as possible from departmental control or departmental direction. If we do not, we are establishing an organisation which is mere tokenism, which will be seen as such by the ethnic groups and which will therefore inevitably fail.
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I do not want to negate my rights. I want to reserve my right to speak after Senator Mason. I will be in the chair at a later stage, so I will not be able say these things in Committee.
– The view of the Australian Democrats is not unlike the view expressed by Senator Grimes. We say yes, it is motherhood again- the sort of thing that one cannot say one is against. It is important, good and useful that there should be some study of multicultural affairs in Australia. I think that the initiatives behind this Bill which came from the people who thought of these ideas really intended this. I think the Government has rather let them down by bringing up a Bill like this which is, of course, similar to the Human Rights Commission Bill. It is a sort of tame pussycat thing which will not do any good for anybody. It will be held very tightly in shackles so that anybody who might have any genuine ideas about getting multiculturalism together in Australia will find that he is brought to a sharp and sudden halt by the mere fact that the Government has a system of appointments, not only the appointment of the council, to which the Australian Labor Party has moved an amendment, but also in clause 10 the actual appointment of members of the Institute. There are to be 100 members- if we do get 100- because the clause states:
What kind of Institute will this be? It will be a sort of backroom of a government department. In the second reading speech somebody has used some high flown phrases. It states:
Over three and a half million people from more than 100 countries have made Australia their home in a magnificent saga of voluntary, planned migration.
I agree with that statement. But is it not time for a great saga of co-operation and understanding? Surely the Government would realise that this can only come from the co-operation and interested and voluntary activity of individuals and ethnic organisations. There is nothing dangerous about this Institute that I can see. I cannot see that it will ferment revolution or subversion or treason. I can see very remote, sciencefiction, novel-like posibilities in which it might, but I do not really think that if it were given its head it would behave like that. I would have seen it rather as the one place for the study and accumulation of our real cultural background as a multicultural society, where we could let off just a few of the shackles. I commend to the Government the idea that it might do just that. It would be very much in accord with the policy of the Australian Democrats if it did so. I suggest it would immediately overcome the problems that Senator Grimes mentioned where the ethnic community would largely walk carefully and quietly around this situation, leave it alone and go about their affairs. We have to involve them. There is no way they will be involved here simply by saying that the Minister will decide which of them will be relevant in this situation, not only on the council but also on the Institute itself.
Basically, we would go further than Senator Grimes on this question of education. After all, education should be the wellhead of real recognition that we are a multicultural society in this country. At present that is not recognised nearly enough. I was reading through clause 5 of the Bill when Senator Grimes was speaking and the point struck me that there is a very significant omission here. I have written the word ‘education’ alongside that clause because the word is simply not mentioned in the objectives for the establishment of the Institute. One gets a picture of a general sort of vague organisation which perhaps at great expense in some remote locality will establish a library of ethnic affairs which nobody will ever go to look at or use. It may from time to time organise a very carefully balanced, non-controversial exhibition. It may be Hungarian dancing or whatever, but it will never really come to grips with real problems which are basic.
This is part of the Australian Democrats’ policy on education, and we would like to see the Government consider a tiny amendment which would include within the objectives of the Institute some relevance to education, and particularly the kind of education which would be recognised in this Bill as having multicultural backgrounds. We are not just an Anglo-Saxon society which has somehow to create institutes and organisations which will compulsorily incorporate a vast number of people from so many rich and varied cultures within it. Those rich and varied cultures are part of our culture and we should be proud of them and we should be proud of the people who brought them here. Unless we do that and if we leave this organisation here as a tame pussycat, at the risk of gravely mixing my metaphors I would say it would be a mixture between a tame pussycat and a qango, and God help us when we consider what the offspring of that might be. But that is what it will be. I suggest that there is time, and that it is in the interests of the nation and of our society generally, in a completely non-political way, for us to have another look at this very tired Bill. It looks very much like other Bills which set up other institutes of this kind. Let us consider that it will cost the Australian people a certain amount of money and that the people who will eventually sit there are appointed to work there. Probably they will have good intentions and they can do good work, but because of the nature of the Bill they will never be able to do so.
– My contribution will be relatively brief, because Senator Grimes has covered virtually all our submissions. I just preface my remarks by referring to Senator Lajovic ‘s comments. What he said might have applied some years ago, but at the moment we find that the secretary of the South Coast branch of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia is Mr Leilli, an Italian migrant of 1958 vintage. It is a very hot spot holding that position down there. Bill Nowak, of Polish origin, is the secretary of the Pastrycooks Bakers, Biscuit makers and Allied Trades Union. Alex Pavusa, who is the secretary of the Mount Isa Trades and Labour Council, is of Yugoslav origin. I know that on the Sydney scene two of the officials of the former Amalgamated Postal Workers Union are of Lebanese origin. It would be found that one of the organisers of the Storemen and Packers Union would be of Yugoslav origin. As Senator Gietzelt will know, we are getting young research officers of postwar migrant stock. That applies to the Miscellaneous Workers Union, the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union and otherspeople like Frank Raffello- so the tide is turning. It is overdue.
– You must agree that it is very slow.
Senior MULVIHILL-I think that in the goodlife today one will usually receive less brickbats being a shop steward much less a paid official of a union. That goes for any of us. I want to make a general observation about clause 20. No matter whether there was a Liberal Government or a Labor Government, it was always felt that the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council did not politicise on a party basis by having a link with the Government and/or Opposition. It was not meant to be a watchdog over the points of view of ethnic groups. I have always felt that it worked because if people are shut out it is possible for a dissident group to go to the Opposition and say that awful things are happening on a particular council. I would like to believe that there is a better understanding in this field now than there was in the 1960s. Senator Gordon Davidson served on the Immigration Advisory Council for much longer than I did. I did succeed him as Chairman, and there were people such as Fred Daly, former Queensland M.P. Len Keogh and a host of others who served on the Council. To argue a proven position, it was most important for the Labor Government to hasten slowly in regard to ethnic radio. I know that there was a federal advisory committee in regard to that matter, and Senator Davidson and I were part of its early operations. Sometimes these matters can be approached in a bipartisan way. In relation to the Council, there were people from the parliamentary parties, although not as watchdogs which avoided someone’s coming in here from either party and saying that terrible things are happening.
As to the matter of elections and the figure of a 100 member Council to which Senator Grimes referred, this may lead to what I would call robust differences of opinion in the Greek community. This could involve the reigning Archbishop, and there are all sorts of problems. The Government will have to be very careful about who becomes involved with the ins and outs of the situation. Although I say it in a low key manner, I know that in regard to some Middle East groups if a shop steward is appointed from one group and not the other it requires all the statesmanship of a union official of 20 years to avoid playing favourites. Senator Lajovic and I are close to the situation and would know good people who might get the nod at these elections. Some people regard these positions as status symbols whilst others want to serve in a meaningful manner. I believe that if people are able to prove that they have the backing of substantial elements in their own ethnic community, they will be able to stand up to criticism which they will get, rather than be dubbed as teacher’s pets. I know that is not the intention of the legislation, but it could be open to that. I do make that particular observation and I think it has to be watched very carefully.
Again in relation to the figure of 100, 1 think most of the major groups today have enough political muscle and Press publicity to stand up for themselves but I think it will be found at this stage- even with the Portuguese community which is a relatively low wage group, as Senator Grimes mentioned- that these people who need a lot of assistance are proud about their culture but they do not have a lot of finance to establish clubs such as those established by the bigger groups. They may have certain little schisms, for example, if a person is from the Madeira Islands rather than mainland Portugal, and there are even people here from Angola and Mozambique who reckon that they have proved themselves in open company. They are some of the problems that will occur in giving these people adequate representation without any backlash. I suppose even in regard to our Latin American comrades, if a Chilean begins talking about the quality of beef in company with an Argentinian, the Argentinian will say that he is the only one who knows anything about cattle. These feuds go on down the line.
I think I have made it abundantly clear that I have reservations about clause 20. 1 certainly will not abuse my position in the Chair at a later stage to come in on this matter, but I will be interested to hear the answer of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). I repeat what Senator Grimes said about the way these people are elected: It could be done in a much better way, having regard to the tried and true formula as applied by the Immigration Advisory Council over a long time.
– I thank the Senate for the way in which it has dealt with the Bill to establish the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs. I note that the Opposition does not oppose the Bill and I note also the amendment that has been moved by Senator Grimes. The Government is not able to accept the amendment, and perhaps it would be appropriate if I were to refer briefly to the different parts of the amendment so that I am able to record the Government’s response to it. I agree with those who have said that there is a great deal of work to be done in working together to make this a successful Institute. I was very pleased to hear the constructive way in which it has been approached at this time of its establishment.
However, the Opposition showed some concern in moving the amendment and, in regard to paragraph (a) of the amendment, it wished to see the Institute established as a statutory authority responsible to the Parliament. I do want to make it clear that the Bill as it is drafted does establish the Institute as an independent statutory authority responsible to the Parliament. That responsibility results from its creation and funding by an Act of Parliament, whilst continuing scrutiny of its activities is provided for by the requirement to report annually through the Minister. These are normal requirements applying in respect of statutory bodies. The next concern of the Opposition was to provide the Institute with a more positive responsibility for the maintenance of cultural identities and traditions, and encouragement of multiculturalism. In regard to this I would have to say that from the Government’s point of view the objective of that amendment is not acceptable. It is there apparently to preserve certain cultural identities and traditions.
This raises complex and probably unanswerable questions about what are the specific cultural identities and traditions the Institute is to maintain. This approach fails to recognise that cultures of migrant groups evolve over time and as a result of influences from the host society and other migrant groups. Taken literally, the Opposition’s approach could lead to the maintenance of cultural traditions rejected by the groups concerned and of little value to anybody in Australia or elsewhere. There has been much discussion on the issue of multiculturalism. There has been some discussion about that in the Senate today. Some people have expressed the view that the concept of multiculturalism implies some sort of separate development of various groups; a sort of cultural isolationism where separate groups in our society ought to be able to adhere to different languages and cultural traditions without really coming the grips with each other, and promoting tolerance and understanding amongst the various ethnic groups in the Australian community. This is not the approach that the Government favours, and I do not think that anyone who has spoken would be talking in those terms. But the approach that the Government has taken is comprehended in the Bill and it does believe that anything of the type that I have just mentioned would work against the notion of one coherent Australian society.
It ought to be made clear in any legislation which seeks to establish the Institute that one of its principal objectives is to promote tolerance, understanding and respect amongst the various groups comprising Australian society and to ensure that all groups are making a contribution to a unified Australian community where there is full scope for cultural diversity. The Government believes that the wording of clause 5 achieves this objective. On reading clause 5, Senator Mason was concerned that he had found no mention of education. I draw his attention to clause 6 ( 1 ) (b) (iv), in which is found a function of the Institute, expressed in the terms of conducting promotional and community educational activities. Reading the objects and the functions together, I think we can assure Senator Mason that his concern about education is covered. Senator Grimes also expressed concern that community education would be one of the most important things achieved through the establishment of the Institute.
Another concern of the Opposition, expressed in paragraph (c) of the amendment, was that we should elaborate the functions of the Institute to include research into the history and phenomenon of immigration to Australia and issues related to the development of the ethnic groups in Australia and their diverse cultures. Clause 6 of the Bill, as I mentioned, in part states the primary functions of the Institute. If we then refer to paragraph (d) of the Opposition’s amendment, we note that the Opposition would wish to ensure the possibility of entering into contractual relationships with other community-based organisations engaged in activities in accord with the objectives. In response to that the Government comments that in order to fulfil its role of providing advice to the Government and to other bodies, the Institute will need to conduct some research itself, taking a practical, educational and action-oriented approach. This would not preclude significant consultation with, and the contracting of specific research to, appropriate bodies. Indeed, it is intended that the Institute will commission research on specific matters from outside bodies, from organisations and institutions already engaged in such activities, and from other organisations which, it may decide, are able to handle a particular new area of research.
In paragraph (e) of its amendment, the Opposition is concerned that the Bill should enable the Institute of Multicultural Affairs to conduct research into and to foster community sensitivity for social groups and refers to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. The Government responds to that part of the amendment by stating that the role of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies is directed towards research and study in relation to the Aboriginal people of Australia. The Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs will be concerned with undertaking research and studies primarily directed towards the awareness and understanding of nonAboriginal cultures and the promotion of harmonious relationships amongst all the elements of our community. Nevertheless, the concept of multiculturalism does embrace all cultures in a nation and the Aboriginal people are an integral part of Australian society.
Indeed, when considered from an international standpoint it is imperative that Aboriginals be included within the total framework of Australia’s multicultural policies. Therefore, whilst the Institute will not direct its research programs into Aboriginal issues, it is clear that close and co-operative working relationships with the various organisations concerned with Aboriginal issues will be highly desirable and that joint programs and projects, particularly in community education, could well eventuate from such relationships. I am advised that discussions have already been held by officers of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs with those of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies to develop appropriate procedures for the future co-ordination of work programs and policies with those of the Institute.
Another matter of concern is expressed in paragraph (f) of the amendment which seeks to define members of the Institute, their method of election, their duties and their powers as members of the Institute. The provisions of the Bill make it clear in the relevant context whether a member of the Council or a member of the Institute is being referred to. Given that most references are to Council members, it is appropriate that the term ‘member’ should be defined as meaning a Council member. The method by which Institute members hold office is provided for in clause 10. They are to be appointed by the Minister. However, the Minister is required by sub-clause 10(2) to consult with the Council of the Institute in the appointment of Institute members.
It will be recalled that the second reading speech mentioned that Institute members will comprise people experienced in multicultural matters drawn from a wide range of backgrounds and experience. They will provide a source of advice to the Council on specific topics and act as channels of contact between the Council and the general community. It is not proposed, therefore, that Institute members should have a governing role on the Council of the Institute which determines, subject to any directions from the Minister, the overall policy approach to be followed by the Institute.
I was interested in Senator Mulvihill’s comments about parliamentary representation. I think we are all aware of his experience and of his association with the Immigration Advisory Council.
– And Senator Davidson too.
– And Senator Davidson. They served with great distinction on that Council. I advise that the Bill does not prevent the appointment of parliamentary representatives. I think it may be appropriate that I draw the attention of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs ( Mr MacKellar) to the comments that were made by Senator Mulvihill to see whether we can achieve a parliamentary interest, a non-partisan interest, in the affairs of the Institute. If I draw that matter to his attention I am sure that he will give it some consideration in the appointments that may need to be made in the future. With those remarks I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-I seek leave to move the Opposition’s 31 amendments together.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 November, on motion by Senator Chaney:
That the Bill be now read a second time. (Quorum formed).
– The Australian Federal Police (Consequential Amendments) Bill 1979 is a corollary of the Australian Federal Police Bill, which was passed by the Parliament on the last day of sitting of the autumn session. This Bill seeks to make a number of amendments relating to the deletion of the words ‘Commonwealth Police’ and the insertion of the words ‘Australian Federal Police’ in 46 different pieces of Commonwealth legislation. We do not oppose the Bill. It follows that we need to make changes to all those pieces of legislation- all those laws- which confer certain rights and obligations upon members of the Commonwealth Police, now known as the Australian Federal Police.
However, the Opposition wishes to make a couple of points in relation to the Bill we are debating. Nowhere in either the major legislation of six months ago- the Australian Federal Police Act- or in the legislation before us are references made to the activities of, for example, the Special Branch of the Australian Federal Police. Nowhere in the original legislation or in this legislation is any reference made to the changes which the Australian Federal Police will have to make as a result of the disbanding of the Federal Narcotics Bureau. Nowhere is any reference made to the excessive use of telephone tapping, which has become fairly common place in the activities of the Australian Federal Police. I take the opportunity to express our concern about that.
In the last week, as a result of the revelations that have been made in the hearing of the court case in Sydney involving the social security conspiracy, I have had brought to me further evidence which indicates that senior officers of the Australian Federal Police do not seem to know what their obligations are and do not seem to respect regulations which have been established by the national Parliament in respect of telephone tapping, for example. I have received further evidence indicating that there has been an extension of those irregularities by the Australian Federal Police and, indeed, by the Federal Narcotics Bureau. It ought to be brought to the attention of the Parliament that there is a dereliction of duty and a negation of the responsibilities and obligations which are shown to be now part of the responsibilities of the Australian Federal Police, in particular in relation to the interception of telephone calls.
– They did not intercept; they just tapped.
- Mr President, now that Senator Gietzelt has been interrupted, I take a point of order. I did not wish to interrupt Senator Gietzelt before the sitting is suspended for dinner. I draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that this is a Bill which makes minor technical amendments. We have on the Notice Paper other legislation which relates to the sorts of matters which are now raised in debate. I submit that the subject matter of the debate, if it goes along the lines which Senator Gietzelt is now entering, is anticipating a proposed debate in this chamber. I suggest that, in the interests of dealing with the matter reasonably expeditiously, we should confine debate to the matters in the Bill.
- Mr President, I draw your attention to the state of the House.
– Order! The sitting of the Senate is suspended until 8 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m. (Quorum formed).
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the fact that this Bill amends 46 other pieces of Commonwealth legislation which relate to the activities of the new organisation that has been established namely, the Australian Federal Police. I was referring to the fact that nowhere either in the original legislation or in this legislation is there any reference to the activities of the Special Branch that operates in the Australian Federal Police. No attempt is made to examine what is happening in the Federal Police with regard to telephone tapping. I related my remarks to the evidence that has be given in the court case in Sydney relating to the social security conspiracy. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) drew my attention to the fact that that matter would be debated subsequently to this piece of legislation.
I was anxious just to make some reference in passing because, before the Government’s change of policy and programs, I had accepted some political commitments outside Canberra for the next three days. I will not have an opportunity, therefore, to talk about the matter when that legislation is being debated. I was utilising the limited opportunity that this piece of legislation gave me to refer to the fact that there seems to be growing evidence of breaches of Commonwealth law by some sections of the Australian Federal Police. We have seen that evidence in the current court case. I have had matters brought to my attention within the last week that confirm that there appears to be a growing habit by members of the Federal Police to defy Parliament’s intention with respect to telephone tapping or interception of telephone conversations. This also has its applications to some people involved in the Federal Police who were formerly involved in the Federal Narcotics Bureau.
I think it has to be said that five years ago when the former Senator Murphy drew Parliament’s attention to the deficiencies in the operations of the previous Commonwealth Police and the Narcotics Bureau he suggested that there was a need to revitalise and to give a lot more authority and expertise to the Commonwealth Police. He was spot on with his piece of legislation. I am more than ever convinced that steps have been taken in the right direction concerning the Bureau’s detection of criminal activity. Given the sorts of resources that the Australian Federal Police should have it will be much more equipped to handle the problems of drugs in this country. The Australian Federal Police will be much more able to handle the problems associated with white collar crime which we all know is now one of the major problems in our society.
What Mr Clifford said recently, at a seminar dealing with criminology, is something that the Government has to give very serious consideration to. The legislation itself is relatively simple in that it just seeks to change in virtual work form only the operation of the Australian Federal Police insofar as the words ‘Commonwealth Police’ will be superseded by the words ‘Federal Police’. There is reference also to the officers in the organisation and the officers rights declaration which seems to establish some important principles for those officers who will be transferring from the Narcotics Bureau and from the Public Service into the Australian Federal Police. There is no doubt that there is a need for a much more efficient and vigorous Australian Federal Police organisation. There is no doubt that it has a tremendous task to cope with the sophistication of modern society. To the degree that this legislation will assist in that process, the Opposition does not propose to oppose the legislation. (Quorum formed).
– I will speak very briefly because the Australian Federal Police (Consequential Amendments) Bill is a technical Bill. All it does is virtually convert the former Commonwealth Police into the Australian Federal Police. In acknowledging that fact of life I want to make one or two comments. I have been the lone voice in this Parliament that has despaired of the destruction of the Federal Narcotics Bureau. I have said, and I say again, that it was one of the most efficient law enforcement agencies of its kind in the world. It was destroyed by Public Service internecine warfare led by people associated with the Commonwealth police. We are now left with a vacuum in relation to who is to fight the organised crime that imports drugs into this country. I have asked several Ministers this question and have not been furnished with an answer.
I find an incongruity, without being provocative to Senator Gietzelt, in that on the one hand he said he supports and supported, as his party did, the massacre of the Federal Narcotics Bureau. By inference that means he supports the Australian Federal Police engaging in the war against narcotics. Yet he and his party, quite properly and rightly, have mounted a massive campaign against the efficiency and the integrity of the Australian Federal Police in this place in recent weeks; and that does disturb me.
However, I accept the inevitable, as one of the 64 senators and 124 other members of Parliament in the other place, that I am a lone voice in saying it was one of the great tragedies of this country that the war against drug trafficking was virtually abandoned for 18 months when the Federal Narcotics Bureau was disbanded. I have said before that I believe the new head of this police force, Sir Colin Woods, whom this Bill virtually installs in that position by its change of name, is a magnificent man. I am less than sanguine about the three deputies who are under him, as I am about the judgment of the former Commissioner Davis who now advises the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) on Commonwealth police matters.
I am a little disturbed from what I have read about Sir Colin Woods. Although he is a magnificent person, in the United Kingdom he looked at his role as a policeman rather as being a political trouble-shooter, a public relations person who could keep politicians and public servants quiet. This is not a denigration of him; every public service needs that kind of top man. I am very disturbed that he would allow the former Commonwealth Police, now the Australian Federal Police, to operate under the three lieutanants who remain. Having said that and having fought this long battle and lost ignominiously, I pledge the support of the Australian Democrats to the Australian Federal Police in their war against organised crime in this country and I wish them good luck. As from tonight, they will have no further criticism from me on past performances. But let Sir Colin Woods know that we will be looking at his future performance and the performance of his Federal Police with great perspicacity.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition and the Australian Democrats for their speedy consideration of what is, as they have conceded, essentially a technical Bill which simply tidies up the legislation which refers to the Commonwealth Police, changes the references to the Australian Federal Police and deals with some basically industrial matters about which there is no dispute within the Parliament. I appreciate the very sincere interest of both the honourable senators who have spoken on the Bill. I would like to make a couple of comments in response to the points which they have made. I express regret that Senator Giezelt will not be able to be involved in the discussion on the Bills before us tomorrow. I know, because I was briefly the Minister for Administrative Services, that Senator Gietzelt showed a close interest in the formation of the new Australian Federal Police and that he would have wished to participate in the debate tomorrow.
There is c!.e point on which I would correct him. He referred to breaches of the law by the Australian Federal Police and obliquely referred to matters which have currently been the subject of considerable comment within the Senate. I remind the Senate that the Australian Federal Police is a very recent animal. I think that the force officially came into existence on 19 October. Any of the matters which are the subject of complaint and debate at the moment relate to the previous police forces which the Australian Federal Police has replaced. Needless to say, the Australian Federal Police represents the amalgamation of the previous forces and it is the job of the new force to improve Federal policing in Australia in a way in which I believe the Government, the Opposition and the Australian Democrats would all wish. The sentiments of goodwill expressed by Senator Chipp, I believe, would be supported by all Government senators and by all Opposition senators. I think that we would all be in agreement that a sound police force is essential to the operation of a good democratic society. It is our unanimous wish that the Australian Federal Police under its new Commissioner should be able to contribute to a better Australian society.
The expressions by Senator Chipp were reflected in Senator Gietzelt ‘s closing remarks in which he expressed a desire for a more vigorous and effective police organisation. I think the attempts of the present Government in bringing out Sir Robert Mark for the report and the formation of the new police force are again an indication of a common purpose. I think it is important that the public of Australia and the Australian Federal Police should understand that this is not a matter on which there is any partisan dispute in this Parliament. I do not wish to take up Senator Chipp ‘s comments on the question of the Narcotics Bureau. That is a matter which will be more precisely before the Senate in legislation to be dealt with probably tomorrow, and no doubt that will be the subject of some debate. I simply acknowledge the comments which he has made. Like him, I agree that that argument should now be put aside and we should concentrate on the development of effective police forces for the future.
On this Bill, as on so many others, I think it is heartening that the Government and the Opposition express common sentiments. It is a fact that within Australia there is much unanimity, I think, about many of the basics, about the way our society should work, and I think it is important that in debates such as this one the common points, the points of unanimity, should be stressed as well as the points of division which the Opposition properly brings before the public. I commend the Bill to the Senate. I thank the Senate for its consideration of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
The Bill. ( Quorum formed).
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Chaney) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 15 November, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition supports this legislation. The main purpose of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Amendment Bill is to amend the finance provisions of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949.
These provisions relate to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority which was established for the purpose of designing and constructing the Snowy Mountains scheme. The scheme was substantially completed in 1 974, after a construction period of almost 25 years. Even now this represents probably the largest project in Australian history and the longest in terms of construction time. Until now the finance for this project has been provided by way of advances by the Commonwealth Government, repayable over 70 years. To date over $820m has been advanced by the Commonwealth to the scheme and $500m has been repaid in the form of interest and repayment of advances. Total indebtedness remains at about $960m. Given the level of funding required for the scheme obviously it was necessary for the Commonwealth to provide the finance. However, now that the project has been completed these arrangements are no longer necessary.
The Bill before the Senate will allow the Snowy Mountains Authority to borrow money in its own right rather than be dependent on advances from the Commonwealth. The Opposition is not opposed to this policy, as it believes that the Authority should be able to operate- as is the case with most other statutory authoritiesaccording to normal commercial principles. Although the scheme has been completed the Snowy Mountains Authority still has a very important role to fulfil. Funding requirements are no longer large but close to $1 m is still required annually. Last year about $850,000 was advanced by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to the Authority for construction purposes. The changes to the Act will allow the Authority itself to borrow and, as is the case with other statutory authorities, those borrowings will be guaranteed by the Treasurer.
Although the Snowy Mountains scheme has been completed it still remains unique in Australian history, in terms of both its size and its construction period. Over 700 people are employed full-time in the scheme. The power stations provide valuable peak-load electricty to New South Wales and Victoria. All of the Australian Capital Territory’s electricity comes from the Snowy Mountains scheme. The charge for this power is low compared with similar schemes overseas. In addition to electricity the scheme also provides valuable additional water for irrigation to both the Murrumbidgee and Murray valleys. The success of this project is a tribute to the Snowy Mountains Authority. The experience gained in it has meant that the staff involved have been able to provide similar valuable services in engineering projects in Australia and overseas. The Snowy Mountains Authority, the Snowy Mountains Council and the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation will continue to provide Australia and many overseas countries with a very important service.
The other sections of the Bill relate to the standardisation of the Act to bring it into line with other statutory authority legislation. The provisions largely relate to officers and employees of the Authority. The Bill also allows the Minister to appoint an Acting Commissioner, or Acting Associate Commissioner. Previously such appointments were made by the Governor-General. Amendments embodied in the Bill will allow the Authority to enter into contracts worth up to $500,000 without the approval of the Minister. Previously the allowable limit was $200,000. The Snowy Mountains Authority is a great Australian Labor Party initiative and the Opposition supports this legislation.
– in reply- I thank the Senate for its support of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 14 November, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– The Senate has before it six income tax Bills. Five of the Bills deal with the attempted closure of tax loopholes and the final measure deals with the income tax surcharge which this Government imposed originally as a temporary measure. We will not be opposing the Bills dealing with tax avoidance measures although we do note that the Treasurer (Mr Howard) obviously is not capable of resisting some very strong pressures from within his own party and interest groups which his party represents to sustain his campaign against tax avoidance. But we will be moving an amendment to the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 4). The amendment reads:
At end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the Government’s taxation policies are inequitable, deceptive and ineffective in that they-
are in direct violation of the Government’s election promises, are imposing an increasing income tax burden on the Australian taxpayer;
b ) ha ve continually reduced the equity of the tax system by imposing an increasing proportion of the income tax burden on low and middle income earners;
are failing to prevent the continuance of a record level of tax avoidance by high income earners; and
have been marked by prevarication, policy reversals and concessions to powerful interest groups’.
In the most recent report which the Parliament has had from the Commissioner of Taxation, it is made clear that tax avoidance measures have been on the increase. In that report, the Commissioner said:
Investigating tax avoidance activities and schemes continues to make serious inroads into staff resources available for other activities, most particularly in the enforcement areas of branch offices. Although still a relatively small percentage of the taxpayer population, the number of persons participating in these schemes has increased substantially. So have the number and complexity of the schemes.
That was a comment by the Commissioner of Taxation himself. He has pointed out that some $433m in tax is attributable to these schemes and has not been collected. In the meantime, of course, the taxpayers, who have no opportunity to exploit tax avoidance schemes and who are in fact honest enought to declare what their incomes really are bear the burden for those in the community who are utterly dishonest, namely, the tax avoidance people. It means in the main that low income earners have to pick up the tab for the cost to revenue for those persons who practise these tax avoidance schemes. As we have pointed out before, the consequence of the policies of the present Government, of course, is to shift the burden of taxation from the higher income groups to the lower and middle income groups. Research undertaken by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research shows this. I quote from that report:
One of the most important consequences of fiscal policy decisions over the last two years -
I interpose to draw attention to the significant phrase ‘the last two years’: has been a substantial shin in the incidence of taxation on different income groups. The net effect of the changes to the income tax system during 1978-79 has been to reduce the progressivity of that system while the increases in the crude oil levy will fall more heavily, in proportionate terms, on lower income groups.
That is not a statement by the Australian Labor Party; it is a statement by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. The whole thrust of the taxation policies of the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, has been to move the burden gradually from the higher income groups to the lower and middle income groups. The fact that the Treasurer has capitulated to pressures- that is the only word that one can use- from sections of his own Party, and of course from the National Country Party, shows quite clearly that the Government is determined to follow this policy of moving the taxation burden to the lower and middle income groups. The Government is shielding the groups which are able to exploit the tax avoidance schemes. It is significant that the Taxation Commissioner himself claims that since the Treasurer, Mr Howard, started his campaign of trying to curb tax avoidance, the tax avoidance industry has always been well ahead of Mr Howard. No matter how well intentioned Mr Howard may be, obviously the pressures upon him are too great. If the Government were serious about reducing the degree of tax avoidance and the impact that it has on revenue, it would act on the recommendation of the Opposition which suggests that section 260 of the Act should be amended -
– It has been done.
-I think the honourable senator ought to do his homework. I ask him to check on what we are saying should be done. I understand that the Government will not do what the Australian Labor Party has suggested. That has been said consistently by the Government. As I have been saying, the pressures on the Government are so great that it is not prepared to really grasp the nettle. The only way that the Government will stop this tax avoidance scheme is to grasp the nettle. That means a tough decision. It means that the decision will affect the people who support the Government, the people who put money into its coffers for electoral purposes. The fact that tax avoidance is increasing also gives the lie to the claim that the Fraser Government is a low tax party. This Government persistently sold itself as being a low tax, small government party. We should all know by now that the contrary is the case. That has been proved and people are disillusioned. They realise that the figures presented by Mr Eric Risstrom of the Australian Taxpayers Association, which were prepared just after the Budget, represented the real position. Mr Howard himself admitted that Mr Risstrom ‘s arithmetic was correct. No amount of evasion or flustering by anyone in the Government can possibly alter that fact. The people recognise that there have not been tax cuts under the present Government which made all sorts of outlandish promises, as we all recall, before the last election.
Even this year the total pay-as-you-earn taxation- that is, our personal income tax revenues- will increase, according to the Treasurer himself, by no less than 18.2 per cent. Of course, with inflation again on the rise the harvesting of taxation will increase during the present financial year. Therefore, the increase in revenue in tax collection will be greater. It means in real terms that people who are earning under $ 10,000 a year- they are, in fact, the greater proportion of the work force- will have their real incomes reduced even further. That in turn will affect the capacity of the community to buy and therefore reduce further any chance of a consumer led recovery in this country. Is it any wonder that people are disillusioned? They are worried because they know that after four years of the present Government all the promises which were made, and which were allegedly going to be achieved in a three-year period, have not been achieved. None of them has been achieved. Despite the fact that Mr Fraser has had the additional year to try to achieve mem he is further from his target than ever he was.
We take the greatest exception to the manipulating of the tax system which the Fraser Government has practised by the use of the income tax surcharge, the failure to implement its firm commitment to full tax indexation and the crude oil levy which is better known as the Fraser petrol tax. The total result will be massive increases in revenue. We have had this debate before in the chamber. We have been told about the manner in which taxation was collected by the previous Government. In the last Budget of the Labor Government it raised $ 18,276m. In this financial year the Government which said that it was a tax reducing government has raised $29,499m in tax, an increase of no less than 6 1 per cent. If we look at the tax increase in another way we find that in the three years of the previous Government receipts represented 22.5 per cent of gross domestic product while in the first three years of this Government receipts increased to 23.3 per cent of GDP. Government receipts are a higher proportion of our gross domestic product. That obviously makes a laugh of the suggestion that this Government is opposed to bigger government in Canberra.
There have been reductions in the level of services provided by the present Government. There have been massive overseas borrowings which we now know exceed $5,000m. This Government’s current repayment bill on its overseas borrowings since it came to office is no less than $6,600m. Let the public of Australia get that clearly in their minds. This Government has committed this country and put it in hock to the extent of $6,600m since it came to office. Yet this is the Government which was so ready to condemn its precedessor for wanting to borrow a lesser amount than that. We should add to that amount of $6,600m the $2,000m which the Commonwealth has now enabled the States to borrow because it claims that it is unable to finance the States activities or it does not want to.
– A balanced economy.
-Senator Kilgariff is determined to interject. Perhaps I should wait for a moment to listen to what he has to say.
– We have a balanced economy.
– That is obviously his view of a balanced economy. I can understand that as a member of the Liberal Party he would regard a higher rate of unemployment as being more balanced than the lower rate which applied when the Government came into office. Inflation rates getting back to higher levels than they have ever been before in this country, interest rates just as high as they ever were before, the manufacturing sector more depressed in three years of the present Government than it was in the previous three years and overseas borrowings which 1 have just mentioned greater than any overseas borrowings program in the history of this country is Senator Kilgariff ‘s concept of a balanced economy. I can understand that.
– By ‘balanced’ he means that the inflation rate is just as high as the unemployment rate.
– That is a very good summation and exactly the sort of thinking that permeates every Liberal. I also remind Senator Kilgariff that with regard to the Government’s borrowing program we are only three years away from the point when the Australian taxpayers will need to find $ 1 ,000m to repay our overseas borrowings. I suppose that that is also an example of the sort of balance that Senator Kilgariff and his colleagues support. Perhaps that explains why the Government maintained the so-called temporary tax surcharge. Honourable senators will remember that in 1978 the Treasurer, Mr Howard, said:
The Government has decided that as a temporary measure for 1978-79 only, the standard rate of income tax will be increased by I. S percent . . . the relevant legislation will be expected to terminate at the end of the current financial year.
This commitment was not qualified in any way. It was sold to the public as a temporary measure. We then found on examination that it was not a 1 .5 per cent increase at all; it was a five per cent increase. It was not discontinued when he said it would be; it was extended for another five months from July to November of this year. Every taxpayer in Australia has had to pay that additional surcharge. This Bill does not completely remove that surcharge. It effectively imposes a surcharge of 1.07c in the dollar at all levels of taxable income. That has been built into our present taxation rates. We have been the victims of a total fraud in regard to the 1.5 per cent surcharge. Senator Kilgariff has nothing to say about that.
The Government will claim that the sums of money involved are not very large; that it will pick up only an extra $600m a year. That is chicken feed alongside the petrol tax that Malcolm Fraser b rough; in because this year that will bring about a $2, 600m increase in revenue to the Government. That explains the thinking of Mr Fraser and his colleagues. They just do not understand what these things mean to the ordinary person. There are other measures which the Government has used to increase its taxation revenue. Most of them are reasonably well known to us. Any honourable senator opposite who feels that all of this is not hurting the ordinary wage and salary earner ought to do the weekly shopping. I think it would be a great idea if some of the people who think that the present situation is all right were to go out and do the weekly shopping for a while and try to make do with the same amount of money each week, given the increasing prices of goods and foodstuffs which every housewife has to contend with.
During the course of this year we will see not only an 18 per cent increase in personal income tax collections but also an inflation rate of around 12 per cent, but the Government will not allow wages and salaries to increase by more than 9 per cent. How can the consumer be better off under those conditions? How can a housewife be better off when she knows that in 12 months the money she has available to keep her home going will be less in real terms than it is now? The Treasurer is saying to her: ‘Your money will buy less in 12 months than it does now’. Yet we have people sitting opposite who tell us what a wonderful job they are doing for the ordinary person.
I know that time is a problem for us tonight and tomorrow. I will conclude my remarks by restating that the reason why the ordinary wage earner’s position is becoming more difficult is that the Government- in particular the Prime Minister- just does not understand the problems of ordinary Australians. The Prime Minister is a man who obviously has never had to experience that sort of thing. That is the great political millstone around his neck. That is why only 28 per cent of Australians approve of him as Prime Minister. I would suggest that that is also the reason why he has not got much longer to go in his present position. I move:
– I rise to deal with the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 4) 1979, the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 5) 1979, the Loan (Income Equalization Deposits) Amendment Bill 1 979, the Income Tax Laws Amendment Bill 1979, the Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill 1979, the Income Tax (Individuals) Bill 1979 and the Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Bill 1979. I wish to concentrate on that aspect of the legislative package we are debating cognately which deals with tax avoidance and the Government’s latest batch of piecemeal measures to deal with some tax avoidance schemes. This legislation deals with the crippling consequences to our economic and social life of the activities of people who are really, in my view, subversives within our society. These are the tax bludgers in our society; the people who want to take all the benefits of living in a democratic society- a wealth-producing society- but do not want to contribute their fair share to the running of that democratic wealth-producing society which sustains them.
It is cause for some approbation of the Government that under Mr Howard as Treasurer it has continually brought forward to this Parliament over the last 1 8 months to two years measures designed to deal with tax avoidance schemes which are revealed by the workings of the office of the Commissioner of Taxation. Honourable senators on both sides of the chamber will know that I have consistently praised Mr Howard in this regard. But I am disappointed that at this stage Mr Howard has been unable to come into this Parliament with a radically new section 260, which is the only way in which members of this community will be able to say to the tax avoiders and the tax bludgers: Whatever the legal status of the commercial or other transactions that you enter into, they will be disregarded when it comes to assessing your fair and just contribution to the nation’s revenue’. I know it is a complex task, but Mr Howard has had two or three years to come up with something more than piecemeal measures.
What is wrong with the package of measures we are debating cognately tonight is simply that it is a package, that it is piecemeal, and that continues this sporting contest atmosphere. On the one side are the tax avoiders and their coterie of legal and accounting personnel, people whom they can afford to pervert into serving their own selfish ends. On the other side is the community, represented by the Commissioner of Taxation. The contest goes on, to and fro, year after year, with the Commissioner of Taxation always being a year behind. This piecemeal legislation merely creates a situation where, by writing in several lines to remedy one gap that is revealed in the taxation measures: three or four more possibilities are opened up. The tax avoidance game is indeed hydra-headed. No sooner do we cut down one problem than 10 more spring up in its place.
Despite the time limits, I felt that I should make some comment tonight because on Nationwide last week I saw what could only be described as an interview with two of the most despicable specimens I have yet seen interviewed on Australian television- a Mr Maxwell Newton and a Mr Peter Hutchinson, the former being a tax avoider and the latter being one of those accountants who are perverted into serving the selfish ends of the tax avoiders. Many Australians who are listening to the broadcast of these proceedings will have seen this program. When asked about tax evasion, Mr Maxwell Newton said:
I think it is most important for all Australians to refuse to pay tax.
That is an instance of the subversion that I am talking about. This type of person is undermining our democratic society in two ways. The first is by refusing to contribute his fair share to the nation’s revenue. A government elected by the people is entitled to carry out programs and to get funding to carry out those programs. It is entitled to have a flow of revenue arising from the income-producing activities of the individuals and companies operating within our economy and our commercial life. These people are denying the sinews and victuals to government, and in that respect they are subversive.
There is a deeper sense in which they are subversive, and that is in the creation of a feeling of inequity amongst potential taxpayers within the Australian community. Those who pay tax, those who do not have the capacity, the flexibility or the money to pervert the best legal and accounting brains to serve their own selfish ends, are made to feel mugs, to use a good old-fashioned Australian expression. I well recall how as a young child I used to watch my father in the kitchen when the time came to fill out the taxation forms. He would scrupulously, carefully and honestly go through them to see whether he would claim £8 to £10, as it then was, for chemist’s expenses for his family. There was a man on the pay-as-you-earn system who had no hopeeven if he desired to, which he did not- of avoiding his proper obligations towards the community through the taxation system.
But we have a situation now where inexorably the burden of income taxation is moving on to the ordinary wage and salary earner. The report of the Commissioner of Taxation for 1978-79 was laid on the desk of honourable senators only a few days ago. One can read the list of those who have understated their taxable income. When one reads the Tasmanian list, much to my shame one finds that those who have avoided taxation fall into the following classes. As I cast my eyes down just one page I shall read the occupations. They are: Carpenter, builder, carpenter, electrical contractor, electrical contractor, butcher, bus driver, shop proprietor, wood carter, grocer, hotelier, builder, cartage contractor, investor, builder, manager and hotelier. These are people who, because of their independent earning capacity, are not caught within the PA YE scheme and are therefore not subjected to the ordinary ways in which the Commissioner of Taxation ensures that he collects tax from the average wage and salary earner- the mug who cannot, because of some independent wealth creating situtation from which he earns his income, invest in these tax avoidance schemes which are proffered around the community. When I say that they are proffered around the community, in my view there is no doubt that we have a type of subversive literature which is an advertising of these schemes and which to my mind ought to be condemned as strongly as the schemes themselves.
Two reasons are commonly put forward by way of excuse by tax avoiders. The first is that tax rates are too high and that they feel that they should not contribute to the Treasury while tax rates are as high as they are. But what a circular argument that is. It is clear that we have a Treasury which is losing hundreds of millions of dollars per year because of tax avoidance. We have a copy of the report of the Commissioner of Taxation. In it he states that he has assessed that the community this year is losing something like $422m. Out of every $10 owing to the Commissioner of Taxation, $4 can be ascribed to tax avoidance schemes. Where there is that sort of situation and where there is the predictabilitybecause this is happening year after year- is it not clear that the tax scales will have been set up, modified and calculated in a way which will enable the Government to get the revenue which it knows it will be losing because of the operation of tax avoidance schemes? The money has to be collected somehow, so obviously the rates are marginally higher than they would need to be if every Australian individual and every Australian company made his fair contribution to the nation’s revenue. So these people are taking advantage of a circular argument in a situation which is very much of their own making.
The second argument put forward is that there is some sort of distinction between tax evasion and tax avoidance. Tax evasion is some sort of clearly illegal activity where one does not state a second source of income. But tax avoidance is said to be perfectly proper because it is legal. The transaction by which one sets up a tax avoidance scheme is itself perfectly legal, and somehow this creates an aura of propriety and it is fair game if one can get away with it. That distinction has never been accepted by the Australian Parliament, and section 260 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, although undermined by the High Court- I will come to that in a moment- clearly says that whilst such transactions are legal they are to have no effect against the revenue, and that the Treasury is entitled, despite the transaction, to gather in funds which should be directed properly to it, where the dominant intention in setting up the commercial or trust transaction, whatever it might be, is to avoid legitimate contributions to revenue.
The elected representatives of this community have consistently said that tax avoidance is something anti-social and something which should have no effect against the revenue. But what we have had over the last decade or so is a High Court which has aided and abetted the tax avoiders. I know that you will ask me to be careful in saying this, Mr President, but the present Chief Justice, from his eminent position has achieved by way of judgment what he was unable to achieve by way of argument as counsel before the Privy Council, namely, a situation in which section 260 of the Act is emasculated. That is all I wish to say on that topic, Mr President.
– Yes. Go no further.
– I wish just to indicate that we have a situation in which the non-elected bench of justices has, to my mind, set itself in contradiction to the spirit and intention of the Income Tax Assessment Act as established by the elected representatives of the community. That is why I am disappointed that Mr Howard has not yet come into this Parliament with legislation to enable us to say once again to the community and to the High Court: ‘It is our intention that where a transaction, albeit legal for all other purposes, is entered into for the dominant purpose of avoiding taxation, it will have no effect against the revenue and the High Court, the non-elected bench, ought to give consideration to that new expression of comprehensive intention put down by new section 260. ‘
Mr President, I will be brief and I will conclude my remarks, I hope, within the quarter hour. I noticed in the report of the Commissioner for Taxation some remarks to the effect that penalties have proved totally inadequate. The Commissioner stated that the average revenue gain in cases that he had successfully brought against tax avoiders is $ 1 2,645 per case this year, as opposed to something like $8,000 per case last year. He said that this is a cause for concern. The report states:
It lends support to the view that the incidence of income tax avoidance and evasion continues to grow notwithstanding the heavy penalties that are automatically imposed by the law . . .
It is my contention that we need to go further, that penalties in the form of double taxation or a monetary penalty are totally inadequate. I return to the point I made at the beginning of my speech. What we need to do, when it is proved that these people have avoided taxation, when it is proved that they are unwilling to act in a socially responsible manner, is something which signifies that they are in the limbo of this democratic society. I say that in that instance a tax avoider ought to have his Federal voting rights taken away from him as part of the penalty to be imposed by this community. The Commonwealth Electoral Act states:
I say that these people ought to be put in that exact realm, beyond participating in the society which they refuse to support by fair contribution to our revenue. That is to say- I say this with due deference to the American Revolution whose slogan I reverse- ‘no representation without taxation’. Let the people contribute to the tax revenue of the democratic society in which they live. Then they can have some effect on the councils of government which formulate the programs from which they benefit. I say that until they are prepared to make their fair contribution to our society, until they are prepared to create a situation in which there is a feeling of equity and in which everyone has a fair go, these subversive elements, these tax avoiders, should have this attitude of the community firmly stated to them: ‘No representation for them without their taxation’. (Quorum formed).
– The Senate has been debating a series of tax amendment and tax reform Bills. The Opposition has indicated that it does not oppose the Bills and I thank them for that. The Opposition has moved an amendment, but it is thoroughly unacceptable to the Government. We would oppose it. I commend Senator Tate for a thoughtful speech. I believe that constantly there is room to remind the Australian people of the unethical and, indeed, immoral practices of people who seek to frustrate the public revenue and therefore to hurt those around them.
The dilemma that he poses is one that is universal throughout the Western world; every country in the Western world is finding that overclever lawyers and over-clever accountants are finding over-clever ways to subvert. Indeed, I suppose that is the reason why Western European countries have looked towards the value added tax as a means of attempting to get around that practice. I can only say that my own Government, and certainly the Treasurer (Mr Howard), have attempted to remedy the situation more than any other government before it. I say that in no competitive fashion at all; if there are better ways the Government is enormously interested to hear about them. It would be eager to find ways to tighten up the revenue and be fair to all.
Senator Wriedt took the opportunity to make a series of statements very similar to those that he made recently during a matter of public importance debate, and which had the same basis of error as before. He indicated that the Government had done nothing to reduce taxes. I remind honourable senators of the 500,000 taxpayers at the lower end of the scale who paid taxes under Labor but who no longer do; I remind honourable senators of the reduction of tax scales throughout; I remind them of tax indexation, and I remind all taxpayers about their pay packets after I December. In the spirit of goodwill, I will not continue with those matters. I commend the Bills to the Senate and reject the amendments.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 13 November, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition certainly does not oppose this Bill and in fact supports it. The Bill represents one of the very few positive results which have come from the last Budget. Essentially, it provides for amendments to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1979 introduced into the Parliament on 21 August this year. It provides exemption for quite a range of products, but essentially the Bill will apply to goods which are used by the handicapped. Another very important feature is that it will raise turnover levels for exemptions applicable to craftsmen and other small manufacturers. I do not think it is necessary for me to detail the products which are actually involved because they are set out in the explanatory memorandum to the Bill. But it is fair to say that the Government has made a positive move here, small as it may be perhaps in the totality of things. Nevertheless there will be real benefits to some sections of the community. For that reason the Opposition does not oppose the legislation.
– I thank Senator Wriedt and commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 19 November, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
-The Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Repeal Bill 1979 is simply a Bill to finalise the administration of the predecessor of the present rural adjustment scheme. The Opposition has no argument with that Bill. The States and Northern Territory Grants (Rural Adjustment) Bill 1979 brings the Northern Territory into the rural adjustments scheme and makes various other alterations to the rural adjustment scheme. It formalises three procedures which are already in use in the Rural Adjustment Scheme. It authorises the Minister for Primary Industry to make supplementary determinations of the amount a State may approve under parts A and C of the Scheme during a year; it permits the transfer of approvals from one State to another; and it enables the Minister to authorise a State to a precommitment of funds in exceptional circumstances. It also further changes the Schedule by extending the Rural Adjustment Scheme to allow apiarists to participate in it; by extending the household support arrangement for up to three years; by extending the period in which the household support assistance can be converted into a grant from 6 to 1 2 months; and by increasing from $3,000 to $5,000 the lump sum payable to recipients of household support to adjust out of farming. Again there is nothing in that move by the Government with which the Opposition would disagree. It also amends the wording of the farm improvement criteria to ease restrictions.
The only concern the Opposition has in relation to this matter is that in this year’s Budget we find a cut of some $29m in funding for the Rural Adjustment Scheme. This has been done by a government which pretends in here and outside this place to be the farmers’ friend. We also note that the same Government, through its inflationary policies, has raised farm costs in the last 1 2 months by almost $ 1 4m. We note too that this Government is in the process of phasing out the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty; that under its fuel pricing policy farm fuel bills have increased by 55 per cent, or approximately $2 40m between March 1976 and March 1979; and that farm tax payments have increased, due partly to the fact that farm incomes have gone up but also due to the fact that this Government has placed on primary producers further livestock slaughter levies to the extent of some $20 m. Despite the loud noises that members of the present Government made when in Opposition about Labor’s rural road funding schemes, it has curtailed road funding allocations over the current period, with an 1 1 per cent drop overall.
One gets a little tired at times of hearing in this place- perhaps more so than outside- continual allegations which suggest that the Labor Party is anti-farmer. We can read in Hansard repeated excerpts in which Liberal Party members and/or National Country Party members attempt in this place or the other place to denigrate the moves made by the Labor government to do something for the primary producers of this country. I suppose that there is a classical example to be found in the Hansard for the other place of 15 November. Mr Short, the honourable member for Ballarat, was delivering a scathing attack on alleged deficiencies by the previous Labor Government as they affected primary producers. I do not know whether Mr Short would know a sheep from a goat but, as he moved to Ballarat a few years ago, he may. In the time when he was here in Canberra as a public servant, living in an ivory tower, he would not know a mule from a donkey.
– We do though.
– Sometimes I wonder. What irks me is that a man such as Mr Short would attempt to denigrate what the Labor Party did for primary producers. There must be one person who is even more remiss in relation to rural industry; that is Mr Baillieu. He interrupted Mr Short while he was delivering his oration by suggesting that the floor price scheme for wool, which was introduced by the Labor Government in 1974, was something that hurt the primary producers and the wool growers of this country. It is fairly obvious that Mr Short and Mr Baillieu have not a clue about what went on in the rural countryside in Australia during the 1960s. Undoubtedly my colleague, Senator McLaren, would recall this period. As a shearer he would have had a great interest in it. The small farmers of Australia pressured the previous LiberalCountry Party Government for years to stabilise the Australian wool industry. Regardless of its attempts over the years, the previous LiberalCountry Party Government did nothing. Through its organisations, it tended to put farmers into different camps and to use that technique to divide and conquer. Anybody who lived in the country areas of Australia during that period well knows the sad and sorry history of the Liberal-Country Party. It was not until the Labor Government came to office that the wool growers of Australia were able to get their long hoped for dream, namely, a reserve price plan, a scheme which introduced a floor price for wool. From that day on the wool growers of Australia have not looked back. For Mr Baillieu and Mr Short to get up in another place and denigrate the Labor Party shows a dire lack of knowledge of what primary industry has been all about in this country.
– in reply- Mr President- (Quorum formed). I thank Opposition senators for their comments and I have noted what was said by Senator Primmer. I think that the Bills can proceed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 7 November, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
– Tonight I intend to use the motion for the first reading of these Bills to offer some remarks about the political activities in the State which I represent. I do so because of the consequences those activities might have on federal politics. It is well known that there is conflict between the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party in Queensland. That conflict has manifested itself in other parts of Australia as well. But tonight I intend to confine my remarks to some of the consequences of that conflict in Queensland.
In the Queensland Parliament the Liberal Party, since it formed a coalition with the then Country Party, has always been the minor party in that coalition. From time to time the frustrations which the Liberal Party suffers as the minor party, especially with a Premier such as Mr Bjelke-Petersen, become outwardly evident. With the assumption that it is more comfortable to be a junior party in government than it would be to be in opposition, the Liberals are quick to suppress their frustration and continue as a subordinate group. Nevertheless, the Liberals’ frustration has reached such a level that they have declared that they will field a separate Senate team at the next Senate election.
For years the Liberal Party and the National Party have presented a joint Senate team to the people of Queensland, but now the Liberals have decided to go it alone. The National Party has become extremely annoyed and would dearly love to be relieved of the terror of fielding a separate Senate team. I do not claim to be a modern day Nostradamus, but five years ago I hinted that this would happen. After the 1974 Senate election I wrote:
Although the Liberal-National Senate team triumphed in Queensland, the two parties will be faced with an interesting situation at the next Senate election if that election is for five senators. This will occur because there will be one Liberal retiring (Senator Martin) and two from the National Party (Senators Lawrie and Sheil). Will the Liberal Party be willing to participate in a team where there is only one candidate from its party, but two from the National Party? The developments will be interesting.
Because of the 1975 double dissolution, the next Senate election after 1974 was not for five senators. But similar circumstances have arisen. At the last Senate election two Liberal senators retired and the joint team consisted of two Liberals and one National Party member. At the next Senate election, however, one Liberal and two Nationals will retire. The Liberals certainly have nothing to lose in running a separate Senate team. Under the system of voting for the Senate they must have at least one senator returned with the possibility of having a second member of their team elected. The Nationals’ prospects, however, are grim. Again, with a separate team, they can expect to have their team leader elected. The second person in that team holds, at best, a precarious position. The possibility of the National Party losing one place in the Senate therefore looms large. With its numbers in this place dwindling, a loss of one member under these circumstances would be a severe blow.
The Liberal Party has chosen a team of three for the next Senate election. It is headed by Senator Neville Bonner; the second team member is Mrs Yvonne McComb and the third member is Alderman Franz Born. The National Party therefore reluctantly called nominations for a separate Senate team. At first it was suggested that Mr Bjelke-Petersen might be a candidate. Eventually he said that he would not be a candidate, but there was no real doubt that he had considered the possibility. For example, in the Australian of 28 September of this year he was quoted as saying:
When people read in The Weekend Australian that I was thinking of standing for the Senate the phone didn’t stop ringing from people asking me not to leave Queensland.
But I explained that we had the problem of the separate Senate ticket and that this was perhaps the only way out.
One could, I suppose, ask whether the people who kept ringing and asking him not to leave Queensland were, in fact, Queenslanders or whether they were people from outside Queensland. But he was quoted in the article as giving an indication that he had distinctly looked at the possibility of standing for the Senate for the National Party. I must admit that on a personal basis I was a little disappointed when he said that he would not stand. I do have a few scores to settle with him. I would be able to achieve that more easily if he became a member of this place. It could still be that I shall not be disappointed. But I shall recount in a few minutes why I say that. In the same edition of the Australian that I have just mentioned it was announced that Mrs Bjelke-Petersen was interested in nominating for the Senate. Mr Bjelke-Petersen was quoted as saying:
That’s when I thought: ‘Here is a way around our problem- Flo could stand instead of me.’ We work together very closely, 100 percent, and I would be there indirectly.
That edition of the Australian is worth reading for some of the quotes from Mr and Mrs BjelkePetersen. I just mention that Mrs Bjelke-Petersen in the same article was quoted as saying:
Recent events make you wonder if people are trying to get into the Senate for their own personal gain.
I am not quite sure what she really meant by that. But after all the fun of tea, scones and peanut butter subsided, it became evident that there were troubles within the National Party. Where would Mrs Bjelke-Petersen be on a National Party Senate team? Was she to be third on the ticket behind Senator Maunsell and Senator Sheil who are the two retiring National Party senators, or was she to opt for the No. 2 position or even the No. 1 position and thus dump one or both of the sitting senators? It was reported on 30 October of this year in the Courier-Mail that Senator Sheil would stand down if Mrs BjelkePetersen were selected ahead of him. This may be a correct report but I have some doubts. Nevertheless, I have not heard that Senator Maunsell would be happy to stand down. Indeed, the Courier-Mail of 4 October quotes Senator Maunsell as saying that there was little point in putting Flo at the top.
On 4 October it was suggested in the Australian that Senator Sheil would soon retire. Mrs Bjelke-Petersen could fill this vacancy and be in the Senate by Christmas. That strategy may have been taken seriously in early October but it certainly is not being taken now. On 12 October the Australian reported that Mrs Bjelke-Petersen had submitted her nomination together with a $50 deposit. On the same day the editorial in the Courier-Mail articulated the disquiet which was beginning to surround Mrs Bjelke-Petersen ‘s nomination. The editorial was headed ‘A rose or a thorn?’ and read as follows:
The National Party will be starting to wonder whether the idea of Mrs Bjelke-Petersen nominating for its Senate team was such a good one after all.
Now that Mrs Bjelke-Petersen is a nominee there is likely to be an intra-party feud over her place on the ticket. As the wife of the Premier, the National Party cannot reject her entirely.
At first it was believed that the idea of running the Premier’s wife was merely to attract votes to the National Party team by capitalising on the Bjelke-Petersen name.
This purpose will have been served if she became the third candidate on theticket. There she would have no hope of winning but could have drawn votes to the team.
The purpose now seems to be changing. Apparently she is a serious contender for first place, where she certainly would be elected, or second place, where she would have some chance. She says that her place on the ticket is up to the party.
The Premier’s enthusiasm for his wife’s candidature (‘all the boys in Parliament support Florence, and are openly saying they want her in the Senate’) means that she can count on his very great influence.
Nomination in first or second place on the ticket would mean displacing one of the two sitting Senators whose terms will expire- Senators Maunsell and Sheil.
Whilst Senator Sheil might be no great political loss- the Prime Minister did not think so as far as Cabinet was concerned- Senator Maunsell has been a good senator.
The editorial in the Courier-Mail continues in the same vein and refers to the disquiet which was arising because of Mrs Bjelke-Petersen ‘s nomination. By 1 9 October, the day before a decision was to be made on the order of the Senate team, it was clear that Mr Bjelke-Petersen was intent on having his wife head the National Party team. The Courier-Mail on that date reported:
If the parties proceed separately, the Premier ( Mr BjelkePetersen) is anxious that his wife head the National Party ticket.
The Premier has been lobbying intensely on his wife ‘s behalf and according to National Party politicians ‘calling up many old friendships. ‘
Joh is working hell out of his telephone, ‘ a senior Government Member said.
On 20 October the Premier of Queensland suffered a huge rebuff. The Sunday Mail of 2 1 October reported that rebuff. It is worthwhile quoting part of that article. It stated:
The party ‘s State council-
That is the National Party’s State council- meeting in Brisbane, voted overwhelmingly to defer a decision on the question of whether Mrs Bjelke-Petersen should head the party’s Senateticket at the expense of Senators Maunsell and Sheil.
A stormy 2½-hour meeting voted by 1 16 to 57 to put the decision on Senate candidates off until December 1 4.
The outcome displayed the overwhelming strength of the party’s president (Sir Robert Sparkes).
It was a victory for the National Parry organisation, scarred by recent by-election set-backs at Redcliffe, Gympie, and Sherwood last November 25.
And it underscored an overwhelming concern among National Party members and supporters that Mr BjelkePetersen is heading towards the end of his electoral usefulness.
The defeat of the Premier was underlined by the fact that he told waiting reporters when entering the meeting with his wife that he was ‘very, very, confident. ‘
Mrs Bjelke-Petersen was reported to have given her husband a nervous smile, fumbled with her string of pearls and said: ‘I could have been home working on the farm ‘. Nevertheless, she is still in the field and waiting for the party’s decision on 14 December. All that I have related so far is history. It was necessary for me to relate that background prior to suggesting to the Senate the motives of Mr Bjelke-Petersen in this exercise. I am not sure whether Mrs BjelkePetersen is party to Mr Bjelke-Petersen ‘s plans. But I am led to believe that the Premier of Queensland desperately wants his wife to head the National Party Senate team so that he can eventually gain entry to this Senate. If Mrs Bjelke-Petersen headed the National Party team she would undoubtedly be elected. The National Party would be able to muster the required 16.6 per cent of the total vote. My information, however, is that Mr Bjelke-Petersen would coax his wife to resign shortly after she takes her place and then he would fill the casual vacancy himself. This is the reason for his burning desire to place his wife at the head of the ticket. It is not so much to have his wife elected but to enter the Senate himself by way of filling a casual vacancy created by her resignation.
No doubt National Party officials, like Sir Robert Sparkes, are alert to his ploy and will be doing their best to put Mrs Bjelke-Petersen at No. 2 or No. 3 on the team. They have no wish to see Mr Bjelke-Petersen being given a dream run to the Senate. Sir Robert Sparkes and his colleagues know that to stop Mrs Bjelke-Petersen from taking the No. 1 position will be no pushover. There are some people who want to see Mr Bjelke-Petersen out of the State Parliament. I regret that I put that wrongly. There are hundreds of thousands of people who want him out. What I mean is that there are some of his National Party colleagues who want him to go. Once he does, the premiership will be up for grabs. One such person who wants him to go is Mr Russell Hinze. Only last Saturday he was reported to be fostering Mrs Bjelke-Petersen ‘s candidature. The Courier-Mail of 17 November 1 979 reported:
A State Cabinet Minister said in Kingaroy yesterday that Mrs Bjelke-Petersen would top the Senate ticket if she became a candidate.
The Local Government Minister (Mr Russ Hinze) paused during the official opening of the new Kingaroy Shire administrative chambers when the Premier’s wire arrived and said: Here’s Senator Flo’.
Ill walk to Burke and back if she doesn’t top the poll.’ . . .
Why does Mr Hinze want Mrs Bjelke-Petersen to top the National Party Senate team? He has made no secret of the fact that he would like to be Premier of Queensland. He knows that the best way of easing out the present incumbent is to get him to fill a casual vacancy in the Senate. An article headed ‘Hinze hopes to be Premier’ in the Canberra Times last year reported:
The Queensland Minister for Local Government and Main Roads, Mr Hinze, said yesterday that he expected to be the . . . Premier of Queensland in three years.
He said he expected that once becoming Premier, he would remain in the job for five years.
Mr Hinze, 59, said that even then he would be a younger Premier than Mr Bjelke-Petersen, who is 67.
The Party would ‘need an experienced bloke’ to carry on with good coalition government.
Speaking in the Western Queensland township of Springsure, Mr Hinze said he did not want to appear to be hurrying the best Premier in Australia on his way’, but when Mr Bjelke-Petersen ‘chooses to give it away I will throw my hat into the ring’.
Of course, Mr Hinze is not the only aspirant to the Premiership of Queensland. All of those people who see themselves with something of a chance will be doing all they can to have Mrs Bjelke-Petersen elected to this chamber. If they succeed it will not be long before the Premier of Queensland takes her place. I doubt that the current Premier and the Hinze push will succeed, but their opponents cannot afford to take them lightly. If Sir Robert Sparkes does not carry the day on 14 December, we can eventually expect to see Mr Bjelke-Petersen in this chamber. ( Quorum formed.)
– I wish to take the opportunity presented by the first reading debate on the Canned Fruits Marketing Bill and associated Bills to make some remarks to the Senate about an area of possible job creation which it seems to me the Government has been very reluctant to address and do anything about. We have, as we all know, a crisis of unemployment in this country. We have continual expressions from responsible Ministers in the Government of the difficulty of finding suitable areas to train young people for employment. We have a number of Band-aid schemes that are supposed to assist people to endure unemployment. We have a lot more serious discussions than we used to have in the media about the problems of unemployment, but we see very little in the way of creative, imaginative programs for the creation of worthwhile skilled work that people want to do. One of the areas where there is an obvious potential for job creation and skill creation is the creative arts. Too often in the past in Australia discussion and debate about the arts have been very limited and very restricted to what one might call the high arts as a form of entertainment for the affluent and educated. Tonight I want to make some suggestions that are different from that. I believe that if the Government looked seriously at the possibilities of the creative arts for employment and skill creation we could have a whole new area where young people and, indeed, people of all ages could be trained to work effectively in a satisfying way and in a way which is economically productive. It is this last point which might strike some honourable senators as being novel. Too often, particularly in the case of conservative governments, the arts are discussed as if they are nothing but a drain on the public purse. I suggest that we ought to start thinking about the arts as a significant and constructive part of the Australian economy, because they are.
I present to the Senate some figures that might enable us to discuss the arts as an effective and important part of the economy. For example, an estimated $1,1 30m in funos is consumed by the arts. Only 1 3 per cent of that amount comes from governments. However, 86 per cent of that very large amount of money is earned income. The arts pay over $450m in wages and salaries, that is, about 1.5 per cent of the national total. The value of wages and salaries paid by the arts is comparable to that paid by agriculture and mining. Yet we never hear the Government speaking about the arts in this serious and very engaged way in which it talks about areas of the economy like agriculture and mining. Roughly 20,000 people are employed full time by the arts and another 100,000 are part time employees. Compared with its support of other industries, government support for the arts is not high. The Industries Assistance Commission in its report entitled ‘Assistance to Manufacturing Industries in Australia 1968-1969 to 1973-74’ found that in 1971-72 the clothing and footwear industries received government assistance amounting to 26 per cent as a proportion of their sales value; textiles received 16 per cent; paper and paper products received 19 percent and the arts only 13 per cent.
Another important aspect in discussing the arts in terms of its employment creating potential is the fundamental fact that the arts are by definition labour intensive. Technological innovation will not change that, and this is a very important aspect. We are now as a society starting to appreciate the erosion of jobs caused by technological change. Whether in particular cases that is a good or bad thing is a debate for another time. But undoubtedly the introduction of technology has eroded jobs. Yet this area of the arts, in which technology has almost no role to play and which is labour intensive, is not being developed by this Government. Government support for the arts has largely been a matter of direct funding to the arts organisations. However, I suggest that the Government has a more constructive role to play in establishing a healthy arts industry. The growth of the arts is dependent on community awareness of and involvement in them. Without that they cannot become an integral part of community life.
In 1977 the Australia Council and the Schools Commission jointly published the results of an investigation into the arts in our education system called ‘Education and the Arts’. The report was very interesting and I think very disturbing to people who are concerned about the development of education and cultural life in this country. The report found that arts education in Australian schools is totally inadequate. There is an appalling lack of ans advisers at primary school level. The numbers range from two in South Australia to 53 in Victoria. In New South Wales there are only nine music advisers in primary schools or one per 2,400 teachers. Again in
New South Wales, arts advisers must visit large numbers of schools. In some regions one adviser must cover 176 schools. These teachers must choose between short visits to all schools only once or twice a year or restrict themselves to more sustained assistance to fewer schools. Fewer than 25 per cent of secondary schools have subject masters for any arts subject. Because arts education is so inadequate within our education system, very few children are given the opportunity to understand, enjoy and participate in the arts. Those whose parents can afford it may get private tuition.
Access to the arts remains, to a large extent a matter of class privilege in this country. Until the arts are treated as an integral part of school education they will not flourish in the community at large. An expansion of arts education would provide employment for teachers. I hope that the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, facing as he does the present situation of a glut of teachers and teacher trainees for whom there is no employment, will show some awareness of that possibility. We should be training arts advisers. Although specialist advisers in every art form for every school would be expensive, it would be possible to train advisers with multi-art skills so that one is available to every school. Skilled artists could be brought into schools to overcome existing shortages. Government employment training programs, such as they are, have not taken account of the needs of the arts or of their potential as an expanding area of employment. In every area of the arts there is a need for skilled people. These skills, I suggest, should be developed in Australia through government funding.
In the area of the crafts, Australia suffers a serious shortage of trained teachers. Very little is available by way of crafts teaching or training at the tertiary level. There are virtually no courses within the education system to train high level craftsmen and none to enable people to reach master level. Australians who are talented and motivated in this area must go overseas to pursue craft studies. Of course some of them return, but some do not. There is a lack of teacher training courses in the crafts. There is very little conservation of craft products and there are no available training courses for those wishing to enter the field of craft conservation.
In the area of literature, again there is a most unsatisfactory situation. I point out to the Senate that, if one excludes libraries, the literature in this country is almost wholly self-supportive. It is 99 per cent self-supportive. Yet the funding of trainee writers is negligible. The only identifiable amount for this purpose is $109,000 for 1979-80 from the Australia Council for the support of new writers and young writers’ fellowships.
If we turn to music we find that, as a whole, it earns 94 per cent of its total funds. It is true that opera earns only 39 per cent. The grass roots training in the performance of music occurs through some 9,000 private teachers throughout Australia. This is an unsatisfactory situation because there is very little regulation of the standard of teaching by private teachers. Musicians have difficulty in obtaining good quality musical instruments and in getting their instruments properly repaired. Clearly there is a need for skilled craftsmen in these areas. Training facilities should be established forthwith. There is no reason why Australia should not export good quality musical instruments as well as produce instruments for the local market.
If we turn to theatre we find that 44 per cent of theatre funds is devoted to training activities. The bulk of theatre training is in dance. There is a large number of private dance teachers and a far smaller number of voice and movement teachers. Very little of the training, even in the area of dance, is professional. Full time drama schools operate at the National Institute of Dramatic Art of the University of New South Wales and at the Victorian College of the Arts. This represents the full extent of professional drama training in Australia, apart from a few part time courses and university drama groups. There is a serious shortage of trained drama teachers and unless we have a government policy to facilitate training there is very little hope of any more.
Extending awareness of the arts within the community should be a matter of priority in any arts policy. The Government should embark upon a program of training community advisers. It should provide the space and facilities necessary if people are to become involved in the arts. Most arts companies and groups have a constant problem regarding basic business principles. Many, for financial or organisational reasons, are in a constant state of crisis. The relatively sudden- since 1972- increase in arts activities has not been accompanied by the necessary increase in opportunities for training, particularly in the area of administration. Training courses in arts administration would help to combat the tendency of arts organisations to founder through lack of administrative expertise.
Conservation is a subject that has been raised in the Senate many times. The need for the Government to fund the training of conservators has been stated repeatedly. The Federal Government bears the responsibility of housing and conserving valuable national collections. The Director of the National Archives has described the need for trained conservation staff. Recently he told Senate Estimates Committee D that 1 ,750 man hours of work would be needed to remove the backlog of paper work alone. That is the requirement for only the 10 most-used series in the Parkes repository. The Government has seen fit to fund a $2m storage and conservation building for the National Archives. It contains seven of the most sophisticated laboratories in Australia, but the Archives has only one fully trained conservator, although there is provision for four. This year it is hoped to get two more, but the number available would still be clearly inadequate. The difficulty in obtaining trained staff is not surprising. Only one course is available in Australia to those who want to train as conservators. That course has only recently started at the Canberra College of Advanced Education. Attracting staff from overseas is equally difficult because the salaries offered are not competitive.
The representatives of the Australian War Memorial, an institution of great historic and cultural significance to most Australians, have told us that, of 12,000 of its works of art, 9,000-or three-quarters of the collection- are in need of restoration. These examples are not isolated. The same problem exists in museums and galleries all over the country. Since I have had the shadow ministerial responsibility for the arts I have had an opportunity to visit regional museums and galleries and learn this at first hand. Important and valuable collections are rotting in basements all over the country because there are no trained conservators and no funds to import them.
That brings me to the question of training in general. The Fraser Government spent nearly $ 1 billion on unemployment benefit last year. In the same year it spent $177m on manpower programs. The study group on structural adjustment criticises this imbalance. It said:
The great bulk of public expenditure in Australia takes the form of unemployment benefits. These are essential. More emphasis, however, should be given to programs such as reallocation and retraining schemes which re-equip the unemployed for new and better future employment.
Existing schemes, such as the Special Youth Employment Training Program and some general National Employment and Training System traineeships provide a flat rate subsidy which directs trainees towards low wage and secondary occupations. Approximately half the on-the-job training approved under NEAT is in the unskilled and semi-skilled areas and, of course, they are the areas in which jobs are disappearing fastest. The number of unskilled and semi-skilled workers already exceeds the number of unskilled and semi-skilled jobs. The Government should be funding programs which allow unskilled and semi-skilled workers access to formal skill training.
The point of what I have been saying tonight is that the arts is such an area. The arts needs skilled workers. It is, as I have described, a constructive and productive area of the economy. It could become a great deal more productive. It could become a source of improvement in the balance of payments if the Government is prepared to address itself to the question in a creative and energetic way. The Government can increase the pool of available jobs by funding training in the areas I have mentioned and, of course, it would at the same time ensure the expansion of the arts which in turn would make more jobs available. ( Quorum formed).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a first time.
– I move:
Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Leave is not granted.
-Mr Deputy President, I wonder whether Senator Cavanagh would reconsider his decision. These are vital Bills and Senator McLaren wishes to speak on the Canned Fruits Marketing Bill.
– I ask that the Minister speak to his Whip. If he will reverse his decision of this morning, I will reverse my decision.
-I shall read the speeches.
Canned Fruits Marketing Bill 1979
The measures proposed in this Bill and the two complementary Bills, the Canned Fruits Levy Bill and the Canned Fruits Levy Collection Bill, are the culmination of arrangements agreed between the Commonwealth, the canned deciduous fruits industry and the State governments of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia involving a statutory marketing scheme for the Australian production of canned apricots, peaches and pears. The arrangements embodied in this Bill and in complementary legislation to be introduced by the four States I have mentioned during their Budget sessions are in conformity with the unanimously expressed wishes of fruit canners and fruitgrowers.
In essence the complementary legislation will enable the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation, which will be constituted under the provisions of the Commonwealth Bill, to be vested with ownership of the production of canned apricots, peaches and pears and manage the selling arrangements for the products both in Australia and overseas. The Corporation will replace the Australian Canned Fruits Board which was originally established in 1 926 and continued in existence under the provisions of the Canned Fruits Export Marketing Act 1963. The complementary State legislation will enable the Corporation to assume ownership of production and to manage the marketing within the State of production. The Commonwealth Bill empowers the Corporation to manage the marketing of canned fruits in export and interstate markets and in the Territories.
The Western Australian Government has declined to participate in these arrangements as the Manjimup Co-operative Cannery, the small and only cannery in that State, has reservations about the scheme, notwithstanding assurances given by industry leaders in eastern States that its position would be protected. Tasmania does not have a canned deciduous fruit industry. Moreover, some other fruit interests there oppose the scheme. The Tasmanian Government’s position is yet to be determined. Whilst I should like to see all States in the scheme, the nonparticipation by Western Australia and possibly Tasmania will not provide a barrier to its successful implementation.
The canned fruits industry is an important horticultural industry, wholly located in decentralised areas. It provides the basic economic and social foundation of the population in the Goulburn Valley region of Victoria, and an important component of the economic base of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area of New South Wales and the Riverland region of South Australia. The value of Australian production exceeds $70m annually.
The industry has been experiencing serious difficulties for a number of years, resulting from a variety of factors, principally excess capacity, increasing costs and depressed international marketing conditions. The industry has suffered loss of sales in the United Kingdom and Europe, important traditional markets, through the effects of the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Economic Community. Australia, however, must still rely on export markets to dispose of about 60 per cent to 70 per cent of annual production of canned deciduous fruit.
The industry has taken various measures during this period to adjust production to available outlets, and it has been assisted by the Government by way of adjustment schemes, financial assistance and other action. Nevertheless, marketing problems have continued to plague the industry. Whilst in some years voluntary marketing arrangements have operated between canners to stabilise returns from domestic marketing, in other years, however, oversupply and price cutting have severely eroded returns to canners from the Australian market. Some canners have incurred substantial financial losses. Payments to growers have been reduced and delayed. Regional communities have suffered accordingly. The industry is now convinced that a statutory marketing scheme is necessary. As I have noted, the arrangements proposed have the support of both the growing and canning sectors of the industry in the principal producing States.
I turn now to outline the principal features of this Bill and the scheme. The total effect of the Bill and the complementary State Bills will be to empower the Corporation to acquire and sell the total production of Australian canned apricots, peaches and pears, other than Western Australian production. These arrangements will operate for five seasons commencing 1 January 1980. Additionally the Bill empowers the Corporation to promote sales in Australia and overseas, and do such things as it thinks fit to improve the production, storage, transport and marketing of canned fruits. The Corporation will have the responsibility for determining prices and terms and conditions for sales in both Australian export markets. Such sales would always be made through agents nominated by canners and approved by the Corporation.
In practice, production guidelines will be established before the beginning of each season by the Corporation on the advice of an advisory committee to be created under the terms of the Bill. Selling arrangements will distinguish between equalisation pool and non-pool markets.
The returns from sales to the Australian and certain export markets will be equalised, but there will be no equalisation of returns from other markets. The Corporation will determine the quantities, varieties and quotas to apply to equalisation pool markets. The Bill provides for specification of the countries which, together with Australia, will form the equalisation market each season to be notified in the Gazette.
The industry- canners and growers- has unanimously agreed that initially the equalisation market will comprise Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scandinavia and Japan. In terms of the Bill, the matter of which countries are to form the equalisation market is one for determination by the Corporation in each season.
In this connection, I note that there is some controversy among the canning groups whether the countries forming the equalisation market should be changed during the lifetime of the scheme except by unanimous decision of the canners. The Government is confident that the Corporation on which the canners will be represented will act responsibly to resolve difference of views which may arise and that good sense will prevail in this and other critical areas.
Quotas for the agreed equalisation market will be allocated by the Corporation to each canner to give a production entitlement for sales to such market for the ensuing season. Each canner’s production entitlement will initially be based on historical sales by canneries to countries within the equalisation market for the four years 1 974 to 1977 as a percentage of industry sales by variety and size, but subject to a number of transfers of production among canners.
The production entitlement will be expressed as a percentage of fresh fruit required for the equalisation market calculated by applying the historical variety and size percentages to the historical sales quantities and using the traditional industry yield figures of basic cartons per tonne of fruit; namely, apricots, 70; peaches, 58; pears, 54; peaches and pears in two fruits, 58; and peaches and pears in fruit cocktail, 75. Shortfalls by any canner will be offered to other canners proportionately to their quotas with a strict timetable for shortfall advices to the Corporation.
Canners will be free to produce in excess of pool quotas, but such excess production may be sold only to non-pool markets or to pool markets after all quota production has been sold. However, in regard to sales to Canada, it is envisaged that denned percentage shares be set for each canner. Any stock carry-over at the end of each year will be taken into account in assessing pool quotas for the following season. Transfer of quotas may be arranged between canners with Corporation approval. Net proceeds of sales by the agents of the Corporation, representing gross sales proceeds less charges and commission, will be requited to the Corporation which will distribute cash surpluses after making repayments of bank advances. Returns from pool sales will be equalised by the Corporation at the end of each year and the Corporation will pay the equalised returns to canners. Canners will agree on the rates of commission which the Corporation should allow in appointing canners’ representatives as selling agents, and also on the basis for sharing commission.
As I mentioned earlier, the Corporation will not at any time itself undertake the marketing of canned fruits. As part of the overall arrangements made with the industry, the Corporation as owner of the canned fruits will always appoint agents nominated by canners to sell the fruit on its behalf at prices and on terms and conditions of sale set by it. The Corporation will be empowered to borrow from the Reserve Bank under Commonwealth guarantee, to finance purchases of canned fruits. The guarantee on Reserve Bank advances will be initially limited to 70 per cent of average estimated realisations. It is a major objective of the scheme that, with better marketing arrangements and Reserve Bank funding, payments by canners to growers for their fruit will show a considerable improvement, both in respect to earlier payments and in increased returns. The governments of the Commonwealth and the participating States share the expectation of the industry that this objective will be met.
The Bill provides for the Corporation members to be appointed by the Minister for Primary Industry and be representative of canners, growers and the Commonwealth, along with two members with special qualifications; one of the latter members is to be Chairman of the Corporation and the other Chairman of the advisory committee. Advisory committee members representative of canners shall also be appointed by the Minister. The Bill provides also for the standard administrative, financial and reporting arrangements for the Corporation. The Corporation’s administrative and promotional expenses will be financed by a statutory levy on canned apricot, peach and pear production with a maximum rate of levy equivalent to 1 5c per basic carton, as provided for in the Canned Fruits Levy
Bill. It is highly desirable, for the stability of the canned fruits industry, that the proposed new marketing arrangements for canned fruits operate for the coming season, and the Government therefore proposes that the legislation be passed in the current sittings. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard my second reading speeches on the Canned Fruits Levy Bill 1979, the Canned Fruits Levy Collection Bill 1979, the Canned Fruit (Sales Promotion) Amendment Bill 1979, the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1979 and the Excise Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1979.
The speeches read as follows-
Canned Fruits Levy Bill 1979
The purpose of this Bill is to impose a levy with certain exceptions on canned deciduous fruits produced in Australia on or after 1 January 1980 to meet the charges and administrative expenses of the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation to be established under the Canned Fruits Marketing Bill 1979. The maximum rates of levy are set out in the Schedule to the Bill. These rates, expressed in metric terms are equivalent to a rate of 15c per basic carton- two dozen 825-gram, 29 oz cans- of canned fruit. The canned fruits industry agrees with the rate of levy proposed. The Bill provides that the actual rate of levy for each container size will be set from time to time by regulation after consideration of recommendations from the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Canned Fruits Levy Collection Bill 1979
The Bill sets down the procedural arrangements for the collection of a levy imposed on canned deciduous fruits produced in Australia under the provisions of the Canned Fruits Levy Bill 1979. Under the Bill, one-half of the levy imposed during the first half of a season becomes due and payable on 1 5 July in that season; and the remainder of the levy for that period becomes due and payable on 15 January of the following year. At that time the levy for the second half of the season also becomes due and payable. There is provision for imposition of a penalty of 10 per cent per annum on any amount of levy which is overdue for payment.
The Bill also has provisions for recovery of levies as debts due to the Commonwealth, for refund of levy where such levy is paid but not chargeable, and for authorised persons to have access to premises. For these latter purposes there are provisions for appointment of authorised persons, power to call for returns and for penalties where persons fail to furnish returns. Applications may be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of decisions regarding remission of penalties or part of penalties. The Bill also provides for the making of regulations. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Canned Fruit (Sales Promotion)
Amendment Bill 1979
The Bill introduces amendments to the Canned Fruit (Sales Promotion) Act 1959 that are consequential upon provisions contained in the Canned Fruits Marketing Bill 1979. The opportunity is also taken of providing for appropriate amendments to the administrative arrangements for the Canned Fruit Sales Promotion Committee to bring those provisions into line with standard provisions adopted for such statutory authorities in relation to financial, audit and reporting requirements. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1979
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to amend the Excise Tariff Act 1 92 1 to remove from 1 January 1980, the excise duty payable on canned fruit. The excise duty currently payable on canned fruit is used to provide a fund to assist in the promotion of the exportation of canned fruit from Australia. This Bill forms part of a package of measures being introduced by the Government to implement new marketing arrangements for canned fruit and to reconstitute the Australian Canned Fruits Board under the name of the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation. My colleague the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) has the carriage of the legislation which will implement the new marketing arrangements and establish the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation. That legislation includes a Bill to impose a levy on canned deciduous fruits produced in a factory in Australia during a season, which will be used to fund the operations of the proposed Australian Canned Fruits Corporation. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Excise Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1979
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to amend the Excise Act 1901 to remove from that Act all provisions which relate to canned fruit. The proposal is consequential upon the removal of the excise duty payable on canned fruit and forms part of a package of measures being introduced by the Government to implement new marketing arrangements for canned fruit and to reconstitute the Australian Canned Fruits Board under the name of the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation. My colleague the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) has the carriage of the legislation which will implement the new marketing arrangements and establish the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation. Clause 2 of the Bill provides for the commencement date to be fixed by proclamation so as to enable transitional arrangements to be made following the removal of the excise duty on canned fruit from 1 January 1980. 1 commend the Bill to honourable senators.
– The Senate is debating the Canned Fruits Marketing Bill 1979 and associated Bills. The Opposition does not oppose this legislation but there are certain things that I wish to say about the Canned Fruits Marketing Bill. This Bill seeks to establish a statutory marketing authority to acquire and sell at home and abroad canned deciduous fruit produced in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Complementary legislation will be required in those States. Tasmania will not produce any canned fruit. Western Australia, which produces a trifling amount, is not to be a participant. The Australian Canned Fruits Corporation which is to be established will have a similar structure to the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian Dairy Corporation and others but, unlike them, it will implement what agricultural economists call a two-price or market share scheme. This is amplified in the Bill itself.
Subject only to clause 1 1, which is the ministerial direction power, the Corporation will have power to charge Australian consumers whatever it likes. For more than a decade about two-thirds of the Australian output has been sold overseas at prices well below domestic prices. The domestic market has been subsidising unprofitable exports. This is not unusual for many agricultural products. For many years the system survived by collusion between the limited number of canners to avoid price competition on the domestic market. In 1 976 a price war broke out. The basic purpose of this Bill is to preclude future price wars through backing the collusive pricing arrangements with legislation. The legislation will institutionalise the practice of overcharging domestic buyers for canned fruit.
Anticipated sales to higher price marketsinitially Australia, the British Isles, Scandinavia and Japan- will be allocated by quota to canners and the equalised price from those markets will be paid to them. At present they absorb about 8 1 .5 per cent of the production. The countries comprising that market will be determined each year. Production above quota will receive the lower prices paid on residual markets. Thus there will be a more effective deterrent against producing for unprofitable markets. This advantage will be lost if, under pressure from canners anxious to maintain throughput, the preferred market countries list is extended to cover virtually all markets. Surplus capacity is the basic cause of the industry’s problem. The surplus capacity is a product of the mindless expansion of irrigated fruit growing fostered during the 1960s by the LiberalCountry Party governments in Canberra and
Melbourne. I have tables which show very graphically the expansion that took place, particularly in the Goulburn Valley area, between 1963-64 and 1972-73. There are three tables altogether. I showed them to the President when he was in the chair and to the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster). The first table, relating to peaches, is the most significant. I seek leave to have those tables incorporated in Hansard.
The tables read as follows-
– I thank the Senate for allowing the incorporation of those tables. This expansion occurred when everyone more astute than Mr McEwen, who was then the Country Party Minister for Primary Industry in the Federal Government, Henry Bolte, who was the then Victorian Premier, and the irrigation cargo cultists could see that our markets would be eroded by the United Kingdom’s entry into the European Economic Community. A disastrous side effect of that expansion is a major contribution to the salinisation of the Murray River Valley. The reality behind the cultists’ Garden of Eden mirage is a saline wasteland. When an inquiry was held into the Commonwealth ‘s role in Australian water resources we had very clear evidence of that happening in the irrigation areas, particularly in New South Wales. I have referred to that, as have my colleagues on that committee, on many occasions. It is a complete disaster, and we are in for many troubles with that irrigation system. I will not refer to all the Bills because they have been referred to by the Minister. However, the first paragraph of the second reading speech on the Canned Fruits Marketing Bill points out:
The measures are the culmination of arrangements agreed between the Commonwealth, the canned deciduous fruits industry and the State governments of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia involving a statutory marketing scheme for the Australian production of canned apricots, peaches and pears.
I am very proud to say that the first person to bring forward such a scheme was Mr Brian Chatterton, the then Minister for Agriculture in
South Australia. There were very grave problems in the canned fruit industry as far back as six years ago. A Press release from Mr Chatterton of 14 April 1976, headed ‘The Canning Fruit Industry Reconstructed’, states:
Fruit growers in the Riverland last night gave strong support ibr a 3-point plan to reconstruct South Australia’s Canning Fruit industry.
The plan put forward by South Australia’s Minister of Agriculture, Brian Chatterton, is based on:
1 ) Domestic market quotas
2 ) Single marketing authority
3 ) Regional redevelopment authority for the Riverland.
Some of those plans are now encompassed in this Bill. The regional redevelopment authority for the Riverland has been set up and a very successful cannery is now operating at Berri. The Press release continues:
Mr Chatterton said ‘the Canning Fruit industry has been in trouble for the last 6 years due to its failure to adapt to changing world markets’.
Due to the shortage of time, I will not quote all of that Press release. I have quoted it before in this Parliament when I have spoken about the problems of the canned fruit industry. Suffice it to say that Mr Chatterton was well aware of the problems. I am sure he would be very gratified, even though he is not now the Minister, that a proposal he put forward to the Australian Agricultural Council when he was attending its meetings is now coming to fruition in this legislation.
I want to refer to one or two other matters. Whilst I am proud of what Mr Chatterton has done for the industry, I am also proud of what the Labor Party did when it was in government and Senator Wriedt was Minister ibr Agriculture, and later on what the South Australian Labor Government did for the industry. I am now talking only about South Australia. I am not very conversant with the industry in Victoria, but I am very conversant with the canned fruits industry in South Australia. Some years ago, when Mr Giles was the member for the Federal electorate of Angas- it is no longer in existence- we used to have some differences of opinion through the local Press. I had occasion to reply to a letter he had published in the papers. Mr Giles accused me of ducking a meeting of fruit growers at Berri in the Riverland when they were talking about their problems and how members of the Federal Parliament ought to be doing something to help them. I wrote to Mr Giles through the Press, and I am pleased that the letter was published, and said:
On July S 1973, I and three of my colleagues met a deputation of Riverland growers and canners in Adelaide, and we subsequently made representation to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt, on their behalf.
The end result being, that in November of that year a large Riverland Cannery had an amount of $194,064 of its Government loan of $205,000 written off.
Two of my colleagues who were with me on that occasion are no longer in the Senate. They were ex-Senator Drury and Ex-Senator Donald Cameron, who took a great interest in the fruit growing industry. From memory, I think Senator Bishop was the other honourable senator who attended that meeting. The reason for that loan having to be written off was because of some financial rearrangement that had been made by the previous incumbent of the Government benches, that was the Liberal-Country Party Coalition. I think the rearrangement was due to that Government restructuring the financial system, and the canned fruit industry got into no end of trouble. But I am very pleased that when we approached Senator Wriedt, he saw fit to write that loan off. Subsequently, another loan was made by the Federal Government to the canned fruit industry of some $500,000 on a dollar to dollar basis, that is, half from the State and half from the Federal Government. I well remember putting a plea in this Parliament week after week to the then Minister for Primary Industry, to do what we did in South Australia where the South Australian Government committed its portion of the loan to a direct grant to the Riverland fruit cannery in South Australia. I would just like to read from a letter that was sent to Mr Chatterton- it might have been a telex- on 27 October 1976 when the South Australian Government made an application to him to commit that loan to a grant. It is from Ian Sinclair, Minister for Primary Industry, and it states:
Referring your letter of 13 October, and telex of 21 October, the question of whether deferred payment might be granted in respect of Commonwealth share of loans made to fruit canners under the States Grants (Fruit Canneries) Act 1 976 is currently being examined. However, I would not support the Commonwealth agreeing to convert its loan money to a grant as you have proposed in the case of Riverland.
But the South Australian Government under the premiership of Don Dunstan saw fit to do that, and that was of great assistance to the cannery. Not only did Mr Dunstan convert that loan to a grant, but also he did other things. He gave a payroll tax concession, and he also brought in the South Australian Industries Commission to help the cannery in the Riverland and he gave them expertise. As a result of that, as a result of an amalgamation of the two canneries in South Australia so that they were not running in opposition- that is Jon products and the Riverland cannery- and as a result of a marketing arrangement with Henry Jones Ltd, which was then situated in Melbourne and which is now in the Riverland, I am happy to say that Riverland Fruit Products Co-op Ltd, as it is now known, is a very viable concern and of great benefit to the growers in the Riverland.
In my concluding remarks, I express some concern that under this legislation there may not be sufficient flexibility to allow growers to develop new products. I refer to peaches in brandy, which is a product which is popular with a number of people. It is not manufactured in Australia. It has to be imported. Under this legislation there are some fears that a grower who had developed such a market could have his quota restricted. That is, if he went into producing peaches in brandy and found a successful market, he could have his quota reduced. I should like to seek an assurance from the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) that this would not be so. If the Minister can give that assurance in his remarks when he closes the debate, I am sure that the industry will be very grateful to him.
Another fear expressed to me is that a canner who has spent money on developing specialised export markets as against recognised pool markets could have this specialised export market declared a pool market. Again, an assurance from the Minister that this would not occur would be welcomed by the industry and would be an encouragement to them to endeavour to develop a specialised market, quite apart from the ordinary pool market, that is, just ordinary canned fruit, of peaches, pears and apricots. If I could have those two assurances, I am sure that the industry would welcome them. As I said earlier, the Opposition does not oppose the Bill and wishes it a speedy passage.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition for its comments relating to the Bill. It is most encouraging for this industry to know that this legislation has the wholehearted support of both sides of the chamber. If I may, I will give Senator McLaren a complete answer to his proposition. I was going to do it at the Committee stage. I am advised that there will be no restriction under legislation on the production and marketing of any canned fruit products, including specialised products. Is that the statement that the honourable senator is looking for?
– Yes, that is appropriate.
-Again I thank the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
- Mr Chairman, I have one question. The Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) did give me an assurance. All I ask him now is: Does that assurance cover the two questions that I posed to him? That is, does it cover a specialised product marketed locally and a specialised product which would be sold on the export market?
– The advice I have is that the answer to both questions is yes.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment or requests; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Webster) agreed to:
That the Bills be read a third time. (Quorum formed).
Bills read a third time.
Debate resumed from 15 November, on motion by Senator Webster:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
– I take the opportunity in the debate on the first readings of these money Bills briefly to draw further attention to the plight of those people living- or perhaps I should say existing- in East Timor. I am prompted to do so for a number of reasons. The first is that I have a continuing interest in East Timor, like many other senators on both sides of this chamber. I have a very keen recognition of the abuse and denial of human rights in that country. Recently in a debate on a matter of public importance I was not allowed to take part as the second speaker. I was gagged. There were only two speakers in that debate. Some of the material which I was going to use on that occasion I will be using tonight. There is a great deal of public interest here at the present time in relation to this matter, and I am pleased to say that it is developing in the United States. But, of course, the public needs to be informed and reminded of East Timor at a time when there is a great deal of misery in many parts of the world. I am prompted also by the fact that there has been a move for Timor independence. I wish to read briefly from an article in the Australian. It states:
A new movement seeking independence for the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, now incorporated into Indonesia, launched a Press campaign in the Portuguese capital at the weekend . . . The movement’s first objective is to bring pressure on the Portuguese Government and the United Nations to demand the withdrawal of Indonesia from the Territory it formerly incorporated in July 1976.
The other reason that prompts me to speak on this matter tonight is the fact that I received recently a copy of the draft resolution from the 34th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. I seek leave to incorporate that document in Hansard.
The document read as follows:
Thirty-fourth session Fourth Committee Agenda item 91
Algeria, Angola, Barbados, Benin, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles and Uganda: draft resolution
Recognizing the inalienable right of all peoples to selfdetermination and independence in accordance with principles of the Chaner of the United Nations and of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, contained in General Assembly resolution 1 5 1 4 ( XV ) of 1 4 December 1 960,
Bearing in mind the section relating to East Timor contained in the Final Declaration of the Sixth Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries, held at Havana from 3 to 9 September 1 979,
Having examined the chapter of the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples relating to the Territory,
Having heard the statements by the representative of Portugal, as the administering Power, and of Indonesia,
Having also heard the statements by the petitioners, including the representatives of the Frente Revolucionaria de Timor Leste Independente (FRETILIN),
– I wish to draw attention to a number of matters from this United Nations resolution.
– You would have to agree that Portugal has forfeited all claims to Timor.
-At the present time. A number of the resolutions state:
Having also heard the statements by the petitioners, including the representatives . . .
Reaffirms the inalienable right of the people of East Timor to self-determination and independence, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1 5 1 4 ( XV);
Declares that the people of East Timor must be enabled freely to determine their own future, under the auspices of the United Nations;
Expresses its deepest concern at the suffering of the people of East Timor as a result of the situation now prevailing in the Territory;
Requests the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to render all possible assistance to the people of East Timor particularly the children and those seeking to leave for another country . . .
The matter of public importance last week dealt with the current situation in East Timor. A low key approach was adopted by the speakers from this side, designed to gain Government acceptance and to encourage those members of the other side of the chamber with an interest in this matter to support the proposition of the Opposition. Honourable senators will know that the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick) adopted an aggressive stance in support of Indonesia. They would also know that a device was adopted which prevented the Government members from supporting the motion. The material which I present this evening will not canvass the MPI motion; it will introduce some new material and call for some action. Like the initial MPI, it will not be emotional since I do not believe that we should become emotional when discussing the matter of East Timor.
However, I think it is important to correct some of the statements made by the Leader of the Government and remove some of the misconceptions that the public may have as a result of his speech. The evidence which I will present will be drawn from Legislative Research Service documents prepared by Mr Jim Dunn, who would be acknowledged to know more about the East Timor situation than anyone else in Australia, and from letters and statements from Timorese people both in Australia and in East Timor. It is fairly obvious that I cannot cite the sources of these documents, although I would be prepared to provide them in confidence to the Leader of the Government. I will quote also from the Australian Council for Overseas Aid Report for July 1979 and also from some newspaper reports prepared by journalists allowed into East Timor.
Early in his response the Minister spoke of the Opposition ‘seeking to give a gratuitous berating to the Indonesian Government about the defects of the past’. It is quite clear to those who listened that the debate was less about the past than the present. There have been a number of reports on the present suffering which inevitably had to draw on the horrors of the past. Also a number of reports have indicated the humanitarian aspect of the situation in East Timor, showing the grim picture which exists at the present time. Honourable senators will appreciate that we cannot ignore this aspect because it increases the responsibility to deal with the present situation. The Minister referred to the defects of the past and made a vitriolic attack on the former Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. But we have to remind ourselves that the invasion of Dili, the military operation to annexe, took place some weeks after 1 1 November 1975.
Most of the massive loss of life occurred during the life of the Fraser Government, which gives the Fraser Government, and the Australian Parliament, a special responsibility because there seems little doubt that the Australian Government knew of Indonesia’s plan. One wonders whether the Government of Australia ever applied pressure on Indonesia not to invade. We remind ourselves that during the time of the
Fraser Government, Australia abandoned support for the rights of self-determination, eventually siding with Indonesia at the United Nations General Assembly. Again, in spite of persistent reports of brutal treatment of the Timorese, the Federal Government gave de facto recognition of incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia. Government officials and spokesmen have always criticised Portugal. Of course Portugal deserves to be criticised for the weakness which it showed. But the fact remains that Indonesia exploited the situation and endeavoured to undermine the desire the Timorese had for political independence.
The Leader of the Government misrepresented the situation, and I will just give one example here. He quoted the fact that there was only one doctor in Timor before the coup. Our information, which we can verify, suggests that just before these events in 1974, there were more than 20 doctors in East Timor. An Indonesian publication admits that there were 22 doctors in 1 974. This number is higher than in Indonesian Timor which had a larger population. It is accepted that Portugal did not do much to develop the economy of East Timor. Even so, it is fair to say that it did more than Indonesia did in Indonesian Timor. Many of us know of the attempts that were made by the Portuguese Government to encourage tourists to visit East Timor. Most of us who went over there went on subsidised fares. We know from our experience that the roads in East Timor, whilst not good, were better than those in Indonesian Timor. Except in the wet season, one could move pretty well over all of East Timor. The comment was made by the Leader of the Government:
Our sole task should be to help the Indonesian people save their -
He means the Timorese- lives and restore their health.
To me, it seems to be a cart-before-the-horse attitude. It is quite obvious that the Indonesians are responsible for the present situation. Their competence, not to mention their moral right, to have sole custody of East Timor, is in very serious doubt. In the past, by denying access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and by assuring the people of Australia that it was not necessary for aid to come in and that the East Timorese had accepted integration, Indonesia exacerbated the situation. If Indonesia had allowed relief agencies into East Timor in those early stages, V/i years ago, then there is no doubt that the situation would not have developed to the point at which it is at present. Surely the least we can do at present is to press for maximum international presence until the situation improves.
Once again, government officials and spokesmen said that colonial development was negligible. Whilst we accept that position, although not good, it must be accepted that in the last 60 years the only internal upheavals in East Timor were the Japanese occupation, the Indonesian invasion and a minor skirmish in 1958 caused by a group of Indonesian soldiers. Tribal fighting was rare and security was good. Those of us who went there know that one could move all over the island accompanied only by a driver. There was much less corruption in East Timor than there was in Indonesian Timor. The Legislative Research Service document states:
This is not a defence of the Portuguese, but a reminder that colonisation by a regime of the same colour is not necessarily any better than white colonisation.
This was the point raised again and again by Timorese political leaders, UDT as well as Fretlin, who saw integration with Indonesia as ‘recolonisation’ rather than decolonisation.
The Minister, in his speech during the discussion on a matter of public importance, said that the Government does not condone annexation in East Timor or anywhere else. But surely one must ask these questions: Has this not been done by granting de facto recognition? Has this not also been done by lack of action?
It is generally agreed by students who look at the situation that if Australia had disapproved, and had expressed this disapproval, the disastrous situation in East Timor, as we know it now, would not have occurred. Thousands of lives would have been saved, a beautiful country would not have been destroyed and the East Timorese people could have moved along the path to self-determination. One cannot dissociate the humanitarian situation from the political and human rights aspects of the overall problem. Indonesia says that East Timor is an internal matter and ipso facto outside the attention of Australia, but we have to remind ourselves that by becoming a foundation member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights we have a commitment to human rights all over the world. No gross abuse of human rights can be entirely an internal affair. The plight of the people in East Timor must be a matter for our concern particularly because East Timor developed to its present situation because we did not act to prevent it and took no action to stop Indonesia believing that she did not have some special right to East Timor.
The matter of public importance which we brought on for debate last week was directed at Indonesia quite clearly because Indonesia is seen by the world to be culpable. It has not pursued peace with the same enthusiasm that it pursued war. It has created a situation in which hundreds of thousands have died and more are dying daily. I have used the phrase ‘genocide by neglect’ and I have been criticised for doing so. I am probably right in using it because, after all, it precludes intent and many people see intent in what Indonesia is doing. Indonesia has shown itself incapable of resolving the problems in East Timor. For that reason alone we should press for some alternative. I will not go into the brutality against East Timorese people. I have tried to keep emotion out of this debate but it would not be possible to do so if I started reporting in this place some of the details that have come to me and to other members of this place by letter and personal account.
I call on the Government, firstly, to re-think its present attitude towards Indonesia and to look at the facts concerning people- not material possessions, business interests, oil fields and so on, but people. We should reconsider Australia’s attitude at the United Nations General Assembly and remind ourselves when we do so of our obligations on the Human Rights Commission. We should continue to press for aid to East Timor but should call for adequate supervision, not just two or three people. We should make sure that we see aid for what it should be and not simply as conscience saving. We should regard the East Timorese people as refugees, not as ordinary migrants. We should facilitate the reuniting of families and not hide behind bureaucratic devices, as we have done up to the present. We should see the East Timorese people in the same light as other refugees. We should press for a group of politicians from Australia to visit and travel freely over the island and not be put off with the cannot guarantee safety’ excuse. I have no fear of the East Timorese people and I am sure that others in this place share my view. There would be no trouble in getting a delegation to move to East Timor. We have contacts in that place and we could move around. My fears would not be of the East Timorese.
Finally I make this plea firstly on the basis of our obligation as members of the United Nations Commission on human relations, our obligation as members of the world community, our debt to those wonderful people who gave their lives to us in our hour of need, the recognition, of our status and our credibility in the community of nations in our region; and, lastly, to the observed and expressed needs of a wonderful subculture whose traditions, language, cultural patterns, and aspirations, set them apart and distinct from that group which has tried to subdue them by a most brutal means, and absorb them as part of a pattern of territorial expansion and resource control.
– I will take the unusual action tonight of using the first reading stage of a money Bill to discuss the subject of the major Bill itself- the Wheat Marketing Bill 1979-and the six other Bills that we are debating cognately. The reason why I would like to make a small contribution to this debate tonight is that I regard these changes that have been made to the old wheat stabilisation marketing scheme as the most substantial and progressive changes that have been made since the stabilisation scheme was established in 1939. I believe in the market forces principle and, for that reason, I strongly support these Bills. These Bills take the wheat marketing system towards that end.
I remind honourable senators that the Industries Assistance Commission brought down a report on 7 July 1978 which dealt with the stabilisation scheme of wheat marketing. It made five major points and recommendations. The first point it made was that in its opinion stabilisation does not stabilise growers’ income. There are factors like the weather, pests and diseases that have a far greater effect on the income received by wheat growers than does the stabilised price. The second point made by the Industries Assistance Commission was that the previous system ties up several hundreds of millions of dollars of Government funds and, of course, in many cases, wheat growers’ funds.
The third point- this is one of its recommendations- is that the price support scheme should only be a price subsidy and not an equalisation scheme. The IAC regarded pot holing as the limit to the amount of support that should be given to wheat growers. It very strongly suggested that somehow or other the price received by growers should reflect very strongly world prices. The fourth point was that private traders should be able to operate on the local market and that there should be no fixed local price. The fifth point is that the pooled freight and storage costs should be discontinued so that the farmers who live closest to the ports or in the most advantageous areas should get some benefit as against those who live further away.
Naturally, this report has earned itself storms of protests from wheat growers. It is a fact of life that, if a particular commodity is selling well, the growers do not want to interfere with that marketing system. They tend to equate marketing schemes with prices received, whereas I personally believe that they have very little to do with each other. After very protracted negotiations between the Government, the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, and other industry representatives, we have these Bills before us tonight.
There are far too many changes to the Bills to list all of them. I would be here for a long time if I did so. But, to summarise the main changes, firstly, there is the abolition of the stabilised price scheme and the replacement of a flexible guaranteed price which represents 95 per cent of a three-year average. That is the two previous years plus an estimate of the current year’s export price. That price is subject to the limits of a 1 5 per cent movement each year. In this way, prices will partly represent any changes in world markets. I point out to the Senate that under previous stabilisation schemes, the price received by growers for wheat did not represent market prices and in the early 1979s we had to impose quotas on the production of wheat. For several years before that the indications were- and everybody knew- that the world was heading towards an oversupply of wheat. When the world situation changed a few years later and the world wanted more wheat, the growers did not react to that increased demand because of the stabilised price.
The second point and second substantial change is that quite new financial arrangements are being negotiated. That will mean that the growers will receive a much earlier payment than they received in the past. That will be done basically through the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank, as before. The Government has assured that Australian Wheat Board that if, because of the Government’s monetary policies, the Wheat Board is forced to borrow from outside sources, no interest penalty will be imposed.
The third major point is the fairly substantial changes made to the domestic market arrangements, which at least go part of the way towards satisfying the Industries Assistance Commission’s recommendations. Those changes recognise that stock feed, industrial wheat and wheat used for human consumption have different values. In many cases what is regarded by the flour trade- the bread-making trade- as an inferior wheat is of very high value to other people. Mr President, you have an intimate knowledge of that industry. The price is set by a formula based partly on an indexed cost of production. It, similar to the export price, is subject to a limitation of change from year to year. In this case it is limited to a 20 per cent change from year to year.
The wheat industry is one of the great industries of Australia. It earns this country a gross amount of about $2 billion and about a onetenth of that is used for home consumption. We talk about restructuring industry. Mr Lionel Bowen, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the other place, and Senator Walsh have had quite a bit to say fairly recently in the Press about restructuring and tariffs. I wish that they would resolve their differences. I am afraid that I do not always agree with Senator Walsh’s attitudes, but in this case I do. I certainly disagree entirely with Mr Bowen ‘s attitude. There is a huge investment in the wheat industry in Australia. When they talk about restructuring, particularly of the highly protected industries in Australia, they are really playing with the word because the wheat industry has gone through a major restructuring in the last few years.
There has been a temendous reduction in the number of people employed on wheat farms. There has been a huge increase in investment in machinery and in all the size of the machinery and that has caused a great deal of disruption in many country towns. According to the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher), the average investment on a wheat farm is about $217,000. Because there are about 186,000 wheat growers in Australia, that represents a total investment of something like $40 billion which, as I said, is an enormous business. The returns to the growers are fluctuating, very variable and in most cases very small but, thanks to this Government’s policy of introducing income equalisation deposits and tax averaging, at least the growers have a chance of keeping a much larger percentage of that income than they kept before. I strongly support the Bills.
– I rise on the motion for the first reading of the Wheat Marketing Bill and the associated Bills to talk about a subject entirely different from that raised by Senator Thomas. In September of this year the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) received a document from Greece which was posted by an organisation called the Association of Greek-Australian Pensioners in Greece of Emm. Benaki Street, No. 3, Athens. It was accompanied by a letter of authentication by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Greece and notaries’ signatures claiming that it wi,s an accurate document and an accurate translation. We have since had inquiries made as to the accuracy of the organisation and the document and we have found that it to be a true document. A copy has in fact been sent to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). I thought I would bring it to the attention of the House. The document is called an ‘Accusation’ which is the customary method of doing this in Greece. In not very good English it states:
The Administrative Council of the Greek-Australian Pensioners in Greece, having had an extraordinary meeting on the 10th of August 1979, because of the unjustifiable indifference of the Australian Ministry of Social Insurances, for non-paying the pensions to the disabled pensioners of our country, is accusing the Minister of Social Insurances of Australia and is submitting herewith below the following questions:
. Why and for what reason, your Excellency, your subordinates do not answer to the disabled pensioners upon the submitted appeals deposited by them to the Australian Embassy of Athens a year ago, after which they produced the required by the Australian doctors certificates, which were granted by the Greek Government Hospitals, as well as certificates delivered by distinguished University professors, which show the full inability of these pensioners to work.
Nevertheless, your subordinates instead to send a positive or negative answer to the pensioners’ appeals, by the press they call the pensioners living in Greece as culpables
The medical reports of the Greek Hospitals in the pensioners’ hands, show and confirm the full inability of these pensioners to work, and contradict the slanderous accusations of yours.
These certificates are: your accusers and responsible at this moment: is ‘YOUR EXCELLENCY’ as you have abandoned ill persons who are in need of clinical treatment and children under age, left without food and medicaments for their treatments with a myth of fictitious pensions . . .
We accuse and make also Your Excellency responsible, because you ignore the pursuant articles of human rights for social protection which Australia also has signed and because you do not apply the bilateral conventions between Greece and Australia about the pensions.
The articles of the declaration of human rights and bilateral conventions Greece-Australia show and impose upon Your Excellency and the Australian Government, not only the grant again of the unjustly interrupted disabled pensions as soon as possible but also to stop the accusations against the disabled pensioners living in Greece.
I am aware that that is confusing and I am happy enough to table the document. The translation is not good but obviously it is a plea for help from an organisation of Greek-Australians in Greece. On receipt of it, as I say, the Opposition checked the authenticity of it. I went back and checked some of the answers I had received in the past in this place about the treatment of Australian pensioners in Greece- not anyone, I might add, involved in the present court case in New South Wales; no one who has been charged or anything else. I found some difficulties with the answers that I had received in the Parliament in the last 1 8 months. It was our understanding in the Opposition that those overseas pensions were cancelled and that the cheques of these people were stopped following a telephone call to the Department of Social Security representative in Geneva, Mr Morgan, about the time that the arrests were made in another case in Sydney- on about 1 April last year. I tried to establish the facts of the case in this Parliament by asking questions and by raising the matter in many debates. For instance, on 1 March this year I asked the Minister for Social Security the following question:
The answer I received on 30 May this year in fact did not answer any of those parts of the question. The answer to the question stated-
These answers in fact are inaccurate. We have checked on what happened. The pensions were cancelled first as a result of a phone call from the Director-General, Mr Lanigan, to Mr Morgan. The questions and reviews were done later. I will return to the matter of the reviews later in my speech. These invalid pensions involved medical reviews.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The answers I received were inaccurate. In fact the pensions were stopped automatically and the reviews were done later. During the course of the first debate on this matter in the Parliament Senator Guilfoyle, on 3 May 1978, referred to the problems of Greek pensioners overseas. She said:
As I understand it, about 70 per cent of those interviewed have been found to be ineligible for invalid pensions following medical examination. The others are qualifying for an aged pension under the requirements of the aged pension provisions.
When I asked a question on notice I was told a year later that none of the invalid pensioners whose pensions were cancelled in Greece had in fact received aged pensions. I do not know why the Minister gave me the first answer. I do not know where she got the information but I consider that it was only as a result of a brief from her Director-General. On 24 November last year Senator Guilfoyle said:
Throughout the whole of the investigation of those people who came before our notice, many pensions were cancelled on the income interest basis and not the medical test basis. It will be understood that an invalid pension attracts those two tests. In many cases it was the income test which, on review, prevented the pension from being continued under the terms of eligibility of the Act.
In answer to my question on notice, six months later, on how many of those pensions in Greece were cancelled on income grounds, the answer Senator Guilfoyle gave me stated:
Of the 103 invalid pensioners whose pensions were cancelled following the review conducted in Greece between April and June 1 978, all had their pensions cancelled on the prime test of medical eligibility and it was therefore unnecessary to apply the income test.
Again, this is a completely opposite answer; these are quite contradictory stories. It turns out that the invalid pensioners in Greece without pensions have been knocked off on medical grounds and not on income grounds as was stated six months before to me by the Minister. One wonders why the Minister does not check the brief she got from her Department and from her Director-General. The medical grounds for cutting off these pensions deserves some examination. On 10 October 1978 during an Estimates committee hearing I asked Mr Lanigan:
But they have lost their benefits, have they not?
Mr Lanigan replied:
That is true. But you have to bear in mind that people who were held by the doctor to be perfectly well still come to the Embassy and were declared to be well.
It seems that Mr Lanigan is in fact confirming that pensioners had lost their pensions first and then were examined later. In the second place, we have an assurance by Mr Lanigan, who I understand is not a medical man at all, that the doctor declared these people to be perfectly well. Although we have information and confirmation of that information that on average the doctor spent from five to 15 minutes with each patient and did not have the patient’s medical history with him and frequently could not talk to the patients. Mr Lanigan stated at that Estimates Committee:
Some of them have appealed against his decisions and we will in due course have to set up some higher form of medical tribunal to resolve these: perhaps a body of three doctors or something, but we have not done that as yet.
This is a perfect example of the casual approach of Mr Lanigan and his Department. This was six months after he had ordered the pensions to stop. These people had no money to support their families and children. He is quite unbothered by the fact that people with real or believed physical and mental conditions should have to wait. He says that in due course he will do something to resolve the problem of the appeal. It is a problem of appeal because once the pension has been removed on medical grounds an appeal cannot be heard in Greece. These people have to come back to Australia. As the Minister for Social Security said in October last year:
Those persons formally in receipt of the invalid pension who reside in Greece are able to appeal against the termination of their pension in the same way as Australian residents. However, because they no longer reside within Australia the Social Services Act makes no provision for any other benefit to be paid to them following the termination of their invalid pension . . . Similarly there is no provision in the Act which enables travel expenses to be paid should they wish to return to Australia.
Some people in fact did return to Australia. Some people saved money, some borrowed money and some begged money to come back to Australia. Twenty-three came back. When they came back three went straight back on invalid pensions, five were put on sickness benefit, 1 1 on unemployment benefit and three on special benefit. Only one of the 23 who had been taken off the pension in Greece and who had taken the trouble to return to Australia, was found to be not eligible for some form of pension or benefit. It seems to me from this and other evidence and from the casual attitude of the Department and the Government that in fact people who are complaining from Greece about their treatment have something to complain about. We should do something about them, even if they are not living in this country and even if they are not directly involved with us at the moment. I have further details. In raising this matter I appeal to the Minister to take seriously the appeals and the accusations which have come from Athens and I ask her to consider them.
I raise another matter about Greeks overseas which I think is worth while bringing to the notice of the chamber. It is very brief. I have a further document involving a Greek overseas. It states that the gentleman was willing to introduce a police officer into the conspiracy in Sydney to get evidence. It states that because this person lost his pension and the $2,000 he paid to get into the scheme to get a pension, he required a reward for his work on the case. The document sets out a scale that justifies a payment of $30,000 to the informant, as follows:
This document was written up by a gentleman named Harper. Under the letterhead are the initials J. D., for Mr J. D. Davies of the Commonwealth Police. This is document No. 13 before the court. It is this so-called ministerial which was created to be given by the Commonwealth Police, through Mr Lanigan, to the Minister for Social Security. It is addressed to the Secretary of the Department of Social Security in Canberra and is dated 15 September 1977. A correction has been made to the date and it looks like ‘16 September 1977’. On 15 September 1977 a meeting was held in the office of Mr Lanigan, the Director-General of Social Services, at Juliana House, Phillip. Present at the meeting were Mr Lanigan, Mr Corrigan and Mr Prowse, Mr Lane from the Department of Health, Mr Davies, Assistant Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police and Detective Chief Inspector Thomas of the Commonwealth Police. At this meeting it was decided that a short note in the form of a ministerial would be directed to Mr Lanigan from Compol for presentation to the Minister, Senator Guilfoyle, setting out a system of assessment for any recommendation as to a reward. The document I have just read out is in fact the ministerial that was directed to Mr Lanigan to be given to Senator Guilfoyle. I have of course asked Senator Guilfoyle about this document but she has not chosen to answer me. On 16 September or 15 September this ministerial was set out by the Commonwealth Police and was given to the Director-General of Social Services as a justification of payment of $30,000 to the informant, Mr Chris Nakis. By 23 September this ministerial had obviously been transferred to Social Security because the Commonwealth Police had a conversation with Mr Lanigan about whether he spoke to the Minister in the terms of what was agreed at that meeting. The file note reads: spoke to Mr Lanigan at 1 1.40 a.m. on the 23 September 1977- has not yet discussed case with Minister and will probably do so next week.
We know that on 3 November 1977 a Mr Corrigan was, in fact, still negotiating with Mr Wunderlich, the solicitor for Mr Nakis, as to whether a $30,000 reward should be paid to Mr Nakis. On 15 November in the Senate, Senator Guilfoyle stated:
Before examining the official file in February 1979 I had no recollection of having considered the matter of the payment of a reward. My examination of the file has not prompted any recollection of the matter. I should record that there is no notation by me on the departmental file to show that the matter of a reward came to my notice prior to February 1979. The Director-General states that it remains in his memory that he mentioned the matter to me.
Quite clearly in this matter either the Minister was not shown the ministerial, in which case Mr Lanigan is grievously at fault for not keeping his Minister informed or Mr Lanigan informed the Minister, as was suggested to Detective Chief Inspector Thomas. If he did inform the Minister I find it extraordinary that the Minister for Social Security could not remember being told about a $30,000 reward to an informant in this case. We all have to judge who is not telling the truth but quite clearly someone is not. Quite clearly, either this Parliament has been misled by the Minister or the Minister has been grievously misled by her Director-General. I am happy that the record of the ministerial is now in Hansard and that the record of the ministerial exists so that the Minister can look at it, consult with her DirectorGeneral and find out just what is going on in her Department- who is telling whom what, who is misleading whom and find out whether she is, in fact, being properly informed by her DirectorGeneral in this unfortunate case which is obviously going to drag on for a considerable time yet.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows-
This Bill and six accompanying Bills provide for the implementation of wheat marketing and pricing arrangements in respect of the five seasons beginning 1 October 1979.
As in the case of past five-year wheat industry marketing and stabilisation arrangements, complementary legislation is to be enacted by each of the States. In fact, elements of the arrangement, rely on State law. I refer in particular to the provisions requiring growers to deliver their wheat to the Australian Wheat Board, the marketing of wheat domestically and the pooling of the proceeds of the sale of wheat for payment to growers. There has been a history of renegotiating the elements of the pricing and marketing arrangements for the wheat industry every five years to enable account to be taken of the changed needs and circumstances of the industry. An enquiry and report by the Industries Assistance Commission on the arrangements to apply after the expiry of the five year plan that ended on 30 September 1979 has provided a basis for review of the industry arrangements on this occasion. The IAC report was released publicly in July 1978 to enable all sectors of the industry and the States to consider the formulation of new arrangements.
Traditionally the industry’s arrangements have been based on the application of orderly marketing. For the wheat industry that concept entails the delivery of all wheat, other than that retained by the grower for his own use, only to a licensed receiver of a statutory authority and to no other buyers and the distribution of the proceeds of the sales of that wheat to growers on an equitable basis. The concept also entails the user industries in Australia receiving their needs of wheat from the Australian Wheat Board and from no other supplier and paying a price that is equitable as between the competing users in each industry. The orderly marketing of wheat has been challenged before the High Court and the IAC made recommendations for change.
The latest High Court case, Uebergang and Others v. Australian Wheat Board, involves, amongst other issues, a challenge on the basis of Section 92 of the Constitution to the application of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1 974 of New South Wales to inter-State transactions. A similar challenge was rejected by the High Court on 8 September 1978 in what is known as the Clark v. King case. The fact that there is a further High Court challenge to the same legislation does not preclude the Commonwealth and State governments, in reliance upon the Clark v. King case, from enacting legislation for the purpose of establishing wheat marketing legislation to apply for the next five years. Whether further legislation or a constitutional amendment is desirable would depend upon the outcome of the challenge in the Uebergang case. The orderly marketing of wheat has been considered by the States, the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation and the user industries. The proposition has not been accepted that there are significant savings to be made in the receival and storage of wheat by introducing commercial trading between producers and users in the domestic marketing of wheat.
A characteristic of the industry is that grain is harvested in a relatively short period and received into silos. Supplies are then drawn from storage throughout the year for the needs of users and for export shipment. The cost of this handling and storage is borne by the industry. While some individual growers would be able to escape these costs by delivering direct to a buyer, this saving would only be available because a majority of growers were prepared to support and meet the cost of the infrastructure required to meet the demonstrable needs of the industry. The commercial trading of wheat would enable individual growers to sell to the more lucrative sectors of the market and so reduce the pool return of those growers whose wheat is orderly marketed through the loss to the pool of revenue from these higher priced outlets. The individual grower would have an option of delivering to the orderly marketing system. The fundamental principles of orderly marketing provide the basis for the continuation of the wheat delivery and marketing arrangements for the new five year period. However, there are modifications of the payments arrangements for growers and the pricing procedures for buyers of wheat, to meet the present circumstances of the industry.
In developing these modifications several key factors have been considered. These include the market for feed wheat that could enable producers and users to trade on a commercial basis. This market facility could provide growers with a cash flow to their enterprises different from that afforded by the Board’s receival and payments system. By contrast, the Australian Wheat Board’s payments to growers from a season’s pool have been spread over a longer period. This lengthening of payments has been caused by the increasing need for the Board to sell wheat internationally on deferred payment terms to meet competition from other major exporting countries. This in turn has led to the need to establish arrangements for financing discounted payments that are made to those growers whose cash flows have been reduced by drought-affected crops and other factors.
The Industries Assistance Commission considered that the continuation of the stabilisation assistance arrangements for the wheat industry could not be justified on either efficiency or welfare grounds and recommended its discontinuation. The arrangement provided for contributions by growers to a Stabilisation Fund, from which payments are made when the average export price is less than the stabilisation price for a season. Provision existed for payments from Government revenue, within defined limits, when there were insufficient growers’ moneys in the Fund. In place of these stabilisation arrangements, the Government has decided that growers should receive a substantial payment when their wheat is received by the Australian Wheat Board. This payment will be made on all wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board and it will be set at 95 per cent of the average of the estimated pool return for that season and the two previous seasons, converted to a net basis. The payment will be guaranteed by the Commonwealth. The net pool return is convened to a net basis for the purpose of the guaranteed minimum price calculations by taking the net proceeds of the disposal of the wheat of a season and deducting the costs incurred by the Board in relation to the wheat of that season. Movements in the guaranteed minimum delivery price from one season to the next are to be subject to a limit of 15 per cent. Any deficiency between the net pool return and the guaranteed minimum delivery price will be met by the Commonwealth as a payment from revenue when the particular pool is finalised. The guaranteed minimum price arrangements provide the industry with support from the Government that is designed to help it overcome any short-run down-turn in producers’ returns. At the same time the basis for determining the guaranteed minimum price ensures that the support will be inevitably modified with longer run adjustments in market returns whether those adjustments be for a rising or a falling market.
The legislation recognises that the guaranteed support will enable the Australian Wheat Board to make a first payment to growers on delivery of their wheat at the level of the guaranteed minimum delivery price less the Wheat Finance Fund levy, the Wheat Tax and individual grower’s freight, handling and storage charges. It is the intention that the guaranteed minimum delivery price for each season be announced before 1 December each year when the bulk of the harvest commences to be delivered. The provision of the guarantee thus enables growers to receive a cash payment when their wheat is delivered that represents a substantial proportion of their final return. This innovation is designed to overcome the delayed pool payments and maintain a cash flow to growers. The payments arrangements in respect of the guaranteed minimum price do not impinge on the ability of the Board to offer cash discounting facilities to growers on payments subsequent to the guaranteed minimum price payment to meet the needs of particular growers. This arrangement evolved during the life of the present scheme and will be a useful adjunct to the payments arrangements when the final pool return is well above the guaranteed delivery price. The modification to the Australian Wheat Board’s historical pool payment procedure which I have outlined will be of great value to growers in planning their financial commitments and budgeting the cash flow of their enterprises.
Traditionally, the Australian Wheat Board has borrowed from the Rural Credits DepartmentRCD of the Reserve Bank to obtain funds to make the first payment to growers on delivery of their wheat and to meet the pool ‘s marketing expenses. Under the Reserve Bank Act a statutory 12 months repayment period attaches to RCD loans and the Government has provided a guarantee of Wheat Board repayment within that statutory period. Increases in borrowings from the RCD can add to domestic liquidity in a fiscal year to the extent that they are not repaid in that period, lt has become necessary to develop new financing arrangements to enable the Board to borrow to meet the changed character of the payment arrangements. These arrangements entail new borrowing rights and obligations for the Wheat Board.
The changed provisions also reflect the experience of financing the substantial increase in funds needed by the Wheat Board to pay the higher level of first advance for deliveries from the record 1978-79 season’s crop. The provisions recognise the significance of the wheat industry in terms of its ability through the very size of its seasonal cash flow, to influence national liquidity. The financing changes provided for in the
Bill are in fact similar to those already embodied in legislation assented to in July but which had application to the 1 978-79 season only. The new financing arrangements embodied in the Bill provide for the Board to borrow from the RCD to pay the guaranteed minimum delivery price to growers and meet marketing expenses. This provision reflects a continuation of the past arrangements. The Board will be able to borrow from commercial sources. Should the Government require the Board to borrow commercially within the statutory 12 months period for purposes for which RCD moneys would normally have been available, the Commonwealth will meet any borrowing costs that are additional to those that would have occurred had the borrowing been from the RCD
Should, under these arrangements, the Board be unable to borrow from commercial sources for the purposes of paying first advances or meeting marketing expenses within the statutory period, it is the Government’s intention that the RCD should provide the necessary finance. While the Government will guarantee repayment of any borrowings by the Board from the RCD, it is the Government’s intention that the Wheat Board should borrow commercially any money necessary, additional to that available from the finance Fund to be established by this legislation, to refinance any outstanding RCD drawings at the end of the statutory 12 months’ period.
The linking of the guaranteed minimum price with the first payment, the consequent high level of the first payment and the magnitude of the funds required, may have the effect of reducing the Wheat Board ‘s ability to repay its RCD borrowings within the statutory period. To assist the Board to meet its refinancing obligation a Wheat Finance Fund will be established. The Fund will be a Trust Fund of growers ‘ moneys. It will have a ceiling of $ 100m and will be financed by the transfer of the $80m in the existing Wheat Prices Stabilisation Fund together with the proceeds of a levy on wheat marketed under the control of the Wheat Board, As with the Stabilisation Fund the Wheat Finance Fund will be a revolving one, with any excess in the Fund being returned to growers on a first-in/first-out basis. The Finance Fund will provide a source of funds from which the Board will be able to borrow on a seasonal basis to clear any outstanding debt to the RCD on a seasons ‘s pool at the end of the statutory 12 months’ period. Borrowings from the Fund will be made at a rate of interest determined by the
Minister having regard to rates applying to Reserve Bank fixed deposits of Commonwealth securities.
The provision for the Board to make commercial borrowings to finance payments to growers that was included in earlier legislation is brought forward in this Bill. In fact this provision will be taken into account when the Government will again seek arrangements for financing advances in 1979-80 to growers, as the Treasurer (Mr Howard) said in his Budget Speech, so as to minimise the addition to liquidity as was the case last year; any arrangements that are made will not be at extra cost to growers.
The arrangements for the pricing of wheat sold on the domestic market recognise the different components of that market, namely, the use of wheat for milling into flour for human consumption and the use of wheat for stockfeed and for industrial purposes. The arrangements also recognise that in past five year plans there have been significant national income transfers between consumers and growers as a result of the arrangements then operating. Accordingly, the present Bill introduces some changes in the basis for setting domestic prices for wheat. Instead of the existing arrangement under which one price is fixed under the legislation for all wheat, regardless of the purpose for which it is used, there is provision for the Wheat Board to fix the prices of wheats for stockfeed and industrial uses. When fixing these prices the Board will have to balance the commercial interests of producers and users and maintain the orderly marketing of wheat produced and used for these purposes. In carrying out this responsibility the Board will be able to appoint an advisory panel comprising representatives of producers, stockfeed manufacturers and industrial wheat users. This panel would assess the accuracy, comprehensiveness and relevance of data that should be taken into account in determining prices. It would not recommend price levels.
The change in pricing procedures recognises that the markets for wheat used for stockfeed and industrial purposes are different from those of the market for wheat used for human consumption. It is intended that the Board should be able to meet the needs of those different markets. For the twelve months commencing 1 December 1979 the price of wheat for human consumption throughout Australia will be fixed under this Bill and complementary State legislation at $127.78 per tonne, excluding the Tasmanian freight loading. For the following four marketing years the price will be moved each year according to the formula set out in the Schedule to the Bill. That formula adjusts the price in line with movements in export prices and an index of prices paid by farmers while providing, over time, a margin above export prices. Year to year movements in the formula price are to be subject to a limitation of 20 per cent.
The new pricing formula replaces the existing arrangements which provide for an annual variation in accordance with cash costs of wheat production. In taking account of the trend in export prices the formula is intended to moderate the national income transfers between producers and consumers that have occurred in the past.
The role of the Australian Wheat Board as sole seller on the domestic market will be continued. This role rests on the continuation of the requirement that all wheat delivered off farms be received only by the Board. However, the delivery arrangements will be modified to enable growers with the authority of the Australian Wheat Board to exercise options in the delivery and marketing of wheat. This new element of flexibility is designed to meet the needs of growers. There are growers who are so placed geographically that there is an advantage both to them and to the buyer in delivering their wheat direct to the user rather than to the central receival system. There are also growers whose wheat has a special characteristic that is not amenable to be handled by the central receival system but which can be taken by a user if delivered directly.
It is proposed that growers be authorised to apply to the Board to be permitted to sell or deliver their wheat direct to a buyer other than an authorised receiver of the AWB. The Board in turn will be authorised to grant a permit for delivery by a grower direct to a buyer subject to conditions the Board determines as to price, freight allowance and any premiums or discounts in relation to the ASW price. Consent with the concept of orderly marketing to which I have referred the proceeds of sales of the wheat will be incorporated in the Board’s pooling arrangements and the provisions for payments to growers apply as if the wheat had in fact been delivered to the Board’s pool. However, provision is to be made for any quality differential agreed by the grower and buyer and for any cartage cost adjustment to be passed back to the grower. In recognition of the fact that the central receival system continues as an alternative delivery option available to the grower, provision will be made for the Board to deduct from the payment to the grower a charge- covering capital, depreciation and costs of maintaining capital equipment- relating to costs associated with the Bulk Handling Authority relevant to the particular grower. The specific charge will be determined under State legislation.
Authority for the issue by the Board of a permit to a grower to deliver or sell wheat other than to the central receival system will continue as at present in respect of wheat delivered by a grower to a miller for gristing for the return of the produce of the grist for use on his farm. A similar permit to deliver outside the receival system will also apply to seed wheat and inferior quality wheat including screenings not acceptable for receival by the Board. The arrangements proposed continue the principle of wheat retained by the grower on the farm on which it is grown remaining outside the control of the Board. In recognition of the structure of ownership of wheatgrowing and livestock feeding enterprises it is proposed that this principle be extended to exclude from the Board’s pricing and delivery arrangements wheat which is transferred from the property on which it is grown to another farm under the same ownership for the purpose of livestock feeding on that farm.
To ensure that such joint enterprise transfers do not become an avenue for the undermining of the wheat orderly marketing arrangements the AWB will be provided with the power to control and monitor the movements of such wheat. The modification to the basic delivery provisions which have served the industry over time are designed to meet the changed needs of the industry by providing growers with a specification of their rights to deliver wheat to other than the central receival system. At the same time protection through controls to be exercised by the Board and through the pooling arrangements is provided for the orderly marketing arrangements of the industry. The arrangements include the insurance that growers who engage in direct delivery transactions contribute to the maintenance of the central receival system which are an essential pan of those orderly marketing arrangements.
The principle of the domestic consumer meeting the cost of shipping wheat from the mainland to Tasmania is to be continued. As previously, moneys to cover this cost will be raised by a loading on the domestic wheat price. However, this loading will apply to wheat only for human consumption because this will be the only administratively determined price under the new arrangements that may not be adjusted within each twelve month period to meet the market. Moneys so raised will be used to meet shipping costs on all wheat shipped from the mainland to Tasmania, regardless of the port from which it is drawn. As has always applied, the freight to Tasmania Fund established by the legislation will cover shipping costs only and not, for example, transport costs within Tasmania.
The Bill includes a number of features embodied in existing wheat stabilisation legislation. The provisions for delivery quota arrangements remain, purely as a contingency measure. Implementation of quotas would necessarily require the agreement of all States. Other main features which remain unchanged are: The seven year period for all except the pricing provisions of the Bill which continue to have a five season life; the constitution and general powers of the Wheat Board and the power of direction by the Minister.
The Bill contains a clause giving retrospective validation to remuneration paid by the Wheat Board to bulk handling authorities under current and previous wheat stabilisation legislation. Although such remuneration was paid according to a basis agreed by Federal and State Ministers, as required by the legislation, Ministerial agreements were on a retrospective basis. Legal advice received was that payments made under retrospective agreements could only be validated by enactment of appropriate legislation.
The wheat marketing and pricing arrangements embodied in the Bill have been determined after extensive discussion and consideration of the IAC report and recommendations and after serious and lengthy consideration of views put forward by all interests concerned. The arrangements have the support of the industry and all State Governments. The provision of the guaranteed minimum delivery price, in particular, will give the wheatgrower confidence in the future. Generally, the arrangements will enable the wheat industry to go ahead into the next five years with some assurance of predictability and security. Such is the importance of the industry to the national economy that this can only be to the benefit of Australia as a whole. I commend the Bill.
This Bill is ancillary to the Wheat Marketing Bill 1979 and complementary to the Wheat Levy Bill (No. 2) 1979. The purpose of the Bill is to impose a levy of $2.50 per tonne on wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board. The levy is payable by the Australian Wheat Board. Funds so derived will be paid into Consolidated Revenue and an equivalent amount is under the Wheat Marketing Bill 1 979 for payment into the Wheat Finance Fund established under that Bill.
The Wheat Finance Fund may be used by the Board to refinance any outstanding borrowings by the Board from the Rural Credits Department of* the Reserve Bank of Australia at the expiry of the twelve months statutory period applicable to such borrowings. I commend this Bill.
This Bill is ancillary to the Wheat Marketing Bill 1 979 and complementary to the Wheat Levy Bill (No. 1) 1979. The purpose of this Bill is to impose a levy of $2.50 per tonne on wheat not delivered to the Australian Wheat Board but the sale of which has been authorised by the Board under the direct grower to buyer transactions scheme. The basis for such transactions is provided in the parent Bill. The levy is payable by the Australian Wheat Board.
As in the case of the complementary Bill, funds will be paid into Consolidated Revenue and equivalent amount is appropriated under the Wheat Marketing Bill 1979 for payment into the Wheat Finance Fund established by that Bill. I commend the Bill.
This Bill is of a machinery nature to ensure the continuation of financial arrangements previously provided under the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1974 and the Wheat Industry Stabilization Amendment Act 1 979 which are to be repealed. The principal Act which came into effect earlier this year provides for the Australian Wheat Board to be reimbursed the costs of borrowing certain monies. I commend this Bill.
This Bill, ancillary to the Wheat Marketing Bill 1979, is a machinery provision to take account of the proposed repeal of the Wheat Export Charge Act 1974 and the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1 974 in which the definitions of wheat products’ were provided. The Bill proposes to amend the Wheat Products Exports
Adjustment Act 1974 in order to link its operation with the proposed Wheat Marketing Bill 1974. 1 commend this Bill.
This Bill is related to the Wheat Marketing Bill 1979, the Wheat Tax Act 1957 and the Wheat Research Amendment Bill 1979. The Wheat Tax Act 1957 provides for the imposition of a tax on deliveries of wheat to the Australian Wheat Board. The intention of the Wheat Tax Bill 1 979 is to provide for a tax to be imposed on wheat not delivered to the Board but the sale of which has been authorised by the Board under the direct grower to buyer transactions scheme. The basis for such transactions is established in the Wheat Marketing Bill 1979.
The rate of tax is specified as being the same as the rate in force from time to time under the Wheat Tax Act 1957. As in the case of the revenue derived from the operation of the Wheat Tax Act 1957, moneys collected from the tax imposed by this Bill will be paid into Consolidated Revenue and an equivalent amount paid into the Wheat Research Trust Account for later disbursement on scientific and economic research projects for the benefit of the wheat industry. I commend the Bill.
This Bill amends the Wheat Research Act 1957 and is complementary to the Wheat Tax Bill 1979, the Wheat Tax Act 1957 and the Wheat Marketing Bill 1979. The primary purpose of this Bill is to amend the Wheat Research Act to provide for amounts equal to the amounts derived under the Wheat Tax Act 1979 to be paid into the Wheat Research Trust Account. The Bill also provides the necessary related appropriation from Consolidated Revenue. Consistent with the principle specified in the principal Act for dealing with taxation collections the Bill also specifies the basis upon which funds derived from the Wheat Tax Bill 1979 are to be identified in order that revenue derived from a State is used for research in that State.
The opportunity is taken to also amend the reporting period for the annual report on the operation of the principal Act. The present calendar year requirement for the report inhibits the presentation of financial information. Presentation on the proposed basis will simplify the presentation and preparation of the report and enhance its usefulness. I commend the Bill.
– The legislation before the Senate comprises a series of Bills required to give effect to the next five-year wheat industry assistance arrangements. The legislation is the result of an extensive inquiry into assistance to the wheat industry undertaken by the Industries Assistance Commission and negotiations between the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation and the Australian Government. The IAC report contained some controversial aspects, especially those relating to the marketing of wheat on the Australian market. It is my understanding that the present legislation, especially as regards the powers of the Australian Wheat Board to market wheat in Australia, relies heavily on the decision of the High Court of Australia in the Clark v. King case. However, another case is before the High Court and if this overrules the case referred to, that could change the internal marketing arrangements.
In other areas there have been very substantial modifications to the 1974 Act which I was able to introduce at that time as the Minister for Agriculture. The most important change is related to what has been traditionally called the first advance. This concept of a fixed price payable when wheat is delivered to the Australian Wheat Board ends this arrangement and instead wheat growers will receive a minimum delivery price equal to 95 per cent of the estimated average market return for wheat in that season and the two preceding seasons. In periods of rising wheat prices, the minimum delivery price will continue to rise even if the market has flattened out and will fall during periods of lower prices. The Government should be clear in its advice to growers that the legislation does not guarantee them a fixed amount each year, as was the case under the old scheme. It is important that growers are made aware of that. If the market does not return sufficient funds to pay for the minimum delivery price, it will be made up from growers’ contributions which will be accumulated up to $100m. If that source is exhausted, funds will need to be drawn from Consolidated Revenue. That is provided for under the legislation.
Any subventions from the Consolidated Revenue Fund would not have to be repaid. The new guarantee price will be a modified moving average, closely related to the actual market prices. This follows a principle which the previous Government incorporated in a slightly different form in the 1 974 legislation. Basically the same concept has been applied. I am glad to see that this Government, which was in Opposition and was extremely critical of the steps which Labor took when it was in office in 1 974, is in fact continuing the same basic arrangements. The
Government has by implication recognised that the scheme introduced in 1974 under the Labor Government was in fact a great step forward in wheat stabilisation.
As wheat prices cannot be accurately predicted five years ahead, it is impossible under the wheat stabilisation scheme to predict the possible cost to the Government at the end of the period of the scheme. It is more than likely that there will not have to be any government contribution. Already $80m of growers’ money is in the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Fund. That money came from the previous scheme. There will be continuing inflationary pressures on international wheat prices and this makes it unlikely that there will be any need to draw upon government funds. It is interesting to reflect that at the time of the formation of the previous scheme in 1 974, despite the temptation to make those payments available to industry in a comparatively buoyant period there was sufficient foresight to ensure that adequate money was put aside. The industry, of course, is now benefiting from that foresight which, I think, it can fairly be said was exercised at the time.
The minimum delivery price system is equitable and efficient. It will emphasise market prices, thus ensuring that wheat growers are given a more accurate indication of what the demand for their product really is. The higher initial payment will also induce growers to plant more wheat. Work done by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics indicates that growers are largely influenced by the size of the first advance. That has always been so. On the basis of current forecasts it would appear that increased wheat plantings now and in the future are necessary from the point of view of world demand which suggests healthy prospects for the Australian wheat industry in the years ahead. The only major difference on the question of the minimum delivery price between this legislation and the IAC recommendation is the actual level of the delivery price. The IAC recommendation was for a lower level. The legislation changes the basis for the determination of home consumption price. There has been major controversy over this provision with serious disagreements between some of the State governments and one of the major member organisations of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation.
The legislation also contains an indication of differences within the National Country Party on the subject. The provisions in this legislation dealing with the home consumption price are different from those which the previous Minister for Primary Industry agreed to with the stock feed users and the New South Wales Government. The price of wheat for human consumption will be administered and adjusted annually. But the price of wheat for stock feed and industrial use will be priced at the discretion of the Australian Wheat Board. A new formula has been introduced for adjusting the home consumption price and it gives a positive correlation between the domestic and export prices. A table which I propose to incorporate in Hansard shows that if the home consumption price continues to rise substantially over the operation of the scheme and there is a lower rate of increase in the export price, then over the period of the scheme there could be an income transfer from consumers to wheat growers. These figures are based on Bureau of Agricultural Economics statistics. I seek leave to have them incorporated.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the Senate. There is also some concern about the price that the Wheat Board uses as the basis for determining the figure for industrial wheat. It should be made clear that the asking price that the Wheat Board publishes in the daily Press does not necessarily equal the market price. There is strong evidence to suggest that the Board has maintained the asking price for Australian standard wheat at prices higher than the actual market prices received by the Board. If the asking price and not the actual market price is used for determining both the industrial and stock feed wheat prices, Australian consumers might be paying a higher price than could reasonably be justified. This was one of the points that worried the New South Wales Government and it is one which I understand has not been completely clarified.
In an attempt to overcome the strong objections of some wheat growers to the Board ‘s retaining the monopoly of all wheat sales, this Bill liberalises the control over direct sales between growers, many of whom objected that, for the Board to maintain strict control over growertogrower sales, and for all wheat to be delivered to the Board or its agent would be an administrative nightmare. There will now be permits issued although the Board will continue to administer prices as well as raise a levy for payment to the bulk handling authority. There would be some suspicion that, with a big crop and storage space difficulties this year, some of the crop would still be sold outside the Board.
The Opposition notes with some interest that the Government retains in this legislation the provision empowering the Minister to issue directions to the Board and requiring the Board to act in response thereto. When the money supply growth was getting out of hand, the Minister for Primary Industry-assisted I think by the Treasurer (Mr Howard)- brought some influence to bear on the Board, or attempted to, into refinancing avenues advances from the rural credit funds of the Reserve Bank through the commercial bills market. The sum involved was more than $400m. The Board was forced to borrow at commercial rates but the Fraser Government agreed to subsidise the difference between the commercial interest rates and the Reserve Bank rate. Thus, there is some degree of leeway to be made up by the Wheat Board acting as an instrument of government policy in controlling the money supply. We expressed some concern that, first, the Government did not issue a direction to the Board and accept the political consequences; secondly, that the Government acted against the advice of the Board and used it as a mechanism for monetary policy in order to hide some of its own economic mismanagement and the problems that it had got itself into; thirdly, that the Government failed to tell the wheat growers honestly what it was proposing to do. The significance of this is, of course, that when the provision for the power of ministerial direction was written into the 1974 Act there was also a great outcry. But again one must concede that the wisdom of that decision has also been recognised.
One could also have some concern about the delivery of last year’s crop. The funds available to the Board ran out and the Board was forced to suspend payment to wheat growers. The general manager of the Board covered for the Government but eventually, on 29 May this year, the Treasurer admitted that funds had run out and the bank was eventually instructed to release more credit funds. The Opposition feels that the Board should have been allowed to act with a greater degree of commercial autonomy. There is some disappointment that the wheat grower members of the Board did not insist on maintaining their position and put the Government into the situation of issuing an instruction to it.
The history of the present Government’s relationship with the wheat industry has not been the happiest. When one looks back on events under the previous Labor Government, there was, of course, the first rise in the first advance payment to the industry to occur in 13 years. That was, at the time, quite a major breakthrough for the industry. I should mention that the Opposition does hope that the Australian Wheat Board will take every step to improve its administrative efficiency and ensure that its annual reports are promptly available to the Parliament and to wheat growers- a matter to which Senator Rae has already drawn attention. Whilst the legislation makes pricing arrangements which should reflect more accurately world wheat price movements, it is, as was observed by Senator Douglas McClelland during the recent Senate committee hearing at which the Board was present, difficult to assess from the Board ‘s annual report whether it has had a good year or a poor year. It is important that where statutory authorities have absolute control in an industry they should be prepared to fulfil the highest standards of accountability to the Parliament and to the industry for which they are acting. We support the legislation.
– I rise to support the legislation but to propose an amendment to the motion before the chamber. I would like to elaborate briefly why. I go through a number of steps. First, I identify that the Australian Wheat Board is a statutory authority created by the Parliament with a public function to fulfil. It has been given a degree of independence which is very substantial. That independence is given to enable the Board to fulfil a public function. However, that independence is given on a basis that the Board will be accountable through the Parliament to the people. There is no basis at all upon which authorities can be created, can have independence, but not be accountable to the Parliament which has created them. The problem that we have with the Australian Wheat Board is in relation to that matter.
Let us accept tonight for the purposes of this discussion the desirability of having a scheme which involves a statutory authority with a power to acquire compulsorily the produce of individual people, with a responsibility to negotiate in relation to the sale of the total Australian wheat crop, with the responsibility to manage what amounts to something like $2 billion- that is $2,000m- worth of sales which, given the state of our economy, would have to be regarded as a significant amount of money to be handling, and in a position as a trustee on behalf of growers given a statutory right to acquire, a statutory obligation to sell and a statutory obligation to account. It is in relation to that statutory obligation to account that I express a degree of concern.
The fact is that no financial statements have been produced to the Parliament by the Australian Wheat Board for the years 1 976-77 and 1 977-78. I mention that the year for the Board ends on 30 November in each year, so there are no statements for the year ending 30 November 1977 and no statements for the year ending 30 November 1978. We are now almost at the completion of another year. In other words, the Board has dealt with something like $4 billion worth of growers’ assets in the period for which the Board is now long overdue to account. There is another year of activities which is just running out. So we are at the end of a third year of the activities of this Board for which there has been no accounting. In other words, the Australian Wheat Board has dealt with something like $6 billion worth of growers’ funds since it last accounted for its activities.
The Senate, concerned that there had not been any accounting by the Australian Wheat Board and the fact that no financial statements had been provided by the Wheat Board in pursuance of its accountability responsibilities, referred the matter to its appropriate committee, namely, the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. That Committee investigated the situation and held a public hearing on 8 October. At that time it became quite clear that the Australian Wheat Board had substantial problems in organising an appropriate and efficient accounting system. However, it gave an assurance to the Committee that it would be in a position to provide financial statements for those two years within a period of two or three weeks from 8 October. What is the position now? We are in the last week of November, and until this week nothing further had been heard from the Australian Wheat Board. There had been no communication explaining why it had not fulfilled its assurance, no documents had been provided by way of financial statements, and there had been nothing further by way of an acknowledgement of its responsibility to account to the people through the Parliament.
It becomes obvious that the public protestations which were made at the public hearing on 8 October by the representatives of the Australian Wheat Board, indicating that they had a full understanding of their obligations to have an effective and appropriate accounting system, to provide full accountability to the Parliament, to report regularly, to provide financial statements which have been audited and which are in order, were just words so far as this Board was concerned. If we had not inquired this week in an effort to find out why we had not heard anything, it may be assumed that we would still have no knowledge as to what had gone wrong and why the assurance given on 8 October that the financial statements would be prepared and presented within two weeks had not been fulfilled. This week, as a result of inquiries, we received a telex from the Australian Wheat Board which stated:
The financial statements for year ended 1977, in a basic format were presented to the internal audit department of the Australian Wheat Board mid October 1979 and following a preliminary review of these statements it was decided by the Australian Wheat Board management that the indicated 2-3 weeks target for completion, advised to the Committee in evidence on 8th October, was no longer practicable.
Following this preliminary review, it was decided by management on the 30th October 1979 that responsibility for the preparation of financial statements for the years 1976-77, 1977-78 and 1978-79 would be assigned to the Board’s senior administrative inspector, Mr D. R. Hulme together with Mr L. A. Goulding, a consultant with financial statement experience who had been employed by the Board to assist in the preparation of financial statements.
The telex also states:
I remind honourable senators that on 8 October the Australian Wheat Board gave an assurancepresumably one which it had considered, presumably one which it believed to be practicable, presumably one which it believed could be relied upon- that it could produce the reports for both of those years within the period of two to three weeks. Now it appears that they will not be available until February or March next year. When that matter became known considerable concern was expressed by people such as my colleague, Senator Young, from South Australia who has had a long association with the wheat industry and wheat grower organisations. When years go by without any accounting by those who are in the position and with the responsibility to acquire compulsorily, to sell and to account and when they have not provided financial statements the question that arises to Senator Young and to many others is whether the growers are receiving that to which they are entitled. Are growers being fairly treated? How can anyone judge if financial statements are not made available?
It is quite clear that the Australian Wheat Board has failed to account to the Parliament and through the Parliament to the people. It has failed to manage its affairs efficiently on behalf of the wheat growers of Australia. In other words, it is in breach of the trust which is given to it as the trustees of a scheme on behalf of people in which it is given powers in return for its carrying out of obligations. It has failed dismally to display even the courtesy which might reasonably have been expected of a responsible statutory authority in relation to the Parliament. It has not even bothered, having given assurances to one of the parliamentary committees that it would account, to tell the committee that it could not or would not account.
In my view, the situation is not one to be ignored, particularly when we are dealing with legislation that provides for a new and extended scheme of which the Board to which I have referred is to be the manager. It must put its house in order. The Senate should note the position and express its reaction and intention in relation to the Board’s future operations. As has been indicated in the speeches, we believe that in the interests of Australian wheat growers this scheme should go ahead, but we must also ensure that we do not permit those who are placed in a position of trust in administering the scheme to ignore their accounting responsibilities on behalf of the growers, the Parliament and the public. On behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, and on my own behalf, I move:
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment. I commend what Senator Rae said. I think it was very impressive. As an ordinary senator I did not realise that the Australian Wheat Board had not presented accounts. One would have thought that to get it to comply with its obligations we would impose some forms of sanctions against it. I do not know whether Senator Rae’s amendment goes far enough on the question of sanctions.
– I suggest that if you try to do that the growers might be the ones who are hurt.
– I am just saying that. For that reason, I support the amendment. The ultimate sanction would be to reject the Bill, but that is not expressed in the amendment. I know that there are difficulties associated with speaking a second time to the motion for the second reading of a Bill, but in the Committee stage or at some appropriate time I would like some explanation as to what is meant by the words: the Senate expresses its intention to take all necessary steps to ensure that full accountability to the Parliament and the Australian wheat growers is adhered to by the Australian Wheat Board.
Is that a greater threat than what the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations did when it forced the Board to give the undertaking which it has not honoured? What do we do next on this whole question? As Senator Rae has pointed out, we must take some firm steps in this regard. We must take sufficient steps to emphasise that the Board must take some action for the purpose of meeting its obligations concerning accountability.
Senator RAE (Tasmania)- by leave- In response to Senator Cavanagh, I believe that the situation is that any board with any sense of responsibility could not fail to acknowledge the seriousness of the carriage of a motion such as this. If it failed to do so, the Executive Government could not fail to acknowledge the seriousness of the failure. I believe that the next step which could be and probably would have to be taken is the dismissal of the board. That is something which the Senate could play a part in ensuring. I did not wish to say that, but, since Senator Cavanagh has raised it, that is the next step and that is possible under the legislation. I believe that that would be the responsibility of the Executive if, after this motion is carried, there is a continuation of the course of action which apparently has been adopted so far by the Australian Wheat Board.
– I thank honourable senators from both sides of the House for the contributions that they have made to the debate on the Wheat Marketing Bill 1979 and related Bills. Certainly legislation dealing with the wheat industry is of enormous importance to the national economy. I have no doubt that the honourable senator with knowledge of this industry will find the legislation attractive, as some have indicated. My second reading speech was lengthy and descriptive of this legislation. The speech covered some 1 7 typewritten pages. I think it gives those who are interested and involved in this subject a complete outline of what is intended under this series of bills.
The important point that has come to light following Senator Rae’s addresss is the concern that he has expressed. The Senate can be particularly proud of the action taken by Senator Rae and the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations to bring attention to one area of responsibility which the Senate has taken upon itself more so in the last few years than it did on previous years, that is, close scrutiny of the financial returns of various authorities. I think Senator Rae is to be congratulated for bringing this matter before the public eye. I think it brings credit to the Senate. I might say that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) and the Australian Wheat Board accept the responsibility that has been put upon them by Senator Rae’s committee. I have found that there are some extenuating circumstances but I do not think that excuse is the proper or appropriate word.
To use a comment or two that I have before me, the interim annual report for 1977-78 was presented in the Senate on 13 September 1979. The Senate referred the report to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. At the subsequent hearing, the Australian Wheat Board identified the problem as being due to difficulties in preparing accounts for certification by the Auditor-General in a form required by the Minister for Finance under the terms of the legislation. In my opinion, this is the important matter we should take into account. Changing the accounts from a pool basis to that required by the Minister has, in the eyes of the Board, been an extremely complex exercise. The Board has recently indicated that once the 1 977-78 and 1 976-77 reports are finalised, future reports will be presented without delay. In a letter the Minister wrote to Senator Rae he said:
The intentions of the Board expressed to the Committee have not been realised and the financial statements for the year ended 30 November 1977 will not be available for presentation to Parliament during the Budget sitting.
Senator Rae has mentioned that. The letter continues:
The Australian Wheat Board has advised me that it intends to furnish the statements for 1976-77 and 1977-78 for presentation to Parliament in February and March 1980 respectively.
Senator Rae has indicated that restrictions can be placed on the Board, and he has outlined the extreme measures that could be taken. The Parliament has empowered the Board to carry out important functions. One of these is to prepare and furnish a report for Parliament on the operations and financial accounts of the Board. The Minister considers that the delays in preparing and furnishing statements for the years ended 30 November 1977 and 1978 are unacceptable and do not meet the standards of responsibility required by the Parliament. He has now advised the Board to that effect, reminding it of its responsibility and asking the Board to ensure that the two financial statements are furnished for presentation to Parliament in February and March 1980.
The existing legislation- I imagine that is the legislation prior to the Bills we are now debating-is not specific as to the time by which the Board is to report after the close of each year. To introduce some specificity in this matter, a requirement is included in the Wheat Marketing Bill- that is the Bill with which we are now dealing- that the Board report with audited financial statements by 30 June following the close of the reporting year, which ends on 30 November. To avoid a position where the Board would be in breach of the legislation, it must be recognised that the Minister is authorised by the provisions of the Bill to declare a reporting date for a particular year later than 30 June, having regard to the circumstances of that year. From my comments, it will be acknowledged that the amendment moved by Senator Rae is acceptable to the Minister, and obviously it is acceptable to me.
Amendment agreed to.
– I ask that it be noted that the amendment was carried without a dissenting voice in this chamber.
– Yes, Senator Rae.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment, requests or debate.
The following Bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment:
Australian National University Amendment Bill 1979.
Canberra College of Advanced Education Amendment Bill 1979.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.52 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australian commercial television stations share the Visnews service, involving a 15-minute, daily satellite feed from London, as a means of reducing the very high costs involved.
The alternative of each Australian station or network arranging for its own overseas news coverage and hire of satellite time is not considered by the stations to be feasible because of the prohibitive costs involved and the fact that visual reports of major overseas events would be largely identical, irrespective of source.
The ABC-TV news does not provide the same coverage of overseas news as commercial television stations.
A comprehensive coverage of world news is available from only a small number of agencies, to which any news organisation may subscribe. The ABC’s basic coverage is provided by Australian Associated Press incorporating the Reuter service, and United Press International News on film is supplied by Visnews, and fed to Australia each day by satellite.
The ABC builds on these basic word and film news services with supplementary material provided by its staff of foreign correspondents and cameramen, and stringers in various parts of the world.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 March 1 979:
What is the current overseas allowance of the Chairman of Qantas?
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The current per day overseas allowance paid to the Directors, including the Chairman, is Western Hemisphere, $US30; Europe,$F130; Japan route, A$30; Middle East/
South East Asia/Indonesia/South Africa,$A25; New Zealand/Fiji,$20, plus the cost of accommodation, breakfast, laundry and valet services.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 March 1 979:
Will the Minister table copies of all telexes, sent by the Press and Public Relations Sections of Qantas to both overseas Qantas posts and overseas sections of the Department of Foreign Affairs, relating to overseas travel by the Chairman of Qantas.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. Such information includes matters of a commercial nature and it has been made clear on a number of previous occasions, as Qantas operates in a commercial environment, it would not be appropriate to disclose such information.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 12 September 1979:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In 1976 a sub-committee of the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee sought the assistance of the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal Australian College of Pathologists in gathering reports of vaginal adenocarcinoma associated with diethylstilboestrol. To date only three reports have been received relating to vaginal adenocarcinoma and one of vaginal adenosis. The Committee recognises that all cases may not have been reported.
Marketed as a generic drug in tablet form-
Drug Houses of Australia,500 mcg,1 mg, 5 mg
Hamilton Laboratories Pty Ltd,500 mcg, 1 mg,5 mg, 10 mg
Knoll Laboratories, 100 mcg,1 mg,5 mg, 10 mg
Rocke, Tompsitt and Co. Ltd,5 mg, 10 mg
Sigma Co. Ltd,5 mg, and
Marketed as branded drugs-
Ford Laboratories, Cream (Stilbocream) 0.05 per cent
Muir and Neil Pty Ltd, Pessaries (tampovaganstilboestrol) 500 mcg ea.
Muir and Neil Pty Ltd, Pessaries (tampovaganstilboestrol and Lactic Acid) 500 mcg ea.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 25 September 1979:
Do many wholesale supply firms set minimum amounts of purchases for retailers who buy their products, especially in the electronics, sporting goods and electrical appliances fields; if so: (a) what action is proposed to ensure that such firms comply with existing federal trade practices legislation; (b) does this practice cause difficulty for retailers in small towns, particularly in relatively isolated rural areas; and (c) what action is proposed to review this situation in order that action may be taken to prevent such practices.
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I understand that it is not uncommon for wholesalers to set minimum purchase requirements for retailers. Such requirements are sometimes set because in some cases the costs of processing and handling small orders can be disproportionately high. On the information available to me, I am not able to say whether the practice of wholesalers setting minimum purchase requirements is particularly prevalent in respect of electrical, electronic or sporting goods.
The Trade Practices Act does not generally prohibit the practice of setting minimum purchase requirements although in certain circumstances, a minimum purchase requirement may constitute a contravention of a provision of the Act. The Trade Practices Commission investigates complaints, alleging possible contraventions of the Act.
There is insufficient information available to me to say whether the setting of minimum purchase requirements causes particular difficulties for any particular class or group of retailers.
The information available to the Government does not indicate that legislation to make minimum purchase requirements unlawful per se is warranted at the present time.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice, on 23 October 1979:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Australian Motor Industries Limited (AMI)
Chrysler Australia Limited
Ford Motor Company of Australia Limited
General Motors-Holden Limited (GM-H)
Nissan Motor Company (Australia) Pty Ltd.
On 18 October 1978 the Government announced that where a participant in the motor vehicle Plan failed to meet its content targets because of major currency appreciations, it would be allowed to adjust its local content calculation, for the purpose of application of penalty duties under the local content Plan, on the basis of a 12 month lag in the application of exchange rates.
On this basis AMI and Nissan exceeded Plan commitments and, in accordance with the Government’s decision, these companies were considered to have met Plan requirements. Ford and GM-H met their content commitments without recourse to this provision of the Scheme.
Chrysler, however, did not achieve its commitment and its by-law benefits for 1978 were reduced in accordance with the provisions set out in Section A5 of the Plan.
Whether or not Plan participants have achieved their local content commitments in 1979 is a matter for determination after the end of the year and any appropriate penalties will be calculated at that time.
All Plan manufacturers have from time to time made requests pertaining to the motor vehicle Plan
It is for individual companies to decide, on the basis of their own commercial judgement, whether they would wish to ‘ Australianise ‘ their operations.
Australian Embassy in Paris (Question No. 2127)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 24 October 1979:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Housing of Asian Refugees in Canberra (Question No. 2128)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 24 October 1979:
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am informed by my Department that:
(a) The Department of the Capital Territory has agreed to make available 72 houses throughout Canberra for South-East Asian refugees. Of these houses 20 are allocated to refugees as interim accommodation on the recommendation of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, and 52 are being allocated as the need arises to refugees sponsored by interested organisations in Canberra.
The Department makes every effort to provide suitable houses up to a week before refugee families are due to take up occupancy. However, the Department’s ability to do this is dependent upon the sponsoring body giving adequate notice of its specific requirements and upon suitable houses becoming available in the areas requested. Such houses become available only as tenants vacate them.
The Department arranges essential maintenance and repairs of its vacant houses and flats before making them available for re-letting. Where necessary, other work is carried out after tenants move in. This procedure is being followed in respect of the 52 houses being allocated to SouthEast Asian refugees sponsored by interested organisations in Canberra.
The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is aiming to actively involve the community in the national process of re-settling the considerable number of refugees now coming into Australia. In so far as there may be, or may later develop, specific welfare problems amongst refugees the Welfare Branch of the Depanment of the Capital Territory would be expected to help. The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has one officer fluent in the Vietnamese and Laotian languages also available to assist.
The Australian Capital Territory and therefore Canberra is served by a Migrant Settlement Council, the Secretariat of which is provided by the Depanment of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. The Department of the Capital Territory has a representative on that Council in the person of the Ethnic Liaison Officer.
The Ethnic Liaison Officer and his staff constitute a unit to co-ordinate Departmental action on all ethnic matters, including re-settlement of refugees.
Trained Rescue and Fire Fighting Services at Airports (Question No. 2176)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 7 November 1979:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 7 November 1979:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) Iwasaki Sangyo Co. (Aust.) Pty Ltd has sought Government approval to acquire three properties, which it has entered into contracts to acquire conditional on Government approval being received, comprising a total area of approximately 833 hectares, namely: about 616 hectares in the County of Palmerston, Parishes of Woodlands and Rosslyn, extending west from the existing resort boundary to the Byfield/Yeppoon road, owned by Setu Nominees Pty Ltd; about 215 hectares in the County of Livingstone, Parish of Rosslyn, adjacent to the Byfield/Yeppoon road, owned by the Atkinson family; about 2 hectares in the County of Palmerston, Parish of Woodlands.
The solicitors for Iwasaki have also advised that, subject to Government approval, the company wishes to enter into a contract to purchase another property of about 4 hectares and to acquire further unspecified land in the vicinity of the proposed resort’s existing boundaries as set out in the franchise agreement between the company and the Queensland Government. The Government has advised Iwasaki that it may not proceed with the purchase of these four properties or any other properties and that these proposals will not be further considered by the Government until a detailed submission concerning its overall plans for any land acquisitions outside the franchise area and the reasons for those plans has been received by the Foreign Investment Review Board.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 13 November 1 979:
What action is proposed to initiate financial grants, as isolation subsidies, to small outback airlines, particularly in the north, comparable to the assistance granted to Tasmania because of its isolation from the Australian mainland, to reduce costs of freight and air fares.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As the final year of a three year program the 1979-80 Budget contained an amount of $504,000 for payment of air service subsidies to small outback airlines operating air services in the remote northern areas of Australia. With regard to future subsidies for these services a review of such arrangements will be undertaken during this present financial year. Following this review a decision will be made on the future of Commonwealth assistance for air service subsidies. I should add that there are no air service subsidies paid for carriage of passengers and freight to Tasmania.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 15 November 1979:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On 8 June 1979 Senator Ryan asked me, as the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, the following question without notice:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is he aware of the article in B & T Advertising Weekly of 29 March 1979 in which Mr Staley is reported to have told the Advertising Federation of Australia on 23 March: ‘The concept (of ethnic television) will be partially, if not significantly, funded by advertising’. Can the Minister reconcile that statement with the answer given to a question which I placed on notice on 4 April 1979 which sought information on the funding of ethnic television, and to which he replied:
The Government will not make any decisions on matters relating to the establishment of the permanent ethnic television service until it has received a report on the outcome of the present consultation process with ethnic communities and other interested parties’.
Would the Minister agree that that answer is misleading and that the Government policy outlined by the Minister in March and reiterated by Mr Frank Galbally, chairman of the Ethnic Television Review Panel, in late May, is for a commercial service?
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am aware of the article in B & T Advertising Weekly, Marketing and Media Weekly in which I am reported in the terms outlined. The report was wrong in as much as I attempted to make it clear that the concept of funding- by way of advertising- was one of the options.
From the consultation process to date it is apparent that there are many views on the manner in which ethnic television services should be established, including the important question of funding. I can only reiterate that the Government will not be making any decision on such matters until the full consultation process has been completed, and a final report is received from the Ethnic Television Review Panel.
-On 26 September 1979 (Hansard page 95 1 ), Senator Watson asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce the following question, without notice:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce. All honourable senators would be aware of the great pioneering work on the commercial development of penicillin which has been done in Australia. In view of some doubts which have been expressed about the continued production of penicillin at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, when can the Australian community expect a government response as to whether the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories or the foreign owned Aborts Laboratories will be the sole producer of penicillin in Australia?
The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government announced on 19 November that it had decided to assist the two established domestic manufacturers of penicillin in Australia by means of a subsidy.
The subsidy will be paid to Abou Australia Pty Ltd for production of phenoxymethyl penicillin (penicillin V) and to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories for production of benzyl penicillin (penicillin G).
– On 8 November 1979 (Hansard, page 2047), Senator Melzer directed a question to me, in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Health, concerning the addresses of women’s refuges. In my interim reply, I advised the Senate that I would refer the matter to the Minister for Health who has now provided the following advice:
The honourable senator’s question apparently relates to circumstances connected with the residential addresses of a small number of women’s refuges, all of which are located in Victoria and which are included in a total of 94 refuges funded under the Community Health Program.
To date, these particular refuges have declined to disclose their residential addresses to either State or Commonwealth authorities, which jointly provide the funds for them. Furthermore, it is understood that these refuges have declined to accept visits by State or Commonwealth officers.
From the Commonwealth’s viewpoint, this issue is related to the question of accountability for public funds and the need to be informed of refuges ‘ operations.
I have recently corresponded with the Victorian Minister for Community Welfare Services and, as the matter is still under consideration at ministerial level, it is inappropriate to comment further on this particular case, as this time. However, I should mention that it would be a matter for the Victorian Minister for Community Welfare Services to decide what officers of his Department were to be provided with refuges’ addresses and I would hope that the situation would not be reached where it became necessary to consider cessation of Commonwealth funding.
It should be noted that the Commonwealth Government strongly supports women “s refuges. Evidence of this support can be found in the growth in the number of women’s refuges which has taken place during the Government’s term of office- from nineteen refuges at the end of 1975, to ninetyfour currently approved. In financial terms, the Commonwealth commitment under the Community Health Program for the years 1974-75-1979-80 inclusive, has exceeded $9.3m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 November 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1979/19791122_senate_31_s83/>.